Home homeschooling Homeschooling With Charlotte Mason: Part 2–Living Books

Homeschooling With Charlotte Mason: Part 2–Living Books

by Kelly Crawford

Charlotte Mason believed (and proved) that children are born with an instinctive, curious nature only limited by a lack of opportunity to satiate it.  She also believed children had a capacity to learn much more than we give them credit for.

The fundamental and distinguishing attribute of the CM method is making “living books” the heart of education.  Her term for mediocre literature was “twaddle”.  The opposite of “twaddle” she called “living books”–literature both rich in language and written by authors passionate for their subjects.

This simple concept of how great literature makes a great education seems too obvious to state.  Yet we fall into thinking that children can only understand “little books” written for them, and often wait much too long to introduce them to rich literature, handicapping their capacity to understand it later.

In my ebook Think Outside the Classroom, I gave a simple analogy of what this looks like regarding the introduction of Scripture to children:

“…if we postponed speaking to a child until he was old enough to understand the words, linguistically, he would be greatly impaired! The same is true of his spiritual understanding. A person who has not heard the regular reading of God’s Word until he is old enough to understand likely won’t understand it at all!”

For those new to Charlotte Mason, a good way to slowly begin or merge your existing methods with the Mason methods would simply be to start building a library of “living books”.  The best place to start finding those books is Ambleside Online, the official Charlotte Mason website.  Many of the books there are even free for download.

And don’t forget the importance of reading Scripture–straight from the Bible (and Mason preferred KJ for its rich language), which should be hailed in our families as the most important piece of living history available!

Part 1-Homeschooling With Charlotte Mason

Part 3-Homeschooling: Charlotte Mason: The Schedule is Your Servant

Part-4Homeschooling with Charlotte Mason: Writing, Spelling and Grammar

Part-5Homeschooling With Charlotte Mason: Nature Study

Part 6-Homeschooling With Charlotte Mason: The Arts

Part 7–Homeschooling With Charlotte Mason: Daily Plans

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Mary at Civilla's Cyber Cafe October 20, 2009 - 11:27 pm

Yes, I love the KJV (although I am not “King James Only — being grateful if people read just about any translation of the Bible), and I believe that no child is too young to understand it if it is explained to him/her.

laura October 21, 2009 - 3:37 am

This isn’t intended to be argumentative, but just something to think about – there are cultures in which it is standard practice NOT to talk to children until they can talk back to you. This may seem intuitively like it ought to impair their linguistic abilities, but there is no evidence that it does. Children are able to observe linguistic interactions around them, even though they are not directed toward the children themselves, and this apparently provides a sufficient foundation for learning.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should not read the Bible to your child until they can understand it! But, maybe it suggests that hearing you read it to your spouse, aloud to yourself, or to an older child might be enough to provide a foundation for their future understanding?

Word Warrior October 21, 2009 - 9:01 am


Oh yes, that’s actually what I meant! When I said “if you didn’t talk to your child” I was just using a simplistic way to say “if your child never heard language”.

Same with Bible reading…I don’t read directly to my small children, necessarily, but when we read as a family, I think it’s important for the littles to be present. Thanks for clarifying 😉

the cottage child October 21, 2009 - 9:46 am

Such a great note about underestimating what kids can understand – I had wrongly assumed that there would lots of explanations from me to the kids, but not really.

The language (and of course the content)of the KJV really has enhanced our early CM days. Some of the words are just plain fun to say (don’t teach a five year old “firmament” unless you really want to hear it repeated 20 times a day), and interestingly it has given my daughters a sense of empowerment that they can read through a text that would be daunting for some (most?) adults, take it in, look up words they don’t entirely grasp, and really internalize the material. Their is no intermediate processor. They learn from the source.

As a practical matter, their language centers are peaking at this age (7 and 8, up to about 10-11, sometimes later for boys) so it doesn’t even seem that unusual to them – thee, thou, thy translate naturally and fluidly. The language of the KJV also facilitates the introduction of Shakespeare and other poetry which is included from the beginning of the AO curriculum that Kelly mentioned.

AO really has been a blessing, offering booklists and outlines of schedules and many of the texts for no charge. Finding AO really solidified our decision to use the CM approach. While my preference (and my privilege, no doubt)is to own the books and grow our library at home, it is interesting to note that you could pursue this curriculum for a minimal investment. If you have a computer and printer and access to a library, you’re pretty much set. This is all to say that if money for a sophisticated,academically sound curriculum is a concern, it need not be what prevents you from homeschooling.

And it’s fun. God’s so good that way.

Tricia October 21, 2009 - 12:08 pm

When my son was 5, he was almost reading, but had come to a plateau. He knew his phonics and could read phonetic words, but I knew what was lacking was sufficient motivation. But of course he was present when Dad and Mom and siblings read the Bible during family devotions, and it turned out that was the motivation he needed–he wanted to participate and have a turn to read out loud. So it was a regular the KJV Bible and his daily reading of it out loud with us that got him over the hump and he became an accomplished reader in no time!

Homeschooling With Charlotte Mason Part 5: Nature Study - April 17, 2023 - 4:56 pm

[…] Part 2-Homeschooling With Charlotte Mason: Living Books […]


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