alveary (plural alvearies)
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There's a new Charlotte Mason curriculum out and available for the general public now called The Alveary and I'd like to share a bit about it. But first, let me share with you a little bit about how I got to where I am now!
I have been using Charlotte Mason's Philosophy and Methods for 8 years now. I first learned about Charlotte Mason through the book, For the Children's Sake, by Susan Schaeffer MacCaulay, which I purchased from the L'Abri bookstore, in Switzerland, on my last vacation with my parents and sisters before my hubby and I got married. I wanted to be an educator and so I figured a book by the Schaeffer Family on education was worth the money. Plus, it was kind of my souvenir from L'Abri along with another lovely book, A Gift of Music. (which is a great parent or even older student resource for Composer Study and Music Appreciation, by the way!) Then I took that book home from Europe and put it on my shelf, got married 6 months later, had my first child a year after that, and went on my way without ever reading the book. I am a CM geek now, but that doesn't mean I loved to read back then. Can you imagine that?
Somewhere in those early years of our marriage we had decided to homeschool. When my first daughter was finally 4, all of our church friends used Sonlight, but my husband was in law school and we had very little income so I felt that purchasing a $800-$1000 Core from Sonlight was not a very good option financially for us. I bought only their Kindergarten teacher's guide and a couple books, and thought I would piece together a Kindergarten something or other myself. How hard could it be? Sonlight recommended For the Children's Sake and I remembered! "I think I have that book from L'Abri"! I finally began reading the book I had purchased 5 years prior and Charlotte Mason's name entered the scene.
Around the same time, I joined MACHE, which is our Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators. I got my first magazine publication from them and in a little side bar in the middle of the magazine was an advertisement for something called the LER - Living Education Retreat and it was in Minnesota!! Apparently it was all about this Charlotte Mason lady I was reading about. I had to go! This educational philosophy was resonating with me through the pages of Susan's book and I needed to learn more. The summer retreat finally arrived and I got to meet Nancy Kelly for the first time. Little did I know then that I would spend the next 9 years attending the LER and that Nancy Kelly would become one of my greatest homeschooling, Charlotte Mason mentors! But she has, and the retreat has been such a blessing to me and our family.
So here we are now. My eldest daughter just entered her teens (Form 3 - 7th grade), and then I have another 9 year old daughter (Form 1a - 3rd grade), 7 year old son (Form 1b - 1st grade), and 4 year old daughter, who loves to derail our school days through endeavors where her imagination gets the best of her. Thankfully, in her case I won't have to work too hard to develop the habit of imagining. We've got that one covered, Miss Mason!
For the past 8 years of homeschooling, I have utilized the fabulous resources of AmblesideOnline, Simply Charlotte Mason, Living Books Curriculum, and Higher Up and Further In. I used the book lists and structure of AO, incorporated SCM's idea about combining subjects and bought some of their copywork and Math materials, I took LBC's online courses on how to write my own CM curriculum and plan for High School, and studied her guides carefully, and scoured the website of HUFI to get a handle on what Mason said about each subject area.
BUT something was missing. Actually a few things were missing.
The main thing that was missing for me was ACCOUNTABILITY! All of the programs mentioned above are fabulous, as I said, and they even have online support, that is also fabulous! For some reason, that wasn't helping ME to be accountable to implement Mason in the fullest way I knew how. I am not a very organized person... I am a visionary. I dream big things, but follow through is extremely difficult for me. Maintaining structure, accomplishing my goals...not happening.
But let me share a few other things that were missing from my CM homeschool life because accountability and follow through were lacking. These things weren't necessarily missing from our home school life because the above curriculums/programs have some fault in them. I don't want to be negative in any way about all the amazing work these curriculum planners have done over the years, because without them, I would never have gotten where I am today! It is very important to me to continue to support the broader CM community and encourage moms to use all these resources as much as they need! They really are all a blessing.
For me, at this season, I have learned that when I don't have accountability, I don't do my best!
So again, here are some of the things that have been missing in our homeschool life due to lack of accountability or help:
These things WERE missing. This year I am pleased to say that basically all of these holes have been filled in with wonderful experiences and living education, thanks to Mason's Alveary by CMI. Do I implement it all perfectly? Nah. No way! But I am pressing on towards the goal, for my children's sake!
The Alveary has structured the curriculum and membership in such a way, that the hard work of lesson planning is done for me. For $199 per year, I get Lesson plans for all my children for every subject that Mason did in the PNEU. Daily lesson plans are provided with details about scaffolding a lesson, how long and often to do each lesson, exact pages to read, links to maps and pictures and more! Audio and video lessons for harder subjects like foreign language and Music (Sol-fa) are a huge help as well! Drill and Dancing books and videos that they include are so life giving and joy-filled and now my kids are teaching the grandparents how to square dance! Yeehaw! So the Lesson plans really helped me follow through on all the subject areas in my list above that I was stressing over!
These very specific lesson plans for all forms, also have guidance on how to combine forms (where applicable) so my lesson times aren't 7 hours long. This frees me up to study more and learn about Mason's methods and philosophy as a teacher. The Alveary not only frees up my time, they also help me to study as a mother by providing two webinars per month about subjects ranging from Shakespeare, to teaching with large families, to Sol-fa, Math, History charts, etc. The webinars are live and done by experts in the field with lots of experience or research behind them, so I can get my questions asked and answered in a live setting. If I miss a webinar, they are all recorded and archived in this HUGE Knowledge Base that allows me to browse by subject and watch at a later time. The cool thing is that all these are saved so that new families who join in the future will also get to go and watch old webinars. And new ones will be done next year for all of us as well! So if you can't afford or get to a CMI Conference or the Living Education Retreat, then through the live webinars, it's like the conference comes to you in your own home!! You get to be mentored by people like Nancy Kelly or Emily Kiser of the Delectable Education Podcast! It's pretty neat! So the Live webinars and Knowledge Base help cover a lot of teacher training for me!
The lesson plans saved me time and helped me follow through.
The webinars trained me.
What about this big issue with ACCOUNTABILITY??
Well would you guess that EXAMS could do that for someone? They did it for me!! That, and the fact that I was paying money for my membership to the program!
As a pilot team, we committed to completing and turning in exams for all of our children so that CMI could accurately assess their book choices in the same way that Mason did with the PNEU book choices. If children can't answer exam questions, then maybe a selected book isn't a living book and changes need to be made.
Knowing that exams can and should be done and turned in to the Alveary has been such an accountability for me this year, that I have completed more than I ever thought I could as a mother. The pressure has been for the good. And it's not a pressure to pass exams, for Mason deplored that sort of thing. Instead it's a chance for my kids and us as parents to really see what they have assimilated over the term. They have learned a lot and retained a lot! Hallelujah! It's working!
Apparently in coming years, exams will be optional for Alveary members, but may I encourage you to commit to this process!? I think you will find it to be worthy of your time and effort. It's 12:30 am as I write this because I just was compiling our Term 2 exams to e-mail in to the Alveary this night! They were due today. I am pooped, but so very thankful. As I compiled and assessed my children's exams, I saw my failings... now I know how to improve next term. I saw my kids strengths and weaknesses. I saw the fruit of careful and consistent reading, painting, Bible study. Truly thankful.
As I end this post, I want to address community, since this site is for the Twin Cities Charlotte Mason Community. In my opinion, I believe that real life community is essential for flourishing. It's important not to hide in a room with your facebook and think you are connected. You are not.
That being said, there is something special about having friends that are like minded in your parenting and educational pursuits. Support as a mother in the methods you have felt led to used for your children is also valuable. I think that most CM curriculums offer some form of this kind of support for their users. I am so glad they do. But they are large - Very, very large and I haven't felt connected in those places myself.
This year was a pilot year, so the Alveary was smaller than most other older, CM curriculums. I am sure that next year it will be bigger and maybe the facebook group and forum won't feel as homey, but the people who piloted the curriculum this year are all very committed to using CM in their homes and so questions were answered well, quickly and lovingly and it was so beautiful to connect with one another (almost like a little family.) The forum is newer and growing. The CMI "staff" are also very helpful and relational. They offer support and also grace. Which is Key!
It's been a hard year adjusting to a new curriculum. It's sometimes been extremely crazy figuring out how to pilot a program, but we were piloting it for all the other families for years to come. It hasn't been perfect. But it's been better. Probably better, more successful and more peace-filled than any other of my 8 homeschooling years. Maybe it's just because I don't have a nursing baby any more. LOL! But maybe, just maybe the Alveary has been a blessing for my family as well. Why don't you try it out and join us??
If you would like to ask more questions about my family's experience with The Alveary (or other CM curriculum as well) or even just need a listening ear, feel free to Contact Me. This contact form will be sent to my personal e-mail and I will get back to you at my earliest convenience. Thank you!