Since the days back in March when IfSpace was nothing but an idea and a website, one question that continually pops up is, “So is this like a Sudbury school?” The answer is both short and complicated: No – but it could be.
If you’re not familiar with Sudbury schools, here’s a quick primer. The original Sudbury Valley School was founded in 1968 in Massachusetts, and was one of the original ‘democratic schools’ in the United States. The Sudbury model observes that children are naturally driven to learn, and that at birth they already possess all of the characteristics that will lead them to be successful as adults, such as creativity, thoughtfulness, and industriousness. The School endeavors to leverage adult experience to facilitate deeper learning for the students without getting in the way of the natural process of discovery. That is, the adults aren’t there to ‘fill the bucket’, they’re there to man the pump.
Another important facet of the Sudbury model is a complete commitment to democratic process within the school. All decisions regarding the school operation (including those regarding budget and personnel changes) are made by the student body in equal influence with the faculty and staff. Many schools also operate a ‘due process’ system in the event a student or staff should break the rules, which have been democratically determined.
I founded IfSpace to create the homeschool experience that I’ve been yearning to provide my own children. While I believe in both the idea and execution of a Sudbury education, it isn’t the right fit for every kid and family. In fact, the screening portion of the admission process at many Sudbury-style schools is what helps ensure the success of the community. Many of the traits that make the model so desirable – self-directed learning, self-pacing, lack of extrinsic ‘rewards’, adult support, open curriculum, and a safe, respectful, inclusive environment – reflect our fundamental ideals here at IfSpace.
Above all else, we are committed to creating a community. In our relatively small metropolitan area, we want to provide an experience where everyone can feel welcome and find something that helps them reach their goals and develop as an individual. Because our schedule is based on individual-course, university-style enrollment, and because we provide unstructured free time at a very reasonable rate seven hours per day, four days per week, a student seeking a delight-directed education could select a schedule composed entirely of open-ended, project-based classes combined with independent time. A different student, even one in the same family, might prefer a teacher-led experience or need a structured opportunity to focus on a skill that’s been an area of frustration. There is no proscribed course of study – that’s up to your kitchen table democracy at home! We want to support parents and families in their homeschooling, provide an inspiring, encouraging learning environment, and help students connect to the skills, tools, and information they need to fully embrace their lives.