This is a really inspiring description from the April 1923 L'Umile Pianta of what one "H.E. Wix" described as the distinguishing points of Charlotte Mason's elementary schools:
What is it that distinguishes P.N.E.U. Elementary Schools from the ordinary School? It is a difficult question to answer, primarily because the “ordinary school” is indefinable. Many persons think that all “ordinary” elementary schools follow a similar clearly defined curriculum and that the teachers teach after a set plan. But it is not so. Nowhere is there more variety of method, syllabus, or “atmosphere.” There are, for example, schools where amazingly good compositions are freely and easily written – not as a result of wide reading, but rather of careful teaching, sometimes on the same lines as those followed in French schools. There are also schools where literature is really read and enjoyed, where history lives, where good story books are numerous, where the children even keep nature notebooks.
And yet, the least satisfactory P.N.E.U. School has something which these others lack, even the best of them – what is it?
It is not easy to lay one’s finger on, nor easy to express. Is it that these P.N.E.U. children are fuller of humble enthusiasms for all the great things of life? Is it that they – maybe only dimly realize that every new thread of knowledge leads them on to a further appreciation of the knowledge which is indivisible? Or can it best be summed up in: “they live closer to life?”
Wix goes on to describe how children and teachers travel great distances to see performances and Ms. Mason herself. And as it is in memorium, it concludes...
Perhaps the most visible gift that P.N.E.U. schools owe to Miss Mason is happiness; happiness in learning, happiness in teaching and the consequent happiness in giving and in living. A real joy in knowledge, a love of it as of a friend, is a lasting treasure. Too often it is merely as a “means to an end” that children are taught to acquire a necessary amount of information. But to a P.N.E.U. child knowledge is “lovely.”What is the distinction? It's not how much they know, but how much they care... knowledge is lovely... they live closer to life.