What Are You Afraid Of?
Even if I wasn’t aware of the obvious clues from the natural world, the back to school inserts in the local paper and the celebratory social media posts from parents of school age children, would be enough to remind me that summer is fading fast and back to school time is literally within spittin’ distance.
On the opposite side of the coin, many kids absolutely dread the very thought of returning to school. No, not because they are lazy or disinterested in learning, but, probably, because they don’t feel safe there and have little or no control over their lives - never mind their education.
Some may express their discomfort and anxiety through dramatic displays and over the top histrionics, or, maybe they clam up – disappear “inside” to simply endure the inevitable. Neither response is healthy, nor easy to deal with. Wishing it will go away or trying to convince the child that school is the best thing for them, often does not work. I have seen unhappy kids become disillusioned, disenfranchised, anxious, depressed, and, yes, angry fairly quickly. The resulting crisis points are real and unimaginably difficult to deal with.
Deep Root Center is a safe and viable educational option for any school-age child. Although, I completely understand the immobilizing fear that can be induced by the thought of investigating an alternative to school that is so entirely different from anything else out there. Our society officially recognizes one valid paradigm, and self-directed, non-coercive education does not even remotely meet the description. I can say, however, that those who choose to deviate from that standard model, often discover that having a happy kid who is engaged, curious, and excited about learning, eclipses any of their original anxiety and doubts.
We have to work hard to overcome the negative impacts of the coercive system with students, who have come to us after reaching that crisis point, before they can even begin to get excited about creating plans and goals. We would much rather spend those first few months together, supporting those same kids to dig into their personal interests, to embrace their unique perspectives, and grow in ways they cannot possibly imagine.
I get it, really; the hardest, scariest piece of all this is making the decision to contact us. Once you do, you will quickly learn, that we are the least intimidating people you will ever speak with. Our one, and, only, agenda is to support any child who wants to rise out of school and explore the world on their very own terms.
The second week of Summer Programs begins tomorrow. Karen Wells of Grasse River Players delivered all of the sets and props Friday afternoon and has plans for some awesome skits.
Contact us anytime. Your child can register with DRC anytime, even after the school year begins.
You can volunteer at the Lake Placid Ironman on Sept. 9th to help DRC score a grant from the Ironman Foundation. We need at least 20 people. Follow this link to sign-up.
We are excited to host this class. Homeschoolers who are not students of DRC are welcome to register for this stand-alone class. Contact Juliet to enroll.
Learning - is - Natural
This past Friday afternoon, I had the pleasure of spending several hours with two little girls at a family reunion in Long Lake. Nova turned a year old yesterday and Lucy, her cousin, is a big girl of nearly two and a half. It has been a while since I have spent a significant amount of time with little ones, after all, my “babies” are twenty-four and twenty-one. In those few hours, I was, once again, reminded how perfectly unique we humans are designed. Yet, within that distinct individuality, we are all blessed with the same intrinsic, insatiable drive to learn from the moment we take in our first breath - earth-side.
I read somewhere, many years ago, that we learn more in our first year of life than in all of the remainder of our years put together. We literally hit the ground running – observation and exploration, quickly followed by mimicry, and experimentation are our very first means of acquiring information about our world.
Some children, like Nova and my son, Ian, are watchers. They notice everything! They are alert to all the variables in any situation and generally approach life cautiously, but with curiosity and delight. In Ian’s case (I don’t know Nova well enough yet to say), he wanted to make sure he understood new things on every conceivable level, and was going to be damn good at them, before he took them on. Ian didn’t walk until he was 15 months old; however, once he was confident that he had learned all he could by watching – he took off – no toddling for him – it was a full on run and he very rarely fell down. When he was five and we were driving to Kindergarten registration, he piped up from the backseat, “Mommy, what if I don’t know all I need to know to be in Kindergarten?” Today, Ian has developed numerous talents all because he spent so much time observing to become comfortable enough to take the risks necessary to bring his artistry to the next level.
Other kids, similar to Lucy and my girl, Kenzie, are exuberant doers. They are usually incredibly independent and like to experiment! As a baby, Kenzie, put everything in her mouth, I can only assume, to test it out - you know to get the full experience. She amazed her pediatrician with her pincer grasp when she was a few months old. During this time, one of her many nicknames was Hoover (as in the vacuum). These kids don’t sit idly by observing, they jubilantly dig in to anything within reach and if it is not easily graspable, they will get to it by whatever means they can. For a longtime Kenzie rolled everywhere. We often said, during her early years, that she attempted things Ian would never have even thought of, additionally, she was not afraid to screw up. As a toddler, her favorite phrase was, “by my own, Mommy.” It isn’t surprising to know that her willingness to try anything, along with many other accomplishments, has led her to become a gifted cook.
Yes, indeed, we, humans, are natural learners – no matter our preferred combination of modalities. Why then, do we, as a culture, believe that all that innate ability is lost as soon as we hit the magical age of four or five? All of a sudden – we need school to tame us and teach us what we need to know to survive in society??? Sorry to be the bearer of bad news folks, but that is utter garbage! We have all been brainwashed.
When we support our children to continue their observations, explorations, mimicry, and experimentation, and they are encouraged to ask questions throughout their lives, they will remain joyful, energetic, curious, intrinsically motivated, independent, accomplished, and brilliant life-long learners.
As teachers, we are here to be the “yes men” - to provide all that support and encouragement, ask open-ended questions, and to supply resources and materials; otherwise, the only pedagogy we need to follow is to step back and get (to hell) out of the way of authentic learning.
If you want your child to have all of the above within our safe, comfortable, and dynamic educational environment, please get in touch. You can also learn more about DRC from our website.
Imagination Station begins tomorrow, August 20. There are still a few spots available for this fun week of creativity and exploration. Register here.
Water, Woods, & Wild Wonders
The DRC outdoor program is open to any homeschool family who is interested in joining us. More info is available here.
"... So Embarrassed"
I spent this past week with my family. A few days into our time together at my sister, Melanie’s house in Massachusetts, my niece, Abby, my daughter, Kenzie, and I were discussing how my mom, their Grandma Sharon, has very few filters. Pretty much anything that occurs to her is fair game for a conversation with people she knows well, or, not.
Before I go any farther, I need to convey how completely awesome my mom really is. She has spent her entire life nurturing her husband, children, grand-children, and her home. After my dad died five years ago, she unreservedly embraced the opportunity to spread her wings and explore the world on her own terms. She has opened her mind and heart to many things that she was previously, completely opposed too. We (my three siblings and her four adult grandchildren) are all incredibly proud of her and we love her dearly.
All that love and admiration, however, does not always erase the moments when we are in public that we want to walk in the opposite direction and pretend we don’t know her. She is the woman who will talk to anyone, about anything - you know - the ultra-friendly one with the halo of gorgeous white curls and trademark smile on her face.
While traveling back home with her yesterday, we stopped at the Saranac Lake Aldi’s so she could pick up a few items to get through the next few days until she could get into town. Out of the blue, it hit me squarely upside the head, as I walked into the McDonalds bathroom, how utterly stupid my embarrassed response to her beautifully open spirit really is.
Over her entire lifetime, she has done exactly what I encourage my students to do every day. Mom is, and, has always been unapologetically her own person. Why on earth should I be embarrassed by her strength, perseverance, generosity, silliness, and joyous attitude? She owns all of it - her successes and her failures and she will not shy away from a challenge, if anything, she charges into them head first. She loves her family unreservedly and will do anything for us. My mom is who I inherited my stubbornness (and, my early grey hair) from and who taught me compassion, responsibility, and independence. I am fortunate to still have her, and, yes, I am forever grateful for all she is.
The moral of this story - don’t let your inhibitions influence (rule) your response to those you love. Celebrate and honor all the quirks, eccentricities, and nuttiness, including your own.
Summer Programming begins next week August 20th. There is still a few spots left that week. Register today!
We are still accepting applications for this coming academic year. Contact Maria to learn more about our programs.
Every month various blog posts from years ago get tons of hits on the DRC website. I have no idea why it happens, studying the stats is an exercise in frustration, but in any case, it has given me the opportunity to revisit some of my past writing by clicking on the most read posts each month.
As I am re-reading them, I am discovering that certain themes keep popping up. Trust, not surprisingly, happens to be one of them. It is, after all, the foundation on which our entire philosophy rests.
Many people over the years have been totally flabbergasted when they hear that I, explicitly (will always), trust kids. And, I am repeatedly informed, “but, but, but, they have to earn it.” To be utterly blunt - if I don’t trust my students, I have absolutely nothing different to offer them than the system they are already part of.
Here is the deal – when a young person understands that they don’t inherently have your trust, they will go out of their way to prove that they cannot be trusted. Every damn time! Call it whatever you like: obstinacy, defiance, rebellion, or contempt; I, however, prefer to use the expression – “the human condition.”
On the other hand, if they know, without a doubt, that you believe that they will make good choices, they will strive to meet those expectations. Yes, again - every damn time! Will they screw up every once in a while? Of course – everyone makes mistakes!
Here is the tricky part – deep inside those sometimes-disastrous failings lay enormous opportunities for growth and new understanding. Forgiveness then becomes a natural extension of your faith in them because you recognize that without that original trust, those circumstances for new exploration and discovery would be lost.
Makes your head spin to think about all the connecting pieces – I know. Simply put, kids are not inherently bad, defiant, bratty, or duplicitous. They are, in fact, brilliant sponges who soak up all the energies that surround them. Steep them in an open, positive, vibrant, trusting, and encouraging atmosphere and just stand back to watch them investigate new ideas and take on unknown challenges without fear of messing up. And, their confidence will shine brightly enough to lead them to their next learning adventure.
It is what we call - self-directed education.
We are so excited to host this Shakespeare Conquest class being offered by Juliet Bellinger. This opportunity is open to any homeschoolers who are 12 and up. Contact Juliet to register.
The Center will be closed this coming week Aug 6 – 10th. I am beyond excited to be traveling to MA for some way overdue family time - to hang out with my daughter, Kenzie, who is flying east from Portland OR, my sister, her family, and my Mom.
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