Homeschooling Essentials: Great Books

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Great books are probably the only real thing I’d consider a homeschooling essential, but I haven’t always felt that way. I almost decided to write about curriculum, but if you read yesterday’s post you’ll see that I decided on just the three R’s instead. Even then, you don’t need a specific curriculum. But you will always need great books.

Great Books
Great Books

So, what constitutes a great books? Rich vocabulary, well-constructed sentences, something that pulls you in to the story emotionally. Those books that, years and decades later, you still remember. So, how do you know great books before you read them? Partly, I evaluate if a book is amongst the greats by finding it on lists of other great books. I enjoy using Listopia from Goodreads. I always recommend the Newbery book lists as well; there are always medal winners and honor recipients (runners-up for the medal). These books are always amazing!

“To encourage original creative work in the field of books for children. To emphasize to the public that contributions to the literature for children deserve similar recognition to poetry, plays, or novels. To give those librarians, who make it their life work to serve children’s reading interests, an opportunity to encourage good writing in this field.”

Are lists the only way to determine the “greatness” of any given book? I’m sure not, but for me it has made it easy to be sure that the selections I offer my children are, indeed, great books. I’ve also had them read books that I remember from my own childhood, because those books that stick with you tend to be the ones you’d like to share with your children.

When kids are little, Caldecott picture books are often a good choice. Now, admittedly, I’ve found some Caldecott books that I don’t like nearly as much as others. The Caldecott medal is about the artwork, and not so much about the literary content. But, it’s about cultivating a love of reading and of books in your young children. It’s about helping them recognize great books so that as they grow, they can choose those great books for themselves. Read to your young children as often as they will sit and let you do so. When they bring a book to you and ask for you to read it to them, stop within only a very few minutes and read it to them. Make a promise to yourself to do this every single time; even if that’s not a realistic possibility, the promise to yourself will ensure that it does happen more often than not. (Okay, you caught me. Doing this for myself – and my children, right this minute!)

As they get older, let them read good books that interest them, read great books to them, and let them get familiar with books. Use books for your learning in science, history, music, art, geography – almost anything. Read about MATH if you can figure out a way to do so. Older kids will devour many books. The greatest portion of them should be of great books, many of learning, much of biography, and a few of whatever they happen to pull off the shelf. With a cultivated love of great books, a little twaddled reading in the well-educated and well-disciplined child is certainly tolerable.

Why Do You Need Great Books?

With a love of reading and a great book, a child can learn anything. Anything they want to learn is open to them in a book. Cultivate a love of learning in them when they are young, and they will learn to turn to books for information, for enjoyment, and for edification. One of the most basic but maybe not obvious reasons to use great books is that a higher level of reading, a greater understanding of language and usage, and a better tolerance for the more difficult passages will make studying God’s Word much easier and more enjoyable for your children.

No matter what translation you use, one of your great books – from the very beginning – should be the Bible. Read it to them when they are little. Get them a version they can read when they are young. Get them a newer version when they are fluent readers. Then get them a study Bible by the time they are of middle school age.

Great books are an essential of homeschooling, if for no other reason than this. But – oh! – the joy of the story inside the great books, and the joy of cultivating that love in our children! There are few adventures that compare. God bless!

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials

Don’t forget to visit my friends and see what they consider to be the essentials of homeschooling!

Laura @ Day by Day in Our World
Julie @ Nurturing Learning
Lisa @ Farm Fresh Adventures
Lori @ At Home: where life happens
Nicole @ Journey to Excellence
Adriana @ Homeschool Ways
Brandy @ Kingdom Academy Homeschool
Meg @ Adventures with Jude
Sarah @ Delivering Grace


  1. says

    I agree wholeheartedly. I homeschool my kids, too, and my favorite thing to do with them is read and discuss the classics because I believe they have so much to offer. Have you ever checked out Thomas Jefferson Education? They believe in reading and discussing the classics (the Great Books) as a way of teaching and learning.

    • dalynnrmc says

      Thank you Ruth! I think I did look at TJE a while back, but hadn’t thought about it recently. There are so many great lists out there! I’ll have to go find this and pin it… or see if I already have it pinned. 😉 Thanks for sharing! Blessings!

    • dalynnrmc says

      Indeed – looks like most of us CAN agree on at least a few things. 😉 LOL Thanks for taking the time to comment! God bless!

  2. Jaynessa says

    Love it! I also love that Great books will look different for every family, for my younger children many of our great books never made any list but they made our list because they are favorites, the children ask for them over and over, and they remember lessons from them. For my Kindergarten and 1st grade students great books also include the books from the Five In A Row reading lists because they truly are wonderful books with a lesson to teach! My older boys are reading lots of the “medal” books you mentioned, but also other books that maybe to other families wouldn’t be considered great, but because of something they did for our family or again the fact that my children request them over and over they become great in our family! I do like to look at the Charlotte Mason and Classical Education book lists and include many of those, I also like the lists from A Thomas Jefferson education.

    • dalynnrmc says

      I think most of the FIAR books are probably great books by most peoples’ standards. Many of those are great picture books instead of necessarily being good literary books, but for the little ones sometimes the pictures are what MAKES the book great. :) I love lists, but some of the books suggested are just dry and boring. If I can’t choke it down, I’m not going to make my kids choke it down, either. But I do try to be careful about books that are just a waste of paper and space. (Those Wimpy Kid books strike a super sensitive nerve with me. The kids LOVE them. They are CRAP, shouldn’t be even considered BOOKS. Just saying. LOL) But yes, my “lists” are extensive, a full Pinterest board full of them, and many I can’t even pin. But, you knew that. 😉 Thanks for commenting! Blessings!

  3. says

    I also wrote about books, though your post is so much more specific than mine. I will say in response to your question about whether or not lists are the only way to find great books – No. Many great books are not ever listed as great books because the “right” person doesn’t ever discover them. I truly believe that you have to get deep into the library stacks or the stacks at your local used book store or your local library book sale and just dig. Some of our favorites will never be mentioned in a “great books” list but they are perfect for us. Great post!!
    Lori H recently posted…5 Ps of Homeschooling Essentials – ParaphernaliaMy Profile

    • dalynnrmc says

      Reading is definitely a good thing, especially when a love for reading is cultivated. I agree that there are many undiscovered books out there which are great! I love finding the diamonds in the rough like that as well; I have a few very old books that I always loved, sitting on the bookshelf in my bedroom. :) Thanks for taking the time to comment! God bless!

    • dalynnrmc says

      Hahaha, yes, or maybe “If you CAN read about it you CAN learn it.” I’m all about focusing on the positives. 😉 But, I agree – reading is definitely the key. Thanks for commenting! Be blessed!

  4. says

    Books are a central part of our lives in my house. I started collecting books I wanted to read to my children when I was in high school. WE love the library, and even though my kids are older we still read aloud together at night. Even if you have nothing else, you can still do so much as long as you have good books to work with!
    Brandy recently posted…5 Days of Homeschool Essentials: Groups and Co-opsMy Profile

    • dalynnrmc says

      I agree completely! If the country shuts down and we all go into hiding, we’ll be fine on learning because we are definitely some book-wealthy people. LOL I didn’t do as much reading starting in high school (too busy with other things…), and have been trying to get back into the reading habit I established when pregnant with the twins (when I couldn’t do anything else) for a while now. It’s good for me, and it’s good for my kids to see me, and it helps my kids learn to establish the same habits. :)

      Thanks for your comments! Blessings!

  5. says

    I am glad to see this post. This is the one big gap I saw in your “supplies” post – a library (or in your words great books). We don’t go to the library (not very often anyway). We have a library! I even bartered to have some built-in bookshelves put in my living room and dining room : )

    I disagree with what many people call great books or “classics” and consider “must reads”. But again, that is the beauty of homeschooling! I do however think books are essential to homeschooling. You can learn about any subject just by reading a book. They can take you places you have never been. Right now my 10 year old and I have a challenge going – whether he can finish reading G. A. Henty’s The Cat of Bubastes before I finish listening to it : ) He is ahead of me by a couple of chapters. Before the challenge, I was ahead because he preferred easier reading like, Box Car Children ; )

    Again I am amazed at the frequency of your posting. You’ll have to share how you got started earning money writing with me sometime.

    Keep the posts coming.
    Machelle recently posted…New Year’s ResolutionsMy Profile

    • dalynnrmc says

      I haven’t earned much money yet, Machelle. 😉 Actually, most of what I’ve earned so far is mostly products in exchange for review. Some money, though. It definitely takes invested time! I’d love to chat about it. When are you coming up here next, barring another disaster? LOL (We might head down that way near Spring Break. If so, I’ll give you a shout for sure!)

      I’m doing quite a bit of back-and-forth over what I’m considering great books as well. I’ve gone back and tried to read many of the “classics” I never read in school. Some I’ve adored. Some I’ve put down, glad I haven’t been assigned reading them. I’m also glad for those experiences, because it means I won’t be torturing my children with those selections, either! But, you are definitely one that I’d love to see a list of books you’d suggest at any given reading level. I value your opinion on many things, not the least of which is the appropriateness of what we allow into the hearts and minds of our children (and ourselves).

      And God bless you for keeping up with comments. I’m so terrible about reading other blogs! It’s a time management thing….

      Thank you! <3 Be blessed!