Our Switch to Living Books for History

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Are you looking for a way to make your history homeschool experience more interesting and enjoyable this year? We’ve tried a few different approaches in the past few years, but as I learned more about the Charlotte Mason method and using living books to teach, I was convinced to make a move toward living books for history. 

But where to start? There are so many ways to bring living books into history studies. I wanted something that was simple, easy to use, and provided a great start to introducing the kids and I to a literature-rich study of history.

Using Living Books for History - An engaging and memorable way to learn history!


What is a Living Book? 

Charlotte Mason was a British educator who continues to inspire many teachers and parents today. She believed that a proper education would educate the whole person – the atmosphere, discipline, and life. The Charlotte Mason method focuses on using living books to teach rather than more dry and fact-focused textbooks. 
A “living book” is one that is written by an author who is passionate about the subject. It captures the imagination of the reader and draws them into that topic. They are usually written in narrative or story form and bring the subject alive for the reader. Living books are available for almost any subject, including history, science, and even math! 

Why Use Living Books for History

True to my public school experience, I initially went for an approach that included texts and a thorough overview of history. I picked curriculum that was very popular in the homecoming world (because that must be good!) and led me step-by-step through that chronological overview. You know what? We were so bored! I didn’t want to do history and the kids graciously tolerated it. Not good! 
I want my kids to LOVE history in a way that I always wanted to but never really could get a hold of. I want them to be naturally curious, digging into the topics that interest them most and igniting a passion for God’s story and our role in that. So I turned to living books. The spine of our history lessons are now great children’s literature, fiction, biographies, and more.
We’re loving it!
Using Living Books for History with Beautiful Feet Books - LOVE this curriculum and the fantastic, beautifully written and illustrated books they use!


A New Way to Think About History

There were a few things holding my husband and I back before we made the switch to living books for history. You might have the same questions we did. 
  • Can children’s books really teach history thoroughly? I believe so. History is, in fact, the story of people’s lives and the events they are involved in! It’s essentially biography. While I anticipate using overview texts to aid my children’s (and my own) understanding and tie stories together, I am most excited about the way living books and engaging biographies will make history interesting, exciting, and memorable for us. 
  • Won’t there be gaps if a textbook isn’t used? Probably. But really, if we teach the entirety of human history to our kids it will all be superficial without much digging in and much depth. I would rather they love history and dig into new topics on their own as adults! 
  • Aren’t facts and dates still important? To some degree, I think they are. There are some facts that seem more important to me than others, especially in terms of memorization. But it’s more important to me that my kid knows generally where an event was on the timeline and has a good understanding of what happened and why, so I’d rather spend my time there. Not to mention the big-picture view of God’s hand and purposes in history! 


Using Living Books for History with Beautiful Feet Books - A No-Frills Study Guide

Using Living Books for History including copywork, narration, and illustration.


How We Use Living Books to Teach 

Eventually I’ll dig into some Charlotte Mason books and learn more about the CM way of learning. For now, the curriculum we’re using provides me a good start that is easy for this busy mama to implement and enjoy. Here’s what we do: 

  • Buy or check out living books on the topic we’ll be studying
  • Read during meals or snuggled up on the couch together
  • The olders have some books for independent reading as well
  • Use narration, with the kids telling back what they’ve heard/read in their own words
  • Use on-topic coloring books or create drawings
  • Copy down quotes and summary sentences from the reading
  • Explore the ideas with discussion topics
  • As desired, explore the topic further with additional books, videos, or hands-on activities

It’s simple and it’s effective! My kids know more about Lief Erikson than I ever did, and they sometimes they do great things like act out scenes from stories during their play time!

Our History Curriculum

Using Living Books for History with Beautiful Feet Books
We are using Beautiful Feet Books for our main history curriculum and I couldn’t be more pleased. It has given me that good start in the CM method and living books for history with the ease of use I need! We started with the Early American History Primary pack. Here are some highlights: 
  • A set of living books that are well loved and beautifully illustrated (you can check them out or invest in them for your personal library like we did).
  • A simple, no-frills study guide with lesson suggestions, discussion questions, and additional suggestions for learning. 
  • A set of Your Story Hour CD’s for fun additional learning in the car or quiet time. 
  • A composition journal for drawing or copywork and pasting in coloring pages.

You can check out Beautiful Feet’s Getting Started page to see what might be a good fit for you. They have character curriculum, geography, and more all the way through high school!

*Disclosure: I requested this product in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

Using Living Books for History - An engaging and memorable way to learn history!

Have you incorporated living books for history into your studies? Tell us how!

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. We love living books too! These look great. I’ll have to check them out.

  2. We are visiting California soon, it is where I grew up and I thought it would be great to do some educational field trips and why not do a full study on it? I ordered California and Westward Expansion sets from BFB. I have to say their customer service is awesome, they shipped really fast-even to our military address overseas (not everyone will). And then I get a box full of these beautiful books. We’re moving slowly through it because we’ve had a lot going on but I love how easy it is to use. No more textbooks for us. We will actually be staying in the town where BFB is, think I need to go say hi. Field trip!

    1. Oh that would be so fun to go give them a visit! Say hi for me too 🙂 I’m glad you’re enjoying Beautiful Feet Books as much as we are! The ease of use really does seal the deal for me. And I love that it’s all wonderful books!

  3. Hey Tauna,

    I’ve been meaning to ask you about how you do history with multiple ages. Do you do separate studies, or do you combine them? I think your kiddos are around the same ages as mine. My oldest is 8 and the other four are younger. I’ve been trying to decide what history curriculum to use next year. We have always used MFW, but I’m thinking of branching out on my own. I want to stick with a CM approach, but I do not want to teach multiple history programs. Any ideas or suggestions? Thanks!

    1. Hi Joanie!

      My oldest is almost 9. I use Beautiful Feet for all of them. We all read the main books together and do the coloring pages. My 7 and 9 year old complete the simple notebook activities, and my 9 year old does additional notebooking pages too using these >> (aff) http://notebookingpages.com?ap_id=proverbialhomemaker. He’ll be assigned to read the main books on his own and write on them, and often we check out library resources using TruthQuest as a guide and he does notebooking on those. Sometimes he presents them to his dad as an assignment. Occasionally we’ll look up some fun hands-on activities or videos to go with the unit as well. So, basically, I just use BF as is and add on a bit more for my 9 year old. I imagine that as we continue with subsequent units I’ll just do the same thing. Hope that helps!

  4. We started using Beautiful Feet this year and we love it! I’m enjoying it just as much as the kids. I’m excited to dig into history with all their other books and study guides!

    1. I totally agree! I’m learning so much and enjoying the readings. The books are just gorgeous, too!

  5. Thank you so much I love the idea of living books but some on the list of the curriculum I am now using are more text book type ( boring and repetitive) I’ll definitely look into beautifulfeet. I read this and said yes, to all the reasons you choose this curriculum!

    1. Oh yes, there’s NO reason for boring books. 🙂 you’ll love these!

  6. Hi there, we are using CM as well. They suggested a timeline to help children see the evolution of history and see that there are many event at the same time. I feel that this helps to “fill in the gaps.”. Love your blog!

  7. We have started reading the Rush Rever stripes. One thing that has helped mine is to draw a picture while I read. We are also doing more reading (or audio books) on people meantioned. I never knew Benjamin Franklin did SO much. He was super interesting. The history curriculum was read a long, boring thing then write long complicated answers. Science was the same and we switched to Magic School Bus curriculum. Life and school are SO much better now!! Praise the Lord!!

    1. Series not stripes. Wonderful autocorrect…

    2. I love it! Finding the right resources can make all the difference! ❤️

  8. Where did you get that 3rd grade composition book?

    1. From Beautiful Feet Books 🙂

  9. We love learning history through reading actual books instead of textbooks. I took history in high school and in college and honestly don’t remember much. History always bored me. But reading actual books, I am enjoying it for the first time. We use an electric mix of books and resources. For facts and dates we found a great resource. Memoria Press offers flash cards called 200 Questions About American History. It breaks it up into 150 Drill Questions, 30 Important Dates, 20 Notable Auotes and the Presidents. We are planning on using these in middle and high school to memorize certain facts. I believe a story knowledge of history in order with knowing certain dates and facts will be more than enough to be ready for college or the real world. . I believe Memoria Press also has a student workbook and teacher guide if parents think they need more.

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