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Question: Local Alternative Schools Like England's Summerhill

Original post made by AskingForAFriend, Crescent Park, on Nov 13, 2013

My friend's brother has a young teen boy that had major developmental and behavioral problems. As far as I know he is not mentally challenged and does not have any organic problem, he just seems to not want to do anything, and does not relate well or understand his life is going by and he is very unhappy. No one really knows the family history or what happened within this family ... something is off.

I remembered having read the book "Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Child Rearing" by Alexander Sutherland Neill (Author) , Erich Fromm (Foreword) many years ago and was thinking it might be a good idea for my friend to investigate this type of school/therapy. The boy is so frustrating to those around him that the frustration level spirals and escalates, and although he is not violent or anything, he sucks the life out of everyone around him and they end up driving him deeper inside himself.

In other words the family around them while they all seem to care there seems to be nothing to do about this and no way to reach the boy. They need help from the outside, and maybe in a different setting than the house altogether.

Does anyone here in the Palo Alto Online community know of a private school/boarding facility that operates on this kind of alternative philosophy? I think the kid would snap out of it eventually when those around him stop pushing him, he needs space, and of course it's entirely possible he may never develop out of it. They are very well off and I think they ought to give every avenue a try. The normal schools the boy has been to are too driven on tests that he either does not want to take or does poorly on for lack of effort.

Thank you,

Comments (7)

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Posted by lindaloo
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 14, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Peninsula School in Menlo Park sounds like just the thing (you say "young teen"?) I believe it goes to 8th grade. I think there is a high school with similar educational philosophy that goes beyond that; I cannot remember which one.

My best to your friend and their son.

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Posted by AskingForAFriend
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 14, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Thank you Lindaloo, I will suggest to my friend to look into Menlo Park's Peninsula School for his son.

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Posted by Not Peninsula
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 14, 2013 at 10:56 pm

We put my eldest son in P eninsula School at the recommendation of friends who also had a child with learning disabilities. We thought it odd that they never had homework, even in math, and at the end of the first semester, we asked about it. We were told that the students completed all necessary work in study hall, and that unless the child was unable to finish it then, they would not have to being any work home.

When our son aged out if Peninsula School after 8th grade, we enrolled him in PAUSD and he went to Paly. What a shock! Four hours a night of homework his freshmen year, five to six hours a night after that! His grades dropped dramatically, and he began hating school and teachers in general by the end of his first quarter at Paly.

he had loved school at P eninsula, but they had been too easy on the kids and did not prepare them for the real world of serious studying. it put our son at a disadvantage from the get-go.

Peninsula was definitely NOT money well-spent

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Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 15, 2013 at 11:04 am

@not peninsula - I can understand how changing from completing homework at school to doing it at home would be a shock, but I think that is as much a statement about too much homework in PAUSD as it is about too little at Peninsula. Especially since your son went from enjoying school to hating it.

There is no evidence that excessive homework (or homework in general) increases learning only evidence that it increases standardized test scores.

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Posted by AskingForAFriend
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 15, 2013 at 11:24 am

"Not Peninsula", I was not going to comment since I appreciated that you were trying to add something to the conversation, but since "palo alto resident" commented I'll have to agree with his point of view on this even though your larger point is valid.

The issue with this boy is that he is turned off to everything and just in a cycle of misery. He cannot really exist in the normal school structure and needs an alternative where his life might be different without the same people stressing him in the same way day after day.

If he cannot survive with his family and relatives there is little chance that he can do homework at any level, so socialization, getting out of his shell, and escaping from bad habits and cycles seems to be an urgent pre-requisite against to anything to do with schoolwork. If and when he takes to joining the world and participating in school, that would be step two to get his study skills up to par and catch up is that is possible.

I have the feeling that inside he is a good kid. He interacts with kids, babies and animals without this bad energy, so in some way he has been traumatized, I would guess. But I am just playing two-bit psychologist here, which I am not qualified for. I'm thinking the family and the boy probably need someone to evaluate him and a place where he can be removed from the same old rut he is in, judgements and from his family and negative interactions. The poor kid just really does not understand the world, or care and does not know what he is missing or costing himself.

Thanks for the comment.

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 15, 2013 at 11:49 am

Hmmm is a registered user.

AskingForAFriend - I'm sorry I don't have a school recommendation to make. I have seen friends and acquaintances make important educational choices for their kids, depending on their needs. From what I've seen, therapy and the right meds have made a difference in some cases. Some of them did find better schools after working with an educational consultant. Perhaps a consultant might help help your friend to find the right school.

I'm sorry for what your friend is going through. It sounds incredibly difficult, painful and depleting.

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Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 15, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Educational consultants would provide input, these are two that were highly recommended by parents who used them:

The Bodin Group Web Link

McClure, Mallory, Baron & Ross Web Link

Locally, if the student is in high school, Palo Alto Prep might be a good option.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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