Below are a few common questions about Sudbury education. We welcome the opportunity to discuss any of these or other concerns in person at an open house, parent coffee, or school tour.
At Tallgrass, we understand that choosing an alternative education path, like the Sudbury model, can cause some anxiety, and we expect that a family’s early days at school will involve plenty of questions and a bit of soul searching. We strive to maintain a strong parent community that provides ongoing support between parents, and an environment to ask questions and voice concerns as the students take this adventure.
Q: What if I am not sure if my child can't handle the amount of personal freedom and responsibility at Tallgrass?
A: Students at Tallgrass are given lots of freedom, and we do expect students to take a certain level of responsibility. Students are expected to sign in and out everyday, do chores, participate in JC and the occasional mandatory school meeting, and be able to follow school rules and exist peaceably with the other members of school.
You may be surprised at how well most children, in this environment, rise to meet these expectations. We expect a transition period when a student transfers to Tallgrass, and maintain open communication with families during this time, so that any issues with transitioning can be addressed. However, as with any school, sometimes Sudbury education is not a good fit for a particular student.
Q: How do I know if my child is getting an education (learning math, science, writing)?
A: Sudbury schools do not have any sort of academic curriculum. We believe, and have witnessed, that children learn traditional academics when they are ready for them.
Traditional schools push children to learn specific things at specific times in their lives. This can hold some children back, and push other children to learn things that they may not be ready for, at the expense of other, equally important, development.
When a child does decide to pursue something, like math, they will have a higher likelihood of having the information stick with them, as opposed to just remembering it until the test is over.
It is common for children who are self-directed learners to be "ahead" in some subjects and "behind" in others during their time at school. However, more than 40 years of Sudbury education have shown that Sudbury students leave school with the skills and knowledge necessary to follow their chosen path.
Q: How will my child learn math if there is not a specific math class offered?
A: At Tallgrass we believe that children seek information when they are ready to learn it. When they come across situations where they need higher math skills they will acquire them.
Basic math skills are learned in everyday life, at school and at home. Things like using money, playing video games, creating art, and reading the time, are all examples of using basic math daily. If "being taught" is the path to learning the student chooses, staff are capable and prepared to teach many different subjects at a student's request.
Check out this TED Talk from a conventional math teacher.
Q: Will my child be able to get into a traditional high school or college?
A: Students who have left Tallgrass have gone on to university, community college, high schools, public schools, and trade programs.
Tallgrass does not focus on preparing students for high school or college level work. If the student is interested in attending a more traditional school it is their responsibility to ensure they are prepared. The staff are here to support the student in their pursuits.
Tallgrass has a voluntary diploma program for students who have been enrolled 2 or more years, and who successfully defend a thesis at a school Assembly Meeting.
Q: What if all my child wants to do is play games all day?
A: That's great! Society often views play as a waste of time, but at Tallgrass we consider it a very important part of development. Through play, children learn to express creativity, cope in social situations, learn about their interests and develop their sense of right and wrong, among many other skills.
Here is a blog post on "Mind/Shift" about the importance of play.
Q: How will my child get exposed to things that they haven't already expressed interest in?
A: In a conventional school, students are largely isolated from the city, country, and world around them, then “exposed” by teachers to select knowledge and opportunities deemed appropriate for that population of students. At Tallgrass, students are exposed to widely varying ideas and activities simply because the students exist both within the school community and beyond, so that parents, siblings, friends, and media are all considered valid influences and sources of knowledge. Students learn about opportunities and ideas through conversations, play, and by seeing what other students and staff are doing. If a student becomes passionate about one interest, he or she has the time and space to pursue it intensely.