In this post I am going to share 5 easy, effective and practical strategies that you can start doing now for incorporating Charlotte Mason practices and living literature into your homeschool curriculum.
But first, why would you want to use Charlotte Mason practices and living literature in the first place?
Good literature is powerful.
I’ve always loved good books, so when I discovered that the Charlotte Mason curriculum used good literature instead of textbooks, I was intrigued. When I discovered that the Brave Writer curriculum is Charlotte Mason inspired, I was hooked on learning about the Charlotte Mason method and Brave Writer lifestyle so that I could use this in our homeschool.
Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy heavily emphasised the use of living literature as a cornerstone of the curriculum. Through her emphasis on high-quality books, meaningful reading experiences, and the practice of narration, Mason sought to nurture a love for literature, promote language development, and foster a rich and engaging learning experience for children.
I wanted to tap into that power to educate my children—the power of good literature.
Living Literature is a term coined by the 19th century British Educator, Charlotte Mason. She believed that children should be exposed to living books. She defined living books as books that have literary quality, engage the imagination, and provide first-hand experiences of the world.
Charlotte Mason advocated for a literature-based approach to education, emphasising the use of living books across different subjects, not just for English.
According to Mason, living literature should be chosen carefully, ensuring that the books are well-written, contain rich language, and present ideas and themes that are valuable for children’s moral and intellectual development.
She encouraged educators to select books that were written by authors who had a genuine passion for their subjects and could effectively communicate their ideas to young readers. She believed in exposing children to the best literature available, rather than relying solely on textbooks or simplified versions of books.
Charlotte Mason’s approach to living literature involved immersing children in a wide range of genres and styles, including classic literature, biographies, historical fiction, and poetry.
Mason argued that through exposure to living literature, children would develop a love for reading, expand their vocabulary, improve their writing skills, and engage in thoughtful discussions and analysis of the texts.
Also, Mason emphasised the importance of narration in working with living literature. She believed that children should have the opportunity to retell or narrate what they have read, allowing them to internalise and process the information in a meaningful way. This process of narration not only solidifies comprehension but also helps children develop language skills and the ability to articulate their thoughts effectively.
The Brave Writer program also uses living literature to expose our children to well-crafted writing, diverse perspectives, and the power of storytelling.
Similar to Charlotte Mason, Brave Writer encourages the practice of narration. Students are encouraged to retell or summarise what they have read, fostering comprehension, critical thinking, and the development of oral and written language skills.
Brave Writer incorporates the concept of freewriting, which aligns with Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of allowing children to express themselves freely in their writing. Additionally, the Brave Writer lifestyle encourages nature journalling and outdoor observations, aligning with Charlotte Mason’s belief in the benefits of spending time in nature for inspiration and learning.
If you have been reading some of my other articles on English in our homeschool (“5 Products That Give Your Child a Strong Writing Foundation“, “How to Write Stories: Step 1 – Freewrite!“), you will know that I love the Brave Writer lifestyle. I love it because at the heart of their Charlotte Mason inspired program is their use of living literature and having conversations with our kids.
I believe because of Brave Writer practices, my kids are confident writers. They revel in playing with words and techniques to create different effects in their writing.
I have seen enormous growth in my kids’ understanding of literature and their ability to discuss it. This is all happening through a planned exposure to a variety of literary genres. Best of all, our family has created bonds through reading.
After several years of using living literature as a family and using this to do copywork, summarise, discuss, and analyse novels, I can affirm that this practice has done a brilliant job of laying the foundation for literary analysis required for English Language GCSEs. My two older kids have gained skills and knowledge in a “brick by brick” fashion over the years and are able to recognise and analyse literary elements and concepts.
We have used Brave Writer practices throughout our homeschooling journey, and still apply their principles even when we aren’t using specific Brave Writer products. This is because it works. It works without it feeling like hard work. It works for any age.
You can also start incorporating these practices in your homeschool no matter what curriculum you are currently using.
I am going to share 5 Charlotte Mason/ Brave writer inspired learning habits that will help to develop a strong writing voice in your child and forge a connection with literature in your homeschool.
At age five, our kids’ imaginations run wild. They are creative and funny and clever.
Their handwriting, grasp of grammar, spelling, however, are almost non-existent. By using Charlotte Mason/ Brave Writer principles, you can bridge this gap by capturing your child’s thoughts for them before they can write it on their own.
Don’t underestimate the power of this practice. When you read their retelling/ story back to them and share it other family members, you are validating their efforts as a writer. This shows that you value their thoughts and it also develops a strong writing foundation. It also gives a huge boost to their confidence and their belief in themselves that what they say is worth saying.
When children begin to write with ease, continue this practice, where they capture their thoughts by freewriting. Freewriting, where children write for a set time without having to think about proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling use, allows thoughts and ideas to flow freely onto paper. This builds writing fluency by allowing them to write without interruptions or self-editing.
Freewriting encourages children to write continuously for a set period, focusing on capturing thoughts and ideas as they come. Through regular practice, they will naturally become more comfortable and fluent in expressing their thoughts in writing. By giving our children permission to write freely, they can discover their natural writing style and develop a voice that is true to who they are as writers.
While it’s great that children get to practice their writing voice by freewriting, at some point, proper handwriting, grammar, punctuation and spelling usage does need to be addressed.
Choose living literature to read as a family. While the kids are young, this can be done as a read aloud. When the kids are older, everyone can read at their own pace and just come together during the week. As you read living literature, choose a really good passage, and then explore with your children what makes that passage good. Choose a section that contains an outstanding sentence structure, punctuation mark, grammatical element or literary devise that you want your children to learn. Discuss what you want to focus on. What makes that passage worth reading? What elements in that passage can we copy to use in our own writing to make it better?
Use that passage for copywork to practice handwriting and so that your children can internalise the writing elements in that passage. Use the passage for dictation so your children can practice their spelling and punctuation rules.
As you read living literature, highlight and discuss unfamiliar words with your child. As a family use these words in your everyday conversations and writing.
Living literature provides an abundance of inspiration for writing activities. Encourage your child to write book reviews, character analyses, and summaries. Create journal prompts related to the themes of the books they read. Engage in creative writing exercises where your child can write their own stories or alternate endings to the books.
Extend the learning beyond the pages of the book by incorporating hands-on projects. For example, if your child reads a historical novel, create a timeline or a diorama depicting a scene from the story. If they read a fantasy book, encourage them to create a map of the imaginary world. These projects allow children to engage with the text in a multidimensional way and further develop their understanding and creativity.
As you can see, these Charlotte Mason inspired Brave Writer practices emphasises the importance of growing a writing voice before kids can even write. They emphasise original thought before the kids can even read.
These practices are an awesome way to grow writers. This is why I love the Charlotte Mason philosophy and the Brave Writer lifestyle.
If you already use Charlote Mason methods or the Brave Writer lifestyle, what’s your favourite aspect of it?
If you don’t use Charlotte Mason methods or the Brave writer lifestyle, which practice do you think you might like to try in your homeschool?