Plotting a course for your child’s high school education is not easy and straightforward. For our family, we were committed to continue schooling the boys at home and I felt in my heart that Charlotte Mason’s ideas had taken hold. Would they continue to work for high school? It was not a simple decision to make. Should we continue the course with the ideas of education that had seemed to work at the middle school level so well? You would think that we would automatically answer in the positive but some of us make more trouble for ourselves than we need for some reason.
I started to doubt.
The problem was that I couldn’t find a real-life model that showed exactly how it should look, exactly how I could provide the sort of education that I envisioned but still keep up the rigors of high school subjects.
Sure there is guidance from Ambleside Online and the few families that shared high school ideas on Ambleside’s Yahoo groups and the House of Education groups. I scoured each group’s files, the blogs of members, and their websites but it all still seemed so theoretical. The lists of books were provided as well as the approximate pages and chapters to cover but for some reason it seemed so abstract to me. I am a paper and pencil sort of gal and having things neatly put down in a schedule feels comfortable and secure.
It was scary to face high school. High school seemed so important and huge that it overwhelmed me for a period of time. I didn’t want to “mess up” and leave something out or overlook something really important. It seemed as if at the point where we walk through the doors to high school that things started to count more. This was *high school* and there were a lot of serious subjects to tackle.
I was lacking confidence.
With so many serious subjects expected at the high school level, it is easy to let things like nature study, art and music appreciation, poetry, and handicrafts slip off the schedule in order to fill the student’s time with more academic demands. Free time for a high school student seems to disappear in our society. I needed some permission from somewhere to allow the same hours of freedom in the afternoons for my high school age children that I had allowed in their younger years.
I had another obstacle that I needed to get over and that was the idea that unless I was using Ambleside’s exact books, it wasn’t going to be rigorous enough for my boys. I studied their book lists and sampled reading some of those books offered and I was convinced that for our family it would be a mistake to take the suggestions as a package. Our family is a unique group of individuals and as individuals, our tastes vary from one another. How realistic was it to think that some stranger’s list of books was going to fit each of my boys? I threw that myth out and started to move forward.
I started to dissect the book lists and after mixing in books of interest that pertained to things that we were already studying on our own, our high school plans began to take shape. When I found that I could use a textbook and add in living books, biographies, and varied types of narrations to our study, taking the topics and going deeper and wider than a normal textbook, our plans took on a Charlotte Mason flavor.
Our Charlotte Mason high school was taking shape at last.
The books were not as important as the ideas shared and the shaking down of the information into something that was meaningful to the boys as well as to our family. I felt a freedom that I hadn’t felt before in our homeschool. I felt free to take a book off the list that didn’t fit and replace it with one that did fit.
I still work better with a spine plan and that is what Tapestry of Grace has provided during the last two years for our family. It gave me the “on paper” plans that I could manipulate to fit our vision for high school and it was easy to scan and skim through the book lists and activities to find something that sparked a sequence of learning. I didn’t want things to stop when the last page was finished. I wanted there to be an interchange of thoughts and discussions. TOG helped me to provide that in our high school. Spending time with the boys looking into aspects of literature and history and art and geography that we found of interest was easier because I wasn’t spending oodles of time developing the whole plan from scratch.
A change in thinking was in order in regards to “free time” as well. It wasn’t until I started reading Theresa’s blog at LaPaz Learning and Lori’s blog at Camp Creek that I had a label for what had been considered free time. It was the idea of project driven learning. Projects were undertaken as interests were developed and the time for these projects was during our regularly scheduled free afternoons. The afternoon projects consisted of different and varying degrees of in-depth study of a number of topics over the years. Note: The ladies linked above are most definitely not Charlotte Mason homeschoolers but are geniuses at making “free time” meaningful.
So now not only was our Charlotte Mason high school engine running with great ideas and books and expectations, it was humming with the balance and added texture of project time. It works for our family and we are now looking forward to the future and to the day that these boys will walk out the front door with confidence. A confidence built on experiences and full hearts and they will be ready for a lifetime of learning…..whatever their course will be.
Because of circumstances of age and maturity, we have decided to give our youngest son a “bonus year”. The year between 10th and 11th grades will be the year that he will explore some avenues of interest. He is very young schooler who because of combining classes with his older brother many years, is slated to graduate when he is a young sixteen year old. My husband and I have spent time analyzing his strengths and decided that giving him the bonus year will allow time for him to mature a bit more before official graduation. This means that I have four more years of high school to teach. You are stuck listening to me talk about high school for four more years. Can you bear it?
My point in writing this post was partly to record my thoughts as I go through my end of the year process but also because I wanted to share some thoughts for readers that are facing high school in the next few years and are thinking about whether they should stay the course with Charlotte Mason principles or go with a more traditional view of high school since it would seem to be easier. I also wanted to say out loud for those that may have been thinking it, that even though you don’t follow Ambleside’s plans for school…you can still provide a Charlotte Mason style homeschool experience.
It is *not* the books. It is *not* the subjects. It is the principles that are laid out in her writings that give your plans the fuel for true learning.
Find your touchstone and your balance and don’t look back.
More Charlotte Mason posts you may find interesting:
- Things We Love About a Charlotte Mason Education
- Charlotte Mason Knew the Secret to Learning Relationships
- Ingredients to Building a Life Long Learner