Category Archives: Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School

School for “Free-Range Kids”? Sudbury Valley School

You’ve heard about the “Free-Range Kids” movement and are wondering to yourself if there are any schools which embrace this idea?
Sudbury Valley School (since 1968) or any of the other Sudbury Schools around the US and around the world… that’s what you’re looking for.

Lenore Skenazy mentions SVS herself in a blog post here

Lenore Skenazy interviews Dan Greenberg from Sudbury Valley School (MP3 download here)

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“Schools should be on the edge of chaos”

“We are inspired by the way kindergarten students learn through a spiraling process in which they imagine what they want to do, create a project based on their ideas, play with their creations, share their ideas and creations with others, and reflect on their experiences – all of which leads them to imagine new ideas and new projects.”

From: A case for life-long kindergarten, Mitch Resnick

Sounds like Sudbury Valley School, except that it *is* that way for all ages.

Every day is show-and-tell day at SVS (or not)

“Schools should be on the edge of chaos”
from SchoolsForTomorrow: Session 3 – The Students

Learning Spiral:

From article:
All I Really Need to Know (About Creative Thinking) I Learned (By Studying How Children Learn) in Kindergarten
Mitch Resnick

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Schools for Real Life / Outcomes / Executive-Function

“… a group of kids, ages 7 – 16, who spent most of their time building tiny little societies out of plasticene, and having economies, wars, everything you can imagine acted out. I have chosen this quote because the contents really illustrate several important themes – the freedom to choose activities that are all play and are so much more; the self-discipline; the dogged determination to do as much as you can of what you want; and last but not least how all of this “play” relates to outcomes:

“Plasticene was probably one of the most intense things I’ve ever done. There were days when we’d show up, go right to the art room, work steadily at it until lunch time, eat lunch at the table, and keep on going until we had to leave that night; and we’d never, never leave the room once. The villages would evolve. Sometimes you’d be building a gold mining community. Sometimes it would be a bunch of towns with hotels and saloons. It usually involved a lot of buildings, a lot of vehicles, a lot of people, and you’d make all this stuff. Then you would enact various scenes with it. You would drive your cars around and have certain battles and blow them up on occasion. But for the most part, you were building. You’d be building tanks and airplanes, just one thing after another. I did it at home too; you could bring them in already built.

“We only had so much clay and the fun was in the creating. Afterwards, the only thing you could do with it was to smash it and start over again. It was a constant build and smash. Sometimes we would decide to change modes. For a while everything would be Western. From there, it might go to a battlefield. From there it might go to factories. Western was probably the biggest thing.

“It lasted two or three years, on and off. Probably more. We were not being influenced by any outside source. We were a small group of people bouncing ideas off each other and leading ourselves wherever we took ourselves. We learned from what we could get out of books and from our own interests. We took all kids in, and let all kids be part of this.

And here are the outcomes:

“I think about it every now and then, and I did exactly what I’m doing now, except I’m doing it now in real life. I’m building a factory and making machines and talking to people all day long. Same exact thing. And very intensely. Day in and day out, the same exact thing I was doing in plasticene. Except that when you’re a kid you don’t really have as many of the same complications you have when you’re an adult. If you’re working on a plasticene village, the worst that can happen is you can lose your razor blade or something like that. And maybe you can find another one pretty quickly. There aren’t setbacks like you would have in real life, later on. You won’t run out of bricks for your building, because you’re making the bricks yourself.

“With the plasticene, I was making businesses. I made a lot of factories. I had a cannery at one time. I had a still. I had a bottling plant attached to the still. I could picture it – I had seen films and gone through books that would show you pictures of bottling plants and such things. It had to be realistic.

“It was the fascination of creating. You were creating things that you couldn’t have yourself, maybe, but you could still make them, and by making them, you could have them. And if you were going to do it and have it, you might as well have it as realistic as you could make it.


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schools for self-regulation and executive-function

“…the key to developing self-regulation is play, and lots of it. But not just any play. The necessary ingredient is what Leong and Bodrova call “mature dramatic play”: complex, extended make-believe scenarios, involving multiple children and lasting for hours, even days. If you want to succeed in school and in life, they say, you first need to do what Abigail and Jocelyn and Henry have done every school day for the past two years: spend hour after hour dressing up in firefighter hats and wedding gowns, cooking make-believe hamburgers and pouring nonexistent tea, doing the hard, serious work of playing pretend.”

“Bodrova and Leong drew on research conducted by some of Vygotsky’s followers that showed that children acting out a dramatic scene can control their impulses much better than they can in nonplay situations. In one experiment, 4-year-old children were first asked to stand still for as long as they could. They typically did not make it past a minute. But when the kids played a make-believe game in which they were guards at a factory, they were able to stand at attention for more than four minutes.”

Sounds like Sudbury Valley School
See also: Plasticene Village

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Save me from high school

“I’ve never watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but the idea that high school is a portal to hell seems pretty realistic to me.” –Peter Buck, R.E.M.

from: (Every Body Hurts by REM)

OK, so I appreciate that many HS experiences are less than ideal shall we say, and I understand part of this is brain development and hormones and such, but I think very often (95%?) it is largely institutional.  Instead, people look back at their HS days and often blame themselves and/or think “well, that’s just the way it is”.   Kids are actual people.  But schools do not treat kids like actual full human beings who want autonomy, freedom, responsibility, etc, etc.  It should not be so.  And it is not so at Sudbury Valley School.

But hey, he can write a song if he wants to. I will report back once our kids are teenagers (at their school Sudbury Valley School but seems like there is absolutely no reason why most teenagers can’t be perfectly happy too.

SVS: Where does happiness come from?

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You want joy? You want freedom. You want freedom? You want SVS!

Joy: A Subject Schools Lack
Becoming educated should not require giving up pleasure.

“The traditional view of such moments [of joy in kids] is that they constitute a charming but irrelevant byproduct of youth—something to be pushed aside to make room for more important qualities, like perseverance, obligation, and practicality. Yet moments like this one are just the kind of intense absorption and pleasure adults spend the rest of their lives seeking.”


You want joy? You want freedom. You want freedom? You want SVS! I can hardly peel my 7 year old away when I come to pick him up at his sudbury school. “Can you come back in an hour?” is the typical request. Of course the joy just continues at home though. So we’re good.

Not that Sudbury Schools necessarily have the market on “joy-based education”. And not that freedom isn’t a lot of work. It’s that too. But to see the amount of happiness that is possible is reassuring.

Meanwhile it seems most people are busy blaming themselves for being depressed or stupid (or you name it) and not seeing that a large part of it (or sometimes 100%!) is their school and their school’s impact (via homework, grades, competition) on their home lives as well. It’s crazy-making. But it’s a structural problem — their educational institution is insane. Not them.

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Just depends…

4 Reasons You Should Not Send Your Child to College


An aside: Everything I’ve heard on college “yes/no” or college “which one?”

1. Incomes are correlated not caused by people who get into fancy schools
2. Incomes are correlated with STEM sorts of careers
3. Happiness is not caused by incomes, beyond a certain base level which is needed to not be poor
4. This base level for income might be affected SERIOUSLY by student loans.
5. Lots of careers which pay well have nothing to do with college
6. Many careers which do pay well also have other entry points (programming/software engineers)
7. For jobs requiring certification, all the employers typically care about is the cert (not the school). And sometimes state schools are favored.
8. Not everyone is a “book smarts” kind of person. Who the heck cares. There are about a million types of smarts in the world.

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