You have no idea what a person has endured throughout their lifetime, even if you think you know, based on what they have chosen to share with you. Many folks have survived traumatic experiences that remain so very raw, intensely personal, and painful that the act of telling about it, feels more like a confession than a release. Therefore, their traumas remain shrouded in secrecy with internalized feelings of guilt and shame.
Despite our very best intentions, we end up helping very little or not at all, since, we, simply, have no idea that we don’t know the full story. Which was the case for me earlier this week.
During an impromptu mentoring session, instigated by a teen while working on their learning plan, I offered ideas on how to move past some behaviors that were hindering their growth. My assumptions and resulting suggestions were fully based on, what ended up being, the tiny pieces of information that I was privy too. Even though I have known them for a while, I discovered that I wasn’t just missing a few pages, but almost the entirety of the beginning chapters of this young person’s life story.
This, right here, is the lesson I needed to learn this past week: I don’t know all you have gone through to become the person you are right now. I can’t possibly understand the pain that has shaped your perceptions about the world. I will never fully appreciate the work you have done already and the struggles you will face, as you continue on your path to healing.
I can, however, ask you if you want my help, or, solely, a listening ear, before immediately jumping into problem solving mode. I will listen without presumption, judgment, or blame, especially when you are only able to comfortably reveal an incremental piece of your tale at a time. I will hug you when you are sad and dejected, and celebrate with you when you reach an important milestone in your journey towards emotional health. And, please know that I will always provide unconditional love, support, and a safe place to be exactly who you are, at that moment in time.
Please remember to share our Amazon Wishlist. Our kids have some fantastic projects planned this year, but we need your help to purchase the needed supplies. Please contact Maria if you would like to share your talents and knowledge in carpentry, DIY, crafting, sewing, metal working, and gardening.
Monday begins the final week of Summer Programs. There are still a few spaces available.
We are once again volunteering at the final Aid Station for the Lake Placid 70.3 IronMan – September 8th. Last year we received a grant for $500 because we had 20 volunteers working with us. Thanks again to the Todd and Rodriguez families, and board members, Candace Cowser, and Kara Mcluckie, along with their families, as well as a couple of DRC student members. We are looking for at least 20 folks to join us again. Each person has to register themselves. Get in touch and I will provide the link to the volunteer registration.
In case you missed the ubiquitous memo, it is once again back to school time. The retail rush is on – get all your school supplies and new clothing before the sales are gone. Parents are sharing memes about getting their kids back on a schedule and out of the house. And, everyone is trying to shove that final bit of summer-time energy into these last two weeks before the first bell rings.
What if I told you, all that retail therapy was intentionally designed to distract kids from the fact that they will no longer have all the time and space to explore the things that truly interest them? What if you knew that rushing around to get all those summer-like experiences is not necessary? What if I told you that it is OK for a child to be bored – that it is, in fact, the catalyst for most creativity? What if you discovered there is another way for kids to learn all they need to survive, and thrive, without the ridiculous stress, timetables, restrictions, intimidation, or coercion? Would you believe me if I told you that back to school propaganda is one more way to convince you and your child that they are not capable of learning without the societal institution known as school?
For many of the families I work with at Deep Root Center, the call to action went far beyond the unhappy kid who was still complying, to the utterly disenfranchised, despondent, child who was acting out and no longer cooperative. In all fairness to parents, most kids will not blatantly say, “I hate school! It makes me feel uneasy, uncomfortable, and anxious.” Instead, all that stress and anxiety around school take on many disguises from seemingly unprovoked melt-downs to sleepiness or insomnia. Your child may suddenly lose the ability to choose clothing and get dressed in the morning, or become indecisiveness around food choices. Or, they lose interest in all the things that formerly excited them. A formerly chill kid may become decidedly un-chill and overly sensitive.
No, for the most part, they will not say, “I want to leave school.” Since, the two main concepts they have learned from the institution are that: 1) they cannot be trusted to make good decisions, and 2) they will not be motivated to do what is required without all the punishment and rewards schools employ to get them to do what they want them to do.
When a child has reached that deeply flawed understanding of learning, it takes tons of time filled with constant, gentle, nurturing reassurance before they fully comprehend that they can be trusted to, capably, make good choices about their life and education.
Slowly, they begin to understand that all their interests and passions, which are often shunted to weekends and summertime, can become the fuel for all of their learning. I know they have begun to reach this point when they start to ask, “does this count?”
This is the point in this post where all the disclaimers are obliged to live – yes, most of us went to school, yes, most of us survived, and, yes, some of us did just fine – with no major complaints, and no (or little) residual trauma. However, most of the adults I speak with usually say something like, “where was DRC when I was growing up?” Or, “man, my child could have used you guys. We went through Hell, getting them through school.” (The latter is actually the reason DRC received a $10,000 anonymous donation last August.)
Imagine that you had the opportunity to focus on the things that only received part of your attention because you spent the majority of your time locked into a system that required your full concentration to simply survive. How could your life have been different? Would you have followed a different career path? Would you be more curious and open to exploring all the possibilities? Would you be happier?
Now envision your child – what would happen if they were allowed to get completely engrossed in those things that they normally save for their “downtime?” What would it look like if they were able to shake off all that societal pressure that holds them back from fully exploring the abundance of subjects that they are interested in? What if they could fill their personal buckets of knowledge from a place of contentment, excitement, and wonder? Would they be happier?
These questions about our system of education are all receiving national attention through respected sources and outlets. Dr. Peter Gray, the author of Free to Learn and a regular column in Psychology Today (here is one related to back to school from 2014), is a well-respected developmental psychologist who has spent much of his career researching the role of play throughout human history. Kerry McDonald is a Senior Education Fellow at FEE and the author of, Unschooled: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside the Conventional Classroom. She also had this opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal, recently, and here is another related to back to school. Jeremy Stuart just released the independent film Self-Taught, which follows six young adults who were unschooled through much of their childhood. Not to mention, Ken Danford's new book: Learning is Natural. School is Optional. These are just a few examples of media around self-directed education in the past couple of months. You can learn more from the Alliance for Self-Directed Education.
*note – Deep Root Center owns copies of Free to Learn and Learning is Natural. School is Optional. We are happy to lend them out to anyone interested in borrowing them. We also have a license to screen Self-Taught and we are looking for suggestions for venues. The film is also available for private viewing at Deep Root Center. Simply let us know if you are interested in watching it.
You can support DRC student' s independent hands-on projects by purchasing items from our WishList on Amazon. Simply click this link, add the items to your cart and they will be shipped directly to us. Thank you!
DRC is still accepting applications for membership; however, we are closing in on capacity pretty quickly. Contact us today.
Summer Programs begin tomorrow. There is still room either week. Register today!
I am a firm believer in the power of Universal energies, and within that, the type we send out into the world will be the ones that return to us. Affirmative, kind, loving, and nurturing energy and language attract all the positive vibes, and, I am pretty sure we all understand where hate and other negative vibrations originate from.
With that being said, most people, even if they are not aware of, or believers in, Universal energies, are conscious of being helpful, gracious, and generous when they interact with others; however, they forget those very same principles apply to their own personal dialog, and thereby, beat themselves up daily. Stop! You wouldn’t think of behaving that way towards others, so why do it to yourself?
In addition to all of that, I was reminded a couple weeks ago (thanks to my little sister, Melanie), that even when we are placing most everything in a positive context within our own minds, if we are not intentionally sending those messages out into the great beyond, achieving our goals is harder and far less likely.
Use all those Universal energies to your advantage, write it all down - every dream, every aspiration, every damn single brainstorm, whether it seems plausible in the moment, or not. And, the most beautiful thing is - no one, necessarily, needs to read them – the act of inscribing them is enough.
Since taking my sister’s advice, the most delightful things have happened. Not only am I more aware of my own goals, and attracting positive into my life, my internal radar is, actively, receiving the intentions that others are putting out there, as well.
I have discovered that even when we don’t think we can be helpful, our skill set, or the resources we have access to, are exactly the support someone else needs to inspire them to renew their focus and work towards making their own dreams come true. The added bonus to each of these interactions, beyond the immediate enriching conversation, is the potential for future collaborations, and friendship, whether professionally, personally, or in some (most) cases, both.
In this way, together, we can, intentionally, make the world (our corner of it, at least) a place we are all proud to inhabit.
Imagination Station, DRC's Summer Program, begins the 19th - one week from Monday. Remember to register here.
When I went back to SUNY Potsdam as a “non-trad” anthropology student, in 2001. I learned in my Human Origins class that all humans are born with only two fears – the fear of falling and loud noises. The startle reflex, that we witness in babies, and sometimes experience ourselves, as we are falling asleep, or when we hear a loud sound, is our ancient response to those fears.
All other fear is learned. For the most part, it is either: intentionally cultivated by society, codified and legislated, thereby, designed to control our behaviors, physical phobias such as all the creepy crawlies, etc., or incredibly nebulous, but very real angst including the fear of the unknown, or of making mistakes.
I believe that those amorphous anxieties, and the taboos society has created, as restrictions, are inextricably tangled. The prevalence of judgment and blame within our culture feeds the restrictions, which then drives our apprehensions. We are taught from a very early age to keep our heads down, to follow the rules, be perfect, and just be “normal,” or else.
Many of us have a desire to take chances, make waves, explore the possibilities, learn through our mistakes, and create change; however, ejecting ourselves from our cozy little comfort zones involves facing that fear of being judged and ostracized - head on.
I feel this anxiety of potentially screwing-up – daily. The “what-ifs” could be overwhelming, if I let them. There are days that I am mortified by the errors I have made, while there are others that I am so very proud of our accomplishments, and, even, slightly amused by the mistakes. Yes, I have “bucked” the system, by creating something that is completely new and different, which, ironically, involves encouraging and trusting others to push through their own personal blocks erected by fear, to do those things that are important to them. Indeed, there are still those days that I want to chuck it all, and retreat back into my shell; where no one will judge or confront me, and where I can attend to mindless tasks that won’t involve nudging anyone, including myself, to do anything but bask in the comfort of low expectations. Thankfully, those days are few and far between, because wallowing gets really old, very quickly; and, oddly enough, I have come to appreciate the discomfort of being the “weird” one with “strange” ideas.
* This post was inspired by a personal mistake I was made aware of on Friday, and all the subsequent feelings I had in response to that discovery.
Time is marching on. August has arrived with September close on its heels. If you have been thinking that DRC might be an option for your child, please get in touch soon. There has been a flurry of interest over the last few days and I anticipate reaching our maximum number, soon.
Summer Programs are open to any child in the community – Register today.
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