Friday, August 31, 2012

The Wide View -- Homeschooling High School

This post is for the Homeschool High School Carnival, September issue

Check out Seven Little Australians for this issue of the Carnival.   
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? 

School has already started in our corner of California, but my family has been spending the past couple of weeks working on our yard and swimming at our local lake.   Today my husband, who works at home, took three of our boys on a hike to Kaiser Peak.

Why am I mentioning this in a post about the Wide View?  Well, for one reason, because on the top of the peak, you get the widest view.

For another thing, I thought it made a good example of three items of the "big picture" vision we have for our children's education, and also might illustrate how we try to put them into practice on a regular basis.  To me, taking advantage of "back to school" to do things that aren't necessarily schooly is part of our family's Wide View. 

1.  Freedom

The late Pope John Paul II inaugurated his papacy with a quote from the Archangel Gabriel:  "Be not afraid!"

This simple phrase has so much meaning in so many areas of life!  Surely we are a fear-haunted generation.   We seem to believe that if we just take enough precautions, just do everything totally "right", our road will be smooth and easy and successful.   But fear is like gluttony or avarice.  It never rests; there is always something else to beware of. 

One would think that by homeschooling, we would take a step outside of the box of conventions and "shoulds" and "musts", but it doesn't seem to be so.  Instead, we too often  replace the old box with a new one, or even put the new box inside the old one, adding a whole new list of fears to the standard ones.   

But there are no guarantees and God does not bless superstitious rituals.  The servant in the parable who buried his talent in order to be safe was not commended by his Master.    That doesn't mean we are to be careless and lax.   It just means that there are times when, if we are following His call, that we will have to go beyond the conventional safety margins.   The behavior of others around us can't be our standard.    Our ideal is nobility, not the norm

If you want to see more about how this might translate to a high school education, here is one version of preparation essentials from a very good book, Escape from Skepticism.   

This is "freedom from..." but there is also "freedom for....".    Freedom is not simply the right to do whatever one wants.  It is freedom for excellence.    Which leads me to the next item on my list. 

2.  Challenge

To get up to the top of Kaiser Peak, and then back down, my husband and the kids hiked over 11 miles and went up 3000 feet, from 7000 elevation to 10,000.   But the view! 

When I talk about "challenge", though, I'm not necessarily talking about Doing Hard Things.  I admire that, and I look for ways that I and my kids can get practice in going beyond our comfort zone, but I also really like comfort zones.

I'm talking more about listening to God's voice.  ,,, maybe more "calling" than "challenge."   My kids might be called at a certain time to just keep showing up, day after day.   They might be called to think differently than the crowd they work with.  They might be called to change jobs, or life directions.    "Calling" doesn't seem to be a one-time thing, but an ongoing process, and I pray often that my children are prepared to listen and respond, whatever form that takes, whether into the lion's lair like Daniel, or to unknown lands, like St Francis Xavier, or into humble obscurity, like the Little Flower, and the many unknown devoted saints she represents. 

3.  Family

“When we step into the family, by the act of being born, we do step into a world which is incalculable, into a world which has its own strange laws, into a world which could do without us, into a world we have not made. In other words, when we step into the family we step into a fairy-tale.”   GK Chesterton

I don't know what I could add to what Chesterton says here!    It's sort of our family motto.

Furthermore, as Catholics we are born into a larger family than just the people in our home who share our last name.  We are brothers/sisters, sons/daughters of the Holy Trinity and thus born into a truly incredible adventure, surrounded by a "cloud of witnesses".  We are friends and protegees of powerful invisible beings (the angels) and of great men and women from far-distant times and places (the saints).   


How does this translate into what we do in the ordinary day and week?  Do highschoolers in our house generalise or specialise?

I will just say that for both the Ryans and the Bryans, combining freedom/challenge and family closeness adds up to using living, whole resources and methods as much as possible.   It means:

Real Books -- living books that don't have only a single topic or message, but that you can learn different things from at different stages of life.

Real Life --  nature hikes, field trips, volunteer work, galas

Also, trying to accept life's trials and blessings and opportunities as part of God's curriculum, even when that means Non-Schooling!

Family and Friends!   in all seasons!

Being a life long student!  

I think both Chari and I try to allow for our high schoolers to generalise AND specialise.    We are both very concerned to give our kids the best liberal education we can provide.   That means letting them learn from the masters, the best writers and thinkers throughout history.   Friendship with authors and artists, as with saints, isn't altogether limited to one's own time and place.

Neither of us want to prematurely cut off options, so we have our high schoolers generalise -- continue their learning in math, science, and foreign languages as well as religion, literature and history.  

At the same time, having seven grown children in all between us, we've learned that every homeschooled high schooler develops his or her own unique set of talents, interests and opportunities.   Homeschooling gives the teenager TIME -- time to freely explore, seek out and meet challenges, and be around siblings, parents and friends.   So a given day or week in our lives with high schoolers could involve traveling across the country, climbing a mountain, going to a college class, computer programming for the family business, quietly studying a Latin book, or watching or acting in a play.

Charlotte Mason quoted the psalm:

You have set my feet in a wide room” 
and this is another thing I think homeschooling through high school can give a teenager -- space to explore, both mental and geographical.

I hope that over the course of this High School Carnival series that Erin and others have started,  Chari and I will be able to share more details of day to day life with highschoolers.   

In the meantime, check out the Homeschooling High School Carnival at Seven Little Australians for contributions from other moms who are homeschooling through high school. 


  1. This is so great! I am really having a crisis of confidence right now. This is profound and encouraging. I especially like the idea of challenge being to listen to one's calling as opposed to Doing Hard Things. Very good. Thank you.

    1. I will be praying for you, Faith!!!

      I rarely have a crisis in confidence with homeschooling (thanks be to God!).....but I have and am having other homeschooling, I can relate in some way.

      So.many.seasons to this homeschooling life.....

    2. Faith, I have an ongoing crisis of confidence. Basically, my panic started when I got married and realized how unprepared I was to raise a child. This has not changed. I can't even reflect on any skills I have gained in 26 years that would make up for my loss of naive optimism : ).

      I suppose that's why I emphasize faith and trust so much (no pun intended with the "faith" part : )). I am usually talking to myself. I KNOW that I am completely unable to do this on my own. Sometimes I am in denial for a few minutes, thinking "hey, I actually am sort of good at X or Y" but it never lasts very long. I suppose St Paul wrote about God saying "My strength is made perfect in weakness" just for me. Anyway, you are definitely not alone. Your life and homeschool seems amazing to me from the outside but I suppose you see the back of the tapestry with all the tangles etc : ).

  2. WONDERFUL! I love it!! It is a great overview!!!

    If I put any more exclamation points......I will offend Mark I will stop now. :)

    Not sure if he ever said anything about ellipses......

  3. "this is another thing I think homeschooling through high school can give a teenager -- space to explore, both mental and geographical."
    Willa and Chari
    I love this!! Thanks for joining in the Carnival:)

  4. Love it, and yes, the "setting their feet in a wide room" is very relevant to us in the highschool year, so appropriate!! Thanks for sharing your insights, they are always so thought provoking and wonderful :) Many Blessings, Meredith

  5. I like your outlook on homeschooling highschoolers. A few other blogs I've read lately also speak about "freedom" for these kids. I am trying to let that soak a little deeper into my brain. I tend to be a little too up-tight at times. The hardest thing for me is to relax and not worry so much about if my daughter is getting everything. :(

    Thanks for posting your words of wisdom and encouragement. It's not always easy finding good blogs and sites for high school inspiration. However, I recently found the community for parents and kids who homeschool high school. They have some pretty good resources. I am still finding my way around it, but I have already learned quite a bit. I still have a long way to go down this high school road, so wish me luck.



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