It is amazing what you find when you pack for a move. Last week, I was emptying the huge, four drawer, 1950s era file cabinet that has held my (decidedly not) secret stash of office supplies (tape) and random info for over four years. Among the hanging files, I found the journal that I kept during my trip with several students to an International Democratic Education Conference (IDEC) in Caguas, Puerto Rico in March of 2012, randomly slipped in with a bunch of 3rd and 4th grade reading comprehension exercises.
This loosely tied bundle of 4”x 6” paper with my nearly illegible scrawl instantly reminded me of the pure pain, confusion, conflict, exhaustion, inner turmoil, grief, and unending tears, as well as transformational discoveries and decisions from those 18 months after that trip.
That neglected and forgotten documentation of my innermost feelings and observations is the very reason that DRC exists. For several days, while shivering in the overly air-conditioned conference center (silly me packed summer clothing – to go to a tropical island), I sat and listened to the vanguard of an educational revolution. These were the folks, from all over the world, who worked tirelessly to bring the concept of Democratic Education to the awareness of educators, as well as the general population.
That IDEC was, beyond a doubt, where I discovered that I had always, without realizing it, subscribed to the philosophy, and practiced the methods of fully Self-Directed Education. I comprehended, at the same time, that I was working in a place where the administrator’s methodology, despite superficially, using the language, did not come close to matching the true definition.
Many people are, understandably, confused by the differences between progressive and Self-Directed Education. The language is quite similar; however, the approach and philosophy are in opposition. I recently found an article in Psychology Today, by the preeminent developmental psychologist, Dr. Peter Gray, the author of Free to Learn (who I have had the incredible privilege of meeting twice). The following (lengthy) excerpt from his article defines the differences brilliantly.
… The difference between progressive education and Self-Directed Education lies in the understanding of how such whole-person education occurs. To the progressive educator it emerges from a collaboration between the child and a benevolent, extraordinarily competent teacher, who gently guides the child’s energy and shapes the child’s raw ideas in ways that serve the child’s and society’s long-term good. To the advocate of Self-Directed Education, it emerges out of children’s natural drives to understand themselves and the world around them and to use whatever resources are available in their environment, including knowledgeable and skilled others, to achieve that end.
Those aforementioned 18 months of anguish were essential catharsis before I could even begin to think about creating a fresh, innovative, rich, and inviting environment - not only for the kids in our community who desire a different educational experience, but for myself and other adults who have come to recognize the utter power of Self-Directed Education. DRC is a safe place filled with resources, materials, and kind, caring people who are excited about learning, answering questions, and sharing their knowledge, and where free play is viewed as one of the main methods of acquiring information.
At DRC, we are a community of children, teens, and adults - each taking responsibility for our individual learning and growth - together.
* Read Peter Gray's full article here.
Yay, we did it! 48 Riverside Drive is the official property of Deep Root Center!
Thank you to the Friday crew (Shannon, Taegan, and Piper LaBrake, Cora Hobbs, and Kennedy Daniels) who moved mattresses out of the house and put a large dent into cleaning the kitchen.
Yesterday a small group of us spent the day on some essential cleaning and repairs. An immense thank you to the talented Larry McGory for installing hand-rails for the main staircase, as well as the cellar stairs and fixing a broken step. He also took the idea of using our very long bookcase to create a railing at the top of the stairs and implemented it brilliantly. Thanks to Mike Corse for handling the abundant small details – like making sure the smoke alarms work, getting said large bookcase upstairs (through the hall window), fixing lamps and desks, moving washer and dryer, and trimming branches from trees. An additional thank you to Juliet Bellinger, Diane Exoo, and Trish Pielnik for washing down the walls and floors throughout the house. You are all amazing!
Now that it is clean, the transition will continue over the next week, as we move all of our “stuff” up the street. Stay tuned for the call to action.