This article is part of a series for new home educators. In this, and several other articles, we cover What style of education is right for our family? And where do I get our curriculum?
The Living Books approach has possibly become the largest new/old method and philosophy, or at least the fastest growing in our time. There is a lot of variation within this category, but the primary unifying factor is that the curriculum is not based on a textbook, nor a Unit integrating all subjects into a certain topic, but rather on reading great, real literature. Within this category are Ruth Beechick’s approach and the Charlotte Mason method, as well as others. The Great Books or Classical method has many similarities too, but enough differences that I will cover it separately.
This method, and Classical and Discipleship/ Christian Worldview, are probably the most picky in the actual resources they utilize. There are many similarities in these 3 styles, but some differences also. Although both the Living Books and Classical styles utilize only very well written, excellent books, not dumbed down insignificant “twaddle”, their choices are not always to present or teach an accurate Christian worldview. (Ruth Beechick’s approach does.)
The Living Books approach, like Unit Studies, can be parent directed or a written curriculum by others. It is more literature based (as opposed to activity based) and generally is not as concerned with integrating the subjects as Unit Studies. It may or may not be more grade level oriented.
Charlotte Mason methods utilize an environment of excellence, in literature, music, art, languages, nature; and gentle, natural methods such as narration, copywork, dictation, and notebooking to instill a love for learning. It provides a liberal (broad) education. Miss Mason was a British educator who sought to improve education in the late 1800’s-early 1900’s. She saw education as an Atmosphere (rich environment), a Discipline (character habits), and a Life (living thoughts and ideas) in a time when many were treating children as a bucket to fill with facts.
Dr. Beechick may not classify her approach as “Living Books”, but rather as a biblical, common sense approach. But because many of her recommendations are similar to Charlotte Mason, I’m putting it here. Her approach is first and foremost biblical though, that the Bible should be the foundation of education and that subjects should be taught in the context of Scripture. She also is a proponent of gentle, natural methods, such as those mentioned above. Mrs. Beechick has over 60 years of educational experience as a teacher, college dean, and editor of curriculum. She has devoted the last 25+ years to promoting home education and supporting home educators.
These resources explain the philosophies and methods of the Living Books approach, as presented by Ruth Beechick and Charlotte Mason:
- A Biblical Home Education: Building Your Homeschool on the Foundation of God’s Word by Ruth Beechick
- For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home & School by Susan Schaeffer McCauley – Charlotte Mason style
- A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on The Gentle Art of Learning by Karen Andreola
- The Original Homeschooling Series (6 Volumes) by Charlotte Mason – Mason’s own works, of course, tell you exactly what her approach was, but many find them too long and detailed for most modern readers who have not had an excellent literary education themselves. If you desire to do a pure CM approach, I recommend that you read them, but to read a modern introduction, such as above, first.
A few popular Living Books programs are:
- Ambleside Online is a free online Charlotte Mason curriculum – many of the books used are available free online too.
- Simply Charlotte Mason family friendly curriculum and a website with a host of help and resources for both learning about the Charlotte Mason method and for lesson use with your children.
- The Three R’s (for up to third grade) and You Can Teach Your Child Successfully (for 4-8 grade) by Ruth Beechick – Dr. Beechick’s own helpful guides for getting started in providing a biblical, common sense education for your children.
- Heart of Dakota is a currently popular program based on Living Books.
Lifestyle Education through Discipleship™ utilizes Living Books, an environment of excellence and gentle, natural learning methods (narration, copywork, dictation, and notebooking, etc.) to instill delight and excellence in learning. We heartily agree with Mason’s description of education as an Atmosphere, Discipline and Life; but disagree with some smaller points of application. We also provide a strong biblical foundation and context for all learning, like Beechick, and line up with her in most (but not all) areas.