The wind chilled us to bone, but we trudged on, enduring the cold so we could rescue the lost princess. Would more danger await us? We would face each adventure with renewed courage! We were lost in the story snuggled up on the couch, unaware of time. Living books are more than just a teaching tool. Timeless literature nourishes the soul.
Our shelves are filled with classic literature and living books in every genre. Everyone in my family loves to get lost in a good book. We have gone on adventures around the world and throughout time and history.
Can you actually learn while having so much fun?
We use living books as the foundation of learning in our home. Though we use some textbooks and workbooks, the majority of learning comes from inside the covers of a good book.
In fact, most of our homeschooling budget is spent on books, rather than curriculum and we know our way around all the used book stores in our town.
We love classics.
We read Little House in the Big Woods, The Cricket in Times Square, Dr. Doolittle, Lad A Dog, Little Women, Oliver Twist, Freckles, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, The Hawk that Dare Not Hunt by Day, Gentle Ben, Otto of the Silver Hand, and The Dragon and the Ravon. Books of this caliber still up a hunger in my children to read books that are substantial, enriching their vocabulary and instilling a love of what is good.
When our children get to high school they read and discuss Wealth of the Nations, Mere Christianity, City of God, Federalist Papers, Anti-Federalist Papers, Plimoth Plantation, God in the Dock, and How Then Shall We Live. These are books that have changed the world. I want my children to know what they say.
You can download our FREE book lists here.
Living books go beyond engaging the mind to engage the heart. They stir up questions and deep thinking.
Another thing that engages the heart is hands-on learning.
Unit Study Fun
We love to learn with unit studies or add unit study fun to all studies. We simply make it practical and try to make it real through hands-on projects, experiments, acting it out, crafting, cooking, baking, painting, creating a radio sew, sewing, giving a speech, making a PowerPoint, looking at photos, watching a movie, creating a video, making a newspaper, writing a magazine article, writing a poem, or singing songs. Integrating these different things into one topic of study helps children make connections in their brain pathways so that information is easier to remember months later. I don’t want my children to study for a test and forget everything they learn a week later, I want them to remember what they learn and have a continual thirst for knowledge and wisdom.
For example, pretend that we are learning about cats. We draw pictures of cats, read books about cats, play with cats, watch kittens be born, take care of cats, visit a cat show, visit cats at the humane society, and sew a stuffed cat. We might even make homemade cat food for our favorite feline. The information is mixed up in all the hands-on fun so it’s easy to remember all that we learn.
When we learn about volcanoes, we read books on volcanoes, watch volcano explosions on YouTube, make a model of a volcano, draw a map with the ring of fire, look at diagrams of how volcanoes explode, look at volcanic soil, discover the stories behind different volcanic explosions.
Many times our studies start with a good book. Robin Hood is a great book for learning about a fascinating time in English history with Eleanor of Aquitaine and her sons Richard the Lionheart and King John, as well as the Crusades, signing of the Magna Charta, chivalry, knights, castles, jousting, tournaments, monks, monasteries, archery, and feasting. We ended up learning to shoot with a bow and arrow, jousting with pool noodles, hosting a Medieval Banquet, studying the Magna Charta and its relation to our freedom documents in America, building a castle of cardboard boxes, and dressing up as ladies and lords. And it all started with a good book.
Studying Geography with Living Books & Unit Study Fun
Geography Unit studies are our favorite. We choose a country and find it on a map. We go to the library and check out books about our country, hopefully including a work of literature. We even check out travel guides to our country and figure out what places we would like to visit. We watch travel videos and documentaries about our country. We try to meet people from our country or who have visited our country. We discover the food, fashion, religion, music, and art popular in our country. We enjoy a traditional meal, make a craft, and try a dance from our country. We paint the flag, draw a map, and look at coins. We even figure out how much it would cost to visit our country.
Our favorite thing to do is discover who is sharing Jesus with all of the people in our chosen country. What missionaries and pastors have made an impact? Are their missionaries still there? We love to pray for our nation that all of its people will come to know the saving and healing power of Jesus.
When we are finished, we haven’t just learned about another nation, we feel like we’ve “experienced” it!
We have discovered beautiful stories set in other countries through our unit studies: The Singing Tree (Hungary), Heidi (Switzerland), Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates (Netherlands), Anne of Green Gables (Canada), The Swiss Family Robinson (Oceania), and The Secret Garden (England).
Studying American History with Living Books & Unit Study Fun
When we use a textbook for American history, we find living books to read alone and together for each period of history: Exploration, Colonial Times, Revolution, Early America, Pioneers, Civil War, Wild West, Victorian Times, Turn of the Century, World War I, Great Depression, World War II, and all the decades that followed up to today. We love to explore history through reading good books.
We also love to explore history through hands-on unit study fun. While we read books for each time period, we also look at art works and listen to music. Fashion has been fun for the girls and acting out battles for the boys.
Everyone loves to explore different time periods with crafts, cooking, and baking. When we study pioneer times, we churn butter, cross-stitch a sampler, and make a simple quilt.
When we are learning about Victorian times, we love to have tea with our best china, enjoying scones, cookies, and tea sandwiches. Of course the girls and I have to dress up like the Victorian ladies.
Unit study fun involves field trips, too.
Since we live in Florida, we are able to visit the oldest continuously inhabited city in North America (founded by the Spanish) and some Spanish missions that were all founded during the times of the explorers. Moving forward in time, there are old cattle ranches, plantation museums, pioneer museums, and Seminole Indian reservations. As we get study the 1960s and 1970s, we can travel an hour and a half to Cape Kennedy to see the rockets and learn about space and the historical space race. We love to take field trips when we can.
On our vacations, we make sure to take in the sights. We’ve seen Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Colonial Williamsburg, and Teddy Roosevelt’s family home. There is so much to see! Those visits are a great for remembering right before you study the topic. “Do you remember when we visited Independence Hall? Well, today we are talking about the Second Continental Congress.”
I prayed for years that I would be able to take my children to London to see the British museum and all of the historical cathedrals and sights in that beautiful city. Finally, one day, I was able to take my three oldest daughters. We visited the Prince Albert Opera House, Shakespeare Globe Theatre, the British Library which held old Gutenberg Bibles and other Bible copies by hand, the Westminster Cathedral where monarchs are crowned and buried, St. Paul’s Cathedral designed by Christopher Wren after London burned in the Great Fire, and the British Museum. The British Museum allowed us to see the Rosetta Stone, mummies from Egypt, Ancient Persian doors, and antiquities too numerous to count. It was thrilling!
By then, my girls were adults, but they were fascinated by all they saw and learned about. As we visited the Tower of London they listened intently to the stories of those who had been imprisoned there. When we toured Kensington Palace, they eagerly listened to the story of William III and Mary II’s love story. Even after graduation, they still had a love of learning. I am thrilled! Because isn’t that the most important part of a good education? To instill a love of learning. In our experience, Living Books and Unit Study Fun have played a huge role in instilling a love of learning in our children.
God bless you & Happy Homeschooling!
Warmly, Meredith Curtis
Meredith Curtis, homeschooling mom, writer, speaker, and publisher, loves to encourage families in their homeschooling adventure. She is the author of Travel God’s World Geography curriculum, HIS Story of the 20th Century, Ancient History Timeline, American History Timeline, American History Cookbook, Let’s Have Our Own Medieval Banquet, and Travel God’s World Cookbook. You can check out her books, curricula, unit studies, and Bible studies at PowerlineProd.com. Free Reading Lists for all ages are available at JSHomeschooling.com. Read her blogs at MeredithCurtis.com and PowerlineProd.com and listen to her podcast atFinish Well Podcast