BOOKS ALIVE! OR: WHAT IS A LIVING BOOK?

Guest Blogger and Home Educator Paula Baker shares some insight on the Charlotte Mason term “living book”.  Visit her website for more!

 What the blazes is a living book, anyway?  Does it have a heartbeat and eat bon-bons?  Does it ask for pocket money?  What makes a book ‘living’?  And why do I want to read one?

Those are precisely the questions that I had in late May, while attending the Florida Parents as Educators Association annual homeschool convention.  Lo and behold, I found the answers during a lecture entitled, Learning With Living Books, by Sonya Shafer, creator of the SimplyCharlotteMason.com website.

Charlotte Mason

Charlotte Mason (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fans of the Charlotte Mason Method of homeschooling utilize the teaching methods of Charlotte Mason, a British teacher who lived in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  She enthusiastically endorsed using ‘living books’ when instructing children in many subjects, as well as nature and art studies, and shorter lessons.

So just what IS a ‘living book’?  Here are Sonya’s defining characteristics of a living book, according to Charlotte Mason:

1.     It makes the subject come alive, so that you ‘see’ the action on the movie screen of your mind.
2.    It usually is written by one author who has a passion for the subject, containing a conversational tone and narrative, and can be fiction or non-fiction.
3.    It contains ideas, not just facts.  These ideas also teach life lessons.
4.    It will be well written.  And in the words of Charlotte Mason, “It will NOT be twaddle.”

So how, exactly, do you FIND a living book?  By reading it, of course!  However, we want to read it to discern if it has the 4 characteristics of a living book.  Let’s say that we find a book that looks promising to use in our homeschool curriculum or in addition to public or private school.  Now you’re going to give it the One Page Test.

Open the book to a page in the body of the book.  Now read it and think:

1.    Do I ‘see’ the story, like a movie playing in my mind?
2.    Does it have a conversational tone and narrative, drawing me in so that I want to read more?
3.    Is it just a dry recitation of the facts, or are there ideas that teach life lessons?
4.    Is it well written, and do I want to keep reading more than just 1 page?  Or is it ‘twaddle’?

For some examples of living books, please visit www.simplycharlottemason.com.  Make sure you check out their extensive Book Finder, where you can search for living books by the subject, age of the child, or grade level.  While you’re there, browse around for other great Charlotte Mason tips for teaching your child.  Enjoy books that come ALIVE!!!

Hitting the Books in Homeschooling

Books

Literature-Based Home Schooling Method

At first glance, the Literature-Based Method might seem like the Charlotte Mason method, but it differs because of its more modern and broad approach.

Advocates of literature-based curriculum disdain the use of textbooks as being dry, boring, and unrelated to real life.  They prefer to use “living books” – a hallmark of Charlotte Mason’s approach – but the selection is considerably wider.  Historical fiction, first-person accounts (like diaries and journals), expert-authored topical texts, and of course, the classics, are among typical choices.

Homeschool Curriculum Advisor states that “usually a literature-based home schooling method will work quite well for you (at least you’ll have less stress in continuing on) if you:

  • want to have your child follow a set scope and sequence,
  • want to have general accountability for your child,
  • see a value in having your child love to read by reading books he or she will love to read,
  • want to be involved in the day-to-day process of your child’s education, through discussion that will draw out what your child is learning and perhaps controversial issues raised through the books.”

Literature-Based schooling is remarkably flexible, and able to encompass multiple teaching strategies, including Unit Studies and Notebooking/Lapbooking activities.  Sonlight Home School Curriculum is probably the most well-known of the literature-based home school curriculums.

More about the Literature-Based Method –

Homeschool Diner

The Simple Homeschool

Beautiful Feet Books

Successful Homeschooling

Looking for other Homeschool methods? 

Try these other styles in my series:

Unschooling

Charlotte Mason

Unit Studies

Classical Method

What is the Charlotte Mason Method?

Continuing our exploration of home education teaching methods, we have this week the Charlotte Mason approach.

Charlotte Mason Method: A method of education popular with homeschoolers in which children are taught as whole persons through a wide range of interesting living books, firsthand experiences, and good habits.

Charlotte Mason was a British educator who lived in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Her method, the Charlotte Mason method, is centered around the idea that education is three-pronged: Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.

By “Atmosphere,” Charlotte meant the surroundings in which the child grows up. A child absorbs a lot from his home environment. Charlotte believed that atmosphere makes up one-third of a child’s education.

By “Discipline,” Charlotte meant the discipline of good habits — and specifically habits of character. Cultivating good habits in your child’s life make up another third of his education.

The other third of education, “Life,” applies to academics. Charlotte believed that we should give children living thoughts and ideas, not just dry facts. So all of her methods for teaching the various school subjects are built around that concept.

For example, Charlotte’s students used living books rather than dry textbooks. Living books are usually written in story form by one author who has a passion for the subject. A living book makes the subject “come alive.”

She taught spelling by using passages from great books that communicate great ideas rather than just a list of words.

She encouraged spending time outdoors, interacting with God’s creation firsthand and learning the living ways of nature.

You can see many other living methods she used on this methods chart.

Many homeschoolers have adopted her philosophy and methods as they seek to educate the whole child, not just his or her mind.

Charlotte emphasized treating each child as a person, not as a container into which you dump information. She believed that all children should receive a broad education, which she likened to spreading a feast of great ideas before them. Charlotte encouraged parents to have an active role in teaching and training their children in academics, fine arts, faith, citizenship, and habits of character.

You can summarize Charlotte’s approach to education in three words. Charlotte believed that “Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.” By “atmosphere,” Charlotte spoke of the environment our children grow up in. She knew that the ideas that rule our lives, as parents, will have a profound impact on our children. “The child breathes the atmosphere emanating from his parents; that of the ideas which rule their own lives” (Vol. 2, p. 247).

By “discipline,” Charlotte emphasized the importance of training our children in good habits—habits that will serve them well as they grow. In fact, she likened good habits to railroad tracks that parents lay down and upon which the child may travel with ease into his adult life. Good habits are a powerful influence on our children and must play an important part in their education. “It rests with [the parent] to consider well the tracks over which the child should travel with profit and pleasure” (Vol. 1, p. 109).

By “life,” Charlotte wanted to remind us that “all the thought we offer to our children shall be living thought; no mere dry summaries of facts will do” (Vol. 2, p. 277). And the methods that Charlotte used presented each subject’s material as living ideas. Here is where the reading, writing, and arithmetic come in, along with all the other school subjects. But notice two important points: first, they are presented as living thoughts; and second, those school subjects occupy only one-third of the big picture of education.

All three components of Charlotte’s three-pronged approach are vital in the education of our children. Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life. What a well-balanced, all-around approach!

Re-posted from Simply Charlotte Mason.com