We know that young people are enormously interested in the subject and give concentrated attention if we give them the right books. Vol. 6 Page 171
Sometimes as parents we put strain on the child's attention by trying to emphasize a point entirely too much. When, if we would just step back and let the book do the talking to our child more would be accomplished.
If we make a selection or our child chooses a great selection for a living book not much more has to be said from us as the teacher to the child. Living books are spirited. The characters come alive as our child is reading the book. By taking the book in small portions and reading it, our child becomes to know the characters in the book extremely well. The characters start to feel like old friends.
Charlotte Mason exclaimed, “Having found the right book, let the Master give the book the lead and be content himself with the second place.” (Vol. 3 pg. 229) Living books capture our child’s attention. They are books that keep our child interested in a particular subject. If we have chosen a book of this nature, we can gladly step back and let the living book unfold the information before our child. No words from us will be necessary. Yes, we can have great discussions with our child, but the book will have already presented the material in such a manner to our child that we can relax and enjoy listening to our child expound on their knowledge they’ve retained from the book.
Charlotte Mason says in Vol. 6 Page 183 We spread an abundant and delicate feast in the programs and each small guest assimilates what he can. The child of genius and imagination gets greatly more than his duller comrade but all sit down to the same feast and each one gets according to his needs and powers. The surprises afforded by the dull and even the 'backward' children are encouraging and illuminating.” She is saying that if we as our children's teacher will give them books that are alive and in-depth in a particular topic each child will receive. Each child will digest what he or she has eaten (took in). All of your children sit around the same table and listened to the same book, but each bit off what they could chew. When you set your dinner table and all of your children gather round, all of them may not eat the same food. Some will have their preference over certain foods that you have prepared. That is the way it is when they sit around and listen to you read a great book. Even though all of your children may not always eat the exact same foods at your dinner table, all of them are growing. Whatever your child receives from the books you read to them is going to grow. One book that you read to them will lay a foundation for the next book read about that same topic. The more great books they read on a particular topic only keeps laying another stone on the foundation. You and your children just keep right on building a wonderful model. Before long your model is finished in that particular area and can be used as the example for another.
There's an old saying that we all hear today and that is, "The proof is in the pudding." Well, my daughter is our proof of our pudding. When we started our home school journey I wasn't familiar with many curriculums and did not know very much about homeschooling so I just did what most people do. I copied my neighbor. It didn't take me long to realize that I had made a mistake. The curriculum I had chosen was not the curriculum for my family.
So I did what most people do for their second step, I switched to another curriculum. Again, this was another mistake. My daughter was growing to hate certain subjects by this time because the dry facts where just too much for her trying to memorize them for her test at the end of the chapters in her books. I knew I had to do something and I had to do something fast. She was getting further and further behind.
At this point, I started doing my homework. That's when I discovered the Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling. It sounded great so we decided to try it. I asked my children what they wanted to study and went to the library and got some books on that topic. It didn't take me many months to realize that my daughter was retaining the information. When we forgot about all the dates and the ... my daughter just looked at this time as another reading session and comprehended the information. The living books that we had chosen were enjoyable stories to her, not obligations holding her to memorize dates, etc.
It was at this time that I realized that my daughter wasn't behind. She was just biting off what she could chew on, while her brother was being a pig, gobbling up everything. She may not fill her plate as full as her brother, but she is growing right along beside him.
We don’t use living books for our entire curriculum, but for the most part. We choose a history ... book and use it for our Scope & Sequence. Our family will read in that book until we find something of interest. That is when we pull away from that book and go to the library, our learning begins. We’ll read book after book on the topic that interested us until we have gotten our fill of it. Then, we go back to our curriculum book and read some more until the next interest arises. Back to the library we go. This is our routine in our education. Living books have been tried and proved with our family. I can see the growth in my children’s knowledge regularly. We recommend living books.
Oh the excitement you and your child will share!
P.S. If your family has not ever read Nothing Is Impossible by Dorothy Aldis, it’s one of our favorites. It’s about the life of Beatrix Potter and how she came about writing her short stories. The book really makes her characters come alive because you will see where they derived from.