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Updated: Sep 24, 2020

Hello Rock Tree Sky Families, 

What a beautiful month January has been. 

This month has brought nourishing rain, snow capped mountains, fresh feeling air, and just enough warmth to remind us that we still live in Southern California. 

And with the favorable weather, our Rock Tree Sky community has felt particularly...glowing

We have unfolded into 2019 with a refreshed sense of care for ourselves and each other. It's visceral; the ways in which our learners have been supporting one another, communicating with one another effectively, problem solving with compassion for each other, and tuned into the needs of fellow community members. The ways that we practicebeing at RTS contributes to the realization of a  compassionate world. We feel lots of gratitude to witness and be a part of this learner-centered community. 

We're looking forward to more goodness in February. 

As always Be Well and Stay Curious

With love from, 

Rock Tree Sky staff 

Looking Towards February

Friday February 8th:Parent Maker Night6pm-8pmJoin us at the Summit School for an evening of making Rock Tree Sky style.  Parents are invited to come and engage in activities and projects offered by our Rock Tree Sky mentors. Please bring a dish to share and a willingness to create!

We will also facilitate a movie and popcorn for kids to enjoy while their parents experience making. 

Monday February 18th:RTS will be closed in observance of President's day. 

Monday February 25- Friday March 1: 12pm pick up each day this week. Family conferences in the afternoons for those families who have scheduled meetings. If you are interested in setting up a meeting during this week please contact Natasha ASAP, there are limited slots available. 

Reflections on January 

Wow, the Rock Tree Sky community entered 2019 with high energy. 

During our very first week back in action after the holiday break, Casey and Spence lead a group of about thirty learners on an excursion to a wolf sanctuary located in the Angeles National Forest

Casey has said that this was, "One of the most impressive wolf sanctuaries I've ever been to...the women that run the space have created such a wonderful, grounded program that really connects people in wolves in such a meaningful way." The program is both educational and therapeutic and Casey said that he is looking forward to future trips and maintaining a long term relationship with the sanctuary. 

Back at the Summit (and beyond) Jimhas been sharing his excitement about building and launching small rockets. 

This month a neighbor and friend of Rock Tree Sky donated of a new drum kit as well as professional recording studio equipment to support our music program. The new instruments and the endless possibilities for recording have made for some rocking good times this month. 

Additional rocking good times include the benefit concert organized by Kim and her partner Robert. The concert featured local musicians of all ages, ranging from our very own RTS learners to some local legends. The funds raised by this concert will be to the benefit of our music department. Additionally the event truly inspired many of our learners to dive deeper into their musical interests and practice of their skills.

The rain that fell earlier in January inspired Chrissy to lead walks up Sisar Rd to explore the new plantlife and the flow of water at the creek. 

The rain also inspired Spence to support learners in the creation of balloon powered boats which kids experiment in floating across giant puddles. Lots of rain also led to exploring different possibilities indoors. For instance a game of giant jenga was played using rectangular cardboard boxes.  

In the art room Kim has been inspiring learners to create multimedia scenes ranging from coral reefs to miniature fantastical houses. The textile arts department also received donations of two "new to us" sewing machines that the learners have been grateful to be able to use. Also in the art room Jacklyn brought back an old favorite from her own childhood. This month she introduced the kiddos to Shrinky Dinks which have been wildly popular amongst the kids and have been fascinating for us to see the learners expanding their possibilities for shrinky dink creations each day.

Archery has also been popular this month. Casey remarked that many of learners have been excited about participating in target practice as well as making their own bows. 

Over at the Big Farm our aerial specialist, Belinda, has brought a lyra (hoop) as a new feature for the learners to practice new skills on. And Casey has been continuing to lead tracking adventures on the Big Farm as well.  

Each week Natasha has been hosting parent book club/discussion group which has been a meaningful and supportive way to connect with parents and talk about the work of raising free-children. Natasha intends to continue to host these conversations and invites any parents to participate in attending. 

This month we also had a wonderful Saturday morning parent discussion group during which mentors and parents engaged in dialogue about theYes Brain and reimagining success for our children. ​

Quote From the Kids:Through the Eyes of a Kid 

The following link is to the second episode of a new podcast featuring interviews of Rock Tree Sky learners contemplating and describing their educational journeys. 

This episode features the voice of RTS Learner Vida Haring and the musical stylings of RTS Teen Carter Young. 

Please copy and paste the following link in your browser or follow the button below: 

Parent Education: 

For this month's Parent Education piece I have chosen to share a link to an article recently published onTipping Points felt related to an ...issue?...subject of interest? that we experience at Rock Tree Sky. With the ever expanding music program at RTS I thought that this piece bared relevance and may be used as a conversation starter amongst those who enjoy using the musical instruments and those who share that space.

In this piece (which I urge you to read with your child) Ken Danford, founder and director of North Star Teens, the flagship of the Liberated Learners network based in Sunderland, MA, describes an "incident" that occured in the North Star common room. Essentially the issue was that a teenager was playing guitar in a common area at a volume that was too loud for Ken to focus on his work.  

As I read about how this particular incident was managed at North Star, I thought about our own music making at RTS. And the way that we all, staff and learners, have differing tolerances for noise. And in a self-directed learning community there really is not a clear-cut set of rules to manage what volume instruments can be played at, or what constitutes as practicing a musical craft versus what might be reckless banging on the drums. What is one person's creative experiment might be an inappropriate use of equipment to another. 

As Ken writes,"Now the youth had to consider that idea. We were no longer fighting over power and rights, but over how to use the common room together... We weren’t really fighting about rules or whether I could just enforce my will on them. We were actually debating subjective musical enjoyment and tolerance. It really was a problem with no objective solution.

Kevin pursued this topic, “I was practicing, and trying new things. I was feeling creative. You mean I can’t do that in the common room?” It was a question with no clear answer, and we agreed, “It’s a gray area. It depends on who else is present and how your playing affects them.” This was not a right-and-wrong, rules-oriented problem, and we’d all have to live with this ambiguity. Guitar playing is welcome in the common room until it is not, and, Ken will leave if he doesn’t like it as long as there is another adult present. And, if guitar playing is annoying other people, the guitar player and friends will probably need to go to another spacewere not the clear-cut resolutions Kevin had been seeking or expecting, but he decided he could live with them."

This notion ofguitar playing is welcome until it is not is a real example of navigating the balance between taking care of yourself and taking care of others and taking care of the space (or equipment). 

And to me Ken's way of navigating this incident - calling for a private conversation with the guitar playing teen- modeled a deep level of respect for that teen and his creative process while also advocating for Ken's personal needs.

​That is what we strive to do at Rock Tree Sky. The mentors are not here to exercise authority over the learners or enforce rules. We are here to model respectful conflict resolution and collaborative problem solving. And not just in the music room but in all aspects of life at RTS and beyond. 


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