Sudbury schools..aka.Free schools

[deleted account] ( 2 moms have responded )

A Sudbury school is a school which practices a form of democratic education in which students individually decide what to do with their time, and learn as a by-product of ordinary experience rather than adopting a descriptive educational syllabus or standardized instruction by classes following a prescriptive curriculum. Students have complete responsibility for their own education and the school is run by direct democracy in which students and staff are equals.

The name 'Sudbury' refers to Sudbury Valley School, founded in 1968 in Framingham, Massachusetts, the first school of this type; since 1991, about 40 schools of this type have opened around the world. These schools are not formally associated in any way, but are a loosely connected network that are mutually supportive of each other, operating as independent entities. See here the features that apply to the Sudbury Valley School.

The model differs in some ways from other types of democratic schools and free schools, but there are many similarities:

* De-emphasis of classes: There is no curriculum or set of required courses, because there are no courses. Instead learner interest guides things, with students studying what they want to study. There are generally no classrooms, just rooms where people choose to congregate.
* Age mixing: students are not separated into age-groups of any kind and are allowed to mix freely, interacting with those younger and older than themselves; free age-mixing is emphasized as a powerful tool for learning and development in all ages.
* Autonomous democracy: parents have limited involvement or no involvement in the school administration; Sudbury schools are run by a democratic school meeting where the students and staff participate exclusively and equally. Such meetings are also the sole authority on hiring and firing of staff, unlike most other schools.

Sudbury schools are based on the belief that no kind of curriculum is necessary to prepare a young person for adult life. Instead, these schools emphasize learning as a natural by-product of all human activity.

There are about 40 Sudbury-type schools around the world.

Sudbury schools are based on the belief that no kind of curriculum is necessary to prepare a young person for adult life. Instead, these schools place emphasis on learning as a natural by-product of all human activity. Learning is self-initiated and self-motivated. They rely on the free exchange of ideas and free conversation and interplay between people, to provide sufficient exposure to any area that may prove relevant and interesting to the individual. Students of all ages mix together; older students learn from younger students as well as vice versa. Students of different ages often mentor each other in social skills. The pervasiveness of play has led to a recurring observation by first-time visitors to a Sudbury school that the students appear to be in perpetual "recess".

Implicitly and explicitly, students are given responsibility for their own education, meaning the only person designing what a student will learn is the student themselves or by the way of apprenticeship. As such, Sudbury schools do not compare or rank students — the system has no tests, evaluations, or transcripts.

*****Shannon... I think this has some good points, but when the kids are deciding their own curriculum, they're doing things like going fishing all day. Playing sports all day. Drawing, whatever seems fun, not actual learning. I myself would never send my child to a "free school". Not to mention the cost is about 10,000 a yr.


[deleted account]

Sounds like Un-Schooling to me which I don't agree with in anyway shape or form...This is also known as interest driven, child-led, natural, organic, eclectic, or self-directed learning.

Unschooling is a homeschooling method of learning where all aspects of traditional education is forgotten. There are no grades, no textbooks, no class times and no tests. It appears to be a helter-skelter learning process that allows the child choose what they want to learn. Because everything about traditional school is thrown out, the child learns from everyday experiences. It seems to be centered on preparing the child for life as opposed to traditional schools preparing the student for the workforce.

The biggest problem I have with unschooling, is the lack of structure. There is no safety net in place to make sure that the necessities are learned. An example of this would be that history is a required subject in traditional schools. If the unschooled student is not interested in history, then it is never studied. As the saying goes, "those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it." Another example is mathematics, another required subject in traditional schools. This is not learned if the student doesn't show an interest. When that students grows up, how will he or she balance their checkbook or make sure their paycheck isn't short? These are necessary things that adults need to know.

Another problem with unschooling is that there are no grades. Although I have mixed feelings about the "reward/punishment system" of today's society, it still exists. Grades are the reward for learning something; they are also the punishment for not learning something. This much like getting a raise in the workforce. Getting the raise is the reward for a job well done. Not getting the raise is the punishment for not doing your job well. That is the way society is and it doesn't look like it will be changing soon. How will the unschooled adult learn to adjust to this way of doing things?

There are no tests, so how can parents know that their unschooled child is actually learning? I believe in tests. I think they are important in judging what a student knows and doesn't know. Tests are not just written tests; they can be oral and even hands-one. I was told as a child that the tests I took told me what I knew. If I scored 94%, I was never told that I didn't know 6% of the material; I was told I knew 94% of it. Whether you believe tests tells what you don't know or do know, those tests are still needed to gage the amount of education the child has received. Written, oral, hands-on or whatever other method of testing used, those tests are necessary.

Unschooling is a free-spirited way of learning. We do not live in a free-spirited society. There are somethings that must be learned. Without a set curriculum, grades, and testing, we can't be sure those things have actually been learned. That can be a dangerous way for parents to send their children out into the real world.


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LaCi - posted on 04/02/2010




I really think some kids could benefit from this type of school. I also think some kids need structure. IF my son were the type I thought could benefit from that I'd absolutely send him to a school like that-if one were near me but I doubt there are any. The private school I've been looking into is extremely structured and the cost varies from 10-20k per year depending on grade level. So the price, for a private school, isn't too terrible. They usually have tuition assistance programs to cut costs as well. Personally, I like structure. Exams are my favorite. The only thing that I find really strange is the lack of transcripts... how do universities feel about that?

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