I spent this past week with my family. A few days into our time together at my sister, Melanie’s house in Massachusetts, my niece, Abby, my daughter, Kenzie, and I were discussing how my mom, their Grandma Sharon, has very few filters. Pretty much anything that occurs to her is fair game for a conversation with people she knows well, or, not.
Before I go any farther, I need to convey how completely awesome my mom really is. She has spent her entire life nurturing her husband, children, grand-children, and her home. After my dad died five years ago, she unreservedly embraced the opportunity to spread her wings and explore the world on her own terms. She has opened her mind and heart to many things that she was previously, completely opposed too. We (my three siblings and her four adult grandchildren) are all incredibly proud of her and we love her dearly.
All that love and admiration, however, does not always erase the moments when we are in public that we want to walk in the opposite direction and pretend we don’t know her. She is the woman who will talk to anyone, about anything - you know - the ultra-friendly one with the halo of gorgeous white curls and trademark smile on her face.
While traveling back home with her yesterday, we stopped at the Saranac Lake Aldi’s so she could pick up a few items to get through the next few days until she could get into town. Out of the blue, it hit me squarely upside the head, as I walked into the McDonalds bathroom, how utterly stupid my embarrassed response to her beautifully open spirit really is.
Over her entire lifetime, she has done exactly what I encourage my students to do every day. Mom is, and, has always been unapologetically her own person. Why on earth should I be embarrassed by her strength, perseverance, generosity, silliness, and joyous attitude? She owns all of it - her successes and her failures and she will not shy away from a challenge, if anything, she charges into them head first. She loves her family unreservedly and will do anything for us. My mom is who I inherited my stubbornness (and, my early grey hair) from and who taught me compassion, responsibility, and independence. I am fortunate to still have her, and, yes, I am forever grateful for all she is.
The moral of this story - don’t let your inhibitions influence (rule) your response to those you love. Celebrate and honor all the quirks, eccentricities, and nuttiness, including your own.
Summer Programming begins next week August 20th. There is still a few spots left that week. Register today!
We are still accepting applications for this coming academic year. Contact Maria to learn more about our programs.
Every month various blog posts from years ago get tons of hits on the DRC website. I have no idea why it happens, studying the stats is an exercise in frustration, but in any case, it has given me the opportunity to revisit some of my past writing by clicking on the most read posts each month.
As I am re-reading them, I am discovering that certain themes keep popping up. Trust, not surprisingly, happens to be one of them. It is, after all, the foundation on which our entire philosophy rests.
Many people over the years have been totally flabbergasted when they hear that I, explicitly (will always), trust kids. And, I am repeatedly informed, “but, but, but, they have to earn it.” To be utterly blunt - if I don’t trust my students, I have absolutely nothing different to offer them than the system they are already part of.
Here is the deal – when a young person understands that they don’t inherently have your trust, they will go out of their way to prove that they cannot be trusted. Every damn time! Call it whatever you like: obstinacy, defiance, rebellion, or contempt; I, however, prefer to use the expression – “the human condition.”
On the other hand, if they know, without a doubt, that you believe that they will make good choices, they will strive to meet those expectations. Yes, again - every damn time! Will they screw up every once in a while? Of course – everyone makes mistakes!
Here is the tricky part – deep inside those sometimes-disastrous failings lay enormous opportunities for growth and new understanding. Forgiveness then becomes a natural extension of your faith in them because you recognize that without that original trust, those circumstances for new exploration and discovery would be lost.
Makes your head spin to think about all the connecting pieces – I know. Simply put, kids are not inherently bad, defiant, bratty, or duplicitous. They are, in fact, brilliant sponges who soak up all the energies that surround them. Steep them in an open, positive, vibrant, trusting, and encouraging atmosphere and just stand back to watch them investigate new ideas and take on unknown challenges without fear of messing up. And, their confidence will shine brightly enough to lead them to their next learning adventure.
It is what we call - self-directed education.
We are so excited to host this Shakespeare Conquest class being offered by Juliet Bellinger. This opportunity is open to any homeschoolers who are 12 and up. Contact Juliet to register.
The Center will be closed this coming week Aug 6 – 10th. I am beyond excited to be traveling to MA for some way overdue family time - to hang out with my daughter, Kenzie, who is flying east from Portland OR, my sister, her family, and my Mom.
I am extraordinarily privileged. I use this word, with precise intent, rather than the term blessed, to describe my good fortune because I recognize that my privilege rests fully on the prejudices put in place by the men who founded this country.
Some may dispute this point. However, the fact that my husband and I have been able to consistently push through hard times to build a life of relative comfort, filled with opportunities - absent of overt obstruction, bias, discrimination, or injustice, and I don’t have to worry constantly that my adult children will be harmed (or killed) while going about their daily lives - is all the evidence I need to prove my argument.
I freely admit that I am also incredibly blessed with a family and friends who love me, natural creative talents, and a perseverant (stubborn) personality.
See the difference? My privilege is based solely on my skin color, my ethnic and religious heritage, and my sexual orientation, as well as my social status as the daughter of an educator, while my blessings are grace bestowed by the Universe. I get them no matter who I am, who I love, where I am from, what I believe, my profession, how much I earn, or who my ancestors were.
I can understand where it can be confusing. Life is a struggle, even for those of us who were born with advantages. We consistently see those who hold great privilege regarding the world (everyone and everything) as theirs for the taking as a God-given right (blessing). To this, I can only say, entitlement is a dangerous ideology.
Privilege, I believe, comes with an immense responsibility to everyone and everything in the world who have little or none.
Indeed, we are all humans with human emotions, failings, and frailties, myself included. Nevertheless, I am adamant about making a difference by using my privilege to help those who don’t know justice or equity – the people who don’t have a natural voice in our society, simply, because of who they are – by offering compassion and empathy, by listening carefully, by using my skills to benefit all who need it, and by calling out bigotry in all its forms. And, most importantly, by modeling this philosophy to the young people I spend my days with.
I should clarify – my privilege does not allow me to develop and implement plans by charging in and taking over – it doesn’t give me authority over other’s decision making – and it certainly doesn’t make me a better person. I am not looking to foster the “White Knight Syndrome.”
As I see it, the only way to remove the prejudice, discrimination, and hatred that is deeply embedded within our culture is to systematically lift those who experience all those things with kindness and unfailing support so they can effectively do battle with all the biases and injustices that hold them down. No, we can’t fight for them. We can, however, fight alongside them.
T'is the season for developing learning plans with each of the DRC kids. This is one of my favorite parts of my job. I get to have in-depth conversations with "my" kiddos, listen closely, make suggestions, and get excited with them about all of the opportunities available to each of them. This past week I learned that we need a few resources from our community to make some of their dreams come true. Within minutes of posting a list on social media, this past week, a piano was donated! Thank you, Maria Morrison!
We are currently looking for:
- Old electronics to be taken apart
- A blacksmith who would be willing to work with a teen who wants to learn how to forge Viking tools.
- Math teachers
- French, German, Italian language instructors.
- carpenters to help students with woodworking projects
This list will continue to grow as I meet with more students.
Water, Woods, & Wild Wonders - News
I will preface this entire blog post by stating, I have absolutely no mental health certifications. I do, however, have years of anecdotal experience, both personal, and as a teacher/mentor/facilitator.
Throughout my life, I have had difficulty focusing on any one thing at a time. The only way I can be completely zoned in is when I am involved in the creative process, but oftentimes, even then, I drift away from the activity because something else occurs to me or catches my eye that I want to explore. Therefore, much of my time is spent chasing tangents and hatching the latest scheme.
I am of an age that ADHD, even though recognized in the late 60s, was not a popularly designated diagnosis when I was a child. Instead, they labeled kids who were “off the wall” as “hyper” and blamed it on the ingestion of too much sugar. My inattention was not physical, it was all mental, as a result, I was spared that classification. My youngest brother was not.
After learning about ADHD, as an adult, I began to seriously wonder if my “flightiness” was actually undiagnosed Attention Deficit. With those thoughts, I began to think negatively about the way my brain functions. Which then, obviously, impacted my confidence levels. I began to question my own creativity – those constant hits of inspiration became tainted with a faint hint of internal criticism.
I have worked with numerous kids who have been diagnosed. Many of whom were placed on meds so they could function in a classroom setting. This blog post is not a commentary on those medications, although, as you can imagine, I have strong feelings about them. Given my experience with internal condemnation, I can only imagine how deeply this external label has affected their self-esteem. The kids I have met often have the belief that they are in some way broken, and, in my experience, this frequently gives them an excuse for not trying – reaching, dreaming, or even hoping.
When I went to the AEROx conference, in Bethel, CT, with three DRC teens this past April, I sat in on a workshop about creative thinking. The presenter (I wish I could remember her name) had the letters ADHD, with spaces in between the letters, written on the whiteboard. She then proceeded to use that very same acronym -A D(amn) H(ighly) D(ivergent) thinker – to turn my previously held beliefs about myself completely upside down! Yes! I am “A Damn Highly Divergent thinker!”
There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with me, my brother, or the thousands of others, who may have twenty tabs open on our internet browsers, four Word documents, and three physical projects going simultaneously, with ideas zinging through our brains faster than they can be caught, all the while singing along to the (80s) music playing in the background, and who also interrupt ourselves mid-sentence, during a conversation, because another thought, which is connected by a very thin thread, hits our brain. (OK, some of that may just be me.) I also never write a list of tasks down, because when I sit down to write one, I don't remember, at that moment, what is supposed to be on the list.
We are the creators, the innovators, and the problem solvers. We only appear frenetic, scattered, unorganized, and unproductive. In reality, we can get tons accomplished with a gazillion ideas constantly on the backburner, anxiously, awaiting implementation - at a moment’s notice.
There are, obviously, a couple downsides to being a highly divergent thinker. In my case, many of those ideas get “lost” or forgotten because it is also very common to have poor working memory (which also explains my issues with spelling and grammar, as well as my inability to follow written directions). And, sometimes the current undertaking goes unfinished because I get so caught up in the excitement of the newest inspiration. I am happy to live with those “negatives” – because frankly the “buzz” I get from constantly generating new ideas – is totally addicting. I recognize how very fortunate I am to be able to embrace my idiosyncrasies and (mostly) ignore those whispers of internal (and occasional external) criticisms.
As a society, we are, however, effectively stifling these ingenious kids, who often don’t have the confidence or support to disregard the reprimands and expressions of disapproval. They are labeled and placed in a coercive environment that requires rote memorization of static facts and figures, focus on one task, and enforced physical inactivity, with no viable outlet for their originality.
Imagine, instead, if we recognized, celebrated, and honored these children for their unique genius - their gifts and brilliance, and provided an open environment where they can bounce or pace, and where they are free to explore all of their ideas with access to resources and materials, whenever inspiration hits. We would, literally, have a world filled with, highly divergent thinking, intrinsically motivated beings, who felt safe and needed, and who were excited about sharing and developing their ideas to solve community, or even, global problems.
The DRC crew will be gathering at the Center every Tuesday throughout the summer. Anyone who would like to check us out is welcome to join us. Contact Maria to learn more.
The human condition compels us to seek out the newest thing. Avant-garde, advanced, cutting edge, fresh, original, innovative, and revolutionary – are all qualities that we genuinely think we want. But, then, we realize they are scary as hell. I mean, really, let’s be completely honest here, the attributes most of us truly desire are steady, consistent, tried and true, reliable, trustworthy, dependable, and proven. We really don’t want to jump on any kind of bandwagon before we know for an absolute fact – said bandwagon - is completely safe and is going to be around for the long haul.
As with anything, there are a few outliers - those pioneers who are willing to take the risk for us all. Again, let’s be candid, without those few brave souls, culture would stagnate. There would have been no advancement, no change, no reform, and no transformation throughout all of human history. It sounds a bit ridiculous, but hominids would still be wandering the wilds of Africa eating raw meat, if none of them was willing to conquer their fear, long enough, to tame fire.
Once the latest thing has been around long enough to be embraced by those early adopters (“lone nuts”), and the innovators of the concept have proven their mettle by working hard and keeping their promises – what was risky is then considered normal, everyday, and totally innocuous.
As a point of example, after just four years – Deep Root Center is no longer regarded weird, “off the wall,” or hazardous, and I am not deemed certifiable (well, for the most part, until I tell them my latest ideas). People don’t take the long way around our table, anymore, to avoid conversation at local events. Nor, do they take a step (or two) back and cover their child’s ears when I tell them, “school is totally optional.”
In fact, they are seeking us out – walking up those twenty-five stairs to drop in and learn more about our programs, calling, emailing, and engaging in long conversations out in the community. A few parents have even told me that someone in their school system has recommended us. There is a wider recognition that school is not the right fit for every child and that rising out of the institution that is detrimental to a child is perfectly OK.
In our case, this phenomenon has three essential pieces. One - we have proven ourselves by consistently showing up, doing good work, dedicating ourselves to transparency and honesty, being flexible, and steadfastly keeping our promises. Without fail, DRC has been, and, will be here, for any child who needs us. No excuses! In addition, if we make a mistake or falter, we own it, apologize, and move on to do better.
Two – if it wasn’t for those few trailblazers who were amendable, courageous, and, possibly desperate enough to join DRC in our early years, we would not have had the opportunity to prove ourselves. It is because of them that DRC endured through that first year and a half. Thank you!
And, three – our community has embraced and welcomed us. DRC has always considered Canton home and we are thankful for the continual support of our village.
It appears that Deep Root Center has the best of both worlds, and for that, I am immensely grateful. We are revolutionaries - making waves. And, yet, we are a trusted educational option for those kids and families who choose (need) to rise out of school and develop personalized learning strategies.
* this video explains the above “Lone Nut” reference
Have you seen our Facebook fundraiser? (See copy below)
“We are all thrilled to be moving into our new home very soon. It offers us some of the essentials we were missing in our current facility: a backyard, storage, areas for large hands-on-projects, a full kitchen, and room to grow.
DRC is getting a fantastic deal because it needs a bit of loving care including a new roof and a paint job.
Please help us raise $5000.00 within the next month to help us accomplish these essential tasks.
You can contribute here, or by visiting www.deeprootcenter.org and clicking the donate button. You can also send a personal check to Deep Root Center, 7 Main St, 2nd Fl., Canton, NY 13617.
Every cent counts! We appreciate contributions of any size.
Thank you! We are incredibly grateful to be a part of this amazing community, and we look forward to throwing a party to celebrate this major accomplishment with all of you. Stay tuned for details.”
The Big Move
Once we have a closing date, we will be sending out specific requests for help with the moving process. Thanks to many donations and grant funding, we have accumulated a lot of furniture, resources, and materials that all have to go down those 25 stairs. We will rent a moving truck to get it all out and up the street in one (very long) day.
In the meantime, if you would like to help pack or paint some of the walls (sadly, we are painting over all those fantastic murals) here at 7 Main St – please get in touch.
Take a look at the newly refreshed website – and please pass along any errors you see.