In February, as news of the coronavirus was beginning to escalate, I committed to a time survey where I tracked what I was doing every 10 minutes for four weeks in order to have a better understanding of how I was spending my time. This was part of a larger effort to better take care of myself and the Abrome community. I had already tried to commit to sleeping more, eating less, working out more, reading and writing more, and spending less time browsing or on social media. But the time survey was eye opening in the ways I was not spending my time in a way that would allow meet to meet my commitments. That experience, plus the realization that we were going to have to take Abrome outdoors during the pandemic, which would stress me in terms of energy and time, forced me to realize I needed to set up practices that would allow me to meet my commitments. The changes I rolled out over the coming months included a dedicated 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. sleep schedule, writing or reading in the morning, regular workouts, limits on screen time and more specific limits on various sites, and intermittent fasting. As the wild ride of 2020 took us away from direct interaction with others, to online meet ups for Abrome, to planning and training for a pandemic year(s) outdoors, to being outdoors now as we try to balance supporting the Learners and families we have with the needs of the community, and the need to grow our community to a critical mass of Learners and Facilitators (~80 ideally) so it can thrive for years to come, the changes I made allowed me to take care of myself so that I could better take care of others. And I’ve been pretty consistent with it. Until the past two weeks, really, as the culmination of election drama coupled with many other forms of stressors boiling over for me and so many others cut a hole in the way that I’ve been trying to make the most of my days. A tweaked knee has prevented me from running, I’ve doomscrolled way too much, and my days have gotten longer as I’ve had to respond to various emergencies from others the past two weeks, meaning my required eight hours of sleep had given way to seven and then six hours of sleep per night. And after only one Learner showed up to Abrome on Tuesday I headed into Wednesday pretty exhausted. But I headed into the day with the intention of making it an enjoyable day, as well as getting some of my commitments back on track.

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An 11-year-old and 13-year-old join the younger Learners on the beach

Fortunately the day started out great with word that every Learner was going to show up again! My morning was not as rushed as I was afraid it might be, as I woke up and enjoyed a good variety of reading, writing, and administrative work before heading to the pick-up spot for Learners. The first Learner who showed up, our youngest, helped out by coming to Abrome with a happy, silly attitude. As we waited for other Learners to show up he hiked his shorts as high as he possibly could, walking around with a funny gait while making goofy faces. As the other Learners showed up they began to write out their intentions: freetopia, read, watch youtube, finish inking comic, eat, eat, drink, drink a lot of water, swim, sing, dig, no intentions and dig, don’t die, and don’t die. Then we went into our morning meeting where we had a discussion on what reflections were, how they were tied to our intentions, and how we may be able to use both to help us make more of our days. As the meeting ended we discussed where we would spend our day, and no surprise, everyone wanted to head to the lake. I asked if anyone was willing to take a different, longer hike to the lake and most rejected it, but the two older adolescent boys in the group agreed to take that hike with me. Lucky for us, an older Learner who quickly rejected the possibility of a somewhat longer hike agreed to take responsibility for getting the younger Learners to the lake so I could take the longer route.

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Working the Rubik’s cube

The hike to the lake was a pleasant one that took us slightly uphill, through a wooded area, along a large field, and then skirted along the lake through a larger wooded area until we circled the inlet where the rest of the Learners were. The slow and gentle walk allowed for some easy conversation between the three of us, and when we finally got to the lake to meet up with the the rest of the cell, the adolescent Learners set up near where I decided to sit down and we continued the conversation for the rest of the morning and into the afternoon. The other older Learner dropped in and out of the conversation as suited her needs.

Digging the same hole just to fill it again has turned into a great workout

Digging the same hole just to fill it again has turned into a great workout

Elsewhere, Learners were hanging out on the dock or playing on the beach. As usual there was lots of turning over the sand, and on this day there was a sand castle being built, as well. A preteen Learner left the dock and joined in on the play on the beach. When they tired of the play on the beach they decided to jump in the lake for a swim where they splashed around and made the most of what could be one of the last warm days of the fall. With the shovel abandoned, two older Learners asked if they could use it, and they began to dig a large hole which they would fill back in at the end of the day.

The older Learner who had been dropping in and out of some of the earlier conversations I was having dropped back in to discuss what it meant to graduate from Abrome. This Learner joined us this year, at age eighteen. To join Abrome at this age is much more challenging than doing so at even sixteen, as she needs to deschool (let go of schoolish conceptions and limitations), get to know and understand herself, and plan for the future. I had reached out to other Self-Directed Education communities (ALCs and democratic schools) to see how they had approached graduation and diplomas, and came up with what I thought was a fair approach for Abrome. I discussed these requirements which would surely stretch the Learner, and told her that the execution of the graduation process would be left to her. There is no need to have a diploma or formally graduate from an SDE community (or high school for that matter) but we recognize that it is considered a rite of passage for many.

Excellent knife practices: cutting away from self and outside of each other’s blood bubble

Excellent knife practices: cutting away from self and outside of each other’s blood bubble

When the two Learners who were digging a hole finished they asked if they could borrow my wood carving knives and they spent a good amount of time whittling fallen sticks. One of the Learners set up a spot in the sun with her yoga mat, and another Learner eventually ventured over to chat with her, even though that Learner was having a difficult week herself. Meanwhile the youngest Learners continued to run around playing. As the Learners socialized and played, the clock quickly ran down and all of a sudden it was time for the afternoon roundup.

We gathered on the dock and a sixteen-year-old Learner volunteered to facilitate the meeting. And it was one of the best Learner led meetings we have had yet. He started with a fabulous prompt of “is water a portal to another dimension,” which led to some great conversations. And just like that the day (at Abrome) was over. We packed up and walked back to the pickup spot where families slowly picked up their Learners. The day energized me, and helped me overcome some of my exhaustion from the week. The evening was not so kind to me, as I had work to do to take care of the Cuddle Buddies, I had a difficult conversation with an Abrome family member, I met up with Facilitator Jennifer, and I read and responded to a conversation for a Stanford working group focused on criminal justice reform that I volunteered to help with. By the evening I was spent again, but I went to sleep hopeful that Thursday at Abrome would once again energize me.