Home School High School With Charlotte Mason

When starting homeschooling 20 years ago I never intended to home school high school. However as I grew as a homeschool mother, so did my homeschool friends and their kids. Time proved our children could excel. Many homeschool children went to university.

We had a Charlotte Mason high school but we weren’t purist in our approach. We discovered successfully home schooling high school does not require a school teacher.

No Teacher Training —That’s OK!

Trained school teachers do not necessarily make good homeschoolers. Education at home and classroom learning are poles apart. Teacher training doesn’t necessarily help.

The learning curve for new teaching parents is steep but there is an abundance of information to help homeschool parents. Much of it is common-sense and learning how to assess your child’s progress.

Sometimes teens can lose motivation but with a bit of help you can get them back on track.

Home School High School Teachers

It is often suggested that one of the reasons you shouldn’t be homeschooling through high school is that your child will only have one teacher — one perspective. But that is a myth!

Homeschooling through high school still allows you to introduce your child to a wide variety of teachers.

How? Through books!

Your child may not have many “in person” teachers but they have the luxury of, as Charlotte Mason puts it, “a city of books”. We may forego a few school teachers, but we can introduce our children to expert teachers who are authors who will help them to think.

“If you ask a living teacher a question, he will probably answer you. If you are puzzled by what he says, you can save yourself the trouble of thinking by asking him what he means. If, however, you ask a book a question, you must answer it yourself. In this respect a book is like nature or the world. When you question it, it answers you only to the extent that you do the work of thinking and analysis yourself.” Adler & Doren p.14 © 1972

Using Books To Teach Home School High School

Teaching your child to read, and read with understanding, is essential to their education. Books can help your child gain knowledge, but it will also help them reach for greater understanding, as they grapple with ideas that are put before them by those whose wisdom is greater than their own.

Books are teachers, a place where your children can meet with the mind of the author. That is why so many homeschoolers see the value of using living books for their child’s education.

Home School Teachers Don’t Know It All

“The teacher who allows his scholars the freedom of the city of books is at liberty to be their guide, philosopher and friend; and no longer the mere instrument of forcible intellectual feeding.” Charlotte Mason

The pedagogical educational model assumes a teacher is the subject expert who guides all learning. This model works in the primary years because most parents are confident in teaching up to about 4th grade/Year 4. You only need to find the resources and books to help their children. However, when home schooling in high school this is no longer the best method.

Finding Experts

Parents are not experts on all subjects, but they can research and find good resources. When we look for experts, we often find they are authors. Living books connect kids to ideas from people who understand their topics.

High school home school is about parents facilitating their child’s self directed and critical thinking education. This is called andragogy, and many home educators use it without knowing it.

Instead of an encyclopedia, the parent becomes a coach. Specialized subjects like chemistry, physics, music, and drama are outsourced.

The Masterly Inactive Teacher

It is difficult not to interfere with your child’s work. When we see them struggle, show them how it’s done is a natural reaction. But sometimes lightening the load can hinder their initiative. You need to learn to sit on your hands, remain silent or ask a leading question. This is hard to do.

Home School High School Grades

“Children who are taught at home benefit from smaller class sizes more individualized attention, and the flexibility to work on their academic activities as their abilities and interests dictate. In addition, experts believe homeschooled children are able to spend more time working on their studies—not only quality of time, but quantity of time.” Bryers & Bryers

Various studies show homeschoolers tend to do well academically.  Probably the most well-known one is the American based Hewitt Research Study which demonstrated that homeschoolers scored 80% on standardised tests compared to the national norm of 50% (cited Byers & Byers). In Australia homeschooling students are academically performing better than average in NAPLAN homeschool statistics (A Smith, 2016). Test results indicate homeschool students got:

  • 70 marks higher than average overall,
  • 40 marks higher in spelling,
  • 20 marks higher in writing.

It is true, some children don’t get a good education homeschooling but it is equally true that many school children don’t get a good one either.  However,  most home educating parents apply themselves to their child’s education and the children do well academically.

We May Not Be School Teachers But It Doesn’t Matter

Parents who are homeschooling through high school are not disadvantaging their children as some critics suggest! And parents can have confidence that they are capable of teaching at home.

Let me share these encouraging words from Ruth Beechick:

“I meet teaching parents all around the country and find them to be intelligent, enthusiastic, creative people doing a marvellous job of teaching their children. But, sad to say, most of them do not know what a great job they are doing. Everyone thinks it goes smoothly in everyone else’s house but theirs is the only place that has problems.”

I was asked multiple times when I was homeschooling through high school if I was a teacher and when I said “No!” I was often dealt a judgmental stare. However the proof is out to all my doubters. Even though I was not a teacher (I was a nurse and midwife before I had kids) all of my children managed to get into university at 16. One is now a doctor, another is about to start her Masters, another works as a professional animator having got a Master’s at 21.The youngest is completing her business degree and runs two businesses.

It didn’t matter that I wasn’t a school teacher or that my children never graduated from high school.

Charlotte Mason High School

I asked my friend Carol Hudson if she could write about her experiences with homeschooling high school Charlotte Mason style. She blogs at Journey and Destination.

Is Charlotte Mason high school a good choice?

Is it only recommended  for primary school  or middle school?

It doesn’t take much to convince parents with young children of the benefits of homeschooling using a Charlotte Mason education. Short lessons, a shorter school day, plenty of time out of doors, living books, a focus on oral narration in the younger years, and nature study; these are all compelling reasons for using the Charlotte Mason method of education.

It was certainly compelling for me after reading ‘For the Children’s Sake’ by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay before our first child was even born.

By the time our eldest child was two years old we’d already decided that we would teach her at home ourselves. One of the very first questions we were asked was, What about high school?’ I must admit that this was the last thing on our minds at that stage and our response was usually, ‘We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.’

It was natural for us to step from ‘a quiet growing time’ of the early years into the more formal lessons of the Charlotte Mason method in primary (elementary) school. We also found that high school wasn’t some huge step into the unknown. As our children grew, their capacity did too.

Objections for using Charlotte Mason in the High School Years

But is a Charlotte Mason High School education going to be enough?

I’ve heard objections like these:

‘A Charlotte Mason High School education wouldn’t be rigorous, stretching or challenging enough.’

‘A Charlotte Mason High School education only uses old books.’

‘A Charlotte Mason High School education wouldn’t cover enough STEM subjects.’

‘I can’t find any homeschool resources for high school.’

‘I can’t work out how to teach them what is required in my state using the Charlotte Mason method.’

One reason that a Charlotte Mason education is not considered suitable for high school, even if it has been used in the younger years, may be traced to a lack of understanding of Charlotte Mason’s methods and their application in the 21st Century.

If you’ve had any of these concerns about a Charlotte Mason high school education, Brandy has some good thoughts on this: Charlotte Mason Myths

So let me address some of these concerns…

Charlotte Mason High School is Rigorous

Nature study and living books are often what the Charlotte Mason method is known for but there is so much more richness in her ideas. A Charlotte Mason high school curriculum doesn’t limit the student to a narrow field but offers a wide and generous feast along with a vigorous challenge.

Here are some examples of some individualised Charlotte Mason high school homeschool plans I’ve done:

Consider This is an excellent book by Karen Glass that discusses the Classical roots of a Charlotte Mason education and how challenging and stimulating her method can be when applied as Charlotte intended.

Literature Based Education – Not Just Old Books

It is true that many of the books used by Charlotte Mason educators are old and the reason for this is their literary quality and worldview. Great books of the Western world are included in a Charlotte Mason high school. Plutarch, Shakespeare, Jane Austen etc., are challenging reads for a high school student.

However, a Charlotte Mason education isn’t limited to ‘old books’. Many of the books used in her Ambleside school were contemporary books at that time. She believed that children should be offered authors who were experts in their field. Therefore, one of her core ideas would be to use contemporary work, but they are just much harder to find in recent publications because many books for children are so dumbed down and itsy bitsy.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths

Science is a great example of where you often need to find contemporary authors. John Hudson Tiner or Paul Fleisher are examples of authors who teach science in a literary way. A couple of contemporary science books we used recently are A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson and The Planets by Dava Sobel.

Stress free science experiments can also be found online if needed.

Finding the Right Resources

When we started homeschooling in the early 1990’s, there were minimal homeschool resources available for teaching children. We didn’t even have the Internet. All that has changed and now we have the opposite problem: too many choices. Deciding on the best Charlotte Mason High School material for our individual circumstances requires an effort and some research on the part of the parent. However, it can be done.

Following the State Curriculum & University Entry

Yet another hindrance for implementing a Charlotte Mason High School, especially in some states and territories of Australia, (i.e. New South Wales, Northern Territory and Western Australia) is the need for compliance to the Australian Curriculum for registration as a home schooler. In fact, this has been a major stumbling block for many Australian homeschoolers who have often just given up and sent their children to school as they approach the high school years.

In the high school years, university preparation is also a consideration and therefore many parents feel that their only option is a school qualification. However, there are many examples of homeschool students using alternative pathways to university.

Here are some reflections from my daughter, a homeschool graduate studying teaching at university.

Don’t Give Up!

Others have given up the idea of the wide and generous education offered by a Charlotte Mason high school education and have resorted to material that just helped them to ‘tick the boxes’ while still keeping their children at home.

But we must have the courage to teach for the sake of the children rather than for the system.

By Carol Hudson

Charlotte Mason Exams

How To Give Charlotte Mason Exams

Many homeschoolers say they don’t like doing or need exams, but have you considered Charlotte Mason exams?

As we come to the end of the term and the holidays beckon, many homeschoolers are wrapping up work, and reviewing the progress made by their children throughout the last couple of months. There are various ways to do this, including looking at just how far they have gotten in their maths program, whether their copywork has improved since the beginning of term, how many chapters or books read, and the quality of narrations given; but have you considered including Charlotte Mason exams at the end of the term?

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