The Best Books for Homeschool Moms
Hello fellow homeschooling mom! Are you looking for homeschooling information? You need to find the very best books for homeschool moms?
When I first made the decision to homeschool for real, I headed straight to the library and checked out all of the education and homeschooling books I could find. I say ‘homeschool for real’ because our first year of homeschooling was accidental and I didn’t consider it homeschooling.
My oldest was born October 2, missing the kindergarten deadline by a few weeks. She could already read, and was super excited about school since all of her little friends were going. But the school held fast to it’s deadlines. My daughter was distraught. To assuage her grief, I offered to have school at home with her.
I didn’t consider us homeschoolers that first year, though. In my mind, we were just biding our time until she could attend real school.
Luckily, we both had so much fun that we were eager to continue. And that’s when I became a real, honest-to-goodness homeschooler.
Because I had never even considered homeschooling previously, I knew nothing about it. All I had was questions. I was a blank slate that needed filling.
As a book aficianado, I knew exactly where to turn — the library! I proceeded to systematically consume the entire homeschooling and education sections of the library, plus a good portion of the child development section. I ended up with more questions than I began with.
Montessori what? Charlotte Mason who? Which of these 17 methods is the best?
What do I want for my children? What does a good education even look like? I knew I hadn’t gotten one, and that I’d probably never even seen one. I was pretty sure I wasn’t even asking the right questions, because I wasn’t sure what questions to ask.
I wanted our homeschool to be rigorous, so early on I was drawn to the Classical approach. But was it rigorous enough? Was it too rigorous?
Would my children hate me when they grew up?
What the heck is unschooling? Would my kids just play video games in my basement? That doesn’t feel right.
Would they ever get to ride the bus? I now laugh that I was ever concerned about them missing out on the fun of riding a school bus.
While still unclear on my beliefs, my homeschooling methods and ideologies, I just jumped in with both feet.
I couldn’t bring myself to fully embrace any of the methods, though I loved bits and pieces of all of them. It didn’t worry me, though, because I never do things by the book.
I’ll be honest. As a 17-year homeschooling veteran, I still haven’t been able to pin everything down completely. I still have questions, and I still use an eclectic style, though I’m much more relaxed than I started out. I’ve come to the realization that probably most of us have to create our own homeschooling style, just as unique as our individual families.
It’s critical to be familiar with and understand the various educational philosophies in order to formulate your own. A solid understanding of the history of public schools (contained in John Taylor Gatto’s work) and an understanding of child development (contained in John Holt’s work) are also critical to the formulation of your own, unique educational method.
That’s why the following books for homeschool moms have been the most helpful to me.
If you’ve decided to homeschool, but are still asking the questions, “What makes a good education? What do I want for my children?” then these books will be very helpful to you, too.
(Please note that this post includes affiliate links for your convenience. They’re boring, but you can read my full disclosures here if you want.)
11 Must Read Books for Homeschool Moms
Weapons of Mass Instruction by John Taylor Gatto
Gatto, who spent 30 years (THIRTY YEARS!) teaching in the NYC public school system, presents compelling evidence that the real purpose of schools is to render the population manageable. To that end, young children must be conditioned to rely on experts, to bow to authority, to become mindless consumers, and to accept memorized tidbits as intellectual achievement.
Children must be discouraged from developing self-reliance and independence. In this book, Gatto exposes mechanisms of traditional education that cripple imagination and discourage critical thinking. The public school system is deliberately causing students harm.
I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the models Gatto introduced me to in his book, and seeing how each of them escaped the system. Through the suggested alternative approaches, our children can avoid being indoctrinated and achieve self-knowledge, judgment, and courage.
I love John Taylor Gatto, and I’ve read every single thing he has ever written. Weapons Of Mass Instruction is one of his best books. It is a must-read for any homeschool mom wondering about her reasons for homeschooling. It’s one that I turn to when the going gets tough and I wonder if I’m doing any good: at least I’m not doing any harm.
In one chapter of this book, Gatto describes how one of his methods for thwarting the directives of the public school system was to send his students on a walkabout of NYC. He gave them permission to skip school if they would walk the streets alone and observe different things.
We’re talking NYC here, people! I would never have let my children walk the streets of Salt Lake City (the largest city we are near) alone, despite the fact that I did walk them alone as a kid (while sluffing, ha, ha!). But I think that protectiveness was a huge mistake on my part, and one that has been rectified. I’m not going to send my 5-year-old to SLC by herself. But I am sure going to send my older kiddos. And my 5-year-old will be having some walkabouts of her own, on her own level of ability and understanding.
I just can’t tell you how much I learned from this book. Of all of the books for homeschool moms out there, this was the one that impacted me most. If you haven’t read it yet, you really need to!
Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Agenda of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto
Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum Of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto is a masterly an in-depth view into how the public school system really works. Education is failing our children not by accident, but by design.
After over 100 years of mandatory schooling in the U.S., literacy rates have dropped, families are fragmented, learning “disabilities” are skyrocketing, and students are increasingly disaffected. Thirty years of teaching in the public school system led John Taylor Gatto to the sad conclusion that compulsory governmental schooling is to blame, accomplishing little but to teach young people to follow orders like cogs in an industrial machine.
He became a fierce advocate of families and young people taking back education and learning, arguing that “genius is as common as dirt,” but that conventional schooling is driving out the natural curiosity and problem-solving skills we’re born with, replacing it with rule-following, fragmented time, and disillusionment.
“Schools are intended to produce, through the application of formulas, formulaic human beings whose behavior can be predicted and controlled.” ~John Taylor Gatto
This book is definitely a must read for every homeschool mom who wants to raise strong, independent thinkers who can’t be swayed by trends and whims and fancies. After reading it the first time, I worked to deliberately incorporate more critical thinking into our homeschool (hello speech and debate classes!), along with daily conversations about politics, how to search out original resources, and helping my children to be able to formulate and articulate opinions.
The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise
This was the second homeschooling book I read. It appealed to me at the beginning of my homeschooling journey, because it promotes and outlines the rigorous academic excellence I was looking for. My oldest taught herself to read at age 4, and visions of Latin, Calculus and Physics danced in my head.
Veteran home educators Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer outline the classical pattern of education called the trivium, which organizes learning around the maturing capacity of the child’s mind and comprises three stages: the elementary school “grammar stage,” the middle school “logic stage,” and the high school “rhetoric stage.”
Using this theory as your model, you’ll be able to instruct your child in all levels of reading, writing, history, geography, mathematics, science, foreign languages, rhetoric, logic, art, and music, regardless of your own aptitude in those subjects.
The Classical approach laid out and explained by the Bauers is solid. I love that they emphasize critical thinking skills, sorely lacking in today’s society. I found many of the suggestions helpful and followed several of them, though I ignored others.
I’ve relaxed a whole throughout my homeschooling experience and become more eclectic, but the Classical approach to homeschooling is still the basis for a lot of what we do. And 17 years later, I still use my copy as a reference book, and I still feel this book was a great place to start.
How Children Learn by John Holt
This enduring classic of educational thought provides parents critical insight into the nature of early learning. John Holt was the first to make clear that, for children, “learning is as natural as breathing.”
From observing children, John Holt found that children learn differently than is generally thought. Children learn through tactile experience and patient experimentation. They begin life hungry for knowledge and learning. They want to understand the how and the why of everything.
They don’t need to be taught. Rather, they need to be given freedom to explore. Schools often stifle the wonder and the joy of learning. Children instead learn shame, anxiety, how to please people in authority and even how to cheat and game the system.
How Children Learn focuses on the wonder and joy of learning, while How Children Fail focuses more on how schools fail children. Both are very inspirational, and I particularly liked reading Holt’s recorded observations, analysis and conclusions. His conclusions were very applicable to my own children, and I often refer back to this book.
Holt is credited with initiating the ‘unschooling’ movement, (though to me unschooling today looks markedly different from what Holt was calling unschooling in the early 80’s) and it’s helpful to understand the roots of the philosophy. There are some dated references, but the book continues to be powerful and relevant today, even if you ultimately choose to homeschool by a different method.
Free to Learn by Peter Gray
According to Peter Gray, it’s time to stop asking what’s wrong with our children, and start asking what’s wrong with the public school system. This book is his proposal for freeing our children from the shackles of the public school system and entrust them to steer their own learning and development.
He further proposes that free play is the primary means by which children learn problem solving skills, social skills and emotional resilience. My mother always told us that play was the work of children, and I believed her, but it was good to see it backed up with evidence. Many of Gray’s ideas back up the work done by John Holt.
Teaching From Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie
We homeschool moms have voluntarily undertaken the monumental task of homeschooling our children. Though rewarding, this task is fraught with stress, worry and anxiety. Sarah Mackenzie addresses these concerns as she shares her own experiences and her struggle to bring restful learning to her own children.
Teaching from Rest was truly transformational to our homeschool. I tend to work at maximum speed until I drop from exhaustion. Sarah’s suggestions have helped to remedy that shortcoming. Not only did this book remove gigantic burdens (expectations) that I didn’t realize I’d been carrying, but it also changed our homeschool for the better. I refer back to this book often when I feel the anxiety creeping up on me.
Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver Demille
This was the first homeschooling book I ever read. As a product of the public school system, it was an epiphany for me. I couldn’t stop talking about and thinking about how it answered the question of what I wanted for my children.
I knew I didn’t want mediocrity, and I didn’t want them in a system put in place merely to teach job skills or worse. But what did I want? Did I even know how to ask the right question?
In A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-first Century, Oliver DeMille presents an overview of and a primer for an educational vision based on proven methods that really work! Teachers, students, parents, educators, legislators, leaders, and everyone who cares about America’s future must read this compelling book.
This book lays out the how and the why for leadership education with clarity and purpose. It provides a template for application of the powerful principles it teaches. It shows you why you need to move beyond ‘school at home’ (called the conveyor-belt education in the book) and how to do so.
It’s easy to give our kiddos what we are familiar with but very difficult to give them something better, when we aren’t sure what it looks like. The phases of learning and the seven keys of great teaching presented here will help you to realize and be able to articulate the vision you are looking for, even if you don’t choose to pursue this method further. I’ve never read the subsequent materials, but I still finding myself quoting the seven keys of great teaching in my mind as I’m working through choices and decisions.
The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease
You probably already know that nothing does as good a job as reading aloud to help your children to help them become avid, lifelong readers. Reading aloud awakens their imaginations and improves their language skills.
The Read-Aloud Handbook discusses the benefits, the rewards, and the importance of reading aloud to children. Supported by delightful anecdotes as well as the latest research (including the good and bad news on digital learning), this wonderful books provides proven techniques and strategies for helping children discover the pleasures of reading and setting them on the road to becoming lifelong readers.
The biggest lure for me was the Handbook’s “Treasury” – the annotated list of great read-aloud books that makes up the last third of the Handbook.
The first 170 pages of the Handbook covers topics like why we should be reading aloud, suggestions for reading aloud at each stage of development from infant up, and reading tips for your children. The last third of the Handbook is the treasury — the annotated list of great read aloud books.
You’ll be inspired to read aloud more frequently with your kiddos, and the included list of read-alouds are a fantastic place to start! Homeschool moms will refer back this book repeatedly!
Better Late Than Early by Raymond Moore
Though based on research from the 60’s and 70’s, I found this book to be especially applicable now, because preschool and academic achievements are pushed earlier and earlier and earlier. It contends that that formal education is best left until ages 8-10.
Children need to first be nurtured and loved at home. Moore backs it all up with convincing research. Some of the research sounds, naturally, outdated. But the addendum makes note that current research completely confirms the earlier studies.
Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson
If you’ve read Mission of Motherhood, you know that Sally Clarkson is great at inspiring moms to create fulfilling, loving, nurturing family relationships. This book is her effort to bring those aspects into the homeschooling arena.
From Sally Clarkson:
“God did not forget to include “school” in his biblical design for raising children–home education is a natural expression of all that God intended for parents and their children. Clay and Sally Clarkson’s Educating the WholeHearted Child is about rediscovering God’s original design for the family. What you’ll find in this book is a homeschooling model that makes sense. It’s an approach that is based on sound biblical principles of nurture, discipleship, instruction, and learning.”
This book helps you to focus on what really matters, your child’s heart. Your child is of the utmost importance, and the Clarksons advocate blurring the lines between school life and the rest of life.
No matter what your religion, you’ll find gems of encouragement and reasons for including religion in your daily homeschooling. I particularly loved the quotes in the margins. There is a definite Christian bent, just so you know.
The Three R’s by Ruth Beechick
In addition to having to decide on a homeschooling method as a new homeschooler, you have to learn all the nuts and bolts of how to implement education. Where do you even start? What are phonics?
Learn how to take the mystery out of teaching grades K-3 with this practical, down-to-earth guidebook from Ruth Beechick. The book is divided into three sections that are tabbed for easy reference.
The READING section tells how and when to begin phonics, and how to develop comprehension skills. The LANGUAGE section shows how to develop written language skills naturally, in the same way children learn oral language. The ARITHMETIC section explains how to teach understanding of math concepts, and not just memorization of facts.
This book is fantastic! Ruth Beechick uses clear, concise, common sense, practical instructions to teaching your children each subject. I love her old-fashioned, time-tested methods and her ideas for incorporating learning into daily life. I also love her Biblical worldview.
This is a guide to teaching rather than a curriculum. I’ve found it immensely helpful over the last 17 years. It’s one of those special books for homeschool moms that you’ll refer to over and over!
My Final Thoughts on Books for Homeschool Moms
Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall during a meeting of Dr. Gray, John Holt, Maria Montessori, Charlotte Mason, Susan Bauer, Waldorf, Emelia Reggio, Ruth Beechick, Raymond Moore and all of the authors of these books? I’m sure it would be very amicable, and extremely enlightening.
We homeschool moms need to educate ourselves about and understand the different schools of thought. We also need to remember that we can take what is good and valuable from each of them and discard what doesn’t apply to or isn’t valuable to our families, possibly to revisit later.
Literature is dangerous except when taken in large doses. The more we have to measure ideas against, the less vulnerable we are to them, whether correct or not. How can you fight a nameless, faceless foe?
All children learn differently and all families have different struggles. Moms know their children best and make the best stewards and caretakers of their families.
Thomas Jefferson said, “I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know.” He was talking about religion. But I feel the very same way about my homeschool. Nobody’s looks quite like mine. That’s just as it should be, because nobody’s family looks quite like mine, either.
Good luck to you in finding your own perfect blend of styles and methods! I wish you the best in your journey and I hope these fantastic books for homeschool moms will help you out! I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to find most of them at the library!
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Did I miss any of your favorite books for homeschool moms? Please share them with us in the comments below!