Why just 4 hours — it’s more convenient to meet for one long day, all day, right?
Charlotte Mason’s school in Ambleside, England met in the mornings, six days a week. Part of the CM method is to have very short lessons in the morning, requiring the full attention of the student; the afternoon and early evening are to be spent pursuing hobbies, exploration, nature observation, and imaginative play. The brain “ruminates” on the ideas presented in the lesson-hours and works through which will remain to form a relationship; therefore, the schoolday is actually one full day, the first part containing direct instruction and the second part is the “mental review” process. So we start a little later than she did (as we are in the South and things just run a little slower here) and we enjoy the fellowship of meals. The students perform their Masterly Inactivity processes (the ruminating mental review) in the late afternoon and early evening hours.
Our lessons require ten to twenty minutes of sustained, full attention. We give frequent breaks to do something completely unrelated and relax the brain. After three to four hours, a brain needs to ruminate on what it has absorbed. If it does not have that “down-time,” the opportunity will be missed to form a relationship with a story, a book, a song, a picture, or an idea.
What is a Presenter?
An adult presents a story, a book, a character, an idea. We call her (or him) a Presenter. We are travelers together with the students on this journey through history, nature, literature, and art. We present a feast of ideas. The students — as unique individuals — accept or reject them. (For more on Presenters, see “Presenters & Marlins” under the Seaside menu.)
So do the students just do whatever they please? Sounds messy.
Not at all. Charlotte Mason was firm that her method in a classroom, indeed society itself, did not operate without order, respect, and humility. She taught that Habit training was vital to living a peaceful, orderly life. Habit training was vital to acquiring any knowledge at all. We train the children to have a high-degree of self-control, respect for their Presenters, attentive bodies, and full-on focus to the task at hand. The method is complicated to explain, simple in theory, and difficult to apply in the Internet age. (Imagine bumper guards up on a bowling lane for the ball to travel as it pleases, without going off the floor and ending up in a ditch. That is the freedom and peace good habits bring to a life.)
So how do you simultaneously explain to a young child that he is an individual, unique and entitled to his opinion, yet he must submit to the authority of an adult in class to be quiet and respectful while the adult or a classmate is speaking?
Our motto. Charlotte Mason’s school motto was the following: I am, I can, I ought, I will. We expanded that to full sentences which we explain to the students and they repeat it daily. “I am a child of God. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I ought to be in the service of God and do that which is right. I will choose to do that which I ought.” It’s very simple. The Bible was written as our handbook for life. God created us all uniquely different, but yet the Bible applies to the lives of all of His children. When we follow it, we can follow the unique plan He has written for our individual, unique lives.
Back to the school, what if my children get hungry during the schoolday?
Students are allowed to bring water bottles with lids to class, so long as it does not cause a disturbance. A mid-morning break for Tea Time is provided with a fixed menu of rice crackers, cheddar cheese, tea, and fruit, provided by the School. If a special food is necessary for your student, please make arrangements with a member of the Founders Committee. If a treat is to be brought in to celebrate an occasion, parents will be notified by text or email in advance. Please do not deliver treats to school without making prior arrangements with a member of the Founders Committee.
During Tea Time, the students sit at a table with tablecloths and eat from real dishes with real silverware. They learn table manners and behave like young ladies and gentlemen. We serve the same menu every day: unsweetened cold tea, (sugar optional), cheddar cheese, crackers made from almonds and rice flour, and a rotating fruit selection. The students serve the food. The students bus the tables. The students clean up the kitchen. The students become servant-hearted.
What if my child doesn’t like rice crackers and fruit?
The menu never changes. The students are so excited for Tea Time, you would be surprised how quickly they develop a taste for what is served.
Do the children ever get bored being offered the same thing every day?
May I pack something different for my child to have at Tea Time?
No. Special food may not be brought into Tea Time. There are many reasons for this custom; we must adhere to it. The familiar menu takes the focus off of what is served and places it on Fellowship, Manners, and Service. We must maintain order at Tea Time. If a medical condition requires a substitute food for a specific student, please make arrangements with a member of the Founders Committee.
How many students register?
Seaside Cottage School has enrolled between 25 and 55 students per year. We will likely have 30-40 students next year. The School’s goal is not to become large, but to stay true to the method and build relationships with the students.
What do I do with my little ones?
We have had a Child Care service in the past for adults who volunteer at the school, provide Tutoring services at the school, or manage the school. If you plan to be a Presenter at Seaside, please make arrangements very soon with the Admissions Director for the care of your under-two-year-old children.
How does a “part-time school” work?
Seaside Cottage School provides a Tutoring Service between 4 and 12 hours per week for 24 weeks during the school year. South Carolina law requires a parent to provide instruction for 180 days per school year* which works out to approximately 36 full weeks per year. Please consult the South Carolina Home Schooling Association’s guidelines to comply with state law. (Home School Legal Defense Association has excellent summaries of each state’s law on their website for free. Please access this information.) Essentially, you will join an Association (there are many) to provide attendance tracking and accountability. Parents are responsible for assuring all of the state requirements are met. Seaside provides a tutorial service to supplement the parents’ instruction for a portion of the required hours. Our grades are recommendations; parents decide final grades.
What is your supply list?
A backpack and a lunchbox. Supplies are included in your Fees.
What do we wear?
All students wear a uniform. For The Fairfield Program, one uniform is included in your Fees. For The Bradford Program, two uniforms for Bradford class days and one Fairfield uniform are included in your Fees. Additional uniforms or supplemental pieces are available for order or may be obtained through local vendors.
The Bradford Program: Girls in grades 4 and up wear a pleated skirt, grades 1 to 3 wear a split-front jumper, and K4 / K5 girls wear a drop-waist jumper in #43 plaid. (You can see the plaid in our photos or look for an image on a search engine.) Primary School girls wear peter-pan collar, solid white, button-up shirts under their jumpers. Form II girls wear a snap-tie with their shirts. (See photos.)
Boys wear tan, flat-front uniform shorts or pants and a polo with our logo. Our suppliers for pants have included Educational Outfitters, Flynn & O’Hara, Lands’ End and Global Schoolwear (Tommy Hilfiger). Upper School boys’ polos are white, grades 4 to 6 boys’ polos are sky blue (formerly black), grades 1 to 3 boys’ polos are forest green, and K4 / K5 boys’ polos are black (formerly sky blue).
Accessories, sweaters, sweatshirts, and other fun things are available.
The Fairfield Program: Girls will have a feminine-fit polo with girl-specific styling to wear with a skort. In past years, the skort has been indigo-colored; this year, it is a tan khaki, cotton-blend, A-line skort. Boys will have a traditional polo with tan, flat-front uniform shorts.
Sweatshirts, winter items, and Seaside T-shirts will always be available for purchase.
If socks are worn, they must be a solid color, preferably white. Shoes must be 90% dark, but may be flip-flops or other open-toe sandals. (We are at the beach.) Please avoid plastic crocs.
For School-arranged Off-Sites and Events, students will wear their regular uniform OR a Seaside T-shirt with the Fairfield Program’s uniform bottom. Each Event will include details on which one to wear.
What is your math program?
We love our math program. Form I math is called “Numbers.” Form II math is called “Arithmetic.” We use Singapore Math, the U.S. Edition. We have hands-on days with weights, measures, fractions, clocks, thermometers, and other fun manipulatives for the students to use. The students here unanimously love math. The goal is for students to simultaneously understand how you apply math concepts to daily life while also becoming proficient in mental computation.
Singapore Math gently guides students to perform above contemporary math standards. It is a mastery-type program, consistent with Charlotte Mason’s requirements.
What is your reading program?
We focus on the Florence Akin book from 1913, Word Mastery, and its updated counterpart, Classical Phonics: A Child’s Guide to Word Mastery, published by Memoria Press. Our Kindergarten (Form IB) class will use the First Start Reading program from Memoria Press which is an adaptation of Word Mastery using lesson segments and tracing pages. Charlotte Mason’s approach combined constructing-and-deconstructing words with the highly-motivating reading of rich children’s literature. For beginning readers, we use the Free and Treadwell Readers series containing classic stories with entertaining plots and fabulous language. Kindergarteners begin with the Primer. Students move through the series at their own pace and perform a selection weekly with their classmates. The students love these stories. In Form IA, 1st to 3rd grades, students will continue to construct and deconstruct words and practice reading with Free and Treadwell Readers.
*South Carolina law for educational requirements may change at any time. Visit the HSLDA website for the most current requirements for your state, in an easy-to-understand format. For examples of how Seaside families meet this requirement practically, please contact us for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.