Living books, a term most popularly known by homeschoolers following a Charlotte Mason philosophy, are great for self-directed learners.
“In short, a living book is written by someone with a passion for the material or by someone who has experienced the story first hand” (source).
As an unschooling family, I am very conscious of what I bring into our “learning” environment. Books are a huge part of our everyday learning. But, I am not talking about textbooks or workbooks. Books that are living are so much more meaningful.
Simply Charlotte Mason reminds us that:
A living book will contain living ideas, not just dry facts. Ideas that help shape who you are becoming as a person. Ideas that feed your imagination and spark other ideas of your own.
Living books are usually written by one person who has a passion for the subject and writes in conversational or narrative style. The books pull you into the subject and involve your emotions, so it’s easy to remember the events and facts. Living books make the subject “come alive.” They can be contrasted to dry writing, like what is found in most encyclopedias or textbooks, which basically lists informational facts in summary form.
If you are wondering which subject areas to focus on, think math, science, history, and the arts.
What is Self-Directed learning?
“Unschooling is fully allowing children to direct their own learning and trusting that they will learn all that they need to know.” Where I come in is in providing an enriched environment. The materials I add to our homeschool library are a balance of picture books, references, read-aloud, and now, living books.
While Charlotte Mason did not technically use living books as a single way to teach math, applying the concept in a broader view, here are a few titles that explore math I think work.
When I think about studying subjects like history, I immediately think of autobiographies. Autobiographies are great, but so are picture books for younger children.
Below are a few examples of great titles for studying history.
Nature studies are what I personally look forward to during our homeschooling journey. Finding living titles around science can be a great way to inspire a love for science and nature. Take a look at some of these title examples.
I hope that this short list inspires you to look at books from a living vs non-living perspective and add a few living books to your kid’s collection.
Have you ever heard of living books or Charlotte Mason?