My 10-year-old girl and 13-year-old son LOVE going to Clearwater. Clearwater is very non-school-like, which I love. It's always been my approach to let them turn into the people they want to become on their own timeframe, in their own way--just like they learned to talk and walk. This is how Clearwater works. Kids do what they're drawn to, hang out with who they want to, eat whenever they want. The amazing thing is how smart they become, even without organized classes or curriculum. And how responsible, too--because with so much freedom, responsibility is definitely a big part of their days.
The Clearwater School has turned around my child's educational experience. At Clearwater he's become an indepedent thinker who believes everything is possible, and pursues his passions showing all doubters just how the impossible can be accomplished. His attitude has transformed from a daily dread of school, and difficult dropoff transitions at his prior school, to an eager anticipation of school. Honestly, I was skeptical in the beginning. My plan, was to give it an honest shot for a year. We never looked back. He's in his 4th year at Clearwater. Over the course of the first year, I attended parent support meetings where we discussed the overall philosophy, and the specific struggles of our kids and ourselves as parents. In many of these sessions, students participated. I was amazed that 11-13 year olds at the school spoke with the maturity of college students. My advice to those considering the school is: jump in, and embrace the experience. Attend an info session, have your student spend a week at the school. Most importantly, early on make a conscious decision to trust the process until you have had enough time to evaluate it with respect to your student's experiences.
My 11 year old daughter is very happy at the Clearwater school. The school's culture and philosophy nurtures her creative spirit and empowers her to pursue what truly interests her. She's involved in a rich diversity of activity and speaks of the school with a great sense of pride and ownership. I feel it's a wonderful gift to your child to offer them this form of education.
My child attended this school for a year and a half. Initially, we were happy, however as time went on, we found that the "children teach themselves" approach just perpetuated lack of ambition among the students, they spent more time playing video games than anything else. My child attended several of the school "meetings" where the student body has a complete say in what goes on, they voted on things but my child expressed to me that sometimes the kids didn't even pay attention to what they were voting on because they were playing games, etc. My child felt he was just wasting his time and we eventually withdrew, however, upon withdraw, I felt we were treated with underlying animosity and unfairness and my child was made to feel like he had "let everyone down". I am extremely unhappy with the quality of this school overall, paying tuition so your child can just bum around all day seems like a colassal waste of resources. I am a fan of student body democracy and children making their own decisons, but this school takes it to the extreme. There was also rampant "inappropriate behavior" among the older students off campus but during the school day. I cannot recommend this school.
Our 11 yr old son has attended Clearwater for the past two years and is thriving. He has the freedom he needs to pursue his intellectual and social interests, gets great support from the staff for his projects, and loves the democratic process that exists for real in this school. Students debate, vote, and create realities in this amazing institution.
Our two girls, now 8 and 11, have been attending The Clearwater School for 3 years. We were a homeschooling family dedicated to unschooling, and the Clearwater staff are the perfect companions to our girls as they explore their interests: available to facilitate, mediate, help them gather materials, or just listen as they struggle with why, how, when and where. As I listen to the outgoing graduates present dissertations about how they have prepared themselves for the adult world, I have a sense of peace. I am deeply moved by their understanding of their strengths, goals and chosen paths. I know that our kids are in the perfect place to foster their strong senses of self, and figure out what they'd like to do with their lives before they graduate - something I didn't figure out until I was 40!
My son has been a student here for two years, and attended a different Sudbury school before Clearwater. The Sudbury model suits our child perfectly and is doing a very good job of preparing him for the job market he will be entering.