Read Books ~ When All Else Fails

Social Studies (Carla Bley album)

Living Books are the

golden threads” in our learning.

This past week I had an epiphany ~

good books have provided my children the most valuable education!

But, let me go back a little and explain …

Earlier this year my 12-year-old-now-nearly-13-teen floundered in my ‘wonderful’ Charlotte Mason education.  I wrote about our stresses and struggles and how I felt like such a failure.

Your kind comments overwhelmed me.

I simply relieved my daughter from some CM subjects and she focussed purely on her academics. (She no longer actively takes part in many of the Fine Arts lessons, but I’m sure that she absorbs her younger sister’s music and art appreciation lessons, the poetry and the Shakespeare plays.)

Most of her Footprints Into the 21st Century curriculum is literature-based. She spends many hours simply reading good books.

But, still, I worried.  I was still unhappy to see her listlessly “going through the motions” instead of connecting with her subject, let alone savoring it! (And I’m not alone. Jimmie also shared of her daughter’s changed approach.)

Would she be ready for the standards and approaches used in our Delta correspondence high school curriculum next year?


Last week, when she completed her Maths textbook I went to a local academic book store to find a new Grade 8 textbook.

To my dismay, they only supplied textbooks for the current OBE education in the South African government schools.  (This system – Outcomes Based Education – has been an absolute failure … but let me not digress.)
After 20 minutes I chose the one which seemed the best.

When I got home and took my time looking through the book, I was appalled.

It was complete drivel. Total twaddle. Not one single mathematical concept explained. Not a single theory, principle, or equation in the book. Not a single example followed by an exercise.  How does anyone learn maths from this?

I would not keep the book and the store would not refund me.  I had to exchange it for any other book from the same publishers.  Despite their thick catalogue, and much more careful examination of the sample books on the bookstore’s shelves, I could not find anything worth exchanging.

Their Social Studies book dismayed me.

Not a single photograph or accurate map …  instead they had fuzzy pencil sketch copies of photos.

Not a single quote …  just ridiculous, over-simplified explanations of the period in history summed up in 3 paragraphs, followed by 3 questions &/or activities to be done with a friend or in a group OBE-style.

This is when it stuck me!

My children know much more about the historical events, the culture, lifestyle, and important people from their living books!

Even if my junior-high daughter just ticks off her schedule and completes her tasks, simply because she reads excellent books, she will have absorbed 1000 times more than a child who has read a textbook.

And I should have given more credit to the power of reading!

I’ve written that read alouds are the Homeschool Glue.

I have seen the power of reading an excellent book to ignite thoughts, inspire the imagination, develop vocabulary, motivate action, and define character.

At its most basic, if our children read living books, they will grow and learn!

This is why I love a Charlotte Mason-inspired-literature-based education.

How have living books taught your children? Any thoughts about textbooks? Share with us in the comments.


This post is part of the upcoming Charlotte Mason Carnival ~  “What we love most about a Charlotte Mason education“.  To join the carnival, visit Amy at Fisher Academy International this Tuesday, September 4.

15 thoughts on “Read Books ~ When All Else Fails

  1. Pingback: Tip ~ Bedtime Moments | Practical Pages

  2. Hi Nadene. I love what you’ve written about read aloud being “the glue” I can see that, and aspire to make it our glue as well. But, I struggle to find a time when we can read aloud with out the distraction of my darling, yet needy two year old, do you have any thoughts? Can I ask how you did read alouds with young kids? I have an 8, 6, 5 and 2 year old. I love this idea of reading as a family, but haven’t yet been able to make it successful. What time do you read? And, for about how long? Thanks so much, I’m so glad I came across your blog!


    • @Stephanie, what a great question! I’m sure there are hundreds of other moms with young, active toddlers who also distract older kids and have short attention spans. Have you tried reading during your toddler’s nap-time? My young kids love me to read aloud while they play on the floor. They play with quiet games or activities like playdough or coloring-in, fine-motor activities such as beading, sorting or stacking. Paper dolls, dressing real dolls, building puzzles … (Scratching through Lego makes too much noise!)
      Some days are just too busy. Try reading aloud during meal-times, at or after bath-time, and I still read aloud one-on-one with my 10-year-old at bedtime.
      How long depends on age and stage of the group – most schedules cover a chapter at a time, but be guided by the intensity of the reading, your children’s concentration span, how tired or hungry they may be. I often stop mid-way on a “cliff-hanger” where the kids beg me to “carry on!” This is a great motivation to pay attention the next day when the book comes out.
      Chose a fun book to start! Keep them giggling, searching pictures for clues, finding the hiding character, make sound effects, or whatever keeps them engaged!
      If the book doesn’t “click”, put it away and find something different. Hope these tips help!


  3. I have a slightly similar story in that my almost 11 yr old seems to have lost his love of learning. As I fretted and wrung my hands and reviewed our style/curriculum choices, I finally went to wise hubby. We pin-pointed it to me being unhappy. You see, this year we moved and, to be more helpful to me, my hubby wanted to help play a more active role and help pick some stuff that would take “planning” off my plate.

    I realized that I like planning and pouring over reading selections and I hadn’t set up a good “strewing” groove at our new house. I tweaked our schedule and strewed…A LOT!!! And then I noticed it. My reluctant learner started disappearing with all the books and devouring them. Livivg books still win out even when we all have such different schedules/learning styles!


    • @Amy,thanks for sharing your story! It helps to find the source of the “problem” and then trust the Lord for His simple remedy! What a joy for you to find your son reading so happily!


  4. I just read your abou me page. I know, silly, but I just got around to it. I was a bit curious about all the artisic things you post, so I thought I would read a bit more about you. *smile* I didn’t know you were in Africa using Charlotte’s ideas. I wish you all the best in that. Our children read very well and pour through our books faster than I ever have. Keeping them in good reading material is my newest challenge. I am watching what others post for their reading materials and then researching what they have found. I am also sticking whith what I know is good from Rod and Staff. *smile* I wish for you, a good year of homeschooling and that the Lord will open your eyes to the curriculum He would have you use in the comming year. Go in peace. Mommy of two growing blessings & so much more!


    • @Blessings, thank you for your kind cyber-friendship and for your blessings – I am confident that the Lord leads and guides us on our homeschooling journey! Much joy to you and your family this year too! 🙂


  5. We are reading only living books. : ) My 11 year old daughter has taken to carrying around 3 books at a time, just in case she finishes one while were out of the house (we do take long drives). But what I like most for this school year is that we found a MATH living book series called “Life of Fred”. It teaches all of the needed math concepts all the way from addition up to Trigonometry and Calculus, BUT it is written by a retired High school and College math teacher that loved math! Instead of the dry words and lessons in a normal math book, He teaches the same lesson using a fun little character named Fred and incorporates other interesting topics like Archimedes the great mathematician, other languages, history, geography, and weaves them in a story that shows Fred’s need for these as you learn how to do them. We think it’s great and it’s taken our kids from dreading math to doing 3 lessons a day!


  6. Sometimes…just sometimes…we forget. 🙂 For my dd’s first year of a CM education I second guessed my choices and went with a text book. I’ll not do that ever again! (Unfortunately, I did it more than once.) My dd especially has gained so much more from living books than all the text books. I think math is our only textbook now. Let’s hope I don’t forget again.


    • @Blossom, [smiles] “nothing is cast in stone”, but textbooks are a poor substitute for real reading and discovery. Some subjects, children’s ages & stages, and some approaches do require textbooks, although, as Barb so wisely suggested, use it as a jumping-off point.


  7. Literature has always been a constant in our home schooling. My daughter’s grasp of history, people and events always astounds me. We will be chatting at the dinner table about a composer or writer and she can spout off what was happening in history at that time. History here has always been reading great literature. Love it!


I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.