Favorite Homeschooling Books – How Tos

Favorite How To BooksOn the last episode, Favorite Homeschooling Books – Philosophy, we look a look at some of my favorite homeschooling books related to educational philosophy. If you missed it, be sure to go back and have a listen! It is important to form our own beliefs about education and develop/refine a philosophy.

Now I want to explore some books that have helped me with the “nuts and bolts.” Admittedly, I am more of a “learn by doing” type of person, but these books have given me some good ideas and a jumping off point for my own methods and ideas.

Some of the books on this list are ones that I have not read, but have reviewed enough to know they are gems worth reading! For example, “Learning in Spite of Labels” is directed at parents of special needs children and thus does not pertain to me. However, I know the author and her philosophy, and I’ve read enough excerpts to highly recommend it.

So, let’s jump in!

 

Mary Pride’s Complete Guide to Getting Started Homeschooling by Mary Pride – This is my very favorite resource to recommend for brand new homeschoolers! What I love about it is that it really is what it says… “complete”! Mary goes through every topic imaginable with homeschooling, tackling learning styles, educational philosophies and methods (the 12 most popular homeschool methods), educating the gifted and special needs child, testing and evaluation, and many common questions the newbie may have. This book was my crash course one summer when my kids were young and I was still figuring things out! It was really instrumental in helping me being exploring my own philosophy of education and what I wanted for my children. Until I read this book, it had not even occurred to me to figure that out!

Playful Learning: Develop Your Child’s Sense of Joy and Wonder by Mariah Bruehl – I’m not sure how I came across this lovely, inspiring book, but it’s one that you just want to pick up again and again. It almost has a “coffee table” book feel about it. The pages are those clean, smooth pages that show off photos so beautifully. Okay, I know… That may seem a silly virtue to start with. Content is pretty important, after all! But when you have exclellent content in such a nice package, it is hard to not get a little giddy. The photos and layout are inspiring… like holding somoene’s Pinterest account in your hands. But I suppose I should at least mention something of the content. 😉 I love that this book, while focusing on the importance of play, helps parents to gently guide their children’s play to help develop various aspects of the education by suggesting various projects and “playful learning spaces.” This can, of course, be taken to the extreme and we don’t want to interfere too much in our children’s imaginations, but I think the author strikes a good balance here. As I’m sure it’s apparent, I am inspired!

Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners by Lori Pickert

This is another book that helps the parent to guide the child in their learning. Though not as “exciting” as the previous book (dull paper and black and white pictures…snooze), it is still worthwhile for its excellent content! What stood out to me was the ideas of engaging with children and helping them take the next steps. The parent is taught how to help their child research ideas without taking over, how to praise with sincerity and honesty, and how to help the child document their progress. What I love about this approach is that we are building connections with our children by being involved and interested in their work. And by allowing them to take the lead, we are teaching them to be independent and affirming that they do have great ideas and that we believe in them!

100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum by Cathy Duffy

This is one of those tried and true books that nearly every homeschooler owns, myself included. I must admit, though, that I have not read it in its entirety. I use it as more of a resource for researching curricula. But, like the Complete Guide above, it is a book that can be very useful for the new homeschooler in forming a philosophy of education and figuring out the nuts and bolts of what that will look like in their home. Cathy even has a chapter dedicated to helping you figure out what style and philosophy of education will work best for your family by going through a series of questions and quizzes. Many parents forget this crucial step and dive right in to choosing curricula! So I appreciate her attention to this important detail.

All Through the Ages by Christine Miller

I was very excited when I came across this book because it fits so well with a living books and story type of approach to history. This could probably also be put in the category of curriculum, as it really is more of a how-to guide to building your own history curriculum. It is divided into periods of time, with each period having a list of recommended books by grade level.

Learning in Spite of Labels by Joyce Herzog

If you’ve never heard Joyce Herzog speak, you need to find a recording somewhere and purchase it! Joyce is no longer speaking at conferences, but for those with special needs children, her wisdom is invaluable. If you can’t find a presentation to buy (or even if you can), then purchase her book. I’m not big on labels, and neither is Joyce, but she still recognizes the need for teaching that is specialized for those who learn differently, whatever we may want to “label” them. Her positivity and encouragement can be felt through hear writings, and her tips are practical and sensible. Though she is no longer speaking, I was privileged to hear her on a webinar about a year ago, and I will never forget her demonstration that helped those of us on the call understand what it is like to be learning disabled. (It’s also on pages 4-5 of her book.)

 

These are just a few books I would recommend to help you in your lifeschooling journey. I hope these past two episodes have inspired you, as they have me, to dig into some good books this year!

Favorite Homeschooling Books – Philosophy

favorite homeschooling booksThere’s just something about winter that lends itself to reading. It’s that time of year for comfort food, a favorite hot drink, and curling up by a fire with a good book. There are even cultural traditions centered around reading during the winter months.

In Iceland, they celebrate something called Jolabokaflod, or “Christmas Book Flood.” Everyone exchanges books and on Christmas Eve and the whole family stays up all night reading their new tomes and nibbling on chocolate. Oh yes…I could adopt such a tradition!

I think it is important for us to encourage in ourselves the habit of reading, and perhaps more so with being lifeschoolers, as our children will naturally follow in our footsteps. The old phrase, “more is caught than is taught,” has much truth to it and lately I have been more focused on trying to improve such areas of weakness that I see mirrored in my own children!

Despite my love for reading, I could definitely work to be more intentional about it. And as a busy lifeschooling mom, I imagine you could use some work here, too! I also believe it is important to stay sharp in our “profession,” so in the spirit of continuing education, I thought I would take the next two episodes to introduce to you some of my favorite homeschooling books in the hopes that they may become yours, as well. They have made an impact on my lifeschooling journey, as I am sure they will for yours.

I’ve decided to divide the books up into two sections, and subsequently two separate podcast episodes. I’m sure I could further subdivide them, but I’ve found that when reading about homeschooling, there are generally two categories that everything falls into: Educational Philosophy and Practical Methods.

In order to know how to teach, you must first know why to teach it. You have to first come to a fundamental understanding about what education actually is. But all philosophy and no methodology can leave a teacher feeling a bit lost. So once the philosophy is firmly established, it’s important to also have some practical books on how to carry out the educational process.

I encourage you to check these books out and commit to reading some new books this year! While I have read parts of all of these books, there are some that I have not yet finished. But I want to recommend them because I have read enough to infer their value and usefulness.

Educational Philosophy

The following are books that have helped shape my educational philosophy of “lifeschooling.”

Gifted: Raising Children Intentionally by Chris Davis

Pioneer homeschooler Chris Davis is most responsible for solidifying my personal educational philosophy. Years ago, I read a blog post he wrote about education and finding our children’s gifts and I excitedly read it aloud to my husband and shared it with just about everyone I knew! It was just the validation I needed that what I felt deep in my heart was true and would, in fact, work in reality. Chris started homeschooling in the 70s and 80s before it was even legal. He graduated three boys who, despite a very different educational philosophy and practice, have all gone on to be successful.

It is impossible to narrow it down to one, but one of my favorite parts of the book is where he talks about the importance of blessing our children and calling out the gifts we see in them. We have a responsibility, as parents, to help identify and name those gifts we see in our children.

Once we have done this, we must do two things in order to help our child develop these gifts. 1. We must resource what that child needs and 2. We must gift the child “sufficient time to become eminently qualified in the field of his giftings.” Davis did this by purchasing a large amount of computer programming books for his son, who had an interest in learning “all the computer programs currently in use.” Today he is a very successful computer programmer and owns his own business.

Upgrade: 10 Secrets to the Best Education for Your Child by Kevin Swanson

This is one of the simplest, yet profound books on education that I have ever read. It succinctly breaks down the idea of education and what makes it a “good” one. This would be a book that I could hand to another parent without “offending” them and I believe it would have them convinced to homeschool by the first or second chapter. The reason why is that it takes such a practical, logical approach that is hard to argue with.

Here are the 10 secrets laid out in the book:

  1. The preeminence of character
  2. Quality one-on-one instruction
  3. The principle of protection
  4. The principle of individuality
  5. The rooting in relationships
  6. The principle of doing the basics well
  7. The principle of life integration
  8. Maintaining the honor and mystique of learning
  9. Build on the right foundation
  10. The principle of wise, sequential progression

I had the opportunity a couple years ago to be interviewed by Kevin Swanson at his home studio for one of his podcast episodes, Why Most Schooling is a Waste of Time, and it was funny to see how many similarities we had in our educational philosophy. He thought I had read his book. . . but it turned out that we had both just read another Book the had helped shape our thinking into something very similar!

Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto

This was another book that profoundly impacted my belief in homeschooling as not only a valid form of education, but the best form. John Taylor Gatto was an educator in the public school system of New York City for more than 30 years and even won the Teacher of the Year award. But his methods and beliefs were far from typical or conformist. Sadly, he passed away just last year, but he left a huge impact on the field of education. . . to those wise enough to listen.

In this book, Gatto starts by telling us “what he does wrong” as a school teacher. In his words, what he does that is right is simple to understand, “I get out of kids’ way, I give them space and time and respect.” But in carrying out his expected duties as a public educator, he instead teaches:

  1. Confusion
  2. Class position
  3. Indifference
  4. Emotional dependency
  5. Intellectual dependency
  6. Provisional self-esteem
  7. One can’t hide

These may seem like radical assertions. However, when you understand the history of public education and why it was instituted, they become obvious and self-explanatory. Gatto does a good job going into this background information so that the reader can better grasp his seemingly-radical propositions.

What makes such assertions even more shockingly ironic is that fact that this entire section is a direct copy of his acceptance speech for the award of 1991 New York State Teacher of the Year! I wonder if anyone clapped?

Einstein Never Used Flash Cards by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Ph.D., and Roberta Michick Golinkoff, Ph.D.

Life got in the way and I never completed this book, but it is one I hope to pick up again in the new year. I enjoyed the authors’ perspectives as scientists because they were able to counter some popular myths by showing how scientific studies on learning have often been manipulated and misinterpreted. One such myth is the “Mozart Effect”: the idea that if you expose your child to classical music at a young age will help them become smarter. They are also strong proponents of allowing children to learn through play, including one chapter called “Play: The Crucible of Learning.”

The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling: When the One Anothers Come Home by Karen Campbell

I am currently thoroughly enjoying reading a book called “The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling.” Though we didn’t interact much, I actually went to college with the author’s daughter and had no idea she was homeschooled, let alone the daughter of a homeschool pioneer who wrote books and spoke at conventions. I didn’t discover that until just recently!

This is another book that would be beneficial not just to homeschooling moms, but to moms everywhere. Karen’s goal is to help us see that the most important aspect of homeschooling is not academics, but relationships. It is about practicing the “one anothers” of Scripture: Love one another, submit to one another, etc.

I love this quote: “Typically, the first question asked by new homeschoolers is, ‘What curriculum should we use?’ assuming that academic success ought to be the first priority. And yet, if happiness in life is most fully measured by the success of our relationships, why is it so rare to hear someone talk about the dynamics involved in building sound relationships, especially those based on the commands given in Scripture?”

Karen drives home the point of the importance of relationships in homeschooling with a story about a “famous” homeschool veteran in her town with whom she was excited to have the opportunity to chat. She was surprised, however, when this revered leader asked her, “Karen, can you tell me how to have a relationship with my grown children?” With tears in her eyes, she asked, “Why are we not friends?” This woman had missed out on the greatest opportunity that homeschooling affords us: the chance to build deeply-rooted relationships with our children.

 

I hope this overview has given you a good place to start with planning your 2019 reading list! We often work hard to plan our children’s curricula, but forget that learning never stops and we are as much in need of continuing education as they are. Be sure you set aside time this year for your own learning! Next time, we will talk about some great homeschooling books to help with the practical aspects of choosing curricula, planning, and organizing. That’s Life as a Lifeschooler! Subscribe to our podcast so you never miss an episode!