Practical Application
Comments 9

Transitioning from School to Life by Leslie and Tim Laurio

Well, you did it. After twelve years of school–maybe even homeschool–your child has finally graduated. Congragulations!

Now what?

For some students there’s no question, because they already have a job or apprenticeship or college lined up. But what about those who don’t? What about a daughter who wants to get married and raise a family, and isn’t planning for a career? What about a son who doesn’t know what he wants to do? Is this a time for them to take a vacation and live a life of leisure until something better comes along?

Charlotte Mason devoted an entire section to this question in the fifth volume of her series (“Some Studies in the Formation of Character,” starting on page 236). She was talking specifically about girls coming home from boarding school, because that was a common scenario in her day, but the principles and suggestions apply to any graduate who’s in the period between school and adult life.

Students coming out of public or private school may need more time to develop their characters. They’ll need to weed out bad habits, learn appropriate manners, and improve thinking patterns that may have gotten lazy. They’ll probably benefit from some exposure to art and culture that school couldn’t provide. They may have absorbed current trends in thinking without realizing it, so you might bring up current issues and challenge them to back up their opinions–force them to think out why they think what they do.

It’s typical for youths to be obsessed with themselves. This is a great time to help them learn to focus elsewhere: to realize that others have the same noble ideas and intentions, experience the same feelings, and have the same rights as they do. Charlotte Mason’s fourth book, “Ourselves,” can be a wonderful way to teach this others-centered perspective.

Graduates aren’t children any more and can’t be controlled or punished like children. Although they’re still living under your roof and need to respect house rules, they are entitled to some freedom in deciding how to schedule their time, how to spend their money, which books to read and clothes to wear, and who to be friends with. It takes time to learn to make good decisions, and it’s better for them to make their mistakes and learn personal discipline now rather than later when frivolous spending or bad time management could mean having no rent money or losing a job.

But you should have some expectations, and you should keep an eye on how your child spends their time. There should be a limit on nights out: a couple of nights a week is great for a young person who needs a social life, but they should also spend nights at home taking part in the quieter joys of family life. They should have duties or chores at home that depend on them. They should have a daily schedule that includes two hours out-of-doors for exercise, two hours of educational reading, and time to learn what it takes to run a household. A son as well as a daughter should know how to do some basic cooking, grocery shopping, laundry, sewing, and housecleaning. Even if he never lives alone, a man who can do those things will be a great blessing to his wife when she’s sick or recuperating from childbirth (or just frazzled after a long day with a toddler!). But so long as everything gets done, you can let the graduate decide how to allot their time.

Life can go on this way for a year or two with the youth enjoying a relaxed life at home, helping out around the house and learning some skills for later. But at some point, he or she will become restless. Everyone yearns to be needed and to do something useful in the world, and a life without a way to meet that yearning (which is a basic human need) can make a person feel like they’re just spinning their wheels. A girl waiting for Mr. Right to find her might need to enroll in some classes or consider a career, at least for the short term. In Charlotte Mason’s day girls were limited to either nursing or teaching, but these days almost any career is open to them. If money isn’t an urgent need, then ministry or volunteer work might be a good option. Serving their country in the military is another possibility for a youth who needs real work.

There’s plenty to do with a graduated student–developing good habits, taking in art and culture with them, encouraging them to think out their beliefs, training them in life skills, doing educational reading, letting them practice decision-making with their growing freedom. If the interim while waiting for adult life is grasped as a final season of preparation, then the time between graduation and the next step won’t be wasted. Well spent, it’s an opportunity to teach a student how to really live.

This entry was posted in: Practical Application


Carroll Smith has spoken on various topics related to Charlotte Mason. Currently he teaches at Gardner-Webb University and enjoys working with children, teachers, college students, and Charlotte Mason Institute. He was a teacher and a principal for 21 years before coming to Gardner-Webb University where he has been for six years. Having grown up in eastern North Carolina, he attended East Carolina University for his undergraduate degree and his master's in school administration. He completed his terminal degree and wrote his dissertation on Charlotte Mason at Virginia Tech. Carroll enjoys reading, gardening, and discussing ideas with friends. He and his wife, Andra, and their two young adult college-age children, Corban and Anna, enjoy living, working and playing in North Carolina.


  1. Thank you for writing this, Leslie. My oldest will be here for a much longer time than typical because of her special needs. I had never seriously thought about it being okay for typical children to kick around for a year or two before embarking on life after graduation. I guess if we can break the mold in how we educate our children, we can break it in other ways, too!

  2. jsmph48 says

    Thank you, Leslie and Tim, for your comforting and enouraging words. My 18 yo son is gradutating this Saturday with no formal plans for future education other than the “School of Life.” It has been a soul-searching journey, but the Lord has been good to quell my fears and to trust Him that my son’s life in in His hands, each day planned long ago.


  3. excelsiorwarriors says

    Thx for sharing ~ this is pretty much what we did w/Janee’. She does work but we haven’t rushed her to leave home or anything like that. We wanted her to develop her character, skills and truly know what it was she desired to do before leaping into something she’d regret or create debt. I will be reviewing the reference in Vol 5 so I can better assist her in the next stage.

    Dawn 😉

  4. javamomintx says

    Our oldest just graduated a year ago. We have found that giving him a gap year really was the best thing for him, to take a breather between school and college. In that time, he bought his own car with cash he’d saved from his job. In that job, he learned service, working with difficult people, resisting temptation (from girls, etc), learned how to use his time well, or feel the consequences. He ended up being ready to move to another state, b/c his confidence had developed for such a thing. He is getting residency soon and will be beginning college in that state, without paying out of state tuition.

    He was also promoted to shift supervisor just recently, as the bosses above him love his leadership ability, his cheerfulness and ability to encourage others, and his work ethic.

    He pays his own rent, gas, and bills, we still help with health and car insurance, but he can get health insurance and help with tuition through his work and may transition to that scenario very soon.

    He has always been homeschooled, and always with a CM education (preschool to post high school) since education is an atmosphere, discipline, and life, and a wise “letting alone” without serious prompting) and part classical education. One semester of his first grade year was a tour of a common hs textbook curric., but we finished one year’s worth in that time and knew that there was so much more to do and experience!

    Excellent post, Leslie and Tim

  5. javamomintx says

    I forgot to mention that he also traveled in the UK and worked with a Bible camp in Scotland just after graduation…all part of training to think “outside of oneself.” He continues to play music at halfway houses with friends, among other things. Yes, he is still all-guy and loves to hang out with his friends and jam, joke, chat, run in the rain, etc., but he is making his own way as the Lord shows him his path for him.

    He will be studying photojournalism, politics and economics. He really does think his own thoughts and is helping in this election as much as he can, though he may not have all the same beliefs that I do, tends to sit more in the camp that his Dad sits in, he has an awesome mind and uses logic well. He is fiscally conservative, still, and has the heart of a humanitarian.

    I believe he will come back to more conservative roots once he has children of his own!!


  6. willowspring says

    Kim! From Dallas? I mean, Frisco? I’m so glad you’re here… Welcome! And comment often. I miss you!!

    My eldest is taking an extra year to finish high school. There is much to learn — much that we never got to that she’s anxious to sink her teeth into before heading off to college. Unlike many, she has had a five- and ten- year plan for her life for the past three years. First, audition for Opera Carolina chorus. Next, go to UNC Greensboro and major in music (voice/violin). Then, do the Met auditions in NYC. Then, La Scala! (For a tiny sprite of a girl, she thinks big!!)

    I’m a little worried that these are enormous steps and at each juncture, she may face failure and have to do something else with her life. But living each day the way we do, I think, enables the children to believe anything they do can be glorious. I love that about a CM education.

    : )


  7. javamomintx says

    Hi, Megan! Yes, it’s me :-).

    Enormous steps they may be, but at least she has solid goals. In agreement with you on the possibilites that they see. The one drawback I’ve seen with our older ones is that the big ideas are not difficult to imagine, but the small steps to get there can sometime overwhelm them, or seem a lot more difficult that they really are. Just getting a jump on the first step has been a huge step for our 17 and almost 20 yo’s. The 15 yo son is interested in nearly all sports, which is a huge shift for us. He is begining to show an interest in photography, for which the older two already have a passion. Our 13 yo delayed reader and all-around drama and silly boy is now devouring C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy. You just never know when the spark of an idea will turn into an outright flame of excitement for a path to pursue!

    I will visit here often, as my passion for CM studies has now joined the same track as my passion for studying and teaching foreign languages. There are exciting connections with CM philosophies, linguitsts CM quoted, and new and growing research in the best ways to teach and acheive foreign language acquisition. If I go back for a master’s degree, this will be my area of focus!! I am excited.


    Kim in TX

  8. leslienoelani says

    Kim, that sounds exciting! I can’t wait to see where all of this takes you! And maybe next year, you might make it to the conference?

  9. javamomintx says


    I really hope so! We may have a family to stay with, too! One of our elders just got a new job in Charlotte…

    The only reason we missed this year is that we had a 25 yr. reunion to go to.

    I’m going to start saving for it now.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s