High School – Can You Mess It Up?


What if I mess up high school @harmonyfinearts.org

Question from a Reader:

I am reaching high school and wish I could start all over again. My boys, especially the 14 year old, have had a rocky ride and its mostly my fault. How can I reclaim the Charlotte mason /classical approach with teens when they don’t like to read- and one just wants to do the least to get through? I am so sad at where we have ended up…. I don’t want mess up high school and the textbook is looking good only because all the information is in one place. What if I mess up again and don’t teach what they need to prepare them for college? I’m supposed to be a homeschool mentor and I haven’t taken any of my own advice! Help!

High School – What If I Mess Up?

High school gives you the time to slowly give the power of learning to your children, transitioning into the mentor you mentioned in your question. This takes time. The process is gradual and for each child it happens at a different pace. If you do your best to offer the opportunity for your children to learn at their level and try to always allow room for personality and tastes, you won’t “mess up”.

Offer living books with real information.

There are wonderful free resources online to guide your choices like Ambleside Online. You can also read the book The Well-Trained Mind and glean even more wonderful resources for high school.

  • I tried to vary the style and format of the books I offered for history and literature. A tough Shakespeare choice would be followed by a biography or a lighter piece of historical fiction. You could also try using audio books if your child has trouble keeping up with the reading required in high school.
  • As they worked through the high school years, the amount of pages read each term would increase….I always tried to keep tabs on how they were progressing through a book and adjust my plans accordingly. If they got hung up on a particular book selection, we would discuss what the problem was. Sometimes it was vocabulary, sometimes it was just plain too hard for the moment and we would put it aside or skip it altogether, and sometimes it was just a lack of interest. I tried to allow for all those issues on a case by case basis.

Use a text or video courses in high school when it is the best choice.

Most of us use texts for math and science because they are appropriate for high school aged students. You can supplement your science with living books if you want to enrich those textbook experiences. Make the text work for you and if your child is not really into reading to start with, choose a text that has an audio version or a DVD course where they can pop in a DVD and watch a lecture before narrating things back in writing or orally.

High School Level Courses We Have Used

Require follow-up narration in written or oral form-high school level

Learning to read well and follow up with either written or oral narration is the cornerstone of our family’s high school experience. Doing just this one thing will customize your child’s learning. There is no real need for testing in most subjects if you are following up every reading with some sort of narration. Narration is a way for your child to share with you in some way what they took away from their reading.  Want more details? Try this entry: Narration: Helping Your Child Get More Out of Their Reading.

Narration Ideas That We Have Used in High School

  • Notebooking pages! – This has been the best and most effective tool in our high school years for my boys to customize and document their learning. The simple act of having a page that pulls all their thoughts together has made a huge difference in the attitude of my boys when it comes to follow-up narration. It isn’t quite a blank page but isn’t a fill-in-the blank cookie cutter workbook page either. Of interest: Notebook Pages in a Charlotte Mason High School.
  • Timeline – Keeping an on-going timeline that connects all subjects together has led to many light bulb moments in our high school years. Adding entries for science discoveries and famous scientists, historical events and famous people, art and music high points, and anything else of interest has made the timeline a treasured resource and valuable as a tool to see how all their subjects inter-connect. More ideas for a timeline notebook: Book of Centuries.
  • Discussion – Our weekly meetings are the jewels of our week. After all the work is done, Fridays are the moment when the boys can shine. They pull out books, papers, sketches, and projects to share with me as a way to tie up the end of the week and prepare for the next week.  Keep your questions open-ended. See more on our Friday meetings: Friday Discussions-What Do We Talk About?

Teach them to write using an approach that works for your family.

We used the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW). As time went by with our boys, they gradually applied their writing skills to higher and higher levels of writing…essays, summaries, reviews, and research projects allowed them to share what they found interesting about a topic. This was a process that started in middle school and continued step by step in high school.  I learned that if my boys had something interesting to write about they didn’t complain as much about the actual writing. We also used our notebooking pages to ramp up their writing: How To Use Notebook Pages to Write an Essay.

Make Sure To Allow Some Interest-Driven Learning (Project Learning)

This idea alone reshaped the face of our high school learning. The moment I realized we could offer interest-driven courses that allowed my boys to hold the reins of their own learning and direct the depth and scope of their own learning….our high school experience soared.  I outlined our experiences here: Nurturing a Project Learning Environment.

Don’t Just Prepare Them For College

In the end, your job in high school is to not just to prepare them for college. Your role is to offer quality courses in a manner that fits your child’s learning style, allowing time for them to explore interests while still in your home. With a little planning, choosing the best materials you can find and giving the freedom to learn at their own pace...you will not mess up.

High school is just another stage of maturing into the self-educating adult we all want our children to become as they grow up and out of the home. We can help them learn to think and to apply any information and skills they need to accomplish their individual goals.

Please visit and share with us at the CM blog carnival! We'd love to have you! I am submitting this entry to the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival and if you have any entries you would like to submit, you can send them to this email address: [email protected].





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