History / Philosophy
Calvert Education History and Philosophy
Calvert has been recognized as the premier provider of homeschool curriculum and support services for over a century. The Calvert Education story is the story of formal homeschooling itself.
The Birth of Formal Homeschooling
In 1905, Virgil Hillyer, the energetic, Harvard-trained scholar who had served as Head Master of the Calvert Day School since shortly after its founding in 1897, convinced a Baltimore bookstore owner to sell the school’s Kindergarten curriculum to parents who, unable to send their young sons and daughters to Calvert, could nonetheless give their children the same educational advantage by purchasing the lessons and teaching them right in the home. That led to the birth of formal homeschooling.
Before long, Hillyer placed advertisements in National Geographic magazine announcing the course's availability through the mail, for the modest sum of five dollars. The response to his initial offer was encouraging and suggested to Hillyer that parents both near and far were interested in having not only a well-rounded home-instruction course for their kindergartners, but for other school-aged children as well.
By the following year, the Calvert Home Instruction Department was formally established and in full operation, offering complete curricula. Each lesson was edited and approved by Head Master Hillyer himself and delivered to parents with detailed instructions explaining the use and care of the materials. That first year, more than 200 inquiries were received from parents in 42 states; within five years, nearly 300 children were enrolled in Calvert courses.
Calvert Becomes a Worldwide Phenomenon
By the 1930s, the Home Instruction Department had become a worldwide phenomenon, shipping lesson manuals, textbooks, workbooks, and school supplies—all packed in a single box and marked with the now-familiar "Calvert silhouette"—to students in more than 50 countries. Calvert curricula reached the farthest outposts of civilization, delivered to the hands of eager parents by dogsled, camel caravan, even parachuted from airplanes.
As one young boy who lived with his lighthouse-keeper father off the Alaskan coast reported in 1952, "The boat brings our supplies every month from the mainland—and my Calvert lessons, too." That same year, the young daughter of an American missionary in Africa wrote to apologize that she was behind in her Calvert homeschool studies because "the lions roaring all night keep us awake."
The U.S. Government's Use of Calvert Courses
In the late 1940s, Calvert's curriculum began being used by dependents of soldiers assigned to military installations in Japan and Korea. The military’s use of Calvert materials grew and continues today. The Calvert curriculum is also recommended by the U.S. Foreign Services.
By the 1950s, more than 85 tons of Calvert materials were being shipped every year. Performing artists, athletes, missionaries, and others counted on the Calvert box to deliver them a complete American education no matter where they were living.
Continuing the Tradition and Innovation
Since that time, Calvert has grown in name and reputation. Success brought expansion. In 1997, the Day School celebrated its centennial. In 2001, Calvert Education Services moved and expanded our office space, added staffing, increased the warehouse facilities, and upgraded technology. In 2003, a new, state-of-the-art Middle School opened to fifth- through eighth-graders at Calvert School's Baltimore campus.
Today, Calvert continues to be a leader in homeschooling tradition and innovation. Many components of the Calvert curriculum continue to be updated and improved. For instance, courses now include technology instruction, not just in how to use computer-based software, but when to apply it. Every Calvert enrollment now includes access to a personalized, online portal for students to access their technology instruction and other valuable online, educational resources.
In 2006, Calvert celebrated its 100th anniversary, having helped children at homes and in various schools all over the U.S. and world. As Calvert embarks on its second century of educating children, its goal remains the same: to inspire the best in children and to make them as productive as possible.
Throughout our history, the Calvert program has reflected Head Master Hillyer's shining belief that "the whole realm of knowledge is the true field of study and that school is not the preparation for life—it is life."