Sometimes people ask how we think [my daughter] will do in "the real world" after a Sudbury education. In the "real world", the pace of technological and social change means that successful people need to be continuous learners and skilled collaborators, eager to try new things and not too worried about whether their experiments will initially fail. Those are the skills that Sudbury nurtures. Our daughter will be much more prepared for "the real world" than most of her traditionally schooled peers.
[My daughter] is so very happy she woke up at 5:00 AM ASKING IF SHE COULD GO TO SCHOOL YET! I am sure as parents you know how much that means to me; there is just no feeling like it.
I just want to share that this year has been pivotal for [my son] and I feel that A&I has pretty much saved his experience with education. I think I have one of the most balanced, self-motivated and un-cranky teenagers that could ever exist! I also want to share that our experience at A&I has directly affected my teaching strategy, with teenagers specifically.
What image pops into mental view when one hears, yet again, that it takes a village to raise a child? A bunch of adults, all available to cast a benevolently watchful eye upon whoever’s child happens to be underfoot as they set a virtuous and practical example by going about their business. All good. What is missing from this virtual tableau?
The sound of small feet hurrying, the annoyed sighs of teens deploying their dirt-palmed clean-up crew, a chicken coop being raised on academic real estate, music, laughter, and all kids raising each other in their real world, in real time, learning to own the reality of their actions. To use an adult-shrink-speak term, the kids learn "agency" at Arts and Ideas Sudbury School, just ‘cause they can. With the tableau thus filled in, the village becomes complete.
I had a flooding rush of joy and gratitude yesterday (I felt down right verklempt) when I dropped R off for school just for the simple fact that W--who is a fair bit older than R (in kid years)--waited while holding the door for R as he scaled a wall to go into school. W had such a kind and patient demeanor and while I'm sure there are times the bigs and littles ignore and annoy one another, they also get this natural opportunity to care for and about one another. This familial type bond is one of the many reasons we chose Sudbury.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. You are the main reason why I chose Arts & Ideas, just wanted to let you know that. I totally felt at ease when we met and sensed an amazing amount of empathy/kindness and compassion in you. I want my sprouting bean to be around creative, kind and nourishing people, especially at this age. With that said, [my daughter] will be thrilled to start this September and we will see you/speak with you when we get back home.
Our daughter's learning style is not a match for a traditional classroom. We needed to decide whether we would continue cramming her into a box where she didn't fit or give her the space to be herself. This is her 2nd year at Arts & Ideas and she's a much happier kid. Her eyes are bright, her curiosity is unstoppable and she loves learning a variety of subjects.
I'll be continuing to support you and spread the word about the school, especially now that I've seen it. Congratulations too, I'm so impressed with how wonderfully you've all made this space happen and how well you've articulated the differences and history of this model.
Our change in schools was the best decision we have ever made for [my daughter]. She truly is a different child!! Thanks for being part of it!!
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, a princess was born to the Kingdom of Avondale. It did not take long for the king and queen to realize that this was no ordinary princess. This princess did not like princess clothes. She did not like to participate in activities that other young princesses enjoy. And she hated princess school. Often it was difficult for this princess to just get dressed and leave the castle in the mornings. She fought many battles at her young age. The kingdom was confused by this out-of-the-box princess. The king and queen summoned all the best specialists to come look at their child to understand why she acted differently than the other princesses. Then one day, the king and queen found a magic bean. They planted the magic bean and grew some sense. Sense is a powerful thing! The king and queen removed the princess from princess school and enrolled her in a non-traditional school with young lads and lassies from neighboring kingdoms. They told their princess that she did not have to grow up to be just like the other princesses. She could be anything and do anything she wanted. The princess began to flourish. She no longer had difficulty getting dressed and leaving the castle in the mornings. She even started to explore the latest in princess fashions. The princess was happy! And everyone knows... a happy princess means a happy kingdom. Happy, happy birthday my beautiful princess. May you continue to beat to your own drum, let your light shine, and make your own way in the world.
Arts & Ideas saved my kids: I went from worrying about them every second of the day to not worrying at all. And once I was totally on board with the Sudbury philosophy, I not only didn't worry about their presents, I also stopped worrying about their futures.
Even the most innovative of public charter schools has assignments, tests, strained teachers, and deadlines. For [my daughter], the stress, anxiety, and resentment that came from struggling within those constraints got in the way of actual learning. Rather than blossoming, this incredibly bright kid was failing. Her "off the charts" intelligence didn’t matter; she felt "stupid" and gave up because "success" was based on scores. Her anxiety flared and her self-esteem plummeted. She was getting sick at school and struggled socially. I’m sorry, but a test score does not equal aptitude! We knew the system wasn’t working for her and decided to jump ship.
What we’ve found at Arts & Ideas is the space to swim on her own terms, in her own way, at her own pace. There’s room to breathe, play, stretch, and imagine. In just the few months that we’ve been at A&I, I have already seen a big change in [my daughter's] sense of self. They ebb and flow but the confidence and autonomy she could not find are really starting to bubble. The chance to look inward as well as outward has provided her with her own huge canvas to fill – a scenario she never found herself in while tackling public school. The elimination of deadlines has freed her mind (and schedule) to discover herself and bloom, which is exactly what one should hope to find in any schooling.
I’m not going to lie – there are bumps in the suddenly open road to a teen’s self-sufficiency and the non-accrediting thing scared us a bit going in. BUT we had (and continue to have) faith that the pieces missing in her public school experience –the independence, the time to focus on passions, a fantastic staff that’s always ready and willing to hear her—THESE are what we need and what we’ll find in a Sudbury environment. And that these things in the forefront will make learning exciting – not dreaded. In the few months we’ve been at A&I, she’s already: plotting RPG game designs, playing music, critically thinking about the world around her ("Homestuck as the modern day Odyssey" could totally be a college course), learning about democracy and judiciary responsibility, filling her art portfolio, studying mythology, advocating feminism and social justice, making great friendships, and more. Now THAT’S an education!
My sons have been challenged, inspired, frustrated and stymied by this model. Our eldest son graduated from A&I after a senior year where he struggled with his thesis( the model's requirement for graduation) and balanced an internship with a local bakery. During his time at A&I he began to become serious about photography and with this skill he garnered a show at a local restaurant and his work hung in numerous local shops. He bought his first car with the money he saved in part due to sales of his photographs. After graduation at age 16 he went on to certify as one of the youngest Wilton instructors in our area, then soon after he began working at a local restaurant in Hampden. Le Garage. He has been there two years and is the pastry chef, which was what his life goal was beginning at 12. He felt prepared to step into adulthood as he had gained so many skills we tend to think of as more "adult" through the processes of School Meeting and Judicial Committee.
Our youngest son has chosen a different path, unlike our eldest who never missed a School Meeting or a chance to volunteer for Judicial Committee, our youngest is content to follow his own goals. His independence and autonomy are his focus and as he was "raised" in the model we have spirited discussions about politics and current events. His separation from his brother's approach and years at A&I have also been of great value as he stands apart from his brother's choices and expectations.
We did not desire report cards or test scores, despite my husband working as a teacher for a time; we wanted active thinkers, independence, the freedom to explore and a firm sense of self determination. Arts and Ideas has supported all of this and opened so many new pathways for our family.