Sudbury vs. Other Alternative Schools

Sudbury model schools have a unique educational philosophy that may be difficult to understand. Below we compare it to other schools including Montessori schools, Waldorf schools, Progressive schools, homeschooling, and traditional schools.

Sudbury Model Schools vs. Montessori Schools

Similarities: In both settings, children are allowed more freedom and are encouraged to make decisions about what interests them at the moment. Both school models understand the fact that children are naturally curious and do not need to be forced to learn.

Differences: Children at Montessori schools are only offered specific options presented by the teacher. At Sudbury model schools, children are offered a full array of activities that life itself presents. Montessori educators believe that all children learn according to specific patterns and sequences. The Sudbury model makes no assumptions about how individual children will learn at any age.

Sudbury Model Schools vs. Waldorf Schools

Similarities: Both schools are not concerned solely with academic success, but with the happiness and full all-around potential of each individual. Children are not forced to read early, as traditional schools do. Both school models believe that intensely involved playtime is crucial to the development of children’s mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual selves.

Differences: Unlike Waldorf schools, Sudbury model schools have no predetermined curriculum. The school meetings at Sudbury model schools have a democratic approach where the children and adults together assess and modify the culture of the school.

Sudbury Model Schools vs. Progressive Schools

Similarities: Sudbury schools and progressive schools both agree that traditional schooling is not working. Both models believe that students should not be evaluated by “objective” testing.

Differences: Progressive schools treat their students more permissively, and Sudbury schools believe when kids are treated permissively they do not learn personal responsibility for their actions. Some progressive schools offer an array of courses, but do not require attendance.

Sudbury Model Schools vs. Homeschooling

Similarities: Both believe that children are born curious and eager to succeed in life and that children learn best through experience and experimentation rather than by being told how and what to think. Both school models believe in the philosophy that is often referred to as “Unschooling”.

Differences: Homeschoolers, for the most part, see the family environment as the best place for children to grow, while the Sudbury model believes that, children and parents have complex relationships and interdependencies which make it harder for children to discover true independence within the family. In most homeschooling families, the parent sees him or herself as ultimately responsible for the child’s education, while at Sudbury schools, that responsibility rests squarely with the child.

Sudbury Model Schools vs. Traditional School Student Governments

Similarities: Sudbury school meetings are similar to student governments only in that they are composed of students and operate by majority rule.

Differences: Sudbury schools have a democratic approach where every student and staff member has the option of a direct vote in every decision made. In traditional schools, the student government is hardly ever given real power over substantive issues. Whereas, in a Sudbury school, everyone decides who will be staff each year, how tuition will be spent, what each and every rule of the school will be, and who will be suspended or expelled for violation of those rules.

This article was adapted from an article written by Fairhaven School. The full-length article can found here.