This post may contain affiliate links to products. As an affiliate, I earn money from qualifying purchases. Please read my full disclosure here.
Now that you know where to get your homeschool books at a reasonable price (or free), you are probably asking…
How am I supposed to decide what to read?
And how do I plan it all out?
But how do I know if it’s the right thing?
And? But?? And???
I know. Believe me; I’ve asked all the questions.
You have two options when it comes to choosing books for your homeschool:
1) Choose your own course of study and books
2) Choose a curriculum where all that is done for you.
Option #1–choose your own books to read and your own course of study.
You mean you can do that??
Why yes, yes you can! (And it’s really not as scary as you might think!)
But how? You ask.
The simple answer is this: You just choose.
Yeesh! Daunting, right?
Some background and a pep talk:
Back in the day (all the way back to 2010), I tried to keep up with public school standards. That made me a little–um, a lot–crazy! I was very stressed and not a whole lotta fun in those days. I finally threw that notion out the window and have not looked back!
The truth is, you can’t and you will not “ruin” your kids by teaching them at home. Sure, they might learn things differently, at different paces, and even learn different things. But none of that is wrong or the ruination of your child. So, get that out of your head. Promise?
Going back to “just choose.”
You choose what you want to study.
What interests you and your child? I can guarantee you that if it’s something you and they are interested in, you will enjoy it much more! And your children will learn more. Let me give you an example:
A few years ago, we studied creation and dinosaurs as part of our science curriculum because I knew one kid was super fascinated with dinosaurs. I bought six different books on dinosaurs that year. They loved it! And to this day, I see them go to the shelf and grab one to reread.
Planning Homeschool Curriculum with Books
This is what my planning looks like each year.
- First, I decide what our focus will be for the whole year in each core subject. Literature would be the exception. I may choose a book relevant to the time period of history, literary classics, or a combination of the two.
- Next, I choose which living books to use for each subject. Charlotte Mason defined living books as books that are written by an author passionate about the subject in which he or she is an expert. Typically, the book is written in narrative form.
- Then I divide the books I decide to use into 34ish weeks, allowing a couple of weeks to catch up in case we need to adjust. For us, that is typically 4-7 books per year in each subject. Some of these are novels, some are much shorter, and some are picture books.
Charlotte Mason taught that lessons should be short, so we don’t sit and read or discuss the same subject for an hour. For the age most of my children are right now, we are doing 25 minute lessons tops, unless it’s literature. In that case, they will typically beg for more chapters to be read.
Examples by Subject:
All of the below mentioned subjects we do as in a one room schoolhouse because, well…that’s what we have.
Since we live in the United States, I wanted my children to learn about the birth of America, and its history. Charlotte Mason would be proud! Once we made it to the American Revolution, I decided on a book from Yesterday’s Classics called American History Stories, Vol 2, by Mara L. Pratt. Because this book included…
“Tales of Revolutionary times, including the causes of the American Revolution, the daring exploits of those defending liberty, the early battles, the struggles of the army, and the heroes who led the colonists to victory.” (Yesterday’s Classics Website)
Then I chose books relating to these topics from the library and from our own shelf to help us dig deeper into those topics. Books about Paul Revere, Francis Marion, Benjamin Franklin, and The Declaration of Independence, as well as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride.”
Basically, I chose a book that would give us short snippets of the events of the Revolutionary War (a springboard if you will). Then I added in books, where appropriate, to further study the war: its events and its people.
**I do the exact same thing I mentioned earlier in both the dinosaur and the Revolutionary War examples.
One year, I chose The Burgess Book of Birds for Children (Thornton Burgess). And we studied birds every chance we got with a new set of binoculars!
Charlotte Mason said that children as young as six should be able to identify various birds and their songs. We also observed birds in nature, going on nature walks intentionally to find the different birds in our area, and we attempted to draw them in our nature journals. (We all did that, including me.)
We have read whole books of the Bible, and we have used books like The Ology by Marty Machowski. We also choose a couple of books about missionaries each year.
Examples: George Muller, Nate Saint, Elisabeth Elliot.
In addition to my children’s individual readers, I choose books to read together each week. It is in this that we discuss places, people, and ideas.
Examples: Winnie the Pooh, The Wind in the Willows, Detectives in Togas.
We started with Charlotte Mason’s own Elementary Geography. Charlotte Mason believed it was important for the child to have a firm grasp on the world immediately around him or her.
We also discuss geography through any other books we read–literature, science, history, etc.
I choose artists, poets, and composers to study each term of the school year. A term can be whatever you define it as, but we typically do four 9-week terms.
I don’t typically buy books for art, unless I find a good deal on one that is notable. Instead, I use the Internet to find all the resources I need.
Each child does have his or her own leveled reading and math curriculum and assignments.
Reading is the easy part. You choose books and let your child read and then narrate, or retell, what they have read. You don’t have to worry about in-depth guides or curriculum for this. You need a book and either a listening ear or paper and pencil. [Charlotte Mason wasn’t concerned with children doing written narration until age 10.]
Because I have 5 school-aged children, I do use guides that I have created to help me keep track of everything. They are simply guides that pull notable vocabulary the child should know or may be unfamiliar with, and an overarching question that helps jog my memory when they come to narrate to me.
I can also highly recommend these reading guides which I have used in the past that tend to be very straightforward without busywork, which I detest! 7Sisters has very reasonably priced literature guides and even some free ones.
How many books should my child read?
It really depends on your child. My 1st grader will have read 20+ books by the end of the year, but they are books like Frog and Toad Are Friends, Amelia Bedelia, God Made the World, Henry and Mudge and the Wild Wind–you get the idea–along with a book on phonics and a couple of McGuffey Readers. My child who is in 6th grade will have read 7 complete novels by the end of the school year, including Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM, Lassie Come-Home, and The Tale of Despereaux.
Math is non-negotiable to me. Charlotte Mason believed that math should be taught by an expert in the field. I am not a math expert; I admit. Therefore, we use Math U See and Teaching Textbooks for math. There are options that are more Charlotte Mason inspired, but because I’ve used these two for years, for now at least, I’m sticking to them.
If you want something more gentle and in line with Charlotte Mason’s method, check out Simply Charlotte Mason’s Arithmetic Series. I have friends who are using this series, and they can’t say enough good things about it! If you aren’t already stuck in a “don’t fix it if it’s not broken” rut like me, try it. I don’t think you will be disappointed!
Option #2: Choose a boxed curriculum.
Earlier I said there were two options when it comes to deciding what to read and when to read.
The other option is to choose a boxed curriculum or a free all in one online curriculum that gives you the layout of all the lessons, the supplies, the scope and sequence for the year, etc. My top picks for those types of curriculum include the following:
- My Father’s World
- Switched On Schoolhouse (Monarch)
- K4 Curriculum (Kindergarten)
- Easy Peasy All in One Homeschool
- Ambleside Online
- I explained why I no longer use a boxed curriculum here and here, but know that I have nothing against them.
- None of these are affiliates, just ones I would recommend because I’ve actually used them.
- I still use K4 Curriculum by Erica Arndt for my kindergartners.
- The top three can be pricey, especially when you understand that the set is for “core” subjects, and then you add leveled math and reading/language arts to the core for a complete set. They are great companies, with great materials. Just know the bottom line may shock you!
- I personally decided long ago that I didn’t want my children online for school. Having the ability to be online was a huge distraction and not worth it. However, that doesn’t mean these websites didn’t/don’t have wonderful resources that I haven’t happily used.
Clear as mud? Got more questions? Contact me, and I’ll be glad to further help!