The common adage that no man (person) is an island holds particularly true in an organization such as DRC. Without the support of so many folks who have jumped onto this "crazy train" called Deep Root Center, whether as staff, kids and their families, volunteers, board members, donors, and supporters, it simply would not exist.
To say "thank you" does not seem like enough; nonetheless, that is all I have.
Therefore, undying gratitude to the people who have my back - always, no matter what over the top idea I come up with next. (You know who you are!) Deep appreciation and credit to everyone involved in the planning and implementation of our Party in the Park fundraiser. And thank you to the Peeps of the North Country who came out for an over-the-top day of amazing music and community connection.
I am humbled and deeply grateful.
Weekly Creative Meditation
Party in the Park - Fundraiser
We made a very good start towards the down payment on the DRC-East permanent home. However - the work is no where near done. Please consider a donation to the DRC-East Fund and please spread the word. Stay tuned for further opportunities to help us toward our goal.
This coming week is the last in our academic year. Our rosters are filling up for September. Please get in touch if you are interested in enrolling your child at either of our Centers.
Summer Programs for ages 5+
Normal is one of those words that drives me a little bit crazy. I am sure we have all heard the expression - "define normal," but I think my aversion to the word goes even farther than the inability to define it. When we use it to describe something, we automatically imply that there are things that are acceptable (good and desirable) and others that are clearly not.
Current educational standards, including standardized and diagnostic tests, are based on this elusive thing we call normal. I know they use actual data to determine it; nonetheless, it is cherry-picked and tells us (absolutely) nothing. We are testing individuals with complex and unique brains - not programmable robots.
Teachers identify children as potentially learning disabled because they are not reading by a certain age, have poor memory and comprehension skills, are not behaving appropriately in the classroom, etc. And frequently, after a child takes one of these tests (or multiple tests) and falls below the standard scoring rubric, they are designated Learning Disabled (LD), with an accompanying diagnosis - verbal processing disorder, ADHD, ASD, Dyslexia, and all the other Dys-s, etc.
All of which brings me to the most problematic piece. Who says that folks with said LDs should be classified as abnormal or challenged? When you look a little closer, what are these assessments actually scrutinizing - the child's ability to sit still in a classroom and blindly obey an authority figure and the capacity to think and behave like "everyone else?" I am willing to bet that we all understand that those "conventional skills" don't actually indicate intelligence and an ability to learn.
Why then do we, as a culture, automatically look at these differences and see disability? What if that person labeled with ASD, ADHD, or... has unique abilities that are more beneficial to themselves and the wider world than commonplace normality?
Imagine a world where, instead of looking at these labels as deficits and shortfalls that hinder that person and society in general, we evolve (dissolve) our definition of "normal" and then create a new meaning for LD - Learning Differences.
In that way, we don't designate bad or good traits and labels and, in the process, disregard a broad section of society. Instead, we can provide all the opportunities to (every) simply uniquely beautiful individual who all play a vital role in our complex world.
Weekly Creative Meditation
Six Days and counting to our Party in the Park!
Plan on joining us on Saturday, May 21st from 10-4 to meet our awesome DRC-East crew in person. (You will find their spotlights, here.) Dance and sing along to a full day of LIVE music with DJ Sal Sarmiento, a drum circle Jam with Sal and Catey Dominy, and three local bands: River Mohawk Band, Downtown, & Playback. Check out all the very cool vendors (including art and craft items created by the East Crew), bid on silent auction items, get your face painted, participate in the 50/50 raffle, and have tons of fun while supporting them to purchase their forever home and create a Cultural Resource Center for the entire community.
In case you missed it, all seven times it was aired, these amazing kids were featured in a piece on WWNY-News 7.
Progress is simply defined as forward motion. Not to say that the old axiom - two steps forward and one step back is not (absolutely) a thing. But, even when that is true, you are still making headway. It may feel like you are moving at a snail's pace, and at that moment, looking down at your feet, you can't really see how far you have come - however if you take a moment to gaze back at everything, you have achieved, it becomes apparent.
I feel like we are at that point at DRC, as well as the country at large. To think I started the process of creating DRC just nine years ago is insane. Two facilities later, with 46 kids actively participating (right now), more than 20 that are homeschooling on their own with our help, and over 200 young people served at one point or another, we have definitely made some progress. Yet, I always feel like we are constantly brainstorming creative solutions to get around, over, under, or through the obstacles placed strategically in our path.
And as a country, we have made great strides in so many areas. Although, right now, it feels like we are not just taking one step backward, but an entire century worth of teeny, tiny steps are being pulled out from beneath us like the table cloth trick - leaving major human rights sitting bare and unprotected on the table.
It really is unfair to compare the two, I know. In the case of DRC, we, the stakeholders, are in charge of making changes that will move us - and our student members positively into the future.
Our country, it seems, is not so fortunate. A few (feel free to insert expletives here, if you are so inclined) are making really bad (horrible, no good) decisions for the majority that will have a detrimental effect on us all - but most especially the kids (I am honored to spend my days with) - for years to come.
No, this is not a politically motivated post - it is an expression of my deep fury and frustration that the word progress has become a four-letter word, and somehow, hypocrisy is not. Since when has empathy, compassion, basic kindness, vision, creativity, and ingenuity become the enemy? Let me guess... was it when we attached the word Progressive to them? (Yes, I am not unaware that this is the moment where the word irony comes into play.)
Progress is not just about making obscene amounts of money. (Which, in case you were not cognizant, is the real reason for our heedless slide back into the early Twentieth Century.) It is about making supportive changes and challenging the status quo for the health and general well-being - of everyone in society - building up and protecting human rights - not tearing them down.
To be clear, progress is not the enemy. Full stop. Let's think about who and what we should be united with, not against.
Photo #1: A is greasing the mini cupcake tins. #2: S is collecting dust as a contaminant to replicate the mold growing bio experiment for the 3rd time after we had more questions we wanted to answer. #3: C brought in her painted turtle and gave a presentation. #4: E helped to bring bottles and cans to the Redemption Center twice this past week. We have collected a total of over $100 for the DRC-East Fund. #5: L&E played on the Seedlings floor creating imaginary worlds.
Weekly Creative Meditation
We will be partying in the park in two weeks! Have you missed live music events? Join us for the day and get your groove back!
Enormous gratitude to Sal Sarmiento for helping to plan our day of music, for DJ-ing for the first hour and playing didgeridoo for the Drum Circle Jam session. A Huge thank you to Catie Dominy for providing percussion for the drum circle. And shouts of thanks out to the members of the three bands (River Mohawk Band, Playback, and Downtown) who will be playing all afternoon.
Come and dance, sing along, and soak up all those live music vibes to help our East Peeps purchase their new home.
We are also still accepting registration forms from vendors.
As a run up to the fundraiser we are spotlighting all of our DRC kids and posting them on social media. If you missed them, find the reflections, here. (Check back frequently over the next weeks as Angie and I write them.)
Humans are hard-wired for narrative - our ancient ancestors, the first hominids to wander the earth, most likely used story maps, and now we have multitudes of mediums to tell our tales. However, one-on-one may still be the most ideal - it is written in our DNA.
We know intuitively that conversation is the conduit for shared observations, questions, ideas, and feelings. Which ultimately provides a flow for deeper understanding, less judgment, and closer connections. The following examples from recent encounters clarify this point.
Since I began working with children in an educational setting in 2003, I have been very vocal in my belief that we humans learn best through active, engaged discussion - not lectures or an adult disseminating information from the front of a classroom. Young people are not empty vessels passively waiting for finite, random facts from a predetermined tired curriculum.
That is why - I am not afraid to make it abundantly clear to every parent (grandparent) and child that school is optional. Some would even say it is provocative to place those exact words front and center on our shirts and other promotional items. And, it is; however, I find it is a great way to create an easily accessible entrance into conversation.
Case in point, last weekend at the Green Living Fair, an older gentleman stood looking at the DRC shirts on display and challenged us by asking, "why is school optional?" We explained that our philosophy centers around non-coercive, self-directed learning, but that was not enough. He was looking for more - and kept asking the same question. Finally, I stepped in and said, "because learning is natural," and then began to relate a few stories from recent weeks. He was hooked.
The exchange continued for another 10-15 minutes. He shared that his 7-year-old grandchild in Denver, CO is in the process of being diagnosed with dyslexia and how worried he was - because it was turning into a traumatic affair for the kid and their entire family. The methods used and the handling of this child's needs by professionals seemed needlessly cruel. This man left our table with a new understanding of how people learn and the knowledge that someone really cares enough to listen to him talk about his grandchild's (and their entire family's) experiences.
Friday, a 16-year-old joined us for the first time. As I usually do with new kiddos, I asked if they would like to check in with me partway through the day. This kid looked at me with a horrified expression and said no, "I'm good, and I am playing a game now." I then had to explain that it was all fine. They were not in trouble or being called out for anything. I just wanted to see how the day was going and refresh my memory about what they are interested in doing at the Center each week. Several kids assured him it was all good.
Once he (this kid identifies as nonbinary, and more specifically agender - and prefers he, him, and it pronouns) finished his game, we settled into the new office space and began to talk. Midway into our 1/2 hour chat, he looked up and noticed the "Gender Closet" sign, giggled a bit, and asked about it. (Side note, after explaining the gender closet, he relayed that he needed a binder - he said while looking down at his chest, "seeing this every day makes me have more body dysphoria." You will find more about this specific request below.) That is the exact point where the conversation took a hard left turn into some serious topics.
After disclosing some of the things he has gone through over the past couple of years, he said something akin to - it makes me angry that there are people who hurt and bully people who have a mental illness or are LGBTQ+. We talked about why these folks are so bound up in hate and want to destroy the things they dislike. After talking about it a bit, we decided it is often because they just do not understand (whatever it is, they are hating on), and the easiest way to deal is through anger or violence.
I then told him about our Social Justice class and our goals of highlighting injustices within various groups of people in the community. We agreed that bringing things into the open with a willingness to talk about them may help people more fully understand the things they judge as bad, inconceivable, or inappropriate. He is thinking about joining that class - I believe he has a lot to offer to the group in terms of experience, creative ideas, and passion.
At the end of the day, life and the act of learning will always be about making those interlaced connections with other people - which sometimes feels frightening, overwhelming, or simply impossible.
Therefore, if you have questions - ask. When something feels icky or uncomfortable - ask. The best way to learn something new, understand things better, or even find the joy within - is to share your observations, curiosities, and stories and then talk about them.
Photo 1: Thank you Anna Campbell for the cool new electronic keyboard and music mat. Photo 2: We grew mold! Our second attempt of the science experiment worked. Photo 3: Shark and Ocean Critters was the second session held in the new classroom space.
Weekly Creative Meditation
As mentioned above, the DRC Canton Center has a Gender Closet, where anyone can take any clothing that meets their gender identity. It is currently open to the community on Mon. and Thurs. from 2:30 -3:15.
Later in the day, after speaking with the above student about his need for a binder, my own kiddo, Kenzie, happened to call. I told them about the request for a binder, and they offered to donate money for us to buy one specifically for him.
Which then gave me the idea to create a Binder Fund - to purchase them for kids who desperately need them. Body dysphoria is debilitating for so many kids. If we can take one layer of trauma off their shoulders and provide a means for them to appear the way they identify, we absolutely will. Each binder costs between $35 - $50 which does not include shipping fees.
To begin, we will offer this to DRC kids, but as the fund grows, we will provide this to any young person in the community as long as we are able.
If you would like to donate to the Binder Fund at DRC, you can do so through the DRC Venmo account - @Whole-Learners Please specify that it is for the Binder Fund in the comments. You can also donate through our Stripe donation box here. (Please keep in mind that Venmo transactions are free, but we have to pay an additional fee for donations made through Stripe.)
DRC- East Fundraising Party
We are less than four weeks out, and things seem to be pulling together! Spread the word - we are still looking for vendors, and then plan on joining us with friends and family on May 21st for loads of fun.
The bottle drive continues as well. Thank you to everyone who has dropped some off so far. E and I have at least a carload to bring to the redemption center this coming week!
Yesterday DRC was responsible for the Kid Zone at the Green Living Fair. I was there with my "bag of tricks" (art supplies, toys, & games) and a table covered with info about DRC. The best part of the day was that I met so many folks that I had not seen in years.
While catching up with one of them, someone I knew while starting DRC, she said in response to how are you doing, "same old, same old, but look at you - you took the leap, and look at you now!" And I replied, "but not all of us should leap - some are exactly where they need to be - doing the good work."
Yes, some of us leap - we are natural problem solvers, never satisfied with the status quo, always looking to improve, change up, or destroy and then re-create the system. Sometimes, we have a carefully (meticulously) thought-out plan (and a safety net) and know what we are doing, but frequently we don't. And for me - that is the key to leaping.
I usually have a general, sketchy idea that I believe will work and then jump in - knowing full well that I can learn anything I need to know. And that I can (and will) work through the technical difficulties, obstacles, missteps, or other stumbling blocks that appear, or I can even change direction entirely. I trust in serendipity. (I may have mentioned, a few times, that it is my favorite word.)
The central point of all of this is that I am not afraid to make mistakes. Scratch that - I am genuinely terrified of screwing up. Nonetheless, what it comes down to is I don't let that fear stop me from doing what I think is essential. And in total honesty, I also know that I have a group of people who understand my passion and will always have my back.
I meant what I said to my friend yesterday - not all of us should leap. So many folks are happily doing the essential work and are where they need to be - at this moment in time. Maybe their time to leap is later or even never.
The way to know if and when you should is to ask yourself these questions: Have I accomplished all I want to in this lifetime? Am I doing the work that matters to me and to others? Am I having fun while doing that work?
If your answer to any or all of these questions is "no," you may want to consider taking the plunge. But not before also asking yourself, will I regret not following that dream, goal, or aspiration?
Overthinking isn't always the best policy. Additionally, crying for six months beforehand probably isn't necessary, either. (Yes, I know this from experience.)
Indeed, it is (damn) scary, overwhelming at times, and often frustrating, but the joy, feeling of accomplishment, and gratitude of the folks I work with is beyond worth that incredible - life-changing leap nine years ago.
Weekly Creative Meditation
We are still seeking vendors for our Party in the Park on May 21st. If you know of someone who may be interested in joining us, please have them get in touch.
The bottle drive continues as well. You can bring them to 48 Riverside Drive in Canton and leave them by the garage door.
DRC has rolling admission - if you believe we may be a good fit for your child, contact us today.
Summer program registration is open. Space is limited. Register online.
Every living thing relies on diversity to survive. Based on the research of Mendel, Wallace, Darwin, and the biological scientists who followed, we understand that widespread variation is a large part of the evolutionary process of absolutely everything in the natural world. We know that there needs to be an array of genetic material for successful reproduction and survival.
When you replicate the concept of evolution into a non-biological application - the same holds true. We need diversity in every aspect of our lives to allow for meaningful personal connections and ultimate success for the entire group.
Yes, this all sounds super high brow and academic (unlike the typical pieces you receive from me) - but I would like you to take a moment to consider how our homogenized, milky white societal ideals have been detrimental to so many - for so long.
Through highly effective propaganda, for a good portion of modern history, we (humans of every stripe) have learned to despise (and fear) the "other" for a variety of made-up reasons. (See the definition of propaganda here. I don't generally use Wikipedia - but this provided a pretty representative definition.)
Therefore, when something very different or new from what we are accustomed to pops up in places - that we frequent, we may feel uncomfortable, startled, or even afraid. This is exactly the desired response and the result of all of that unconscious, subliminal training.
I work with many neurodiverse children - a good number on the spectrum, some with ADHD - and more than a few undiagnosed. I don't actually care about the official diagnosis - because, in the end, we (the DRC staff) recognize the amazing gifts every child brings to the group and we love spending our days with them.
The thing I do care about is the reason why so many neurodivergent kids seek out DRC. I believe that the people in the system they came from feel uncomfortable, do not know how to interact, and do not fully appreciate their talents and uniquely wonderful way of thinking. For these reasons, these kids are, quite literally, forced to change themselves to fit into this homogenized world I spoke of earlier. And, if they don't (or can't), they are frequently admonished or punished. Indeed, Pavlov's methodology isn't just used for animals. Therefore, understandably, they are unhappy, disenfranchised, and anxious, and seek out other educational environments.
When we neglect to openly invite (and remove barriers for everyone to participate), especially those who have diverse ways of thinking and being (not only folks with ASD or any of the other "disorders") into our personal spheres, we are actively traumatizing human beings while ultimately inhibiting societal growth, change, and possibly (probably) our own survival.
Diversity is not a talking point. It can't be achieved by hiring a "Diversity Officer," or implementing token policies and meaningless training sessions. It is deeply entrenched in the basic human need for connection and engagement. And the only way it will happen on a large scale is if every one of us welcomes, into our personal world, those who are not typically allowed a place at the table.
Ultimately culture will only change and grow through inclusionary practices and by exterminating misinformation, our reasons for fearing the other, and unimaginative thinking.
Weekly Creative Meditation
Both Centers are on Spring Break this coming week. However, fundraising efforts are still very much on our agenda.
Find the Color Street fundraiser here. We have had several vendor registration forms submitted for our Party in the Park over the past few days. If you know anyone with a side hustle or small business who would like to promote themselves and have some fun with us on May 21st- please share this link with them. We are also seeking food trucks and local musicians. Please get in touch with email@example.com.
We are still collecting bottles and cans - bring them to 48 Riverside Dr. in Canton and place the bags in front of the garage.
I am sending this out a day early to catch those of you celebrating Passover, Easter, or all the delights of Spring this weekend.
Best wishes from the entire DRC Crew!
In my mind - nothing is ever finished. I literally consider everything I create a work in progress that I can edit, revise, rework, redesign, or delete and begin again - still after being published and sent into the world. Yet I go a little crazy every time I walk into the DRC art room. Where I find not only the detritus from multiple kids and their many projects covering the table and spilling onto the floor - but also the abandoned projects left in varying levels of completion littering every surface.
I obviously understand on a deep level that the process is the principal component of imagination and creativity. And the finished piece is the least important. It is our culture - and the adults within who insist that a project's natural conclusion is - acceptable completion.
I have observed so many parents, teachers, and grandparents hover over a child, making suggestions and sometimes even taking over the entire project. Or, the "art" assignment may consist of pre-drawn, cut, and even colored components meant to be assembled the way the lesson plan shows. And if the child has not "followed directions" and created something completely unique, they are admonished and punished.
In those moments, these important people in the child's life have taught them three things. a) That a perfectly finished project is the desired end product, b) they (that child) are not creative or imaginative, or even good at art, and c) they are simply not good enough (at anything).
As a result of this never-ending reach for perfection, we have a world filled with people who believe that creativity is an unreachable aspiration. And they have no earthly idea how to begin.
Imaginative out-there ideas and people who are willing to see everything as a work in progress, including themselves, are the ones who will ultimately be the ones to save us all (from ourselves).
Therefore, I refuse to be complicit in the destruction of creative thought and processes - even if my blood pressure spikes every (damn) time I enter the chaos - that is the DRC art room.
Weekly Creative Meditation
DRC Imagination Station Summer Programs will be back for the last three weeks of August. Find more information and the link to the registration page on the DRC website. Space is limited to 12 participants each week.
We are still seeking vendors, musicians, and food trucks for the May 21st Party in the Park fundraiser. And be sure to let your creative, business-owning, musical friends know about this opportunity. Register here today. If you have additional ideas or would like to help plan this important event, please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org
The bottle drive will continue as well. Bring clean refundable bottles and cans in plastic garbage bags to 48 Riverside Dr. in Canton and drop them next to the garage door. E enjoys the responsibility of helping to bring them to the redemption center.
There always seems to be some point in our lives when we have seemingly run out of options. I'm only guessing that was the scenario for the four families who contacted me in the last four days. For the record, three of them were within 7 hours of each other on Friday. I spoke directly with two parents - one who showed up unannounced at the DRC-Canton door at 8 am Friday (while I was working on Admin "stuff" and before I had finished drinking my coffee). I also fielded a phone call (minutes after that parent left) from an advocate at a local organization that recommends us to families regularly and then, later that evening, responded to a google form consultation request.
Both parents I spoke with directly described sad, angry, and frustrated kids in crisis. And in each case, the parents felt helpless, disheartened, and fearful for their child's future. I could describe most conversations I've had with parents over the past eight years in precisely the same way. They felt like they were out of options and were feeling pretty hopeless.
We often say (sometimes provocatively) that school is optional. We really mean every desperately unhappy, anxious, and depressed kid should leave school - now. It is no longer a safe option for them.
Don't wait it out to see if they can make it to the end of the year. Don't say, "it is only a phase." Or "middle school is always rough. They need to toughen up" And, even, "if they could switch classrooms, I think they would do better with a different teacher. They were fine until this year." Treat this situation as seriously as any other life or death emergency.
Kids who join us after years of struggling - for any (and all the) reasons, often take a very long time to "deschool" (detox). To be clear, this process is exceedingly painful to watch. It may take a year or two before they completely understand that they can take charge of their education and follow their interests wherever they lead. I try to convey that the sooner they leave school, the less time that process will take.
When I say that I can get a child out of an unhappy school situation in ten minutes - that is quite literally how long it takes me to switch out names and addresses in the letter of intent (LOI) to homeschool and print it (or send it to a parent via email). The Individualized Home Instruction Plan is the next step and takes a bit more time, thoughtfulness, and an in-depth conversation with the child; however, families legally have ten days to get it to the school after sending the LOI.
This may sound like I am cavalier or unfeeling about this monumental decision. In fact, I feel deeply for every single one of these kids and their families and often carry their stories around in my heart for a while. The cultural norm of school is so deeply ingrained - I understand the difficulty of hearing the words "pull them out of school now" and the emotions they bring forward.
Ultimately, the decision to opt-out of school rests with each child and their family. I will always present Deep Root Center as an option. Because I remain steadfast in my dedication to the fundamental philosophy of non-coercion that we are founded on.
Yet, I always feel like I have failed a child when they and their family decide to stick it out in school.
On the other side, it will never get old (and I will never take it lightly) to hear a parent say, after asking me to write a letter of Intent and IHIP, "I feel like you have just lifted an enormous weight off my chest. I don't know how to thank you."
No, this is not about "scoring" more kids for DRC. I will continue to do this (as long as I can) to help as many kids in the NoCo - whether they homeschool (unschool) on their own or join us at Deep Root Center. My only goal is to help kids - who are unbearably miserable - get around the enormous obstruction (we call school) blocking their path to autonomy and authenticity - and pure awesomeness.
Scenes from Bio Lab this past week.
Weekly Creative Meditation
DRC accepts new members throughout the academic year. If you feel like you are running out of options - get in touch today.
We are still seeking vendors for Our Party in the Park on May 21st.
Also, do you know a creative or business-minded youth who would like an opportunity to sell or promote their art, products, or services? We have a special vendor fee of $10.00/space just for them. Submit an online form today and send payment to Deep Root Center in Canton.
And we are still collecting bottles and cans for the DRC-East Bottle Drive. DRC Canton at 48 Riverside Dr. is a drop-off point. Drop the bags in front of the garage. Thank you!
At birth, we each have a distinct and unique blueprint for who we are and what we are good at - built inside. That innate plan often goes awry when parents, teachers, and the culture - we are born into determines our educational path.
Children frequently feel unheard and unbearably frustrated when they realize that those who love and nurture them - ignored, didn't understand, or straight-up sabotaged their inherent genius. Mostly accomplished in the guise of, "but we know what is best for you." "This is how it has always been done." "We have to follow the rules." Or, "why can't you just fit in?"
At this point, the behaviors triggered by their resentment grow into "obstructions" to "real" learning, which initiates the traumatic experiences that determine future beliefs about learning and education. If this series of events has not happened by the age of 5 or 6, it will by the time they are 9 or 10 years old. And if not addressed, the teen years are bound to be pure hell for them - and anyone who loves them.
But, you ask, how will I know what my child's "genius" is? Quite simply - pure observation. Watch what draws their attention and what they are proficient at from a very early age. Provide resources and materials and multiple modalities for endless free play and exploration. Then sit back (get the hell out of the way) and let the magic of curiosity and the excitement of independent discovery take over. Kids will inherently solve problems and challenges when they pop up because they have not been taught to fear the inevitable mistakes derived from experimentation. Adult intervention isn't a requirement for learning. It happens naturally. And it does not turn off at the age of 4 or 5!
We see this every day. It takes practice and a fair amount of trust to provide the resources and space where kids feel safe to unleash all that creativity, inspiration, and pure joy of independence and discovery.
Agency allows for confident problem solvers who love to learn new things. When given the opportunity to follow their interests and the goals based on those interests - instead of a predetermined rigid curriculum, or society's expectations, these kids understand their place in the world. And that, ultimately, serves us all.
Scenes from this past week.
Weekly Creative Meditation
You guessed it - DRC-East fundraising activities continue to be the lead story. We are finishing up the Tastefully Simple online fundraiser today. Next up is Pampered Chef. The link will be available on the DRC & DRC-East FB pages as soon as it is up and running. We also encourage you to join the Support DRC-East FB Group.
They are also holding a bottle drive. In addition to the site on the below poster, you can drop off bags of empty and clean bottles at Barney's Wagon Wheel Bar (huge shout of thanks to them) in Malone or at DRC-Canton - 48 Riverside Drive in the driveway in front of the garage.
We are still looking for vendors and musicians for the May 21st Party in the Park. Please share this opportunity with your network.
As humans, we generally wear masks (no, not PPE) for two reasons - to hide our authenticity from ourselves or others or to change our appearance. The first is a metaphorical mask, and the second is usually theatrical - but can also be figurative.
From an early age, most of us learn to alter our essential beings to fit society's expectations, especially when we are in public. Human babies pick up seemingly invisible cues of culturally appropriate behavior. These signals are so subtle adults don't even notice they are giving them off.
And this is when we begin masking our true selves - our quirky personality, anger, empathy, sensitivity, needs, desires, and especially our neurodivergence - because we feel weird, strange, out of place, and unsafe. And that there is something radically wrong with us.
Fun fact: people assigned female at birth are far more likely to be diagnosed with dyslexia, ASD, and even ADHD later in life - simply because they are far more likely to mask the "weirdness" and behaviors associated with those labels.
This conversation is a throwback to last week's post that mentioned forcing disabled and neurodivergent folks to fit into our preconceived notions of acceptability and utility - instead of changing the world and our attitudes so everyone will be comfortable, accepted, and respected.
Eventually, our mask begins to fit so well we can trick ourselves into believing it represents authenticity because it embodies all the feelings of safety. And then it becomes affixed permanently - reflected in the stories we tell ourselves - until we are ready to consciously, with thoughtful intention, strip it away.
This can be a painfully overwhelming journey that reveals the deeply embedded scars from past trauma inflicted upon us - by others, as well as ourselves. However, that rough, pothole-filled obstacle course eventually gets you to a place where you no longer need your disguise and are accepted (by yourself and others) as you are - fallibly, awesomely, human.
It is my pleasure to spend my days unconditionally supporting young people on their path to authenticity in an environment free of judgement, bias, and coercion - where everyone is encouraged to drop their facade and be real.
This past week, during a homeschool consultation, I spoke by phone with a teen to learn more about them - what they wanted to do, and their goals for the future, so I could build their learning plan. I think they were taken aback, at first, after discovering I was open to hearing their preferred name and that I asked their pronouns up front. I think they came into the conversation expecting another adult to tell them what to do and how to be. Once we got over introductions and I asked what are you into? They were so overwhelmed with disbelief and relief, they blurted out, "so much stuff." And then they began to list them accompanied with anecdotes. We talked for over 30 minutes. I hope in that short time this young person understood that I honor and celebrate them fully as a uniquely, brilliant individual who does not need to hide behind a mask.
Weekly Creative Meditation
The latest news continues to be the DRC-East fundraising efforts.
We are also holding several online fundraisers to benefit Deep Root Center-East. Our second one is Tastefully Simple March 19th - 28th. Click the link to the Tastefully Simple ordering page.
And we are still looking for vendors for the May 21st Craft show fundraising event, as well as musicians who would be willing to share their talents for a brief time that day. Please share this opportunity with your network. Musicians can get in touch directly. Vendors can submit this google form and then send the fee to DRC-Canton.
DRC Bling is HERE - we have t-shirts (Y-M, A-M, A-L, & A-XL) with both Canton and East logos available for $15/ea., as well as bumper stickers for $2.50/ea. Let us know if you would like to order any of these items.
The anthropological concept of ethnocentrism is very real. And it was one of the first things I learned as an anthropology student. Ethnocentrism is the fundamental belief that your culture is superior in every way. This theory (as Eurocentrism) is the underlying reason for colonialism (white cultures taking over darker-skinned cultures). As a side note - it is the basis for nationalism, too.
Ethnocentrism also extends to the notion that each of us personally believes we know what is best - it is in our human nature to think that our ideas and ways of doing things - are, in essence, better than anyone else.
Deep down inside each of us, there is that whisper of superiority. You can see where this piece of our essential humanness can get us in trouble - right?
These unconscious levels of snobbery hold us all back - because as a "propagandized" society, we automatically see the other - someone who is so very different from us that we can easily find reasons to disengage and hate. Which ultimately inhibits our ability to make real change for everyone - to create the inclusive world we all desire.
Weekly Creative Meditation
The DRC-East fundraisers continues to be the top news. DRC-East currently rents, by the day, an old church in North Lawrence that is also for sale. We greatly appreciate that we have been warmly welcomed to use this historic old building. However, we want to purchase it to make it our own. Owning it would allow us to use the space more effectively and use our creative talents to personalize it. The student members also envision making it into a community cultural and creative resource center. It will be a place to invite local people to participate in artistic and educational events. Their first idea is to hold a monthly brown bag lunch film series. The resource center could also host guest speakers, live music events, and art shows.
We are currently seeking vendors for our "Party in the Park." Please complete the Google Form to secure your space.
The Thirty-one online fundraiser goes through the 18th. Next up is Tastefully Simple. Join the DRC-East FB Fundraising page to get the latest scoop.
Our world is constantly changing - progress is the act of moving forward and embracing the change. Nevertheless, fear is a powerful driver. And anxiety about the unknown is probably the most commonly expressed. I believe the current phenomenon of trying to inhibit and regulate all the "newness" of those seeking ethnic (racial), LGBTQ+, healthcare, and female equity - are most likely the result of our cultural fascination with preserving the status quo. It demands that people go to great lengths to protect it - when there is the threat of change or the loss of something they value. When we look at life from the perspective of deficit instead of abundance, the fear becomes even more real. Hoarding is just one response, as are behaviors designed to grab the attention of peers, family, or even the media.
This tug of war between new and old ways is as old as humanity. It is the reason we have generational putdowns and misunderstandings. And why our society feels so very divided right now.
But, I can also see this antagonism clearly in the teenagers I spend my days with at DRC. Their lives are especially fraught. The very definition of the teen years is - change and inconsistency. The hormonal shifts and their reach for autonomy conflict directly with their desire to crawl back into childhood where decision-making is easy (do I want to wear the blue socks or the yellow ones) - are crazy-making. They seek out self-determination and all the adult things that come with it - yet they are unsure because it is overwhelming, anxiety-inducing, and they have learned through societal training that they can't practice, because making mistakes, the intrinsic way all humans learn - is unacceptable and straight-up bad.
The most common criticisms I hear about teens are their levels of unpredictability and irresponsibility. I am sure you have seen the meme over the past couple of years, "freedom without responsibility is adolescence." Every time I see it on social media, I want to scream. First off, the expression should read, "freedom without responsibility makes you a jerk (or less polite euphemism) no matter your age." Secondly, teens are not lazy, and they don't evade accountability. They are deep thinkers, and yes they are even conscientious, community-oriented, and kind. But, yes, they can also be ruthlessly unrelenting and fearlessly galvanized when they set out to fix injustices in their world.
I spend so much of my time trying to convince the teens in my life that they are not lazy, irresponsible bums just because they are not doing the rote tasks that society expects from them. These stereotypes spread over an entire generation are the source of damage that I see every day. And when people are traumatized or fearful, they are motivated to behave in ways directly in conflict with their innate nature or intentions.
Weekly Creative Meditation
The first DRC-East fundraiser is live! Please click the link and share with your network! You can also join the DRC East Fundraising FB Group to follow the action. The person running the Thirty-One fundraiser for us is donating her entire commission! We are immensely grateful for her generosity.
Our goal with this series of fundraisers and the culminating craft show/live music event May 21st is to raise the $60k needed to purchase the church that the East Peeps are currently renting. Owning it would allow us to use the space more effectively and use our creative talents to personalize it. The East kids also envision making it into a community cultural and creative resource center. It will be a place to invite local people to participate in artistic and educational events. Their first idea is to have a monthly brown-bag lunch film series. The Resource Center could also host guest speakers, live music events, and art shows.
Stay tuned as details for all of the fundraisers, including the May 21st event, coalesce. Thank you!
"Of course," we say, smugly, both expecting and noticing the worst - the bad behavior, poor choices, and the straight-up rotten attitude. We vigilantly seek out the things other people have done wrong with a false sense of offense and overriding one-up-man ship. We obviously know best, can do better, and then judge others for their exploits and lack of good sense. Because - we know in our deepest of knowing that by pointing out the deficits, we can surely help them become better people.
Full stop. Go back and reread that paragraph. Can you honestly say you want to live in a world created with aloofness, ambivalence, uncharitable thoughts and actions, and absolutely no empathy?
Underneath the veneer of judgment, we understand that we can't change people by punishing them or drawing their attention to their negative attributes because:
On the opposite side, when we go out of our way to expect and notice the positive in other people, they will respond positively. We also understand this concept on a profoundly personal level. Think about the times someone noticed and complimented something you were doing - or offered kindness, encouragement, and support when you were struggling. It probably made you feel capable, understood, or just plain old satisfied. As humans, we all simply do better when we feel better.
This right here is my challenge to you and myself. Actively find reasons to say, "of course," because you fully expected the best - all of the creativity, curiosity, and compassion, as well as learning and growth. Let's build the world we want to live in - together - by activating the inherent strength of kindness and empathy.
Weekly Creative Meditation
DRC fundraising efforts will be kicking into high gear over the next two months leading up to a culminating event at the end of May. Please stay tuned here and on our social media as plans unfold. To increase our success, please like and follow DRC and DRC-East. Our first online fundraiser is Thirty-One, beginning March 3rd - followed by Tastefully Simple.
Our goal is two-fold - to purchase the church in North Lawrence, which DRC- East is currently renting, and to support DRC in general. You can also help these efforts by donating here and specifying what you would like your contribution to go toward - the fund to purchase DRC-East's new home or general operations. Thank you!
Both Centers will be in session this coming week following or midwinter break. You can follow our everyday exploits on both FaceBook pages as well.
Sometimes, because we are trying to be as optimistic or upbeat as possible, acknowledging the validity in those three words feels like the end of the world as we know it. But, as I have learned, by ignoring, pushing through, glossing over, or denying that unavoidable truth, I, in the end, make my life even harder.
In addition to the traumas and other regular "shit" life throws at us, we are also going on two years of dealing with a worldwide health emergency, making everything feel overwhelming - both physically and emotionally. And as per usual, the typical weather pattern of snow and ice, varied with the inevitable thaw, back to freezing again, at this time of year, is not helping the situation.
If all you want to do is stay in bed buried under a pile of quilts, with your beloved pet, snacks, and a good book - while shouting "@$#*$#*@" (choose your expletive) back at the wind that is blasting icy pellets against your window, trust me, you are not alone. Sometimes all you can do is hang on (by what feels like your fingernails), hunker down, give in to all the feelings (swear a bit), allow your mind to wander, treat yourself with all the kindness and forgiveness you offer others, plan for future explorations, and know that this season of unrelenting hardship - too shall pass.
We all understand that life is hard and that we will get knocked down occasionally - accepting it as a time to regroup and rediscover our authentic selves and trusting that all the opportunities will present themselves in time - indicates intentional growth and renewal.
We've got this! Trust yourself and the process. I'll see you on the other side.
Weekly Creative Meditation
Both Centers are closed this coming week for mid-winter break. We are working on some exciting "stuff" that will be revealed soon.
And if you missed it - DRC will have a link to weekly word game every Saturday on our FB page. Here is the one from yesterday - https://metzger.media/games/custom-word/?puzzle=52349
It is unbearably hard to write that phrase, but it is, quite simply, what we, as a society, do regularly. We use coercive and guilt-inducing techniques to force people who already feel ostracized to fit into our definition of appropriate conduct within our culture. We misunderstand behaviors and intentions by personalizing them (becoming offended) and then insisting that we know what is best for the other person based on our own lives, cultural biases, and misconceptions.
It is our discomfort, frustration, judgments, and our belief that we know best, as well as the statements, "this is how it has always been done," "we can't coddle them," or "I am just doing my job," that guide our responses. In following the rules and ticking off all the appropriate boxes - we induce additional trauma loads to those already carrying around the burdens and distress of cognitive, emotional, and physical disability, as well as childhood trauma, not to mention the cultural stress involved with exploring sexual, or gender identity and expression.
Those who live with the effects of trauma can have an overwhelming, heart stopping (or racing) anxiety attack after being exposed to what we may judge as the tiniest of provocations. It happens everywhere - at home, in schools, medical environments, and housing offices, in stores, at the dog park, or even walking down the street.
As with everything else - those panicked reactions may be lessened or avoided by taking the time to get to really know the other person - their unique beauty, genius, and valuable gifts. Empathy and compassion are the missing links to almost every misunderstanding. Make the connection - listen - express an interest in their lives - find common ground - and in doing so, you will discover another person who contributes layers of dimension and wealth to your life.
It is clear that by allowing judgment-based biases, frustration, and fear to guide our interactions, instead of understanding, we continue to traumatize the already traumatized. Which, in the end, harms us all.
Weekly Creative Meditation
The Gender Closet is set up and ready for visitors from the community. The DRC Gender Closet has clothing sorted by size and type (eg. adult pants - medium) for anyone to access. It is here for anyone who needs clothing that conforms to their gender identity and expression. Anyone from the community (especially local teens and tweens) is welcome to come to the Center M & Th from 2:30 - 3:15 to peruse the items available and take what they would like. Spread the news.
We are taking donations on a limited basis including - children's clothing, skirts & dresses, & under clothing of all types (including chest binders). Please contact us before donating anything and please launder the items first.
Our Sensory Safe Space is also finished. It is here for any of our kids who need a cozy spot to decompress for a moment or two before jumping back into the non-stop action that is DRC.
We all know that tests and exams intend to assess levels of knowledge or competency within particular subjects. However, understanding what the science says about coercive and fear-based punishment and reward systems, and the varying levels of neurodiversity uncovered as we (the scientists) delve deeper into the study of the brain, the very premise of this type of assessment is flawed, from the word "go." And as with any unsound device, the data is defective and unreliable. But why?
But you ask - If we don't use tests, how can we assess everything we need to "make sure" kids know? I believe that a complete cultural paradigm shift is required. Trusting that learning is absolutely natural and understanding that every person holds a level of brilliance - is the key.
What does that look like for the 5-18-year-old set? It involves non-coercive environments packed with resources and mentors who take the time to know each student as a unique individual. And where they have the freedom to follow their interests and curiosities to wherever they lead.
In the higher education realm, a few institutions no longer use exams and grades. For instance, Hampshire College in Amherst, MA (where both of my children attended) is project-based and uses narrative reports from the instructors at the end of each semester. But yet, it has a reputation of being academically rigorous. My son spent the last year of college writing a 100 page dissertation as his final project.
To change our fundamental cultural ideals about education towards embracing a system without tests or exams seems far-fetched. Nevertheless, I believe it is the only way to achieve authentic educational equity for every individual within our society.
The DRC mission statement articulates this concept clearly. It is our "why." At Deep Root Center (DRC), we believe that all young people deserve a safe, educational environment - where they feel like they are part of a community - and where they are free to explore all the possibilities. Learning can only happen when kids intuitively understand that they are secure, accepted, and trusted to make decisions, make mistakes, and explore all their interests to achieve their ever-evolving aspirations.
Weekly Creative Meditation
And a bonus haiku - inspired by a real-time experience this past week.
If you would like to learn more about Self-Directed Learning generally or DRC specifically, you can peruse our website at your leisure. I recommend watching the videos on the "Home" and "About Us" pages as starting points. DRC has rolling admissions - anyone can join us at anytime of the year. We are here for any child who needs us.
This past week a mental health provider sent me a Vanderbilt Assessment Scale to fill out for one of our members. Over the nearly twenty years I have worked with kids, I can assure you this is not the first one I have completed when asked (and won't be the last). I fully admit that I filled out the first few without looking at the questions with a critical eye and without considering how my answers would affect the child's life.
Then as time passed and I explored and learned more, my personal philosophy shifted dramatically into something closer to self-directed education or SDE - not progressive education (read the Peter Grey Article in the link to decipher the difference). As my foundational beliefs evolved towards the concept of unschooling, I began to scrutinize each item on the assessment and realized that it was, as a whole, crucially biased. Therefore, the data collected by the mental health professional could only be faulty.
Any evaluation scale that I have seen - assumes that whatever they are testing for is straight-up bad. Not surprisingly, on this particular scale, I consider at least 85% of the "symptoms" positive traits. The outcomes can only be skewed when the tool you are using is subjective. In the end, the one thing you have learned is the diagnosis. You know very little or nothing about the person you are assessing. How can that, ultimately, be good for them? They, along with anyone in their life, will probably only see the negative connotations of the label first.
In this most recent one that I had to fill out, I wrote in "NA" beside most of the items on the list. I refuse to rate a particular behavior as negative - that I consider beneficial. I also wrote a long explanation in the comments section - that may have extended (absolutely did) to the back of the paper.
I understand that these type of tools are helpful on some level. No, I am not a mental health professional, and, for that reason, I can't legitimately create a better device. Nonetheless, I challenge the professionals to design them better; without the perceived negative connotation of each item - being rated (or the "disorder" itself). We have so much more knowledge about neurodivergence and the way the brain works than when these tests were first developed. I see the fall-out from the harmful implications - every day. The only way to change how people regard themselves and their potential is to alter the notion that they are in some way broken.
As someone who has worked with kids for nearly two decades, I can say that instead of noticing "symptoms," we should be looking for ways to see the whole person - getting to know them in all their breathtaking uniqueness (not compartmentalizing the things we want to fix). Only then can we fully understand them and help guide them into embracing their neurodiversity and all of their pure awesomeness - toward learning and growth.
*In this post, I am focusing on the various rating scales that mental health professionals use to diagnose certain disorders. Next week I will talk about exams and other standardized testing tools used to determine the proficiency of students.
Weekly Creative Meditation
Thankful for Community Opportunities
We are grateful that the Canton Rec. Dept. has created an open skate opportunity for DRC and other homeschooled kids in the community every Tuesday and Thursday at 10 am (except for this coming week because CCS Phys. Ed. classes will be there). DRC kids (Canton and sometimes East) plan on being there every Tuesday morning. Our kids had a great time this past week.
Sensory Safe Space
As you can see, the Sensory Safe Space at Canton is coming together with an eclectic cast of characters painted on the walls.
DRC Gender Clothing Closet
The Social Justice class is also in the process of creating a Gender Clothing Closet in Canton. We have clothing sorted by size, not gender, for any student to borrow for the day or take home for good. The kids would like to open this up to the larger community. As it comes together, stay tuned for DRC Social Media Posts addressing the logistics.
Leadership is often confused with bossiness. A leader intentionally creates safe, supportive environments where the mission is clear, and people feel comfortable enough to be themselves and then generate and bring forward innovative ideas. Along with not coercing people - a leader models the basic concept of taking responsibility and expects that their team will too.
In addition, a leader will:
A boss will: well, do the opposite of most of those things, and on top of that, usually micro-manages everyone and everything to the point of frustration.
We all know a few leaders and have had the misfortune of working with (for) some bosses. I try hard to be the person described within the top list. I freely admit, some days, I am way more successful than others.
My role extends far beyond being an employer - I try to follow the same protocol for all of "my kids," the members of DRC. My greatest wish is that they each feel trusted and supported to become innovative, kind, intuitive, fun, and responsible leaders in their own right.
Weekly Creative Meditation
Both Centers are implementing Sensory Safe Spaces. The one in Canton already has large cushions and fleece throws, a weighted blanket, noise-canceling headphones, and a basket full of fidget toys.
These are cozy spots designed to be safe places for kids to chill out or de-stress whenever they feel overwhelmed or anxious.
A local supporter has sourced (searched for and purchased) a beanbag for us and will bring it by this week to upgrade the cushions (Thank you, Anna). We will also need one for the North Lawrence space. If you have one that your family no longer uses, please consider getting in touch & passing it on to us. We will put it to good use. Thank you!
I am a writer. Nearly every week for at least eight years, I have written a blog post, and the last few have included a creative meditation in the form of a haiku. You will also find a children's book floating around on Amazon - that I wrote and self-published many years ago. And there is a follow-up book that has yet to be illustrated and published. I have also come to love graphic design (thank you, Canva) and dedicate many of my evenings to generating social media posts and website content. In addition, Fashion Design was my first degree, and I also like to paint (mainly trees) and cook. I don't often question the how, what, or where of inspiration. It seems to always appear in the right place at the right moment, and I have finally begun to trust that it will.
Whether you claim to be a creative person or not, our brains are constantly working on something (many things), way down in the depths, where all the scary, innovative shit hides out until it is ready to make a grand entrance. And I always know that mine is working overtime down there when I am super distracted, forgetful, and over-the-top spacey. I sometimes worry about early on-set dementia when I find myself trying to remember if I had done routine tasks. Did I take my thyroid med, or do my eye drops? (It was getting so bad that I set reminders on my phone.) Did I put salt (or herbs) in the tomato sauce already? Or, when leaving the Center - did I turn down the heat, lock the backdoor, and put the stool in front of the kitchen cabinet so Digby Doo Cat can't get under the sink?
I have always believed that mindfulness is a fantastic ideal to aspire to - except it is often involuntarily drowned out with a deluge of fresh, unconventional, original, and sometimes obsessive thoughts tangentially related to whatever I am working on at the moment.
Creativity works differently for everyone and sometimes in various ways for each of us. Over time, I have discovered, the essential piece for me (usually), no matter how the inspiration first appears, is to keep my fingers on the keyboard. It is the same for painting, working with fabric, or cooking - I am very tactile - I have to feel it (taste it) and, most importantly, play with it.
The other thing I have learned is that I can not force innovation. When an idea is not fully ready to be expressed - no amount of trying (external coercion) will influence (compel) it to completion. If I don't allow for the quiet spaces where inspiration develops, steeps, and brews and then make space to play with it in real-time - all that delightfully, juicy ingenuity will dry up.
Intrinsic motivation is firmly bound up in the satisfaction of following your creative energies to a where ever they take you - whether it be a finished product or simply the joy of the experience.
That is the foundation where self-directed educational philosophy firmly sits. No matter where inspiration originates for you - it can, ultimately, only be controlled by you.
PS - My husband, Mike, is in a creative musical space. I am proud to share this original song that he's been working on this past week. Watching him take a deep dive into the creative process partially inspired this post.
Weekly Creative Meditation
DRC offers consultation services to help families navigate the legalities of homeschooling. Many families who are intimidated by the process seek our help - and in many cases, if they didn't, their kids who desperately want to leave school would not be able to. We are here to help in any way we can. Click here for more info.
DRC-East is seeking donations to purchase the church they are now renting. If you can help, please contribute here. And add a note in the comment section for how you would like it to be used. Stay tuned for information about a fundraising event they are planning in May. They will be seeking vendors, food trucks, and musicians.
There is irrefutable scientific evidence that being under stress and feeling fearful make it harder to do just about everything. It becomes nearly impossible to think, be creative, and problem-solve - your brain feels like it is short-circuiting. You can't remember anything (for shit). You become uncoordinated (for some of us, that spells disaster because we are exceedingly clumsy on a good day). Everything seems to take ten times longer than it should.
But yet, as a society, we insist on using coercion, along with punishment and reward, to force people to do what we want them to. The disconnect is astonishing.
Therefore, most kids I meet have (at the very least) an anxiety diagnosis and are so tightly wound they are convinced that they are screwing up something - everything - all the time. They are deathly afraid to try anything new for fear of not understanding it or messing it up.
As a result, I present an (over the top - exaggerated) open, receptive, calm (easy-breezy) demeanor in every interaction. Along with our laid-back, homey, comfortable environment, where most requests are met with "yes, of course," it is their first clue that DRC is different - a place where they can relax, let their guard down, and be their authentic selves.
We try to provide opportunities that are easily accessible and fit within that child's interests - that are always optional. We give them space to sit by themselves, work on something independently (checking in every once in a while to see if they need anything), or join a group activity - with no external expectations.
Kids feel the difference almost immediately. Visually, you can see their shoulders come down, their facial muscles loosen, their eyes widen with a bit of confusion (and curiosity). You can see the thoughts racing through their brain - Is this (she) for real? What is the catch? Wait, I can literally do anything - with no judgment?
I watch kids get totally involved in tasks they may have never tried - losing themselves in the joy of free choice. And (as I have said many times before), when a kid looks at me and asks, "can I ...?," and I answer, "yes, go for it" - it is the precise moment I know that they understand, deeply, they are in charge of their education and life.
It really is that simple. Trusting kids to take a deep dive into their interests and curiosities is how education is supposed to work. There is no coercion and no sticks and carrots. Only a space filled with resources, creative energy, and kind, fully supportive mentors and guides where kids are given free rein to relax, take it easy, explore all the possibilities they can possibly imagine, and develop aspirations for their future.
Weekly Creative Meditation
I think we often forget that anything we want to learn is readily accessible to any of us. We no longer need an expert who holds all the information to disseminate it and interpret it for us. The Resource page on the DRC website is a good place to find a few resources to start exploring the things that interest you (whether you are a kid - or not).
The DRC- East crew is starting a gaming club. They are looking for a used X-Box. If you have an old one you would be willing to donate, please get in touch.
If making good decisions is the backbone of creating a successful life, what happens to those who don't have good options to choose from? As a society, we judge every decision made by people who live in circumstances we can not even imagine. Part of this judgment is confusion around the definitions and usage of the words privilege, entitlement, and freedom. (All from the Apple dictionary.)
Privilege - a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group
Entitlement - the fact of having a right to something
Freedom - the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint
Culturally, individual entitlements are clearly determined and delineated by the circumstances of our birth (ethnicity, gender, and status), especially in our Capitalistic society.
For those who know me (or have read this blog for a while), you will not be surprised to learn that I believe everyone is entitled to a basic level of privilege.
None of these things should be determined by birthright or the amount of money you have. Let me be perfectly clear - you are not, in fact, entitled to more than anyone else simply because you have more. Additionally, the pursuit of your individual freedoms does not allow you to hurt or disregard anyone else.
The basic fact that these things are all current reality - is a massive failure of all humanity. As is our misplaced blame. Our "judgy" statements do not help those who live in dire circumstances. They are in that place not because of the decisions they have made - but because they have not had the options afforded those with wealth.
Freedom to live comfortably without fear while learning and growing is everyone's birthright - recognize your privilege and use it wisely. Because - every time you choose your rights over someone else's, you hurt us all.
Weekly Creative Meditation
Happy New Year from the entire DRC Crew!
We will happily be back in person this coming week after our Holiday Break. Our schedules of sessions are still being adjusted. Once we hear from all of our members as to what they want to include - the Google Calendars for both Centers will be available on our website.
DRC membership is rolling. If your child is unhappy in their educational environment - please get in touch. We can help - right now.
"At DRC, we understand that your kid may not be into school. Or - that school is no longer serving your child. We also get that you know they would thrive in the right environment. We trust that each young person will lead the way in working together to create that environment from scratch." Because - "At Deep Root Center (DRC), we believe that all young people deserve a safe, educational environment where they feel like they are part of a community - and where they are free to explore all the possibilities."
And - if you feel compelled to start your year off by contributing to our work - find the donation button here. Thank You!
We have all heard this statement at some point in our lives - followed quickly by, "There is nothing I can do." We all know what they really mean is, "I am just doing my job. I have a set of restrictions and guidelines to follow, predetermined by a higher authority, that have nothing to do with you or me - and everything to do with control."
These rules are generally not safety measures nor are they set for anyone's best interest. They are standards that have no basis beyond regulating compliance to (frequently outdated) culturally accepted practices.
I have found over the last eight years that people are utterly astonished when they hear me say, "yes, I can help, and this is what we can do." I find it equally confounding and gratifying, with a tiny bit of embarrassment thrown in, that those simple words can bring so much relief and gushing gratitude.
I propose a new set of standards:
Weekly Creative Meditation
Thank you to all of the families who have shared their stories and have trusted our guidance and philosophy over these past eight years. You and your children are the reason we continue to make it our jobs to challenge and then redefine cultural norms.
Wishing you all a blessed and Happy New Year filled with joy and worthwhile work.
I would guess that many people ask themselves this question before taking any test or class. And when you consider the underlying cultural purpose of exams and grades - this question is clearly the correct one to ponder.
When we use tests or grades to determine whether the students have learned the content of classes or have met specific conditions to move forward (ticked off the correct boxes), we as a society are negating the worth of a good portion of our population. I mean, we literally use a ranking process to determine where a person stands within the system and, ultimately, society.
Yes, a few folks are naturally great test-takers (good at memorizing, regurgitating, and knowing what the teacher expects) and will always rise to the top. There is a reason for that old expression - "cream of the crop." The grand quest for 4.0 is the determining factor in how they feel about themselves and, sometimes, how they rate others in comparison to themselves. (I know this because I was one of those people.) They wrap themselves in the esteem of high grades and expect (usually correctly) that their 4.0 will open all the doors.
I will also argue that those natural test-takers, for the most part, come from an advantaged portion of the population: they have had few (if any) traumas in their lives, have a place to call home, know where their next meal is coming from, and do not have to worry about the basic necessities of life. People expect them to do well - simply because of their family name and where they originate (the "right" side of the tracks). Additionally, their learning disabilities are discovered early, and interventions are provided quickly. This practice is opposed to a large proportion of the student population who have to fight tooth and nail to receive official diagnoses and accommodations.
There is little or no classroom flexibility for anyone who:
This culturally approved educational philosophy provides an environment for unhealthy competition and bullying and compounds the current rates of anxiety, distrust, fear, and anger. Ultimately, we have an unimaginative, depressed, disengaged, disconnected population that hates learning, is disenfranchised from the system, and, most importantly, mistakenly understands that they are not good enough.
Tragically, we continue to lose our brightest, most creative minds to a system that fails to recognize their pure and absolute brilliance - which defies measurement with a simple exam or grade.
Weekly Creative Meditation
Thank you again to everyone who has contributed to the DRC annual funding appeal. This is your reminder that there are less than two weeks left to get your charitable donations counted in your 2021 tax filing. Please consider donating to Deep Root Center. You can honor a loved one or tell us why you are contributing in the comment section of the Donor Box.
DRC provides consultation services to families who want to begin homeschooling but do not want to become members of the Center. We have had so many requests for consultations these past few weeks - that we have developed a Google Form to streamline this service. If you know someone who desperately wants to homeschool but is intimidated by the process, please guide them to the consultation page on our website.
Best wishes for a Happy Solstice and Merry Christmas to those who celebrate from the entire DRC Crew!
Total impact is a section found on most grant applications or referenced in queries from potential donors. And it is a question I find myself honestly struggling to answer every damn time. Do they simply mean, how many kids do we serve, along with how many people do we employ? Or, maybe it means, what impact do we have on those individual kids? Or, it could even be, what are the ramifications of our presence within the community as a whole? I understand they are looking for quantification to justify any amount of money they may direct our way. Nonetheless, in most cases, our impact is decidedly intangible and unquantifiable, and, as usual, does not fit into any of their tidy little boxes.
I mean, really, how do you measure the impact of:
Because we don't use grades, a specific curriculum, or rubrics, the total impact of what we do every day may look minimal to those unaccustomed to our methodology and philosophy - until we re-imagine the metrics used to indicate improvements in confidence, engagement, and mental health. It is pretty much impossible to calculate the value of smiles, new friendships, warmth, trust, understanding, self-assurance, purpose, and personal dreams. Additionally, we may never realize the influence each fully appreciated, supported, and celebrated individual has on their family or community.
Weekly Creative Meditation
This coming Thursday is the last day before the Winter Break for both Centers. We will each have a Holiday party - DRC-East has a two-day "shindig" planned. We will share Secret Santa gifts (for those who choose to participate), games, stories, and treats that we will make together.
I have postponed my shoulder surgery to this Spring - after we finish our Academic year. There were too many things pointing to holding off. One of which was the stress of trying to shove a 2-3 week advised recovery period into exactly two weeks (and the inconvenience of winter, overall).
Thank you to everyone who has already donated to our annual funding appeal. If you have not yet, please consider contributing and sharing your reasons with your network. The only way we have to show our impact on the community is by continuing our work, and we can not do that without our community's financial support.
Here is a short list of what we should, as a society, be modeling and caring about:
I am in equal parts - angered, saddened, and horrified that we live in a world that mostly ignores how (and where) these essential and complex concepts are developed but fully supports the ridiculously obtuse notions modeled within our educational system. And to be clear, when I hear that a school official is concerned that a student's individual education plan does not include the NYS curriculum, I have to wonder if they even understand what they are measuring with that rigid, finite, unimaginative, competition based curriculum. Or if they are even worried about supporting that student or simply want to sustain the system.
Weekly Creative Meditation
We are deeply grateful that our Annual Funding Appeal is reaching folks who have never donated before. If you have not already, please consider contributing to Deep Root Center here or you can send a check to 48 Riverside Drive, Canton, NY. Every dollar goes towards supporting "our" kids.
DRC-East is booming! Last week we added five(!) new members! They are grateful to have their new space at the "Life in his Arms Community Church" and would like to make it permanently theirs. You can help by contributing to the Go-Fund-Me set up to purchase it.
And DRC-East sends a huge thank you to Becky and Glen Webster for donating a case of potato chips and a $200 GC to Webster's Meat Shop. They are excited to have fresh meat to cook for their lunches.