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Year3 Week2

Another week is coming to an end. Another week full of activities and classes. A trip to Museum Of Design Atlanta to view their exhibit on arts and craftivism. A lot of enrichment plans in the works. A lot of tweaks in programming and new notes on students. New facilitator training. Meetings after school 3 days in a row. Board meeting coming up.

I’m quickly falling back into that after school fatigue where 4 hours of me doing nothing quickly pass by and I’ve lost the opportunity to do something amazing with myself. Something about the day is burning me out. The noise. Wrestling. All the busyness. The chaotic movement of little people about the space.

I put on a solo art show for myself about a month ago. Having a deadline felt great. Right now I find the creative energy and inspiration has left me. Trying to find opportunities to jump start it.

Something I’m doing is not sustainable. I think maybe trying to directly facilitate as many specific interests as their are children is a bit overambitious a goal. There’s something not clicking for them about what school can be for them in an SDE context so I feel compelled to bring the resources to them instead of waiting for them to put energy into pursuing those resources. I’m sure that will evolve as the months go by.


Week1- Keeping Busy

Tuesday and Wednesday, the first two days of school, were exhausting. The kids level of excitement and energy, though understandable, was overwhelming. It made it hard for me to exist peacefully inside. To keep help me ignore the chaos I’ve been having my own pursuits based on researching and prepping materials and activities to cater to student intentions. Focusing on this stuff has felt really good and it’s helped a lot. The day goes by quicker, not that I specifically want it to.

Building off of last years lessons I’m really aiming to have a year that’s rich with different activities and exposure. This week we’ve already formed classes around animal research, creative writing, and art.

For such a long time I’ve been wanting to introduce the kids to this game called Cities: Skyline. It’s an amazingly detailed city building game. The lessons in urban planning are abundant. It doesn’t have the bells, whistles, and flashing lights that the kids are use to so they all got bored quickly. Sucks that they aren’t into it but sometimes this happens.

Today I’m planning to do a Hrtwd Radio show. It’ll be a weekly review and reflection of the week with a student or two as a cohost. This is to give the parents a different format than email and to provide a little entertainment. Here is a link to our first show.


We start each school year out with an orientation. It’s great for getting the whole school community in the same room and on the same page. United and informed about the year ahead.

WE give updates on changes to our programming. We play games to connect and build community. We review our mission and what what facilitators feel like their purpose is. We review the calendar for the year. We review our fundraising plan and teach parents how to be a mouthpiece for the school. Then we collect some intentions and interests of the students to start the year.



Year 3

Heartwood is about to start its third operating year. WOW! How did we get here?

It’s been a hard, long, and sometimes very stressful journey. A lot of personal development and new perspectives. The school has shifted and adapted a lot. A few WFIO moments. (we’re fucked. it’s over)

We’ve gotten to a place of a resilient and healthy culture amongst youth and adults.

We have a lot of people to thank for their wisdom and support.

I’ve gotten a lot clearer about my mission and my own life has been deeply impacted by this work. My own ambition has increased.

Vision and persistence got us here. Passion and sacrifice got us here. Community got us here.


This year I want to focus a lot more on facilitating enriching activities that aren’t just one-off things. I want to add some depth. I want to add internship like activities. I want to create more community building events and memories.

This year I feel focused. I have realistic yet challenging goals.

I’ve learned more about working with parents, I’ve deschooled myself quite a bit. I’ve learned how significant culture is to everything.

Let’s see what this year will be about.


Also also, quite committed to blogging here again.

Heartwood Self Assessment

It took me a while to type and publish this so this post is fairly old.

This is the last week of the school year for Heartwood ALC.

We’re running a special schedule this week where we reflect and have Group Game everyday. (Group Game time is a period when we all agree to play a game together for a few minutes or a few rounds until the opt out point. At that point anyone who no longer wants to play may go on with their day while others are free to continue)

For Monday’s reflection we looked at our Student Agreement contract and graded ourselves on how well we did at upholding those agreements. We also suggested edits for an updated contract next school year.

These averages are on a scale of 1 to 5. 1 for did poorly, 5 for did well. The red will be the student’s score for themselves as a unit. The green will be the facilitators score for the students.


  • Participate in Meetings:   4.5     4
  • Participate in Reflection:  4.2     3
  • Clean up During the day:  2.5     1.5
  • Clean up at End of Day:    4.2       4
  • Take Care of Space:           2.9      3.5
  • Take Care of Materials:      3.1      2.5
  • Respect Community Agreements from Change Up:        2.7      3.5
  • Respect Yourself:               4.1       4.5
  • Respect for Others:           2.2        3
  • Help Solve Conflicts        4.1         3.5
  • Be Responsible for Making School:
    • Fun                                 4.7         4
    • Happy                             4          4
    • Safe                               3.3         4
    • Supportive                    3.6         3


The only suggestion for changing the student agreements was choosing either the word fun OR happy as they are synonymous.

reflective questions at end of school day

some spaces ask

“did you get good grades today? did you obey the rules today”


our space asks

“were you a good person today. did you become a better person? did you improve today? did you reach a goal? did you do good? Did you help your friend/neighbor/community today? did you challenge yourself? were you happy? did you enjoy yourself? are you satisfied with your day? what would you do differently about today?”

Short Blogs on Culture

I came across these blog posts about the power and importance of culture. They’re HR oriented but definitely some great takeaways that I think are relevant to school culture as groomed at ALCs.

This talks about grooming and maintaining culture in a fast growing community.

Here’s a piece that talks about getting intentional with shaping culture and how to define, model, and reinforce it.

In this post the author emphasizes those in leadership as the culture keepers.

Screening Interested Parents

As it relates to screening families who are interested in enrolling, what we’ve learned is important is that both parents or all involved & relevant adults be on the same page about the education choice. Ideally they’re both bought into self-directed learning and they understand and value the model. At the very least you want them both to be on the journey of deschooling. Without this I think you find yourself in repeat conversations where you’re having to ease the concerns and angst of one or more parents. Always having to deal with the threat of them unenrolling or not returning because of flare ups from the one parent who is not totally on board. This can be very draining so it’s best to be mindful beforehand.

Be mindful if the potential family will be engaging in a deschooling process upon joining you. Be sure to provide them with necessary resources, connections, and check-ins to aid the process. Many families operate from a place of fear and anxiety as they embrace self-directed education. All of their worry is to be expected when they have not yet experienced the validity of the model for themselves. It takes time.
Just be aware of how facilitating parents can be a beast of its own and they do need TLC.
The trial week and any pre-screening is mainly to see if the parents will work well for you. It’s checking that they understand what they’re opting into and making sure they won’t overtax staff. Assessing the children is a much longer experiment as their personality, quirks, and comfort takes time to reveal.
You might be able to check that the kid does not have any blaring signs of inability to be accountable, responsible, and independent. They can have deficits but they should be able to close those deficits over time.

Culture is Everything

I was having a conversation with The Abby de ALC NYC about realizing how important culture is to the functioning of an ALC (or any community for that matter.)

Julia and I were advised many times about grooming a healthy culture. We were told that culture building would be our main project for the entire first year.

It would have been better or more accurate if they said SHOULD! We have done a significant amount of developing prosocial thinking and getting the kids to be more community oriented. Though it took us a while to really find our stride in addressing issues and practicing good habits. At first, I think we were too keen on making offerings and having something that looked like what we experienced at ALF Summer 2016. Too keen on having a program that was marketable and that executed what we talked about in info sessions.

If I could redo it, I’d build into the first few months a TON of bonding via different group activities. We’d do more group field trips, more group games, group projects, team building challenges, and have more explicit conversations about how to intentionally create and maintain a more loving and connected community.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re not doing bad. I just wish we had gotten to where we are a lot sooner. With just a little under 30 days left to our school year I’ve been reflecting deeply about lessons learned from the year, planning changes for next year, and trying to figure out what I want to get accomplished with the time we have left.

For now, my biggest priority is our school culture. I think other start up groups would do well to make it theirs too.

Just a suggestion. Don’t feel obligated. We’re Agile.