The article below is taken from The Buzz, our newsletter to members of Charlotte Mason’s Alveary. The Buzz is modeled after Mason’s “Notes and Queries” in the Parents’ Review where she answered questions about the programmes, methods, or philosophy that she thought would apply to a large number of her subscribers. In this edition of the Buzz, Jen Spencer, Program Director of Charlotte Mason’s Alveary encourages teachers and parents to reconsider what it means to spread a feast for our students.
Hey there! Can we talk for a minute? We all know that Charlotte Mason uses food as a metaphor for knowledge throughout her volumes, and the curriculum she suggested, which is both very wide and very deep, is often called a “feast.” But then, when you see it all out there and realize that there are going to be 40 subjects instead of the usual 6 or so in traditional curricula, the panic sets in. How in the world are you supposed to get all this done AT ALL? Let alone done WELL?!
I’d like to attempt to reframe this word, “feast,” but I’m afraid I’m gonna have to go full-on Southern in order to do it. We take food very seriously in the South. And the ultimate feast around here is not Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter–it’s the church fellowship dinner. You know, that day when everybody brings a covered dish, it’s all set out buffet-style, and you wait in a long line hoping that there’s still some of Mrs. Cox’s macaroni and cheese left by the time you get to it. You wish your plate was bigger, because there’s no way everything is going to fit. You take a little of as many tasty-looking things as will fit on your much-too-small plate, by-passing the things that do not look appetizing. (WHY, Ms. Sadie, would you put pineapple in a casserole?! And, I’m sorry, but ambrosia is just gross, and the real estate on my plate is much too precious to waste on canned corn that I can get every day at the grocery store.) You carefully carry your overloaded tray (Do these things have a weight limit?) to a table and sit down with friends.
Once you’re there, the food kind-of takes a back seat. Now comes the best part. You get to coo at a brand new baby and offer her mother some wisdom. You catch up on who has been in the hospital and make a plan to help out the family. You hear an old-timer tell the story about that time when he was a kid that he got in trouble for almost drowning his little brother by trying to baptize him in the pond out behind the house. Another tells the story of being chased with a broom by his best girl’s mother, who had seen him steal a kiss from her by the gate. They were married 60 years before she passed last month. Your husband returns to the table with his SECOND plate piled high. Where does he put it all?! While you are enjoying the company and conversation, the little kids are long-done eating (all of them have left enough food on their plates to take home and have for supper) and have started a game of tag. They are building their own memories that they will share one day.
You get up to go to the dessert table. Oh. My. Goodness. Everything (with the exception of that one pie that was obviously made by ‘Mrs. Smith’ and purchased from the frozen food section) looks SO GOOD! You’re already stuffed to the gills, but somehow the even smaller plate they give you here looks woefully inadequate. You take tiny samples of several things back to your table. You eat, you talk, you laugh, and you deepen relationships, all before driving home and collapsing blissfully onto the sofa and into a carb-coma.
You have experienced a feast. There are a lot of things on offer. You took according to your tastes and your limits. So did your husband. So did the kids. Is anyone worse off for not having eaten a serving of everything? No. Maybe next time you’ll try something new. Life is long, and church dinners will happen again. And, when you look back on this feast, what will you remember? Probably a few of the foods (Mrs. Cox’s macaroni and cheese, for sure!), but mostly you will remember a feeling. It’s the feeling of relationship.
I would like for you to try to think of the Alveary like that church dinner. There are so many books and lesson plans on offer, but no one is expecting you to make yourself or your kids sick by stuffing yourselves full of everything. Some will take more, some will take less, and what they take will vary, because they are persons. No one will be worse off for having missed something. And when your children look back on their education, they will remember some of their books very fondly, but, mostly, they will remember the atmosphere, the special things you did together, and the feelings of relationship and of an appetite being satisfied.