Archive / term exams

RSS feed for this section

Charlotte Mason Knew the Secret to Learning Relationships

Charlotte Mason didn’t invent the idea that true learning only comes from relating living ideas to things in our life. She did make it a core belief in her method of teaching, assuring her fellow teachers that they could trust that students would form these learning relationships if they provided living ideas and varied sources for the child to glean from in their reading. (Read from volume six here.)

How do we apply that today with our high school students?

First of all, like Charlotte Mason, we need to trust that our high school students are capable of making their own connections with their reading assignments. If we truly believe this concept, the idea of testing for mastery seems redundant for most subjects. We don’t have to waste time getting our students to answer pre-made sets of questions in their every day work and we don’t need to test them at the end of each unit.

Note: This depends on the high school course and our family still uses tests in math as a measure of progress. Although Charlotte Mason didn’t test students, she did administer an end of the term exam which is much different than most textbook style tests. See the links at the bottom of this post for more information on how our family uses end of term exams.

How Do We Promote This Principle In Our Family?

1. Students read their assigned books and regularly make notes in their commonplace book or they create a written narration of some sort – journal, notebook page, map, sketch, diagram with labels, mind map. This is done for every reading. (More on written narration in this entry: Narration in Our High School Plans.)

2. Provide time to discuss what they read with you perhaps even up to a week later. This helps you to see whether your student has taken the information in and not just memorized it. You will hear if they have connected it to something they already know and then were able to add it to their store of knowledge. (More on our Friday discussions in this entry: Friday Discussion-What Do We Talk About?)

3. Encourage students to go further than the reading, writing, and oral narrations by asking themselves questions and then finding a means of answering those questions.

Ellis Island NY April 2012
We visited Ellis Island during our New York trip earlier this year.

4. An additional step that our family has enjoyed over the years is to make additional connections to our reading and study by traveling to places of interest. This could be a day trip or an extended vacation where you allow time and opportunity to relate their reading to something in real life.

I always like a good example in posts like this so here is one to use as a starting point. I am sure you have lots of ideas that will work in your family and I would love for you to share any additional ideas in a comment. I have one year left and I would love to take it to the next level. I am especially interested in any concrete examples of Charlotte Mason style term exams for high school students.


  • You assign a good number pages to be read in their history course. This reading can come from a biography, speeches, first hand accounts, primary source documents, or context books (fiction or non-fiction) written in the time period.
  • They read through the material one time and record a list of quotes or important facts. Quotes may be used in a separate written narration, perhaps a short biography or a summary of an event in a person’s life. Facts can be added to a timeline or be included on a notebook page.
  • After the written narration, they share an oral account with you of what they found in their reading, perhaps relating an event from history.  This is where you can build from week to week as you move through history and see how one person or event is not in isolation.
  • Now is the time that they can really personalize their learning and make connections in their minds. Encourage them to ask a question about their reading…or you ask a leading question. I tend to think of these as questions that have no right or wrong answer but their goal is to stimulate thinking and connections. There is an art to forming these kinds of questions but I try to remind myself that if they can be answered with a simple yes or no then I need to rephrase the question. (More on how to know what to ask your student: Question from My Weekly Wrap-Up.)

Examples of questions I might use:
Tell me what you know about the Supreme Court case Roe vs. Wade.
How does this information fit in with what we learned last week?
Describe what it would have been like to be a part of this event.
What three events did you put on your timeline this week?

Charlotte Mason Style Exams-Resources 

Please note that this really is a work in progress and holding my boys accountable for their reading and then their own learning has been something that I have focused on over their high school years. It does get easier as they mature and work more independently. Your family may use a different process but the point is to offer lots of living ideas for your child to think about…ideas that will spur them on to learn more.

IPlease visit and share with us at the CM blog carnival! We'd love to have you! 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].


Charlotte Mason Method and Grades

Van Gogh, Fishing in the Spring (Wikimedia Commons)

Question from reader:
What about when you need to set up grades for a transcript? There, say for history in 9th grade, the student writes several essays on the topics, makes a timeline project, gives a speech on a book he’s read. That is the output you have for a history class that they (independently?) are learning from. But, for college, they need a letter grade. What criteria have you come up with to evaluate their output and give them a grade?

I’ve read several articles and threads (at Sonlight) about this and many people set up their own criteria for assigning grades. How do you do this when there aren’t percentages from tests taken?

It seems that we have to/are trying to fit together two different systems (CM) and the traditional system to when we have to give grades. But that is the reality of it, and I wonder how you have decided on what to grade with subjects that are more relative.

My reply:
I don’t think I have talked about grades on my blog before. Just for the record, I hate grades.

We have weekly work that is assigned and I give them a grading rubric. I use rubrics for writing, history, literature, robotics, art skills, and geography. The rubric will show the assignments and then how many points are assigned to each activity. (See the end of this post for links on what a rubric is and how to make one.)

For many of the Charlotte Mason sorts of activities that I blend into their other subjects, the assignments are part of the grading rubrics for that particular subject. For instance, their nature journals are part of their science assignments each week. Their Shakespeare and poetry assignments are included on their literature rubrics. Their artist and composer study assignments are part of their fine arts rubric. I think you get the idea.

Another example might be history. The rubric covers things like maps, notebook pages, commonplace book, timelines, biographies to read, speeches read, etc. I assign them their weekly work and then on Fridays we meet together in the morning and go over that week’s work. I use Homeschool Tracker so I just plug in their scores each Friday from their weekly work and then at the end of the term it generates a grade for me after I plug in their Term Exam results.

For subjects like science, spanish, auto shop, and math where we are using the chapter tests during the term as part of their grade that is easy to score and record. Then when I assign an exam question at the end of the term, it is only part of the grade. There again, the boys know in advance what is expected and it is more of a pass/fail situation.

Grades don’t mean that much to my boys. They like the written evaluations I give them with personal comments on their Term Exams. I take a few minutes and write out where I saw improvement during the term and what I think they can work on for the next term. It is very informal and I try to find something positive to say to encourage them in their schoolwork.

I also keep track on Homeschool Tracker of any additional activities for their transcripts. I record things like volunteer work, projects they complete like RC airplanes and special Lego projects, extra PE items like snowboarding and snorkeling, and field trips we have taken. These are the things that make our transcripts unique and special.

Our goals may be different than yours for your children. We are not looking for our children to go to upper end universities or colleges. My older two have used the local community college for their first two years and then moved on from there. It was a great choice for our family since it allowed them to live at home and still stay under our watchful eye. They were both happy with their experiences at college. I am assuming my younger two will do the same route. This means we don’t worry too much about grades and transcripts. All of them will take the SAT as a way to document just where they are overall in comparison to other public school children.

Hope that helps. I know on the HEO (House of Education Online) Yahoo Group there is a file that has some sample transcripts from AO kids. I found them to be quite interesting. You might take a look.

Additional information:
Helpful links on rubrics:
Creating and Using Rubrics
Rubrics Generator -you can use this to get some ideas for your own rubrics
Example of a university grading rubric for a term paper

My grading rubrics are sometimes very simple but they give my boys a clear and defined assignment. I found out a long time ago that they like things spelled out ahead of time and that way there are no surprises. This takes a little effort up front from me but it is worth it at grading time. I recycle rubrics from week to week as well so once the system is set up I can print out a previous rubric and have them fill in the current assignment at the top.

I highly recommend using Homeschool Tracker or something similar to make keeping track of grades and activities easier over the four years of high school.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Term Exam Grade 11 (Charlotte Mason Style)

The House With Burst Walls Cezanne Wikimedia Commons
School for the final week of this term is going to be filled up with Charlotte Mason style term exams. These are not the sort of term exams that put fear into the hearts of my children, but rather the kind of exams that they actually look forward to. It is an odd concept for many who have never tried this sort of exercise, but if you plan the exam right your children will look at them as the means to share what they have learned and wrap up their projects for the end of the term.

I am very grateful to have found this method of examination for my boys for two reasons. I get a glimpse into what they really know and it gives them a chance to shine. They know the exams are coming and pretty much what will be expected of them so there are no big surprises when they receive the official assignments.

I always enjoy reading other family’s Charlotte Mason style exam questions so in the spirit of sharing… is one of our exams. (lindafay actually inspired our first Charlotte Mason style exam years ago….thanks lindafay.)

Artists Mother and Sister Cezanne Wikimedia Commons
Oh, before the exam you need to read my little disclaimer.
Please remember that my boys are in high school, they have always homeschooled, they have had lots of practice with this sort of exam, and we have been using Charlotte Mason’s ideas in our homeschooling for about four years. You should not try to compare the nuts and bolts of what we are doing to your family because your family has a different focus and a completely different set of goals.

Just thought of another note: We do actually complete “normal” type testing during the term for the following subjects: algebra 2, vocabulary, physics, Spanish, and auto shop. These are the tests that come with the particular curriculum we use so the term exam is in addition to those as-we-go-along tests.

Now here is my 11th grader’s term exam.

Algebra 2: Complete assigned lessons and turn in your notebook. In addition, share with your Dad how you arrive at the quadratic equation.

Still LIfe with an Open Drawer Cezanne Wikimedia Commons
All paintings in this blog post are Paul Cezanne’s work and found on Wikimedia Commons.

Art and Music: Complete your Cezanne project and display it on black cardstock. Complete your Brahms notebook page and share your focus piece with the family. Finish any Pen and Ink assignments and then choose one for me to make into a notecard to send to your grandparents.

Bible: Recite this terms scriptures from memory (all six of them). Turn in your commonplace book for my review.

Geography: Turn in your notebook for my review. Fill in your maps of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East with as many countries as you can. Fill in as many European capitals as you can on the map. In addition, choose one country you have studied this term and make a display of your work including: map, notebook pages, sketches and art work, food item or the recipe, current event, animal or geology notebook page. It is optional to dress up in a costume for the unit celebration.

Literature: Wrap up and turn in your Les Miserables commonplace book and watch the movie with the family. In addition, choose one of your free reading books and write a one page review as if you were writing it for

English: Recite the six poems we have memorized this term. Choose ten words from your vocabulary lessons to stump the family with at our Unit Celebration. Polish and add illustrations to your last writing assignment (research report). Email the finished piece to everyone in the family so we can read it and make comments.

PE: Take your President’s Physical Fitness exams and record your results. Make new goals for next term.

Physics: Turn in your notebook and lab work. Make sure your commonplace book is up to date for your additional reading assignments in Physics of Nascar and Physics for Future Presidents. Also, pick a topic or a physics concept from this term and make up a science experiment and worksheet for a middle school student to complete. For example: Use Legos to demonstrate one of Newton’s Laws of Motion.

Spanish: Write six complete sentences in Spanish using vocabulary from the term’s lessons and then read these sentences out loud in your very best Spanish accent for the family.

Auto Shop: Organize your notebook and lab sheets to turn in for review. Tell me four things you found valuable from the term’s lessons and labs.

Robotics: Complete and demonstrate the Push Bot project.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...