Free Choice ...
… is the one thing we, humans, prize above all else, and the ideology that this country was founded on. Nevertheless, if we are being utterly truthful, we clearly have very little choice in a large portion of the decisions that determine much of our lives. And, when you look closely at those allowed little or no privilege, never mind, a voice or opinion, including: people of color, women, single mothers, LBGTQ individuals, the impoverished, the traumatized, the isolated, rural, and marginalized populations, the sick, and most startling of all, our children - the stark reality of how few options exist for an enormous cross-section of the population is damning.
No! This is not a politically charged post. Except to say that governance should have everything to do with allowing people to live authentically, with common senses and decency – within a culture dedicated to kindness, equity, and above all the freedom to choose the best options (in all matters) for themselves and for their families, without judgment (criminalization), or blame.
As I have mentioned before, many people around the world are choosing various forms of self-directed education (SDE) for their children. Not only are local families flocking to DRC (as indicated by our growing waiting list), it has become a worldwide phenomenon. Kerry MacDonald, an economist and a founder of the Alliance for Self-Directed Education, who un-schools her own children outside Boston, MA, has become an important voice for the SDE movement. She has written a book called Unschooled: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside the Conventional Classroom and she also writes articles for various online formats, as well as renowned periodicals like the Wall Street Journal.
She wrote a recent article for Forbes, entitled - Closing the Choice Gap in American Education, with the image of “mind the gap” that you find in subway and train stations, directly under the title. This particular article and photo caught my eye and my imagination, because here in the NoCo (an enormous geographically, rural area), besides DRC, two Catholic schools, and a small, rural non-public private school, there are no other accessible educational alternatives to the public system. And, now, I just read that St. Mary’s in Canton will be closing at the end of June.
But, as someone recently pointed out, this constricting phenomenon, in impoverished areas around the country, but especially here, doesn’t only apply to education. It carries over to health-care, including mental health, housing, food, and durable good choices, which encompasses a scarcity of retailers (No, the sudden proliferation of the Dollar General stores in rural hamlets do not count as a viable choice.), and on, and on, and on …
I firmly believe that this endless list of free choice deprivation is the driving force behind the ubiquitous ills that plague St. Lawrence County. I won’t enumerate them all here – however, I think we all understand that the resulting traumas are what we encounter and try to deal with on the daily.
I am a proud native of the North Country; born in Potsdam (fun fact: my daughter, Kenzie, was born in the same room at CPH- 32 ½ years after I was). I grew up in Norfolk, Brasher, and then after living out-of-state for ten years, returned to raise my children in West Potsdam and finally built a home and settled off-the-grid in Pierrepont. I may playfully threaten to move someplace like, oh say, Vermont; in spite of all the teasing, as you probably guessed, I am profoundly committed to staying right here.
However, in all honesty, if I spend too much time cataloguing the problems that exist here, I too become easily overwhelmed and exhausted by the enormity of the challenges they represent. This is why I have honed my focus to establishing a viable option for children. In creating a positive space for them to grow, learn, and play, where they can take the time to develop goals and aspirations – an inspiring, safe environment filled with resources, materials, and supportive mentors, we consciously provide them with the freedom to make individual choices that will guide them to be the people they were destined to be.
And, we are dedicated to, intentionally, “minding the gap” that clearly exists in educational alternatives, by opening Deep Root Centers in towns, villages, and hamlets throughout St. Lawrence County. I envision doing this by becoming an integral part of each community, by sharing buildings and spaces that already exist in other capacities. Thus, we are excited to announce that DRC-East, our second center, will be opening January 7th using the Lawrenceville Fire Hall as our temporary home until the permanent location is ready for us. Beginning with two days a week (T & Th), it will eventually be open every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. This expansion will allow us to accommodate most of the folks currently on our waiting list - however, we anticipate several new applications once we open this DRC on the eastern side of the county. We understand that this one new Center will not fulfill the need!
As with most not-for-profits dedicated to creating opportunities, we work within the constraints of an extremely tight budget. BY consistently keeping our promise to accept anyone who needs our help, whether they can pay the full fee or not, over the past six years, our staff and Board are constantly seeking ways to fill the budgetary gaps. The families waiting to join DRC are a never-ending reminder that the educational option we provide is an essential component of the North Country.
We are asking you to contribute today. By choosing to underwrite Deep Root Center, not only are you investing in those inspiring young voices who are bravely choosing to take charge of their educations with us, but in the process, you are helping to tackle the systemic problems, created by scarcity of free choice, which persecutes the entire region. Thank you!
Yes, there is more exciting news from DRC! Our afternoon program, which offers a much-needed option for after-school care, with the basic DRC philosophy of non-coercion and hands-on, interest-based learning, is opening January 6th. Click here for more information. Please share this opportunity within your network.
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