Thursday would be day 99 of our pandacademic year. I got some great news early when Facilitator Lauren told us that she was able to schedule her first Covid-19 vaccine shot for Sunday. This means that by next week all three Facilitators will have received their first shot, and that by April 18th all of us will be fully vaccinated. While another wave of infections is likely in progress, it feels so great to know that there is an end in sight for this pandemic. [Side note: please get vaccinated when you get the chance.]

I spent a good amount of the morning writing prompts about the The Teenage Brain by Frances Jensen for a book group conversation I was facilitating that evening for the Education Conversations book group at my local public library. I found the book to be pretty awful and I tried to write prompts that allowed for us to dive into some of the awful advice that was given. It took me longer than expected, but I eventually finished and then worked on a daily blog post of an Abrome day which I ran out of time on. I then headed to Abrome for the day.

While the in-person cell I am not in has had every Learner showing up each day this week, the in-person cell I am in has had one Learner missing each day. Thursday, however, was the first day that every Learner showed up, which increased everyone’s mood for the morning meeting, especially the Facilitators. One of the Learners volunteered to be the game master and he had us stand in a circle, jump in when ready to talk, but asked everyone to wait three seconds after someone finishes before speaking. During announcements I said I would like to chat with some Learners one-to-one and asked if anyone was interested, and two Learners said they would like to talk. Everyone then shared their intentions for the day and “one way we can add positively to your experience this next week.” The responses to the latter were morning hikes, bring sun screen and finding stuff to do, finally going into the water tomorrow, telling jokes to get me to laugh, staying in the shade, more people bringing bikes, bringing mountain bike tomorrow, and water. I took two things from the responses: 1. not everyone picked up that the question was about next week, not tomorrow, and 2. people interpreted the “we” in different ways—most focused on what they could do individually, and a couple focused on what the group could do.

After the morning meeting, half of the group headed down toward the lake, one on a bike with a GoPro strapped to her helmet, while I headed up the hill with two adolescent Learners for my morning hike. We quickly scaled the hill and at the top I prepared for my morning meeting with the remote Learners while they sat down and chatted with each other.

Morning remote meeting

Morning remote meeting

I was pleased to see that all Learners in the remote cell showed up for the meeting. We shared what we were doing and one of the Learners told me that he wrote an email to Greg Abbott the day before saying, “it’s a dumb idea to open up 100% and it’s especially a dumb idea to end the mask mandate.” He got no arguments from the crew. We then shared what we planned to do with the day and then we jumped off the call. It’s clear that the morning meeting is more about holding space than anything else, and I just keep hoping that they’ll all be in-person after spring break.

After the meeting with the remote Learners was over a Learner who has been with us for a couple of years asked me when we were going to India. Last year, in the earlier stages of the pandemic, I had conversations with Mridul who helped start Abrome as an idea way back in 2014. He is living in Delhi and running a school there, and they wanted to connect and get to know each other through shared online offerings when schools most everywhere were fully remote. The idea was to get them to build connections, and then they’d visit us in Austin, and then we would visit them in Delhi. But we are a Self-Directed Education community, so we were not going to mandate their attendance, but we highly encouraged it. Unfortunately, the Abrome Learners did not show up for the online meet ups, and the hopeful plans fell by the wayside. When I told him this there was a moment of realization of the need to show up for the things that you want. I was surprised to see the lesson learned nine months later.

Morning vibe by the water

Morning vibe by the water

The Learners decided they did not want to stay up on the hill too long on this beautiful morning, and we walked back to the lake area and joined up with the others. As we walked down toward the others one of the Learners jumped out at us with a light saber and with that came a lot of energy that was just much more than the other group was feeling at the moment. Apparently two of the Learners were in a deep conversation, while another two were editing videos.

Meanwhile, in the other cell about ten miles away the Learners decided to slow down to honor their tired bodies. They focused on hanging around the creek bed after a stalemate in where they wanted to go for the day. The day consisted of some mini-excursions but other than that it seemed they were focused on having a restful day.


Two of the Learners spent much of the day painting with water colors. One of them put her effort into creating a really great adaptation of the Abrome logo that should be put on a shirt. As the day moved on their interest in painting moved from paper to natural objects such as rocks and branches, and then they pulled out some duct tape to create more complex pieces of art.

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Their interests evolved throughout the day, and eventually took them to a screen where they watched a YouTube video on simulating conflict and game theory that an adolescent Learner posted on our Discord channel. They then used a search engine to look up what some of the largest trees on earth are, and then they dove into learning more about banyan trees. One of the Learners then pulled out a book and began reading it with the others. It was a slower day that really met the needs of all the Learners.

Back at the cell that I am in the Learners were quite active, moving around, walking, biking, or tossing the football around to each other. Facilitator Ariel meanwhile set up a linktree that we could post on the Instagram account.

On this day, just like the prior day, the local school district had scheduled a half day and around 2:00 p.m. a bunch of high school students began to stream into the park for a day party. Having discussed the difficulties of being around so many unmasked people the day before, we packed up and decided to move to a more secluded part of the park. We walked toward the waterfalls, although one Learner felt that she needed some time alone and went off in another direction to think before joining back up with us.

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At the waterfall that we settled on we settled in and did what we were doing elsewhere—talking, thinking, reading, playing. I pulled out a new book on homeschooling during the pandemic that I’ve found to be far better than anticipated.

Some of the Learners (who were probably “bored” if we look at it from a schooled mindset) started to play with rocks in the water that was flowing over the waterfall. Eventually they started stacking the rocks to dam up the waterfall. Working together they realized that their dam was at a poor spot because it was on a downslope that would easily be overtaken, and they identified some better spots where the dam would redirect the water. They largely cut off the flow of water down the channel that was cut in the rock, and then they broke the dam to the enjoyment of all.

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The Learner who needed space later joined back up with us, and the conversations and play continued. One Learner who needed to cool down dunked his head in the stream. I continued to read. Facilitator Ariel took some GoPro footage from within the stream. And then we held our afternoon roundup and called it a day, and walked back to the pick up point where most Learners’ rides were waiting for them.

After all the Learners left, Facilitator Lauren called us and we reflected on our day with an after action review. During this call I reflected on three pretty great quotes that happened during the day:

  • Learner speaking to another Learner: I almost didn’t come to Abrome so that I could stay with my friends at public school. Then I came here and found better friends.

  • Me: On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you like being at Abrome?
    Learner: a six.
    Me: What would make it better?
    Learner: on second though, a seven.

  • Facilitator Ariel: I used to use my watch to reflect light on the wall behind the teacher.
    Me (in jest): that’s why schools shouldn’t have windows.
    Learner: That’d make schools like prisons … more.