Gardens and Fields

“However many years she lived, Mary always felt that she should never forget that first morning when her garden began to grow.”
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden 

What is "education" really like?

On our HOME page, we compared an education to being a member of a household [a cohort] in a neighborhood [Northfield].

But that is not the only way to think about education. There are two other pictures from nature that may resonate with you ... a garden and a field. Both of them exemplify how we engage life generally ... and that is an important perspective to have, because education must be rooted in who we are.

Enter the garden

All creatures engage the world in two ways: apprehend and comprehend.  The first involves close up discrimination, reduction and acquisition of an isolated thing or two [any old thing will do]. The second requires taking flight ... surrendering proximate possession to the long distance panorama in which we find wider wisdom and common purpose. Both are needed.

Opthamologists, in a mysterious but instructive twist, have a name for the ability to switch between seeing close up and at a distance ... they call it  monovision ... two eyes [and some psychiatrists say two brains]  ... working together to grasp one reality [which philosophers call organism].

Whatever YOU call it, one thing is clear: both the bird and the gardener in Emily Dickinson's poem about a garden are hard at work engaging the world in both ways ... up close and at a distance. What does this lesson in life teach us about learning & education? 

Do you sometimes feel like you are hungering and thirsting in an education desert? Maybe your children do? Well, take heart, for you're not alone. And there are nutritious gardens with refreshing springs within your reach ... within the cohorts at Northfield. Why don't you come and see?

Find the treasure ... buy the field

"The kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field." ― Jesus

For another picture of what education is like, let's consider this parable about a field.

For learning and education, rightly understood, are like a treasure hidden in a field … right there under our feet … quietly waiting for us to buy the field and start digging for the treasures. In fact, we are surrounded by schools most of our lives ... they arise naturally wherever there is one who is able to teach and one who is willing to study ... and there are treasures of learning hidden in every school. And although learning is priceless and not for sale, you can buy an education and start digging!

And so in 1993, a group of teachers and families began their search for learning in a school called Northfield.  And after almost 30 years, we are convinced the greatest treasures in that wonder-filled field are yet to be discovered … quietly waiting ... maybe for you?

Get the tools

Whether you see education as a garden or a field ... and regardless of what education you buy ... or what school you attend ... you will need the tools of learning ... the trivium ... if you want to cultivate and dig successfully ... to apprehend the fruit and the treasures ... and to comprehend the gardens and the fields which contain them.

It takes time and effort to become skilled in the use of these tools. But they never wear out ... and they can be used to learn any subject ... or even to discover new subjects in our world. Think of them as an investment in a lifetime of learning.

Join a cohort ... start the work

We wish you well in your wandering. And if, perhaps, you are secretly wondering what it might be like to buy an education in a Northfield cohort ... and to learn how to use the tools of the trivium from some real masters … why don’t you just come and see.

We're home and you're welcome.

bird eating an insect

In the Garden

A bird came down the walk:

He did not know I saw;

He bit an angle-worm in halves

And ate the fellow, raw.

And then he drank a dew

From a convenient grass,

And then hopped sidewise to the wall

To let a beetle pass.

He glanced with rapid eyes

That hurried all abroad, --

They looked like frightened beads, I thought;

He stirred his velvet head

Like one in danger; cautious,

I offered him a crumb,

And he unrolled his feathers

And rowed him softer home

Than oars divide the ocean,

Too silver for a seam,

Or butterflies, off banks of noon,

Leap, plashless, as they swim.  

by Emily Dickinson