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How to Raise Kids Who Think for Themselves

Early lessons in independence. Seven unorthodox lessons from Sudbury Valley.

  1. Children are full human beings who, from about the age of 5, can direct their own education and build their own lives—if they are given trust.
  2. Good teachers model self-expression and the ability to stand up for ideas. They don't just pass on information.
  3. Free play is crucial to natural development. The better people are at play, the better they are at fashioning new models with which to understand the world and at learning to take risks.
  4. Conversation and collaboration are keys to learning, the exchange of ideas and the ability to tap into another person's world.
  5. Learning is driven internally by curiosity, a drive that normally can't be stopped at any age. Rote teaching is the opposite. It's driven by coercion, which, given human nature, breeds resistance. The assumption that there's no learning without teaching flies in the face of human experience.
  6. Creative children are often labeled mentally challenged in traditional schools, simply because they cannot pay attention or tolerate the unnatural confinement of the classroom. They are often medicated and think of themselves as losers, while kids who never learn to think on their own are treated as healthy.
  7. Children have to grow up practicing responsibility to ultimately take responsibility for themselves. That means allowing children to exercise their interests and use their judgment to solve problems—and giving them the freedom to make mistakes.