october monthly messenger
Hello RTS Families,
We hope this second edition of the Monthly Messenger finds you well.
Moving through the month of October together has been a treat enjoyed with minimal tricks. It seems that as we become more rooted in our routine we also are unfolding and expanding our potentiality together.
Friendships have deepened during this month, as have our curiosities and excitement for trying new things. We have wrapped up our first thematic arc, Rock, and are excited to explore our next arc, Farm. Along with our own farm related explorations that we share with learners, we are also supporting learners in being co-creators of the space we call the new farm. Kids have begun vision boarding for that space and we look forward to how inspiration unfolds.
We would once again like to take this opportunity to thank you - the parents - for all that you do. Without your support, faith, and willingness to engage in this community this community would not be. In that vein, we are learning how to ask for more help and want to encourage increased parent participation to enrich the experience for all of us and streamline processes. Please consider volunteering in one of the following ways:
With love from,
The RTS Staff
Looking Towards NOVEMBER
NOV 10 6pm-8pm: On Friday, November 10th we will be hosting our 2nd Friday of the month community gathering at our Makerspace. We have adjusted the event activity to address a current need of the community: This will be an evening to further orient parents to Inspire Charter School. We will offer information and advice for making working with Inspire a fun and painless process. Adult drinks and pot-luck audurves will be shared from 7-8 - feel free to join us for just that segment if you do not use Inspire. And we will also offer a childcare option in our back room if you choose to bring your little one along.
Nov 20-24: Thanksgiving Break! Enjoy this time to celebrate family, togetherness, and love.
Nov 28: Tuesday, November 28th we will be taking a field trip to the LACMA (we will see Chagall’s exhibit without fail this time). Kim has once again offered to be our docent for the day. This outing is geared towards older students that are particularly interested in spending a full afternoon viewing the art at the museum. Learner who would like to attend the outing but do not regularly attend RTS on Tuesdays are welcome to meet us there with independent transportation and supervision. Expected departure time will be 10 AM. After the afternoon at LACMA we will go out to dinner and will be back at the Makerspace later in the evening.
We are looking to call in a parent coordinator for this trip and ask that families PLEASE RSVP sooner rather than later.
DEC 1: On Friday December 1st there will be a rare opportunity to experience low tide tide pools at Carpinteria State Beach. This outing is open to any learner interested in spending the afternoon at the beach and exploring marine life. A learner does not need to regularly attend RTS on Fridays to join us for this trip (again, independent transportation and supervision is required for learners who do not attend on Fridays). We are looking to call in a parent coordinator for this outing as well and ask that families PLEASE RSVP sooner rather than later.
Reflecting on OCTOBER
The month of October has been fantastic!
It has been awe inspiring to witness growth that occurs as we move through time together. Though the calendar claims that Rock Tree Sky has only been in session for two months, the experiences that we have had as a community are so much greater than that relatively short span of time.
There is a spirit of unfolding in the air. Looking back it seems that September was a time to become rooted in the RTS community. Now that we have taken root, October has manifested as a time for stretching limbs and reaching towards new discoveries.
As a community we ventured out on our first outings together; a field trip to the La Brea Tar Pits, an overnight family camping trip, and some of our American Sign Language students attended an ASL read aloud. At the close of this month our learners also had the opportunity to share some of their work and creative pursuits at our first Exhibition.
Through these experiences and the experiences in our makerspace, farm, and homestead, we have noticed relationships with one another deepening. And it is also evident that individuals’ self-knowledge has been expanding.
For some of our learners, reaching towards the new has meant playing with a new group of friends. For others it has meant developing the woodworking skills to build a special box. For other learners reaching towards the new has meant practicing acrobatics on aerial silks, while for others it has manifested as mastering new concepts in mathematics.
The range of possibilities is vast and we will continue to delight in the excitement of exploring our potential together as a learning community and as individuals.
Quotes From the Kids
Here are some words that our learners have shared about their experiences at Rock Tree Sky
When asked the question, “What have you learned this month?” this is what they had to say…
Violetta: “I learned to stand behind the goats... If you stand in front of them they could walk into you and knock you over... [Also] don’t stand behind horses...they could kick you.”
Bella West: “I learned the benefits of kombucha and how to make it.”
Vida: “I learned how to write my name in hieroglyphics.”
Raimy: “I’ve learned that Hunter and Lucas can be very good friends. And I’ve learned to make websites.”
Hunter: “I learned how to go on Weebly and make websites.”
Maddie: “I’ve created some things with Kim like rocks shaped like teardrops.”
Theodore: “I learned how to build a lot of things like the castle [on the farm]. And learned lots of safety things with the go-karts.”
Amya: “ I learned how to make new friends.”
Rennix: “I learned how to carve pumpkins.”
Lucas: “I learned to be more careful with hot glue guns. I burned myself twice!”
Lana: “Painting is fun! I painted a sunset and a fountain with acrylic paint.”
Quinne: “I learned six topics in math. Slopes, graphing, and techniques within that...Negatives, positives, the number line...This is a good day!”
Luci: “I learned more about my friends. I got to know my friends better.”
Satia: “I made a dress and figured out how to make a bonnet with the sewing machine.”
Avery: “I learned how to sew with the sewing machine.”
Nathan: “A lot!!”
At the core of self-directed education is the intent to develop responsibility. This we understand as the ability to be accountable for caring for oneself in a way that does not hinder or interfere with another person's well being. In other words take care of yourself, take care of each other, take care of the space.
At At Rock Tree Sky, we aim to cultivate this sense of responsibility, not by instructing kids on how to behave, but rather by trusting them to behave responsibly.
As Dr. Peter Gray writes, “Responsibility does not grow in a vacuum. If you want responsible kids, you have to allow them the freedom to be responsible” (Gray, 207-208). And on the flip side, “by depriving children of freedom, we deprive them of the opportunities they need to learn how to take control of their own behavior and emotions” (Gray, 209).
Gray encourages parents to practice trustful parenting, and at RTS we encourage our mentors to practice trustful mentorship. We do that by creating a culture of freedom and autonomy of choice making.
The following is an expert from Free To Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life (2013) in which Dr. Peter Gray describes just what it means to practice trustful parenting. We hope you find his words inspiring...
Trustful parenting is the style that most clearly allows the self-educative instinces to blossom. Trustful parents trust their children to play and explore on their own, to make their own decisions, to take risks, and to learn from their own mistakes. Trustful parents to not measure or try to direct their children's development, because they trust their children to do so on their own. Trustful parents are not negligent parents. They provide not just freedom, but also the sustenance, love, respect, moral examples, and environmental conditions required for healthy development. They support, rather than try to direct, children’s development, by helping children achieve their own goals when such help is requested. This parenting style predominated through the long stretch of human history when we were hunter gatherers (as discussed in Chapter 2).
Thrustful parenting sends messages to children that were consistent with the needs of children in hunter-gatherer bands, but are also consistent with the real needs of children today: You are competent. You have eyes and a brain and can figure things out. You know your own abilities and limitations. Through play and exploration you will learn what you need to know. Your needs are valued. Your opinions count. You are responsible for your own mistakes and can be trusted to learn from them. Social life is not the pitting of will against will, but the helping of one another so that all can have what they need and most desire. We are with you, not against you (Gray, 210).
september monthly messenger
Hello RTS Families,
As our first month together comes to a close, we find ourselves reflecting on what a magical beginning it has been. We want to extend a thank you to each of you for trusting and engaging in this community that we are creating together. From resolving that space issue during the first week, dancing with the rhythms of the dynamic scheduling, supporting each other with ridesharing, boosting our energy with your enthusiasm, we are truly grateful for the support. There is so much more that can be done when we do it together.
We would now like to introduce our first edition of the RTS Monthly Messenger. Through this letter it is our intention to share with you updates for the coming month, reflections from the month that has passed, as well as provide inspiring information and resources about the philosophy that underlies the work that we are doing.
We are looking forward to the upcoming months with you.
Be well and stay curious.
With love from the RTS Staff
Looking towards OCTOBER
Wednesday, October 11th: Field trip to Los Angeles Museum of Modern Art and La Brea Tar Pits
Our art teacher, Kim Smith is thrilled to be leading us on a tour of the LACMA and particularly their exhibition of Chagalls: Fantasy for the Stage. The exhibition features the artist’s vibrant costumes and set designs. For those of you who have not experienced Kim as an art docent, this is a treat (kids agree)! After a morning at LACMA and lunch, students will have the option to return to LACMA to explore other exhibits, or head to La Brea Tar Pits. The tar pits will be having their homeschool day where they have special programming for homeschoolers, this month featuring the mammoths. We will have our normal start time and plan to be back in Ojai at around 5pm. We need RSVPs and parent drivers!
For children not wanting to attend the field trip, we will have a few staff members remaining at RTS Makerspace.
** For families who do not attend on Wednesdays, you are welcome to meet us at LACMA. Children must have their own transportation and supervision. **
Friday, October 13th: Stargazing campout
This is our first community building event. This will take place at Steckel Park http://www.ventura.org/inland-parks/steckel-park-santa-paula
We will begin with a 4:30 - 6pm potluck and later we will have the telescope out for some star-gazing. Families that would like to simply attend the potluck and star-gazing are welcome to do so. We will gather at one of the ‘group areas.’ Inquire at the entrance where our party is located for the potluck. Families that would like to camp-out, please purchase a campsite for Friday night. You can call reservations at (805)654-3951. We recommend sites 29-44 or other nearby sites if those fill up so that we can be close to one another and enjoy a group experience.
Tuesday, October 31st: Exposition
This is our first of four exposition days throughout the year where children get to showcase their work from the first quarter to friends and family. This one will take place from 3pm-4pm on Tuesday, October 31st.
Reflecting on SEPTEMBER
September ROCKED!! Seriously! The theme we’ve been exploring this month has been ROCK(S). From finding lizards living under rocks on the farm, carving effigies out of soapstone, creating our own sandstone by mimicking the conditions in nature that lead to these rock formations over millennia, to the very first word in the name of our program...RTS has truly been rockin’ it.
While all activity at Rock Tree Sky is self directed and unique to our individual interests and curiosities, it is the intention of the facilitators to invite the community to move through several inspiring arcs this year as a way of framing and unifying some of the work that we do. As we celebrate our individuality, it is also essential to celebrate our similarities. We feel the arcs will be a great tool to help us find commonalities and points of connection.
And so, our first arc is ROCK(S). We are looking forward to finding more ways to engage with that arc this season and will be excited to share all that we have discovered, created, thought about, and learned with you at our first exposition (see above).
Of course, all projects, games, conversations that have emerged outside of the realm of ROCK(S) have been wonderful as well.
Please enjoy the following quotes from the kids…
In response to the question; What is your favorite thing about Rock Tree Sky?
“I like that you have freedom of choice” -Tess 14
“All of the stuff here. All of the games. I play those a lot… and the hot glue station.” -Lucas 9
“That we don’t have to sit at a desk and do letters.” -Walker 6
“We get to PLAY! It is AWESOME school, not a boring school.” -Elan 6
“I like that you can self-study - do things on your own. I don’t learn as well from a teacher. And I didn’t engage much in public school. That’s basically why I’m here.” -Gabriel 16
“Freedom of choice.” Finley 11
“Sewing materials! And you can pretty much do what you want.” -Kingsley 10
“That you basically get to do whatever you want. There’s so much. And you’re still learning.” Azelie 7
“We don’t have to sit and do work. We PLAY!” -Julia 5
“Do the kids really just play all day?”
YES! And they create things, and they do science experiments, and they read books, and the list goes on. But, essentially, at Rock Tree Sky, playing is a major way that kids utilize time. And play- particularly free, child-oriented play- is a seriously healthy thing. We’re sure you know that to be true, as you have chosen to send your kids to RTS. But many adults in our culture seem to have forgotten this truth. And since it’s always reassuring to have your choices validated by the experts, we have decided to pull from some of our favorite resources and share inspiring quotes about play.
We’d also like to share these resources with you in the hopes that you find them inspirational and educational.
Summerhill School: A New World View of Childhood by A.S Neil 1992
Summerhill School was founded in England in 1921 by a man named Alexander Sutherland Neil. Summerhill’s essence was and continues to be similar to that of our own Rock Tree Sky. Children are trusted to make their own choices of how to utilize their time. Kids are together in mixed age groups, classes are offered but no curriculum or attendance is mandated, and the ultimate purpose is to rear children with love. Summerhill has stood the test of time and A.S Neil’s writing has inspired countless others to challenge the conventions and open radical schools and learning centers where children are free to self-direct and learn through play, observation, and experimentation.
Here are some things that A.S. Neil has to say about play:
“Why children and kittens play I do not know. I believe it is a matter of energy”(Neil, 32).
“Childhood is not adulthood; childhood is playhood and no child ever gets enough play” (Neil, 32).
… “The Summerhill theory is that when a child has played enough he will start to work and face
difficulties, and I claim that this theory has been vindicated in our old pupils’ ability to do a good job even if it involves a lot of unpleasant work” (Neil, 32).
In fact, I believe that an essential distinction between childhood and adulthood is responsibility. As children mature into adults, they are learning to bring into balance care for the self and care for others. Playing with peers prepares children for maturity in a way that is not forceful, prescribed, or authoritative.
Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life By Dr. Peter Gray 2013
Dr. Peter Gray is a developmental psychologist and research professor in the Department of Psychology at Boston College. When Gray’s nine-year-old son was struggling to behave appropriately within the conventional public school system (and by that I mean ‘appropriate’ according to the conventional school) Peter Gray sought an alternative. The school that they found was the Sudbury Valley School in Framingham Massachusetts. Sudbury Valley is a democratic free school that was founded in the 1960’s. A school where children are self-directed, self-governed, and free to be. The experience of witnessing his son grow healthfully and happily at Sudbury Valley inspired Peter Gray to focus his own studies on child development. In his book, Gray draws “on evidence from anthropology, psychology, and history” and “demonstrates that free play is the primary means by which children learn to control their lives, solve problems, get along with peers, and become emotionally resilient.” Gray has since founded the Alliance for Self-Directed education which also offers incredible resources worth checking out here self-directed.org
Here are some key quotes from Free to Learn:
“Free play” is “defined as play in which the players themselves decide what and how to play and are free to modify the goals and rules as they go along” (Gray, 7).
“Play is nature’s way of teaching children how to solve their own problems, control their impulses, modulate their emotions, see from others’ perspectives, negotiate differences, and get along with others as equals. There is no substitute for play as a means of learning these skills. They can’t be taught in school. For life in the real world, these lessons of personal responsibility, self-control, and sociability are far more important than any lessons that can be taught in school”. (Gray, 175).
Some beneficial lessons learned through sociodramatic (or fantasy) play that Peter Gray points out are “self-assertion, negotiation, and compromise” (Gray, 166).
“By doing what they want to do, which is play with other children, children learn to compromise and not do exactly what they want to do” (Gray, 167).
By this Peter Gray makes the point that through playing children learn to control impulses, they practice fairness, and develop ways to care for each other so that the play may continue to be enjoyable for everyone involved. This is the essence of empathy or interpersonal understanding. Wouldn’t we all like to like in a more empathetic culture? Peter Gray also asserts that these lessons will be learned naturally. In fact, he claims that adult intervention is not only unnecessary but it can sometimes be a hinderance. Kids need to learn to negotiate solutions on their own (Gray, 166-167).
“Over the past half-century or more we have seen a continuous erosion of children’s freedom to play and, corresponding with that, a continuous decline in young people’s mental and physical health” (Gray, 6).
“The decline of children’s free play since about 1955 had been accompanied by a continuous rise in anxiety, depression, and feelings of helplessness in young people. Related to these findings, there has also been an increase in narcissism and a decline in empathy” (Gray, 174)*.
*here Gray cites
Konrath, S.H., O’Brein, E.H., & Hsing, C. (2011) Changes in dispositional empathy in American college students over time: A meta-analysis. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 12, 180-198.
Twenge, J.M., & Foster, J.D. (2010). Birth cohort increases in narcissistic personality traits among American college students, 1982-2009. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 1, 99-106.
Lastly, if you are interested in learning even more about the benefits of play, Dr. Stuart Brown has a lot of knowledge to share. In fact, Brown is the founder of the National Institute of Play. Through his extensive research, Brown ascertained that adults who have been deprived or restricted from play during their childhood are more likely to be violent during adulthood. Whereas those of us who are allowed more time for free play during childhood are likely to be more empathetic during adulthood. Dr. Stuart Brown defines play as “Anything spontaneously done for its own sake” (Brown, 2014).
To learn more please listen to the conversation featuring Dr. Stuart Brown on the June 19, 2014 edition of the podcast On Being with Krista Tippett. Play, Spirit, and Character