A Parent Perspective of Democratic Education, Other Than Myself.

My son has gone to the Brooklyn Free School for eight years. He is now set to graduate and has applied to six colleges for September.  BFS assigns no homework, and in fact, is committed to student driven learning during school hours as well.

My son hated homework, among other things, at the public, progressive elementary school he went to before BFS.  As a single working parent, we spent most evenings and weekends – our only time together – battling (or deciding the heck with it on many occasions) about homework.

After going to the Free School, a funny thing happened.  My son started researching things in his free time.  He spends hours looking things up and learning about things at his leisure, confirming the convictions I’ve long held that children are natural sponges for learning.  He is now, at 17, an extremely knowledgeable and naturally scientific critical thinker.

Are there areas that he needed education in, but that he avoided as they were more challenging for him?  Yes.  He was traumatized by an elementary school teacher who was more concerned that he wrote some numbers backwards than that he knew how to add and subtract at the age of 6.  He consequently needed extra help to get interested in tackling math.  The teachers at the Free School found a way to capture his interest and get him excited about math again.  It’s still not his best subject, but he scored quite decently on the math section of the SAT’s as a result of their efforts.

So, children want to learn.  Not just from 9 to 3, but all their waking hours.  Anything that makes that forced or unpleasant only serves to squash that natural desire.  Our current school system is drastically understaffed for promoting real learning.  This is a real tragedy for every child, teacher, parent and our society as a whole.

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