Even though my official piece of paper declares that I have a degree in English and Theatre and Communications (it was so hard to choose), I am always looking for opportunities for my children to participate in the arts in memorable and challenging ways. I know that, even though the deepest core of my home education philosophy is reading and living books and art, I need other teachers and educators and perspectives and experiences feeding into my children’s hearts and minds. I believe they need to sit in the audience at theatre performances and I believe they need to step on stage sometimes too. I believe they need group discussions of literature and hands on art classes. They need to eat clusters of grapes when they read about the Romans and they need to stuff all the popcorn into their milk just like Almanzo Wilder did.
These beliefs of mine in homeschooling ideals have sent me in many different directions over the decade or more that I’ve been fumbling on this journey.
Last summer the search for integrating literature and art led me to a local class about Beowulf, taught by Amy Bright at Bright Eyes Arts.
I signed up both London and Mosely for a class called The Art and War of Beowulf. I knew the girls would need to read Beowulf at some point in their schooling and I was ecstatic to NOT teach it myself. Once upon a blue moon, I stood in a classroom and taught students this same work of art, but Beowulf has never captured my heart nor my interest so I loved the idea of farming that bit of required classic literature off to someone who obviously had a greater passion and skill set for the teaching of it.
The girls loved the class. It absolutely stretched them out of their own particular comfort zones. It met daily for a week – a lot like a camp experience. They read the entire text, some on their own, some together. They crafted beautiful jewelry inspired by the time period. They celebrated their knowledge with a feast and a presentation on the last day that the other kids and I were invited to attend. (A feast where I – for real – cooked the rabbit that Hawkeye shot in Virginia with Uncle Stin’s help. I can’t say how well prepared that rabbit in the cast iron skillet actually was, but my goodness, given the company I was serving it to and their week long developed affinity for the medieval time period, it was rather well received.)
“The group experience is a major part of my goal. Art journaling and jewelry making are more internal, but the epic needs people to make it fun!” the instructor, Amy, says.
Bright Eyes Arts offers a whole host of classes and learning opportunities, even online poetry classes, which I have yet to dive into but am strongly considering adding to London’s plans next year as she officially enters high school. (Gasp!) There is an art journaling literature class, a method I employ daily in our own homeschool and love the way it settles the books we are reading into a more permanent fixture in my children’s brains and hearts. The other class that is on my personal list is a Shakespeare class. We regularly read Shakespeare’s plays but I am certain that making the Bard fun and approachable would be a team effort worth the cost.
“My main goal in this is to offer students an immersive experience in art and literature with access to the materials and tools that they normally wouldn’t have. I want to help parents feel that they have given their tweens/teens opportunities beyond what traditional schooling offers so they know they have NOT failed their students in literature. I doubt anyone has, but guilt’s an easy one to feel,” Amy shares.
The Beowulf Class that we took is coming up again in May and I think it is totally worth the cost and the time. (It’s May 15 – May 19 and again on May 29 – June 2 and the cost is $150). It’s five days and the girls even got to experience making their own chainmail!
Also – and a really great bonus – is that the week long class (or seminar) counts as a semester’s worth of honors credit for your high school students. (That’s all the convincing some of us need right there.) Amy uses the Seamus Heaney translation of Beowulf and if you decide to take the class, well, I’ve got two copies sitting on my shelf if you’d like to use one of them.