The first week of our third cycle was a lot for many of us. The election that some of us had feared would be a black swan event had exhausted us long before election day, and as expected, election night amped everything up. At least by Friday it looked like the worst possible outcomes were not going to materialize. It seemed that a sizable proportion of the voting population was coming to terms with the outcome, and much of the rest of the country/world was cautiously letting their guard down hoping that things were going to start getting back to a sense of normalcy in the coming months. Although it needs to be said that the old normal was violently oppressive to many populations, and it would be nice if we could to fighting for the liberation of all people.


Friday the exhaustion was palpable, even among the Learners who do not follow politics. The intentions the Learners set seemed to reflect that: don’t die, freetopia, freetopia, talk to [two Learners], relax, chill, cuddle with dogs, pet the dogs, record, drink Monster, dig, to have no intentions, and maybe swim.

Being Friday I tried to make the morning meeting as short as possible as I expected that we would need to settle into longer Check-in and Change-up meetings, and I was right. Four awarenesses were raised that morning, with two of them being the standard awarenesses of masking/social distancing and drinking water. Two other awarenesses were raised, one about how much time we were spending at the lake, and the other a concern about a name that some of the Learners came up with for a turtle that we always see on our walks to and from the lake. The awareness about the time at the lake was universally shot down in terms of it needing to be added to the Community Awareness Board, and there was just a general agreement that we would be mindful of the wants of people who may not want to spend all day, every day at the lake.


The other proposed awareness took a long time to work out. The name the Learners came up with was ‘disabled turtle,’ as it would always sun on a tree with it’s legs stretched out behind it. It may have in fact been disabled, and the name seemed descriptive, but one of the Learners pointed out that it seemed inappropriate. The Learner was alone in her position, with some of the other Learners thinking it was fine because it was not made with ill-intent, and many of the other Learners not caring about the issue. The Learners who sometimes used the nickname for the turtle made clear that they were not doing it to be mean, and that it was done in fun and that as it was a descriptive name that no one should be offended by it. But the Learner who raised the awareness did not waiver, and we eventually shifted the conversation to the use of ableist language, and how even with good intent how sometimes the language that we use can be harmful. Particularly when we aspire to be a anti-oppressive, psychologically safe community. Eventually the Learners who were opposed to adding the awareness to the Community Awareness Board were persuaded by the arguments, and they agreed to the practices of calling the turtle by a different name (Greginald, a compromise between Greg and Reginald) and to be mindful to not use ableist language. I was super proud of the willingness of the Learners to challenge their own beliefs, and to be open to shifting their choice of words, and I was especially proud of the courage of the Learner who raised the issue.

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That branch was a threat that we couldn’t bring down

By the time we finished the Friday meetings we were already an hour into the day, so the Learners made a beeline for the lake. Much of the rest of the day was standard socialization and play. Two Learners jumped in the water and enjoyed each other’s company, two Learners began to re-dig their hot tub, and two others continued their various forms of play along the lakeside. The oldest Learner, who just joined the community this year, approached me to have a discussion about what it would mean to “graduate” from a Self-Directed Education community like Abrome. After the conversation she focused on taking pictures and recording video for her YouTube channel.


During the day I called on two of the older Learners to try to help me dislodge a large, loose branch that was hanging over the trail to the lake. I feared that the branch which seemed to have broken loose from above, and got caught on the way down, could eventually fall on someone’s head. We considered throwing rocks and sticks at it, and also tying off a rock or a stick to twine that would hopefully catch the branch so we could pull it down. While we were trying to prevent someone from getting seriously hurt, we had to be mindful that maybe throwing rocks up into the air was not all that safe either. So we made sure that we were all well positioned and paying full attention each time something went up in the air. We tried for a long time, but ultimately our efforts failed. We will probably come back to attempting to bring it down at a later date.


As the day was coming to an end the older Learners needed to fill in the hole they dug. Filling in a hole is easier than digging it, just as walking down a hill is typically easier than climbing up it. But it was still hard work, and one of the younger Learners decided to led a hand to help them complete the job. We then held our afternoon meeting on the dock, with one Learner volunteering to be the game master and another the facilitator. As the meeting ended a young Learner who typically presents as unemotional turned away from everyone and began to cry. Immediately the other Learners jumped into action asking him what was wrong (he dropped his water bottle into the lake and it was drifting away) and they assured him that they would retrieve the bottle for him. It was beautiful seeing all the Learners concerning themselves with the needs of the youngest Learner, and seeing how this community continues to jell across ages.