Highhill Education Philosophy

Highhill Education Philosophy

There are aspects of teaching I admire from several different educational philosophies;
  • Charlotte Mason's living book approach, where kids read and listen to stories that teach as opposed to pure non-fiction works
  • The motivation inherent to unschooling because children are in charge of their day
  • Waldorf's artsy approach incorporating knitting, crocheting, creating beautiful drawings and connecting art with mathematics
  • The emphasis the Classical method places on reading, writing and mathematics
  • Montessori's gentle guidance which gives the children a limited selection of activities to choose from and instruction on how to use the materials
After sitting next to a Montessori educator at a Christmas party dinner, it finally occurred to me how to combine these numerous desirable characteristics into an education philosophy that works.
demonstrating how mountains are formed

There are many resources available for educating pre-schoolers and young children using the Montessori method. Unfortunately, I haven't found this to be the case once the children are beyond basic skills such as letters, reading, colors, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. (Fourth Grade, or so). Although I used many Montessori methods when my children were young, as they grew Montessori wasn't as great an influence....... until about six months ago.

 checking to see if the hat she's crocheting fits

Children attending many Montessori schools, begin the year with an empty classroom. Slowly new materials are added to the room and children are taught how to use and care for them. As time goes on the room fills up and children are free to learn at their own pace as well as follow their interests. They become independent life-long learners. That is the key to Montessori with older children as well.

To implement the Highhill Education Philosophy with my own children, who have a vast difference in abilities, was actually quite simple. First the school day was broken into two big chunks which were often interrupted by outside play and lunch. The first 2 to 2.5 hours were spent focused on reading, writing and math while the second 2 to 2.5 hours the kids selected activities they were interested in from their own personalized list. The list was not a to-do list, but rather a collection of child-specific, appropriate, educational activities. (If several rooms or sections in the room were available, each would have been filled with the activities, but our house is not that large. Thus, the room/list was stored on the computer.)

folding paper stars

When beginning this method, each child started with only three items to choose from. As they explored and became comfortable with the activities available, additional activities were added. In addition, in some cases, items were removed as they became thoroughly explored.

Since each child had a tailored set of activities, their attention was easily focused to appropriate areas. For example, my son needed additional practice with fine-motor skills. Therefore, his list initially contained folding paper stars. I researched a few tutorials for him, and he found some on his own. My skip-counting card game Speed! was on his list so he could get some additional practice with math facts. He enjoys learning Spanish and I think that's super, so that went on his list too. By adding additional activities in only one subject area the kids were still free to choose activities which interested them most while my goal of learning the particular subject was also satisfied.

explaining the rock cycle to siblings

The results of this method were interesting. Before implementation, I guided many activities and lots of topics were touched upon. Giving the children more choice lead to greater in-depth studies of topics. Since each child had a unique list, there was more excitement about sharing what was learned. For instance, my son had folding paper stars which inspired my daughter to fold paper stars when the school day was over. Since the children were doing unique science projects, they explained and presented their work to their siblings. Finally, giving the children more independence, lead to a few extra minutes of free time for me.

I highly recommend this method as it works well, is low stress, can be tailored to the child, and is highly motivating. We plan to use it again next year.

writing a story

Morning Activities: 2 - 2.5 hours


Long break for lunch and outside play

Afternoon Activities: 2 - 2.5 hours

Here are some examples of activities which were available to each child.

7 year old daughter
  • Silent Reading
  • Read with a sibling
  • Joseph Hoffman Piano Lessons through youtube
  • Read a story with mom and then color the geographical location on the map
  • Write letters to family members
  • Send a postcard to a friend
  • Play the Time, Money, Fractions CD-Rom
  • Play Speed! (skip-counting game) with mom
  • Crochet Hat
  • Watch Spanish Videos for Kids on youtube
  • Play Mozart's Magic Flute game

10 year old son
  • Read with a sibling
  • Fold paper stars
  • Joseph Hoffman Piano Lessons through youtube
  • Spanish lessons through Transparent Language
  • Computer Programming Tutorials from Khan Academy
  • Perform Earth Science Projects and watch Earth Science videos from Mom's list
  • Create Paper village houses and buildings

12 year old daughter
  • Read with a sibling
  • Computer Programming Tutorials from Khan Academy
  • Perform Earth Science Projects and watch Earth Science videos from Mom's list
  • Duolingo German 
  • Do Math-Art Projects from Waldorf book
  • Watch Math of Origami video
  • Create a scrapbook album from postage stamps, researching the individual stamps
  • Work on drawing human figures in proportion following video series
This fluid list of activities grows and changes with the child. 

Check out these blog hops for more educational activity ideas.


  1. I have spent many nights searching the Internet to try to figure out what I could do differently next year and it magically appeared in my email tonight. Thank you so much for a great idea - Cairn and I are already excited and I have started my list.

    1. That's super. I would love to here how it works for you in the future.

  2. Interesting concepts, now you've got me thinking on how I could implement this in our homeschool...


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