CHARLOTTE MASON’S ALVEARY
WHERE DOES THE NAME “ALVEARY” COME FROM?
Alveary (n)– (1) a beehive; (2) a repository of knowledge
Charlotte Mason had a practicing school on her Ambleside campus, which met in a small stone building with a hexagonal cupola. It was affectionately nicknamed, “The Beehive.” This is where her teachers-in-training would observe master teachers and begin practicing their own teaching with the local village children. We felt that this name captured what we are trying to do: provide an excellent Mason education for students and train their teachers at the same time. Our website “as a repository of knowledge” houses a vast collection of videos, lectures, articles, blogs, and original documents to help you grow in your knowledge of Mason’s philosophy and methods.
HOW AND WHY WAS CHARLOTTE MASON’S ALVEARY CREATED?
Charlotte Mason’s Alveary is the culmination of over a decade of research and work. The Charlotte Mason Institute (CMI) began exploring the idea of creating a modern Charlotte Mason curriculum and teacher training program in 2007. Since we knew we needed access to primary source documents in order to gain a fuller understanding of Mason’s ideas, CMI worked with Redeemer University College, The Armitt Museum and Gallery, and The University of Cumbria to digitize letters, articles, manuscripts, programmes, and many other items, which are now accessible in the Charlotte Mason Digital Collection. After analysis of Mason’s original programmes and other resources, we created the Alveary, piloting it in 2016. Our curriculum has evolved since then due to further research, feedback from our members, and the dedication of our development team, which now numbers more than 20 teachers, homeschool parents, and content-area experts. What started as an idea for helping teachers implement Mason’s methods while also learning them has grown from a collection of spreadsheets to a beautiful, robust curriculum that brings the full Mason feast within everyone’s grasp.
HOW IS THE ALVEARY DIFFERENT FROM OTHER CURRICULA?
The Alveary is a product of the Charlotte Mason Institute, an educational nonprofit (501c3). The purpose of the Charlotte Mason Institute is to support a worldwide community of learners and educators in an authentic practice of Charlotte Mason’s paradigm of education. Our mission is to faithfully hand on the truths of Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy. Our vision is to foster a relational education by equipping and inspiring communities through current application of Charlotte Mason’s principles and to conduct a thorough investigation into the writings, programmes, and archival documents from the Charlotte Mason Archive as well as through any future empirical research. We wish to do all of this with charity, fidelity, and humility.
Here is what all of that means for you. Charlotte Mason’s Alveary is:
- A professional product
- Our curriculum is written by a team of over 20 veteran Charlotte Mason teachers, homeschool parents, administrators, and researchers.
- Our team includes both general practitioners and content-area experts in such areas as Science, Latin, French, Spanish, Art, Music, and Geography. This means you can be confident in the accuracy and thoroughness of the Alveary. For more information, see Our Team.
- Our team is constantly immersed in Mason’s volumes, Parents’ Review articles, and the Charlotte Mason Digital Collection with an eye to creating a curriculum and training program that implements Mason’s principles and methods with fidelity. Our program is updated as we make new discoveries and connections.
- Charlotte Mason said that education is physiology plus psychology unified by philosophy. Our team includes professionals who are well-versed in child development and psychology, and that knowledge informs our lesson plans. We also stay abreast of current educational research and do the hard work of wrestling with new discoveries to see if they should inform our practice. (For example, well-established research in neuroscience that did not exist in Mason’s day is currently informing our discussion of neurodiverse students in our new group, The Blue Orchard Bee.) For more information on why current research is important and how we use it, please watch the CMI conference lecture on The Role of an Institute.
- Organic and current.
- Charlotte Mason did not create a fixed product and then sell it in perpetuity. Her programs were fresh every single term. We follow her example by updating our curriculum each year.
- We use member feedback and student exams to assess the quality of the books we recommend.
- We assess new titles as we find out about them to see if they should be included.
- When a book goes out of print we replace that title (or have it republished) to help keep your costs low.
- Complete and cohesive.
- You are not left on your own to figure out how to teach things like math, languages, dance, and handicrafts. We have thought through everything and made specific recommendations. When we couldn’t find resources we liked, we actually wrote materials ourselves, including our French, Spanish, Art, Geography, and Reading lessons.
- The program is designed to work seamlessly together as a whole. Each subject enhances the study of the others.
- Thoroughly vetted.
- In our search for the best books to include, we look for adherence to Mason’s philosophy, as well as a reflection of child development and well-established research. We include only the highest quality books and activities, as well as thoughtful exam questions.
- Programs and lesson plans are read, reread, revised, and edited every year.
Membership in Charlotte Mason’s Alveary also Includes excellent teacher training as part of the package.
- Our Alveary Member Tutorial shows you how Charlotte Mason’s Alveary is structured, includes step-by-step instructions for each of Mason’s methods, and describes how each subject progresses as students mature. It also walks you through setting up your school year, including creating a calendar and schedule, placing and combining students, and how to ease in using our Soft Launch plan.
- Our Reflective Practice Plan Book is like seeing inside the mind of a master teacher. In addition to helping you set goals for yourself and your students for the year, this tool allows you to check in each week by reflecting on what went well and what did not. It also helps you know what to expect at certain ages and what to do if you get off track. In short, it helps you teach (and live) intentionally.
- Lesson plans are designed to teach you the correct way to implement Mason’s methods.
- Lesson plans incorporate the flow and rhythm that excellent teachers use intuitively.
- Our archived webinars and extensive Knowledge Base will help you grow as a Mason teacher.
HOW IS CHARLOTTE MASON’S ALVEARY STRUCTURED?
We replicated the original structure of the PNEU as much as was feasible while translating it to our own time and place. The school year is divided into three terms of twelve weeks each. Eleven of those are for instruction and one is for exams. With the exception of Grade 1, everyone studies the same time period in history, making it easy to combine students of different ages for lessons.
IS CHARLOTTE MASON’S ALVEARY AN ‘OPEN-AND-GO’ PROGRAM?
Not really. With such a living, organic approach to education, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to put it all in a ready-to-use box. There will still be things that you need to think through and plan for yourself, including if/how you will combine your students, what your schedule will look like, and which books from which grades you will choose. This takes some time and effort, but once you make those decisions, you can use the appropriate lesson plans with ease. You may find that once you begin using Charlotte Mason’s Alveary there is actually more work than what you are used to at first because there will be subjects that are new to you or that you may have let slide before that are now going to be regular parts of your day. In short, you may find yourself agreeing with one of our pilot members, who said, “I have never worked so hard at homeschooling, but this is by far the best year we have ever had!”
IS THIS A CHRISTIAN CURRICULUM?
The Alveary is part of the Charlotte Mason Institute, which is an educational nonprofit. Our purpose is to support a worldwide community of learners and educators in an authentic practice of Charlotte Mason’s paradigm of education, which was decidedly Christian. Our curriculum reflects Mason’s commitment to presenting to each student the knowledge of God, man, and the universe; however, we do not promote a particular denominational doctrine or worldview.
WHEN YOU SAY THAT YOU ARE TRANSLATING MASON FOR OUR OWN TIME AND PLACE, DOES THAT MEAN YOU ONLY STUDY AMERICAN HISTORY, AUTHORS, AND ARTISTS?
Absolutely not. Our students study three streams of history: national, world, and ancient. They also study world cultures and world geography, and they keep up with international current events. Our purpose in saying that we are translating Mason for our own time and place is to make it clear that we choose books that are relevant for students who live in the United States and Canada. Many of the books Mason used (for history, geography, and natural history, for example) were perfect for British children, but they make less sense for today’s American and Canadian students.
TO WHAT DEGREE CAN STUDENTS WORK INDEPENDENTLY IN THE ALVEARY?
This depends on student age and ability. Students in Grades 1-3 (Form 1) require a lot of teacher attention. Grades 4-6 (Form 2) students can do some things independently, but they will still need heavy support sometimes. Students in Grades 7-8 (Form 3) will be much more independent, although they will still need some guidance in certain subjects. In high school, our lesson plans are actually written to the student, and the teacher’s role changes to mainly one of accountability. One way we try to help you navigate all these needs is by including a symbol for each set of lesson plans which represents an estimate of the amount of teacher attention required for all the subjects at various levels. Paying attention to this can help you plan your schedule accordingly.
WHEN DOES THE ACADEMIC YEAR START AND FINISH?
Our academic calendar runs from July 1-June 30. (Lesson Plans are published on July 1; all current materials are removed from the website on June 30 each year.) Within those dates, members may schedule their school year as they wish. We provide three sample school calendars in our Alveary Member Tutorial, including a 5-day year-round calendar, a traditional 5-day calendar, and a 4-day calendar. Each of them allows for 180 days of instruction, as this meets the requirements of most US states, follows Mason’s model, and ensures that you can finish the lesson plans in one academic year.
CAN I PURCHASE A PORTION OF THE CURRICULUM?
We currently offer a few subjects separately in the CMI Store.
WILL I HAVE ACCESS TO ALL OF THE PREVIOUS YEARS’ PROGRAMS WHEN I REGISTER?
No. New registrants have access only to the Programs for the academic year for which they register (i.e., 2021-22). Members who renew this year will keep access to their current programs (2020-21) and gain access to the new ones (2021-22), but the current year’s Programs are archived on June 30 each year. This follows Mason’s example in encouraging all members to work in the same history rotation.
WHAT IF I DON’T FINISH SCHOOL BEFORE JUNE 30? WILL I LOSE ACCESS TO EVERYTHING?
Yes and no. Unless you renew your Alveary membership, you will lose access to the member side of our website on June 30. However, all of our Lesson Plan sets are downloadable/printable, so you will have those as long as you have downloaded and/or printed them. Some subjects (i.e., Art, Handicrafts, and Sol-fa, etc.) have accompanying audios and videos. Videos are housed in Vimeo and are downloadable. SoundCloud does not have this capability, but you can use the app to stream to your phone instead of using it online.
WHAT IS THE ESTIMATED COST OF BOOKS?
We are very mindful that many homeschool families and schools are working on tight budgets. To help you plan, we provide the estimated cost of the individual books on each Form’s Program. The prices are designed to give you a ‘worst-case scenario,’ which assumes you would need to buy everything, and that you were going to purchase new, hard copies of each book. Bought brand new, books can range from about $350 for Grade 1 to about $700 for Grade 8.
To help offset the cost of books, we offer links to free versions whenever they are available, and many books are read over the course of several years. Likewise, our Programs indicate when a book is used only for a short period of time so that you can check those books out from your local library. Most books can be bought second hand, shared among siblings, and passed down through the years.
IT LOOKS LIKE THE BOOK I NEED IS OUT OF PRINT. THE BOOK VENDOR IS ASKING AN ASTRONOMICAL PRICE THAT I CAN’T AFFORD TO PAY. HOW CAN I GET A COPY?
We do not include out-of-print books in our programs without providing a link for some way to access them at no cost. More than likely, the book you seek is simply out of stock.
If you are having trouble acquiring a book in our Program please notify us via the CONTACT button. And PLEASE don’t pay outrageous prices for books that are available in limited supply. We frequently contact publishers about book availability and are happy to do so. If a book in our Program truly goes out of print, we will work hard to either come to an agreement with the publisher about providing a PDF copy or change the book.
DO THE BOOKS CHANGE EVERY YEAR?
We can “hear” this question from several angles:
- If what you really want to know is, “Will I be able to recycle all the books I’m purchasing to use with my younger kids?” the answer is probably not. The structure of our curriculum (in which all Forms study the same history rotation) is a factor. While the topics may be the same, students in different Forms may read different books according to age-appropriateness. Therefore, the ages of your students will influence whether or not a specific book can be reused the next time that history rotation comes around, even if the book titles on the Program do not change.
- If what you really want to know is, “Will I have to buy all new books every year because of significant curriculum changes?” the answer is no. We have spent several years refining our book list, and we are pretty happy with most of the books we currently recommend. We would only change these titles if (a) they went out of print, or (b) we found a new title that was so significantly better that it would justify rewriting our lesson plans.
- If what you really want to know is, “Is the Alveary committed to remaining current?” the answer is yes. Our team of writers does continue to read new titles, just as Mason did. However, as explained above, great thought goes into the decision to replace a book.
We feel it is important to note that, since our curriculum is part of a private membership program, we cannot participate in Amazon Affiliates. We would not make money by constantly changing up our books or by recommending books you really don’t need; nor do we receive any profit from your using the Amazon links we provide in our Programs. (Note: We would welcome you to designate the Charlotte Mason Institute as your charity of choice on smile.amazon.com.) All of our book choices–and changes–are based strictly on what we feel is the very best for our students.
WHAT IF MY CHILD HAS ALREADY READ A BOOK ON THE PROGRAM, OR IF I THINK A PARTICULAR BOOK IS TOO EASY OR HARD?
Since you have access to our whole curriculum (Grades 1-12), it is easy to allow students to straddle Forms. For example, if your Grade 4 child has already read the mythology title, you can simply use the book from Grade 5 instead. If you find that the geography selections are too difficult for him to read independently, or that he has missed important foundational information, you can have him read the Grade 3 books. This is the beauty of our structure.
When you join the Alveary, you may find that you have already studied an artist, composer, or Shakespeare play that is on our Program. You may, of course, choose a substitution and use our Lesson Plans as a guide for how to present them. In this case, there are a couple of things to note:
You will need to create your own exam questions. You can use ours to give you ideas.
Mason did have students reread Shakespeare plays. Unless you just read the one that we have scheduled, following our recommendations should be fine. If you do choose to substitute, please watch our Shakespeare webinar to find out which plays are appropriate for which grade level/form.
MY CHILD HAS NOT READ THE BEGINNING OF A PARTICULAR BOOK ON THE PROGRAM, BUT YOU ARE STARTING IN THE MIDDLE OF IT. WHAT SHOULD I DO?
Many of our books are read on rotations, meaning everyone reads the same part of the book at the same time. Depending on which rotation we are on, students may start at the beginning or in the middle of a book. Mason required PNEU students to adhere to the programme for the current term, trusting that students who start in the middle of a book would be fine. There were also subjects, however, in which Mason recommended veering from her programmes. These were subjects in which skills build upon each other (e.g., Grammar, Modern Languages, Math, etc.). In subjects where material needs to be presented sequentially, we use ‘levels’ instead of rotations and indicate any prerequisites on the Program.
MAY I MAKE BOOK SUBSTITUTIONS?
Of course, though we strongly recommend doing so mindfully. We have reviewed hundreds of books in the process of creating the Alveary curriculum and have chosen those we deem best. (See the Program to read our rationales for including each book.) Some of the things we consider when assessing books are:
- adherence to Mason’s principles
- narrative quality
- relevance to our own time and place
- political/cultural bias
- academic rigor
- contribution to the cohesiveness of our curriculum as a whole
- widely-accepted graduation/college entrance requirements
Of course, no book is perfect, and we sometimes find it necessary to alert teachers in the Lesson Plans when there are accuracy issues, or when ideas may be controversial or age-inappropriate. If you decide to substitute another title, please note that you will need to create exam questions and address any of the above issues on your own.
If you know of other books you think we should consider including in the future, you are welcome to send those titles to us via our CONTACT US link. However, we are not in a position to evaluate or officially sanction any particular substitutions you may wish to make.
WHY IS THE BOOKLIST NOT PUBLIC?
We have several reasons for keeping our booklist private. First, the booklist represents a great deal of research by our team–hundreds of hours are spent reading, comparing, and vetting books. Second, our desire is both to provide an excellent Mason education for students and to train teachers. Without the accompanying lesson plans and exam questions, we feel that the booklist alone falls short of this. We believe teacher education is of critical import. Third, keeping the booklist private helps keep the prices of books low, since the whole of the Charlotte Mason community is not shopping for them.
IS THE BOOKLIST ON AMAZON?
No. We can’t create an Amazon list, because there is no way to keep it private. However, we do provide links to Amazon in our Programs.
DO YOU OFFER ANY SPECIFIC CONTENT FOR CANADIANS?
We have a fantastic team of Canadian lesson plan writers who provide book selections and lesson plans in subjects where the content differs from that of the United States. For example, in Form 3 Geography, Canadian students study provinces and territories instead of the fifty states; students in Forms 1-3 study Canadian History instead of US History. We also provide book titles for Canadian historical fiction and biographies. Canadian artists, poets, and folk songs are incorporated into the Alveary as a whole, rather than pulled out separately, so that American students can get to know their neighbors, as well.
HOW DO I KEEP UP WITH WHAT IS GOING ON IN MASON’S ALVEARY?
We send out The Buzz: Notes and Queries most Fridays during the school year. It is a newsletter designed to answer members’ questions, as well as to keep you apprised of Alveary news and future events. This newsletter is an invaluable resource that many of our members overlook. You should receive an email notification each Friday to let you know when The Buzz has been published. If you do not see it in your inbox, be sure to check your spam/junk folder. You can also find it, and read back issues (searchable by topic), under The Buzz on the website.
DO YOU ONLY USE RESEARCH WHEN IT ALIGNS WITH CHARLOTTE MASON”S PRINCIPLES? HOW DO YOU HANDLE IT WHEN CURRENT RESEARCH CONTRADICTS HER PRINCIPLES? FOR EXAMPLE, IF BRAIN RESEARCH CONFIRMS THAT MANY CHILDREN REQUIRE EXPLICIT PHONICS INSTRUCTION, DO YOU INTEGRATE THAT INTO YOUR PROGRAM EVEN THOUGH MASON USED A WHOLE-WORD APPROACH?
We do not cherry-pick research. We believe Mason made it very clear that we should pay attention to current science (just as she did), and that the method would evolve as we learn more. While we do find that most of today’s research supports what Mason was saying a century ago, there are a few places where it poses a challenge. When this happens, our work of wrestling with the current research begins. We look to see how strong the evidence is; for example if the body of research is pointing in the same direction (as opposed to a few outlier studies).
Because of current research, we have incorporated more explicit phonics into our reading program, resulting in a balanced approach. We also use a math program that is research-based, and our Blue Orchard Bee community is exploring how brain research and current science on neuroatypical children should inform our practice. Our willingness to view science as ongoing revelation sets CMI apart.
CAN I DOWNLOAD PDFs?
All PDFs may be downloaded.
PDFs WILL NOT DOWNLOAD. SOMETIMES THEY START, BUT THEN GET STUCK. WHAT CAN I DO?
- Set your browser to automatically download PDFs rather than opening them first in a PDF viewer in your browser.
- Alternately, try opening the document with a different PDF viewer or browser. This alternate PDF viewer usually fixes any problems (add the extension, wait a few seconds, then try opening your PDFs again). Opening the PDFs in a different browser (which usually has a different PDF viewer, as well) can also solve the issue.
- If you continue to have problems downloading the PDFs, we recommend doing an internet search for your particular browser’s interaction with its PDF viewer. Often other users have had similar problems and discovered a solution.
- When you do access the PDFs, we recommend downloading them so that you can access everything offline at any time.
CAN I DOWNLOAD AUDIO/VIDEO FILES?
No, we have not created audio/video files to be downloadable though some are available offline in the related app. However, if you have downloaded the PDFs that contain the links, those links will remain live, so you should be able to access them even after memberships end on June 30.
WHAT IS THE DEADLINE FOR DOWNLOADING MATERIALS?
All memberships expire on June 30 and all current-year curriculum will be removed at 5:00 (PST). Please plan accordingly.
DO I HAVE TO SEND IN MY CHILD’S EXAMS?
No. Exams are provided for you to find out how your students have progressed during the term and to hold yourself accountable for implementing the whole feast. However, we do encourage you to send in exams, because they help us assess the effectiveness of our curriculum and improve on it.
As we collect enough exams, it may be possible for a future researcher to use them for a thesis or dissertation. By submitting your child’s exam, you are granting permission for them to be used in this way, with the understanding that no identifying information will be disclosed in any publication. If you do not wish for your students’ exams to be used for research, you may notify us via the CONTACT button on the website when you submit the exams.
MY CIRCUMSTANCES HAVE CHANGED AND I WILL NOT BE ABLE TO USE THE ALVEARY CURRICULUM THIS YEAR. MAY I HAVE A REFUND?
As stated on the registration page, due to the nature of immediate digital delivery of the product upon payment, registration costs are non-refundable and non-transferable.
DO YOU OFFER ANY DISCOUNTS OR SCHOLARSHIPS?
We do not offer scholarships. Our returning members receive a discount. A discounted rate is also available for members of Alveary co-ops (see CO-OPS above for details).
DO YOU OFFER A PRO-RATED PRICE FOR THOSE WHO JOIN LATER IN THE SCHOOL YEAR?
No. All members have immediate access to all three terms’ curriculum, regardless of when they register within the academic year.
WHERE DOES MY MEMBERSHIP FEE GO?
The Alveary exists under the auspices of the Charlotte Mason Institute, a registered 501c3 charity. As an educational nonprofit, we invest every penny you spend with us right back into the work of fulfilling our mission and vision. The Institute uses its revenue to:
- compensate our employees and contractors for their work
- cover our costs of operation, such as Paypal fees, web hosting, and webinar platforms
- support the maintenance of the physical Charlotte Mason archive at the Armitt Museum
- conduct research and further development
WHAT ARE FORMS AND HOW ARE THEY STRUCTURED?
Forms are groupings of ages that are based on the child’s development. The breakdown is as follows:
Upper Elementary School
|Form 2||Form 3||Form 4||Form 5||
|Ages 9-11||Ages 12-13||Age 14||Ages 15-16||
You can expect forms with only one age to be big years of growth and transition as the student matures. Students who are close in age can be combined very easily, making scheduling simpler.
WHERE SHOULD I PLACE MY STUDENT?
Start by placing the student in the correct grade level according to age, and then make adjustments up or down in specific subjects as necessary. You have the freedom to choose books from a higher or lower level according to each student’s needs.
CAN I COMBINE CHILDREN WHO ARE IN DIFFERENT FORMS/GRADES?
Yes! In fact, we encourage you to combine as much as you need to in order to maintain peace in your home or classroom. Keep in mind that it is much better to combine children that are close in age. Trying to combine children who are too far apart risks neither of them getting what they need.
I HAVE A QUESTION AND NEED HELP. IS THERE SOMEONE I CAN CALL?
Unfortunately, we are unable to offer individual phone consultations. However, there are ways to find help.
Prospective Members: First, please be sure to peruse the FAQ section. Second, explore all of the SAMPLES available. Additionally, there is a private Facebook group called “Charlotte Mason’s Alveary Ambassadors” which was created by some of our members expressly for people who want to ask questions of our current members. Finally, if you are still unable to find the answer to your question and/or if you desire an official answer from our team, please write to us via the CONTACT button on our website.
Once you register, your options for help increase greatly. You will be able to read the entirety of our Alveary Member Tutorial and the Program. Our private social media network, “The Hive,” is a fantastic place to interact with current members. There, you will be able to find out what has worked for others in the past and see sample schedules and projects they have shared.
Members: You are always welcome to write to us via the CONTACT button on our website. (Please note: It is very helpful to us when you include the grade/form, subject, book title, lesson number, link, etc. when you write.) Whenever we see a question that we believe may help multiple members, we may include it (anonymously) in our newsletter.
DOES MEMBERSHIP INCLUDE ACCESS TO HIGH SCHOOL MATERIALS?
Yes. All grades (1-12) are included.
DO YOU PROVIDE TRANSCRIPTS?
No. However, we do offer a sample Alveary high school transcript on our website and advice on how to count high school credits. Members also have access to webinars that pertain specifically to high school.
CAN YOU TELL ME HOW I SHOULD ASSIGN GRADES FOR MY HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS?
In every term’s exam there is a scoring rubric. You can use the rubric scores across subjects to translate into grades for your student’s transcript. It is also good practice to talk to the students and ask them to evaluate themselves along the lines of the rubric, both for the term and the year as a whole.
WHAT IS THE HISTORY ROTATION, AND WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU FINISH IT?
We adopted a four-year history rotation modeled after Mason’s, but adapted for American students. The time periods studied are as follows:
- Rotation 1: 800 – 1650 AD (Grades 5-12 also study 3500-550 BC)
- Rotation 2: 1650 -1800 AD (Grades 5-12 also study 550-100 BC)
- Rotation 3: 1800 -1900 AD (Grades 5-12 also study 100 BC-350 AD)
- Rotation 4: 1900 – present (Grades 5-12 also study 350-800 AD)
Students in the Alveary go through each rotation 3 times during their school years, going deeper each time.
WHAT IF WE JUST STUDIED THE HISTORY ROTATION THAT IS COMING UP NEXT YEAR OR ARE JUST NOW READY FOR THE HISTORY ROTATION THAT THE ALVEARY COVERED THIS PAST YEAR?
While we understand that no one prefers to skip a period of history or to repeat one they did the previous year, we also know that there is a good chance that people joining the Alveary will not be in sync with our history rotation. (Since there are four rotations, there is actually a 75% chance that a family would not be in sync with us.)
History is the pivot for a Charlotte Mason education. This means that many of the other subjects are situated within the particular time periods as well (i.e., Poetry, Music Appreciation, Art Appreciation, Architecture, Literature. . .). We feel it is important for everyone to be working in the same time period in order to foster conversation within the home/classroom and across the Alveary membership.
If possible, go ahead and jump in with us using the books on our list. If you just studied our time period, you could substitute a couple of really great biographies (from lists we provide) that will enrich what you read last year. For ancient history, if you read about Rome last year, you could read something about Egypt or Greece this year. On the other hand, if you have not yet studied the time period we studied last year, please remember that Alveary students will work through the history rotation three times. Students will add to their knowledge, understanding, and insight each time they revisit a particular time period.
DOES YOUR CURRICULUM WORK WELL FOR LARGE FAMILIES?
Yes, we do feel it works for large families with students in multiple grades/forms. Such families benefit greatly from being able to combine their students in various ways for different subjects.
There are a number of subjects in which you would simply choose which materials to use for adjacently-aged children. For example, your younger child who may be advanced in vocabulary could well be able to understand the history readings of his older sibling; or, your child who has some type of learning difference may benefit from listening in on a younger child’s literature selections. It does take a bit of work in the beginning to determine which children to combine and for which subjects, but once that is done we believe you will begin to enjoy sharing the richness of the Charlotte Mason feast with your whole family.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY “LESSON PLANS?”
When we say “lesson plans,” we are decidedly NOT talking about page breakdowns by term, although we do provide that information as part of our programs. When we write lesson plans, we go through the process that the best professional teachers use, both because it provides the richest experience for students and because it helps train you to be a great teacher. That process includes:
- Reading the books,
- Thinking about the big ideas and planning quality activities around them (links, maps, writing prompts, labs, etc.) that will enhance them while still allowing students to do their own thinking,
- Noting places that might cause difficulty for students/teachers and suggesting the best ways to approach them,
- Noting passages to which teachers need to be alerted to sensitive content to prevent unhappy surprises,
- Thinking about this book in the wider context of the whole curriculum to ensure cohesiveness and to maximize the value of every book (e.g., using atlases from Geography in the Art lessons or historical poetry books from Literature in World History),
- Planning thoughtful exam questions, and
- Researching extension projects and resources that can be used as Extra Helpings for students with high interest. After all, you never know which part(s) of the feast will pique a child’s interest, and we want to be sure everyone can be fed according to their individual needs.
WHY DO YOU RECOMMEND RIGHTSTART MATH?
RightStart Math was created by Dr. Joan Cotter, who holds a Ph.D. in Math Education. The program is based on decades of research on how children learn mathematics. People sometimes wrongly call Dr. Cotter a “Montessori” teacher. She did begin there, but as she researched math education, she came to the conclusion that Montessori’s methods for teaching math were not sufficient. That is when she developed RightStart. RightStart Mathematics is not “Montessori math.”
Multiple people can look at a thing and come away with different interpretations based on their beliefs and experiences. Within the CM community, some are committed to the idea that we should be recreating the educational experiences of British children who lived 100 years ago by following Mason’s words to the letter. CMI interprets Mason a bit differently. Our commitment is to the idea of a living, breathing educational philosophy that evolves with the times. Because of this, we are committed to delving deeply into both what Mason did and what current research tells us. We believe such research must be considered because we live in a time and place very different from Mason’s. Mason herself writes:
We must feel our way to some test by which we can discern a working psychology for our own age; for, like all science, psychology is progressive. What worked even fifty years ago will not work to-day, and what fulfills our needs to-day will not serve fifty years hence; there is no last word to be said upon education; it evolves with the evolution of the race. (School Education pp.45-46)
Math is one of the few areas we felt that Mason needed an update in order to best serve modern students. RightStart fulfills current needs while holding to the main principle to which Mason adhered: The idea should come before the algorithm. Therefore, students spend a lot of time with manipulatives, talking through their thoughts and making discoveries and connections on their own before learning the “shortcuts” we were taught as children. While there are lots of curricula available that do this, we settled on RightStart because it is written in such a way that it actually trains parents and teachers how to teach math effectively.
WHAT PACING DO YOU RECOMMEND FOR MATH?
The RightStart sequence is:
- RightStart A: Grade 1
- RightStart B: Grade 2
- RightStart C: Grade 3
- RightStart D: Grade 4
- RightStart E: Grade 5
- RightStart F: Grade 6
- RightStart G + Algebra: Grades 7-8
- Algebra & Geometry: Grade 9
- Geometry & Trigonometry: Grade 10
- Trigonometry & Pre-Calculus: Grade 11
- Pre-Calculus OR Calculus: Grade 12
This is a recommendation only, so don’t fret. Students can start Algebra in grade 9 and still finish all the math they need in high school.
I UNDERSTAND MY MEMBERSHIP EXPIRES ON JUNE 30. HOW LATE CAN I ACCESS MY CURRICULUM?
All of the current year’s curriculum will be removed from the website at the end of the work day (5:00 p.m. PST). You will no longer have access to the current year’s materials after that. Please plan accordingly.
DO I NEED TO SPEAK THE LANGUAGE TO TEACH IT?
Although it certainly helps, teachers do not need to have prior knowledge of a language to teach it successfully using the Alveary’s language lessons. Our plans include daily lesson scripts, recordings, and notes to aid the teacher in preparation and instruction. Teachers who do not speak the target language can make things a bit easier on themselves if they work several lessons ahead of the students.
WHAT ARE QUIZLET AND SOUNDCLOUD AND HOW DO I FIND THEM?
Quizlet is a digital flashcard platform; however, since the program allows audio to be recorded, the Alveary uses Quizlet to aid teachers and students in pronunciation. This format allows for direct, word-by-word instruction on vocabulary and sentences. Links to each individual Quizlet set may be found in the lesson plans, and a link to the Quizlet folder that contains all sets for a course is found in the Mason’s Alveary Library.
SoundCloud hosts our MP3 recordings of longer material, such as full recordings of stories and skits, grammar exercises, and grammar explanations. Links to lesson playlists may be found in the lesson plans as well as the Mason’s Alveary Library.
WHAT ARE “TPR” AND “TPRS”?
TPR (Total Physical Response) is a language-learning technique pioneered by Dr. James J. Asher in the 1970s. Through this method, students acquire vocabulary by associating meaning with body movements and gestures (considered to be “right-brain” activities) similar to the methods of François Gouin in Mason’s day.
TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) is a language-learning technique created by Blaine Ray in the 1980s based on the TPR method and the work of Dr. Stephen Krashen (creator of the theory of Comprehensible Input-based language acquisition strategies). In TPRS, language education focuses on using interactive, co-created oral stories, readings, and novels that contain the most commonly-used words and phrases in that language.
In the Alveary, we have taken these philosophies as descendants of Mason’s (and Gouin’s) methods and adapted them for use by our members.
WHAT LANGUAGES DO YOU OFFER AND HOW SHOULD I DECIDE WHICH ONE TO TEACH?
At this time, we offer Spanish and French. The choice of language is a personal one, and there are no wrong answers. Teachers may decide to teach a language based on any number of factors including where they live (proximity to Mexico or French areas of Canada, for example), languages spoken by extended family members or friends, local or international volunteer opportunities, or personal interest.
WHAT SUPPORT DO YOU OFFER FOR NEURODIVERSE STUDENTS?
Customizing the Alveary for your neurodiverse student is easy since you have access to all grade levels for every subject. If your child is advanced in one area, you can place him in the next grade for that subject. If he struggles with another subject, you can place him in the previous grade for that one. We call this “straddling,” and it works well for most students.
A brand new offering of CMI is the Blue Orchard Bee, where you can learn about neurological differences and find community. However, we are not qualified to diagnose learning difficulties or to provide a replacement for strategies, medication, or therapies deemed necessary for children with specific learning/neurological differences. The Alveary, the Blue Orchard Bee, and the Charlotte Mason Institute strongly recommend that parents and teachers follow the professional advice given by their doctor and/or child psychologist.
HOW MUCH PLANNING AND PREPARATION CAN I EXPECT TO DO IN THE ALVEARY?
- Yearly Planning: You can expect to invest several weeks planning prior to the start of the school year. This time will be spent reading about Mason’s methods, creating a school calendar and a school schedule, deciding which age groups you can combine for which subjects, placing students, and organizing your materials. Once school starts and you find your rhythm, you will likely need to make some adjustments. Our opening registration on March 1 allows ample time for this planning.
- Term Planning: The time between terms offers you a great opportunity to take a break, assess student progress, evaluate what went well and what did not, and make preparations for the next term. We call this process “reflective practice.” We recommend taking at least one week off school after exam week for this purpose.
- Week/Day Planning: We believe that the best teachers are well-prepared teachers. There is no doubt that your days will run more smoothly if you have read through your lesson plans and gathered all your materials. This habit will make you more effective and less stressed, and that will benefit your students. We recommend taking an hour or so each week for planning and a few minutes each morning to look everything over.
Our Reflective Practice Plan Book helps you with all of this planning and more.
WHEN ARE YOUR BOOKLISTS PUBLISHED?
Our Programs (including booklists) for all grades are published on March 1.
WHEN DO YOU PUBLISH THE LESSON PLANS?
Our detailed, daily lesson plans (the last component of the curriculum to be released) for all grades are published on July 1.
WHY ARE THE LESSON PLANS NOT RELEASED UNTIL JULY 1? WOULDN’T IT BE BETTER IF EVERYTHING CAME OUT TOGETHER?
This is completely pragmatic. We create and publish over 300 individual sets of lesson plans each year. Even with a team of over 20 experienced Mason teachers working all year, this is an enormous undertaking. In addition, whenever we can’t find a resource that answers what we believe Mason wanted, we actually develop our own teacher guides. So far, we have done this for Reading Lessons, Geography, Art Lessons, and Modern Languages. We are committed to providing the very best product on the market, even when it is labor-intensive and time-consuming. Please note that most of the materials you need for ordering books and planning your year are available on March 1.
HOW CAN I ACCESS THE QUIZLET SETS FOR MODERN LANGUAGES? WHY DO I NEED A PASSWORD?
In order to access the Quizlet sets, you need to create a free personal account. If/when Quizlet asks for a login/password, it is your personal account information they need. None of the Alveary Quizlet sets are password protected.
MY CIRCUMSTANCES HAVE CHANGED AND I WILL NOT BE ABLE TO USE THE ALVEARY CURRICULUM THIS YEAR. MAY I HAVE A REFUND?
Unfortunately, no. As stated on the registration page, registration is non-refundable and non-transferable, due to the nature of immediate digital delivery of the product upon payment.
WHEN MAY I REGISTER FOR YOUR 2021-22 CURRICULUM?
Registration opens on March 1.
WHAT IS THE DEADLINE FOR REGISTRATION?
There is no deadline. You may register at any point during the year. Your membership is renewable by July 1 each year.
HOW DO I GET MY LOGIN INFORMATION?
You will set up your password and username during registration. Once you have made your payment, you will receive a confirmation email that includes your login and password. You may change your password (in your account settings) at any time. If you do not see the confirmation email, please check your spam/junk folders.
HOW LONG DOES MY MEMBERSHIP LAST?
This depends on when you register. All memberships for the 2021-22 school year include access to all three Terms of the 2021-22 curriculum, regardless of when you register. Likewise, all 2021-22 memberships expire on June 30, 2022, regardless of when you register.
WHAT WILL I HAVE ACCESS TO ONCE I HAVE REGISTERED?
This depends on when you register. Most materials are published on March 1 and are available any time thereafter; others are published on July 1. Here is our list of benefits and the publication schedule:
2021-22 Programs for Grades 1-12
Printable Scheduling Tiles & Digital Scheduling Tool
Alveary Member Tutorial PDF
Reflective Practice Plan Book PDF
Our Work Student Booklet PDF
Knowledge Base Access
The Buzz Weekly Newsletter
The Hive Private Social Media Platform
|Member Discounts on CMI Conference Registration & Select Resources||✔|
|Full Supply Lists for Each Course||✔|
|Full Lesson Plans & Exams for Year for Grades 1-12||✔|
|Supporting Audio/Video Files for Lessons||✔|
2021-22 Alveary memberships expire June 30, 2022.
ARE THERE ANY REQUIREMENTS FOR PARTICIPATING IN MASON’S ALVEARY?
No. Anyone can register.
IS THERE LIMITED SPACE IN MASON’S ALVEARY?
No! The more, the merrier!
DO YOU HAVE TO BE OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH TO USE THE ALVEARY?
No. Anyone is welcome to use our curriculum. We are an educational nonprofit, not a religious institution. Our purpose is to support a worldwide community of learners and educators in an authentic practice of Charlotte Mason’s paradigm of education, which was decidedly Christian. However, we do not promote a particular denominational doctrine. Our curriculum reflects Mason’s commitment to presenting to each student the knowledge of God, man, and the universe.
ARE SCHEDULES PROVIDED?
Sample schedules are provided to show you how you can get everything in and to apprise you of Mason’s timetable. To help you create a schedule that works for you, we provide course tiles for scheduling that match our Program. You can arrange and rearrange your schedule as often as necessary to get the most out of the Mason feast while maintaining a healthy life balance.
WHAT IS THE ALVEARY “SOFT LAUNCH” AND HOW DO I ACCESS IT?
Implementing the full Mason feast entails a pretty large learning curve. This is all the more challenging if one is unfamiliar with Mason’s philosophy. Our Soft Launch option (found in our Alveary Member Tutorial, available upon registration) helps you incorporate the various elements gradually, even as you learn to teach according to Mason’s method. The Soft Launch includes a two-year schedule for introducing subjects so that you can learn to do them well without becoming overwhelmed.
WHAT ARE STUDY GROUPS?
Our goal at the Charlotte Mason Institute is to provide the essential, ongoing training and support you need. We understand the importance of being part of a community that cultivates friendships with like-minded educators. Our web-based groups (“A Reading Course Through Mason’s Volumes”) provide a personal, interactive learning experience with a CMI facilitator leading the sessions so you can be confident that our studies together reflect the research and work of the Institute and are relevant to you today. We want to encourage you to keep studying through the volumes, just as Mason and the PNEU encouraged parents and teachers to do. Mason believed training to be a vital part of education! Alveary members are encouraged to join. The groups have a limited number of seats. Seasons for these groups run from July to December and from January to June. Registration generally opens one month prior to the beginning of each season. When open, registration for Study Groups is listed in the CMI Store. It may also be found under RESOURCES on the Alveary website.
WHAT ARE TEACHER GUIDES? HOW DO I KNOW IF A PARTICULAR COURSE HAS ONE? WHERE DO I FIND THEM?
Courses for which we have written proprietary materials and/or courses that require fuller lesson plans/explanations have Teacher Guides. You will see the Teacher Guide indicated in the Program under “Books and Resources.” All Teacher Guides are provided in the Programs.
THE ALVEARY SEEMS TO RELY HEAVILY ON TECHNOLOGY. WHAT IF I HAVE NO/SLOW INTERNET AT HOME?
We made most of our materials downloadable for people who do not have internet at home or whose internet service is too slow for streaming. You may need to go to the library or somewhere else that has high-speed internet to download them. You can store them on a flash drive to keep them from taking up all your computer memory space. You can also preview all the links from the Lesson Plans at the beginning of each term and print out any maps, pictures, or articles you wish to share with your students. You can file these with your printed Lesson Plans so they are within reach.
I’M NOT GOOD WITH TECHNOLOGY. HOW CAN I BEST ACCESS THE LESSON PLANS?
Just print out the PDFs and use a pencil to mark lessons completed. Some families like to keep all of the plans in a binder. Others find it easiest to keep a by-subject plan sheet in the books being read. That way, they can just display their schedule, and when it comes time to read a certain book the plans are right there–no thumbing through a binder trying to find them.
HOW DO I USE LINKS DURING LESSONS? WILL I NEED TO PULL UP THE LESSON PLAN PDFs EVERY DAY?
We will provide you with a single document that includes all your links organized by subject and by week, which will make it easy to find the link you need quickly.
DO I HAVE TO PRINT OUT MATERIALS, OR CAN I KEEP UP WITH EVERYTHING ON MY DEVICE?
Some members do primarily use devices to keep up with everything each day, but most people prefer to have printed copies.
CAN I PURCHASE HARD COPIES OF THE PROGRAMS AND LESSON PLANS? OR DO I HAVE TO PRINT EVERYTHING MYSELF?
Hard copies are not currently offered in our store. However, you can send your PDFs to outside companies like Best Value Copy, Staples, Office Depot, and Family Nest Printing. They will print your materials and ship them to you. We recommend having all the pages three-hole-punched instead of bound. This way, you can reorganize things whenever you want.
HOW CAN I ACCESS YOUR WEBINAR ARCHIVES?
Members may access the four years worth of webinars in our archives via three routes: 1) Under the RESOURCES tab, 2) In the KNOWLEDGE BASE under “Video, Audio, and Webinar Directory” (where they are listed chronologically.), and 3) In the KNOWLEDGE BASE under the relevant subject. Members will also find direct links in the Alveary MemberTutorial.