Archive for General

Law & Order: Alpine Valley School

In the Alpine Valley School Family Handbook, we provide the following brief description of Judicial Committee: The Judicial Committee (JC) investigates complaints of alleged Lawbook violations written by School Meeting Members. Those charged may plead guilty and receive a sentence, or they may plead not guilty and take their case to trial. The JC maintains … Continue reading Law & Order: Alpine Valley School

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5 Signs That Your Kid is Already Burned Out on School

The first day of school was an exciting time for me. I remember loading up my new backpack with all my fresh school supplies, carefully choosing my outfit, and heading off to meet the bus first thing in the morning on that fateful day. However, I was a different kid a few weeks later. The … Continue reading 5 Signs That Your Kid is Already Burned Out on School

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Counter Culture

When I started as a student back in 1999 (I see you doing the math in your head – stop it!) one of the most intriguing aspects of Alpine Valley School was the notion that I could participate in the process of creating law. I must admit that, at first, I went a little mad … Continue reading Counter Culture

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Counter Culture

When I started as a student back in 1999 (I see you doing the math in your head – stop it!) one of the most intriguing aspects of Alpine Valley School was the notion that I could participate in the process of creating law. I must admit that, at first, I went a little mad with power. The idea that I, as an individual, could submit to School Meeting any motion that struck my fancy was just too tempting for an individual who had felt marginalized and unimportant for so long.

After a period of contemplating (if not actually submitting) motions which would declare me Grand Empress of the school and institute a hefty tax upon my citizens, I realized the real-world implications of my power in this democracy. I didn’t have to simply complain about anything any more! If I didn’t like something, such as a law preventing me from initiating a snowball fight, all I would have to do is submit a motion to remove it and – poof! – problem solved.

Well, it wasn’t quite that easy. I forgot that in addition to submitting a motion to School Meeting I would also have to get my fellow School Meeting Members to vote in favor of such a change. So, it was up to me to not only propose the change itself, but to rally support for it. While on the surface that might seem arduous and more than your average teenager might willingly undertake, it turned out to be surprisingly empowering.

More recently, the students at Alpine Valley School used their own influence to push through a controversial measure which would allow sitting on the kitchen counters. Along with standing and the resting of feet, sitting on the kitchen counters has long been prohibited as part of a hygiene-related School Meeting law. However, a determined group of students submitted a motion to change only the sitting portion of the law and rallied support from within the community arguing that clothing-clad bottoms are significantly less dirty than their shoes and, indeed, in some cases, even cleaner than hands.

While not everyone in the community was in favor of the measure (coughLarrycough) the students rallied enough support from School Meeting members that their resolution eventually passed and the law was amended to allow sitting on the countertops. As you can see from the picture, they celebrated their victory immediately and well. As you might also notice from the picture, they were very, very pleased with themselves.

In my experience as both a student and a staff member at Alpine Valley School I have found that there is something almost magical about discovering your own agency as an individual. No more are you at the whims of the world around you; at any point you can stand up and correct what you feel needs changing. Sometimes you get your butt kicked, and sometimes you prevail, but the important thing is that you tried something. The more such experiences you have, the more you start to take on additional challenges and the world becomes an exponentially better place. So, while sitting on countertops may not seem like all that big a deal, the independence and responsibility it signifies from our students is powerful stuff indeed.

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Missa Gallivan is an Alpine Valley School graduate and staff member. She is also the mother of a future AVS student (in about four years) and step-parent to two amazing teenagers.

Interested in finding out more about Alpine Valley School? Schedule a one-hour tour! You can call us at 303-271-0525 or email at info@alpinevalleyschool.com

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Trusting Our Children, Trusting Ourselves

My son is fifteen months old and he just now started to walk. Despite repeated assertions from trained  professionals that he should be walking at eleven months old, or twelve months at the latest, he still wasn’t. And even I, a graduate of Alpine Valley School and a champion of individual freedoms, got worried. The … Continue reading Trusting Our Children, Trusting Ourselves

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Trusting Our Children, Trusting Ourselves

My son is fifteen months old and he just now started to walk. Despite repeated assertions from trained  professionals that he should be walking at eleven months old, or twelve months at the latest, he still wasn’t. And even I, a graduate of Alpine Valley School and a champion of individual freedoms, got worried. The questions and doubts seemed unavoidable: Was I the problem? Could I be doing something wrong? Should I be pushing him harder? Buying more toys that encourage walking? It was maddening.

I don’t know any parent who hasn’t experienced this sort of conundrum with any number of milestones that we are supposed to be checking off our “My Child is Okay” list. We feel responsible for our children from the time they come into the world and with that duty in mind it is so easy to get sucked into hyper-vigilance and mindlessly pushing our kids towards those things that we feel they need to be doing. However, it has been our experience in 50 years of Sudbury schooling that children do better in life, and our relationships with our kids are better, if we simply trust and let them be.

Magda Gerber, creator of REI and early childhood development specialist, puts it this way: “I have spent my adult life trying to figure out why parents and society put themselves into a race — what’s the hurry? I keep trying to convey the pleasure every parent and teacher could feel while observing, appreciating and enjoying what the infant is doing. This attitude would change our educational climate from worry to joy.”

With this in mind I created my own mantra: “Everything in its own time,” which I repeated silently to myself whenever worries about my son’s walking arose. It didn’t completely eliminate the concerns, but it helped me to cultivate the environment of trust and patience that is my ideal. And then, on Christmas morning, my son took his honest-to-goodness first steps and it felt like an outright miracle. He did it entirely on his own, without me pushing, encouraging, guiding, or demonstrating, and when those little unsteady steps unfolded his face lit up with pride and satisfaction.

I see this same experience with our students at Alpine Valley School. When children undertake a challenge entirely on their own they are able to reap the psychological rewards of their success and the opportunities that stem from failure. They can ask for help when they need it and, of course, we will be happy to assist them, but the ultimate ownership for their accomplishment is on their shoulders. Having experienced this kind of freedom firsthand I can tell you it’s powerful stuff. It starts when children are little, to be sure, but the culture of trust we have at school and in the families that support us lasts a lifetime. For me, the trust in myself I learned as a student at Alpine Valley School around me has become a fundamental part of who I am and now I’m getting to pass it on to my own child in my own way.

Now if only he would learn to talk! (Just kidding.)

Missa Gallivan is an Alpine Valley School graduate and staff member. She is also the mother of a future AVS student (in about four years) and step-parent to two amazing teenagers. 

Interested in finding out more about Alpine Valley School? Schedule a one-hour tour! You can call us at 303-271-0525 or email at info@alpinevalleyschool.com 

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Answers from an AVS Alum

A few days ago a Sudbury parent posed a question on a message board for families involved in alternative schooling. One of our own alumni, Jesse Alford, responded with the following insightful message. Here is a shortened version of the question posed on the message board: How does the Sudbury model encourage learning, which is … Continue reading Answers from an AVS Alum

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Little Scratches

In a talk on education, one of my heroines used the image of someone being “bled to death by a thousand small scratches.” This image sticks with me, because in 25 years of teaching I have seen firsthand many such scratches inflicted on both children and adults—many people who have been, essentially, bled to death … Continue reading Little Scratches

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Responsible For Their Lives

One of my favorite authors and someone whose work has beneficially impacted my life is Brene Brown, a research professor and social scientist. She writes, lectures and gives workshops about what she has learned in her research on vulnerability, authenticity and worthiness and what an important part they play in living a wholehearted life. (Brene … Continue reading Responsible For Their Lives

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Responsible For Their Lives

One of my favorite authors and someone whose work has beneficially impacted my life is Brene Brown, a research professor and social scientist. She writes, lectures and gives workshops about what she has learned in her research on vulnerability, authenticity and worthiness and what an important part they play in living a wholehearted life. (Brene defines wholehearted as the capacity to engage in our lives with authenticity, cultivate courage and compassion, and embrace the imperfections of who we really are.)

In her latest book, Rising Strong, The Reckoning, The Rumble, The Revolution, Brene shares personal stories from a variety of people, including herself, of bravely daring, failing and falling down and the courage and hard work it takes to get back up – rising strong. It is while arising from the fall that we make up stories around the feelings which come up, such as shame, blame, disappointment and resentment. If we can lean into the discomfort of these feelings, we can move from our first defensive responses to a deeper understanding of who we are and how we engage with others, the opportunity to become wholehearted. As one Amazon review of Brene’s book stated, “We reckon with our emotions and get curious about what we’re feeling; we rumble with our stories until we get to a place of truth; and we live this process, every day, until it becomes a practice and creates nothing short of a revolution in our lives.”

Wouldn’t it be advantageous if we had the liberty to learn these skills before adulthood, while still a child? Here at Alpine Valley School, our students have the daily opportunity to wrestle with the stories they make up when they get angry, sad, or upset about a person or situation. Their first instinct may be to blame someone or something else when things don’t go their way or they are written up for breaking a rule, but by observing that all School Meeting members make mistakes, they come to realize that “falling down” is part of learning about themselves, part of growing up.

One of the things Brene Brown does so well is reference the wisdom and insights of other authors and weave them into her storytelling. One of my favorites, which I think supports our model of education, is a quote from Jungian analyst James Hollis’ book, Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life, “Perhaps Jung’s most compelling contribution is the idea of individuation, that is, the lifelong project of becoming more nearly the whole person we were meant to be – what the gods intended, not the parents, or the tribe, or especially the easily intimidated or the inflated ego. While revering the mystery of others, our individuation summons each of us to stand in the presence of our own mystery, and become more fully responsible for who we are in this journey we call our life.”

Hollis eloquently sums up what unfolds in the lives of Alpine Valley School students – the opportunity to become responsible for their lives. Want to find out more about us and how AVS may benefit your child? Send us an email or call us at 303-271-0525 and set up a one-hour tour. We look forward to meeting you!

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