Q&A: Choosing Books

by Catherine Levison
Guest Contributor


“I’ve been hard at work planning our new school year and I think I’m making it more complicated than it needs to be, trying to find the ‘perfect’ books that ‘can’t miss.’  I was worried that we’d get bored reading the same books over and over. My kids are very close together (four children in a five year spread), and even a good book gets old if you read it over four times in a row!  I’d like to stay away from a set curriculum, which is more like Charlotte Mason anyway, as you say.  I’d just like to ask a question for clarification. Does this mean that you’ve studied history all together from the same books, and so then the younger ones may begin in the middle of the ‘cycle?’ I’d been considering trying something like that, but I wondered if the little ones would get left behind.”


Finding the “right” book can be a huge burden, that’s for certain. Interesting books come in all shapes and sizes and have been printed in all different decades.  Mainly, the idea is to take the book and sample pages from it. Regardless of the topic it is covering, its content ought to make you say, “Hey, this is great, I can’t wait to read
this book!”

As far as younger children joining in mid-stream, so to speak, that’s just the way it is when home schooling multi-age levels. That’s the big difference between home education where everybody is a different age compared with the “classroom” where the students are all the same age and they are going to cycle through to the next level and that new teacher expects them to be prepared.

As I write this, my eyes fell upon the books on the desk here. I’ll share the titles:

  • The French Revolution by Thomas Carlyle
  • Child’s History of England by Charles Dickens
  • History of Julius Caesar by Abblot
  • Madam How and Lady Why by Kingsley
  • Squirrels and other Furbearers by John Burroughs

These books are held up by two bookends and nobody’s using them right now — they’re just sitting there kind of decorating the desk top. However, my point is this: The titles. Three different histories from three different times and three different countries. Plus two science books. If the books are interesting, then why not pick them up and read them to the children? It doesn’t matter to me how old each child is, we simply choose a topic and proceed. We like that approach — it’s relaxed but it’s also based on good books which is the primary Charlotte Mason goal.

I hope that may be of help to both relieve your worries and encourage you to go forward regardless of what the younger children haven’t yet been exposed to. I don’t think we leave them behind, rather I think we bring them along to new levels each time we read interesting reading material combined with a slight challenge of their minds — it’s a good balance.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Catherine Levison — long-time homeschooling mother of five and popular conference speaker to parenting and educational audiences throughout the USA and Canada — is the author of several books on Charlotte Mason-style home education.  You can visit Catherine Levison’s Amazon Author page here:  Levison on Amazon

You can order Levison’s books online at:

  1. A Charlotte Mason Education: A How-to Manual
  2. More Charlotte Mason Education
  3. A Literary Education: An Annotated Book List

NOTE: Stop by and “Like” Charlotte Mason Home Education on Facebook!  :-)

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