Kids (all of them, including, tweens and teens) are distinct individuals with independent thoughts, ideologies, interests, and aspirations completely separate from their parents, teachers, or other significant adults in their lives. They are biologically designed to explore and discover what excites them, what makes them happy, and what satisfies their deepest needs.
We often forget all of that because of those prevailing cultural habits and false beliefs that say, in producing children, we, have created mini-mes or empty shells who are simply waiting for adults to fill them up with information or to shape their ultimate destiny.
Our kids are under an enormous amount of pressure to live up to ridiculously unrealistic expectations --- which all boils down to what we view as well-rounded and successful. We (They) have been brainwashed into believing that all children need to be occupied all the time with all the extracurricular activities that exist. They need to get into a good school (preschool, elementary, high school, college), read at a young age, get good grades, be sociable (have a lot of friends), play sports, excel at everything they try, have grit and determination, be self-motivated, be beautiful (skinny, good hair, good skin, etc.), fit in and follow the crowd, but also be the leader, wear the right clothes, have all the right accessories (phones, electronic gadgets, etc.), never give up, and never, ever, ever, ever make mistakes.
In this crazy, fabricated world of competition and social ills, is it any wonder we have anxious, depressed, and unhappy young people who are afraid of failure and stress about disappointing everyone around them on top of worrying about being safe? They often self-diagnose in an effort to excuse their “imperfections” and in the process, learn to blame and make judgements, along with other detrimental coping skills.
If you are like me, you take a look at all those pressures our children are under and realize it is totally and absolutely absurd to believe that any child is going to thrive under those circumstances. Where is the time for play, joy, delight, and imagination - those uninterrupted strings of moments where growth and real learning occur?
It bears repeating, children are distinct individuals with independent thoughts, ideologies, interests, and aspirations, who are naturally designed to explore and discover who they really are. They are all imperfect, innovative, creative, brilliant, growing human beings who absolutely deserve non-coercive, safe environments where they are supported to be themselves, and to investigate and be curious, which includes the freedom to adapt their personal labels – their interests, their beliefs, their styles, and, yes, even their gender or sexual identities based on what they understand in that moment. They are worthy of our trust, pride, and our love for their openness and honesty and for being true to their ever-evolving, beautiful uniqueness. DRC News Deep Root Center has concluded another academic year and we are already busy seeking out resources and facilitators for all of the classes and hands-on projects our students have requested in the coming year. We are also working on raising a down payment for a house. DRC has outgrown our current space - to provide all of the resources our kids need to follow their individual aspirations, we need to purchase a permanent facility with plenty of room for their music, maker space, classrooms, a yard, and abundant storage for all their materials and equipment. We need your help to make this dream a reality. Donations of any size will be gratefully accepted. You can send a check to Deep Root Center, 7 Main Street, 2nd floor, Canton, NY – or click the donate button on our website and contribute through PayPal. I am also available to schedule a timeto discuss this project with anyone who is interested. Thank you!
I would be horribly remiss, if I didn’t dedicate this last blog post of our academic year to the other two-thirds of the DRC staff. Christopher Raymo and Trish Pielnik - are both essential components of our team, and, both, quite literally, appeared exactly when they were most needed (whether they or I knew it at the time). Without them, their talents, skills, hearts, and personalities, DRC would not be nearly as awesome as it is, (I would be considerably less sane), and, we would not have experienced such amazing growth, so quickly.
You may remember, at the end of the 2015/16 academic year, we decided to lower our beginning age from 7 to 5 and develop a program specifically for the 5-9 year olds. In July 2016, after advertising for an intern and not finding one, I asked Chris, the parent of our youngest student that previous year (whom I met while tabling at the Farmer’s Market the summer before), if he would be willing to take on the job. I am incredibly grateful that he said, “yes.” And in agreeing to come on board, we not only gained a knowledgeable Seedlings Coordinator but also an amazing Music Director.
On any given day, Chris can always be found as the calm nucleus surrounded by the sometimes chaotic, always energetic, creative vibe that abounds. I rely on him to be the steady touchstone for everyone – Seedlings, Tweens, and Teens. He brings infinite wisdom, immense patience, a natural love of learning, and a kind, genuine, nurturing presence to this space.
Chris provides a loose structure to the Seedlings days, which allows for plenty of investigative play to satisfy the imaginative pursuits and natural curiosity of all our youngest students. He is also a rocking musician, who has created a music program that provides a safe encouraging space for young people to explore and to develop a relationship with sound, freely, on their own terms. And, we discovered this year that he also has some mad MMA skills that he has been willing to share in a self-defense class.
Last February, as a group of us were leaving to walk up to the library, Trish called the Center to ask about volunteering at DRC. I told her I had 5 minutes to talk; however, as with all of our conversations over the past 16 months, I would come to discover, it lasted a quite a bit longer. It only ended because I was being dragged out the door by several antsy kids waiting to explore the library stacks, and, we had decided that she should visit the following day.
The rest, as they say, is history. Trish volunteered every Wednesday for the last four months of the school year. She spent most of her time with the Seedlings, under table “tents”, becoming completely immersed in their imaginary worlds - whether it was fighting (or, was it becoming?) super villains or making up new poke-mon characters. She was always a willing accomplice to their adventures, letting them lead the way. On one of her last visits, in May, she mentioned that she has always dreamed about getting kids out in nature to share her love of the outdoors and on the most basic level to combat nature deficit disorder, which she has encountered in her patients over her entire career. Long story short – that conversation led to our inaugural Water, Woods, & Wild Wonders Program, this year. One day, each week, for the past nine months, Trish, in her completely magical way, has led excursions in and around St Lawrence County and the foothills of the Adirondacks. Our kids were totally immersed in nature, in all types of weather and conditions, where they were given free rein to explore, play, and discover the amazing diversity, versatility, resilience, and healing properties of our Mother Earth. By simply sharing her love of all things wild, Trish, in her gentle, playful, and loving manner, introduced our kids to all of that and more. This program has become so successful, in many ways, transformative for many of our students, that we are expanding it. Water, Woods, & Wild Wonders will have a permanent home base on my land in Pierrepont and it will be available more often during the week for kids who simply feel the need to get away to the woods. I am incredibly grateful to have found these two people, who are dedicated, on the most fundamental level, to everything DRC stands for, and who are willing to share their whole-selves with us all. We are all better for their dedication, devotion, authenticity, generosity, empathy, and, yes, love.
DRC News Our last day of this academic year is Friday, May 25th. We will celebrate with a picnic and games at the Bend-in-the-River Park.
Summer Hours: By Appointment The staff will be in and out of the DRC facility all summer long. Please get in touchto schedule an appointment, if you are interested in checking DRC out for your child, would like to learn more about what we do, or would like to volunteer in the coming year – we don’t want to miss out on talking with you.
At DRC, along with redefining the concept of education, we are also reimagining the word play. This task really shouldn’t be as difficult as it has panned out to be considering many words in our lexicon are not used, today, as originally coined. Nevertheless, whether you call it brainwashing, cultural norms, or plain old stubbornness, education, play, as well as work are all words that have intensely emotive connotations, which currently drive western society ideals.
We go to school to learn the things we need to get a job to buy the things we need to survive, and, so we can play (goof around) on the weekend. In truth, we have it completely, dangerously, and categorically backward.
Play should be first in the line-up, in every single instance. We ought to be learning through investigation, exploration, experimentation, and discovery – all of which are pure and unadulterated play, but only when all of those actions are being taken on voluntarily out of natural curiosity and absolute joy – not in a coercive, teacher-centered system. Those of us who practice and provide self-directed education, believe that learning is as natural and easy as breathing and school is completely optional. Education driven by interest, aspirations, satisfaction, and contentment is meaningful and it grows happy, healthy, adults who are self-motivated to continue learning throughout their life-time. The countless benefits of unforced, life-learning, although well documented in the scientific and psychological communities, are still totally foreign to many in our society, especially to those who have the wherewithal to fund us. In the past few weeks, I have written several grants. One of the most common questions on grant applications is multiple variations of – (in 2000 characters or less) describe what is unique about your approach. I have spent hours crafting and honing this response.
Deep Root Center programs are unique in that they bring the concept of learner-centered, non-coercive, self-directed learning into the real world. Within a very loose structure, our students are supported and encouraged to explore the world on their own terms based on their interests and aspirations, which builds self-confidence, empathy, and helps them realize that they can affect change, along with aiding them to understand that a positive future is available to them. Every student will learn something completely different, because they are able to make observations based on their unique methods of investigation, perspective, and personal life experiences. They will then be able to express their new-found knowledge in distinct ways that will help to engage others in conversations about their experiences. We believe that through these one-on-one discussions, whether with family or community members, attitudes can be changed. You probably noticed the absence of the word - play throughout the entire passage. I don’t want to raise any red flags and give the wrong impression – you know - we are all messing around over here without responsibility or serious intent. However, you now understand the revised meaning, and know that we, in fact, really are all playing here – building lives full of meaning and affecting change within our community. To be clear, this is exhausting, challenging (at times frustrating), hard work, and, if it wasn’t such outlandishly, ridiculous fun – we, simply, would not be here, doing it.
In these last two weeks of the academic year, our student's focus will be turned to evaluating all of those unfinished projects to determine which ones are worthy of additional time, those that will be reimagined in the future, and the hopeless few that are destined for the recycling or trash bin. This is also the time we start thinking of future endeavors that will be implemented in the coming year.
This process of examining the detritus from the past nine months is always bittersweet, but more so this year as we look toward moving into a completely new facility before the end of the summer. This space has been the safe incubation chamber for innumerable ideas, art and crafts, stories, deep (and silly) conversations, lessons (those formal and not), and, most importantly, enduring friendships.
We are incredibly proud of the young people who call DRC their educational home and we look forward to creating an all-new inspiring facility with all of them. If your child is ready to be part of all of this ... contact us today!
This phrase, for generations has been used to declare safety zones in ubiquitous childhood games such as hide and seek and capture the flag. The same underlying energy or sense of freedom, which is conjured upon hearing those words, exists here. It is not explicit – no one really talks about it; however, it is very real and has powerful implications for everyone who enters.
Olly, Olly, Oxen Free - yes, as a matter of fact, the real you can come out into the open. No need to hide - you can be your true and authentic self here! This is a safe space for everyone!
We focus on the things someone does well, what they love, and how that makes us feel, instead of negative judgements – the things they are bad at. Our students are therefore unimpeded by the plethora of rules, damaging narratives, and competitive attitudes that inhabit other institutions. This creates a sense of amnesty that is palpable. They come to understand that they have amazing talents and ideas to offer the world and they recognize that asking questions and making mistakes are essential parts of learning and development.
When you provide affirmative feedback by observing positives, you create an empowering atmosphere of acceptance, collaboration, and growth - a place where respectful interactions are the norm, where people are genuinely happy to spend time with each other, and where sincere affection is not hidden or ridiculed.
Not surprisingly, anxiety levels drop and seeds of self-confidence sprout, almost immediately. We are privileged to witness transformations that are in every way astounding; however, as a staff, we often don’t initially recognize their enormity, simply, because they have become so common place.
We all desire a setting where we are comfortably and naturally at home, free to drop our masks, express ourselves without reserve, and know, that no matter what, we will be appreciated and respected. For our students, staff, and volunteers - that place is DRC.
DRC NEWS Help Wanted:
The Deep Root Center (DRC) Board of Directors is looking for folks who are eager to share their expertise, talents, and energy to generate positive change in our community, to join them. We are seeking those who understand that our community’s future depends on supporting our young people to become strong, innovative, confident, intrinsically motivated, determined, compassionate, and socially responsible citizens who are stake-holders in their own future.
Deep Root Center (DRC) provides the facilities, environment, resources, and support for young people who choose to take charge of their education while living and learning without school
Now in our fourth year, we are soliciting those individuals who have the skills and ideas to help guide us through the exciting challenges that go along with transition and growth.
If you believe the statement, Learning is natural and school is optional, and that fun can be incorporated into even the most serious of endeavors, we want you on our team. Contact us today or visit the DRC website to learn more.
Accepting Applications for 18/19
If your child is suffering from anxiety and is looking for an educational environment that offers a safe space where they can be themselves and where learning is enjoyable, contact us today. Our programs are filling up quickly.