About Alternative Education
About Sudbury Schools
HOW DO YOU KNOW A CHILD IS LEARNING WITHOUT TESTING?
Children are naturally curious and motivated. When they feel forced or coerced, they often resist, as do adults. Coercion does not promote cooperation. Rigid testing can limit exploration and restrict more expansive solutions and creativity. Once a test has been completed, there is little way to know what of the material has been internalized. Stress and anxiety have been shown to inhibit deep learning.
ISN'T THERE A SPECIFIC STEP-WISE FASHION IN WHICH CHILDREN NEED TO LEARN READING AND MATH?
Learning is rarely linear and, as human beings are individuals, development has patterns but does not happen at the same pace for all children, and shouldn’t. Forcing uniform benchmarks frustrates both those developmentally ahead and behind the arbitrary “norms” set by uniform curriculum.
DOESN'T MY CHILD HAVE TO BE “ON GRADE LEVEL” TO SUCCEED IN THE FUTURE?
“Grade levels” are invented benchmarks that have little relationship with future abilities, unless the learner has been demoralized by being labeled “behind.” Naturally, some children are symbolic learners and readers as early as age 3 and as late as age 12 with no discernible difference. This is normal but not “allowed” in standard curriculum classrooms.
DON'T CHILDREN NEED TO LEARN THE FUNDAMENTALS AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE?
Early rigidity in basic math can calcify children’s problem-solving abilities. All of K-8 math has been shown to be easily learned in an average of 6 weeks when a child is developmentally ready. In addition, much content that has traditionally been memorized or drilled is now readily available electronically and does not need such time-consuming attention given to memorization.
DOESN'T HOMEWORK TEACH SELF-DISCIPLINE AND WORK ETHIC?
Actual research on the value of homework fails to show any long-term benefit. It almost universally creates tension between parents and children, frustrates children, and takes away from valuable play and family time.
SHOULDN'T CHILDREN BE DIVIDED BY AGE INTO GRADE LEVELS?
Mixed-age groups have successfully promoted remarkable cooperation, sensitivity, and more diversified learning.
DOESN'T MY CHILD NEED A ROBUST ACADEMIC RESUME INCLUDING AP AND IB CLASSES IN ORDER TO GET INTO A GOOD UNIVERSITY?
Many top universities are now actively recruiting non-traditional learners, seeing them as more intrinsically motivated. University applications need not include a traditional academic report. Many children are “burned out” after rigorous academic “careers” in elementary and high school.
WHAT IS THE CURRICULUM?
We have an individualized curriculum that highlights civics, leadership, problem-solving, and creativity.
WILL MY CHILD BE ABLE TO GET INTO COLLEGE?
Every Sudbury graduate that wants to get into college is accepted, usually to their first school of choice (Legacy of Trust). There are many ways to do so, e.g., sending SAT/ACT scores and a portfolio of work to the school in lieu of transcripts, scheduling a personal meeting with the admissions dean of the desired school, etc. (1)
HOW WILL MY CHILD LEARN MATH, SCIENCE, WRITING, ETC.?
When a child is ready and willing, basic subjects like reading, writing, and math are quite easily learned. Traditional schooling forces children to learn these at the same age and at the same rate - often before a child is ready or interested. Thus, the process seems to be difficult and time-consuming. The fact is that Sudbury schools have seen children teach themselves to read, some at age 4 and some at 12, with absolutely no instruction. By age 13, you can’t tell the difference between the child who learned to read at 4 from the child who learned to read at 12. As for math, it has been demonstrated that all of the math content from K - 6 can be learned in just 6 weeks when the child is ready for it and even more complex academics beyond that in a similar fashion (2). Imagine all of the time and frustration saved!
(For another perspective, watch the TED video Why Math Instruction Is Unnecessary.)
DON'T YOU NEED TO TELL KIDS WHAT TO LEARN AND TEST THEM TO MAKE SURE THEY LEARNED IT?
Once you shed the notion that “real learning” must be measured, you will begin to see your child in a different light and trust your own instincts about their growth. In this post-industrial information age, children know that traditional schooling wastes a lot of time, and many are tuning out. Giving them ownership of their learning lets them tune back in.
WHAT IF MY CHILD WANTS TO PLAY COMPUTER GAMES OR DRAW ALL DAY?
Most parents see their children decompressing after a long work day at school, "recharging their batteries" after a draining day or week (adults do this too!). That doesn't mean that your child will only play video games when given a fully day of free choice. In fact, it's amazing to see what children choose when they're fresh and able to be curious!
Even if they do play computer games or draw for hours during school, it's important to remember that your child is always learning. They are constantly absorbing information from the environment around them and the task on which they are focused. There is no way for adults to predict where a child's interests will lead them (Einstein was made fun of for watching objects float in a bucket of water for hours...). Sudbury schools have seen video gaming turn into greater interest in literacy, computer programing, or something unrelated all together. Just because we have been taught to divide activities as "academic" or "non-academic" does not mean there is an actual division. Many students may start their time at school recharging their batteries, but usually find there's much more to do and explore. We expect students to go through a period of transition from having no say in their education to their newfound responsibility to teach themselves anything they want to learn.
IS THERE ANY STRUCTURE IN THE SCHOOL?
Although students are free to do whatever they choose all day long (within the boundaries of safety, respect, and other rules of conduct outlined in the School Lawbook), the community has two very important core structures: 1) The student-led Judiciary Committee where rule infractions and disagreements are handled daily and, 2) the weekly School Meeting where the school’s rules, processes, and budget are proposed and decided democratically by students and staff. See our School Structure page for more details.
WILL THIS BE THE RIGHT FIT FOR MY CHILD? WHAT “TYPE” OF CHILD THRIVES AT A SUDBURY SCHOOL? WHAT ABOUT MORE QUIET CHILDREN?
Sudbury schools have welcomed every “type” of child – from the highly academic student to the public school “failure.” Students of all kinds are best suited for Sudbury schools: bright, highly motivated kids who want to surge ahead and challenge themselves; kids with unique learning styles who want to move at their own pace; kids who want an atmosphere of tolerance and friendliness; social kids who want to be part of a democratic community; quieter kids who want a little more space to pursue their own interests... all kids K-12 whose parents allow them this unique opportunity to explore, learn, and truly become themselves.
WHAT IS TUITION FOR THE MIAMI SUDBURY SCHOOL?
Please see our Tuition page.
(1) “Graduates attend colleges and universities like Boston College, Boston University, Brandeis, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, Emory, Harvard, Lehigh, MIT, NYU, Tufts, Northeastern, University of Massachusetts - Amherst, and Wesleyan. 82% of alumni pursued some form of formal higher education. Compare this with the statistic that less than 70% of graduates from the public school system matriculate into college.” (Schools on Trial p.174)
(2) Sudbury Valley School has seen students learn K-6 math in 20 contact hours. When co-founder Daniel Greenberg asked a elementary school math specialist if that sounded extraordinary to him, the specialist replied that he was not shocked: "Because everyone knows," he answered, "that the subject matter itself isn't that hard. What's hard, virtually impossible, is beating it into the heads of youngsters who hate every step."