A Charlotte Mason Education

Walk beside me

It’s a humble entreaty—the words of a teacher seeking to foster conversation and build into the life of a student, or conversely, the words of a student in need, imploring a parent or peer for guidance and encouragement. These three simple words encapsulate the educational approach taken at Calvary Schools of Holland in the kindergarten through 8th grades. Our desire is to participate in the walk of life in each of the lives of our students—to be there through both difficult and delightful experiences, to foster engagement with living ideas through thought-provoking questions, to inform ignorance, to assist weakness, and to gently correct and redirect in proper measure.
Toward this end, Calvary Schools of Holland is partnering with Ambleside Schools International to thoughtfully employ the philosophy and methods of the renowned Christian educator and author, Charlotte Mason. Below is a brief list of distinctive elements which are foundational to an educational practice rooted in the ideas of Charlotte Mason. These are being incorporated in the elementary and middle school grades at CSH.

Foundational Philosophies

In her six-volume series, Mason delivers a thoughtful apologetic for her approach to education based in a biblical view of personhood and mankind’s relationship to God and the created order. For a printable version, click here.

• Children are born persons, full of infinite possibility—simultaneously image bearers of God and afflicted with the weaknesses of the sinful nature. They are neither good nor bad, but with capacity for good and for evil. Because they are persons, there are possibilities for high intellectual attainments and amazing mechanical skills. Because children are persons, with high capacities for intellectual, physical, emotional and spiritual growth, formation rather than information is most central to the educational endeavor.

• The idea of relationship is at the very heart of an Ambleside education. Ambleside students grow in knowledge and understanding as they cultivate relationships with Christ, others, living ideas, the created world and themselves. The curriculum is varied and generous because children relate to many thoughts and things. Students are trained in biblical studies, physical exercise, nature lore, handicrafts, the sciences, mathematics, art, history, geography, music, poetry, handwriting, dictation, recitation, composition, grammar, citizenship and many living books. Because relationship is central, class sizes are limited, that students may know and be known.

• The atmosphere of the learning environment is a vital component to education. Students learn best in a structured, peaceful atmosphere that is rich in ideas, beauty and wonder, and wherein the principles of authority (not autocracy) and teachability are upheld.

• Education is a discipline. Preparation for a life well-lived requires training of the heart and of the will; therefore focus is given to building strong work habits and character. Students are trained to develop strong intellectual, moral and interpersonal habits—endeavors best approached within the aforementioned context of relationship.

• Education is a life. Children need physical, intellectual and moral nutrition. In the same way that the body needs food and rigorous struggle for growth, so does the mind feed and grow on living ideas from the best books of the best minds, rich in content and ideas, and which are assimilated and wrestled with daily. Life is full of delight and struggle, and these elements are cultivated within the classroom as well.

• The method of narration is fundamental to the educational process in a Charlotte Mason education. It is an active retelling of what the student has heard and learned. A detailed retelling, rather than a summarization, requires the use of the child’s whole mind and memory, and demands careful attention to a single reading of the source, without review and repetitions.

Small Class Size

Implicit in the Charlotte Mason approach is a class size conducive to the discipleship of each child. The question is not how many students a teacher can manage, but rather, how many students a teacher can disciple. With a focus on one-on-one attention and relationship-building, small class size is foundational to an atmosphere where students can know and be known.

Minimal Homework Load

A Charlotte Mason education places a strong focus on school and family life balance. Each school day is used wisely and thoughtfully so that material is covered well and school time is not wasted. Students will have some outside homework, but the priority is placed on completing lessons during the day so that students may have time for family after the school day. Charlotte Mason believed that children should not be overtaxed by hours and hours of school work, but should have ample time to run and play.

Half & Full-Day Kindergarten Options

Calvary Schools of Holland provides a unique opportunity for parents to choose a half-day or full-day schedule for their four- and five-year-olds. In our four-year-old kindergarten program, children may attend school two, three or five mornings a week, with an optional afternoon extension program. Five-year-olds may attend five half days or five full days of school in our K5 program, allowing parents to determine the most developmentally appropriate option for their child. Holland families have positive, affordable and developmentally appropriate options for K4 & K5 Programs at Calvary.

If you are interested in finding out more about the distinctives of a Calvary education in the kindergarten through 8th grades, contact principal Cheryl Ward at info@cshk12.org, or call the Plasman campus at (616) 396-4494 and schedule a visit. Additional information on Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy and the curriculum we use can be found at Ambleside Schools International.