Charlotte Mason High School
Is Charlotte Mason homeschooling only for primary school?
It doesn’t take much to convince parents with young children of the benefits of 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 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 plans I’ve done:
- Year 7
- Multilevel Study of Ancient Egypt
- Year 8 adapted for a 17 year old
- Year 10
- Archaeological Studies
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. For example, here is a list of mostly classic books my eldest daughter read in Years 11 & 12.
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.
Finding the Right Resources
When we started homeschooling in the early 1990’s, there were minimal resources available for teaching children at home. 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.
Example Charlotte Mason High School Schedules
Here are some plans Michelle has done that follow the Australian Curriculum:
And if you don’t want to DIY your curriculum, at My Homeschool we have a complete curriculum high school package.
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.