Children Need Variety

In my previous post about Sudbury Schools, I said that there were other topics within the umbrella “Sudbury Schools” topic that could be examined. One of those topics, which I was contemplating this morning, works well in my A-Z challenge because it starts with V. That topic is “variety.”

When we send children to traditional schools, we want them to have a well-rounded education. They spend their days learning about a variety of subjects – math, reading, English (and/or French if you’re in Canada), maybe a foreign language, history, social studies, physical education, and more. We, as a society, seem to think that kids are going to be better off if they learn about a few things rather than just one. This is no different in a Sudbury school, where literally the whole world is open to students. Instead, there is less of a focus on when and how the student learns these subjects. There is no rigid structure telling students that 9:00am is time for math class, or 12:00pm is lunch time.

Students can learn just as much, if not more, from taking their own initiative instead of being told when it is time to learn something

The Reach Sudbury School in Toronto says it well on their website:

We’re called Reach because little kids want to reach for everything, try everything, figure everything out.

It’s really as simple as that. Kids (and adults) are curious. As an article on the Alpine Valley School (of Colorado) website states:

Learning starts with…

  • Curiosity (What’s that?), which generates…
  • Excitement (That looks interesting.), which in turn leads to…
  • Passion (This is cool!)

Kids are naturally curious

Imagine if students were only given 2 subjects to choose from in school. I think most students would get bored and act out, because they are naturally curious and this natural drive would cause a need for them to find other subjects outside of the 2 they have been forced to choose. This means they require variety – not just 8 subjects they can only focus on for an hour each per day. Students get caught in a rut when their whole day is prescribed for them, and when they’re only given a limited amount of time to focus on things they do enjoy outside of school (extracurricular activities). This is not to say that students in traditional education models aren’t interested in the subjects they have to study. But when students are given freedom to study them on their own time, an amazing unfolding of understanding and information takes place.

I ran across an article in which they say:

Students who learn best with a different method or at a different pace are viewed as problems. They may dislike school and put little effort into it or have difficulties mastering the material even if they work hard. Fortunately, what matters most is that your child develops a love of learning and progresses academically. Those are things you can help him with at home.

But, what if those things don’t just have to happen at home? Not that parents shouldn’t be involved in their students’ education in some ways. But what if students were given freedom? The development of “a love of learning” happens naturally, without needing to structure any extra activities into a student’s life outside of school.

In an article on Hudson Valley Sudbury School’s website called “What Are They Learning?” the authors point out that the students are learning “More than I can know or name, I’m sure.” They then list the things they observe the students learning, and what follows is a stream of countless skills and even subjects that would be formally taught in a traditional school setting. They see them learning to read because in order to do things that are important to them (bake muffins, be involved in Judicial Committee, read about upcoming field trips), reading is essential. They see them learning to write because they have to in order to write a complaint to the Judicial Committee, or a letter to their favourite celebrites, or motions to be discussed and voted on in School Meeting. They learn how to keep their cubbies organized, they learn how to do math to play a computer game, they discuss movies and books with each other, they learn how to communicate in difficult interpersonal situations. These are all things that are done in a traditional school setting, but they are done on the students’ own time, instead of when teachers say it is time for them. How many adults do we know who are told, “now we’re going to introduce a sticky social situation in which you have to learn how to communicate with each other on the spot.” If adults aren’t told when these things will happen, why should students be?

One of the most important parts of Sudbury education is variety, the endless options for students to pursue. It creates room for students to be truly curious about life, and then excited, and then passionate. It causes them to realize what they are passionate about much earlier than students in traditional schools, and they carry this process – however unconsciously – into their lives as they enter adulthood as well. Knowing there is a whole world for you to discover instead of only certain compartmentalized subjects that are presented to you creates the “can-do” attitude that every workplace or even college is looking for.

***This post is part of the Blogging from A-Z April challenge. Starting with A, every post in April will be about a topic starting with a letter of the alphabet, consecutively. For more information, please visit the official page.***

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