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Using Charlotte Mason Methods for High School

Overview: Afraid it’s not possible to find a Charlotte Mason curriculum for high school, or even to use Charlotte Mason methods? I’m here to help with all of that! (Note: This post is sponsored by Dreaming Spires Home Learning, but all opinions are my own.)

“Do I have to? This is SO BORING! When am I ever going to use this stuff?”

You may have heard these exact words from your teen. I know I have. 

Homeschool used to be fun! But in high school it has become a drudgery, because there are credits to count, grades to calculate—and taking a nature hike to collect leaves and bugs just isn’t good enough any more.

If you’ve been using Charlotte Mason methods through elementary and middle school, it can seem impossible to continue that during the high school years. How can you keep lessons short? How can you use living books during a course like Chemistry? Do you have to give up everything you love about presenting your kids with a feast of ideas that will grow them into thoughtful individuals?

When I first started homeschooling high school, I thought it had to be done one way. The boring way. But over the years I’ve learned that homeschooling teens doesn’t have to be as hard as it sounds, and that there is MUCH latitude in how we go about it.

Related Reading: Homeschooling High School 101 for Non-Traditional Homeschoolers

I’m convinced now that Charlotte Mason homeschoolers can continue to follow their hearts and incorporate CM methods into every aspect of homeschooling high school.

Afraid it's not possible to find a Charlotte Mason curriculum for high school, or even to use Charlotte Mason methods? I'm here to help with all of that!

How to incorporate Charlotte Mason methods in high school:

Short Lessons

For the younger set, this can mean 5-15 minute lessons—but that’s not gonna work for teens, right? Probably true. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up on the idea. Here are some options:

  1. Try taking frequent breaks. Use the Pomodoro method to break up longer lessons into shorter bites so that your teen can maintain that focused attention the CM method calls for.
  2. Vary the task. Maybe 15-20 minutes of reading can be followed by 10-15 minutes of writing or doing practice problems in the same topic. In Math, for example, read the first part of the lesson, then do the practice problems associated with that, then read the second part, and then do the practice problems associated with that. Most math problem sets start with simple and move to more complex, so figure out the simple ones when you’re reading the first part of the lesson that describes them. Or find a curriculum that breaks it up this way naturally, with guided practice at regular intervals and then practice sets divided by type of problem, so your teen can go back and forth between learning and doing. Lial’s math textbooks do this really well.
  3.  Vary the subject, if it works for your teen. Have them do a portion of the math lesson, then move on to history, and maybe then French, and then back to math. I know my brain often works better when it comes back to something rather than when I plod on through ad nauseam. And it’s amazing the connections that can be made across subjects this way.
  4. Shorten the assignment. In history or science or literature, have them read fewer pages at a time. Why do we think we have to cram our teens full of textbook information? Isn’t it better to fully explore a short passage’s nuances of meaning and to think deeply about it, than to try to absorb pages and pages of content that has no relevance to higher thought or character? With teens this concept might even be more important than ever. Here’s a crazy thought: don’t make your teen do all the math problems. Let them do enough to show mastery (maybe all the odds? or evens?), and then let them move on. Woot! No more math drudgery! If they stop showing mastery, however, you can always dial back up again. But maybe they’ll work harder on that excellent execution you’ve been training them for all this time when they know the payoff is less work in the long run. I personally like the sound of that!

Narration

It is so fun to talk to the kids about the books they’re reading, isn’t it? But teens have to write more, right?

Well, yes and no. Guess what? You can still talk to your teen about the books they’re reading. 🙂 Sometimes we forget that dialogue and discussion are still legit forms of learning, even in high school. Your teen can still be required to narrate back to you exactly what they understood and thought about any given passage. You can actually give them a grade for doing it and average it in with all the rest of their work.

But of course, they can write some or all of their narrations as well. Then your time is freer to help the youngers or do the laundry or escape to the bathroom for a little r & r. It’s the same as them standing in front of you, except now they are practicing the craft of writing at the same time. This gives them lots of opportunity to learn good grammar and sentence structure, to choose just the right word, or maybe to craft a compelling argument to convince you that video gaming really should be counted as PE.

You get the idea. Writing in high school doesn’t always (or possibly ever) have to be the five-paragraph essay or the dreaded research paper. It can be nothing more intense than your kid writing short narrations several days a week. I bet your angsty teen will feel less intimidated, and you’ll still be doing that CM thing you’ve been lovin’ for so long.

Living Books

Of course in literature and history studies it’s not a problem to incorporate books that breathe truth, beauty, and goodness, providing food for thought and discussion—but what about math and science? Well, these might be harder to find, but they’re still out there. (In a minute I’ll share a wonderful way to make sure they’re included!)

And who’s to say the teen can’t still enjoy read-alouds with the family? Every living book, even those for youngers, is worthy of being read and digested and discussed over and over again. Your teen may discover new meanings which can generate great discussion with everyone.

Dictation

If your kid is used to doing dictation, then why stop? Now the passages can be more complex in structure, more rich in meaning, and more thought-provoking. Ever try using Shakespeare for copywork? Forsooth!

Dictation can be incorporated within any subject, providing a stepping stone for dialogue or memorization or ahem! a little moral instruction, LOL. No need to give it up now!

Afraid it's not possible to find a Charlotte Mason curriculum for high school, or even to use Charlotte Mason methods? I'm here to help with all of that!

So this is when you might be thinking, “Yea, Annie, what you’re saying is all well and good, but it’s not gonna be easy. Using Charlotte Mason methods in high school will entail a lot of planning and prep! Isn’t there an easier way? Is there a Charlotte Mason curriculum that’s made for the high school years?”

And this is when I get to tell you, “YES, there is!”

I’ve found an online provider of live high school courses that uses Charlotte Mason methods in EVERY class, EVERY subject! Have you ever heard of Dreaming Spires Home Learning? If you want a Charlotte Mason curriculum for your teen to do in high school, then Dreaming Spires may be just what you’re looking for.

Dreaming Spires Home Learning is THE Charlotte Mason curriculum for high school.

I had the opportunity to explore their high school Chemistry course, and YES, even in Chemistry your kid will learn via Charlotte Mason methods. Remember up above when I said it was possible to use living books in science? At Dreaming Spires is where that happens.

Students meet for one live class each week, during which they discuss their reading, review their homework, and are instructed in new material and given practice with the teacher; and then the remainder of the week is spent reading short passages, writing a narration or two, working enough problems to gain mastery but not so many as to create dissatisfaction—in short, doing high school the way you had hoped for but were unable to create yourself.

The teachers at Dreaming Spires are experts in their field who have personally designed the courses they teach, and they are also home educators themselves—which is a rare combination in the world of online classes. After viewing one of their classes, I can honestly say that the teacher was engaging and interesting, and the students were interactive and interested. 

Online classes do not utilize the computer camera, so there are no worries about privacy. Students chat via typing, and the instruction is given orally with slides for visual information. Open-ended questions are the order of the day; students are encouraged to explore ideas and learn from one another. 

In fact, students make friends with their classmates from all over the world. Many even schedule their next classes based on who will also be taking them! What a unique way to develop cross-cultural relationships that will influence lifelong perspectives.

Throughout the week they follow the provided syllabus of readings and assignments. The Chemistry syllabus was scheduled appropriately without too much or too little to do each week; topics were appropriate for a high school level Chemistry course. 

Literally everything is done for you! Woot!

Dreaming Spires offers classes in every high school core subject, including foreign language and all the sciences. You can almost build a complete four-year high school education for your teen using only Dreaming Spires courses (math is the only subject I’m seeing that does not offer enough courses to do that). Or you can select just a class or two to complement whatever else you’ve decided your teen will do.

Doesn’t this sound like more fun than what you were fearing high school would be? Yes, Charlotte Mason is alive and well in high school, and Dreaming Spires provides the Charlotte Mason curriculum and courses to make learning with Charlotte Mason methods a reality for your teen.

It’s not too late to sign up for classes!

You can see everything offered for the 2020-2021 school year here: Dreaming Spires 2020-2021 Timetable.

Also worth reading is their discussion of Charlotte Mason methods and how they apply them: Our Method.

I highly recommend checking out what Dreaming Spires has to offer. I know of no other similar offering, and especially if you are a CM homeschooler, I’m guessing you have searched long and hard for a Charlotte Mason curriculum for high school. Now you’ve found it!

Dreaming Spires Home Learning Website

Dreaming Spires on Facebook

About the author

Ann Karako

Ann has been homeschooling for 20+ years and has graduated four children (one more to go). She believes that EVERY mom can CONFIDENTLY, COMPETENTLY -- and even CONTENTEDLY -- provide the COMPLETE high school education that her teen needs. Ann's website, AnnieandEverything.com, offers information, resources, and virtual hugs to help homeschool moms do just that. 

Ann has written Cure the Fear of Homeschooling High School: A Step-by-Step Manual for Research & Planning and Save Your Sanity While Homeschooling High School: Practical Principles for a Firm Foundation. She also founded the popular Facebook group called It's Not that Hard to Homeschool High School, which now has over 27K members; and recently she started the It's Not That Hard to Homeschool High School Podcast.

She and her family, including two dogs and three cats, live in rural Missouri.

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I’m Ann (aka Annie), a veteran homeschool mom of five. I believe YOU can do this homeschool high school thing!
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