Free at Last

The Sudbury Valley School

by Daniel Greenberg; photographs by Michael Greenberg, Denise Geddes, Carol Palmer and Andy Brilliant
184 pages
2nd ed., 1995

Our best-selling description of the school is bursting with the excitement of life at Sudbury Valley. Free at Last is also chock-full of stories that illustrate the many unique features of this highly original model.

“Age mixing is Sudbury Valley’s secret weapon. I never could make heads or tails of age segregation. People don’t live their lives in the real world separated by age, year by year. Kids don’t all have the same interests or abilities at a particular age.

“Anyway, we soon found out how children mix when they are left to their own devices. They mix. Just like real people. The principle is always the same: if anyone wants to do something, they do it. Interest is what counts. If the activity is on an advanced level, skill counts. A lot of little kids are much more skillful than older ones at a lot of things.

“When the skills and rate of learning aren’t all on the same level, that’s when the fun begins. The kids help each other. They have to, otherwise the group as a whole will fall behind. They want to, because they are not competing for grades or gold stars. They like to, because it’s terribly satisfying to help someone else and succeed at it. And it’s terribly pleasing to watch. Everywhere you turn at school, age mixing confronts you.”