Alternative Schools

A question came up on Radical Unschooling Info (on facebook):

In responses to that, other things came up, and one was a link to this discussion from a couple of years before:
-=-I'm curious what your thoughts are on "open schools or democratic schools" where it's learner directed. Is this the same as Unschooling? What would be the pros n cons of such a place. Would you have sent your kids there if such an opportunity arose? Thank you!-=-
Responses can be seen (without joining the group, if you have access to facebook) here.
Once someone came to Always Learning to advertise a new school, and the ideas were discussed.
Sandra Dodd:
-=-for most of us who like a free style of learning for our kids, there is a school that just does that !-=- I let this through because once in a while it's good to discuss the difference between a school that "does that" and unschooling.

No school can unschool. It's not linguistically or logically or socially possible.

-=-Based on an experience occurred in England last century (you can google Summerhill UK) several of these type of schools have been opened here in Us as well.-=-

It's pretty day for a new school to start idealistically, and the plan can be seen as fair and workable, until real human beings are thrown into the mix.

-=-Welcoming all who can thrive, -=-

I guess that means that if someone isn't cooperative, they're no longer welcome. And that makes sense, but will it really be democratic to that level?

Not and have free bus service.
And it's not "free bus service," really.

-=-Although The Circle School doesn’t provide transportation, residents of at least the following school districts are eligible for free public school bus service to The Circle School:... If you live in one of the above school districts, we’ll ask you at the time of enrollment if you want bus transportation, and submit a request to your district based on your wishes. Bus schedules and routes are determined by the public school district providing the transportation.-=-

So each student at this school will either need to be delivered and picked up each day by parents or someone, or get on a school bus with public school students, but get OFF the bus at a private school. And then get on the bus after school.

I rode school busses for eleven years. They're not calm, peaceful places. They aren't the least bit democratic. Either the driver is "mean" and kids sit quietly but relative safely, or the driver is "nice" and some of the kids have leeway to be mean.

-=-a school like this is being opened in the Stroudsburg/Bangor area in Pennsylvania and you can check it out at these two links:-=-

WAY too local for this discussion, but it's good to point out that each such school will try to sell itself to local homeschoolers. They will figure (probably rightly) that some homeschoolers are homeschooling because they haven't found a school that will suit their child or calm their fears.

-=-'Democratic' schools are the closest institutionalized schools that honor the natural drive of the child and exposes the kid to several activities without actually telling him/her what to do.-=-

I would hope someone would tell him not to be destructive or mean. If he misses his mom, will they tell him to stop crying and complaining? If he's hungry, won't they tell him to wait for lunchtime or until he gets home?

-=-(no tests, no adult driving the kid to this or that activity, kids of all ages, indoor and outdoor time free to choose upon the child's choice, etc)-=-

By "no adult driving the kid to this or that activity," do you mean the school doesn't take kids anywhere? Maybe it's in an urban environment and they walk or take public transportation. Or maybe it means "Hooray, parents! You won't need to drive your kids places anymore!" Except school every day, if you want to avoid that public school transportation system.

What unschooling provides is a child being at home, sleeping until he's slept long enough, eating or not eating without regard for the clock, not needing to dress up a certain way most days, having access to an adult or two who love him and have a lot of time for him, being able to leave projects out, being able to watch a DVD if he wants to, and pause it until later, or just turn it off and walk away without asking everyone else if it's okay to pause it or change the channel. Being home, a child can use the internet. He can go back to bed if he's tired or feels ill or stressed.

There are aspects of learning and living that people forget about when they claim that a school can provide what unschooling provides.

Sandra


Tori Otero:
I've visited Summerhill school twice now and as a school I loved it. It seemed a very kind place, kids could choose to dress how they wanted to and I can't imagine that they wouldn't comfort a distressed child at least i didn't get that impression. i thought the school was both permissive and there were huge amounts of rules that had evolved organically over the years, to allow the community, both children and adults to live peacefully. Unschooling doesn't need to rely on structures and rules to manage relationships or live peacefully. I decided to Unschool Charlie believing that was best, it turned out that it was, that may change and Charlie might want to try school. If he did I would probably encourage him to take a look at Summerhill as one of the choices. Summerhill brought us to Unschooling :) it's not the same as Unschooling (it's missing the parent bit and it is very different living in a community with lots of your peers) but as far as schools go it's not bad :)


Bernadette Lynn:
Today my son spent a large part of the day asleep, because he was awake most of the night catching up with a good friend who's been away from skype for a few days. He's awake now watching game videos on Youtube.
My eldest daughter has spent the day watching Ben 10 DVDs and Minecraft videos, curled up on the couch with a quilt, and occasionally going to bounce a ball on the wooden floor in the hall (she managed 137 bounces in a row last time). She's also played on the doorway chin-up bar a bit.
My second daughter got up around midday and has spent most of the afternoon playing Minecraft and Top Model on the computer, though she had a shower and washed her hair as well.
My youngest came with me to drive Granny to see Great Granny; we stopped at the park afterwards and played together; she fell off her scooter on the way back to the car but luckily an ice-cream van turned up just as we were leaving so she soon felt better. We picked Granny up and took her back to her house and stayed for a chat, then came home (via the station to pick Daddy up) to make dinner.

I don't think any of that could have happened if the children were at even a democratic school.

Bernadette.


Cinira Longuinho
I decided to check the website and I end up at the general policy statement of the school... In reality it is the first chapter of the book Summerhill— a radical approach to child rearing by the school's founder, A.S. Neill

I would love to hear more about these two quotes.

This is from Summerhill, the above source:

"How much of our education is real doing, real self-expression? Handwork is too often the making of a wooden box under the eye of an expert. Even the Montessori system, well known as a system of directed play, is an artificial way of making the child learn by doing. It has nothing creative about it. In the home the child is always being taught. In almost every home there is at least one ungrown-up grown-up who rushes to show Tommy how his new engine works. There is always someone to lift the baby up on a chair when the baby wants to examine something on the wall. Every time we show Tommy how his engine works we are stealing from that child the joy of life, the joy of discovery, the joy of overcoming an obstacle. Worse! We make that child come to believe that he is inferior, and must depend on help."
This is from Sandra Dodd, previous post:
""What unschooling provides is a child being at home, sleeping until he's slept long enough, eating or not eating without regard for the clock, not needing to dress up a certain way most days, having access to an adult or two who love him and have a lot of time for him, being able to leave projects out, being able to watch a DVD if he wants to, and pause it until later, or just turn it off and walk away without asking everyone else if it's okay to pause it or change the channel. Being home, a child can use the internet. He can go back to bed if he's tired or feels ill or stressed." ( brilliant! Thank you, Sandra Dodd)
Thanks!

Sandra Dodd:
-=- In the home the child is always being taught. In almost every home there is at least one ungrown-up grown-up who rushes to show Tommy how his new engine works. There is always someone to lift the baby up on a chair when the baby wants to examine something on the wall.-=-

If the guy thought that little of families and homes, I doubt he maintained an environment in which the kids were glad to get back to their parents and siblings.

Separations from families are more likely to break bonds than strengthen them.

Sandra


Bernadette Lynn:
On 6 March 2013 21:39, Tori Otero wrote:
> I've visited Summerhill school twice now and as a school I loved it. It
> seemed a very kind place, kids could choose to dress how they wanted to and
> I can't imagine that they wouldn't comfort a distressed child at least I
> didn't get that impression.

When my Charlotte was 5 and at school, she was pushed over in the playground and hurt herself badly. I got a phone call to say she was hurt but being brave and did I want to collect her? I told the woman (a good friend who had known Charlotte since she was born) that Charlotte was usually OK after a hug, and she told me that as long as Charlotte was on the school grounds, during school hours, she wasn't allowed to hug her. I got there to find my little girl, covered in blood, having put a tooth right through her lip and taken the skin off both knees, sitting on her own in floods of tears, and not one of the staff was allowed to give her a cuddle.

It's not that they didn't want to, but in a school you're subject to laws that simply don't exist for normal situations, and school staff are apparently not allowed to demonstrate physical affection towards a child in their care even when the child is distressed. Parents don't get to set the boundaries when their child is in school.

Bernadette


Tori Otero:
I have a fondness for A S Neill and from what I know I guess that he didn 't have an experience of Unschooling. I think if he were alive today these discussions and ideas may havechallenged his original thoughts about children and independence, and perhaps lead to a revision of some of them. He seemed open to learning and was progressive given the time he was writing. His school is progressive today when compared to other schools. Which is shocking. If course not everyone can unschool, I think it would be great if people who wanted to send their children to school, either because it was preferred or because they were unable to make the emotional and practical transition, could have the option of sending their kids to a democratic school.

During the deschooling process Charlie did start to feel as though I thought he couldn't manage things. He appreciated my support and actively asked for it to, and sometimes he said I'm not a baby I can do it. Maybe I wasn't partnering effectively, maybe when you stop expecting children to do things that were previously expected of them, maybe because we rushed into unschooling we found ourselves in that place.

Things have changed, now. Charlie has come to trust that it is my intention to be on his team and support him. Not restrict him or his independence. I am very glad we chose to Unschool, it has been transforming and a gift to us all, and although not cheap, cheaper than Summerhill and we get to live, learn and grow together

:)


Tori Otero:
Sandra wrote: -=- If the guy thought that little of families and homes, I doubt he maintained an environment in which the kids were glad to get back to their parents and siblings.

-=-Separations from families are more likely to break bonds than strengthen them. -=-

I agree, he didn't and that did put strain on families and their bonds. Kids did struggle to go back to their parents and feel happy. The kids changed but the families didn't have the opportunity to grow with them. Some families did manage it though because they shared a similar philosophy from the start. I think from what i have read and seen the connection was maintained by the parents having a deeper understanding of their childs experience and by supporting the approach. For a time Summerhill became a place for pupils who didn't get on in mainstream schools and whose parents didn 't know how to work with their children. So many families had a problem connecting in the first place, I think sometimes it improved the situation for some children and their families.

One of the reasons we took Charlie out of school was because we couldn't support the way his school and the system worked. If Charlie had remained in school it would have had a damaging effect on his ability to manage at school. It would have damaged his connection and sense of belonging at school and left him experiencing conflict that was ours not his.

That's not to say that I think a connection maintained by supporting your child's experience of school and seeing eye to eye with the philosophy result in a connection between parent and child that is in anyway comparable with the connection Unschooling parents and kids have. Everything about Unschooling deepens and strengthens this connection and relationship. That is just one of the gifts of Unschooling.


Chris Ester
My thought was that this seems to be another 'expert' telling parents that they need someone else to direct their child's learning (or influence their learning, or provide for their learning...) because families and homes are no place for a child to thrive. The assumption seems to be that a person needs special training to help a child learn—an expert.

I was particularly struck by the line that referred to "stealing from a child the joy of discovery". Nevermind that some children have a low frustration tolerance and benefit from a parent's assistance. It is a matter of most parents become 'expert' at what works with their own children. My son never wanted help, my daughter would ask for advice on how to do things. I learned and adapted accordingly—which of my children did I steal the "joy of discovery" from?


Karen James:
>>>>>Every time we show Tommy how his engine works we are stealing from that child the joy of life – the joy of discovery – the joy of overcoming an obstacle. Worse! We make that child come to believe that he is inferior, and must depend on help." <<<<<

I think this is interesting because I believe it is where some unschooling parents might get stuck sometimes. Some kids like to figure things out for themselves, sure. But, some children (and adults) like to be shown how to do things. And, some would prefer to have things done for them entirely.

I remember drawing on my neighbour's driveway a few summers ago. Their daughter wanted me to draw everything she could possibly imagine. She didn't want to draw herself, but she did want to direct my drawing, and watch me work. Their middle son, on the other hand, liked to draw things for himself, but he would get very frustrated when it didn't come out looking like how he imagined it should. So, for him, I would draw beside his drawing, and he would try to copy it. My own son likes to draw things his way, entirely out of his own imagination. He doesn't want to watch me draw, and doesn't want to copy or look at other people's drawings.

If the focus is on the "joy of discovery" or "the joy of overcoming an obstacle" and not on the child, we risk compromising the child's very real and unique needs in any given situation. In coming together over an engine, or a drawing, or tying one's shoes, there can be so much more to learn than simply discovering the how. We'll never realize that vast potential if we are looking at anything other than the child him/herself.


Claire Horsley:
--- In AlwaysLearning@yahoogroups.com, "Karen" wrote:
> If the focus is on the "joy of discovery" or "the joy of overcoming an obstacle" and not on the child, we risk compromising the child's very real and unique needs in any given situation. In coming together over an engine, or a drawing, or tying one's shoes, there can be so much more to learn than simply discovering the how. We'll never realize that vast potential if we are looking at anything other than the child him/herself.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Thanks for clarifying this in such a lovely concise way. I've just been reading a discussion about free-range parenting, and it was this very point that kept troubling me. All too often, proponents of free-range parenting seem to focus on some idealised notion of 'freedom' - to roam about, to undertake adventures, to explore and learn new things. It all sounds wonderful, but their focus is not on their child.<> One of the things I love about unschooling is that it helps me to strike the right balance between creating a space in which my children can happily learn and explore, and being mindfully present with them, especially in helping them to resolve conflicts. Even if I simply say,'how do you think we can solve this?', my presence and input helps them to resolve the issue in a timely way.

It seems that those who focus on 'freedom' rather than their child also on some level want a bit of freedom from their child. To me it looks disconnected, and sometimes, irresponsible. My kids are 8 and 5, so according to Sandra's joke graph that's actually pretty accurate, I should and do put in most of my waking hours playing with, caring for and nurturing my kids.

http://sandradodd.com/howto/precisely

Claire


khalsakaur:
I loved this response, it really spoke to me as I've been trying to work out what my son needs in this regard. He gets frustrated when he can't do something perfectly the first time, but then to my amazement he thoroughly enjoyed copying some writing from another person, and doing it himself. Thank you. I don't think I've posted on this group before, but I read many of the posts and get so much from them.

Morgan


Sandra Dodd:
-=- So many families had a problem connecting in the first place, I think sometimes it improved the situation for some children and their families.-=-

Yes. If a child's spirit was being lost or crushed in a family, then giving him a chance to flourish elsewhere is good!

The reason I want to run these comparisons from time to time, though, is to remind people that if they can manage to get radical unschooling to work at their home, a child's spirit isn't likely to be lost or crushed.

If a democratic school is chosen as the lesser of some array of school evils, that's fine.
If it's being chosen because the parent believes that professionals and strangers can "unschool" their child, then that's a problem with their perception of unschooling, and a potential loss of a wonderful home environment.

Sandra


Alex Polikowsky:
Free-range children.
That is another notion that bothers me.
Not that I did not go out on adventures with friends when I was a child.I did. It was fun. But we made some really bad decisions and we are lucky we are all in one piece.

But you free-range chickens and not children. Free range chickens get killed all the time. Many people who free-range chicken will shrug it off :" Oh you may lose a few".

Interesting thing is that when my mom or dad or someone older was with us in one of our adventures we had even more fun and I remember those occasions.

Most of our adventures as kids were in our grandfather's hobby farm that was surrounded by family or very close family friend's farms so we all knew each other.

So maybe my notion of what people call Free-range children is incorrect but I imagine young kids left alone to wonder and parents oblivious to what they are doing or where they are.
That bothers me.

Alex Polikowsky


Sandra Dodd:
Claire, I think you've shone a light into confusion with this:
"It seems that those who focus on 'freedom' rather than their child also on some level want a bit of freedom from their child."

Some unschoolers want childhood for themselves, instead of choosing, as adults, to provide a great childhood for their children. Heck yes, parents can have more fun if their children are having fun, but they should still be responsible for the safety, security, organization and provision of the life they're creating.

Sandra


TIME OUT: I'm bringing much, but not all, of a topic from Always Learning. There came someone to advertise and defend a different free school, across the country from the first one. I'm not repeaing all that. This next quote is part of a post that quoted too much about that school and schoolishness, but the original is here (for members of Always Learning):
Sandra:
-=-Unschooling can be really daunting for "regular people" -=-

Yes, but this discussion [Always Learning] is set up to help them understand it. Anything someone doesn't really wholeheartedly want to do is probably daunting, and some things people DO want to do, but there are people here all hours of the day and night, thanks to international time zones, who will continue to help regular people understand it if they want to understand it better.


There might be more added later.





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