My Top Ten Books for Teaching Kids

Continuing my mailbag week, another thing I get asked about sometimes is: Books. I didn't want to say "Homeschooling Books" specifically, because even though WE use them for homeschooling, I think any or all of these books could be used by all types of families, either as primary or supplementary educational resources. These are the books that, even if I wasn't able to be their primary educator, I would want to share with my kids.
Note: Book titles are links, mostly Amazon Affiliate links. Clicking and shopping through the links will help support this blog. Thanks! A good resource for used Catholic homeschoolish books is Cathswap, a Yahoo Group dedicated to pairing buyers with sellers and vice versa.
When my oldest started showing an interest in learning to read as a preschooler, I tried just sounding things out with him in picture books we had around the house. But it was SO frustrating for both of us. Why did "g" sometimes say "guh" and sometimes say "juh"? I didn't know. But now I do. (It's because g says "juh" before e, i, or y.) I have had success with all of my kids using this book. It not only tells you what to do, it tells you exactly what to say. If you can read, you can teach from this book. The lessons are short and gentle. (I don't usually use the writing component, which makes them even shorter.) My kids like the stories and illustrations. They are proficient enough to move on to phonics readers by about lesson 70, so we don't usually do the end of the book. The stories get really long back there. But overall, I think it's a great program. I start my kids as they show an interest in reading, which has been between 4 and six years old. As long as I wait until they are ready, things go quite smoothly. I've had kids master reading before kindergarten and kids who didn't read well until 2nd grade. But they've all learned. (Except for the ones who haven't yet.)
This is my favorite book in our homeschool curriculum. And it was written in 1911, so that'll probably tell you a bit about my schooling preferences. It's intended for use by 7-9 year olds. (There is an Intermediate version as well for 9-12 year olds.) It contains lessons in grammar, capitalization, punctuation, composition, poetry and reading comprehension, fables, fine art appreciation, letter-writing, copy-work, and conversation practice. Yep, the art of conversation. We get a topic, and we practice conversing on that topic. I have had the cutest conversations with third graders using this book. There's a more expensive color version out now that I've got my eye on for next year when I'll have another third grader.
Story of the World is a history program that I "let" my kids listen to in the car if they've been good. (Winning!) There is a text book and an activity book that I have on the shelf, but we really just use the CDs to listen to in the car. We use a different history program too, this one is supplementary for us. There are four volumes that cover world history from nomads through the fall of the USSR, using a storytelling format that highlights, especially in the early volumes, traditional folktales from various cultures. Each volume is intended for a slightly older audience, but we have listened to them all with the entire family. I'm not sure how much the toddler is getting out of them, but they keep him quiet. There is controversy in some circles about Volume II, which covers the Middle Ages and the Protestant revolt and Volume III which pretty much trashes Charles V and Philip II and unequivocally celebrates Elizabeth I. This is not a Catholic text, and the stories are not told from a Catholic perspective. That's not a problem for me. When the narrator gets finished explaining how very miserable it must have been to be a monk copying Bibles by hand, I stop the CD and we discuss how terrific it must have been to be a monk copying Bibles by hand. And at the part about how being Catholic is like being over at your snooty aunt's house and she won't let you sit on the couch or have any juice (it's been a couple years, but it was something like that), I stop the CD and we discuss how, um, it's not like that. At all. Correcting the slanted take in Volume III did require some research on my part so that my kids would know about the sending-agents-to-murder-pregnant-St. Margaret Clitherow part of the Elizabeth I story. But now they do. And we pray that one day we will all be one. But really, it's not a problem for us. We just talk about it. The stories are great.
I like everything about the Mother of Divine Grace recommended curriculum except the spelling book. The Writing Road to Reading was The One Way Ticket to Confusingland for us. Then I found All About Spelling. And it is everything I'd been wanted a spelling program to be. It is scripted, and divided into daily lessons, like 100 Easy Lessons, so my kids think I know what I'm talking about. The lessons are short and engaging and interactive and work with multiple grade levels. It's just so. much. better. than what we were doing before.
We do Abeka consumable math books until 4th grade, then we do Saxon Math after that. But over the summer, and just for fun, the kids also do Life of Fred math. The books present math (and other science) concepts in a chapter book format, while telling the story of Fred, a five year old university math professor. My kids think they are hilarious. I'm not quite loosey goosey enough to do Life of Fred as our only math curriculum, but we've really enjoyed it as a supplementary program. Jack has done all of the books through pre-Algebra and thinks they are brilliant.
I like this Bible because it doesn't try to cram each story to fit on one page. It just takes as much time as it needs for each one. The language is accessible without being completely dumbed down. My kids like the illustrations. We say prayers and read a Bible story all together first thing, before the kids go off to do their own assignments. It's an excellent way to start the day.
This book, compiled by Laura Berquist, who also developed the MODG curriculum, is a great resource for any home. It's full of excellent, timeless poems for all age groups, as well as other literary and dramatic selections for memorization and dictation. We start our kids on memorizing well before they start school. They always want to participate in the big kids' poetry recitals. (I'm sure it doesn't have anything to do with the fact that they get jelly beans for each poem properly recited.) There are adorable little short poems and long complex epics and everything in between.
This is the old "Who made you? God made me." Baltimore Catechism. Along with volumes 1 and 2 for older kids, it really gives a complete explanation of our Catholic faith. I was raised Catholic, but didn't learn any of this stuff as a kid, so it's been really good for me to learn all of this alongside my kids. And it's amazing to me that all of those things I wondered about the Catholic faith, that I was told there just really aren't any good answers for? There are answers. They're all in the Baltimore Catechism. We are told to "always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you." (1 Peter 3:15) These books help us do that.
Like The Harp and Laurel Wreath, this book is a compendium of stories and poetry, but it focuses on a different virtue in each of its sections. The stories and poems have been great jumping off points for family discussions.
I want my kids to have a basic understanding of Latin. But I do NOT, myself, have any kind of an understanding whatsoever of Latin. So, I really appreciate these DVDs. The teacher and her cute Southern accent keeps my kids engaged. And their Latin is way better than mine. So, how did I do? Do you have any favorites I left out? More book-related posts . . . My favorite Catholic-type books:


My favorite pregnancy and childbirth and new sibling-type books:



My favorite picture books:


Thank you for asking . . .