Ultimate List of Living Books Based Curriculum

by Jimmie Lanley on August 9, 2012

Ultimate List of Living Books Based Homeschool Curriculum

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Looking for a curriculum that fits with a Charlotte Mason homeschool? One that is full of living books? Start with this list, and work your way down the options. There are all types of living books curricula. Some are highly scheduled with reading and writing assignments; others are as simple as classic books listed in chronological order. Some have a Christian worldview that is integral to the program; others are more neutral and can easily be adapted for secular homeschoolers. Some are pricey while others are very affordable.

Multi-subject Curriculum with Living Books

The curricula listed here are history based programs. But besides history, they can count for language arts and possibly other areas as well. (For example, Illuminations, Winter Promise, and Sonlight have science materials.) Visit the websites for detailed information about what is and is not included. As a general rule, math is not included in these kinds of curricula. (Curricula are in alphabetical order.)

Beautiful Feet Books ‡

Beautiful Feet is one of the oldest living books curricula for homeschoolers. The simple, no-frills approach has stood the test of time and remains an affordable and quality curriculum choice. A study guide lists the assignments for reading, discussion, notebooking, timelines, and research. More of a guide than a schedule, Beautiful Feet is good for homeschoolers who want a general plan for history and reading without a lot of fluff.

Topics include American History, Ancient History, History of the Horse, Geography, History of Classical Music, Character, and Medieval Ages and range from elementary school through high school. The study guides do incorporate Bible verses and Christian values.

Blessed Heritage

Belinda Bullard is the author of this living books curriculum that focuses on the African American contribution to American history. Blessed Heritage breaks down American history into four years of curriculum, each full of historical novels, biographies, and living books.


BookShark is owned by the same parent company as Sonlight and is based on the same love of living books. Their Reading with History programs cover different periods of history through high quality, non-fiction books and historical fiction. In contrast to Sonlight, however, BookShark has no faith-based content. It is a secular curriculum scheduled around a 4-day school week.

Epi Kardia Curriculum

Epi Kardia are the Greek words meaning at the heart. This Christian curriculum includes plans for grades K to 12 and covers Bible, history, science, reading, English, and fine arts. Weekly lesson plans outline what to read and cover each day for an entire year.

Five in a Row (FIAR)

Five in a Row is a literature-based unit study curriculum with Christian character supplements for children ages 2 to 12. For children 12 and up, there is a curriculum called Above & Beyond FIAR. The studies include math, science, art, history, and language arts.

Heart of Dakota

Heart of Dakota includes plans for ages 2-18. This Christ-centered homeschool curriculum can be used with multiple ages at the same time. It has a science portion and a history portion and also includes everything you need from math to language arts. HOD’s history sequence begins with American history and saves ancient history for older children. The website is very thorough.

Heritage History ‡

Heritage History is at its core living history books. Because the classic titles have been digitally formatted for modern eReaders and computers, Heritage History is a highly affordable history option. A single curriculum CD ($25) has the full text of around fifty different books plus maps, timeline outlines, and teaching aids. (Of course, you need a computer or preferably an eReader to access the books.)

Heritage History does not outline what or how to teach. There is no schedule, so it is great for a mom who likes to make her own plans. It can be used for history, language arts, and geography at all grade levels from elementary to high school.

Illuminations by Bright Ideas Press ‡

Using The Mystery of History and All American History as a base, Illuminations is a complete curriculum with lots of living books and an emphasis on notebooking, especially through the use of graphic organizers. There are options for preK children to sit in with older siblings, and materials are available all the way through high school.

The only thing Illuminations does not include is math. It fully covers language arts with grammar, writing, vocabulary, and literature as well as science and the fine arts. The schedule is very detailed, outlining day by day lessons. But Illuminations is fully customizable too because of a unique, digital schedule grid. A Christian worldview is woven into all of Illuminations.


Konos integrates hands-on activities into a unit study approach that relies heavily on living books. The lesson plans cover elementary science, literature, history, Bible, arts, writing, and geography at all levels, including high school. Math, spelling and grammar are not covered in Konos. Konos is a Christian curriculum and deals extensively with character issues.

Learning Adventures

Learning Adventures was created by a homeschool mom. This Christian unit study program studies history in chronological order, including all subjects, even some basic music and art history. (Math is not included.)  The main program is for grades 4-8 with add on sets for K-3. The living books can be borrowed from the library, making Learning Adventures an affordable option.       (Thanks to reader Melissa for pointing out Learning Adventures.)

Living Books Curriculum

LBC offers plans for Kindergarten through eighth grade. Except for math, the complete curriculum packages include everything — even art, nature, and music. The teacher’s guides contain weekly schedules that tell you exactly what to read and do. It is a very Charlotte Mason-friendly curriculum with a foundation based on narration and living books. On the website, you can download complete booklists for each grade plus sample weekly plans. LBC is written from a Christian worldview.

Moving Beyond the Page

Moving Beyond the Page is a homeschool curriculum for gifted learners that emphasizes good literature and hands-on discovery. Packages are available for ages 5-11.

My Father’s World

MFW is a mix of Charlotte Mason, Classical, and unit study approaches in a curriculum that has plans for preschool through highschool. It can work with one child or an entire family of children. Bible is integrated into the history, literature, and science studies. The curriculum plans are complete except for math. The book lists used for MFW are not available without purchase of the teacher guides.

Noah Plan

The Noah Plan is based on the Principle approach of education and thus is inherently Christian in worldview. The Bible is integrated into every academic area. It covers grades K-12 and includes literature, history, geography, arts, French, Latin, math, and science. Notebooking features prominently in this curriculum plan.


Sonlight has established a good reputation for enjoyable living books and a rigorous course of study. Sonlight is based on history but has options for complete packages that include science, language arts, Bible, and read alouds for grades preK through high school. Although expensive, a Sonlight curriculum package contributes to a home library that you will enjoy for years to come.

Sonlight’s Instructor Guides include four and five day schedules with detailed assignments and discussion guides.  Oral narration and timelines are hallmarks of Sonlight’s approach.

Tapestry of Grace

TOG is structured in a Classical way with a 4-year history cycle: ancient, medieval to modern, 19th century, 20th century to present. The idea is that in 12 years of education, a child cycles through this four year pattern three times, each time with greater depth. TOG is great for teaching multiple grade levels with the same history base because teaching schedules are included for four levels of learner: lower grammar, upper grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric . The schedules are detailed and include history, literature, arts, poetry, and Christian worldview.

TOG is highly detailed and offers abundant options. For that reason, many find it overwhelming. But those who persevere to understand the program seem to really love it.

Winter Promise ‡

Winter Promise is sometimes described as a gentler cousin of Sonlight. Like most history based living books programs, Winter Promise has American history, ancient history, and middle ages themes. But WP has some unique topics such as Children Around the World and Adventures in Sea and Sky. This curriculum has add-on versions to make a plan adaptable for older or younger siblings so that an entire family can study the same theme.

Winter Promise is expensive because it has so many living books, but again, they are books you will enjoy for years to come. The instructor’s guides are highly detailed with specific activities for every day of the school year. Winter Promise integrates hands-on activities and crafts more than any other living books curriculum I’ve ever seen. It also implements notebooking and timelines.

WP is written by Christians. Some of the programs are saturated with Christian worldview, while others merely have an added on Bible portion.

Living Books Resource Worth a Mention

All Through the Ages

Less of a curriculum than a book list, All Through the Ages helps you create your own study of history by outlining quality living books for different time periods and reading levels. If you like total freedom with curriculum planning, this resource is a good one.

TruthQuest History

TruthQuest guides are self-paced and designed for multi-level teaching. Historical background, reading suggestions, and narration activities form the backbone of this resource.

Completely Free Programs based on Public Domain Books

Ambleside Online

AO is the purest CM education you can find. Most of the book choices are titles that were available during Miss Mason’s time. AO covers all grade levels and provides a rigorous education for very low cost if you are willing to download books from the public domain.

An Old Fashioned Education

The creator of OFE wanted something more structured than Ambleside offers. Her full curriculum plans include schedules, book lists, and even links to the online texts for twelve years of school. Absolutely free.

All in One Homeschool

Here is a description from the creator, Lee:

My free online curriculum uses books from Ambleside and Robinson booklists for English as well as some history and some science. It takes those books and adds 180 days of lessons including writing, grammar, etc. The curriculum uses only free materials and covers all the subjects including reading, grammar, writing, spelling, vocabulary, math, history, geography, science, music, art, health, PE, computer, Bible and logic. It’s a great curriculum for anyone needing to save time and/or money and for those who want to cover all the bases and still have time left in the day for your children to pursue their interests and passions.

Science Curriculum with Living Books

The area of science is an especial challenge for finding a living books approach. Here are some excellent choices.

Elemental Science

Elemental Science offers plans for preK through eighth grade. Four sciences are covered:  earth science, physics, chemistry, and biology. The curriculum has an emphasis notebooking and of course living books. Lapbook unit studies that are based on living books are also available.

Noeo Science ‡

Noeo covers three sciences –physics, chemistry, and biology. Each area has 2 levels for a total of 6 choices. Experiments and notebooking are incorporated into the yearly schedule.

NaturExplorers ‡

These nature unit studies are for elementary aged children (grades 1-8) and are meant to form the springboard of outdoor explorations. Each guide includes worksheets or notebooking pages to guide the study. Suggested book lists of quality picture books and living science books are an  integral part of each guide.  Among the nineteen different areas of nature, here are a few of the available topics: animal signs, birds, butterflies, clouds, erosion, creeks, rocks, ponds, fungus, conifers, spiders, wildflowers, etc.


‡ indicates a curriculum I have used

This post contains affiliate links.

If you have suggestions for a curriculum that you feel should be included in this list, please leave a comment here.

This post is part of the Ultimate Guides Link Up by iHomeschool Network. For more epic posts like this one, visit the complete list of Ultimate posts by clicking on the image.


{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

shifra August 9, 2012 at 8:14 am

Wow! This is a beautifully detailed list of books helpful to any and every homeschooling family! Thanks so much!


Jennifer G. Miller August 9, 2012 at 12:29 pm

There are two that I don’t see mentioned here:

Tanglewood http://www.tanglewoodeducation.com/ and Mater Amabilis http://materamabilis.org/ma/ (which I use extensively).

I also think Penny Gardner’s book and site, and also Catherine Levison’s books have enough to build a whole curriculum plan from them.


Christy August 9, 2012 at 1:30 pm

What a great list! Thank you for compiling it. Have you considered adding any materials from Queen Homeschool? They have GREAT CM styled materials. We love them.


Jennifer August 9, 2012 at 2:04 pm

I agree, this is going to be awesome! Can’t wait to use them, thanks for sharing in advance!!!


Rebecca August 9, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Oh, This is a great list – some of my favorites and a few I have never heard of! Thanks, Jimmie


Joan August 9, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Jimmie, this is an EXCELLENT list. I appreciate you taking the time to put it together! I admit I have kind of “done my own thing” where living books are concerned, but that limits me in large part to books I am familiar with. I’m going to dig into these to broaden our scope a bit!


Jen @ Gricefully Homeschooling August 9, 2012 at 3:57 pm

What a GREAT list! Totally pinning this on Pinterest. I love Charlotte Mason’s philosophy on learning. =}


Karen August 10, 2012 at 3:42 pm

What a great resource Jimmie! I think if I had one regret it is that we didn’t use more Living Books from day 1. I am pinning these. Thank you for taking the time to put this all together. You give SO much to the homeschool community and I appreciate it so!


Amber August 10, 2012 at 5:10 pm

This is a wonderful reference, Jimmie! Thanks! What a wealth of info in these Ultimate Guides!


Stacy Hughes August 10, 2012 at 7:22 pm

Jimmie! Girl, it has been far too long. I’m so excited about what your doing with this curriculum! It’s amazing.

I hope this finds you and Jim well!


Wendy Clark August 10, 2012 at 7:56 pm

Thanks for all these great links. I can’t wait to come back when I have more time to look at them all. We are using Sonlight for the first time this year.


Eddie - The Usual Mayhem August 11, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Great list! I’ve never looked at Learning Adventures – off to go see it now. Thanks for sharing!


H August 12, 2012 at 9:59 am

Thank you for this list! I don’t see Truthquest mentioned though.


Diane August 12, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Great post. Thanks so much for all the links. I was especially interested in Neo Science. I have saved it for something we might want to do next year.


Dana Wilson August 14, 2012 at 8:17 am

Hi Jimmie,
Thanks so much for including Epi Kardia/Train up a Child Publishing on your list of literature-based curricula!


Kristiina August 15, 2012 at 9:59 am

Wow! I’m glad to see there are so many options for home school. I really had no idea.


Carol S. August 21, 2012 at 9:14 pm

As someone who loves the Charlotte Mason philosophies of education and child-rearing, I truly appreciate the time and effort it took to assemble this resource. I printed it out as I know that it’ll be referred to many times. I’m especially looking forward to checking out the resources that I’m not familiar with. Thank you very much!!


Peggy August 22, 2012 at 7:58 am

Another wonderful history program is Truthquest. I love that it is so clearly laid out and so easy to add to if you want. The author gives wonderful introductions to the various units from a Christian view point as you read your way through an area of history. The program is a delightful framework for study. It keeps you moving and gives you the assuance that you did a good job covering your subject of study. Definitely check it out.


Myriam August 28, 2012 at 4:36 pm

This is a great list, I’ll definitely use it for further references, thank you for sharing !! God bless


Heather September 12, 2012 at 12:26 pm

I have to second that mention of TruthQuest History. You should add it to the list along with All Through the Ages. It is very easy to use and allows for substitutions (due to availablility) which many other LBC do not do. I also think Michelle Miller’s write ups about the historical periods are some of the most excellent I have ever used. http://truthquesthistory.com/

I love this list and have definitely bookmarked it to explore some more later. Thank you for the hard work that went into this.


Lee September 13, 2012 at 1:20 am

My free online curriculum uses books from Ambleside and Robinson booklists for English as well as some history and some science. It takes those books and adds 180 days of lessons including writing, grammar, etc. The curriculum uses only free materials and covers all the subjects including reading, grammar, writing, spelling, vocabulary, math, history, geography, science, music, art, health, PE, computer, Bible and logic. It’s a great curriculum for anyone needing to save time and/or money and for those who want to cover all the bases and still have time left in the day for your children to pursue their interests and passions.


Laurie Gardner January 4, 2013 at 7:42 pm

I know this is after the fact, but I stumbled onto your website. I wondered why Charlotte Mason Help was not mentioned as a resource. Totally free. Charlotte Mason based. It is like Ambleside, only more direction is given and some of the resources are in different order. We have used it for years and love it. http://www.charlottemasonhelp.com


Amanda January 24, 2013 at 11:42 pm

I can not help but mention Simply Charlotte Mason is a great affordable CM choice.


Tina H. February 9, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Since you haven’t actually used My Father’s World, I wanted to point out – after using three of their cores and starting another – that it may actually be a disappointment for those seeking a CM-style curriculum. I think the primary-aged MFW cores are wonderful (K, 1st, and then Adventures, which can be for 2nd and/or 3rd). And I think the good people at MFW intend for all their materials to be engaging. However, that’s really not the case, in my opinion – at least not as far as the main materials are concerned. In fact, many of the core texts starting with their “5-year core” (and, I believe, high school as well) are actually quite dry and boring – the antithesis of CM-style. It is true that the extensive book lists in each MFW teacher’s manual offer a great variety of living books, one must be committed to acquiring those books to call MFW CM-friendly, and people should know that. Conversely, if it’s not possible to incorporate a lot of those books – and if someone doesn’t have time to program them into the lesson plans – MFW (after the primary years) will be a disappointment for CM-aficionados.


Jessica March 27, 2013 at 3:06 pm

What about the Trail Guide to Learning Series by Geography Matters? Do you think they would fit into this category? We’ve been using this and have loved it.


Janet December 9, 2015 at 6:47 am

I think it does fit. We are in our second year of Trail Guide and love it as well!


Emily March 31, 2013 at 7:06 pm

This is a great list! One that I didn’t see mentioned, probably because it’s so new, is Build Your Library – http://buildyourlibrary.com/. It’s a secular literature-based curriculum, with a lot of Charlotte Mason elements like living books, narration, copywork and dictation.


Jennifer Altman June 23, 2013 at 11:05 pm

This will be our first year trying out beautiful feet books for us history elementary….we have used pandit press for science and history and they come with great lists of real books to choose from as well….love those curriculums, just wanted to try something new this year :), that and the modern history is geared towards older kids….my son is only 7.


Jennifer Altman June 23, 2013 at 11:06 pm

Sorry, pandia press. 🙂


Theresa Culver August 15, 2013 at 8:04 am

Thanks so much for putting this list together. It really helps!


Kristina August 26, 2013 at 10:12 am

I second the recommendation of Simply Charlotte Mason! – simplycharlottemason.com. This website has TONS of free resources, a free curriculum guide, a free book finder, and many wonderful curriculum offerings. This is my favorite site for all things Charlotte Mason.


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