Considering Grassroots Free School and the Summerhill education philosophy
I'm considering transferring my 7-year-old son to a local private school--Grassroots Free School--that’s structured according to the philosophies of England’s Summerhill School. This educational model is based on the premise that, given the opportunity, children will learn on their own because of an innate hunger for knowledge.
The internationally renowned, independent Summerhill School has no grade levels, nor a grading system. The Summerhill model demands a very low teacher: student ratio; at the local school the ratio is 1:6, compared to the 1:20 ratio in local public schools.
The focus at Summerhill schools is on character, compassion, egalitarianism, self-government and democracy. All students, teachers and—hopefully--parents meet weekly to determine policy, with the students having the final say.
The dominant philosophy is one of personal and global responsibility, and the unity and integrity of all things pertaining to the natural world. The lion’s share of the day is spent outdoors pursuing self-directed activities that lead to introspection and self-responsibility.
The Summerhill School in England has been in operation since 1921 when Alexander Sutherland Neill established it as an education experiment. The British government (particularly Tony Blair’s administration) has repeatedly tried to shut down the school, but has repeatedly been forced to capitulate in the face of opposition from students, parents and educational leaders. The Grassroots Free School was created roughly 30 years ago.
I have concerns about how my own child would function and fare after leaving a Summerhill-based school. But, in light of his innate leadership and strong opinions, I think that during his primary and secondary years he might fare better in a program of this sort.
One of the reasons I’m leaning toward this option is the remarks from the graduates of the local Grassroots Free School school. Attorneys, judges, physicians and even a Grammy Award winner (the daughter of my old friends) all attest to the school’s positive effect on their success, largely because of the lifelong hunger for knowledge and core appreciation of their own worth, talents and ability that were instilled at Grassroots.
I would really appreciate any input others have on this educational option.