Individualizing Your High School: Homeschooling through High School the CM Way, part 4

Joe has always been gifted at playing the piano. He is currently practicing several hours a day in preparation for a national competition.

Katie loves digital photography. Several of her photos have been featured in wildlife magazines, and she’s hoping to go on an expedition this fall.

Gabe contracted a long-term illness a couple of months ago. On good days he can concentrate and get his school work done quickly. On not-so-good days he struggles just to get out of bed.

One great advantage we have as homeschoolers is being able to customize each child’s education. We are free to change curriculum, methods, schedule—whatever is needed to help each child learn.

And high school is no exception. In fact, high school is prime time for encouraging our children in their unique situations, talents, and interests. Yes, there may be some “required” courses, but even with those courses, we have options as to which materials we use and how we ask the student to learn them. We are not stuck in a one-size-fits-all system.

Charlotte Mason emphasized that education should be a method, not a system: “If a human being were a machine, education could do no more for him than to set him in action in prescribed ways, and the work of the educator would be simply to adopt a good working system or set of systems.

“But the educator has to deal with a self-acting, self-developing being, and his business is to guide, and assist in, the production of the latent good in that being, the dissipation of the latent evil, the preparation of the child to take his place in the world at his best, with every capacity for good that is in him developed into a power” (Vol. 1, p. 9).

Notice those two phrases: “take his place in the world” and “at his best.” As a child grows, his character settles into place and he discovers more about his strengths, interests, and giftings. By the time our children are in high school, they often have a pretty good idea of what direction they feel drawn toward. The possibilities are endless because the combinations of personality, experiences, and talent are endless.

What can we do to help each child take his place in the world at his best? Here are some suggestions, along with an invitation to add your own ideas.

  • Let your student have a say in what he wants to study. Some courses might be required by law or by admissions expectations, and you might have certain courses that are non-negotiables in your mind. But many fields of study are available and possible. Sit down with your student to look at requirements and options. Let him make some decisions as he prepares for the future.
  • Determine how you can round out a field of interest by adding some books or experiences so it can be counted on his transcript as part of his high school education.
  • Emphasize that your student is responsible to educate himself. If you have been using the Charlotte Mason Method through the years, your student should be well prepared and have plenty of practice with self-educating. Remember, the child does the work. Your job is to guide, direct, and encourage.

    Think about how that skill will benefit your child in the future! If he goes on to college-level work, he will be expected to self-educate and he will be ready. It won’t be a big transition for him. If he does not go on to college, he will still be prepared to continue learning for the rest of his life. Self-education is a key to a lifetime love of learning.

  • As much as possible, let your high school student set his own schedule for getting his school work done. You will want to set deadlines and hold him accountable for them, but allow him to determine in what order he will do his work and at what time of day. If you want your high school student to participate in some family studies, then make sure those times are set in his schedule, and require him to work around those appointments. If your student is struggling with health issues, take advantage of opportunities to coach him through the process of trying one’s best but making allowances for circumstances beyond his control. Determining a schedule and meeting deadlines are skills that will also be used in the future.
  • Discuss ideas with other CM moms who have experience homeschooling through high school. This discussion on our SCM Forum, Last Years of High School, is a great example with lots of good ideas for individualizing your high school student’s education.

How are you individualizing your high school student’s education? Leave a comment and share your ideas.

Next week we’ll wrap up this series on Homeschooling through High School the CM Way by discussing habit training in the high school years.


  1. You asked for how we have tailored our child’s high school experience….this is a tad unusual but something we felt extraordinarily led to do…we sent her to public school for her freshman year! Full time. She had been asking, and, as I said, we felt this is what was to happen. Turns out there was a greater purpose. This year, her sophomore year, we homeschool her in her strengths and let her take 4 classes at the school – 2 science; 1 music and 1 language. We were the first ones ever to approach the school about doing this and, after meeting with her counselor and the principal, came out of the meeting with the principal agreeing that he would grant her school credit for each class we were teaching……but wait….it gets better. I could actually care less about the school credit as I can diploma her….but the purpose turned out to be this: she was one of 15 students accepted into a musical theatre program at a prestigious boarding school and they would not have accepted any of our homeschool credits! Had we not gone the direction we felt so led to go, even though it was outside of our comfort zone and very unusual, she would have missed this opportunity which is nothing short of a dream come true for her. Having been homeschooled I know there will be no challenges academically for her (those this is known as an academic school) and I am also sure of her base. I cannot tell you how convinced I am that homeschooling is the only way to go….it allowed her to discover her passion by 6th grade (musical theatre) and begin to heavily delve into it. But by individualizing her education for her needs, she has a wonderful opportunity before her.

  2. Hi, our dd will be a junior next year and we are looking into both CLEP and dual credit. Our local university has opened up dual credit to homeschoolers and we plan to take advantage of what we can. Dd is still up in the air about which direction to go Spanish major or dance major. We plan to have dd CLEP out of as many classes as she can, and take Spanish(she needs to CLEP this one first) and French at the University level. On the home front, we will keep up the reading (LA), and lots of copywork and writing. If she can CLEP out of BIO and Math then she will not have to take 4th year of high school math or more science(not her strengths). For the rest of this year, concentrate on finishing up Algebra and Chemistry.

  3. We are individualizing our son’s curriculum by letting him take graphic design and programming languages which he in interested in and skilled at, and can use both in the family business and in order to support himself and his family as an adult if he so chooses. We are also looking into opportunities to apprentice him in various fields of interest for hands on education and experience. This will give him a broader knowledge base as he is choosing a career path. A third opportunity we may take advantage of will be to let him minister in Honduras for an extended missions trip where he will have ample opportunity to become fluent in communicating in Spanish, as well as broadening his character and, we hope, his compassion.

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