This past spring I attended a homeschool conference to further educate myself on the many ways one can homeschool. Prior to the conference I stumbled upon the Simply Charlotte Mason website, which introduced me to Charlotte Mason’s methods and I had read For The Children’s Sake By Susan Macaulay. (click on grey links to view)
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For The Children’s Sake provides a overture of what a living book is and even gave some specific examples:
For their complete list of living books, I recommend reading For The Children’s Sake. It is also a way to ease into Charlotte Mason’s methods. I have ventured further and have begun reading her volumes.
Charlotte was very passionate about what children shouldn’t read and wrote, “They must grow up upon the best. There must never be a period in their lives when they are allowed to read or listen to twaddle or reading-made-easy. There is never a time when they are unequal to worthy thoughts, well put; inspiring tales, well told..”(CMVol.2 Pg. 263).
“As for what are called children’s books, the children of educated parents are able to understand history is written with literary power, and are not attracted by the twaddle of reading-made-easy little history books.”(CMVol.1,Pg. 281)
Charlotte often referred to the dumbing down of books as twaddle, which means insignificant, nonsense, and worthless literature. This passage really convicted me to research for a clearer definition of living books, with a little more specific criteria. Which brings me back to the homeschool conference.
A pleasant surprise occurred at the conference, a representative from Living Books Curriculum provided a introductory lecture on Charlotte Mason Methods, of course I sat in and listened. The representative, Bridget Eagleson, is a second generation homeschooler. She was taught based on Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy and is now homeschooling her own children using CM’s methods. She is also the daughter of the author of Living Books Curriculum. My criteria for discovering living books to read with my own children comes from her.
Living Book Criteria
Unaltered, Unabridged original works
Written before 1978
It really helped to have criteria to match books to as a way to have a clear idea of what a living book is or isn’t. However, living books are not restricted to this list, rather if they meet these standards then they are most likely a living book. Other ways to determine a living book, is if the author is passionate about their subject matter and it is conveyed in their writing style. The book really comes alive through the author’s writing and the illustrations. Both the writing and illustrations are beautiful and engaging.
Another “test” is when I take my children to the library, I preview it and if I think it meets the standards of a living book then I trial it with my children. If they are enthralled and just really seem to be getting into the story, then I know I have a living book.
I wondered what it was about 1978 that changed the standards of our books, so of course I asked. In order for publishing houses to make more and sell more, the average book dropped from over 224 pages to less than 120 approximate pages, hence the dumbing-down of our books. Once I started to get a feel for what living books are, I’ve fallen in love and so have my children.
I think back to what I thought homeschooling was supposed to be and I am so thankful to have been led to such a beautiful teaching method.
What are your thoughts on living books, do you have a favorite yet?