When building your homeschooling bookshelf, what are the best homeschooling books to own?
The ones you’ll refer to year after year, that will continue to provide relevant advice and wisdom, and leave you feeling reassured and inspired about homeschooling?
These are my all-time favourite homeschooling books, and the books I think that EVERY parent should own. The BEST homeschooling books, in my opinion.
It’s a big claim, I know. But I’ve read dozens, probably hundreds, of homechooling books – everything I can get my hands on. These are the books that I bought and then referred to year after year. They’re full of clear, sensible, and widely applicable knowledge. And they’re consistently well-reviewed by homeschoolers.
If there was a list of classic how-to-homeschool texts these would be on it. Beg, borrow or buy these gems!
The Unschooling Handbook – Mary Griffith
Don’t worry if you don’t plan to unschool – the information in this book can be used by everyone to enhance their child’s education. The subtitle of this book is ‘How to Use the Whole World as your Child’s Classroom,’ and that’s exactly what this book teaches you to do. It’s very clear and easy to read, and doesn’t propose any set rules. Instead, it gives plenty of ideas. It’s one of those books you read and realise that you KNOW so much of this stuff, you just needed to be told it! I read this book at least once a year for a decade, until I gifted it to a friend who was starting out.
If you only buy one book, make it this one.
Homeschooling the Early Years – Linda Dobson
Applicable to ages 3-8, this book covers more of the educational side of things, such as learning to read and do maths. Reading this makes you realise that it isn’t as complicated as you may think to homeschool your child, and that it actually looks pretty fun. It’s very calming. If your children are a little older, there are two more books in the series – Homeschooling the Middle Years and Homeschooling the Teen Years.
Teach Your Own – John Holt & Pat Farenga
John Holt was one of the pioneers of the modern homeschooling movement, and his work is still popular today (read some of his best quotes here). When you read his work you realise why – it’s timeless wisdom. Holt was a strong advocate of respecting children and supporting them in using their natural initiative and curiousity in learning. Teach Your Own covers why you should homeschool, how you should do it, and addresses the practicalities and worries about doing so very convincingly.
The Well-Trained Mind – Susan Wise Bauer & Jessie Wise
Totally inspiring and also a little intimidating, this is my resource bible. It outlines a very rigorous and comprehensive classical education program from preschool to the end of high school. My children search through it and write wish-lists of fun books for me to buy! Again, even if you’re not planning to classically educate, this is an excellent source book and contains plenty of resources and inspiration that any homeschooler can use. And if you are planning to educate classically, remember you don’t have to do EVERYTHING in this book. If you’re new to homeschooling you’ll probably find it overwhelming – if so, just pick ONE area and start there. I’d recommend their grammar stage history, it’s so much fun!
Home Grown – Ben Hewitt
My husband insisted I include Home Grown, because he LOVED it. It’s actually the only homeschooling book he’s read the whole way through – probably because it also contains a hefty dose of farming and wilderness. Ben shows that education is not limited to a classroom or curriculum, that the natural world is essential to our lives, and that parenting and homeschooling are actually one and the same thing. This is an essential thing to learn if you’re wondering how you can be both mum or dad AND teacher.
My Family and Other Animals – Gerald Durrell
You may wonder what an autobiography that doesn’t mention homeschooling AT ALL is doing on this list.
Gerald Durrell’s childhood provides the perfect example of what a relaxed upbringing, unschooling in many ways, can achieve. He gets to roam Corfu freely, collecting and studying animals and spending plenty of time with interesting people. His tutor has to relate everything back to animals to get him to learn anything, and the maths and French he is forced to do periodically, when the family worry that he is ‘running wild’ (sound familiar?) just don’t stick.
Gerald Durrell grew up to become a world-famous zoo collector and later zookeeper, bestselling author, and conservationist, and credits his time on Corfu with providing the foundation. It’s a great example of where passion-led learning can lead.
(Don’t watch the TV series though. I feel sure Gerald Durrell would be enraged at they way they sexualise Mother – we only got halfway through the first episode before turning it off in disgust).
Curious Unschoolers: Stories of an Unschooling Family
An Aussie selection! Sue Elvis talks about unschooling in an honest, intimate, and personal way, using stories from her many years of radical unschooling to illustrate points, show how she’s overcome common problems. Every story has pertinent questions to get you thinking – it’s not ‘do it like this’ but almost like Socratic dialogue in a book.
Even if you’re not a radical unschooler (I’m not), you’ll get a lot of fantastic homeschooling advice and ideas from Curious Unschoolers. It boils down to unconditional love, and everyone benefits from that.
It’s unschooling without the dogma, and I love it for that.