Semester School Program

Midway through December 2021, Sawyer began looking at farm co-op programs for her senior year as she will be done with her high school credits by December of 2022. In the process of searching, she and I stumbled upon a program. The program focuses on four main cornerstones-intellect, community, craft, and environment. Sawyer thought the program sounded AMAZING. It only had one small problem-it is only for high school sophomores and juniors. I said-well, you are still a junior. Call and speak with them. Needless to say, Sawyer picked up the phone, called and filled out the application-no small feat. Once admitted, we ran around like crazy finding all of the gear that she would need throughout the semester. We then dropped her off on a very cold and snowy Saturday in January. My stomach was in knots, and I am pretty sure hers was too.

Sawyer’s semester started off on a backpacking trip in Pisgah National Forest. Throughout the semester, she went backpacking multiple more times. Each trip, she gained more confidence and came back with so many stories from learning the lightening position, which she had to sit in during storms under her tarp, to watching an eagles fly overhead. In addition to backpacking, the class hiked pretty much everyday to watch the sunrise over the mountains. Sawyer also went rock climbing and white water paddling. The environment was not only where they adventured, but also a large part of her curriculum. The curriculum focused on outdoor education and the our beautiful world.

Sawyer tells me over and over that the classes were fantastic and that the teachers seemed to love their jobs. Every subject came alive due to the teachers’ enthusiasm for their class. Classes were mainly taught outdoors and using a socratic method as much as possible. The deep discussions were a favorite for Sawyer. The program also included bridge classes that brought all of the subjects together. Overall, Sawyer took English, Alegebra II, Environmental Science, Outdoor Programming, Health, World History, and Craft.

Craft excited Sawyer initially. This was one area that after the semester, she felt slightly disappointed about. She loves art and crafting. The crafts offered are unknown until the student gets to school, and you are not guaranteed a specific craft. Sawyer worked on crocheting, knitting, book making, and sewing. She has done all of these in the past, so she was not excited about them. With that, she did learn some awesome new tricks and came home with several hats, some mittens, many books, and some really cool bags for her brothers. She also learned how to do some glass work on the side.

Now in my mind and I think Sawyer’s as well, the community is the crux of the program. The program is small. Overall this semester, there were only 26 teens. They came into the semester not knowing anyone and left the semester with 25 new friends. The community provided a place for the teens to work on communication, have fun and be silly without judgement, and grow together and as individuals. In the final ceremony, the kids all sang in their community circle and joined hands. You could feel the connection that they all have with one another.

In January, I could not believe that I was sending my girl off to a school that I had never visited and that put her in the wild. I could not imagine not seeing her for four months. I could not imagine how much growth she would make academically, emotionally, and physically. Was the program perfect? No-I am not sure there is such a thing. Did she learn? More than I could imagine. Is she glad she went? Definitely-in fact, she is ready to go back. Lucky for me, it is only offered for one semester!

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