Scholé Spotlight: The Scholé Homeschool Center of Harrisburg

The Scholé Homeschool Center of Harrisburg launched this year with twenty-five families, who come together to give our children a beautiful, Christian, classical education. We meet at a beautiful church in Harrisburg, PA, and are a full academic co-op, offering classes to seventy-two students, pre-K to 12th grade (plus a nursery)! We meet two days per week (1 and 1/2 days for younger children). While this startup has been administratively challenging and stretching, and taken many hours of planning and preparation by many people, it is encouraging to see what the Lord has knit together so far. We are delighted at the many ways we see our kids engaging learning joyfully, actively, and deeply. Here is an overview of what happens at each level in our group:

IMG_2215 copyJPGOpening & Closing: We have sought to create a restful beginning and end to the days we meet together. We begin with the lighting of a candle and a responsive reading from Scripture. We memorize a passage together and then have a brief teaching on some selected virtues. These virtues are then also referenced and worked into classes throughout the year

We set aside ten minutes at the end of each day for writing in Commonplace Books while listening to beautiful music. We are trying to develop in ourselves and our students habits of reflection and gratitude for what we’ve enjoyed together. The students are also given chores to do to help bring our classrooms back to order for the church’s use. They are doing a great job so far!

Nursery & Preschool: At the nursery and preschool levels, we have created a rhythm (or liturgy) for them that includes music, movement, story, activity, and rest. We are giving these little people opportunities to wonder and enjoy their work of play.

20150825_121753 copy JPGPre-K to 1st grade: 
The four- to six-year-olds enjoy a Language Arts class loosely based on the Five in a Row curriculum. They listen to a classic piece of literature and then play games, do a craft, explore geography, and write based on the story. These kids also have a gym time focused on listening to directions and “gymnastic” play, using their bodies and developing those oh-so-important large-motor skills. In the afternoon Curious George introduces the children to a science experiment to guide them as they learn about and explore God’s beautiful world. These children also engage in art activities and a “Math, Music & Movement” time.

Grammar-Level Students: On one day of our co-op, grammar students study Latin and then run off to a gym class (or vice versa). They finish off with a game-filled memory work review period.  IMG_20150903_140457061 copy jPG

On the second day, they participate in a language arts class, which integrates literature, writing, and grammar. They then create art and learn to recognize some key works in art history. After lunch and recess, they study history/geography and science. Since we are studying the Medieval Period to Early Renaissance this year in history, our literature, art, and even science have been tied into that historical period for an integrated learning experience. In art, for example, the students have made drawings for a scholé version of the Bayeux Tapestry. They have also created mosaics in the style of a Byzantine mosaic called Christ Pantocrator. There are more lovely projects to come! Later in the year, these students will be feasting on Shakespeare, memorizing passages, attending a play at a theater modeled after the Globe Theater, and watching the older students put on A Midsummer’s Night Dream. The community will also come together in December for a Medieval Feast, where they will display art, recite, sing, eat, and celebrate. 

20150827_101559 copy JPGDialectic/Rhetoric Students: Seventeen students are enrolled for the current academic year, ranging from the 6th to 11th grades. At the dialectic
level our focus objective is as follows: 
The learners will learn to think critically about God’s world and their place in it through the use of logic (reasoning), dialogue, and Socratic questioning in order to integrate knowledge into a comprehensive vision of the world. At the rhetoric level our focus objective is The learners will discern the perspectives of the authors they read, as well as add appropriate persuasion in choice of words and expressions to their dialectic skills. They will grow in skill and wisdom as they apply their knowledge to writing and problem solving, in order to present and defend truth, beauty, and goodness. In order to accomplish these goals, here are a few of the things that have been happening in our halls, classrooms, and homes this first month of the school year.

Virtue Focus: We share with the grammar school a focus on the virtue of love. At our upper school opening, our rhetorical students have begun to share testimonies of the virtue of God’s love in their own lives. Our Dialectic Service Club is organizing an Operation Christmas Child shoebox drive. We have a scholé community goal of one hundred boxes!

Science: We have three different science class offerings complete with labs.

– Lower dialectic students are learning about the periodic table. They are focusing on the skills of note-taking and vocabulary as they learn to read and summarize science material.

20150827_101857 JPG– Upper dialectic biology students collected pond specimens and grew bacterial cultures to observe and identify under microscopes this past week. They are learning to compare and contrast different organisms and predict causes and effects based on their knowledge of different organisms’ habits. Some highlights of our year will be: a creation/evolution/intelligent design debate and crossing parent genotypes to create “spud children,” in addition to lots more hands-on labs with microscopes.

– Rhetoric-level physics students are applying their math skills as they learn to understand and predict how the world works. The students are fascinated by how useful physics is in the world. They recently determined their own reaction time, through experiments, and used that to calculate the speed of their nerve impulses traveling from their brain to their hand and foot for each student! Later this year they will be creating a “simple machine project,” which incorporates a chain reaction of six to ten simple machines working together to pop a balloon. They will also design and implement their own science fair project.

History: Students are engaging in Socratic discussion on topics and readings related to the Middle Ages. A highlight thus far for one student in the upper dialectic/rhetoric Tapestry of Grace history class was an in-depth discussion on what makes a good leader and whether Charlemagne was, in fact, a good leader. Students are also looking forward to a field trip to the PA Renaissance Faire next month.

Great Books Classes: Students are reading literature from the Middle Ages, such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Beowulf, searching out the great ideas, themes, and conflicts. The lower dialectic class works on grammar, literature, and writing. They are learning to find thematic quotes for their commonplace journals and examining their books for literary devices such as simile and metaphor. The upper dialectic/rhetoric class is also diving deeply into some poetry and will share memorized poems in the coming weeks. Classes are exploring the use of commonplacing. Coming in November will be an in-depth study of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, complete with a field trip to a professional performance of the play.

IMG_2191 copy JPGRhetoric Class: Our 10th and 11th graders are taking an online rhetoric class through CAP’s online Scholé Academy. They are learning to look for the perspective of the author and to choose their own words carefully. 

Elective Classes: 
A variety of elective classes, such as Latin, Spanish, debate, government and philosophy, “How to Read a Book,” and art are also being offered. Students in debate have already explored issues such as the influence of television and the use of drones. In art class, students have begun a multiweek project creating mandalas inspired by medieval designs and history. 

“Parent Connect” Activities: Each week a different subject sends home one assignment that is to be completed with at least one parent . . . We are homeschooling after all! As an example, recently philosophy students and their parents enjoyed discussing a video on Muhammad together. 

Last words…
Our group is lovely but not perfect. Communal learning is a beautiful thing, but it takes a lot of work to get it going and keep it going well. We continue to work out “kinks” in our scheduling, teachers’ needs, communication, etc. We are still asking questions about what “restful learning” looks like. We are wondering how to share the load most effectively. We are needing to remind ourselves, as parents and leaders, to have fun and enjoy the Lord, our kids, this world, and not to forget our “first love.” May all of you other groups out there be encouraged as you endeavor (energized by the Holy Spirit) to train up your children. Thank you for being on this journey with your sisters in Harrisburg!

The Scholé Homeschool Center of Harrisburg is led by a small group of directors.