Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Shift

Tonight we celebrated the term finale feast at Harvest, a Charlotte Mason style private school founded by two friends and me. We value feasts, not just food feasts, but feasts of the mind. On Fridays, we celebrate the feast after lunch. Rather than fight minds wandering to the weekend ahead, we grab their attention by feeding their ears with composer study, their eyes with picture study, their fingers with handwork, and their minds with Plutarch. We also invite parents and homeschoolers to join us — it gives our teachers an afternoon a plan and our community a chance to gather together. The feasting culminates in the term Finale Feast, where we feed the families a lovely meal, let the students share some things they have learned (tonight it was Psalm 121, GĂ©nesis 1:1 in Spanish, "La granja," and "Great Is Thy Faithfulness"), and invite a pastor to share the gospel and feed their souls.

Lately, I've pondered what I call the shift, which is the process of becoming a seeker of knowledge. One of the fathers told me tonight that it's like a lightbulb suddenly switched on in the brains of his daughters. Another student shared "Harvest can change your perspective of learning — in a fun way." And, after settling into a routine of copywork, oral narration, and drawing a story, Eman suddenly decided to try written narrations. He has volunteered to do three of them on his own initiative. On his own initiative! Do you know how huge that is? He told our headmaster, "My hands are hungry for writing words." So, part of the shift is stimulate a person's hunger.

One transformation has amazed me. I met this introverted girl over four years ago. She hardly talked to me even though her brother, a chatterbox, was in my class at the after school program. They were some of the first students to sign up for Harvest. Anyway, a Charlotte Mason style of education has changed her life — just two weeks ago, she did a wonderful reading as Ophelia in Hamlet. Not only is she taking guitar lessons, she has played for us once at the morning meeting and plans to write the school song. She did not want to recite a poem at the finale feast. She doggedly pursued the opportunity to share her testimony.

She was amazing. She stood at the podium, her face radiant with confidence. She gestured and put passion into her carefully chosen words. She admitted to being shy, quiet, and scared at school. Its strictness and rules kept her from being herself. She had friends and good teachers, and nothing bad happened. Yet, the atmosphere made her feel small. She said that she could not believe she was looking forward to her first day of school last year. Within a week, she relaxed and let herself emerge. She beamed as she described who she is today: she talks non-stop, she narrates everything, and she is not afraid to speak about her faith, which brings her joy.

I could spend all night blogging about changed lives. About the girl who never went outside and who now adores going on what she dubbed "the dangerous and wet trail of death" on Friday. About the boy who got upset when asked to read aloud who acted in a play in Charleston last month. About the girl whose third grade teacher made her feel stupid and who now knows how intelligent she really is. And the primary class who is absolutely jealous because they are not old enough for Shakespeare. And the girls who bake to raise money to build an aquaponics farm in Mozambique.

God keeps sending us students and we are now completely full. We have a waiting list next year, and it looks like we are going to add on to our building in God's perfect timing. We hope to have more space next year. If God can give us the resources to open a school in ten weeks, He can supply enough money to build this summer or the next. Rather than ask people to buy things they really don't need (wrapping paper, candy, popcorn, magazines, etc.), we have set up a gofundme page. Every dollar raised there will go directly to building more rooms so we can help kids shift to becoming seekers.

One thing God has taught me in the past two years is that He is in the big things, and He is in the little things. One of the girls asked me what we were serving and I told her taco soup. She did not look thrilled. She asked about dessert and I told her key lime pie. "Pie, I don't like pie! Aren't you going to serve fried chicken and macaroni and cheese?" I told her no but that Mrs. Shea is a really great cook! So, what happens on Saturday? The afternoon of The Finale Feast, a couple celebrated their 50th anniversary. They had plenty of leftovers and asked us if we wanted some. So, that young lady got her macaroni and cheese (and it was delicious).

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23