Re: [Discuss-sudbury-model] Newbie with questions about safety

From: Mimsy Sadofsky <>
Date: Fri Dec 1 21:02:00 2006

Dear Naomi,

Of course you are worried about safety -- your children are at an age
where they still are not totally capable of being safe on their own.
Some of your concerns will go away as they reach the age to go to
Fairhaven; some don't go away for a while. Other concerns about your
children follow you, the parent, your whole life!

We depend on two things in Sudbury schools.

The first is that the enrolling child has reached a maturity that
will allow him/her to be free within the boundaries of the school's
rules. For instance, kids who go in the street if they are told not
to are not yet ready to enroll. Crossing streets is hard, takes
skills and maturity, and kids should approach streets slowly and as
they are ready. I have a grandson who I felt couldn't cross a busy
street until he was about 10 (I am sure I was wrong, but not very
wrong), whereas I was allowed to cross an extremely busy city street
at 6. Different kids mature differently. Most 4 or 5 year olds are
perfectly capable of staying out of the water if told that the rules
say they can't go in the water. It is once again maturity. (Some
children are born cautious; others learn it later, but we would just
as soon none of them did death-defying feats at school!)

Being a victim of a random drive-by shooting? Is there a way to
prevent that? A lot of people would like to know what it is if there
is. But being moderately cautious around strangers is not so hard to
teach to those few kids who aren't born knowing it. I don't know of
any Sudbury schools that allow very young children the freedom of
wandering the streets alone!

The second thing we rely on is other kids (and the adults, but there
are not as many of them). No child at a Sudbury school is constantly
being watched, but there are lots of people that are sort of tuned in
to each other's well-being, safety, etc. It is not just your friends
who are watching out for you when you are little, or to put it
another way, everyone is one of your friends when you are little and
constantly sensitive to your welfare.

These questions are going to look a little less terrifying as your
kids mature a bit. (Near as I can tell, no Sudbury school has had a
terrible accident happen to a child at school or on a school trip.
The thing is, kids who are trusted become much more self-reliant at a
much earlier age than kids who are not. It is the old respect thing
-- respect them and they behave quite respectably. I think that is
why even the ordinary schoolyard accidents are much less frequent in
our schools. The kids are exuberant, lively, extremely active, but
not wild and not out of control.)

Mimsy Sadofsky

On Dec 1, 2006, at 7:53 PM, Naomi Rivkis wrote:

> Hi, all. I've just discovered this list after a lot of
> reading, both online and in books, about Sudbury-model
> schools. I wish I'd had one when I was a kid; I did
> most of my learning in my alleged off-hours by myself
> or with friends. I suspect most kids do, who have to
> go to ordinary schools. My schools were mostly not
> bad, exactly -- my high school was pretty good, in
> that it had some really interesting kids and a lot of
> free time to do what we wanted if we could do it
> responsibly. And some of what was taught, I wanted to
> learn, and so I did. But I would have loved the chance
> to do more, and I would have loved *not* to have my
> views of certain subjects poisoned by several years of
> sitting through them when I wasn't ready or
> interested. So I want something better for my kids.
> Both my children are too young for the local
> Sudbury-model school (Fairhaven; we live in Silver
> Spring); one is a baby, the other is in a Montessori
> preschool, which at least has some of the elements of
> individual choice. But I'm learning what I can ahead
> of time, and impressed with what I've learned. It's
> *scary* to have to keep pushing out of my head the
> stuff that "everyone says" about education, but when I
> compare what I've heard against what I see when I
> actually observe kids -- heck, observe any people --
> with my own eyes, I have to trust the latter, scary or
> not.
> The one concern I do have is about physical safety. I
> want my kids to learn self-reliance, but I'd rather
> they live to reach it!! I want them to make their own
> mistakes and grow from them, but only those mistakes
> that don't have such extreme consequences that they'll
> never grow again. I can't imagine this isn't a primary
> concern of all parents, and since everything else
> about Sudbury schools feels right to me, I want to
> know how this fits in.
> I'm not worried about tumbles out of trees. I grew up
> on an island where three-quarters of the land was
> fenced off as allegedly dangerous, and the kids
> climbed the fence and played there anyway. Most of
> what grownups consider safety hazards are basically
> bruise-hazards or maybe, at the worst, broken-arm type
> hazards. If I'm willing to let my daughter play
> soccer, or ride horses (and I am), I'm willing to let
> her have the run of a reasonably well-kept campus with
> various Big Objects on it. If she falls off, she'll
> cry, and she'll get band-aids or whatever, and she'll
> get up again.
> But I'm worried about water, and I'm worried about the
> outside, where people are not as trustworthy as they
> are on campus. I don't know whether, at five or six,
> my kids will know how to swim, or be able to climb a
> log above the stream well enough to keep from falling
> in. I don't know if they will be able to cross a
> highway with a good enough eye to measure the speed of
> oncoming traffic. And I'm damn sure that they won't be
> able to negotiate with strange adults who mean them
> harm.
> My husband's brother, for whom my son was named, died
> at the age of eight, hit by a truck when he ran into
> the road chasing a ball. Not very long ago, a pair of
> snipers went around shooting random passersby in my
> own neighborhood; their favorite places were just
> outside of schools. I love what I hear of Fairhaven,
> but I'm afraid. How does complete freedom of movement,
> especially in very young kids and those who are very
> new to such freedom, combine with making as sure as is
> reasonably possible that the kids survive to make use
> of their freedom at all?
> Naomi
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Received on Fri Dec 01 2006 - 21:01:49 EST

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