There are an increasing variety and number of people involved in education alternatives: Homeschooling, unschooling, Waldorf, Montessori, and other progressive schools. Perhaps this parallels changes in the traits we expect adults will need in the quickly changing world.
The Sudbury model is unique among these models, though it shares similarities with unschooling, and progressive schooling.
Progressive schools offer students greater choice and personal attention in the subjects that they study. The staff create and present curricula, and mentor students through creative project-based learning. The subjects taught and studied may be traditional or alternative. Sometimes these schools have a democratic component, even if only some aspects of the school are negotiable.
A progressive school may be college preparatory, or may focus on creativity and healthy personal development. Waldorf and Montessori are the most widespread and well-known progressive models, but countless others exist all over the world.
Unschooling is a growing branch of homeschooling. The parents take upon themselves charge of providing for the education of their children. The unschooling philosophy shares much in common with Sudbury schools. Unschoolers trust the natural curiosity of children and their drive for self-mastery. Unschooling parents do not create or present curricula, but are available to talk about or teach subjects as the student decides to. One of the pillars of this approach is the safe, healthy and supportive environment, and the depth of caring for each other that pervades the context of the education. Like homeschoolers, unschoolers in Austin have an active community and businesses for support.
In 1968, the revolutionary Sudbury Valley School opened its doors. Since then they have maintained an enrollment of between 100 and 200 students and have had generations of graduates.
From the begining, they have been unwavering in their principles. Children are human beings endowed with the same innate intelligence, curiosity and drive for self-mastery that is the hallmark of successful, happy adults. They deserve to be equals in the decision making processes that affect their lives, and to have their time and choices respected.
Though much has changed at Sudbury Valley, the core institution of the School Meeting is fundamental to the model. Here, the students and staff democratically run the school through Robert’s Rules of Order. They determine the laws of conduct which all school meeting members must abide by. They establish and refine the judicial body that interprets and enforces these laws. They set policy, hire and fire staff, allocate funds to projects and resources, determine the functions of clerks and officers, and make all of the decisions necessary for running a business and a community.
The success of the Sudbury Valley School has set a precedent in establishing authentic democratic education as viable and valuable. Today, around 40 “Sudbury model” schools exist all over the world. Some of these schools have been around for 15 or 20 years themselves, and are demonstrating that the success of Sudbury Valley is repeatable. As this model becomes further proven and more well established, we will see a continued rise in the number of thriving Sudbury schools.
Austin, Texas has many institutions providing or supporting alternative education under all of these models. For a list of other schools in Austin, visit the Alt Ed Austin blog. For a list of other Sudbury schools in the world, see the orignal Sudbury Valley School’s website.