A Panorama Unfolds: High School as Twice Blessed

This post is one of a series of posts as part of the Homeschool High School Blog Carnival hosted this month by Erin at Seven Little Australians and Counting.

Our topic this month is:

The Wide View….  How does your family’s ‘big picture’/goals/educational philosophy affect/guide your planning and translate into what your highschoolers do on a daily/weekly basis?  Do you generalise or specialise?

How does our educational philosophy affect and guide our planning and the day-to-day work in high school?  Profoundly!

Perhaps it would first be beneficial to identify our family home education philosophy for you.We are Classical-Charlotte-Mason home educators that seek to embrace “the balanced whole” of a Charlotte Mason education, not parts or an inspired version of Charlotte Mason.

I do not see the two educational philosophies as mutually exclusive, and in fact, they are indeed quite complementary.  A Charlotte Mason education is a Classical education.

Both philosophies seek to convey a liberal education with living books using methods that make education real with ideas owned by the student.  Both are educational philosophies which are quite rigorous (though this is often mis-understood regarding a Charlotte Mason high school education).  And both present a high school education which is decidedly “outside of the box”: not on a workbook page, not out of a text, and outside of that which can be easily measured quantitatively.  Both educational philosophies seek to nourish a child with a rich and varied feast of ideas so that a young adult can begin to enter The Great Conversation.  (For more on this topic there is a wonderful thread at 4Real with a rich discussion on Classical Education and Charlotte Mason.)

Meaty.  Rich.  Lofty.  Worthy.  Blessed.  In fact, twice blessed: “it blesses him that gives and him that takes”. (CM, Vol 6, p. 27)

And not a popular or common route.

I admit that when my oldest was in 8th grade, I allowed myself to feel the pressure.  You know the pressure I’m talking about, don’t you?

  • High school science continuing along our current path using delightful living books…without a textbook?
  • High school language arts as an extension of narrating which naturally segues into Socratic discussion and writing?
  • High school geography with Mark Twain, Richard Haliburton, Captain Meriwether Lewis and Thor Heyerdal?
  • High school poetry?  Shakespeare?  Plutarch? Without too much (any?) dissection?
  • High school without tests, quizzes and workbook pages?
  • High school which continues to unfold ever-wider, ever-deeper through living, worthy books and experiences?
  • End of term exams which, as an extension of narrating, allow the student to summarize a term of work.
  • My role as one that comes alongside rather than the arbiter of all knowledge?
  • And all of this without a pre-written, boxed high school curriculum?

Was it possible?

A popular and prevailing line of thought seemed to suggest that a full, boxed curriculum is necessary for high school, and while that may be the best route for some families, it seemed to delegate and box so much of what made our home education experience twice blessed for us.  An approach that would favor curriculum over books and experiences was the antithesis of our earlier years and seemed incongruous with our family philosophy of education.  So we chose a different route.  Or rather, we stayed the course.  Our course.  Our twice blessed course.

I know what you’re wondering…it all sounds great, but what about testing?  What about the SAT?  The ACT?  Getting into college?  Our experience with standardized testing has yielded good results.  We don’t over-emphasize preparing for these tests (though we did do a few things to prepare), nor their outcome, but I know it’s a big question so I wanted to let you know our experience.  Our high schooler’s experience with testing was good, and the preparations were reasonable, didn’t disrupt our days, nor did they topple our other plans.

Sitting here with a Junior in high school and a middle schooler that is almost ready for high school and surveying our last 12 years of home education, I see a wide and rich panorama that has unfolded in our home education as we’ve met high school days.  I’m grateful we stayed the course.  My high school student has met enough ideas in her literary rich education that these now cross-connect and she can effectively communicate these ideas, as well as her own thoughts on the topic(s).  Subjects are not compartments; history is not separate from geography, the arts, sciences, etc.  Learning has context, and ideas connect to other ideas.  Relationships with ideas and with persons are nurtured in our high school days.  Discussions have taken on a richness and depth which is rewarding and challenging.

As my current high school student looks out beyond home education, the panorama becomes richer, more vivid.  We both step forward having been blessed so richly through our Classical-Charlotte Mason high school experience.  And as my middle schooler steps forward closer to high schooler, I am grateful for the experience of these years which affirmed our belief that an education rich in books and experiences would unfold into a panorama so worthwhile in the undertaking.  Was it possible to continue our Classical-Charlotte Mason philosophy into high school?  Yes, and so much richer than I ever imagined.

. . .
For more information on how I build a booklist (for high school, or any grade) see: A Considered Booklist.

For year-specific examples what our high school booklists and lesson plans look like, see: Wildflowers and Marbles: The Paper Stuff.

Our 11th grade booklist with more details will be posted soon.

. . . 
May your own high school experiences be twice blessed.

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  1. Lovely post, Jenn — and lovely daughter, too! Our local CM co-op is officially named “Twice Blessed” based on this CM concept/quote 😉 I agree that CM and Classical are not mutually exclusive and that a CM education embraces true Classical ideals. Thanks for always making my day!

  2. Thanks Jen, for sharing this! Your blog is such an inspiration to me. I homeschooled my eldest all the way through, and am now doing the same with his younger siblings. We're not a textbook or boxed curriculum family; rather prefering a wide variety of books and ways of exploring and learning.

  3. I love reading your posts, although I am more of a textbook person. I'm curious how you handle high school math? I'd love to hear more about that specific subject. Thanks!

  4. Thanks! A friend uses Life of Fred also, and that makes perfect sense for your curriculum! I hadn't thought of that one. I use Saxon also for the upper grades.

  5. Hi Jen (again)
    I just read this post, and I totally understand. My previous question about setting assignments was coming from this pressure! My eldest is in 8th grade and your experience describes what I'm going through exactly!! Oh, the pressure to switch to textbooks! Thanks for the encouragement, I will stay the course. And investigate more fully the CM philosophy. (We have been using living books and the Bible as the mainstays, with a maths textbook alongside).
    Thanks Cine

  6. Great post! My oldest started 8th grade this year, and I SOOOO know that pressure you referred too, lol! Honestly…I've been feeling that pressure for a long time. My family has always had the whole “homeschooling is fine until they start high school” mentality. I shrugged it off for a long time, but lately I'm letting them get to me. :/

    Fortunately, I found blogs like yours (I have been going through EVERY blog in the carnival this week) with great information, resources and encouragment! I also found a site (LetsHomeschoolHighschool.com) with a curricula directory and a great online community…for parents and for students. When I want to whine that my mom is berating me because my son is going to miss all of the benefits of a public highschool experience, I have people who will listen, lol.

    Again, great post. Thanks so much for sharing. I hope your school year goes fabulously! 🙂


  7. I'm so glad I dropped by!
    I was catching up with the High School Carnival links when I stopped here for a bit. 🙂

    You've articulated many of my ideas about enriching the lives of our children with a very wide-angle view of how to learn.

    I'm off to check out your other links and posts. 🙂

  8. Jennifer,

    thank you, you are sooo inspiring!! You always give a boost to 'stay the course'. I agree CM and classical are similar in so many ways.

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