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Living Books Approach

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The Living Books model of education is based on the writings of the British educator, Charlotte Mason (1842-1923). Her unique approach is also sometimes referred to as the "Life Experiences", Charlotte Mason, or CM approach. It is a child-centered, literature-based educational model that aims to lead children to a lifelong love of learning. There has been a recent revival of this educational model as a growing number of teachers and homeschoolers apply Charlotte Mason's methods in their classes and/or homes.

During her lifetime Charlotte Mason's ideas were considered quite innovative. It was common in England to view children as not quite complete beings that "should be seen and not heard". Mason was instrumental in bringing about important educational reforms. Her approach is based on the belief that children's minds are not empty containers that need to be filled with knowledge. Instead children are viewed as naturally curious, capable, and eager to learn. Children are respected, trusted and encouraged to think and participate in the learning process.

Charlotte Mason's approach requires children's active involvement with real things in real life situations. Students are provided ample time in which to discover, think, play, and create. Individual learning strengths, interests, capacities, and developmental levels are considered and addressed. The students' natural hunger for knowledge is fed through interaction with a wide variety of quality educational materials. The importance of good character is stressed. Children are trained to develop good habits, thoughtfulness, responsibility, attentiveness, and self-discipline.

The Living Books model stresses that students be exposed to real, "living", whole books that are well written, engaging, and fact-based. It is believed that such books contain ideas that stimulate the students' intellectual and moral development. Dumbed down literature, textbooks, workbooks, and other "twaddle" are avoided. Students are trained to participate in narration activities in which they "tell back" what they have learned. This method of narration is believed to develop reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills and improve the students' abilities to comprehend and retain information.

The Living Books curriculum covers traditional school subjects. Children are taught to read, write, and do math. They study history, science, geography, art, literature, and the humanities through engaging, quality literature. Typical Living Books learning activities include nature walks, observing and collecting natural things, visits to museums and art galleries, field trips, exposure to quality music, journal keeping, book sharing, copy-work, dictation, poetry, reading, narration, various writing activities, drawing, open discussions with teachers/parents, etc.