What about math? These are essential things to learn! Will any child really choose to learn them on their own?

By Debbie Ayala

Of course they will! We are surrounded by experiences that require us to know these skills.  Children are not afraid of learning difficult things, it is all equally difficult to them.
In the book Free at Last by Daniel Greenberg, (founder of Sudbury Valley) Daniel writes about how children learn to speak, “Why do kids learn speech? The fact is, infants are surrounded by a world of humans who communicate through speech.  There is nothing children want more than to master that world.  Try to stop them! A child’s struggle to learn how to speak is an epic of determination and persistence.  “The same thing happens with reading at Sudbury Valley.  When kids are left to their own devices, they eventually see for themselves that in our world, the written word is a magic key to knowledge.  When curiosity finally leads them to want that key, they go after it with the same gusto they show in all their other pursuits.”
Children in a free environment, like AVA, do learn to read.  They do learn math! When these subjects are given equal value to all the other things available to them, they see the value for themselves and do what is necessary to learn the skill they lack. They will learn what is relevant to their lives.  Instead of learning these things as separate subjects, our students learn what they need in the context of living. 
We have been privileged to see students learning these skills without being coerced or even having any formal lessons.  In fact while writing this a few students came in with a note that they are writing to their friends to lead them on a hunt of some kind and wanted some clarification on spelling.  They were not told to write.  Their friends don’t need to be told to read the note.  They have learned in their short lives, that it is a form of communication and they are emulating what they see.
If you still have questions about any of the things that we espouse as a school, please reach out to any of the staff members.  Also I will include a couple books that relate to the question.

Why Children Fail by John Holt
Free at Last by Daniel Greenberg

Posted January 14, 2022


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