Over the past week, while working on administrative duties and creative projects (see below), I have been feeling pretty useless – even peripheral to my DRC Peeps. After touching base with them again this weekend to offer resources and my support - I came to the abrupt and disconcerting conclusion that most of them don’t currently need me. For the most part, they are carrying on quite nicely. Yes, they do miss Deep Root Center, the projects they were working on there, and their social interactions - other than that they are perfectly fine.
Then, last evening, it occurred to me, as I was walking down the stairs - this is what I work so hard to achieve. They have become self-directed learners who are in charge of their education and their lives. Boom! They have heard me say, “yes it counts,” enough times to know that whatever they are pursuing - is exactly what they need to be doing at this moment. They understand that their education is so much larger than what is taught in school. They comprehend that they are free to investigate anything - whenever curiosity strikes because knowledge is available at their fingertips.
They are all using this time to create art, play, groom their dog, explore the world through their computer/phone/tablet screen, make music, engage in cool conversations with their families, hang with their pets, cook, take walks, continue their online classes, and work on projects that mean something to them.
When this is over, we can all go back to the Center, to happily pick up where we left off. Relationships will flourish, projects will once again take over every flat surface, ideas will spark, and our entire community will be able to breathe a sigh of relief that we are back together to share all we have learned while apart.
In all honesty, none of us know when we will be able to go back to the Center. It may be a lot longer than anyone anticipated. In the meantime, in an attempt to feel less useless, I have created a VLOG entitled, “Yes, it Counts.” The concept was born after seeing so many families struggling, in this time of unknowns, to recreate school at home. I want to try to reassure them that whatever their child is doing is valid - there is no right or wrong, and that children are learning all the time, whether it looks educational or not.
What we often forget is that learning is completely natural. We don’t turn off the desire to learn new things, just because we are not in school. And, education is not a “sit down” occupation. It is play and conversation; it is messy and riddled with mistakes, and, above all, it is fun.
I am hoping to post at least two vlogs each week. They can be found on the DRC Facebook and Instagram pages, as well as on the DRC website. The first one entitled, Conversations, is below. Please feel free to write a comment about the conversations (mundane or enlightening) you have had with your child.
I am also encouraging folks to share photos of their time at home. I am posting them on the DRC website with their first name and where they are located. You can send them here, and you can view others on the front page of the website.
Another project I have on the back burner is a compilation of my blog posts. As you can imagine sifting through them to find a few to be included is an overwhelming task. I have written a post every single week for over six years. Please let me know if you have one or more favorites.
Be well -
Last week I mentioned that this pandemic is offering us an opportunity to reset on a cultural level. Today, after sheltering in place for a total of twelve days (with only a 5-minute stop at the grocery store and a couple of trips to DRC to feed Pesce, the goldfish, and pick-up items that I need to work from home), I am coming to realize that this time of separation is also providing us the chance to reflect and adjust on a personal and emotional level.
Beyond lying in bed getting over the flu, I have spent those twelve days trying to re-imagine Deep Root Center’s role for our members, as well as for the folks in the greater community. In between naps, I have been working full-time from my bed, obsessing over this conundrum. Thursday, after sending the last of almost daily messages, I realized that this may be to partly compensate for the guilt I feel about not being at the Center working hands-on with “my Peeps.” But then, after very little response from the DRC community, I found myself thinking, “but what do they want from DRC- right now? And then it occurred to me, maybe they don’t need or desire anything from us - what then? If that is the case, how do I rationalize our existence to myself and all of our members?”
Fair warning - this is the kind of existential thinking that happens when you are fairly isolated while recovering from an illness, and intentionally removing yourself from in-person social interactions for the good of the entire society.
Now I am considering, in response to my questions - what if the point is that folks (everyone, not just DRC families) are realizing that they can opt-out of anything that does not serve them at this moment? In keeping with our non-coercive philosophy, I do respect that Deep Root Center may not be an important part of their lives right now.
I am coming to understand that families everywhere are taking care of themselves in a new way – relinquishing guilt over all of the should-s, and are, with great intention, not trying to make sure of anything beyond their family's most fundamental needs. I will argue that now, more than any other time – authenticity, happiness, health, and the opportunity to be creative, as well as the ability to offer empathy and compassion eclipse any other desire.
Therefore, do whatever you need to do to achieve those five goals – if DRC can help in any way, please let us know. We are here anytime you have a question or want to connect. Otherwise, we will see you on the other side, with a greater understanding of ourselves, as well as an obsession for keeping it real.
In the meantime, after a small community meeting on Thursday, a few of our kids, along with Elian, have set up a Discord server as a way to socialize and share ideas among themselves – if you are on Discord you are most welcome to check it out. Additionally, I am working on administrative duties for when we do get back, and I can guarantee that I will continue to share my thoughts, right here, each Sunday.
Take good care!
… and counting my blessings. Between the hourly (sometimes by the minute) updates of the latest closings and event cancellations in an attempt to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 virus, and my intense body aches, and high temperature, accompanied by the requisite fever dreams, this past week has been beyond surreal.
While lying in bed unable to do much else, beyond observing this crisis unfold through the lens of my FaceBook Feed, my mind kept wandering to the amount of privilege, beyond the color of my skin, I have in this world.
I can get sick and take time off from work without repercussions. This bout with the flu is a mere blip on my otherwise healthy immune system, not chronic or life-threatening. I no longer have children at home to care for. Therefore, with schools closed, I don’t have to choose between my kids being home alone and losing my job (or weeks of pay) to be with them. I have healthcare. While I don’t technically have WIFI, I do have an unlimited data plan and use my hotspot to connect with my laptop, which allows me to communicate remotely with anyone, in the world, I would like, or need, too. My kitchen shelves and refrigerator are stocked, and I have no worries about replenishing them (even though my diet this week has been limited to a few sick bed items). I have a comfortable home and a loving family who are all healthy. I am not a small business owner worried about keeping my business alive. And, I am not a healthcare provider on the front lines.
In my mind, this fairly long list precludes me from complaining about any inconveniences that may occur because of the efforts being made to keep this disease at a sustainable level that can be managed by our existing healthcare system.
These are the words Ken Danford, the Co-founder, and Exec. Director of North Star, and my mentor, shared with the North Star community (a message I also shared with DRC parents this morning) – “While young people are thankfully not at high risk from the novel coronavirus, closing is the responsible thing for us to do. This move is not only about the safety of our members, but to join community-wide efforts to protect the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions that make them more vulnerable.”
In reviewing the above long list of privileges, my largest concerns are about finding ways of helping others, through this time of upheaval and uncertainty. At this point, I have been thinking about innovative ways to not only continue to serve and connect DRC families, through online platforms such as video conferencing, but ways Deep Root Center can assist local families, who suddenly have their kids at home for an extended period, to join in on these virtual conversations and activities. I also have thoughts on ways kids can produce content for YouTube, etc. to share with a group. As I mentioned to DRC families earlier today, I imagine the kids will take the lead on this. If they know there is support for their initiatives – they will absolutely run with it and generate amazing ideas.
Over the next few days we will explore the best way to move forward with these ideas. I am imagining it will involve Google Hangouts for groups of up to ten people and Google Duo, Facetime, or FB Video Chat, for one on one conversations. As we develop ideas and strategies, I will share them on the DRC Facebook and Instagram pages, as well as our website. I also welcome your ideas and input on how DRC can help your family and our community, at large.
In the meantime, I am offering some resources, below, that have previously been shared in various places on social media.
I am viewing this as a time for a massive cultural reset - as an opportunity for all of us to take a couple steps back, along with a few deep breaths, to consider resetting priorities, and to decide how to use our privileges to advocate for the people and initiatives, in our communities, that need us most.
Again, copying from my message to the DRC community earlier today --- Be well! Take good care of each other! I’ll see you on the other side!
And, as always please be in touch if we can help you in any way!
(Note - Due to my continuing recovery, and the sheer amount of info in this post - please forgive the errors that I most likely missed in the editing process.)
**Resources: (I did not curate this list. I am simply copying and pasting links as they appeared in my social media feed, and in my inbox from other Liberated Learner Centers, over the past couple days. Deep Root Center does not specifically endorse any of these companies.)
One afternoon this past week as often happens, a few of us were sitting in the DRC office talking. These conversations are generally initiated by a fourteen-year-old who spends a large amount of time wandering through the Center in a seemingly aimless fashion until he comes up with a topic that he wants to discuss. Peeking through the office doorway, he checks to see if I am in a mentoring session, and if all is clear, he shuffles in to finally light in the chair on the opposite side of the desk, to begin the conversation with a question. These are usually deeply philosophical questions that center on his personal ruminations. He is profoundly concerned about intelligence, specifically that he behaves and expresses himself intelligently. Over the three years that I have known him, he has independently researched neurodiversity, sleep anomalies, human evolution, religion and spirituality, human connections and communication, psychology, and philosophy to some degree. And, when I say research, I mean to say that he devours information that he finds via internet searches and random you-tube explorations, in a non-linear fashion. He is an artist, who leaves brilliantly intricate pen and ink drawings “littered” throughout the Center. He is also a self-taught musician, who seeks out obscure musical genre and style in much the same manner.
This kid will, straight-up, refuse to participate in anything that resembles a class or group activity. He will not commit to anything that might have an expected outcome. As mentioned earlier, he spends a great deal of time meandering from one room to another, without an obvious destination or plan. To a random stranger, it would appear that he is at loose ends, without a plan or mooring.
On this particular day, I can’t remember the exact question he began the conversation with, but it had something to do with “normalcy,” one of the many things he is deeply concerned about exhibiting. As the conversation progressed, he revealed that he has synesthesia, as does Elian, our new staff person. They were discussing the ability to visualize and mind-map, and I was sitting there, simply trying to keep up and wrap my head around this amazing trait, when I confessed that I don’t usually conjure images in my mind’s eye. They looked at me as if I had two heads while I tried desperately to describe how it works, the closest I could come up with is that it is like almost everything is words, not pictures. I explained that I can’t for the life of me deal with abstracts – which is probably related to my inability to “see” things in my mind. I also have a very mild version of this weird thing called face-blindness. In my case, I, almost exclusively, first recognize people by their mannerisms and the way they move, then I zero in on their face.
At this stage in the conversation, I suggested that despite those notable “weirdnesses,” most people would place me squarely in the “normal” column; because, those particular diverse traits are not easily distinguished or recognized – unless I reveal them. My point being that none of us are totally neurotypical.
I believe that this is an extremely important concept for those who have been labeled and have always felt different and segregated to understand. We all have our own “thing” going on. We are all weird – no one is normal. In accepting, celebrating, and honoring your particular weirdness, you are boldly presenting your real, flawed, and authentic self to the world. And, that genuine person is the one that others will come to know and appreciate as completely and uniquely awesome.
Kid Expo – Deep Root Center will once again be set up at the SLC Chamber’s Kid Expo at SUNY Canton’s Roos House this coming Sat. March 14, with a table full of art and craft items. Stop by to play, create to your heart’s desire, meet our staff, and learn more about all of our programs and services.
Spring Break – Exploration Station. Parents - we have you covered. Your child is welcome to drop-in and join us to explore their interests, create, & play. Register today.
Summer Program - We are in the process of creating a program that is financially accessible to everyone in the community. Stay tuned as we roll out more info.
Barriers are simply the things that keep you from participating or making choices - whether it is a game, activity, project, or most importantly an opportunity for personal growth or advancement.
I think about this constantly, given the people I interact with daily. Consequently, I have come up with some conclusions. I believe that most barriers in our modern society are social constructs, not physically tangible impediments. Inequity, injustice, and discrimination are at the core of all the obstacles people, without the privilege of whiteness, family connections and social hierarchy, or elite education, come up against daily.
We live in a place where a large proportion of us, regardless of our European descent, do not, for the most part, have access to the “riches” afforded to the privileged, including natural respect and courtesy, reliable, ethical, and quality (not to mention affordable) healthcare (including mental healthcare), a wide variety of options for jobs, education (free from bullying, intimidation, coercion, and detrimental labels), or decent, reasonably priced housing, grocery stores and fresh, year-round, whole food markets, retail stores (that are not dollar stores), and dependable transportation.
This entire list, of what have become entitlements in our culture, determines whether you have the “luxury” of freedom of choice for yourself and your family, or not. Therein lies the conditions that have created the barriers in our inequitable, unjust, and discriminatory society.
When a large segment of the population is left without the basics of free choice in a “free” society – it says something about that society, not the people who are struggling to survive.
No, this is not a politically charged post. It is, quite simply, a nod to the folks I meet every day. They are the ones who feel like their hands are tied in a system that uses intimidation, outdated (to the point of obsolete) methodologies, and coercion (as a scare tactic) to keep people down - not lift them. These folks are seeking respectful dialogue and viable options, which will allow their kids to succeed, not a hand-out, or a "free lunch.”
This is exactly where DRC can help. We offer kindness, a listening ear, and validation, but most importantly, practical alternatives for a positive future, where there were formerly none (including the choice to opt-out of the existing system entirely).
If supporting people to be their best, in whatever way possible, is considered radical - then as a society, we are in enormous trouble. I refuse to lower my standards of common decency, justice, authenticity, and respect to cater to the lowest common denominator.
Note: I am linking these two articles related to the above graphic. The first is the one that uses this graphic to illustrate their point, the second has a different version. I found both to be helpful resources in thinking about systemic barriers.
I am also linking this article that I came across this morning, as a resource. It clarifies, for me, one way we could change our culture, which is currently steeped in greed, to be more fair and just.
DRC has open enrollment in both of our facilities – Canton and Lawrenceville. If you are seeking an alternative to public school – DRC is here to not only help navigate the legalities of developing an educational plan outside of school, but to provide a welcoming learning community with a personalized and flexible approach. Get in touch today for more information.
Our afternoon program peeps are having a blast. Check out our full suite of extended services, including our Spring Break Programs and register today .