CM Myth #2: Charlotte Mason Never Made a Mistake Selecting Living Books

We’ve all been there. We hear about a great book, we do the research, we gather raving reviews from others, and we spend the money.

Full of eager anticipation, we dig into the first chapter with our kids gathered around.

But for some reason that book just doesn’t click with our children. When we ask for a narration, we get blank stares. We begin to notice a certain rolling of the eyes when we pull that book out to read. (You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?)

But we determine to persevere. It must just be the first few chapters that are tough; we’re sure it will get better by and by.

But it doesn’t. And before we know it, we’ve spent twelve weeks struggling, coaxing, and wondering.

We reluctantly decide to scrap that book and begin the search for an alternate, all the while berating ourselves for choosing a dud.

Surely Charlotte Mason never chose a dud! Or did she?

The Facts

Near the end of her life, Charlotte wrote:

“The question of books is one of much delicacy and difficulty. After the experience of over a quarter of a century in selecting the lesson books proper to children of all ages, we still make mistakes, and the next examination paper discovers the error!” (Vol. 6, p. 248).

Did you catch that phrase: “over a quarter of a century”? Charlotte had more than twenty-five years of practice in selecting good living books, and she still made mistakes.

Plus, they would discover the error at “the next examination paper.” Exams were given at the end of each twelve-week term, so the book had probably been used for twelve weeks before the decision was made to switch.

So cut yourself some slack. There are plenty of good living books out there. If one doesn’t work, don’t waste time beating yourself up over it. Find another one that will work for your children in your situation. If you would like a refresher on what to look for when choosing living books, read our article “Choosing Books Like a Connoisseur.”

And remember, if you sometimes make a mistake in selecting a good living book, you’re in good company. Charlotte did too.

One comment

  1. Thank you so much for this. I was inspired by reading Charlotte Mason’s writings… but my kids and I just don’t seem cut out for the books listed in her writings or on Ambleside online. BLECH! I felt like I couldn’t be a “real” Charlotte Mason style homeschooler if I didn’t like the books she chose. We typically choose books from the Sonlight catalog or Beautiful Feet. Now I know I’m not the only one that doesn’t think all the books she chose were perfect!

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