By Joel Salatin | (Source)
Yesterday I spent a delightful afternoon with the chief architects of a proposed Anglican sponsored all-boys boarding farm school about half an hour from our farm. We spent the afternoon looking at the 260-acre property on which they have a contract.
I’m a fan of any educational alternative to government typical institutional schools but I found this outfit’s idea especially warming. They propose to have their students engage in a classical curriculum academically but nestled in a working farm. They would grow almost all their own food, prepare it, preserve it, cut firewood for their wood-fired heat sources and construct timber-frame buildings from scratch.
One of the goals is to graduate every student with the confidence to build a house for himself and his family. The day’s schedule would roughly be chores first, then a time of devotion and reflection, then breakfast, then donning dress clothes (yes, ties will be required) for classes. One day a week is a work day–butchering, cutting firewood, kitchen duties.
Having encountered a couple of these types of schools over the last few years, I can tell you that these young men will look you in the eye, shake hands with gusto, be excited about life and have purpose for living. In fact, this spring we’re hosting a group of 12 students from The Heights School in Potomac, Maryland for their annual Crescite. It’s a week-long time of discovery, “coming to be” and personal development.
A couple of years ago a group of students from a similar school in the midwest stopped in for a day on their way to tour Washington, D.C. Something happens in the psyche and spirit of young people when they milk cows, make cheese, butcher chickens, plant carrots, and eat from their own handiwork. It accentuates the nobility of work and affirms the sacredness of human mission.
To stand there yesterday and imagine this mountainous tract of land echoing with the laughter and partnering of purpose-driven boys was like a breath of fresh air in light of a disintegrating culture. I crawled out on a rickety pier to examine a pond overflow pipe–lots of good water. We pulled the top off a spring box to look at flow and set-up. Appreciating what generations before did to harness resources, we brainstormed about how another generation could enhance the natural abundance in new ways.
I’m thrilled that some people appreciate what a rugged, rigid, redemptive regimen can offer young people. This will be an immersion experience–the proposed campus is half an hour from a gas station. It’s rural, secluded, and perfect for focusing on life tasks that anchor and connect. I counted it a privilege and honor to dream with these men about investing valuable traditions and heritage understanding in the next generation. These young men will build their own dorms, cut their own wood, grow and prepare their own food, and do it all with mindfulness of divine provision and responsibility. I hope the plan proceeds.
Interestingly, over my lifetime I’ve made presentations at numerous private and elite schools that a hundred years ago were like this. But over time they lost direction in thrift and self-reliance, gave their meal contract over to Marriott or some other industrial food service, and leased out their farm land to neighbors. To see a new interest in resurrecting this kind of integrated school is heart-warming.
Have you ever experienced a farm-based school?