Joyful Discovery

private school Princeton

The Charlotte Mason Influence

Our view of the way children learn is influenced by the ideas of Charlotte Mason. Mason herself was a classical educator from mid-nineteenth century England. Classical education in her day, as in ours, emphasized highly cognitive teaching, driven primarily by memorization and drill. Charlotte Mason pioneered teaching methods that took advantage of a child’s natural curiosity and delight in discovery. Her ideas engaged a child’s heart and imagination in the learning process and avoided the tedium and exasperation that can creep into overly rote teaching environments.

At Wilberforce, we believe that children learn best with a balanced approach that is both experiential and disciplined, that engages both the mind and heart, that develops cognitive ability, igniting curiosity and passion.

We all have need to be trained to see, and to have our eyes opened before we can take in the joy that is meant for us in this beautiful life.
- Charlotte Mason

private school

Many of the ideas and methods Charlotte Mason developed achieve this balance beautifully, and we have incorporated these tools in several ways:

Language Eliciting Activities

Through narration, dictation, recitation, literature study, and picture study children describe - in oral and written form - what they have read, seen, experienced, or heard. In the process, they discover new ideas and learn to describe what they have understood, developing skills in reading, comprehension, writing, and expression.

Limited Hours in Early Grades

Wilberforce has half days for Explorers One (Junior Kindergarten) and Explorers Two (Kindergarten) and a half-day option on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for students in Classes One and Two. We believe that at these young ages, everything we need to do academically can be done - and done well - in limited school hours, thereby freeing children to spend afternoons at home with their families and at play. Also, in Classes One and Two, we emphasize the major academic areas of reading and math during the morning when the students are fresh and alert. Afternoons are devoted to more creative activities such as music, art, and nature studies.

Cultivation of Good Habits

Recognizing that the early years are the time when children are forming habits, we emphasize developing habits of life and of scholarship, such as kindness, attentiveness, diligence, respect, order, and follow-through. Habits in young children not only establish their character but also become their future academic practice. We not only talk explicitly about these habits and their fruit, but we also incorporate them into the daily routines of the school.

Discovery of Living Ideas

We seek to bring ideas and history alive through biography, fiction, art, drama, exploration, and play. The books we read are carefully selected works of proven excellence that are age-appropriate both in reading level and content. We take advantage of a child’s capacity to memorize and their natural curiosity to discover.

Nature Study

We share Charlotte Mason’s conviction that contemplative study and exploration of God’s creation should not be dull or tedious but full of life and delightful discovery, for God has given us these things for our enjoyment.