When experienced habitually, in learning environments, these are the emotions, along with excitement, anticipation, pleasure, pride, and self-respect, generated through authentic and meaningful learning experiences that produce a life-long love of learning. Despair, fear, sadness, anxiety, and apathy are all roadblocks and lead to the antithesis.
It has been proven, time and again, that our brains literally shut down when exposed to external stress and fear. Yet, our modern, traditional school systems still rely on their foundational strategy of coercion, intimidation, and fear of failure to elicit compliance.
Even during these extraordinary times when hybrid school is their answer to a pandemic, many districts are doubling down on these tactics - instigating emotional crises and trauma where there should be none. If there was ever a doubt about their loyalties and purpose, their callous behavior during this critical moment in time provides us with a definitive answer. The kids they serve are not their top priority. Additionally, I will argue that they are actively teaching children to hate the very thing they claim to provide.
If this stinging assessment seems harsh and unrealistic, you have probably not been privy to the same type and number of overwhelmingly sad stories that I have listened to over the past two weeks. The residual trauma of pushing parents and children to their limits, while erasing joy and enthusiasm from the equation will have long term implications for everyone involved.
This seems like a good time to send out a reminder of why DRC exists:
We believe that all young people deserve a safe, educational environment where they feel trusted and heard - and where they are free to explore all the possibilities. Learning can only happen when kids intuitively understand that they are safe, heard, and trusted to make decisions, make mistakes, and explore all their interests to achieve their ever-evolving aspirations.
DRC provides in-person or distance learning membership, as well as consultation services to homeschool on your own. We are here for anyone who needs us. Contact us today.
We still need someone to pick up the FoodBank order and bring it to the Canton facility. I have an order arriving on Wednesday, while I am at the Lawrenceville Center . Please get in touch if you can help.
The basketball hoop still needs to be assembled - we are having issues with the nuts not going onto the bolts. What are we doing wrong? Help!
The garage has been cleaned out a bit more, but we are looking for someone to help install organizational elements - shelving, hooks, etc.
What does it take to become a superhero?
Many would say physical strength - I would counter that by insisting a strong moral character is imminently more desirable.
Some would say cleverness is necessary - I would contend that wisdom has much greater value.
A good number would claim that every superhero needs a costume - I would observe that they prefer to be authentic and forgo any form of disguise.
Others would argue (quite strenuously) that an unworldly, inhuman magical power is required - I would assert that empathy, compassion, modesty, and a commitment to use your talents and skills for the good of all is the most vital of all super-powers.
Sadly, the world lost a powerful yet humble Super-heroine on Friday.
The good news is that each of us can step-up and dedicate ourselves to living our principles and sharing our imperfect lives with intelligence, understanding, authenticity, kindness, humility, and gratitude to release our very own inner superhero. Every single one of us can be the hero we are seeking.
Thank you, Justice Ginsberg, for teaching us that one person can, indeed, make the world a better place for us all.
Our first full week included a bit of tech angst while we worked out a few bugs in our virtual class platforms. We have sixteen different virtual classes - ranging from book clubs, writing clubs, languages, and arts and crafts and facilitated by seven SLU Volunteers from the Community Based Learning Program. We also have a couple kids joining us as distance learners. They are able to join the SLU volunteers as well as some hybrid sessions facilitated by the DRC staff. This is all new for us and we are learning as we are going. Fortunately, everyone involved understands that mistakes, as well as unforeseen glitches (the internet going out), happen.
Volunteer Help Wanted -If you are able to help us out on these projects - please get in touch. Thank you!!!
1. We have a portable basketball hoop that we need help assembling.
2. We have a friend/volunteer who is a master mechanic. He is determined to get our garage set-up properly so we can use it as an actual lab learning space for the trades (mechanics, carpentry, maybe electrical, etc.). A couple of volunteers cleaned it up significantly a couple weeks ago - but we need to bring it to the next level (creating storage and organizational systems, and work spaces, and removing items that are not being used). This is a fairly large undertaking that will take dedicated time and some skill.
3. There is a dead tree in the backyard that needs to be cut down. It is very tricky and needs a pro (or two).
DRC-Lawrenceville These Peeps had their first day together on Wednesday at the Nicandri Nature Center. We had a fabulous time walking and exploring the trails.
Earlier this Spring, when I was looking back and trying to organize all of the nearly seven years worth of blog posts, I discovered that the most common theme, by a long stretch, was trust. Therefore, it isn't surprising that after the first days of our academic year, it is once again at the forefront of my consciousness. After all, it is fundamental to our philosophy and methodology at DRC.
I get the same questions every year from our members, parents, and absolute strangers that ultimately revolve around "making sure."
"How do you know they are doing the things they say they are doing?"
"How do I prove that I have done something?"
"What if I don't want to do math?"
"How do you know they are learning something?"
"How will they learn basic math (reading, writing, spelling, history, science)?"
"How will they get into college (get a job, function in society) if they only do the things they want to do?
"How will they learn discipline?"
And, then, come the statements:
"If you don't force them to do something, they will take advantage of you."
"Kids are fundamentally lazy."
"My child is not self-directed."
"My kid is only interested in video games."
"My child hates reading (math, history, spelling, science)."
These are all valid points when you consider that their point of view is based purely on their experience and knowledge of nothing but the traditional, compulsory, coercive system.
Yes, I, absolutely, trust that all of my "Peeps" are learning, growing, and making mistakes all the time. I believe that they, at their very core, know exactly what they need. I have confidence that they are all capable of seeking out the necessary support, knowledge, and experience when they are ready. I understand that they are all unique individuals with personal internal timetables, natural inclinations, aspirations, and, most importantly, free will.
When you consider that curiosity and creativity drive all learning and then go on to understand that all humans are born curious, isn't it natural to trust that every one of us will learn everything we need to - in our lifetime? Learning, after all, is a life-long endeavor.
Coercion is the only thing that will, without a doubt, turn-off, shutdown, and otherwise disengage our innate inquisitiveness and inventiveness, and ultimately our love of learning. And our traditional educational systems are designed to do just that. When obedience became the core principle of the educational system - not learning, that is the exact moment when trust was converted into a rare, beautiful, precious, and unexpected gift.
We are Back!
After a six month hiatus, this past Thursday was our first day back in the DRC Canton Facility. I am so excited to connect with all of "my" kiddos, again. We have an awesome crew of veterans and newbies! We spent a good portion of our first days considering everything that we want to include in our schedule and getting to know each other. I am grateful for their uniquely, wonderful personalities, and the humor, curiosity, creativity, and intellect they each bring to the group.
A few snapshots from our first two days !
This year I am delighted that our team of four in Canton includes myself, Elian, our staff person, Chase, the Senior Apprentice (returning for his second year), and Ryan our Apprentice. It is incredibly exciting to have these young people with us, training to work in a self-directed learning environment. The goal is that they will go out into the world to work with other organizations, or even found a center of their own.
Lawrenceville will open this coming Wednesday and then every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Happily, Trish will return as our Tues. & Thurs. staff person and I will be there every Wednesday.
We have a few openings in both Canton and Lawrenceville. You are welcome to get in touch if your child is interested in joining us.
Our Distance Learning Program is up and running as well and has a couple of slots open. Or, if your family has decided to homeschool on your own, consultation services are also available.
This week's post has taken the form of a photo essay - a visual cue that "we humans are nothing but bit players in this thing called life." I needed the reminder this weekend that there are never-ending Universal influences at work behind the scenes that are (and will always be) way beyond my control.
The stark beauty of nature, in all her glory, during a late morning walk prompted me to, once again, acknowledge that, after that initial punch to the gut, I can choose to respond with openness, positivity, gratitude, and hopefulness - to bend and adapt (like Mother Nature, herself), or I can react in anger, anxiety, frustration, and helplessness. In the end, there will always be an awareness that "this too shall pass," no matter how I chose to deal with it. And, only with the perspective of time can I look in the rear-view mirror to fully understand and appreciate all the "whys."
You have probably heard the axiom that growth and change require discomfort. I don't know about you, but I am not often willing to feel uncomfortable - no matter the potential positive result. For me, the word "discomfort" sounds painful, coercive, and frankly reminiscent of sitting in a dentist's chair.
I prefer to use the word "challenging" instead. A challenge, foremost, represents freedom and the opportunity to explore all the available options - not as something to fight against, but something to fight for.
Highlighting this distinction in language brings me directly to the vitally important conversations that are occurring around the country right now. I believe that the ultimate goals of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the widespread call for systemic change for black and brown people, the 98%, LGBTQIA+ folks, refugees, and those suffering from mental illness, can only happen by providing a set of circumstances that allow for the freedom to choose to have personal fundamental belief systems challenged.
We know that we can not force someone to change their mind - we cannot argue or ridicule them into seeing a non-racist, non-xenophobic, non-misogynistic, non-homophobic, compassionately, empathetic point of view. When people feel like they are strong-armed or guilted into change, it instigates defensive postures, resentment, and ultimately hatred against those that they perceive forced the adaptation. Which often breeds violence, accomplishing the exact opposite of the initial intention.
I believe our best way forward is to shine a very bright light on all of the cultural barriers that prevent everyone from living a life free from systemic injustice, prejudice, and bigotry. Then present it as a challenge for all of us to problem solve and work on, together - freely. I will argue that at the end of the day, almost everyone wants to feel like they are an important part of a community and that they had a hand in creating something valuable and worthwhile.
And, then comes the most important piece of this entire process, we absolutely need to recognize and normalize the efforts and value of changing one's mind. After all, change begets growth and learning - the two things that humans are perfectly designed to do.
In a bit over a week, we will open the doors to both, DRC-Canton and DRC-East in Lawrenceville, for a new year sure to be filled with adventures and challenges. If you are still conflicted about what you and your family are doing, or are unhappy with the choice you made, get in touch. We are here to help you navigate all your options.
Each of the Deep Root Center Social Media graphics this week has begun with the words, "Dare to" followed by actions that, unfortunately, in today's culture, need to lead with that verbal challenge. Dare to - color outside the lines, use your imagination, dream, make mistakes, fail, be disappointed, and the one that has not posted yet, "Dare to embrace and celebrate your flawed, yet amazingly, awesome authentic self."
Most of us are afraid to imagine contemplating doing any of those things - let alone, actually, do them. We have all learned that fitting in is the standard to which we will be judged - every damn time. And as a result, creativity has been the collateral paid to achieve our collective insipidness.
We have developed a culture, tethered by the fear of failure, where very few are willing to take the deep plunge into the boundless world of innovative problem-solving - because, instead of honoring mistakes and framing them as an opportunity for real learning, we chastise and punish.
The inspiring Sir Ken Robinson, who sadly passed away this weekend, framed this modern educational (and now cultural) shortcoming, beautifully, in his now, infamous, 2006 TED Talk entitled, "Do Schools Kill Creativity?"
One of his main points, in both his speech and his book of the same title, is that "children have an extraordinary capacity for innovation - that all kids have tremendous talents, and we squander them, pretty ruthlessly." R.I.P. - Sir Ken. Your gentle humor and unconventional ideas about the future of education will be greatly missed.
In case you have not noticed, the only way the human species is going to survive is if the dare-devils, the ingenious problem-solvers, generate innovative ideas to solve the mess we have created. These are the folks who are unafraid to step outside the box, challenge the status quo, and ignore the naysayers. No! Not to produce more conspiracy theories, by actively seeking out conclusions that match their notions. But, to diligently work through experimentation and analysis of their ideas, within the scientific method, with openness and willingness to share their process and results (both positive and negative) with their scientific peers and the broader community, with the understanding that they may, very well, be wrong. The vital piece, within this entire scenario, is their enthusiasm for re-framing the original question to accommodate the knowledge gained from their "failed" attempt(s).
An enormous thank you to Dave Schryver for donating the time (design), materials, skills, and labor to build this lean-to in the DRC backyard. It will keep us (and our projects) sheltered this fall.
We are extremely grateful for all the folks who came out, yesterday, to help build it, clean-up the yard (cut some tree branches), and sort out and clean the garage. Thanks to Zoe Schryver and fam, Branden and Brayden F., Derek S., Mike C., Bill H., and Liberty S.
Race To Nowhere - Film
This is an amazing opportunity to watch this acclaimed film from ten years ago that seems more relevant than ever, and to hear from the director. Follow this link to register (by donation) - watch the film at your leisure, and then join us on Thursday, August 27th, at 7 pm for a virtual panel that includes the film's director.
One day, six years ago, I was standing at the Deep Root Center table at the Canton Farmers' Market in the Canton Village Park, talking to people about DRC, as they passed by. I was feeling more than a little intimidated by the entire process, mainly because a) I am an introvert, and b) I was still in the process of developing the language to describe why DRC exists, how we provide services, and what we are.
I will always remember the one guy who walked up while I was talking to another family and asked, "so what is your agenda?" To say that I was startled by the question would be putting it mildly. I looked at him and said, "I (we) don't have one." He looked back at me with what I can only describe as contempt, and said, "everyone has an agenda," and walked away. That one, seemly, inconsequential encounter has stuck with me - it felt like he was accusing me of being there with, nefarious, intent - for "drumming up business" and hawking DRC for other reasons besides what was clearly visible to anyone who passed by.
Today, after six years of being completely immersed in doing what we do (working with more than 100 young people), and talking about it, I would be able to say that, "yes, we do have an agenda." Although, it doesn't have the negative connotation that he was implying.
Deep Root Center exists solely because all young people deserve a safe, educational environment where they feel trusted and heard - and where they are free to explore all the possibilities. Because, learning can only happen when kids intuitively understand that they are safe, heard, and trusted to make decisions, make mistakes, and explore all their interests to achieve their ever-evolving aspirations.
In the simplest possible terms, we are here to help any child, along with their family, opt-out of traditional schools to dive deeply into the subjects and themes they are curious about, seek out opportunities that excite them, and build their future. It is, indeed, an agenda - one that we can be, profoundly, proud to explain to anyone who asks.
Join us this coming Saturday, August 22nd, to build a lean-to in the DRC backyard. It will provide shelter this Fall for the majority of our activities and projects this Fall - during this age of COVID. All skill levels welcome!
The answer is, almost always, “yes.” When the question begins, “Can I …,” the response will be, “absolutely, yes.” And, when the person sitting in front of me (or, on the other end of the phone) says, “I wish DRC were able to offer …”, the reply, as long as it fits within our non-coercive, philosophy of self-directed education, will always be, “we can.”
When someone asks these questions, I know they have already begun the process. They have given the project, activity, or program a ton of thought. They are committed to their idea and are willing to try, make mistakes, fail, and try again. At this point, they are only seeking approval to continue because they need the resources, or, maybe, they simply need validation.
In saying, “yes,” I am acknowledging that we may have to work together, to explore the possibilities, to figure it out. And, I understand that by offering affirmation, I am providing the permission they feel they need before they open their own floodgates to creativity and curiosity – both of which can only lead to real and authentic learning.
We are creating a culture of ingenuity here. “Yes,” is the opening – an indication of flexibility – and an absolute gift.
Amidst all of the challenges that COVID has thrown at us, we are preparing for the coming year. As you may have seen, most of our programming will move to our outdoor spaces for as long as the weather holds. We currently have picnic tables to work on and a market tent for protection from the elements.
One of our families has offered to donate the materials and the guidance to build us a lean-to in the backyard for additional coverage. We are looking for some folks to help with the project on Saturday, August 22nd. It should only take a couple of hours. DRC will provide snacks and lunch. This project is the perfect opportunity for those kids who would like to learn how to build something. Please let us know if you can help out. Thanks!!!
Procrastination has a bad rap. Have you noticed that we constantly shame ourselves and others for putting things off? It is a major piece of our collective culture. I am proposing that, instead, we think of procrastination as an asset - a mechanism that helps us produce our best work. Then use it as you would any other tool, without guilt or apology.
I have come to recognize the symptoms of trying to force an idea before it's time. I am antsy and distracted, and the feelings of frustration build. If I don't listen to those intuitive signals and try to push through anyway - the results are utter crap. It doesn't matter what it is or when it is technically due - whether it is planning a presentation or meeting, generating lesson plans for a class, producing an artistic or creative project, writing a blog post, designing a piece for social media, or developing the language around a new program or service for DRC. I find that these things are often "ready" to come out, seconds (OK - maybe minutes or hours) before I absolutely need them.
The notion of viewing my "put it off till tomorrow attitude" as a positive trait coalesced a couple of weeks ago when I had a phone call scheduled to discuss some details for volunteers at the Center this Fall. A week before the call, I tried to write down a list of things to talk about - my mind was completely blank, and so was the sheet of paper. I put it aside (with the usual self-condemnation popping up throughout the week) and, then, fifteen minutes before the actual call, I sat down and generated a comprehensive list of ideas. The week-long angst I felt was, as usual, all for naught. The conversation went smoothly. I didn't sound unprepared (stupid) or harried - and we hashed out a practical plan.
Funny enough, the idea about writing this piece hit at the same time. But, once again, even though I pulled it up, out of the depths, every now and again - it was not quite ready to be born until today. Yup, I procrastinated a post about procrastination!
I never know what will trigger the readiness of any idea to see the light of day. I do know that they are constantly churning away, just beneath the surface. If my dreams, of late, are any indication, there are a ton of them bumping into one another down there and creating total chaos.
What it all comes down to is that ingenuity (and learning, for that matter) cannot be forced. The energy (juice) has to flow uninhibited (without internal guilt or external shame), the vibes and conditions have to be just right, and, most importantly, any idea has to be allowed time to develop, fully, without conscious effort, before it deigns to make an appearance.
When you give yourself and others the gift of procrastination without guilt, judgment, or condemnation, the resulting freedom will allow you (and them) to generate your (their) best work ever.
A New DRC Program
As COVID-19 alters everything we previously accepted as normal, families are scrambling to find a viable alternative to the options presented by their local school districts. Many parents are frustrated by the rigidity of these plans and are looking for something more flexible - that fits within their own schedules, and allows them to keep their kids home.
While I was speaking to one such Mom yesterday, I offered our two existing options: in-person membership or consultation. In the midst of the conversation she said, "I wish there was a third option that included the consultation services, allowed us to stay at home, and had the option for my kids to interact with other kids and meet with a mentor virtually so they are accountable to someone besides me." That was the moment that I remembered that I had developed that exact program when DRC first opened (The Deep Root Center Distance Learning Program was originally created because St Lawrence County is so large and I knew that everyone who wanted to use DRC would not be able to get to Canton). It never took flight - it simply wasn't the right time.
Now, six years later, is the perfect moment for that exact program! If you are seeking an alternative that is flexible and customizable, with opportunities for engagement with other kids and a mentor, but are not yet comfortable leaving home - this program is exactly what you are looking for. Learn more here, including the membership levels, and then contact us to get started on designing your family's Distance Learning Plan.
Modern humans are beautifully designed to be their most creative and, more importantly, willingly, adaptive during a crisis. Simply put, we become more receptive to outside the box ideas that were previously a bit too foreign or weird for our taste.
Unsurprisingly, this trait is presenting itself as families, around the country, are scrambling to come up with a solution beyond the two options school districts have presented - A) send their kids to school (with COVID modifications) or B) stay home to do online assigned school work and communicate with their teacher regularly. One answer that has sprung up, seemingly overnight, is the formation of “pods” or “micro-schools.” Yes, families are working together to hire a teacher to homeschool their children.
This a wonderfully creative, outside the box, solution for those who have the disposable income (almost laughable isn’t it – those two words combined, “disposable” and “income”) to hire someone to develop curriculum and administer lessons in their home. However (be ready for a gigantic dose of reality), social and economic status, once again, dictates who can take advantage of these opportunities and who is left, ostensibly, with those two choices. Although, when you look at it honestly, even though it may seem like the schools are offering two viable options, we all know, for many, there is really only one. The only way you can choose “B” is if someone (an adult) stays home.
You see, this crisis doesn’t present anything new that many folks haven’t been dealing with for a very long time. Even if they subscribed to the philosophy, and wanted desperately to remove their kids from school, the option to homeschool has never been available to them.
Despite these grim truths, Deep Root Center has been right here, in the NoCo, for over six years, providing an alternative to school, for any family, despite their economic realities, who are dealing with a crisis or who are, simply, seeking something different. This bears repeating - Deep Root Center does (will) not refuse any child because of their parents’ income level.
Therefore, if the current options presented to you and your family are unattractive, unrealistic, or purely unpalatable, Deep Root Center is here to help you build a unique plan that works specifically for you and your kids. You are not alone and you are not destined to accept the seemingly inevitable.
Available to any child in the community - Register online
This past week, I glanced through an article about Sweden's response to COVID-19. As I understand it, Sweden did (does) not have a government-enforced lock-down. They relied on the citizens to wear masks and physical distance themselves without coercion. This particular article suggested that we should do the same here.
If you have been reading this blog for a while, you likely understand my feelings about coercive methods as a means to an end. Nevertheless, I will say that relying on folks, here in the United States, to do what is right, for others - is laughable and downright dangerous. (Yes, my cynicism and distrust are clearly evident today.)
Why? No, really - why do people in other places in the world care more about others than we do? How did we get this “$*&# you” attitude that pervades the U.S.?
Simply stated, many of our traditions are worlds apart. They, on the one hand, have a predominant culture of care and kindness. We can point to a plethora of culturally empathetic traditions all over the globe - not the least being Ubuntu in South Africa (which I have mentioned, here, several times over the years). We, in the U.S., on the other hand, have a culture of competition - stand on (beat down, trick, take advantage of) the person next to you to gain the advantage and, all-important, social status.
I, not surprisingly, believe that toxic competition stems largely from our governmental educational system that is built purely on coercion, rewards, and punishment. Many of us learned from a very early age to do only those things that we are forced to do and to only do them if there is a reward at the end. And, we can, legally, gain dominance by stepping on others on the way to achieving that reward. Additionally, we celebrate when the other guy loses or gets punished. Not to mention that we also have a 400+ year tradition of (largely) unacknowledged white privilege and outright racism that is inextricably woven into this conversation. All of which, I will argue, have all led to the symptoms of bankrupted compassion that are also overwhelmingly evident in our current political climate (I will let that statement stand on its own).
Therefore, why are we surprised that some people are going to object to wearing masks – that their ego trumps (pun intended) empathy and their contempt eclipses respect - that they, absolutely, will protest for their freedom to live their normal lives through a pandemic? And, they will, straight up, fight anyone who suggests that they should change their behaviors out of respect or the health of others. “We live in a free country,” I believe, is the standard quote.
I ask this question in all seriousness, how can this be a free country for all, if, in pursuing your (God-given) freedoms, you impinge on the rights of other folks?
In many cases, this question goes beyond wearing masks, physical distancing, and staying home when ill, it also extends to behaviors and attitudes towards BIPOC, LBGTQA+ folks, and anyone else who has different beliefs or appearance from them.
This quote, from Lauren Morrill (author of YA books), four years ago, about the ACA hearings, which has been misattributed to Dr. Fauci since the outbreak of COVID-19, sums this point up quite nicely: “I don't know how to explain to you why you should care about other people.”
We have officially arrived at a place and time where we are lamenting the near extinction of respect and compassion. And, given all the above, I have to ask, again, why are we surprised?
August 3rd - September 4th - 9:00 - 3:00 - Monday - Friday
With a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place, which relies on adapting and utilizing the DRC outdoor spaces for most of our activities and projects, as well as wearing masks, washing hands, and sanitizing surfaces and shared items regularly, we are ready to open our Summer Programs. We are limiting participation to eight kids each day. This is a drop-in program; however, given the restrictions of the pandemic, we are asking that families let us know ahead of time which days they will be attending so we can plan accordingly. Online registration can be accessed through the DRC website. We are also available to answer your questions.
Where do you get your inspiration? Does it fly in unexpectedly - seemingly out of nowhere, or do you know, exactly, what circumstances will instigate it? No matter how it works for you, I think we can all agree that we can only be (feel) inspired when we are free - free from overwhelming anxiety, frustration, confusion, and pressure.
My inspiring moments often come in a flash - usually through a conversation, or an image, or sometimes just a word. I frequently joke that I have to have water pouring over my head for ideas to take shape. I seriously do my best thinking in the shower. When we moved to our off-grid home fifteen years ago, it turned out the joke was on me. I am, to this day, constrained to short showers, or else I have to hand-pump a ton of water into the holding tank. That is when I discovered that once I get the original notion of an idea, action precipitates creativity. Simply placing my fingers on the keyboard generates a flow of words. The pure joy of producing something out of blank space motivates me to do more.
I will admit there are times when I become overwhelmed with feelings of frustration and anxiety because I am forcing myself to be cleverly creative, or I feel pressured because someone is expecting me to complete something. That is the point when I quit - at least for a time until I have decompressed enough for ideas to flow, and I can get excited about the project again.
Any time I talk about self-directed learning, this is the exact point where the conversation circles back to motivation. "How do we, as humans, gain the ability to self-motivate?" "Can it be taught?" "What does intrinsic motivation look like?" "Is it OK to quit?" "But, what if my kid will only do something when I compel them to do it?"
I think the easy answer to all of the questions is joy. We want to do things because we are interested in them, and it satisfies us or makes us happy. Yes - as many point out - that even includes those things that most of us don't like. I hate cleaning my house, washing the dishes, and doing the taxes. And, I despise dealing with administrative "officialdom" - but I do all of those, less than desirable, tasks because when I finish, I have a sense of accomplishment. No reward or punishment is going to motivate me more than that simple feeling of satisfaction of taking something on and completing it.
Before kids (any of us) can be self-motivated - they have to unlearn what we have taught them by relying on sticks and carrots to coerce them to do what we think is best. The process, to be totally honest, may take a while. They need time to rediscover the pure joy of challenging themselves and accomplishing what they set out to do, the pleasure of being creatively inspired, and the unadulterated delight in creating something out of nothing. But, once they truly "get" it, they are well on their way to becoming their unabashedly, unapologetically, intrinsically motivated, authentic selves.
The DRC Canton facility is finally getting its roof repaired! When we get confirmation on when it will be started (and finished), we will set a date to begin our summer programs. We will have a safety plan in place, which will include spending much of the day outside in the yard, and on the porch. Creative activities will be adapted for the outdoor space. We will also take daily hikes. And, we will have a limit of eight participants each day. Stay tuned over the next week for details.
We are here to listen and help you navigate all the questions and concerns you have about your child's options this fall. Feel free to contact us anytime.
Agreeing to disagree is perfectly fine if you and I are discussing whether we think that kiwi fruit tastes good, or not, or that you like country music and I don't. However, when it comes to the issue of basic human rights, we don't (can't) have a simple difference of opinion.
If you can't say (or do not believe) that, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQIA+ folks should be proud, women are equal, refugees and immigrants should be allowed to seek shelter, healthcare (including mental and sexual healthcare) is a human right, the poor should not be denied the basic essentials of food, water, and shelter (or, even that poverty shouldn’t be a thing), and that climate change is devastating our planet, then our foundational moral beliefs are worlds apart.
I believe that ingrained (indoctrinated) fear and aversion of the "other," as well as the greed for not only money but the power and influence that accompanies wealth and status, drive the hateful beliefs and behaviors that have become so deeply entrenched in our culture.
So, how do we go about changing the very fiber of our culture? How do we teach the antithesis of hatred? How do we instill that greed is not good? How do we indoctrinate basic human decency? I mean really, how do we make it very clear that it is not OK to be an asshole? Respectful behavior, human rights, and moral ethics should have nothing to do with politics or religion. But, yet, that is what it seems to come down to.
And, NO, tolerance is not the goal. Teaching tolerance is like saying, "you have every right to dislike these things, but you have to put up with them for the sake of being PC." It is wrong on so many levels.
I do not believe that people will learn something just because they have to take a mandatory class as part of a curriculum. I don't believe that real learning happens in a forced environment. I don't believe that someone will change their mind, simply, because they have been presented with facts, that defeat their convictions, during an argument. And, I don't believe that shaming someone will change their behaviors. But, yet, I do believe that everyone has the potential, as well as the right to learn and grow.
While I struggle with this exhausting conundrum on a daily basis, I continuously look at my responsibility as a mentor. Within this non-coercive environment, I have always been committed to combating learned apathy, helplessness (hopelessness), and, yes, even, hate, by modeling empathy and compassion, respectful behavior, and service to others. But, I am discovering that is not enough. I have to be willing to say, "No! On this point, I will not agree to disagree, and this is why." And in doing so, begin the hard conversations - the ones that will begin to challenge those moral beliefs, that on their very fundamental level, place other people's lives in danger.
* H/T to Kenzie Corse for inspiring me to think more deeply about all this.
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.
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".
How (where) to even begin - I am not the first, nor will I be the last to say, I am feeling utterly exhausted, sad, and just plain old angry. But, I think, confounded, dumbfounded, stupefied, and unbearably overwhelmed are the emotions that have consistently brought me close to the breaking point this past week.
Every time the news cycle tells the story of another person of color under attack or killed by a white person, my brain initially short circuits to disbelief. No! Not disbelief that it happened, yet again, but the thought that someone (a human being) is capable of hating another human being, enough to harm them physically, discredit them, destroy their integrity, or, straight-up murder them - simply because of the color of their skin.
The history of racism and white supremacy in the United States is monstrously long and ugly. To be clear, I am neither an expert nor a scholar of either. I am, however, a student of human nature. I am usually eager to learn why people behave in certain ways. Right now, I am merely appalled that right-wing terrorists are vigorously taking advantage of those who are suffering, and, justly protesting the right to be alive, to further their agenda.
Therefore, when it comes to systemic white supremacy, my interest lies in not understanding behavior, but where it comes from. How does one become a white supremacist? In my head, I know that the obvious answer is indoctrination. Nevertheless, there is no particular demographic that bigotry can be attributed to because it is found both in places of extreme poverty and enormous wealth and privilege.
I also recognize that covert racism is often hidden within comparisons between things that can not, and, should never be compared. Such as this argument against a living wage for those in the "unskilled" labor force: "I went to school to become a nurse (or, fill in the blank with another occupation) why should a food service worker (or, fill in the blank with another essential worker) make more than me?" These are folks who try to justify making equivocations, while indignantly denying their bigotry at the same time. The obvious answer lies within an irrevocably broken system - not with the people themselves.
The next question I have to ask is: how can we stop it from continuing in future generations? I know that I (we) can not (will, most likely, never) change someone's deeply held beliefs around race (which, as you probably know, is a human construct in itself - race does not exist except to say we are all part of the human race) through persuasive (or, belligerent) argument (in person or with comments on social media).
I can, however, actively model anti-xenophobia. I can use my immense privilege, as a white woman, to speak up as an advocate. I can normalize kindness, compassion, and empathy through my behaviors and language. I can express my humanity, with humility and respect for every human being, and I will expect those around me to do the same. And, most importantly, I can continue to provide a nurturing and trusting environment where young people are made aware of the injustices in the world and are given the opportunity to use their innate curiosity, creative ideas, and kindness to not only flourish but to help others do the same.
NYS is slowly and methodically re-opening. Phase Two began yesterday. If all goes according to plan, Phase Four (the last phase) will be open by the middle of July.
Other camps, including 4-H Camp Overlook, Cooperative Extension Day Camps, SLU Sports Camps, and Camp Unirondack have been canceled this summer. We have a much smaller capacity than any of those programs and we offer drop-in participation. We would like to provide programming, but only if parents indicate that it is a needed service.
Therefore, before we begin making plans to open our Summer Program - would you (local parents) consider registering your child for our summer programs? If so, beyond, mandatory masks for staff and youth, daily health check-in, fewer participants, sanitized surfaces, and plenty of outdoor activities, what safety measures would you like to see in place? And, lastly, when should we open, mid-July, or the beginning of August? You can get in touch through email or phone (call or text) to answer the above questions.
Oh, the irony! For the past six years, I have actively encouraged families with children in the public schools to opt-out of New York State high-stakes tests - now, under the pressure (guise) of a global pandemic, those very tests have been canceled, including the Regents Exams.
You can view this decision from two very different vantage points: 1) at face value - they don't think it is fair to the students to take tests after having lost preparation time, or 2) with skepticism.
As you can probably guess, I take the latter position. 1) New York State has battled the Opt-Out movement from its inception. They have gone so far as to say that they would penalize those schools (reduce funding) who had an Opt-Out rate over a certain percentage. 2) The powers that be know there will be backlash (lawsuits from the civil liberty folks) because kids didn't have enough in-person instruction. 3) They may even, at the heart of it, understand that standardized tests are garbage, and this is an excuse to remove them without admitting that they are garbage (unlikely, but I am putting it out there).
The data is clear - standardized tests do not, in any way, measure learning (long term retention of information). I will not address the very long list of reasons here. Nonetheless, both the Federal and State Departments of Education are inextricably tied to high-stakes tests. Firstly, we have folks who know, absolutely, nothing about education running these departments and implementing programs ("No Child Left Behind" and "Common Core") that have little to do with, actual, learning. And secondly, once again, I will invoke the phrase, "follow the money" to explain the testing phenomenon.
It is the textbook (Pearson, McGraw-Hill, etc) and tech companies (Microsoft, Apple, etc.), who are developing the above-mentioned pedagogical programs, as well as the assessment instruments that are mandated by the Feds and the States. In doing so, they are creating demand, and, let's be brutally honest, a guaranteed (coerced) market for the products they sell.
New York State Governor, Andrew Cuomo announced last week that he is forming an educational task force, with none other than, Bill Gates, to determine, among other things, if virtual learning is a viable way forward for the future of public education. With unadulterated cynicism, this is where I ask myself, "Is this simply appeasement, for canceling the tests this year, with the idea of expanding them in the future?"
Clearly, as long as the governmental education system, our children, and learning itself, are considered commodities to be bought and sold - we will need alternatives dedicated to serving and supporting our kids and our communities.
Congrats to our four seniors. Friday was the last day of our academic year. Sadly, we were not able to share hugs, high-fives, and stories of our time together, in person. Nevertheless, we send them out into the world with our gratitude and very best wishes.
In Maria's Kitchen - Find the latest virtual cooking class below.
Those of you who have received this Blog for a while, know that I am not a proponent of regulations that are designed, simply, to keep folks contained inside boundaries and expectations. You, most likely, also understand that I am not averse to looking the other way when particular rules that have nothing to do with safety, but everything to do with control and coercion, are not followed to the "T."
However, to be incredibly clear, what we are dealing with, currently, doesn't, or, rather, shouldn't have anything to do with rules. Yes, State Governments have put restrictions in place, but only because the population at large can't seem to grasp the concepts of common-sense, altruism, selflessness, and empathy.
Deep Root Center is closed. I am staying home, grocery shopping less often, wearing a face mask, when I do go out, and making do without some luxuries (including a much-needed haircut), not because I am in panic mode, or afraid of catching COVID-19, but rather out of concern for everyone in my community.
To continue on the riff from last week's post, we are all members of society, and, as such, we should all be held responsible for our behaviors. Stated plainly in bold letters - this is not about each of us individually, or, the ways our lives are being disrupted. We need to look beyond our sense of entitlement, and our unruly, outgrown hair and unkempt fingernails, our desire to be served in a restaurant or to attend a party, and our hankering to browse retail establishments - to consider our responsibility to the people around us.
We all want this to go away. We are all feeling confined and inconvenienced. Those essential workers who are (literally) keeping us all alive, want to feel safe at work, again. Wear a mask (correctly) in public, give people around you plenty of space (at least six feet), and, as businesses and services are phased into the opening plans please, please, please, for the sake of us all, use common sense, and, always, no matter how frustrated you become, be kind. I do it for all of you - please, do it for each other.
We are staying abreast of recommendations for re-opening. If everything goes smoothly, as St. Lawrence County phases in non-essential services, we will open our Summer Programs on July 13th, with a specific safety plan in place.
The Center is clean and ready for action. Click the link below to watch a video tour of the facility.
I don’t know about you - but I have heard more references to the demise of individual freedoms over the past eight weeks than any other time in my adult life. The snarky voice who occasionally lives inside my head (Well, to be honest, I should probably admit, at this point, she has taken up permanent residence.) would like to say (really loudly), "You need to understand that individual liberty coexists alongside personal responsibility. And, as a contributing member of society, you may be called upon, at times, to sacrifice a bit of freedom for the good of us all."
In response to some of the cries and (armed) protests about lost freedom, the following meme was created and circulated through social media: "Freedom, without responsibility, is adolescence." I read that and immediately got angry. I believe the meme should: "If you want freedom, without responsibility, you are a hypocritical jerk (read - asshole)."
Why do we, as a culture, denigrate teens? To be fair, most folks who shared that particular meme probably didn’t consider, or, even recognize, the negative connotations. This attitude is so ingrained that when I looked up the word "responsibility" in the Apple thesaurus, I found this example sentence: "Teenagers may not be showing enough sense of responsibility to be safely granted privileges." Seeing this, pissed me off even more.
The adolescents I know have a better sense of dependability, wisdom, and trustworthiness than some adults. They spend time thinking about how they can benefit their community. They are empathetic and kind. And, they worry about the future - not only their own - but the fate of society at large. Believe me, these teens recognize that they are looked upon as immature, inconsiderate, and lazy louts who prefer video games and virtual experiences rather than reality. And, then, they agonize over every decision they make, even though, on a fundamental level, they understand that no matter what they do, they won't be able to change our perception of them.
Beyond the negative overtone of the above-mentioned meme, it is, plainly, false. Most adolescents do not experience freedom, simply because adults do not trust them. Teens are, inextricably, tied to all of the (disproportionate, unrealistic, and inhibiting) expectations adults have for them.
For this very reason, those of us who work in the SDE (Self-Directed Education) field, see many kids struggle with the freedom and trust that we, automatically, offer them. First, they are, visibly, confused, then, the questions begin to flow: "What should I do now?" "But, does this count?" "How will I prove I learned something if I don't take a test?" "This is cheating the system - isn't it?" "How will I ever figure out what I am interested in?"
For some, the feelings of unease are so overwhelming that they return to the comforting confines of the known. Others, eventually, come to understand that the initial awkwardness of taking personal responsibility is the price of admission for authentic freedom of choice. These are the kids who have discovered that they are in charge of their lives, as well as their happiness.
You will find two new virtual cooking classes - easy mac & cheese and a three-part bread baking tutorial below and on the DRC Vlog page.
All those feelings I spoke about last week, continue to roll through. After another rough week, I had an additional epiphany Friday night. Not only have our lives have been, rudely, interrupted, without permission, we have also been relegated to the sidelines and forced to watch this particular game take shape, with no means of participating in any of the decisions being made that are directly affecting our lives.
Yes, we understand, acknowledge, and support the multitude of good reasons, on a cerebral level, but that doesn't make it any easier. After all, as humans, we like to be in control, or at least have the illusion of being an active participant in the game.
You and I are isolated in our little bubbles trying to make sense of all the external noise and confusion, while attempting, with some semblance of intelligence, and our hands effectively tied behind our backs, to, not only, plan for the future but to think completely outside the box.
The Governor announced on Friday that New York State schools are closed for the remainder of the academic year. I don't know about you, but I knew it was coming. That fact doesn't make it any easier for anyone. Even though DRC is technically not a school, and we always finish on the Friday before Memorial Day, and, that we would have only had one week to be together again, it still hit hard.
We won't have an in-person celebration for our four seniors, who are moving on to new and exciting adventures, or a party for everyone with a birthday during the summer months. We won't have a first swim (wade) of the season in the Grasse River or a week filled with hikes on the SLU or SUNY Canton trails. We won't dig up the front yard to plant a flower garden, and the backyard art installation will have to wait another year. All of the projects planned and spontaneous, big, and small are on hold. We won't have the face to face conversations about how much each of us has grown, emotionally, and intellectually, this past year. We won't experience our traditional last day hug. We won't have closure. Additionally, we are all left wondering, "what's next?"
This year had already felt like a roller coaster ride from the moment we all walked through the door on September 5th. From a capacity crowd and scrabbling to provide resources and support for those fifteen kids on the waiting list, to opening DRC-East, in Lawrenceville, inventing and initiating the ever-expanding Exploration Station Suite of services, losing a staff member and several student members in January, then gaining a staff person in March, and now our current reality - this year has offered an abundance of drama, and opportunities for learning and growth.
My job, right now, is to take all of those lessons and use them to forge a new path, within our current reality, a task that is eminently easier to write about than to implement while fighting off the indulgence in anger, frustration, anxiety, and deep sadness.
With that being said, I do have glimpses of positive outcomes, hanging out on the periphery. I am confident that, with patience, they will come into sharp focus over the next few weeks, and I will be back in the game, working, within, and through all the externally imposed handicaps.
One project that has moved forward is the DRC Virtual Cooking Class. I recorded the one below and then posted it. The next one will be live because the uploading process using a hotspot takes forever - literally hours and hours.
We are still looking for a name for this series of classes - so far there have been two suggestions: Edible Education: Cooking with Maria and Making Munchies with Maria. If you would like to add a name to the mix, or vote on one of the above, do it here.
During this series, I am focusing on the basics with the underlying message that when you bring a sense of play and experimentation to the kitchen, it is a ton of fun.
I think many of us have been experiencing this weird relationship with time. In one respect, the days, weeks, and months are flying by. In another, it seems like I have been "sheltering in place" for much longer than six weeks. My days have begun to follow a routine that conforms more closely with my natural bio-rhythms. Although, I am not up nearly as early as was my custom during much of my lifetime. In general, I work on various tasks during the morning, take a long break in the afternoon to nap, read, play word games, etc., and then, after dinner, I have another short creative period, before heading to bed at my usual early hour.
Within the comfort of this routine, I am still finding an overarching dissonance that invades every waking moment. I am restless. I can't seem to focus on anything that doesn't provide that hit of endorphins I get from being fully engaged and utterly buried in the creative process. This, in itself, is not highly unusual. Even during "normal" times, I tend toward attention deficit. Nevertheless, this feels different, and, for whatever reason, this past week has been particularly hard.
In thinking about it, I believe it comes from the absence of two things: 1) a "captive" audience, that provides immediate and direct feedback throughout the day, and 2) the ability to plan for the future.
Yet, this feeling seems to be coming from something even larger than those missing pieces. There is also a sense of personal failure attached. The "stuff" I am producing doesn't seem to be hitting its mark. No one is responding to my queries.
Maybe, I am not asking the right questions. Or, it could be, folks are focused on getting through one hour at a time and are not able to think beyond the next day, never-mind the next week. Nonetheless, I feel like I am an echo chamber filled with endless ideas, bouncing around inside my head with no useful or feasible outlet.
And, with this thought, I circle right back to the fact that I can not make concrete plans. Will DRC be able to have a summer program, as we originally planned? Will we be able to return to business as usual in September? And, if this is going to be an ongoing situation, what can the Deep Root Center facility be used for if we can not serve our community in the way it was designed? These questions are never far below the surface, which likely contributes to my restlessness and feelings of inadequacy.
In the end, I have to remind myself to trust that this, too, shall pass. The Universe in all her wisdom is taking care of all of us. As frustrating and unproductive as it feels, we simply have to sit back and let her work her magic. She will, ultimately, reveal everything, in her own time, on a need to know basis.
In the meantime, while you, too, are waiting to be enlightened, be gentle with yourself, and be well!
As you can see from the above graphic and the below VLOG post, we sincerely want to know how Deep Root Center can help you and your family, during this crisis, but also in the future. Please let us know - in comments here or in an email.
In other news, I am in the process of re-reading and categorizing all of these blog posts. I am finished with one year - only five and a half to go. Keep in mind this is only the sorting part - I still have to decide which posts to include in a compilation, and then edit them. Yikes!
Sorry to relay this bit of bad news, but none of us knows what our future holds - we can make predictions, set objectives or intentions, and make plans. However, as much as we wish them to be true – there are no guarantees.
I have no idea what post-COVID-19 looks like for myself, Deep Root Center, my village, or my country. I can sit here and dream up all the possibilities, and trust me, as someone who spends copious amounts of time brainstorming new projects (yes, I am an admitted schemer), I do it with the full understanding that I have no idea whether any of those plans will pan out. Nevertheless, that alone will not stop me from making more sh*t up - because, without hope, goals, and ambition, my life would be desolate.
The only thing any of us can be sure of is that we are doing our best – to be kind, to pay it forward, to create something worthwhile, and to support others in their attempts to do the same. The tea leaves may lie, but integrity will never disappoint.
With all the above being said --- Deep Root Center is rolling out, My Virtual Learning Buddy, this week. It is being incorporated into the Exploration Station Suite of Services being offered to children who normally attend public school.
The inspiration behind this new program, is, of course, the NYS Pause Order, in response to COVID-19, which has been extended through May 15th and has kept the Public Schools closed for over a month, already. This has effectively forced families to provide school at home. In response, we have designed this virtual service to help children navigate all of their feelings and this new world of learning opportunities, which is now completely wide open to them. The following graphics explain the details. You can register your child online, here. You can also contact us anytime to ask questions.
A special post script: Happy 26th Birthday to my son, Ian. Have a fantastic day, kid!
I ask this question of our society, as a whole, and each of us, individually. In all seriousness, what have you learned about yourself during this time of isolation? And, on a larger scale, what have you confirmed or discovered about our culture?
As I mentioned last week, I have verified (not that I or, anyone else, needed more evidence) that I am an introvert who enjoys solitude. On the flip side of that, I have also learned that I will never again take a hug for granted. Nor will I discount the importance of connecting deeply with someone about the things they are most passionate about, or, even, the basics we don't often think about, like reading the visual clues that mannerisms provide.
Unhappily, through all of this, I have been able to validate my previous assumption that greed contributes hugely to creating this grossly dysfunctional society, where we reside. You all understand the many issues. I don't need to enumerate them here.
In the past month, in two separate posts (here & here), I mentioned that I consider these extraordinary times to be a cultural reset. I now understand, based on evidence over the past few weeks, this to be a legitimate hunch.
All of us have discovered those things that are vital - the stuff that we cannot live without, as well as the bits and pieces that are cream. We have learned important things such as - love and kindness should be the foundation for every single thing. We can support everyone who needs care. Not to forget, those previously deemed unworthy of a living wage, are now considered essential to our very survival.
I fear, however, that once this is all over, we will go back to our busy lives and forget these lessons. The fundamental human condition, and our long history of greed, do not bode well for our success. I am invoking all the Universal Energies to prove that I am wrong. Please, Please, Please - (I DARE YOU TO) PROVE ME WRONG!
*Note: This post was partially inspired by this article, which was shared by several people on social media, yesterday. It is an important read. Please consider taking the time to fully digest it.