april monthly messenger
Dear RTS Families,
We hope that April found you all well.
We certainly have had a busy month at Rock Tree Sky after an extra long Spring Break. From state mandated testing, to facintating field trips, from a new woodshop, to new wildlife on the farm...Rock Tree Sky learners have been thoroughly engaged in a range of activity. All of the spring time buzz and bustle has affirmed that our community is constantly evolving. And reflection has affirmed that our learners and mentors are always growing.
It feels exciting that, unlike experiences at more conventional schools, as RTS moves ever closer towards wrapping up our year together the energy level is not winding down. Rather, it feels like momentum is increasing. We want to build more. We want to grow more. We want to play more. We want to learn more together.
We are headed into May at full velocity and are looking forward to what this month will bring!
As always, Be Well and Stay Curious!
With love from the RTS Staff
Looking Towards MAY
Thursday May 10th: Human Development specialist Ellen Sanchez will be facilitating sessions for K-8 graders from 9:30am to 1pm. These sessions are open for all learners - even those who do not regularly attend on Thursdays. More details to come with regards to the time slot that your child's session will take place. We are requesting that all learners attend this first session.
Friday May 11th: For May's second Friday event we have planned a parent Date Night at Boccali's. The event will take place from 5pm-8:00pm and we will be providing childcare! More details to come via email.
Thursday May 17th: Human Development specialist Ellen Sanchez will be facilitating sessions for K-8 graders from 9:30am to 1pm.
Monday May 21st- Friday May 25th: RTS Camping Trip! Regular programming will be closed during this week. We would like to invite and encourage families to join for the first night (Monday) of our camp-out at Carpinteria State Beach. Please RSVP with the dates that your child will be camping with us. Formal invite with more details to come.
Saturday May 25th: Please note, we will not be gathering for a parent discussion group this Saturday as this is directly after our camping. Instead we will gather on Saturday June 2nd.
Monday May 28th: RTS will be closed for Memorial Day
Reflecting on APRIL:
April has been busy and expansive at Rock Tree Sky.
For starters, our Makerspace has literally been expanded upon. Over Spring Break we had a tool shed and platform deck erected behind the Makerspace. Now all of our woodworking tools have a new home and our young builders have a focused space for designing and constructing projects. So far young makers have worked on projects such as building dollhouses, jewelry boxes, wooden swords, bird houses, and more. It has been inspiring to see all that can be created now that we have a designated space for building. It has also been fun to witness how young learners inspire, influence, and support each other creatively in that space.
We are especially grateful to Tara for holding down the fort, bringing so much positive energy, and teaching these young makers so much.
In other news, this month our learners have been especially busy with work towards the Water Project.
If you haven't heard, the Water Project is a youth lead initiative with the goal of reducing pollution in the form of waste produced by plastic water bottles. The Water Project is encouraging the people of Ojai to stop buying single use plastic water bottles. And to support this ask and offer a solution the Water Project is raising funds so that water filters might be installed in the Ojai public water fountains and water bottle refill stations might be installed at Libbey Park.
RTS learners have engaged with the Water Project by researching Ban the Bottle Initiatives in other cities as well educating themselves and others on facts about pollution created as a by-product of bottled water.
During Ojai Earth Day, young learners set up a booth to represent the Water Project, raise funds by selling raffle tickets for Disney Land tickets, and generate awareness about the initiative. Learners also created a short video about the project that can be found on the RTS website www.rocktreesky.org/water-project.html.
Also shoutout to Jim who represented RTS at Ojai Earth Day by giving a brief talk about the work that we do! Great job Jim!
On Tuesday April 10th some of our teenage RTS learners took a field trip to view Ojai local Vina Lustado's tiny home and office as a way to cultivate inspiration and work on design details for the ongoing project of converting our school bus into a comfortable hang out and study space for teens. Learners were also able to see the battery systems that store the energy from the solar panel layout.
Then on April 27th several RTS learners and families took a field trip to the California Science Center to view the exhibit of Ancient Egyptian relics. Folks who attended the trip felt inspired by the exhibit and the experience as a whole.
It's amazing to consider all that has happened in just one calendar month. We are looking forward to what May will bring.
An Interview With a Young Person
The following is an interview with Vida Haring, an RTS Learner who has been passionately involved with the Water Project
Chrissy Dasco: What inspired your involvement with the Water Project?
Vida Haring: I feel like I've always wanted to help the environment in some ways...especially after the fire. Now [that I know more about the Water Project] I feel like we really do need to do this. Some people think that in 10 or 20 or 30 years the world will be unliveable and I think that we can make it more liveable if we stop using plastic water bottles...and [we got to save] the fishys.
CD: What has been the most interesting aspect of this project for you?
VH: I liked Ojai Earth Day because there were a lot of different people there. I had never been to an Earth Day before and it was really cool to sell those [RTS] water bottles and see lots of people who were excited about what we are doing. I am also excited because [at Earth Day] I saw lots of other thinks that can help to protect the environment.
CD: What has been the most challenging aspect of the project for you?
VH: Speaking out and advertising...I'm not one to be like, trying to get someone to buy something. But it's still cool because I got to learn a lot.
CD: What are you hopeful for?
VH: For people to stop using plastic water bottles because we don't need it and it's hurting...the fishys!!
But can I just say something else that's been cool?
CD: Of course, please share.
VH: I liked to see the school come together and really work hard for something. I had never seen that before and it's pretty cool and I hope we can do more in the future.
For this parent education section I would like to start by proposing a couple of big questions; What does it mean to raise free people? and How do we understand and practice consent within the context of a self-directed learning community?
During the most recent meeting of the parent discussion group these questions were addressed and explored. I understand that not all parents will be able to attend the monthly discussion group meetups and therefore I would like to use this space to elucidate some of that which was discussed. I would also like to use this space as a platform for calling forth a continuation of this conversation. The exploration of these questions is bound to be ongoing. And while we might not be able to be present at a group meeting, we might be able to meet up with a friend or acquaintance within this community and talk about this stuff over coffee. We do have each other.
So, this first question, What does it mean to raise free people? is a question I have often contemplated as a mentor in a self-directed learning community. Unschooling advocate and children's rights activist, Akilah S. Richards, eloquently and passionately addresses this question in a recent episode of her podcast Fare of the Free Child. To start our meeting on Saturday, we listened to the first twelve minutes of this episode (which I encourage you all to do...and if you've already heard it listen again!) and then launched into a conversation about what pieces were particularly meaningful to us as individuals.
Essentially Akilah S. Richards states that raising free people means moving towards "liberatory relationships" with the goal of growing "emotionally stable people." She states that as parents and mentors we do this by disrupting connections to oppressive patterns and by avoiding parenting and mentoring from a place of anger, fear, and thoughts about how society thinks children should behave. Rather, Richards states that raising free people means trusting intuitive wisdom and, most importantly, raising free people means trusting children.
Richards then breaks down raising free people into a four step process. It starts with awareness, which is described as the "conscious realization of ways we learn and accept harmful relationship management tools." Next comes disruption, which Richards describes as "deliberately installing temporary barriers" to thought patterns within ourselves that go against efforts to raise free people. Then there is deschooling, which is recognized as a lifelong process of transitioning from deliberate disruption of reactionary parenting to embracing raising free people as a new normal. Finally there is unschooling which is developing confidence is child trusting, liberatory relationships.
Then, of course, there is the question of why? Why do we want to raise free people? Akilah S. Richards grazes the surface of that question in her podcast but ultimately I believe that locating an answer must come from turning inward.
For me, as a person who is not yet a parent but a person who has chosen to devote her life to mentoring children, the motivation to rear a liberated population has come from the experience of struggling with anxiety, and struggling to love and accept myself in environments where I was not free ie. the Catholic high school I attended. The motivation to raise free people also comes from a place of recognizing that I am a citizen in a nation where my values of acceptance, empathy, community care, care for the environment, and cooperation are so often overruled by greed, untrustworthy politics, and money power. I am a citizen in this nation, yet I so often feel powerless. My freedom here is illusionary.
I want the rising generation of people to be free, truly free. I want the rising generation to be liberated from oppressive relationships, so that they might not pass forward the cycle of oppression onto their children. I want the rising generation of people to know how to lead themselves so that they will not submissively turn to some authority who does not hold the best interests of the community at heart. I want the rising generation to be free to be their best selves, so that they might love and care for themselves better and therin better love and care for their friends and neighbors.
An essential tool for caring for ourselves and our friends and neighbors is consent. Which brings me to the second big question How do we understand and practice consent within the context of a self-directed learning community?
This concept is so important because as Elenor Roosevelt said,
"Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility."
It is understood that this requirement or responsibility is the responsibility to care for one other. It is in our human nature to require and achieve a sense of group belonging and experience demonstrates that if we do not care for others, nobody will want us to be a part of their group. Therefore, the freedom to be ourselves is limited by the responsibility not bring harm to others.
Living in community will not work if one person's self-determined behavior is hurting another person or causing another person to feel unsafe.
We address this at Rock Tree Sky by striving to create a culture of consent. As mentors we encourage our young people to slow down and check in with themselves and each other when engaging in activities and playing games. Rather than controlling their games, we do allow the kids to make the rules. And we encourage them to practice noticing and expressing what their personal boundaries are. We encourage our young people to make agreements about what behaviors feel good and what behaviors they rather not engage in before play begins. Agreement making is a simple and effective way to take care of ourselves and our friends when playing. Making agreements is also a practice in self-advocacy which I recognize as a form of practicing freedom to be.
We are free to choose whether or not we want to play in a certain way, and we also have to accept that sometimes certain types of play will not work for the group or the larger community.
I would like to ask parents to help us model and co-create this culture of consent both within and beyond the Rock Tree Sky community. I am also looking forward to learning more about boundary setting, body rules, and, self-advocacy practices from human development specialist Ellen Sanchez during the upcoming months. And as a final note I would like to ask you all if you know of or have any resources that can be shared surrounding the topics of consent, and balancing boundaries and freedom.
If you do have resources to share, questions to ask, or if you simply want to join in the conversation please feel free to email me at email@example.com
Thanks for reading!