I did some research before making this list. Lots of other homeschool bloggers have published lists of must-have homeschool books.
So many of the lists are the same old books, written by the same homeschool conference speakers. It’s like there’s a cult of Christian homeschool speakers and bloggers out there, hawking their trite little poorly-written devotionals to homeschool moms. These are the same people who crowdsource on social media things that should be kept private, but I digress.
While I am a Christian and I read The Bible and devotionals and Christian studies with my family, I do not agree that the most important job as a homeschool mother is to ensure my children’s spiritual health. That puts an awful lot of responsibility on my shoulders!
All learning is the child’s journey and his or her responsibility.
Our role as parents is to guide, introduce, coach, mentor.
When I began homeschooling almost thirteen years ago, it was solely for academic reasons. I’ve tried all sorts of methods and curricula over the years, and I’ve come full circle, back to academics. Lots of curricula out there is faith-based, and we’ve gotten to the realization that most of it is dumbed down, biased, white-washed, Euro-centric – kind of like the direct opposite of public school curricula with its absence of anything religious, but still with the similar bias.
I have some different perspectives and priorities than other homeschoolers, for sure. I have a bachelor’s degree in English literature. I have a Master’s in Education, specializing in teaching English in grades 6-12. I was an educator in the public and private sector for almost ten years. I taught middle school, high school, and college. I had ESOL, gifted, advanced, and regular ed students. I taught literature, grammar, and writing. I substitute taught, worked in after-school programs, and tutored in reading to students who scored low on standardized tests. I’ve worked as a private English tutor to high school students.
I hated the textbooks for their white-washed short stories, bland poetry, excerpts of novels, grammar drills, writing exercises, and busy work. I hated assigning homework and grades for meaningless assignments.
Homeschool moms don’t have to have degrees in education (or anything) to teach their children well. I realize how daunting a task it can be to teach our own. Thank God my husband understands algebra and physics, because I sure don’t. But kids can and will learn on their own, despite us!
Often, we should just get out of the way.
As a homeschool mom, I don’t recreate a school environment. I don’t waste time. I don’t give grades, busy work, projects. In our home, learning is a natural process, based on interests. We try not to suck all the joy out of it.
I’ve met a lot of homeschool moms who seem to really hate their kids, hate books, hate learning, and generally have a really bad attitude about so many things. They scoff that they don’t want to have to learn Latin to teach their kids. They don’t like reading. They want their kids to complete their school work on the computer so they’re out of their hair. They complain about everything. Really, they just want to create a public school prison environment in their home, but they don’t want to be involved in the process at all. I think these parents should reevaluate some priorities.
I’ve read a lot about recommended homeschool books on the other lists. Most of them leave me feeling worthless and hopeless. I don’t really have a problem with self-confidence, home care, budgeting my time or my money, or screentime…but these books make me feel stupid for not having these problems.
I am not weary.
I am not desperate.
I don’t want a devotional.
I do not include The Bible in my list. I figure that’s your personal choice whether it is in your home, heart, or homeschool.
My Favorite Books for Homeschoolers:
Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen
Americans have lost touch with their history, and in Lies My Teacher Told Me, Professor James Loewen shows why. After surveying eighteen leading high school American history texts, he has concluded that not one does a decent job of making history interesting or memorable. Marred by an embarrassing combination of blind patriotism, mindless optimism, sheer misinformation, and outright lies, these books omit almost all the ambiguity, passion, conflict, and drama from our past.
Loewen explores how historical myths continue to be perpetuated in today’s climate and adds an eye-opening chapter on the lies surrounding 9/11 and the Iraq War. From the truth about Columbus’s historic voyages to an honest evaluation of our national leaders, the author revives our history, restoring the vitality and relevance it truly possesses.
This book was really eye-opening and I remember wondering about some of what I learned (and didn’t learn!) in my public school history classes.
The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise
This book will instruct you, step by step, on how to give your child an academically rigorous, comprehensive education from preschool through high school―one that will train him or her to read, to think, to understand, to be well-rounded and curious about learning.
This is the first book I ever read about homeschooling and it’s still a favorite!
Uncovering the The Logic of English by Denise Eide
Multiple award-winning book on reading and spelling education that will transform how you think about English!
As an English teacher, I appreciate this book, the author and her approach! I even learned a lot!
Teach Your Own by John Holt and Pat Farenga
This new edition is supplemented with financial and legal advice as well as a guide to cooperating with schools and facing the common objections to home schooling. Teach Your Own not only has all the vital information necessary to be the bible for parents teaching their own children, it also conveys John Holt’s wise and passionate belief in every child’s ability to learn from the world that has made his wonderful books into enduring classics.
This is just brilliant and I loved the journey. Offers great reasons to homeschool.
Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life by Peter Gray
Free to Learn suggests that it’s time to stop asking what’s wrong with our children, and start asking what’s wrong with the system. It shows how we can act—both as parents and as members of society—to improve children’s lives and to promote their happiness and learning.
I really changed how we parent and homeschool after reading this book.
How Children Learn by John Holt
Fifty years ago John Holt woke the dreary world of educational theory by showing that for small children “learning is as natural as breathing.” His brilliant observations are as true today as they were then.
It’s very important to work with children’s natural interests to learn, rather than against their inclinations.
Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto
Thirty years in New York City’s public schools led John Gatto to the sad conclusion that compulsory schooling does little but teach young people to follow orders like cogs in an industrial machine.
Another great book if you’re on the fence about homeschooling. Offers great reasons why schools are unnecessary and failing.
Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv
Last Child in the Woods is the first book to bring together cutting-edge research showing that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development-physical, emotional, and spiritual. What’s more, nature is a potent therapy for depression, obesity, and Add. Environment-based education dramatically improves standardized test scores and grade point averages and develops skills in problem solving, critical thinking, and decision making. Even creativity is stimulated by childhood experiences in nature.
This book made me realize what I knew all along and we make it a priority to get outside every day.
Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry) by Lenore Skenazy
Any risk is seen as too much risk. But if you try to prevent every possible danger or difficult in your child’s everyday life, that child never gets a chance to grow up. We parents have to realize that the greatest risk of all just might be trying to raise a child who never encounters choice or independence.
I grew up free-range, and my kids are well-balanced. I think all the rules for parents are a little over the top in some cities and states.
Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World by Ben Hewitt
Living in tune with the natural world teaches us to reclaim our passion, curiosity, and connectivity. Hewitt shows us how small, mindful decisions about day-to-day life can lead to greater awareness of the world in your backyard and beyond. We are inspired to ask: What is the true meaning of “home” when the place a family lives is school, school system, and curriculum? When the parent is also the teacher, how do parenting decisions affect a child’s learning?
Another great book about unschooling and lifelong learning.
Thank you for sharing your unconventional view of homeschooling. I am a homeschooling mom, too, who has also felt the constraints of all the expectations, all the things we are “supposed to do.” And it can be soul-sucking. Thank you for reminding me that we are all made differently and that cookie-cutter education isn’t necessarily the only way to go. Too often, I feel like I will fail my kids because I am not doing it the way everyone else is and because I can’t do all that I want to do. But thank God that He is strong in my weakness and can carry the pieces I drop.
You’re probably NOT failing because you’re doing it differently. Mainstream is not the best.
I have read #7 and #8 and have heard of some of the other books. One series of books I might add would be those by Charlotte Mason. Reading her books and seeing how she looked at children as people, not things to be educated, not talking down to them in language which she called twaddle. They can understand a lot more than people realize.
I homeschooled my kids in much the same way as you are talking about. We read books. We went outside. We did hands on stuff and I didn’t give grades. We wanted learning to be natural and fun. We wanted to give them tools so they could learn how to learn and be able to find out what they wanted to know. They are all grown now. Some have gone to college. Some haven’t but they are pursuing their interests and we all remain a close family. I believe that comes from all the time we spent together talking, reading, discussing, slogging through hard things, agreeing and disagreeing….
Wow, I didn’t mean to write so much, but your post brought back memories of our homeschool days. I’m your neighbor at the #LMMLinkup today. Blessings to you!
Yes, the CM books are on lots of lists. I don’t think too many people read the originals, even though the retakes are pretty ok. I like her ideas.
What a great list of books. I’m fairly new to homeschooling and I haven’t read any of these. My children are teens now but I guess better late than never.
It’s NEVER too late!
Great input and list! I loved home schooling but God led us a different route this year. I’d love to read a few you named here, we are outdoorsy and unconventional too. I was home schooled from 5th grade up and my reading typically happened up in a tree for hours on end.
We are allowing our kids interests to be watered instead of trying to mold them how we think is best. It has been the best pressure reliever of all time.
And thanks for adding the part about not having to be in charge of you kids spiritual health. While I do believe kids tend to remember what they are taught when young, I also believe we can not control everything. In fact, trying to control everything pushes people away usually.
Control is a lie from the devil.
I love the philosophy behind most of these books! I hate giving grades because it does suck some of the joy and limits individuality. My own children grew up on 470 acres and I am so blessed by that as they got to roam and explore to their hearts content. My kids still find hiking and nature to be their happy places and they’re (mostly) grown now and we’re now limited to a city lot :( .
wow, that must have been great for your kids!
Lisa/Syncopated Mama says
This is a great list! I’ve read all but the English one!
Alicia Owen says
These all sound like wonderful books! We are just starting homeschool preschool this year and I already wish I would have read some books on homeschooling ahead of time. ha ha I have one from a fellow blogger on planning for the unorganized person (totally me!) that I need to read. The nature-based books you have listed also really speak to me as a lot of our activities involve nature. :) Visiting from This is How We Roll link up.
Blessings on your homeschool journey!
Amy Rugg says
Wonderful resources! Thank you for sharing!
Mother of 3 says
Some really great selections on here! I love Free to Learn, Homegrown and Free Range kids… and I really want to check out Lies my Teacher told me because I am finding so much about American history that I either did not know or was led to believe something totally different. Pinned.
Donna Reidland says
What a great list! Pinning so family members can check it out.
Hmm #6 looks intriguing!
Tami Qualls says
I am adding this to my wishlist with me being a new homeschool momma. The list of books is a great addition to Literacy Musing Mondays.
Denise Sultenfuss says
After two decades of homeschooling, I own more than half of the books that appear on your list. This list serves as a great resource for parents on the fringe of homeschooling or parents that simply want to investigate further.
Tina at Mommynificent says
Great list! Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday on Mommynificent.com!