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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 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.
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 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 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 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 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.
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 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.)
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 is a homeschool curriculum for gifted learners that emphasizes good literature and hands-on discovery. Packages are available for ages 5-11.
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.
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.
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 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
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 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
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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
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If you have suggestions for a curriculum that you feel should be included in this list, please leave a comment here.
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