We are proud to share this post focusing on Marvelously Made—The School for Young Children, a high-quality early childhood program that provides for children to be educated in a way that honors how they are designed to learn. Look to the bottom of this page for links to more information about preschools, pre-K, and early childhood education.
“Body and soul; I am marvelously made!” That verse from Psalm 139:14 is the guiding force of the Marvelously Made—The School for Young Children. Located in Helotes, Texas, this small, child-led Christian school was founded 13 years ago by Jennifer McCarville. She says that she saw a need for children to be educated in a way that honors how they are designed to learn.
“We use what we know about children, their brain development, and how they learn and put that into practice in real ways,” she describes. “We trust the process of learning, and the children win.”
Culture at Marvelously Made
Although Marvelously Made began as an affiliate of the United Methodist Church, it is no longer affiliated with any religious organization. Run by a board of directors, it defines itself as a “Christian School that believes in the Old and New Testaments.”
“We are not pastors, but we lean on the Bible’s teachings as we care for and respect the children,” explains McCarville. “We pray and talk about God and teach children that God created the world and that people have inherent value.”
Classes start at the preschool level and continue through the third grade. All classes follow the traditional school year, beginning the day after Labor Day and ending the Thursday before Memorial Day. Unlike conventional schools, however, classes are only half-day.
“All the children leave at noon because that’s what children need,” says McCarville, adding that the children are busy the entire time they are in class. “This gives them time to go home, decompress, and have family time,” she continues. “They can explore a sport, music, or another enjoyable activity without exhaustion.”
With approximately 150 total students, the teacher/student ratio is small, with 1/6 for 3-to-5-year-olds, 1/7 in kindergarten, and 1/10 in first through third grades. This small size allows educators to create a healthy balance of child-selected and teacher-initiated activities.
Curriculum at Marvelously Made
The learning model at Marvelously Made is defined by hands-on, experiential learning. Teachers build the curriculum around assessments and incorporate elements based on each child’s interests. In other words, children play!
“Play is a misunderstood work of childhood and has lost its value in society as a vehicle for learning,” says McCarville. “We understand that, and our competent, dedicated teachers give students information at the right age and stage for development.”
Children learn math, science, language, and art concepts in indoor and outdoor classrooms that encourage learning by doing.
“NASA applications require that applicants ‘must have tinkered as a child,'” says McCarville. “You can tell someone how to cook, but until they get in the kitchen and do it, they will not become proficient.”
Beyond the basics, a large part of the Marvelously Made curriculum centers on emotional and social competency, based on the belief that the sign of a successful adult is emotional maturity—not how early they learned to read. As part of that focus, the campus is home to “critters,” including alpacas and sheep, used to teach children about social relationships.
“They learn to listen with their eyes to what the animals tell them with their bodies,” explains McCarville. “An animal comes to you because it trusts you, and being gentle makes it feel safe. Then, the children learn to transfer that concept to social interactions with people.”
The animals and gardens also teach children about responsibility and sustainability. They learn to care for the plants and animals and understand their role as contributors to society versus consumers. They plant flowers that they use to make natural dyes. They sew, knit, and embroider using yarn made from the wool sheared from the sheep and alpacas. These things help them understand the importance of nature and caring for the world around them.
“Animals and nature fill the soul, and that is one of the most important things you can do for children,” says McCarville.
Community at Marvelously Made
Parents are an integral part of the process at Marvelously Made and, in McCarville’s opinion, in education as a whole.
“Parents are going to be the change we need in education,” she says.
To that end, the school hosts two parent education nights throughout the year that at least one parent must attend. It’s part of Save Childhood, an initiative by Marvelously Made that encourages, educates, and equips parents to advocate for their children.
“We know that what we are doing is saving childhood for children,” says McCarville. “Childhood has changed, but children have not, and they need the same things they always have. This movement is a way to provide information and resources to parents and other educators to preserve childhood in a way that honors the child’s development.”
Marvelously Made parents are so on-board with this concept that a collective has formed for the families who wish to continue past the school’s third-grade cut-off. Created during the pandemic for the children of the Marvelously Made teachers, this program for grades four through eight has evolved into a home/school hybrid. Children attend classes on campus in the morning, then learn their language, arts, and math classes at home with their parents in the afternoon. Now in its third year, the collective is “working beautifully,” according to McCarville. She points out that they typically don’t enroll students from the public, preferring to view it as an extension of the school for currently enrolled families.
“It is a different philosophical understanding of how children deserve to learn,” she explains. “Our third-grade teachers meet with the parents and guide them on how to move their child successfully into this hybrid homeschooling environment.”
By allowing children to be children, Marvelously Made believes that you are setting them up for success in all areas of life, from academically to socially and emotionally. However, when you force them to go against what is developmentally appropriate, problems arise.
“Children struggle when we put them in situations that go against their grain, and then we blame the child, although we are the ones who set them up to fail,” explains McCarville. “We believe that if you want children to thrive, you must give them what they need.”
To learn more about Marvelously Made’s application process, tuition, and enrollment procedures, or to schedule a private tour, visit marvelouslymadeschool.com or call 210-338-5699.
Charter Moms Chats
Watch Jennifer McCarville, Founder and Director of Marvelously Made—The School for Young Children, speak with Inga Cotton on Charter Moms Chats on April 25, 2023 at 4:00 PM Central live on Facebook and YouTube.
Jennifer McCarville is the Founder and Director of Marvelously Made—The School for Young Children, an award-winning oasis of childhood full of play, wonder, exploration, and genuine learning. She is an engaging and sought-after speaker, having presented on topics including, but not limited to, discipline, supporting the emotional needs of children, nurturing mathematical thinking, orality, how children learn to read, handwriting, motor development, and the value of process art. Jennifer has presented workshops and teachings through organizations such as the Early Childhood Christian Network, San Antonio Association for the Education of Young Children, and the International Play Association, through community and parent workshops and as a speaker for online educational summits.
Read More About Early Childhood Education
- “Little DOers Preschool at The DoSeum Offers Early Childhood Education in San Antonio’s Premiere Children’s Museum,” San Antonio Charter Moms, April 6, 2023
- “The Acorn—A School for Young Children Provides Developmental, Child-led Education,” San Antonio Charter Moms, April 4, 2023
- “Guide to Enrolling Your Three- or Four-Year-Old in Pre-K 4 SA,” San Antonio Charter Moms, January 26, 2023
- “Together We Can Save Childhood,” Jennifer McCarville, San Antonio Charter Moms, January 25, 2023
- “Play-based Learning at JOY Holistic Education,” Adriana Becerra, San Antonio Charter Moms, April 19, 2022
- “Jennifer Semanko Shares Her Pre-K Teacher Tales from Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran School,” Jennifer Semanko, San Antonio Charter Moms, March 23, 2022
- “Pre-K Charter School Options and Resources in San Antonio,” San Antonio Charter Moms, January 8, 2021