Our philosophy is influenced by the works of Charlotte Mason, a British educator in the late 19th century. She was a strong Christian believer and built her educational model on her beliefs in the child as a person, fully capable of taking the "feast set before him" and relating to it. She educated the whole person, mind, body and spirit.
She believed that under the age of seven, children should be outdoors often and allowed abundant time to play. During this time, adults should train them in habits of attention and obedience in a gentle and respectful manner.
Around age six or seven, children begin formal academics, but lessons are kept short (15-20 minutes) and the practice of narration (telling back) after listening to a story gives the child a chance to take what he can from the lesson and tell it back as he uniquely heard it. Teacher guidance and conversation are used, but tests and closed-ended questions are rare.
Reading and writing are taught using as much context as possible (for instance, writing lines from favorite poems or stories). History is taught using "living" books (well-written stories that allow a relationship between the reader and the author or characters rather than a dry textbook merely filled with facts). Nature study encourages observation and interest in creation and provides the building-blocks needed for later science study.
Artist and composer study are done to expose children to the great artists and composers of the past to develop their appreciation of the classics and to provide a model for their own creativity. An artist is studied over several weeks at a time through an accessible story and his/her works are observed carefully. A composer is likewise studied for several weeks through a story and the children are exposed to and interact with his/her music. Poets and poems, songwriters and songs are all studied with this method, giving the children a relationship with the story of the person who created as well as an appreciation for their enduring genius through their work.
We turn to Charlotte Mason for inspiration for our approach and curriculum because her understanding of childhood and education honor and respect children's development and provides them a rich, meaningful education. Narration of a living book (or "narration" of nature, music, and art) provides the framework children need to be attentive and observant as well as develop relationships with writers, creators, characters, and ideas. Children are encouraged to think for themselves, care about what they are learning, and become lifelong learners.
Though Charlotte Mason's ideas are a century old, modern research confirms her notions of children and learning again and again with terminology such as "zone learning" and "developmentally appropriate practice." This research proves that children learn best in the long run if formal academics are not taught until age six or seven. This gives the child time to fully develop his/her brain function through adequate free play where he learns to create elaborate dramas and stories, work through real life, deal with emotions, use language, socialize, and otherwise lay the firm foundation for academics.