I offer these thoughts as one who has and continues to work with young people and their families for over 35 years. I have been so intrigued by the SVS Model, that I had to experience it in person.
Sudbury Valley School is not really a school. It is a living organism with the heart being the incredibly brilliant philosophy and core values, and dedicated staff, and the heart-beat being the young people that make up the body politic of the wonderful place called SVS.
Everywhere I placed myself as a novice observer my senses were blessed with children blossoming as only possible when given the freedom to do so. All young people have their own areas of genius, and when we as adults give them the space and opportunity and then get out of the way, they find their own way; not a way prescribed for them by others, but their own way prescribed from the depths of their own minds and hearts.
Who am I to judge any activity through my own window but rather to work at broadening my window to include the infinite possibilities that lie in each child? Krishnamurti wisely said that “The sole purpose of education is to find out what it is that one loves to do, so one can spend their time doing it.” Obviously when we are allowed to discover what makes our hearts sing, that is what we will be best at; that will be our crowning achievement in the moment and our blessing to ourselves and those around us.
The gentle mentoring that occurs when called upon at SVS is of the type of respectful and patient parenting. Interestingly, the parenting is offered not only by the staff, but by the older youth toward the younger – and often done very compassionately. Some of the most important “parenting” occurs through the Judicial Committee where youth who have committed some transgression are asked to examine their choices and decisions that affect themselves and the SVS community; all done in an atmosphere lacking in judgement and criticism.
As these young people grow into the culture at SVS, they learn to trust this elegant support from staff and each other, but most importantly they learn to trust themselves. I think they learn to trust their intuition regarding who they are and the directions they are empowered to choose.
The SVS main building has a wonderful family style and atmosphere – very welcoming, warm and comfortable. The beauty of the grounds at SVS, the fresh air, the sunshine (while I was there), the opportunity to find peaceful places, the bird song – all contribute to helping spirits to soar. Our spirits respond to beauty and that must not be underestimated.
Children are very sensitive to energies whether coming from the environment, from the staff or from each other. It is a lot of hard work, through love, compassion, kindness, respect and sensitivity, to help a culture to mature. This has occurred at SVS; a culture where the energy flow is alive with excitement, expectation, innovation and surprise – a place to try, perhaps fail, and try again and again if necessary.
Freedom is energy flow unhindered. Energy flow left unhindered in the lives of SVS youth allows for a growth and development not so easily realized in the public and private schools of our day.
It has been my privilege to come from Hawaii and spend a week with the SVS family – an experience that even transcends the written literature.
Freedom, an experience enjoyed fleetingly for most is a given at SVS. Within that freedom the flower that is our youth heals when necessary and blossoms. This is a gift to the world beyond measure and well beyond the confines of SVS.
This article flowed from heart and mind as I sat in the piano room listening to the beautiful music by Xavier.