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Monday, July 12, 2004
"Unschooling" in Connecticut:
At Mountain Laurel Sudbury School in New Britain - where Nick is now a student - there are no tests, grades or homework. Students have a say in every decision and choose what they want to study.
There are a total of five pupils and no teachers, formal classes or a curriculum. Students are guided by staff members who shepherd them toward resources and information.
At a recent meeting, Sampson and Beth King, a parent and part-time staff member, ran through items on the agenda. Nick stood over a stool nearby alternately playing cards and offering feedback and commentary.
Two other students, Emily King, 16, and Shae Nethercott, 13, played Old Maid at a nearby table. Nick's 5-year-old brother, Liam, the school's youngest student, twirled in circles in his stocking feet, swatting the air.
Students draft school laws, and at this meeting - the last one of the school year - they revised a policy on leaving campus. King dragged a pink highlighter across a map to mark the boundaries of the downtown area where students are now allowed to visit.
The next item: Voting on whether to use student activity funds for everyone to have lunch at a downtown diner. Approval was unanimous. The outing was to celebrate the end of the school year.
I don't know how much pure educational democracy I want to expose my son to, especially given the inherent pitfalls of the concept (READ: Democracy is two wolves and a sheep deciding what's for dinner.) However, I can see value in this sort of program, with one caveat. Parents MUST be involved. Education starts at home, whether the child is being "unschooled", homeschooled, or schooled in a traditional setting.
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