Category Archives: Language Arts

Guest Article: “Just What IS a Living Book?”

Mother Reading to Sonby Suz Stewart
Guest Contributor

Charlotte Mason was a Victorian educational reformer. One of her biggest contributions to the world of education was the concept of using only “living” books in her classrooms. Many new homeschoolers, and homeschoolers new to Charlotte Mason’s methods, haven’t a clue what a living books is or how to spot one, however. This article will endeavor to rectify that situation.

A living book is defined as any book that is literary in nature. That is, it has the following attributes:

  • Engaging, interesting, lively text
  • Literary elements – plot, descriptive passages, poetic language
  • It has stood the test of time – it’s just as interesting to today’s reader as it was to its original audience
  • It has something to say, something to teach – a redeeming quality, a moral, a character builder – it asks something introspective of the reader

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Living Books and Reading Aloud

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Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren, 1888

One of the most valuable activities in our home is reading often and at length from good books, “living” books, chosen carefully for their literary value—interesting, educational and pleasurable to read.

I remember my grandmother baby-sitting me often when I was quite young due to my mother’s on-going health problems. Each night, Grandma would read one of the Beatrix Potter books to me. Those moments curled up, warm under the covers with Grandma sitting on a chair beside the guest bed reading delightful stories about Peter Rabbit, Tom Kitten, and Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle are some of the warmest and fondest memories I hold dear from my childhood.  Years later when reading those books to my own children, it evoked happiness in the deepest part of my being.

I started reading aloud to my children when they were just days old. I know they couldn’t understand what I was reading yet, but I knew that the love and care communicated to them by being held in my arms as I read softly to them was a gift beyond measure. By the time my children were about three-years-old, they were all able to sit and listen to chapter books like Charlotte’s Web or A.A. Milne’s classic Winnie-the-Pooh series.

For a list of twaddle-free literature by grade level, go to:  Debi’s Twaddle-free Reading List

I continued reading aloud to my children for as long as they were living in my home.  If my children ever have children, I hope to be able to read to my grandbabies someday, as well.

Once my kiddos were reading fluently on their own, they did their school work from their own books, but we still continued our family read aloud times just for the fun of it. I think all the reading aloud in our home did wonders for our family. It served as a treasured family activity, a foundation for a love for great literature in the children, a means for developing a stronger command of the language, and an avenue for increasing listening skills.

Reading aloud was always a cornerstone of our family time and homeschooling adventures.

Just my humble thoughts — following a quarter century of homeschooling — for what it’s worth.

~Debi



Building Vocabulary

Much like spelling and grammar, the best way to teach vocabulary words to your children is by reading, Reading, READING!  Do NOT spend money or waste your time on any sort of vocabulary building curriculum.

For me, the following two tips have been the secret in our homeschooling to vocabulary building.  People frequently commented throughout my children’s years growing up about what large vocabularies they all had.  And still do.

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Spelling with Charlotte Mason’s Dictation Method

by Sheila Carroll
Guest Contributor

Are you a cracker-jack speller? Or, does the subject of spelling produce a groan? Most people struggle with spelling.  Likely it is because they were not taught to picture the word before spelling it.

Charlotte Mason, an English educational reformer, had one of the best ideas I have come across of teaching children to spell by seeing the words before they spell them.  Ms. Mason felt that the secret of spelling lay in the habit of visualizing words from memory.   Continue reading

Simple Language Arts Ideas

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by Deborah Taylor-Hough

Narration is the process of telling back what has been learned or read. Narrations are usually done orally, but as the child grows older (around age 12) and his writing skills increase, the narrations can be written as well. Narration can also be accomplished creatively: painting, drawing, sculpting, play-acting, etc. Continue reading