The word “alveary” originally meant a beehive, and it later came to also mean a repository of knowledge. Charlotte Mason’s Alveary uses that word to sum up what they offer. They assist and provide a community for schools, co-ops, and families that want to implement a Charlotte Mason approach to education. The Alveary also supplies thorough lesson plans—tailored for each year for grades one through twelve—while you do the teaching.
You pay a yearly membership fee, and then you will purchase books and some course resources on your own. Memberships are tied to a school calendar with three terms per year. You only need one membership to cover your entire family, and this gives you access to material for all levels for all three terms. The Alveary is designed to be a comprehensive program, but you can select only a few courses if you wish to. The membership fee remains the same either way. You can enroll as early as March for the following school year, but all memberships expire on June 30 of the next year. (You can print out materials in advance of the expiration date if you need to continue work past June.)
You get plenty of support with this program. In addition to the many recorded webinars for learning Charlotte Mason’s methodology, you have access to an orientation video, an implementation guide, teacher training lectures, a few instructional videos (e.g., on art techniques), a Charlotte Mason Institute conference, a weekly newsletter, an online knowledge base with lots of information, and an online support network.
Charlotte Mason’s Alveary faithfully reflects Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education in both its selection of courses and its methodology. For instance, it includes the use of copywork and narration, and it incorporates life skills, singing, handicrafts, and foreign languages─subjects not always taught in the elementary grades. There is also an expectation that students will spend some time outdoors each day, including time for nature walks and observation. The program also includes Christian content.
Children are placed in “forms,” although they have started using grade-level designations as well since they are more familiar. There are six forms that encompass what would typically be grades one through twelve. Forms 1, 2, and 5 are divided into two parts: forms 1b and 1a, forms 2b and 2a, and forms 5b and 5a. (The a and b sublevels are the reverse of what you would expect.) Sometimes, courses are further broken down such as those offered for “lower 1a” or “upper 1a.” In the first few forms, students might remain in one form for three years, and these sub-levels within the forms provide age-appropriate material for each student. Forms 4 through 6 are equivalent to high school.
The Alveary’s main subject areas are architecture, art, Bible, citizenship, English, geography, history, Latin, life skills, literature, mathematics, modern languages, movement, music, and science. Members can either follow a preset program or choose from a selection of courses, although the exact same courses are not offered every year. History, in particular, cycles through different historical eras each year.
Many courses can be used with children at more than one grade level. Appropriate grade levels for each course are listed in the catalog. Parents are encouraged to teach children together whenever possible if they are close in their learning levels.
Course information includes links for you to purchase books and other resources. Links sometimes show comparison shopping prices from two or more sources, but many links are only to Amazon. The Alveary Living Library has descriptions of the books used in the program, and they are primarily what Charlotte Mason called living books.
Some proprietary items created by the Charlotte Mason Institute are provided for free. These include lesson plans, supply lists, supporting files if needed, exams, and answer keys as well as some teacher guides.
The program is not open-and-go since it requires preparation time. Courses for the elementary grades also require frequent interaction. Students gradually learn to work independently, and the lesson plans for high school students are written directly to the student so that they can do much of their work on their own.
There are still more features─more than I can describe here. Examples of those features are:
“My Alveary”: a digital hub that allows you to create your schedule and access course components through a spreadsheet. You can also print these out and put them in a binder.
“The Hive”: a social media platform for Alveary members to connect with one another in a secure setting.
“Soft Launch” options: an easier way to start for those new to the methodology or who might be overwhelmed if they try to implement everything at once. A soft launch includes fewer subjects, and gradually adds new ones. It also has you start with subjects that require less prior experience.
You can see how Charlotte Mason’s Alveary fits the definition as both a hive and a depository of knowledge, since it is a digital hive where homeschoolers can connect and it offers a wealth of knowledge. It’s a great resource for those who want to implement Charlotte Mason’s methodology but want help doing so.