Living Books Curriculum title overlay over young boy examining a book

Imagine an education for your child where each subject comes alive, filled with stories, emotions, and lessons that stick with them for a lifetime.

This isn’t just about passing tests; it’s about inspiring a lifelong passion for discovery and understanding.

With living books, your child won’t just learn; they’ll be excited to learn, developing critical thinking skills and a deep appreciation for the world around them.

From art lessons to science and everything in between, I love to use living books as a foundational pillar when I create our homeschool curriculum.

Here’s why you might love it too.

The Philosophy Behind Living Books for Homeschooling

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I’ll earn a commission if you click on the link and choose to purchase.

There’s a quiet yet significant revolution brewing with an educational philosophy known as the Living Books Curriculum.

Living books, championed by educators like Charlotte Mason, advocate for using high-quality literature, biographies, and firsthand accounts to teach a range of subjects, as opposed to dry and dense textbooks.

This approach is all about engaging hearts and minds in learning—something that textbooks, with their pages and facts presented out of context, often fail to do.

But what exactly sets living books apart, and why should we, as homeschool parents of elementary students, consider incorporating them?

1. Living Books Explained

At its core, a living book is splendidly different from the conventional textbook because it presents information and stories in a manner that is engaging, vivid, and personal.

These books come from authors who really love what they’re writing about, giving young readers stories that are not only engaging but also really gripping.

Chemistry Science Picture Books for Kids

The whole idea behind living books is all about making learning feel like an adventure for kids, touching their hearts and minds in a way that makes them fall in love with the subject.

Whether it’s exciting stories about historical heroes, amazing facts about nature, or cool insights into how things work, living books have a special way of pulling kids right into the joy of learning.

For example, when we were learning American History, we read books like George Washington’s Teeth and I Am Sacagawea. (We’re HUGE fans of the Ordinary People Change the World series here.)

2. Traditional Textbooks vs. Living Books

Traditional textbooks are great for their clear-cut facts and structured info, but they sometimes miss that special spark that living books have.

Living books really bring stories to life, making you feel all the emotions and adventures.

They make learning fun by stirring up curiosity and imagination, encouraging kids to dive in, ask questions, and really connect with what they’re reading on a personal level.

3. Historical Context and Development of Living Books

Charlotte Mason, a forward-thinking British educator from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, introduced the world to the wonderful concept of living books.

She truly respected children and believed in making learning engaging through real-world experiences and the power of vibrant ideas.

Her educational philosophy? It was all about diving into subjects with literature and stories that spark thought and connections, rather than just memorizing facts.

The Charlotte Mason approach has won the hearts of homeschoolers and educators worldwide, sparking a renewed love for living books as a key part of a lively and well-rounded education.

Note: I don’t consider our homeschool a Charlotte Mason-style homeschool. Instead, I’m a bit eclectic with some Waldorf curriculum choices, Charlotte Mason, and a whole lotta Pinterest mixed together.

Bring Engagement and Curiosity to Learning

Chemistry Science Picture Books for Kids

Living books turn storytelling into a magical learning journey. Instead of dry textbook facts, they weave knowledge into stories with relatable characters and thrilling plots, sparking imagination and curiosity.

For example, imagine you’re learning about the solar system. You could look in a text book with facts about the planets and the sun. Memorize what the planets are made of, the order of the planets, and other facts.

Now, imagine a book about the solar system where children join adventures with characters exploring planets, experiencing space phenomena firsthand.

Which would you remember more? Which do you think the kids will remember more?

Living books provide content that children can see a part of themselves in, which lights a personal investment in learning.

1. Depth of Learning Through Integrated Knowledge

Living books really bring stories to life, weaving facts into narratives full of context and different viewpoints.

Unlike your typical textbooks that chop up information into separate boxes, living books love mixing ideas together. They show us that the world isn’t just a bunch of unrelated topics, but a vibrant tapestry where everything is interlinked.

This approach is a perfect match for interdisciplinary learning, something I’ve not just studied and earned a degree in, but one I’m super passionate about.

The magic of it all? It helps us see the big picture, making subjects more relatable and readying students for a world that doesn’t stick problems into neat, single-discipline categories.

2. Immersion and Experience: Living Out the Lessons

Living books are amazing because they do more than just share words on a page – they invite you into a subject, igniting your imagination, emotions, and real-world connections. They have a way of engaging readers in a manner that textbooks try for but often miss.

It’s because textbooks focus on delivering information, while living books spark inspiration and turn learning into an exciting journey. Which is a natural complement to unit studies and learning with multiple ages. And that’s exactly the type of interdisciplinary education I love.

Images of Arctic unit study children's picture books

Living Books Help Develop of Critical Thinking

Living books really spice up learning by offering a variety of perspectives, encouraging students to look at issues from all sides and boosting their critical thinking abilities. On the flip side, standard textbooks often just lay out the facts, giving little room for debate or deep thinking.

1. Values and Reflection

Living books address moral and ethical dilemmas, inviting readers to reflect and grow emotionally. Textbooks, designed to be objective and factual, typically lack the emotional and moral lessons that are an integral part of a child’s development.

2. Individual Pace

Living books are great because they fit the unique pace and interests of our kid’s learning journey.

Traditional textbooks, on the other hand, are made for everyone, so they might not be the perfect match for every single student.

3. They Grow With the Student

Living books are fantastic because they grow with your child, making learning a fun, lifelong journey.

Unlike traditional textbooks that stick to a one-size-fits-all approach, living books give you the freedom to tailor learning to your child’s development.

Plus, you can introduce various living books on the same topic, perfect for teaching kids of different ages simultaneously.

It’s a great way to keep learning personal and engaging for everyone!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Living Books Curriculum for Homeschool Parents

1. What are considered living books?

Living books are engaging and well-written books that bring subjects to life through storytelling, providing a rich educational experience beyond just facts and figures. They’re known for their ability to connect emotionally with readers.

2. How do I choose the right living books for my elementary-aged child?

Look for books that cover topics of interest to your child, have age-appropriate content, and can challenge their understanding without overwhelming them.

Recommendations from other homeschooling parents, educators, and curated lists are great places to start.

Picture Books for Your Alaska Unit Study Resources

3. Can living books replace textbooks in my child’s curriculum?

While living books can greatly enrich a curriculum, they should complement—rather than replace—textbooks in areas requiring systematic factual coverage such as math. They can stand alone for subjects like history and literature where storytelling can enhance understanding.

4. How many living books should I use in our homeschool curriculum?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer since it depends on your child’s pace, interests, and the subjects you’re covering.

Start with a few books that interest your child and adjust based on their engagement level and educational needs.

5. Are living books suitable for all subjects?

Living books are especially effective in humanities such as history. But don’t overlook the fun in adding them to science and mathematics, though they tend to be more supplementary in these areas.

For technical subjects, textbooks or other resources may be more appropriate.

6. How can I integrate living books into our daily homeschooling routine?

Use living books as part of your reading time, for project-based learning, during your unit studies, or to introduce new topics. Discuss the books together, asking open-ended questions to deepen understanding and connection to the material.

6. Where can I find recommendations for living books?

Begin by exploring homeschooling communities, blogs, and websites focused on living books curriculums like Sonlight, Bookshark, and Build Your Library.

Don’t forget to check out libraries, bookstores, and online retailers that offer educational booklists for more great title recommendations.

7. How can I afford all of the living books?

The truth is, all of those books add up and I couldn’t. Fortunately, there are some excellent options to add to your collection more affordably.

Embrace the Joy of Living Books in Your Homeschool

While traditional textbooks have their place in educational settings, particularly as references and for specific types of learning, living books offer an excellent approach if you’re looking to create a rich, multi-faceted education.

Swap out one of your textbooks for living books today and see the amazing transformation in your child’s learning journey!

Take their education from plain to awesome.

Follow us on Pinterest to discover curated lists of living books now and watch your child develop a passion for learning that goes beyond any curriculum.

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