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Choosing the books for your Charlotte Mason home school is an important task. Put any two CMers in a room for any length of time and chances are good that they will be talking books. “What do you think about this book?” “Did you like that one?” “What book would you recommend for this?”
It takes a lot of thought and work to put together a list of books for upcoming weeks. Once you get your term’s book list made, do you ever wonder how Charlotte would evaluate it?
Here is a little quiz (taken from Volume 6, page 303) that will help you see your book list the way Charlotte would view it. These are the questions she would ask about your term’s book list.
- How many books are on your list?
Charlotte said, “If the list be short, the scholar will not get enough mind-stuff.” Her own students had about 15–30 books on their lists each term, depending on grade level. That is not to say that they read all of those books cover to cover during the term; no, they read from that many books. Most were books that they were working their way through over the course of an entire year or over several years. But they were receiving ideas from that many sources spread throughout the weeks. Make sure you’re not skimping on your students’ food for their minds.
- How much variety is included?
“If the books are not various, his will not be an all-round development.” A look at one of Charlotte’s programmes for grades 7–9 shows that her list for that term included books on eight different subjects (Bible, literature, English history, French history, citizenship, geography, botany, and general science). Don’t get stuck in a rut. Make sure you are offering a variety of subjects and a variety of styles in the books your students read.
- Are the books originals?
“If they are not original, but compiled at second hand, he will find no material in them for his intellectual growth.” The best books will be written by someone who has given original thought to his topic—someone who has a passion for the subject—rather than a writer or a committee who has been hired to read other sources and put together a compilation or summary. Knowledge is “passed, like the light of a torch, from mind to mind, and the flame can be kindled at original minds only.” So make sure your books allow your student to get in touch directly with the great thoughts of the author. Avoid watered-down retellings.
- Are the books too easy or too direct?
“If they are too easy and too direct, if they tell him straight away what he is to think, he will read, but he will not appropriate.” No one likes to be patronized or pontificated to; we view such actions as a demonstration of disrespect. So do our students. The child is a person. Make sure the books you give him treat him as such.
It seems an amazingly short quiz! Imagine, evaluating something as important as our book lists with just four questions. And yet, Charlotte had a brilliant way of boiling everything down to the key principles. So how does your list measure up to Charlotte’s evaluation?