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    Educational Philosophy, Home Education, Mother's Education

    Feast: The Core of Our Community

    March 21, 2018 by Dawn Duran

    [dropcap]L[/dropcap]ast month I promised a peek into the offerings of our In a Large Room community. I cannot do so without making you more familiar with our 4:8 Feast community, which is where the seed for the larger community was first sown.

    As I mentioned previously, our name was birthed from a Bible verse:

    Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

    We want to present our children with a feast of living ideas in order to truly set our children’s feet “in a large room.” Our community name was born —  and we have been feasting together since August 2015.

    My initial desire was to create an opportunity to learn alongside each other as we pursued a Charlotte Mason education in our homeschools: an opportunity for fellowship and support for mothers as well as fostering friendships in our children.  At the same time, it was important that attending Feast Days did not place undue burdens on the families to “squeeze in school” during the weeks that we held Feast due to “losing” an entire school day; rather, the contents of Feast should complement what was happening at home, and, better yet, relieve the home schedule. The meetings our first year together supported my first desire, and with the addition of our fourth family they have become more aligned with the second goal.

    During our first year the children ranged in age from 1 year to 10 years old. It was important to our mothers that the learning be family-centered: we did not want to separate out the Year 0 children from their older siblings during our time together. That has not been without its challenges, of course, but it has also been a beautiful growing experience for all. During this inaugural year our Feast Day schedule included singing a hymn, participating in picture study, learning folk songs, drawing lessons, and nature study. This had the feel more of a Fine Arts co-op, in hindsight. We were not trying to separate these essential elements from the more disciplinary aspects of a Charlotte Mason education; rather, these were the things we knew that we could try to do with such a wide age range. And we loved it.

    I do not regret starting here.

    By the time our second year rolled around we were ready to expand. We kept the core elements from our first year and added Swedish Drill and Poetry Recitation to our Feast Days. Our fourth family joined us shortly after we started meeting for this second year. This mom helped us to switch gears by reminding us of the important place some of these activities should be playing within our home school days to break up the more disciplinary topics. Up to that point, I had just been “doubling up” on these elements by continuing to do picture study, etc. at home, but as our children were becoming older and more “subjects” were being added to our school days, we began to think about replacing these elements on Feast Days with subjects that would bolster our work at home rather than increase it.

    As our children have grown older and advanced in grades the content of our Feast Days have changed. The second half of our second year learning together found us diving into Shakespeare as well as adding in handicrafts. Sadly, our outdoor time together suffered with these additions.

    One beautiful aspect of this core community was that we have complementary gifts and passions that we have been able to share with the group. One of us has a gift of administration, while another is musically gifted. One mom has a background in art, and another has a passion for handicrafts and nature study. Swedish Drill was something I was beginning to research, and I brought this to the Feast. It was wonderful to witness God bringing together our complementary gifts in a way that allowed us to share them in blessing other families while encouraging each other and holding us accountable to continuing the work at home.

    As we reflected on the strengths of our Feast Days for 2016-2017 and brainstormed what to include for our Feast community’s third year (i.e., 2017-2018) we prioritized getting back outdoors for nature study with purposeful object lessons and nature journaling.

    We decided to discontinue Shakespeare on Feast Days and instead offered a Shakespeare Club, open to the larger community, on a separate day. My goal in doing so was to increase the number of participants, thus making producing plays possible.  Our first Club was a rollicking success, and has since morphed into an Afternoon Feast of it’s own (more on that in a future post).

    We wanted more accountability for foreign language instruction at home, so one of our moms volunteered to lead our children in learning Spanish together on Feast Days. She also morphed leading us in folk songs to more formal sol-fa instruction, and we have all benefited from her expertise in this area. In addition to Swedish Drill we began incorporating Marching activities, which reinforces many aspects of musical instruction we are receiving in the sol-fa lessons.  Our drawing lessons have remained a consistent element throughout our Feast Days year to year.

    While this year’s content has been life-giving the constant and organic evolution of our community is something that I value the most. We already have many exciting ideas for our next year together. Initially, we thought that our Feast Days were coming to an end due to the relocation of one of our Feast families. However, the remaining families realized how invaluable this community has been to us and we are committed to continuing the Feast, even if we have to do so without one of the founding families.

    I hope that this peek into our local Feast community inspires you to form a group of your own. All it takes is two eager families to make it happen! Remember: if you build it, they will come.

    Until next month!


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  • Reply For Love of the Bard: One Model for a Shakespeare Club | Afterthoughts May 29, 2018 at 1:33 am

    […] after beginning to read an original play together at home our Feast community decided to include Shakespeare on our Feast Days. Because our time together was limited, and […]

  • Reply Further Adventures in Community Building | Afterthoughts May 10, 2018 at 9:11 pm

    […] Feast: The Core of Our Community […]

  • Reply Megan May 9, 2018 at 5:03 pm

    I so appreciate these glimpses into your CM community life. My family is just diving into CM homeschool and related activities (with kids ages 14, 12, 10). We participated in a smallish Schole/CM co-op this year and are now in the process of assessing and planning for next year. I’m very curious as to how your areas of study progressed with various ages of kids-meaning, did you continue the “one-room schoolhouse” model for all subjects with success? What about the more academic subjects like literature (whether actual lit or history or science) and foreign language (you mentioned Spanish)-was that split into small groups by experience or age? I’ve been a fan, in theory, of the all-kids-together format, but find it so tricky to challenge the older kids while keeping the youngers engaged. We are hoping to split up for part of our time this coming year, but it’s early days yet so I thought I’d ask your experience/opinion before we make the leap!

    • Reply Dawn May 10, 2018 at 3:45 am

      This is an excellent question, Megan. I absolutely agree that “it so tricky to challenge the older kids while keeping the youngers engaged.” When we included Shakespeare in this small gathering we split the group into two groups: Year 0 and Form I kiddos together for outdoor exploration and Form II kiddos in the class. We have not included any other subjects that would necessitate the split, though. We were all beginners for our immersive Spanish class, so this was still possible with the entire group. We are on the verge of necessitating the split into Forms more formally, though, and I think it is wise of you to consider following such a model to keep everyone appropriately challenged, which respects them all as persons, as you move forward with your plans. Good luck!

  • Reply The In a Large Room Community | Afterthoughts April 24, 2018 at 1:45 am

    […] mentioned in a previous post, our smaller Feast community is the core of the larger one. When we first started meeting together we had no desire to expand beyond our few families. […]

  • Reply Hillary March 24, 2018 at 8:51 am

    Is there room in a life with this many CM/school activities for anything that is not homeschool-related? I know “education is a life,” so I don’t mean “anything that’s not book-related.”
    I’m asking, rather, whether to accomplish certain goals, many other possible activities must be rejected. Specifically, do we need to become all-homeschool-all-the-time? Although I know there is a refreshment from the variety of activities, including from alternating them, what about refreshment from time that is NOT occupied by school activities or their necessary planning? Is there such time anymore? Should a homeschool mom just plan to spend the homeschool years doing only that?

    • Reply Dawn Duran March 25, 2018 at 3:11 pm

      Hillary, I do think that as homeschooling mamas who embrace a Charlotte Mason philosophy of education we are called to “just say no” to many activities. The activities may be phenomenal and offer much value, but our children need hours of unscheduled time for exploration and enjoyment. This becomes lost in the shuffle from one planned activity to the next. It is up to each family to determine what that happy balance is, and will necessitate prayerful consideration, but embracing a simpler weekly schedule is key to peace in our homeschool. Our larger community has many offerings, but not every family attends every event. My family can successfully participate in one activity a week outside our home, but when more is added to the mix, the atmosphere of the home begins to suffer – largely because mama becomes anxious about “fitting everything in.” Best of luck finding the “sweet spot” for your family!

  • Reply stoneagefamily March 22, 2018 at 2:29 pm

    This was timely. There are ideas tossing about in my local group about a day like this. Praying about it as we plan. Thanks, Dawn!

    • Reply Dawn Duran March 22, 2018 at 3:51 pm

      How exciting. Keep us posted – and good luck. I pray you will have as wonderful of an experience as we have been blessed with!

  • Reply Tania March 22, 2018 at 11:42 am

    Encouraging as always, Dawn. I love reading about your community.

    • Reply Dawn Duran March 22, 2018 at 12:25 pm

      Thank you, Tania! I love sharing about it:).

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