“Childhood is for mistakes, and we expect plenty of them!” as
Through the 20th C, the term for “Democratic Schools” have evolved through a number of handles (free schools, forest schools, Sudbury Model School, alternative schools, Free-Range Movement and even the unfortunately termed “unschooling”) but the world has settled on Democratic School.
Generally we find that the returnee and European parent community require a good deal less background support in order to understand the weaknesses of Japan’s Industrial Model School system, and the corresponding strengths of natural learning, particularly in the cultural settings found in both England and Holland. The resources available, as well as a different cultural mindset available to you means it easier to get up to speed. For this reason most of our website is in Japanese, but any questions you might have, we are more than happy to address them.
“Forcing children to learn is like pushing with string!” as
If you are familiar with the work done by this type of school but need to brush up, please check out the following examples for a general overview:
Sudbury Valley School, Summerhill School, Bedales School,
Before interview, please watch this 6 minute general explanation and this NHK discussion/documentary.
read either at least: Dr. D Greenberg: Free at Last, or John Holt: How Children Fail, or Dr Peter Gray’s blog page or his book: Freedom to Learn.
Summary (if there ever could be such a thing)
First off children are given the chance to decide what they are going to do every day almost all the time. That, of course, does not entitle them to act with license, (they might get some steering comments) for they have to comply with the 4 tenets of socialized behavior:
- Safe (enough) behaviour (cuts, scratches, occasionally broken bones accepted)
- Taking on the job of finding something to do. (self responsibility)
- We are all subject to the rules, the J.C. and the I.C., even Staff!
“You can lead a child to education but you can’t make it think.” as
We do have a school routine with compulsory activities (I can already imagine the Japanese Sudbury Model crowd clutching their pearls) that are underpinned by good psychological scientific data.
Monday mornings: School assembly followed by a professional story teller.
Monday afternoon: School assembly story time + meeting.
Tuesday: at least one tutorial or activity.
Wednesday mornings: optional meeting.
Wednesday afternoons: Rugby with a professional coach (Winter only).
Thursdays: optional rule meeting (creation, fixing, deletion).
Friday mornings: Swimming (esp. beginners).
Friday afternoons: School assembly story time + meeting (biweekly: job auction).
“Children learn in spite of us, not because of us.” as
Nothing but nothing gets kids learning faster, deeper and with greater long term retention than their enthusiasm, and mistakes! Since mistakes (if they are interesting) receive “School Money” there is no shame in our school. The cause of enthusiasm in small children is pretty random so for example, it might be that they discover how to make “School Money” with games, asking interesting questions, remembering to bring a hat, doing some type of challenge or that they can play water guns all day. Later they’ll discover that ice-pops or hot dogs are available using “School Money” and the excitement begins all over again and leaks into all kinds of “education” things like counting, arithmetic and writing their names. Mainly it is the process of making decisions for themselves that has them stretch emotionally and intellectually. Deciding to make a fire, deciding to cook something on it, deciding to try mustard etc. are all allowed to just happen.
Our experience is that to optimize this process, we as staff are there to facilitate, answer questions and open doors for them to explore through rather than seed and direct their attention.
“The thing that kids want to do more than anything, is to grow up capable, but by their own decisions.” as
Outside school we encourage sports: Karate, swimming, ballet (but not baseball), music, choral singing, theatre, art, etc. The earlier that children are inducted into the realm of self-discipline and self-direction, the easier it is for them to convert play into what we would recognise as “school”, but they have to do this utterly voluntarily and at the child’s initiation! Given space and time, they all do. But late starters (8+) will have some decompression to get through before they are comfortable and truly free themselves of adult lead unthinking behavior. Those who have “Juku” or “Kumon” are likely damaged and will need a lot of reconciliation. If you are intending to maintain an outside academic program, DON’T come here. Such children do not mature fast enough and will very likely be rejected by Invitation Committee.
“When children can see they are treated fairly, they hold to that standard no matter what.” as
There is not enough time at the moment for me to describe the complexities of the checks and balances developed to ensure that all children are heard completely and in a reasonable manner. Briefly:
There are no punishments in this school.
Anyone can write a complaint about anyone.
Most Judicial cases come before a (JC) Justice Committee (Staff oversee this).
All open cases must be reviewed by the School Meeting.
There is an appeals process including an outside-the-school Judge with powerful ruling rights (similar to the French Super-Magistrates).
Apologies must be given in public and the plaintiff must forgive for closure.
Rarely does a day go by without a J.C. and it is considered by the children to be the crown jewel of this institution. Writing complaints is where most children encounter the need for writing, even though staff or other children are ready to help, nearly all of them are determined to seek justice, not use a proxy.
In 40 years+ that I’ve been dealing with children learning, I’ve never once encountered one that has not reached up to beyond their grasp, willingly struggled to get better. Unless there is an adult trying to “help” them. as
Please don’t turn up without filing an application, the I.C. will just tell you to get lost.
Please don’t phone between 8:30 and 10:30 am. We are busy!
Please don’t phone any time on Tuesday. Tutorials all day. Busy.
In fact, don’t call, send an email. firstname.lastname@example.org
Interview and trial (2 weeks) application form here
90 Minute consultancy form is here. Have your questions lined up or it’s 10k down the Swanee!
Good luck with finding whatever you are looking for.
Errors and omissions accepted, please send dead links if you find any. Thanks.