Reflections on a Charlotte Mason High School

“Children taught this way are fun to be around because they’re interested in so many things, and they have worthy thoughts. They have a lot to talk about, and this kind of talk can’t help but have a beneficial effect on those around them–and on society. That pleasant sense of knowing about things worth knowing, and things that make life worth living, is like a delightful atmosphere. It’s what makes people noble-minded. We agree with Milton that a noble mind is the most appropriate result of education.Students taught along these lines are familiar with a large number of books, many historical and literary persons, and quite a range of natural phenomena. Compare that with what a normal school student can claim–a sterile curriculum that isn’t mastered very well.”Charlotte Mason in Modern English, volume 6, page 267

When I first contemplated sticking with a Charlotte Mason style high school, I couldn’t find many families that had shared their experiences. I wanted to see what particular materials they used and how they used them. Last year after completing my son’s freshman year, I made up a page with all our specific resources that we used in ninth grade using a classical/Charlotte Mason style: Ninth Grade. Now that I am finishing our second high school year, I think it is time to start recording my thoughts, sharing how I think it is going for us….just in case you wanted to know. 🙂

Just a note: I am not a Charlotte Mason purist so you will find some variances in our implementation of her methods in our schoolwork.

*Keeping history chronological and including lots and lots of living books has helped keep the attention of my high school boys. They greatly enjoy autobiographies so I try to keep one going on their schedule at all times. They also enjoy reading source documents like speeches and letters and memorizing parts of them as we go along. The offering of lots of ideas has kept our school fresh and lively. History is more than just dry facts but it comes alive with ideas.

*Narration of all kinds is so much better than the fill-in the blanks tests. We use a variety of ways to narrate at a high school level. My favorite kind of narration is the informal daily oral narration around the kitchen table with the whole family. Term exams in conjunction with Tapestry of Grace unit celebrations are also a time that the boys like to shine with their particular knowledge of topics that have interested them.

*Excellent literature and lots of it, read slowly to let it seep down deeply. I pull my books from several sources. Of course the majority come from Tapestry of Grace but I also pull from Ambleside Online (House of Education) book lists for both formal reading and free reading. Poetry and Shakespeare are also included during every term and shared together and read mostly out loud as a group.

*Art and music appreciation are considered “core” subjects and are not skipped even when we have a busy week. Handicrafts are encouraged and supported as part of our afternoon schedule and during free time. We actually have time for hobbies and passions.

*Nature study is intertwined into our more academic study of science. Biographies of naturalists and books written by scientists are read as living books. Our nature journals have become more scientific and have included information from our biology and marine biology studies. We consider the nature journal an extension of our science lab book.

*Limited use of textbooks-mathematics and science for the most part. Science is about relationships and keeping that in mind as we work through our lessons and add onto the text our real-life experiences makes things come alive. Supplementing a science or math text with living books about real scientists and mathematicians from the past and present has greatly increased the interest level in these subjects. We have more ideas to ponder. (See my page on biology and how we made it a living study: Apologia Biology)

*Our family recognizes that our children have a spiritual need and as a family we devote some of our day to feeding that need and incorporating daily Bible reading, scripture work, discussion, and weekly volunteer work.

*Last but not least, remembering that education does not have to be confined to school time. “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” Indeed.

Am I happy with the results? I would say that it has been harder than I expected to keep on top of things but I would also say that it has been a very satisfying decision to keep with our CM style schooling and it has kept us balanced.

It helps to keep the CM principles in mind and if you want a concise summary of a Charlotte Mason education, here is a link to her Twenty Principles:
Charlotte Mason Twenty Principles-A Synopsis of her Educational Method

I find it refreshing to read through these ever so often.

I have to admit that I am not implementing all of Charlotte Mason’s ideas, nor do I necessarily agree with every principle or know exactly what they should look like in operation. Our homeschool is still a work in progress.

My confidence is building as I see the results of sticking to a course of study that means something to these boys. They are not filled with meaningless information that is disconnected from something else. I don’t think we are learning things just to be learning them. The kind of education they are receiving is not easily measured on a standardized test or given a grade but rather they have ownership in their education and they will have “that pleasant sense of knowing things worth knowing.”

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

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