When I received news that the East Kent Sudbury School had secured a location that would serve as their premises, my eldest daughter was ecstatic. She had a desire to attend school but after a very brief stint in a mainstream one (three days) she discovered that form of institution was not for her. Much to my relief I’d like to add; I could see already in just the first week how emotionally draining being there was. She was tired, grouchy and confused. We both practically skipped to the computer to email her withdrawal letter.
Fast forward to December 2018 and we were all looking forward to the next big step in her life. Her dreams of attending school were being realised. What was more it was a democratic school. This meant that her personal autonomy would be respected and her voice heard. She would be treated like an equal citizen and staff at the school would be her allies. This is probably her favourite aspect of the school itself (as is mine).
As the start date loomed nearer I sensed her excitement with every fibre of my being. Although to be honest, while I was over the moon for my daughter, a small part of me was sad that our home education journey was coming to an end. Still I knew in my heart that this was the right choice and would mean great things for the whole family. Not only would she be a pioneer of a school model that has its basis in treating children like valued members of society, she would have the opportunity to glean knowledge from teachers, on her terms.
The first month has far exceeded my expectations. The school premises are currently only temporary as they are looking to secure a larger site to accommodate more children at some point in the future. Nevertheless the site they have at the moment is nicely tucked away within a diverse community, while being only a stones throw away from the local culture. The indoor space is cosy and feels like a home from home, with a magnificent craft cupboard that I could only dream about for my house! There are a variety of areas set out for the children in anticipation of what they may feel like doing at any given point in the day. Space to reflect and relax, areas for them to cultivate creativity and plenty of invitations to play, learn and discover are set up, awaiting the unfolding of their imaginations. The aspect that I am most pleased with is the change I have seen in my daughter.
Before the school became a reality our home educating days did have a rhythm to them (albeit a bit of a higgledy piggledy one). With my husband at work full time and me being the only adult responsible for three young children during the day, there was a lot of compromise. Not all of the activities she wanted to participate in were age appropriate for my younger two, and some of their activities were too young for my eldest. While this was a valuable lesson in give and take, it was also very frustrating and felt quite limiting. Being at East Kent Sudbury has solved that. She is able to spend time in the company of like minded peers. Which has increased her capacity to tolerate her two year old brother when he barges into her room and then plays dead when she asks him to leave. Instead of hearing screams of rage at this (very understandably) annoying situation, I hear her laugh and simply continue to play around him. Her overall outlook has become more positive; it is clear that the school is able to meet her self care needs. From Tuesday to Thursday she has the opportunity to fill her cup.
I am beyond grateful for the work that the staff have put in to make this dream become a reality, not to mention the work they continue to do every school day. One of complete appreciation and accommodation for the immense complexities of children’s learning and inner lives. I’m also incredibly grateful for the students who contribute to this beautiful little community, their commitment to showing up every day and their courage to be exactly who they want to be. Spending their days the way they want to spend them. This is not just a new kind of school, this is a transition away from the antiquated narrative that is still so prevalent in today’s society. It is an opportunity to create a more peaceful and mindful world view, where future generations will take the time and care to honour their intuition and the feelings and needs of others. This is the beginning of a fair and equal society, one that I am proud that our family will be a part of.