We know you have questions. Below are some of the most common questions we get about Nashville Sudbury School, but if you don’t see your question feel free to contact us at 615.543.6160 or email sonia@nashvillesudburyschool.org.

What is a Sudbury School?
A Sudbury school is a democratic school where each member (students and staff) has a voice and vote in the running of the school. Sudbury schools follow the philosophy of a self-directed learning model within a participatory democracy, where personal freedom intersects directly with respect and responsibility for one’s community. This all happens through age-mixing from ages 4 to 18. There are no fixed curriculum, homework, teachers, or schedules to follow. Staff serve as facilitators, rather than teachers. Students determine how to spend their days in ways that most engage them in their own learning process, in community, and with the help of caring adults who recognize their innate dignity and capabilities.

What is a democratic school?
When we say the school is democratic, we mean that it offers the opportunity for children to practice the democratic process from early on, cultivating leadership skills, problem-solving, and goal setting. A democratic school environment protects the rights of all individuals in the school, empowers those involved and fosters a sense of purpose and responsibility.

So there is no curriculum?

Children are curious by nature and are constantly learning all of the time. When children are very young, they are like little scientists. This natural, driven, curiosity can continue into school age if it is allowed to thrive. Children and teens are curious about their world and naturally want to grow to become independent adults- which is unique for each of them, as it is for adults. Sudbury schools foster a child’s internal motivation, which is a much more powerful driver to learning than external motivation.

Ok. No curriculum. But won’t they just play all day?
Absolutely. Play is the work of childhood and when given the freedom many children of all ages will play and, through their play, they will practice skills that are essential in life. They will become curious and explore that curiosity as far as they can take it. And they will get bored and have to figure out for themselves what to do in that state of boredom. That is where the magic happens, in those moments of utter boredom when no one has any say in what a child can do with their day. That is when the learning is the most powerful and profound.

But what if all they do is watch YouTube and play video games?
Consuming media is a form of learning also, and one that will be essential in the future as we do not know what the future holds but we can be fairly certain that technology will be an integral part of it. In video games, children are deeply engaged in problem-solving. As adults we surf the Internet to learn or be entertained. Children model our behavior and do the same. Technology is a crucial component of our culture and the future of our children. They will seek to understand and use it to its fullest capacity.

What does the daily schedule look like?
There will be a few set activities that happen daily (Judicial Committee and Chore time) and weekly (School Meeting). Aside from those, the students have no set schedules other than what they might decide to make for themselves. Activities will vary from student to student, day to day, and can include a number of possibilities, such as outdoor play, computer and other available technology use, creating, organizing, reading, writing, time on one’s own, socializing, etc.

Any homework?
Nashville Sudbury is a self-directed model and it is up to each individual child to decide what they need to do through the course of the day and into the evening. If a child wants to keep working on a project at home that they begin at school, they are welcome to do so. We do not require homework in the same way that we do not require any specific curriculum.

Are they going to be prepared for college without homework and curriculum?
Students who attend Sudbury schools are usually extremely well-prepared to go to college. They’re quite knowledgeable, very articulate, and very motivated. Sudbury students are able to learn all they need to know for college entrance, often in a very short time. Colleges are not as different from Sudbury schools in that students are expected to know themselves and take responsibility for their own education. 85% of the students from the original Sudbury Valley School attend college. Others pursue their vocations in a variety of ways.

What is age mixing? Is it safe for teens and young children to be together?
We thought our friends at Arts and Ideas Sudbury explain this the best:

“Children learn the most from those that are near to them in age. Older ones inspire and challenge the younger ones while the younger ones lead to compassionate leadership in the older ones. Our establishment of a community of free individuals naturally entails that children of different ages mix freely. The demands placed on students by the presence of both their juniors and seniors help develop a number of skills and understandings. First, it normalizes the fact that life outside of school is age-diverse. Beyond the walls of the school building, it holds true that people are not segregated by age and that they need to be able to communicate with others of varying ages and experience. In fact, as many adults experience after their own schooling experiences, age matters far less than the emotional maturity that usually, but not always, accompanies it. With this in mind, our students are free to self-organize in groups appropriate to their maturity and interests.

Age-mixing also provides specific and unique advantages that vary over the spectrum of age and maturity. Simply by virtue of being free to associate with older students, younger students will find themselves in situations that demand of them or exemplify in others a maturity that they may not yet have developed. Whether or not they take it on themselves in those moments to rise to the challenge of acting older, the cues and catalysts for such behavior constantly surround them in the form of older students responding to their own challenges.

The converse also applies for older students. For them, younger students serve as a reminder and inducer of the creative spark, but perhaps more importantly, of their own humanity. The presence of younger students sheds light on an older student’s own development towards becoming more physically, intellectually, and emotionally mature. This opens up the opportunity to self-identify with the younger other. This process expresses itself in many older students as an incredible sensitivity to the needs of others (not just those younger) and a willingness to consider their differences in practice.

Age-mixing, in addition to normalizing the real-world fact of age diversity, creates an environment in which younger students and older students serve to temper the behavior of the other, thereby providing a complementary means to ease into adulthood.”

What is the role of the staff?
We have staff not teachers. Staff is there to support students and the school as needed by the students or as directed through the school meeting. Staff get an equal vote in the school meeting same as every student. Staff members are there to help in every capacity relating to the running and maintenance of the school. Students as well will take on these roles. So, Staff will morph into whatever they need to be to ensure that the school runs smoothly. That could mean they are admissions counselors, Judiciary committee members, responsible for certain maintenance and clean up around the school, community elders, guides, advocates, or experts of specific subject matter. Staff may help a student solve a problem or support a matter brought up at the school meeting. Staff could also take on the role of a learner especially if the subject is something that they are not an expert on. Staff may be managing volunteers, community outreach, PR for the school, answering the phone, communicating with parents… You name it. Staff members support it!

What are the roles of parents?
Parents are there to support the mission of the school and be a support for their children. We must warn you that when your children lead a free, democratic existence by day they will expect that existence to be carried on after school. Be ready for the free and liberated children to expect freedom and respect at home. Be ready to engage in some conversations and situations that you may not have anticipated. There will be a level of deschooling that parents, guardians, and family members close to students will be going through separate from the experience that their children are having but equally important and freeing. Parents, be gentle with yourselves and your children during the deschooling process. For more information on deschooling check out our Resources page.

Will my child be safe?
Yes. Safety is the highest priority at the school. The students and staff make the school’s rules together, and any student can report staff or students for violations of the rules. If someone is written up, they must attend the Judicial Committee where the conflict is investigated and reviewed by their peers and a staff member to decide on appropriate action. Having a small student to staff ratio also contributes to safety. Students also go through a stringent certification process to participate in certain activities.

Do you accept children with disabilities?
Yes, Nashville Sudbury School enrolls students with disabilities on a case-by-case basis; however, Nashville Sudbury does not provide any specific accommodations for students with disabilities. Regardless of any disability, all students must be able to keep themselves safe without constant adult supervision, take care of their own needs (such as eating and using the restroom), and be respectful, accepting members of the school community. At Nashville Sudbury School, students have the space, time, and freedom to be themselves and learn in whatever way makes sense for them.

What is the school’s legal structure?
Nashville Sudbury School is a Tennessee Category IV church-exempt non-public school under the umbrella of Two Springs Fellowship. Two Springs Fellowship is a non-denominational 501(c)3 non-profit created alongside the school and its mission is to support self-directed, democratic education for all humans regardless of age. Two Springs Fellowship does not make decisions pertaining to the school’s day to day operations.

Where are you located?
We are located at 3551 Dickerson Pike, Nashville, TN 37207. We are excited for the opportunities this 4,400 square foot property on 4.4 acres of land holds for our Nashville Sudbury community.

When can we enroll?

Nashville Sudbury School enrolls throughout the year. Please see our Enrollment page for more information.