Friday, May 2, 2014

Living Books and Narration: Charlotte Mason Basics

What I love about Charlotte Mason's style of teaching is that she understood that children are whole persons, and we should teach them full intellectual content without watering it down or dumbing it down for them. Their libraries should be filled with great literature and all that they are exposed to should be twaddle-free.  Living Books are the best way for children to learn information.

What is a Living Book?  

A Living Book is one that is basically an what I like to call an anti-textbook.  It is written by one author who poured their time, talent, research and passion into composing a timeless piece of work.

The biggest difference I have seen in utilizing Living Books instead of textbooks is in our history selection.  These historical figures are now vivid characters in the minds of my children and they understand not only the facts that happened throughout this persons life, but also the type of person they were; compassionate, brave, arrogant, noble, whatever it is, they get the characteristics of who that person was and how our history was affected by who they were.

Living Books and Narration are used throughout different subjects in the Charlotte Mason style and that is why it is a basis for a Charlotte Mason homeschool.

Where Do I Find Living Books?

We use Ambleside Online Curriculum for our schooling so, that is where we find all our book lists for the different grades we are in.  If you go to their website, the book lists by grade are on the left column, and when we first started to dabble in Charlotte Mason style we only got books from the Free Reading list.

Simply Charlotte Mason also has a great list of living books too.  If you use their Bookfinder you can search by subject, or by grade level.

Peace Hill Press' Story of the World is one our favorite history books and the also have other supplements that would coincide with CM style teaching.

Queen Homeschool Supplies also bases their products on a CM style.

What is Narration?

Narration is simply the telling back of a reading.  That reading can be something they read on their own or something that was read aloud to them.  In any case, if a child can read or listen to a reading, understand it enough to put it into their own words, then essentially teach back what they learned from that reading, that is the most genuine test of true knowledge.  They know it enough to teach it.

With my older son who does most of his reading on his own, when he narrates and the little ones are around they too get a mini lesson on what he just learned.  They will get pre-exposed to something they will learn about later on, and I just love that.

Charlotte Mason suggests that required narration doesn't begin until the child is 6 years old, but before that if they wish to narrate by all means let them.  Developing this oral narration is the basis of creating a great writer, but before we can learn to put sentences together while writing we need to develop their oral language.

The following is an excerpt from Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling series Volume 1: Home Education:
The Art of Narrating
Children Narrate by Nature - Narrating is an art, like poetry-making or painting, because it is there, in every child's mind, waiting to be discovered, and is not the result of any process of disciplinary education.  A creative fiat calls it forth.  'Let him narrate'; and the child narrates, fluently, copiously, in ordered sequence, with fit and graphic details, with a just choice of words, without verbosity or tautology, so soon as he can speak with ease.  This amazing gift with wich normal children are born is allowed to lie fallow in their education. (Mason Vol.1 pg 232) 
Here is the video from my YouTube Channel on Living Books and Narration.



  1. Where do you buy your books. I'm having trouble finding all the books

    1. I'm sorry I didn't see this sooner! Newbie here!

      I have a ton of books on Kindle for free or cheap, like, .99 cents. I also love browsing Amazon for their penny books. Usually shipping on those is $3.99. I also have a used bookstore in town that the proceeds go to our library, they usually have a good selection of classics.

      I have recently learned that you can print a PDF and bind it yourself. ((mind blown)) So, all those public fomain books you can get from or google books can become print books in your library!