Our children are always listening, always learning, always thinking. They may not have the same understanding or perspective that we do, but they assimilate the information at their level. Charlotte Mason talks about this as she encourages us to spread an abundant feast before our children. (The Original Homeschooling Series, Volume 6, page 183):
We spread an abundant and delicate feast in the programmes and each small guest assimilates what he can. The child of genius and imagination gets greatly more than his duller comrade but all sit down to the same feast and each one gets according to his needs and powers.
They will assimilate what they can. Just like a feast of food, they will come back for more when they are ready. This is one way we can give our children an educational advantage. We spread an abundant feast of learning and experiences before our children and watch them thrive.
I have pondered this quote many times over the years. I love the simplicity, yet intricacies involved in this thought. Recently, I read The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller. He talked about our relationship with God in relationship to a feast. He said that a feast is experiential, continues over time, is a physical experience, and is communal. As I read these chapters, I began to think about Charlotte Mason’s quote in light of the framework set out by Timothy Keller and how this can be applied to our homeschools. I believe that if we can offer a feast for the mind to our children we will give them an educational advantage.
A closer look at an educational feast
Dictionary.com defines a feast as:
- any rich or abundant meal
- a sumptuous entertainment or meal for many guests
- something highly agreeable
- a periodical celebration or time of celebration, usually of a religious nature, commemorating an event, person, etc.
The word “feast” brings to my mind memories of family gatherings, both large and small. I am reminded of laughter, practical jokes, and good food. I hope that you have similar such memories. Keep these in mind as we explore the concept of an educational feast.
An educational feast:
You do not simply look at the meal spread before you at a feast. The abundance of food has an overwhelmingly pleasing aroma. Does the smell of freshly baked bread remind you of your mom or grandma? There are numerous sights and sounds for you to take in. Children are probably running, shouting, and playing. Adults are likely reminiscing and laughing at memories of days gone by. And let’s not forget the sense of taste. Any feast I have been to has more than satisfied my tastebuds.
An educational feast should be experiential as well. When we are able to experience first hand what we are studying, the subject comes to life.
Holding a newborn goat is so much more meaningful than simply reading about one. Not everyone will have access to a farm with newborn goats, but you can find field trips of all sorts to enhance your child’s learning experience.
Performing a science experiment allows your child to see the magnitude of chemical reactions. Going to a family concert at the philharmonic fills your child’s soul with lilting melodies. Or maybe he a piece heavy with percussion reverberates deep in his chest.
continues over time.
A feast is not a quick meal. You don’t eat on the go; you savor. Think about a Thanksgiving meal. If you have a big meal at lunch with your family, chances are when the kitchen is cleaned up, the leftovers are placed in containers that are easy to pull back out. In several hours, someone is bound to go back for more rolls, Jello-O salad, or pumpkin pie.
Unless you have to visit several places on Thanksgiving Day, you probably plan to stay for a large portion of the day. There is socializing while the meal finishes cooking. After the meal, maybe you watch football, go for a walk, or play a game. It is not something that happens over a short period of time.
When our children learn, they continue to add to their understanding over time. They might initially learn that the Pilgrims traveled on a large ship and landed in America. They had to build houses and learn to survive in this new land. Squanto helped them learn new farming techniques that allowed them to gather a bountiful harvest.
Later they might learn about the persecution the Pilgrim’s faced in England, how difficult the journey was, and details about establishing life in a new land. Unless your student is in high school and learning this material for the first time, it would be overwhelming to learn all of that information at once. Just because he studied a time period or historical figure once does not mean that his learning on the subject is complete. I am still learning new things alongside my children.
is a physical experience.
We do not sit still at a feast. We move. (At least until the turkey stupor hits.) We talk to different people in different rooms, eat at the table, play kickball outside, and watch the football game in the living room. We do not wonder how great the food will taste; we eat it. We do not wonder how relatives have been since the last family reunion; we talk to them and ask them.
You can make an education a physical experience as well. Seeing, touching, and moving math manipulatives can make a new math concept that was abstract and confusing, concrete and understandable. Practicing math facts during snack time is a great way to make math hands-on and delicious at the same time.
Narration can be oral, written, drawn, photographs, drama, or sculpture. There are many ways to evaluate your child’s learning through a physical experience.
Add as many hands-on activities to your student’s learning as you can and watch their understanding and retention sky rocket. Perform science experiments, use math manipulatives, act out the Shakespeare play, memorize scripture set to music, or reenact a scene from your literature reading.
A feast is not held in isolation. In fact, most feasts are centered around celebrations—holidays, birthdays, weddings, births, etc. Many people are usually in attendance. Even our small, immediate family has ten people at holiday gatherings.
Make learning experiences communal, too. Form a nature study co-op and explore your local nature center together. Gather with friends and family for a recitation night. Form a book club. (Here are some of our favorite book suggestions.) Take a field trip with friends. Enlist the help of grandparents to teach cooking, woodworking, sewing, or any other skill they can pass on to the next generation.
Just as everyone participates in the dialogue at a feast, everyone learns when education is communal, too. I am learning new concepts and considering new ideas as I read history, math, and geography books to my children. As they discuss an idea that particularly impacted them, I am privileged to hear their perspective and allow that to enrich my previous understanding or belief.
I hope this inspires you to view your student’s educational experiences in a broader sense and to inspire you to offer your child an abundant educational feast.