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.
Because - I Said So
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.
I spent a good part of this past week reflecting on why the Black Lives Matter Movement is, absolutely, necessary, at this moment in time, and what each of us can do, as individuals, to create a just and equitable society for every human.
This is, clearly, a time when every single one of us needs to stand (and, yes, speak up) against police brutality, racism, and bigotry (in all of its insidious forms, covert as well as overt). However, to do that, we need to first sit down (without ego) and listen. Listen to those black and brown voices of the community, who are impacted the most by injustice, and then follow their lead.
What I have consistently heard, over this past few weeks, is that they want advocates and witnesses, not saviors. Firstly, we (the white community) need to learn about, understand, and, take ownership of our history of slavery, why our attitudes about people of color are so deeply ingrained within our culture, and why as descendants of Europeans, we have privilege.
After this week of contemplation, I realized that the best way for me to contribute to this movement is to continue my work – educating myself, mentoring young people, creating a space where kindness and trust will always be the expected default mode, and, then writing about those experiences.
While thinking about all of this, I realized that in many cases, the things that I have written, in terms of self-directed education, also apply to the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Several months ago, the blog post, Trust and Respect Go Hand in Hand, was focused on trusting kids.
... Trust and respect are tricky, and, hotly contested concepts, especially when referring to kids, teens, and young adults. We often hear: “I’ll trust them when they can prove to be trustworthy.” Or, “they have to earn my respect.”
My response will always be – “how can they prove themselves trustworthy if they are not trusted to begin with?” And, “how does someone know what respect looks or feels like when it is never freely given to them?”
Frankly - one cannot dictate responsible behavior with control and coercion. And, one cannot demand respect with threats and intimidation.
This post, from September, entitled Creative Thinking, highlighted the need for people who are creative problem-solvers in a society that embraces, and perpetuates the status quo.
... we have developed a system that specifically teaches conformity, obedience, and fear of anything that appears different. Consequently, our society is filled with people who are narrow-minded, uninspired, unimaginative, disengaged, disenfranchised, bored, and, yet, fearful of change.
With that being said, I constantly wonder (worry) how our world can move forward if we continue to train people to do the same thing, in the same way, over and over again, but, yet, expect different results? I ask this question in all seriousness; because that is how some people define insanity. (A quote often attributed to Einstein but not substantiated.)
And, this, from, Sharing Our Lives, a post I wrote way back in February of 2015, speaks about the South African concept of Ubuntu, which for me is the ultimate ideology.
Ubuntu is an ancient word from the Nguni Bantu people of South Africa which expresses a way of being that encompasses equality, equity, and compassion for all. The rough translation is human kindness, or, I am what I am because of who we all are. I understand it to mean - together we support one another to sustain the earth for every living thing. Can you imagine a more perfect word or concept?
Humans are social beings and we are biologically designed to share our knowledge and life experiences. It is an essential ingredient that allowed our ancient ancestors to survive. We all (modern humans) exist because of the core values that support Ubuntu.
I would like to argue that we can recapture the very spirit that allowed our humanness to evolve. We can each deliberately choose to embrace kindness, integrity, empathy, and honesty in all we do. With those intentions, we can create a world where everyone consciously supplements those individual, positive attributes with the all-encompassing Ubuntu spirit. We can decide to practice this philosophy without hesitation. When we do, the health and happiness of our neighbors and the greater world become more important than our individual desires.
Indeed, all of these concepts - trust, respect, curiosity, creativity, kindness, empathy, and Ubuntu, even though not explicitly stated in these posts, are inextricably tied to the Black Lives Matter Movement. And, as long as there is an urgent need for them to be highlighted and spoken about to combat racism and bigotry, I will.
*You will notice this is the same title as last week, with a notable twist. I thought it was appropriate to highlight the word "kind".
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