Piedmont Home Educators Association

The Living Books Approach

The Living Books Approach


Charlotte Mason, an early 20th century British educator, advocated children reading really good, wholesome books instead of what she calls “twaddle.” Her approach was to teach basic reading, writing, and math skills, then expose them to the best sources of knowledge for a subject. This meant giving children experiences like nature walks, observing and collecting wildlife, visiting art and history museums and real books with “living ideas”—unlike textbooks, which are written for the sole purpose of informing a previously inexperienced student. She stressed narration and dictation of passages from books as well as discussion of good books.


  • Exposes children to the best sources of learning

  • Focuses on learning encounters with real objects and interesting books

  • Encourages curiosity, creative thinking, and a love of learning

  • Eliminates “busy work”


  • Tends to be very child-centered

  • Very little prepared curricula

  • May neglect higher levels studies because of its emphasis on art, literature, and nature study

  • Requires an avid reader and a large library if the student is to be successful

  • Makes it difficult to prepare students for standardized testing/college entrance exams


  • For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay

  • Books Children Love by Edith Wilson

  • Teaching Children by Diane Lopez

  • The Whole-Hearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson

  • The Charlotte Mason Study Guide

  • The Sonlight curricula