Our entire philosophy can be defined with the following three little words: learning is natural, which just happens to be the first half of the DRC tagline. Humans, beginning in utero, perpetually absorb information and process it. This never-ending cycle of data collection and dumping continues even while we are sleeping.
Our innate curiosity, quite simply, compels us to ask questions, which, in turn, instigates our desire to seek out the answers through exploration and discovery. Within that inquisitiveness, human imagination and creativity is, literally, ignited to generate ideas, and, theories, along with possible solutions.
The invention of compulsory, coercive education, over the last three centuries, has taken that hardwired trait and manipulated it into something that is not, even close to, natural. Acquired knowledge, within that system, therefore, is not based on inquiry, inventiveness, or creativity, but, on rote memorization of prescribed, finite, and static information passed from teacher to student to be regurgitated on a test.
As a result, I often meet young people who have, unhappily, out of necessity, accepted the regimented structure. Their inherent confidence and curiosity is diminished; they, simply, don’t know how to ask effective questions. The most distressing consequence, however, is their perceived lack of imagination and vision. They don’t know how to play and they are afraid of making mistakes! All of which is truly heartbreaking to witness.
You are probably asking yourself, if these kids have already conformed to stultified, inflexible institutionalized learning, how can DRC change that?
Extensive research tells us that authentic learning comes from asking the big questions and spending the time to seek out and imagine the answers. This is the process we call self-directed learning and what we encourage our student members to embrace on a daily basis.
Besides giving every student the task of designing, with unconditional support, their own learning plan, we ask them to consider their interests and talents and how they can use those to change the world. This is often accomplished, very subtly, by offering suggestions and opportunities and then standing back to watch. Many times, these kids do not comprehend the larger scope of our seemingly innocent hints. Eventually (sometimes months later), they come to realize that they are completely in charge of their education with the full freedom of making choices, including the ability to say, “no” to anything that does not “feel” right.
We also write a daily “big question” on the chalkboard in the maker room, for everyone (including staff and volunteers) to read and ponder, with absolutely no explicit instructions or expectations. This past Thursday, the board read: What makes you happy? I was surprised, and, yes, a bit delighted, to find, later in the day: this place, written beneath, with a smiley face drawn under the words, with no indication of authorship. This was only one reply made visible for all. How many responses does this and every question ultimately generate? We never know until --- boom --- on any given day, another kid suddenly comprehends her innate genius and starts asking “big questions” of her own.
Yes, indeed, changing lives and perceptions is, typically, as straightforward as providing opportunities for deep thought, extending caring guidance and resources, and, then, getting to hell out of the way to observe and wait patiently for the resulting awesomeness.
* The tagline - Learning is natural. School is optional. – is used with permission of North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens in Sunderland, MA.
Addie Jenne will be visiting DRC, Tuesday, April 11th at 2pm to tour the facility, meet the kids, and learn more about our programs. Some of the students will be talking to her about the New York State law that forbids homeschool students from playing sports with their local school teams. Their objective is to ask her to introduce a bill that repeals that law.
This is an open invitation to the community. Everyone is welcome to come to the Center to meet Ms. Jenne and learn more about the student’s proposal.
Fear of the unknown is a great motivator to fight against perceived threats to those things we find comfortable, safe, and culturally accepted. We are conditioned to settle in, comply with the inevitable, and conform.
In actively opposing adaptation, however, we are forcing and enabling intellectual, innovative, and imaginative stagnation, which only results in an apathetic population who are dogmatic about obeying and submitting to a static hierarchy based on a morally corrupt and outdated vision of society.
I will argue that a continuing evolution of culture (learned behavior) and ideas is absolutely necessary for the endurance and advancement of any society. In other words, we need to follow in our ancient, big brained, and versatile Homo sapien ancestor’s footsteps, because our very future depends on being cognizant of utilizing: common sense, imagination and creativity, critical thinking and problem solving skills, as well as, tools and information that have emerged and been researched over time to determine, which methods, developments, and changes are viable or not.
Open and engaged minds, very simply, are the passport to our survival.
Spring Break Programming April 17-21
You can find detailed information and register on line.
The DRC team took first prize at the Cabin Fever Trivia night. We enjoyed a fun evening spent with friends and supporters of GardenShare, a local not-for-profit organization, working to solve the problem of hunger in the North Country.
These lyrics from Buffalo Springfield’s Vietnam era song, What it’s Worth, written by Steven Stills in 1967, are still timely, fifty years later. Even if you remove the intentional essence of protest and political dissent, these words have significant meaning for what we are doing, right here, right now, at Deep Root Center.
Our philosophy directly challenges established, societal norms. At DRC, we believe that all children are brilliantly gifted, natural learners. If given free rein, that innate instinct to question, explore, and discover will not turn off as soon as the child turns five, it will continue to be the mechanism for learning for the remainder of their lives. Learning is indeed natural and school is completely optional. Education happens everywhere; a young person does not have to attend school or sit at a desk to acquire knowledge, be successful, go to college, or get a job.
Kids are naturally self-motivated. They frequently act out and are labeled as lazy trouble makers in institutional settings that are based on coercion, compulsory participation, and a specific curriculum filled with preconceived and prescribed notions. We, however, have found that a young person’s behavior in those situations has no bearing on their conduct in a supportive, non-threatening environment, such as DRC, which provides a safe space for independent inquiry, creativity, and free choice.
Yes, there is something happening here, because Deep Root Center is exuberantly and unabashedly different. We accept, honor, and celebrate student members for exactly who they are. We spend much of our time examining and supporting their idiosyncrasies, their unique ways of looking at the world, their individual learning styles, and the particulars that make their hearts sing. For What It’s Worth, our students are joyfully engaged in evaluating their own concepts, creating art and music, delving deeply into pertinent knowledge, imagining a new world, devising plans, and blazing their own trails into the future.
Join Us Does the DRC philosophy match your views about learning? Do you want your child to experience life on their own terms? We are accepting student applications for the remainder of this academic year as well as next. Contact Maria for more information.
DRC is a safe space for your kids if you choose to OPT OUT of state testing during the last week of March.
NYS Assembly Woman Visit
Addie Jenne will be visiting DRC on April 13th. She will spend time touring our facility, meeting and talking to our kids. We will also ask her about sponsoring a bill in the assembly to change current NYS law that forbids homeschooled children from participating in sports in their local school district.
The proliferation of fake news, blatantly misleading and sensationalized misinformation, and outdated headlines can be held directly responsible, I believe, for much of the animosity and societal divisions in today’s world.
As human beings, we seek out the information that most closely aligns with our own personal world view. When we find that article, meme, or, headline (click bait), which confirms what we already believe, it becomes firmly solidified into absolute, irrefutable truth in our minds—and—then — we share it.
Therefore, millions of people adamantly claim to have all the facts (and respond with unkind, rude, and vitriolic comments), when, in reality, much of the information they have gathered and latched onto is, absolutely, false, or, at the very best half-truths.
When did we become sheep, simply, believing and regurgitating everything that passes before our eyes or ears? When did we lose our ability and desire to think critically? Why are we so willing to be hoodwinked?
What I really want to know, however, is—when did “smart” become a four- letter word?
I am far from being an intellectual, nevertheless, I am anxious about unwittingly passing on inaccuracies or untruths, simply, because I wanted to believe, or, was lazy and didn’t take the time to do the research. This extends to compulsively investigating grammar and vocabulary usage and explains why I am utterly embarrassed when I find mistakes, after hitting the send or publish buttons, in anything I have written.
Despite appearances to the contrary, especially at this particular point in our history—integrity, wittiness, and professionalism will always be relevant, whether sharing and commenting on a silly meme on social media, sending a little text or snapchat between you and your friends, writing an academic paper, or composing the email that may just be your ticket to a new job. It always pays to research your argument/theory, from multiple sources, and, edit properly. Some may contend that stupidity sells in popular culture, nevertheless, I will maintain that ignorance does nothing to boost either your trustworthiness, reputation, or character, in the long run.
As I often counsel DRC students, question everything, especially if it seems to coincide with your personal ideology, whether you see it on your social media feed, watch it on TV, read it in a magazine, or hear it from your best friend, on the radio, or, even from a teacher. Challenging information is not on par with disrespect. It simply means you are willing, and, excited about seeking out knowledge and thinking for yourself.
I will say it again, question everything, because, similar to the telephone game, every time hearsay is passed from one person to the next, the repercussions increase exponentially until the misconceptions, untruths, and lies are indecipherable from reality.
These sources are useful tools in determining the veracity of news articles or data. One is an article detailing what to look for and the other is a chart.
If you need additional help determining reliable sources, contact your local librarian (this is for you Krista, Ms. Val, and Christian E); they would be honored, and, most likely delighted to help.
Spring Break Workshops - April 17th -21st
DRC has a host of fun and engaging activities, projects, and resources available during Spring Break Programming. Every day will feature different volunteers who all have various talents and skills to share with participants. Sign up on-line or contact Mariahere.
NYS ELA standardized tests are slated for the last week of March. DRC is offering a safe space for your child to Opt Out. Contact us today for more information.
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