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I’m Not Afraid Anymore

Top 3 Parenting Fears I Had

By Dave Soleil. Parent and founder at SSA.

As a parent of two children starting school at the Sudbury School of Atlanta (SSA), I had questions. I had fears. The model of education looked so different, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would my child learn to read? Would they learn math? What if they fall behind?

My oldest daughter is now 11. She has been at SSA for seven years. My youngest has been there for four years. SSA is the only school they have ever known and I can conclusively say, I’m not afraid anymore. Let me give you some perspective that I hope can be helpful to new parents who have questions and fears about the Sudbury model of education.

#1: Will My Child Learn To Read?

Your child will absolutely learn to read on their own time and be excited about reading! Why? Because they are not being forced into it. Written language tells us amazing stories, transports us to other worlds, gives us needed information, and can move our souls in practical and artistic ways. Young people see the power of information around themselves everyday in life - books, magazines, technology, games, billboard signs, and more. They want to decode that magical language that can open their lives to so much more. It happens naturally when you let it.

Both my kids read and write. And let me be clear. I do not and have not tutored them in reading or writing.

Support them in their curious exploration of the world. They learn to read and write naturally.

#2: Will My Child Learn Math?

My children are excited about math. Why? Because it helps them achieve their goals. Our lives are surrounded by math. Cooking requires math. Shopping requires math. Minecraft requires math. Wanna see how fast a young person can do fractions? Put an apple pie on the table and ask them how much everyone in the family gets.

Manipulating numbers is fun. It’s a game and it’s their choice. Support them in that choice.

I also want to clarify, you do not need to hover over your children waiting for the “teachable moment.” They have a thousand learning moments every day without you. You just need to support them when they come to you asking for support. Otherwise, let them explore.

#3: What If My Child Falls Behind?

This is a fear uncertain parents put into the heads of other parents. “If my child falls behind at age six, they will be behind for the rest of their life!” Let’s be practical about this.

Falling behind in what? We know they pursue reading, writing and math all on their own. They are excited about learning. So what’s left?

-Constant scrutiny, evaluation, and grades

-High pressure standardized testing

-Forced homework after a long day of being at school

-Curricula mandated by politicians

Regardless of your political beliefs, do you want politicians deciding what is important for your children to learn? Who’s version of American history will they be learning and then responsible for regurgitating on tests? Education is not a value-less, unbiased proposition. I definitely want my child to have the opportunity to explore history through many inter-sectional lenses. This simply doesn’t happen in traditional education.

And regarding falling behind in traditional school models:

  • How does a young person learn to communicate effectively if the predominant message they get is to be quiet all day, every day, including lunch? Silent lunch, anyone?

  • In a world of bullying, how do young people learn empathy if there is never time allowed to feel emotion or to work through emotional issues with peers?

  • How do young people get excited about any subject if they are never given time or choice to explore their interests?

So, who is really behind? Who is ahead? It all comes down to what you value. I have seen my children excel far beyond “adults” in their communication skills, empathy and negotiation. Why? Because they practice all day, every day. They learn to solve problems on their own, both personal and interpersonal. They are curious, independent, energized learners not living in fear of a test, or a grade, or a teacher or a bully. That is worth more to me than any gold star on a worksheet or a 4.0 GPA.

The Sudbury School of Atlanta has not only turned my child into a fearless learner, but it has turned me into a fearless parent. Let go of your fears and watch your child blossom into the person they were meant to become.


The Sudbury School of Atlanta is a radically free democratic school in Avondale Estates, GA. We believe in trusting and empowering the students to follow their curiosity and pursue their educational journey.

Unschooling | Democratic School | Alternative Education Atlanta |Sudbury Schools | NonViolent Communication | Restorative Justice | Self-directed Education |

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