Tuesday, August 24, 2010

You're Never Too Old to Learn

I just returned from a week of teaching writing at the John Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina. The experience was everything I anticipated it would be, and more. Set in the lush, untarnished mountains of Clay County, the folk school draws a hundred or so eager adult learners each week who are housed, fed, and trained in sundry subjects from basketry and blacksmithing to shoemaking and woodworking. Now in its 85th year, JCFS is based on the Danish folk school concept of education without competition. John and Olive Campbell, who devoted most of their lives to exploring, recording, and improving the quality of life in Appalachia, worked for years to establish this unique school, and Olive Campbell worked hand in hand with the residents of Brasstown to bring her husband's dream to life.

Simply put, you need to go. We adults get so far removed from the joy of learning once we trade classrooms for paychecks that we forget what fun it is. Or perhaps classroom learning was never that fun for you. At John Campbell Folk School, the fun begins when you start flipping pages in their catalog or poring over class descriptions online. It continues day after day during week-long or weekend sessions that will have you laughing out loud as you send wood shavings shooting in all directions, hammer red-hot iron into submission, coerce recognizable tunes from a handmade banjo, turn mud into art, or words into poetry. Someone I sat with at lunch one day (the food, by the way, is amazing) said, "This is like summer camp for grown-ups," and it is--except classes are taught year-round. I'm thinking summer camp in the fall or winter might be even more fun; colored leaves or falling snow would only add to the beauty and magic.

John Campbell Folk School is not a cheap thrill, unfortunately, though they do offer occasional and various discounts. Given that housing, three homecooked and delicious meals a day, your daily classes, and a fair amount of entertainment and activities are included in the fee, it's not as expensive as it sounds. Just think of it as a more wholesome alternative to a week at DisneyWorld!

All I know is, I can't wait to go back. From the local honey I found my first day there, to the bluegrass concert the night before I left, it was the most enjoyable week I've had in a long time. I urge you to check it out.


Susan said...

I SO WANT TO GO!!!!!! I have such a heart to do some work in Appalachia, that I think this would be a perfect thing for me to do. OK, I'm on it. I'm going to research and figure out when I can go. Thanks, Jayne! Hope you're well.

Brenda Kay Ledford said...

It was indeed a delightful experience taking your writing class at the John C. Campbell Folk School last week. I enjoy the setting, the mountain crafts, meeting new people, and stepping back in time to a slower paced place at the Folk School. Your class was wonderful and how I enjoyed the work of my classmates. Everyone sure was ancomplished writer in our class.

Glenda C. Beall said...

Jayne, I'm so glad you enjoyed your week at JCCFS.
I am looking forward to teaching a class on Writing Holiday Memories at the Folk School Dec. 11.
How great it wiil be to enjoy holidays at that special place.
I am so sorry I missed you while you were here.