Children take to democratic education like it was second nature. They adopt it with a passion and their ability to make personal decisions and run democratic meetings is truly impressive. Children grasp freedom of choice in democratic community and boldly create their own developmental narratives that seem unerringly correct. Children play, learn and become aware of tackling the necessities of the outside world at the appropriate times. They graduate and prosper.
… setting up the correct habitat, the proper foundation templates and developing the necessary skills to establish a school and have it last over time is not simple. It is a tough and steep learning curve. These pages will give you an idea of essentials and what Summerhill Democratics offers to help you on your way.
Your School, Your Way
Summerhill Democratics recognises the individual circumstances of its clients. We believe that you should:
“DO WHAT YOU CAN, WITH WHAT YOU HAVE, WHERE YOU ARE.”
Every democratic school might be called a city state; each city state finds itself surrounded by a nation and a culture … by an empire. You should not feel guilty if you can’t immediately deliver 100% of what you want your democratic school to be. The surrounding culture may not permit that. Begin, then move steadily forward with patient wisdom:
- Develop a realistic, successful product. Yes, it’s a great product: sell it! Happy parents will share their experiences of your school with others.
- Create a vision and a school with confident staff and management who know what they are doing and why they are doing it; who can say, “Here we are, come and enjoy what you see, ask questions; we invite you to understand the practicality of what this is all about.”
- Be savvy about social media and media in general. Use understandable, non-utopian terms; refer to democratic education for what it is … nothing new, tried and true, internationally successful.
- Do not be afraid to constructively engage politicians and Ministry of Education people when appropriate.
- Develop relationships with teacher colleges, practising teachers, school principals, business organisations.
- Be sure to remind everyone that democratic states should offer children practice in democracy and independent choice of action on a daily basis: democracy and the understanding of responsible freedom in our modern world should be backed by a democratic school experience.
- Never be defensive; be inviting, inclusive and understanding.
- Resist the temptation to cast yourself in the role of cultural revolutionary with a theatrical mission to save children; that’s just old fashioned and self-serving.
- Your task is to create a successful long-term democratic school business to benefit children.
When we are working with you we take into account your particular situation and expertise; we want to know what you don’t need from us as well as where we can offer a useful consulting service. Have a look below at some of the that might interest you.
Themes and Topics
Here are some topics we can explore with you:
- Age appropriate living and learning habitats
Since a democratic school is a place for free choice of action in democratic community, properly created habitats and resources should be designed to absorb and support what children choose to do when free to choose. Free flow has to work. It doesn’t work by accident.The habitat itself functions as a formal and informal curriculum of democratic free choice experience.
A poorly designed democratic education habitat will inevitably create a wide range of unnecessary issues … we don’t mean natural daily living issues, but issues of an environment out of balance without needing to be.
You will, for example, need to include spaces that respect:
- the natural variety of child energy levels
- both extroverts and introverts
- individualists as well as social networkers
- the academic, the artist, the artisan, the builder, the dreamer
- The creation of an efficient start-up team.
- A strong vision statement to guide the school.
- Recruitment and start-up events and workshops.
- An admissions policy.
- Application and acceptance procedures.
- School/Parent protocol.
- Parent and staff handbooks.
- Running a Democratic School
- Organising a successful school day.
- Student problem solving/ombudsmen.
- Democratic meetings.
- Start up rules and authority sharing.
- Behaviour issues.
- Teaching Staff
- Teacher recruitment.
- Teacher mentoring and training.
- Curriculum Advisors.
- Age appropriate curriculum.
- Numeracy, Literacy and general policy documents.
- Curriculum Issues
- Curriculum reduction and streamlining.
- Flexible learning entry points.
- Special attention lists.
- Personal developmental narrative.
- Elastic point-to- point progress.
- Family style assessment.
- Developing a Democratic School
- Successful school growth stages.
- Day-to-day school management.
- Long term administration, management and ownership.
- Dealing with state education authorities.
- Facilities that meet zoning regulations, building and fire codes, health and safety requirements.
- An analysis of heating, utility, renovation, exterior and interior upkeep costs.
- Building, contents, transportation, liability insurances.
- Vetting and police checks for adults.
It is your school your way, but you should be comfortable with these Summerhill basics :
- Children can play as much as they like and do as they choose as long as they do not interfere with the rights of others.
- Freedom does not mean licence
- Social and emotional growth takes priority over the academic.
- Children do not have to go to lessons unless they want to.
- Children can take part in democratic meetings to make laws and decisions concerning the daily life of the school and to resolve other issues that are important to them.
- There are excellent teachers, preferably with Summerhill experience or training.
- A well-organised curriculum of essentials is offered to those who choose to attend lessons.
- Children are not measured, assessed or examined unless they decide they want that.
- There is a carefully chosen range of age appropriate activity areas and resources.
- Adults stay in the background. They do not rush in to save bored children, but allow them to discover what’s next on their own.
- A compulsory state curriculum is unnecessary, unless a child finds it personally interesting to do. (It is there for adults to force children to learn, mostly on whim, whatever they choose, for whatever reasons they come up with. Really.)
- Students will be perfectly capable of attending college if they play and follow their own interests until around the age of fourteen.
These ideas are supported by time-tested structures and practices that make democratic schools successful.
Summerhill School is not a magic kingdom that happens by sprinkling fairy dust. It is not a random environment. It is a school and a business that offers ‘free choice of action in a democratic community’ . That is its curriculum.