My husband Steve and I have two daughters. Our youngest, Isabel, age 14, is about to graduate from the Waldorf School of Atlanta. She has attended this school since age four, and will continue her Waldorf education at Academe of the Oaks high school next year. Our oldest daughter, Jessie, is 19. She also attended WSA from pre-K through eighth grade. She graduated from Academe last year, and just finished her freshman year at the GSU School of Music. We are grateful for the high quality K-12 Waldorf curriculum in Atlanta.
How can I put into a few hundred words my journey as a parent at one great school for fifteen consecutive school years? All I can offer are a few tastes.
Our first Lantern Walk was in 1996. I was asked to bring up the rear, relighting blown-out candles. Jessie and her tiny classmate Meagan walked with me, singing the Lantern Walk songs. Their candles blew out. They dropped their lanterns. As a self-conscious new parent at the school I scrambled with the awkward lighter I had been entrusted with. None of this clunkiness touched the two little girls. They were content and steady as they sang and walked behind their teacher in the chilly night. I’ll never forget Meagan’s tiny voice sounding like a happy little bird as she sang “pee-wit, pee-wit, rick-a-tick-a-tick.”
One of my favorite aspects of Waldorf education is the way it spirals back to subjects studied in younger years, but in a different, age-appropriate way. I enjoyed the synchronicity of Isabel and Jessie studying Ancient Civilizations at the same time, one as a fifth grader and the other as a high school sophomore.
I was recently in a conversation with some kindergarten parents about the Waldorf kindergarten birthday celebrations. We got goosebumps remembering how difficult it could be to get through the reading of the birthday story without weeping. A beautiful story it is, about the baby sliding down the “Rainbow Bridge” at the urging of an angel, and into the waiting arms of her or his loving parents. How significant is each child! I got to have my five minutes of fame (or so it felt to me) as the “big kid” — a parent of an eighth grader. I shared, “Well, listen to this!” The eighth graders had just finished their Physiology block, which included lessons on human reproduction. My daughter’s assignment was to interview us about her own birth. Steve and I had so much fun telling her all about it. Isabel did a great job taking notes, and I was amazed at the concise essay she wrote for Main Lesson.
Part of the delight in sharing the (physiological) birth story with our eighth grader was that, just as adolescence is gearing up, with its requisite pushing away, we got to relive, with her, how absolutely amazing her arrival in our world had been. This very different telling of the story of her beginnings had the same essence as the kindergarten story: You are a miracle. We cherish you.
There are many factors that contribute to a young person’s development, to be sure, but it is clear to me that my children’s Waldorf education is key to their growth as “whole” people. Jessie is a vocal performance major in college. While this is a more specialized trajectory than that of many early undergraduates, she is a well-rounded person with a wide range of interests and skills, including interpersonal skills. I was grateful to see that it didn’t take her long to find her own community in the music school.
I treasure the memory of another Lantern Walk, this time at our current location. Isabel was in first grade. After the walk through the woods, singing the same beloved songs and carrying our lights, families and teachers gathered around the bonfire. The firelight glowed on all the contented faces, and I reveled in the community embrace of safety and love. There is nothing quite like knowing that my children are being held in a circle of warmth. Thank you, Waldorf School of Atlanta.
I’m especially thankful to our children’s class teachers, Gavin Connor, Jim McClurkin, David Florence, and Jenny Dilworth. Also, each specialty teacher has been an indispensable part of our children’s education, and I thank you all, especially those who have accompanied our family the entire 15 years: Eleanor Winship, Francisco Moreno, and Laira Covert.
You are a miracle. We cherish you.~Carol Lane WSA Parent
This article originally appeared in the June 2011 edition of the Garden Breeze newsletter of the Waldorf School of Atlanta.