Harvest Community School is a private, non-profit school located in Summerton
by Laura Stone | May 30, 2018 11:53 am
Harvest Community School in Summerton has completed its fifth year as a private, non-profit Charlotte Mason curriculum based school. Mason was a classical English educator in England at the turn of the twentieth century. She formed an approach to teaching that educated the whole person, not just the mind. In her words, “Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.”
Harvest has created a community centered, habit centered atmosphere where students work at individual-appropriate paces, striving for independent learning. As a Charlotte Mason school, Harvest focuses more on living books rather than dry textbooks to teach literature, history and the sciences.
Often there are group classes with multiple grades in one room, which encourages older children to assist younger friends in areas of struggle. Younger students, in turn, learn they may depend on the older children for assistance.
Headmaster Angie Bruner was an early childhood and elementary teacher in the public school system for 15 years. At church, she met Tammy Glaser, an avid homeschooler who became curriculum coordinator, and the two formed a fast friendship. Both had a strong desire to bring a different type of learning experience to Summerton and Clarendon County.
Glaser had used Mason’s methods to homeschool her children and had become involved with an online community called Ambleside Online. The community’s goal was to find books from today which would meet Mason’s philosophy for education. As the free community grew, so did Glaser’s knowledge. In 2009, she was asked to design a curriculum for the first Charlotte Mason Charter School in the U.S.
“I really got to know not only how to design a curriculum for your own home but how that looks at a school level,” said Glaser. “It really broadened my experience and helped prepare me for this.”
“This was God’s plan and God’s design,” said Bruner. Together they made the decision in early June 2013 to open Harvest, and the first day of school was August 26. “Everything just fell into place. We were enrolling students before we had an actual building,” said Bruner.
Although they expected eight students the first year, they began the year with 18 and ended with 25 students. At the close of their fifth year, they have 55 students and expect 65 for the 2018-19 school year.
The school serves grades K-12 and will have a maximum capacity of 75-80 students. Classes are kept small to give teachers time with each student to help them learn at their own best pace.
Harvest is fully accredited through the South Carolina Association of Christian Schools, which is one of the two independent school organizations recognized by the state. Upon graduation, Harvest students have the same ability to go to any college they choose, just as any other public or private school student would have. The school uses the state uniform grading scale and requires the same high school credits that any other accredited school requires.
“It’s just how we go about learning the material that’s different,” said Bruner.
“We’re more about the child. When a child comes here, we assess where they are as a student and help them grow to become thinkers and become observant and be interested in the world,” said Glaser.
The school is heavily involved in community service. For the last three years, groups of students have visited the Lake Marion Nursing Home to visit residents once a week. Recently, a student’s sibling was born prematurely, and the school became aware of a need for crocheted baby hats. As part of the curriculum requires learning material arts, the students began to crochet and donate baby hats to the NIC unit at Richland Memorial Hospital in Columbia.
The school has also become home to one of the Santee/Summerton Blessing Boxes. Students stock it, organize it, and keep track of high-need items. Members of the community may come take things if they are in need, and others may leave things to donate.
“It’s been very rewarding for the children to know they’re doing something that really is so helpful to this certain population of the community,” said Bruner. Students have volunteered to keep the blessing box stocked during the summer as well.
The service theme also applies to the school. Every child performed 5-10 minutes of age-appropriate chores every day at the school. They help organize, clean, sweep and maintain the facility and the grounds. “It builds a sense of community and responsibility that what they do matters and taking care of their surroundings matters. We all chip in together,” said Bruner.
While the school does not have organized sports, they do provide extra curricular activities. Harvest has a competitive archery club, 4-H, a chorus club, a chess club, and provides weekly violin lessons.
Due to a chapter highlighting Harvest’s success and philosophy in Know and Tell: The Art of Narration, by Karen Glass, Bruner and Glaser now spend time in other states speaking to other groups who wish to start a Charlotte Mason Charter School. “We certainly never imagined that would happen, that we would be doing consulting work with people who want to replicate what we have here,” said Bruner.
“Because the classroom is designed the way it is, kids want to be in there. There are always interesting books to talk about. There are always interesting things going on. There are things they enjoy doing that they’ll miss when they’re not in class,” said Glaser.
“I’m as excited today for the next start of school as I was for the first start of school, because we’re seeing children being so successful, and we’re thankful we get to be a part of it,” said Bruner.