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May and June 2023

Updated: Mar 8

Dear Families,


As we close the chapter of another season of Rock Tree Sky programing, I am filled to the brim with a rich mixture of feelings - inspiration, exhaustion, gratitude, and so much love are some of the more potent feels that are rising to the surface in this moment.


Being a mentor at Rock Tree Sky extends beyond the daily work of showing up to engage with kids. Being a mentor at Rock Tree Sky is heart lead work that is deeply emotional and bleeds into many spaces of our multi-faceted lives. This work is soulful. And personally, my soul is so full right now at the close of my sixth year as a member of the RTS team.


I could go deep into my own personal reflections about all that this work means to me but, I'll spare you those ramblings.


In the rest of this letter you will find information about summer camp programs, a graduation speech written by Sequoia Lynch, and some photos and reflections from May and June.


As always, Be Well and Stay Curious,

With love from Chrissy and the RTS Staff


Looking Towards Summer


RTS Mentor Vera Rodriguez and RTS ceramics specialist Holland Eads will be facilitating a summer camp for children between the ages of 8 and 14 who are excited about making art, spending time in the garden, and dancing!


Cost is $300 for one week plus $30 materials fee

*If there is enough interest, camp programing may be extended for an additional week, tbd


Please email vera@rocktreesky.org

 

RTS mentors Ella Gamm and Chrissy Dasco will be facilitating one week of Rainbow Camp for children between the ages of 5 and 7


Cost is $300 for one week


Email ella@rocktreesky.org to request a sign-up form



Reflections from a Graduate

The following is a speech written by Sequoia Lynch. Sequoia began attending Rock Tree Sky in the fall of 2016 when she was a 10 year old kid, and RTS was a homeschool program that operated out of Jim and Natasha's home. Over the past seven years both Sequoia and RTS have grown in tremendous ways.


Sequoia has truly grown into herself during her time as a learner in this community...and what she shares in this speech is evidence that while gaining a sense of who she is as an individual she also gained astute insight as to what it means to direct ones own education and the value of that.


One week before the RTS graduation ceremony, I had the pleasure of accompanying Sequoia to the DMV where she passed her driving test and earned her drivers license. As we drove back to Ojai, feeling excited and celebratory, Sequoia shared a personal reflection with me that was so deeply gratifying to hear. Sequoia said that she feels really proud of who she is.


When I was seventeen years old and graduating from high school, I don't think that I could have truthfully stated that I knew who I was, let alone feel proud of who I was.


Hearing Sequoia deliver her speech both during the intimate RTS graduation celebration and on stage during the Summit School graduation ceremony was deeply moving. Even Jim couldn't help but shed a few tears. Witnessing this incredibly bright young woman stand in front of an audience and speak her truth so eloquently evokes a certain sort of pride for us as mentors who know and love Sequoia.


And hearing her share her reflections of her time at RTS also provides validation for the viability of Rock Tree Sky and other self-directed education programs- spaces that are child centered and foster self-direction, autonomy, and community.


So, thank you Sequoia. Thank you for reminding me why I got involved in this work as a college student. Thank you for reminding me that this work is radical. Thank you for showing me that this work changes lives thank you for believing that this type of education has the power to shift culture and most importantly, thank you for relentlessly being you.


Now, without further ado..some words from Sequoia:


The archaic definition of graduation hails from alchemy and describes a process of distillation. A tempering. A refining of something to a certain degree.

People applied the word graduation when they spoke of filtration. To graduate is to complete, or enter the next stage, of purification.


How curious this word has come to hold its modern meaning.


Then what would graduation mean today, to you all and myself during this moment, in such a special space as this one? What exactly are we commemorating?


Wherever we might have been on our first days of kindergarten, we were all just little kids, about 5 years old. The most buoyant people in the world right now are the children of the past. The kindergartners of the present are the successors to the future. And so are we, graduation is the day we enter the future.


There’s something so daring in each of our individual decisions to attend Rock Tree Sky. Regardless of our circumstances, today we commemorate our bravery; for we have all reached the end of the path uncharted.


Every person standing in front of you

today has made the bold choice to interact with the education system in a unique and highly

eclectic way. As independent study students, we’ve each had various ideals. Plans big and small. Maybe codes of beliefs we were unwilling to relinquish. We took a leap of faith, a leap towards our own selves. One where we proudly and confidently asserted that we are no longer a precursor to future adults, not empty containers waiting to be filled. Instead, we are our wholes selves, our own selves, real people with autonomous lives moving in our own directions.


Before we learned the alphabet, we were inadvertently taught that hierarchy will be a part of our lives. A typical, ordinary, daily, unescapable institution. That there is a pyramid to describe authority, and we have entered this pyramid on a lower rung than the people around us. Hierarchy indicates that we have come of age, we are highly developed, skilled, refined.


I suspect when people pulled the term graduation from alchemy the intention was to describe a kind of hierarchy. An indication that through our schooling we have been refined to a certain degree, distilled and purified. An assurance that our mind will arrive to the future polished and untainted.


I can proudly say that we are commemorating the achievement of a different form of refinement, a new refinement, our own refinement. Through directing our own education, we mistakenly, or deliberately freed ourselves to the exploration of life and growth in our own way, on our own terms. Today we commemorate our most innocent dismantling of hierarchical learning.


I’ve always had a unique relationship with authority. I’ve known that hierarchy was made up my whole life, and it literally drove me insane as a kid. It still does. I was constantly resistant, as soon as I learned the word no, I said no to everything. It’s obvious to most kids, and being

young is an experience we can all relate to.


Take a moment back in time with me, to when you were very young, those first days of kindergarten when you were smaller than everyone around you, with less experience in the world.. But you were still able to make decisions for yourself. You were capable of reason,

When your foundational desire was for the freedom to explore without needing to prove yourself when you were qualified for autonomy, qualified because you were human.


My road to graduation was more like a bush wack. I left the traditional education system in 5th grade, and embarked on a radical, experimental journey of self-governed learning. On this wandering expedition I stumbled upon some obvious hidden wisdom that most people will never discover.


I learned through witness that children can form deeper connections to humanity than the rest of us, through an unrefined worldview. I discovered that we are only able to truly advance through childishness. Through curiosity and play. That there is merit in remaining children for as long as possible. To embrace any knowledge offered by a child, because they know things we don't, they have so much to teach us.


We commemorate our self-knowledge today, our self-realization, our self-governance, and our confidence. The specifics of how we ended up here are noise. The important detail is the one that connects us. That we all directed our education to independence, toward ourselves.

Dismantling the hierarchical pyramids of our schooling, and repurposing the materials to form a learning playground.


We commemorate our rejection of this traditional process of refinement.

We commemorate graduating from very our own education.

Our graduation describes self-actualization, prospering towards decorated futures.


Today, we consider ourselves refined to a certain degree, a degree that we agree is the mark of significance. A high school degree, that indicates we are ready to seek higher education. Whether or not we choose to continue school each of us here will be educated higher using the same tools we taught ourselves in independent study. Through discussion, reflection, and mistakes.


We will continue to learn this way throughout our lives, untraditionally, humanely, childishly.


Reflections from May and June


The months of May and June were so full of so much community engagement, inspiration, laughter, love, and dancing...I feel at this point it might be too much to attempt to reflect on it all now especially given that it is presently 3:00 pm on Friday afternoon.

I know that I will hardly scratch the surface of the amazing things that occurred during the final two months of our season together so please forgive me as fumble through the following highlights reel and thank the digital powers that be for the pictures included bellow that will speak volumes louder than my words ever could.


The month of May kicked off on a high note with an experience that allowed RTS learners to engage with the Ojai community by selling handmade goods at the May-kers Market at Greater Goods. Learners from each of the dance planning committees set up booths and had the opportunity to sell their wares with the intention of raising funds for the end-of-year dances as well as share with community members about what Rock Tree Sky is all about it. So much of the work that occurs at RTS is learning to be in community. Events such as the May-kers Market serve as opportunities for our young people to truly put their learning into practice.


Another highlight for many of our teens during the month of May was a camping trip to the Carrizo Plains that Casey facilitated. The general feeling that the teens and Casey came back from the trip with was the desire for more overnight camping trips. As we look forward to the many possibilities in store for next year, we will do our best to prioritize more over night camping trips for the teens in particular.


Our annual community wide camping trip at Carpinteria State Beach also occurred in May. Always a favorite of mine, the beach campout offered a peaceful setting for families to come together and simply enjoy each others company. Time at the beach was all at once relaxing and exceptionally fun for those who came. We are always grateful for opportunities to get to know each other better off campus. This year I would like to shoutout an extra gratitude to Natasha and RTS parent Aubrey Falk for making the connection to bring a silent disco component to the last night of the campout. More of that in the future please!


Back on campus, the month of June kicked off with lots more dancing. The Roots learners enjoyed a Imagination Room one afternoon during which some kids literally did not stop dancing for a full hour and a half...the energy these kids have never ceases to impress me.


Then, on Friday evening learners from the Middles bands came out to campus for an under-the-sea themed end-of-year dance. Learners who worked on the dance planning committee deserve a big round of applause for their tireless efforts to plan such an elaborate party. From fundraising at the May-kers Market, to visiting local business to ask for donations for a raffle at the dance, to hand making all the decorations, and curating a fun playlist these young people are learning first hand what it is to be a producer. I think we are all excited to see how they will apply these skills as they continue to grow and expand their horizons.


The following week a small group of mentors, families, and close friends came together to celebrate our Rock Tree Sky graduates with an intimate ceremony in the garden. At this event, three of our graduates debuted the culmination of their work this year which was presented in the form of a neo-anarchist manifesto. Please stay tuned for a separate blog post highlighting that work which is one of the more powerful pieces of writing I have come across in all studies of education and social theory.


Ultimately, the RTS graduation celebration was a meaningful way to honor each of the individuals who have come of age through years of self-direction and community engagement


Following the graduation was the Teen Dance Party which was enjoyed by all who attended. There was a universal feeling of happiness that permeated the dance. We got to hear live music from RTS punk band Andromeda 3, and disco dj set from DJ Roy, and a set full of all the pop music our younger teens know and love. The learners who stayed till the end were elated to sing and dance to their hearts content. Thank you to all who helped to make the dream of a Teen Dance party a reality.


Our last week of RTS held both the Summit Graduation Ceremony and the Rock Tree Sky Spring Exposition.


At the Summit Graduation we got to celebrate not only those who graduated from Rock Tree Sky, but we got to send-off all of the students who graduated from the Summit School Independent Study Program. It felt special and important to honor those individuals who really took their learning into their own hands in conjunction with but not entirely tied to Rock Tree Sky as their primary hub for learning.


And then, the grand finally, the Spring Exposition. Many of you were there so I wont go into too much detail. There was great food, great musical performances, impressive aerialists, and so much gratitude. What more needs to be said?


Thank you all for another amazing year! We hope to see many of you joining us for summer camp this summer and for those who don't we look forward to connecting again in September.








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