Years ago, when Kenzie, my second kiddo, was in Kindergarten, we proudly hung the holiday-specific artwork they brought home in the windows on the front porch. However, when we looked across the road, we saw the very same picture hanging in the neighbor's front window - it just so happened that their child was in Kindergarten too. And not, coincidentally, they were the same pieces that Ian, my first kiddo, brought home three years earlier. Since then, it has served as the perfect example of what I refer to as canned creativity.
You may notice that the oxymoronic level is off the charts for that particular phrase. Authentic artistry, ingenuity, imagination, and originality don't come prepackaged and contrived with lesson plans attached. No one should ever provide you with pre-cut and pre-drawn components or step-by-step instructions. Or get to tell you what color your pumpkin should be - and they are never (ever) allowed to scold you for coloring outside the lines.
Creativity is born inside your vision, and it is yours - no one else's.
Instead of squashing all that potential with tired canned projects - we can support it by providing the requested resources, materials and encouragement, and then standing back (and as I have said here more than once - get to hell out of the way) to watch the creativity flow. The results may not be what we had in mind or even particularly beautiful - however, they certainly won't be tired, boring, soulless, or mind-numbingly predictable either.
I firmly believe that those who dare to dream, invent, and, yes, even make mistakes - are the people who will think outside the box and consider all the angles to come up with fresh, inspired ideas to solve the problems we have been working on for a very long time.
Head on over to the DRC website to register your child for Exploration Station Summer Programs.
*This week's blog post was inspired by the below testimonial. It is my great honor and privilege to provide the space and environment where these kinds of transformations can occur. Thank you to Danielle for sharing.
Have you noticed that it seems like our entire culture is hell-bent on toughening us up? The "that which doesn't kill you will only make you stronger" mentality has infected every aspect of our lives. Additionally, we are obsessed with pointing out flaws and negative characteristics. We spend our lives judging (belittling) others - behavior, activities, appearance, skill levels, emotions, and beliefs.
If we are totally honest with ourselves, we understand that none of the above judgments help anyone become a better version of themselves. However, our excuses sound like - "I survived all the crap, and I am fine." "I am trying to toughen them up for the real world." "No one is going to coddle them out there; they need build up some callouses to survive." Or the ever-popular, "How are they going to improve if I don't point out what they are doing wrong?" Come on! No one needs to hear what they suck at - they are already very aware of that very long list.
As a result, we have produced yet another generation of universally unhappy, damaged peeps who only know what is wrong with them. And this is exactly why I meet kids who are anxious, depressed, unsure of what they are good at (or are interested in), disenfranchised, and plainly apathetic.
What if, instead, we spent time observing the positives - and using those attributes to build up, affirm, and support? Within all that, we can allow our kiddos to process and then detox from the trauma induced by a system designed to yield carbon copy, unimaginative, competitive robots.
I witness the transformations every day - when kids hear kindness - they open up. When they receive grace and compassion - they can give it to themselves. When they grasp that they - their ideas, interests, thoughts, plans, and aspirations - are consequential - they can focus on those. And when each of us is able to do all of that, the whole world of possibilities unfolds before our very eyes, and we discover our purpose.
We are working on reorganizing the entire Canton Center for better functionality. The music room is now downstairs, the art room has moved to the largest room in the house, and the seedlings space is in the cozy room upstairs at the back. If your child is interested in checking us out, please schedule a time to visit. Our facility provides an air of hominess and comfort that goes a long way in generating an environment that supports a connected community.
Thanks again to Coakley's Hardware for donating these items for our much needed exterior painting project.
How cool is it that DRC has its very own Little Library? A shout of thanks to Maria Morrison for delivering it! Stay-tuned as it gets a paint job and we decide where to place it.
But the bigger question within that is - who, exactly, decides that for you? Most adults will answer the latter query by responding, "why, I do, of course." Why then does our culture believe it is OK to tell young people what, how, when, and where they need to learn (or do) to be a "successful," "productive," and "accepted" member of society?
Children from a very young age know what they need. And with very little guidance, they will seek it out. Some little ones are attracted to nature - they pursue any animal they can find, including the creepy crawlies. They will lay in the grass with their little faces upturned to the wide-open sky - keenly watching the wind-blown cloud patterns, migrational habits of the birds and butterflies, bugs buzzing by, the rain or snowdrops falling on their tongues, or even the shadows made by the sun shining through the leaves. Or they will stomp in every puddle, wade into the ponds, lakes, or streams to feel the ooze between their toes - no matter how cold, squishy, and uninviting it may seem to the rest of us. These kids are so attuned to the seasons and all the living creatures - plants, animals, and fungi - that they can tell you anything you would like to know.
Other kids will immerse themselves in music, art, dinosaurs, history, geology, languages, wordplay, cooking, gaming, number play, sports, or __. All are valid pursuits. Every single one of them!
No one should ever have the authority to tell any child what they are passionately absorbed with, at the moment, is unimportant or useless. But yet, that is what we do every day - even if it is an implicit message.
You know the standard comments, "you can't make a living as an artist, writer, musician, or ... " Tell that to all of the people who are thriving in this world doing all those things.
Or how about the ubiquitous, "how will you learn to read, write, and ... if you don't study them in separate and distinct classes." As I mentioned two weeks ago, life is not separated into subjects - so why should we disconnect our learning experiences from each other?
And lastly, the ever-popular "you are behind." I have to ask, behind what - the predetermined, incongruous timetable set by the disassociated officialdom? Sounds ridiculous when stated like that, right?
Within all that (the traditional education system), we are shutting down every child's innate curiosity and intense desire to explore, discover, and create - essentially destroying their natural love of learning.
I want to live in a world where every single person is happily engaged in pursuing the things they love the most. Imagine working together to fill all the niches within each community. And, no one would be forced to do the thing they hated, simply to make a living. Utopia(?) - maybe. But, I am willing to do the work to get us closer - especially, if it means I can help one more child break free from the system and realize their dreams.
DRC Seedlings program is designed specifically for younger children to explore the world on their own terms. You can learn more - here.
We have openings in all of our programs for the coming year. Get in touch to learn more.
Thank you to Coakley's Hardware for donating supplies to prep the exterior of our Canton facility to be painted. (If you have seen it, you understand how badly it needs this facelift!)
Another academic year has come and gone - this one a hundred times stranger than any other that I have experienced. Yet, with all the disruption, inconvenience, and frustrations of a world-wide pandemic, we somehow made it work. The entire DRC crew endured an enormous test. Our collective trust in each other, as well as our flexibility, creativity, and kindness - generated even stronger bonds of connection. I am happy to say not only did our community survive, but we also thrived.
Friday, a very chilly day in the neighborhood, we celebrated three young people who finished their high school careers, as well as all of our other accomplishments this year, with a cookout and graduation ceremony.
Thank you to all of our kiddos, their families, our volunteers, and our staff for making it all possible during this stressful year. I am eternally grateful to you all.
* Photo credits to Amber B., Chase V., & Loretta B.- Thank you!
For those of you who enjoy numbers, we ended the year with forty-one members between our three programs (nearly double our membership this time last year). We had one graduate from each program. We had a total of five staff people at the two physical facilities. And, during the Fall and Spring semesters, we had a total of twenty St. Lawrence CBL (community-based learning) volunteers facilitating an average of thirty virtual sessions each week through Google Meet this fall and our Discord Server this spring. Out of our nine month academic year, we were in person a total of three and a half months, and remote for five and one half months.
Now, onward! I am excited to discover what year number eight has in store for DRC! As more folks discover the benefits of self-directed education - these numbers will only go up. Stay-tuned!
You probably have not considered that much of our cultural experience is fear-based. We live in a society hell-bent on "making sure" - it is so pervasive that many of us stifle any natural inclination that would lead us to appear weird, abnormal, or strange. As a society, we are deathly afraid of failure and judgment. Some may even buy into well-crafted conspiracy theories and pseudo-science (hook, line, and sinker) to explain away the science-based facts that don't fit their preconceived notions.
Additionally, we send our kids to school to "make sure" they learn all they need to learn, are "successful," and can get a "good" job (in society's estimation). We interfere in our children's play and creative endeavors because it may be "dangerous," and they may get hurt (or, our neighbors will report us for neglect). Or maybe, it doesn't fit into our definition of "proper" play or our expectations for them.
Most of us are, sadly, not even aware we are living in fear.
The opposite of all that anxiety and external stress is trust. Trust - in your own instincts that guide you to explore all the possibilities, despite all of your worries and outside judgments, and in each child's innate ability to learn and grow.
At the end of the day, it is the stress and fear that will most likely harm you and the ones you love, not the things you worry about.
I fully believe that trust in ourselves and the scientific method will steer us all to the work we need to do, individually and as a culture, to develop the solutions required to build a safe and equitable society for everyone.
What would happen if you trusted your instincts, jumped in, and did not let fear control your life?
At DRC, we understand that life is not separated into subjects - so why should we disconnect our learning experiences from each other? C and T are painting an art installation that will go in the DRC front yard, but among many other things, they are also spelling pet rabbits names, counting dots, mixing paint colors, and they are cooperating and sharing a creative experience together. And none of this was adult led - except for providing the resources.
This coming Friday is our last day until September. We will have a cookout and "party" to celebrate our three members finishing their high school career and the end of this super strange year.
We are sending out a shout of thanks to JVB, who donated a full-size drum set to the Canton Center.
Summer programs begin on August 16th for three weeks. Register here.
Anyone interested in joining Deep Root Center in September can contact me here.
And finally, a community member has asked me to share this American RelayBall kid opportunity here. You can contact him through the linked Facebook page.
How many times, in your lifetime, have the words "stop playing and focus" or "get your head out of the clouds and stop daydreaming" been directed at you? Once again, those phrases of rebuke that most of us have heard throughout our lives are misguided and outright flawed in our world of authority-driven, cut-throat competition.
Researchers are discovering that our brains need downtime. They demand all those unfocused quiet moments to reach their maximum creative capacity. Think about the times in your life that your most exciting ideas have seemingly flown into your head. I would bet it is when you are engaged in the mundane - doing the dishes, mowing the lawn, when you are in a yoga pose repeating your mantra, trying to meditate, or as a child when you were doodling or building with Legos. These are what I call the in-between spaces where inspiration has explicit permission to bubble up from the depths into your conscious mind to be acted upon. We know that you cannot force creativity - no amount of punishment, reward, or other coercive methods can produce innovative thought.
And as I wrote last week, innovation also requires allowing ourselves to play and "screw up" - once the imaginative process is engaged.
The great Sir Ken Robinson, who sadly passed away nine months ago, spent much of his career writing and speaking about the creativity gap. In his 2007 TED talk, Do Schools Kill Creativity, the most-watched TED ever, one of the ideas he brings forward is, "If you are not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original. By the time they get to be adults, most children have lost that capacity. They have become afraid of being wrong. We are educating people out of their creative capacity."
So what is the ideal educational environment? I will argue that it is simply one that supports creativity instead of squashing it. As Peter Gray points out in his work, children learn through free play and independent investigation. Full stop.
However, most of us don't want to hear that adult intervention and curricula are irrelevant and meaningless. But, it is, in fact, true. "But," you ask, "if I am not directing the process, where is my place in all of this?"
While children require the space and time to dream, imagine, and play - they also need access to supportive adults who will foster those in-between spaces for deep thought and free play. These are mentors who will always be available with a listening ear and loving encouragement (be clear that they will always advocate for them). And then, when they are ready, the adults will supply the materials and resources, stand back, get to hell out of the way - watching and cheering from the sidelines as the magic unfolds.
If your child is miserably unhappy - there is a reason, and it is not their fault. DRC can help them find their happy place again. Get in touch today. We are currently enrolling for the 21/22 academic year.
DRC Summer Programs - Registration is live.
Did you make a mistake today? Or maybe I should rephrase that question and ask, how many mistakes did you make today? On any given day, I can safely say my slip-ups, goofs, and outright disasters are often too numerous to count. I can say this without (much) embarrassment - because I understand that every one of them has a direct line to a significant learning experience, and none of them come with ill intent attached.
I am, by nature, an exceedingly curious person - I always want to grasp the "hows," "whys," and "whats" of everything I encounter. And if that means experimenting and exploring the "ins" and "outs" to discover the answers - I will. This entire process is what I often refer to as playing, and it includes all of the mistakes, bumbles, and missteps that are bound to happen along the way.
This personal ideology is inextricably linked to the philosophy behind self-directed learning and my work at Deep Root Center - and is frequently counter to every formal educational experience the members of DRC have ever known.
I expect, no, nix that, I actively encourage every single person at DRC to experiment, explore, make mistakes, get messy, and have fun every time they think to themselves, "I wonder why, how, or what if ..."
However, they often come to us with the ingrained message that making a mistake means you failed and, subliminally, they are not good enough. This also means DRC kiddos will not jump into anything unfamiliar, won't investigate new ideas, and don't know how to play when they first arrive because they are deathly afraid of "screwing up," getting reprimanded, punished, and disappointing everyone around them.
I believe their innate curiosity, the very essence of their childhood, has been stolen from them. Without natural inquiry, there is no driving interest - and no thirst for knowledge or understanding.
I have said in the past that I always know when a kid (teen) is coming out of the deschooling process when they come to me and ask, "can I...?" Yet, I have never linked these two things in my mind before - their lack of curiosity obviously connects directly to the apathy, indifference, passivity, and exhaustion we usually associate with the deschooling process.
Several folks researching and writing about self-directed education have asked me, "how do you measure success in this environment?" My response is (and will always be) one word, "engagement!" Any curious kid, deeply immersed in exploration and experimentation, is by very definition happy and flourishing simply because they are learning something new.
The above photo is a perfect example of curiosity and playing in action. I gave each kid in the cooking class two eggs to make anything they wanted. K decided to cook a ham & cheese omelet. A was undecided - first, he looked in a cookbook and then asked, "can I make up something sweet?" This question led to a discussion about a basic cookie recipe followed by a thorough search of the kitchen to find other ingredients to add. He found marshmallows in the freezer and decided to invent cinnamon cookies with marshmallow bits. I have to admit, despite being very sticky, they were delicious!
The DRC Exploration Station Suite of Services is coming back later this summer and fall. Summer Programming begins on August 16th and will continue for three weeks. Afternoon Programming starts on September 7th. Space is limited. Register today.
Membership for the 21/22 academic year is open. Learn more about all of our programs on our website. And remember, your financial situation does not impact your child's ability to be at DRC.
Love is Love has become one of the staple mantras used to support people who identify as LGBTQIA+. It indicates that people are people, and romantic love is the same - no matter your sexual preferences and gender identity.
Today, I am approaching this from the opposite direction to argue that, additionally, familial love is love and should not be dependent upon preconceived notions or cultural judgments.
Love is unconditional. You don't stop loving someone simply because they decided to get a tattoo or piercing or that they let you know that they identify differently than the label you or society has placed upon them. And specifically, not because they have grown and changed through the mistakes they learned from along the way. In the same way, you don't stop loving someone because they became a vegetarian, colored their hair bright blue, or decided to move to New Zealand to pursue a career in film making or maybe even raise sheep.
Learning to accept and honor our true selves and living authentically without our socially accepted mask in place is hard enough. Don't make it more difficult by presenting your love as conditional to your (and society's) biases and prejudices.
Love is Love - a clear statement to sum up the boundless encouragement, advocacy, respect, trust, and generosity every person on this earth needs (and deserves) to not only survive but to thrive, discover, and live their purpose.
If you have considered Deep Root Center, but have held back because of finances, we would like you to know that Deep Root Center has implemented a new "Pay What You Can" policy. We have done this because, like we have explicit trust in all of our members, we also trust our families to talk openly with our staff about their budget, and what they can reasonably afford. Get in touch today - we look forward to hearing your story.
Bottom line: We are here to support every child to be their awesomely authentic selves and your financial situation should have nothing to do with that.
For as long as I have been alive (or so it seems), I have never quite fit in - to people's expectations or, to be honest, the cultural norms of our society. Whenever there is a form or questionnaire to fill out, most of my responses are either the "other" box or "N/A." This issue has continued by natural extension to Deep Root Center, the organization I founded and lead, as the Executive Director. And is the main reason I despise "officialdom."
Besides, "Not-for-Profit," DRC doesn't often fit neatly into any of the categories provided. And these forms issued by .gov organizations or financial institutions don't usually have "other" or "N/A" as options. Which means, by design, they don't offer a space where I can explain what, why, & how. And within that, the person on the other side processing the form has no latitude to make decisions on their own - based on what I would consider being common sense.
This rigidity frequently means we (DRC) miss out on opportunities that other businesses have automatic inclusion simply because they can check off all the boxes.
However, I believe that ultimately all the "officialdoms" and society, in general, will lose out because of their inherent inability to be flexible.
Diversity is the key to survival - diversity in not only appearance but thought, as well. Anyone with a basic understanding of biology recognizes this truth. If everyone fits effortlessly into the boxes provided and no one challenges the norms - our culture is doomed.
Cultivating an appreciation for scientific methodology, including an open mind and willingness to experiment, make mistakes, get messy, be wrong, and ultimately prove a replicable hypothesis, is essential to our ultimate endurance on this planet. Flexibility and the ability to "think outside the box," for the good of all, are undervalued and crucial talents.
At this point in my life, I am proud to say, "I refuse to fit inside your box." "I will be flexible, I will be creative, I will seek out new ideas, and I will lead by example." My default mode will always be - "how can I help you and, by extension, our community?"
*Note from Maria - a clarification from last week's Blog -
Last week, I was trying to make a point about our collective inability to seek out help - because, as a society, we judge it as a weakness and we see people as "abled" and disabled instead of viewing all of us as "differently-abled." I used the word "cheat" as the title to mean a "hack" or a way to think about or do something that works for us that may be different from the majority. Thank you to E., a frequent reader, for taking the time to point out that it also means being dishonest.
I want to be very clear that deceit and fraudulence are never OK. I apologize for any confusion and promise to work harder to avoid that type of unintentional error in the future.
Deep Root Center's Exploration Station is open for three weeks of summer programming this August - beginning 8/16 - 9/03. These services extend DRC's unique brand to children in the community who attend public or private schools. We have designed our Exploration Station Programs to offer opportunities for hands-on exploration, creativity, and fun that children crave. Information and registration are available through the Exploration Station button on the website. Register early - space is limited due to COVID safety precautions.
DRC is also once again offering Afternoon Programming at the beginning of the academic year. You can visit the website to learn more or contact us here. Please share this opportunity within your network.
DRC has various programs and services for families who are struggling within the public school system. Bottom line: we are here to help in any way that works for your family. Get in touch today to tell us your story and let us know how we can help.
This past week, a colleague (close friend) and I were having a conversation, in person, something we had not done since Mid-November. She told me about a program that she had discovered, through a friend, that would have been perfect for her. However, she did not pursue it because the application process was all digitized. For many of us, that would not be the deciding factor to apply or not, but for her, it was. She is completely overwhelmed by any form of technology.
I encounter this type of story more than you can imagine. Avoidance of the things we find hard comes into play for everyone. As a society, we tend to separate into two categories: "abled" and disabled. I believe that, even if we are considered "normal," we all have some form of "disability" simply because each of our brains works in unique ways. This means we are all avoiding and missing out on opportunities that would otherwise be perfectly suited to us.
When my friend told me this story, I immediately said, "dang, if you had told me, I would have helped you fill out the application." It breaks my heart that in so many cases, instead of seeking assistance, because we feel stupid or don't want to appear "helpless," "lazy," or like a "cheater," we give up on our dreams.
I blame our reluctance to ask for help on our culture. 1) The very foundation of our educational system rests upon coercion and control, not trust. 2) We are a nation that touts independence, competitiveness, resilience, grit, and determination as positive character traits, despite the first point (more than a bit hypocritical in my thinking). 3) We view disability as something to "reform" to fit into the "normal" world. 4) When people use "hacks" or accomplish something in a way that is different from the "norm," we accuse them of cheating and laziness - which are bad(!) and to be avoided at all costs!
What if, instead, we: 1) trust that everyone will accomplish what they need to do 2) expected people to ask for help when they require it 3) saw all humanity as simply differently-abled and adjusted our reality to accommodate everyone 4) normalized "hacks" and abolished the concept of cheating from our cultural understanding?
I believe our world would be a different place, one filled with engaged, community-minded folks happily discovering and following their purpose. Some would accuse me of aiding and abetting lazy, no-good cheaters or maybe even seeking utopia. I still say, "So what, wouldn't it be worth it to try?"
This past week, it was amazing to see everyone in person for the first time in 5 months! We are grateful for the technology that allowed us to meet virtually - however, nothing beats talking to your friends, goofing around, and generally sharing our lives while we are all in the same physical space.
DRC is accepting members for the 21/22 academic year. We look forward to hearing from you. You can visit the DRC website to learn more about all of our programs.
Those of you who know me reasonably well are likely confused that I would consider writing a piece about statistics and standard deviation. Let me put your mind at ease; I won't try to explain the math. I am, however, going to use the concept to demonstrate a social phenomenon, a task that is much better suited for this self-described anthropology geek.
Below is an image of a Normal Distribution Bell Curve - also used to show Innovation Adoption within a population. A concept that I find utterly fascinating, despite being steeped in abstract thinking - not my strong suit.
I first learned about this theory in the spring of 2013 at a self-directed education (SDE) conference on Long Island (not coincidentally where I also met Ken Danford, co-founder of North Star) when I attended a workshop led by developmental psychologist Dr. Peter Gray, who wrote Free to Learn, my personal bible for SDE. (I have a signed copy!) He and a few colleagues spoke about the process of starting a 501(c)3 organization that would be a combination "think tank," advocacy group, and a depository for all things SDE. That organization exists today as the Alliance for Self-Directed Education (ASDE).
During this workshop, Dr. Gray and his collaborators used this curve to explain something called the tipping point. They used the example of gay culture to explain the phenomenon. In the '60s and '70s, when I was growing up, it was not safe to "come out." Therefore, few of us knew anyone who was out as gay, while we were in school, and the word was used as a slur. Now, and within the past twenty years, LBGTQ+ culture is part of our everyday lives.
In any given population, there will always be about 2.5 percent who are the innovators - the creators, the designers, the revolutionaries, the movers, and shakers; the next, 13.5 percent will enthusiastically adopt those ideas as soon as they hear about them. Once it feels pretty safe, the first 34 percent of peeps in the center will come aboard, and when it is a sure thing, the folks in the other half of the bell will hop on. And, then, when there is no other choice, the last 16 percent will reluctantly join the party.
As per a 2011 study at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the tipping point on this curve is only 10 percent of the population - a number that seems infinitesimal. Most researchers, however, place the tipping point between 10-25 percent depending upon the innovation. This means, on the Curve of Innovation Adoption, that you need between 7 percent of the early adopters and 9 percent of the early majority to accept an idea before it spreads to the entire population. The chasm between the early adopters and the early majority is so critical to the success of any innovation or movement that a whole industry of motivational speakers dedicated to teaching influencers how to bridge that gap has cropped up.
Now you are probably wondering why I find this all so compelling. Beyond the anthropological research indications, the very essence of this speaks to me on an intriguingly human and personal level. If you had known me back in the day (surprisingly not that long ago), you would categorize me as one of the last of the laggards on this curve. The only way I would consider a new idea was if someone pulled me kicking and screaming to it. I was closed, defensive, and shut down.
I now place myself firmly on the cusp of innovator and early adopter (except for super scary shit, like sky diving, bungee jumping, or other things that, because of my klutziness, have the likely potential of killing me - for those, I am most definitely still a lagger).
I understand the concept of Innovation Adoption - in a clinically academic sense. However, as a relatively new innovator/early adopter, I am easily frustrated by hesitation and refusal of any progressive idea - from the proven advantages of SDE, empathetic responses to societal problems, to life-changing scientific developments, when, in my mind (and experience), the benefits are clearly visible.
As with most things, I can not pinpoint when, exactly, the transformation from laggard to creator/influencer/revolutionary occurred. I do know that for anyone watching with a vested interest, it was a discouragingly slow process in the beginning and then mind-blowing - lightning speed.
The point being, it is possible to change - if you allow your mind to open just a bit. Once there is the slightest crack, the light will infiltrate to illuminate those things that felt scary, unsafe, and impossible in the darkness. I am living proof.
I am so excited to see all of my Peeps this coming week. DRC - Canton will be in person every M & F, and DRC - East every W & Th.
Membership is always open at DRC. Check us out.
This video by Liam Crossem Films explains the DRC culture.
Community is one of those words we often use without considering its true meaning. At its most fundamental level, it is a group of people who support each other to be healthy and happy. And to allow each individual within the collective to be their best, authentic selves. Some may misinterpret this definition to represent socialistic ideology. However, I would argue that it reflects the basic human moral code of compassion, empathy, and kindness - our very humanity.
Paleo-archaeologists are learning that our hominid ancestors understood this concept. They discovered evidence that groups took care of at-risk individuals who had mended broken bones, had no teeth, were "elders," etc.
I firmly believe that the notion of community is written deeply into our DNA. However, "modern" societal values of cut-throat competition and rugged individualism are trying their damnedest to erase it from our ancestral memory.
Clearly, none of us would survive this world without support from others. And sometimes, we make adjustments or compromises to ensure that everyone can be safe and at peace.
Currently, many folks, both on a local and broader level, recognize the truth of that statement. People are adapting their viewpoints, taking responsibility, trusting science, and getting vaccinated. In doing so, they are working together to curb a disease that has run rampant and altered our world. Their personal decision allows us all to move forward safely as a "whole" towards positive growth and transformation.
DRC Peeps are on a well-deserved Spring Break this coming week. Then the week of April 12th, we are so excited to resume in-person at both Centers two days a week. Our virtual schedule will continue for the "off" days and our Distance Learners.
Belated Happy Passover and Happy Easter to all who celebrate!
I would surmise that you didn't just learn one thing - and probably gained knowledge that you didn't even realize you had. This is because there are a few absolute truths about learning that we have negated on a societal level:
1) Learning is natural - every one of us is born with innate curiosity and the desire to explore and discover things about ourselves and the wider world. In the first year of your life, you mastered more than you will during the remainder of your entire life. No one explicitly taught (or forced) you to suckle, track objects, grasp, smile, giggle, make word-like sounds, rollover, scooch and crawl, walk, or talk. The adults in your life were there to support you and provide the resources you needed to survive and thrive. There is no reason your inherent impetus to learn will disappear in your lifetime.
2) Personal interest is the driver behind every bit of knowledge you acquire. Authentic understanding is held deeply within you - not something you memorized long enough to regurgitate the info onto an examination paper and proceed to forget.
This concept came up last evening when I mentioned the ship currently stuck in the Suez Canal. I have a general idea of where it is in the world but couldn't pinpoint it to say what bodies of water it connects. Whereas Mike, my husband, could tell you the coordinates. (Well, maybe not precisely, but you get the idea.)
Mike has always had a keen interest in maps and geography. He, quite literally, asked for an atlas for his 9th birthday. I, on the other hand, worked hard to memorize world maps in ninth-grade social studies. I still remember the pain of writing the names of each country and body of water in the Middle East on the stack of printed maps that I carried around in my notebook. Yes, I retained each one long enough to get the high 90s on each of the map tests, but today struggle to pull up a mental picture of each section of the world. But yet, I took osteology as an elective for my Anthropology degree - and, for the most part, still know the names of all the bones and where they are in the human body.
3) Playing is the best way to learn - anything! On the most basic level, humans seek out pleasure. Neuroscientists will tell you the names of all the chemicals released in our brains when engaged, connected, happy, content, and captivated by something. They can also name the adverse cocktail delivered to our nervous systems that shuts the learning process down when coerced or fearful.
I intentionally use the word "play" when I describe anything I do - partly to normalize the concept of enjoying the learning process. But, I also use it to describe how I feel while I am figuring out something new. Having fun does not take away the difficulty, rigor, or grit. It permits us to make mistakes, get messy, flounder, pause, reassess, and decide whether or not to resume. It allows for exploration and self-discovery.
We are culturally confused to believe that learning is represented by the final product when in actuality, it is all about the process. There may not be something tangible to hold up at the end - it could be the feeling of satisfaction or, even, the realization that it isn't something you want to pursue.
I'll ask again - what did you learn today? Now think of the things you did naturally without thinking about them, explored because you were interested, and the knowledge you acquired as muscle memory because you played, practiced, and had fun.
Deep Root Center has openings at both of our Centers for next year. Please get in touch or visit our website to learn more.
I am still accepting illustrations for my second book - Noah's Experiment. If you would like to submit drawings, paintings, etchings, etc., please send them to me here.
Yesterday I was the unwilling witness, through the closed office window at the Center, to an incident of ethnically inspired bullying. At first, I didn't understand what was going on when I heard the muffled voices. A black college student was walking past toward the village - which is not an unusual sight. I could only see him, so I was confused to hear voices. Then I saw him turn around, facing the house next door, gesture to himself, say something, shrug, shake his head, and proceed to walk backward a bit, still shaking his head, before turning around to continue his trek down the street.
It was only after he was past our property that I realized what I had heard. At the moment that it hit me, I was absolutely rip-roaring, madly furious. Fortunately, I stopped for a moment to consider the fallout before instinctively running out to confront the person on the neighboring porch.
DRC is a haven for children. The building is empty for days on end (especially now, during the pandemic). Those two facts were enough to stop me from standing up against bigotry and hate speech in our neighborhood.
I could not stop thinking about it, though - driving to the grocery store and then home. The same thoughts kept circling my head - these unfortunate SUNY Canton students have to run that gauntlet every damn time they have to walk to the store or work. How many times do they have to listen to that bullshit in a given day? What does that do to their psyche? And, what does that say about our village and the North Country, in general?
I grew up here - So, yes, I know this is nothing new. But, between the confederate flags flying high (the hypocrisy astounds) from the coal-rolling, "big ass" pickup trucks covered with offensive stickers, the racial slur laced epitaphs spray painted and chalked throughout the NoCo, and everything in between (social media comments), this is an entirely different level of hate. I won't even touch the PR coming out of the local law enforcement agencies in response to police reforms. If you would like to read some of the garbage, this is a recent report about the Malone Police from NCPR.
So the question circling my mind last evening is: what can I (we) do, without endangering DRC or our students, to help the BIOPIC, and other people at risk, who have no option but to walk by that one house every time they need to go to town? I understand that in the grand scheme of things - this is infinitesimal. However, is there a way we can make their lives just a little bit better? Is there something we can do to put a smile on their face (and heart) and let them know we appreciate them and they are welcome here? I also want them (and the perpetrators) to understand that we will not tolerate bullying or hate speech in our front yard (or, our community).
Then I had an idea - which is related to another incident from last December. Bear with me through the background story:
Last spring, the front yard became a huge mud hole that trapped two vehicles at different times. One required a tow truck. I decided to install a pallet fence as a barrier to stop people from parking on the lawn. A few St. Lawrence students worked hard during "make a difference day" in October to hammer in the t-posts and slip the pallets over them to create the fence. Before we could hang flower boxes and create a beautiful art installation with them, as intended, we closed the Center for COVID in mid-November. In early December, I got a call from the code-enforcer telling me to take down the pallets because someone had complained that they were not in keeping with the "character of the neighborhood." Instead of arguing or pleading our case, we complied.
When we go back in April, I want to use those pallets to create a different kind of art installation - one that has social justice and anti-racism at its core. The kids can design this beautiful statement to celebrate the diversity and uniqueness of each individual. It will serve as a testament to the fact that we will not tolerate hate speech or bigotry in our front yard.
I can imagine children throughout the NoCo, taking on this project as a community effort. With beautifully hand-painted signs covered in messages of inclusivity, kindness, and hope, you, too, can proclaim, "not in my front yard!"
These are some examples of what I have in mind. You can be sure DRC members will come up with ideas much more creative and beautiful.
As mentioned last Sunday, we will be back in-person at both centers for two days each week, beginning the week of April 12th.
If you would like to help with the above plan or other outdoor gardening and carpentry projects, please get in touch.
No, not that one. I am talking about the myth of "lost learning." The one formally named the "summer slide." There are several reasons for the perpetuation of this falsehood - the largest, in my estimation, is to preserve the notion that schools (and all they represent) are essential for society to progress.
Therein lies the crux of the matter. For the most part, the folks concerned about lost learning stand on the left side of the political spectrum. They use similar manipulative and intimidating tools to propel this false notion, as the folks on the Right do to promote the other Big Lie. The most effective being fear.
"Oh my God, my child has lost an entire year of learning." "They are going to fall behind." "My kid will never catch up; they won't get into college, get a good job, or (fill in the blank)."
Whoa, hold up! Before you head down that bottomless rabbit hole, let me explain a few things about authentic learning:
a) Falling behind, what? Their peers or grade level? These are both artificial measurements. The State has determined grade levels and standards, along with curriculum for convenience. There is no real connection to what children are "capable" of at particular ages. More importantly, every single child develops differently. One may naturally learn to read at the age of four, and their friend may not grasp the concept until they are eight. They can both read anything they want to by the age of twelve or thirteen, and you can not tell who read earlier.
b) Anything that was really learned and understood can not be lost. Yes, it can lay dormant, but it isn't gone. Think about those things that you have learned but don't use every day. For example, starting the generator and switching the inverter to "charging" is a process that I have to think about for a minute before doing it the first time each Fall. For you, it may be long division, converting a fraction into a percentage, or doing your taxes. Once you go back to it, with a bit of prompting, you remember the steps.
c) The most powerful way to learn something is through play and self-led exploration (this is a concept I have touched on before and will again, soon). When you are genuinely interested in something, and it is relevant to your goals and aspirations, even if it is difficult, acquiring the knowledge is fun and enjoyable. Yesterday, I played (was utterly captivated for the entire morning) with Doodly, a software program that creates short animated videos. I wanted to learn how to use this program because it is another incredible tool in my marketing tool belt. (PS - you can watch my first attempt below.)
d) Tangentially related, it takes multiple times longer to learn something through rote memorization or coercive methods, especially when it also meaningless to you at that moment. Yup, this is a tough one for most folks to wrap their heads around. But, but, but - how will kids learn what they need to if we don't compel them to do it? We are all natural learners. Kids will figure out how to access necessary knowledge when they need it to do something that is important to them - full stop.
I ask you to stop and consider that our entire educational design is based upon a conservative ideology - the trickle-down theory. (Yes, even so-called progressive education.) Magnanimous folks, at the top, with all the knowledge, guide their students through that predetermined, finite, and compulsory curriculum by releasing their scholarship in bite-size increments. And then, they assess their understanding by asking them to regurgitate it on standardized examinations. Does this seem like something we should be afraid of losing?
Cultural progress comes from open, curious minds and a willingness to change - not in the preservation of a static, antiquated, coercive system.
Big News! Our physical doors in both Canton and Lawrenceville will open again, April 12th, with our full COVID safety plan in place. To begin, each Center will be in session two days a week. We will retain our remote schedule for the days we are not in person and for all of our Distance Learners. If all goes well, we will return to our full schedule for the month of May. This plan, of course, will be dependent upon COVID numbers remaining low in St. Lawrence County.
One year ago, on March 10th, which also happened to be my youngest child's 23rd birthday, I left DRC at 5:30 pm with a raging fever, uncontrollable shaking, and body aches (that came on like a steam train), as I have never experienced before (and never want to). No, I didn't have COVID, just a "death may be less painful" case of the flu. Little did I know that closing the Center for the last three days of that week for my illness would coincide with a pandemic and extend through the remainder of our academic year.
In the beginning, I was laid flat by the aches, fever, and utter exhaustion of this particular flu virus. I had no thought of (or desire to think about) DRC or "my" kids. My main concerns revolved around getting down the stairs to use the bathroom and refresh my glass of lemon water and cup of ginger tea - my only sustenance for days on end.
That second week, we did try to set up a Discord server for the DRC members to connect, do art, play games, etc. But besides a couple of kids and our staff person who set it up, it had little engagement, and I did not have the physical capacity to do anything but witness its failure from the sidelines. Consequently, beyond occasional check-ins, the DRC kiddos were happy to be totally on their own for the remainder of our academic year.
Those months gave me time to work on an idea (that never got any traction) to provide services to public school kids who were stuck at home doing remote learning. I also took on creative endeavors and sorted through hundreds of blog posts (with the idea of compiling them into a book). As you may have noticed, most of those projects fell by the wayside as the pandemic raged through the summer.
The reason being - I couldn't focus on anything - even reading. For someone who often devours a book a day, I have not been able to concentrate or settle long enough to read even a paragraph this entire year, except the one book I managed to get through in December.
The disconcerting inability to concentrate (on anything - even creative ideas) and the budding feelings of uselessness were beginning to wear on me. I needed a purpose! Therefore, in July, I went back to the Center a few days each week to prepare to bring the kids back in September. In August, I was in full gear. And by Labor Day, both of the Centers were physically ready. We had one staff person and two apprentices through the One-Stop Career Center in Canton and a part-time staff person in Lawrenceville. We had a complete COVID safety plan, including an outdoor shelter in Canton built by one of our families, SLU Community Based Learning (CBL) volunteers joining us remotely, and a Distance Learning Program in the works.
Little did I know that those last two pieces were the linchpins that propelled us to where we are today. Those original seven CBL students facilitated fifteen virtual sessions on Google Meet each week. They provided the impetus needed to offer additional classes by DRC staff through the remote platform for our distance learners.
COVID numbers in St. Lawrence County began climbing again in late October. It was clear, by mid-November, that we needed to once again go fully remote for the safety of our entire crew. We were able to continue our schedule only because we had established the routine of virtual sessions. The kids happily engaged and chose sessions that interested them. Currently, our calendar has expanded, with a total of twelve CBL students facilitating at least two sessions each, plus DRC staff filling in with other requested classes, all offered through the DRC Discord server.
Even now, once again, teetering on the edge of angst and frustration, I can look back at this timeline and feel immense gratitude for the gifts this past year has brought forth.
If it weren't for this pandemic, our kiddos would not have figured out, those first couple of months last Spring, that they were perfectly capable of making independent choices about their education and life. We would not have a distance learning program with very cool kiddos adding to our already inspiring community. We would not have a formal schedule - remote or otherwise. And I would not have had the opportunity to reflect on and appreciate everything we have accomplished over these past seven years - as an organization.
Thank you to everyone who has stuck with us this year. I look forward to unwrapping the surprises the next 365 days have in store, with the knowledge that every one of them (even the painful and unsettling moments) will provide an opportunity for learning and growth.
As part of Women's History Month, we honor Alice Malsenior Tallulah-Kate Walker, an American novelist, short story writer, poet, and social activist. In 1982, she published the novel The Color Purple, for which she won the National Book Award for hardcover fiction and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
We have begun to roll out the social media video clips that Liam Crossen Films captured those last few days we were together at the Centers in November. Stay tuned to our Social Media platforms to see our kiddos talk about their experiences at DRC.
As seen above, we are also honoring some inspiring women for Women's History Month on our social media.
If you don't already, please like and follow our FaceBook and Instagram pages.
Conspiracies are simply the stories we tell ourselves (or latch onto) when the factual narrative doesn't fit our world-view or feels too uncomfortable. We all have things that we believe about ourselves or that fit into our ethical code - and, most importantly, we are all willing to fight to hold onto them.
There is a difference between those personal stories, which may be detrimental to our individual well-being but are not connected to others and are not widely recognized conspiracy theories.
The dangerous piece about the latter is that outside (wealthy or powerful) "influencers" build stories around a microscopic grain of truth (without truly believing) as a means to control a group of people who are already receptive to endorsing them, even if they seem from the outside to be against their best interest. You might also recognize it as the same M.O. of cults. They target the (emotionally or economically) vulnerable folks who have already bought the narrative of fringe groups or are looking for "easy" solutions and someone to blame, as well as acceptance, connections, and a community that will welcome them.
These "authorities" frequently provide plausible explanations for why the facts or actual science behind something is a hoax. One of the most common tools is to say that scientists are "always changing their minds." Or that "the science is always changing" because they understand that "change" is a scary, triggering word.
I am here to point out that the basic definition of science includes the understanding that what we know as truth, right now, is susceptible to change as we experiment and learn more.
I don't need to tell you that conspiracy theories are dangerous. Not only are they devised to control and manipulate the way people think about particular phenomena or events, but they also provide the impetus for this group to become violent because they fully believe that their way of life is threatened. And that is, exactly, where we are now.
Thus far, I seem to have outlined this significant problem without offering any viable solutions.
When I think of those folks who embrace conspiracy theories, hook, line, and sinker - first I consider why they are susceptible to being reeled in. In most cases, it is not, as often claimed, a lack of education or science curriculum. As I comprehend the situation, it comes down to the lack of meaningful connection to a caring community.
As educators, it is our obligation to take the time to listen to and understand each person in our care. If we don't, we are partially responsible for fostering another closed mind - a person who generates (or accepts) negative stories and becomes afraid of change.
When folks can't see beyond that personal narrative that each of us lives within, it directly influences their ability to take on new challenges and invite change. They will continuously look at the world from a narrow space of defeatism or victim-hood and see everything new as a menace to their very existence.
In direct contrast, people with positive view-points are wide open to fresh ideas and are more willing to research the validity of proposed conspiracies. They also sincerely welcome adaptation to their internal stories.
This, right here, is why mentor-ship is proven to be one of the most effective tools in transforming lives and communities.
While only tangentially related to DRC, my second middle-reader book, Noah's Experiment, written over a decade ago, is edited and ready to be self-published. Except, it is missing illustrations. I was fortunate to have a "willing" artist (Ian) still living at home when I published the first book, Hawk's Surprise.
This is a call for or drawings or photographs of animals (sheep, cows, chickens, Border Collies, and cats), farm buildings (inside or outside - including barns, haylofts, equipment sheds, etc.), and hilly, forested, and farmland winter landscapes. Ideally, I need at least 14 illustrations. One will be chosen as cover art.
I will acknowledge all of those artists, with work chosen for the book, as contributors. Their names will appear on the cover of the book, as well as the title page. They will also receive a copy of the published book.
There are no age limits or other requirements. All media (drawing, painting, charcoal, colored pencil, photographs, etc.) will be considered.
Please share this opportunity within your network. Send questions and submissions (as high res .jpg) to me here. Thank you!
What are you good at? Not surprisingly, your answers to that question are likely the same as the things that interest you - the things you like to do.
We often quibble that we aren't good at certain things because we don't have a natural gift; however, researchers have proven that innate talent is, mostly, a myth. We become skilled because we practice. Additionally, not coincidentally, those things that we practice are the ones that bring us the most joy.
Sadly, for the most part, our children don't have the freedom to discover their interests; therefore, they don't have the luxury to develop their talents. From an early age, adults guide their every activity - even play, through coercion, reward, and punishment. Whether it is an attempt to "keep up" with other kids of the same age, fear of judgment for failing as a "good," attentive, and involved parent, or of injury, children are losing out through their over-protectiveness.
Consequently, many of the kids who sit across from me during our initial meeting can not answer the title question. The responses vary from verbal stumbling, blank stares, or an embarrassed side-eye. But, sometimes, they go into detail about something they are utterly passionate about, with glowing eyes, expressive hands, and enormous grins of enthusiasm. Suddenly they stop short, place a hand over their mouth, and apologize because they realize they had been expressing their love for something that is not considered "academic." At that moment, before I can rush in to reassure them that everything "counts" - I am the unwilling witness to the draining of pure joy.
Why is our culture so very determined to shut that beautiful energy down? I have asked these questions many times before: why do we let external forces determine validity? Why is our children's worth measured by what they can "learn" in school and not by those things they love and excel at? And, why are they told they can pursue their passions after they sit through 13, 17, or 19 years of "education" - when we know that practice of a craft increases the likelihood of success and overall happiness?
Among other things, I am a writer because I love to write. I am a cook because I love to cook. I am a mentor because I take pure delight in providing the resources, standing back, and watching while kids explore all their possibilities and discover what they want to practice.
I ask again - what are you good at? What brings you joy?
DRC has increased the number of SLU students, from the Community Based Learning Program, who are facilitating remote sessions, from nine to twelve over the past week. Thanks to these new folks, we have added some very cool sessions to our already full calendar - including another Animal Geek Club for all of our animal obsessed peeps, a character and setting development session, as a companion to our drama class, and we are re-working our make-up tutorial class to include body painting techniques to create a double header with the new cosplay class where participants are able to fully develop their characters image.
Everything in our schedule represents the direct requests of our student members. If you are seeking a way to take control of your own education - get in touch. Deep Root Center accepts new members throughout the academic year.
Yesterday, my brother Pete, the grower and producer of Rel Hemp products, put out a request for comments on his social media posts asking the question, "what is your purpose?" I wanted to respond to his question but couldn't. Let me explain. On any given day, everything I write, whether it is a response on a post, a letter or email, or this blog, needs to run itself through the filters in the depths of my subconscious before it comes out. I can try to write in the moment, but whatever spews forth is utter crap. And truth be told, the exercise is mentally excruciating.
However, in this particular case, it was more than my typical process at work. I realized last evening when I tried to write this piece (and came up with total shit) that I felt like a Play-Doh fun factory had squeezed me into a useless, limp pile of emotionally charged mush.
Take your pick: anger, rage, fury, irritation, agitation, bitterness, contempt, disgust, frustration, grief, horror, embarrassment, resentment, shock, hurt, dread, loathing, and vengefulness. These are just a few of the emotions that have cycled through this brain in the past twenty-four hours, and those stacked onto the already long list, which included: uninspired, anxious, disengaged, listless, discouraged, and overwhelmed.
Beyond the obvious - a national shit-show that proved that someone is, quite literally, capable of getting away with murder, as long as they produce an alternative story, filled with lies, that millions can and will adopt as truth. I also learned of another peripheral tragedy that was, in hindsight, most likely caused by incredibly stupid, holier than thou, and irresponsible (possibly criminal) leadership. And to top it all off, this pandemic has rendered me (us) into a place of ambiguity, stagnation, and restlessness.
I understand what my purpose is in "normal" times. I know why I used to fly out of bed at 5 am ready to take on the world. But for someone who thrives on inventing new ideas and who flourishes when things are in flux and the process of morphing, this is soul-sucking. I am that person who, absolutely, needs the stimulus and upheaval of change.
And as a direct contradiction, yes, I am also an introvert who appreciates orchestrating all of that from my quietly remote "nest."
The unknowing and uncertainty feeds my restlessness and inability to focus. How can I drive the next thing for DRC when none of us knows what to expect in the next week, month, or year?
And more importantly, what can I do to generate enough personal excitement through this lassitude and all of the other "feels" to construct something concrete, worthwhile, and doable, which may only be tangentially related to Deep Root Center?
Oh, I know, as "they" say, "this too shall pass." And, I will figure out how to get myself motivated and kicked into "high-gear" eventually.
Come to think of it - I can almost feel the creative juices begin to simmer and bubble. Maybe, this is what I needed - to acknowledge and be honest (to you and myself) about my feelings of intense anger, impotence, inadequacy, and defeat.
In the next week or so, we will be rolling out short social media video clips taken from interviews of our kiddos, parents, and me when Liam Crossen Films was here gathering footage in November. I will share them here, and on our website, as well.
Happy Valentines Day (for those who celebrate)!
A question for the ages. Most likely asked by the parents of these artists. When at age five, they littered the house with minuscule pieces of paper cut from colorful magazine pages to glue onto a poster board.
Or, when now-famous authors read everything they could get their hands on, including the cereal box while eating said cereal at the breakfast table.
Or the engineers, builders, and trades people who spent hours every day building with Legos, magnetic rods, or craft sticks, various cardboard boxes, and hot glue. (We won't mention the number of vacuums and other electronic devices they tore apart to discover how they work.)
Or the medical professionals, fascinated with the Grey's Anatomy textbook and incurable diseases from a very early age.
Or the working musicians, who memorized every lick and lyric from their favorite rock band while beating the life out of their first cheap guitar.
And now parents are asking this very question of their kids while they engage in multi-player virtual games. Can we even begin to guess what skills they are attaining or where it will take them?
None of us know what this world will look like or what jobs will be out there when our kids are old enough to enter the workforce.
However, understanding that statement as undeniable truth doesn't stop us from judging how our kids spend their time.
The blatant hypocrisy is dumbfounding. We want our kids to develop self-motivation but punish them for focusing on (practicing) the things we don't deem valuable. And, as adults, we would never accept someone telling us how to spend our time.
The universal argument about balance, the one that I have used more than I would like to admit, is not valid when you understand that balance means something different for each one of us.
As I articulated earlier this week, what if equilibrium is simpler - a fleeting sensation that comes and goes seemingly without logical explanation? What if it has nothing to do with the work, play, rest cycle? But, instead is the moments in between where we find our bliss - our reason for being.
You and I can not determine those moments for anyone besides ourselves, even if they are our children (or students).
*This post was inspired by this article, which I can only imagine was written by a once frustrated parent who asked the title question.
Our "Why" video inspired some lovely comments this past week. Here it is again, in case you have not had a chance to view it, yet. This is encapsulates our Mission Statement in a way that I will never be able to explain through the written word, here.
We lose so many brilliantly creative, wonderfully inventive, and beautifully unique kids - within the system. Their genius is wasted - all for the sake of a compulsory, ancient, static, finite, and rigid curriculum that, without question, from the majority, is accepted as the norm.
Why does this antiquated system (and the people who run it) have the authority to decide what is valid within the context of education and what isn't? How does algebra count, but the enormous number of hours spent independently writing, producing, and recording original music doesn't? Why is "seat time" a thing? Why were the seven, twelve, and seventeen-year-old set up to fail their entire school career because they are not a typically classic student and could care less about the classes offered? How can we collectively stand by, shaking our heads, and wagging our fingers at the "laziness" and failing grades without investigating why they are flunking out? When will we stop judging young people by the archaic rules designed for a different age? And when will we stop coercing kids to learn stuff that has no consequence in their lives? At what point do we recognize how many kids are struggling, not because they are "slow," learning disabled, or troublemakers (or whatever label forced upon them), but because they are brilliant in a way that is not recognized or supported by the system?
And when will we realize that all those lost kids are not broken because of their differences, but have something incredibly valuable to contribute to society and their community?
We lose out every single time a young person is not trusted to follow their inherent brilliance but instead faces punishment, ridicule, and failure for simply being themselves.
This short video explains why Deep Root Center exists.
A huge shout of thanks to Liam Crossen Films for producing this video.
Fear of the unknown. Fear of failure. Fear of making mistakes. Fear of appearing foolish. Fear of change.
To which one do you claim ownership? Or, is it a separate one depending on the moment?
Embracing and holding on tightly to those fears inhibits your ability to grab on to all the possibilities as they present themselves.
Every day is chock-full of opportunities - taking the time to pause and recognize them and then assess what stops you from grasping them as they drift by is a skill any of us can learn.
Jump in! Seize the moment - not knowing is okay! You will never possess the feeling of success if you have never felt failure. Mistakes are, simply, the path to mastery. Appearing silly is all in the eye of the beholder, and some would say a way to remain authentic and humble. Lastly, change can only lead to progress - a journey overflowing with life-altering and astonishing moments of beauty and possibility.
The new DRC schedule begins tomorrow. We are excited to host nine St. Lawrence University students from their Community-Based Learning Program, who are facilitating twenty-one of our thirty-five weekly remote sessions on our Discord Server.
You can join the fun - DRC accepts new members throughout the year.
Authors Note: In November, we had a filmmaker spend three days with us to interview staff, parents, and kids, as well as capture our everyday moments. He recently sent me rough drafts of four short videos that he had created with some of the footage. One is entitled "Why". That one hit me hard - right in the tear-jerking place, and that is where this particular blog post came from.
You know that satisfying emotion - the one you feel when you realize that someone "gets" you? Is there a better feeling in this world - when you know that you can be yourself with that person - no filters, no actor's masks, or mental gymnastics required?
Asking someone to adapt themselves to conform - is asking them to change their inherent being because we can't manage them the way they are. Kids know when they don't "fit" in. And their takeaway is that they are broken in some fundamental way.
It is my contention that every child should experience affirmation every single day. Every kid deserves to be surrounded by people who accept them on every level and where no one will try to change them to fit into the environment (or society).
Rather than reforming the essence of any child, I believe that we should alter the environment, along with our own biases.
This includes everything, from medical diagnoses to identity. For example, children with ADHD need an environment that supports their momentum and staggering creativity fueled by wild curiosity. It is no different than adapting the room for a wheelchair, walker, or other physical handicap support. And, when a child tells you their personal pronouns and the name they prefer - use them! No snide remarks, eye rolls, or arguments are required (or even permitted).
Wait! I am not telling you to stop supporting children to improve their skill levels and learn new tasks. However, I am saying that we can not take it on, as a task, with the intention of changing them to suit our (or society's) needs or expectations.
All children deserve to be celebrated. Not for what they can or can not do, but for who they are - deep inside. When kids feel like they are OK, as they are, self-assurance becomes their default mode. And when people feel content, they are more likely to take on new challenges and look at the world as a place to explore all the possibilities.
This, in a nutshell, is why Deep Root Center exists.
We are happy to say that eight St. Lawrence University students will be volunteering again this semester through the Community Based Learning Program. They will offer classes and activities through our virtual learning portal on the Discord App. You can find our schedule here. Keep in mind that it will be updated regularly over the next week as we create sessions for the students that fit within their preferences and weekly calendars.
DRC accepts new student members throughout the year. If you are interested in joining our community, please get in touch.
This is our "Did You Know" series, on Social Media, from this past week.
Who is your tribe? To be clear, who are the people you align yourself with ideologically, not ethnically?
Some of us can admit (I can only hope), our answer to that question five, or ten years ago (or possibly even six months ago) was different than our response today.
Despite the common understanding, based on a system that trains us from an early age to do the exact opposite (how many times have you heard "make up your mind and stick with it?"), our personal belief systems should transmute and change as we grow and become aware of ideas and information that were not previously part of our understanding. No, it doesn't make you "wishy-washy," contradictory, or weak. It, in its purest essence, defines a receptive and flexible open mind (and science).
And on the other side of the coin, the inability and unwillingness to explore new concepts and change your opinion do not imply a strength of will or character. They are the precise descriptions of narrow-mindedness and intolerance (and pseudo-science).
I have a theory that some people are more susceptible to believing conspiracy theories spouted by charlatans because they feel disconnected and disengaged. I am basing my premise on existing research around addiction. There have been many studies, with humans and other animals, that have proven that a lack of meaningful relationships drives the habitual seeking of something else to take the place of it.
Within that theory, I find it utterly fascinating that people with an insular perspective actively try to convince themselves and others (gas-lighting) that they are, in actuality, not closed to new ideas by doing "research" and "seeking" out data. Because of the proliferation of biased media sources and straight-up fake news outlets, it is easier to find and latch onto these con-men and become addicted to cherry-picking and spinning information that "proves" their original rigid stance.
And this is where we are right now. When one tribe is engaged in the fantasy of strength and moral rectitude and incited by inaccuracy and delusional behavior, it becomes the meeting place of conflict - the conflagration of ideologies.
With that understanding, I remain committed to providing a community where engagement and connection are the foundation. And a place (even though it is virtual right now) where everyone is encouraged to explore the possibilities, make mistakes, and, yes, change their minds whenever they discover a new way of thinking.
This past week , in honor of our 7th Birthday, on our social media, we revisited the Liberated Learner Seven Guiding Principles articulated by Ken Danford, the co-founder of North Star in Sunderland, MA. Find the descriptions here.
Membership is Open
Our staff and student members are still connecting remotely through our virtual schedule. If you are interested in joining the DRC community, please get in touch.
As is customary, we all tend to take stock at the end of one year and the beginning of the next. This time around, it seems like there is even more at stake. We are putting an awful lot of pressure on 2021.
However, I would point out that the dumpster fire, shit show that was 2020, was not about the year - it never is. It was a perfect storm, a culmination of nearly 250 years of bad decisions and horrendous policies developed by people (oligarchs) who have no concern for anyone but themselves (egos) and their wallets.
It isn't up to 2021 to solve these problems - it can't. January 20th, while a hugely positive step, will not, alone, usher in our saving graces. The fundamental issues of an inequitable and unjust society will be festering just below the glossy patina of this new administration, in the same way, it has for our entire history.
It is up to us, the people who have the most at stake, to get creative and disrupt the status quo. Begin by supporting your neighbors. Stop thinking of charity as handouts and start considering it an act of resistance. The best way to make progress and to change the culture is to build it up from the bottom - the very roots. Eventually, these acts of rebellion, hidden within gestures of caring and kindness, will forge community, which will, over time, go on to generate a new way of thinking about the essential construct of our entire culture and society.
Absolutely, spend some time to reflect. Get a firm grasp on your personal takeaways - then use that knowledge to interrupt, disrupt, and make a difference. 2021 will not be any different than 2020 unless you and I commit to a cultural revolution fueled by compassion, consideration, understanding, and respect.
These are the final quotes posted last week on our social media to honor those voices we lost in 2020.
In January 2014, DRC Canton opened our doors with one very cool ten-year-old, me, a couple of computers, no heat, no internet, a few pieces of furniture, and a whole lot of dreams. Now, seven years later, we have a total of thirty-eight amazing students, divided between two Centers and the Distance Learning Program. We own one of those facilities, have an awesome staff and volunteers, there are heat and internet, as well as tons of resources and materials, and we still have some really big aspirations.
Thank you to everyone who has been part of this amazing journey. I am beyond grateful to all of you for the love, support, and hard work that has gone into making this vision come true. Onward!
And, if you would like to join DRC, as we move full steam ahead into 2021 please get in touch.