Homeschooling can seem overwhelming at first, regardless of how passionate you are about the quality and subject-matter of your child's education. Check out this list of Shmoop-approved resources to help you over those newbie teacher blues!
- Homeschooling for Excellence by David and Mickey Colfax
The Colfaxes have served as models for generations of homeschoolers now, and the lessons in their book are still relevant today. While no one expects every child who is homeschooled to attend Harvard, three of the Colfax boys did, which is pretty good odds, if you ask us. Plus, they made plenty of headlines along the way, including one about their eldest, Grant, that goes: "Goat Boy Headed to Harvard." Flattering, no? (You can read more about that here.) One of the best things about the Colfaxes' book, though, is that it isn't an instruction manual for how to get your kid into Harvard. It's an honest account of how they chose to live, how they educated their children, what worked, what didn't work, and how they ultimately found their way through uncharted territory.
- Learning All the Time by John Holt
A lot of homeschoolers would tell you that you can't go wrong with any title by John Holt, but Learning All the Time is, in our opinion, his best work in terms of capturing the way children learn naturally. According to Holt, kids can glean most of the information that is "taught" to them in the early years of formal education on their own. How? Simply by exploring their surroundings and participating in regular, daily life activities. Holt's books contain great wisdom for parents and teachers, in and out of the classroom.
- Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense by David Guterson
Yep, this is the David Guterson who wrote Snow Falling on Cedars. And yes, he was a high school English teacher who, with his wife, was homeschooling his own children when he wrote Family Matters. Guterson, who writes passionately about his work in the classroom, presents an interesting case for homeschooling his own children despite his chosen profession, and he does so with a thoughtful eye toward how schools could better serve students and communities. All while battling with his well-educated father, a criminal attorney who disagrees with the choices Guterson and his wife have made for their children's education.
- The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise
Not everyone who homeschools "does school at home." There is a wide range when it comes to homeschooling methods from the very unstructured unschooling approach to the very structured approach of essentially duplicating the school day in the home. The Well Trained Mind is an excellent resource for homeschoolers who think they might want a fair amount of structure in their homeschool days, as well as for homeschoolers who are seeking a classical approach to education with academic rigor. In this tome, Susan Wise Bauer and her mom, Jessie Wise, lay out—in great detail—their approach to elementary, middle, and high school education. And they'll even get you started on high school transcripts when you're ready. Even if you lean toward a more unstructured approach, there are some great resources and ideas in this very comprehensive guide to homeschooling.
- Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything by Laura Grace Weldon
Filled with information about the nature of learning—and the nurturing of learners—Weldon has put together a comprehensive resource for people considering homeschooling, people who are already homeschooling, and people who just want to understand what it's all about. There are stories from homeschoolers all over the world, ideas for covering various content areas, and descriptions of interesting approaches such as field tripping, travel, and service travel as central parts of homeschooling. And in case you had any suspicions, Weldon incorporates data from neurologists, anthropologists, historians, educators, and more to support her assertions about the benefits of a "free range" education.
- The Homeschooling Handbook: How to Make Homeschooling Simple, Fun, Affordable, and Effective by Lorilee Lippincott
Sure, Lorilee Lippincott sounds like the name of a Superman heroine (or was that Lois Lane? Lana Lang?). But this L.L. doesn't need saving—she's got it all figured out. In her Homeschooling Handbook, she covers everything from the "S" word (socialization) and the legal requirements of homeschooling, to various homeschooling approaches and time management. There are numerous case studies that explore the lives of various homeschoolers so you can get an idea of what the day-to-day looks like for people operating as unschoolers or practitioners of a particular philosophy, whether Classical Education, Charlotte Mason, or Waldorf. And of course, as the title suggests, Lippincott offers advice for keeping things affordable even as you wade through options for various curricula and materials.
- The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life Education by Grace Llewellyn
Yeah, yeah, we said six, but who doesn't believe in lucky number seven? If you're thinking about homeschooling high school—or if you just want some food for thought—you need to read Grace Llewellyn's treatise on why many teens should seriously consider rising out (note the different phraseology from dropping out) of school and taking control of their education. Llewellyn profiles several homeschoolers, most of whom lean toward the unschooling end of things as they navigate their high school years, and she offers a clear path for others who may want to follow their lead. There are numerous ideas here for getting an excellent secondary education outside of the system, so consider yourself warned. As Pat Wagner wrote for the Bloomsbury Review:
"This is a very dangerous book. It contradicts all the conventional wisdom about dropouts and the importance of a formal education. It is funny and inspiring. Do not, under any circumstances, share this book with a bright, frustrated high-schooler being ground into mind fudge by the school system. This writer cannot be responsible for the happiness and sense of personal responsibility that might [result]."
A dangerous book about education? Sign us up.
Looking for additional resources to supplement your child's at-home education? Check out our Homeschool Subscription Plan, and get Shmoop for yourself and up to 10 students!