Boy reading a pop-up book in a bookstore

Reading Living Books versus Textbooks

I recently checked out a book from the library called Invitation to the Classics by Louise Cowan and Os Guinness. As I was looking through the book, it brought to mind different excerpts I had been assigned to read from English textbooks through the years as part of my public school education.

Unfortunately, it also made me realize how few actual BOOKS we read for class. I only remember reading one full book a year in 7th grade and 8th grade, one of which was “Where the Red Fern Grows”… and that was about it. And in high school we only had to read 2 or 3 books each year. The rest of the time we read excerpts from textbooks.

I started out doing the same thing with my boys – having them read textbook readers because that’s the method of learning that was familiar to me. I had heard the terms “classical education” and “living books” and was very intrigued.

Living books are defined by Charlotte Mason as “whole books, firsthand sources, classics, books that display imagination, originality, and those having the ‘human touch.’” The thought of having my children learn by reading real books was very appealing to me. It was also very scary to think that I wouldn’t be following a “professional’s” educational standards (i.e., teacher’s manuals).

So I started our homeschool experience using textbooks and teacher’s manuals and felt safe. That is, until my sons started to complain about how they didn’t like to read. They had always LOVED it when I read to them so I was shocked to think that they might not grow up to be readers themselves.

When my oldest son found a book he enjoyed reading on his own and devoured it, but still complained about the reading I was making him do for schoolwork, I knew something needed to change.

Now that I’ve switched my boys to reading real books, they are enjoying it so much more. They beg to read additional chapters every day. They never wanted to continue reading when we were using textbooks – and they were reading LESS pages in the textbooks. Reading living books has transformed our homeschool experience.

I highly recommend throwing out some of the textbooks and picking up some regular books instead. We do use a textbook for math – but that’s it. I can’t tell you how much more my boys are enjoying school since we’ve made the switch! Take a leap, give it a try, and reap the rewards.

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