An ex-pupil's view on becoming a Summerhill parent
I came to Summerhill at the age of 8 in 1981. In those days coming from Japan, my parents seemed very, very far away. There was no Internet, the school had no telephone and letters were the only way of keeping in touch with my parents. The early days were challenging times being so far away from home. As a boarder I found myself homesick frequently in the evenings in the first couple of terms, but as I took in my new surroundings I started to discover the freedom around me. I no longer was under pressure to perform and there were no expectations which I had to try and live up to. For years I played and played to my hearts content and did all the things that I loved. There were times when I spent time alone in the school woods thinking and imagining things and expanding my mind and there were other times when I would spend a whole day playing with my friends. At Summerhill you are free as long as you do not impinge on other people's freedom and rights.
As I got older I started to naturally take on responsibilities that I never thought I would. Like becoming an ombudsman or chairing the school meetings and more. At Summerhill every child is respected and has a voice in the community, this gives rise to self-confidence and motivation and paves the way for a responsible young person to develop. These experiences gave me real respect for others as well as truly understanding freedom and what it means.
For me personally leaving Summerhill was a natural progression in life. I was 17 and knew that the world outside was different and that it was time to move on in life and I was ready for the change. I was happy to study for my exams since the decision to study was my own. When people are self-motivated they excel in the things they do. This is one of the important things (out of many) that Summerhill taught me. We are allowed to be children, true children when we are indeed children and this I believe allowed me to become more of a responsible adult. Having had a childhood where I was free to express myself and to be able to be myself was the most important thing that happened to me when I was young.
I remember when I visited Summerhill (after I left) thinking "The kids here are glowing with life!" and they were just so happy. This was the ultimate confirmation that Summerhill in my mind is the most wonderful place in the world for children and hence made me more determined to want to send my own children to Summerhill one day.
This today has become a reality and I now have both my sons attending Summerhill.
Summerhill is the one place in the world that I have total confidence in my own children's education and have 100 % trust in the school. I know that they are being given the space, time and respect as young people, just like when I was at Summerhill. When my elder son was at primary school before coming to Summerhill I remember him crying and forcing himself to do his homework and I was told by the school that me and my wife as parents need to encourage him to work hard. I used to force myself to sit with my son to help and encourage him to do his homework. This for me was a total dilemma since it was totally opposite of what I believe to be right for children. To find myself pushing my own son to study in this was very difficult and in my mind it was totally wrong.
Today both my sons are really happy at Summerhill and every time I see them I see them truly as themselves and enjoying life. My children now have a true childhood and this is the most important thing to me.
I will always be a true supporter of Summerhill and hope that the world will one day realise the true importance of childhood and children's freedom.