196: The Sudbury Valley School (1/2): Foundation and Philosophy


Topic: An introduction to the Sudbury Valley School, which has provided a model for alternatives schools all over the world.
I read from the school's publication, And Now for Something Completely Different...
An Introduction to Sudbury Valley School

-An overview of the original school in Framingham, MA
-Sudbury Principles and Foundations
-Back To Basics - Intellectual, Vocational, Moral, Social, Political

Look Closer:

Education: Class Dismissed
It's every modern parent's worst nightmare—a school where kids can play all day. But no one takes the easy way out, and graduates seem to have a head start on the information age. Welcome to Sudbury Valley.
By Hara Estroff Marano, published on May 01, 2006

Sudbury Valley School Website

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  1. I checked on the cost of these school. No only are they few and far between but they are expensive. $2,500 to $7,000 per year per student. Apparently real education, of this type, is only available to the wealthy.

    • You will find no school in the country that costs less:
      Even the poorest school districts have schools that cost more than $7000 per child — before one counts in the off-budget services that the town gifts them (fire department drills, plowing, water and sewer, etcetera). The only difference is that your city takes that “tuition” from you, like it or not, rich or poor, based on property and income taxes; while people have the free choice whether or not to attend the Sudbury Valley school.
      The school has always kept its budget in reach of a young person with a part-time job earning minimum wage. And many of our students and alumni have carried the cost of their tuition themselves. If you took a look around at the wide range of families in the school, I don’t think that you’d find the range of incomes represented is much different from that in Massachusetts as a whole.
      But even if the school represented a higher income demographic . . . It seems to me that the egalitarian way to proceed, is to assume that the children of lower income people have the same capabilities as the children of higher income people, and to presume (until it is proven otherwise) that the fundamental lesson — that people learn better when given freedom and responsibility for their own education — apples across economic classes.

    • While I agree with you that there aren’t many Sudbury Valley model schools to choose from, particularly in the Midwest, I have to disagree with your statement that these schools are only available to the wealthy.

      My two children go to SVS and have since they were old enough to attend. I’m a divorced freelance writer. I split the cost of tuition with my ex-husband. I, certainly, am not wealthy, in comparison to all of the two-parent households I compare myself to. In fact, not even in comparison to the single-parent ones, LOL.

      However, making it possible for my kids to go to SVS is my #1 financial priority. And here’s why:

      1. My kids get depressed when summer vacation STARTS — and count the days until they can get back to school.
      2. No fights over homework. No standardized tests. No time wasted “learning” what someone else has deemed important.
      3. My son and daughter feel like their school is their responsibility. They know that it’s only as good or bad as they allow it to be.
      4. At SVS, my kids are on their own, to make mistakes, to grow, to challenge themselves to achieve the goals that they set for themselves, without interference, even mine! How amazing is that?

      And, finally, I believe that the tuition I pay every year is an investment that will have long, long lasting returns. When students move on/graduate from SVS they are focused. They know themselves. They understand that you don’t get anything more back from life than what you put into it. They work hard at what they love to do or they work hard so that they can do what they love to do.

      If that’s not worth $600/month, I don’t know what else is.

  2. Others have commented on tuition, but I want to add two things:

    1. Tuition covers the child’s attendance from 8:30-5:30 (and the school will accommodate earlier arrival). I have many friends with kids in free public school who pay $300+ per month for before and after school care, per child.

    2. Here in MA (my kids attend SVS), the next “cheapest” private school in the area is $12K per kid per year for 9-3:30 attendance. So on the scale of private schools, SVS is remarkably affordable.

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