My two older daughters are homeschooling high school, using textbooks rather than living books (their choice, mostly.)


Living books and textbooks

But it is a reasonable choice … it is just that we have to reason through those textbooks!

You see, textbooks are arrogant.

They present their facts as absolute truth.

Pieced together as presentable nuggets of information, textbooks are formulaic.

Read this …, think that …, write this …, memorize that.

Whereas living books act as a voice,

they engage thought,

evoke emotion,

inspire moral and character choices,

express values,

they invite you to go on a journey…

Discussions after we have read a chapter of a living book often involves a personal response ~

Why do you think the character did/ said/ or thought that ?

What would you do/ say/ or think if you were in that situation?

What do you think the reasons for … was?

How do you think …?

You see, narrations are not simply “telling back” facts, they reflect the inner understanding and knowing and reasoning that each person processes when they read living books.

I love these moments of homeschool.

It is not about the mere learning of facts, it is about relating to the life, observations and thoughts of others.

So, you may wonder, why are we using textbooks for our high school?

My eldest will graduate at the end of the year (in December, in South Africa) and she needs to write the National Senior Certificate exams.  These exams provide her with a matric (school graduation) qualification.  Due to our extreme isolation on our farm, we were limited to the type of correspondence curriculums that will supply her the necessary courses and approach.  So, for 3 years we have used the typical government school textbooks, tests, assignments and portfolio work, leading up to her prelim exams and final exams.

Simply, it is a means to an end.

I tutor her.  Almost daily we discuss those broad sweeping textbook statements, incomplete or incorrect facts, blatant bias and errors in her study guides.  We reason through them.  Question them.  Notice them.

I wonder how many public school pupils swallow the whole bitter pill without stopping to digest the facts presented?  Worse still, they are trained to reproduce those facts to earn marks for their exams without being given an opportunity to reason or relate!  I shudder.

Textbooks are a disappointing option for me, but it is a reasonable choice provided we talk through the content. Homeschooling makes this choice reasonable.

My junior high (middle) daughter wanted to copy her sister’s homeschool choices and follow the same curriculums.  She needed to work more independently from me and chose the textbook rather than living book approach.

This “pushing away” process started last year and I felt like a complete CM failure.  Now I see that it is right for her, and I have released myself from all those lofty homeschooling ideals.  They almost become idols.  I choose to support my daughters to become themselves and not become carbon copies of what I want.  (I even offered her the option of attending a boarding school! Horrors! We are all grateful that she chose to remain at home, but for many homeschooled teens, going to school is an attractive option.)

Right now, I cherish reading living books and CM times with my youngest child.  At 11, I realize that these days are very precious.  I would love to homeschool into high school with living books, but I hold that hope loosely in my hands before the Lord.

The Lord knows what she needs.

It really comes back to my earliest homeschooling thoughts ~

Nothing is cast in stone.”

Blessings as you trust the Lord for what each child needs,

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12 thoughts on “Reasoning

  1. Dear Nadine, I’m late in catching up with all my mail, but still, I can relate to this post sooo much, we are doing Sonlight, discussed the options with my son to enable him to do get matric but he resolutely refused to do any other curriculum, we’ve tried an Afrikaans route last year, (also as a means to an end- matric) it was a total disaster- one year wasted, so many mistakes and conflicting info – half way through the year he refused to continue! but we’re getting on track again. We also had the horrid discussion of attending public school, something he considered mostly from discussions with public school students at church- they would speak about isolated incidents of fun and and funny moments with teachers – only by the grace of God did this discussion open his eyes- he’s enjoying home school now with renewed vigor – and Matric? I fully trust that God would lead us on the right path and pray that He be putting the right people in place and secure the right circumstances that would allow him entrance to university should that be the Lords Will for his life. You and your post are an inspiration! thank you so much for sharing, Gob bless you ABUNDANTLY!


    • @Celeste, it is a journey… one where I am learning to listen to and trust the Lord for each child. High schoolers add their own views too, which adds to the unique way we need to navigate their education choices.
      I recently met a SETA-qualified moderator who explained that the South African government has created a system where school leavers can be placed with employers who continue their training and education while being apprenticed, even without a matric!
      I’m so glad you’re both back on track. Keep trusting. The Lord is faithful to complete what He has started in each and every one. Blessings!


  2. One of the greatest blessings of homeschooling is not that we always do things as we want to do them for our children. It is that we understand we have the ability to do what is needful for each child. Sometimes parenting teens requires letting go and then praying- for them, for you. Even when using what we might consider inferior materials, we have the gift of time with them, and can discuss, dissect, and learn the art of opinion. As they push away, they are really giving themselves more room to find reasons to stay close. These years are so exciting!


  3. Hey Nadene, Jessica wrote her final Cambridge exam yesterday and is officially done with “school” but will never be done with learning. She loved the textbook route of the last 3yrs as CIE made her think deeply and argue her own point of view, but she is very glad it is over and I see she has classics like Jane Austen and others on her bedside table again. The thing to remember is that there comes a time when the older child must choose their own path, our son of 16 yrs has chosen a completely different route and our 14yr old is still choosing another. The point is exactly as you say…nothing should become an idol in our hearts, everything needs to be placed before the Father as He gives us His mind and view.


    • @Wendy, Congratulations to Jessica for reaching this wonderful milestone, and to you, Wendy, for the phenomenal gift of love, nurture and encouragement you have poured into your children’s lives and for the amazing skills and training you have given. You are an inspiration to all of us who homeschool! Blessings, Nadene


  4. Sometimes, you just can’t have the ideal you want, but if you spent their younger years reading to them, I’m sure that they will come back to books when they can.

    I had a mother who read to me
    Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea.
    Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth;
    “Blackbirds” stowed in the hold beneath.
    I had a Mother who read me lays
    Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
    Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
    Which every boy has a right to know.
    I had a Mother who read me tales
    Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,
    True to his trust till his tragic death,
    Faithfulness lent with his final breath.
    I had a Mother who read me the things
    That wholesome life to the boy heart brings-
    Stories that stir with an upward touch.
    Oh, that each mother of boys were such!
    You may have tangible wealth untold;
    Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
    Richer than I you can never be —
    I had a Mother who read to me. Strickland Gillilan


  5. Nadine, I have a friend with two boys, the oldest is 14, and her story is very similar. While she is not as invested on CM, and as passionate as we are (or as obsessed as I am, LOL), she learned this lesson quite early since her sons had special needs (they were told to be ADD and in need of medication, that is when she pulled the school plug and took them home). As of late, it was her oldest son’s choice to use textbooks, because he wants to study biology or something related, for which he needed titles that require exams, for which they assign text books. But they are wonderful about doing things their way, and they still have their CM (if you know what I mean), moments.

    This makes me cherish my freedom and the wonderful moments with my kids, they are only 8 and 6, and now that I have some of you with older children, I totally understand that this hs thing may not be as I fantasize it to be, but it will all be alright as long as I learn to lean on Him and His understanding.

    My girls enjoyed coloring your armor lady picture.


    • @Silvia, you’re right – cherish the wonderful homeschool moments … whether CM or other … I treasure my tutor time with my high schoolers. We still talk, share, giggle, cry and grow together. Homeschooling has kept us together, intimate, and that is a gift from God. Blessings, Nadene


    • @Maryna, I prefered Cambridge, but my daughter did not want the seemingly heavy work load and long-distance weekly travelling to our nearest town for tutor sessions. The GED/SAT options were uncertain at the time when we made our choices. I had already embarked on a grade 9 curriculum with textbooks as a way of easing into test and exams methodology, so we chose to continue with them. By the time we neared the final years, my daughter was reluctant to change courses as she felt secure in the one we were on. It has been a difficult journey, but more so because our high schoolers start to make their choices.


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