A few weeks ago, I spent time updating the Deep Root Center website: rewriting some pages that were “old and tired”, generally cleaning things up, and adding pages to reflect our current program offerings. I was dismayed to discover, as I was knee deep in the process, that the The How This Works page had disappeared --- had been deleted. After a few choice words and a mini tantrum, (Yes, I was alone; there were no children around to witness my meltdown.) I was debating whether to re-write it, or, to leave it off the website permanently. As you can see, I decided (despite the low number of views and that most people call to get the details), we must provide multiple routes (modalities) to this important information in the same way we work with our student members.
Making the Decision:
The process of becoming a Deep Center Member is fairly simple, however, as with most things, the first step is the most difficult --- making that decision --- consciously choosing self-directed learning, and willingly (excitedly) taking charge of your education. Deep Root Center staff is available to meet with youth and their families to discuss whether this is the correct educational environment to satisfy their specific learning style, personality, as well as needs. Students are also welcome to visit for a day or two to hang out, explore, and participate in activities and classes to help them decide if DRC is right for them.
Creating a Customized Learning Plan:
Once a young person determines that Deep Root Center is where they want to pursue their education, they meet with me, the Executive Director, to explore all the possibilities and map out their personal educational plan, based on their unique interests. I facilitate this process, which varies depending upon the age of the student, through discussion and recommendations, and, by asking a multitude of questions. We then create an Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP), the formal document and legal mechanism that allows students to leave traditional school to participate at DRC, which is derived from our conversation.
Completing the Application:
Families fill out the Deep Root Center member application and student members are asked to sign the community agreement, and member contract along with their parents. A staff person then reviews the specific terms agreed upon in the financial contract (and scholarship application) with the family.
A Personal Advisor:
The student members, ages 9-18, are assigned a personal advisor who meets weekly with each youth, using the DRC on-line portfolio tool, to discuss and imagine goals, talk about difficult situations, provide resources, track progress, and facilitate tutorials and community connections. The advisor will also help the student write the Quarterly Progress Reports that are required by NYS. This supportive, mentoring relationship is the very core of the Deep Root Center experience.
The Seedling members, ages 5-8, have an ongoing connection with the Seedling's facilitator, as well as other staff members and volunteers, who are able to anecdotally and quantitatively track individual development through conversations and interactions on a daily basis. This information is included in their NYS mandated Quarterly Progress Reports.
Daily Life at DRC:
Members spend time here working on independent academic and hands – on, creative pursuits, playing music, taking classes or tutorials, and hanging out with their friends, Monday – Thursday, 9:00 AM – 3:30 PM.
The classes and tutorials in Deep Root Center's ten week block schedule represent the interests of our students as well as staff members and volunteers. Youth are expected to choose a handful of classes each ten week block, use DRC in a meaningful way, and attend the Center at least two - three days each week.
The Seedlings Program follows a monthly theme to introduce new ideas and concepts, which are presented in an open, comfortable environment that engages all of the student's senses with imaginative, fun, and engrossing activities. Play and creativity are the backbone of this program.
DRC is a safe environment that provides an active and supportive multi-age social network.
A New Way to Approach Learning, Education, and Life:
Deep Root Center focuses on each individual: their strengths, interests, talents, and goals. We meet kids where they are, and, support them to travel wherever their passions lead, do whatever interests them, and become whomever they want to be. We ask them the big questions like: What problems in the world would you like to work on? How can you use your life and skills to help others? And, quite simply, what makes you happy?
A HUGE thank you to Jordan and his Fraternity Brothers at Delta Omega Epsilon for designing and implementing the first annual, awesomely, scary Haunted House for our fundraiser, yesterday. If you missed the fun, we plan on recreating this event next year!
Check Us Out As we approach the ten week marking period and parent/teacher conferences, keep in mind that Deep Root Center can be a viable educational option for your child, if they are unhappy and/or struggling. Please get in touch to discuss the possibilities.
We have come to realize, the most successful students at DRC are (or, are learning to be) the ones who are unequivocally in charge of their own education.
These kids and teens . . .
. . . chafe at the rules and regulations, in a traditional school setting, which restrict their natural explorations of the world.
. . . are fiercely and doggedly independent.
. . . are endlessly curious and happy to be themselves.
. . . take on projects and tasks that require little adult intervention or supervision, because they understand how to seek out necessary information.
. . . are not afraid to try something new and work hard (struggle) to achieve the desired outcome, with the knowledge that the result may not necessarily be a completed project, because the process is the important part for now.
. . . enthusiastically share their passions and interests with whomever will listen.
. . . are able to entertain themselves for hours on end, but are also delighted to share their experiences with others.
. . . know how to play and enjoy creating alternate universes.
. . . are quiet, exuberant, shy, outgoing, serious, hilarious, bold, imaginative, kind-hearted, strong-willed, or decisive --- leaders, diplomats, explorers, artists, comedians, entrepreneurs, or mediators.
. . . love to learn and inherently seek out every opportunity to gain new knowledge.
. . . thrive in a non-coercive environment where their innate openness, flexibility, common sense, inquisitiveness, problem solving abilities, creativity, and intrinsic motivation are accepted and expected.
. . . are enthusiastically and actively seeking a safe educational place that will work for, and, with their individual requirements. If you found yourself nodding and checking off more than a few of these traits in your head, DRC may be the learning environment your child is seeking. At Deep Root Center, we recognize the unique capabilities of each student member and support them to follow their intuition and to simply be themselves. Contact us today if you believe DRC is the right place for your child.
Learn more Check out all of our self -directed learning services on our website.
Thank you -
Bob at littleGrasse foodworks. The kids had a fantastic time.
SLU Volunteer Services - and the "make a difference day" crew. The fish are happy to have a clean tank and we are delighted to finally create projects on the new workbench. We are looking forward to spending more time with you.
I habitually use the words loving kindness, in conjunction, when I describe what we provide all of our student members at Deep Root Center, not as hyperbole, but as a direct testament to our philosophy and nature.
Why not, simply, say kindness? Kind behavior is what most of us want to receive and what we want our children to learn, it represents politeness, chivalry, caring, respect, and, for some, goodness.
I will contend, however, that our culture (remember the definition: learned behavior) contributes greatly to undermining the very essence of kindness by demanding and directing our children's actions. The following are just a few typical examples: Two kids are playing and one child does not want to share their toy with the other and the adult steps in to insist that the other child have a turn with the toy, instead of allowing the two children to negotiate the details on their own. And, then there is, “go give Aunt Betsy a hug, she hasn't seen you in a long time.” Or, a child is frustrated and strikes out at another and the adult tells the child to go and apologize. The underlying reason for the primary insult is not addressed. The child has only learned that offering that, “I am sorry,” gets them out of exploring the very real and intense emotions that precipitated the action.
A youth's autonomy and free flowing emotion is directly inhibited when adults step in to change the dynamic of any situation by insisting on certain “nice” socially acceptable behaviors or micro-managing their lives. It does not take long before they involuntarily look to someone else for guidance instead of solving their own problems, recognizing the feelings involved, making their own decisions, and taking responsibility for their actions.
In offering loving kindness, on the other hand, we recognize the emotions present in our daily lives. We literally put the “heart” before everything else. At Deep Root Center conversation (see last week's post) and modeling are at the center of every single interaction, whether an informal chat, a scheduled class, or conflict resolution, the dialogue between equals sharing excitement, pain, anger, joy, as well as the mundane, permits everyone in the space to feel real emotion, solve problems, make important choices, and, maybe, even learn compassion and empathy along the way.
October 29th, after Canton's Phantoms in the Park Event – all the young phantoms are invited to Deep Root Center's Haunted House for ages 6+. There will also be a designated fun zone for the younger set with toys and story time as well as a spooky space all their own. Face painting and Halloween crafts will be available for all ages. Please spread the word!
DRC is still looking for folks to assist with hands-on projects. If you are a craft maven or woodworker and would like to spend sometime with some awesome kids, please get in touch.
Reminder: Youth can leave school to take charge of their education and become members of DRC anytime during the year. We are here for those who are ready now.
by Maria Corse Conversation is the conduit in which all knowledge travels from one person to another. Cultural awareness, defined as learned behavior, is transferred through verbal means as well as gestures and body language. Each of us belongs to at least one particular culture, because, we understand and honor the rules and the traditions passed on through familial tales of our heritage. We can all tell at least a few old-time anecdotes relayed to us by Grandma or Grandpa. Here in the North Country they usually begin with, “well, ya know...” or “well, of course, you remember old ...”
Dialogue is the foundation for all these stories; the rhythm and cadence of voices raised in excitement, lowered for dramatic effect, accents and dialects, along with grand sweeping gestures, are adopted to provide authenticity to the plot and characters. Our ancient ancestors utilized dance, fables, and legends to transfer knowledge and important information. Humans are simply fascinated by storytelling. Our love affair with film and theater across the ages attests to that fact.
At DRC we embrace this phenomenon; our most engaging and appreciated classes involve real, honest, heartfelt, and, yes, theatric discussion which can only happen because we understand on a deep level that we are all equal players here. A teacher's point of view is no more important than their students; we can provide factual information about a particular subject, but realize that real comprehension comes when those details can be dissected and spoken about openly, honestly, and related to each of our lives.
Recently, in our Anthropology class, we were talking about primate characteristics and the specific traits that define us a human. I had a “cheat sheet” in front of me from the Human Origins class I had taken at SUNY Potsdam in 2002. We analyzed each attribute thoroughly, and, together, concluded that we did not agree with more than one-half of them. Yes, we actually tore that list apart and created our own based on our personal understanding of what it means to be human.
Two weeks ago two older teens from André's current events class sat in the St. Lawrence County courtroom when the judge handed down his decision in a controversial murder case. This past week they discussed their personal thoughts about the trial along with all of the local and national news coverage. After that class period, André stepped into the office to say goodbye, with a huge smile on his face and a glint of excitement in his eyes, all the while shaking his head in amazement and saying that was an awesome class. I could only conclude that the conversation had been enlightening.
We are so very fortunate to have the luxury of stepping back, as facilitators, and sharing responsibility with our students for the real life learning that is happening here. The classroom, however, is not the exclusive setting for these lessons. I will argue that the most important conversations occur while hanging out eating lunch, engaged in a mentoring session, canoeing down a river, walking through the woods, creating a piece of art, chilling on the beanbags, or sitting together on the couch reading a book aloud. Our role quite often transitions from teacher into a peer and performance artist, drawing the kids out with dramatic flare, generating excitement and interest through unique stories, which then permit us to make those intimate, one on one connections - sharing ideas, views, stories, and experiences, therefore, allowing those personal intersections to become the crossroads to real understanding, which, in reality, is the essence of everything we do.
Our relaxed attitudes and casual acceptance that knowledge is not absolute or linear, means I usually walk away from these chats with at least one concept to think about more deeply – recognizing that I have learned just as much, if not more, than my student.
We have received all of the items that we purchased through the Canton Community Fund Technology Grant. We are absolutely thrilled with the Kubi; stay tuned to learn more about the innovative and exciting ways we plan on using this amazing new distance learning tool.
Phantoms in the Park
All the little phantoms are welcome to walk back down to Deep Root Center from the Canton Village Park, October 29th, after the trick or treat parade to enjoy our age appropriate haunted house. This is a fundraiser for DRC organized and created by two Greek Houses at SUNY Canton. We are grateful for their leadership on this.
Deep Root Center is looking for someone(s) with building, carpentry, and technical skills to help install our workbench and to assist some of our students with their ideas for hands – on creations. One of our students wants to construct lockers for the center. She needs direct instruction for this project to source the materials and build them.
The staff and board have, recently, become aware of some myths and misconceptions about Deep Root Center philosophy and policies through conversations and interactions with current and potential DRC students as well as community members. These first weeks of this new academic year have been dedicated to openly communicating our mission and procedures to dispel any future misunderstandings.
Myth #1 - Deep Root Center is the right educational facility for everyone who wants to or already home-schools.
Fact- DRC supports every family to make the educational choices that are best for them. In reality there are as many different ways to home-school and all are valid, however, not all are compatible with DRC philosophy.
A. Un-schooling is free form and allows students to be extremely self-directed and to follow their particular interests.
B. Traditional homeschool follows a set curriculum (often purchased), where parents determine and make sure particular subjects and themes are being learned.
C. There are multiple combinations of the two.
D. On-line homeschool has set classes and curriculums. All class work is completed and submitted to the instructor through the mail or on-line.
Un-schooling is the type that meshes cohesively with DRC's philosophy. We encourage youth to explore their world, to be independent, and decide on their own what they want to learn. When a family visits DRC and states the intention of directing the content of their child's education, we discourage them from becoming members, because our goals are at cross-purposes. While we honor their beliefs, DRC is not the correct educational facility for their family.
Myth #2 – Deep Root Center and self-directed learning, in general, is easy. (It is for people who are “lazy”.) Kids who un-school will never get into college and they only “play” and have fun all day. Students at Deep Root Center have “flunked” out of traditional school, because they don't care about their education and are throwing their lives away.
Fact – Deep Root Center has high expectations for our students. When they become members they are asked to take direct responsibility for their education, they own it! No one will tell them what or how to learn. Some are not ready for that culpability at first and need to go through an adjustment period we call de-schooling. DRC staff supports all of our students through this important interval by offering time, weekly mentoring sessions, a safe space, as well as kindness and respect.
Many of our kids have chosen DRC because they were bored, sick of following silly (unimportant) directions and rules, and felt like they were wasting their time learning things that were not interesting or meaningful.
These kids are excited about discovering or expanding a passion that will carry them into the next phase of their lives. They come to understand, fairly quickly, that self-directed learning is, in fact, challenging, and, sometimes hard, but worth the effort, because they are able to determine the outcomes.
Myth #3- Deep Root Center is well funded, because we joyfully accept every student, despite their family's ability to pay the full fee, and offer fee reduction to anyone who needs it.
Fact – Deep Root Center does not have a big bucket (bank account) full of money, that we are able to use for operating expenses and living wages, to compensate for the fee reductions we provide.
The considerable scholarships we offer (over $40,000, so far this year), in reality, are simply monies we do not ever receive. Even though we ask our families to make their child's education a priority and contribute as much as they can possibly afford, the economic actualities of the North Country mean that Deep Root Center will continue to rely on extensive fundraising, grants, and donations to pay the bills, because we absolutely refuse to say “no” to any child who is excited about exploring the world and taking charge of their education.
Please consider making a one time or monthly contribution to the Deep Root Center scholarship fund.
DRC acceptspersonal checks, as well as credit and debit cards through PayPal or Square-up.
Haunted House Fund-raiser
Two SUNY Canton Greek Houses are in the process of creating a Haunted House at Deep Root Center. It will be open October 29th during Canton's Annual Phantoms in the Park activities. Stay tuned for more information.