DRC is a member of the Liberated Learner Network. Ken Danford co-founded North Star in Amherst, MA, the model for fourteen learning centers in the Liberated Learner Network, in 1996.
Since then, hundreds of students have left school and successfully taken their education into their own hands. They have gone on to attend college, become entrepreneurs, get meaningful employment, join the military, and train as apprentices. Anything a young person is able to do after graduating from high school is, in fact, an option for self-directed students.
School is not the right place for everyone.
Many people who hear about DRC, say, “I wish there was a place like Deep Root Center when I was in school.
DRC is here, now, for real kids who have the courage to expand their vision of what education can be, seek real world learning opportunities, and yearn to be surrounded by people who trust them explicitly to make good decisions.
You can now sponsor one of those students for an entire year, semester, or month.
Deep Root Center students attend the Center at their own volition – they show-up, simply, because they understand that we are assembling a community, together, and that each of their voices is an essential thread woven into the Deep Root Center story.
When you trust young people to make good decisions - they will. In other words, amazing transformations occur, when you remove the obstacles of coercion, authority, and competition.
At DRC, “yes”, is the most frequent answer to any question that begins, “can I …?”.
No two students have the same experience at DRC. Deep Root Center student members continuously create their own unique learning plan, with direct assistance and support from the staff during weekly mentoring sessions, based on their ever-changing individual interests and aspirations.
Most of the classes at DRC are seminars because our students learn best in a give and take - conversation based environment. The students instigate and outline most of these classes, with support from the staff and volunteers.
Experiential (active) learning is at the heart of DRC. We expect our students to ask the big questions, make mistakes, and get messy. In return, they have unrestricted access to resources, supplies, and equipment and are all encouraged to play, use their imaginations, engage in independent exploration, and create to their hearts content.
Kids feel free to express themselves, without the fear of being judged or ridiculed. DRC is a safe and supportive space.
DRC has one rule: Respect yourself, each other, and this space.
Learning is completely natural and school is entirely optional. The corroborating research and evidence is exhaustive. Humans are innately curious; given the opportunity – space, time, and resources – children and teens will joyfully ask questions and seek answers about anything and everything that interests and motivates them.
DRC has never refused a child because their family cannot afford the full tuition fee.
Without DRC, many of our students would otherwise leave school, as soon as possible, with no academic or mentoring support. In the North Country - this is a big deal!
This year 100% of our students receive varying amounts of scholarship aid - totaling more than $50,000.
You can be an important part of Deep Root Center by making sure we are here for the kids who need us now.
You can invest in our student’s futures by contributing a one-time donation to our annual appealor by setting up a monthly donation via the donate button on the DRC website.
You can help to identify and write grants.
You can volunteer to mentor or share your talents with our students.
You can offer to assist the board in their fundraising efforts.
You can tell a child who is unhappy, bored, disenfranchised, and dissatisfied with their school that there is another option.
DRC is here, now, for any child who needs our encouragement, trust, compassion, kindness, academic support, project-based programs, mentoring support, and safe, affirmative space. Or, simply needs to hear, “yes, go for it”, whispered in their ear.
The power of positive and supportive messages cannot (should not) be trivialized, especially in our consumer culture that is fueled by dissatisfaction, competition, and pettiness.
Supportive affirmations are an established piece of every interaction at Deep Root Center, especially during each student’s weekly mentoring session. However, I think that we have all become slightly immune to the praise and encouragement that swirl around us because it has become almost unremarkable. We don’t even have to work hard to create this environment – respectful, nurturing language has become a habit and our sincere affection for each other is tangible evidence that we appreciate the essential human-ness that each of us brings to the space.
Therefore, in an attempt to shine a light on the extraordinary that may feel (and appear) normal, I want to express my deep gratitude to the people who are at the very core of the wondrously thoughtful and caring atmosphere at DRC. I am indebted to my fellow DRC team - Christopher and Trish; we are all richer for their wisdoms, commitment, talents, and love that you share unreservedly. Thank you to all of our students who have the courage to be different and who bring their interests, ideas, youthful spirit, intellect, and compassion every day. Thanks to the DRC Board - an amazing group of individuals who, despite having full and busy lives, spend time and energy to fundraise, mentor, write grants, and generate ideas on DRC's behalf. I am grateful to our families who have embraced this revolutionary educational model and have spread the word. Thank you to our many volunteers who share their interests and talents with our kids.
Additional thanks to all of the people who contribute financially to DRC - every dollar counts. It allows us to say, “yes” to every kid who dares to think outside the box to imagine their unique education and life.
I am so very honored to spend my days with these inspiring people in this place that we have created – together. #gratefulbeyondbelief
DRC FAQ Q - Does DRC follow the public-school schedule? A - Yes, mostly. DRC begins our academic year the same day and we are off for the same breaks and holidays. However, we do not take staff development days nor half days for family- teacher conferences. And, we are finished the Friday before Memorial Day in May. DRC also takes every Wednesday off because we recognize that our kids have lives outside of their schooling experience.
Our culture has corrupted the perception of beauty to the point that it is used almost solely as a way to objectify (mostly) women. I believe that visual appeal is but one small piece of the whole package. It should not be a calculated measurement that society uses as a scale to evaluate a person’s sum worth instead of, or, as a precursor, to their integrity, talent, intelligence, behavior, and attitude.
Let’s be honest – girls are often praised for their prettiness before they are celebrated for their inquisitive intelligence and they are berated for their personal style (clothing and adornment choices) and gutsy attitude before they are honored for their quirky uniqueness. While boys are frequently commended for their handsomeness, as well as their rough and tumble behavior before they are complimented for their artistry and they are condemned for showing emotion before they are congratulated for their compassion.
In addition, young people are inundated with photo-shopped visions of perfection – a physical standard that is not even close to realistic. They are then told that they can attain that paragon, if only they purchase and use product X, Y or Z. Therefore, as tweens and teens, they seek out validation for cosmetic values, not fully understanding that they are initiating a downward spiral where their self-worth becomes entangled with other’s perceptions which (by the way) are totally based on artificial measures.
By focusing on physical attributes (objectifying) we are, quite simply, perpetuating a culture of superficiality, disrespect, and, yes, even, anxiety and abuse by placing emphasis squarely on the things that have absolutely nothing to do with anybody’s capabilities, contributions, or spirit.
What if we told young girls, instead, that we appreciate their ideas, their creativeness, their inventiveness, their moxie, their multi-layered questions, their problem-solving skills, their stubbornness, their astuteness, and their desire to step outside the confines of their prescribed box, as well as their nurturing kindness?
What if we told young boys that we appreciate their intuition, their imagination, their empathy, their style, their wisdom, their talents, their aspirations, their determination, and their willingness to step outside the boundaries of their socially acceptable box, as well as their ability to be tough?
Even better, what if we degenderized the entire conversation and told all young people we value them for their individuality, idealism, convictions, confidence, genius, rare gifts, and inclination to break down the barriers of cultural norms, as well as their innate silliness and spirited generosity?
Imagine that in doing so, we could elevate beauty to a place where it would define all of those attributes that make us beautifully human.
DRC FAQ Q. - How is Deep Root Center funded? A. – Deep Root Center is not funded by the State or Federal government. We do not receive subsidies and choose not participate in any school voucher programs. DRC has an annual tuition fee of $5130.00; however, offers substantial scholarship aid to 95% of our student members, totaling nearly 50,000.00 each year. The staff and board are very proud to say, we have never refused a student because of their family’s inability to pay the full fee. With the community’s generous contributions, we are able to continue this tradition of supporting those young people who dare to choose a different educational path - one which truly reflects their interests and aspirations. The Board also regularly seeks out competitive grant opportunities; we have been fortunate to receive a couple each year. We are looking to increase that number to make all of our programs sustainable. Much of the work at Deep Root Center is provided by volunteers. We would not be able to do all we do without their generous gifts of time and talent. You can help by donating here. You can read our Annual Appealhere.
Rules are made to be broken and despite understanding that old adage on an intimately personal level, I fell into the trap, yet again, and, in a moment of pure frustration declared an edict. Which, I have to say, failed spectacularly, once again proving, beyond a doubt, that if someone wants to do something badly enough – they will find a way to do it, whether that desire is contraband, or not.
When humans are told “no”, “you can’t”, or “absolutely not”, we all get intensely creative. Because in all our “big brained” glory, most of us are perverse, persistent, and imaginative as hell, by nature (and design), and we will find a way around any mandate.
I (you) cannot change someone’s behavior, simply by dictating what they cannot do. Apparently, I needed this lesson to hit me upside the head one more time – to really drive it home.
External control doesn’t work – however, engagement, conversation, intrinsic motivation, collaboration, kindness, and mentoring do. When a young person is completely involved in all aspects of their education and life, including making important decisions, as well as being held responsible for adverse behaviors – they have nothing to rebel against. Their creative energies will be used, instead, to pursue their interests, imagine new ideas, share important insights, and build on previous work.
Consider all the vigor, vitality, and innovations those “rule breakers” and “trouble makers” could inject into our community, if only, they were not spending so much time inventing ways to circumvent systemic barriers.
DRC FAQ Q - How does DRC work? A – Deep Root Center student members leave public school to build their educational plan based on their interests and goals with guidance and support from DRC staff members. Homeschooling is the the legal mechanism to accomplish this. The student’s family completes the application and financial agreement. It is important to note that Deep Root Center has an economically diverse population; we have never refused a student based on their family’s financial situation. Deep Root Scholarship aid is available to anyone who needs it. The second step is to meet with the Executive Director to write the NYS required Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP). This becomes the students personal learning plan. Once that is completed, our members attend the Deep Root Center facility every M, T, Th, & F.
The Seedlings Program (5-9 year olds) offers children the gift of time to: learn, grow, experiment, work, play, and explore independent thoughts and interests, all the while questioning the world around them.
The older students (ages 10-19) participate in group or one-on-one classes, work on independent and hands-on projects, spend time outside, play music, create art, and socialize. In addition, our teens also have the opportunity to audit classes at SUNY Canton and SUNY Potsdam. Each older student has a mentor who meets with them once a week to talk about their progress as their interests and ideas evolve. Their mentor serves as a sounding board as well as a personal guide who makes proposals toward the student’s goals and objectives. The mentor can help to find internship and/or volunteer opportunities in the community. They also assist with college visits and the application process.