february monthly messenger
Dear RTS Families,
Despite being the shortest month on the calendar, February has felt big at Rock Tree Sky.
Projects have gotten bigger, friend groups have expanded, ideas have grown deeper, and there is a heightened sense of meaning to what we are creating. There is no doubt that RTS is flourishing.
Within this Monthly Messenger we will take a look at events planned for the upcoming month, share some reflections about the goings-on of February, share some quotes from our learners who pondered the question 'where do new ideas come from?', and share some thoughts regarding Rock Tree Sky's position within the global children's civil rights movement.
As always, Stay Curious and Be Well.
With love from the RTS Staff.
Looking towards MARCH
Friday March 9th from 6pm-8pm at the Makerspace: For this month's second Friday community event, we will be hosting a panel of parents and grown children who are veterans in self-directed education. We will be hearing from a parent of former Sudbury Valley Free School attendants, as well as a Sudbury alumni as a way to learn more about Democratic Free Schooling and the parent. We will also hear from a mother of three children who has been raising them as self-directed learners for eighteen years. No child-care at this event but we encourage interested students to come as well.
Sundays March 11th and 18th: RTS representatives will be at the Ojai Farmers Market offering town water taste tests and selling raffle tickets in an effort to raise money for better tasting water re-fill stations at the Ojai public parks. If you and/or your child are interested in volunteering at the RTS booth please let Natasha know.
Wednesday March 21: Human Development Specialist Ellen Sanchez will be offering a parent information session at our Makerspace. Ellen will be facilitating human development courses for our learners during the month of May. She has offered to provide parents with information about the topics that she will be discussing during her courses and answer any questions you may have. The session will run from 5-6pm on Wednesday evening. Childcare will be provided.
March 24- April 9: Spring Break! RTS will be closed.
Saturday March 30th 10am-12pm, location TBD: Natasha will be facilitating the second gathering of our parent discussion and support group. All parents are welcome, childcare will be provided. Please bring a dish to share.
Reflections on February
February at RTS was a month of implementing big ideas. Our learners have been demonstrating their abilities to advocate for themselves and to manifest their intentions and creative pursuits.
In our woodshop for example, Tara has been assisting learners who have come to her with objectives for creating more involved projects. Lucas has been working on a go-kart, Paige has been building a bookshelf, and Isabella A. designed and built a wooden box for storing and displaying her handmade jewelry (which is also incredible I might add!).
The black-smithing offering has also been a big hit and work is now being done to create a forge at the Farm.
Bella S. and Satia have began focusing effort on creating a Rock Tree Sky year book - a big undertaking to say the least.
Kim has been feeling very proud of paintings that all of the young artists have been creating. This month Kim introduced the learners to oil paints and the work has been quite impressive.
Outside of the makerspace the learners created a micro-city by building 'houses' out of found materials. Learners of all ages from our five year olds to our seventeen year olds had fun building shelters and engaging in the game. And while for the kids this micro-city situation was a game (entirely kid-created and motivated) - us mentors noticed deep work and learning. Navigating how to co-create and maintain peace within a community is one of the most human lessons to practice and engage with. It is not always easy and feelings inevitably get hurt. It has been fascinating to witness the kids engage in struggles to resolve conflicts, to practice leadership and responsibility, and to practice self-advocacy. While mentors were available for emotional support and advice though the height of challenges, we ultimately allowed space for the kids to work through issues on their own.
By engaging in big games our community of learners of all ages have been strengthening their relationships to one another.
While relationships within our Rock Tree Sky community have been strengthening, so too have our connections to the greater community we inhabit.
For instance, Natasha has been mobilizing efforts around bringing cleaner, tastier water to Ojai's public parks. Several learners have been activated by this mission and have been involved with the process by researching the story of water, collecting and testing water samples, and have even gone with Natasha to meet with the city planners to demand better water in our public parks.
And on February 22nd RTS learners attended a field trip to the Ojai Museum to view the work and meet Ojai local Dennis Shives. The work was whimsical and inspiring. We are excited to see what the kids will create based on the inspiration gleaned from this experience. It was also evident that the kids had a great time being out in the community for the day.
Out on the farm, our garden fence has been rebuilt. With the help of a parent volunteer learners were able to participate in re-creating garden beds in preparation for some spring planting.
Additionally we've been stoked to be exploring the vast expanse of land available to us on the farm. Lizard hunting (don't worry, we don't harm the lizards!) has been an exciting way to explore different corners of the farm.
And during the last week of February Jim and Chrissy lead a hike all the way up to some secret meadows beyond the water tanks.
Finally, the last Saturday of February held the first gathering of our parent discussion group. Several parents came out in an effort to cultivate community and hold space for one another to contemplate and talk though big questions surrounding themes of trust and academics. Increased parent engagement and inter-community support are big things that we have been wanting to implement and practice since Rock Tree Sky's inception. We are looking forward to exploring more big questions and growing this support network during the upcoming months.
Quotes from the Kids:
This month learners responded to the question: Where do new ideas come from?
Opal: "New ideas come from old ones combined. Like many many people tell you many many things - so you know those things- then you have new ideas from that".
Andre: "Don't ideas come from your brain?"
Mina: "Maybe they come from heaven..."
Memphis: "I think they come from when you see something new and you want it...like you want to do it or create it."
Aaron: "Reading! A chocolate factory! I don't know!"
Hunter: "People seeing something that's working. Like they look at something but not for what it is...like they see it from a different angle."
Bella S: "That's what I was gonna say...I don't know...Imagination? Humans?"
Sequoia: "That's a species."
Finn: "From trying things out."
Luci: "Experiences and imagination."
Penny: "People's minds."
Nikolai: "New ideas come from being inspired...by other ideas."
Being a parent of an unschooled or homeschooled child might, at times, feel isolating, During the month of February we kicked off a Rock Tree Sky parent discussion group in an effort to strengthen an inter-community support network. For this Parent Education piece I found it relevant to bring up the point that Rock Tree Sky is not alone in its mission to emancipate children and offer a space for self-directed education. In fact, we are part of a global movement that is using Self-Directed Education as a tool for empowerment within the context of the Children's Civil Rights Movement.
Today there is an endless stream of resources that address a multitude of questions and concerns with regards to self-directed education, unschooling, homeschooling, and the like. I have found that exploring blogs, reading articles, and listening to podcasts has helped me to feel more sure that the work I do at Rock Tree Sky is relevant, important, and valuable. I have also been inspired by the ideas shared, and have been able to use these resources to help me develop better language to describe what I do to skeptical acquaintances and family members.
A great place to start is the Alliance for Self-Directed Education website. Here one can peruse relevant articles by global contributors in the online magazine Tipping Points and access a variety of podcasts such as Off Trail Learning by Blake Boles and Fare of the Free Child by Akilah S. Richards.
Another blog with accompanying podcast that I love was recently shared with me by an RTS parent is Living Joyfully by Pam Laricchia.
I hope that you find these resources useful. And if there are any websites, podcasts, or publications that you enjoy please let me know!
Now, as I mentioned above, RTS is a part of a major social justice movement. A want for social change is what first inspired me to dive head first into the world of self-directed education. And the manifesting the intention of rearing a more caring and compassionate population is were I find meaning and value in the work that I do as a mentor at Rock Tree Sky.
After reading a recent article on Tipping Points by Alexander Khost, The Children's Civil Rights Movement, (which I encourage everyone to read) and listening to this episode of Fare of The Free Child (which I encourage everyone to listen to) I was reminded of a piece that I wrote during my senior year at UMass. I've included an excerpt from each below. I hope that you find these articles and excerpts thought provoking. I also encourage you to initiate conversations surrounding social justice and human rights with your children.
"Our political system makes sure that these children understand that they: are not full fledged citizens and cannot be trusted in their vote until they are eighteen; cannot be trusted to follow their own pursuits and so are placed in compulsory schooling along with labor laws that do not allow them to work even if they wish to do so; and do not have control over their own bodies, allowing parents to have legal control over where their image is shown, when they can walk out the door or even decide the length of their own hair.
These are but a few of the seemingly endless ways in which parents, institutions and laws strip young people of their rights on a daily basis, making such controlling actions and demeaning treatment of individuals now commonplace, mechanically followed, and unquestioningly accepted...
Since children’s legal rights are typically held by their guardians, their own representation comes from an adult perspective. And if money is power, children are helpless since any money they may possess is also handled by adults. They cannot work to raise funds in their own defense or to break free from the controlling power (and when they can start working at fourteen, they are taxed without representation because they cannot yet vote. Perhaps it is time for teenagers to dump tea in a harbor?) The skeptic may say, “But children are young, they are inexperienced. Surely they cannot be making governing decisions and controlling money. Surely they need to be reigned in until we have taught them how to be responsible.” And so, paradoxically, society obstructs children’s abilities to make decisions for “their own good” and thereby denies them the thing they need most for growing up to be responsible and self-governing: practice." Alexander Khost
"If [young people] are in supportive environments instead of being colonized in the sense of adults laying claim to who and how they are and what is best for them and how they are resource and all of these things that's when you get to see that level of brilliance and advancement..." Akilah S. Richards
"The power to initiate transformative movement emerges from the power to think. Great transformation occurs through the construction, evolution, and sharing of ideas. Education is the process through which people learn how to make meaning of thought, practice constructing ideas, and develop understandings of how the possession of knowledge manifests in power and in action. Radical thinkers and reformists have long understood these notions and hold the interwoven relationship of knowledge and power as truth. In that, radical thinkers have continually been inclined to consider the ways in which the education system creates the power relations of a particular society. Operating under the understanding that systemized schooling defines the functionality of a society, it comes to reason that transforming the pedagogy and nature of a society’s school system is essential in reforming that society (Watkins, 2005).
In the context of the United States, a nation that divides and stratifies its people by race and class, the necessity for radical reformation cannot be ignored. Since term radical refers to the root it is appropriate and pertinent to organize the foundation of societal reformation around the education of children. Just like flowers growing up from seed and root, spreading new seeds upon maturity, children likewise grow and evolve towards adulthood. In time these grown people behold and pass along the lessons and ideologies that they have been taught. A nourishing growing environment from the time a seed takes root is essential for the production of healthy flowers and the spreading of healthy seeds. A flower grown in darkness and starved of nutrients surely will not thrive. In the same way children reared in inhibiting and oppressive environments will not develop salubriously. The well-being of a population is determined by the way in which that population was nurtured during development- from root to bloom.
One must consider that the true nature, purpose, and function of the public education system in the United States is inequitable in it’s distribution of nutrients. Rather than providing for flexible and wholesome growth, the pedagogy used in public schools has been designed to indoctrinate young people with particular ideologies of the power relations, social structure, and ownership within the greater society. One must also consider the intersectionality of race and class within the context of the education system and recognize that children who are disadvantaged in life are set up to be disadvantaged in school and that pattern cycles through generations (Watkins, 2005, Kharem, 2006)." Chrissy Dasco
Kharem, H. A (2006) Curriculum of Repression: A Pedagogy of Radical History in the United States. New York. Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.
Watkins, W.H. (2005) Marxian and Radical Reconstructionist Critique of American Education: Searching Out Black Voices. In W.H. Watkins (Eds.), Black Protest Thought and Education (pp.107-135). New York. Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.