Photo courtesy of The Clarendon Citizen.
The adventure begins at Harvest Community School!
Last week our website and Facebook page went live, and we announced our intentions to start a school, and the website saw almost 1,500 hits the first day. Congratulations flowed from our friends in Clarendon County and from well-wishers all over the world. While you may have never heard of Charlotte Mason until now, our community of homeschools, private schools, and even a charter school is tight. Friends in Canada and Australia, missionaries in Peru and Uruguay, and family in El Salvador and Guatemala—not to mention folks at the forum at AmblesideOnline—checked out our website.
In the past week, we have fielded questions from interested parents by phone, in person, by computer, and on Friday when Shea and I walked with our kids on puddly trails at Santee National Wildlife Refuge. Cathy Gilbert, managing editor at The Clarendon Citizen, broke our story and extended our reach in her fabulous piece about HCS. Sharron Haley at The Item plans to submit her article next week, and we look forward to reading her work as well. Today, we are sending our first bona fide press release (file attached to the bottom of this post).
We have already doubled the number of students and have several more families considering us.
Aslan is on the move!
And, there’s ice cream! Thursday night, we are hosting an ice cream social for parents who would like to learn more about our school and enrollment. We plan to give away five copies of Susan Schaeffer Macaulay’s For the Children’s Sake, too.
In our last blog post, Shea alluded to the property. Our co-founder Angie Bruner and her husband Jay are under contract to buy a now defunct charter school that has handicap access, separate restroom facilities for boys and girls, sprinklers, and green space for our nature study program. The title check has cleared, and everything should be settled by Monday. We hope to start investing a little sweat equity into the grounds and building before the week ends.
Tammy has been training our teachers who are eager to dig into the books and meet our new students. While we have only officially announced our primary class teacher, Jennifer Neelands, we have a pool of teachers preparing to teach the elementary class or substitute for us. We should be introducing you to them within the week.
If you have not had a chance to check out our website, it is chock full of information about us. One section gives you an idea of our curriculum design, a brief description of curricula for the primary class and elementary class, an explanation of our motto (“Think clear, feel deep, bear fruit well.” ~ Matthew Arnold), and memories of a student who graduated from a school like ours years ago. Another section describes our distinctives, an academic day, and our values. We have a general FAQ, a FAQ about our unique language arts program, and our biographies. We have information about enrollment and about supporting us. If you have any questions, you can reach us through our contact page.
Harvest Community School is a work in progress, but maybe not in the way you think. We have spent this summer meeting for prayer, conversation, planning, and learning. We have been rained on and eaten alive by mosquitoes while looking over possible sites to call home for our students. In two short months, we have filled out paperwork, built web pages, and made phone calls. Our to-do lists are overflowing as are our hearts! We have definitely made a lot of progress this summer.
Looking back, we see that God has worked in our lives for many years to build this school for such a time as this. He has been so faithful to provide for each of us in His own special way. He then brought us all together with common values and goals. Unity of purpose alone do not make a school. There are very real matters of practicality—classrooms, building codes, curriculum, legal matters—and God has supplied them all.
Just yesterday we made the final arrangements to purchase our location at 10 South Duke Street in Summerton. We have some work to do there too, but less than you think. Not long ago, the building was a charter school and met the strict building codes required for a public school. Since the bank owned the property, its price fell within our limited budget. I tell you this because I don’t believe in coincidence or luck. This former home and school is a gift from God! It has a pond and a large yard for play, a vegetable garden, a butterfly habitat, and a bird-watching station. I can already see my boys stocking the pond and my daughter finger-knitting on the porch swing.
I urge you to read our biographies which are here. You can see the hand of God in each of the trajectories our lives have taken. He has seen to it that we received the proper education and gave us each perfectly suited gifts. He groomed and pruned us and then brought us all together at the right time. You see Harvest Community School has been a work in progress for years.
The process of bringing us all together really started in 2006 when my oldest daughter attended St. Mathias Montessori Pre-School. I got to know Angie, who was one of her teachers. I met Tammy around the same time because we were attending the same church. A few years later, God called Tammy to another church, where she met Angie who was thinking about homeschooling her children. After Angie began her homeschooling journey, Tammy gave her a copy of For the Children's Sake and they did not talk about the book for a whole year. God put Charlotte Mason's ideas on the hearts of other homeschoolers in Summerton. They approached Angie, so she started a Charlotte Mason study group in her home and invited Tammy to guide the discussion.
The month before their first meeting, Tammy and I had a chance encounter with a couple of injured
hawks, which she called The Raptor in My Prius in a post on her personal blog. Together, we spent an adventurous day transporting them to the Bird of Prey Center in Awendaw. Years later, Tammy said she had thought that day that I would love homeschooling and that the Charlotte Mason philosophy would suit me and my children perfectly. But in typical Charlotte Mason fashion, she kept those thoughts to herself and let me come to those conclusions on my own. When I finally decided to homeschool, a different friend invited me to attend their study group meetings.
By this time, Angie was headmaster at another local school where she had begun to apply Charlotte Mason's practices in the primary and elementary grades. Jennifer enters the story at this point for she was a teacher at Angie’s school. She had just returned from teaching and ministering at international schools in Africa and the Middle East. Last year, Jennifer began to see how Mason's methods are truly centered on how Jesus taught His students and how He desires us to learn today. Meanwhile, Tammy and I walked Santee National Wildlife Refuge and participated in the Feast (our study's group's homeschooling co-op), not realizing the photographs we were taking would serve another purpose.
That same year, my second year of homeschooling, was marked by an unrelenting conviction of the Holy Spirit that homeschooling was not a burden I was meant to bear. I struggled with what I should do. I had been watching my children flourish under this teaching method and couldn’t go back to anything else. I knew of Angie’s efforts to implement Charlotte Mason's ideas in the school setting and I hoped that her school would be the solution to my problem.
God had other plans.
When Angie’s work with the school came to an end, I realized that there was really only one other option. We had to start a school. I didn’t know it at the time, but Tammy was thinking the same thing. Each of us, separate from the other, came to Angie and suggested starting a school. Angie had the administrative experience while Tammy had the curriculum design experience and the Charlotte Mason knowledge. I was simply a mother who wanted to figure out a way to provide what she felt was best for her children. Angie was tentative at first but promised to pray about the idea. In time, she also felt that not only was the school a good and viable idea but one in which she felt God moving. Jennifer came on board sometime later because she had seen how the Charlotte Mason method had affected her students and wanted to continue to teach in that way. And that’s when all that work and planning I mentioned earlier began.
Despite a few moments of fear and anxiety about the size of our undertaking, this summer has been one of great peace and joy for each of us. We have been clinging firmly to the promises of God and can already look back gratefully at all He has already done. We are walking down this path that God paved years ago, with our eyes turned upon Jesus. With hope, we look forward to the years to come.
A community called to offer another way to learn for students in Clarendon County