Humans learn best when they are interested in what they are learning. The long-lasting and profound learning only happens when humans have intrinsic motivation, and when they are not overly stressed.
Children are born with intrinsic motivation and always know what they want to do, until a predetermined curriculum is imposed, and extrinsic motivators (rewards and punishments) are introduced to direct their interests to something else. Sudbury schools allow children to keep their inborn qualities: curiosity, passions, creativity, self-understanding, etc.
Students are respected and treated as equals. This is the most important core value and everything else stems from that. We respect students as independent individuals and their interests, emotions, ideas, and also their natural pace of development by not judging them. In times of conflicts, children will learn to deal with the issues and bear the consequences, when their rights are respected and their emotions are accepted.
Everyone in the school enjoys freedom of choice, freedom of action, and freedom to bear the consequences of his or her decisions and actions. It means everyone has the freedom to do whatever s/he likes, as long as s/he does not infringe other people’s rights, and does not violate the boundaries of other members in the community. For example, children have the freedom to play guitar all day long without doing anything else. But they cannot play guitar in a reading room where other children need a quiet space to read. They can only play in a room where the music will not disturb others.
Every member in the community is responsible for his or her own decision. When we enjoy freedom, we should also take full responsibility for the consequences of our decisions and actions.
Students are in charge of their days, their learning, and their lives. They decide how to spend their time each day, what they want to learn, how they are going to learn. They set their own goals and figure out how to accomplish the goals. They deal with failure and learn from mistakes.
The Sudbury philosophy is based on the trust with respect to the following three aspects:
i) We trust that children are naturally curious and eager to learn and grow into competent individuals.
ii) We trust that humans are benevolent in nature irrespective of their interests, personalities, backgrounds, passions, or abilities.
iii) We trust that each child has his or her own path in life, which is unique. They have the wisdom to guide themselves in many aspects. This does not mean children do not need guidance or help. It just means we need to let go more for children to blossom at their own pace rather than controlling their paths.
Empathy is not something that can be taught. Children will become empathetic only when they feel respected, accepted and loved as who they are.
A successful education is one that enables children to understand about themselves. In fact, with such freedom and autonomy in Sudbury schools, students need to develop self-awareness, in order to make decisions for themselves. The school system naturally allows children and the staff to have sufficient time and space for them to be in touch with their inner self.