Village Learning Center

Democracy - Community - Pursuit of Happiness

The Village Sudbury School is democratically run by students and staff. Students pursue whatever subjects interest them, in groups or individually, and learn informally along the way -- even as they play.

Will She See Clearly Now (via Philly Free School)

-- By Michelle Loucas, PFS Staff

My friend recently posted a meme on his Facebook page declaring “Maslow before Bloom,” with the comment, “My teacher friends will get this!” The meme combines references to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which states that a person’s basic human needs must be met before one can begin addressing matters of the head and heart, and Bloom’s Taxonomy, which is a ranking system for educational goals. This idea isn’t new: a student’s fundamental well-being must be secure before educators can set objectives for her intellectual growth. Most teachers have witnessed the ways in which severe stress interferes with a student’s ability to learn, and this phenomenon is born out by research1.I have seen this at the Philly Free School. Some students arrive after very stressful experiences elsewhere, experiences that effectively shut the learning down.

Sometimes, it is simply clear that conventional school was not working, and the family casts about for something different. Other students are leaving situations that were truly awful. In some cases, the damage is so severe that the student’s mental health is disrupted2. The families are a bit like refugees escaping a storm, in the weather-beaten expressions they wear, the resilience they demonstrate in having found us, and the impressive courage and imagination they show in fashioning shelter for their tempest-tossed child. The student, often a teen, is typically wary, distrusting the claims we make about the freedom she will have at our school. The parents, on the other hand, are in crisis mode and need an escape hatch quickly. They are seeking reassurance that their child will be safe-- emotionally, physically, and intellectually. For parents, the essentials from these foundational levels of the pyramid need to be supplied by any new school situation. When they believe that PFS can do this, they sign up. They are eager for the hurting to stop and the healing to begin. 

And it does. Kids who wash ashore at PFS from unpleasant previous experiences are free to detox in whatever way they need. Some sleep on the sofas at school-- a lot. Some break rules to test the claims of freedom and accountability made during the admissions process. Some keep to themselves for months, diving into books or tablets or handicrafts. Eventually, the storm clouds begin to clear. Time and trust are immensely powerful healing agents. When the community continues to greet them each day and stay out of their way, while maintaining the joyful business (busy-ness) of the school all around them, it works as a stabilizer. The skittish storm survivor, stretched out on a sofa watching YouTube, watches staff people closely, expecting hints of reproach or judgement. When none arrives, she settles a little bit more into her new (old) skin.

At some point, when they feel safe enough, they begin to join in. Sometimes they start by sitting in on Judicial Committee or School Meeting, lurking in the wings, not voting or discussing, just observing. Other times they begin by tentatively reaching out to an age peer, usually another castaway who shows signs of being responsive, but not demanding. After weeks of small chit chat, they might trek to the corner pizza place together. Ah, friends! Remember those? Occasionally they will head down to the basement, which is our school’s rambunctious play zone, and before you know it, they are knee deep in a game of Hide and Go Seek in the Dark, or a wrestling match, or an improv session in the music room. It makes my heart sing to walk by the mat room and catch a glimpse of a recently enrolled teen whooping it up with a gaggle of 5, 7 and 9 year olds. 

This clearing of the skies often occurs at home, too. After a few months at PFS, the parent of one teen reported: “She says I love you to me again!” The silence and moodiness that parents experience when their teen is in a school that is not working contributes to the feeling of being battered by a storm. When the teen begins healing, it is as if sunshine is peeking through. Inside the defensive teen, the open, younger child reemerges, and the parents recognize her again. The nightly battles over homework, which used to consume the bulk of the time they had to spend together, are replaced by an easy banter. The student might not share the secrets of her soul right away, but the parents can see the storm clouds lifting, and peace returns to a household where fighting and worry used to dominate. The parents feel vindicated that, indeed, their kid is alright.

This is where continuity is needed. The gifts of time and trust work slowly, incrementally, like a tiny stream eroding a centuries old rock. You can’t point to the moment it occurred, or the action that caused it, but suddenly a crevice exists where none was before. The student has begun to return to her former self-- lively, open, joyful. Because the process is so gradual, sometimes the family suffers a form of amnesia, where they forget the storm they just escaped. The parents, and sometimes the students themselves, are so relieved that they occasionally forget the elements that brought about this transition, and they begin talking about returning  from whence they came. They suggest they not return to PFS the following year, or, sometimes, break their commitment to see this school year through, because there is no longer anything “wrong.”

Why does she still need this wacky school? She’s fine! How can they explain this odd educational choice to their relatives, neighbors, and colleges, now that she is once again a typical kid? The teen is faced with, and often a party to, returning to the same unhealthy environment she so recently escaped. Or the family proposes a switch to yet another educational setting. Whatever that new option is-- a different private school, a cyber charter, homeschooling-- I posit that it is unlikely to provide the time and trust, the personal freedom and community responsibility, that worked so well at PFS. While still recovering, just emerging from the storm shelter, the teen is faced with navigating a huge transition to another environment, with new demands, different staff, and unknown students. This undercuts the healing process, and throws the teen headlong into another gale force wind before she has even found her footing.

This juncture is perhaps the hardest one for the family, maybe even harder than deciding to enroll the student in the first place. The family’s trust, in both the young person and in the school, is put to a new test. What the student needs more than anything at this point is continuity. The storm that she survived in the other environment was like a tornado that devastated the land. She is working hard to reestablish the healthy layer of rich, protective topsoil so she can plant new crops. Leaving after only a year or so deprives her of the chance to reap the harvest of her efforts. Given continuity, the farmer gets to enjoy some of the fruits of her labor, even while the planting continues into new seasons.

A young person who has been through a difficult school experience is just becoming reacquainted with herself, and needs time to discover what she wants to do with her life, and how she will get it. Grappling with what she might choose might be the most terrifying thing for the student and her parents. Allowing her to remain, in a healthier state, means allowing her imagination to call the shots on what she will do with her time and talents... destination unknown. This is an act of true courage. 

Many young people who come to PFS are only just emerging from the “Maslow stuff.” They need more time, and more trust, so that they can take on the “Bloom’s stuff.” Continuity works a powerful magic that the student needs in her bag of tricks. As Tolstoy put it in War and Peace, “The strongest of all warriors are these two — Time and Patience.” I always hope that families will hold on, hang in there, and allow the young person to stay at PFS, which is uniquely suited to support them in this kind of important work. 

1 “Many studies have confirmed that both working memory and long-term memory are inhibited by stress. Working memory is a term for the "capacity of attention that holds in mind the facts essential for completing a given task or problem. Stress sabotages the ability of the prefrontal lobe to maintain working memory."” (Goleman, Daniel.Emotional Intelligence, Bantam Books, p. 27, 1997.)

2 Evidence that the mental health of young people has declined dramatically recently, and school as a significant factor in this decline, can be found here.

Michelle Loucas, August 23rd

Education Industrial Complex

Education Industrial Complex

This phrase comes across as hyperbolic. “Sure,” you may counter, “there is too great a focus on testing, and some schools go too far with punitive zero tolerance policies, but these are temporary policy issues. There are also promising best practices being spread by teachers who believe in making their lessons more engaging, assessments more authentic, and curriculum more relevant to students’ lives.”

Photo by Richard Phillip Rucker, used under Creative Commons license

Photo by Richard Phillip Rucker, used under Creative Commons license

On the surface, these assertions seem true. I started teaching high school in 2000, and have experienced varying degrees of freedom to deviate from the standardized curriculum. Things changed for me this past year. I have worked for a year now as a substitute in all grades, K-12, and some fundamental problems I had been wondering about became clear to me.

Up to now, I had been planning on doing my best to open a Sudbury school, but meanwhile to continue looking for full time teaching jobs, which would be my backup plan if my school were unsuccessful. But based on what I’ve seen in the past year, and I think many others in the Sudbury and unschooling movements have experienced this, I just can’t. I’d rather take an entry level position in almost any other field. (To be fair, there are plenty of other unethical industries I would also avoid.)

Things I can never unsee #1: A local elementary school where kindergarteners are only allowed to run in a small circle during recess. I will never stop being sad about it. Now that half day kindergarten programs are phased out, children spend most of their day completing worksheets or sitting on assigned spots on a rug repeating after the teacher. Each week, the entire student body is required to shout “WE ARE (name of school) STUDENTS AND WE ARE GOING TO COLLEGE” during morning assembly.

At my last school, students were all “climbing the mountain to college.” It’s unrealistic and it makes kids uninterested in academia feel like they don’t count. When I was in school, this funneling into college felt entrapping but I didn’t know about other options. I enjoyed college, but I often wish I’d known about apprenticeships and other options, because I really enjoy working with my hands and in a variety of settings.

I ended up as a teacher because, even though I had dropped out of high school, I had been taught to think that a college degree was the only alternative to being a near homeless minimum wage earner. Overall, my college experience was great. I learned a lot in a way I hadn’t in earlier years, and thrived on stimulating discussions and debates both in and out of class. Because of the radical political activism I was involved in as a youth, I chose a major in Political Science. I didn’t want to run for office, and being a lawyer or public administrator sounded boring, so I figured I could be most effective as a public school teacher.

Over ten years of teaching, I came to realize I was teaching my students more about obedience than any academic topic. Compulsory education is a giant system of brainwashing, and it’s a huge industry. Many early childhood education workers, teacher’s aides, and plenty of teachers and administrators are shockingly ignorant and seem like they are in the business because they like bossing kids around. It’s awful to watch them punishing, shaming, and controlling young people. There are plenty of smart and caring educators as well, but it seems to be the control and punishment types who dominate, and why shouldn’t that be? It is a system founded on coercion. No matter how progressive or innovative the curriculum, students are there whether they like it or not, and even in the most open of public schools, staff play the role of police and prison guard.

Things I can never unsee #2: Last week, I witnessed a circle of adults standing around a twelve year-old boy who was weeping. The school secretary was lecturing the boy’s parents about how they could face severe penalties if they didn’t improve their son’s school attendance. She asked the boy whether he wanted to get his parents into legal trouble. When I passed by the scene a few minutes later, the boy was sobbing uncontrollably, as his father patted him on the back in an attempt to comfort him and the school officials stood around with a combined look of concern but also satisfaction. Although many progressives insist that compulsory education and standardized public schools are the best way to fight against socioeconomic inequality, public schools actually end up perpetuating inequality. For more, see this summary of Jean Anyon’s “Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum.”

What Sudbury School is Really All About

"But for me, the insight I saw that night, was the educational value of the students owning the entire process. The collateral benefits to this ownership are probably impossible to fully enumerate. To produce such a successful event the kids had to learn and manage so much more than just the musical acts themselves: from the mundane issues of buying and pricing concessions, to the far more complex social tasks of self-organization and management."

Read the whole article HERE

What made your parents cringe will make you great as an entrepreneur.

"There's now vindication for troublesome kids everywhere: Studies show that children with more troublesome traits become more successful adults. While we might have driven our parents up the wall, for many of us, our bad attitudes and misbehavior might have made us better entrepreneurs.

Of course, that all depends on how well you channel your wild child past into being a more productive adult. You have to transition your problematic behavior into successful traits. And as anyone who knows how good it feels to be bad, that's easier said than done.

Here are three things you did as a kid that made your parents cringe, but that can now make you a stronger, more prosperous entrepreneur."

see the full article HERE

What works in the 21st century?

Extrinsic motivation (like financial incentives, grades, punishments or rewards) decreases motivation and productivity. It's been proven in countless studies for the past half-century. These kinds of incentives only work for menial, assembly-line type tasks. They are central to the standardized school system.

So what DOES work for the creative (and precarious) economy of the 21st century? Psychologists and economists agree that intrinsic motivation is crucial. Dan Pink breaks it down a little further using the concepts of autonomy, mastery and purpose. Intrinsic motivation is central to‪#‎Sudbury‬ schools and ‪#‎Agile‬ Learning Centers.

Manifesto 15

One kindergarten class I worked in regularly uses iPads for "learning game" apps. They're normally restricted to certain apps for a limited amount of time, but I allowed the kids to explore. One boy went on the maps app and was trying to find his house from the current location. I showed him how to turn on the satellite image feature and tilt the view to make it 3D, and within a few minutes, he had taught four or five other kids how to do the same, and they were exploring the earth. Another group of kids, led by a couple of outgoing girls, was busy making movies, including chase scenes and singing.

"Digital skills are invisible, and so should technologies be in schools. Invisible learning is a recognition that most of the learning we do is “invisible” – that is, it is through informal, non-formal, and serendipitous experiences rather than through formal instruction (Cobo & Moravec, 2011). It takes into account the impact of technological advances to enable the invisible spaces to emerge – but, like the spaces, the use of technologies is likewise invisible and fluid. If the challenge for our schools and governments is to create students that stand out in creativity and innovation, and not students that mindlessly memorize and repeat old ideas, any use of technologies for learning must enable these creative and innovative directions. Schools should not use computers to “do work” around preassigned parameters with prescribed outcomes; they should be used to help design and create products and learning outcomes that extend beyond the imagination of the curriculum. "

Read more in the Manifesto 15 handbook

Sudbury learning: the Judicial Committee

A visiting Sudbury parent shares her transformative experience of sitting in on a Judicial Committee meeting. Click HERE to read the whole article, "Case by Case With Grace."

"Here’s the most important part of my essay: In no situation did I witness shame. As a child, all I’d ever felt was shame when I was “in trouble,” and ridding myself of that wretched emotion has been a huge part of my life’s journey even—especially—now.... if every kid had JC in their school, this world would be a different place within one generation."


Top Three Objections to Democratic Schools -- And How To Respond (2 of 3)

"This might be nice for younger children, but high school students need to attend an accredited school in order to be accepted into colleges and universities."

From public school classrooms to political campaigns, we are constantly reminded that a college degree is necessary for success. As early as kindergarten, students repeat phrases about being college-bound. Desks are arranged in groups named after well-known universities. Starting in middle school, class time is frequently dedicated to workshops on college admission requirements.

At first glance, it may seem like a Sudbury education would rule-out admission to lots of universities. That's just not the case. It's important to keep in mind that most universities have multiple paths to admission. The University of California, for example, requires a grade of C or better on specific "A-G" required classes, a minimum GPA of 3.0, and minimum SAT/ACT scores. However, students who do not meet these requirements can still be admitted based on qualifying SAT or ACT scores. As with most universities, the UC system also makes exceptions to admit students from non-traditional backgrounds, such as those who have been home-schooled and have no transcripts.

In response to concerns about Sudbury students' access to higher education, Sudbury Valley School co-founder Mimsy Sadofsky wrote:

Kids who leave here are usually extremely well-prepared to go to college. First of all, they're quite knowledgeable, and they're very articulate. If you want to go to a college for which you need SAT scores (which certainly is not every college at all) then that's one of the things you're motivated to do, and you apply yourself to learning how to do well on the SATs... Colleges are not as different from Sudbury Valley, I think, as high schools are, because you're expected to have a lot more autonomy and a lot more responsibility for doing what you need to do in college than you have in most high schools.

As leaders in business and government increasingly stress the need for a workforce and citizenry with "21st Century skills," students with exceptional admissions letters and higher than average world experience have a leg-up in the college admission process. There's a lot more than anecdotal evidence to back this up. According to studies of Sudbury Valley School graduates 20 years ago, and a survey of Circle School graduates earlier this year, students from Sudbury schools attend and graduate from college at higher than average rates. Sudbury grads rank about twice the national average in terms of self-employment. The next time somebody raises this objection to the Sudbury model, you can help educate him or her.

FAQ: How can self-directed learning work, if all they want to do is play video games?

Thanks to Philly Free School for sharing this article by Sheila Baranoski (excerpt below)

"'Easy for you to say unschooling works,' someone told me. 'Your kids are interested in academic things. You don’t know my kids. If I unschooled, all my kids would do is play video games all day.'

To which I can only laugh. Because, you see, I could spin it two ways. I could tell you that before my son decided to learn Japanese, he read about how long-term and short-term memory works, and came up with a plan based on his research. I could tell you how my teenage boys have been to three different symphonies, and enjoyed them all. I could mention the programming they’ve worked with. I could tell you how well they work in the family business.

Or I could tell you that all they want to do is play video games.

Both versions of the story would be true. Because they are such avid video game players, they have pursued interests that came from their passion in video games, but their core passion remains video games."

Read the rest of the article HERE

Letter from a concerned parent; Sudbury alumnus responds

The following two letters are excerpted from a discussion on the "Families of Sudbury Schools" email list. Someone from the Sudbury School of Atlanta shared this email from a parent, and the response below, from an alumnus from the Alpine Valley School in Colorado, was among the many thoughtful replies.

Sudbury parents,

I appreciated the evening's discussion and would like to propose two topics, that are motivated for my concerns about the completeness of the Sudbury model, for next time. It seems as though many parents (including me) are concerned about what the children are doing in school and would like to understand how what they are doing is contributing to their education. My own, unfortunately brief and potentially unrepresentative, observations have been that they play with devices, watch each other play with devices, and exchange devices with each other. In addition, I have seen them clean up after school, and I know second-hand that they spend a lot of time running and playing with each other (in sometimes complex social games). Further, we've been told that the children learn to mediate their own disputes and organize their own resources together. There is a lot that they learn from these interactions. However, I am concerned that these activities do not teach everything that we want our children to learn.

The concerns I mentioned above are these:
(1) A lot of learning involves acquisition of skills by means of focused repetition. I am not sure how the Sudbury model encourages this (since repetition is not generally intrinsically interesting). 

(2) Students require motivation to learn, and coercion is generally a poor motivator, but there are many things students might enjoy learning but are not sufficiently familiar with to be motivated on their own to learn. Good teachers can provoke that interest with well-chosen examples, experiments, thought-experiments, questions, or puzzles. I am not sure how the Sudbury model provides these kinds of methods to promote student interest. 

So the two questions are:

(1) What activities do students engage in that encourage the learning of skills, including reading, writing, mathematics, science, history, that are necessary precursors to more advanced learning (and which, as I said, often require focused repetition). I try to teach my son at home as well, and it would be helpful to coordinate my attempts with what is going on at school.

This leads to the second question:

(2) Are there any activities initiated by teachers? If so, what are they? Can we, at home, build on any such activities?

I deeply appreciate the goal of building on the children's own interests and motivations to educate them, and my son has improved his reading and social skills quite a bit even in the brief time he has been at Sudbury, But, as I said, I would like for my son to take fuller advantage of his opportunities to learn.

Thanks for considering my questions and concerns.

I'm not a sudbury parent, but I am a sudbury alum [Alpine Valley School]. For context, I'm a deeply satisfied (apparently effective) adult with a lucrative tech job. I didn't go to college, and I didn't do anything that was too repetitious to seem like a good idea - a rule that has continued to serve me well into adulthood and professional life. I played a lot of video games, spent a lot of time with building toys (to include blocks, the sandbox, and the minds of my friends), and wandered around outside with tiny toy spaceships making spaceship noises. (Actually, I still do all of these things to some extent.) I will admit I require a robot to do my vacuuming, because there is no other way it is going to get done to the extent necessary to keep up with the three cats and a dog I live with. But, I have such a robot, and so, pass as an effective adult.

I've seen many systems that create an ongoing dependency to cover some perceived short-term deficiency. The team that requires someone else to test their software, because they do not have the skills and resources to test it thoroughly and early enough themselves. The codebase that keeps using a bad way of doing things because it got the project up and running early, even though it severely limits the approaches the team can take to refactoring in the future. The call center that relies more and more on automated break and lunch scheduling algorithms because it "improves coverage," ultimately at the cost of employees being able to respond to change and disruptions.

The learning system wherein learners are "exposed" to a variety of Appropriate Topics for Study at the expense of their own drive to forage for intellectual fulfillment.

These are all forms of debt, long term accumulated deficiencies in ability that have to be payed off at some point. Debt can be used responsibly, but what are you purchasing when you mortgage the effervescent curiosity of a child? And, how do you expect the natural curiosity of children to survive being held for years as inactive collateral to finance a parade of artificially constructed lessons?

If you do something for someone, they depend on you for it. If you attempt to synthesize curiosity and interest for long enough, it takes years to recover; some never do. There may possibly be times when this is appropriate, but...

Do you want to discover the world for your child?

Top Three Objections to Democratic Schools -- And How To Respond (1 of 3)

1. This only works for privileged kids, so people who care about equality and social justice should focus on supporting public schools; anything else is elitist.

2. Colleges won’t accept students without diplomas from accredited schools.

3. This sounds like a nice idea, but kids need structure. Without required classes, children will just waste the time away and won’t learn important skills and content.

Most of us who believe in democratic education have someone in our lives -- a relative, a friend, a colleague -- who finds the idea threatening or who in some way misunderstands the purpose and practice of democratic schools. I'm fortunate that my family, including my retired schoolteacher mom, are fans of Sudbury schools. As a teacher myself, I hear from colleagues who want to debate the topic. While a healthy debate can be fun, I don’t expect to convince everybody, let alone those with a personal stake in rationalizing the need for standardized schooling. But, especially for those who are new to the concept, it can be disheartening when people respond to your excitement in a dismissive, skeptical tone. I’ve talked to plenty of critics, and have prepared this guide to help supporters respond to common, misguided objections to self-directed learning. Let's all get on the same page about why democratic learning is great. Instead of being defensive, you can respond to critics with confidence!

Part 1: “Sudbury schools might be nice for rich kids, but it doesn’t work in the ‘real world.’”

Many critics argue that public schools are the best and most fair way we have to provide a quality education to all children, but especially for poor children, who they argue would be left out by anything other than a free, public, standardized school system.

Others believe that they were personally smart and privileged enough to have been able to learn more independently, but that the poor kids they teach aren't so lucky. They are true believers in public education, and think democratic schools are elitist and/or misguided.

These kinds of access arguments all focus around the implied belief that schools have somehow operated as great levelers, institutions that rise above societal inequalities and become places of equal opportunity where anyone can succeed regardless of their background, a claim that is patently false. Schools have always closely mimicked larger cultural and social inequities and rich kids have always had huge advantages in a schooled culture. The scenario of well-funded and prospering schools in rich areas alongside nightmare schools with abysmal resources in poor neighborhoods is already the reality, as Jonathon Kozol has documented so clearly in Savage Inequalities.

From Matt Hern

Not only is there plenty of evidence to call into question the claim that standardized schooling reduces inequality, it is likely that it actually increases inequality. In Free to Learn, noted psychologist Peter Gray, of Boston College, describes several studies comparing the effects of evaluation on novices and experts. Perhaps it is not surprising that being judged makes those just learning a skill nervous. Formal evaluation tends to worsen their performance, while those who are already confident in their abilities tend to perform at the top of their game. Children with college educated parents, in homes full of books, exposed to intellectually stimulating conversation, museums, and world travel can be compared to the expert group. Meanwhile, kids from a poorer home environment tend to come to school as novices. The more the two groups are judged, pressured, and compared, the more their perceived academic abilities tend to diverge.

In contrast to a regimented, one-size-fits-all, age-segregated school where students are constantly judged and compared to their peers based on narrow measures of performance, a Sudbury school is more like the intellectually stimulating home described above. Children who may start with a relative disadvantage are not judged, and have time to soak up the intellectually stimulating atmosphere without becoming nervous. There is a greater variety of interests to pursue, and a greater chance to show expertise in some area sooner or later. Age mixing also gives children a chance to access their “zone of proximal development,” and learn from peers closer to, but just beyond, their level of expertise. We have plenty of educational theories to support the Sudbury model, and we also have a growing number of studies showing that graduates from all socioeconomic groups do better than average when it comes to college attendance, degree completion, and employment.

Founders of Sudbury schools like the Philly Free School work hard to provide this option on a sliding scale, or offer scholarships, and most democratic schools are significantly less expensive compared with other private schools. Staff at these schools regularly work for half of what public school teachers make, and while I don't believe this should be the norm, it is a fact that our detractors should keep in mind before they accuse us of elitism. I know from experience that many public school teachers work very hard, beyond what they're paid for, and do their best to engage the children they teach as individuals, with interesting, meaningful assignments. But we are restrained by the standards-based, control-oriented, age-segregated, bell-driven system of public education, and there are also plenty of teachers who are all too enthusiastic about trying to condition and control other people’s children. Sudbury schools provide a sorely needed alternative, and we should do everything we can to provide this option to more children.


Unschoolers and Public School Sports

Hello.  I have a question and I am really hoping someone has an answer! : )

I have heard from numerous people that homeschool kids can play sports for their local school.  My 14 year old son (9th grade) would like to play JV Soccer for our local high school.  However, the high school athletic department is saying that is not true.  They say my son must be enrolled in the school to play on the team.  Has anyone else had their child play sports for their local high school?  If so, I would love to hear from you.  

Thanks, Brenda

Here in California, they have to be enrolled in a district independent study/homeschool program. It doesn't look like an unschooler would be eligible to play on a public school team. We should start a league for unschoolers and students at democratic schools!


"The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) prohibits students not enrolled in the public school they represent from participating in in interscholastic activities under their supervision. See Rule 305. However, students enrolled in public school independent study programs have full access."


"CIF defines independent/home study programs under the jurisdiction of a CIF member school or school district as those independent/home study programs in which the curriculum is approved, the program administered and the students evaluated by that school/school district’s governing body’s designees."

-From the CIF Bylaws section 306 (rule 305 says homeschoolers are ineligible, but 306 explains the exception)


Academics in Kindergarten

I'm not sure about other areas, but the schools in Whittier have all transitioned from half-day to all-day kindergarten in the last several years. They were just phasing in the day-long option when my daughter Clare (now in 7th grade) was in kindergarten -- it's no longer optional.

When I have substitute-taught kindergarten classes, I have seen some that included a little playtime besides recess, and some that expected them to sit still almost all day with lots of worksheets. All of them included at least some worksheets, and only the best explicitly set aside extra time for play inside the classroom.

This article from The Atlantic provides an enticing glimpse into a saner, more humane approach to school for 5 and 6 year olds:

"The Joyful, Illiterate Kindergartners of Finland"