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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?