Welcome back to another year at Rock Tree Sky! Coming back together after a long summer break has felt both invigorating and comforting.
Feelings of invigoration come as no surprise... When you gather 90 kids on a campus and tell them to go forth and have a good time, it's to be expected that there is going to be big energy and lots of excitement.
But this September, I've noticed a certain softness around the edges of all of that energy; like a comfortable cushion of familiarity, grounded by the common understanding of how to be in this community.
Sure, we have some new friends at RTS, but after six years of existence, the culture that is Rock Tree Sky has become strong enough to wrap everyone into the fold with relative ease...all while staying malleable enough to incorporate fresh perspectives and changing needs.
What am I going on about? Basically, what I am trying to say is that for the first time in my six Septembers at Rock Tree Sky, this September has markedly felt less like an anxious time of "back to school newness and high strung nerves" and more like a time of "hey friends, nice to see you again."And that feels really good. And, I don't think I am alone in that feeling.
But I digress...
During the remainder of this post you will find calendar items for October, photos and written reflections from the month of September, and some information regarding an upcoming Parent Discussion Group.
Thank you all for being a part of this community.
And as always, Be Well and Stay Curious,
With love from Chrissy and the RTS Staff
Looking Towards October
Monday October 10th: Rock Tree Sky is Closed in Observation of Indigenous Peoples Day
Saturday October 15th: 10am -12pm Parent Discussion Group hosted by Spence with a potluck to follow.
Parents and caregivers of RTS learners are invited to gather on campus to participate in a lively dialogue about Holding Space Circles.
This conversation is promised to illuminate the core elements that we hold as a community in order to better hold the space for nurturing a thriving ecosystem of families, children, and community.
If you are a parent or caregiver of a RTS learner who desires to be more involved in the life of this community we strongly urge that you are present at this Discussion Group meeting. Childcare will be provided. *We do acknowledge that this Discussion Group is scheduled on the same day as Ojai Day. Our hope is that parents will be able to join us for the morning before heading into town for Ojai Day festivities.
Saturday October 22nd-Sunday October 23rd: Rock Tree Sky Family Campout on Campus
(Stay tuned for an email with more information. You do not need to RSVP or reserve a spot. The campout will take place on campus.)
Reflections on September
This September, we celebrated the end of Summer Vacation with a family beach day. During the hell fire heat wave that permeated throughout the first ten days of September, spending a day at the beach seemed the only sane thing to do. For all of the families who came out to Bates Beach on that first September Friday, it was a jubilant day of reconnecting, meeting new friends, and being fully immersed in the joys of childhood by the ocean.
By the following Tuesday, although the heat hadn't let up a lick, we still gathered together on our Upper Ojai campus for the first "official" week back at RTS. We sang songs, we splashed though sprinklers, we made stuff, we made friends...and somehow, we managed not to melt.
Some of the highlights of the on campus action this month are as follows:
I'll start with an offering facilitated by our newest staff-member, Peter. Former elementary school teacher, Peter, came to the RTS community after feeling disconcerted with the public schools. We're all feeling grateful that he found us.
During that first week on campus Peter really connected with a number of learners though an offering to make marble tracks using cardboard, tape, and other found objects. The fact that Peter didn't completly loose his marbles by the end of that first week was a sure sign that he is a perfect fit for our community and will hopefully be with us for years to come.
Our music mentor, Ella H, while not exactly new to RTS, is certainly more of a presence on campus this year. With increased hours at RTS, they have made the transition from music specialist to (mostly) full time mentor. The music studio has been positively bursting with energy. Ella's natural way of connecting with learners on a personal level and building trusting relationships cannot be overlooked as a key part of the magic of music making in the space. It is true that when we feel comfortable with who we are, we are more adept to fully express ourselves and play with our creativity.
Creativity has also been bursting in the Art Room this month. To escape the heat, Farmer Kelly spent some time in the art room supporting learners with making flowers crowns with flowers freshly harvested from campus. And Kelly and Vera worked together to introduce a new air-drying modeling clay in the art space which turned out to support one favorite activity this month; making miniture flower vases.
Other Art Room favorites include the ever popular model house making...an entirely learner lead practice of transforming cardboard boxes to miniature houses and castles..., weaving with Vera, and sewing, both independently and with the support of Chrissy who is now offering daily sewing station support time.
In the Imagination Room kids have enjoyed all of the typical joy filled play of childhood; puppet shows, block building, imagination play, story time, doll house, and legos. Ella and Chrissy also facilitated weekly craft activities this month around the theme of "the self."
Kids made artistic representations of their favorite things, collaged self-portaits, and life sized self-portraits. Learners also have been exploring learning about the transition of season from summer to autumn and celebrated the first day of fall with a seasonal song.
Out in the field, Jim is very excited about a new feature on campus; an observatory donated by friend of the community, Martian Cohen. We're looking forward to using this incredible new tool for astro photography and learning more about the sky at night.
This September the Sword Shop, I mean, Wood Shop has been a space for creating all of our favorite wood shop projects in addition to being the home of our pottery wheels. Spence has been supporting learners with getting started with ceramic projects and we now have a part-time ceramics specialist, Harlow, who will continue to be on campus with us two mornings a week.
We are also delighted to welcome back two of our favorite friends of Rock Tree Sky. Lauren, our arial silks instructor is back on campus with us three days a week. Already our silks enthusiasts are preparing for an Autumn Showcase. And Wadi, RTS parent and beloved cooking class instructor, is back offering cooking class on Monday and Thursday mornings.
Another longtime RTS parent has joined our team this year as a mentor in the Pebbles Program. Maka is now working alongside Sarah facilitating half-day programing for our littlest learners.
Maka also worked with Chrissy to host the Full Moon Market at Greater Goods on the 10th of September. The Full Moon Market was not only a community event celebrating local artisans and musicians, but it also was a fundraiser supporting the Rock Tree Sky learner materials budget.
At the Market, several RTS learners represented Rock Tree Sky at a booth selling a collection of goods made at RTS including naturally dyed bandanas, RTS T-Shirts, RTS tote-bags, sage bundles, and herbal salts. The learners most directly involved, Alexandra, Moon, and Agnes, were happy to share their creations with the community and felt proud to be supporting RTS with their efforts to raise funds. Learners interested in participating in these continued fundraising efforts will be invited to continue setting up a booth at Maka and Chrissy's Moon Markets as well as at the RTS Winter and Spring Expositions. With funds raised, these learners are imagining the possibility of hosting an RTS dance later this year.
As usual, I feel I was barely able to scrape the surface of the action that ensued over the
past month, but I feel I do need to wrap up these reflections and leave you with the following photos. I'll also urge you to please read on bellow the photo gallery for a parent education piece about community care. We're all looking forward to what October has in store.
Parent Education: Maintaining Community Care and Connection
I want to take a couple of minutes to discuss community care and connection, specifically as it pertains to our parent and caregiver community.
In our daily operations at Rock Tree Sky, it is easy to feel like what we do is all about and all for the kids. But truly, we cannot discount the essential role that the whole family plays in making RTS possible. Without your trust in this process and your willingness to do the extra work that it takes to raise a self-directed kid, Rock Tree Sky wouldn't exist.
Let's face it, by making the choice to send your child to RTS, you are also making the choice to do something that is quite far outside of the mainstream.
For some of you, this choice might feel just as natural as your deodorant, but for many we (the RTS mentors and I), recognize that raising self-directed kids, unschooling, homeschooling, going to Rock Tree Sky, can feel really daunting. Doubts creep in, questions arise, fears and worries of "are my kids getting enough...?" come up. And since our mainstream culture does very little to demonstrate how a child can live a life outside of the conventional model of school (I mean, can you think of any movies, books, or TV shows in which school is not a "thing" for the charters that are under the age of 18?), it can feel sometimes like you are alone in this.
But, you are not alone. You've got a whole community of parents and caregivers who are in this with you. And you also have a team of dedicated professionals (the RTS mentors) who have created many opportunities for parent community engagement. Each month a Rock Tree Sky mentor hosts a Parent Discussion Group on campus as a way to explore some of the myriad questions surrounding parenting and self-directed education, and as a way to build rapport with one another.
Just one engaging conversation can have a remarkable impact on our way of thinking. It can also reveal an unexpected connection or be the start of a lifelong friendship. This is why we strongly urge parents and caregivers to participate in the monthly dialogues. You'll likely find the experience meaningful whether you are brand new to the community and are full of questions or if you are a long time RTS parent with wisdom to share.
On October 15th, Spence will be hosting the Discussion Group on the subject of Holding Space Circles. Spence has said of the Discussion Group meeting that, "Through this process we will explore the support systems, and challenges that naturally provide opportunities for growth and movement in our lives. This will be expressed much like the growth rings of a tree and the pathways that bringing nutrients to the whole, from the heart of the trunk to the tips of the highest leaves, to the depths of the deepest roots".
Following the dialogue there will be an opportunity to continue to connect over a potluck lunch.