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Did *you* go to an alternative school?

(14 Posts)
phdlife Thu 16-Jun-11 13:24:27

I'm thinking about it for ds, because he's sensitive and thoughtful and I'm not convinced state schools here in Oz are the best place for boys like that.

There is a local alternative school that seems to me very lovely - rigorously democratic, child-centred learning. The principal has been with the school for 22 years and it very much looked and felt like the closest you could get to home-schooling, without home schooling.

However, apart from one artist that I met briefly in the US, I've never known anyone who went through or put their kids through such a system, so I'm wondering if anyone can help me with pro's and con's? I realise alternative (play-based) schooling is largely seen as a benefit to kids who struggle with mainstream education, but how is it for bright kids? How did you go with the transition to conventional high school?

Just looking for any input, really. (Oh, except right now I am going to bed!)


thenevernever Thu 16-Jun-11 14:16:40

Why don't you ask the school if there are any recent (but past-pupil) families who they could put you in touch with, so you can talk to people with direct experience?
I wouldn't go for parents of existing pupils as you tend to get a bit of a bias in the feedback you get - and many parents don't want to admit that their decisions re their children may not have been the best.

I have a couple of friends who went to alternative-ish schools (both primary and secondary level) and they both turned out extremely normal. I don't think they were particularly sensitive or difficult as kids tho' so maybe it made no difference...

phdlife Fri 17-Jun-11 04:32:36

ah - that's a good idea, thanks thenevernever

madwomanintheattic Fri 17-Jun-11 04:41:53

you need othehugemanatee and wabbit smile

or you need to pop over to the steiner thread that was about today. wabbit is v knowledgeable about all sorts of alternative ed, and manatee was discussing her own experiences in steiner ed. grin the thread title was about being sacked from a mums and toddler group or somesuch - you def won't have thought 'oh, that'll be all about alternative education, i need to read that!'

don't ask me to link it though. am deeply crap at such technical wizardry.

madwomanintheattic Fri 17-Jun-11 04:44:52

'failed our steiner toddler group' orangeflower7 grin

i'm looking at

i can external links wink just not linky to other thread links... blush

madwomanintheattic Fri 17-Jun-11 04:45:29

and i apparently can forget to put 'do' in a sentence, too.

amazing skills.

lljkk Fri 17-Jun-11 17:54:30

Yes I did, I attended a school that was similar to the Summerhill model for 2years (age 12-13). Also, I seriously considered sending DS to Summerhill.

My big reservation is that it's an ambition blackhole; because lessons are so optional they certainly aren't important. By extension, neither is an education in general, either. Low aspirations rule the roost.

Not every alternative makes lessons optional, mind. Democratic is good, but every democracy has to have limits (even Summerhill has some absolute admin-imposed rules, around drugs for instance).

I don't know about child-centred.... I don't remember it being especially more child-centred than the ordinary schools I attended before and afterwards.

madwomanintheattic Fri 17-Jun-11 21:14:02

summerhill is fascinating. the green learning one i linked to is child-led, but they do seem to have some direction in place - nowhere near as optional as summerhill! i'm interested i child-led because ds seems to thrive that way - he shuts down in state, whereas both my girls are fine... he's nowhere near reaching his potential and seems to be actively fighting against it. fascinating.

phdlife Sat 25-Jun-11 03:43:18

lljkk - interesting you say lessons/education are not important. That's been one of the ones that worries me, since ds is clearly a very bright little spark. The school claims to follow the national curriculum, but at the child's own pace; if the child is only interested in climbing trees that week, then that's what the kid does. When I asked how, if the child was climbing trees that week, you catch them up on whatever it was the rest of them were learning about, I don't remember that the principal had a clear answer for me. (Though all I can remember is an odd look in her eye, she may well have had a proper answer that has slipped through one of the many holes punched in my memory by 4 years of sleep deprivation.)

On the other hand, I wonder if that matters terribly much in primary school? Both ds's parents are embarrassingly over-endowed with scholarly tendencies, and he would at any rate leave that school at about 11yo to go to a conventional high school. The alternative school's pitch is that, by then, the kids are raring for that kind of education, rather than being 'over it' like many other high-schoolers. One mum I spoke to there, putting her 3rd dc through, said the exact same thing about her two previous kids, both of whom had gone on to a school well known for its academics. So

phdlife Sat 25-Jun-11 04:10:18

madwoman thanks for your tip and link - will get a look when ds gets off my lap. apparently the internet exists solely so he can watch videos of fire engines...

DoubleNegativePanda Sat 25-Jun-11 04:33:28

Yes, I attended this alternative school in the US.

It was an utterly wonderful experience. It was quite democratic, but with core rules and values. It was definitely not lesson-optional, or encourage low aspirations. Of my classmates (and it was small classes) we have three doctors, a lawyer, several artists, several teachers, and four Microsoft engineers, and other occupations that I cannot bring to mind. Until we moved for DH's health I was a surgical assistant.

If we still lived in that area I would certainly have sent DD there. I am working on DH to come on board with sending DD to the alternative highschool in our current area. He has this idea that alternative schools are for "the bad kids" which is just ignorant and ridiculous, really. We'll see. I'm pretty stubborn.

Bue Sat 25-Jun-11 18:08:19

I attended a state alternative school in Canada until I was 11. I have the BEST memories from my school days, and still have many friends and acquaintances from that school. "Child centred learning" and parental involvement were at the core of its ethos, but it definitely wasn't lesson-optional or a do-whatever-you-want environment. It was more about learning in a different, less structured way and nurturing kids' individual interests. We never had homework because the idea was that play is a child's work.

I had no problems going onto a traditional high school, nor did any of my peers, as far as I know. In fact I relished the desks and homework and routine - it made me feel grownup smile

The one thing I would say is that a lot of things were not done in the traditional way - we learned long division on some sort of bizarre grid and we were always doing maths in different bases - so if my dad, in despair, hadn't sat me down and taught me traditional long division at home, I could have been seriously lost when I got to high school. But I would say alternative education is good for bright kids, because it provides a lot of scope for individual learning.

Doobydoo Sat 25-Jun-11 18:20:40

I went to Summerhill for about 2 years[quite a while ago!]Like the ethos but wouldn't send my ds1 there as think they now have a fair amount of children who have been excluded from other schools and as ds1 is also sensitive etc not sure if it is the best place for him.Also not sure about Zoe Readhead.
Anyone can feel free to correct me1
Have to say though I had a great timegrin

Doobydoo Sat 25-Jun-11 18:21:51

Also lots of people leave Summerhill and go on to do interesting things.It is expensive though which makes me sad

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