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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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!)
Total time per day - approx. 4.5 hours not
including the Arts (music or art instruction)
Copyright 1998-2010. Carol Hepburn.