Topic | How do you start CM with High Schoolers


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  • Hi, I am just starting to use CM with my High School age daughters – a lot of CM is devoted to younger children. How do I start this year, I have loads of good living books – and more importantly, how can I convince my teen that this method is good enough to get her into a college? One of my teen feels textbooks are the only way to get into college especially as she wants to enter the science field – so she is not keen on CM. Over the summer I practised oral narrations with them, and even they were suprised how much they remembered even weeks later! I guess I am thinking that because I am new to this, that they are are also unsure. Help please – how do other High Schoolers do this and what about college? Thanks for any insight – I will appreciate it. Lindy


    I am very curious to hear the responses to this also. We have 2 in highschool and I am going with CM this year for the first time. we also want to make sure we cover everything. I have trouble with book selections as far as what is nature science, science, geography etc…



    I read this post earlier, and didn’t have time to write anything then, but I was shocked to actually get back on here and see no responses yet! Wow! Well, I have a son entering highschool this year, and I read in “More Charlotte Mason” by Catherine Levison, that highschooling using CM is not any different than that of younger aged children, you can just use more difficult or longer poems or quotes for dictation. And you can replace oral narrations with written narrations, but not ALL the time because oral narration is still good in that this helps them in the area of public speaking. Also, don’t quit nature study because it is still essential that teens get out and appreciate nature and observe, write, journal, and draw what they see. Math lessons continue, just higher math levels of course, and you really can’t get around the whole “textbook” thing with it. You can still use hands on though, when cooking, measuring, etc..Everyday math, like real life math! She writes in her section on homeschooling the highschooler that SO many parents begin to freak out when it’s time to start highschool, and think that they should just suddenly quit CM, and these last four years start cramming in things they think they may have missed in previous years, as if a textbook is a magical source, and that this will provide them with a better education as opposed to a literary/liberal arts education. NOT! Real learning comes from REAL books, AND she also mentions that it is still very important to still READ ALOUD to your teens. Even college professors read aloud to their students! So, don’t quit the read aloud time! But, just keep up the CM ways, and by the way, this book is an excellent read, and very helpful if you could get a copy perhaps at your library, or at amazon. It really encourages me to read about other mom’s out there that continue using CM in the highschool years. It’s hard to find those few brave ones that don’t depend on textbooks to get them through these years. Their still our little ones! They are just more mature, and that’s a GOOD thing, because now, they can appreciate the arts, and enjoy the Shakespeare stories that were just a little too hard to understand in earlier years, and see the beauty in Creation! Hope that helps some! Hey, and some of the Great thinkers from the early western world didn’t use textbooks to learn, they read great living books, and got out and studied the night skies, and observed nature, and kept journels, so, they only created textbooks for those who couldn’t understand these difficult classic books!


    Christie you did a great job of encouragement! We have 2 college students and two in highschool, just to give you some context, Lindy. We’ve used cm all the way through, though I did not know it was cm until we were well on our way; we just gravitated in that direction. Once I was able to identify it and learn more about Charlotte Mason, we tweaked what we had been doing and it has been an extremely valuable journey in our family (and we continue to tweak! I think we fall short in some areas).

    Having admitted our failures, even doing cm in a slightly ‘less than ideal way’ has given my children the love of learning, the skills and discernment to be able to research with knowledge, the stamina to keep going in an area of interest (and sometimes that means buckling down into a science text, for instance), and the retention needed to master a topic. I wish I could remember Charlotte’s quote about being able to retain more about a time period by spending a long time with one biography versus a whole list of topics. Someone help me here!

    It’s learning where our children are and where God may have them going and guiding them accordingly. For instance, if a child is a science-minded college bound student, it’s okay to pull out a valuable textbook curriculum. It’s about giving big pushes in areas of gifting and little nudges in the areas of need. As their parents, we are responsible to pray and ask for God’s leading.

    Also, it’s about learning to learn. If a child has been given the love of learning, there is nothing they cannot master.



    Sue in MN

    So she wants to enter the science field. No problem, use Apologia Science textbooks and a Math textbook. Save Charlotte Mason for the History, English & electives.

    Thanks Sue, that is what we plan on doing – my other daughter who is not interested in the science field will use the same texts and narrate instead of all the tests etc. She will also focus more on nature study and zoology. Appreciate the input. Lindy

    Heidi Burnard

    I’ll just add my two bits, having some experience with high school children who have graduated from college. Doing high school in the Charlotte Mason way doesn’t look like what everyone else is doing and it was unnerving to my children, but when they got to college, they did well. In particular, it was because they had formed relations through nature studies or copywork, dictation and narrations, that when they were in courses such as college biology, they excelled because they had viewed the processes so the text readings and explanations actually connected in their minds to what they’d observed. No other students in the classes had the same advantage.

    I would recommend reading “The Living Page:Keeping Notebooks with Charlotte Mason” by Laurie Bestvater. This book really synthesized the whole approach in my mind better than any other, giving a long term view of the benefits and growth that happen with consistent application of the techniques she taught. Had I the opportunity to help my older students again, I would have done more vision casting, starting when they were still pre-teen so they would understand the whole process, the goals of education, their role as learners and the outcome they could have expected. But it’s never too late with the younger family members or older students just beginning the process as long as you have a good relationship with your children and the Spirit leading.


    I have a different perspective on this tonight …. just my opinion/knee jerk reaction and nothing more.


    I’d only add caution to the above by saying – KNOW YOUR CM – before you “go with” CM.  It’s not a curriculum.  It’s a way of seeing a child; a way of defining what an education means; a group of methods applicable to the curriculum of your choice with the caveat that living is by far the best; a philosophy of education … and maybe much more.

    I admire anyone starting this path at high school.  I can totally understand the children’s fears and apprehensions about it too.  It’s a very different way of approaching education.  It’s a whole philosophy after all that flies largely in the face of anything else out there.  It’s rigorous in a way that traditional education is not – it builds deep critical thinking skills in a layered way over time and through meticulous dedication to the methods more than a focus on the materials.  CM is the onion of education philosophies!  🙂  It would seem to me there is a lot to learn/practice about the methods prior to becoming comfortable and seeing the results that you desire.

    I’m not pooping on anyone’s aspirations here.  Just adding a little caution to the tale.

    I’ve homeschooled with this philosophy for seven years now and am a huge fan but have also questioned every aspect at some point too.  It’s that different.  It has been wildly successful for us so far.  I have a 17 year old who is finishing her last two years of high school as a full time college student and a 15 year old who is thriving under CM in 9th grade as well.  Are they perfect?  No way!  Is anyone? No way!  But they seem prepared, confident and ready to pursue their interests in higher education.  So, all that not to brag at all but to say it works.

    Read all that you can about the METHODS of the CM philosophy because the perfection of your book choices matters far less than the way in which you approach your book choice using Charlotte’s methods.


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