February 27, 2015

What is a Living Book?

Here at Windy Hill Homeschool, we use living books for school and for fun reading.  Its a strange term for those not familiar with the Charlotte Mason method, but for those who love her, it is very familiar, and the heartbeat of education.  

Charlotte Mason fans LOVE books. But not just any book.  We do away with twaddle - those books that you cringe at having to read to your preschooler for the second time, much less the twentieth time - and replace it with books that LIVE.  

AO Year 4 books
How can a book live?  

When it is filled not just with words or pictures, but with ideas that point the mind of a child towards what is good, pure, and best in this world or the next.  It lives by passing a thought onto the next generation.  It may inspire towards kind actions and make you want to be a better person.  It may make you sigh with happiness or cry with compassion.  But it will not bore you to tears, nor will a living book be easily forgotten.  It is rarely, if ever, a textbook.  Living books are written by a single author with a true passion for their subject.

How do you use a living book?  

For school, it is only read once, then narrated a portion at a time.  Of course, it can be reread for pleasure numerous times, but for the purpose of holding the child's attention and encouraging good focus during lessons, it is not reread when his mind wanders.  He is made to feel the loss of the moment and encouraged to pay better attention the next time.  Its the teacher's job to notice when the mind begins to wander, though, and ask for a narration then take a break by switching subjects.  Don't read until your eyes cross and the kid is asleep :)  Not that I've EVER done that...

I didn't read my horse to sleep, though!
How does the student learn from a living book?

To properly learn, the child must do the digging, so to speak.  The teacher doesn't read it, water it down or paraphrase it, ask multiple choice questions, then grade him.  Instead, he reads a portion (or listens), narrates it (orally or written), and asks his own questions of the reading.  I am a facilitator, present to listen and guide, and help find answers to his questions if I don't know them myself.

How do you use books in your school?  Are they living?


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