Place and Space

In my high school journals, I often wrote about where I wanted to be when I grew up. Looking back on these entries with the distance of a decade, and the knowledge of what I’ve pursued in life, I am in awe that my essential self is still the same. It’s comforting, but it’s also empowering. It means that the person I became at 17 is still the person I am proud to be – just with more experience and more tools for how to accomplish the things I used to dream about from inside the decorated, forest green (my favorite color, then and now) walls of my high school bedroom.
From my high school journal: “When I think about ‘what I want to do’ when I graduate, I think of these things: I want to be the most approachable English teacher at an independent high school for unconventional young people, and I want to have a cabin on a lake with bookshelves everywhere filled with books, and I want to wake up every morning and find the passages I underlined in all my favorite books and remember what it felt like to be that age and read those words for the first time.”
Today, I live beside a river in a cottage full of books. I teach English at an independent high school for pretty cool young people (that’s you guys), and every morning, I wake up and flip through the passages I underlined ten years ago in my favorite books. I think about what it felt like to be 17 and reading those words for the first time.
In college, I learned about the concepts of Place and Space. Place was a physical location, while Space was an ambiance that could be evoked in a building or room. In a Place, one performed their public persona; in a Space, one could be their most private, interior self.
This reminded me of my high school bedroom – that place where I had engaged in journaling, daydreaming, painting, drawing, writing, singing, dancing – activities and rituals that gave the place a certain ambiance; that made it into a space.
I am writing these words in my office, the front room in my cottage. My desk faces the yard; the trees; the mountain. This is the room in which I design curriculum for the courses I teach through Oak Meadow; chat with students; communicate with my faculty peers; read submissions for my poetry journal; write these blog posts, and a hundred other outward-facing things.

Photo by Naomi Washer

On the ceiling of my office is a drop-down ladder that leads to a secret loft; intimate, with slanted walls. I can stand upright in the center, but otherwise have to crawl. Pillows and cushions line the floor. One wall is a balcony, overlooking the living room below. Against the railing are my bookshelves. Photographs of places I’ve lived and the people I’ve known line the slanted walls. On the exterior wall is a tiny square window looking out to the mountain and the yard, just above where I sit at my desk in my office below. Up here, I am curled into a nest; I am closer to the mountain; I have my books and mementos and journals scattered around me. Below, the office is light, bright, and open, inviting all the work I do that connects to the outside world. Above, I enter the interior space of my mind – the space where I dream up creative projects and muse over the big questions of life and the world, my beliefs, my values, and who I feel myself to be.
Photo by Naomi Washer

The place of my office and the space of my loft are both necessary for the work that I do as a teacher and a writer. But I have to wonder if I would have ever discovered that these were the best places and spaces for me if I hadn’t dreamed about them in high school.
High school is not only the time when you begin to state your goals and ambitions – it is also a crucial time to dream. It is the most important time in your life to ask essential questions about who you are, what you believe, and what kind of path you see yourself pursuing in life.
By “path,” I don’t just mean career. Careers are your public persona – your exterior self. You will accomplish great things in the public places of your careers – I’m sure of it. But if you allow yourself the space of interior dreaming, musing, and questioning, then you will also become a person you’ll be proud to be – someone who lives by the virtues you believe in.
Photo by Naomi Washer

You can’t know where you will be ten, fifteen, twenty years from now. If you did, that would take away half the fun of the discovery. But what you can do is think about the kind of place you want to be in; where you can be productive by offering your skills and knowledge to your community.
And you can think about the space you want to have around you: what kind of weather and landscape make you feel grounded and at home? Do you want trees and mountains around you, or skyscrapers? Do you want to live on the road, in a tiny house, an apartment building in a big city, or a rambling old country house on a farm? If you ask yourself these questions now, you’ll find out what kind of person you are, and the kind of person you’ll be down the road, when the dust has settled, and the air has cleared, and you open your eyes: what do you see?

On Poetry

by Antony Yaeger, Oak Meadow teacher

Photo Credit: Szmodis Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

Having studied poetry with amazing teachers in my life, and having honed my own craft at Sarah Lawrence College, it is a joyful and enriching experience to teach poetry at Oak Meadow. What makes poetry so unique is something discussed in our poetry course: Poetry is a universal art form that can be found in all aspects of human life and can hold within it elements of all other art-forms. Poetry is not bound solely to the page. The famous phrase “poetry in motion” is a purpose of graceful fluidity, such that moves with tactful elegance throughout. Abstract, yet direct and completely beautiful to all 5 senses. We live with poetry every single day, even if we don’t have time to pick up a book.
To find poetry in the world, we often look to nature. To try to create an essence or impression of nature in art, we often turn to poetry. In my teaching, I try to teach in a way that takes into account my student’s developing mind as well as their heart, blending the two with their imagination. Poetry is one perfect way to do this. Each student brings their own unique perspective to analyzing a poem and their own special voice to the crafting of their own poems. Poems can be successful in any number of ways, but calling on the senses of our readers is crucial.
Photo Credit: Starkus Family
(Oak Meadow Archives)

What makes poetry even more incredible is that the reader is welcome to read between the lines, to string together their own meanings and ideas, to bring their own working palette of comprehension to the experience of reading. I feel this way with my students in this distance learning course and in the monthly poetry workshops we have created together. In these workshops, students celebrate their classmates’ poems and give them the gift of constructive feedback. It is amazing to see how perceptive each student becomes, how kind and selfless they are in making another poet’s poem better.
Poetry exists around us all, and you can read into that statement all that you want! For it’s not simply an abstract or ambiguous thought, but a truth waiting for us all to discover.

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Antony Yaeger received his undergraduate degree in Poetry and Theatre from Sarah Lawrence College in New York, and his Masters of Science in Education and Waldorf Education from Sunbridge College, New York. Antony spent four years at the East Bay Waldorf High School in Berkeley, CA teaching poetry, photography, literature, and directing school plays. In 2009, Antony graduated once again from Sarah Lawrence College, this time earning a Masters Degree in poetry and creative writing. He encourages students to use writing as a tool for self-exploration and to gain clarity and perspective on world events by examining issues from new angles. 
For more information on enrolling in Oak Meadow’s semester-long high school Poetry course with Antony Yaeger, click here.
For more information on purchasing Word: The Poet’s Voice curriculum for independent use, click here (on sale for the month of April 2017 in honor of National Poetry Month!)

Applying to College – Make It Work for You!

By KD Maynard, Oak Meadow College Counselor
The process of applying to college can be grueling and intimidating. There’s another side to it, though – it can be a wonderful culminating activity that can wrap up your early schooling and launch you into an engaging and fulfilling college experience, later seguing into a similarly satisfying life. College is not the right path for all students leaving high school, and there are other options available, so keep an open mind as you go through this process. I encourage you to look at the process of gathering information and making a ‘what’s next’ decision as a celebration of yourself as an individual and the launchpad into the next phase of your life. It’s exciting!
If you are pursuing a college experience, here are some tips, regardless of how old you are or the nature of your aspirations:

  • The college search process is about FIT. Who are you as a student, and what is important to your?  What setting would provide the appropriate mixture of comfort and challenge, the mix of academic and non-academic options, and so on?  A good college search involves a lot of introspection and prioritizing; first looking inside, and then researching programs to best accommodate identified needs.
  • Isolate criteria that are most important to you, the student. There are myriad features to consider. Look at the content of the academic programs and other options, the campus climate, the sense of community and connection, and so on. For one student, a large international population will be essential; for another, a hands-on engineering program; for another, proximity to home or perhaps a city; for another, the ability to make one’s own decisions about curriculum. Figure out what’s important to you, and go after it!
    Photo Credit: Charlie Siegel (Oak Meadow Archives)
    Photo Credit: Charlie Siegel
    (Oak Meadow Archives)
  • Plan ahead. Regardless of how soon you will be applying to college, there are points to consider and steps to take to position yourself for the best result. Check out recommended (or required) high school course programs, “normed” options (e.g., standardized test scores or college courses that evaluate your learning against a larger population and can also put you in competition for scholarship money), your state’s regulations regarding diplomas, and – vitally important – the comprehensive documentation of your learning over time.   
  • Research. Explore what’s out there, track what looks interesting or promising, tap into multiple sources of primary and secondary information about schools and programs. Familiarize yourself with the structure of colleges, the steps to the application process, and the characteristics of places that ‘feel right’ and those that don’t.  These are all part of an organic process that takes time to gestate and grow. Start anytime, and don’t skimp. It’s an investment in your future.
  • Strategize. If you do this research thoroughly, you’ll be able to make strategic decisions, such as whether to apply early to a school, whether to apply to a selective major or just seek entry to the school, or whether there’s any possibility you might be able to afford to attend a school with a scary price tag. It’s an iterative process of ruling options in and ruling them out, and it’s best to keep opportunities open for as long as you can.
    Photo Credit: Anabell Corwin (Oak Meadow Archives)
    Photo Credit: Anabell Corwin
    (Oak Meadow Archives)
  • As a homeschooler or a student who didn’t follow a cookie-cutter educational path, you bear a certain burden of responsibility. Don’t assume that admissions people understand homeschooling or the choices you’ve made. You need to educate them! Provide ample documentation (e.g., syllabi, reading lists, and project descriptions). If offered an interview, DO IT and be prepared with an ‘elevator speech’ about your educational choices and why you are primed and ready for college. You WILL stand out as a student who is accustomed to making choices and pursuing them . . . but you need to paint the picture for the admissions office.
  • Don’t succumb to sticker-shock. College educations are expensive – startlingly so. But don’t dismiss a school you love because of the price tag. Dig deeper. Look at the average cost of attendance (‘tuition discounting’ often brings down the cost of attendance, even for students who don’t qualify for financial aid) and put yourself out there. Be realistic and apply for schools you know you can afford, but if you’re excited about a costly school, give it a whirl. My daughter was able to attend a private liberal arts college halfway across the country for less out-of-pocket than attending her state school (where my job afforded her a tuition waiver). It can happen!
  • Recognize the value of the college search process, and take time to appreciate it. Yes, you can approach it as an annoying hassle unworthy of your time, but that won’t change the fact that you have to go through it if you want to get a college education. Accept the challenge to look closely at yourself and what you want next; savor and share your high school successes; and position yourself to be a motivated, curious and eager college student. Keep looking until you find that college that will ‘fit you like a glove.’    

Oak Meadow’s free college counseling webinars are geared to address various segments of the college search and application process in detail. We aim to provide background and recommendations, regardless of where you are in the college search process. Join us!


KD Maynard’s professional experience has revolved around assisting high school and early college students to find a fit in their choice of college and academic program, thereby enabling them to engage fully and to successfully meet their goals. She has held roles in college admissions, college counseling and financial aid, academic advising, teacher training and curriculum development, and administrative/leadership positions. She has worked at Brown University, World Learning, Marlboro College, The Putney School, Community College of Vermont, and University of Massachusetts Amherst. KD’s liberal arts background (AB from Brown and MALS from Dartmouth ) provides her with a worldview that seeks to make connections between and among people, ideas, and a sense of a greater good.

My Journey with Oak Meadow

by Lucy Enge, Oak Meadow high school student

Photo Credit: Chris Enge (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo Credit: Chris Enge
(Oak Meadow Archives)

My journey with Oak Meadow began in the fall when I was almost six. My parents had decided to homeschool me (for kindergarten) using Oak Meadow’s curriculum; they liked the Waldorf influence. And we continued our journey with OM homeschooling through the eighth grade! It has been ten years now, I am almost sixteen, and I am about to start my second year enrolled in Oak Meadow’s high school program as a tenth grader.
During my eighth grade year, when my parents and I were deciding about what to do for high school, we knew that I (and my mom, too) loved homeschooling. However, as my mom had worked in college admission for years, she thought it was important for me to look at and consider all of my options before deciding what to do for high school, in hopes that I would avoid second guessing my choice later.
Photo Credit: Ruby Enge (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo Credit: Ruby Enge
(Oak Meadow Archives)

So, we created a list of the possibilities: homeschooling (using OM independently), enrollment in OM’s distance learning school, two magnet schools, a parochial high school, and two nationally acclaimed private schools. My mom wanted me to see it all! Then, we explored each option/school further. We researched online, attended some open houses, took tours, and participated in shadow days.
Separately, my mom, my dad, and I created a list of pros and cons for each option/school. My parents did not share their lists with me as we looked so that my final decision was truly mine. But, they certainly did listen to all I said about each option as I sorted things out in my mind! Finally, after hours and hours of “work,” I narrowed it down to three: homeschooling, enrolling in OM, and the parochial high school. After another shadow day, I eliminated the parochial high school.
Photo Credit: Lucy Enge (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo Credit: Lucy Enge
(Oak Meadow Archives)

We discussed continuing to homeschool as we had since kindergarten, but, after a lot of talking together, we decided that enrolling in Oak Meadow would be the best for me and my high school journey. It would require me to be accountable to other teachers (outside of my mom), provide me with a rigorous curriculum and an accredited transcript, and also give me a flexible schedule and the freedom that homeschooling had allowed me in the past – the perfect bridge (for me) between homeschooling grade school and attending college.
And so I enrolled! Starting with our first conversation with Rachel, my education counselor, we were warmly welcomed to Oak Meadow and well guided in what courses to enroll in. For my ninth grade year, I took Algebra I, Environmental Science, French I, Introduction to Literature and Composition, and World Geography. Once I began my courses, I felt myself being positively challenged, enjoying everything (well, except, rewriting an essay, but from that, I know I became a better writer), and truly flourishing!
Photo Credit: Julia West (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo Credit: Julia West
(Oak Meadow Archives)

My teachers, Antony, Jacquelyn, Julia, Lydia, and Marnie (I love you all!), are amazing and are everything I (and my parents!) wished for and more. They have pushed, encouraged, and inspired me. Whenever I have a question, they are happy to answer and do so timely, and their comments on my lessons are constructive and helpful.
With their assistance, I have also created projects for myself that let me explore a particular topic that relates to the material that I am studying: I have written poetry; painted watercolors; read books; cooked meals from Peruvian cuisine, to a Jewish Shabbat dinner, to vegetarian sushi; made a Malaysian kite; studied children’s literature; and watched many documentaries. Truly, I could not have imagined a better first year of high school!
Photo Credit: Ruby Enge (Oak Meadow Archives)
Photo Credit: Ruby Enge
(Oak Meadow Archives)

When I look back at myself a year ago (before ninth grade) and at my early ninth grade work, I see that I have come a long way. I am more confident and poised, I know myself (my values and my beliefs) more clearly, I am a much stronger writer, and I have gained a lot of new knowledge. Oak Meadow is not for everyone – it is hard, in a good way, and you have to want to learn and be an active part of your education! – but it certainly has been right for me. I love Oak Meadow and could not be happier with my high school choice! 

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Lucy Enge lives in a small Connecticut river town with her family. Her interests include (in no particular order) reading; classical music; baking/cooking; old television shows; poetry; walking/hiking/biking; sewing/knitting; watercolor painting; (almost) all things Peruvian, British, and French; and traveling. She also enjoys living simply; eating local, organic food; and going to charity shops and estate sales.

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