These are the folks you not only rely on to have your back – every (damn) single time you need them - they are also the crew who are willing to provide a reality check when you are in critical need of one. You never need to mask your true self from your peeps - they “get” you completely, without judgement or blame, and will move heaven and earth to make sure you feel heard, safe, and loved.
Peeps are not simply friends; they are your comrades, compatriots, companions, confidants, and coconspirators – in short, they are your personal community. They share your vision, your ideals, your humanity, and your aspirations. These are the people who will dance in the streets with you when you are on top of the world, and the ones who will hold you and sob with you when your world comes crashing down.
You will recognize your peeps by the way their eyes light up when they see you and by the positive vibes radiating from them. These are also the folks that you may not be able to see or speak with very often, but when you do, the conversation continues where you left it – weeks, months, or even years before.
The Liberated Learners Crew
I wish upon all of you a contingent of peeps who understand and support you in all your endeavors. Thank them profusely and then pay it forward whenever the opportunity presents itself. I firmly believe that in doing so we will establish and grow a culture of kindness, which is the only way to counteract our current climate of dissension and preposterous disregard for our collective fundamental humanity. PS – In taking my own advice, I would like to express deep gratitude to all of my peeps – my family, the entire DRC crew, and all of the Liberated Learner folks, as well as all of the people in my village who have supported this vision from the very beginning. Thank you - from the bottom of my heart.
The Pacific Ocean near Tillamook, OR., during my visit last July.
A child’s stormy emotions of unhappiness, anxiety, anger, frustration, and fear are often expressed through adverse attitudes and behaviors because they simply don’t know any other way to make the people around them understand how they are feeling. As a result, these children are routinely judged and labeled as bratty, attention seeking, trouble-makers who are then quickly diagnosed as attention deficient, defiant, angry, depressed, and even psychotic. With these diagnoses in hand, they are then prescribed every kind of med you can possibly imagine.
This process is frequently swift and triggers crisis situations that many times could be averted if that child had someone(s) who took the time to listen to what was truly behind all that misery, distress, anxiety, anger, defiance, and frustration. And, helped them to understand, as well as give them tools to work through their adverse attitudes and behaviors without blaming, judging or labeling. This person does not necessarily need to be a mental health counselor. They can be anyone who respects and appreciates these kids for their unique selves and who trusts them enough to believe that they know on a fundamental level what they need, even if they are not yet able to express it in words, or, that it doesn’t exactly meet society’s expectations. These are people who believe that these kids are smart, capable, creative, imaginative, and good individuals, and, most importantly advocates for them in every single situation and offers them a safe place --- free of coercion to grow hope and aspirations.
I firmly believe that if every child had at least one such advocate, we would have fewer flashpoints and intense crisis situations that often take years to resolve. Kids would learn to express themselves positively, knowing that they will not be ridiculed or dismissed. We would, quite simply, have a population who is excited about learning, exploring, and growing; who understand that we are all human beings, and, that kindness is a language that is universally spoken. DRC News
Property - We are still in waiting mode – I should hear whether our offer has been accepted later today. The next hurdle is planning board approval. They meet this coming Tuesday.
Travel – I will be attending the Liberated Learnersconference at North Star in Amherst, MA this coming weekend. Therefore, I will not be writing a blog next Sunday. I am looking forward to spending time with and gaining inspiration from all the other amazing folks, who do “this” at the other self-directed learning centers around the country. But first, I get some down time with my “little” brother Pete for a whole day at Four Pillars Farm, his organic veggie operation, in Whiting, VT! I will be back at DRC on Monday, June 25th. If you would like to schedule a time to discuss your child’s educational needs – please get in touch.
If you are a parent, you have had the opportunity and pleasure (?) to watch your young child go through growth spurts. They suddenly become clumsy, emotional, tired, restless, and anxious in response to all the physical changes occurring within their bodies. The same reaction can be seen when they reach puberty – not only are their bodies transforming and developing into their adult selves, their brains are evolving into their mature beings. This is when in one moment they seek out comfort - they want to be coddled, cuddled, and reassured and in the next they forcibly push you away to strive towards independence.
In some ways, the essence of puberty remains with us our entire lives. While we may stop growing taller, and for most of us, our middle age bodies and minds only slightly resemble our teen-age selves, we still change dramatically over time – not only physically, but emotionally and philosophically. I personally notice that those periods of adjustments are still as angst-y, powerful, thrilling, and intense as they were for my fifteen-year-old self.
Yes, growth is exciting, fun, intoxicating, and purely exhilarating, all the while being daunting, awkward, painful, exhausting, challenging, and utterly terrifying. However, when you comprehend that in the absence of growth there can only be stagnation, inertia, atrophy, and eventual death --- the search for ways to stretch, progress, and change becomes absolutely addicting, despite the potential for discomfort, and, yes, even, failure.
Deep Root Center is currently going through that twitchy, edgy, and free-wheeling adolescent phase. We have definitely outgrown the rental space that we have occupied for the past three years; however, reaching towards the independence of ownership has offered moments of overwhelming optimism and joy, as well as intense fear and deep frustration. The emotions change in heartbeat, as we negotiate this unfamiliar path littered with financial obstacles, bureaucracy (paperwork), and growing pains (we have the potential of adding to our student numbers, significantly), as well as the continued feeling of inevitability. Thanks to loans from a few generous folks, who will be named in subsequent posts, we have made an offer on the house that I identified in the last post. We will know on Friday afternoon whether the seller has accepted our offer. The waiting is “killing” me; however, I continually remind myself that while growth brings discomfort and restiveness, it also makes dreams come true. * A note of thanks to this blogfrom Seth Godin for instigating this entire thought process, when I had absolutely “nothing” this morning.
Emmy and I had a great time talking to folks at the 1st annual Kid Expo yesterday!
If you are willing to indulge in a moment of nostalgia, I would like to send you back a few years (or maybe more) to your time in school. Was your experience similar to mine and thousands of others - sitting through class completely unfocused, disengaged, frustrated, and bored – staring at the clock above the chalkboard watching those 45 minutes creep by, when you could finally wobble to your numb and tingling feet to rush down the hallway, run the gauntlet of smokers in the restroom, and, then, do battle with your locker, only to endure the next stupefying session – on and on through the day until that final bell? Were you, again, like me and many children today - bullied in the gym locker room, lunch room, playground, or hallways? Or, were you one of the fortunate ones who did well, enjoyed, and, were actually interested in everything offered in school?
Now, if you will, imagine that you had been fortunate enough to have a place to go every day where everyone was fully engaged in the things that most interested them at that moment, where learning was lively and often messy, where play was recognized as a valid, natural, and essential form of learning, where hands-on projects were the norm, where big questions lead to new inquiries, where there were no time constraints, where mentoring relationships were built on mutual respect and trust, where “no thank you” was an acceptable response, and where everyone was fully encouraged and supported to be completely in charge of their education based on their aspirations, skills, and interests (with no set and static curriculum, tests, quizzes, grades, or other standardizing metrics). Envision a safe, collaborative (read: non-competitive) environment where the staff, volunteers, and other participants support each person to be themselves, while challenging each other to grow to be their best selves, and, where the only rule is respect for self, others, and that space.
Deep Root Center is honored and thrilled to be that safe, non-coercive, and dynamic educational facility, right here - right now, where any child, in St Lawrence County, between the ages 5-19, who was (is) unhappy, anxious, depressed, bored, disenfranchised, and generally dissatisfied with traditional school, feels at home and can flourish. Nearly every single adult II have spoken to over the past four years has said, “where were you when I was in school?” or “… if only you were around when I really needed you.” My response is always, “yes, indeed, if only I had a place like DRC when I was in school.” Now, you can make sure DRC is able to accept all of those kids who choose to rise out of the schooling situation that was so restricting for us. See, we are all feeling a wee bit cramped in our 2nd floor space over the thrift shops in Canton. Actually, to be perfectly blunt, we are rapidly outgrowing these walls.
A volunteer teaching Chinese in our very messy and full maker-room.
This is the property we would like to purchase.
Over the past couple months, we have come to the unavoidable conclusion that DRC needs a permanent home that has a functional music room, which allows for free expression as well as group classes, a real kitchen to cook and enjoy good food - together, abundant space to store all of our resources, equipment, materials, and all those hands on projects that are in some stage of completion, plenty of room for independent study and group classes, and a back yard – to run, play, build large carpentry projects, sit under a tree to read and daydream, and plant gardens (or make mud pies). The staff and board have identified a house in the village of Canton, which will provide for all of the above needs with the added bonus of reducing our monthly financial obligations. We have not, however, made a purchase offer because we need to raise a down payment first, which is why we are appealing directly to you for help. We really don’t want this opportunity to slip away (be purchased by someone else). You can make sure the young people who rely on Deep Root Center, and, call us home, have the appropriate space and facilities they need to grow, learn, and, yes, thrive: 1) by making a small donation to our permanent facility fund – every little bit helps, 2) by making a large financial contribution to become a DRC benefactor, or 3) by lending us a substantial amount, which we will pay back with interest. Please visit the DRC websiteto learn more about our mission and programs, you can also click over to the volunteer page and sign up to share your talent, skill, and knowledge with our students by filling out the online volunteer application. You can contribute by clicking on the donate buttonor you can send a check to Deep Root Center, 7 Main St., 2nd floor, Canton. You can also contact me directly to discuss whether you are able to become a DRC Benefactor or lend us what we need to make this dream a reality – for the staff and for our kids. Thank you! Once we are in our new home, we will host a party to celebrate with you all!