I sincerely hope this newsletter finds you well. It seems that the majority of our community contracted some sort of cold, flu, or COVID strain during the month of January as attendance at RTS was generally low and awfully sporadic.
In truth, this tends to be the case every January at RTS. I recall one day (pre-COIVD) in January of 2018 during which only nine learners attended Rock Tree Sky and the only mentors present were Jim and myself.
So, I suppose that sporadic attendance in January is really par for the course and nothing to be concerned about.
In fact, having smaller numbers during the past month has allowed for some fun activities to occur and new friendships to emerge. I'll share more about these activities during the reflections section below.
In this letter you will find reflections and some photos from January as well as calendar items for February, and a link to a thought provoking podcast episode about parenting and child development.
As always, Be well and stay curious,
With love from the RTS Staff
Looking Towards February
Friday February 11th: 5pm-7pm Parent Maker Night
Join us for our annual Parent Maker Night, an evening for parents to experience the fun of making things at Rock Tree Sky. Mentors will each be offering an activity typical to what they might offer on any given day at RTS and parents will be able to choose which offering(s) to engage in. Of course, if you'd rather just hang out and socialize with your friends that's okay too :)
Childcare will be provided and a movie will be screened in Hartman Hall for the kids
Monday February 21st: RTS is Closed in Observance of Presidents Day
Tuesday February 22nd- Friday February 25th: Family Conferences
12 pm Dismissal each day, Family Conferences from 12:30-5pm
Reflections on January
Oh January, short of attendance but never short on good times. Both on and off campus, our learners enjoyed a variety of activities. From mellow mornings spent knitting in the sunshine, to exciting moments of wonder watching Jim launch mini rockets in the lower field.
Before sharing reflections about all that the children got up to this month, I want to share an appreciation for the parents that came out to join in a parent discussion group that I hosted early in January. It was such a gift to be in dialogue with both newcomers and familiar faces in this community and to engage in an active and honest conversation about navigating deschooling and self-direction as adults in relation to children who are self-directing their education. I look forward to more opportunities to dialogue with the parents of this community.
During the first couple of weeks of January, inspired by all of the rainfall that occured over winter break, learners enjoyed spontaneous field trips to the river bottom walks to the creek up Sisar rd. Learners and mentors alike delighted in watching the rapidly flowing water that is such a rarity to experience here in Ojai. Learners especially loved splashing, playing, and even swimming on some of these occasions.
The RTS community also got to enjoy the special experience of visiting with newborn baby goats! One of the mama goats on Natasha's homestead gave birth to four live kids that our kids were so happy to visit with.
Back on campus and throughout the month learners enjoyed textile arts including embroidery, knitting, and sewing. So much so that during our staff in-service day mentors worked together to clear more space in the art room to create a whole textile arts corner for more possibilities.
Learners have also been enjoying practicing aerial silks so much so that Lauren, our devoted instructor, agreed to offer an additional day of silks training.
Out in the lower field, many learners have been devoting hours of time to fort building by digging out "fox holes" in the side of the hill. I couldn't help but feel reminiscent of the snow forts that I used to dig out of hillsides and snowbanks with my brothers during my snowy Massachusetts childhood. But, these California kids dig their forts of dirt and are perfectly content to do so. Except, of course, when someone else destroys one's fort...but when this happens we recognize moments like this as important opportunities for working through difficulties and making agreements.
Other activities that learners enjoyed this month included making sunbread on a cloudy day, playing self-organized games of capture the flag, crafting, practicing cheerleading stunts and gymnastics tricks, wild harvesting mugwort, practicing yoga, and taking turns riding Cream Cheese Sprinkle Butt.
Who is Cream Cheese Sprinkle Butt you ask?
Why, Cream Cheese Sprinkle Butt is what some young learners dubbed the pump pedal operated white unicorn rider that was donated to RTS by one of our families early in January. Most unfortunately, CCSB suffered irreversible internal damage during the final week of January and is no longer with us.
Parent Education: Whether Parents Matter
This month I am including a rather thought provoking episode of the Off Trail Learning Podcast hosted by Blake Boles. This episode features the voice of clinical psychologist Naomi Fisher and in it Blake and Naomi explore the question of whether parents matter and the various aspects of both nature and nurture that influence how kids turn out.
I chose to include this episode for two reasons. Firstly, to introduce you to the Off Trail Learning Podcast and Blake Boles. Blake Boles is an advocate for self-directed education and has really devoted his life to working with self-directed young people and educating others about the benefits of SDE. His website, www.offtraillearning.com is a dynamic resource for parents and young people alike and is worth clicking around on to learn about Blakes various offerings.
The second reason I chose this episode specifically is because I thought that was an interesting spin off from last months recommended listening about deschooling adulthood. The conversation recorded in this episode is a deep dive exploration into the role of parents and environment in child development and challenges some culturally upheld beliefs about the rising importance of intensive parenting. I hope you find it worth the listen.