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High School – Can You Mess It Up?


What if I mess up high school

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 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].





Classical Homeschoolers-Have you seen this product for your copywork?
Classical Copywork button

Why Aren’t You Finishing the Four Year Cycle of History in High School?

Four Year History Cycle in High School @HarmonyArtMom

“The logical way to tell a story is to begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end. Any story makes less sense when learned in bits and pieces.” The Well-Trained Mind, page 105 (2004 edition)

I embraced the four year cycle of history years ago when we started with The Well-Trained Mind format of homeschooling. I liked the tidy way it kept us going forward through time and it gave a shape to our history, literature, art, and music appreciation.

In case you are not familiar with the four year cycles:

Ancients 6000 BC – AD 400
Medieval/Early Renaissance 400-1600
Late Renaissance/Early Modern 1600-1850
Modern 1850-present

My sons were in the 4th and 5th grades at that time we started the cycle and we started off with them working together using resources suggested in The Well-Trained Mind, including the Story of the World. This worked well for our family for a couple of years. At that point I was introduced to Tapestry of Grace and I thought it would be helpful in organizing classical resources at different levels of study for my two boys. (I was tired of pulling it all together on my own.)

Now, we are definitely a mix of both classical homeschooling ideas and Charlotte Mason’s ideas as far as how our day to day homeschooling looks. I don’t stick strictly to any one way of homeschooling and at this point I couldn’t tell you which way I lean farther……..Charlotte Mason mornings and Project based afternoons would be the best description of what we look like at this point.

Below is more information that you probably need, but it shows how we year by year have used TWTM and TOG and their different levels for our homeschooling.

Our History Sequence
(Another reason this may be helpful is for you to see how I shaped our homeschooling over the years. I am not one that started with one method or curricula and stuck with it for many, many years. I use what seems to work at the time. I know there are moms that feel like jumping around is going to be harmful to their children, but in our case it has worked out just fine.)

Mr. A:

  • 5th: Year 1 Sonlight Core 6: World History Part 1 (with TWTM Logic Level resources and The Story of the World)
  • 6th: Year 2 TWTM Logic Level resources
  • 7th: Year 3 Started TOG D Level
  • 8th: Year 4 TOG D Level
  • 9th: Year 1 TOG R Level (see the details of this year: Well-Trained Mind Grade 9)
  • 10th: Year 2 TOG R Level (see the details of this year: Well-Trained Mind Grade 10)
  • 11th: World Geography (Year 3 TOG R Level and TWTM R Level for literature, highly customized) Details: Grade 11
  • 12th: Govt and Econ (Year 4 TOG R Level and TWTM R Level for literature)

Mr B:

  • 4th: Year 1 Sonlight Core 6: World History Part 1 (with TWTM Logic Level resources and The Story of the World)
  • 5th: Year 2 TWTM Logic Level resources
  • 6th: Year 3 TOG D Level
  • 7th: Year 4 TOG D Level
  • 8th: American History using HEO 9 (My history buff wanted to take a year to focus on this period of history and there was room in his overall school schedule to allow it.)
  • 9th: Year 2 TOG R Level
  • 10th: World Geography (Year 3 TOG R Level and TWTM R Level using literature, research, and writing instead of full-blown study of history)
  • 11th: Year 1 TOG R Level (This is also his choice since I was ready to skip it and hop right into Year 4 in the cycle. He wants to spend some more time in the Ancient time period to get his Bible chronology more firmly established.)
  • 12th: Govt and Econ (Year 4 TOG R Level and TWTM R Level using literature, research, and writing instead of full-blown study of history)

As you can see, we will have worked through the four-year history cycle two times since we started way back in 5th/4th grades. I have adapted the cycle for my youngest because of maturity level and interests since he is a young schooler….he is 14 and in 10th grade. Academically it has worked well for him to stick with his brother most of the time in his history and literature.

Hopefully this clears up the questions about “taking a year off” for World Geography in high school. We really haven’t taken much of a year off from history but rather rearranged our years to allow time for an additional study of geography. We are still covering the history time period with our literature, research, and writing assignments. It was and excellent decision for our family.

Just a note: Prior to starting with TWTM and TOG, we used Sonlight curriculum: Core 2, 3, and 4.

Goal Setting: My Process and Some Examples

Amanda P asked:

Could you tell me how you choose goals for your kids?

And may I ask you…if you were doing the elementary/preschool years right now, what are a few most important things you’d focus on with them?

Preschool Years:
Honestly, I would try to stick as close to Ambleside Online’s suggestions as possible for my preschooler. If you follow the link to Year 0, there is a wealth of information about how to implement a Charlotte Mason style home life for your children. She advocates that these early years be used for exploring, playing, and also for developing good habits.

Ambleside Online Year 0

Make sure to scroll down to the section titled, “A Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of Six”. Whenever I have a friend interested in starting to homeschool their young children, I print off the Ambleside Online Year 0 information and give it to them to consider. I love that the suggestions are open ended and can be adapted to all families to suit their tastes and location. If I were starting all over with my children, I would stick to reading lots and lots of good books and keeping in mind the list of attainments from Ambleside Online.
Beyond Preschool:
After those early years, I would use the same method that I use now as far as making goals and then finding ways to reach those goals. We are not trying to churn out kids who are only prepared to attend college. College is not the ultimate goal in our family and so it takes some time and thought and prayer to come up with a plan for filling the time you have with your children during their school-age years.

Honestly, as our children have grown and matured, we bring them into the process. Their tastes and interests are highly valued and nurtured. I try to mold our school plans to allow for their interests to be included in their school day. My goals are influenced by the big picture, the need to prepare the children for life after homeschooling.

I know it is always helpful to have example so I will attempt to give you one from our family.

For instance, you can make long-term goals and then break them down into steps over a number of years. Perhaps in the area of language arts you could make goals for your child to:
Become a strong reader who loves to read.
Learn how to research an answer to a question.
Use written communication to share thoughts and ideas in a clear and understandable way.

You would then work backwards from the goal in increments to see how to achieve your desired outcome. In the early years, I would plan on reading lots of living books on a variety of topics. I would plan frequent trips to the library for choosing books and for acquainting my children with what is available to them there. They must learn to read on their own so choosing a program such as Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading might help me get that part of the goal accomplished. Strong writers are developed over time and starting with copywork and short narrations we would build on those skills until we had a competent writer, perhaps using Institute for Excellence in Writing as the boys became ready for more formal instruction in the mechanics of putting together research reports and longer essays.

I work through each area of study for each of my boys and put down on paper what I hope to work on during each year. This focuses my purchasing of materials and keeps me from trying to cram in things that would be fun but would not necessarily work us towards our goals. With the wealth and variety of resources available today in the homeschooling world, I know that I could easily become overwhelmed and purchase more than we could work through in a year’s time.

I keep all my ideas in a Subject Notes binder with tabs for each subject. This is a way for me to organize subjects far in advance and keep them handy. For example, in my math section for each son, I have an overall schedule for their math program and I adjust it as I see from year to year how they are progressing. Some years we do not finish a text in the confines of a school year but rather than move on to the next level or stress them out by pushing them to finish over the summer, we continue on in the text where we left off once we start our fall term again. When this happens, I adjust the overall plan in my Subject Notes binder.

In practice, this flexible plan to working towards a goal helps me from pushing too hard or not encouraging them enough.

For example, my overall goal for our high school math program is to finish Algebra, Geometry, and Algebra 2 during that time period. I also have made the goal for each of the boys to achieve 85% or better on each test. If they don’t achieve that score, we review and retake the test. Both my boys are headed for jobs which require strong math skills during their college years so I want them to have a solid base to start from for those courses.

I also keep a separate binder for the current year’s plans. This is also tabbed by subject and in each section I keep ideas and notes for projects, books, and activities that I can choose from as we work through the year.

For example, in the biology section, I have printed out the table of contents from the textbook and then made notes for each module for additional activities that would tie into my overall goal of including nature study along with the formal biology text. I have listed possible field trips, names of kits available from Home Science Tools catalog, and then nature journal topics that we can include during our hiking and traveling over the year. If I read a particular blog post that contains ideas and thoughts that I want to include in our homeschool, I print those out and place them in the appropriate section in the current year’s plans. I do not by any means use all the ideas but when we get to a point where we are bogged down or we are in the mood for something different, I can flip to the subject and see if there are any ideas that we can implement.

I know I haven’t given you a direct answer to your original question but there is no one answer. I could give you a list of goals that I thought were important and they might be totally irrelevant to your children. Take some time and make your overall goal list and then break the goals into parts that you can implement.

  • Use What Your XXX Grader Needs to Know as a base if you need some ideas to get started.
  • Start with Ambleside Online’s suggestions for each year and adapt to your goals.
  • Another great book to help give you a framework is The Well-Trained Mind. We have used The Well-Trained Mind as the beginning point of our overall planning for a number of years now and if you view it as a beginning point and not a plan set in concrete, it can be helpful in planning goals.
  • I also have gleaned many particular goals by reading The Charlotte Mason Companion.

It takes effort to come up with goals but the sooner you get it done, the more time you will have to break those goals down into small increments.

Hopefully this very long post contains some ideas for you to form your list of goals. 🙂

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

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