Saturday, April 28, 2012

SA Carnival of Homeschooling Blogs #4: Living Books

Welcome to the 4th edition for 2012 of

SA Carnival of Homeschooling Blogs

And it's all about books - and not just any books. Living Books.  OK so now some of you may be stumped and be wondering how a book can be living, how does it have life?  How can it breath? 
But think back to books that you remember.... the ones that had you holding your breath in suspense, the ones that made you cry, books that made history seem real and relevant - real people you could identify with, you travelled the world through mountains and valleys, you discovered that Judge Grammar could teach you all about Mr Noun - those are the ones we are talking about.

Living books are bound to get homeschoolers excited and in fact its should get all mom's excited.  If you are a parent, these are the types of books you want your children to read.  They're books written by people who love their subject - whether it's Maths or Geography.(yes you even get people who love Maths - special individuals those).  It's also definitely not written as a text book or in  very structured, fact by fact, point by point kind of way.  It's written in a conversational way, a narrative, a story. 
And what child does not enjoy a good story, in fact what adult does not enjoy a good story?  Through living books, children are exposed to facts and information in such an entertaining and engaging style that so much more is learnt and retained with very little effort.  

The language used in these books is of a high and excellent standard, not the language that is common to playground antics or Facebook comments.  It stretches their abilities and understanding of the language. It often stretches mine too.  We all grow in reading books like this.  In fact it will develop a real appetite for more of the same. 

I have fallen in love with living books.  As I read them to my children, I am totally engaged, enthralled and part of the learning experience.

And I am not the only one.  There are mothers all over the world who have discovered the value of living books.  And some of these include our very own homegrown South African Homeschool Bloggers.

Nadene of Practical Pages has been homeschooling for 14 years, using living books as an important part of her homeschooling day and her Charlotte Mason curriculum approach.  

Join her as she and her daughter Learn through Living Books.  I love how she uses a white board as a type of mind map/timeline/sequencing tool in conjunction with her living books.

Karen, a confessed book lover and hoarder, walks us through some great living books at Karen's Clan.  Loving Living Books give you a brief glimpse into her books on her bedside table and her list of favourite living books (and her wish list of soon to be favourites I am sure). 

Taryn of Hayes Happenings offers us a thorough explanation of living books, and how her journey of discovery and adventure has led her family down a road rich with learning and literature.  The Living Books they love include powerful stories of a farm girl embarking on an adventure to translate the bible in the jungles of the Philippines, the experiences of the blind and apples and arrows.

As for me, well over the years we have collected dozens of living books, too many even to mention.  I have loved all of them except maybe one or two. I enjoy my read aloud times with my children as much as they do.  Some of my current favourites though are:

The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong
Why do the storks no longer come to the little Dutch fishing village of Shora to nest? It was Lina, one of the six schoolchildren who first asked the question, and she set the others to wondering. And sometimes when you begin to wonder, you begin to make things happen. So the children set out to bring the storks back to Shora. The force of their vision put the whole village to work until at last the dream began to come true.
This truly was a book where I laughed so much that my sides hurt.  I have to admit I am always inclined to opt for the living books with humour and this is one of them.  The antics of these children of course had my children planning their own types of adventures but they were introduced to the whole Dutch culture combined with lots of good geography included.  This is a classic, never to be given away type of book.  I am sure that we will read this a number of times in our schooling future.

Kensuke's Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo
Washed up on a remote island in a Pacific storm, Michael curls up and waits to die. But when he wakes, there is fresh fruit beside him. He is not alone… Michael Morpurgo’s vivid story of a young castaway’s struggle for survival is an unmissable modern classic. Fusing adventure and mystery, it is a heartbreaking but uplifting tale of love, loss, hope and redemption.
I am a fan of Michael Morphurgo - he writes in such a way that you want to savour every moment.  He uses expressions that come alive and his combination of excellent writing, humour (again) and history - just bring this story to life. 
Carefully woven into this book was the history of Hiroshima, island survival, conflicting cultures and languages, boating and sailing and relationships.  This is the third book I have read of his and I know that I will continue to find more.

Now you may be wondering where you can find living books like these?

There are a number of ways you can find living books. The resources are endless and are often grouped according to subjects which makes it easier to find what you are looking for.  Some of them include curriculum providers who include living books as part of their curriculum.  These can often be found at your local library or a friend, or you could opt for a second hand book store.

Here are some resources to find lists of living books for you and your family.  Though I don't always use these books as part of my curriculum, I often pack them into their library bags and let them discover something new.

Ambleside Online
Living Books Curriculum
Beautiful Feet Books
Penny Gardener's Charlotte Mason's Website
Classical Christian Homeschooling
Paula's Archives
Veritas Press
Living Book List for Science
Living Maths Books
What should I read next?

For further reading on Charlottle Mason and Living books, here are some excellent resources:
Charlotte Mason Basics by Jimmie of Jimmies Collage
Excellent resource on living books at The Thinking Mother

So do the rounds, visit our South African Homeschooling bloggers and hopefully you will find some new inspiration to add to your book shelves.

I would love to hear about any living books that you might think are a worthwhile addition to our libraries.  Leave a comment and tell us about some of your favourites.


  1. Great article and brilliant descriptions of what living books are! I must check out Michael M - I've not come across him before. Thx for hosting and for all the great links! (ps - snap on the sneaking books into their library bags! My eldest has read a few gems that way, most recently Goodnight Mr Tom).

    1. Thanks Taryn, finished while falling asleep over my computer last night LOL. I know my children will often never choose the books I pop into their bags (because a lot of the covers of the older books are sadly very bland looking), but they have been pleasantly surprised. And if they don't pick them up, then I do and read it to them before bed time.

  2. Lol! Know that falling asleep in front of computer gig! :-) and, yay to reading aloud! I love it :-)

  3. Thank you Mel for another wonderful blog hosting. This is such an interesting topic as I love books, and luckily my boys seem to have picked up that craze too! I frequently find my three year old paging through his favourite books - about the only time he is 'quiet' and standing still in one spot! My 5year old, usually has a problem picking one book we have to read... there is usually a nr.1, 2 and 3 in the line-up.

    I found a couple of links very useful so will spend some time looking for eBooks and recommendations of books to buy.
    Elize vd Merwe


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