If your child devours books and has already dipped into the classics, Harvest will seem like a dream come true. They get to read real books every day! Some children who come to Harvest do not care for reading. The books seem wordy to them. They think the illustrations are old-fashioned. Our books have wonderful stories with complex language that whet the appetite. We offer adventures, travel, fantasy, nature lore, fairy tales, myths, short stories, plays, poetry, biographies, and more. In time, many a reluctant reader develops a taste for books. Having to draw a lot teaches them to appreciate the craft of illustrating books. Their tastes may change by the end of the year.
Elementary and above classes have books assigned for home reading. The next school day, they write narrations of what they remember during class. This practice helps students develop reading fluency and writing fluency. Once they finish a take home book, we order new ones. Thus, we may order a book in the middle of a term. We also order a few books at the beginning of a new term. In time, your child will build a personal library. Research has shown that having “for keep” books is just as effective as summer school in maintaining reading skills. Every other week the bookmobile services our school and, when next summer rolls around, your children will have library cards. They can check out books at the library and enjoy special events.
Two important dates are coming up. Mark your calendars for Open House on Monday, August 19 and the first day of school on Wednesday, August 21.
We have written a bit about principles. Charlotte Mason outlined twenty of them. She lived at a time when scientists searched for natural laws to explain the world. She did the same with education. She tried to uncover basic truths about how children learn.
Her first principle answers an important question. What is a child? For the purposes of education, students are seen as future workers. Standards, textbooks, and tests are developed to foster their success in the work world. This point of view values the three R’s and STEM over the riches. This leads us to rate children like the goods and services they will offer someday. A forty-hour work week is only a third of our waking lives. What about the other two-thirds?
In Charlotte Mason’s day, educators saw children as blank slates. Writing all necessary knowledge on the slate was supposed to give them what they needed to know. Their personality, ability, and interests had little to do with the process. Here is how Charlotte Mason answered the question:
Children are born persons - they are not blank slates or embryonic oysters
How does this principle look? Narration reflects a child's personality. The wit is going to narrate quickly while the deep thinker freezes but shares something brilliant a day or two later. A student who is weak in a subject tells the main idea and a few details. The one who is strong sequences details and connects to other books. When a book aligns with a child’s interests, the narrator adds extra knowledge or does something during free time to live out that book. No two narrations are alike because no two narrators are alike.
Last spring, a couple of middle schoolers wanted to do a Bob Ross picture study. We thought they were joking until they persisted. We realized that, while his art misses the mark for picture study, his technique would fit Tuesday handwork. We told the middle schoolers, “Convince us.”
Interested middle and high students hatched their plan. They called themselves the Harvest Assembly of Bob Ross Enthusiasts. They bought Bob Ross T-shirts and researched and prepared a speech about Bob Ross. They taught us that he had served in the Air Force with honor. While stationed in Alaska, he was inspired by the beauty around him. While stationed in Germany, he learned wet-on-wet technique and painted Alaskan scenes inside gold pans. Bob Ross made more money from selling his novelty gifts than from his military salary. After retiring as a master-sergeant, he filmed 203 episodes of his popular television series. His Christian faith infused the show with optimism and happy catch phrases. He donated all his paintings, and he did not ask for one paycheck from PBS. Then, they pointed out how his beliefs matched a Charlotte Mason philosophy of education. We could not refuse their request.
We spread the riches during The Feast every Tuesday and Thursday. This post focuses on only three: Shakespeare, picture study, and composer study.
After lunch on Tuesday, elementary and above students gather in mixed groups to study Shakespeare. What? Can fourth graders read Shakespeare? We shuffle students for that reason. Experienced actors read more and newer ones have bit parts. Our younger students still know how to play. They keep us laughing through their antics and flubbed lines. They shine during sword fights, pratfalls, and pranks. They learn from the modeling of our older students who read beautifully. Their eyes and ears adjust to the literary language. Their hearts grow fond of certain characters. A student my study nine plays by graduation.
Our play for this year is the comedy Much Ado about Nothing. All of Shakespeare's comedies sow discord between couples. The bard fills this witty war of words with music and masks; dancing, disguises, and deceit; and silly sidekicks and vengeful villains. As the plot unfolds, order is restored. Couples marry and live happily ever after.
After Shakespeare, students return to class for picture study. The whole school studies one painting from one artist every week. We focus on the paintings and life of one artist per term, and we study three artists per year. A student attending Harvest for twelve years studies thirty-six artists. Why stick to an artist for that long? The way to get to know someone well is to spend time together. Ten weeks gives our students plenty of time to know an artist. This year our artists are Vincent van Gogh (Term 1), Georgia O’Keefe (Term 2), and Giotto di Bondone (Term 3). We chose van Gogh because The Columbia Art Museum will host an exhibit about him this fall. Seeing a painting you have studied is like meeting a pen pal in person.
On Thursday, we do composer study. We listen to one piece of music written by one composer every week. We study the same person for a whole term, or three per year. After listening, students share their observations and we supply the musical terms to match their ideas. From time to time, our musical friends Richard and Johanna Pressley come and deepen our understanding. This year our composers are Felix Mendelssohn, Franz Josef Haydn, and the team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein.
If you missed the riches as a child, come and join us for The Feast! We would love for you to get your weekly dose of awe.
A community called to offer another way to learn for students in Clarendon County