RE: [Discuss-sudbury-model] what would you do?

From: Melissa Bradford <>
Date: Sat Nov 12 13:25:00 2005

Dear Ann,
What my family would give to be able to trade places with you and have
the problem you are having!
First, I do want to echo Hanna's point about privacy. I used to teach
public school, where teachers and parents talked about children all the
time with no regard to their privacy at all, and it was a real
adjustment for me when I got involved in Sudbury schools to learn to
respect my kids' or other students' privacy. I found that it just
didn't even occur to me that I should ask my children or others before I
talked or wrote about them! But over time I did learn to be better
about it, although sometimes I still need to check myself. I completely
understand your need for feedback about this issue, but given the fact
that anyone can access this list, perhaps there is a less public way to
ask your questions in the future. I hope this discussion has not proven
to have negative repercussions for you or your son. I'm sure that was
not your intention.
Having said that, I'd like to address your question by sharing my own
family's experience. My son and daughter have attended Sudbury schools
in the past, but currently there is not one here for them to attend, so
we are in an unschooling group. My daughter has interests similar to
your son's. She likes manga and also loves comedy improv, so, in our
unschooling group, we have started a manga/anime club, and we have also
organized a homeschool improv class with a local children's theater. So
why would we trade this for a Sudbury school?
Because there are lots of ways to pursue your interests, but having the
opportunity to pursue them in a Sudbury environment is so much more
empowering than other options. (And much more enjoyable, as far as my
kids are concerned.) Your son being in the situation you describe is
exactly why a Sudbury setting is so wonderful. Children have the
opportunity to determine just how important their goals and interests
are, decide what it takes to accomplish those goals, and whether or not
it is worth it. Are they important enough to approach those older kids
you don't know and/or feel a little intimidated by? Are they important
enough to take time away from the other fun activities you may be
enjoying? Are they important enough to bring to School Meeting and make
a motion and get your friends to support it? Finding the answers to
these questions is a learning process that you don't really find
anywhere else. The students also have access all day long to lots of
other children and adults of all ages making the same determinations for
themselves. That is such power and freedom! What an amazing
environment for any child.
When you are homeschooling, most everything must go through mom or dad.
When you are in traditional schools, everything depends on the teachers.
At a Sudbury school, everything depends on you, the student. You have
the freedom to meet these challenges and determine for yourself how to
address them. This is much, much harder, but the rewards are much
greater. Sure, my daughter is enjoying the anime club and the improv
class, but they are very dependent on me and the other parents in the
group. We parents give the permission, we give the rides, we provide
the space, we make the phone calls. My daughter would much rather be in
a setting where she had the freedom and the power to create these things
for herself, as well as to be with children who also have that power and
freedom, so they can create things together.
Your son has not been able to pursue his interests fully at school yet.
That is OK! That is part of learning what it takes to make something
happen. I think the most powerful thing you can do is to let him know
that you trust him and you trust his inner voice, and that he will
eventually find a way to make his passions come to life. There are
definite reasons he hasn't done it yet, some he has shared with you and
maybe even some he has not. As a mom of Sudbury students, I do admit
that I personally found this very difficult. It was very hard not to
get involved and try to help my kids solve their problems. It is so
much easier to look at their situations and just show them how to
accomplish the goals they have expressed to me. I've had to do a lot of
sitting on my hands! But if I hadn't, I would have robbed them of the
victory of accomplishing their goals on their own, and taken away their
opportunity to build confidence in their own abilities. When I stopped
myself from telling them how they should take steps toward their goals,
I eventually saw that what they most wanted to hear from me was not how
to accomplish their goals, but just that I believed in them and that I
knew they could accomplish whatever they set out to do. My wanting to
get involved was actually giving them a message that I didn't think they
could solve it on their own, even though that was not my intention.
Sometimes they ended up choosing to pursue their interests at home and
not at school because there was so much other fun stuff going on at
school, and I decided that was OK with me. Even though they could
pursue their goals at school, there were other needs, not necessarily
being articulated, that were being met at school, and somewhere inside
them they were deciding that those needs were more important, and I
trusted that voice in them.
I remember how both my kids around age six started telling me they
wanted to learn how to read. Whenever I sat down with them to help
them, they were suddenly totally uninterested in it! They wanted to
read, but didn't really want to do the work it would require. I felt
that even though they were expressing this desire to read, something
inside them was stopping them. I felt I should trust that inner voice,
and encourage them to trust it, too. Turns out it was the right
decision. Both of them, when they were 8 years old, just started
reading. They couldn't read, and then, all of a sudden they could.
Just think of all the agony and frustration they might have gone through
if they had tried to force themselves, or if I had tried to "encourage"
them, to read at six! Even though they wanted to read, their inner
voices or instincts or whatever told them they weren't ready. When they
were ready, it happened naturally, with little effort. I'm really glad
I let them determine for themselves what they wanted to do instead of
trying to get more involved in helping them pursue their stated goal.
It was something they had to master themselves, and I just kept telling
them they would be able to do it when they were ready, and they found
out that it was true. Now they can apply that experience to other new
things and know that they have the ability to master them, too, when
they are ready.
Another thing I realized from my kids' time in Sudbury schools is that I
would only hear a partial picture of what was going on, which of course
is perfectly normal. When they had their frustrations on their minds,
they would share them with me, but they didn't always tell me about
other factors involved. Sometimes they neglected to tell me all the
great things they were spending their time on, because they were focused
on what they didn't do. It wasn't on purpose or anything, but sometimes
they didn't have the ability to articulate the whole picture, or maybe
didn't even see it themselves, or maybe they were just focusing on the
obstacles at the moment. I found that when I trusted them to work it
out, and gave them the message that I had confidence in their ability to
figure it out, they did, eventually, and were that much stronger for it.

Now that we are unschooling, the situation is much more difficult for
us. I find myself worrying that my children do not have as much
opportunity to develop their self-reliance, independence, and confidence
as they did when they were in a Sudbury school. I am doing my best to
recreate that setting at home and in our unschool group, but it really
is not the same, so I am hoping our unschool group will evolve over time
to be more like a Sudbury school, especially when we find a space of our
own. I just want to let you know that you are so lucky to be able to
send your child to Sudbury Valley School, and I hope you and he are able
to suck every wonderful juicy bit of joy out of that opportunity.
So I hope my experience helps a bit. Good luck to you and your son.

-----Original Message-----
[] On Behalf Of Ann Ide
Sent: Friday, November 11, 2005 7:37 AM
Subject: Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] what would you do?

Actually, he is not shy at all with his friends, and most people, for
that matter ! Sometimes, he is even a little too outspoken! I bet any
SVS staff reading this are going, "What?" This seems to be a very
contextual thing happening. It just doesn't "fit" the textbook picture
of the model, hence my inquiry. Out of all the years, and all the
children at SVS, and other Sudbury schools, I doubt this is the only
occurence of such a thing.
So, do I get involved somehow ?

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Received on Sat Nov 12 2005 - 13:24:03 EST

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