Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

As I was regaling you all with our booklists the other week, it occurred to me to ask some of my homeschooling friends for theirs, and then to go looking for more.

While I don’t think there’s any such thing as “homeschooling culture,” as a unified entity, what I observe among the homeschooling families of my acquaintance is a preservationist drive which transcends the stereotypical desire to imprint a belief system on their children. It’s the desire to impart an entire culture which flowers from that system of belief: history, art, music, literature, ideas — the whole cabana of civilization, with its ideals regarding the purposes and possibilities of human life.

As the theologian in my house has pointed out many times, “culture” derives from “cultus;” cultures spring up around religions like daub huts around springs of clear water. Homeschooling, it seems to me, often replicates that pattern. A family’s lived culture arranges itself around the central element of religious observance. At the same time, the families I know are also striving to connect themselves to a sense of Culture with a capital C — what one friend of mine refers to as “kul-cher” — that which has already grown up around the cult of Christ and accumulated richness and grandeur as it’s passed from generation to generation.

All that’s by way of a fancy introduction to books other homeschooling families love, discuss, and consume as cultural food.

Margot Davidson of Hillside Education writes:

We do a co-op with 3 other families with kids grades 4-9. Here is the booklist. Every year we choose a couple of books that ALL the kids will read so we all have a conversation about them. Last year we all read City of the Golden House by Madeleine Polland and Door in the Wall by Marguerite D’Angeli. This year it will be I, Juan de Pareja and Johnny Tremain. This list is what we will read for class, but there are lots of other titles in this time period that will be available for individual reading.

Our time period this year is roughly 1300 to 1799. I only listed author the first time I listed the book.

Grades 4-6
Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Grey; St. Joan, Girl Soldier by Louis deWohl, I Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino, Tales from Shakespeare, Crossbows and Crucifixes by Henry Garnett, Ship’s Boy with Magellan by Milton Lomask, Madeleine Takes Command by Ethel Brill, Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare, Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

Grades 7-8
Men of Iron by Howard Pyle; St. Joan, Girl Soldier; I Juan de Pareja; Tales from Shakespeare; Crossbows and Crucifixes; Ship’s Boy with Magellan; Outlaws of Ravenhurst by Sister Imelda; With Pipe, Paddle, and Song By Elizabeth Yates; Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare; Johnny Tremain

Grade 9
Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson; Belloc’s Joan of Arc; Man for All Seasons by Bolt; I Juan de Paraja; Romeo and Juliet, Midsummer Nights’ Dream by Shakespeare; Outlaws of Ravenhurst, Witch of Blackbird Pond, Shadows on the Rock by Willa Cather, Johnny Tremain

Meanwhile, my friend Amy reports:

One great book, which I read to my olders long ago and now intend to do with the youngers, is a book by Henryk Sienkiewiecz, called In Desert and Wilderness, about two Polish children who get kidnapped and then escape, and try to make their way back to their parents, through Aftrica. Really fun read-aloud.

Willa has her son’s impressive Year 8 reading list posted in her blog’s sidebar, in downloadable format.

Children’s author and homeschooling mother Melissa Wiley reviews books here, and also discusses homeschooling.

My friend Kerri, mother of seven girls, vows that they will not leave her house without having read Kristin Lavransdatter. This year her 16-year-old will also read Alice von Hildebrand’s The Privilege of Being a Woman.

A comprehensive booklist for grades K through 8, from Elizabeth Foss.

Another Elizabeth, this one in England — she was my round-the-corner neighbor in Cambridge the entire time we lived there, but we only figured this out years later, when we met on a homeschooling email loop — on a book that changed her life and unplugged her children.

At the gorgeous House Art Journal, Regina Doman meditates on rediscovering Edna Ferber.

Meanwhile, from the incomparable Deputy Headmistress, a vintage schoolbook and the questions it raises.

In the interest of time — it takes me all day to do Amazon links for a long list of titles — I’m not linking to individual books I’ve listed here. If you’re planning to search for them on Amazon, and you’d like to benefit the First Things project through any purchases you might make, start your search here. With gratitude, &c.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to finish a print article; back soon with more curiosities, and maybe an icon or two as well.

More on: Books, Homeschooling

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles