Living Books

The use of living books “satisfies brilliant children and discovers intelligence in the dull. It secures attention, interest, concentration, without effort on the part of the teacher or the taught.

Children, I think, all children, so taught express themselves in forcible and fluent English and use a copious vocabulary.... “

~ Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, For the Children’s Sake

At Sonlight Academy, it is our aim to cultivate wonder in the hearts and minds of our students (or revive it if it has been lost) by providing for them an excellent literature-rich curriculum.

Using a vast array of exceptional living books to ignite in our students an excitement for learning and a love of great stories is at the heart of everything we do.

As they engage with these great stories they will be prompted to ask themselves what story is God writing with their lives and they will see that He can be trusted to do so.

Rather than dry, lifeless textbooks being the basis of our curriculum, we utilize delightful, thought-provoking living books: real books that make people, places, and events come alive! This method of schooling is tried and true and has proven to have excellent results for more than a century.

Educating a child to become all that God has equipped him to be doesn’t have to be complicated and should never contribute to extinguishing the light in his eyes or destroying his delight in learning.

Living books are usually narrative in style, written by a single author who is passionate about what he is writing. Therefore, the material is engaging and draws the reader into learning more about the subject. Presenting the facts as part of a story not only provides context, it typically leads to greater retention of the material.

Our students will study and read about history, science, art, music, nature, the Bible, etc. through the lens of authors who are passionate about their subjects, rather than through the eyes of a textbook committee whose job it is to insert as many dreary facts, dates, comprehension questions, and vocabulary words as possible into a textbook in order to have the child answer enough questions to study for the next wearisome test… and the next… and the never-ending next.

Most children are bored to tears when forced to learn that way. Have you noticed that by the time some children reach middle school the light in their eyes over learning something new has dimmed? All excitement towards school and learning is waning, if not gone all together, and all they can think about is how soon they can get their tedious busywork finished and get out of there (“there” being the classroom and eventually, school itself).

How sad! There MUST be a better way to measure their learning in most subjects… and there is.

One example of assessing what a child is grasping and comprehending is through narration. A child simply tells back in his own words what happened in a story thereby demonstrating what and how much he has understood, and in doing so he processes that information using his whole mind including his memory.

That information then becomes his very own knowledge. He will continue to build upon that knowledge as he gets older, gaining the ability to absorb and comprehend even more.

A very young child may draw a picture of something he remembers from the story read aloud about Davy Crockett or Clara Barton. Or perhaps he will draw the insect he observed in science class.

Later he will move into oral narration little by little until finally, when he is older, he will be able to narrate longer passages, even whole chapters, progressing to occasional written narration as well.

No sermonizing, lecturing, or study questions needed from the teacher, thank you very much!

Children are very good at listening, analyzing, and drawing their own conclusions if we just let them. Creating independent thinkers is the goal. No “herd mentally” for our students.

Besides better retention of information and becoming independent thinkers, here are several other benefits of being a reader:

* Reading strengthens brain connections and actually builds new connections.

* Being read to builds listening skills and creates a longer attention span.

* Children who read or are read to will be more creative and have a superior imagination as well as a broader vocabulary.

* Children who read learn how to cope with real life situations and are better able to talk about them.

* Readers have more empathy for others. They also develop improved social skills.

* Children who read often, read better. They achieve higher academic performance in school.

* Reading is fun! It’s been said that a reader lives a thousand different lives!

“Children must have books, living books; the best are not too good for them; anything less than the best is not good enough…

Children, I think all children, so taught, express themselves in forceable and fluent English and use a copious vocabulary. Parents become interested in schoolroom work, and find their children delightful companions. Children show delight in books and manifest a genuine love of knowledge.”~ Charlotte Mason

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