“I have traveled ten million miles over the past twelve years searching for answers for how we might fix schools to help us in the creation of good people, good citizens, and good individual lives. No model is more promising than the Sudbury model. I would urge parents to give this model a close look. Trust your kids; they will surprise you.”
John Taylor Gatto
My Sudbury School journey began about 12 years ago while I was doing research on education for my PhD dissertation. This is also the time when I first discovered John Taylor Gatto and his Underground History of American Education, LewRockwell.com and the Mises Institute. My ideas about education and “schooling” were forever changed within only a few weeks, and there is no going back.
The irony is that I spent a whooping 23 years (yes 23) in “schools” (not including Kindergarten), and I came out believing in “unschooling.” Go figure!
When I came across and started reading about the Sudbury school model, there was no doubt in my mind that I had found the school of my dreams, the one I would have loved to attend myself, and the one I wanted for my (future) child. I even borrowed $500 from my mother so I could order the start up kit from the Sudbury Valley School, I read everything I could, and I began talking to people around me about Sudbury.
I never got very far and could tell, from the look on people’s faces, that they thought I had just lost it. We’re talking about a school where there are no scheduled classes, no curriculum being followed, and no mandatory testing whatsoever. Children of all ages decide what they will do, when, where, and with whom.
After a while, I became really tired of answering the same questions over and over: “how do you know they are learning if you don’t test them? What if they decide to watch TV or play video games all day? How will they get into college if they have no grades and no report cards? Is that even legal? How will you get the state to approve such a school?” And so on. The start up kit went into the closet and I went on with my life.
In 2005, our beautiful baby girl came into our lives. Before she was even born, we knew that we didn’t want her “schooled” in a traditional way: scheduled mandatory classes all day with bells ringing in between, the drilling and memorizing, just a few minutes of recess daily, hours of homework every night, and incessant testing. We don’t believe children learn that way, or people for that matter; life is not “standardized.”
In Lafayette, our thinking didn’t leave us with many school options. Just about all the schools, public or private around here follow this traditional model. We considered a Montessori school in town though we were never able to get in touch with the owner of the school.
There was also another Montessori near Sunset a couple of years ago where I would have loved for her to go full time however, it meant about 4 hours in the car every day because of where we live, and for her age group, they only offered 1/2 days.
Here’s the funny thing, though: had these schools been Sudbury schools, I would have done everything in my power to register our daughter, and I would have driven the 35+ miles of country roads (one way) every day for her to attend.
Heck, I even thought about moving to Framingham, MA, home of the Sudbury Valley School, but I left Canada 18 years ago to get away from the cold and have no interest of going back up north. Besides, my Cajun husband is just not going anywhere. Those of you who know Cajuns understand what I’m talking about.
So this past summer, Lynn (my husband) and I made a decision that we were going to unschool and that we would once again make an effort to open a Sudbury school in the Lafayette area by seeking other parents and children who want this type of education. This is how this blog/website came about and our LafayetteSudbury Facebook page.
You see, I have a hard time believing that we’re the only ones in the Lafayette area embracing unschooling and a student-led education and I keep thinking that someday, somehow, words of our Sudbury school will travel and reach these fine folks who don’t know we’re here, yet.
And if we never get our Sudbury school off the ground, that’s ok, too. My child will still be unschooled and will be allowed to discover our world and what life is about on her own schedule and her own terms.
We live, we love, we learn; we unschool. Care to join us?