Can I use a living books approach for my children?

I received this e-mail not long ago from another African-American homeschooler considering using a Charlotte Mason approach to learning:


…in perusing and others I found that most if not all of the art, poetry, music involved is from a European perspective.  I want to find a way to integrate our African-American heritage into this approach.  How do I do this?  Can this be done?


First of all, let me say that I don’t think the absence of materials that lift people of color, any color, is intentional; most people think and write from their own experience.   Even though the numbers are changing rapidly, today the face of the average homeschooler is one of European ancestry.  Now, can a different ancestry be taught using the same approach?  Absolutely!   As African-Americans, we have a rich heritage of quality literature, music, poetry and prose.   From Philis Wheatley’s first published works to the rich visual and performing arts of the Harlem Renaissance to the rich poetry of Maya Angelou, our task is not to ponder whether we can find living books, but to differentiate a living book from other resources that might crush the learning process before it begins.



From Sally Clarkson’s Educating the Wholehearted Child

Characteristics of a Textbook:

·        Written by various authors or contributors

·        Impersonal in tone and feel, touching only the intellect

·        Non-literary expression of collected facts and information

·        Facts are presented without creativity in a way that deadens the imagination


Characteristics of a Living Book:

·        Written by a single author

·        Literary expression of the author’s ideas and love of the subject

·        Personal in tone and feel, touching the heart, the emotions, and the intellect

·        Ideas are presented creatively in a way that stimulates the imagination

(Clarkson, pg. 80)



I dare you to get out there and find some living books to awaken your children’s minds, hearts, and spirits.  God bless.


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5 thoughts on “Can I use a living books approach for my children?

  1. one resource I have that might be of interest is called

    GREAT BOOKS FOR AFRICAN-AMERICAN CHIDLREN by Pamela Toussaint (listing of more than 250 books)

    each books includes a short review of it, as well as the main moral value of each book. some books listed even include exploratory questions to discuss w/ your child.

    it lists books by age level (very young, 4-8, 8-11, preteen-young adults) as well as some that are OOP (out of print) and mentions some other resources (like magazines, websites, etc.) and they are referenced in the index by key word and subjects.

    i just dug it out again so i could give you the ISBN 0452280443. great resource!

    PS- i just went to add your RSS feed to my blog feed reader, and it looks like your RSS is not turned on. Please contact me if/when you turn it on. I'd love to keep up on your blog!Edited by Peakmore_Academy on Jul. 23, 2006 at 5:26 PM

  2. I didn't see a way to reach you via e-mail on your blog, so I'm hoping you'll check back here at a later time. I have to confess my ignorance and say that I didn't know what this was, and I didn't touch it under the "if it ain't broke…" rule. I clicked "yes", and I sure hope that was all I had to do! You're the first person who's asked me about the RSS feed. God bless you today and always.Edited by bbullard on Jul. 23, 2006 at 6:24 PM

  3. Just checkin’ in~I LOVED your last comment on my blog about what our grandmother’s would think of our (lack of) homemaking skills! LOL! and yet, somehow would they realize it wasn’t passed down?

    I LOVED your answer here, as I have the very same concerns~even though I LOVE my AO! Thank you for so gently being the voice of reason when some of us would like to go off on a tangent! (((((HUGS))))) sandi

  4. You said this so well. I use much of AO but we also spend an entire year studying other cultures and much of that time is about Africa. Lord, preserve us from raising our children to be overly ethno-centric.

  5. yeah, this was my concern about charlotte mason too, but i literally just substituted the art, music (classical and modern jazz, gospel and blues), poetry, and literature for african american versions. it takes a lot of work (and alotof times the material is above age level) but most of the effort is in overcoming our own euro-centric education/way of thinking.

I'd love to hear your two cents!!