One of the ironies of my life was that when I lived in Evansville, IN I found little connection with other parents in the homeschool community. I resigned to enrolling my children in the public school and got involved there the best I could. While they went to school, I studied to become a Waldorf school teacher, dreaming of having my children at a school where I resonated with the education and my friends were the faculty.
I landed a job in the Waldorf School of Atlanta, Georgia, fulfilling that dream, when the boys were almost finished with their schooling! David was in 11th grade, Adam in 7th, and Simon in 5th. The dream, however, turned into a nightmare, and Adam and Simon stayed in the school just one year. David endured a year at the local high school where he was in a 2% racial minority.
The next year, David moved on to the community college and the other two returned home. The quality of our homeschooling experience in Atlanta is where the irony appeared! Here, where I was so sure that it would be the school experience that would be fulfilling, it was the homeschooling one that surpassed all my expectations for community and quality!
Soon after leaving the Waldorf school where the faculty and parents lobbied to replace me just 7 months after I had started, I met the homeschool community. They met every Thursday at Glenlake Park for “Playday”. At the park, kids of all ages, from infant to teenaged would meet for several hours to do what most detractors of homeschool think is the biggest downfall of homeschooling. We would “socialize”. Older kids would organize Frisbee or soccer or Capture the Flag, ranging over the whole park. Younger kids would be supervised at the playground or dabbling in the creek. Moms would talk over curriculum or discipline or plan outings together while they watched the kids. To my surprise and satisfaction, creativity, support, and quality education was flourishing.
One parent, Sally Hansen, took organization up a notch and established L.E.A.D. Learners and Educators of Atlanta and Decatur. She and her co-leaders organized weekly classes from Latin to Math to baking and art at the nearby Boys and Girls Club. Parents and local experts were the teachers. I offered to teach what I love best and what I wasn’t allowed to do in the Waldorf School – Sharing Nature With Children.
My first session of that class was populated by the moms who renewed my self-esteem, welcoming me as their teacher! Angie, Val, Nina, Marilyn, and others came with open minds, eager for my suggestions on how to touch the souls of their children in Nature. Through subsequent years, they always welcomed my classes, which later focused on the children without their parents and included painting, science, and nature exploration. When Simon reached high school age, two other parents hired me to teach all three of them Chemistry and then Biology. All the Waldorf Science I had been preparing to share as a Waldorf teacher could be unleashed in our semi-weekly classes.
Angie Graver, in particular, stands out as my favorite champion. Several times she called me to see if I would teach something to parents she had organized. First, it was watercolor painting. She hosted at her home the first of many parent’s painting classes in which I taught them how to bring the Waldorf methodology to their children. Then, it was Nature classes at the Dunwoody Nature Center. Then, it was an afternoon presentation on the Pacific Crest Trail, a new interest of her son who had been in that first Sharing Nature With Children session way back ten years earlier!
The other irony is that there seemed to be a revolving door between the Waldorf School and the homeschooling group! Parents would leave the school and start homeschooling or they would discover the Waldorf School from what they learned in the homeschooling group! I discovered that I was highly respected as a trained Waldorf teacher within the homeschool community, especially now that I had resumed homeschooling myself! In the end, I found my place and fulfilled my dream! My children were in a school where I resonated with the education and my friends were their teachers! Sadly, that only happened with the youngest, Simon, but it did happen!
I want to especially thank a few of the wonderful teacher friends who blessed us with their dedication and superior classes. Randall Carlson, master of mathematics and sacred geometry, taught his informal math classes for several semesters while Simon was eligible for them. Randall’s classes were so good that several parents, myself included, joined in for the twice-weekly sessions. Under Randall’s tutelage, I learned the foundations of geometry and algebra from their origins and through diagrams and proofs, not just from abstract formulas. We used 20”x 28” drawing pads for our books, constructing geometric proofs with custom made compasses that could draw 12” circles. Our drawings would come alive when we followed his encouragement to color them in when they were finished.
We learned The Golden Mean by proving it algebraically, then discovering the many places this ratio occurs in nature, in our bodies, in the solar system, in French cathedrals, and in the paintings of Leonardo da Vinci.
Randall taught these classes as his hobby to supplement his work as a remodeling construction master, along with his brother. One day, while we were studying the geometry of ovals, he said, “If you’re interested, how about stopping over at one of our construction jobs after class. We’ve got an oval arch going up.” Simon and I agreed to go, and just as we stepped into the house, the builders were raising the arch! We could see the geometric drawing where they had constructed it still marking the floor. It was a life sized version of what we had drawn in class that day! Magical moments like that were always happening in Randall’s class. I credit him for reawakening my love of mathematics and for re-educating my understanding of it!
Ironically, he was not hired by the newly formed Waldorf High School around that time because he lacked a college degree! Everything he had learned and so masterfully taught was “homeschooled!”
Another homeschool teacher I want to thank is Marilyn McGinnis. She was an expert at blending disciplines. I was thrilled with Simon’s semester in her class History and Geography of Asia through Literature. During the semester, the students read four works of young adult fiction. They were all coming of age stories from different historical periods in different Asian countries. Through these tales, and studying the geography and history they expressed, Marilyn guided the students in a lively experience of all of the disciplines. I enjoyed watching Simon, not a voracious reader, willingly read and study those books and do the assignments, more eagerly than other studies he had done.
There are so many men and women in the homeschooling community in Atlanta who warrant my gratitude for helping me share my own educational gifts as well as their own! With them, I can say that I did eventually fulfill my dream of education for my children! It was a long, winding road, but satisfying in the end!
Are you a homeschool parent in Atlanta or Decatur, Georgia? If you’re looking for a secular support group, open to any homeschool family, check out Learners and Educators of Atlanta and Decatur. L.E.A.D.
It looks like Randall Carlson and his Sacred Geometry have gone international! Now I feel even more blessed to have had the privelege to be his student! His classes are surprising and nourishing! Take advantage of his work when you can!