Friday was our 100th day of this pandacademic year. 100 is not that much different than 99 or 101 but it is a day that many schools mark and celebrate; a month earlier I heard several parents talking about how their schools were celebrating their 100th day on a book club call that I was on. We have a similar number of days as conventional schools, but we stretch our year into July, meaning that such benchmarks will always come later in the year at Abrome. The benefit of this is that the Learners have more connection to Abrome after the summer break, and it gives Facilitators more of an opportunity to charge throughout the year. And in this pandacademic year it allows us to have at least a 9-day break between cycles so that we can eliminate potential cross-exposure between cells.

I started my day writing about Abrome’s day 96 as I tried to not lose too much ground this cycle on my daily blog posts. I was rushed in the morning but I got the blog post out, got packed up, and dropped by the home of an Abrome family that was donating a bunch of bananas and yogurts for the day to the Learners in the cell that I’m in thanks to a grocery delivery mishap, and then I went straight to the drop-off point for the Learners.

Kuma was shadowing on Friday

Kuma was shadowing on Friday

We had great turnout on Thursday but on this day we started four Learners down, but up one dog as Facilitator Ariel brought his roommate’s dog for the day. One of the Learners needed to stay home to take care of a sibling, and another was running late, and two others were tired from a week of being outdoors (and maybe not getting enough sleep the night before). We waited for the Learner who was running late and began the meeting when he arrived. We checked in with each other on how we were feeling that day and then talked about our favorite part of our first week back together. Then we quickly rolled into our first Check-in and Change-up of the cycle. Between the five of us we came up with four awarenesses and 10 practices to help us address the awarenesses. The practices are how we collectively improve the culture of Abrome and everyone is encouraged to attend, but if someone opts out of the Change-up or is absent they still commit to working on them.

After the morning meeting I went on a solo morning hike up the hill where I quickly filmed a daily update video for the Instagram account and then jumped on the morning meeting with the remote cell. All the Learners in the remote cell made the morning meeting and I shared with them some of the awarenesses that we were working on in my in-person cell, and we talked about the day ahead. Then I received a text from one of the Learners who planned to stay home saying that he changed his mind and was on his way. I told him to meet me at the top of the hill. When he got to the top I filled him in on what we covered in the Check-in and Change-up meeting and then we walked back down to the lake where everyone else was, refilling our water bottles on the way.

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The younger Learners in the other cell also had their first Check-in and Change-up of the cycle. The Check-in and Change-up tend to be more challenging for younger Learners as they are not typically interested in sitting around to work out shared needs and propose practices for each awareness. But on this day all Learners stuck around for both, and the youngest Learner raised his own awareness.

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On this day the younger Learners spent a lot of time in one general area, moving around less than usual. This allowed for Facilitator Lauren to break out some paint that they used to paint rocks. They also started to paint other debris, and then used some masking tape to create more elaborate works of art.

But arts and crafts weren’t all that the Learners were up to in the other cell. They also borrowed Facilitator Lauren’s iPad to play some Roblox. One of the Learners even found a nice spot to recline and take a nap.

During the day they observed a group of kids with an educator hiking up a steep area to higher ground. Some of the kids were slower than others, as would be expected in any group of human beings, and this clearly frustrated the adult with them. The Learners were shocked to see the educator then begin yelling at the Learners. One particular student was really struggling, and the educator gave the student a five-second countdown to complete a portion of the climb. The Learners were universally saddened for the kids with the angry educator, and one of the Learners called him “really mean.” This allowed for a conversation about what type of behavior from adults should be appropriate, even for kids in schoolish settings.

Back at the cell that I was in I broke out the drone that I promised the Learners I would bring on that day. The Learners were so into each other that none of them took me up on the offer to fly the drone. So I started to play with it myself. Eventually one of the Learners came out to give it a shot. I gave a quick primer on how to work the drone and then gave him clear boundaries for flying the drone (not near people, not near the ground, not near trees, and not over the water) and then I stepped back and let him fly. After a few spins around the large field that we were standing in, and some reminders to not fly it near people or trees, he had his fill. I was surprised, because most people want to fly drones for a long period of time the first time they get to play with one. But it was clear that he wanted to go back to hang out with the other Learners. I asked him if he was sure that he did not want to play, and that I would put it away if he was finished. He said he was sure so I packed it up.

The adolescent Learner who has been doing 45-minute workouts tried to rally Learners to join her that afternoon, but all of the Learners passed. But having no one else to workout with did not stop her, she worked out alone. It was great to see her sticking to her plans even if others opted out. After the workout, the Learner and I checked in on each other. We discussed a variety of topics to include plans for next year, personal life stuff, family updates, and personal goals. I don’t get down and play with the Learners as often as Facilitators Ariel and Lauren do, and because of that I have fewer opportunities to connect with the Learners and get into their worlds. So when I get a chance to have an extended conversation with a Learner I really try to make the most of it.

Later in the afternoon the Learner who was flying the drone asked me if he could fly it again. By this time I was writing and was soon going to jump on the remote call with the other Learners. I told him that I was not able to support him with that, and he groaned that he wanted to fly it now. I reminded him that he chose to stop flying it earlier, that I invited him to continue to fly it, and that he passed on it. I said that I would like to support him in what he wants to do, but that I cannot always be available to do what he wants to do.

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Friday was a beautiful day filled with lots of warmth and sunshine. This pulled three Learners into the water, as well as Facilitator Ariel. But just because it was warm outside doesn’t mean the water was comfortable; it is still plenty cold.

One of the newer Learners who is not super comfortable with others spent a good amount of time interacting with the other Learners on Friday, in addition to playing in the water. He has a lot of shared interests with the Learners, and with time (and deschooling) I believe that he will be able to effortlessly incorporate himself into the daily flow of the day. As he was sitting on the dock with the other Learners, he was playing with a pocketknife that he brought and it fell into the lake. The exact same spot that the AirPods fell into the lake earlier that week.

As soon as the knife went in the water I assumed that it was lost, at least until later in the spring. But one of the Learners decided that she would fish it out, and while she was at it she planned to find the AirPods, as well. The area she was searching was not super deep (maybe 8 feet) but the floor of the lake was covered with algae. Nonetheless, she dove to the bottom at least a dozen times looking for both of the lost items. Eventually, Facilitator Ariel asked her if she wanted to put the GoPro on her head so that we could see what she was seeing. She never did retrieve the knife or the AirPods, unfortunately. We hope to get that GoPro footage up on our YouTube channel soon, though.

At this point, our day was pretty much finished. The younger Learner of a new Learner came into the area that we were with their parents, and began chatting with the folks in the cell. He is stuck at a private school this year, and has really struggled to deal with homework and the other unnecessary demands of schooling while seeing his older brother free to play and free to learn. He mentioned to Facilitator Ariel that as soon as this school year is over he’ll be joining his brother at Abrome.