Category Archives: kids — freedom and responsibility

Today I walked to school. The Red sox won last night.

“Today I walked to school. The Red sox won last night.”

From my school journal when I was 7, turning 8 in 3 days. (back in the 1970s)

I think I walked pretty much by myself on the way to school, and maybe with 2 or 3 friends on the way back. I remember having to wait in class until all the buses had left before the walkers were released.

I mean, that’s pretty amazing, given that my school was a full 1/2 miles walk and on 2 roads without a sidewalk. But I don’t remember thinking anything of it. It was just normal. Today (2015) that would seem pretty unusual I think.


— Marco’s Village
“I wrote an article a year ago that described my son Marco’s roaming range. Well, he’s 6-1/2 now, and I’m happy to say that this range has expanded considerably. I call the area pictured below “Marco’s Village” because he’s familiar with many people and places within this area. He feels safe here, and we feel comfortable letting him roam within this area.”

— A 1979 first-grade readiness checklist asks if your child can travel alone in the neighborhood, but not if she can read.

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Filed under free-range kids, kids -- freedom and responsibility, safety, shifting baseline

Standardized testing is so 1.0

Standardized testing is so 1.0 “On a recent morning at Riverside Elementary School, Alyssa Walter, 7, opened her first-grade “data binder,” in which she recorded progress on reading and math tasks throughout the year.”

Comments include:
“Preparing students for their cubicle lives in an Orwellian future is probably the fairest thing we can do, I guess…”
“There is plenty of research data that says physical activities improve learning, attention and scores. But no one is pushing physical activities as requirement in any school.”
“Well, can’t say this trend isn’t preparing kids for life in the real world, where, as adults, most will be poked, prodded and bullied by number by bosses and HR managers all their lives.”

I really do think traditional schools will eventually move in the direction of “continuous testing” aka data collection. So there is no need for a test… you’ve been collecting the (standardized) data all along. “Big Data”.

At our kids’ Sudbury school the “data” collected I suppose includes:
1. The number of times they add money to their discretionary account (tracking the amount of clay they bought and/or the number of fundraiser lunches they’ve partaken of?)
2. Sign-in and -out times. Since there is no fixed start and stop times, kids write down the time when they arrive and leave. But I don’t think this makes it into a database actually. Just for the attendance clerk to note people who are not attending. It also helps people at school know who is there. For instance, if it is 10:15am (or 4:15pm) and you can’t find Ansel, you might first check to see if he has signed-in (or out) for the day or not.
3. J.C. violations. Not much to learn there…
4. If you look at the list on the side of the microwave you can see the “data” of who is certified to use it. But no dates. Darn! Still that’s something I suppose!


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Filed under big data / personal data collection, contrarian, kids -- freedom and responsibility, kids are complete people, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School


AGILE is a process used in software development. It works with software. It works with kids and families.

Family meeting once a week.
Write it down. Make daily checklists

The 3 questions for family meeting (focusing on the family, not individuals):
1. What’s working well in our family this week?
2. What’s not working well?
3. What can we focus on in the week ahead?

To me, this relates to the more general ideas that:
1. Kids are fully people.
2. People are happier in communities where there is direct democracy. Like Switzerland and Sudbury Schools.

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Every day is show and tell day at Sudbury Valley School (or not)

This weekend at my grandmother’s 100th birthday party, she asked my youngest (7yo) if they did “show and tell” at his school. He didn’t really know how to answer because frankly, every day is show and tell at Sudbury Valley School. Well not exactly. It’s also NEVER show and tell… of course no one HAS to bring personal stuff from home. But certainly for those who are interested, it’s EVERY DAY… you can of course bring any amount of STUFF from home to work with/play with, and show other students or staff.

It’s not uncommon for said 7yo to bring a roller-suitcase filled to the brim with stuff that he plans to work on/play on while at school.

Today for instance, he is an actor in a movie someone is working on at school and so last night he brought home a handwritten checklist of props and proper attire he should bring with him. It was a lot of stuff! And he joyfully and excitedly gathered it up this morning, anxious to get to school.

I wonder if his cousin is in the movie because he is serving on JC (read: jury duty) all this month, so he has scheduling complications as he won’t be available for filming from 11am for an hour or so (or less) each day depending on their case load.

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Aren’t you a little young to be ordering pizza for delivery? Yes, yes I am!

This awesome scene from Sudbury Valley School is right out of Phineas and Ferb.

[Mom] “Did you bring your money to school?”
[7-year old] “Yes.”
“What for?”
“To order pizza for the party.”
“Where’d you get the pizza?”
“From Gianni’s.”
“How did you order it?”
“I called them and ordered it.”
“Whose phone did you use?”
“I went to the office and Jean let me use her phone.”
“How much was it?”
“About $13.”
“Did you give the driver a tip?”
“Yes, $5.”


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Our kids at school

“During my visit I could see that most of the students at SVS are in general a happy bunch due to, among other things, the freedom and responsibility that the community affords to them. The younger students, who have never attended a traditional school, settle in quickly and embrace the freedom to move around the campus unencumbered. In particular, there were three students (aged 4 to 6), which were almost inseparable. I observed them on numerous occasions, e.g. playing in the sandbox, playing on the swings, hanging out at Monkey Tree (it is one of the trees that the students like to climb) and eating lunch together. Most of the time they were engaged in pretend-play or busily chatting, and they clearly enjoyed each other’s company.”

(This was written by a person who is starting a Sudbury School in Hong Kong and so was invited to observe at Sudbury Valley for a day. It sounds like it is about one of my kids and his friends. If not, it sounds just like it as I have occasionally heard about fun in the Monkey Tree…)

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Filed under kids -- freedom and responsibility, kids are complete people, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School

Learning self-control

“Miss Sabatini, my third-grade teacher in Queens, made us sit with our hands crossed on our desks and our feet flat on the floor, all the time insisting that we ‘must learn self control.’ Although clearly if we had any real measure of control over ourselves and our lives we would be out in the playground, running and screaming.”

Barbara Ehrenreich
(Living With A Wild God, p. 42)

As seen at the SVS Facebook page

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