Jackson Hole Classical Academy bases important aspects of its educational philosophy and pedagogical methods, particularly in the lower school levels, on the theories and practices of British educator Charlotte Mason (1842-1923). Mason, a renowned “teacher of teachers,” founded a number of grammar schools and a college to train teachers in her philosophy and practices. Her influence on the educational approaches of her time cannot be overstated, and as we participate in the nation-wide resurgence of classical education today, her teachings are just as timely as ever before.
JH Classical Academy has adopted Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education, and in so doing, strives to uphold four pillars: the personhood of the child; relationships come first; truth, goodness and beauty; and education as a catalyst for renewal. These pillars undergird the Classical and Christian curriculum taught at JH Classical Academy and inform how we teach this curriculum to our students.
Below is a list of specific points that have been incorporated into the teaching methodology of JH Classical Academy:
- Parents are the primary influence in their children’s lives; this responsibility cannot be delegated elsewhere. In Mason’s words: “More than anything else it is the home influences brought to bear upon the child that determine the character and career of the future man or woman.”
- Children are born as individuals of worth—as “persons” in Mason’s terminology—and as such should be valued and respected. Therefore, the curriculum is never dumbed down but respects and values the potential of each student. All subjects, books, and experiences at school should exemplify and teach truth, goodness, and beauty.
- Instruction at school should reinforce mental and moral habits in order to train students to do what is right. Charlotte Mason believed children should be “taught what they ought, not what they want.”
- There are four central habits that are important to effective learning. They are: the habit of attention, the habit of obedience, they habit of respect, and the habit of responsibility. These are not only habits that help the student achieve academically, but create moral character as well, and can be found in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.
- Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy shapes our teaching methods at JHCA. In the humanities, teachers use oral and written narration to develop students’ overall language skills. Students tell back or narrate a story they have read or heard. As students narrate, they learn good writing style, as they often recite or write in the same style as the author. Narration also strengthens and develops a student's vocabulary and memory skills.
- The elementary grades at JHCA incorporate nature study as a core part of the science curriculum. For this, we are exceptionally blessed to be located in beautiful Jackson Hole Wyoming. Nature study – whether it be in Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone, or any of the Wyoming National Forests that surround our campus - allows students to develop all their senses and trains them to observe, count, classify, interpret, draw, and record hands-on in their local ecosystem. The skills of inquiry, observation, and analysis that are integral to scientific investigation are also central to fields as diverse as the study of history and of the visual arts.
It can indeed be stated that Charlotte Mason believed in a high view of mankind, a uniquely “Christian Classical” idea. In this same way, JHCA teachers are concerned with the development of both the academic and moral faculties of each student, or, we teach to the whole person. Our teaching methods and curriculum represent the search for truth, goodness, and beauty that can bring about a holistic development in every child.
While Charlotte Mason based her educational philosophy on classical wisdom, she argued that an education that only teaches virtues and fills the mind will inevitably fall short of the goal of the complete flourishing of the child. She wrote that philosophy merely instructs, but religion instructs and enables. Even many ancient philosophers and educators, Quintilian, Plutarch, and Plato, for example, realized that humans cannot make themselves complete and good, as the soul is both rational and spiritual. JH Classical Academy agrees that a complete and effective classical education must base itself on the example and the teaching of Jesus Christ.