I first heard the term party school from Julie Bogart of Bravewriter fame. I’m pretty sure she mentions it in her magnum opus, The Writer’s Jungle. However, I’ve been immersed in the Bravewriter world for a while now, so I’m really not sure where the idea first came up. I do know, though, that she explains the whole idea thoroughly in this video. The idea is that you study something in your homeschool deeply (a “deep dive,” as Julie would say) and then you throw a party to celebrate and show off what you learned. This almost always involves food, and it could also involve games or art or whatever is appropriate to the study (and whatever your children are inspired by). We had the party school to end all party schools a few years ago, and I wanted to bring it up out of the archives and share it again, just in case it might inspire someone.
Reading Eating the Plates by Lucille Recht Penner aloud together was the catalyst for this particular party. I mean, how could we spend ten chapters (about a hundred pages) immersed in the the Pilgrims’ eating habits, mealtime etiquette (or lack thereof, at least according to our standards), and way of life without wanting to recreate it? Through this book we learned how they benefited from the help of the Indians, as well as how their lives changed over time after trade was established that enabled them to get a greater variety of spices, etc. We also learned about their houses and just how they lived from day to day. A lot of their time, of course, was devoted to procuring and preparing food! One thing I love about the book is that Penner intersperses “wit and wisdom” throughout; an appropriate little poem prefaces each chapter, for example. The crown jewel of the whole book, though, is the collection of recipes at the end. These recipes are purportedly authentic, but from different times during the Pilgrims’ first years in America. We made all but two of the recipes included in the book:
- fresh corn soup
- red pickled eggs
- hot Indian pudding
- succotash stew (we started this one but ran out of time)
- spicy cucumber catsup
- bannock cakes
- whole baked pumpkin stuffed with apples
- bearberry jelly
- hot nuts (we opted not to do this one since nuts are expensive and something we eat anyway)
Here are a few pictures of the most interesting recipes: bearberry (cranberry) jelly, red pickled eggs, and the apple-stuffed pumpkin.
We topped this meal off with Goody O’Grumpity‘s spice cake.
We invited over the grandparents and shared this meal with them. The girls picked out quotations and shared them on our placards.
Louise also shared some of the rules of etiquette and decorated the table with stern warnings about which utensils were acceptable at our authentic feast.
We did this four years ago, and none of us has ever forgotten it. It is a lot of work (yes!) and time-consuming, but most things worth doing are.
Some books that pair perfectly with Eating the Plates and this whole “what did the Pilgrims eat?” experience are
- Goody O’Grumpity by Carol Ryrie Brink
- William’s House by Ginger Howard
- Journey Cake, Ho! by Ruth Sawyer
Holidays are the perfect time to inject a little excitement into our homeschool, and party school is a fabulous way to do just that!