Charlotte Mason Homeschooling

Charlotte Mason A Morning Basket of Living Books

Ever wondered what a Morning Basket of Living Books is?

Charlotte Mason advocated living books. They are books that are not dumbed down to as to be condescending to the child. Those types of books would be deemed as ‘twaddle’ by Charlotte Mason and have no place on the child’s bookshelf.

For most of our homeschooling journey, we have been completely Charlotte Mason inspired and it was something that I just could not let go of when we chose to follow the certificate route for our girls. I truly believe that it is because of the Charlotte Mason method that my girls love learning and have such a well-rounded education. They are able to converse in many different areas of study with people from different backgrounds and cultures and I simply cannot throw all that out the window for the sake of a certificate. I HAD to make it work for us.

Charlotte Mason A basket of living books

Even now my husband is insistent that although we have criteria to meet with the curriculum we are using, that we not give up on the heart and soul that has been the way we learn and do things. For him {and me, but I want you to see that this is something my husband feels strongly about too because he has SEEN the results of a living education} the fact that we maintain a holistic, approach and continue implementing the Charlotte Mason method when and in every which way we can is as important as meeting those curriculum criteria!

charlotte mason a morning basket of living books

So – let’s jump right on in…

Living books is something that is vital in a Charlotte Mason homeschool. In the curriculum that we currently use, there is a distinct lack of living books. Some of the literature books are fabulous, but on the whole, I would term the curriculum ‘dry’. So to ‘rectify’ this problem I instituted a ‘Morning Basket’.

Our Morning Basket is a collection of books, relating to our read-aloud time, art appreciation, composer study, nature study, poetry, biographies, and classical literature that we work through throughout the week. This changes from term to term and sometimes within that term as we finish our books. A lot of the books are public domain books so free to download from Amazon, Project Gutenberg, Librivox, or can be read online at

Obviously, there are a lot of books that cover all these areas so I needed to break down the reading into daily bites. When Charlotte Mason read to her pupils they could spend months on one book, such as the pace of their reading. A little to digest at a time, to think on, ponder, and process. So if we spend one whole term on one read-aloud book, I’m quite okay with that.

My first step was to choose the books I wanted to use for each term. I look at each area, so for example, for Composer Study this term we are looking at Franz Peter Schubert. Not only will we listen to his music but we will read a little each week about his life and music from ‘Stories of Great Musicians’ by Olive Brown Horne and Kathrine Lois Scobey. Last term our composer was Brahms, instead of the book I used a CD from Vox Music Masters called ‘An Introduction To The Classics – The Story of Brahms in Words and Music’. This little series of CDs is fantastic! They have over an hour of musical selections with narration on the composer’s life. I will definitely be using more in this series!

From this book list I draw up my ‘Morning Basket’ list, on it, I listed the books that I had chosen for the term, whether it was a Kindle/main lesson/Librivox or actual hard copybook so that I can find it easily, and it’s allocated slot in the week. Our books vary each day so I’m able to squeeze a lot of goodness into our learning. 

Just a side note on our Morning Basket – this is something we do together. The rest of the girl’s work is very independent so our Morning Basket activities are meant to be the three of us sitting together, me reading to them, all of us discussing what we have read. It can get silly sometimes too, for example, today we were reading an account from Great Expectations where Pip has the misfortune of encountering Mr Trabb’s ‘boy’ in the street. The account is so funny that we decided to act it out, I’m sure you can imagine that we all found it great fun and were in hysterics for most of our dramatic representations. 

Some of our morning basket books are Librivox recordings so there are times in the week when I am able to ‘save my voice’ and just enjoy listening along with my girls. 

How Do I Choose My Books?

Well over the years I have become a ‘booklist collector. I have lists and lists of recommended living books. I pick them up if I see them in book sales, I have downloaded so many classics – in fact, if you just look through Mainlesson and Librivox there is an endless source of fabulous books to be devoured over your homeschooling life and beyond! Ambleside Online is another source for me. I look at the years that my girls would be if we were using Ambleside Online and see if there are any books I want to include in my Morning Basket or on the individual book list that I draw up each year for my girls free reading.

What’s Currently In Our Morning Basket?

charlotte mason morning basket of living books schecule

I’ve posted a picture of my Morning Basket plans but I’ll run through it here because it really has not come out very clearly (screenshots and all that!)

So every morning we start off with our Bible reading, Memory work, and Prayer. The week is then laid out as follows:


1. Poetry – 1 poem a day (this term we are looking at William Blake)

2. Stories of Great Musicians 

Composer Study: F P Schubert (introduce new piece each week)

* 5 minute reading from Stories of Great Musicians

* 10 minutes listening to music and discussion

Elevenses Reading: Great Expectations by Dickens (Kindle) {Classics}


1. Poetry – Read 1 Poem – Read my post on the Joy of Celebrating the Seasons with Poetry

Picture Study: Jean-Baptiste Camille Carrot

*The Bridge at Nantes *Chartres Cathedral *A View Near Volterra *The Letter *Homer and the Shepherds in a Landscape *Mur (cotes du Nord)

(Each Tuesday is we do art appreciation. I have a list of all the paintings we will be looking at during the term)

Elevenses Reading: Biography: The Story of Abraham Lincoln (Librivox recording)


1. Poetry – Read 1 Poem

2. Galen and the Gateway to Science (Kindle)

Elevenses Reading: Great Expectations by Dickens


1. Poetry – Read 1 Poem

2. South: The Story of Shackleton’s 1914 – 1917 Expedition. (Kindle)

Elevenses Reading: Shakespeare – Othello. (Kindle for All)

(‘kindle for all’ means that we all have a copy of this on our respective Kindles so that we can read through together. I will cover how we study Shakespeare together in a later CM Monday post)


1. Nature Reading from Janet Marsh’s Nature Diary(H/C hard copy)

2. Keeping A Nature Journal by Claire Walker Leslie

3. Handbook of Nature Study: Read on today’s OHC challenge

*Nature Walk and Challenge Work Followed by Sketch time.

Charlotte Mason  morning Basket of Living Books

 We will start off each day with Bible, memory, and prayer followed by the activities listed 1, 2, etc. Then we will work on our curriculum’s book-work up until 11 am. At this point we break for a cup of tea and a snack, I will then read our ‘elevenses’ reading book while the girls are busy with some form of handwork.

Friday is the exception. We will start off with our Bible, then move straight into our book-work, I allocate fewer pages on this day per subject. We aim to finish this bookwork by 11.45 after which we spend time on our nature study work.

I hope that this gives you an idea of how I incorporate Living Books into our daily routine. It takes a bit more coordination and timekeeping but we have settled into a comfortable rhythm in working this way. You could adjust the number of books that you use in your own homeschool depending on the ages and concentration spans of your little ones.

I think that’s a wrap on our Charlotte Mason Morning Basket of Living Books

Have an awesome Monday!


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(5) Comments

  1. Penny says:

    This is so inspiring. I have a couple of questions, if you don't mind (and if you do that's ok). 1. How do you decide your OHC for the day? Is there a schedule for that? 2. Will you continue when your eldest goes off on her next step in her journey? My eldest is going away to college next year (weep) and I'm wondering how you think this would work one on one rather than with 3 people. Will you still do nature walks, etc.? We are using a program too (Oak Meadow) and I would love to add this sort of thing into our day again – we were full on CM in the younger years, and loved it. I'm sad that I let it slip due to fear (for lack of a better word). CM style was better – I'm so glad you stuck with your convictions and have shared your thoughts here. Really terrific ideas. Thank you so much!

    1. Shirley-Ann says:

      Hi Penny,
      Yes, we mostly use the Outdoor Hour Challenges that come through in the newsletter every month BUT I do also keep a look out to see what is happening around us and change the focus if I need to, like the newt study for example. We happen to have newts in our pond right now so I really wanted to do a study on that. Today I want to focus on the hedgerows in spring – what plants are coming are coming into their own etc.

      Yes I will definitely continue with nature study with my youngest when my eldest goes off to college in September, in fact I'll continue (following my own thing) on my own when my last one heads off to college in two years. Recording what is happening in nature is a timeless activity and one that can be enjoyed on your own, with one or two or a group of people. I hope that by doing nature study for all these years that I have established a habit in my girls to always be observant of what is happening around them and to be interested in and reap enjoyment from it. I love simply sitting down with my nature journal and painting something I have come across on a walk – outside of official nature lessons. Keeping a nature journal through out life can bring tremendous joy – just think of The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady – that was originally kept solely for the authors enjoyment. I think it is wonderful that so many all over the world can enjoy her nature diary a century later.

      I know that it can be difficult to keep up what you love to do in your homeschool alongside what you 'have' to do, but it is never too late to change things up, that's the wonderful thing about homeschooling. Don't live with sadness or regret, just start right now by adding what you love back into your homeschool in manageable bites.


    2. Penny says:

      You are so, so kind. I am putting this front and center in my new planner. 🙂 Thank you thank you thank you.

  2. Penny says:

    Hmmm… I'm guessing you use the HONS newsletter – is that close?

    Thanks again, and please tell your daughter we are still enjoying her notebook clips – they really brighten our day!

    1. Shirley-Ann says:

      I will do – thanks Penny 😀

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