Those of you who know me, either in person or through these weekly musings, have heard me rail against the constraints of societal norms. Within that, you have probably noticed that I regularly express my contempt for tradition, ritual, and routine.
This morning while I was lying on the bedroom floor, talking myself through daily yoga poses and stretches, I realized, with some clarity, that I willingly participate in some routine activities every single day without chafing against them. And, in most cases, those rituals make my life measurably better.
What then is the difference? Why do some push all my buttons, while others are appreciated habits? This thought process, of course, sent me down another rabbit hole, a place I visit quite often while on the yoga mat in various, adapted poses. Today, while laying in the final backstretch, waiting to hear the popping sound that indicates that my hips have achieved (semi) alignment, the words "expectation" and "obligation" dropped into my head simultaneously. That one collective concept is, of course, the key.
When I feel pushed and coerced into doing something, simply because it is tradition, I will automatically rebel. In my mind, there doesn't need to be any other logical reason. For some, my rebellion over seemingly inconsequential stuff has the appearance of pure obstinacy or ridiculous lines drawn in the sand.
However, it makes utter sense when you consider that inconsistency, along with contradiction and hypocrisy, is the combination of traits that rests second on my list of pet peeves.
Why would I blindly accept (and celebrate) the ritualistic traditions that are part of my culture when my daily reality runs counter to societal norms, including the mission of providing a non-coercive educational environment and programming for any child who needs us? Not only that, but I also (some would say foolishly) trust that those kids are intrinsically motivated to seek out everything they need to grow and learn.
This internal conversation all leads, quite handily, to the reason this particular warren of thoughts was grappling for release from my subconscious this morning.
It is once again the time of year that we reach out to you for financial assistance. Yes, asking for your contribution has become an annual tradition. However, the last thing I want is for you to feel obligated to donate. Just as I am confident in our student's abilities to take on whatever challenges they encounter, I trust that the folks with whom our message resonates, and are able, will support us financially.
That, indeed, was the case for an incredibly generous donor who recently sent an unsolicited check for $5000.00. There are no words for the emotions that swirled when I opened that envelope. Nor for the short message I received a few days later in response to my note of thanks, stating that he wanted to acknowledge his appreciation of our work, especially during these challenging times.
I am deeply grateful for every dollar and for every kind word of support that recognizes our commitment to honoring our promise to our community. Thank you!
* Contribute an online donation here, or send a check to Deep Root Center, 48 Riverside Dr., Canton, NY 13617.
It has been brought to the DRC staff's attention that there is a shortage of afternoon options for families in Canton. We are committed to opening this program, (with a full Covid-19-19 Safety Plan in place) when there are enough interested families to make it viable.
Deep Root Center's Exploration Station Services extend our unique brand to children in the community who attend public or private schools.
DRC provides a physically and emotionally safe space for children, filled with resources and materials, where they are encouraged to explore their interests freely, without coercion. The DRC Afternoon Program is designed to offer opportunities for hands-on exploration, creativity, and fun that children crave.
Please get in touch if you are looking for an afternoon program for your family.
Yes, "this" sucks in so many ways. Folks are sick and dying, are forced to work in unsafe conditions, or have lost their jobs. Many can't pay their rent (or mortgage), buy food and other necessities, and can't find childcare - which only highlights the fact that those without privilege are (and will be) the hardest hit. Some would argue the very definition of entitlement is freedom (h/t Kenzie Corse). That, however, is a critical conversation I will save for another day.
The point I would like to make today is that each of us with privilege, who can shelter at home without repercussions, has the opportunity to embrace all the possibilities (without whining about our lack of freedoms). Foremost, it is a chance to generate ideas - new ways of being and doing. The tired argument, "this is the way we have always done it," does not work, and to be honest, it never has.
Additionally, if you are waiting for our world to go back to normal - please understand that normalcy never existed. And even if it had, why would we want to go back?
Yes, I completely understand the feelings of utter exhaustion that accompanies all of "this." The bone-deep weariness that invades and impedes our desire to be creative, as well as all the good intentions buried beneath our body and mind's demand to hibernate. (Note that collection of blog posts I promised that never got written and my second children's book that was never illustrated or self-published.)
Nevertheless, I am continuously inspired and motivated by the innovations and forward motion that has come, despite the mental and physical fatigue, as a direct response to the challenges presented by this pandemic and societal unrest.
Deep Root Center, for example, developed a new distance learning program, which we were able to devise only because our St. Lawrence University Community Based Learning (CBL) students had to volunteer virtually. We generated a schedule of Google Meet sessions, based on what our in-person and distance learning kids were interested in, then paired DRC members with the CBL facilitators and mentors.
This experiment was so successful we began adding the projects and activities the staff was facilitating in-person at the Center to the virtual schedule. Up till now, with a couple of exceptions, only our Canton kids and the Distance Learning peeps have taken advantage of the virtual opportunities. Happily, now that we are fully remote, with a schedule of Google Meet and Discord sessions facilitated by DRC staff, our Lawrenceville kids are hopping on board.
This level of engagement would not have been possible without the innovations that came out of necessity. Despite not being together in a physical space, we are all enriched.
History has taught us that forward motion will always be uncomfortable, initially. The path to progress will always be open to those who can think outside the box and embrace (and endure) the growing pains.
DRC has open enrollment throughout the year. Get in touch if you would like to join our "virtual" world. This schedule is flexible; we will add Sessions as they are requested.
We wish you a Happy Thanksgiving from everyone at DRC. Stay safe!
Playing has become a four-letter word in our culture. Uttering the three words, "I am playing," conjures up frivolity, excess, diversionary tactics, plastic toys, and the needless waste of time. Which explains why most 9-18-year-olds I meet can look me straight in the eye and say, either, "I used to play when I was young, but I don't anymore, or I don't know how to play."
Somewhere along the way, we have lost the true definition of play. It, in its purest form, is exploration based on curiosity, imagination, and creativity. And not coincidentally, is also the driving force behind all authentic learning.
Therefore, I am on a mission to normalize and legitimize not only the word but the act of playing.
Yes, among many other things, I play with written words, graphic design, food, tech skills, and even verbal communication. I use the word "play" explicitly (and sometimes provocatively) to describe any task. I want to express very clearly that I enjoy my work and that I anticipate having fun.
Most of us will only take anything on voluntarily (even if it may seem challenging or hard) if there is the promise of pleasure, happiness, and the feeling of satisfaction from a job well done at the end. Hence, the very concept of enjoyment drives self-motivation, which, not surprisingly, along with rigor, is the number one concern for most parents (and teens) who contact me.
As human beings, we will not do (or learn) something simply because someone tells us that we "have to" or that it is necessary for our future.
Our evolution, as humans, required all authentic learning to be driven by imagination, creativity, experimentation, and the exploration of all the things that we are each profoundly interested in. These are the notions that make us ask questions, spend hours contemplating, seeking out the answers, challenging the status quo, and creating solutions, change, and, most importantly, art.
We are all playing here. Make it worth your while, and have fun!
This past week we were very fortunate to have a film-maker, Liam Crossen, at the Center interviewing our student members, staff, and families to create short vignettes, as well as action footage of the Centers for our social media accounts and website. We are excited that you will have the chance to hear about Deep Root Center from the perspective of those who spend their days here. These will begin rolling out as soon as he has them edited. Stay-tuned!
This amazing opportunity was perfectly timed - we decided to go fully remote beginning Monday, Nov. 16th, as the number of COVID cases rose exponentially over the last week.
Our student members will still have the opportunity to connect remotely through the DRC daily schedule of classes and mentoring sessions, as well as on a broader scale with other young people around the world through the Liberated Learners Network schedule of classes. If your virtual education is leaving you feeling bored and uninspired, check us out. DRC is accepting distance learning members throughout the pandemic.
And, a special thank you to Ian Corse for taking the new DRC Logo and "cleaning it up" for us.
Four years ago, I wrote a post that I ultimately determined was too personal, too raw for the DRC page. As a solution, I created Rooting for Change, a place to publish essays dedicated to my thoughts, which I believed at the time, were too much for the Deep Root Center Blog. As is sometimes the case for me, the excitement of imagining something new carried me as long as it took to write three additional posts after that initial essay (which coincidentally never ended up on that page). Looking back on it now, I see that it was a good idea that quickly got lost to the overwhelming weight of lies, deceit, and blatantly cruel retaliation. And, yes, the ridiculous feelings of - why bother?
After hearing the election news yesterday afternoon, I realized that I felt like I could breathe again. Without fully realizing it, for four long years, I had been subconsciously holding my breath - clenching and bracing my body in constant anticipation for the next direct hit.
My main job as a mentor to the young people who choose DRC is to not only support them, trust them completely, and help them seek out resources to meet their interests and aspirations but to model compassion, kindness, and moral character.
I had not realized until this moment how hard that work was, over these four years, given that skepticism was running a convincing race as my defining trait, and snarkiness had found a comfy home at the tippy top of my list of skill-sets.
With the above fully recognized, I would like to clearly state that what brought us the levels of pain and resentment is not gone, simply because we have ousted a demagogue. The underlying issues of inequities and injustice are living on the shoulders of those whom we, as a white privileged, society consider the "other" (BIPOC, LGBTQA+, refugees, immigrants, etc.). Those weights of disparity, racism, and xenophobia have not magically disappeared. We have (as I mentioned in a personal note yesterday) a SHIT TON of work to do.
How do we even begin that work when we are up against folks who are so afraid of change (progress) that they are driven so far into denial that they consider alternative facts an acceptable version of the truth?
Upon reflecting on my responsibility, beyond being a positive role model to all "my" kids, I would like to resurrect the Rooting for Change Blog. Despite the partially humorous self-imposed snarky label, I consider myself, foremost, a writer. And, without grandiose or self-congratulatory intent, I would like to seed the changes needed to welcome everyone into the conversation - through affirmative messages, honesty, compassion, and kindness.
Given my time constraints, the only way to keep the Rooting for Change blog alive is to make it a collaborative effort and push forward the works of folks whose voices need to be heard. If you would like to contribute an essay, letter, poem, or creative piece, following the guidelines below, please submit it here for consideration. And, please feel free to share this opportunity within your network.
The following is the first essay posted to Rooting for Change on November 14th, 2016:
Expanding My Voice -
I write to process and then express my emotions, hopes, fears, anger, and observations, broadcast to the world via the Deep Root Center Blog. This past week, I came to realize that many of those things I have to say as an individual are not necessarily appropriate to articulate as the voice of an organization. In this case, a not-for-profit, educational entity that welcomes and respects a variety of perspectives from our student members, their families, our staff, volunteers, community collaborators, and supporters.
Stay tuned as this forum takes shape as a place where we can share our deepest feelings and fondest wishes for this community and beyond. I request that comments remain kind, constructive, and without judgment. This forum will remain a safe place where everyone can feel welcome to express their concerns and desires.
The one rule at Deep Root Center is also applied here: Respect yourself, each other, and this space.
I look forward to future conversations that will bring us closer to understanding each other.
We all have emotional triggers. Some wear them prominently and proudly on their foreheads or chests as big bright red buttons - daring - you - to - push - them. These folks feed on the drama and toxicity of instigating and promoting conflict and dissent and delight in the angry interactions that ensue. They are happiest when they are engaged in subversive measures to prompt the desired and inevitable response. This behavior has become so prevalent that pop-culture has coined "being a Karen" as the universal derogatory identifier.
Others of us keep our triggers undercover - until we are completely overwhelmed with the feelings of rawness and have no option but to respond. Personally, it is most often hypocrisy and pettiness (Yes, Karen-ness) that set me off.
I get more than a bit pissed off when we (collectively) waste enormous amounts of community (tax-payer) resources, and those who were needlessly involved are upset. And, I resent the time and emotional energy I squander while responding to put out fires that are products of misinformation (not knowing or understanding the whole story) or blatant lies.
My point every time I encounter this type of heedless disregard for others, shameful lack of compassion and empathy, and outright unkindness (the by-product of busybodies) is that fundamental and forthright communication could have resolved the entire situation.
If you have a problem or notice something you are unsure of or uncomfortable with, talk about it. Weaponizing your triggers will only foster bitterness and apathy and will ultimately gain you a reputation.
The DRC-East parent group is currently raising funds to purchase a heating system for the Lawrenceville facility. You can contribute directly to the gofundme here.
They and the student members will also be set up at the Kinney Drugs this coming Tuesday and Wednesday between 10-2 to sell 50/50 Raffle tickets. The drawing will be November 5th. If you are out and about in Massena on either of those days - mask up and come down to support their efforts.
How many times have you directed those words at yourself after making a mistake? We are so much harsher on ourselves than on anyone else. In fact, you probably would never even consider calling someone else an idiot - unless it is yelled (along with a few other choice words) in the privacy of your car when someone cuts you off in traffic.
As you may have imagined, this post is the direct result of an incident yesterday, in which I was upset with myself. Beyond the physical injury (yes, it was that kind of mistake), I was beating myself up pretty badly for ruining intended plans (we were on the eastern side of the State visiting my sister-in-law) and for inconveniencing my family.
After a bit, while sitting in a bed in the Plattsburgh E.R. waiting for them to determine that I had dislocated my arm (thankfully, not broken my humerus), I realized how dumb it was to condemn myself for an accident. Yes, it probably could have been prevented if I had tied my laces instead of just shoving my feet into my hiking boots for the short distance to retrieve my coffee from the car. However, the fact that the lace got caught in the step, causing me to trip and land face-first in the gravel driveway, was not intentional.
When you can realize that life is simply a series of mistakes, treat each of them as a valuable learning experience, and then move forward with all of that accumulated wisdom, you will understand that you are perpetually creating new and better versions of yourself.
This current rendition of me is incredibly grateful and humbled to have Mike (my hubby), my family, and all of my DRC Peeps in my corner. I will be calling on them over the coming weeks to assist me with the simplest of tasks - not the least of which will be tying my shoes.
The DRC-East families are continuing to raise money for a furnace for the facility that hosts us in Lawrenceville. The GoFundMe page is active and they are selling 50/50 raffle tickets until the drawing on November 5th. Get in touch to purchase your tickets.How many times have you directed those words at yourself after making a mistake? We are so much harsher on ourselves than on anyone else. In fact, you probably would never even consider calling someone else an idiot - unless it is yelled (along with a few other choice words) in the privacy of your car when someone cuts you off in traffic.
Those of you who have read my blog regularly for a while have heard me mention, a few times, that serendipity is my favorite word. Not only do I love the fundamental concept, along with the feeling of playfulness it engenders, but I have also very recently come to realize that it embodies my entire life philosophy.
I believe that openness, flexibility, adaptability, gratitude, and trust are all the keys that provide the space to explore all the possibilities. And, not coincidentally, allows those serendipitous moments to pop up, seemingly out of nowhere.
On the opposing side, I have come to learn that obsessively worrying about circumstances that arise, or trying to control a situation, ultimately inhibits my ability to go with the flow and embrace the incredible opportunities that present themselves along the way. In fact, upon reflection, I often didn't even see them or their potential.
I have discovered that expecting happy surprises, which may include people fortuitously entering my life, events occurring at a particular time, or even experiences that I had not imagined as useful, enrich my soul beyond measure. And I am profoundly grateful.
The boys filled the water filter on their own, and then watched carefully and discussed the process of the water going down through the filter and filling the bottom of the pitcher. "It is going down and up at the same time." - TD
I am excited by the potential of one such serendipitous phone call that I received this past Friday. In the coming weeks and months, you will be witness to the unfolding results of the collaborative work that it inspires. Stay-tuned!
Yesterday, I asked DRC kids, families, staff, and board to vote on a new t-shirt design. One of them has become the clear front runner; however, in the interest of fairness, I am not going to say which one. If you feel at all invested in which t-shirt would best represent DRC, please state your preference in the comments or send us a message. I will reveal the new design in next week's blog post.
As we get closer to winter, DRC-East families are continuing to work hard on their fundraising efforts to purchase a furnace for the fantastic facility that hosts us in Lawrenceville. Along with the 50/50 raffle (which you can also purchase at DRC Canton), they have created a "go-fund-me" page. They are grateful for any help you can offer. Thank you to everyone who has already contributed.
The five consecutive words I hear more often than any others regarding homeschooling (or, more accurately, unschooling) are, "I want to make sure..." My response is always either, "you can't," or more directly, "don't," when I am feeling particularly spunky.
Yes, I understand that the basis of this statement is steeped in the murky and culturized depths of what society and the government school system have established as valid. However, this particular conversation makes me incredibly crazy and frustrated.
For starters, the pre-determined guidelines and standards do not take individuality, not to mention particular interests or aspirations into consideration. And, more importantly, at the end of the day, no one, except YOU, has the authority to determine the validity of what YOU choose to learn and explore.
Autonomy is critical for problem-solving, scientific inquiry, the ability to make decisions and reason, open-mindedness, the skill to perceive injustice, and the capacity to play, explore, and wonder.
The ill-conceived concepts of obedience, conformity, and compliance (for the good of all), have undermined and virtually erased the legitimacy of individual self-determination.
With this knowledge, I have no reason to wonder why: many young people feel lost and have no idea what they are even interested in pursuing, there is a disregard for the scientific method, and a rush to accept conspiracy theories, as well as why there is this unfathomable and disconcerting inability to understand the significance of history on our current reality.
The DRC-East families are working on raising money to help purchase a furnace (boiler) for the house that hosts us in Lawrenceville. If a central heat source is not installed before it gets cold, DRC-East will need to find another facility and move.
Because DRC does not own the building, the families are organizing these on their own. The first fundraiser is a 50/50 raffle. Thank you for your support.
SLU Make a Difference Day
Thank you to the SLU Crew who came on Saturday to install a pallet fence, and rake our yard.
When given the opportunity, how do you describe yourself? Do you reference your physical and personality characteristics, along with your skills, interests, and talents? Do you share your dreams and aspirations, and emphasize your positive attributes? Or, do you list your deficits and the negative aspects that you dislike about yourself, first?
Most of us have mastered the fine art of self-deprecation. To the point where we don't even realize how much it has influenced every part of our lives.
For fear of being labeled selfish, lazy, or narcissistic, we have learned to downplay our talents (and genius), work ourselves to the point of exhaustion, without resting, and ignore the burning desire to take the time to practice a new skill-set.
Our health (mental and physical), relationships, and aspirations, along with our good intentions, are all the collateral damage that attests to our busy-ness and self-disparagement.
No, you are not lazy or selfish if you take time to "goof-off" and rest your mind and body. No! You are not narcissistic if you think about following your passions and desire happiness.
Therefore, the most important question of all may be, do you know, in your heart of hearts, what inspires you to be your best self?
In the end, it all comes down to trusting that your true authentic self is perfectly suited to you (and is enough). Your joys, intuition, hopes, desires, talents, and skills, as well as your imperfections, are all part of you for a reason. Acting on the things that fulfill you is what will drive you to share yourself with others. And, not coincidentally, the resulting collaborations are what bring you more fully to yourself. Because all humans, even those of us who are extreme introverts, require meaningful connections with our fellow beings to survive and to, ultimately, thrive.
Thank you to Bill H. for assembling the portable basketball hoop that Tasha N. donated a couple weeks ago. We enjoyed a few short games of "PIG" before the rain arrived (and stayed around) this past week.
Thank you also to Zoe S. for picking up the CNY Foodbank order at the Canton Neighborhood Center and bringing it to DRC last Wednesday. It is a task that we need a volunteer to take on least two Wednesdays every month. If you would like to help out occasionally, contact me here.
DRC-East, in Lawrenceville, is booming. Six new kids joined us this last week! We are looking for dedicated volunteers to spend a day or two each week with our amazing kiddos over there. If you live in the area and would like to share your skills, talents, and interests with them, please get in touch to learn more.
When experienced habitually, in learning environments, these are the emotions, along with excitement, anticipation, pleasure, pride, and self-respect, generated through authentic and meaningful learning experiences that produce a life-long love of learning. Despair, fear, sadness, anxiety, and apathy are all roadblocks and lead to the antithesis.
It has been proven, time and again, that our brains literally shut down when exposed to external stress and fear. Yet, our modern, traditional school systems still rely on their foundational strategy of coercion, intimidation, and fear of failure to elicit compliance.
Even during these extraordinary times when hybrid school is their answer to a pandemic, many districts are doubling down on these tactics - instigating emotional crises and trauma where there should be none. If there was ever a doubt about their loyalties and purpose, their callous behavior during this critical moment in time provides us with a definitive answer. The kids they serve are not their top priority. Additionally, I will argue that they are actively teaching children to hate the very thing they claim to provide.
If this stinging assessment seems harsh and unrealistic, you have probably not been privy to the same type and number of overwhelmingly sad stories that I have listened to over the past two weeks. The residual trauma of pushing parents and children to their limits, while erasing joy and enthusiasm from the equation will have long term implications for everyone involved.
This seems like a good time to send out a reminder of why DRC exists:
We believe that all young people deserve a safe, educational environment where they feel trusted and heard - and where they are free to explore all the possibilities. Learning can only happen when kids intuitively understand that they are safe, heard, and trusted to make decisions, make mistakes, and explore all their interests to achieve their ever-evolving aspirations.
DRC provides in-person or distance learning membership, as well as consultation services to homeschool on your own. We are here for anyone who needs us. Contact us today.
We still need someone to pick up the FoodBank order and bring it to the Canton facility. I have an order arriving on Wednesday, while I am at the Lawrenceville Center . Please get in touch if you can help.
The basketball hoop still needs to be assembled - we are having issues with the nuts not going onto the bolts. What are we doing wrong? Help!
The garage has been cleaned out a bit more, but we are looking for someone to help install organizational elements - shelving, hooks, etc.
What does it take to become a superhero?
Many would say physical strength - I would counter that by insisting a strong moral character is imminently more desirable.
Some would say cleverness is necessary - I would contend that wisdom has much greater value.
A good number would claim that every superhero needs a costume - I would observe that they prefer to be authentic and forgo any form of disguise.
Others would argue (quite strenuously) that an unworldly, inhuman magical power is required - I would assert that empathy, compassion, modesty, and a commitment to use your talents and skills for the good of all is the most vital of all super-powers.
Sadly, the world lost a powerful yet humble Super-heroine on Friday.
The good news is that each of us can step-up and dedicate ourselves to living our principles and sharing our imperfect lives with intelligence, understanding, authenticity, kindness, humility, and gratitude to release our very own inner superhero. Every single one of us can be the hero we are seeking.
Thank you, Justice Ginsberg, for teaching us that one person can, indeed, make the world a better place for us all.
Our first full week included a bit of tech angst while we worked out a few bugs in our virtual class platforms. We have sixteen different virtual classes - ranging from book clubs, writing clubs, languages, and arts and crafts and facilitated by seven SLU Volunteers from the Community Based Learning Program. We also have a couple kids joining us as distance learners. They are able to join the SLU volunteers as well as some hybrid sessions facilitated by the DRC staff. This is all new for us and we are learning as we are going. Fortunately, everyone involved understands that mistakes, as well as unforeseen glitches (the internet going out), happen.
Volunteer Help Wanted -If you are able to help us out on these projects - please get in touch. Thank you!!!
1. We have a portable basketball hoop that we need help assembling.
2. We have a friend/volunteer who is a master mechanic. He is determined to get our garage set-up properly so we can use it as an actual lab learning space for the trades (mechanics, carpentry, maybe electrical, etc.). A couple of volunteers cleaned it up significantly a couple weeks ago - but we need to bring it to the next level (creating storage and organizational systems, and work spaces, and removing items that are not being used). This is a fairly large undertaking that will take dedicated time and some skill.
3. There is a dead tree in the backyard that needs to be cut down. It is very tricky and needs a pro (or two).
DRC-Lawrenceville These Peeps had their first day together on Wednesday at the Nicandri Nature Center. We had a fabulous time walking and exploring the trails.
Earlier this Spring, when I was looking back and trying to organize all of the nearly seven years worth of blog posts, I discovered that the most common theme, by a long stretch, was trust. Therefore, it isn't surprising that after the first days of our academic year, it is once again at the forefront of my consciousness. After all, it is fundamental to our philosophy and methodology at DRC.
I get the same questions every year from our members, parents, and absolute strangers that ultimately revolve around "making sure."
"How do you know they are doing the things they say they are doing?"
"How do I prove that I have done something?"
"What if I don't want to do math?"
"How do you know they are learning something?"
"How will they learn basic math (reading, writing, spelling, history, science)?"
"How will they get into college (get a job, function in society) if they only do the things they want to do?
"How will they learn discipline?"
And, then, come the statements:
"If you don't force them to do something, they will take advantage of you."
"Kids are fundamentally lazy."
"My child is not self-directed."
"My kid is only interested in video games."
"My child hates reading (math, history, spelling, science)."
These are all valid points when you consider that their point of view is based purely on their experience and knowledge of nothing but the traditional, compulsory, coercive system.
Yes, I, absolutely, trust that all of my "Peeps" are learning, growing, and making mistakes all the time. I believe that they, at their very core, know exactly what they need. I have confidence that they are all capable of seeking out the necessary support, knowledge, and experience when they are ready. I understand that they are all unique individuals with personal internal timetables, natural inclinations, aspirations, and, most importantly, free will.
When you consider that curiosity and creativity drive all learning and then go on to understand that all humans are born curious, isn't it natural to trust that every one of us will learn everything we need to - in our lifetime? Learning, after all, is a life-long endeavor.
Coercion is the only thing that will, without a doubt, turn-off, shutdown, and otherwise disengage our innate inquisitiveness and inventiveness, and ultimately our love of learning. And our traditional educational systems are designed to do just that. When obedience became the core principle of the educational system - not learning, that is the exact moment when trust was converted into a rare, beautiful, precious, and unexpected gift.
We are Back!
After a six month hiatus, this past Thursday was our first day back in the DRC Canton Facility. I am so excited to connect with all of "my" kiddos, again. We have an awesome crew of veterans and newbies! We spent a good portion of our first days considering everything that we want to include in our schedule and getting to know each other. I am grateful for their uniquely, wonderful personalities, and the humor, curiosity, creativity, and intellect they each bring to the group.
A few snapshots from our first two days !
This year I am delighted that our team of four in Canton includes myself, Elian, our staff person, Chase, the Senior Apprentice (returning for his second year), and Ryan our Apprentice. It is incredibly exciting to have these young people with us, training to work in a self-directed learning environment. The goal is that they will go out into the world to work with other organizations, or even found a center of their own.
Lawrenceville will open this coming Wednesday and then every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Happily, Trish will return as our Tues. & Thurs. staff person and I will be there every Wednesday.
We have a few openings in both Canton and Lawrenceville. You are welcome to get in touch if your child is interested in joining us.
Our Distance Learning Program is up and running as well and has a couple of slots open. Or, if your family has decided to homeschool on your own, consultation services are also available.
This week's post has taken the form of a photo essay - a visual cue that "we humans are nothing but bit players in this thing called life." I needed the reminder this weekend that there are never-ending Universal influences at work behind the scenes that are (and will always be) way beyond my control.
The stark beauty of nature, in all her glory, during a late morning walk prompted me to, once again, acknowledge that, after that initial punch to the gut, I can choose to respond with openness, positivity, gratitude, and hopefulness - to bend and adapt (like Mother Nature, herself), or I can react in anger, anxiety, frustration, and helplessness. In the end, there will always be an awareness that "this too shall pass," no matter how I chose to deal with it. And, only with the perspective of time can I look in the rear-view mirror to fully understand and appreciate all the "whys."
You have probably heard the axiom that growth and change require discomfort. I don't know about you, but I am not often willing to feel uncomfortable - no matter the potential positive result. For me, the word "discomfort" sounds painful, coercive, and frankly reminiscent of sitting in a dentist's chair.
I prefer to use the word "challenging" instead. A challenge, foremost, represents freedom and the opportunity to explore all the available options - not as something to fight against, but something to fight for.
Highlighting this distinction in language brings me directly to the vitally important conversations that are occurring around the country right now. I believe that the ultimate goals of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the widespread call for systemic change for black and brown people, the 98%, LGBTQIA+ folks, refugees, and those suffering from mental illness, can only happen by providing a set of circumstances that allow for the freedom to choose to have personal fundamental belief systems challenged.
We know that we can not force someone to change their mind - we cannot argue or ridicule them into seeing a non-racist, non-xenophobic, non-misogynistic, non-homophobic, compassionately, empathetic point of view. When people feel like they are strong-armed or guilted into change, it instigates defensive postures, resentment, and ultimately hatred against those that they perceive forced the adaptation. Which often breeds violence, accomplishing the exact opposite of the initial intention.
I believe our best way forward is to shine a very bright light on all of the cultural barriers that prevent everyone from living a life free from systemic injustice, prejudice, and bigotry. Then present it as a challenge for all of us to problem solve and work on, together - freely. I will argue that at the end of the day, almost everyone wants to feel like they are an important part of a community and that they had a hand in creating something valuable and worthwhile.
And, then comes the most important piece of this entire process, we absolutely need to recognize and normalize the efforts and value of changing one's mind. After all, change begets growth and learning - the two things that humans are perfectly designed to do.
In a bit over a week, we will open the doors to both, DRC-Canton and DRC-East in Lawrenceville, for a new year sure to be filled with adventures and challenges. If you are still conflicted about what you and your family are doing, or are unhappy with the choice you made, get in touch. We are here to help you navigate all your options.
Each of the Deep Root Center Social Media graphics this week has begun with the words, "Dare to" followed by actions that, unfortunately, in today's culture, need to lead with that verbal challenge. Dare to - color outside the lines, use your imagination, dream, make mistakes, fail, be disappointed, and the one that has not posted yet, "Dare to embrace and celebrate your flawed, yet amazingly, awesome authentic self."
Most of us are afraid to imagine contemplating doing any of those things - let alone, actually, do them. We have all learned that fitting in is the standard to which we will be judged - every damn time. And as a result, creativity has been the collateral paid to achieve our collective insipidness.
We have developed a culture, tethered by the fear of failure, where very few are willing to take the deep plunge into the boundless world of innovative problem-solving - because, instead of honoring mistakes and framing them as an opportunity for real learning, we chastise and punish.
The inspiring Sir Ken Robinson, who sadly passed away this weekend, framed this modern educational (and now cultural) shortcoming, beautifully, in his now, infamous, 2006 TED Talk entitled, "Do Schools Kill Creativity?"
One of his main points, in both his speech and his book of the same title, is that "children have an extraordinary capacity for innovation - that all kids have tremendous talents, and we squander them, pretty ruthlessly." R.I.P. - Sir Ken. Your gentle humor and unconventional ideas about the future of education will be greatly missed.
In case you have not noticed, the only way the human species is going to survive is if the dare-devils, the ingenious problem-solvers, generate innovative ideas to solve the mess we have created. These are the folks who are unafraid to step outside the box, challenge the status quo, and ignore the naysayers. No! Not to produce more conspiracy theories, by actively seeking out conclusions that match their notions. But, to diligently work through experimentation and analysis of their ideas, within the scientific method, with openness and willingness to share their process and results (both positive and negative) with their scientific peers and the broader community, with the understanding that they may, very well, be wrong. The vital piece, within this entire scenario, is their enthusiasm for re-framing the original question to accommodate the knowledge gained from their "failed" attempt(s).
An enormous thank you to Dave Schryver for donating the time (design), materials, skills, and labor to build this lean-to in the DRC backyard. It will keep us (and our projects) sheltered this fall.
We are extremely grateful for all the folks who came out, yesterday, to help build it, clean-up the yard (cut some tree branches), and sort out and clean the garage. Thanks to Zoe Schryver and fam, Branden and Brayden F., Derek S., Mike C., Bill H., and Liberty S.
Race To Nowhere - Film
This is an amazing opportunity to watch this acclaimed film from ten years ago that seems more relevant than ever, and to hear from the director. Follow this link to register (by donation) - watch the film at your leisure, and then join us on Thursday, August 27th, at 7 pm for a virtual panel that includes the film's director.
One day, six years ago, I was standing at the Deep Root Center table at the Canton Farmers' Market in the Canton Village Park, talking to people about DRC, as they passed by. I was feeling more than a little intimidated by the entire process, mainly because a) I am an introvert, and b) I was still in the process of developing the language to describe why DRC exists, how we provide services, and what we are.
I will always remember the one guy who walked up while I was talking to another family and asked, "so what is your agenda?" To say that I was startled by the question would be putting it mildly. I looked at him and said, "I (we) don't have one." He looked back at me with what I can only describe as contempt, and said, "everyone has an agenda," and walked away. That one, seemly, inconsequential encounter has stuck with me - it felt like he was accusing me of being there with, nefarious, intent - for "drumming up business" and hawking DRC for other reasons besides what was clearly visible to anyone who passed by.
Today, after six years of being completely immersed in doing what we do (working with more than 100 young people), and talking about it, I would be able to say that, "yes, we do have an agenda." Although, it doesn't have the negative connotation that he was implying.
Deep Root Center exists solely because all young people deserve a safe, educational environment where they feel trusted and heard - and where they are free to explore all the possibilities. Because, learning can only happen when kids intuitively understand that they are safe, heard, and trusted to make decisions, make mistakes, and explore all their interests to achieve their ever-evolving aspirations.
In the simplest possible terms, we are here to help any child, along with their family, opt-out of traditional schools to dive deeply into the subjects and themes they are curious about, seek out opportunities that excite them, and build their future. It is, indeed, an agenda - one that we can be, profoundly, proud to explain to anyone who asks.
Join us this coming Saturday, August 22nd, to build a lean-to in the DRC backyard. It will provide shelter this Fall for the majority of our activities and projects this Fall - during this age of COVID. All skill levels welcome!
The answer is, almost always, “yes.” When the question begins, “Can I …,” the response will be, “absolutely, yes.” And, when the person sitting in front of me (or, on the other end of the phone) says, “I wish DRC were able to offer …”, the reply, as long as it fits within our non-coercive, philosophy of self-directed education, will always be, “we can.”
When someone asks these questions, I know they have already begun the process. They have given the project, activity, or program a ton of thought. They are committed to their idea and are willing to try, make mistakes, fail, and try again. At this point, they are only seeking approval to continue because they need the resources, or, maybe, they simply need validation.
In saying, “yes,” I am acknowledging that we may have to work together, to explore the possibilities, to figure it out. And, I understand that by offering affirmation, I am providing the permission they feel they need before they open their own floodgates to creativity and curiosity – both of which can only lead to real and authentic learning.
We are creating a culture of ingenuity here. “Yes,” is the opening – an indication of flexibility – and an absolute gift.
Amidst all of the challenges that COVID has thrown at us, we are preparing for the coming year. As you may have seen, most of our programming will move to our outdoor spaces for as long as the weather holds. We currently have picnic tables to work on and a market tent for protection from the elements.
One of our families has offered to donate the materials and the guidance to build us a lean-to in the backyard for additional coverage. We are looking for some folks to help with the project on Saturday, August 22nd. It should only take a couple of hours. DRC will provide snacks and lunch. This project is the perfect opportunity for those kids who would like to learn how to build something. Please let us know if you can help out. Thanks!!!
Procrastination has a bad rap. Have you noticed that we constantly shame ourselves and others for putting things off? It is a major piece of our collective culture. I am proposing that, instead, we think of procrastination as an asset - a mechanism that helps us produce our best work. Then use it as you would any other tool, without guilt or apology.
I have come to recognize the symptoms of trying to force an idea before it's time. I am antsy and distracted, and the feelings of frustration build. If I don't listen to those intuitive signals and try to push through anyway - the results are utter crap. It doesn't matter what it is or when it is technically due - whether it is planning a presentation or meeting, generating lesson plans for a class, producing an artistic or creative project, writing a blog post, designing a piece for social media, or developing the language around a new program or service for DRC. I find that these things are often "ready" to come out, seconds (OK - maybe minutes or hours) before I absolutely need them.
The notion of viewing my "put it off till tomorrow attitude" as a positive trait coalesced a couple of weeks ago when I had a phone call scheduled to discuss some details for volunteers at the Center this Fall. A week before the call, I tried to write down a list of things to talk about - my mind was completely blank, and so was the sheet of paper. I put it aside (with the usual self-condemnation popping up throughout the week) and, then, fifteen minutes before the actual call, I sat down and generated a comprehensive list of ideas. The week-long angst I felt was, as usual, all for naught. The conversation went smoothly. I didn't sound unprepared (stupid) or harried - and we hashed out a practical plan.
Funny enough, the idea about writing this piece hit at the same time. But, once again, even though I pulled it up, out of the depths, every now and again - it was not quite ready to be born until today. Yup, I procrastinated a post about procrastination!
I never know what will trigger the readiness of any idea to see the light of day. I do know that they are constantly churning away, just beneath the surface. If my dreams, of late, are any indication, there are a ton of them bumping into one another down there and creating total chaos.
What it all comes down to is that ingenuity (and learning, for that matter) cannot be forced. The energy (juice) has to flow uninhibited (without internal guilt or external shame), the vibes and conditions have to be just right, and, most importantly, any idea has to be allowed time to develop, fully, without conscious effort, before it deigns to make an appearance.
When you give yourself and others the gift of procrastination without guilt, judgment, or condemnation, the resulting freedom will allow you (and them) to generate your (their) best work ever.
A New DRC Program
As COVID-19 alters everything we previously accepted as normal, families are scrambling to find a viable alternative to the options presented by their local school districts. Many parents are frustrated by the rigidity of these plans and are looking for something more flexible - that fits within their own schedules, and allows them to keep their kids home.
While I was speaking to one such Mom yesterday, I offered our two existing options: in-person membership or consultation. In the midst of the conversation she said, "I wish there was a third option that included the consultation services, allowed us to stay at home, and had the option for my kids to interact with other kids and meet with a mentor virtually so they are accountable to someone besides me." That was the moment that I remembered that I had developed that exact program when DRC first opened (The Deep Root Center Distance Learning Program was originally created because St Lawrence County is so large and I knew that everyone who wanted to use DRC would not be able to get to Canton). It never took flight - it simply wasn't the right time.
Now, six years later, is the perfect moment for that exact program! If you are seeking an alternative that is flexible and customizable, with opportunities for engagement with other kids and a mentor, but are not yet comfortable leaving home - this program is exactly what you are looking for. Learn more here, including the membership levels, and then contact us to get started on designing your family's Distance Learning Plan.
Modern humans are beautifully designed to be their most creative and, more importantly, willingly, adaptive during a crisis. Simply put, we become more receptive to outside the box ideas that were previously a bit too foreign or weird for our taste.
Unsurprisingly, this trait is presenting itself as families, around the country, are scrambling to come up with a solution beyond the two options school districts have presented - A) send their kids to school (with COVID modifications) or B) stay home to do online assigned school work and communicate with their teacher regularly. One answer that has sprung up, seemingly overnight, is the formation of “pods” or “micro-schools.” Yes, families are working together to hire a teacher to homeschool their children.
This a wonderfully creative, outside the box, solution for those who have the disposable income (almost laughable isn’t it – those two words combined, “disposable” and “income”) to hire someone to develop curriculum and administer lessons in their home. However (be ready for a gigantic dose of reality), social and economic status, once again, dictates who can take advantage of these opportunities and who is left, ostensibly, with those two choices. Although, when you look at it honestly, even though it may seem like the schools are offering two viable options, we all know, for many, there is really only one. The only way you can choose “B” is if someone (an adult) stays home.
You see, this crisis doesn’t present anything new that many folks haven’t been dealing with for a very long time. Even if they subscribed to the philosophy, and wanted desperately to remove their kids from school, the option to homeschool has never been available to them.
Despite these grim truths, Deep Root Center has been right here, in the NoCo, for over six years, providing an alternative to school, for any family, despite their economic realities, who are dealing with a crisis or who are, simply, seeking something different. This bears repeating - Deep Root Center does (will) not refuse any child because of their parents’ income level.
Therefore, if the current options presented to you and your family are unattractive, unrealistic, or purely unpalatable, Deep Root Center is here to help you build a unique plan that works specifically for you and your kids. You are not alone and you are not destined to accept the seemingly inevitable.
Available to any child in the community - Register online
This past week, I glanced through an article about Sweden's response to COVID-19. As I understand it, Sweden did (does) not have a government-enforced lock-down. They relied on the citizens to wear masks and physical distance themselves without coercion. This particular article suggested that we should do the same here.
If you have been reading this blog for a while, you likely understand my feelings about coercive methods as a means to an end. Nevertheless, I will say that relying on folks, here in the United States, to do what is right, for others - is laughable and downright dangerous. (Yes, my cynicism and distrust are clearly evident today.)
Why? No, really - why do people in other places in the world care more about others than we do? How did we get this “$*&# you” attitude that pervades the U.S.?
Simply stated, many of our traditions are worlds apart. They, on the one hand, have a predominant culture of care and kindness. We can point to a plethora of culturally empathetic traditions all over the globe - not the least being Ubuntu in South Africa (which I have mentioned, here, several times over the years). We, in the U.S., on the other hand, have a culture of competition - stand on (beat down, trick, take advantage of) the person next to you to gain the advantage and, all-important, social status.
I, not surprisingly, believe that toxic competition stems largely from our governmental educational system that is built purely on coercion, rewards, and punishment. Many of us learned from a very early age to do only those things that we are forced to do and to only do them if there is a reward at the end. And, we can, legally, gain dominance by stepping on others on the way to achieving that reward. Additionally, we celebrate when the other guy loses or gets punished. Not to mention that we also have a 400+ year tradition of (largely) unacknowledged white privilege and outright racism that is inextricably woven into this conversation. All of which, I will argue, have all led to the symptoms of bankrupted compassion that are also overwhelmingly evident in our current political climate (I will let that statement stand on its own).
Therefore, why are we surprised that some people are going to object to wearing masks – that their ego trumps (pun intended) empathy and their contempt eclipses respect - that they, absolutely, will protest for their freedom to live their normal lives through a pandemic? And, they will, straight up, fight anyone who suggests that they should change their behaviors out of respect or the health of others. “We live in a free country,” I believe, is the standard quote.
I ask this question in all seriousness, how can this be a free country for all, if, in pursuing your (God-given) freedoms, you impinge on the rights of other folks?
In many cases, this question goes beyond wearing masks, physical distancing, and staying home when ill, it also extends to behaviors and attitudes towards BIPOC, LBGTQA+ folks, and anyone else who has different beliefs or appearance from them.
This quote, from Lauren Morrill (author of YA books), four years ago, about the ACA hearings, which has been misattributed to Dr. Fauci since the outbreak of COVID-19, sums this point up quite nicely: “I don't know how to explain to you why you should care about other people.”
We have officially arrived at a place and time where we are lamenting the near extinction of respect and compassion. And, given all the above, I have to ask, again, why are we surprised?
August 3rd - September 4th - 9:00 - 3:00 - Monday - Friday
With a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place, which relies on adapting and utilizing the DRC outdoor spaces for most of our activities and projects, as well as wearing masks, washing hands, and sanitizing surfaces and shared items regularly, we are ready to open our Summer Programs. We are limiting participation to eight kids each day. This is a drop-in program; however, given the restrictions of the pandemic, we are asking that families let us know ahead of time which days they will be attending so we can plan accordingly. Online registration can be accessed through the DRC website. We are also available to answer your questions.
Where do you get your inspiration? Does it fly in unexpectedly - seemingly out of nowhere, or do you know, exactly, what circumstances will instigate it? No matter how it works for you, I think we can all agree that we can only be (feel) inspired when we are free - free from overwhelming anxiety, frustration, confusion, and pressure.
My inspiring moments often come in a flash - usually through a conversation, or an image, or sometimes just a word. I frequently joke that I have to have water pouring over my head for ideas to take shape. I seriously do my best thinking in the shower. When we moved to our off-grid home fifteen years ago, it turned out the joke was on me. I am, to this day, constrained to short showers, or else I have to hand-pump a ton of water into the holding tank. That is when I discovered that once I get the original notion of an idea, action precipitates creativity. Simply placing my fingers on the keyboard generates a flow of words. The pure joy of producing something out of blank space motivates me to do more.
I will admit there are times when I become overwhelmed with feelings of frustration and anxiety because I am forcing myself to be cleverly creative, or I feel pressured because someone is expecting me to complete something. That is the point when I quit - at least for a time until I have decompressed enough for ideas to flow, and I can get excited about the project again.
Any time I talk about self-directed learning, this is the exact point where the conversation circles back to motivation. "How do we, as humans, gain the ability to self-motivate?" "Can it be taught?" "What does intrinsic motivation look like?" "Is it OK to quit?" "But, what if my kid will only do something when I compel them to do it?"
I think the easy answer to all of the questions is joy. We want to do things because we are interested in them, and it satisfies us or makes us happy. Yes - as many point out - that even includes those things that most of us don't like. I hate cleaning my house, washing the dishes, and doing the taxes. And, I despise dealing with administrative "officialdom" - but I do all of those, less than desirable, tasks because when I finish, I have a sense of accomplishment. No reward or punishment is going to motivate me more than that simple feeling of satisfaction of taking something on and completing it.
Before kids (any of us) can be self-motivated - they have to unlearn what we have taught them by relying on sticks and carrots to coerce them to do what we think is best. The process, to be totally honest, may take a while. They need time to rediscover the pure joy of challenging themselves and accomplishing what they set out to do, the pleasure of being creatively inspired, and the unadulterated delight in creating something out of nothing. But, once they truly "get" it, they are well on their way to becoming their unabashedly, unapologetically, intrinsically motivated, authentic selves.
The DRC Canton facility is finally getting its roof repaired! When we get confirmation on when it will be started (and finished), we will set a date to begin our summer programs. We will have a safety plan in place, which will include spending much of the day outside in the yard, and on the porch. Creative activities will be adapted for the outdoor space. We will also take daily hikes. And, we will have a limit of eight participants each day. Stay tuned over the next week for details.
We are here to listen and help you navigate all the questions and concerns you have about your child's options this fall. Feel free to contact us anytime.
Agreeing to disagree is perfectly fine if you and I are discussing whether we think that kiwi fruit tastes good, or not, or that you like country music and I don't. However, when it comes to the issue of basic human rights, we don't (can't) have a simple difference of opinion.
If you can't say (or do not believe) that, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQIA+ folks should be proud, women are equal, refugees and immigrants should be allowed to seek shelter, healthcare (including mental and sexual healthcare) is a human right, the poor should not be denied the basic essentials of food, water, and shelter (or, even that poverty shouldn’t be a thing), and that climate change is devastating our planet, then our foundational moral beliefs are worlds apart.
I believe that ingrained (indoctrinated) fear and aversion of the "other," as well as the greed for not only money but the power and influence that accompanies wealth and status, drive the hateful beliefs and behaviors that have become so deeply entrenched in our culture.
So, how do we go about changing the very fiber of our culture? How do we teach the antithesis of hatred? How do we instill that greed is not good? How do we indoctrinate basic human decency? I mean really, how do we make it very clear that it is not OK to be an asshole? Respectful behavior, human rights, and moral ethics should have nothing to do with politics or religion. But, yet, that is what it seems to come down to.
And, NO, tolerance is not the goal. Teaching tolerance is like saying, "you have every right to dislike these things, but you have to put up with them for the sake of being PC." It is wrong on so many levels.
I do not believe that people will learn something just because they have to take a mandatory class as part of a curriculum. I don't believe that real learning happens in a forced environment. I don't believe that someone will change their mind, simply, because they have been presented with facts, that defeat their convictions, during an argument. And, I don't believe that shaming someone will change their behaviors. But, yet, I do believe that everyone has the potential, as well as the right to learn and grow.
While I struggle with this exhausting conundrum on a daily basis, I continuously look at my responsibility as a mentor. Within this non-coercive environment, I have always been committed to combating learned apathy, helplessness (hopelessness), and, yes, even, hate, by modeling empathy and compassion, respectful behavior, and service to others. But, I am discovering that is not enough. I have to be willing to say, "No! On this point, I will not agree to disagree, and this is why." And in doing so, begin the hard conversations - the ones that will begin to challenge those moral beliefs, that on their very fundamental level, place other people's lives in danger.
* H/T to Kenzie Corse for inspiring me to think more deeply about all this.
You have heard it before - time passes in the blink of an eye. The bright-eyed infant soon becomes the mischievously, curious toddler who is happily engaged in play while exploring everything about their world. Soon, you are packing their backpack for school - doing battle over homework and screen-time, and managing their sprawling schedule filled with sports, music or dance lessons, and other school obligations, not to mention your own over-crowded calendar. Before you know it, you are negotiating driving privileges, curfew, and romantic relationships, as well as overseeing college applications and visits. And, then, they are gone.
Despite the overwhelming evidence that children - in fact, all humans - learn from experimentation, exploration, and free play, the above is a typical scenario. School, with all of its cumbersome requirements, is the central focus of not only your child's life but your own as well.
I have to ask, why are we still tied to that antiquated, government-controlled system, which inhibits and mostly forbids those natural learning methods, where our kids, lose their natural curiosity, and self-motivation, to rigid adult-directed narratives?
These past few months of quarantine, while inconvenient for many families, who are balancing their work and home commitments, may have been, exactly, what our kids/teens needed. Yes, they were still under the school's thumb with assigned busywork, and remote classes, but many kids were able to finish that in far less time than a prescribed school day. They experienced more freedom. They had the opportunity to fill their time with the things that interested them. And, they were able to let go and stare off into space to dream, wonder, and imagine. In short, they had more time to be kids.
I can only assume there were feelings of confusion, apprehension, and fear, being expressed by both children and their parents, at the beginning. Our known world was turned on its head. Then after that initial hit, everyone adjusted and may have, even, realized that they were doing just fine.
Maybe, their normal anxiety levels went down, and creativity levels increased, and they discovered how to play again. They followed their curiosity to learn things that are not part of the curriculum. And, to top it all off, they seemed happier.
None of us knows what the new academic year holds. Will school start on time? Will there be massive safety restrictions in place that inhibit movement and social interactions that have the potential of generating (over the top) anxiety? Will virtual classes, filled with busywork, be the new norm?
If all (or some) of the above positive things did, indeed, happen for your children, and you were pleased by them, I have a potential scenario for the fall. You could circumvent the entire process of wondering and worrying by deciding to continue to follow your child's/teen's lead. Allow them to take charge of what they learn and how they learn it.
If homeschooling, on your own, seems scary, unwieldy, or just too daunting, Deep Root Center can help. We offer two options: membership or consultation services.
The Center will be open to our members in September, with modifications and a safety plan in place. This will include, moving many of the activities and classes outside to the yard and the open garage during September and October, in both Canton and Lawrenceville.
DRC members come to the Center 2-4 days each week and use the facilities, resources, and materials in whatever way serves them best. They also have access to a mentor who listens carefully and guides them, helps them and their parents navigate NYS regulations and the required documentation, and supports them to follow their aspirations.
DRC consultation services are available to those families who decide to continue their educational journey at home, without coercive school assignments. We can guide you through NYS regulations and will help write all of the required documentation.
Trusting your child to take control of their education comes with a whole host of benefits - including the privilege of experiencing child/teen-hood as a time to play and explore freely.
*Note - If you would like to read more about the evolutionary role of free play, there is an extra copy of Peter Gray's book at the Center that is available to loan out. Get in touch if you would like to borrow it.
How many times, during your childhood, did you hear this proclamation? How many times, as a child/teen, did you vow to never, ever repeat that phrase to your children? And, how many times, in moments of frustration and exhaustion, have you looked directly in your child's eyes and said those same four, seemingly innocuous, little words? We have all done it – a million times (or, so it seems) – no matter how angry it made us when our parents tossed them out, and despite the number of times we pledged not to say it to our kids.
“Because - I said so,” is designed to be a conversation stopper – a dead end. The understood message behind it is, “I am the authority. I am not interested in the facts you may want to present, and I am certainly not interested (do not have time, and I am too tired, etc.) in debating this issue.”
This past week, while writing a quarterly progress report for a DRC kid, his parents mentioned that he had listened to The World Undone, a book about WWI, which prompted him to begin researching Hitler and Nazi German, and how he influenced people to follow his ideological beliefs. That is when I realized that this phrase is not only used by parents around the world - but it is also a staple tool for anyone currently in (or seeking) a position of absolute power. Then I understood that it is possibly the reason behind one of the questions I have always had about the citizens of Germany during that time: Why did so many of them support a dangerous madman?
And, fast on the heels of that thought, came the realization that we are witnessing the very same phenomenon right now. “Because - I said so,” is the answer to any question that may generate more questions - it serves to stop the line of interrogation in its tracks. And, it neatly shifts the focus from the actual question to the authority figure and their agenda. The facts and truth are incidental. The motivation is clear – power, command, influence, and absolute obedience regardless of the cost to humanity.
Simply put, we have been well trained (as a citizenry) to sit back in complacency, and allow the consistent response to be: “because - I said so.” With that being acknowledged, I don’t believe we are destined to become an apathetic, hopeless society that history will look upon with confusion and disgust. There are people who refuse to be shut down. They continue to ask: “why.” And, yes, absolutely, we can all insist upon an answer.
Sending out best wishes for: A Happy Father's Day to all the Dads as well as to all those who have taken on the important father role in a child's life. And, a magical summer solstice.
]All humans are born with a natural desire to learn. The only thing that impedes this innate proclivity is bias – racial (ethnic), scientific, religious, personal, class (economic status), and cultural (often witnessed as Nationalism), etc. And, the only way to acquire bias is to learn it, through indoctrination – either directly from our families, or indirectly from our society.
The biases we adopt, influence our likes, dislikes, and fears, and they not only shape our personally held belief system and morals, and how we view the world, but they also dictate whether we are open to new ideas and concepts, and the resulting change – or not. Over time, our prejudices become deeply entrenched - so much so that they become habitual. Furthermore, like any other addiction, they are extremely hard to break.
Over time, we have designed an endless number of curricula and programs to address bias, xenophobia, and intolerance. Nevertheless, I will argue that unlearning these perspectives, cannot be taught in a coercive educational setting, including employment training programs, or even through incentivization or punishment. Additionally, changes in behavior certainly can’t be assessed through standardized (or, any other kind of) testing.
Nobody can force you to change your mind or your behaviors. With that being said, we should not be afraid to name (callout) bigotry when we witness it. However, we can’t expect that simply because we challenge someone’s attitude or behavior, they will be open to adjusting it. At some point, we all become responsible for all of our biases - no matter how they were formed, additionally, we, alone, have to do the, uncomfortably, hard work to change them - or not.
Openness (or - closed-ness) and curiosity are the keys. If we are willing to honestly explore a new idea - sit with it, ponder it from all sides, seek out other viewpoints, as well as factual information, and be willing to change our minds and actions - that is where we unlock the path for real learning and authentic change.
I can tell you that if (or when) your prejudices harm other people - whether explicitly, intentional, or implied, you will eventually be held accountable for them.
We are still considering when and if we will be offering our Summer Program. NYS is allowing Day Camps to open - even though we are not technically considered a "camp," this opens the way for us to begin programming with all necessary safety precautions in place. If you would like to provide programs this summer, please let us know.
Our social media this past week has used the words of notable black women to highlight our commitment to include the concepts of justice and equity, while providing a space where everyone is supported and encouraged to follow their interests, passions, and aspirations.