Thoughts on “Dreaming of an unschooling village”

Jens,
Interesting article you wrote:
Dreams of an unschooling village
http://alternativestoschool.com/2014/10/15/dreams-unschooling-village/

Our family moved to Framingham, MA to be close to Sudbury Valley School. Let me address a few points you hit on in your article:
– learning from real life
– free play
– nature

LEARNING FROM REAL LIFE
The tricky thing about this is that a lot of work today is not work that works well for kids seeing what is going on — “the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker”. There are plenty of hours in the day for them to see me working at my computer. But that is BORING after a few minutes… they can’t help out. And when they are older, the Sudbury model makes it easy to incorporate apprenticeships or other “real world” learning into one’s day as approprate. The idea that one can have a cohousing or other intentional community where many/most of the parents are around and doing things that are of interest to kids is slightly flawed in my opionion for a few reasons.
1) young kids are mostly not going to be interested (see FREE PLAY below)
2) the young adults could learn a thing or 2, but the chances that there will be a match between work interests is slim)
3) most adults are going to be working either offsite or even if onsite, it’s not necessarily going to be interesting to kids.

And then there is work work, but in MA (and most places I assume) one can’t work until you are 14. LINK

Much more common is finding matches in hobbies. Avocations rather than vocations. Artistic and music pursuits, sports, cooking, gardening, hiking, etc, etc. So that’s very valuable of course, but this will mostly be outside of traditional work/school hours as far as the adults are concerned. So one is still left with what would be interesting to do during those mid-day times. My answer, especially if both parents are working: SUDBURY VALLEY SCHOOL

FREE PLAY
Sudbury Valley School!
“In a survey of hunter-gatherer researchers… all said that the children in the group that they had studied were free to explore on their own, without adult guidance, essentially from dawn to dusk every day. They were allowed such freedom beginning at about age 4… on into their mid to late teenage years, when they began to take on adult responsibilities.” http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201105/the-human-nature-teaching-ii-what-can-we-learn-hunter-gatherers

This mirrors glimpses I see at Sudbury Valley School. Much of the activity one sees w/ younger (4 thru pre-teen) qualifies as “play” in most people’s definition of the word. Not until people reach mid to late teenage years (young adults) do people shift substantially into thinking about “work”… either more academically minded pursuits or otherwise focusing substantially specifically on how they plan to make a living.

NATURE
Sudbury Valley School! If the trees, fields, huge climbing rocks, stream, fishing pond, pavement for basketball/4-square/scooters/etc isn’t enough, it abuts a state park which students can visit freely (age 8+ with another or 13+ by self)

Check out all those barefeet in the photos of the kids at school.

Having unlimited access to “outside” is a huge plus to Sudbury vs traditional schools.

But also don’t get too excited! It’s not like anyone HAS to go outside. What if you want to use a computer inside all day? What if you are happier in a city? You can’t predict how it will all work out. But the fact still stands… even if you are inside working and playing inside all day, it’s important to know you can go outside and there is a nice outside to go to. It’s your choice.

Sudbury Valley School (in particular) is in suburbia. And it’s the type of American suburbia which is just out of reach of substantial public transportation. Nearby downtown Framingham has some limited buses and access to a commuter rail line that goes to Boston (50min, 30min by car) and Worcester. But getting around mostly means cars (or taxis, or walking/bikes). But several families (including ourselves) have moved close enough to the SVS campus that our kids can easily walk or ride bikes to school. Some do so through the state park. Others on local roads. When our kids are older, they are maybe going to wish they had a car. And/or that they we lived in the city. And maybe that they didn’t have to help mow the lawn. Such is the flip-side of all the wonderful nature. We’ll see! I actually think Framingham is the best of both worlds. Close to shopping, and a short trip to the city, but still with all the beautiful woods and farms.

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