Homeschooling Part #1: Reading Lists

Background: We plan to homeschool our daughter, who is now 18 months old. My husband is a good teacher, and between the three of us, we have 5 degrees, so we all know how important education is and have some knowledge to pass on. I am not doing this to protect my daughter from knowledge, but rather I have no confidence in local schools. We want to give her a good education, filling in the gaps we have with hired tutors as needed. We live in Illinois, so the state requirements for homeschooling are trivial. I have started collecting books that will be on the reading list. B & N have a collector’s series of small hardback unabridged classics, from Little Women to the Iliad. I Also have quite a bit of science fiction and fiction. I want to start gathering the books now. I would like recommendations for required reading lists and suggested reading lists.

My mother home schools both of my children. She started when my son and daughter were both 12, so I don’t have advice on starting from
pre-school/kindergarten but there is a great deal of information on the internet pertaining to home schooling, curriculum and state information/requirements.

She created her own webpage on home schooling to help her keep track of their hours and the internet links that were the most helpful and had the most information. (I tried to reach her to get this link but she must be AFK but as soon as I can get in touch with her I will ask if her school website is public and if so I will add the link later)

The public library in our area is also a very good source for information and materials. They actually issue library cards for the home school so that we can keep materials longer and fines are less than the normal individual cardholder so you may want to check into that as well.

This link may help for starters
Homeschool Central

Ok, here is the webpage my mother created. It has LOTS of helpful information and links. I hope this helps :slight_smile:


Having been homeschooled until ninth grade, I say…go you! :smiley:

Speaking from personal experience, I believe that the single biggest factor that contributed to my education was independent reading. I grew to love books early and as a result I spent much of my free time (which was plentiful since we didn’t have all the wasted hours you see in a “normal” school) choosing my own books to read. So - and this is purely from my experience and that of my three brothers, your mileage may vary - you may even find reading lists to be unnecessary.

I’m planning on homeschooling my daughters (one is 4.5, the other 19 months). I’ve started teaching DangerGirl to read and some math fun, and so on. So here is what I’ve found useful so far.

Home learning year by year, buy Rebecca Rupp, gives lists of what kids are generally supposed to learn every year, and recommendations for curriculum materials. I’ve found the pre-school and K sections to have some good stuff.

I plan to mostly use a (very popular) book based on the classical method: The well-trained mind by Wise and Bauer. Note that no human being can do exactly what they set out as a complete course of study; they admit as much themselves. But I really like their ideas. Now, they recently came out with a new edition, and one of the main differences is that they have written some materials themselves, which they now recommend instead of some of the titles they listed in my old edition–which are frequently hard to find. (They looked through everything, and recommended what they considered the best, and that wasn’t always what was available.) Since I’m not really interested in supporting their entire line of materials, I don’t plan on using all of their stuff. So you may prefer to find an older edition (but I haven’t read the new one). Also, when they recommend math/language/logic books, they are helpful in saying “this book is the best one, but it is also very Christian. If you don’t like that, try this other secular one, which is second best.” They have very few ‘textbooks’ and are big on reading real books and primary sources, even more so than most homeschoolers, who tend to dislike textbooks except for math.

(Extra: Ruth Beechick is the grandmother of Christian homeschooling. I got her books on ILL and she has excellent suggestions for math, some language, and some health. Do not read the science sections if you don’t want your head to explode.)

But on the textbook end: the WTM people recommended Phonics Pathways as the simplest and best early-reading lessons book. It’s hard to find, though still technically in print, and the most popular one now is Teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons–which I looked at and hated. It’s IMO too elaborate and confusing. Our library had the first book, so we’re using it now and it’s very solid–although the illustrations are quite early 80’s, and it’s big on silly maxims. DangerGirl likes it anyway and is doing fine on it.

The favorite math books are usually Saxon or A Beka, but there’s also Singapore Math, which (duh) produces math books for Singapore’s schools. Singapore is very workbook-y, while Saxon uses manipulatives for a very long time and some feel it’s weak on worksheets. Saxon will send out samples, and we borrowed a Singapore book from a co-worker. Saxon ain’t cheap, Singapore costs less per volume but has 4 kindergarten books, so it adds up to nearly the same anyway.

You may like this message board. Most of the posters are pagan unschoolers, and IIRC several are poly. I’m dangermom there, too.

As for generalized reading, I suppose you already know what to do. The library is your friend, naturally. Both the books above have excellent reading lists, and so will your library, and many websites as well. I would also advise you to ILL every book on homeschooling that looks interesting, and then pick two or three to actually buy.

Um, so, I guess that’s all for now. Have fun!

I appreciate the advice given so far. What exactly is unschooling anyway?

Just have the good books around. If she is the kind of child who loves literature, she’ll find them and read them. I spent a lot of my childhood reading classics dug out of cardboard boxes in my parents’ basement–classics they had accumulated from Weekly Reader lists when they were in grade/high school.

But remember: what a person reads is less important than how it is read. Just moving your eyes over Howard’s End or Moby Dick won’t make you well-read; taking it apart and putting it back together will. I have to say that I didn’t start to do this until I went to college, and I am still seeing improvements in myself every year; before, I read only for the story. I feel that it’s invaluable to have read so many books early, though. It makes it that much easier to go back to them and read them for the deeper mechanics, without rushing to find out how the story ends.

There are some books, like The Chronicals of Narnia, that I want her to read early, before she will pick up on all the heavy Christian allegory. They are great stories in their own right and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to read and enjoy them on their own merits before I noticed that he was trying to hit my on the head with the cross.

Others I want to use to help develop her deeper reading skills, like 1984 and The Lord of the Flies.

Unschooling is the belief that a child knows best what and how he needs to learn, and that if his natural curiosity isn’t squelched by school, he will pretty much go out and get his own education. Unschoolers are strong proponents of the school of real life. In practice, most of them do insist that their children do a formal math program, but are usually pretty laid-back about when a child learns to read. The big people in this area are John Holt, who wrote a lot of books in the 60s and 70s, John Taylor Gatto, Mary Griffith, and Grace Llewellyn, who has written books such as The teenage liberation handbook and Guerilla learning.

Most homeschoolers have at least a touch of this attitude; unschoolers are just the far end of the spectrum.

Other popular homeschooling methods are:
–(as above) the classical approach, which is based on the trivium of grammar, logic, and rhetoric as the tools of life-long learning
–Charlotte Mason, which is big on reading ‘living books’ (real ones) and nature
–Unit studies, which integrates all subjects in a series of themed projects
–school-at-home; buying a full curriculum from an umbrella school and basically having a traditional classroom at home (where a lot of people start before launching out on their own, but famous for producing burnout quickly)
–and eclectic, which simply means that you can take what you like from any approach and use it as needed. Really, most homeschoolers do that to some degree or another.

No, unschooling does not seem like what I want. I do want some structure, as much for my husband as for my daughter.

Check out Reading Reflex if you don’t like 100 Easy Lessons. I found 100 Easy Lessons almost impossible to implement but RR was OK.

I’ve got hundreds of kids books but I’ve found that mine read what they want to read as opposed to reading what I think they should read ;). FE M’s resisted Madeleine L’engle and Andre Norton.

I wouldn’t worry too much about the Christian symbolism in Narnia. If your kid’s not exposed to Christianity, then the symbolism just isn’t there for them.

I use Oak Meadow with my daughters and we really like it. I’ve tried everything from unschooling to The Well trained Mind and find Oak Meadow to be a wonderful blend of structure and creativity. My daughters are currently 5th and 9th graders, but friends of mine using the kindergarten curriculum rave about it.

Part of why I am looking at what to put on the reading lists is that I can buy the books now, and start reading any that I have not read before.

I am sure that I want her to read Huckleberry Finn and several others, but I want to try to make a reasonable list of required reading ahead of time. If a book is important enough I think she has to read it, then it is important enough to buy. I know we will be spending a lot on text books and materials, it would be nice to get some spending out of the way.

At least I have a good start. She already loves books and will sit for long periods looking through books. Sometimes it is her board books, others it is old phone books, or my college physics text. She sometimes asks us to read them to her, and we do. I don’t think that she will care much that AAA Auto Repair has emergency service, but she seems to like to be read to all the same. It took some convincing with my husband. He did not see the point of reading anything she brings to him.

If you were lookig for an actual reading list, I would offer (to fill in the nooks and crannies that are sometimes missed):

Books to read to her, now, while letting her explore on her own, soon:

Where the Sidewalk Ends, Shel Silverstein (augmented by most other Shel Silverstein books, although I would hold off on Different Dances until high school. You must get Sidewalk, however.)

Better Homes and Garden Story Book (Betty Oconnor, ed.) (Then get the complete books or series of the excerpts that catch her eye.)

Books to read to her a little later, while letting her explore on her own as she learns to read:

Any book by Holling Clancy Holling (don’t blame me; I didn’t name him), (especially Minn of the Mississippi if you live in the west of the state or Paddle-to-the-Sea if you live near Lake Michigan).

As many Little Golden Books as you can find (skipping most of the Disney and TV show tie-ins for the originals such as Scuffy the Tugboat, Tootles, The Poky Little Puppy, etc.).

Books to let her explore on her own once she learns to read and later nears high school:

Larry Gonick’s Cartoon History of the Universe 1, Cartoon History of the Universe 2, Cartoon History of the United States, and his Cartoon Guides to Physics, Statistics, Genetics, and Sex.

Lloyd Alexander’s “Chronicles of Prydain”: The Book of Three, Taran Wanderer, The Castle of Llyr, The Black Cauldron, The High King.

A. A. Milne’s Once On A Time–rather different from his (obvious choice) Pooh books and fun.

Gene Stratton Porter’s A Girl of the Limberlost (an interesting complement or counterpoint to the Anne of Green Gables stories).

Jane Austen.

Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, Sweet Tuesday, and Tortilla Flat in preparation for The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, later.

Since you presumably have a few years, you may want to locate and make a habit of attending the nearest library’s book sale (usually an annual event). This will really cut down on the amount of spending required. At ours, hardcover books are usually $2, maximum.

Anything by Beverly Cleary-I grew up on her books, and Ramona Quimby is just as much of a riot today as she was back in the fifties, when the first books were written.

The Anne of Green Gables books are definitely a must.

I’m obviously living in some sort of novelized retrograde time warp: Sweet Thursday.

I would suggest that if at all possible you get in the habit of taking her to the library once a week now, and keep that habit all the way through her educational process. My mother did this, and we would look in tandem for books: I’d look for books for me, and she’d look for books for herself and for me. It was a very good way of introducing me to books she thought I should read without making me feel pressured to read them–they were just in the pile.

For right now, were I you I’d just start reading down the list of Newbury books and Caldecotts (these first, as this is the award for picture books) and take notes on which ones you like. They aren’t all great, but there are a lot of real gems out there, and they are all widely avalible athe library or used book stores for very little. Better yet, by reading the whole list you will read a bunch of stuff that may be good but wouldn’t normally appeal to you, which will prepare you in case your daiughter turns out to have very different taste. As a teacher, I am finding I have huge problems recomending books to some of my students who are looking for light reading because when I was young everything I read was fantasy or sci-fi. I can give the kids who like those things lists as long as your arm, but I have a hard time helping the ones who really like books about relationships or sports.

You might also look into your local university and see if they offer a course on children’s lit. These are becoming more common. Check into it first and make sure it isn’t lame–if it is taught by an education department instead of a lit department, it may be lame–but if it isn’t, it would be a good place to start if that is a feasible expense.

Children’s lit courses are also common for library schools/courses of study. So see if it’s taught in any possible librarian corners. (My mother currently teaches one. It’s excellent.)

Ooh, one fun title is How to Get Your Child to Love Reading: For Ravenous and Reluctant Readers Alike by Esme Raji Codell (she of Educating Esme fame. A huge tome of recommendations and suggestions, and an enjoyable read. Worth buying, says this economical librarian who rarely buys when she doesn’t have to.

The library will also have long book-recommendation lists of every type. A favorite title of mine is “Books that will still be around at the end of the next millennium.”

Good suggestions.

We do need to get back in the library habit. Lately we have been buying books or just reading stuff we already own, or downloading public domain books.

She enjoys both us reading to her and sitting with a book and looking through it on her own. Sometimes she will even pretend to read it aloud. She does seem to recognize certain words already; she could pretty reliably find Teletubbies on the Tivo and start that playing, but recently she has started to lose interest in Teletubbies. :slight_smile:

I don’t think getting her to learn to read will be very hard. KellyM was reading by age three, and my mother refused to help me to learn to read, after she taught me to write the alphabet and to count and I picked that up so quickly. We had probably about six kids books in my house before I went to school. She wanted me to learn to read in school like a normal person. I started reading after the first bit of instruction and was reading books immediately.