Abrome has three developmentally informed programs (roots, branches, and canopy) that reduce ambiguity around the expectations and obligations we have toward one another, and provide a pathway toward greater responsibilities that will allow each person to flourish on their own timeline within an interconnected and supportive community of autonomous learners.

These programs allow us to provide differentiated forms of support and structure to meet the needs of both the individual young person and the larger Abrome collective. These programs are not defined by strict age guidelines, and none of these programs limit what a young person can learn or study. There may be young people in roots who are doing advanced academics, and a canopy teen may find the need to go back and review basic academic material that they never learned in their prior school. Abromies may initiate the process to transition into the next program when they feel they are ready for greater responsibility.

The ages that one would normally fall into roots, branches, and canopy are 4-11, 8-14, and 12-18, respectively. In the image below, the darkest area in each band indicates the ages at which deschooled young people would more often find themselves mastering most of the competencies and mindsets that suggest they are ready to consider moving into the next group, or in the case of canopy, the period in which they become fully self-actualized, self-directed learners who are ready to boldly move on. Because learning is not linear, and because each of us develops in our own unique ways, these age ranges are general guidelines, not hard limits. A brief description of each program follows.

Seeds (3-5yo) participants are gently introduced to the concept of being an intentional member of the Abrome community with substantial support from a parent or guardian.

  1. Experiences:
    Seeds participants engage in free, open-ended, and imaginative play for the bulk of the day, with structured gatherings at the beginning, middle (i.e., lunch), and end of the day where they are supported in practicing intentionality and culture co-creation.

  1. Expectations to participate:
    The presence of  a parent or guardian at all times during the Abrome day; no drop-offs. Participating families are committed to Self-Directed Education and growing with Abrome throughout their children’s K-12 years.

  1. Constraints:
    Seeds will not be initiated until we have at least 25 enrolled Abromies and the capacity to have at least 4 full-time Facilitators. Seeds will not be available for young people ages 6 and above. Longer term we expect to cap seeds at no more than 8% of enrollment.

Roots (~4-11 yo) participants want a diverse and inclusive community, and are learning to be in community with others.

  1. Experiences:
    Roots participants spend much of their day in open-ended, spontaneous free play with boundaries supported by Facilitators. Participants practice setting intentions and engaging in intentional learning. Participants develop an understanding that freedom without regard for the welfare of others is not freedom for all, so it is not freedom at all, and that their exercise of freedom entails responsibilities toward others.
  1. Expectations to participate:
    An understanding of the principles and agreements of Abrome, and an explicit commitment, by both the young person and the family, to honoring them. Active engagement in conflict resolution when applicable, takes ownership over their impact on others, and participates in culture co-creation. Responsive to the questions and guidance of Facilitators, and able to engage in dialogue.
  1. Constraints:
    New enrollees ages 10 or younger must start in roots. Longer term we expect to cap roots at no more than 15% of total enrollment.

Branches (~8-14 yo) participants want a diverse and inclusive community, and are learning to be in community with others.

  1. Experiences:
    Branches participants are autonomous learners who are supported in setting longer term goals, managing their time, reflecting on their experiences, and sharing their learning with others. Participants begin to take on leadership roles within the space, facilitate gatherings, initiate conflict resolution processes, mentor younger Abromies, and host offerings. Participants may begin to seek out external opportunities (e.g., volunteering, apprenticeships) with Facilitator support. Participants develop an understanding of how their freedoms are tied to the liberation of all peoples, and embrace the responsibilities of community care inside and outside of Abrome.
  1. Expectations to participate:
    Mastery over all the expectations of roots. Honor the principles and agreements of Abrome when no one is looking. Active engagement in the culture co-creation process, to include holding themselves and others accountable for their choices and actions. Willing to give and receive feedback, even if it is critical feedback. Thoughtful participation in meetings, conversations, and discussions.
  1. Constraints:
    New enrollees ages 13 and younger must start in branches. Longer term we expect to cap branches at no more than 31% of total enrollment.

Canopy (~12-18 yo) teens take a proactive role in their development of self, become stewards of the community, and lead a remarkable life in the present.

  1. Experiences:
    Canopy teens develop and execute a personalized education plan that has clear goals and objectives; and may include independent or group projects, focused reading periods, creative projects, independent study, seminars, college coursework, online programs, targeted tutoring, volunteering, apprenticeships, and paid work. Participants have considerable flexibility in how they structure their days, with ample time for socialization and play, and may spend as much time off campus as they spend on it. Canopy teens have the option to receive support in diving deeply and intensely into an area of focus that allows them to develop expertise.
  1. Expectations to participate:
    Mastery over all the expectations of branches. Weekly, structured, one-on-one mentoring sessions where they receive support setting goals, seeking out resources, managing their learning and projects, and preparing for what’s after Abrome. Thoughtful participation in deep, meaningful conversations about navigating the world they live in, and envisioning ways they can help create a better world by the way they live their lives. Although they may not be on campus full time, they take their responsibility to serve as role models in the community very seriously.
  1. Constraints:
    Applicants over the age of 16 will need to demonstrate that they have initiated the deschooling process, and that they will tangibly benefit from, and are eager to fully embrace the Abrome experience.

As indicated in the descriptions above, the expectations for each Abromie are firm, but not uniform or strictly age-based, and vary based on the individual needs of the young person. This is to help support their learning and growth by giving them conditions that allow for blossoming, while minimizing any harm that may be done to other Abromies or the broader community given their place in the deschooling process and their personal evolution. These expectations are developmentally informed to decrease a sense of overwhelm for younger or less experienced members, and to support quickly expanding possibilities for older, more experienced, or more mature members of the community.

Each member is responsible for giving their best effort toward the six agreements: Honor Abrome Principles; Honor community awarenesses and assist in culture creation; Meaningfully participate in meetings, Clean up after myself and participate in end of the day community cleanup, Authentically share work and play with the community, and Commit to anti-oppressive language and behavior. Additional program specific expectations are listed below.

A small “x” is indicated for seeds because each participant would have minimal expectations and receive ample support in participating in the morning and afternoon meeting, and they would have a significantly simplified cleanup task. A large “X” is indicated for the other three programs because such a commitment is a firm expectation. The explanation of the commitments that follow exclude seeds.

Everyone fully participates in morning meetings and afternoon roundups. These meetings run a bit differently for each program, with increased focus on intention and reflection, and increasingly complex conversation as Abromies move from roots to branches to canopy. Canopy and branches participants may leave early on select days for college classes, internships, volunteering, or work. Everyone fully participates in the daily community cleanup, to a degree that is appropriate for each Abromie. If one plans to leave early they will complete their cleanup responsibilities before leaving.

Roots and branches gather weekly to discuss the benefits and potential of technology; but also more concerning issues such as misinformation, programming for addiction, how social media can distort our perception of ourselves and others, media bias, corporate and government influence and the manufacturing of consent, data collection, and how white supremacists have used online forums as a recruiting tool. The discussions also touch upon how we can mindfully manage our use of technology.

Branches participants attend a “culture meeting” once per week, where they discuss issues relevant to building a culture of care within a community (e.g., anti-oppression, communication, conflict resolution, friendship, inclusion, mutual aid), whether at Abrome, at home, or in other spaces.

Canopy participants attend a “difficult topics & big ideas” discussion at least once per week, where they discuss topics and ideas relevant to their lives and future (e.g., relationships, self-improvement, jobs, college), as well as larger societal issues (e.g., climate change, corporate influence on political systems, social inequality, social oppression), and actionable steps that they can take to effect change in their lives or society. This meeting is a more sophisticated extension of some of the conversations that often happen at the morning meeting.

Everyone participates in the weekly “check-in” meeting where awarenesses to improve the community are raised, and branches and canopy participants stick around for the “change-up” meeting where we come up with new practices that will allow us to shift the culture and norms of the community. Roots are welcome to participate in the “change-up,” and anyone who raises an awareness is highly encouraged to participate in the discussion.

Canopy participants attend at least one one-to-one coaching and mentoring session each week.

Finally, the small “g” indicates that those canopy participants that have begun the graduation process will meet regularly as a group once per week for the entirety of the year.

The increased responsibility of participants as they move into the next program also allows for increased trust and privileges. The graphics below illustrate the privileges for the programs.

Abromies have free choice on how they spend their time outside of the required meetings and cleanup. This includes hosting or proposing offerings. A resource based offering is one in which we need to procure additional resources beyond what we have on hand, and only branches and canopy participants are able to host or propose resource based offerings by themselves. The small “c” represents a conditional privilege, and roots participants can host or propose such an offering if they are supported by someone in branches or canopy.

Abromies of all ages must be supported in doing remarkable work at Abrome, especially the branches and canopy participants who are embracing the more advanced opportunities of Self-Directed Education. To support this, the indoor spaces (except the den) are reserved for quiet work time for the first half of each day (10-1p). Seeds, roots, and anyone who does not have a defined and agreed upon activity to work on must remain outdoors (or in the den) during this time. Qualifying activities include but are not limited to academic programs, coding, college coursework, design, silent reading, and writing.

We are a technology friendly space, and we recognize that screens can be valuable tools for connection, entertainment, learning, play, and regulation. But we also recognize that social media and gaming companies profit off of our attention, and that developing the skills to manage how much we give to those companies requires awareness and self-regulation. Some people can get lost in devices to such a degree that they miss out on connecting with others, and the day passes them by. Some people can become so consumed that they forget to take care of their own bodily needs or they lose the ability to manage their impact on others. For these reasons we seek to provide support around devices, such as the weekly technology discussion for roots and branches, so that they remain tools instead of obstacles. We also limit the use of devices to the outdoors (and den) for roots, while branches and canopy may use them indoors. Exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis for those who use devices as a necessary tool for emotional regulation or communication. Computers are available at the facility for all Abromies.

Flying Squads, aka “get lost day,” is our program to practice Self-Directed Education and community, and take up public space in the city where young people are not always welcome. These are fun, irreverent, full-day experiences that have been a highlight of the Abrome experience since 2019. All Abromies who take on the responsibilities of being in branches or canopy are able to participate.

Because we value learning and living beyond the walls of the Abrome facility, we want to support young people in seeking out a wide diversity of experiences in broader society. Canopy participants are trusted to have off-campus privileges so that they can access those experiences, and branches may be afforded off-campus privileges for supported opportunities such as apprenticeships or volunteering.

Finally, canopy members who have been at Abrome for at least two full academic years, and are 16-years-old or older at the date of graduation, will have the opportunity to go through the formal graduation process.