The giving of modern gadgetry is enticing, alluring, tempting, and at times even offers ease for everyday living. The excitement, however, soon fades and we move onto wishing for the next latest thing.
I will argue quite strenuously that it is the simple, yet profound, ordinary gifts of creativity, inspiration, respect, hope, listening presence, time, talent, and love, which supply a lifetime of positive benefits for both the giver and receiver.
May your New Year be filled with the peace and sustenance of simple gifts.
It is not too late to contribute to the DRC annual funding appeal. All donations sent by midnight December 31st qualify for the 2015 tax year.
If you have been touched by the stories in these blog posts, thank you for considering joining the folks who have already said, "yes", to supporting the youth in this community who are choosing a different kind of education and have taken the brave steps to seize control of their learning environment.
Deep Root Center does not receive funding from any governmental organization. We charge a fee based on a sliding scale, however, within that scale all families are eligible to ask for a fee reduction. Therefore, we rely on you, our community, to make all of this magic happen.
The After School Enrichment Program designed by our own 15 year old student, Leillah, begins on January 4th. Contact Maria if you would like to register your child for afternoon fun.
DRC is closed through January 4th. Maria will be in and out during the next week. If you would like to make an appointment, please get in touch through email, FB, or phone (315) 244-3034.
DRC is a resource center where community is central to everything we do. We look to and depend on you, our extended community, for your: positive feedback and energy, fiscal support, collaborations, the personal connections our tutors and extended staff make with our student members, as well as your suggestions and ideas on how we can improve our develop relationships with other people or organizations in the area.
We are currently in the midst of our annual funding appeal (please see the letter below). This is one way you can become part of the DRC team. Your contribution makes it possible for DRC to support our student members to take charge of their education and create powerful change in their lives.
Thank you to everyone who has already contributed!
I do not play computer games. Not, however, because I don't think they are valuable or useful -- my personal aversion is based solely on my extreme sensitivity to visual and auditory stimuli. Beyond that, to be completely honest, they simply frustrate the hell out of me because of my supreme lack of coordination and inability to follow instructions. The narrative about those issues will have to wait for another blog post.
Minecraft is one game that has taken the computer gaming world by storm, especially the school age crowd. As far as I can tell, from my exceedingly limited experience (five minutes) of actually playing the game, it is, in essence, a game of building up or tearing down a world.
To that end, I believe that Minecraft and its objectives are a very useful way to talk about several heart-breaking stories that I have listened to recently.
The central consequence of every one of these tales is that a child was emotionally (and one, physically) harmed because of the actions or inactions of other people (usually adults) who were unhappy with the conduct of these children. (I will not detail them all here. You have probably all heard some fairly sad stories as well.)
I will, however, argue -- the only way to help someone make positive changes in their lives, is to build them up, cheer them on, encourage them, and offer them choices, guidance and support, not to tear them down and belittle them!
Making someone feel bad does not inspire them to alter their behavior, it only increases their pain, and, similar to Minecraft, destroys their world.
I recently saw a meme, from Higher Perspectives, based on a group of people in South Africa, that explains this concept beautifully.
In short, when a member of the village misbehaves or acts inappropriately, the elders bring them into the center of the village and the other inhabitants surround him/her listing all the beautiful things about that person and heaping words of praise, celebration, and kindness on them as well. Their core belief is that with love and encouragement the tribe member will make choices that are positive for themselves and for the others in the village. This is completely on par with the concept of Ubuntu that many Africans subscribe to.
Amazing! In their world punishment does not exist, because they understand the detrimental and irrevocable consequences on the recipient.
And, this is just one more example of how Western Civilization is not nearly as “civilized” as the enlightened indigenous cultures around the world.
I work with many children who have experienced punishment, belittlement, judgmental assessments, fear tactics, and who have been penalized for simply being themselves. In their impressionable minds, all those negative interactions add up to one huge problem that seems insurmountable and impossible to change -- they understand on a very profound level that they are broken and that there is something unalterably wrong with them.
People often ask what my role is at Deep Root Center if I am not fulfilling many of the functions of a teacher in the traditional system. My answer is incredibly unsophisticated. Through my actions and words, I build kids up. I appreciate them. I love them. I celebrate their accomplishments. I listen to their stories and ideas. I give them opportunities to do amazing work. I support them to be their best, true selves and together we are tearing down the personal walls of misconceptions and untruths that surround each of them to build an internal environment of self-love and respect.
Simply (and very often, subtly) put, I am helping my students to understand that they are each a beautiful human being with an abundance of gifts to offer the world.
Our student members are currently on break, celebrating the holidays with their families, until January 4th. Maria will be in and out of the DRC facilities during that time. If you would like to make an appointment, please contact her.
The DRC year end funding appeal is still in high gear. Keep those donations rolling in! If your envelope is postmarked by midnight, December 31 your contribution to Deep Root Center will count towards your 2015 tax year. You can easily donate via our Paypal button on the website, as well.
Thank you to everyone who has cheered us on financially, with your insights and suggestions, as well as your energy. We attribute DRC's astounding growth this past year to our amazingly supportive community.
Best wishes to everyone for a happy, peace-filled holiday season.
Looking forward to a bright 2016 filled with infinite possibilities for us all.
Every Tuesday we have been profiling people who are an integral part of Deep Root Center. Yesterday I sat down with the student members who were here for the day and asked them some questions. The result is the following interview. As you can see, we have a few kids with a few very definite interests and passions (um, obsessions).
What are your names and how old are you?
Jake-13, Christian-7, Cleo-13, Rebecca-10, Leillah-15, and Leeann -12
What makes you happy?
Jake: Baking cupcakes
Christian: My family and friends
Cleo: My brother Finn
Leillah: Horses and cooking
Leeann: My family and friends
If you could spend the day somewhere, where would it be and why?
Jake: Any cupcake shop so I can see how to run a cupcake business.
Christian: I would go to a friend's house, because I like spending time with them.
Cleo:A spooky castle because Casper the ghost lives there.
Rebecca: A horse farm, because I like riding horses.
Leillah: Somewhere in Vermont, because I like how the towns look.
Leeann: I would go to Connecticut to be with my family that i don't get to see that often.
What kind of music do you like?
Jake: A variety
Cleo: Looney Tunes theme music and Merry Melody music
Rebecca: A variety
Leillah: Any good music
If you had a day that you could do anything you wanted, what would it be?
Jake: I would go to a bakery, making cupcakes.
Christian: I would play with someone.
Cleo: I would play with Marvin the Martian
Rebecca: I would go to a farm to help out.
Leillah: I would take my brothers horseback riding with me.
Leeann: Be at DRC, then go to Massena to visit my family and new baby nephew.
What is your favorite meal?
Christian: Turkey dinner will all the fixings
Cleo: Chicken wings and potatoes
Rebecca: Ham Dinner with all the fixings
Leillah: It is a toss up between Tacos and Shake and Bake Chicken, canned green beans, and home-fries.
Leeann: I don't have one.
What is your favorite game?
Cleo: Disney Infinity
Leeann: A card game called BS
What is your favorite part about DRC?
Jake: That I am able to use my creativity and imagination to learn.
Christian: Walking to Post Office and playing in the park.
Cleo: We get to go for walks
Rebecca: I like to go to the library and the park
Leillah: I get to do what I am most interested in.
Leeann: Meeting new people
When my Dad had his first open heart surgery in January 2002, we were told that every hour he was “under” would translate into one month of recovery time. We found this timetable to be especially true after his second surgery, five years later, which lasted for an unbearable ten hours.
I have found this analogy can also be related directly to the period of adjustment kids, who have left the traditional system, because of unhappiness, anxiety, and disenchantment, will need to settle in and take on the challenge of rediscovering their interests and passions and to design their own education. In general, I have discovered it takes one month for every year they have been in school. And, as with everything else in life, every student's experience will be completely different.
This process is not unique to a few, it is, in fact, unilateral and completely natural. As I mentioned in a previous post about mentoring, the reactions run the gamut from the happy little hamster who has so many ideas and projects in the pipeline, that he completes few, to the student who to the outside world appears to be completely unaffected, but has, in fact, been significantly changed.
In this post I will, however, be focusing on the kids who many adults would classify as just “plain lazy”, when they haven't taken the time to understand the underlying rational for the blasé behavior.
We have a twelve year old who exemplifies this conduct; he appears ambivalent, bored, complacent, and unmotivated to the casual observer. I, however, have a completely different perspective on this amazingly kind, empathetic, thoughtful, sweetly shy, hesitant kid, because he allows me the privilege of exploring and discovering the real person he keeps buried and hidden behind that facade of indifference.
I am very pleased to have learned, for example, that he loves the outdoors and nature. He has an abundance of physical energy; he literally runs everywhere. He adores gaming and he delights in playfully teasing his grandma. This kid has a tender heart of gold and will do anything to help someone out.
When we first met, he and I wrote a learning plan that covered all the subjects, based on what he said he wanted to do; however, as time went on, I discovered that he was not truly interested in any of those projects or themes. He had simply regurgitated the list of classes he knew from previous experience. This behavior, too, is not unique; students will automatically revert to the known quantity when they are suddenly faced with a whole wide world of options to choose from.
After a few weeks of very little productivity or engagement, we sat down together for another mentoring session. He said he was going to focus on the items we had listed for social studies in his plan. He then spent about ½ hour looking up 16th century artists on the internet, never again to revisit the subject.
He drifted for another couple of weeks, spending his time hanging out and playing with the other kids.
Several weeks ago, two other students decided to hand sew small pillows using scrap fabric; I purchased a bag of fiberfill to stuff them. Another student excitedly cut out the bear pillow pattern that was printed on the plastic bag and sewed the first bear pillow on the sewing machine. The pattern has now been adapted and changed several times and we now have a bevy of bear pillows relaxing in our “chill space”.
Meanwhile, the sewing craze has become contagious. Nearly every student has taken on different sewing projects, including this particular 12 year old. He completed and stuffed a rectangular pillow in one afternoon and presented it to his aunt when she came to pick him up.
During our next mentoring session, I asked him to choose one thing that he would focus on and be engaged with at DRC; he told me that he wanted to sew. I also asked him if he would consider giving math class an honest try each day. He agreed.
Two of our grandmas heard about all the sewing excitement and volunteered to come in and teach a sewing/quilting class to whoever was interested. They brought in tons of fabric scraps, their sewing machines, tools and other craft supplies and then spent a couple hours showing the kids how to cut, piece, and sew together squares that can be used to make pillows or larger projects such as quilts.
Our twelve year old, however, did not participate in this class, despite having said that he wanted to learn how to sew. Later that day, after everyone else had left, he asked me to help him make another pillow. He and I worked on piecing and sewing that pillow for a couple of hours, in fits and starts, over several days. He finished sewing it, stuffing it, and hand sewing the opening using the blind stitch, that I taught him (with one of the biggest needles I have ever seen).
No, he is not lazy or unmotivated, he is so plainly overwhelmed and seriously afraid of screwing up and making mistakes.
A few days later, he was working on another task and asked me to do it for him, I said, “no, you can do it yourself; it is your project.” He started whining that he couldn't do it. I then told him, “I will never yell at you for trying something and making a mistake, however, I may get upset with you for whining and complaining!” He looked at me for a minute to see if I was joking and then put the project down without another word.
This amazing kid simply needs time to breath and the occasion to reject a proposal or suggestion. That alone could be the most powerful tool we have at DRC; allowing --- no --- actually giving kids the chance to refuse, anything (or everything), is giving them another opportunity, albeit negatively, to take control of their education. To witness those personal struggles while trusting that everything will naturally resolve is, quite possibly, the hardest thing we do.
I, however, have every confidence that with time (most probably months) and support, he will persevere and figure out exactly what he is passionate about. When he does, beware, because he will astound you with his understanding and compassion for others who are struggling to find their place in the world.
Third Thursday Info Session – December 17th, 12-2
If you know of anyone who may be interested in joining this amazing community of learners, please pass on this opportunity.
After School Program - Begins January 4th.
Check it out and sign up today!
You can continue to support DRC through AmazonSmile, iGive, our funding appeal, and the Blackbird DRC Dessert.
A SLU student is saving refundable bottles and cans from her house, for DRC. We also have an envelope at Bessette's on Rte 11 outside of the Village. Please save your refundables for us and we will return them for you. As the thirteen year old reminded us upon returning to the center with 0.95, “every cent counts!”
We will be on break from December 17th - January 4th. Maria will be in and out during the Holiday Break. If you would like to make an appointment, please get in touch through email, phone (244-3034), FB, text, etc...
This is the fourth in a series of Tuesday Profiles of people who are deeply involved and committed to the mission of Deep Root Center.
The DRC kids interviewed me yesterday during their community meeting. I typed my answers as the interview went on. They have all approved of the content.
Name: Maria Corse
How long have you been affiliated with DRC?
I decided in January 2013 to leave my job and open a center where kids are in charge of their education. I discovered the North Star model that spring and decided to become part of the Liberated Learners network. DRC is the happy result of those decisions.
What do you do for living? (Leillah)
I do everything that is required to run a not-for-profit. I also spend my days with awesome kids!
What is your hobby? (Rebecca)
I love to read and I love to cook. I have created amazing wheat-free muffin and cookie recipes. I also love to play with whole foods – I made a fabulous grown-up mac and cheese this past weekend with rice pasta, turmeric, shiitakes, onions, hot peppers, and garlic.
Do you like going outside? (Jake)
I like being in nature at my house. I walk 1 mile every Saturday and Sunday with my dog. We often meander along the road discovering new sights that show up throughout the week.
What is your favorite animal? (Rebecca)
I love chickens, for their amusement value and their beautiful eggs! Unfortunately after 14 years of chicken ownership, I no longer have any. Insert sad face here.
If you can go anywhere to visit family where would you go? (Jake)
Much of my family lives here in St Lawrence County. My sister lives in Massachusetts and that is where I usually go on vacation. I love to visit Boston; I lived there for 6 years and miss the smell of the ocean (Boston Harbor) and being able to get everywhere I want to go via public transportation.
What is your favorite food? (Cleo)
My favorite food is watermelon, for the juicy lusciousness of it. Yummm!
Name the last three movies you have watched: (Christian)
I rarely watch movies, because I don't like sitting that long; I don't like suspense and I get antsy. I watched the Cinema 10 movie Food Waste in September, because I was on the GardenShare committee that chose it. The last movie I watched was The Muppets - A Frog Prince here at the Center with the kids. To be completely honest, I wandered in and out while the film was running, which is fairly typical of my movie watching habits.
If you could spend one day with someone living or dead, who would it be? (Rebecca)
This is a hard one … I admire so many people from history ---- I would have to, however, choose my Grandma. She was such an important part of my growing up years. She was an artist, a carver, a cook, someone who loved nature and found the sacred in every living thing. I spent almost every weekend with her as a child. I learned how to cook while standing on a stool at her elbow. Even though she lived until I was in my mid 40's, the one thing she promised to teach me, but never got the chance was the fine art of making donuts. If I had more more day with her, I would spend it in the kitchen at her elbow making those delicious donuts.
If you had a windfall of a lot of money (millions) what would you do with it? (Leillah)
Well, first I would fund DRC --- duh! And then, I would take my whole family on a vacation – somewhere that we could immerse ourselves in local culture. Perhaps – Scotland, or Greenland, or maybe Italy. Or, if it is millions how about a grand European tour?
The intense emotions that have swirled through my consciousness during the last few weeks are directly related to the grand scale of bullshit (excuse my language) that is occurring around the world. I am going to over simplify the situation, in my usual fashion, to attempt to comprehend how and why we work so hard to hate and hurt our fellow human beings.
Gifting kindness, understanding, and charity seems so much more intuitive (and easier) than meting out harshness, judgment, and antipathy.
I am, therefore, confounded when I see people writing contemptuous comments on news articles and social media posts, instead of providing constructive feedback. I am perplexed, when I hear judgmental conclusions about personal situations, instead of empathy. And I am angered, when I see that people feel free to diss others for their faith, their color, their nationality, their sexual orientation, their jobs, their politics, their culture, their clothing and personal style, and even their sport team affiliation. In short, I am exasperated by the apathy, egocentrism, narcissism, and conceit that surround us.
On the other hand, I also witness grand acts of compassion, benevolence, humility, and humanity that are expressed with open minds and hearts. People are banding together to build a better world by offering: words of hope and sympathy, an unbiased listening ear, a gentle reminder, a warm hug, a smile, dedication to do good work, to agree to disagree, and even their homes to refugees, foster children, and others in desperate need.
The kids I spend my days with inspire me; despite being bombarded with messages of indifference and disrespect from society, the media, and their peer networks, they make positive life choices that affect everyone around them.
These actions contribute to moments of great personal confidence and optimism for all of humankind.
Needless to say, this dichotomous emotional roller coaster has been fraught with tears of laughter and frustration, not to mention a bit of joy and sadness.
My fondest wish is that everyone understands one simple fact: How you behave in life is how you will be remembered after the great equalizer comes to claim you.
Personally, I would much rather be categorized under the “weirdly, eccentric, but kind” column for all of eternity, rather than the “jerky, egotistical, _(fill in the blank)_” file.
Three Ways You Can Support DRC
Annual Funding Appeal
We sent out two hundred and fifty Deep Root Center Funding Appeal letters via the USPS, this past week.
We probably (most likely) did not reach everyone who has expressed interest in DRC during these past two years. We apologize if you are one of the people that we missed; no worries, however, you can also find the letter here.
Thank you for considering a donation to this innovative, revolutionary, non-coercive educational setting where each of our student members has expanded their vision of what education can be. They are exploring all the possibilities available to them, while having a great time! Stay tuned for more stories about their adventures in learning and life.
You can give to DRC in honor or memoriam of a friend or family member, as well. Simply give us their names and addresses and we will also send a thank you note to them indicating your gift.
DRC Dessert at Blackbird Café
The Deep Root Center December Dessert is a peppermint ball dipped in chocolate.
Go - Eat - Support community collaborations and local ventures. While you are there, please thank the Blackbird Staff for sustaining DRC with these awesome desserts.
Holiday Gift Purchases through Amazon Smile and iGive
You are shopping anyway, right? Choose Whole Learners, as your charitable Organization and DRC will get a percentage of each sale. Follow the links!
Just in case you missed it, here is the link to last week’s profile of Karen Gagne, the Prez.
This week the kids will be profiling me….
Every Tuesday, during this season of thankfulness and giving, we will be profiling the fabulous people who are part of the DRC Team.
Karen introduced herself to me in the Spring of 2014. I knew immediately that she would be a perfect fit for the DRC Board. Her dedication to Self-Directed Learning throughout her career has been impressive. And, she studied Anthropology ....
She has taken on the DRC mission and vision with a vengeance and even spent three days at the Liberated Learners Conference in Amherst, MA with me this past June.
Name: Karen M. Gagne
How long on the DRC Board and responsibilities? I have been on the board since April 2014. I became the Board President in March 2015.
Why do you serve on the DRC Board? I am really committed to the philosophy and practice of freedom. I think that this freedom should start in rethinking how we learn and grow as humans. I saw the logo of Deep Root Center first on Kara McLuckie's Facebook cover photo and asked about it. When I met Maria, I knew I wanted to become a part of DRC. I am an alum of Hampshire College and the fact that both her son and daughter were student and student-to-be at Hampshire said a lot to me about Maria's and Mike's ideas about learning. Once I joined, I became even more convinced that I was in the right place. When I saw the film Class Dismissed I started including it as a film I showed in my Social Problems and Policy course at St. Lawrence University. I think everyone should see the film.
What do you do for a living? I teach sociology at St. Lawrence University. I have been a professor since 2008, having moved here from Platteville, Wisconsin where I taught for 5 years.
If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and why? I have long had the dream of spending a year or so on the island of Carriacou, one of the small islands near Grenada. I have had this dream since I read the novel Praisesong for the Widow by Paule Marshall. At one time you could only get there by boat. It is still relatively sparsely populated. It has a long African history, that is written about in the novel. I think I imagine working there and maybe writing the book I've always wanted to write.
What are your hobbies and interests? I like reading, cooking, and photographing food and coffee. I love going out to eat as well.
What are you the most proud of? I am most proud when someone I don't know writes to me and says they read an article I wrote and asks me for advice about their writing. I am proud of all the students that I have influenced over the years to see them all grown up and doing really cool things in their lives.
If you could spend one day with someone you admire (living or dead), who would it be and why? I think I would like to have a day with my father, who passed away at 58 in November 2000. We didn't really get to say goodbye and I'd like to have that chance in person, you know to catch up and say hello and maybe goodbye for real.
Where did you grow up and why did you move to St Lawrence County? I grew up in St. Albans, Vermont. I moved to Canton in August 2013 to work at SLU. This is the closest I have ever lived to my hometown without being there. I like the proximity because I run into lots of people who are familiar with St. Albans and Lake Champlain.
If you were going to play hooky for the day, what would you do? I would love to finally make it to Ottawa! Yes, I have lived here going on 3 years and still haven't been!
Name the last three books you have read. I am teaching a new course in the spring called Black Studies as Human Studies. The books I have been reading are to look for texts to use for the course. I'll name two in particular that I am now reading: Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis, edited by Katherine McKittrick. In addtion, I am working on a review of the book, which I love. The second and very connected book is called: Dysconscious Racism, Afrocentric Praxis, and Education for Human Freedom. Through the Years I Keep On Toiling: The Selected Works of Joyce E. King. Both Wynter and King heavily inform the title and subject of the course.
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