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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please allow us at least 72 hours to respond to your questions and registrations for Mason’s Alveary.