The Charlotte Mason Institute is very excited to introduce a new curriculum option for Charlotte Mason home educators and schools. This project is the result of nine months of dedicated work and research on the part of a collaborative of veteran Mason educators, including homeschool parents, classroom teachers, curriculum experts, children’s book experts, and subject area experts.

The project is part of the living out of the mission of the Charlotte Mason Institute, which is to further conversation on Mason’s ideas through research, outreach, and practice. We wanted to create a modern, organic program that is based on primary resources, heavily integrates teacher training, helps teachers and parents who are still working out ideas implement Mason’s methods with fidelity, and embraces the idea that what we study should reflect our own time and place. We also wanted it to focus on the time and place in which we live and to be connected to the best thoughts of some of the leading voices of our day that resonate with Mason’s principles and methods.

Two days ago, this project was unveiled at the Charlotte Mason Annual Conference in Wilmore, Kentucky. There were tears in the audience, as many found this project to be an answer to prayer. We had two question-and-answer sessions after the announcement, because one was not enough. During the second session, I pulled up the website to show parts of what would be available. Since not everyone got to see it, I decided to take a few screenshots and post them here, so that people do not feel that they are buying something sight-unseen. By the time the session was over, we had almost 100 children of the 250 limit enrolled in the pilot. The excitement was electric. So I thought it might be helpful to show a few screenshots in this blog for the benefit of those who were not in the second session and those who were not in attendance at this year’s conference. 

Perhaps the best place to begin learning about Mason’s Alveary is on the memberships landing page, where you will also go to sign up if you have attended a CMI conference since 2013. You will find the video used to unveil the project on this page. 

Next, we’ll go to the home page which you will see after you register and are added to the membership base:

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This page updates automatically whenever we add anything new, so you will always be able to stay apprised of upcoming events and important information. Along the top of the homepage, there are tabs, which, if you hover over them, will bring down drop-down menus. Let’s take a look at those.

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Under the “Curriculum” tab, you will have access to whichever form(s) for which you registered, along with a list of resources. The programs tell you which pages to read during the term. They also give suggestions for “Extra Helpings,” if your child has already read a book, if a book is just not resonating with the child, or if the student is showing keen interest in a subject and is hungry for more.
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The resource lists for each program include book titles for both “The Feast” and “Extra Helpings.” We give you a link to the book on Amazon, so that you can be sure you are getting the right one. We also provide a link to the book if it is available for free online. One refreshing thing about the Alveary is that ALL of the books we chose for The Feast are in print and readily available, so you don’t have to worry about demand driving up the prices of the books. If there were out-of-print books that we just could not live without, we made a commitment to republish them before the fall term begins. Notice that we also included the prices of both the required and the extra books to help you make decisions. At the top of the Resources page we included a “worst case scenario” of book costs. That means if you bought hard copies of all of the required books brand new, this is about what you could expect to pay for them. Of course, you can bring down your costs by purchasing used or digital copies or using the free resources provided. The costs for new books varies by form, but the range is from about $450 to about $1000. This highest cost includes such things as a Book of Centuries, investment books that you will only need to purchase once, but which will be used across the school years, and prepackaged programs for older students, such as math textbooks. We tell you in the programs how many years each book will be used.
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There is another document under this tab titled “Move At Your Own Pace Subjects.” These include things like learning to read, foreign languages, math, and grammar, which Mason insisted should be taught in a way that followed the needs of the child so that there were no gaps. So whether your child is right on target pace-wise or is ahead or behind, we tell you the sequence of learning and offer concrete advice on placement and moving forward.
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The next tab is the “Book Shelf,” which includes a growing number of classic titles that you can enjoy together as a family, historical fiction and biography titles that correspond with the history being studied (1000-1650 this year) that you can use to round out and customize your American or Canadian history studies. We also have a suggested list of reading for parents.

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But the part that attendees found most exciting–the one that made them come to me crying–was the Support.
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The first topic covered is scheduling. We adhered strictly to Mason’s daily time limits for morning lessons, but we also provided documents that will help your family find a healthy rhythm. For those who like to make their own schedules, we provided guidelines on how many times per week and for how many minutes each subject should be scheduled. Then we thought through it for you to come up with a sample of what your schedule might look like in each form. We even thought through what it might look like to combine forms and how to make sure each of your children gets the individual attention he/she needs according to the subject. By the way, each form will be studying the same period in history, so combining where you need to is made so easy.
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We are just beginning to add to the “Videos” section. Our plan is to work intensively on this over the summer and focus on topics we feel you need to understand before starting school. Each month, we will upload one new video that is either an explanation of a topic or a demonstration of a lesson. We will also provide Webinars to our members once per month so that you will have live access to an expert in the subject. This person will do a brief talk or demonstration, and then you can ask your questions. We will take suggestions from our members, so feel free to email and tell us what you need help with. We will also take cues from exams. If it looks like lots of people are misunderstanding an important concept, we can tailor our teacher training to be responsive to immediate needs. The topics we have scheduled so far include teaching reading, language development, Shakespeare, nature study and object lessons, how to teach math, map work, and notebooking. 

The “Note on Forms” section will help you understand how Mason (and our Alveary) divided classes. We include a description of the development of the child at each age so you can know what to expect physically, behaviorally, academically, and emotionally. We also include benchmarks that help you know where to place your child initially and when to move them forward.
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The “Print vs. Digital” tab explains the most current research on if and when to allow your child to use digital media. Though we always recommend hard copies for the students to use themselves, particularly in the younger forms, digital media can have its place, and it can save you a ton of money.

The final, and perhaps the most exciting, tab is the “Quick Start Guide.” This document takes every subject in turn, gives Mason’s general principles about it, and lays out explicitly how the lessons are done in each form. This will give you confidence that you are “doing it right,” even if you are still trying to wrap your head around Mason’s ideas and philosophy. You can print out the entire document, or you can use the quick links provided to research a particular subject.

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If you are as excited as we are about Mason’s Alveary, and you want to be sure to get a spot in the pilot, please visit the landing page, watch the video and/or read the intention and description below, and click “Apply Now.” We will cut registration and begin a waiting list after the first 250 children. Our plan is to pilot Forms 1-3 (grades 1-8) this year and open it up to the public next year, after our pilot members have helped us work out the kinks. We will also be working on the high school curriculum this year with the hope of piloting that in the fall of 2017. If you have further questions, please direct them to alveary@charlottemasoninstitute.org.

Please allow us at least 72 hours to respond to your questions and registrations for Mason’s Alveary.


A little more about admin...


34 thoughts on “Introducing Mason’s Alveary: A Curriculum for 21st Century North American Students by Dr. Jennifer Spencer

  1. Oh! You should have come to the one in Ambleside! Oh, well. In The Alveary, everyone follows the same history rotation, and we divide into forms. So not all of the literature would be the same unless you have children of similar ages. While the focus is American, we are lucky to have two Canadian ladies who are working on a plan for Canadians.

    • Oh! This is so exciting! I just left a question for you about this and now I see my answer. Will continue to keep an eye on this!

  2. Dr. Spencer.
    I am in Australia. I have not implemented yet the curriculum with my under school age child, however I have been planning on what type of literature to use for the years ahead. I like Ambleside online suggestion because kindly this group of women have made it accessible for everyone. I have followed Dr. Middlekrauff podcasts in different programs and I feel that his interpretation about Charlotte Mason ideas agree with I have read and that’s why I would love to know more about the curriculum.

    I believe that because I am overseas I would not be part of the pilot program because it is also focussed on North American History and geography, however I would love to know the suggestions about the books suggested for the other subjects.

  3. I am very interested in this curriculum. Sadly I was not and am not able to attend a conference for our family is currently living in Ireland. Our family has been following Ambleside online for the past 7 years, with tweaks here and there to fit us better, ie; keeping all my babes in the same history and literature time period. I’m curious if this curriculum is going to have all students in different areas of study, asides from history, are you grouping history and literature together? Which areas of study are you planning on grouping together? How much U.S. content is there going to be? (we are Canadians)

    • I would love to know this too, I am very interested in this curriculum and I just love love this idea, but wondering if being Canadian would mean too much additional tweaking to really make it worthwhile.

  4. Thank you for all your work for the CM community. Would this curriculum be credited like public school ?!

    • Elena,

      So glad you asked that question. We are in the process of working with and joining the National Council of Private School Accreditation. This is an arduous process and will take us several years but we are headed in that direction!

    • I’m not sure a curriculum can be accredited. There would have to be an umbrella school instead. Right now, CMI has no plans to develop such a school, but perhaps someone else out there would pick up that torch.

  5. To be crystal clear, this curriculum is not available to those who haven’t attended a CMI conference yet, correct? Not until the 2017-2018 school year? That’s a shame, b/c many of us who are looking deeply into CM would probably do really well w/ this hand-holding! Ambleside Online is overwhelming for the newcomer.

    • Yes, this curriculum is going to be wonderful for “newbies.” The reason we want our pilot members to have attended a conference in recent years is that there are many interpretations of CM out there, and we want to make sure the people who are giving us feedback are on the same page as CMI. Once we get the kinks worked out using feedback from these people, it will be easier to extend the curriculum to the general public with less risk of the program going off course. Thank you for your interest!

  6. My question is about pricing. You say the curriculum will be priced like other boxed curriculums, at $499. Does that mean I will receive everything needed to teach this curriculum for the year in a box on my door step like I would when purchasing other boxed curriculums at that price point?

    • No. Memberships are renewed annually and books are not included. The membership fee goes to research, development, and the creation of high-level supporting materials.

  7. Beautiful! If we are registered for the Western CMI in California are we eligible to enroll in the pilot? Thank you! Erin

  8. Thank you for your kind words. Please know that we take our responsibility to the Mason community very seriously and will try our very best to live up to the high ideal you have of CMI!

  9. This is exciting! Are you able to address how detailed the schedules are? For example, do you schedule each week out?
    Thank you!

    • We tried to meet the needs of various parents by including a general outline (how often to teach each subject and for how many minutes) for those who like to create their own schedules. Then we created a weekly schedule for each form that placed all of the subjects from the general outline into slots. We also created a suggested schedule if you have kids in more than one form–where you can easily combine them and how to give individual attention to one while the other works independently. We are working on other sample schedules so that parents can choose the one that most closely fits their lifestyle. Then they can tweak it if they need to. There are also daily lesson plans for the entire term. These can be followed as they are, or you can change things to make them work for your family.

      • Jen,
        Are the daily lesson plans up on the site yet? And if so where can I find them? I signed Keaton up for Form 3 and he is excited! So am I, but nervous! You all have done an extraordinary, beautiful, loving job of planning this all out. I am humbled, honored and deeply grateful to each and every one of you for your dedication and passion to this project!

        Kristina

        • They are not up yet because they have not been written. I am working on that now. I have 1b almost finished. My goal is to have them all up before August 1.

          • Hello Jen,

            I have a couple questions/comments:

            – Will you be creating a community/forum of some sort that is more efficient than this comments section?

            – It would be ever so helpful, in the future, to have the ability to see the entire YEAR of curriculum/lists. This so we can plan and purchase in a more (book sales, etc)”budgeted” and less frenzied manner.

            – How/Where would you like us to handle all of our hopefully helpful “input” (discrepancies, circumstances, book substitutions, typos, etc.)?

            Thank you all for all of your hard work! It shows!

  10. At the conference I put down my email address and my $99 deposit.
    What do I need to do to complete my registration?

  11. I am very excited about this new development. It might possibly be the perfect fit for our family. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to to attend the Kentucky CMI this year because of close due dates, which would have been my first CMI conference, so I won’t be able to participate in the pilot but would love feedback and more info as families begin to use Alveary. I would also love to share with my followers at Charlotte Mason Living, so if there is any additional information please let me know, but I’m sure I’ll be sharing regardless. Thank you for your work on this.

  12. Would it be possible to only pay the $99.95 joining fee in order to hold a spot while I discuss next year’s possibilities with Great River School director, Lisa Cadora? I need to find out if I am able to do both the Form I Curriculum and Great River School together for my children or if I must choose between the two. From what I understand, this is still an ongoing conversation between parents and teachers at GR. Dr. Spencer, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting you and hearing your lectures at the conference this weekend. The curriculum most certainly is an answer to prayer! Even if I don’t end up using the pilot this upcoming school year, my children will still be beginning with Form I in the 2017-18 school year. I am so exciting and grateful to know that this curriculum is available at the outset of my children’s education. What a blessing!

      • As an update to this question, we extended this service to people at the conference because they had not come prepared to drop a large amount of money and needed to go home and talk things over with their spouses. At this time, we are discouraging the “hold my spot” tactic unless you make specific arrangements with us and give us a date when your balance will be paid. We don’t want other families to miss out if someone puts down a deposit in order to hold a spot indefinitely and then backs out at the last minute. Thanks for understanding!

  13. Is CMI going to publish CM’s six volumes? As far as I know they are out of print. It is imperative for those to be made available again if many people are going to implement a CM education in their homes.

    • Thank you for asking. Yes we are. Ourselves should be out by August, Home Education by Fall and a new version of Phil of Ed by winter. These will be hardback books that lay open so it is easier to read and make notes. Carroll

  14. Thanks for the positive comments! We know about and are grateful for all of the free online resources on CM. I think it is important to make it clear that, even though we are charging money for this curriculum, it is still not a profit-making venture. That money goes right back into research and development so that CMI can fulfill its mission better. We also send a percentage to support The Armitt Museum and Library, without which no one would even have access to the primary resources. I think people can feel good about spending the money, knowing that they are helping the community move forward. So far I have been blown away by the response.

  15. Thank you for the information about the curriculum, Jennifer! I had no idea there was a second meeting about it at the conference, so sadly I missed it.

  16. I was not able to attend the 2nd Q & A. THANK YOU for this write up, further explanation and the screen shots! It is convincing and comforting.

    As someone said at the conference, “They [CMI] are the keepers of Charlotte Mason.” Yes, you are; and, this is why we can really trust and have faith in your motivation and intentions, as well as hearing – and responding to- the educators and youth of the CM Philosophy.
    Thank you, truly.

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