What Charlotte Mason High School Looks Like

We’ve been tracking what a Charlotte Mason education looks like through the grade levels. So far we’ve looked at preschool, elementary, and middle school. If you missed any of those posts, be sure to check them out, because the series as a whole will give you the big picture of how each level increases the challenge and how your student has been well prepared for those challenges as they come.

As we’ve mentioned all the way through, in a Charlotte Mason approach the standards are high and we expect a lot from the student, but all of the challenges she will face through the grades are presented incrementally, in small steps. This does two things: it sets the student up for success and it preserves her love for learning.

So today, let’s discuss high school. Your student has been preparing for this level and is ready to meet the challenge. What does a Charlotte Mason high school education look like? 

I think there is a common misconception that a Charlotte Mason approach is only for young students, that it’s not enough for high school. Today I hope to dispel that myth and show you that a Charlotte Mason education is comprehensive and challenging at the high school level. But if your student has been using this approach through the years, the challenges of high school won’t be a shock to her system or set her back on her heels. She has been practicing the powerful tools of learning that are integrated into a Charlotte Mason approach through all the grades, and she has been leveling up step by step, securing the ground under her feet; she has also been carried along by a wide variety of subjects taught in a personal, interesting way, so her studies have been for delight as well as for discipline. 

A Charlotte Mason education is comprehensive and challenging at the high school level.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that sometimes we judge the rigor of an education by how much the student is struggling to keep her head above water. When we don’t usually see that struggle with a Charlotte Mason student, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that the approach is not challenging enough, when really, it’s because the student has been so well prepared for the challenge. 

In fact, many of the studies she will encounter in high school are simply a continuation of what she’s been doing all along; the difficulty level is just ramped up another notch. By the high school level, your student is doing mostly independent work. The living books are now longer and more difficult. (I would venture to say that many of them would be a challenge for you to read and narrate as an adult.) Your high school student is writing at least five narrations per week, and those narrations can be narrative, expository, descriptive, or persuasive in style. The rest of the narrations for the week are done orally in order to keep giving her opportunities to practice public speaking and the art of gathering and expressing her thoughts extemporaneously. 

She is also engaging in discussions with you about the principles involved in the events, people, and decisions she is reading about. In current events she is reading opinions on all sides of the issue and discussing the principles that inform those opinions. Interestingly, one of the best preparations for these discussions have been, of course her Bible lessons, but also the Shakespeare plays she has studied over the years. Charlotte Mason believed that Shakespeare had great insight into human nature and was able to portray his characters as neither all good nor all bad, as in life. The literature books your student has read also have laid a foundation in understanding human nature and how decisions have consequences. So these are the years to highlight the unchanging principles that help a person make wise decisions throughout life.

In high school your student continues to read about several different history streams, as she has been doing all along—including ancient history, world history, American history, and church history. She continues to work on her personal Book of Centuries that she started in middle school, but the challenge is leveled up as you also incorporate original source documents in those history studies. And along with history, your student is digging into learning how the government works and her place in it.

Geography studies continue using map work, living geography books, and locating places of interest in school subjects and current events. At this level, your student can be asked to draw from memory the maps that she has been studying.

Bible lessons are another great opportunity to focus on wise principles for living, as your student continues to learn how to study the Bible for herself. This important skill was started in the latter half of middle school.

Latin was also started in that second half of middle school, and that study is continued throughout high school. In the final grades it includes reading and translating original source documents in Latin.

Conversational foreign languages are continued. Charlotte Mason’s students graduated knowing at least two foreign languages besides Latin. Those language studies have been layered in over the years: In elementary school your student hears and speaks the first foreign language; in middle school she also begins to read and write in that language and to hear and speak a second foreign language; then in high school, she adds in the reading and writing of that second language even as she continues the first one. Taken in this way, with incremental additions, that challenge is completely doable. 

In-depth and advanced science courses are tackled in high school, along with their corresponding labs. And as your student expands her knowledge of the world around her, she also expands her knowledge of the world within her—her relation with herself. In middle school she started exploring self-knowledge—learning about how God made her with both the possibilities and the potential weaknesses inherent in all persons. In high school she takes the next step to learning and discussing self-direction, how to best order her life and make wise choices that affect both her and others around her. Part of that challenge is learning how to form her own good habits. You, as the parent, have been determining and initiating her work on good habits throughout the grades, but now she needs to learn how to intentionally instill her own habits so she can continue cultivating good habits when she leaves your home and throughout her whole life.

In math your student continues several math streams, studying algebra, geometry, consumer math, and advanced math courses.

In language arts she again levels up, but, again, these are challenges that she has been prepared to meet. In grammar, she continues sentence analysis and adds word studies. In dictation, the passages become longer and more difficult, and she gradually increases writing from 2 to 3 paragraphs from the passage studied. In literature she adds some literary analysis, discussing plots and characters, learning about settings and cultures and different genre. And all of those studies play a role in the transition that takes place in writing: In high school, your student learns how to structure her writing into different forms of composition

Remember, we talked previously about how there are basically two components to good writing: developing your own voice and organizing what you write into a specific structure. Of the two, the hardest is finding and developing your writing voice. It doesn’t take long to learn a certain form, but having something to say and saying it well requires a lot of time and input and practice. Many of the methods that your student has been practicing over the years funnel into developing her writing voice. Reading a variety of excellent authors and discussing their work, analyzing how they chose the best words and put them into the best order in their sentences, gathering her own thoughts and writing a rough draft every day in a variety of styles—all of this has helped your student develop her own writing voice. Now it is simply time to show her how to organize what she has to say through formal composition lessons.

She has even had experience with the four main types of composition: narrative, expository, descriptive, and persuasive. If you look back over this series, you will see how those types of composition have been integrated into narrations gradually over the years, so that by the time your student is in high school, she is already familiar with expressing her ideas in those different styles.

But these are not all the studies your high schooler is doing. The art and music, handicrafts and nature studies have become a way of life by this time and can be continued with the whole family together or can become afternoon occupations for her. Afternoons are also a great time for her to pursue personal interests or even apprenticeships in whatever field she is interested in. And that time is available because you’re not doing everything every day. Even with all of this increased challenge and lessons lasting up to 45 or 60 minutes, the day’s work takes only 4 hours.

But can your student earn all of the high school credits she needs with that kind of schedule? The answer is yes. Absolutely. And that is due to the habits of full attention and best effort that have been emphasized from the beginning, the absence of time-wasting busywork, and Charlotte’s simple yet powerfully effective methods. The Simply Charlotte Mason curriculum is designed with all of this in mind, and students who follow our curriculum earn 25 credit hours in high school. 

It is not a drill-and-kill approach, nor a cram-and-forget type of education. Rather, when your student stands before you at the completion of your Charlotte Mason home school, you will see that the methods you have been using have given her the tools for self-education and have preserved her love for learning. Graduation is not the end of her quest for knowledge. Rather, your student is now prepared and eager to enjoy a whole lifetime of learning. 

That’s a Charlotte Mason education.


  1. I dabbled in CM with my children during the preschool early elementary years, but got away from it and when to another classical program. We learned some beneficial things, but along the way the love of learning was lost as there was a constant struggle of not being able to keep up with the pace. I want to rekindle the joy we had with CM methods but wonder if it is too late to start during the final two years of high school. CM high school sounds great if you have done CM all along. What does it look like if you are late to the CM party?

  2. Simply Charlotte Mason has done it again with their insightful blog post on Charlotte Mason’s high school education! This article beautifully captures the essence of the Charlotte Mason approach and how it can be extended to the high school years. The practical tips and resources shared make it a valuable read for homeschooling families and educators. Thank you for shedding light on this important topic!

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