Updated: Dec 8, 2018
It can be hard to answer questions about the Sudbury model because it’s such a radical departure from the traditional model of school. Sometimes it seems like every answer is “No, but…”, and this can feel really unfulfilling or like the initial question is being discounted. A better, more fulfilling and respectful approach is to try to find and question the assumptions behind the questions. When I, personally, do that, I find that it’s the Sudbury model that seems natural and intuitive whereas the traditional model leaves me scratching my head.
If you find yourself with questions about Sudbury, here’s a technique you can try to help you understand how you really feel about the model: ask ‘why?’ about the question itself and keep on asking ‘why?’ until it’s clear you can stop. Here are a couple of examples of me working through this technique:
Example 1: How do you teach children to read at Sudbury? Why am I asking that? Because kids need to be taught. Why? Because they won’t put in the hard work to learn to read unless someone is making them. Why? Because reading isn’t fun. Why? Because reading is too challenging/boring/etc.
Now, do I really believe that? No, I don’t. Not at all. So now I can go back and reconsider the question: ‘how do we teach children to read?’ and I might see that it isn’t a question I really need to ask. In this case, for me personally, after working through this I’m pretty confident that reading is a fun and interesting thing that my child will (and does) want to figure out, so I’m not worried anymore about someone teaching this skill to him.
Example 2: Will children at Sudbury be able to pass state standards exams? Why do children need to take these exams? Because that’s how we prove they are ready for the next grade. Why? Because schools need to have a certain percentage of kids go on to the next grade. Why? Because otherwise, they are a failing school and bad things happen for the school system.
Upon landing here, for me, this question basically evaporates. I don’t believe that the state’s standards for school accreditation ought to shape my child’s learning, so I can move on from this question pretty quickly at this point.
This tool, this way of asking questions, isn’t new. Coaches (life, business, etc.) and consultants have used variations of it for years Making decisions about education for our children can be overwhelming, and having a tool to ferret out our basic assumptions and help us see our values clearly is huge. If you are like me, then you’ll find that once you start asking ‘why?’, it’s the traditional model of school that seems like a leap of faith and the Sudbury model that seems natural and intuitive.
If you would like to chat with us about the model, ask questions, or tour our school, join us in one of our upcoming Open House events. We’d love to meet you and your family.