Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Unschooling through the Sudbury Valley School

From Education: Class Dismissed in Psychology Today:

"Summary: It's every modern parent's worst nightmare—a school where kids can play all day. But no one takes the easy way out, and graduates seem to have a head start on the information age. Welcome to Sudbury Valley.

"I've learned a lot about how my mind works by paying attention to how I unicycle," Ben declared in preparation for high school graduation. And from the time he was 12, Ben paid attention to nothing so much as unicycling. When students elsewhere were puzzling over, say, the periodic table, Ben, along with a handful of schoolmates, was mostly struggling up and racing down New England mountainsides, dodging rocks, mud and other obstacles. His "frantic fights to maintain balance" demanded both deep focus and moment-to-moment planning. But they gave him something missing from most classrooms today—a passion for pursuing challenges and inhaling the skills and information (to say nothing of the confidence) to master life's complexities.

At Sudbury Valley School, there's no other way to learn. The 38-year-old day facility in Framingham, Massachusetts is founded on what comes down to a belief about human nature—that children have an innate curiosity to learn and a drive to become effective, independent human beings, no matter how many times they try and fail. And it's the job of adults to expose them to models and information, answer questions—then get out of the way without trampling motivation. There are no classrooms per se, although students can request instruction on any subject or talk to any staffer any time about an interest. There aren't even grades. From overnight hiking trips to economics classes to weekly school meetings at which all matters—including my visit—are discussed and voted on by students and staff, all activities are age-mixed." ...
(Click the link above for the rest of the article.)

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