Gillingham's Daily Practices

According to Charlotte Mason, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life…. and the science of relations.”
These are the tools that relational educators use to respectfully educate persons rather than relying upon rewards and punishment, grades, dry textbooks, worksheets, memorization, true & false tests, and lectures.

Every Day We Integrate
Living Ideas, Living Books, and Living Things

We read the best, well-written books full of inspiring and engaging (thus living) ideas that are rich in vocabulary and love. Traditional textbooks, dry facts, and books that are “busy” with too many pictures are avoided.
All students act, experiment, read the classics, sing, read and act Shakespeare, speak Spanish or Latin, paint, walk in nature, dance, type, garden, eat outside, and read orally. They also all take college-level courses, write narrations, play instruments, care for the building, compete in a sport, and intern at local businesses.

Every Day We Practice
Intentional Recognition

We recognize students’ positives actions and choices.
A simple statement like, “I see Jane focusing,” goes a long way with kids. We want to energize positive choices. We constantly recognize all that they are doing that is right, healthy, and life-giving. We don’t want to energize negative choices. Poor choices result in simple time-outs/resets. If their poor choices affect others, then students have natural consequences and are taught how to fix their broken relationships.


Academic Practices:
How We Apply Our Values in Real Life

Narrations, Student Talk, and Grand Conversations

To “know,” persons need to tell back. It’s not enough to just hear something or to read it. We need to use language to actually know something. Thus, we require our students to narrate (tell back) after a single reading. Persons also learn more when their imaginations are ignited, when their interest level is high, and when they are challenged. Thus, we present students with living, interesting ideas in well-written living books and living things.

Once they narrate, students are asked to Ask Questions. We call this Student Talk, a term developed by Dr. Richard Allington, a preeminent reading specialist. Instead of “Teacher Interrogation,” students ask the questions, and they usually ask the very questions an adult would have asked!  And, as if by magic, the students have entered in to the “Grand Conversation” with the author as they discuss, question, analyze, evaluate, and synthesize the ideas the author presents in the living book.

Authentic Assessments

Gillingham uses a different methodology to assess and quantify what our students have learned. Instead of fill in the blank, true or false, or multiple choice questions which are often developed to show what a student DOES NOT know, we want to know what students DO know. We use what researchers call "Authentic Assessments.” At the end of a trimester (12 weeks), students take “exams.” Relational Ed exams use open-ended questions such as “Tell about the Class Insecta” or “Compare and contrast Cleopatra and Julius Caesar” in order to discover the depth of their knowledge on the subject matter.

We hold exams three times a year, with the results reflected not in letter or number grades but in narrative form. Persons don’t need grades to motivate, and sometimes grades are counterintuitive because they often lead to competition or to a sense of defeat. Instead, our report cards clearly tell the student, teacher, and parent what the student has learned and has not learned. We then formulate an individual plan in order to ensure any gaps are corrected and that the student is adequately challenged in the upcoming trimester.

Though the school has used traditional scores based on rubrics for our upper school students because grades are needed for college entrance, a different system of authentic feedback has been used after the 2017/18 school year. This system meets the need for entrance into secondary schooling while being true to our philosophy.

Our teachers measure outcomes through:

  • Narrative Report Cards

  • Rubrics

  • PSSA and Keystone Scores

  • Charlotte Mason Institute's Assessment Program

  • Student and Parent Surveys


Students have nightly reading and individualized homework when needed. We believe there is no need for quizzes, spelling tests, teacher interrogation, lectures, worksheets, or excessive homework since studies show that traditional homework has little or no impact on life-long achievements. We also believe that young persons grow more fully when they have time to be with family and to pursue life-giving activities.

Restorative Practices

Restorative Practices is an emerging social science that studies ways to strengthen relationships between individuals as well as social connections within communities. Our teachers and staff are trained in specific Restorative Practices that focus on two principles:

Building Community: Teachers eat with students during lunch. Every day, before classes and at the end of the day, teachers lead homeroom circles and teach students chores so that they build the community and students’ responsibility for each other and the facilities. Teachers and staff are trained in circles and activities that Build Community between all persons in the classroom. We have found that harmful cliques and bullying are minimized.

Restoring Community: As happens in life, relationships are broken when persons make poor choices or practice poor habits, and those persons need to be held accountable. Instead of just using punishment, we hold them accountable with natural consequences AND we support them through restoration.

Visit this website to learn more:

Nurtured Heart Approach

In addition to Restorative Practices, we use an additional method, the Nurtured Heart Approach, to hold our more challenging students accountable and to support their inner greatness. Developed by Howard Glasser, this three-pronged approach deemphasizes negative choices, recognizes positive choices, and sets clear limits and immediate consequences (such as a “reset") when rules are broken.

Click here to listen to Howard Glasser as he explains this groundbreaking approach.

Relational Leadership

Since we try our best to treat children as persons, we also aim to treat our faculty and staff as persons. If we offer Relational Education to our students, we need to provide a relational workplace for our employees. Thus, we lead the school through a specially designed Relational Governance model that is supported by research.  Research shows that persons in the workplace need three things: control, learning, and community.

To give everyone a voice and power in their work, we distribute leadership. Persons learn to be leaders and followers, offering to lead in their expertise and willing to follow when others take the lead. Everyone is learning and growing and thus building the capacity to lead and to follow in a strong community.

Gillingham works hard to build trust and community. Just as students participate in check-in circles, community building activities, and restorative circles, so do the faculty and staff. We work and play together. We find solutions together. We speak to one another when conflict arises. We model respect for each other in front of the students.

Click here to find out about job opportunities at Gillingham.