"Momma, I'm Starting A School"

I don’t know why that’s in quotation marks. I didn’t actually say that.

At the end of my junior year of college I was pretty sure I was going to grad school. I was being groomed for it. It was then that I first got the notion that maybe I would start a school. I mentioned it casually to a classmate who was going into the education field and we imagined starting one together. I wanted to do it differently, do it better. Do something kids would and I would have loved.

At the time, I also came to the conclusion that this academia thing sucked. I was damn good at it but it was getting so boring.

Hear me talk, read this thing, hear me talk, write this thing, answer these questions correctly right now and only right now. Ok, you’ve made it to the next level. Here’s a gold star.

It was like a crappy repetitive video game that has the same mechanics over and over but different appearance. It was a ruse. It was tired. It was not satisfying. What’s worse is I could get the grade, pass the class, get the degree and still be pretty shitty in my field.

Back to schools.

I came across an article and video that highlighted Alpha Alternative School in Toronto. I liked what I saw. It seemed fun and empowering for students. I had also come across a school that as a standard did not give students homework. Yet another place I imagined made school much more enjoyable.

In a years time, spring of my senior year, I had decided to go to Indiana University for a doctoral degree in school psychology. I secured a fellowship. By the fall of that year, my first semester in grad school, I was sure I  wanted to start a school. i would use the clout and status of having a PhD in a relevant field as means to do so. Deep in my mind, though I tried hard to suppress it, I didn’t care about the degree and much less the program or process. I wanted the credential and the access that came with it.

By the spring of my first grad school year, after having withdrew with no intention to return (why i did this is detailed *here*), I had discovered a lot more about  alternative schooling. I discovered Summerhill. I discovered Sudbury Schools. I discovered Albany Free School. I discovered Harmony School right there in Bloomington and volunteered there for a time. I discovered a few other democratic and free schools. I discovered AERO and their pricey school started course. I discovered The Mosaic School (now ALC Mosaic) in Charlotte North Carolina that had recently started. I reached out to the founder Nancy to learn more about how she did it. Through Mosaic I would later discovere Agile Learning Centers .

I reflected on all these models. I researched. I developed my own theories and wrote out the desired features of my school. I wrote the mission. I drafted the website. I created a schedule. I drew floor plans. I drew the playground. I had it all there.

I didn’t quite know how exactly I was going to do it but I knew and decided that I would. 

The fall of that year, I had visited Albany Free School (in new york) and very briefly spoke to Chris Mecogliano. and The Fairhaven School (in upper marlboro maryland). I reached out to Lora Smothers of Freedom to Grow Unschool in Athens Georgia. I was aware of the school via AERO’s directory. I came across Lora’s Ted Talk and immediately emailed and requested mentorship and a visit. I visited Horizons School in Atlanta and met with the founder Les Garber.

I was fogging up the glass as I studied progressive and self directed schooling world. So many of these schools were doing exactly what I had written out in my notes. I wasn’t in it yet but I was making sure I stood by. By the following spring, I was working at a Montessori preschool, experiencing some mixed age classes and a zero calorie version of SDE.

During that spring (actually January) I published this post in a few facebook groups with this extended letter attached.

Later that Spring, Lora, who was on the board of Sudbury School of Atlanta let me know that the school was hiring staff. I started working there that fall. A year later me and some folks started a school, Heartwood Agile Learning Center. I’ve also visited Brooklyn Free School, NOLA Micro School, Dida Academy, and The Life School.

We’re now a couple months into our 3rd year. We have our own dedicated space and fundraising for a van. We’ve acquired the Tiny Fellowship from 4.0 Schools to fund efforts to intentionally make sure our school is accessible to people of multiple incomes, SES, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. On February 3rd of 2018 we hosted a mini conference about Education and Liberation. In June of 2018 we hosted our own ALF training.

Momma I made it. ( not really though. not yet. )

Starting an Unschool Cooperative in Atlanta, Georgia