Among all of the educational institutions in the world, that embrace, celebrate and acknowledge the concept and power of self-directed learning, Deep Root Center is, at this moment, the only learning environment actually practicing it in the St. Lawrence Valley. However, you will notice that the word school is not used to define Deep Root Center for Self-Directed Learning.
First off we need to understand what the word school means to us. As a society, we have all been trained to think of a school as a place all young people must attend when they turn five and continue attending until they turn eighteen. School is compulsory and it contains books, work-sheets, desks, chairs and instructors called teachers. There is a curriculum established by the government and every school must comply by those standards instituted by their state. Children are segregated by age and spend their time in a classroom expected to complete and become proficient with the same material. Outside and play time are severally limited if not completely eliminated. Children must follow explicit rules and take standardized state tests for several days in the Fall and again in the Spring. Schools were originally designed to produce obedient workers for the factories during the Industrial Revolution and for the most part have not deviated from that original mission.
There is a hierarchy among the people who work in the school (administrators, teachers, teacher's aids, administrative assistants, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, and cleaners) as well as the students who attend the school. This hierarchy comes with labels including: wealthy kids, athletic kids, smart kids, wiggly (ADHD) kids, crazy kids, depressed kids, dumb kids, poor kids, unmotivated, lazy kids... Unfortunately, most children have acquired these labels before they even begin Kindergarten.
This all sounds unbearably depressing, stifling, and dull; not to mention completely outdated and in many cases harmful. But yet, many of us continue to adhere to this definition. I have heard many people say, “If I had to go through it, then my kids should too.” “School is a necessary condition of childhood.”
The men and women who started the student centered and self-directed learning movement in the 1960's, 1970's and some even earlier with the introduction and development of Free-Schools and Democratic Schools, including Summer Hill, in England, the Albany Free School, Clonlara, Upattinas, etc... understood that children are not little vessels that we pour knowledge into and force into one size fits all educations. Kids are learning, growing, competent, passionate individuals with ideas and interests that can be developed through questions, nurturing, and loving support from the adults around them.
These ideas continue to develop as more research is done to determine that kids actually learn more when they are living their passions and interests, and when they are intimately engaged in their education. YouTube and TedX videos as well as blogs featuring educators, unschooled kids, spoken word artists, anthropologists, scientists, sociologists and psychologists all describing independent learning as the way of the future, are circulating through social media. Learning Centers replicating North Star in Hadley, MA (including Deep Root Center) and other similar centers are springing up around the country. Parents are choosing to homeschool their children. Families are opting out of testing. Teachers are refusing to administer the tests. We are truly on the cusp of an Educational Revolution.
Deep Root Center is the future of education, because the Center is not a school. It is a place where kids are encouraged to embrace life, be open to new and exciting possibilities, and to take advantage of the abundance of knowledge available to them. Join the Revolution and become the future.