Charlotte Mason believed that education is a science of relationships: relationships to God, to man (including ourselves) and to the world. It has been demonstrated through other research that the characteristics of learning readiness are developed rather than taught, and only through numerous concrete interactions with the world can young children prepare to benefit from formal instruction later (Elkind 1987). Consistent with this belief, the curriculum offered at CMCS encourages children to develop relationships with the world around them through numerous hands-on experiences. Ms. Mason’s methods call for using great literature as a means of putting children in touch with great minds and fine and performing arts to cultivate creativity and an appreciation for the diversity of artistic contribution in the world. Outdoor play and nature study are part of the curriculum, both of which have been proven to enhance educational success.  

Paramount to Ms. Mason’s philosophy of education is her firm belief that all education is self-education; that children must be active learners. She believed, and her research and experience confirmed, that children are not vessels that teachers are to fill with knowledge, but rather persons with the capabilities necessary to acquire all appropriate knowledge for themselves by feasting on ideas. It is the teacher’s job to set before them a wide and rich curriculum, to provide informing ideas, and to help them develop the mental, moral and physical habits necessary to work with that knowledge. She believed that educators needed to view each child as a person with unique gifts and abilities from God. These gifts are best cultivated through a broad yet challenging curriculum.

Small Class Size

According to the National Education Association (NEA), kids learn more in small classes and are more likely to complete high school. In addition to the academic benefits, small classes enhance the probability of safety, discipline and order, making the school experience better for children (NEA 2005).  CMCS has a class size maximum of 12 students.

Parent Education and Involvement

Parental involvement has been cited as a predictor of student success. When parents are involved in school, students of all backgrounds and income levels do better. When their parents are involved, kids are more likely to earn higher grades and score better on standardized tests; they attend school more regularly, have improved social skills, and are better behaved in school; and they are more likely to continue their education past high school (Henderson and Mapp 2002). Some additional benefits of parent involvement in a child’s school are higher graduation rates; better self-esteem in students, parents and teachers; and improved communication between parents and students and parents and teachers (NPTA 2000).

Also, like Charlotte Mason, we believe parents bear the primary responsibility for educating their children and the school is their aid in carrying out that responsibility. As part of the CMCS program, parents are expected to attend study sessions about Charlotte Mason’s methods and employ them in their homes. For example, reading aloud to children, which has been proven to be a factor in reading readiness and success (U.S. Department of Education, 2004), is modeled and expected. Also, they are required to contribute a minimum for 40 hours per family each year to the life of the school.

Arts in the Curriculum

Stanford University found that, compared to their peers, young artists are four times as likely to be recognized for academic achievement, two times as likely to read for pleasure, and four times as likely to perform community service. (Americans for the Arts 2002) At CMCS, art, music, drama and music appreciation are integral parts of the curriculum and not subject to budget cuts.

Outdoors

Outdoor play and nature study are part of the curriculum, both of which have been proven to enhance educational success.   The National Association for Education of Young Children has reported the need for outdoor play as a part of a child’s normal development. Yet educational research points to a reduction in the playtime afforded to children in public schools (Pellegrini and Smith 1993). Also, a study from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign suggests that outdoor play, particularly outdoor play in a green space, improves the attention of children with ADD and AD/HD (UIUC 2001).

Teacher Training and Adoption of CM Philosophy

Teachers serving CMCS take part in sessions in which they study Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and learn more about her methods, which can help to improve student’s learning experiences. The National Assessment of Educational Progress has documented that teachers who had additional professional training were more likely to use teaching practices that are associated with higher reading achievement.  These practices included use of trade books and literature, integration of reading and writing, and frequent visits to the library—all of which are very much a part of the CMCS curriculum. (Lower levels of student achievement were found when teachers made extensive use of reading kits, basal readers, workbooks and multiple-choice tests for assessing reading.) After participating in all core training sessions, teachers are expected to understand and accept the CM philosophy.  To facilitate the process of expanding the CM philosophy in the community, the school seeks student teachers, as well as veteran teachers, to further their educational knowledge (Hammond, 1999).

The overall value of a CMCS education cannot be measured in the test scores, although they are impressive. The real value is in children loving to learn; in children growing in their humanness and in their understanding of how they relate to God, themselves, other people, and the world in which they live; in children and parents together awakening to knowledge, beauty and truth; in teachers experiencing a renewed joy in teaching; and in families of various socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds learning to work together and to love and appreciate one another.  A CMCS parent, Sarah Williams, best expresses the evidence of these things happening:

I remember watching as the doors opened on the very first day back in September of 2002 and my daughters ventured into their classrooms. It was new and unfamiliar, yet within that first week, we all felt that this place, this family of families, was God-given. I am continually thankful for the devoted teachers who love and pray with and for my children, who challenge their minds, awaken their curiosities, welcome their spirit of play, and lovingly hold them accountable to walk in ways that are kind, responsible and forgiving.