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How to Teach High School Literature the Charlotte Mason Way

How to Teach High School Literature the Charlotte Mason Way

Teaching high school doesn’t have to be so overwhelming to either the parent or the student. Over the next five days, I will be sharing my tips and tricks on how to use the Charlotte Mason method of education all the way through high school, along with some of my favorite resources that helped us do it successfully.


Today’s post is part of the January 2013 Hopscotch with iHomeschool Network, with a total of 22 bloggers share five days of post. I will be sharing about how to use the Charlotte Mason’s method of education to teach your high school student, with the focus on literature in this post.

Living Book

Living Books are the core to Charlotte Mason’s schooling, as they promoted thought and gets the reader involved with the writing of the author in a way that text books just can’t do. To Charlotte Mason a book was either a living book or twaddle, meaning that it was lacking provoking content to engage the reader. There are so many options for choosing living books with literature and individual standards also can come into play, but here is a list of some that we have used and others that Charlotte Mason used:

  • Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
  • Hinds Feet on High Places by John Bunyan
  • 10-12 Lamplighter’s Publishing titles – geared toward the character needs of the student
  • William Shakespeare
  • Works of Poetry
  • Other selections of classical works

Written Narration

Charlotte Mason taught that if a child ‘retells’ or narrates their reading, either what is read to them or what they read on their own, that the story becomes their property, as it becomes etched in their mind. This process is a natural process that starts as a toddler, making it best for continuing into their schooling years. As our children have grown they have gone through this process of narration:

  • Oral Narration – starting with a paragraph and working up to a chapter
  • Written Narration – starting with a few sentences and working up to several paragraphs
  • Critiques – When I first heard Andrew Pudewa, of Institute of Excellence in Writing (IEW), explain that we need to give child all the help they need to learn how to write, as we do with any other subject. The more I listened to him, I realized that his method of teaching is very close to how Charlotte Mason taught her students. I was hooked on using this system to further teach my children the art of writing. We purchased the Teaching Writing: Structure and Style DVD set that not only helps me, as the teacher understand this method but also can be used to give a review for struggling students, as was the case in our home.  Our second child has struggled with reading and doesn’t enjoy the writing process, but IEW has made it more understandable and a task that becomes doable for him. We went through the DVD series for a full year (using it in World History – which I will share later this week), before we made this part of his assignments with his literature books, but our eldest child was able to just flow with the check list for the critiques, which comes in the Student Workbook. IEW has a long list of help to teaching your children Literature.


A broad vocabulary is important to a Charlotte Mason education and was always taken from the living books the children were reading. In our home schooling we have done it two ways when it comes to vocabulary:

  • I would read through the book and pull out all vocabulary that I was certain my children didn’t know already.  I would assign them the words only and required them to look up the definitions in the 1828 Webster Dictionary.  After the week of studying this words, I would have a vocabulary test, where I would type and print from their definitions.  They were required to fill in the blank with the correct vocabulary from memory, ensuring that the spelling was accurate as well.
  • Another way we would do vocabulary, if I ran out of time in the summer to prepare for them, is to have them find their own vocabulary words and follow the same format in the above example for the vocabulary test.

Copy Work

Living books are full of great opportunity to have your children copy selections that stick out to them. These selections could also include the portions around the vocabulary words for the week. The process of using copy work within a high school’s literature course is a perfect way for them to meditate on good thoughts and great writing.  You could also use these selections for discussion in attempting to understand more about the author and what they were conveying in the selection.

By using these key aspect to teaching literature from great sources of living book, you are better preparing your child for their further studies, assuming they are college bound or simply being able to help them articulate the thoughts of great writers and making living books a great part of their formative years as a young adult.

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  1. Lanaya says

    We’re not to high school yet, but I’ve been starting to think about it. You make it sound simple, which makes me happy. :-)

  2. Samantha says

    I am currently in high school, and I have a question. Teaching Charlotte Mason is great for K-8, but it gets tricky in the high school years. How did you know if CM was “good enough”, especially for the SAT, ACT? I LOVE CM, but I really struggle in that area.

    • says

      Charlotte Mason is perfect preparation for essays and paper assignments in college. Having a well balanced subject study should be great to helping aid you in a good SAT score, however there are some books that can be used to prep you for those test. You will have to do some research in what they are called, but I do know that they have them, just not familiar with their names.