August 29, 2022

Three pandacademic years of zero cases of COVID-19 in the Abrome space is pretty impressive! The success we have had in protecting each other and local communities from the spread of COVID is something we should all be proud of. We were only able to do that thanks to a collective commitment to community care, transparency, and candid and honest communication. So thank you! 

Community care means centering the needs of those who would be most impacted by our decisions and actions, and leveraging our privilege to support them. We must acknowledge three realities about the COVID pandemic (and likely Monkeypox, too):

  1. COVID continues to fall heaviest on BIPOC communities, the immunocompromised, those without access to quality healthcare, essential workers, the unvaccinated, etc. All of our pandemic decisions must center those most impacted.

  2. Nothing we do impacts only those at Abrome. All Facilitators and Learners go home to families, friends, and into other communities each day. If we were to spread COVID at Abrome, we’d spread it elsewhere, too.

  3. There is no such thing as a harmless single case of COVID that someone with “a healthy immune system” can overcome. Including cases that are “mild.” Each case has the potential to lead to long-term chronic health problems and disrupt quality of life. Each case has the potential to seed a superspreader event. Each case has the potential to host a mutation that can become a new variant. 

To limit the likelihood of infection and spread, we will continue to focus on not bringing COVID into our education community, and not spreading COVID if it does find its way into the community. 

This updated pandemic plan builds upon the work we’ve done over the past three pandacademic years. To make this much more digestible, I have cut out much of what is not most relevant to Learners and families, and much of the background behind our choices. If you would like to review our prior plans you can view them on our website

The most notable changes to this updated plan are that we are adding daily surveillance testing, implementing a vaccine mandate, and strengthening our quarantine and isolation protocols. This will provide us with a truly robust, multilayered approach to protecting ourselves and others. Counterintuitively to many, the additional layers of safety we are adding will likely result in more time together than in the prior three years, particularly if everyone in the community continues to support our pandemic protocols with fidelity. Also, we added 20 COVID makeup days at the end of the academic year so that we can recapture time together should we suffer another wave that risks overwhelming local hospital capacity. 

Nothing about our pandemic plan is particularly original or remarkable, except for maybe the fact that we are able to implement all of the included layers of protection given our small budget and a political and social climate that is hostile to notions of collective community care or direct action. We could not have come this far without the commitment of you, the members of the Abrome community, or the people and organizations that have found us and provided us with information resources, emotional support, and material support.  

Let’s continue to take care of one another!

In solidarity,

Antonio Buehler

March 19, 2022

Rejecting normal

Society is burnt out and eager to regain a sense of normalcy after two years of the pandemic. At least that is the message we are fed each day by the media, government agencies, politicians, and opportunists. And their proposed solution is to move on from the pandemic and “return to normal,” operating as if it were 2019 again. 

There are many problems with the proposed solution that we are being offered. First and foremost is that the pandemic is not over, and we cannot simply make it go away by acting as if it is no longer an existential threat to many millions of people who are at risk, unvaccinated, or members of vulnerable populations. Secondly, the crushing exhaustion many people feel is not solely a response to Covid-19 safety protocols, but to much more concerning factors such as: mass disability and death, and being told that disability and death should be deemed acceptable while protocols to prevent such harm should be seen as a burden; a heightened state of white nationalism coupled with state violence directed at historically marginalized and oppressed groups (e.g., BIPOC, trans youth, houseless); economic uncertainty; political instability; and a loss of a sense of connection and community in a fractured culture. Third, and particularly relevant to Abrome, normal was never good enough. 

Abrome is a liberation project. We aim to support young people by honoring the exercise of their autonomy within a context of co-creating a compassionate community with an understanding of our shared responsibilities toward one another. In order to do that, we must reject the notion that it is sensible to focus on what is best for us while turning a blind eye to the ills of society, as well as the ways in which we may be contributing to the harm of others.        

Thanks in large part to recently updated CDC guidelines, schools and other institutions are fast tracking their “return to normal.” We are likely the only remaining education community in Central Texas that still goes remote during periods of uncontrolled community spread, and we may also be the only one that has not gone mask optional. We have been put in the position of having to choose between what makes good business sense and what allows us to continue to center the needs of those most impacted by our decisions. We still choose the latter. 

Moving forward

This updated version of our pandemic plan was released on March 15, 2022. Since the original version of the AY21-22 pandemic plan was released, those ages 5 and above have gained access to vaccines, and we came back indoors for the first time since March 2020. We have also observed how much of society has been lulled into believing that we should not protect ourselves and one another through readily accessible mitigation and safety practices such as masking, staying home when sick or after having been exposed, and vaccination. Finally, we have watched in disappointment as schools and public health organizations have folded to public pressure to abdicate their responsibility to help protect the most vulnerable members of our communities. 

We are still masking whenever we are indoors, as well as when near one another outdoors. We may still go remote during the worst periods of spread, but we may be outdoors depending on local hospital capacity. We still have vaccine qualifiers to go indoors. The most meaningful changes to this updated pandemic plan include new triggers for when we enter into different risk levels; altered protocols for where, when, and how we meet; and adjusted isolation and quarantine protocols. We based the changes on a deeper understanding of the risks of spread in a variety of contexts (e.g., indoor/outdoor, KN95/surgical/cloth masks); renewed humility driven by the diversity of outcomes of recent variants; observing the measures of air quality at the Abrome facility since returning indoors; and improved studies of incubation and infectious periods. All changes were made with a deep concern for how we could best serve the Abromies without leaving others behind. This update also serves as a bridge between the original AY21-22 pandemic plan and the forthcoming AY22-23 pandemic plan. Thank you for continuing on this journey with us.

With love and gratitude,

Antonio Buehler


August 5, 2021

Our values shape our pandemic response

Abrome is an education option for young people and a liberation project. We believe in youth liberation and in the liberation of all peoples, and that our liberation is bound up together. In order to help co-create a better world, we must actively work against the many forms of injustice that exist within our society, to include the oppression of young people. Abrome is a safe space for young people to practice freedom in a community that values consent, practices consensus, and centers the needs of those most impacted by our decisions and actions.

The wellbeing of the young people at Abrome is a precondition—we will not come together in-person if it puts Abrome Learners needlessly at risk. While we recognize that social interaction, particularly in Self-Directed Education settings, is greatly preferred over remote ones, we reject the privileged narrative that “school closures harm children.” That narrative ignores the many ways in which schooling causes harm to so many children. And so-called learning loss or lack of socialization does not hurt a young person nearly as much as losing someone in their family, household, or community to Covid-19, much less knowing that they were the source of infection. As of July 2021, the children who were hurt the most during the pandemic were the 119,000 who lost a primary caregiver to Covid-19, or the more than 140,000 who experienced the death of a primary or secondary caregiver, defined as co-residing grandparents or kin. Though children remain largely “unlikely to die from Covid-19,” death is not the only bad outcome. Infected adolescents and children continue to be hospitalized, admitted to the ICU, and intubated. They may also develop multi-system inflammatory syndrome or myocarditis. And many will suffer from Long Covid symptoms that can last for months, maybe even years, after they recover from Covid-19. Further, while many vaccinated adults have chosen to “return to normal” because they are largely immune to the worst outcomes of the disease, none of the young people under age 12 are eligible for vaccination, and some age 12 and up are unable to get vaccinated for various reasons. Ignoring the welfare of children should not be normal.

What we choose to do at Abrome does not stay within our immediate community. We are all interconnected. Even if we could ensure that none of the members of the Abrome community would be seriously affected by Covid-19, we would still view it as our responsibility to not carelessly risk spreading the disease to others. The elderly and those with underlying medical conditions are at the greatest risk of serious illness or death from Covid-19, and they have borne the brunt of the pandemic. Other groups that have been disproportionately affected include Hispanic, Black, and Indigenous people; low income people; and people in congregate settings (e.g., long-term care facilities, prisons, shelters, meat processing facilities). Those who fall into more than one of the aforementioned groups are particularly vulnerable. These groups, and other under-resourced, marginalized, and oppressed groups have also disproportionately suffered in terms of financial security and mental health during the pandemic. We cannot in good conscience enter into this new academic year without continuing to make the welfare of the most impacted central to our pandemic response.

At Abrome we often say that we are concerned about two worlds. There is the world that we live in, that we need to learn how to navigate. And there is the world that we want to live in, and we choose to live prefiguratively in order to help bring that world into being. The world we live in is eager to “return to normal,” letting those most at risk suffer the consequences. The world we want to live in is not risk free, but it rejects the notion of transferring risk from those with resources and power to those without. We acknowledge that each additional Covid-19 infection can lead to more infections, and each new infection has the potential to seed a superspreader event or a new variant of the virus. By greatly reducing the likelihood of infection or spread of the disease at Abrome, we will help minimize the harm to those in our communities and outside of them, and we will provide an example to others of what community care can look like.

With love and gratitude,

Antonio Buehler

March 28, 2021

Dear Abrome Learners and families,

We published the first version of this contingency planning document on June 9, 2020. This document outlined our plan for how we could more safely be together during the pandemic, and allowed our community to have more certainty about what the 2020-2021 academic year would look like. It also made clear that we were going to place community care before convenience, and people before profits. We would err on the side of centering the needs of those people who were most at risk of serious illness or death: the elderly, those with certain underlying medical conditions, BIPOC communities, those without material resources.

Our approach to the pandemic set us apart. We took everything outdoors in small cohorts of Learners and Facilitators. We prevented cross exposure by keeping cohorts physically distant from each other, and never having siblings in different cohorts (no matter their ages). We also held firm to stage based standards for coming together, to include shutting down in-person meetups when we hit the highest risk stage level of the pandemic in January and February of 2021. And our focus on community care extended beyond Abrome–Facilitators, Learners, and family members were all asked to adhere to Covid-19 protocols at home, and to be transparent and honest about situations that could put others at risk of exposure.

The people who make up the community at Abrome are as unique as our approach to the pandemic. Everyone at Abrome fundamentally agrees that children and adolescents should have autonomy over their lives and that they should be treated as full human beings. They recognize that the most important things young people can learn are completely left out of schoolish curriculum, such as how to find meaning in the world, how to build relationships with others, how to manage conflict, how to discover their own interests and gifts, and how to be with and enjoy oneself. They also understand that building community and being in community with others is vital to human flourishing.

There are not many parents and guardians who trust their children enough to allow them to experience Self-Directed Education in lieu of schooling in the best of times. And Abrome’s vigilant approach to protecting one another and the public during this pandemic shrunk that pool even further. But our collective focus on community care has allowed us to navigate this pandemic year in the most admirable of ways. Not only have we not had a single infection within our community (which means we have not contributed to the growth of the pandemic in any way), we have been able to support and hold one another through economic recession and hardship, an uprising centered on rejecting police brutality and racial injustice, right wing street violence and an attempted coup, and a debilitating winter storm that left millions without energy or water.

The pandemic is not over. As of March 27, 2021, the national 7-day moving average of new cases and deaths were still over 60,000 and 1,000, respectively. While much of society is eager to “return to normal,” we recognize that “normal” was never good enough. We will be able to loosen protocols as vaccinations increase and when community spread becomes rare. Eventually, we will be able to come back together indoors, although it may be limited to vaccinated Learners at first. This continues to be a living document. Thank you for your continued vigilance, your concern for others in our community, and your concern for broader society.

With love and gratitude,

Antonio Buehler

October 4, 2020

Dear Abrome Learners and families,

Thank you for filling out the survey on your household’s risk tolerance and exposure to the Covid-19 pandemic. I compiled the results and shared them in a blog post that was published today. Please read it and consider if there are practices you can engage in that will allow you to better serve your household, the Abrome community, and the wider Central Texas community as we work together to slow down the spread of Covid-19.

Thank you,
Antonio Buehler

June 9, 2020

Dear Abrome Learners and families, 

These past couple of months, since we physically separated for Spring Break, have been challenging for all of us. We have suffered from a lack of the connectedness that comes from being together in community with people we love and care about. But I am proud of the many different ways that the members of our community have shown up to support each other, and the resiliency that you have shown in the face of great uncertainty. Despite the uncertainties that abound, and the concerns we have for the health of our community, especially the members who carry greater risks of severe illness from Covid-19, I feel lucky and privileged to be going through this experience with you. We originally came together as an intentional community focused on liberating young people and improving the human condition. Never has the opportunity to do just that been more ripe than it is right now.

The threat of Covid-19 on the members of our community and on the wider public is real. As of Memorial Day weekend, 100,000 people had died from the disease in the United States alone, whereas there were only six deaths nationwide when our Spring Break began. Many more have survived but suffered through a very painful recovery process, and those who needed intensive hospital care likely had to recover alone. It is incumbent upon all of us to take prudent steps to protect each other, our families, and the broader public from this disease. 

While we are fortunate that thus far no Abrome Learners or their immediate family members have contracted Covid-19, this pandemic has been particularly difficult on some. Some are struggling mightily from the loss of friends or family members, or the fear that friends and family will contract Covid-19. Others are struggling financially because of lost jobs, working hours, and income. And for others, the lifestyle changes this pandemic has brought about, which have been vital to saving lives, may have fueled harmful habits or behaviors, or exacerbated interpersonal conflicts. While we need to continue to act prudently to save lives, we also need to envision creative and safe ways that we can be together. This document lays out contingency plans that will allow for us to turn those possibilities into reality.   

This contingency planning document is the result of insights gained from countless hours spent poring over the research and opinions of epidemiologists and other public health officials; analyzing forecasting models put forth by a wide range of institutions; reviewing the directives and guidance of federal, state, and local government agencies; reflecting on deep conversations with other educators; and taking into account the concerns raised by Facilitators, Learners, and Abrome families. We are proud of the progress that we have made with such a small team in such a short amount of time while still juggling all of our administrative and facilitation responsibilities.

We do not know if or when an effective vaccine will become widely available. Even if one becomes available, there is the possibility that many people will refuse to get vaccinated, which could prevent us from reaching herd immunity. Additionally, I believe that economic interests and political pressures are leading to a premature loosening of reasonable policies meant to limit the spread of the disease. I also believe that complacency, fear, frustration, and personal ideologies are intermixing in a manner that is compelling a growing segment of the population to reject behaviors that can protect the health of others. These conditions suggest that our community must be prepared to respond to multiple waves of infection over the next year or two. This planning document can help guide us through some of the uncertainty of this pandemic, but we will need to remain agile as assumptions and conditions will change. This is a living document, and we will be updating it based on the best evidence and research available, as well as evolving constraints placed upon us by the government and broader society.

With love and gratitude,

Antonio Buehler

April 17, 2020

Dear Abrome Community,

Governor Greg Abbott just announced that schools will be closed for the remainder of the year. He said, “the team of doctors advising us have determined that it would be unsafe to allow students together in schools for the foreseeable future. As a result, school classrooms are closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. That includes all public, private, and higher education institutions.”

We anticipated that this would happen, which is why when he previously announced that schools would remain closed through May 4th, we made the decision to close indefinitely. 

Currently we have three priorities: (1) support Abrome Learners and their families during this pandemic, (2) ensure the viability of Abrome moving forward, and (3) prepare the community to exist and operate in changing conditions as government, the medical community, and wider society responds in unpredictable ways to the progression of this pandemic. 

To support Abrome Learners and their families we will continue to host community meetings, facilitate online and offline offerings, partner with other SDE communities to provide offerings, and make ourselves available for both Learners and guardians who need connection. We would also like to encourage you to consider using the mutual aid worksheet to ask for support, or to offer support to others. 

To ensure the viability of Abrome moving forward we are exploring funding opportunities through government programs, alternative revenue sources, and additional enrollment. We are also rethinking what it means to operate as a community without a physical space during this necessary closure, and perhaps into the next academic year.

Finally, to prepare the community to operate when it is possible to come together again, we will be developing contingency plans that will allow us to navigate shifting distancing guidelines and shelter-in-place orders in ways that conventional schools would not be capable of doing. We hope to have Learners participate in that process with us.

We want to remain available to answer your questions and provide emotional support. Please consider logging into the Wednesday evening guardian drop-ins on Antonio’s Zoom room, or contact us directly if you need to chat. Antonio’s number is [included in email] and Jennifer’s number is [included in email].

Thank you for being a part of the Abrome community,
Jennifer and Antonio

April 1, 2020

Dear Abrome Community,

Yesterday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that all schools in the state will continue to remain closed until Monday, May the 4th. In light of this latest order, and with greater clarity on the vital and life saving impact* that school closures and vigilant social distancing can have, Abrome will remain closed indefinitely. Remote support of Learners and their families will continue. 

To minimize uncertainty and stress on the part of our families, we have tried our best to be proactive and transparent in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic and our plans for the future. For example, on March 13th we announced that we were going to extend our spring break an additional week. Then, understanding that a two-week closure post-spring break would be insufficient, we committed to closing our physical space through at least April 24th, whereas local public schools closed through April 3rd, and some local independent schools closed through April 10th. 

At this time, we do not see the benefit of providing another potential return date given the high likelihood of a future order by the Governor to close schools for the remainder of the year. Instead, we will only reopen when it is clear that doing so will not endanger the health or lives of people in the Abrome community or wider society. We plan to continue to be in conversation with families so they will be prepared to transition when we make the announcement to reopen.  

Because our academic year runs into mid-July, there is a possibility that we could reopen in the summer while local schools are still closed. On the other hand, we want to caution families that there is no guarantee that schools will be reopening in August or September, and families should mentally prepare for the possibility that we may still be meeting remotely come next fall.

The Abrome Facilitators are here to support you and your Learners no matter how long we need to be closed for this pandemic, and we will still be here for you on the tail end of it during the recovery. Like you, we are committed to sustaining the community we have co-created. These are uncertain times and we hope that Abrome will serve as a dependable constant in your lives. In addition to our Wednesday evening guardian drop-ins in Antonio’s Zoom room, we welcome you to call, text, or email us if you need to chat. Antonio’s number is [included in email] and Jennifer’s number is [included in email].

With love and gratitude,
Jennifer and Antonio

* According to a March 26th report by The University of Texas at Austin, the Austin-Round Rock area would need to keep schools closed and reduce daily contacts (personal and business) within the community by 90% in order to avoid overwhelming local hospital capacities by the summer.

March 29, 2020

Dear Abrome Community,

We are more than ready to have the Learners back with us, remotely, this week. While we miss the energy of having the Learners sharing space at Abrome, we greatly appreciate everyone’s understanding of the vital importance of us doing our part to slow the spread of COVID-19 so we limit the number of people who become infected in the near-term, buying our medical community time to ramp up capacity and invent effective treatments for the disease. We do not know how long it will take us to get back to normal, but being a small, Self-Directed Education community that prides itself on being agile, we will be able to weather the storm.

“We find only the world we look for.”
~ Thoreau

While inconvenient in many ways, there is tremendous potential for us in building community and engaging in Self-Directed Education, remotely. We are going to be able to practice communication and relationship-building, and listening to each other, and supporting each other in ways that we did not need to when we were in the same physical space each day. We are implementing a variety of tools to help facilitate this. You can go to our new Current Families tab on our website to more easily locate these tools in the weeks moving forward. [*******] is the password you will use to access the tab — please do not share the password with others.

Zoom rooms: Both Antonio and Jennifer have zoom rooms set up that Learners will be able to log into to participate in meetings, join in on offerings, and hang out with other Learners and Facilitators. You or your Learner will need to download Zoom on their computer or device so that they can simply click the appropriate link to join. Please do not share the Zoom room address with others as there are reports of people crashing into Zoom meetings and disrupting them.

Discord Server: We recently set up a Discord server for Abrome Learners to hang out on throughout the day. Learners can text or voice chat with each other in a variety of channels (e.g., flying-squads, roblox, meetings). We assume it will primarily be a place where older Learners will hang out but it is open to all Learners. We kindly ask that guardians not request to join the Abrome Discord server.

Offerings Calendar: We have also set up an Abrome Calendar that has a listing of all Abrome offerings. Here you and your Learners can see all of the meetings they are encouraged to participate in, and all of the offerings that they might consider joining in on. At the Abrome space joining in on the meetings is an expectation, but during this remote period we recognize that any variety of factors may make that difficult. Therefore, while we do not mind if you prompt your Learners of upcoming meetings or offerings, we would appreciate it if you did not force them to participate.


Inter-ALC offerings: We are always collaborating with other Self-Directed Education centers (primarily Agile Learning Communities) throughout the US and the world, but during this time we have redoubled our efforts to support one another so that our Learners and our communities are taken care of. One of the primary ways we are supporting each other in this moment is sharing select offerings with the wider network. So many of our offerings will be open to Learners in other communities, and many of the offerings the other communities are offering will be open to our Learners. During our Set-the-Week meeting (Monday this week, Friday each following week) we will decide which offerings call on our Learners the most and we will add them to our calendar with “InterALC offering” listed on it. Here’s a screenshot [see email for high resolution image] of the Inter-ALC offerings that the network has made available to each other from Monday through Wednesday of this coming week (with select Abrome offerings in there).

Abrome offering form: If you would like to propose an offering for the community you can use the Abrome offering form. You can specify when you would like to host it, if it should be open to the Abrome community or the Inter-ALC community, and if you need a certain number of commitments to make it happen. Reminder, we kindly ask you to allow your Learners to choose (without pressure) whether or not they want to participate in your offering.

1:1 Check-in form: Each Learner will meet individually at least once with a Facilitator each week, although they can request to meet with them as often as they would like, and they can interact with them throughout the day at meetings, offerings, in the Zoom room, or on Discord. Learners can state their preferences for when they would like to check in with Facilitators on the 1:1 Check-in form, and they can update it at any time.

Also, you will find other useful links on the Current Families tab. Included in those links are the mutual aid form and spreadsheet, and we highly encourage you to ask for support and to offer support when and how you can. There are some open needs that I’m sure some folks can help out with (e.g., recipes for foods that are left at the store, meal prep).

“What is a rite?” asked the little prince.
“Those also are actions too often neglected,” said the fox. “They are what make one day different from other days, one hour from other hours.
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

You’ve likely heard people arguing that kids need “structure” now that schools are closed. As Abrome families, you are unlikely to fall into the fear-based practice of recreating the structures of schooling at home. But we do acknowledge and value rituals (and tools) that can help us facilitate meaningful learning experiences with Learners. That is why we have morning, afternoon, Set-the-Week, and Change-up meetings. It’s why we have daily cleanup when we are at Abrome, and why we will have scheduled, individual check-ins with each Learner during this remote period. We also want to carve out time for you to interact with Facilitators and other families each Wednesday evening at 5p in Antonio’s Zoom room. Additionally, Antonio will be hosting Education Conversations discussions with the Westbank Libraries via Zoom at 6p each Thursday and you are welcome to join in for more conversation then. Finally, we are also hosting an 8a Coffee and Conversation each Wednesday for interested families and educators, and we encourage you to tell people (including skeptical family members) who may want to learn more about Abrome to drop in, and you are welcome to join that, as well.

We also hope that you will create rituals at home with your Learners, or help them create their own. One potential ritual families can practice is shared meals. Breakfast can serve as a time to share family intentions that can help them mentally shape their day. Dinner time is a great opportunity to reflect on the day and to raise awarenesses of how you can all better live, work, and play together. Trying to set a consistent bedtime may also be helpful if they do not regularly go to bed in time to get a good night’s rest.

Some Learners (like us adults) may feel frustrated with extended isolation from friends, or even a distressing sense of cabin fever. We have no expectation for how long they are logged into Zoom, Discord, or various offerings, and we encourage you to allow them to get outside as often as possible, while still practicing social distancing, of course. Also, with isolation can come feelings of depression or boredom. Fortunately, Abrome Learners are going to have the opportunity to interact with and play with other Learners and Facilitators throughout the day, so they will be less isolated than conventional school students who are being forced to work through academic courses at home. With regard to potential boredom, we encourage you to remind the Learners to go back to the intentions they set for the day, to check the offerings calendar, or to check in on the Zoom room or Discord server in order to find their footing again. But if none of those can fill the void, consider allowing the Learners to simply be with themselves. There is immense potential in being able to sit and be with oneself.

“When there’s nothing to do, you do nothing slowly and intently.”
~ Haruki Murakami

Thank you for the privilege of being able to build community with you and your Learners. We are excited to see where this next chapter takes us.

With love and gratitude,
Jennifer and Antonio

March 18, 2020

Dear Abrome community,

We have been closely monitoring the situation with COVID-19 and weighing the input and guidance of public health experts to inform our decision about how to proceed with the best interests of the Abrome Learners, their families, and the broader public in mind. Based on the possibility that there is significant community spread of COVID-19 that has gone undetected due to insufficient testing capabilities, and given limited medical capacity (e.g., beds, respirators, surgical masks, nurses, doctors) to care for those infected by the virus, we have a moral obligation to proactively close site-based activities at Abrome through April 24th, at the earliest. Given the projections of the spread of COVID-19 and the medical community’s ability to respond to it, it is possible that the Abrome facility will remain closed for the rest of the year. We know that closing will cause a hardship for some families, and we want you to know that we did not come to this decision lightly. We will resume operations remotely on Monday, March 30th

Navigating the now, creating the future
We have spoken in the past of a need to navigate the world that we live in, while creating the future we want to see. At this moment, navigating the world we live in includes practicing good hygiene and social distancing, and for some of us, searching for novel ways to pay our bills. But in this time of uncertainty, isolation, and economic disruption that is unprecedented in our lifetimes, we have the opportunity to collectively imagine and build healthier relationships and communities. And our Abrome community is uniquely positioned to do that.

First, we are fortunate that we had already begun our two-week spring break when it became clear that schools and other organizations would need to shut down as a necessary precaution against the spread of COVID-19. That gave us the time and space to evaluate the developing situation and extend spring break to a third week so that we could continue to plan for how we would support the Learners moving forward. 

Second, we are fortunate that we are members of a Self-Directed Education community that believes in the autonomy of children, and that learning is not confined to academic silos or to physical structures. Because we believe that learning is always happening, we recognize that off-site learning is as valid and potential-filled as being at Abrome. Further, because Abrome Learners were already freed from the unnecessary practices and structures of schooling (e.g., standardized curriculum, homework, testing, grading) moving our community online will be much easier, and less challenging or traumatic than it would be for most conventionally schooled young people. This is not intended to minimize the very real anxiety or disruption your Learners may be working through.

Third, we are fortunate that we are in communication with other Self-Directed Education communities that are just as dedicated to supporting their Learners’ journeys as we are. In particular, we are members of the Agile Learning Centers (ALC) network and are actively collaborating with them to build and share resources that will allow us to support Abrome Learners from a distance.

Finally, building relationships and co-creating community have always been at the core of what Abrome does. We now get the opportunity to practice both in ways that will challenge and stretch us, requiring us to be even more intentional and aware of how we respond to one another. 

Being agile
In lieu of being able to meet at Abrome, we will have a Zoom room running from 9:45 to 4:15p each day. The tools we use to help support Learners at Abrome will continue to be used, but they will be adapted to meet our remote needs. We will continue to have our morning and afternoon meetings, our Set-the-Week meeting, and our Check-in and Change-up meeting. We will continue to document our intentions, maintain a Set-the-Week board, and maintain a Community Awareness Board. And in addition to Abrome offerings hosted by Facilitators, Learners, and guardians, we will contribute to and benefit from offerings that will be available to all the SDE centers in the ALC network. We will send a separate email with access to all the tools we are working on later this week or early next week. 

Mutual aid
Abrome uses a sliding scale tuition model so we can be accessible to as many families as possible. The COVID-19 pandemic is directly harming some of our families as working hours are cut or jobs are lost. Further, there are members of our community who have risk factors that increase the severity of potential infection and therefore need to increase social distancing or even self-isolate. 

We felt that it was important to help facilitate a mutual aid network within the community so that everyone recognizes their potential to directly support one another in this time of uncertainty. It is too early to tell if our mutual aid group will be able to meet the needs of all the members of our community, but this moment in time gives us the opportunity to practice community in its truest form–allowing us to validate the inherent worth of every member of our community and recognizing that each of us can contribute to the wellbeing of the whole.

Please continue to use the mutual aid form and spreadsheet to ask for or offer support to other members of the community. 

Supporting families
We will hold two support calls to answer any questions you may have. Please log into our Zoom room tomorrow, Thursday, March 19th at 11 am or 6 pm for a community conversation. Our Zoom room can be accessed by clicking this link: [provided in email]. 

Facilitators will also be doing more regular check-ins with families. We would prefer to do so via the Zoom room or phone. If you have a preference on how you would like to interact with us please let us know.

Supporting your Learner at home
Abrome Learners already know what it feels like to be free when it comes to their education. There is a lot of advice being thrown around about how parents should manage homeschooling their children now that schools are closed (or will close). Please do your best to resist falling into the belief that you need to fill your Learner’s day with learning experiences. Again, learning happens all the time, and Self-Directed Learners should be trusted to let their interests and needs guide them to activities that are most meaningful to them. Learners do not need to have their day filled with academic lessons, mandated reading or writing, or any sort of focus on “core skills.”   

Furthermore, most young people understand that the outside world is reeling from COVID-19 and many of them are anxious and scared. The last thing young people need right now is arbitrary and unnecessary academic requirements and expectations coming from school, much less their own family members. They need comfort and support, and a belief that their interests and wellbeing still occupy a central place in the hearts and minds of their loved ones. Not only is filling their days at home with schoolish activities unnecessary and counterproductive, but it will interfere with your ability to speak to their fears and assure them that you are there to support them unconditionally. 

One way you can support their education is to model Self-Directed Education at home. If they see their loved ones pursuing projects that are meaningful to them, they will be more likely to do so themselves. As Facilitators we plan to continue to model SDE explicitly through our interactions with them. Antonio will talk about the book groups that he is participating in, the neighborhood mutual aid group that he is helping to organize, the work he is doing with the local library and with the Alliance for Self-Directed Education, his support of the ALC network, and the various projects he is working on for Abrome. Jennifer will talk about her work building mutual aid networks with houseless people, building ALC relationships, cross stitching, writing articles for the Abrome blog, and practicing her Spanish.  

Supporting Abrome 
We would like to express our immense gratitude to all of our families for continuing to support the Abrome community through this pandemic. One Facilitator works and lives paycheck to paycheck, and the other Facilitator has been working without pay. This closure has the potential to create great hardship for all of us. If it is at all within your means, please consider continuing tuition payments so that we all have an Abrome to come back to when this is all over. We would like to thank those of you who have already offered to pay for next year’s tuition and fees to help us bridge the gap. If you are struggling and need support with tuition, please reach out. 

With love and gratitude, 

Jennifer and Antonio

March 14, 2020

Dear Abrome community, 

We recognize that you may be stressed right now given the spread of COVID-19, potential life and work disruptions, and financial strain. We have developed the attached Mutual Aid form and linked spreadsheet that we can use to help take care of each other during this uncertain time. The idea behind this is to coordinate mutual aid for community members. This means Abrome Learners, guardians, and extended family at the very least. 

We understand that to various extents, families rely on Abrome as a place for kids to be looked after during the day. We also know that our individual circumstances leave us each with different needs, as well as skills and resources that we can offer to one another. 

If you are in need of care for your Learner/s, or can potentially offer care to others, or if you have any other needs or offerings to provide, please fill out the following survey. The information you provide will be posted to the linked google spreadsheet that will be shared with all Abrome families: [link provided in original email]. 

Once you fill out the form you can edit your responses directly on the spreadsheet.

If you see a potential match in needs & offers, please be in touch with each other directly, and write down your name in column T of the spreadsheet.

Making an offer does not constitute a hard and fast commitment. We know people’s circumstances can be unpredictable. 

A bit about Mutual Aid: 

1. functions best decentralized 

2. doesn’t have to be perfect

3. doesn’t need approval from above; doesn’t need a meeting to start 

4. can work in small groups – people helping people

5. helps create a way for autonomy and self organization to happen

6. is solidarity with consent

As little physical contact with others as possible seems ideal, but smaller groups are definitely better than bigger groups.

Reminder that anyone showing symptoms of illness (e.g., fever, dry cough) should stay away from others. If you have been in contact with anyone who develops symptoms you should assume that you caught what they caught and distance yourself from others.

Here’s hoping we can all help take care of each other! <3

Jennifer and Antonio

March 13, 2020

Dear Abrome community, 

It is heartening to know that as of this time everyone in our immediate community is seemingly unaffected by the rapidly spreading coronavirus (COVID-19), at least from a health perspective. However, earlier today the first two confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Austin area were announced. Although neither case is believed to be the result of community spread, it would not be unreasonable to assume that there are unconfirmed cases of coronavirus in Austin.

The Facilitators just got off a call with each other and we have decided to extend spring break a week so that we can continue to monitor the situation and be best positioned to support Learners and families moving forward. As of now, our first day back in session will be Monday, March 30th. Whether that will be in person or remote is not yet known.


We are currently planning for what to do should we not be able to gather in person on March 30th. Here are some preliminary thoughts:

Starting on March 30th we will have a Zoom room available should we need to meet remotely (or for those families who want to keep their Learners at home if Abrome is open). At least one Facilitator will be available for Learners and families in the Zoom room from 9:45 am to 4:15 pm each day. The Zoom room can be accessed at [link provide in email]. 

We will continue to have our morning and afternoon meetings at 10:00 am and 3:45 pm, respectively, where we will come together and share intentions, awarenesses, and reflections. But no community cleanup!

We will continue to have our weekly Set-the-Week and Check-in & Change-up meetings on Fridays. 

We will host remote offerings that can be facilitated by Learners, guardians, or Facilitators (e.g., reading circle, free write, 7-minute workout, Roblox, current events discussions, movie discussion club, GeoGuessr).

We will move some of our Agile tools online to support the Learners (e.g., Set-the-Week board, Community Awareness Board, intentions), and discuss introducing other tools as necessary. 

Importantly, this is a time when we as a community need to support each other and rely on each other. We recognize that we all have different needs and we have different things to offer each other. We will be setting up a mutual aid form that will facilitate that and we will be sharing it in our next update.

We will send you all updates by email, and all the Abrome updates related to COVID-19 will also be posted on our website under a new Coronavirus header at http://www.abrome.com/covid-19. This tab will also soon include resources for Abrome families. 

We are so proud of the community we’re building together and we thank you for your trust and understanding as we stay informed about health updates and craft a plan accordingly. While we are hopeful for what we are building, let’s remember to be kind to others as they deal with uncertainty and fear.

Jennifer and Antonio

March 1, 2020

Dear Abrome community, 

Flu season may be winding down, but seasonal colds, flu-like viruses, and other communicable illnesses can pop up anytime. We are also awaiting the spread of the novel coronavirus [1] throughout the US, which health officials are saying will almost certainly happen.[2] 

There is a chance that people are overreacting to the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19). At the same time, the potential threat is significant enough that it warrants our attention. What we know about the coronavirus today is that it is more serious than the flu. In short, the coronavirus has a significantly higher rate of transmission, a longer incubation period, can live on surfaces longer, has a higher complication rate, and has a substantially higher death rate [3] than the flu. It has the potential to become a pandemic.

While many of the aforementioned illnesses are not serious for most people, we would like to remind families that several members of our community are immuno-compromised, and most of us have elderly family members or friends, and it is therefore important for all of us to take extra precautions to limit the spread of germs. 

We encourage families to discuss normal hygiene practices such as washing hands (especially before preparing food or using kitchen appliances), coughing and sneezing into elbows or tissues, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.  

We request that if your Learner is displaying any indication that they are ill that you keep them at home. Learners running a fever should not come to Abrome, and should not return for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone. A Facilitator will call you and ask you to come pick up your Learner if they are exhibiting symptoms at Abrome. We realize that this can be inconvenient, but in order to prevent the spread of disease and to protect the most vulnerable members of our extended community, it is critical that we self-isolate and self-quarantine when necessary, and that we communicate with each other when someone becomes ill. 

On our end, we will clean frequently touched surfaces and objects like door knobs with disinfectant three times daily. We will remind Learners to stay home when sick, wash their hands often with soap and water, and to cough or sneeze into a tissue or a sleeve (instead of into the air or into their hands). We will also dedicate some meta sessions about spreading illness, and raise awarenesses about the topic at the weekly Check-in and Change-up meeting. 

If a Facilitator believes they are falling ill then that Facilitator will self-isolate (not come to Abrome). And if that happens, outings will be cancelled. If both Facilitators begin to show symptoms we will ask that Learners not attend Abrome until further notice. Both of our Facilitators have already gotten the flu vaccine, and we will also get the pandemic vaccine as soon as one is developed and becomes available. If a local public health department recommends that schools start closing or canceling events, or other public institutions begin to shut down, we will ask that families to keep their Learners at home. We would then work with each family to support the Learners via one-on-one, daily, remote sessions. 

Please reach out with any questions or concerns you may have. Thank you for your consideration and for helping us take care of each other.

Jennifer and Antonio


1: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/summary.html

2: “It’s likely that at some point, widespread transmission of COVID-19 in the United States will occur.” – CDC, https://jayapal.house.gov/services/coronavirus-update/3: The death rate escalates for older patients. Early numbers show a death rate significantly less than 1% through the age of 40, but it jumps to 8% for people in their 70s, and over 14% for people over 80.