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One of the questions I see frequently asked (or posted) is this:  How do I do Charlotte Mason for High School?

The answer is really difficult to pinpoint simply because it is dependent on many different factors.  If you want to try and duplicate Charlotte Mason's own P.N.E.U. Program for Years 9-12, look here and here.  Both of these websites offer samples of actual programmes.  Ambleside Online's upper level curriculum called House of Education is an attempt at recreating these programs with readily available resources.

However, a true Charlotte Mason education is more than a book list.  It envelops her method as well as her philosophy.  If you are not familiar with either of these aspects of her educational model, consider reading her Original Home Schooling Series (available online here).

I think the most important aspect to a CM High School program is to focus on the key elements rather than on book lists and/or requirements.  Her method utilizes the best books, so any curriculum that follow her guidelines will actually suffice.  You don't have to be tied to one program or one curriculum IF you have a good understanding of what makes up a CM program.

The Nuts and Bolts

In my view, the most important aspect of a CM education is the use of good books.  Miss Mason believed that students should read from the very best books available on any given subject.  We would consider these kinds of books to be "classics" or classical in nature.  Therefore, any good book list will work.  The goal should be to choose the best books to fit the period studied.  It is not that important to read a certain number of books; but rather, it is better to read from a selected group that "fits" the period best.

Secondly, once the books are selected, the teacher and student need to understand what constitutes "reading".  Mortimer Adler's book, "How to Read a Book," is a wonderful guide to reading closely and will also teach the basics of note-taking.  Every high school student should read this book, and then implement these techniques when reading through their classes.

The purpose of reading is to gain knowledge, so students are encouraged to read closely and carefully and to digest each book as best as possible.  Fast reading, churning through chapter after chapter, will not promote proper digestion.  A good book should be savored, so slowly reading through it while taking one's time to study and collect notes, is encouraged.

Lastly, students should recap every reading either with an oral retelling (a summary) or through a written exercise.  This will help the student to cement what they have studied and allow them to "peg" together events, key characters, and specific themes to their mental timeline.  High Schoolers who practice both oral and written narration will make excellent college students.

How Much Is "Enough"?

This is another question that seems to be posted most often on the CM loops.  Since a CM education is non-traditional, it is difficult to put a time to each study period.  There are no tests, no quizzes, and no classrooms to demonstrate "actual class time."  There are guidelines; guidelines from Miss Mason's own schools -- and these actually are probably the best indicator of "actual time" spent in a CM classroom.

Although Miss Mason taught school 6-days per week, her classes were of average length.  She advocated short lesson periods in the younger forms, but gradually lengthened the day in the upper years.  Her students were expected to study after hours, and they were given home work (only in the early forms were students finished with the days work by 1 p.m.)  Older students read during the afternoons and practiced handicrafts and other "delight directed studies" in the evenings.  Remember, of course, there was no television.  Reading or social activity was common in the evening (games, cards, needlepoint, etc.)

Generally speaking, her students spent about 24 hours per week in actual school classes (6 - four hour days).  To modernize her schedule, we might spend 5-five hour days.

You can see her actual schedule here.

This is my own interpretation of her schedule (based on years 9-12):

Bible Lessons - consisted of two periods each week (30 minutes) for Old Testament and New Testament (two classes each).  One weekly lesson on Morals (40 minutes)

Foreign Language - consisted of two periods each week (40-45 minutes) and alternated between language study (four languages or eight classes).  Miss Mason's upper form students learned Latin, French, German and Italian.  French was to be spoken fluently.  Latin study would have included grammar and translation work.  German and Italian were considered passable -- enough for travel  or conversational level.

Drill/Singing - drill was exercise (Swedish Drill -- sort of calisthenics).  Daily exercises and singing were part of her student's curriculum.  Daily for 20 minutes.

Mathematics - Miss Mason taught separate math courses (Geometry, Algebra, Arithmetic), so her students studied math for 40 minutes each day.

Science - daily for 30-40 minutes.  Science was similar to math, so her students would study Botany, Astronomy, Geology, etc. instead of one specific class.  Nature study was part of Science courses (nature walks, nature journals, etc.)

Humanities - consisted of all reading courses such as history, philosophy, literature, poetry, economics, etc.  Typically there were 2- 45 minute classes for English history (English, American or other nation),  1-30 minute class for European (or World) and 2 classes for Geography (30-45 minutes including map work).  English consisted of Grammar and Composition along with Literature, though often "reading" was lumped together and could include ANY assigned reading (history, science, geography, etc.)  

Grammar (2 classes, 30-45 minutes) was taught beginning Y4 (age 10) and was continued through this age.  Literature was read silently and a loud, twice each week (30 minutes).  Composition was taught through format writing, using various forms (such as narrative, comparative, etc.)  Students studied one form, then would write from their books each week.  Composition included the formal teaching of writing essays as well as the actual writing of essays.  Composition consisted of 1-40 minute class per week.

The Arts - students studied art and composer history as well as applied instruction beginning in Y1.  This study continued throughout high school, though not included in her weekly schedule.

A Practical Schedule

Very few people can actually replicate Miss Mason's own school schedule, though some have tried (this Mom did once!)  A more practical approach is easier and allows for more flexibility, plus I just think it makes more sense (we are, after all, in the 21st century -- not the 19th!)

  Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
30-40 min Old Testament New Testament Morals Old Testament New Testament
40 min Math Math Math Math Math
45 min Foreign 
Foreign Language Foreign Language Foreign Language Foreign Language
20 min Drill/Singing Drill/Singing Drill/Singing Drill/Singing Drill/Singing
30-40 min Science Science Science Science Science
30-45 min National History Geography National History Geography World History
30-45 min Grammar Literature Grammar Literature Composition
Extra Arts Arts Arts Arts Arts

Total time per day - approx. 4.5 hours not including the Arts (music or art instruction)

Next:  Choosing Curriculum

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