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History of Calvert

Virgil Hillyer's distance learning vision becomes a worldwide phenomenon

The Calvert curriculum is based on the lessons taught in The Calvert School, established in 1897 in Baltimore, Maryland. Calvert School’s first Head Master, Virgil Hillyer, an energetic, Harvard-trained scholar, was an educational visionary, and his ideas continue today to be the cornerstone of the Calvert Education program.

Video: History of Calvert School


In 1906, Mr. Hillyer 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 home schooling.

By the 1930s, the Calvert curriculum 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 home-school studies, because "the lions roaring all night keep us awake."

In the late 1940s, the U.S. Department of Defense began sending Calvert curriculum for educating soldiers' children when they were stationed in Japan and Korea. That use of Calvert materials grew and continues today. Calvert curriculum is also recommended by the U.S. Foreign Services.

Since then, Calvert has grown in name and reputation. In 1997, the Day School celebrated its centennial, and in 2006, Calvert celebrated its 100th anniversary of providing distance education solutions. Through the introduction of technology, Calvert has provided continued innovation in instruction. Online resources, interactive learning opportunities, and student and parent networking tools have reinvented the distance learning model.

Today, the Calvert program is used successfully in more than 160 schools, including brick and mortar, cyber, private, and international schools. Over 500,000 children located in more than 90 countries—in virtually every corner of the world—have been educated using the Calvert program.

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."