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Summerhill - any children/parents with opinions?

(30 Posts)
englishpatient Tue 16-Jun-09 15:04:00

Have just been looking at the website and am intrigued. I can't work out what it would be like and would love to hear from any pupils/ex-pupils/parents of pupils/ex-pupils. Am looking at alternative schools for my 6 year old son, currently at local primary.

lljkk Wed 17-Jun-09 12:49:00

Search for previous threads, there was a MNetter with a child there, I can't remember who and it was a while back so she may be gone, now.

I am seriously thinking about sending DC1 there for secondary. Maybe sooner but not sure we could afford it (he is 9 now). Would be glad to share notes!

englishpatient Wed 17-Jun-09 16:43:44

Thank you lljkk. I will have a look later when (hopefully) I have some more time.

At the moment this is just one of many options I am looking at. What is making you consider it? What sort of school does your DS go to now, and what is going wrong?

arionater Wed 17-Jun-09 17:51:48

There was a TV documentary on it several years ago, which I thought was rather discouraging. You might be able to find a copy of it somewhere.

Maybe if you ring the school they'll put you in touch with current or recent parents? They must get a lot of parents who are curious but uncertain.

lazymumofteenagesons Wed 17-Jun-09 18:36:34

What part of the country are you in? My son is at a progressive/alternative day/boarding school in Hertfordshire. Not as off the wall as Summerhill though, they have to go to classes. One of his maths teachers used to teach at summerhill, so ethos can't be that far apart.

Metella Wed 17-Jun-09 18:47:57

Actually I was intrigued by the website too!

The dcs watched the TV series about Summerhill's fight with OFSTED to stay open and both said they wanted to go!

I'm not keen on boarding though (or at least not until 13+). I wonder if there is anywhere like it in Surrey?

flamingobingo Wed 17-Jun-09 18:56:34

Why don't you home educate?

Milliways Wed 17-Jun-09 19:43:23

My Nephew went and enjoyed it. He is very dyslexic and only took 1 GCSE but with his school report he got a place at college and is strating Uni this Autumn.

He did say that not going to lessons doesn't last long, and as you choose your subjects you should want to go to those!

lljkk Thu 18-Jun-09 11:54:35

Hi again,
Everything about it suggests to me that most children will decide to go to most lessons most of the time. At the end of the day, they're stuck in a wooded campus in a small town without local friends (other than school mates) and little spending money. I'm not sure if they could just play computer games all day instead of going to classes, though, that's the only part that worries me, tbh.

Because they decide to go to lessons, they don't mess the teacher about (so I have heard). Big complaint from DS is about misbehaviour from others.

Because they are a small school, they have to let children work to ability, not being stuck too much with children at lower ability just because they are same age (DS hates listening to long explanations from teacher about something he understood quickly).

Summerhill appeals most because DS is SO un-self motivated, so easily bored, lacking in self-discipline and yet at the same time so very capable intellectually and physically. I am convinced that he never would learn anything if he didn't go to school (except the clever tricks in computer games, of course). He is also the least considerate and patient person in our family.

So I think that living in a community like Summerhill would make him appreciate home and other people more. Intellectually, he'd be suffocated in a conventional secondary (not because he's a genius, but because he needs the room to be creative and he struggles to put up with the cr*p aspects).

Not sure I'm explaining that well. I have 3 other children and I would think they'll be okay at a conventional secondary.

Home-ed would be a nightmare for me.

However, knowing DS he'd manage 2 weeks at Summerhill before declaring it's rubbish and demanding to go home, lol.

lljkk Fri 19-Jun-09 11:46:25

Eng-patient: why does Summerhill appeal to you?

englishpatient Fri 19-Jun-09 13:50:54

lljkk - have been giving it a lot of thought over the past couple of days. The negative points all seemed to come to mind after my initial enthusiasm. For example, like you, I wonder if they would be allowed to play computer games all day, because DS would love that! Also, the cost, the fact that it's boarding, and really, I'm not sure I'm the right sort of person to be a Summerhill parent because I DO want to know what's going on at school and I am sure I would be worried if he didn't do any, say, science for years! Added to that, I wonder how the children get on academically, because I'd like DS to have the opportunity to "reach his potential" (although I hate that phrase!) Choosing to miss a subject for 3 years might seem like a good idea at the time but could this be regretted later?

His older sister is at a very good selective private school, which seems like the opposite end of the spectrum, but then the two of them are very different personalities, although they are both bright.

Why does it appeal? - well, DS can really apply himself when he has chosen to do something he is interested in (e.g.making cardboard road signs to put all around the house - it took him ages). He is extremely good at expressing himself verbally and has a strong sense of justice (so the weekly meetings would probably suit him). I think I felt so enthusiastic on first hearing of this school because it seemed so different from anything else, and DS is "different" from the other kids at his current school, so I just wondered...

snorkle Fri 19-Jun-09 22:09:26

You have to put a huge amount of trust in your childrens ability to make the right decisions. It's a lovely idea, but I'm not altogether sure I'd have the confidence to believe that it's the right thing to leave such potentially important decisions to inexperienced children whose sense of forward thinking may not yet be fully developed.

lljkk Sat 20-Jun-09 11:55:29

Wherever he goes to school, I have to trust ds not to mix with druggies, to bother to do his homework, to not smoke or be a vandal, etc. Those are important decisions, too, and only he can make them.

Summerhill is run on such a shoe$ that I expect they can't afford the electric bill for kids to play 'puta games all day. Plus there will be a booking system for the school computers, with those needing them for educational purposes taking priority. It can't be a free4all.

snorkle Sat 20-Jun-09 13:07:35

I think they take their own computers if they want to lljkk. AT least with the other issues you mention they are being told what to do & there are short term consequences to doing the wrong thing. It's childrens appreciation of long term consequences that I don't think are always well developed.

Doobydoo Sat 20-Jun-09 19:25:21

I went for a year[my mum was a house parent]I did not see much of hergrin
Request a prospectus...it is fab and they have past pupils in it and what they are up to now.

lljkk Sun 21-Jun-09 16:35:11

Ooh, that's good stuff to hear, Dooby. I will ask for a prospectus.

I take your points, Snorkle. I guess it's precisely because DC1 is such a live-for-the-moment child that I think he needs a place like Summerhill to thrive. He can't stick out the boring bits with a promise of what it means he will achieve later. He needs to enjoy the journey to get there, or he simply won't want to try. I don't think he'll ever be that goal-oriented (unlike me or dc2-3).

DH is rather similar, either 100% enthusiasm for something or he can't be arsed (!).

I can easily not send a computer with DS, and if he assaults somebody else's in frustration after playing some game too long, that will stop him from playing any computer game.

Litchick Sun 21-Jun-09 19:50:07

I recently visited Summerhill.
I must say I like much of their ethos : the way children choose, take responsibility. compromise.
It is very child centrered.
My main misgiving was how far they insist on keeping the parents at arms lenghth. I understand their view that children must flourish alone but they seemed to actively discourage any parental involvement. That seemed very counter intuitive and rather old fashioned. Most parents want to work in partnership with a school. Even the most traditional boarding schools have cottoned on to the fact that parents don't want to hand their children in at the door and collcet at eighteen. It really felt that way at Summerhill.

lljkk Mon 22-Jun-09 13:12:09

Reading their website they seem very bothered about parents who would mollycoddle their DC.

Doobydoo Mon 22-Jun-09 15:08:59

I think also it is to stop parents expectations being drummed into the child.Whilst so many parents like the idea of Summerhill it can still be difficult,I would imagine,for parents to completely go with the flow.As we are all affected by our experiences and by society.So if a child dosen't go to Maths for some time,the parent is not giving them a hard time about it and pressurising them.
Summerhill has children who may have been excluded from other schools,who have never settled in other scholls,who may have been bullied etc.Children who have been home edded also go there .So allsorts reallysmileMany children also come from other parts of the world and a considerable amount are from wealthy families.

Bessie123 Mon 22-Jun-09 15:24:28

The 3 main things I remember from seeing the documentary a few years ago is that children were allowed to cut a rabbit's head off with a machete (I think the rabbit was injured and they may have been doing something humane, but I can't remember), the children went skinny dipping together and the head teacher said she was 'very comfortable' swearing in front of the children. I like the idea of the school but I don't think I could cope with my dd being there

lljkk Mon 22-Jun-09 18:41:11

The website anyway, has a very firm anti-drugs policy, and they also concede that the age of consent for sex is 16.

Skinny dipping not a worry for me, I have DC of mixed gender and they bathe/change together, they know what the other side's bits look like.

I was wondering, what happens if a child outgrows their shoes and needs new ones? Do they take them shoe-shopping for you?

mollyroger Mon 22-Jun-09 18:47:43

I wish we lived nearer and were richer - I have longed to send one of my boys there since he was 6 and I realised he was okward never going to love school.

Doobydoo Mon 22-Jun-09 19:12:45

Agree Mollyroger.It is such a shame that you have to have money for this sort of education.It makes me angryreally.

mummyrex Thu 02-Jul-09 12:31:39

From the articles I have read and documentary I have seen I got the very strong impression that while children enjoyed themselves they often left with relatively few qualifications, and MUCH more important, real regrets for not working harder and being more focussed.

Children don't always know what is best for them and I mean what they will with hindsight will think would have been best (IYKWIM)

cpanda Fri 10-Jul-09 13:29:09

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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