If my child goes to an democratic school while young will they fit back into the mainstream?

Each person is different. Each individual’s experience is different at the democratic school. Each person’s ways of dealing with change in his or her life have a profound effect on the process of change from democratic schools to other schools. Many people find that experience in self determination, taking responsibilty for their own learning, ability to make decisions, communicating skills, and enjoyment and love of learning, enable them to recognise the positives in their new environment and continue to learn effectively. Some individuals find the transition difficult, some actively protest and try to engage the institution in processes of change, with varying degrees of success!

If my child spends less time reading will they be able to cope in the mainstream?

A.S. Neill maintained, if the individual is playing, they need to be doing that. It can feel as though you are taking a big risk trusting the child to learn when she or he decides they want or need to begin. Once they make the decision that they wish to learn to read and write, they often learn very quickly. There are many people who spent much of their primary years playing, climbing trees, building cubbies, playing in sandpits AND reading, writing, doing maths, painting, constructing, playing music, discussing, debating, holding and running meetings, making decisions,etc. Most children love to learn and be active. We prefer to look at how each child is learning, rather than where they are in relation to others – behind, in front, etc

Democratic schools cater only for naughty teenagers. Is this true?

Democratic schools work most effectively, if at whatever age, the people engaged in the process, feel positive about the type of education they are choosing. Some people choose to try democratic education as a result of negative experiences elsewhere. They often bring ‘baggage’ which takes time to unpack and discard and replace with new ways of being. The issues these ‘naughty’ children carry need time and skill. People who appear confident, assertive, independent, questioning, creative, individual, can be seen as non-conforming and ‘naughty’.

Democratic schools have no discipline & sanctions?

This is a common misconception. People often assume that if children participate in decision-making about rules, behaviour, curriculum etc then the result is chaos and no rules. In fact the opposite occurs. Freedom and Responsibility go together, individually and communally. Problem solving is encouraged at an individual and communal level and strategies are actively taught. Regular group, class, school, whole community meetings provide structures where issues can be raise, discussed and problems solved.