First, your child must know that you truly believe this is the right school for her. Your daughter looks to you to affirm that she is capable of the huge task before her--educating herself. If you show lack of confidence in her ability to educate herself, by bringing in tutors or otherwise attempting to cajole her into something (academic or otherwise) "for her own good," then she will be torn. If she has cause to think that her parents don't really believe she can educate herself, she will lose heart and can easily stop trying. Your attitude has incredible power over her confidence in her struggle to become autonomous.
Second, and related to the first point, you must put yourself in the direct firing line when adults (especially family and friends) show a lack of faith in your child's ability to educate himself. You know the type--the family friend who always announces that your son is "too smart to be wasting his time in that school." Make no mistake--an attack on the school's philosophy is an attack on the competence of children, and by extension it is an insult to your child. You have to be the grown-up, and make it clear that you will not let an insult to your child stand. Your son expects you to try and defend him against any harm; and so if another adult slanders him by suggesting that he can't possibly educate himself, and you do nothing, it suggests that you are tolerant of the slander. Which means either that you think it's true--which would be devastating--or that you are unwilling to defend him from attack--which is devastating in a very different way. Exactly how you defend your child's honor depends on the circumstance--but a quiet "it's the right school for our son, and we will not discuss this any further" can go a very long way.
In addition to all of the other tasks that fall to any parent, you must be supportive of your children in very special ways while they are enrolled in a Sudbury school. You must accept that your information about your child's day will always be sketchy or incomplete. You must trust not only your own child but all of the children and staff at the school to maintain a safe and pleasant environment for all. You must communicate your trust and faith in your children. And you must be ready to defend your child and your child's school against nay-sayers. Nobody ever said it was going to be easy.
Scott David Gray
Sudbury Valley School
From the Sudbury Valley School Featured Essays page, January 2014
This is part of a presentation that took place at Jerusalem Sudbury School on April 18, 2013.