Saturday, August 2, 2014

A Weeklong Whirlwind Tour

Hilary, Hope, and Hannah
by Megan Hoyt

It began simply enough. I am privileged to live among a group of sojourners who travel the Charlotte Mason road alongside me, urging me forward toward a life filled with joy in the Holy Spirit, compassion for the less fortunate, and fellowship with likeminded lovers of God.

It's a beautiful circle of friendship that is ever-widening.

But this has been a whirlwind week, despite my belief in unhurried education and savoring life. My first stop was Harvest Community School in South Carolina. Harvest is heavily influenced by the method and principles of Charlotte Mason, and it shows. The students are alive with wonder and curiosity. The teachers are thrilled that they get to participate in the lives of these precious kids!

I attended Provender's Clockwise Retreat at Harvest Community School on Monday, where I cherished my time with beloved friends and a few new friends, too. We spent the day immersed in the life of a child at school. It was a sacred time.

Hildegard session followed by a book signing
I was privileged to speak about my favorite Medieval composer, Hildegard of Bingen, and the teachers were so receptive to my words. They seemed to really drink it in, which is exactly what I had hoped would happen. I wanted others to fall in love with this woman's life and gifts, as I have. We tried to sing a chant together, with mixed results! It's harder than it appears!

Learning about Hildegard, the herbalist and healer
After I was done, instead of feeling relief, as I sometimes do when I've finished any sort of public speaking (it's not my favorite thing to do!) I felt exhilarated, as if I could have spent hours with this band of sisters. And one brother! Let's not forget him! We ended our time together watching herons fly across the lake in a storm. The mystery, strength, and majesty of God was at hand. But as time rules our lives to a certain extent, I had to leave the lake house and my friends and return to North Carolina for the next leg of my journey.

The lovely women of Provender's Clockwise Retreat
I'm teaching sixth grade this fall, and I had a week of teacher training to attend. The teachers around me were so welcoming and friendly that I felt honored to be among them. Many of them are former missionaries, so at lunch I was able to hear their stories. It was the next best thing to being there myself. I also learned that I have a lot to learn about school life, but that's okay. In time, I'm sure the systems and regulations will sink in. If not, I'm sure someone will correct me.

The next day we drove to Atlanta for the Child Light Schools Conference, where I met up with some old friends yet again. Bobby Scott leads Perimeter Schools of Atlanta and beyond -- Tanzania and Guatemala and who knows what is to come. We learned drybrush painting, learned about narration and picture study, and received a warm welcome from Bobby. What a treat! Just as I finished telling the gals at my table that I can't seem to get the picture from my head to my hand to the paper via the paintbrush, I found I was able to recreate the Maple leaf I was painting really well. True confession: in all my years of educating a la Charlotte Mason, I had never been brave enough to attempt drybrush watercolor painting. I often worked behind the scenes at conferences and events, so I wasn't in the sessions where it was taught before. But here, at Perimeter School in Atlanta, among faithful friends and sitting beside Arborbrook's art teacher, the lovely Mary Beekman, I found my rhythm, my courage, my success. 
My Maple leaf!
Now that I'm home again, planning my school year, decorating my classroom, and praying for my students, it's settling in that I will be able to once again impart the richness of a Charlotte Mason education to another group of eager children. How glorious that I get to live this sort of life. Here are a few things I'm planning to talk about with the children after we meet.

This is the bit that takes a morsel or two of work and skill:

1. Attentive Reading
2. Close Observation
3. Careful Listening
4. Detailed Narration
5. Steady Effort
6. Perfect Execution
7. Practiced Recitation
8. Quiet Reverence

But the magical part comes when you treat a child as a person of value, when you respect a child's natural ability and giftedness yet gently tug at his heart to grow in skill and courage, just like I did; when you give a child the gift of an unhurried education, the sort I learned about from Melanie and Laurie during our time together on Monday at the Clockwise Retreat in South Carolina. I learned what a day is for at a Charlotte Mason school. I learned how to share and impart what needs to be shared and then stand aside and let the children soak and bask in it while the Holy Spirit connects their hearts to the material. That requires really great material. I've been working on that part, too. Along with the phenomenal books Arborbrook Academy has provided for my students, I am bringing in some primary sources, music, art, drama, and dance (don't tell the boys!) to my classroom. I think it's going to be a great year!