I’ve always loved books, old ones especially. I treasured the classics that I grew up with. I’ve even started to pass some of them on to my daughter, yellowed pages and all. See above!
In homeschooling my kids, I was naturally and inevitably drawn to materials and curricula that make use of books with great literary power. We gobbled up the books in “Five in a Row” (FIAR). We delighted not just in the stories, but also in the way words were used and how tales were told.
Transitioning to Charlotte Mason’s (CM) philosophy of education from FIAR was easy for me as far as recommended books are concerned. I embrace and advocate the idea that living books, the use of which is the heart of a CM education, can do so much more to educate children (and their grown-ups!) than dry, boring textbooks.
We wish the children to grow up to find joy and refreshment in the taste, the flavour of a book. We do not mean by a book any printed matter in a binding, but a work possessing certain literary qualities able to bring that sensible delight to the reader, which belongs to a literary word fitly spoken. It is a sad fact that we are losing our joy in literary form. We are in such haste to be instructed by facts or titillated by theories, that we have no leisure to linger over the mere putting of a thought. But this is our error, for words are mighty both to delight and to inspire. – Charlotte Mason in Parents and Children
Essentially, living books have strong literary power. They are engaging and lively, inspiring and thought-provoking. Readers can glean ideas from such books that can be mulled over and applied in life.
Characters in such books – whether good, bad, or in between – give readers food for thought. They teach readers to recognize values and morals in various forms.
Lastly, living books are enjoyable and interesting to readers from and across different generations. In short, these are classics that have withstood the test of time.
Living books live in your heart
“Arabian Nights” or “One Thousand and One Nights” from our family’s vintage 10-volume set called “Best-Loved Classics” (which I think came free with our encyclopedia set!) took me to different places. Certainly, it got me through that one hot summer when there was power outage almost every day.
“A Little Princess” and “Little Lord Fauntleroy” by Frances Hodgson Burnett introduced me to Dukes, Earls, and other titles in the British peerage. “The Witch of Blackbird Pond” by Elizabeth George Speare made me think about family, friendship, and belongingness. I can go on and on about the books from my childhood!
I have to admit, though, that alongside these elevating books, I also read insipid teenage fare – Sweet Valley Twins/High and Sweet Dreams, anyone?
But guess which ones I remember the most and hold close to my heart?
Living books at The Learning Basket
As Sanne and I evolve as parents and homeschoolers, The Learning Basket evolves too. You’ll see it in what we write about, the parent education classes that we offer, and what we make available at our online children’s bookshop.
In addition to our well-curated picture books (that are well-written, engaging, and illuminating), you can now also find classic novels in our shop. Ambleside Online and Mater Amabilis, which both offer free Charlotte Mason curricula, recommend some of these books. Some are books that we deem to be living and recommend to all parents, homeschooling or not.
We’re so excited to share with you our finds. “The Blue Fairy Book” by Andrew Lang, “The Wonder Clock” by Howard Pyle, “Tales from Shakespeare” by Charles and Mary Lamb, and “Princess and the Goblin” by George MacDonald are just some of them.
On the local end, we recommend “Barefoot in Fire: A World War II Childhood” by Barbara Lewis for Philippine history. We’re coming out with a review next week, but so far, we are enjoying learning about the author’s childhood during the war. We also have Filipino legends written both in Filipino and English.
More titles will be available soon as we update our shop. We have created a new Living Books / Charlotte Mason category that you can browse through. Just select at the filter on the right side of the shop.
And now, please excuse me as I go back to my own living book, “Silence” by Shusaku Endo. I’m reading it slowly, thinking it over and forcing my poor husband to listen to my narration, Charlotte Mason-style. I can’t wait to read my one chapter allotment for today as I educate myself about Christian persecution in 17th century Japan.