We have all heard the platitudes that tout hardship, suffering, toil, discomfort, and tribulations as necessary evils to becoming a responsible, moral, and, lest we forget, productive member of society.
Contrary to popular opinion, suffering through a task, for the sole purpose of building character, is nothing but punitive and coercive rhetoric, which only brings misery - not enlightenment or riches. On the other hand, hard work, struggle, and herculean effort, when combined with personal aspirations, determination, and desire produces not only positive results, but happy, satisfied, intrinsically motivated, and genuinely innovative individuals who are working hard to make affirmative change in the world. And, who are generally thrilled to build platforms to give others a hand-up towards achieving their dreams.
When the lone reason for drudgery is simply about completing the job, or fulfilling a societal role, there is no joy, satisfaction, or creative spark to propel you onto the next challenge. In reality, misery only generates more misery – it does not produce knowledge, intelligence, strength, or for that matter, even, virtue.
Quitting is one way to definitively change course mid-stream, make adjustments, and modify your life plan when the original strategy is no longer viable. Leaving one venture behind, with intention, to seek out new opportunities, is not shameful and absolutely does not signify a weakness of character. It does, however, indicate an open mind, an ability to be flexible, a willingness to work through hardship, and often leads to new discoveries about yourself and your aspirations, as well as to the people who can provide encouragement and support.
Pulling yourself up by the bootstraps may not be physically or economically possible; however, no matter who you are or where you are from, there will always be a community who has your back. You simply have to say, “here I am.”
This week’s FAQ The one response we often hear when people first discover DRC is: We have to wait until the beginning of the next school year before we can join DRC, right? You do not have to wait until your child finishes out a year. We accept new students throughout the year. Your child can leave school anytime during an academic year and we support you to do that by writing a letter of intent and Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP), as soon as you make the decision. Often times, we are able to schedule a meeting and get them written the day you decide. If school is truly not working for your child and they are intensely miserable, forcing them to complete the school year only intensifies the misery, anxiety, and unhappiness. Giving a child the option to take charge of their education opens the doors for them to rise out of the situation that made them unhappy and begin to search out the things they want to focus on instead of dreading the things they have no interest in. It gives them the freedom to relax, to breath, to drop their shoulders and masks, and to be themselves without fear of being ridiculed or punished. We are available to assist with that transition. Schedule an appointment today.
Summer Programs at DRC Last two weeks of August
I have come to understand, over these many years, that a simple, “yes”, almost always, has the power to open up an affirmative space where conversation, exploration, and collaboration can develop into positive action. While, “no”, generally slams the door shut making it clear that there is not any possibility for discussion or investigation and it almost always invites conflict, defiance, and outright rebellion.
There are so many instances where “no” may seem to be the easiest and most painless choice (we have all been there). However, I have, found over the years, “yes”, may take more time, become much more involved, and require more thought in the beginning, but it will almost always be worth it.
To be clear, saying, “yes”, does not mean that you are allowing or condoning permissiveness, indulgence, or disrespect (i.e. bratty behavior). It simply conveys an openness to new ideas, which encourages respectful dialogue, and, in my view, will always be a win.
This concept not only works when responding to outside requests, it is also essential when you are engaged in those inner negotiations – all you highly divergent thinkers know exactly what I am talking about. I firmly believe that beginning with “yes”, gives you the freedom to explore all the possibilities, brainstorm, make errors, arrive at seemingly dead-ends, backtrack and seek out other paths until you discover the - or, one of many solutions.
Deep Root Center exists because I, quite literally, jumped in to the unknown in 2013 and out of sheer will and tenaciousness (that stubborn label, from my childhood, has paid off many times over), with the support of the Liberated Learners Network, made it happen. It was, and still is, scary as hell. I have made a gazillion mistakes and will most likely make a gazillion more. But, I knew that I needed a space where the possibilities are endless and I wanted to make that facility available for all the kids who require the kind of creative and supportive environment where they can make positive things happen too.
Now, as we finish up our 4th year, which has been filled with phenomenal growth, inspiring programs, awesome, motivated kids doing amazing things, a fantastic dedicated staff, and bevy of talented volunteers - DRC is on the way to becoming recognized as a viable educational option. To be quite honest, that really cool space, is beginning to feel a bit full, and, if the number of meetings I have had with interested families, recently, is any indication, it is only going to feel fuller. What an amazing “problem” to have!
Given all of that, as well as feeling frustrated about consistently throwing money towards rent every month that we believe could be used more efficiently and effectively towards ownership and paying our staff. The DRC board and I are looking into purchasing a house in the village for DRC. We have our eye on a couple of multi-unit properties (with the thought of renting out a unit as additional income) and are in the process of pre-qualifying for a mortgage. We will also need to raise a significant amount of cash (between 25 – 30 thousand) through donations for the down-payment. If you have any ideas, resources, or contacts within your network, who would be excited about helping us realize this dream – please get in touch. Our second venture involves developing a permanent home for the Water, Woods, & Wild Wonders Program and expanding it to be available 3-4 days a week. We have discovered during this year’s pilot program that providing kids with the opportunity to be immersed in nature is transformational in so many ways. We (everyone- kids and adults) come away from each adventure with new insights that may not be readily apparent, however, often accumulate over time and appear in the form of new maturity, calmness, or creative inspiration. The logistics include shoring up an old camp (the inside was refurbished several years ago) on my land, in Pierrepont, as a home base. Mike and I own 37 acres that abut Glenmeal State forest (670 acres) on two sides. There are abundant woodlands and beaver ponds, along with many other natural features for children to explore infinitely – because there will always be something new to discover. I have written a grant that would fund a portion of building repairs, a storage shed, and tons of equipment and supplies for outdoor adventuring and camping, as well as staffing. The budget for this project, besides this particular grant, includes significant in-kind donations of labor, supplies, and equipment, as well as private funding, and other grants that I will be writing over the next couple months. Once again, if you can help us in any way with this venture, please get in touch. As I have mentioned in previous posts, serendipity is quite possibly my favorite word (concept). I will go out on a limb here and use an ‘absolute statement’, which one of my students constantly warns me about. I know without a doubt that consistently saying, “yes” (despite the clutching fear at times), has cleared the way for serendipity to guide DRC to where it is today and towards an even brighter future.
As we finish up this academic year and look towards next year, I wanted to let you know that we have some extraordinarily exciting projects on the horizon.
I can’t give anything away right now – but, these will both build Deep Root Center’s capacity as well as the scope of our programming. We will accomplish all of this while maintaining our original mission to provide a facility, resources, support, and safe environment for all those young people who dream of creating an education around their interests and passions – outside of school.
Over the next few weeks and months we will share details. These changes, as you can imagine, will come at a significant financial cost. The staff and board are committed to keeping our promise to never refuse a child because of their family’s financial situation; therefore, we will be reaching out in various ways to ask for your support.
We are deeply grateful for our generous community who has supported Deep Root Center for the past four years. We look to you, as well as new folks who are just learning about DRC and all the services we provide those young people in St Lawrence County who rely on us.
You can help as these projects move forward by setting up a recurring monthly or one-time donationhere. The DRC Board is also seeking individuals who would like to contribute larger amounts to start an endowment towards our future. Please get in touch with us to begin the conversation on how your fiscal support can help us quite literally change lives.
Russ, the master syrup maker, is helping Noah finish off a batch.
Join us Deep Root Center accepts student members throughout the year; however, most of our students join during the late spring and summer months. If you are looking for a different kind of education – one that encourages independence, authenticity, flexibility, autonomy, collaboration, and fun - Deep Root Center offers all that and more.. You too can be part of this exciting adventure we call life-learning. Don’t settle for a standard education – at DRC you have the opportunity to design your own education around the things you love most. Slide on over to www.deeprootcenter.org, drop us a line at email@example.com, or call us 315-714-4032. You can also message us through our facebook page. We look forward to meeting you.
PS There will not be a Blog Post next week. I will be at the AEROx conference in Bethel CT with four students!
Dreams and aspirations are as unique as each individual person. They are what keep us moving forward – without them we stagnate, adopt negative attitudes, and become closed to all possibilities.
But, what makes us stop dreaming in the first place? I would hypothesize that the root cause of some cases of apathy is the absence of those basic needs I discussed in last week’s blog. If you cannot imagine anything beyond basic survival, how can you aspire for more?
However, in the cases of many of the young people I meet, who cannot put words to what they hope for the future, I believe it is because they were never given the opportunity or encouragement to pursue anything besides what is prescribed within the system.
I can’t begin to explain the sadness I feel when I ask a seventeen or eighteen-year-old, “what do you envision as the next step?” And, they reply with a shrug or an “I don’t know.” The spark of excitement I see in a younger child’s eyes when I ask the same question, simply, isn’t there. It is my fondest wish that in the short time they are with us at DRC, they too will find inspiration during a mentoring session, or, better yet, when they come to me in the middle of the day and say, “I would like to try …”.
Imagine the difference if we always told (and modeled for) our children:
Explore, investigate, play, be silly, and have fun - instead of do your homework, get good grades, and excel on the test.
Dig deep and become immersed – rather than skim the surface.
Be willing to make mistakes and learn from them – as an alternative to - be perfect.
Seek out unusual opportunities – instead of - follow the culturally dictated path.
Embrace all your idiosyncrasies and be yourself – as opposed to - conform.
Welcome change and be bold – rather than - be afraid.
Accept responsibility – as an alternative to - blame.
Be kind, compassionate, non-judgmental and be willing to work together in collaboration – as opposed to - be critical and competitive.
Dare to - create and design, envision all the possibilities, find allies, screw-up and apologize, scrutinize and probe new ideas, become absorbed and engrossed, and blaze your own personal journey based on your interests and passions – not those determined by society.
Anyone who has ever taken an Intro to Psych class, whether in high school, college, or studied it independently, will probably recognize Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory in which he placed the largest most fundamental needs at the bottom and the need for self-actualization at the very top. As I understand his theory, if the physiological, safety, and loving/belonging needs are in deficit (not being met), then a person cannot achieve or experience feelings of esteem or self-actualization.
This concept has immense implications in the world of self-directed learning. We are asking our students to make important decisions that guide their education and life. However, if they are experiencing deficiencies within those most basic needs, how on earth can they have enough intrinsic confidence to self-determine?
To be clear; these unmet needs are often derived from individual, personal emotional “stuff”, not simply the physical or external that can be provided by someone else. Yes, you may have a roof over your head, three squares a day, and supportive, loving family and friends – however, if you are depressed or anxious, you probably feel unsafe and unloved. You cannot simply show or tell another person that they have all they need to feel comfortable, safe, and loved - every single person has the authority to determine that for themselves.
I know that when I am suffering from allergies, apprehension, or even physical pain, I cannot focus. I am flighty, hyper, and exceedingly uncreative. Which in turn makes me frustrated and angry at myself. Fortunately, after reminding myself that I have a support system and the tools to deal with all of that negative emotion and angst, I am, in time, able to settle down and become confidently productive.
This blog post comes after a week in which most of us (students and staff) spent a great deal of our time coping with potent and poignant emotional “stuff”. It was not always explicit; however, it did have over-arching effects on everything - from our academics to our personal relationships and social environment. Through-out the week, there were many hugs, instances of strife, tears, times of jealousy, intense mentoring sessions, moments of thoughtfully staring into space, fierce kindness, laughter, and silliness, as well as deep, supportive friendships being tested and reaffirmed. And, I was profoundly honored to witness and participate in it all. Coming back to the Maslow’s Theory and self-directed learning – I believe that because we (again all of us, young people and adults at DRC) make it our priority to stop, reflect, witness, model, support (including a shoulder to cry on), and offer affectionate encouragement (mentoring), our students are able to, eventually (with every expectation that it may take years), learn the tools necessary to move forward to a place of safe, loving, productive, self-confidence and determination.