Charlotte Mason Series #2 – Living Books

Welcome back to day 2 of the 10 Days of Homeschooling blog hop!  You can find the entire series here.

I promised a look at each main aspect of a Charlotte Mason education, so today we dive right in and take a look at one of my favorite parts – living books!

What in the world is a living book?

Quite simply, living books come alive as you read them.  They are so well-written and engaging that you can hardly put them down.  Unlike boring, dry textbooks, or silly “twaddle”, living books don’t make you feel as if you just wasted your time.  They come in all subjects (yes, even math!) and can be found in the form of picture books, chapter books and even some textbooks!  (Although there are many examples, I would consider Story of the World and Apologia as textbooks with a “living” feel.)

  • Picture yourself with your children  – PK through high school – snuggling on the couch reading a wonderful book together.  Every single one of your children begging you to read more once your time is spent.  And you, secretly as excited as your children, agree to “just one more chapter”.
  • Think about your family loving books so much that you all race for the books on CD section of your library to see who can find the next best thing to listen to in the car.
  • Imagine your children filling their library cards with so many books that you can’t imagine they would really read all of them.  But they do!

These scenarios REALLY happen in our house, and can in any house where living literature is given a priority!

Homeschooling with Living Books

Mom, developing a deep love for literature in your children takes a little effort on your part.

You have to enjoy this time yourself.  You have to become as intertwined in the stories as your children, at least at first, until they find the love of literature themselves.  This can be hard for moms who either don’t like reading or don’t want to take the time to schedule it.  Think of it like exercise.  Once you start exercising and get in the habit, you feel so much better, right?  It’s the same with living books.  Once you start reading really good books with your children, not only will you find yourself surprisingly enthralled, you’ll form a habit for your family from which everyone will benefit.

Lessons in all subjects can come from living books, but we tend to focus most of our reading attention on historical fiction and biographies of famous historical figures, scientists and missionaries.  Adding a really good book (or more) to a study of any history topic, for instance, brings my children personally into the time period.  As they get to know the characters and become part of the storyline, it gives them an emotional perspective unlike other lessons.  We can read textbooks, complete lapbooks, make projects, write our own stories, etc, but nothing quite puts them into the time and place of history like a living book.

Even though I said we tend to focus most of our living literature attention on history and science, don’t forget that great books can be found to enhance any subject from grammar and math to artist and composer study!  And sometimes, just reading for the sake of reading a good book fits the bill!

Unfortunately, you will come across lots of twaddle out there, but you can find more living books in every genre than you could ever read in a lifetime!  To save you the burden of searching for great books on your own, below are some great lists for all age levels.

A list of all Cindy West's living literature posts

Below are some curriculum companies that save you the burden of figuring out which living literature to incorporate into your lessons. (Before you read this list…not all of these companies claim to offer Charlotte Mason style lessons.  I’m not necessarily endorsing any company’s curriculum.  Each of them, however, give you really good options for adding living literature to your lessons.  I’d love for you to leave a comment sharing other companies you’ve found that offer lessons based on living literature!!)

Happy reading!  I hope you’ll join me for tomorrow’s topic of Short Lessons!

Check Out These Other Posts!



Awesome Living Literature Resources


  1. It really is true. My kids love to listen to stories in the car and at home.

  2. Thats a post that will make anyone want to read!

  3. Great lists, Cindy! We LOVE to read and I hope that more people catch the bug to dive into a good book. : )

  4. Just wanted to add that I plan on using Heart of Dakota next year for Kindergarten and it is Charlotte Mason based! 🙂 Thanks for the great info.!

  5. Wonderful lists! I have a house full of readers here! It all started with plenty of reading aloud from good books and living books when they were younger.

  6. I generally put together my own Charlotte Mason inspired curriculum and booklist, but next year I’m looking into buying a core package of books from a retailer. Thanks for sharing the list of companies who provied living book bundles. I’ve never heard of some of them so I’m excited!


  7. I am enjoying your day #2! We know follow the CM phil. this year…and we totally enjoy our days. Thank you for the websites links…there’s a couple I have not visited!! Thank you and I am enjoying your 10 days of CM!

  8. Thanks for the list! I have decided to make my own booklist for my 7 year old next year. We also like many of Tapestry of Grace’s selections.

  9. So glad to have some book lists now! My son is just almost 5…but we have been enjoying reading some books outloud (me or Dad reading to him). But I wasn’t sure what book to get next after the series we are almost done with! Will have to take a look at those book lists more closely!

  10. I love the “living book” concept. Thanks for all the resources too.

  11. We love reading, and these lists have wonderful choices to add to our days! Thanks!

  12. After 8 years of home schooling our family, I know that living books are the way to go! Thanks for all this great info. We like using the Simply Charlotte Mason book lists to help us find great literature. Happy reading!

  13. We “discovered” CM this year and I am trying to learn as much as I can! I love books and I desire my children to enjoy them as much as I do ~ thank you for your posts!

  14. Kathleen T says:

    Thank you for sharing your experiences! I love living in the internet age, making research so much easier for moms. I am an elementary educator taking the leap into homeschooling. I am enjoying this blog hop and finding so many more resources to consider in designing the right program/learning methods best suited to my family. Thank you also for the entry for a chance to attend the virtual homeschool conference for free!

  15. Dominique says:

    Thank you so much for the resources. I’ve been trying to build a library of living books and its a little overwhelming at times looking through catalogs. Thanks for the websites.


  16. We are Sonlight users and love living books. Charlotte Mason fits our active all boys homeschool as they love the brief, interesting lessons. The best part about reading together? Months later something will come up in a conversation and the boys will actually have something interesting to say.

  17. Michelle Brownell says:

    I’m so excited that you are sharing on Charlotte Mason as I’m just now learning about her and this style of homeschooling. I so appreciate all the links to the book lists too~

  18. We have been reading together since the beginning of school (and before). What a great way for them to learn without being aware they are even doing it! =) And the snuggle time is great, too. Thanks for the links for book lists. Tapestry of Grace has lists we use as well.

  19. Thanks for the book lists. I’ve wanted a list like this to help me out when I get overwhelmed with all the choices when we get to the library. It’s a great place to start. Thank you.

  20. Off to do some researching … I had a problem grasping the ‘living books’ concept but I think I have a better idea of it now. Thanks! 🙂

  21. Thank you so much for your wonderful posts on homeschooling! I have 3 children, only one of which is school age so far, and I do not homeschool, but I enjoy reading and learning about it because I try to give my children enriching activities when they are at home (especially over the summer!). I want to encourage their love of learning. I also want to be prepared should the occasion arise that I feel that public school is not the right fit anymore.

    I love this name you have for great books- that they pull you in. Right now the chapter book we are reading is “The Swiss Family Robinson”, and we are all eager to read more. I really believe that in order to be an effective example for my children that I have to enjoy what we’re doing as well, and I like to learn something at the same time! Thank you for providing more resources for us to find those great books. I think local librarians are also an invaluable resource- we have gotten to know our librarians well and they always manage to find something that “hits the spot”! 🙂

  22. We love reading around here!! A living books education was just what we were looking for. I’m glad we found Ms. Mason and her ideas!! Thanks for sharing your experience.

  23. HEART OF DAKOTA !!!!!!

    We’ve switched to this curriculum last year and have LOVED it! It’s Charlotte Mason, incorporates short lesson times, uses living books, and the activities help to drive home history and science lessons. The book selections are so good! Again, we LOVE this curriculum!

  24. We’re using The Mystery of History and Apologia Science this year and I’m loving how the kids can really get into it. My older girls love to read and my 5 year old loves to be read to. We’ve added reading time in the evenings where I read to them from childhood classics (right now it’s The Wizard of Oz) because I want them to know these books, know where these stories can from (not the movies), increase their vocabulary, discuss the ideas presented in the books and get a glimpse of other places, cultures and time periods. I’m LOVING reading to them. They’re loving it, too. I need to check out some of those sites you linked to, thanks!

  25. I am really enjoying your blog. I am just now starting this homeschooling journey, so it is nice to see others who are much more seasoned and experienced. I have been doing lots of research on both the classical education and Charlotte Mason. I looked through some of the links you had listed there for curriculum. They are all so expensive. Since I am on the mission field, we also don’t have access to a public library. Do you have a list at all of the homeschooling must haves or curriculum that you are really thankful that you did purchase? I just want to make sure as I plan and prepare for the future that I am not spending a bunch of money on things we don’t really need! Thanks and God bless!

  26. I am looking into a curriculum I had never heard of called Epi Kardia which is Greek for “At the Heart” and looks to be Charlotte Mason based. Even if it is not totally it would be easy to tweak. It is a History based curriculum that takes a student through Creation to Modern Day each year, building on the knowledge they have from the year before. So it has a layering effect and they retain more info that way. It uses wonderful literature to teach science, language arts, music and other fine arts, etc. All my correspondence with the authors of the curriculum has been wonderful. If you have a good library system this would be the way to go! If not it could get expensive as there are a lot of books to be used. Thank you for your posts on Charlotte Mason’s style of learning. They have been extremely encouraging and helpful!

  27. Just found this 10 day blog hop am am enjoying catching up!! my two cents…another resource for living books and some historical/spiritual/philosophical commentary to go with it is Truthquest by Michelle Miller I have graduated 4 highschoolers… one more this year and will have only one student next year a Junior wish i had investigated Charlotte Mason more in my early years! For what it’s worth to other homeschool moms… keep hanging in there & keep reading aloud… all my kids tell me it’s what they remember most!

  28. While I’ve never used Truthquest, I’ve had friends who have loved it. Thanks for the reminder! And, how precious it is to hear from moms whose children have graduated homeschooling and have great memories.

  29. Thanks for another CM based curriculum idea!

  30. I will address this in the Q&A post.

  31. I would consider both Mystery of History and Apologia to be living texts. I have used both and loved them!

  32. I’m looking into Heart of Dakota for my little guy since so many comments came in about it. Thanks!

  33. How wonderful that you supplement public school curriculum with wonderful activities to encourage a love for learning!

  34. I hadn’t thought of Tapestry of Grace as a place to go for book lists. Thanks!

  35. I have a huge library of living books, BUT I’ve only purchased them when they were CHEAP! Search yard sales, curriculum sales and Goodwill stores. I’ve very occasionally purchased a book at full price if I absolutely needed it and my library didn’t have it.

  36. Thanks for mentioning the Simply Charlotte Mason lists!

  37. Hi Cindy, stopping by from the CM Carnival. Thanks for the links to some great sites. A couple of them I wasn’t familiar with.

  38. Moving Beyond the Page is a literature based curriculum which uses excellent living books.

  39. My Father’s World is CM friendly and that is what we use.

  40. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! It’s going to take me a month to comb through the resources but I love it – soooo helpful!

  41. You’re welcome, Cindy! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *