Instead of reading textbooks, students should be reading ‘living books’.
Charlotte Mason was an educator from England who believed that education had three facets: a discipline, an atmosphere and a way of life. She believed we should use ‘Living books’ to teach children thoughts and ideas that breathed life, not the dry facts in textbooks. As a result, her approach is the opposite of the textbook approach. Living books are more story-like, they don’t simply present information, and their authors are passionate about their topic.
In 1987, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay wrote For the Children’s Sake that discussed Charlotte’s methods and philosophy, and so Charlotte Mason’s ideas were brought into the homeschooling world. Mason’s ideas are still popular among homeschoolers today. The Ambleside Online website offers curriculum and resources for this approach.
This approach is a good choice if you are interested in creating a learning environment that is not schedule-focused, more spontaneous, and presents a balance between the delight-drive of the student and guidance by the teacher. If you as a teacher feel comfortable evaluating your child’s learning not based on formal tests, then this approach will also work for you. This approach is also beneficial if you want to encourage a well-rounded education, including poetry, art, music, and hands-on exploration of nature. This approach does involve a higher parental involvement in terms of narration, discussion, and giving dictation. More on that here on A Charlotte Mason Home.
Because this method emphasizes the education of the whole child, and not just the mind, it could be considered holistic by some.
This approach has higher parental involvement in their child’s education, not simply giving facts and information. Parents are encouraged to teach and train in faith, character habits and citizenship in addition to traditional academics.
When we decided to home-educate our children (with the help of the Lord), an almost irresistible urge seized me to find great ‘living books’ for use as our school readers.
The books we choose for our children should be exciting and stimulating to them. They form their worldview and instruct their hearts as well as their minds.
I would hunt in second-hand bookstores, public school book sales, the Goodwill, at garage sales, and at the home-school convention. I was passionate about it! I would ask the Lord to guide me and help me in finding books that had noble themes and wholesome content. He did bless the effort! I started this before the children were reading. We have collected some wonderful books at very little cost for a comparable library.
We bought living books specifically for each child. We used a stamp, and their name was written into each book. These books have become the basis of their own collection for their families some day.
Things to look for:
- content in which the author communicates a love of the subject and stirs the imagination and enthusiasm of the topic in the reader
- widens vocabulary; takes the reader to far away times and places
- content that is wholesome and uplifting, exciting and stimulating
- it can be old, but should not have ever been wet and is not musty ~it must smell good, like a great old book should
If you start when your children are young and you love to read, it will most likely become a fondness of theirs. One of our sons voiced his feelings many years ago while lying on the couch with a old volume about sand-hill cranes at the time of their migration. He said, “I just love the smell of our old books.”
Started later, Charlotte Mason’s method just may rescue a bored or unmotivated student. Ask the Lord to show you how to proceed.
My Living Books Lists:
- 100 + Whole-Hearted Books To Fight Back The Culture
- 25 Beloved Time-Tested Read-Alouds For Young Children
- 75 Classic Books We Shouldn’t Ignore In A Child’s Repertoire
- 60 Titles For The Well-Rounded Children’s Bookshelf
Artwork in this post by artist Daniel F. Gerhartz.
“A home-school cannot function without enthusiasm and curiosity. Enthusiasm enables the child to educate himself. Curiosity makes the child want to learn!” ~Karen Andreola
Thanks for reading!