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Living Books For High School Science - Charlotte Mason Style

Updated on March 13, 2015

Living ideas are derived only from living minds.

Homeschooling using the Charlotte Mason style is marked by a use of good living books. Living books are books that are written by someone who has a passion or interest in the subject, usually in a conversational or narrative style. You can read more about this at Simple Charlotte Mason.

As a homeschooling mom of teenage boys, I have tried to include living books in every science course we have covered. They draw interest and excitement to the topics we offer in our science curriculum. A good living book is worth its weight in gold and can give even the most reluctant student a reason for digging deeper into various aspects of science.

Living Books

"A book may be long or short, old or new, easy or hard, written by a great man or a lesser man, and yet be the living book which finds its way to the mind of a young reader."

CM Volume 3

Living Books for High School
Living Books for High School

Living Books in High School

How To Use the Living Books in Your Science Courses

Most of us feel more comfortable using a text as the foundation of our high school science courses. This does not mean that we need to limit our assignments to the text. Why not add in a few living books to supplement your learning? We have found that leaving one day open during the week for a living book and follow-up narration is just the balancing feature we needed in our high school science.

Tips for Offering Living Books in High School Science

1. Assign a living book each week.

2. Allow for some kind of narration - oral, written (summary on a ***notebook page works well), project, additional research

3. Look for ways to connect the text to your living books selections by pulling in biographies of scientists or explorers.

4. Create interest in a topic by drawing connects between the text and your nature study.

5. When on field trips, look in the bookstore at the museum, science center, nature center, planetarium, or state/national park for living books you can include in your science courses.

Goals for Real Learning in Science

*Offer excellent materials.

*Make them ask questions.

*Point them to answers when needed.

*Provide opportunities for exploring.

*Have them respond in some way.

***You can read more about our Notebooking in High School here on Squidoo.

Inspiration Vs. Information

Quotes From Charlotte Mason

"It will be the teacher's aim to create in his pupils a desire for knowledge, and consequently a love of reading, and to cultivate in them, by a proper selection of lessons, the pleasure which reading may be made to yield."

"They learn what to observe, and make discoveries for themselves, original so far as they are concerned. They are put in the right attitude of mind for scientific observations and deductions, and their keen interest is awakened."

Biology With Field Guides

Mushroom study with a field guide
Mushroom study with a field guide

Taking the information from a text and then going outside to observe your subjects brings the study to a new level. If you take the time to use a field guide, now you have real knowledge about the real world.

Living Books for High School Biology

There are so many wonderful books and biographies that you can choose from in the area of biology.

Biographies: Gregor Mendel, Louis Pasteur, Rachel Carson, Anna Botsford-Comstock, George Washington Carver, John Muir, Jacques Cousteau.

Other interesting topics: Lewis and Clark Expedition, Arctic Exploration, Marco Polo

Field Guides for All Subjects are an absolute MUST: Trees, Wildflowers, Birds, Mammals, Insects, Mushrooms

The Origin of Species: 150th Anniversary Edition
The Origin of Species: 150th Anniversary Edition
This is a must read for all biology students in my matter what your personal beliefs are.
Handbook of Nature Study
Handbook of Nature Study
You all know how I feel about this book and on my Exploring Creation With Biology lens I have plans for using this book along with any other text you might use.
Microbe Hunters
Microbe Hunters
Short accounts of a range of scientists.
Carl Linnaeus: Father of Classification (Great Minds of Science)
Carl Linnaeus: Father of Classification (Great Minds of Science)
We used simple straight forward biographies as jumping off spots for more research.

Living Books for High School Chemistry

These books can all be used for narration exercises. My boys kept a written summary of each of the books on notebook pages.

Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe
Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe
We would learn about 2 or 3 elements a week by reading the book, researching more on their website, and then completing a notebook page for each element.
The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements
The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements
This is a fascinating look at the periodic table. All of us in our family have ended up getting caught up in reading this book. Fantastic writing.
Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities
Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities
My boys love the "dangerous" side of chemistry. I love that it ties in chemistry and nature study.
Napoleon's Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History
Napoleon's Buttons: How 17 Molecules Changed History
This one you might want to preview. I did not like it as much as some people do but my boys enjoyed reading it and narrating back to me at our weekly discussions.
The Joy of Chemistry: The Amazing Science of Familiar Things
The Joy of Chemistry: The Amazing Science of Familiar Things
This is much more than a lab idea book. There is a narrative chapter and then a demonstration of the concept that uses fairly easy to find materials. Great supplement to any chemistry course you are completing.

Physics Applied - Building Airplane Models - Design and Build

Building Model Airplanes
Building Model Airplanes

Put all those physics concepts to work with hobbies that support their learning.

Moon Gazing on the Roof

Moon Gazing and Photography on the Roof
Moon Gazing and Photography on the Roof

Spending time outside using a star map and camera is a natural step after reading and researching.

Living Books for Human Anatomy

Human anatomy is a fascinating look at our own bodies. Dry textbooks can provide information in an organized way but a good living book will give the student something to think about and to observe in their own body. We have used the following books as the compement to our text.

The Way We Work: Getting to Know the Amazing Human Body
The Way We Work: Getting to Know the Amazing Human Body
My son loves the artwork and the text narrative in this book. Like all David Macaulay books, it is full of interesting facts that are shared in an enjoyable way. My son is busy copying some of the illustrations into his anatomy notebook with colored pencils....all inspired by this book.
I Am Joe's Body (A Berkley/Reader's Digest Book)
I Am Joe's Body (A Berkley/Reader's Digest Book)
This simple book is a quick read but gives lots of ideas and things to think about. It is worth finding used and having for your high school age student.
Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
This was one I wasn't sure about until we received it and read through the first few chapters. I found it interesting and supportive of our Christian point of view.
Leonardo's Anatomical Drawings (Dover Art Library)
Leonardo's Anatomical Drawings (Dover Art Library)
Another great resource for learning to draw in a science notebook. Drawn from Leonardo's personal notebooks!
Exploring the History of Medicine
Exploring the History of Medicine
More like a text than any of the other books but my son has devoured the stories in this book. We are skipping the questions and used the table of contents as a jumping off spot for further research and narration.

Real Books

Mr. Fisher says, 'There are real books, and there are textbooks.' The day is soon coming when everyone will realize that textbooks have no educational value. We hardly ever use textbooks in our Parents Union Schools. Whenever possible, we use books that spark the imagination and have a touch of originality. These are the differences between a real book and a text book.

Charlotte Mason, Volume 6

Living Books Links

Dig a little deeper into the idea of using living books in your homeschooling.

Thanks for visiting my lens! - Leave a comment if you please.

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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Holy Moley! I was searching for a way to make science less painful for my daughter and found myself getting very excited to read all of the books myself!

    • bbullard profile image


      8 years ago

      I thought I'd commented on this lens before--excellent work! I wished that I'd found this before my daughter's nightmarish experience with chemistry. However, she's completing Physics this year, and my son is beginning Biology, so I remembered this lens and RAN here as I began to plan our school year. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      DianaHarper LM 

      8 years ago

      Thanks for the great ideas! Blessed by a Squid Angel.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Another excellent lens! Thanks for sharing these great ideas! We enjoyed hands on science projects. One of the family favorites was when I poured boiling water into a plastic jar. Watching the jar crumble was a huge hit with my young boys, but that wasn't the science experiment!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great ideas. Connecting book studies to real life practice will help make the material more tangible and exciting. Honestly, sometimes it's just a chore to sit down and read an entire book with no actual practice.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Great lens! Blessed by a Squid Angel.

    • jimmielanley profile image

      Jimmie Quick 

      9 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA

      I am a huge fan of living books as well. It's a shame to me that people so quickly want to rush to textbooks for high school science instead of trusting the approach that worked for earlier years.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Really fabulous lens! I am going to need to remember to come check it out again when we're working on high school. I like to think it's forever away, but in just a few short years, we're going to be tackling it.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Wonderful lens! I love your choices for science books for high schoolers. Even if moms are using textbook curricula, perish the thought, living books add so much more life to any study!

      #Charlotte Mason #homeschooling


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