Can You Tell Your Truth From Your Twaddle? Shedding The Light On Living Books


“The children must enjoy the book. The ideas it holds must each make that sudden, delightful impact upon their minds, must cause that intellectual stir, which mark the inception of an idea,”

Charlotte Mason, School Education, p.178.


Be it a blog post or ‘show notes’ here’s an overview from my Periscope broadcast earlier today attempting to shed light on the determining factors of a ‘living book’!

Watch the videos…the 8 questions are listed below.

Part 1 (then it froze!)

Part 2

We’re instructed to give children a wide and varied education from whole, living books that spark the interest and emotions of the child. Charlotte Mason unfortunately did not give us a list of the best books or compose a checklist of what to look for in a living book. She did drop clues and treasures for us to find throughout her reading to help us find our way!

“Education is a life. That life is sustained on ideas. Ideas are of spiritual origin,
and God has made us so that we get them chiefly as we convey them to one another,whether by word of mouth, written page, Scripture word, musical symphony; but we must sustain a child’s inner life with ideas as we sustain his body with food.”

Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of Education

There are lots of fun, entertaining, well illustrated ‘information’ books out there for children, which may help with facts and figures but we want books that engage the child (and parent), awaken the emotions and cause further thought and dialogue to go on well after the story has finished

“For the children? They must grow up upon the best . . . There is never a time when they are unequal to worthy thoughts, well put; inspiring tales, well told. Let Blake’s ‘Songs of Innocence’ represent their standard in poetry DeFoe and Stevenson, in prose; and we shall train a race of readers who will demand literature—that is, the fit and beautiful expression of inspiring ideas and pictures of life.”

Charlotte Mason, Parents and Children


Eight questions I ask to determine whether I’m reading a ‘living book’

1. Is it written by one author?
2. Is the author passionate about the subject?
3. Is it well written?
4. Does it engage YOU within the first two pages?
5. Does it trigger other thoughts or make you think about others things you are learning?
6. Is it inspiring?
7. Is it in a conversational or narrative style?
8. Could you narrate from it?

As I have said, knowledge, that is, roughly, ideas clothed upon with facts, is the proper pabulum (bland or insipid intellectual matter, entertainment) for mind. This food a child requires in large quantities and in great variety. The wide syllabus I have in view is intended in every point to meet some particular demand of the mind.”

Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of education

2 thoughts on “Can You Tell Your Truth From Your Twaddle? Shedding The Light On Living Books

  1. Leah, thanks for this. It was exactly what I needed! Very helpful. Sooo much Mason to absorb. A couple of years ago, a friend and fellow homeschooler said she was attracted by the CM method and wanted us to read her works in a book discussion group. I think we just began on p.1 of vol. 1 and it was kinda overwhelming. My take-away about CM was that you need to get on a train and go out into the countryside for 6-8 hours of the day, and eat all of your dinners outside if you really love your children. Whenever anyone said they were a CM homeschooler, I just figured they were rockstars and way beyond my capabilities! So thank you for helping me to have a more well-rounded (and enjoyable, helpful, encouraging!) taste of what CM is all about. Have been loving it, esp via Periscope!

    1. Ahh that’s so good to hear – we have to ‘ get real’ and get to the roots together; it’s a beautiful and powerful philosophy of education that is not our of our reach! Glad this was helpful to you x x

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