Keeping Your Perspective in the High School Years

Charlotte Mason Homeschool High School Encouragement

Once upon a time, a traveler was passing through a town. He was tired and thirsty, so he thought he would stop and rest a bit by the fountain in the town square. He was just enjoying the last drops of a drink of cool water, when he caught sight of three stone masons across the way, hard at work.

Curious, he approached the first stone mason and inquired, “What are you doing?” The first stone mason glanced up at the traveler, wearily wiped the sweat from his brow, and grumbled sullenly, “I am cutting this stone.”

The traveler turned to the second stone mason and asked the same question, “What are you doing?” Though less despondent, the second stone mason heaved a sigh, nodded toward a nearby construction site, and replied, “I’m building a parapet.”

But when the traveler approached the third stone mason, he received a very different answer. “What are you doing?”

The worker paused, raised his eyes to the traveler and, with a radiant face, declared, “I am building a beautiful cathedral that will glorify God for centuries to come.”

All three men were working on the same long-term project, but they had radically different perspectives.

The first stone mason was looking only at the task immediately set before him. The second stone mason had a bit larger focus, but he also was looking at just one small piece of the picture.

The third man, however, had the big picture steadfastly set before his mind and heart: he was building a cathedral. Whatever task was laid before him, it was part of that bigger goal—a cathedral that would stand for centuries.

I like to review that story when I think of homeschooling, and especially homeschooling through the high school years. Most likely, when you started homeschooling, you probably had a vision of the big picture. Your focus was on your child’s heart and mind. You wanted that child to grow and flourish according to his personality and talents. You didn’t want him to be stuck in a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all system. You agreed with what Charlotte Mason held as foundational: “The child is a person,” and the reason we educate is to develop that person.

But when you’ve been working on a long-term project for a while, it’s easy to get tunnel vision—to begin to focus on just the task in front of you, or even shift your gaze to a larger project in view, but forget the big picture.

In the high school years, tunnel vision can look like this:
if she can just finish this Algebra book . . .
if he can just score high on the SAT . . .
if she can just get into college . . .
if he can just get a good job . . .

Those are not bad goals, but they are not the whole picture.

Over the next few weeks we will be discussing homeschooling through high school. You have sent us a lot of great questions, and we will do our best to answer them. But I want to encourage you in this first post to keep your perspective. We will talk about details, yes, but don’t get lost in the tall weeds; don’t let those details give you tunnel vision.

Lift your eyes.

Keep your focus on the big picture.

“But the function of education is not to give technical skill but to develop a person; the more of a person, the better the work of whatever kind” (A Philosophy of Education, p. 147).

You are developing a person—a person is much more than a score, much more than an institution, much more than a title.

A person is an eternal soul with so much potential to glorify God for years to come.

Keep that focus set before your heart and you’ll do just fine.


  1. Love that story. Thanks for this reminder as we are wrapping up our semester (which included a new baby, home renovations, and a busier than usual schedule). I am feeling that sneaky thought of “Are we behind in our plans?” Thanks for this reminder that it is more about teaching my child’s heart than about being halfway through the book.

  2. I love this parable and although I’ve heard it before I’ve never thought of it in light of the work of home teaching. It fits so beautifully in describing the bigger picture. I love this, Sonya. One mother confessed to me that her teen daughter was behind in her math. Together, earlier in the year, they regularly visited the mother’s sister who was battling cancer. They cheered, cooked, did laundry, etc. at the sister’s house. “Oh my,” I said, “The lessons your daughter learned here are precious ones about Christian love, friendship, serving, and self-forgetfulness. This is the quiet strength heroes are made of. She can get some math done this summer.” (John 15:8)

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