Like a kid in a candy shop, I was gathering to-be-read (TBR) titles of the best homeschooling books as fast as I could. I have an established habit of attending a classical education conference each year. Visiting vendors, talking with friends and classical education colleagues, and gleaning from speakers give me pages of suggestions. A pang metaphorically shot through my chest one year when a notable leader in the classical education renewal stood behind the keynote podium and declared, “Let’s get this straight. You will never get through all the books you’ve put on your TBR list during this conference!”
As his words landed in my ears, the first feelings were disappointment, disbelief, and denial. I’m an avid reader and willing to make material and time investments in consuming the printed word! As a homeschooling mom, I’m eager to run hard after the piles of books about homeschooling stacked up next to my reading chair. I couldn’t quite believe that I wouldn’t finish the race. Denial swooped in, I dismissed his claim for the moment, and kept scribbling titles in my notebook.
Months later, entrenched in the daily habits of homeschooling and the abundance of family life, the speaker’s words returned to my memory. I looked at my dusty TBR pile and felt a wave of gracious relief wash over me. There was liberty in his statement that I had not initially recognized. His words now landed as a consoling reminder that I am a creature with high hopes but real limitations.
It took me some time to internalize and apply the statement and work it out practically. But, over time, I’ve developed the following list of books for homeschooling parents that I frequently recommend to friends and fellow homeschoolers.
Before I share my list, let me offer a few criteria:
- Not all the titles are books about homeschooling. Some of them are just good books that are vessels of truth, goodness, and beauty.
- Many are available in our Classical Conversations bookstore. As I have journeyed from Foundations through Challenge IV, I’ve come to appreciate the many thoughtfully curated selections used in the Classical Conversations proven program.
- I am a classical, Christian educator. Of course, the Bible is on the list, and I hope you already use it as your number one resource!
- Although I did keep to a list of “only” ten titles, you’ll notice I employ some tricks to sneak a few more books in. Be gracious to me and have compassion for my editor, mkay?
- Finally, I tried to guess which books are most accessible — the easiest to read and apply. Then, I ordered the list from what I think is easiest to most difficult to read. Should we ever meet at a homeschool conference, I would love to hear your thoughts about my arrangement!
The 10 Best Books for Homeschooling Parents
Okay, here it is — from my shelf to your eyeballs — the ten best books for homeschooling parents!
1. Aesop’s Fables
Although you might think this should land in the category of kindergarten homeschool books (and I don’t disagree), Aesop’s Fables is far-reaching in its application. Short, easy-to-understand stories that don’t require readers to moralize but instead clearly signal right and wrong, this book is a treasure store of true, good, and often beautiful stories that combine history, practical wisdom, and fantastic scenarios. Although I’ve read this with all my littlest learners, I find it especially useful to recall the stories with my teenagers. For parents homeschooling a wide range of learners, don’t forget the power of fables!
(And here I am, straight out of the gate, stretching the limits of “ten”! For the same reasons as above, I strongly encourage you to have a variety of fairytales on your shelves. My family particularly enjoys the versions by Andrew Lang and the tales written by Hans Christian Andersen.)
2. Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt
First published more than 50 years ago, this book stands as the best homeschooling help for parents who want to know, “What should we read next?” Divided into age categories, author Gladys Hunt offers robust lists of the best books, many of which are probably available at your local library.
3. Carry on Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham
My words and example sometimes fall short when I wish to inspire and motivate my kids toward excellence in education and integrity of character. Nat Bowditch accomplished for my kids what I could not. He offered a type — of learner, adventurer, and average person who encounters both the highs and lows of life — with a different voice than mom. Included in our Challenge A curriculum, Carry on Mr. Bowditch is also an excellent family read-aloud.
(Okay, here’s my next little trick. I also suggest Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers by Ralph Moody. Part of the Challenge B student’s experience, Ralph is relatable most notably for his flaws and character growth. And set in the 20th century, he’s maybe a little more relatable to modern kids.)
4. The Core by Leigh Bortins
5. The Question by Leigh Bortins
6. The Conversation by Leigh Bortins
Although each is distinct, these three books are the most accessible for homeschooling parents I’ve read, especially for the classical educator. I’ve been classically educating for over a decade, and I make a practice of re-reading these books annually. Nicely aligned with the classical arts of grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric, each title deserves its place on your homeschool reading list.
(In case you don’t already have these on your best books about homeschooling shelf, maybe you’d like to start with this free downloadable book, Echo in Celebration. Also written by Leigh Bortins, you will be introduced to her and some of Classical Conversations’ history in a winsome and relatable way. And you’ll gather some classical education homeschool nuggets too!)
7. Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington
Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote the following in 1947 in “The Purpose of Eduction,” a piece for Stanford University’s newspaper:
We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.”
Up From Slavery, an autobiography by Booker T. Washington, an education pioneer and visionary founder of Tuskegee Institute, embodies the meaning of King’s quote and educates and inspires the reader toward liberty. Although she has gone on to read many more books that may now displace Up from Slavery, my eldest daughter shared with me that this book was the most influential read of her entire Classical Conversations Challenge experience!
(Believing biographies to be an essential part of your books for homeschooling, I’d like to sneak in Chuck Colson’s Born Again and Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place.)
8. Practicing Affirmation by Sam Crabtree
Of all the parent resources suggested in our Classical Conversations catalog, this small book gets my repeat attention. The longer I’ve homeschooled, and the longer I parent, the more I need to practice the art of refreshing the people I love with Godly affirmation. This book will convict and convince you, offer practical skills, and immediately reward you.
(I. Can’t. Help. It! For similar reasons, you might consider reading The Peace Maker by Ken Sande at the same time.)
9. The Harp and Laurel Wreath by Laura M. Berquist
Nicely organized around the arts of grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric, this compilation of poems and dictation for the classical student will add riches to your reading. Although poetry remains an art form, its presence has diminished in the educational landscape. I’m recommending this book in part as a preservationist and just for fun. My family has had many giggles reciting “There Once was a Puffin,” been convicted by “The Fool’s Prayer,” and participated in America’s pastime while listening to “Casey at the Bat.”
(You may wonder why this is listed as number nine, indicating it may be less accessible. By no means am I suggesting this collection is hard to read. In fact, the opposite is true. But it took me a long time — and I’m still working on it — to include poetry in my homeschool reading list. So, it’s number nine because, for me, it required habit formation. And sometimes that is hard.)
10. Norms and Nobility by David Hicks
Let’s get it out of the way. I’ve looked and looked — there’s simply no frugal way to own this book. If you happen to see a copy on a thrift website, snatch it up. But you should expect it to be dog-eared, tabbed, and highlighted.
Perhaps the seminal book on classical education, Norms and Nobility is a powerful read with a book club, a mentor, or a companion podcast. In other words, I recommend a guide. A classical educator himself, David Hicks offers history, philosophy, pedagogy, and strong curriculum suggestions for both brick-and-mortar and homeschool students. It’s worth the deep dive, the struggle to swim, and then the long smooth strokes as you glide through the waters of classical education.
What’s On Your Homeschool Reading List?
I am going to a national homeschool conference this summer. I hope you’ll look for me and share your TBR list. Omitting some books — having turned a blind eye to Shakespeare, Dickens, Lewis, Tolkien, Bronte, Tolstoy — feels like sacrilege! Perhaps over lunch at the conference, we can connect, and I’ll revise my list of best books for homeschooling parents. Happy reading!
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