Last summer, I “just happened” to discover a really remarkable restaurant while I was traveling … and just yesterday, on the way home from a short trip, I “just happened” to discover another one. They’re very different places, but they share something really important: the food is fresh and local, and there’s a real sense of community when you walk in.
Both in Nashville and in Candor, there were other places to eat … lots and lots of others in Nashville, at least a handful in Candor. And you know that most of those other places are perfectly adequate, because most of them belong to large chains. When you eat somewhere like that, you know exactly what you’re going to get … and sometimes that’s important, as John Warner points out in this recent post from Inside Higher Education.
Sometimes a standard and standardized experience is exactly what you want. When my children were young, picky eaters, when only certain types of chicken nuggets would do, there was a lot to be said for standard and standardized.
Unfortunately, for a whole lot of young learners and their families, standard and standardized experiences are not a good fit … but they’re the main kinds of experiences that standard, standardized schools are designed to provide.
As I finished my delicious Sunday lunch, drove home along some non-standardized back roads, and joined in a great conversation about John Warner’s post, I realized that fresh, locally sourced learning is as important to me as fresh, locally sourced food. I also realized that fresh and locally sourced is a good description of the learning projects that have ignited my passion and interest over the past few years … and that this would be a good week to put all of them together, side by side, and think about the ways that fresh and locally sourced apply to all of them.
Regular readers are familiar with the idea behind the Tres Columnae Project. It’s joyful learning community where participants from all over the world learn Latin, and help each other learn, by building meaningful things together: things like stories, characters, practice and review activities, helpful background information … anything you, the subscriber, are curious about and want to learn, share, or contribute. For classes and schools that use “TC” as their learning materials, it stays fresh because you can (and should) create and share your own stories and other things that extend on the “core” adventures of the “core” characters. It’s locally sourced because those stories (and other things) were created right there, in the joyful learning community that you participate in. But unlike the local sourcing at Husk or at Blake’s, this kind of local sourcing can spread around the world by the power of digital technology.
I wouldn’t recommend trying to ship “the best sweet tea in the South” from Blake’s. It really is excellent, but I don’t think it would travel well. A story, a video, a set of illustrations? Those are locally sourced, but they can travel anywhere. You can keep them a closely-guarded secret if you want, but you can also share them easily … and others can share their locally sourced stories and other content with you.
That’s why I’m excited to be sharing the Tres Columnae way with two different courses offered this fall by Gifted Homeschoolers Forum. The first is called “Introduction to Latin,” and we describe it this way:
For learners of all ages who do NOT know Latin (or think they’ve forgotten everything). This isn’t your grandmother’s Latin class! Instead of learning vocabulary and grammar in isolation, then hoping to put it all together on a day that may never come, participants are immersed in the lives and adventures of three very different families who live in the small, beautiful, and ultimately doomed city of Herculaneum in the mid-1st century A.D. By following and creating their adventures as part of the Tres Columnae Project you will develop deep knowledge, skill, and understanding of the Latin language, Roman culture, and Roman history, plus you’ll learn Latin grammar and vocabulary in a meaningful, enjoyable class.
When we say that participants are “immersed in the lives and adventures” of those three families, we are absolutely serious about that! You’ll find some “core” stories … but you’ll also find lots of gaps and cracks in the storyline that are just crying out to be filled. Take the words, the ideas, the sentence patterns, and the cultural concepts you’re learning, and try filling in one of those gaps! But realize that the story (or other thing) you create doesn’t have to be “perfect” … certainly not the sterile, unchangeable kind of perfect you find in most school textbooks or some teachers’ “perfect” PowerPoint slides.
One teacher I know “perfected” her PowerPoint slides fifteen years ago … “so why change?” They still have the same clip art and the same “current events” today that they did in 1999. That may be “perfect,” but it’s definitely not fresh or locally sourced.
But what our GHF participants will create and share with each other? It will definitely be fresh because they’ll create it together as we go along. It will be locally sourced because they, the learning community, will create it with and for each other. And like the food at Husk or at Blake’s, the results will probably be unpredictably excellent … not at all like the identical results you can get at that big chain restaurant down the road.
If fresh and locally sourced learning sounds good to you, I hope you’ll join the adventure … or recommend it to someone who needs to know about it. And I hope you’ll keep reading this week as we look at some other fresh and locally sourced learning options you may not know about yet.
I wonder what other intriguing discoveries and insights await us all today!