Homeschooling with the Charlotte Mason method requires PLENTY of living books! I just love having that excuse each time I hit the secondhand bookstore here in our city. *wink*
Yes, I DID say “secondhand.” That’s one of the perks of using the Charlotte Mason method for our homeschool: we don’t pay big bucks for textbooks, and instead, we have a lot of affordable options for sourcing our books—time-tested, excellent, best-quality books, let me clarify! 🙂
What are Living Books?
The Charlotte Mason method recommends using living books over dry textbooks. Living books are essentially books written by someone who’s passionate and extremely knowledgeable about a subject, so that when you read them, your imagination comes alive and propels you right into the time period or place you’re reading about.
Some examples of living books are classic books. Believe it or not, in the CM approach, we use the unabridged versions of the classics. And yes, I used to think that there’s no way children can understand the unabridged versions—don’t we adults struggle with them ourselves?
But Charlotte Mason explains that children’s minds actually come alive with living ideas expressed in literary form, and they’re able to understand more than we give them credit for.
(For a little more detail, check out the quick video I made about living books over at my YouTube channel!)
Where we find our homeschool resources
So where can we get living books here in the Philippines? Here are my favorite sources:
Secondhand Bookstores (e.g. Booksale)
This secondhand bookshop is every Charlotte Mason homeschooler’s haven! They always have lots of classic books and many of the modern books recommended in CM circles, and most of them come very cheap. My cheapest find so far was Paddle to the Sea, for only P5.00!
The problem with Booksale, though, is that you need to have a LOT of time to browse—and you never know what you’ll find. Booksale works for when you are starting to stock up on your personal CM library, with a booklist in hand for many years down the road. That’s how I started building our library, and now I’m happy to say I already have books all the way up to Year 12, and slowly building them up still!
Although I prefer the cheap prices of secondhand bookstores, I still go to the regular bookstore, National Bookstore being the ‘national’ choice hehe. This is where I normally buy Filipino and Philippines-related materials. For example, I got this amazing field guide to Philippine birds off of BookDepository, but found it at National Bookstore at a later date:
Normally, I online-shop for our books around December, because I order stuff from BookDepository and ChristianBook, which, because they’re based in the UK and US, it takes a couple of months for my orders to arrive. Because of the current situation with covid, though, ordering from outside the country seems to be out of the question (because shipping times have extended indefinitely!).
Good thing we have a lot of online sellers, most especially those who focus on Charlotte Mason living books.
My good friend over at Living Pages PH has so many good stuff in her collection, and since she lives in Iloilo City like me, I’m very happy to recommend homeschoolers that I coach to check out her site and source books from her.
At first, I was also hesitant about getting a Kindle: after all, what can beat the full experience of holding a hard copy book while you read? But, when I was looking through AmblesideOnline, I realized that if we had a Kindle, we could pretty much download most of my son’s books for Year 4! That helped settle the decision.
I suppose the question of hard copy vs Kindle may be a whole different argument in the U.S., where it’s just as easy to order hard copy books from Amazon and get it delivered the next day. But here in the Philippines, hard copies of many of the recommended books are so much more difficult to come by, so I always heartily recommend a Kindle! 😀
(As a side note, I always recommend the Kindle Paperwhite or the regular Kindle over the Kindle Fire, as the Kindle Fire is essentially a tablet, and without the e-ink technology that the other two have that helps reduce glare.)
Again, you don’t need to spend big bucks, as you can always choose the free books on Kindle—as long as they fall under the definition of living books! Classics are usually safe bets, and those that are in the public domain (i.e. their copyrights have expired) go for $0.00. 🙂 Be sure to check, because sometimes, the same book that you can get for free may also have a paid Kindle version with some add-ons.
For example, the Burgess Bird Book for Children is in the public domain, which means that it’s $0.00 (FREE!) on Kindle. The books in the public domain typically come with a cover like this one below:
If it’s a different-looking cover, be sure to double-check the price! 😀
Another source of free ebooks is Project Gutenberg. Like Kindle, you can get public domain books for free on this site. Just do a quick search of the titles you need, then download them in the format you need: .mobi for Kindle, .epub for iBooks, or .pdf for, well, for a PDF version.
ManyBooks.net also has free ebooks for download, including public domain ones. The same principles apply as in Project Gutenberg.
How to Download Free eBooks to Your Kindle
If you use a Kindle, when you use these free ebook sites, you need to download the .mobi files, and then send it to your Kindle using your Kindle address. You can find this in your Amazon account under Your Content and Devices:
Once you click on Your Content and Devices, it will show you your registered Amazon devices (in our case, we have two, mine and my son’s.). Click on the device you want, and the window opens like this, where you can see the Kindle e-mail address:
Amazon also lets you save an official e-mail that can send to your Kindle e-mail address. Once you set that up, you can quickly send any .mobi file over, click Verify in a verification e-mail, and it’ll pop up in your Kindle.
Sourcing Living Books
In the end, a little creativity and initiative can help you save money and still find the living books that you need to give your child a quality Charlotte Mason education.