One of the top 10 frequently asked homeschooling questions is if we “do school” over the summer. I’m quick to answer “no,” because we don’t do the more formal education day during the summer months. We use these to finally come outdoors, get some sun, and let our brains and bodies find creative, nourishing outlets as they will. In actuality, it is school; it’s just that it’s school perfected, because it happens as a pure extension of what makes us happy and energized. Some folks call this unschooling. That’s cool too.
Exploring Literature Through Theater and Film
This summer, Eva tried out for and was given the role of Jane Eyre in our community children’s theater production of “Young Jane Eyre.” If you’re familiar with Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel, “Young Jane Eyre” is the first part of the story – the portion in which she is an orphaned child, neglected by her benefactress aunt, abused by her cousin, and then sent away to an unfortunately historically-based boarding school for young women, where students were humiliated, starved, beaten, and deprived medical care as part of their education. Many children died, and in fact, Jane Eyre’s best friend Helen is among that number.
Obviously this is a deep piece of theater, and Eva is enjoying tapping into her inner tween angst as Jane rebels and grieves and survives her rocky childhood. At 11, Eva’s never read Jane Eyre, and we opted for the summer to explore the story through movies instead of the original text. We were particularly interested in comparing different scripts’ take on the story as well as the choice of actors, acting styles, sets, costumes – the whole works. Eva is bringing Jane Eyre to life on stage, and she wanted to see how others did it before her.
Though the movies largely move through Jane’s childhood rather quickly, we’ve still enjoyed watching it unfold in the 1943 film featuring Orson Welles, the 1997 A&E production with stars we didn’t know, and the 2011 version featuring Mia Wasikowska and Judi Dench. We have a couple more to watch, including one broken up into 11 episodes! That should give us some good stuff from her childhood.
There’s no formal test or essay after each film viewing, but we discuss the different emphases of the various versions. Orson Welles was an emotionally abusive Rochester as was the male lead in the 1997 film; in the 2011 version, Rochester was softened considerably, almost making him likable. Jane is more similar in the different movies, though in some she is more outspoken, coming across as a stronger character.
There is a lot to discuss in Jane Eyre beyond its literary significance, storyline, and plot. Jane is considered by many to be an exemplary feminist; others consider her love for the domineering Rochester an ultimate failure in her life trajectory. I must confess I am no Rochester fan, and perhaps it is my influence that shapes Eva’s own opinion, but I was relieved to hear her observations of what healthy relationships should look like, and how Rochester doesn’t fit in that category, and why. Literary analysis shaping my kid’s life perspective; isn’t that the purpose of story after all?
Creating Beautiful Music
The other major event going on in our lives right now is the recording of Ian’s first full-length album, “Quietly Making Noise.” Earlier this spring he ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the project, and has been busy ever since recruiting musicians, writing charts, gathering auxiliary percussion, and rehearsing. Now that school is out, he has more flexibility, and this week has consisted of late morning sleep, afternoon rehearsals, and 6 pm to midnight recording sessions.
I can’t possibly express to you how exciting this process is. For months, we’ve heard Ian playing these amazing songs on the piano. But in Ian’s head was another world entirely – fully orchestrated with sounds and layers and depth we couldn’t conceive. In the studio he’s finally revealing all this magic, not only writing and performing, but producing the album in full. Though a couple of songs are piano/voice pieces, in many others he adds crazy stuff – chimes, a gong!, a table of metal junk, wind chimes, and layer after layer of sound with keys, bass, guitar, a muted trumpet, and harmonic vocal work. Sometimes husband-Jamie (who is his guitarist) and I say something like “a gong? I don’t think that will work.” But Ian simply says, “just listen.” And we are totally blown away by his vision.
The collaborative nature of the work is special as well, as Ian is getting to work with established musicians like NPR composer BJ Leiderman, and also a wide collection of his talented high school friends. It’s truly a celebration of talent among many; I’ve loved having them come in and out of our house for rehearsals, talk, and laughter.
We just finished the Bismarck portion of the album, and next month he’ll lay down his last two tracks in North Carolina. Then the album gets mixed, leveling out all the distinct tracks, and then mastered, providing a consistent sound to the entire album. In the meantime we’ll be producing album art and merchandise to support concerts and fulfill his Kickstarter promises. It’s art and business and relationships and literature and music and so much more. Is this school? Why yes. Yes it is. Will I “count” it on his transcript? Of course. Just like I’ll count Eva’s study of theater and Jane Eyre. Education doesn’t end when the fun stuff begins; it’s all of a piece, and the sooner we validate these creative pursuits, the sooner our education paradigm will reflect the values we hold most dear.
What About the Parents?
As for Jamie and myself, we are continuing our own life’s education through our writing work in addition to figuring out how to manage our kids’ budding careers. Jamie is writing a new play; I am working on my book, STEAM-Powered Classroom. My goal is to finish the book proposal by the end of the month and get it off to readers before I shop it around to publishers. It’s frankly difficult to make time for this right now, especially as the garden and summer birds call to me! But it will happen.
So that’s our “summer school” plan. How about you? For more photos of our time in the studio, check out the photo gallery below. And for more posts on summer education and Ian’s music career, check out the “You may also like” links underneath the gallery.
You may also like:
- Share this