Thursday 16 May 2019

An Extended Student's View

As is our tradition at Dreaming Spires Home Learning, when one our students finishes studying with us for four or more years, we leave time on the last day for them to say a few words about their experience.

We make a fuss over our graduates.

The following is a speech given today that captures so much of the interaction, connection, motivation, and maturation that we see in our students.

"When my Mum signed me up for RenLit, my first Dreaming Spires course, 4 years ago, I was not impressed. I thought the workload would be far too heavy and complex for a mere 14-year-old like me. I also thought that doing an online class would be too structured and ‘school-like’ to be compatible with my beloved home-schooling life. Well… 4 years, 12 presentations, 40 books, 172 narrations and a large handful of sonnets, short stories and poems later – I have officially changed my mind. In fact, the Dreaming Spires English courses have been one of the best things that has ever happened to me in my 13 years of education. 

"It’s weird though… Going into my first Dreaming Spires class one September evening, I never would’ve dreamed that I would be here, graduating 4 years later! I was sceptical and a little bit scared. But as the year unfolded, I was happily surprised. Instead of being confronted by complex, boring, stiff education, I was thrown into a whole new world of fascinating 16th century books, conversing with classmates, and even a little bit of friendly competition. Anyways, RenLit was a huge success, and it was followed by AmLit, then MAL, then Brit Nov – pretty much the most random order you can think of. Because when have I ever been known to do things the simple way? But I was in it for the long haul… Something about Dreaming Spires just made me want more. I loved it all – the classes, the books, the people, even the homework! 

"Now, I’m a social person by nature… So, I was quite delighted by the discovery of the All Users forum. Imagine, I could actually interact with people of my own species (aka home schoolers) from all over the world. It was grand fun. I was there the year that we nearly broke the All User forum because we posted over 24,000 posts. I was there the years that major religious discussions broke out all over the forums. I watched entire governments rise and fall in the micronations forum. I have discovered old friends from the past on these forums and forged new friendships with people all over the world, as well as with some people a little closer to home. And that’s just in the All User forum! Every year I have joined a new group of people with each class I’ve done. I’ve loved being a part of each diverse group, forming friendships and working together to help each other understand issues discussed in class, arguing over controversial characters, and ultimately helping each other form relationships with the books we’ve read. Shout out to Bethany, Nadia, Anne, Ruqs, Charli, and Marielle as some of the amazing people I’ve had the joy of hanging out within various settings in and out of class, as a result of Dreaming Spires! 

"I’ve had many favourite memories come from being part of various classes… Like the time Dr P majorly creeped out the entire class by sitting and watching us silently for 15 minutes at the beginning of class. Or the time I managed to put a bunch of Hamilton references into a presentation on the York Mystery Plays and then nearly died trying to present it while watching the Hamilton fans freak out in the comments.  Or just recently when a couple of us got together and had a hilarious time reading the first act of The Importance of Being Earnest all together (the recording is available if you care to see it *ahem*). Having fun while learning is one reason why I love Dreaming Spires so much. Somehow, things just stick better in your brain when you’re enjoying yourself. 

"It’s not all been sunshine and roses though… I have been pushed and challenged in every single one of these English courses. I’ve spent literal days agonizing over my bibliography for a certain research paper (cough cough AmLit). I’ve spent many a late evening writing and rewriting essays because somehow you just have to fit both HOW-Hand and PEER into every paragraph. And I have spent hours slogging through books with complicated language (Looking at you Faerie Queene), boring politics (Gulliver’s Travels), and rather disgusting romps (ahem Canterbury Tales). I’ve even thrown a book or two clear across the room (Uncle Tom’s Cabin – I’m sorry. I still love you.)  But you know what – it’s all been totally worth it. I’ve learnt so much and have grown to appreciate even the most challenging books we read. (mostly… I’m still having reconciliation talks with Utopia.) I’m really grateful that I have been pushed by Dr P in each class I’ve taken. If you’re willing to put the effort in, you will reap the benefits!  I now know how to write a tolerably good literary a analysis essay, how to format a bibliography, and how to interact with challenging, complex and just plain not-very-fun books, thanks to Dr P. 

"No kidding though, I have learned an awful lot. Each English course is so widely spread that by doing all of them you really do get a very wide grasp on literature throughout the ages. I’ve learned literary terms I never knew existed and are now forever burned into my brain. Juxtaposition and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales for instance… And of course, the infamous sublime of Wuthering Heights. I’ve also learned tons about the history surrounding the literature we’ve read… McCarthyism is now forever entwined with Fahrenheit 451 for me, as is Dr P’s widespread education in 17th century prisons and The Pilgrim’s Progress. I’ve also wrestled with lots of different important issues through these courses… What makes a human a human? – Frankenstein. The dangers of communistic ideas as promoted in Utopia. The importance of books in society and history – Fahrenheit 451. The place of ancient literature in a modern society – Beowulf. I’ve been forced to think, to dig deep into major issues, and solidify my personal beliefs. And all this before I turned 18… 

"However, as I sat down to look back at these past 4 years and to try and come up with a suitable graduation speech, one thing kept coming back to mind – one thing that is probably the most important of all. Yes, the fun, the memories, the learning, the growth – it all has been absolutely wonderful. But what really has been highlighted for me is the passion that these 4 years of Dreaming Spires has ignited in me – a passion for English, for writing, and for stories. Now, I’ve always been a reader, a devourer of books. But Dreaming Spires has given me a direction for that literary hunger. Each course that I have taken has further opened my eyes to the sheer breadth and beauty that can be found in literature. I have been taught how to personally interact with books of all different genres, eras and styles. I have been shown the power that literature can have on the world. This growing passion for literature has blossomed over the years and is now bearing fruit in that I am planning to go study English at uni this Autumn. (wow that was quite the tree imagery I just came out with. Anyone want to do a HOW-Hand on that?) Dreaming Spires has had a direct influence on this decision, by constantly feeding my passion for literature and pushing me towards bigger and better things.

"So, to conclude this speech, I just want to say thank you. Thank you to Dreaming Spires for 4 years of wonderful memories and friends, new and old. Thank you to you guys – this past year has been a blast doing Brit Nov with you all! And most of all, thank you Dr P. Thank you for personally investing into my education through teaching classes, marking homework, and answering innumerable emails with questions. Thank you for introducing me to some of my now-favourite books. Thank you for pushing me hard and always expecting my best. Thank you for opening the world of literature to me in a way I never knew was possible. And most of all, thank you for being one of the people that has sparked my own passion for English. Dreaming Spires has been an invaluable tool throughout my high school education and I’m sure I will continue to reap the benefits for years to come.

"I’ll finish by saying what Dr P says every year at the end of the last class just before she signs off. Thank you, and may God bless you all."

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Suggestions, ideas, tweaks, or maybe you're just a happy Dreaming Spires student who wants to leave some encouraging words! Thanks for posting! Kat