The Charlotte Mason (CMC) program has contextualised the Australian Curriculum content and achievement standards into a feast of living books, cultural artworks and ideas to provide the mental food-for-thought that will nourish your child’s mind and heart. The CMC Program is a Christian Classical Liberal Arts Education. As such, it is a broad general and cultural education that does not stream students in a narrowly focused way. We are looking to develop the whole person, and help the student prepare for life and for many varied opportunities in the future.
OUR CHRISTIAN FOUNDATION
At CMC, our understanding of the human person and of healthy human development is anchored in the Christian tradition. We therefore reject the reductionism that is widespread today. Far too often the stated goal of education is good exam results, as if that were a sufficient end in itself. Good exam results are important in our system, but we keep our eye on a more distant horizon – what kind of people are our pupils becoming? What kind of life are they being prepared to live? We work to maintain a culture that values learning for its own sake. Why? Because learning helps us grow as people. We do not let the demands of our exam system obscure this central purpose of education.
A child is not a bucket to be filled, or a machine to be calibrated. Rather, every child is a person – equal in dignity and value to any other.
This profound idea raises important questions about the purpose of education. First, we need to think about what it means to be human in its various facets. Then we can consider the goal of human development. What kind of growth are we seeking to nurture, in what areas, and toward what end? Ultimately, education needs a destination. If you are setting out on a journey, it helps to know where you are going!
As Charlotte Mason said… “The question is not, — how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education — but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?” (C. Mason, School Education: Developing a Curriculum)
EDUCATIONAL DISTINCTIVES & PRIORITIES
Every school holds particular values and priorities in a unique balance, thus creating a distinctive culture. The following priorities shape teaching and learning at CMC.
A knowledge-rich education
Children are naturally hungry for knowledge. Our education program, therefore, aspires to be intellectually stimulating, delivering substantial content across every subject area. The breadth of learning is important, because by age 16 young people should have developed many interests and competencies. This is what it means to be well educated, and it is the basis of intelligent citizenship. We prioritise classic material that has proven itself over time and that exposes pupils to some of the main strands of our western cultural inheritance.
The purpose of such a curriculum is to help a pupil establish relationships with as many enriching activities and fields of knowledge as possible: with nature, with history, with great literature, art, music, and so on. Why does this matter? Because as we do this, we grow as people. We understand ourselves better. We reach out of ourselves and appreciate more about others and the world around us. We develop the skills, understanding and insight that can help us live well and be meaningful contributors to society.
Personal growth only takes place when a child engages for himself or herself; it cannot be forced. Assimilation and internalisation of knowledge requires a pupil to be proactive; the resistant or passive person learns nothing. This means that ‘teaching to the test’ or ‘spoon feeding’ is a short-sighted distortion of real education, because it fosters dependence rather than the independence of thought and action that is a hallmark of a mature person.
We place a high priority upon each child assuming increasing ownership for his or her own learning. We do not make use of merit systems. Instead, we simply get on with teaching and learning, allowing a stimulating learning program to serve as its own reward. The importance of self-education also has implications for the teacher’s role. He or she is not the ‘showman of the universe’, or the fount of knowledge, but a mentor or guide whose role is to help pupils engage with the curriculum for themselves. It is the content which satisfies.
The educational atmosphere has two aspects that are extremely important for quality learning to take place: the atmosphere provided by the physical environment of the classroom or home learning centre, and the social-emotional atmosphere.
Regarding the physical atmosphere: The learning environment needs to be a clean, well lit, and airy place of quiet order and aesthetic beauty for optimal learning to take place. Research studies have shown that children can become unsettled, agitated, distracted and even physically sick if the classroom or home-learning environment is cluttered and chaotic.
Regarding the social-emotional atmosphere we aim for our classrooms and home-learning centres to provide a warm, loving, personable atmosphere where each child is cared for – relaxed and productive at the same time. If children are in an environment of threats and harsh discipline, they won’t be able to relax enough to truly learn anything. On the other hand, a lackadaisical approach only breeds chaos and poor character. A middle ground maintains order through diligent habit training, expressed in a warm friendly manner, with natural consequences for poor behaviour. The atmosphere in the classroom or home-learning environment is absolutely vital. It is as indispensable as the air we breathe – and it is primarily the teacher and parents who are responsible for keeping the atmosphere positive.
So, in our school and homes we model enthusiasm for learning in an atmosphere of awe and wonder about the world we live in – and the students catch the atmosphere of the home or learning centre – they breathe it in, as we maintain the discipline of the habit of focusing on the true, the beautiful, the honourable, things worthy of good report. As we are modelling a love of learning, the children absorb our enthusiasm, and the school and families together become a ‘learning community’.
The importance of books
We consider it essential for every child to enjoy books, whole books (not just extracts) – and lots of them. Why? Because the most careful thinking the world possesses is found in books, and books are the best tool for self-education in adult life. We consider it essential that a child develop the patience to engage with a sustained argument or narrative, if he or she would become a careful thinker. Our digital age, by contrast, is characterised by distraction. Universities are increasingly commenting upon their students’ limited attention spans and inability to read whole books. Pupils who are brought up in a culture that prizes books and who are confident and capable readers will stand out.
‘Practical experiential learning’
Charlotte Mason wasn’t just about books she was also interested in students learning about things by: seeing them, touching them and exploring them for themselves.
“Children can be most fitly educated on Things and Books.
i. Natural obstacles for physical contention, climbing, swimming, walking, etc.
ii. Material to work in––wood, leather, clay, etc.
iii. Natural objects in situ––birds, plants, streams, stones, etc,
iv. Objects of art.
v. Scientific apparatus, etc.”
(From Charlotte Mason’s Education Manifesto)
Therefore, as well as quality literature, we use practical experiential learning activities to help students to engage. Whenever possible, teachers, tutors and parents aim to reinforce topics of study by utilising ‘The Five D’s of Learning’, which are:
Do hands-on activities to capture the child’s interest through his God-given senses. Learning can (and should) be fun.
Discover to develop an enquiring mind, wherever possible, allow the child to explore and discover concepts first-hand, rather than merely telling them the facts, or just using texts and workbooks which tell you everything that you should think and believe about a topic.
Dramatise the people and situations that you are learning about, whenever appropriate. This gives the child more empathy with a character or concept as they become immersed in the topic.
Discuss all that you have learnt together. This helps the children to gather their thoughts and express themselves, and also allows you opportunity to work through difficult issues, beliefs and concepts. Talking things over helps them to internalise truths, while strengthening family relationships.
Drill by practicing skills and applying knowledge.
The Discipline of Habit Training
Charlotte Mason said: “Habits are to life as rails are to a train”. A habit is a propensity to respond to a given situation in a certain way. The more deeply ingrained the habit, the more consistent will be the response. We tend to do that which we have always done. And this can work for or against us.
One of the things Charlotte Mason pondered as a young teacher was – How do we lift children above their nature? She found the answer was not through either punishment or reward; but simply through the discipline of habit training. Specific habits include focussed attention, neat and accurate work, courtesy and respect, and emotionally staying your best self. Therefore, we assist the children to develop new habits that will positively form their character, so they can be more successful in life.
Attentive Listening, Narration & Socratic Discussion
Another special emphasis at CMC is upon what we call ‘narration’, as a comprehension tool, which we make extensive use of in our Primary and Middle Schools. The idea is that a teacher reads aloud from an engaging text, such as a narrative history, a Bible story, a biography, or from their literature text. Pupils are then invited to retell orally, point by point, what was just read aloud, having heard it only once. As pupils get older, they will write their own narrations. The primary purpose of narration is to encourage the habit of attentive listening. Verbalising what was heard makes the knowledge ‘stick’ and encourages discussion. It also encourages effective, organised writing.
A time of attentive listening and narration is followed by a Socratic style discussion, where the student’s thoughts are drawn out through a series of open questions to fully discuss and/or debate the topic.
Picture Study uses similar skills. It involves looking with concentrated attention at a reproduction of a great painting. The painting is then turned over and its details are described from memory. A retelling of the picture is followed by brief discussion. In this way children will get to know many great artists – one each term – which greatly increases their pleasure when they see the originals and real-size prints, at the Museum or Art Gallery.
The efficiency of this method is another important advantage: it helps us deliver lessons that are short and to the point, which is a key to enjoyment in learning.
Enjoyment of nature
At CMC our Primary and Middle school children go on Nature Walks every week or fortnight. Their purpose is to encourage detailed observation and identification of ‘ordinary’ natural phenomena such as local wildlife, flowers, plants and trees. We hope our pupils will be attentive to nature and its wonders, an endless source of fascination and pleasure. Detailed interest and close observation are also key skills in Science.
Students keep a Nature Notebook where what was observed is identified and painted using water colours. Nature Study encourages children to have ‘seeing eyes’. Charlotte Mason wrote: ‘Eyes and No Eyes go for a walk. No Eyes comes home bored. He has seen nothing, been interested in nothing, while Eyes is all agog to discuss a hundred things that interest him.’
PERFORMING ARTS PROGRAM
All On Campus CMC students up to Grade 10 participate in Performing Arts, training in music, dance, speech/acting, singing, costume and stagecraft. The CMC cultural program builds artistic and cultural awareness, as well as communication skills, team-work and collaborative-learning.
Each year, the College also produces a major musical theatre production (e.g. ‘Pirates of Penzance’ in 2018). All On Campus Primary and Middle School students are expected to participate in this production as part of their education, and they gain credits in English, The Arts, (and possibly Design Technology). All DE students who reside within the vicinity of the College are highly recommended to participate in this program. Performing Arts subjects are held during the ‘Campus Enrichment program’ on Monday and Thursday afternoons. Distance Education students who attend the Arts program, will receive credits towards English and Music.
PASTORAL CARE AND STUDENT WELFARE
• Pastoral care begins with our Charlotte Mason philosophy. We work with the ‘whole child’. We are all here to support young people to learn, develop and mature on their path to adulthood. The young person’s wellbeing and emotional development is central to this journey.
• Our educational philosophy emphasises the processes of ‘learning how to learn’ and ‘loving to learn’. Therefore, it is designed to inherently speak to, and affirm the student, and create a caring, engaging learning environment that is also academically rigorous.
•Small classes with a maximum of 18 students per class enhance relationships between students and staff.
• All staff meet daily to pray for and with each other, CMC students and their families.
• CMC has a Pastor available to our staff, students and families.
CAMPUS ENRICHMENT PROGRAM
Campus Enrichment Program (CEP) is curriculum learning based electives offered On Campus to ‘ALL’ CMC students. CEP electives are a compulsory part of the On-Campus students weekly timetable. Distance Education students are invited and encouraged to enrol in all or some of these On Campus electives each term to add depth, hands-on workshopping, teamwork, socialisation and community to their personal learning.
CEP electives are offered throughout the Primary and Secondary years. Parents of Distance Education students aged between 5 and 10 years old or who have students with a high behavioural need or disability are required to attend with their student.
Campus Enrichment program participation will be recorded on your child’s semester report. The program has no cost, but parents need to reserve a place for their children as class sizes are limited. While students are participating in classes, the visiting parents may attend parent training sessions.
CMC is a small school and does not have a dedicated learning support program or special needs teacher. All parents are advised of this during the Enrolment Process. This does not prevent our College from working with and supporting students and families with learning support needs. At CMC our On-Campus classes are multi-age and kept to a maximum of 18 students per class. This enables students to work at their ability and pace and with a higher level of teacher / student interaction.
Each student at CMC has a Curriculum Plan that is individualised to that student. Modifications to academic programs may consist of differentiated subject content and a modified assessment load, and where necessary, modifications to assessment conditions e.g. length of time of assessment, place of assessment, use of a computer.
At the Enrolment Interview the ‘whole’ child is discussed and what is of the most importance is that the College (including our ethos, our teaching methodology, our Christian faith and our behaviour expectations) is an appropriate ‘fit’ for the student and family. Students at CMC will need be able to spend a portion of their time working independently.
Considering there are very limited spaces for students, we are diligent in our Enrolment Process. If parents desire their children to attend On-Campus, we expect that the students have a deep desire to learn and want to be at the College. We also expect they will work hard and follow all CMC expectations and rules. We have found that students who do not really desire to learn or want to become a part of the CMC family not only disrupt our classes but prevent other students from learning. They are also taking a place in the College that another student may benefit from.
PARENT AGREEMENT & TRAINING
Parents of prospective students are expected to agree with, and support our College ethos, policies and procedures. As it is important that parents understand the Charlotte Mason Method and the ‘Love and Logic’ teaching and parenting methods, there will be parent training sessions available at various times in the year. Prospective enrolling parents agree to participate in this training so that they are on the same page with the CMC staff to bring out the best in the children.
Daily Teacher Observation, Narration & Student Portfolios
Charlotte Mason College places the highest value upon daily interactions with each child, their own responses to knowledge, comprehension, and critical thinking through narration, and student portfolios. Because of our small teacher-to-student or parent-to-student ratio, teachers and parents have the benefit of knowing each child as a person and can monitor progress, set expectations, and develop lessons that are appropriate for each student. Narration, or “retelling the story” is used across subject areas, with each student narrating back a lesson or piece of literature, providing both broad story lines and detailed facts, and demonstrating knowledge, comprehension and critical thinking. Creative Project Portfolios also provide a strong testimony of samples of each student’s best work and progress throughout each year.
Semester Report Cards
Parents of all students will receive a progress report twice a year. Teachers will gather work samples, assignments, and other information from parents and students and then provide an account of each student’s achievements and struggles in spiritual, personal, cultural, and academic areas.
End of Semester Exams
It was common practice in Charlotte Mason’s original schools and is current practice in many of today’s Charlotte Mason schools, to allow the students an opportunity to retell through narration what they have learned over a longer term. In the early years (Gr 2 & 3) CMC will use a combination of drawing and oral dictation, while Gr 4 to 8 will provide written answers. From Gr 9, students will produce essays as well as creative projects and multi-media presentations to display what they have learnt. These assessments are based on discussions and activities in which students have participated during the Semester. Students demonstrate how knowledge and ideas have been integrated across subjects and throughout the year, without “cramming” for a typical exam.
Although standardised testing is not our preferred method of assessment, and we do not spend much time preparing for them; we do not shy away from this process. The distinctive practices of CMC that feed the mind with ideas – the reading and discussing of quality literature and primary source documents, experimentation and hands-on science and math, narration and composition, study of nature and the arts – train students to make knowledge their own. As a result, they are able to demonstrate that knowledge in a variety of formats (including standardised testing) without having their daily lessons focused on cramming for fact-based, multiple-choice questions. School-wide trends noticed over time through the testing results may inform curriculum development decisions.
NAPLAN is an external, standardised, summative assessment system that the law requires CMC to apply at Grades 3, 5, 7 and 9. The results are calculated, compared, and published online by ACARA – the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority.
Grades 3, 5, 7 & 9 NAPLAN Reports come out during Term 4.
While participation by all students is expected by ACARA, students may be withdrawn from the testing program by their parent/carer. This is a matter for consideration by individual parents/carers. Withdrawals are intended to address issues such as religious beliefs and philosophical objections to testing. A formal application in the manner specified for each state or territory must be received by the Principal prior to the testing. The Principal can provide further information about the withdrawal process.
PARENT TEACHER INTERVIEW
Parent/Teacher Interviews are held in Term One & Term Three. All parents and caregivers are urged to support these interviews. Parents are always welcome to make an appointment to meet with the class teacher at any time throughout the year to discuss their child’s progress.