Frequently asked questions
How do you cover so much material in a school day?
One of the defining marks of a Charlotte Mason education is the implementation of short lessons. This keeps the students attentive, prevents burnout and builds the habit (skill) of focus and attention. Miss Mason understood that children become mentally exhausted after long periods of time spent on a subject, so by utilizing succinct timing of the lessons, she worked with the developing brain's natural proclivities so that children would be stretched but not overwhelmed. Short, timed lessons allow us to cover a broad range of topics on a given school day, providing for a leisurely and gentle afternoon of nature study, drawing, handiwork and more.
Each subject is rotated in such a way during our daily schedule that we utilize differing parts of the brain in rotation. For example, after Latin we may move on to Watercolor Lessons or after Math we may move to outdoor time or Composer study. This rotation of brain activity keeps the students from mental exhaustion and helps us pace our day in a productive way.
How is the Charlotte Mason method different?
The Charlotte Mason method is a very distinct philosophy of education, which then influences the *method* of how we teach. Although not an exhaustive list, there are several homeschooling methods that seem to be most prevalent - Traditional, Classical, Unit Studies, Unschooling, Montessori and Charlotte Mason.
Miss Mason's approach is
completely separate from all other methods, although you may see some of the same texts or subjects (or recommended books) present in each.
In short, Miss Mason's Method was just that - a
method and not a
system of education speaks to an immobile framework that assumes that all children reach certain benchmarks at a certain time.
Systems approach education with a one-size-fits-all approach, and if your student does not adhere to the mold or excel at the predetermined pace, then they are considered "behind", or conversely they are not challenged enough - either way, the child is not allowed to move at their own pace of mastery.
Miss Mason based her method on the knowledge that all children are individual and that premise should be at the heart of how we foster and develop their education.
say that children are individuals but will require them to pace and perform in a standardized way.
enhance that individuality and adapt for each child with strong guiding principles but varying application.
What curriculum do you use?
Heritage Christian Academy uses a curricula specially designed for our school, under the supervision of our Director, and with the consultation of the creators of A Delectable Education, as well as several other specialists and scholars in the Charlotte Mason method.
Our book lists are made available to enrolled families prior to the start of school each year, but if you have specific questions or would like more information we're happy to discuss our upcoming book choices, scope and sequence, etc on an individual basis.
Please contact us if you have further questions.
Can you accommodate Special Needs Students?
There is no easy answer to this question, as each child's needs are different. Special Needs and Learning Disabilities/Delays will by no means disqualify your child from attending Heritage. However, each situation is handled on a case by case basis, so that we can ensure that we can provide what your child needs to reach their fullest potential. HCA does not provide IEPs, but if your child was already issued a Plan, then we can work with each family to see how we can best accommodate your student. Before applying, please contact us and we would love to talk about how we can best serve your family.
Why don't you use worksheets and textbooks?
We utilize "living books" - texts with beautiful language, written by authors who are an authority on their subject matter, in lieu of textbooks or worksheets written at the level of the child. Worksheets are a quantifiable way to indicate that work is completed, but can not tell us as educators if ideas have been digested - they simply indicate if the child can follow directions. We liken worksheets to wrote memorization. They are not inherently wrong, but they aren't effective in making sure that knowledge is synthesized in the child's mind because the material is predigested and culled for the child.
In lieu of worksheets, we utilize the art of narrations - oral (for grades 1-3) and written and oral (grades 4 and up), which Miss Mason called "the work of a child's education". Narrations place the responsibility of learning back on the child, and are a multifaceted exercise in that we can assess whether or not the child was paying attention, what did they understand, where do they still need clarification, etc., making narrations much more effective than a standardized worksheet in gauging a child's understanding.
Additionally, by utilizing narrations with each lesson, we are working with children on pubic speaking and presentation from first grade on.
Our desire is to kindle in children the
desire to learn; to love education not for the sake of rewards or merits, but for the joy of learning and building relationships with all aspects of wisdom and knowledge.
What does a typical school day look like?
Our school days are very full, but also conducted in a peaceful, flexible way so that your children's days at HCA are just an extenuation of the home atmosphere.
After arrival at 9am, our days begin with prayer, reciting our verses, the school motto, the Pledge of Allegiance and Bible lessons.
Students then take part in Chapel, followed by recess and a snack. Until lunch time they work through their academic subjects (depending on the grade and day, we cover such things as History, Natural History, Geography, Literature, Math and Latin).
After lunch, they complete the remainder of their book work (depending on the grade, that may include Grammar, Shakespeare, Composition, Reading Lessons, or Artist and Composer Studies).
Our desire is that your children spend as little time as possible at their desks, so by early afternoon, your kids are outside! We engage in extensive and guided nature walks in order to - in a holistic, hands on way - teach your children the Scientific Method through consistent observation of the natural world; developing the ability to identify, observe, develop hypotheses, and catalog their findings through their artistically guided nature journals.
Historically, our classes have spent on average 1.5-2 hours outside each day! Your kids will be outdoors in all but the most inclement weather, so proper outdoor gear is essential to our program, as they do spend outside time in rain and cold temperatures.
The afternoons are filled with watercolor (brush drawing lessons) that students incorporate into their year-long nature journals and outside observations, handicrafts (such as origami, embroidery, pottery, wood craft, drawing lessons, knot tying and more). The day concludes with classroom clean-up as the students are taught to be personally responsible for their belongings and to steward their surroundings.
Is HCA an Accredited program?
For very strategic and purposeful reasons, HCA has chosen NOT to become Accredited. The Charlotte Mason method is incompatible with a standardized system of education because it is tailored to each student and is concerened with teaching children how to think.
Accreditation would hamper the freedom to choose our own curricula and customize our homeschool support system to your exact needs. It would also necessitate extraneous training for our teachers that does not apply or benefit the specific function or purpose of our program.
Furthermore, we believe in localized, personal education where the parents are intricately involved, in lieu of placing ourselves under a centralized governing board that focuses on the traditional classroom and not on the homeschool movement.
These differences present an inherent philosophical hurdle and an incompatible partnership that hinders the mission of maintaining educational freedom for homeschool families.
Although HCA does not participate in standardized teacher training or reporting, our staff takes part in countless hours of specialized training and our students are assessed every 6 weeks and also complete exams each term. Please continue reading our FAQ for Teacher Training Information and Exam structures.
How are your teachers trained?
The staff at Heritage Christian Academy spends hours in training, Professional Development, and Continuing Education using Miss Mason's training volumes and writings, similar to how she herself structured her Teacher Training College. Our staff concentrates on those topics and aspects that enhance their understanding of Miss Mason's method and how best to guide a student through the use of living books and narrations.
After decades of teaching and working with hundreds of thousands of students, Miss Mason wrote that teachers in her method have three things at their disposal:
Atmosphere, Discipline and Life.
Atmosphere refers to the culture of the home and classroom and the parents' (and teacher's) dedication to training the affections of a child to what is good and beautiful.
To that end, HCA is very particular about the classroom and facility atmosphere and we consciously choose to surround our students with a home-like atmosphere that reflects our love of Christ, our dedication to quality literature, and our appreciation for the out of doors.
Discipline refers to the habits that are formed in a child through consistent love and guidance that Miss Mason said were the foundation of her educational approach.
To that end, HCA focuses on three specific habits: Attention, Obedience and Respect. We work on these three things with students in proactive ways to encourage them in their growth of self-control, their ability to focus, and their understanding of honor and integrity. In Miss Mason's paradigm, Education is truly a form of Discipleship and at Heritage, we are reaching for the heart of each student, not just their minds.
And finally, Miss Mason said that education is a Life, which refers to the living, holistic tools that we offer our students. We use "living books" - not stale textbooks written by a compendium of authors, but by individuals who have devoted their lives to the study of these subjects and who present the materials in an articulate and imaginative way.
Additionally, we utilize the events of everyday life - moments around the dinner table, times spent exploring outside and our personal interactions with each other to educate and form the character of the child, in indispensible partnership with the Holy Spirit.
With those three principles at the forefront, teachers at HCA take part in specialized trainings that cover such things as:
Classroom Management in the Charlotte Mason Method, Developing the Art of Narration, Outdoor Exploration Guidance, the Formation of Habits, The Practical Implementation of Living Books, Developing the Home Atmosphere in the Classroom, Curricula Development in the Charlotte Mason Framework, as well as Lesson Planning and the Practical Implementation of Lessons in the Charlotte Mason Method, among others.
What support do you offer to the families of HCA?
At its core, HCA is a Homeschool Support Program, and with that in mind, our goal is to make your homeschooling journey as successful and fruitful as possible by offering any level of support that you need.
HCA was founded BY homeschoolers, FOR homeschoolers, so we understand the challenges, stretching, questions, hesitations, hurdles and culture of the homeschool family.
Our desire is that you never replicate SCHOOL at HOME, but that your family is driven first by a Christ-centered HOME atmosphere, where learning is both flexible and rigorous.
YOU are the most qualified to teach your child, because you know them better than anyone else; their strengths and struggles, and so we are here to support, but not dictate your homeschool and curricula choices.
As members of the HCA family, you will have unlimited access to our
7000+ volume living books library at no extra charge, in order to craft your own curricula.
Along the way, if you need assistance in choosing books or implementing them in your at-home days, then you also have the ability to schedule a Curriculum Consult whenever it's needed (at no charge) so that you can make sure that you are providing individualized education to your children.
Additionally, Kelsi Rea, the Director of HCA offers monthly Reading Groups so that parents can work their way through Miss Mason's own writings. At the end of each meeting, there is an open Q&A for any homeschool-related topic where we can help you troubleshoot or think through pressing issues in your homeschool day.
And finally, every Monday night, Kelsi also presents a 30 minute live teaching on various topics within the Mason Method with practical how-to information on the implementation and structure of the Mason Method.
What do the at-home days look like?
At the time of orientation (typically May-July), each HCA family is provided with an extensive template outlining book choices and sample schedules for what your three at-home days could look like, if your family decides to adopt the Charlotte Mason method for all of your studies. We do highly recommend that families endeavor to apply Miss Mason's methods at home, and we are here to help along the way!
That being said, we are here as a
support to you, not to dictate what your homeschool days should or should not consist of. We hope that by experiencing the Mason Method first hand (two days each week) that you will start to see the difference that this approach can make in your child's overall demeanor towards education and our academically challenging material.
In summary, if you are willing to adopt the Mason Method at home, we are here to guide you in forming your own curricula (much of which is available for free, via Public Domain books, or here at our library). However, if you are already comfortable in your curricula choices, then we do our very best to work in tandem with what you are offering your students at home.
The subjects that we present at HCA are (by and large) autonomous to our program, meaning that with the exception of Latin (beginning in grades 4/5) which we recommend reviewing daily, we do not send home homework and you are not expected to complete any specific work in preparation for a day at HCA.
We offer complimentary programs in Math and Reading (the two subjects which we offer that do need to be completed on a
daily basis) that will allow you to continue using the curricula you've chosen, or we can make a recommendation.
All other subjects are completed at HCA and do not necessarily overlap with your at-home classes.
What role does technology play at HCA?
Heritage is proud to be a tech-free program!
We rely on the finest
physical books and we teach our students research techniques for the subjects that we offer. We do not utilize computers or ipads for any classes and students are not permitted to have any electronics during our school day.
The only exception to this approach has been in our decision to offer e-learning during the Covid-19 crisis. We were able to take our program fully online yet retain a flexible schedule for homeschoolers that did not necessitate that your children be available online at a certain time for their classes. Students were still able to interact with their teachers and submit their narrations in a flexible manner, maintaining the routine and stability that our children needed during this unprecedented time.
How will HCA handle any forseeable interruptions due to Covid-19?
Given the State of Indiana's mandates in regards to Covid-19, HCA opted to suspend all in-person courses for the third term of the 2019-2020 school year. We finished our year with e-learning and we were able to take our program fully on-line.
We do not anticipate any closures for the 2020-2021 School year at this time, but in the event that the Governor mandates that Social Gatherings can not exceed 50 people, then we will re-evaluate our in-person offerings and once again move to our on-line format if needed.
Is HCA a homeschool co-op?
No, Heritage Christian Academy is a homeschool support program and we function as a micro-school, or a part-time private school. Academic classes are offered two-days per week from 9am-3pm by Charlotte Mason trained educators, and unlike a co-op, our students are in uniform and we are a drop-off program. Parents are permitted to join us for Chapel or to remain on Bethel's campus (in an adjoining building) but they do not participate in the classroom academics.
Do students take part in State Testing?
No, students at HCA are not offered the ISTEP or any other state testing, and as homeschoolers in the State of Indiana, testing is not required. Due to the relational nature and framework of the Mason method, we find that parents rarely feel the need to have administer State testing because they already have a sense for where their child is excelling or struggling. Although we don't discourage testing and parents are more than welcome to pursue testing on their own at an independent site, on average, we don't find it beneficial or a true measure of a child's abilities. Typically, a parent's greatest concern is for the Math and Reading aptitude of their students, which is able to be measured in other ways if a parent chooses not take part in State Testing.
HCA teachers issue Mid-Term Assessment Sheets (week 6/7 of a term) and we administer our own exams at the end of each term (every 12 weeks). These exams are specific to our curricula and are a time for students to show off all that they know.
Exams are given and submitted orally for grades 1-3 and transcribed by Exam Volunteers. Grades 4-8 have both oral and written exams.