I love good books. Charlotte Mason calls them Living Books. It is the second reason I homeschool (an excuse to buy more books!)
Charlotte believed that true education consists of forming relations with God, with mankind, and with the world around. Mason encouraged combining history, literature, and geography studies together chronologically.Charlotte Mason wanted children to think for themselves rather than being spoon-fed by a teacher or textbook.
When I began homeschooling I began a list of great books I wanted to read to or with my children. As the years went by I added to and organized my list into a four-year program (to be repeated on a deeper level every three years) where we read the books and expand the readings with a thematic unit study approach.
- History is studied chronologically
- Science is studied in the order of Creation*
- Day 1: Light and Energy (Physics)
- Day 2: Air, Water, Weather (Chemistry/Meteorology)
- Day 3: Rocks, Minerals, Plants (Chemistry/Botany)
- Day 4: Sun, Moon and Stars (Astronomy)
- Day 5: Birds and Sea Life (Ornithology/Marine Biology)
- Day 6: Land Animals and Human Body (Zoology/Anatomy)
- Life-skills studies are added in middle and high school years
Mason had a problem with unit studies where the teacher formed the relations and makes the connections for the child and then presents the findings. She felt it critical the student to do the connecting.
“The teacher has done it; he has selected the ideas, shewn the correlation of each with the other and the work is complete” (Vol. 6, p. 114).
Children that read living books will naturally identify key events and pick up vocabulary in context. They make connections between facts, events, and concepts.
I agree with Mason. A child certainly doesn’t need to do a hands-on-project for every book they read to learn about the topic, most times the story itself does the teaching. But some children learn better when they have the option to expand a book with a hand’s on project. For other children narration or copywork is a great way to expand and work in writing practice.
I make decisions on how far to expand a book based on the individual child’s delight and learning style (not forced, arbitrary connections). My job is not to do all the connecting but to foster a love of learning. I encourage, ask questions, and look for a spark to fan.
- Excite: Relate the topic relate to the child’s life in some way
- Examine: Find out the facts (using a living book instead of a dry text book)
- Expand: Narration, copy work, or project based on interest and child’s learning style
- Excel: Share with someone what was learned.
The 4-Steps are based on the four learning styles see A Tale of Four Learners: 4MAT’s Learning Styles by Bernice McCarthy.
Books Listed by the Four-Year Plan at Amazon
This four-year rotation course (studying topics through living books) gives each child three distinct exposures to each topic on their own level over a 12 year period. You can get the list free here.
The Heart of Wisdom Approach
My approach to homeschooling is a combination of several methods (Charlotte Mason, Learning Styles, Bible First, etc) explained in my book The Heart of Wisdom Teaching Approach: Bible-Based Homeschooling. In it I explain ideas of how to teach with living books using a unit study approach that works well with multi-level homeschooling.
Four-Year Detailed View
|Chronological Order||Creation Order|
|Adam to Abraham||Creation|
|Ancient History (all 7 in one unit)|
|Earth Science and Botany|
|Exploration toAmerican West||The Animal World|
|Age of Exploration||Marine Zoology|
|Thirteen Colonies||Ornithology (Birds)|
|Colonies to Country||Entomology (Insects)|
|New Nation||Earth Zoology|
Industrial Era to Today
|Industrial Era||Cell Design|
|World War I||Brain/Nervous|
|World War II||Respiratory/Digestive|
|1950 to Today||Reproductive|