Q. Are you a school?
A. We are not a legal school that reports to the state. Parents homeschool their children and are therefore accountable to report for their students (in Pennsylvania, reporting is not required until children are eight years old unless they have already been in school before age eight). We exist to support them in this and provide structure and support for families.
Q. Do we need to buy and use your curriculum on home days?
A. You will be required to purchase some of the curriculum for individual use at home (consumables like workbooks and some manipulatives and readers). We do strive to use easily shareable materials as much as possible on school days to minimize the amount the parent needs at home.
For reading, writing, and math, we use curricula that support our goals of being developmentally appropriate, rigorous, and accessible to multiple learning styles. You are encouraged to use the same materials at home for continuity. This will provide for a seamless continuation of the lessons from school to home. However, if you feel strongly about using another curriculum, you may. Our teachers send home assignments based on the curricula we use at school, so it is easy for parents to follow along with at home. Ultimately, though, the decision is yours regarding the curricula you choose on home days.
For the other subjects, we will provide resources and ideas to be done on home days. As your children get older, you may want to include more literature, language arts, history, geography, and nature stories on your home days. We will provide suggestions and support for these subjects. If you'd like, you can review or extend the artist, composer, and nature studies from school. You may also wish to reinforce any Spanish and memorization, such as Bible verses, poetry, and songs, at home. You also have the option of delving deeper into the subjects your child or family enjoy the most on your home days.
Q. Who is your target market?
A. We created this program to meet the need we saw of many parents who were not happy with the options they had to choose from for the first years of schooling. Some find the long days at full-day public or private schools too much for their kids. Others do not like the lack of recess, play, time outside, and other developmentally appropriate practices. Others want a Christian education but cannot afford Christian schools. Others want to homeschool, and perhaps already do, but want the community, support of a teacher, and the social aspects of school that cannot be replicated at home. We exist for all of these people.
Q. The idea of teaching my kids at home three days a week scares me! How much do I need to do?
A. First, remember that one to two hours is usually quite adequate to complete short, effective lessons in reading, writing, and math. Our teachers will give you simple instructions and assignments for home days to make it as easy as possible to finish out the week's lessons at home.
The other subjects are optional for you to do. We give you guidance and support, and on your home days you have much more flexibility than you would have if your child were in school five days a week. Most children of this age will benefit from short lessons and the ability to spend the rest of their time playing creatively and pursuing their interests.
Q. Whom is this NOT for?
A. We know we cannot meet everyone's needs. If you are a homeschooler who likes complete independence in your curriculum choices and are comfortable doing all the schooling yourself, that's great! But we may not be for you.
If you are uncomfortable or unable to teach your kids at home three days a week, we may not be for you.
If you want your child to spend all his school day in traditional desk learning, we are also not for you. We consider academics of utmost importance but in a developmentally appropriate manner. Most children under nine need to be able to move and play. They learn well with short and effective lessons in the fundamentals of literacy and math as well exposure to interesting stories, music, art, history, and science. We believe such an approach sets children up to be creative thinkers, lifelong lovers of learning, and translates to long-term academic success.
Q. Will my child be behind traditional public or private school kids?
A. This is a complex issue and there isn’t a simple yes or no answer.
We think that in general traditional educational approaches require children to labor through tasks at five and six that could be more readily learned if the child waited a year or two. Local school districts teach kindergartners thirty or more sight words a year, drill parts of speech, spend forty minutes a day on writing, and practice answering multiple choice test questions.
Our reading curriculum teaches solid phonics but only teaches a handful of sight words in each level. We don’t place a big emphasis on grammar in kindergarten and first grade because we believe it’s too abstract for five- and six-year-olds. We teach handwriting in short, manageable lessons. We do not emphasize close-ended questions like those used on standardized tests, and we do not spend time answering practice test questions. In those ways, if your child goes from PHA to a traditional school, he or she might have a short adjustment period.
However, we firmly believe the Charlotte Mason method offers a rigorous education that encourages a lifelong love of learning in ways that rote memorization of isolated facts and test preparation can never do. Our small math and reading classes are grouped based on ability and not grade level, so students are truly being challenged as they learn reading and math. Our students read and study excellent literature. They hear history stories that capture their imaginations and inspire their play. In addition to an hour of outdoor play that strengthens our children physically, emotionally, and socially, our students engage in close study and observation of nature. The study of the Bible, hymns, poetry, artists and musicians also provides our students a richness and a model of excellence that can be lacking in traditional education. Our goal, in the words of Charlotte Mason, is not merely to measure how much a child knows as a result of his or her education but rather to ask “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?”