Organizing Literature: High School Level


Can I just give myself a big whoop and holler? Wahoo!

Another year of high school nearly under my belt and I am feeling great. Wahoo!

Sometimes you just need to rejoice about the place you are in life.

I have been writing a lot lately about high school and Tapestry of Grace and Charlotte Mason. I feel so impelled to share our experiences with everyone as we go through the process. I know from my email that there are those that are listening and participating in the discussions and I love that.

This time I wanted to share how we have made literature study a success in our family using TOG and Charlotte Mason’s ideas. I don’t think I have it all figured out but it is going fairly well for us at this point.

Literature is probably the hardest subject for me to share with my boys in high school. With that thought in mind, I pick the literature that we will cover carefully.

Formal Literature:
Slow reading of books has become the foundation for our literature study. We read several books at a time and alternate days. We get the same amount of pages read over the long run but each book is sliced into bite size pieces.

  • We use three sources for our literature study. I start off with the Tapestry of Grace book list, eliminating books we have read already or we don’t think will be a good fit for our family. 
  • I consult the Ambleside Online year we are working in and pull books from their lists as well to substitute for the books we eliminated from TOG. 
  • Then I browse our home library for books that I would like to include for the year. This year we pulled in additional Shakespeare and additional poetry. 
  • I sort the books by terms and then add them into Homeschool Tracker. It really is not a difficult process at all and it gives us a customized literature list just for our family.

These books are read and shared together each week at our Friday meetings. The boys keep Commonplace Books for most of their literature but sometimes I pull an idea from TOG and we go a little more in depth. I make sure to cover literary terms with the boys each Friday at our meetings. We did use TOG’s story analysis document from The Loom to learn how to do a little more formal study of a few books. We also enjoyed using the Loom’s Author Index to learn more about each author before reading the books. ( I will share our general ideas for covering literary terms in an additional post…I have a pretty good system going on for the boys.)

Free Reading:
In addition to the books, plays, and poetry that I assign as part of our weekly homeschooling plans, I have what I refer to as free reading books.

These are books that I decided the boys need to read as a matter of general knowledge and for enjoyment. They may be additional books by authors we read during our formal literature time or books we just cannot fit into our busy school schedule. They can read and enjoy with no narrations unless they want to share thoughts with me or other family members.


I make a list and put it in the front of their literature binder and they keep track of when they start and finish each book on the list. They use these books as a way to fill in extra time during their day, on road trips, in the evenings, over the winter and spring breaks, or during their free afternoon time. The only “rule” is that they have to have one book started at all times.


I have all the books lined up on a shelf in our school area and they can be read in any order. All books are unabridged and usually older copies that I have collected over the years.

Sample list of books that are to be completed by the end of grade 9:
Robinson Crusoe
Kidnapped

Treasure Island

Captain Courageous

House of Arden

Oliver Twist

Cricket on the Hearth

The Prince and the Pauper
Little Men
Animal Farm

Rob Roy

Book of Three
Lorna Doone
The Time Machine
by H.G. Wells
Count of Monte Cristo
Invisible Man

I have a hard time remembering which of my children have read which books in the past so they are allowed to come to me and tell me that they already read a book and I will cross it off the list. Also, they are allowed two books to “skip” if they are really not enjoying them. They have to give the book a chance by reading at least two chapters but I am not trying to make free reading a lesson in obedience. I want it to be enjoyable.

So far, they both have opted to skip Rob Roy because they were having trouble with the dialect. Mr. A does not especially like Dickens’ style of writing so he opted out of one of the Dickens books.

Mr. A enjoyed reading the unabridged version of Treasure Island for the first time.

Mr. B loved The Time Machine and The Count of Monte Cristo.

I was intrigued by the story of The Invisible Man.

I have already started their list for next year and it is going to be great.

High school is a great time for so many “grown up” kinds of literature. I am grateful to be able to share at least a part of the experience with my boys.

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