Charlotte Mason and Unrolling a Panorama in High School


I’ve been reading as much as I can about Charlotte Mason in high school.  There isn’t a lot out there.  There are some really great resources that take you through elementary and middle school, but it all stops right there with the exception of a few bloggers that have taken the time to record some of their choices and experiences.  Sweet Pea and I had no doubt that we were continuing on with Charlotte Mason through high school.  I was motivated to read what Charlotte Mason had to say because I felt I had become lax and casual about Charlotte Mason in our home.  I’m finding this time of reading and studying to be completely rewarding!  Not only am I really attentive to every nuance and mention I can find about Charlotte Mason’s Form IV (10th/11th grade) and Form V (11th/12th grade), I’m catching a lot I missed the first time that is really filling in cracks and solidifying methods in the earlier years!  But, back to high school…our goal was simply to move a little wider and a little deeper in building a generous liberal arts curriculum.

I began by building booklists to refer to, but not booklists of our books – Charlotte’s booklists!  Charlotte Mason would be the first to say that she felt strongly about using living books that are as current as possible.  While I feel the same way, I wanted to get a sense of what she was using with her students, how many pages they were reading (it’s important to remember that one of the cornerstones of a Charlotte Mason education is that it is a liberal education based on living books).  So, I opened up Toward a Philosophy of Education, the last book in a series of 6 volumes, that Charlotte wrote some 30 years after she first penned Home Education.  Within this book are a treasure of reflections and summaries on how, over the last 30 years, this liberal, wide, and generous education worked for Charlotte’s students, and further within the book, she outlines her curriculum choices with details.  What a treasure!  This was a return visit for me to Charlotte’s volumes, but now this was my biggest clue to continuing with Charlotte’s methods and curriculum into high school.  I began to compile all of her ideas and page numbers…because an easy to read list was what I needed just to reference as I built our own booklist!  However, it is important to say that the curriculum and booklist SHOULD NOT be separated from the method  and principles Charlotte Mason outlines!

“I feel strongly that to attempt to work this method without a firm adherence to the few principles laid down would be not only idle but disastrous.  ‘Oh, we could do anything with books like those,’ said a master; he tried the books and failed conspicuously because he ignored the principles.From A Philosophy of Education, Volume 6, p. 270

A Beginning…An Outline

High school students read from a great number and wide range of books (possibly as many as 35 per 12 week term) which is consistent with a liberal arts approach.  Also consistently applied were Miss Mason’s methods: narration, dictations, short lessons, which allowed the student time and ability to dig deeply into an author’s words, uncovering their own connections; as always the student relates to ideas shared by the author of a living book.Simply Charlotte Mason’s The Books and Things seminar workbook contains a skeleton of helpful information on term work in one of Charlotte Mason’s terms:  books chosen, pages read.  Included in the seminar are many different tables, and I found them all extremely helpful to me!  It’s SUPER helpful if you’re building booklists and wondering if you’re close to Charlotte Mason in terms of the number of books chosen, types of books chosen, and pages read for the different ages/grades/forms.  This seminar covers all ages – from early learners up through high school!

(Note – I really recommend this seminar as an at-home-retreat, but if your budget is tight and you’d just like the tables of helpful information along with a detailed listing of books chosen for the 1922 Term of work at Charlotte’s House of Education, the Seminar book can be ordered alone, and though not as wonderful as the full seminar, would still be very helpful as a reference for your shelf!!!!  It contains compilation information for ALL ages/grades, not just high school, but HOW WONDERFUL that high school grade work is represented!)
A Continuation…Compilations from Charlotte Mason’s High School Choices

After reading Toward a Philosophy of Education‘s chapter on The Curriculum, I gathered and listed every book and author I could from the Fall 1921 Programme of Work for Form IV (Grades 8 – 9), Form V (Grades 10 – 11) and Form VI (Grades 11 – 12), compiling everything into a table that I could refer to.  I learned so much in doing this!!  I could see the types of books chosen.  I really paid attention to little things, the way something was worded or described, especially those things that Charlotte Mason worded herself.  Each of these little nuggets gave me a clue to the whole, the big picture, that was so helpful and inspiring!

The Compilation Prompts Ideas…
Obviously, a turn of the century book on Geography would be significantly outdated, but I can see from the compilation of Charlotte Mason’s choices the various subjects and the types of books and resources used to convey ideas.  History is the “pivot upon which the (Charlotte Mason) curriculum turns” (CM, Vol 6, p. 273).  Other subjects found their origin and context within the historical period studied – this included Geography.  Geography, especially as it relates to current events and understanding the culture and lay of the land, was a subject which intrigued me more and more as Charlotte Mason spoke of it.  Her summary of Geography as a subject was not flashy, or conveyed in a way that elevated its import, but was really characteristic of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and methods across subjects.  Charlotte’s idea that Geography be taught through the panoramic method inspires the imagination with ideas of current living books that could…
“unroll(s) the landscape of the world, region by region, before the eyes of the scholar with in every region its own conditions of climate, its productions, its people, their industries, their history.  This way of teaching the most delightful of all subjects has the effect of giving to a map of a country or region the brilliancy of colour and the wealth of detail which a panorama might afford, together with a sense of proportion and a knowledge of general principles.”  (Charlotte Mason, Towards a Philosophy of Education, p. 228)

Examples of current living Geography books appropriate for high school that unroll the landscape of the world in a panoramic method might be, Kon Tiki, Aku Aku, The Ra Expeditions, and others by Thor Heyerdahl, John McFee‘s books like Basin and Range, and Rising from the Plains.  Additionally, I find that many naturalists express in beautiful living language the geography and panorama of a variety of geographical areas.  Naturalists like John Muir and Edwin Way Teale are two that come to mind, but there are many more.  My daughter is really enjoying Why Greenland Is an Island, Australia is Not – And Japan is Up for Grabs by Joyce Davis.  Though it is more instructional and not narrative, it’s great for really helping to understand geography through the lens of current events.

These are the kind of ideas I walked away with as I looked over Charlotte Mason’s specific offerings, and they were significantly helpful to me in considering booklists for my 9th grader this year.  I set out to develop what I hoped would be panoramic in general, in that this curriculum for 9th grade…and beyond, would continue to be wide and generous.  A liberal education.

And now, a request!  If you’re building plans for high school using Charlotte Mason’s methods, please do link if you have a post explaining your choices, or noting some of your plans.  You can link a category of blog posts if that works better for you!  I’d love to add all of the resources shared to the bottom of this post so I can compile an index of all the great high school Charlotte Mason resources and ideas!

Sharing Charlotte Mason Ideas for High School:

Amazing posts from Theresa at LaPaz Home Learning for her 10th grader:

Meredith’s lovely plans for Violet, her 9th grader:

I’m adding a few links to MacBeth’s site:

Erin’s very helpful high school posts at Seven Little Australians Living and Learning:

My high school posts at Wildflowers & Marbles

…and from Lindafay at Higher Up and Further In:

…and from Barb at Harmony Art Mom:

Simply Charlotte Mason 5 part series:

Books for reading more about Charlotte Mason in High School:
This list is not meant to exclude other books in the 6 Volume series, as there are methods and thoughts for older students throughout.  The following are a distillation of most, but not all, of the older student/high school topics contained in Charlotte Mason’s 6 volume series.  :
  • Ourselves (Volume 4) by Charlotte Mason
    • The second half of this volume consitutes an excellent civics/ethics/morality course for high school students
  • Formation of Character (Volume 5) by Charlotte Mason
    • The entire volume is good for habit and character formation
    • Concerning the Young Maidens at Home
  •  A Philosophy of Education (Volume 6) by Charlotte Mason
    • This is the best volume containing the most meat for those with students approaching high school
    • The Curriculum
    • The Scope of Continuation Schools
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  1. I watched the “Books and Things” DVD last week, based on your comments. Thank you for turning me onto such a treasure! I don't have a high schooler yet, but I'm looking forward to your plans!

  2. My eldest is will be a 9th grader next year but, boy am I looking ahead now.

    I was leaning heavily on using CHC's High School of Your Dreams. My SIL uses it for her daughter with great success. She's an avid writer/reader/artist. I like it but wanted to incoporate more CM into it.

    Can't wait to see what others have come up with.

  3. Thanks Jen! Most especially for the geography! I sat down at the computer this evening to do a search for living geo books…and here you post! Divine timing!

  4. On “panoramic geography”—
    I just wanted to second Kon Tiki. I recently re-read it and was just entranced.
    I also wanted to highly recommend Richard Haliburton's “The Glorious Adventure” in which he re-traces the very path of Ulysses in the Odyssey- sirens, cyclops, Scylla, and all! He really brought the locations to life by his vivid, poetic descriptions. And as a bonus he is also completely hilarious! I really enjoyed that book and can't wait to read my next Haliburton book, “The Royal Road to Romance,” which is sitting on my bedside table right this minute. It's my reward for as soon as I get through Plutarch!LOL!

  5. Kacky,
    So happy that those geography books popped up exactly when you needed them!!! How fortuitous!

    I've not heard of the Haliburton books! They sound fantastic! Off to take a look!!

    Maybe it would be fun to do a post on Panoramic Geography because I can think of SOOO many great books that would be a fit in this category!

  6. Thank you Jen…for all of this.

    I have been stumbling around trying to put together a school plan for my high schoolers and found that for some odd reason, I was so very uneasy and bothered by my plans. Viewing the great CM DVD's and finally seeing these links that post others' thoughts on CM highschool were exactly what I needed to push my thoughts higher.

    I recently put a finger on why I felt so uneasy about the plans I had so far. There are a plethora of materials and creative thoughts that go along the CM line for grammar school but so little for high school. I realized that that was what I was missing…that seeding of my brain (ahead of time) for what the teens were about to encounter so I could pad our nest with interesting books and tidbits to savor and hang our knowledge on and build bigger thoughts.

    I was going to work straight through my summer with school but this pregnancy made us take a break and it was the best thing we could have done. God is re-working the curricula in my brain and I am along for a happy peaceful ride.

    BTW: We used Haliburton's book of Marvels…still the kids' favorite. I had forgotten that he had written more. I love the fact that in the book he says that when he was a boy his favorite subject was geography and he wished his father or somebody would have taken him to all of these wonderful places. “What good are they if you can't see them?” He said that if he had a son he would travel with him because he not only wanted him to study geography, but he would “like for him to LIVE it, too.”

    He then elaborates and says that he has no son or daughter “and so in their places, may I take you?”

    …and that got me right away…someone that WANTED me to go with him to see something very special…the kids picked up on that too. Gotta love it! …and so I want it for all of our studies. I can't see why it “must” be so dry and boring from a text just to check off boxes and make requirements for college. I think our goals for education ESPECIALLY for high school need to be broader and more meaningful than before as they are becoming “who they are” and that is exciting and so it should also be in the ways and means of their education…don't you think??

  7. Jen

    So very excited to see a blog post on CM highschool!! and Catholic to boot!!:):)

    We need this encouragement, we need posts like this, we really need to talk more about CM highschool.

    Your plans are great, so fascinating and of course I am really looking forward to enjoying your book lists:)

    You have requested CM higschool posts
    I'm happy to share my links

    I have labelled posts 'highschool' that only include my highschoolers (grades 7 to 12 here in Aust), these include plans, material reviews, lists of books the children have read etc.
    Much of what the children have done, weekly reviews etc are in mixed posts with all my children so you would have to search a little there.

  8. Donna Marie, I love what you said about the Halliburton books! I really want to get my hands on a copy of The Book of Marvels. I did want to point out that although the Book of Marvels seems to be written specifically for children, the book I read, The Glorious Adventure, is written to a more mature audience. Nothing too racy, a few mentions of overindulgence in wine or beer, but just not really written for young children-his humor is very dry and would appeal more to an adult or older teen. He reminds me very much of a younger, more adventurous (downright crazy at times) Bill Bryson. Anyway, i loved the book, but wanted to be sure it wasn't misunderstood as a childrens book like Book of Marvels is.

  9. Donna Marie said:

    > I think our goals for education ESPECIALLY for high school need to be broader and more meaningful than before as they are becoming “who they are” and that is exciting and so it should also be in the ways and means of their education…don't you think?? < I totally agree, Donna Marie! I can see my daughter “becoming who she is” right in front of me. And it is motivating and completely INSPIRING. I want her high school experience to reflect and speak to the whole, to continue nurturing her love of learning. I'm so glad we can have this conversation!!! And how exciting that you're turning over thoughts of next year's curriculum after being inspired by SCM!!! Do come back and let us know what you decide!!

  10. Erin,
    Thank you SO MUCH for linking your fantastic high school plans!!! I added them to the compilation of resources on the post and it will be such a help!! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

  11. Theresa said:

    > And I suppose you can tell that (like Erin) I am very excited to be discussing CM High school! < ME TOO!!! And you guys have me totally excited to check out Haliburton!!! Keep talking gals!

  12. Theresa,
    That's a really great overview post illustrating the “how” of it all! I love how you explained the idea of subjects/reading/narration…and what is characteristically NOT found in a CM education! I added it to the growing group of resources we now have for CM high school!

  13. Stumbled onto your blog from a pin on Pinterest….wow! How come we have never met before? You must have read my blog…I see you link to my high school posts. Anyway, this is a wonderful post and so packed with loads of great stuff. I am bookmarking to read later. 🙂

    Adding your blog to my Google Reader. 🙂

  14. Jennifer,
    I, too, have been looking closely at a number of the PNEU programmes. It does help you get an idea of the types of books Charlotte used and how much was read. I’ve been looking more at Forms V and VI and something I’ve noticed in history is that there’s a good bit of variation in page counts. One term may only have 200pgs. while another term may have 600pgs. That’s a big difference! And some don’t mention how many pages to read of the resource. It may just say something like “Read from…..” So far, I’ve taken a look at three different years and what was included in history in each term and have come out with a general range of anywhere from about 11 pages a week to up to 59 pgs. a week….just for history. Any thoughts on page count from your research?

    I have also read Volume 6 of Charlotte’s series and took lots of notes. 🙂

    1. Hi Karen,
      I did notice some variation in page counts in different years and Forms. That may have had to do with crossover counts – literature and history and geography may have all been counted together. I decided to just have a basic form to spring from based on Progamme 93 (which you can view and download here if you’re interested:

      I use that as a beginning point in planning, and if I go way over or way under in my page counts then I adjust, but if I’m fairly close we roll with it.

      Hope that’s a help!!

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