One Family's Journey to Sudbury
Their experience with HSS so inspired one family, that they put fingers to keyboard and shared this inspiring story. Enjoy! .....
We’ve been immersing ourselves in Houston Sudbury School now for 5 months. I feel both totally at home here, yet still discovering how this whole thing works. My oldest son, E, is 12 and has been to several schools. His preschool was a public co-op school with tons of outdoor free time and I adored it. Our challenges with public school began in kindergarten, but didn’t come to a head till 3rd grade. He hated being a helpless child in an institution, especially since he had his own educational interests which he couldn’t pursue there. As a child I experienced similar issues and eventually ended up homeschooled. I felt guilty sending him to public school, but I wasn’t really interested in being a homeschool parent and I loved how I felt connected to the neighborhood community through the public school.
His frustration with school resulted in disruptive, usually silly behaviors at school. He started campaigning for “freedom for children” and would become upset when the teacher confiscated the book he was reading under his desk. I consulted counselors and friends, who all told me I needed to be stricter and make him toe the line, which I diligently tried to do. He spent a lot of 3rd grade in the principal’s office. He walked home twice on his own, which got campus police involved. They said that if he left school without permission once he was 10, they’d send him to juvie. Finally, my tiny 8 year old bear hugged the school counselor, and it was written up as an assault. He spent two weeks in an alternative education school with other kids labeled “disruptive” and I decided I couldn’t risk him being sent back there again. Reluctantly, I started homeschooling.
There was a lot I loved about homeschooling, mostly all the wonderful activities we were involved with. I had a classical homeschool education and thought I’d be able to get him to work towards excellence in all subjects like I did. My childhood homeschool group believed that homeschoolers needed to be perfect to prove ourselves to the world and that parents needed to be completely in charge of their children. Reality was a bit different for our relationship. We ended up getting a full psychological evaluation of him and discovered that he’s gifted with ADHD. Having counselor after counselor saying that they had never met someone like him was not reassuring for a parent trying to help him fit into the world. If we had wanted to we could have taken the diagnosis back to the school and gotten some accommodations, but at that point I was done.
I’ve been a reluctant homeschooler all along, because I enjoy some time away from my kids and I don’t enjoy making them do schoolwork. Over the years we drifted more into relaxed, eclectic homeschooling with lots of library visits, board games and fun outings. Whenever we got too close to unschooling though I’d start feeling guilty about not making my kids do enough. As E reached his pre-teen years, he was reluctant to go to any homeschooling activities, his public school friends became less available, and homeschooling became more me taking my youngest son places and leaving my oldest home alone. I saw both his public school and homeschool friends doing things that seemed exciting to me, but he just wanted to stay home all the time. We had done some educational testing and he was eligible for accelerated online programs, but he wanted nothing to do with them. I was frustrated.
I had been following Houston Sudbury online since their founding, but it had always been too far away for me to consider. E was also not interested in signing up for anything. This school year though they had moved closer to our house and I was able to convince him to come to an open house with me. It was love at first sight for both of us. We both love having a steady community of people to see daily. He’s sad if it’s a weekend or a holiday. For a while he was the only student with perfect attendance. He’s blossoming at Sudbury, taking on responsibility for cleaning and is known for being calm and patient. That was quite a surprise to me. I’ve become a regular volunteer and enjoy helping to improve “our” space. For students and staff here there’s a real sense of ownership and visions of what this school can be. As I immerse myself in the Sudbury literature and podcasts I’m reacquiring the drive to self-educate and am now working through some free online courses in subjects I’m interested in. I’m not doubt free, but I feel trust in my son and the community to help us through.