061. Talk, Read, and Sing Together Everyday

Talk, Read, and Sing Together Everyday

Tips for homeschooling your youngest!

It’s been proven that talking, reading, and singing with your child every day makes them happier and builds cognitive development. In today’s episode, we’re discussing this topic and sharing game-changing tips for homeschooling your youngest kiddos creating a memorable journey filled with laughter, curiosity, and the joy of exploring the world together

Episode 061:

Brand New to Homeschooling?
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

Show Notes

Homeschooling preschoolers and very young children is a delightful adventure that transforms learning into joyous exploration. The intimate setting of home provides a comfortable and secure environment and helps foster strong family bonds.

With the growing popularity of homeschooling, a lot of families are wanting to start homeschooling earlier and earlier. Some people even know they want to homeschool before they even get pregnant and they are really eager to get started. But getting started doesn’t mean that you have to sit down at a desk with workbooks or a curriculum. The simple act of engaging in daily conversations, reading sessions, and sing-alongs is not only a lot of fun, but it’s really a fundamental and enriching aspect of their early development. 

Talking, reading, and singing together all play a pivotal role in nurturing various aspects of a child’s growth, things like language acquisition, cognitive skills, and emotional well-being. Regular conversations contribute to expanding their vocabulary, and a rich language environment is crucial for development. It strongly influences early language, vocabulary, reading, and math skills, as well as children’s social development. Cuddling up on the couch with a great book and sharing stories fosters a love for reading and also enhances their vocabulary and imagination.

Word Gap

Research shows that some young children are exposed to more language in their homes than other children. This difference in the number of words and back-and-forth conversations to which children are exposed is called the “word gap”. And this word gap is significant! By 3, there is a whopping 30 million word gap between children. That means that the kids at the lower end heard 30 million fewer words. Researchers can already tell a difference between these kids by 18 months so when we get those listeners reaching out, asking what they can do with their very young child, this is definitely the episode for you!  There are lots of ways to improve this word gap, many of which we will talk about today.  Learn more about What Your Preschooler Should Know

When you’re ready to begin academics, where do you start? Learn all about Homeschooling Kindergarten

All children, no matter how young, listen to people talk. It is how they learn new words and begin to understand the world around them. Just talking to your kids throughout your day is such a fantastic way to support their development. And singing together, with its rhythmic and melodic elements, not only enhances language skills, but also makes for happier children and strengthens your bond with them. 

We discussed this beautiful book, The Boys in the Boat. on this episode. There’s even a Younger Reader’s version of The Boys in the Boat.

Here are some creative and educational ideas for encouraging more talking, singing, and reading in your homeschool (9:52):

Conversations during Activities

  • Engage in conversations during everyday activities like cooking, cleaning, or playing. This helps build vocabulary and language skills. Talk with your child as you go about your day: making food, riding in the car, getting ready for bed, any time. 
  • Get down on their level.
  • Tune in and listen to what they have to say. If your toddler says “flower,” you can say, “We saw a flower today.”
  • You can respond to babbling or even silence. If the child does not speak yet, look at what they are doing or pointing to and use these moments to talk with them.
  • Add new vocabulary words to the ones children are already using when talking to them. If he or she says “apple,” you can say, “Do you want an apple? That’s a very healthy food.”
  • Restate children’s language using correct grammar.
  • Don’t be afraid of using adult words.  People love to baby talk to young kids, but if you talk to them in normal language, you’ll be surprised at how much they can articulate.
  • Asking stimulating and developmentally appropriate questions can help boost the language environment.
  • Ask children about what they are doing.
  • Have them connect playing to their own lives. For example, Are they playing with Legos? You can build a little house and put a Lego person inside and ask them what the Lego person is doing inside their house. 
  • Ask them what they are doing or how something works. And you don’t want to stress out your kid with questions, these should be just light exchanges during play. Some people get really intense in their teacher/student roles as most of us have been programmed on what education should be by the public school system. Some parents ask a question and really want their kid to answer, almost like it’s an exam, but remember this is just engagement and conversation. Keep in mind that you are parent and child first and educating them is just an expansion on this. You’ve been teaching them all their life.
  • For children with limited language, giving them a choice can help them respond more easily to questions.
  • For example, “did you use colored pencils or markers to draw that picture?” “Would you like to do this or that activity?”  Ask open ended, not yes or no, questions that encourage them to keep talking.
  • You can gradually increase the complexity of your questions as your child progresses in their development.
  • Children can learn big, new, and interesting words through repeated exposures. 

You know our answer to everything is reading books!  It’s because both of us really value great literature and sharing this with our children. Reading is the cornerstone of all education and higher learning, so it’s essential to start habits when your kids are young. And we are not talking about reading instruction. We’re talking about teaching them how to really enjoy a story. That’s where the love of books begins.


  • Set aside dedicated time for reading books together. Choose a variety of books with colorful pictures and simple language to high quality books with rich vocabulary.
  • Discuss the story, characters, and encourage them to ask questions.  Have them narrate back to you what a story or book or chapter was about.
  • Pick books and let kids pick books about topics they find interesting. Ask questions that relate to the child’s experiences or interests.
  • Stop in a story and ask children to make predictions about what you think will happen next?
  • Ask them to make up their own stories about those characters. 

Visit the Library

  • If you’re not already plugged into your local library, get familiar with it. Get your child their own card. Make regular trips to the library to expose your child to a variety of books. Library story time has always been one of our favorite activities.  
  • Have kids pick out books they are interested in as well as you make choices off your list.  Mix all those books onto your library shelf at home.


  • Incorporate songs into your daily routine. Singing helps with language development and can make activities more enjoyable. Use simple and repetitive songs to make it easy for them to sing along.
  • Have a “good morning” song and a “putting on your shoes” song, etc.
  • Play music in the car- there are so many kids artists that we devoured as kids- Lori Berkner, Dan Zanes, Justin Roberts (we even saw some of these in concert). Listen to grown up music, too!
  • And I love the Beethoven Wig songs– they are classical music set with lyrics that are pretty catchy and very memorable.  I love being at the symphony and one of my kids says I know the words to this song! I just realized the other day that my washing machine plays a Chopin number when it is done. We also choose to explore the works of famous composers and musicians pretty early. 
This Composer Book Series was a favorite for both of our families:
Getting the Know the World’s Greatest Composers

Musical Instruments

Consider offering your children the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument. And this doesn’t have to be expensive. You can choose to do private lessons, but there’s also a lot of online lessons that are very affordable like on OUTSCHOOL or you can do lessons on DVDs. Instruments like the piano, guitar, violin, or even the recorder are good choices for beginners.  Have a big basket of musical instruments in your house.  You’ll be surprised at how popular these toys are!

Accordion with 10 Keys Button Accordion
Natural Wooden Percussion
Instruments Musical Toys
Lap Harp
Kid’s Toy Violin with 4 Adjustable Strings and Bow
Click N’ Play Toy Trumpet and Toy Saxophone Set for Kids – Create Real Music


Singing can be a wonderful way to bring music into your home. Encourage your children to sing along with their favorite songs or learn new songs. Singing helps develop pitch, rhythm, and language skills. You can incorporate singing into your daily routines, such as singing a “Good Morning” song or singing during chores. Singing can also help teach reading.

Wee Sing Nursery Rhymes and Lullabies

Music Classes

We took a couple classes when the kids were really little- Kindermusik and then Music Together.  They are super fun mommy and me classes that really help introduce kids to music.  I mostly took them for my toddler but my baby liked them so much- we did these for a long time.


Karaoke is not only a favorite activity, it helped my kids learn how to read.. Put a karaoke song on YouTube, give them a microphone and the reading instruction is done for the day!

One of the ways I taught my kids how to read is with Karaoke!

Karaoke Microphone

Rhyming Games

  • Play rhyming games to enhance phonological awareness. Encourage them to come up with words that rhyme with everyday objects or create silly rhymes together.
  • This is a great way to encourage older siblings to play or teach younger siblings.  One of my kids’ assignments was to do finger play with their toddler sister when they were little.
  • Nursery Rhymes are a great way to encourage speech and vocabulary and memorization work.

Letter and Number Fun

  • Introduce letters and numbers through playful activities. Use alphabet and number magnets, sing counting songs, or create simple crafts related to specific letters or numbers.
  • Letter of the day or the week is a fun way to do this and great for preschoolers just starting to learn to recognize letters and read.
Magnetic Letters and Numbers

Nature Talks

  • Explore nature together. Discuss the different colors, shapes, and textures you find. This not only encourages conversation but also fosters an appreciation for the world around them.
  • Have some field guides and learn how to identify different animals, birds, plants or trees.
  • Some of our best talks have been on walks, too.  Sometimes it is easier to talk side by side than face to face.
Kids Explorer Kit with Safari Vest & Hat and more!

Imaginary Play

8 Pack of Fabric Hand puppets with movable mouth and hands. Puppets are so much fun and we love this diverse pack that comes in variety of skin colors. 

Remember to adapt these activities based on your child’s interests and developmental stage. The key is to make learning enjoyable and foster a positive attitude toward language and literacy. The daily ritual of talking, reading, and singing creates a supportive and stimulating environment that lays a strong foundation for a child’s lifelong learning journey, fostering curiosity, creativity, and a lifelong love for learning. Being able to tailor activities to a child’s unique interests and pace of development is so great and having the freedom and flexibility to choose engaging and interactive lessons turns every day into an opportunity for discovery and growth. From hands-on experiments that spark curiosity to creative arts and crafts projects that unleash imagination, homeschooling fosters a love for learning that goes beyond textbooks.

This Week’s Freebie:

Download your Free Nursery Rhyme Posters

Black History & Stories in Your Homeschool Pre-K-12th

Black History & Stories Prek-12th

Learn about Achievements and History of Black Americans by snuggling up with some great books!

Encourage your new reader to REVIEW the Books they read by downloading our FREE REVIEW and READING LOG SHEET (pdf). Also, Celebrate the life and legacy Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with these Easy NO-PREP MLK, Jr. Activity Ideas. Learn more about Teaching Black History All Year Long on Episode 062.

Ages 4-9

Ticktock Banneker’s Clock by Shana Keller

This is a gorgeously illustrated biography of colonial era math and science expert Benjamin Banneker. He was born free at a time in America when most African Americans were slaves. Inspired by a pocket watch he had seen, he built a strike clock based on his own drawings and using a pocket-knife. But even when he was born in Maryland in 1731, he was already an extraordinary person for that time period. He was born free at a time in America when most African Americans were slaves. Though he only briefly attended school and was largely self-taught, at a young age Benjamin displayed a keen aptitude for mathematics and science. Inspired by a pocket watch he had seen, at the age of 22 he built a strike clock based on his own drawings and using a pocket-knife. Ages 6-9

Ticktock Banneker’s Clock is a perfect book for your little engineers. Throughout his life, Benjamin Banneker was known and admired for his work in science, mathematics, and astronomy.

Goin’ Someplace Special by Patricia C. McKissack

There’s a place in this 1950s southern town where all are welcome, no matter what their skin color…and ’Tricia Ann knows exactly how to get there. To her, it’s someplace special and she’s bursting to go by herself. But when she catches the bus heading downtown, unlike the white passengers, she must sit in the back behind the Jim Crow sign and wonder why life’s so unfair.
Still, for each hurtful sign seen and painful comment heard, there’s a friend around the corner reminding ’Tricia Ann that she’s not alone. And her grandmother’s words—“You are somebody, a human being—no better, no worse than anybody else in this world”—echo in her head, lifting her spirits and pushing her forward. Ages 4-8

Goin Someplace Special is a beautiful story and illustrations. It sparked a good discussion about inner strength and personality and also about segregation.

Brick by Brick by Charles R. Smith Jr.

The home of the United States president was built by many hands, including those of slaves, who undertook this amazing achievement long before there were machines to do those same jobs.

Stirring and emotional, Floyd Cooper’s stunning illustrations bring to life the faces of those who endured hard, brutal work when the profit of their labor was paid to the master, not the slave. The fact that many were able to purchase their freedom after earning money from learning a trade speaks to the strength of those individuals. They created this iconic emblem of America, brick by brick. Ages 4-8

Brick by Brick is a compelling true story behind the building of the White House, a powerful part of history rarely taught.

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine

Henry Brown doesn’t know how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves’ birthdays. All the time he dreams about freedom, but that dream seems farther away than ever when he is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. Henry grows up and marries, but he is again devastated when his family is sold at the slave market. Then one day, as he lifts a crate at the warehouse, he knows exactly what he must do: He will mail himself to the North. After an arduous journey in the crate, Henry finally has a birthday — his first day of freedom. Ages 6-9

Henry’s Freedom Box is a true story telling the tale of the pain of growing up as a slave.

More Books for Young Children (ages 4-9):

Uncle Jed’s Barbershop by Margaree King Mitchell
Sit-In How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins by Carole Boston Weatherford
All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson
Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, Winifred Conkling
Follow The Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter
A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams
The ABCs of Black History by Rio Cortez
Brown Boy Brown Boy What Can You Be? by Ameshia Arthur
Skin Like Mine by LaTashia Perry
Moses When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford
The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson
Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Doreen Rappaport
The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles
White Socks Only by Evelyn Coleman Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson
The Juneteenth Story: Celebrating the End of Slavery in the United States by Alliah L. Agostini
Great Black Heros Series:
> 5 Notable Black Inventors
> 5 Bold Black Freedom Fighters
> 5 Brilliant Black Scientists

Download your FREE Reading Book Planner! Includes Book Wish List, Reading List, Book Review, Favorite Quotes, and Summary.

Ages 10-14

The Journey of York: The Unsung Hero of the Lewis and
Clark Expedition by Hasan Davis

Thomas Jefferson’s Corps of Discovery included Captains Lewis and Clark and a crew of 28 men to chart a route from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean. All the crew but one volunteered for the mission. York, the enslaved man taken on the journey, did not choose to go. Slaves did not have choices. York’s contributions to the expedition, however, were invaluable. The captains came to rely on York’s judgement, determination, and peacemaking role with the American Indian nations they encountered. But as York’s independence and status rose on the journey, the question remained what status he would carry once the expedition was over. This is his story. Ages 10+

The Journey of York was written in the style of journal entries as penned by York, a real person who was an enslaved individual accompanying the Lewis and Clark expedition.

BTDT Homeschool was created with a heartfelt mission: to empower and give back to the secular homeschool community.

Through our informative podcasts, blog posts, daily inspiration, and a wide range of free printable tools, we aim to empower you on your homeschooling journey.

New to Homeschooling>>>

Apple – Spotify – Google Play – Amazon – Others

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball

This is the story of gifted athletes and determined owners, racial discrimination, and international sportsmanship, of fortunes won and lost; of triumphs and defeats on and off the field. It is a perfect mirror for the social and political history of black America in the first half of the twentieth century. But most of all, the story of the Negro Leagues is about hundreds of unsung heroes who overcame segregation, hatred, terrible conditions, and low pay to do one thing they loved more than anything else in the world: play ball. Ages 8-12

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball is written in an inviting first-person voice. Kadir Nelson shares the engaging story of Negro League baseball from its beginnings in the 1920s through its evolution, until after Jackie Robinson crossed over to the majors in 1947.

More Books for Middle Children (ages 10-14):

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, a Monumental American Man by Tonya Bolden
How to Build A Museum: Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture by Tony Bolden
March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin
The Gold Cadillac by Mildred Taylor
The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander
Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges
Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
Who Was Series:
> Maya Angelou
> Martin Luther King, Jr.
> Lois Armstrong
> George Washington Carver
> Sojourner Truth
> Harriet Tubman
> Jackie Robinson
> Muhammad Ali
> Nelson Mandela
> Jesse Owens
> Rosa Parks
> Roberto Clemente
> Barack Obama
> Michelle Obama
> Frederick Douglass

Ages 15-18+

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. Ages 15+

The Hate U Give is told from the point of view of Star Carter, a 16 year old black girl who is trying to live in two different worlds: one being the all black crime-ridden neighborhood where she lives and grew up in — and the other being the predominately white upper middle-class high school to which her parents send her and her two brothers.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare. Ages 15+

Becoming is the story of Michelle Obama’s life from the time she was a young girl growing up on the Southside of Chicago as part of a poor black family.

More Books for High School and beyond (ages 15-18+):

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
Home Going by Yaa Gyasi
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northrup Roots by Alex Haley

044. Hidden Agenda in Homeschool Groups and Organizations

The Hidden Agenda Behind Homeschool groups and Organizations


Hidden Agenda in Homeschool Groups and Organizations

Tune in today as we answer these questions and more!

Episode 044:

Brand New to Homeschooling?
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

Show Notes

As seasoned homeschoolers, we have noticed that the pandemic and sudden influx of homeschoolers over the last few years has unfortunately attracted some nefarious and predatory companies into the curriculum market.  But we also know that there are a lot of differences in types of homeschoolers, in general- we’re not a homogenous bunch by any stretch, and so it is important to be able to sift through the enormity of the information out there to find just the right fit and path for your family.  At the end of the day, we could all be homeschooling for completely different reasons, but we still don’t want to see anyone fall prey to a scam, or spend money on a program or organization that isn’t going to be a good fit or helpful to their family.

It goes without saying that transparency varies between organizations and online groups and companies, and finding conflicts of interest can be daunting. By honing your critical thinking skills when evaluating, and being mindful of biases, you can navigate the complex landscape of information and make more informed judgments. When looking at homeschool organizations, groups, and curriculum purveyors:

Investigate ownership

Examine the ownership of the organization. Determine if there are any potential conflicts of interest based on the political or corporate affiliations of the owners. Media consolidation or bias can influence the content and presentation of news.

Scrutinize funding sources

Investigate the funding sources for them. Look for any financial ties or affiliations that may influence the information presented. Consider whether the funding sources are vested in a particular outcome or narrative.  Is this a spin-off group that is owned or operated by a different, larger company with a different viewpoint? And don’t just look at who donates or sponsors them, who do they donate to or sponsor?  Do you want your money going to these other groups?

And likewise, what are their connections?

You want to examine any potential affiliations that individuals posting or the organization may have. Does a financial or professional relationship impact their objectivity or bias? Do they feature a review or advertisement from a public figure that has nothing to do with education?

Is it a real person with experience?

Sometimes in these homeschool groups, there are brand new profiles with only a couple of Facebook friends and/or a stock photo. You can easily search in a group if somebody posts repeatedly promoting a certain product. That’s a red flag. It’s also typically against the rules of most groups to post without identifying that you are affiliated or employed by the company that you are promoting.  

Evaluate disclosure statements

If a homeschool organization lacks transparency or has incomplete disclosures, that’s often a red flag. If I can’t even identify what the company’s worldview is, there’s a chance that they aren’t even aligned with your family values. And if they aren’t, you won’t want to purchase their product. 

Cross-check multiple sources

Verify information by seeking diverse sources and experiences. Relying on a single source or outlet increases the risk of biases or conflicts of interest. Use that search bar!  See what other users are saying.  Don’t trust the company or organization to vouch for themselves.

These are simple things you can do to determine whether a company or group is legitimate and worthy of your membership and money.

Do I need to join HSLDA? (6:54)

(Homeschool Legal Defense Association)

So, one of the biggest things you will see on posts and pages about getting started in homeschooling is the advice to immediately join HSLDA (or other state- focused homeschooling associations).

Back in the early 1980s, home education was widely illegal, and still typically fell under truancy laws and statutes—which govern compulsory education—in many states. In response, a batch of lawyers founded the HSLDA and over the decades have pursued the abolishment of homeschooling regulation and oversight. They’ve largely succeeded. Not only is homeschooling legal in every state, in some states parents are not required to notify anyone of their intent to homeschool.

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) defines themselves as  a nonprofit organization in the United States that advocates for the rights of homeschooling families and provides legal support to homeschooling parents facing legal challenges. The organization’s stated mission is to preserve and protect the right of parents to educate their children at home. However, some critics and observers have speculated about potential hidden agendas or broader motivations behind the organization’s activities. 

They are primarily a lobbying group

Lobbying involves advocating for specific policies, legislation, or regulations to government officials in order to influence the decisions and actions of lawmakers. HSLDA advocates for laws and regulations that support the rights of homeschooling families and parents who choose to educate their children at home, but their lobbying efforts typically revolve around issues related to homeschooling regulations, parental rights, and educational freedom. This can include advocating against overly restrictive regulations or requirements that could impede parents’ ability to homeschool their children. Often though, there is an underlying agenda to promote conservative Christian values and religious beliefs through homeschooling. They may be more focused on shaping the curriculum and educational content according to these values.

HSLDA’s Homeschool Foundation is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization that drafts model conservative legislation for distribution to state legislatures. They are on ALEC’s education taskforce.

Kathryn Brightbill is the policy analyst at the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, an organization founded by homeschool alumni who seek sensible homeschooling reforms.  She says this about HSLDA:

“HSLDA has had an outsized role in shaping homeschool culture, including secular homeschool culture. Whatever noble motivations they may have had to help homeschoolers at the organization’s outset, their belief that children don’t have rights — only parents have rights — combined with their decision to take parent’s claims at face value instead of vetting the cases they choose, has made them an organization that enables child abuse and educational neglect.” 

Their focus on policy and legislation also has an impact on public education: There are concerns that a strong homeschooling movement, supported by organizations like HSLDA, might lead to decreased funding and support for public education, potentially weakening the overall quality and accessibility of education for all children. We are already seeing this happening with school choice and voucher legislation and the destabilizing of the public school system. 

They do not serve all families

Unless you are a Christian family there’s a very good chance that HSLDA will not represent you. They will take your money through membership, but they will not represent you. It’s so important for anybody giving money to them to know that your membership dues put them under NO obligation whatsoever to give you any legal aid. There is no guarantee, no policy in place that your membership money entitles you to any legal assistance whatsoever. They can choose to represent you, OR NOT, for any reason they see fit.

In the majority of states, the homeschooling regulations are relatively simple. If you get confused or run into minor trouble, most states have a statewide organization that can help you. It’s very rare for people to really run into trouble with the state over homeschooling, but if you do, it’s likely you’ll have to get your own lawyer anyway. Like here in Texas, CPS is not going to investigate a family JUST because of homeschooling.

They have a particular agenda and a particular view of homeschooling to advance. They have a conservative political agenda and sometimes insert themselves into issues that have absolutely NOTHING to do with homeschooling. In particular, they are anti-gay. They have never been subtle about their dislike of the LGBTQ people or their impassioned advocacy to ensure that LGBTQ communities are denied human rights and education. In 2004, HSLDA promoted a constitutional amendment that would ban gay and lesbian couples from not only the institution of marriage but also civil unions. (view the amendment). We are inclusive homeschoolers, and we embrace the LGBTQ community and it is a slap in the face after so much work has been done in these communities to create equal opportunities for all families. 

They use fear tactics to drive membership

I can’t tell you how many times I have seen posts from or about HSLDA that describe some crazy homeschooling story and how HSLDA had to step in and fix it and then everyone is like, this is why you should join.  Social workers and child protective services are consistently portrayed as “evil” and people who “abuse their power.” HSLDA has used resources like the Court Report and email alerts and Facebook posts to “fuel fear and distrust of government.” They act like you are facing certain doom if you don’t have their “protection,” but the reality is you don’t need them. So long as homeschoolers follow whatever regulations exist in their states (these vary from nothing at all to requiring annual portfolios), they’re almost always fine. 

Parental Rights Extremism: While HSLDA primarily focuses on homeschooling rights, some critics suggest that the organization’s advocacy for homeschooling rights might be part of a broader agenda to expand parental rights, potentially including the right to make medical decisions for children, even in cases where those decisions could have negative health outcomes.

7 Steps to Choosing Curriculum
Learn the 7 Steps to Choosing Curriculum that fits your family>>

Minimal Government Oversight: HSLDA is known for advocating against government regulation and oversight of homeschooling. Critics contend that the organization’s push for minimal government involvement might be motivated by a desire to limit the ability of authorities to ensure that homeschooled children are receiving a well-rounded and comprehensive education. This can contribute to abuse.

Isolationism and Control: There are concerns that HSLDA’s support for homeschooling could potentially enable some families to isolate their children from diverse viewpoints and experiences. Critics worry that this isolation could lead to indoctrination and limit children’s exposure to a range of perspectives.

Almost all of the information they provide is also available for FREE

Seriously.  You do not have to pay for a membership when all of the information is available online. HSLDA has developed a brilliant strategy: fear mongering. A fear-based decision is not a logical one. The best way to overcome these fears they have worked so hard to put into our heads is to educate yourself on your state laws. Be proactive and be your family’s advocate. We have a handy guide on our website where we give a summary for each state and a link to each state’s education department. Join homeschool groups in your area, hone those critical thinking skills, and know that knowing your rights is your family’s best defense. 

Look up your state’s homeschool law>>

What does religious, secular, and inclusive really mean? (17:13)

When it comes to homeschooling, the terms “secular,” “inclusive,” and “religious” refer to different approaches and types of educational materials used in the curriculum, homeschool groups, and homeschool social gatherings. Here’s a breakdown of each category:

Secular Materials: Secular homeschooling materials are those that are not tied to any particular religious belief or doctrine. They focus on providing education from a non-religious perspective, emphasizing a neutral and objective approach to academic subjects. Secular materials aim to be inclusive of various beliefs and worldviews, focusing on facts, critical thinking, and a well-rounded education without a religious bias.

  • Secular Materials:
    • Ideal for families who want an education without a religious bias or who have a diverse range of beliefs.
    • Emphasizes critical thinking, scientific reasoning, and a well-rounded education.
    • Generally well-suited for families who want to expose their children to a variety of viewpoints.

Inclusive Materials: Inclusive homeschooling materials take into account the diversity of beliefs, cultures, and backgrounds among students and families. These materials strive to represent a wide range of perspectives, experiences, and identities. Inclusive materials acknowledge and respect differences, fostering an environment where students can learn about and appreciate various viewpoints and cultures.

  • Inclusive Materials:
    • Suited for families who value diversity, cultural awareness, and open-mindedness.
    • Fosters an environment of tolerance and respect for different perspectives.
    • Can help children develop empathy and an understanding of global issues.

Religious Materials: Religious homeschooling materials are rooted in a specific religious faith or belief system. They incorporate religious teachings, values, and perspectives into various subjects across the curriculum. These materials are often used by families who want to provide a religious education that aligns with their faith. Religious homeschooling materials can be tailored to different denominations and belief systems, allowing families to integrate their religious beliefs into their children’s education.

Religious Materials:

  • Chosen by families who wish to integrate their religious beliefs into their children’s education.
  • Provides a foundation for spiritual and moral development aligned with specific religious teachings.
  • Tailored to families who prioritize passing down religious traditions and values.

So to further complicate things though, there are some homeschool curricula or groups that are designated as “neutral.”  While by definition, “Neutral” homeschool materials should refer to educational resources that are free from bias, whether it’s religious, political, or cultural, we often find that instead Neutral materials aim to *avoid* promoting any particular ideology or perspective.  We see this most often in science curricula, where providers are hesitant to promote facts, for example, about evolution, so as to not dissuade people who believe in creation from buying their products, or vice versa.

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But we also see this in religious curriculum companies, who may market a neutral or secular program in order to secure more customers.  It’s important to note that just removing bible quotes or religious content does not make a program secular.  You cannot erase an overall worldview.

This can get really tricky for secular schoolers though, because over the years some secular groups have gotten really strict about these definitions.  You have to understand that when we both started homeschooling, there weren’t a ton of truly secular options out there.  We had to adapt a lot of things and there might still be things we are ok using because we know and like other parts of the program or there is nothing else like it out there. But younger homeschoolers have seen the advance of truly secular programs and may be unwilling to compromise.  And that’s great, we should demand and advocate for the things we want to invest in and get what we want.  But, sometimes those rules can be too strict or rigid and we’ve seen secular providers get deemed not secular, for one small thing. We think we should do our best to fully support secular providers, but still be open to using what works for your family. 

And of course, this disparity isn’t just between religious and non-religious materials.  You also have to be careful when purchasing religious materials as these are not all the same either. The terms “old earth” and “young earth” refer to differing viewpoints on the age of the Earth and the universe within the context of creationism. These viewpoints often come up in discussions related to science education, particularly in the homeschooling community. The differences between old earth and young earth perspectives are primarily centered around the interpretation of scientific evidence, geological processes, and religious beliefs.

Old Earth Perspective:

  • The old earth perspective holds that the Earth and the universe are billions of years old, as determined by scientific evidence such as radiometric dating, geological layers, and astronomical observations. This viewpoint generally aligns with mainstream scientific consensus and the theory of evolution. In an old earth perspective, the creation days described in religious texts may be interpreted as symbolic or metaphorical rather than literal 24-hour periods. In homeschooling materials that incorporate an old earth perspective, you might find references to geological time scales, discussions about fossils, and explanations of the various scientific methods used to estimate the age of the Earth and the universe. These materials typically aim to reconcile scientific understanding with religious beliefs by interpreting religious texts in a way that allows for an ancient Earth.

Young Earth Perspective:

  • The young earth perspective asserts that the Earth and the universe are relatively young, often interpreted as around 6,000 to 10,000 years old, based on a literal reading of certain religious texts. Advocates of this viewpoint reject the scientific consensus on the age of the Earth and often reject evolution in favor of creationism. Young earth proponents may present alternative explanations for geological features and radiometric dating methods, often rooted in a belief in a global flood event. Homeschooling materials that follow a young earth perspective might emphasize a literal interpretation of creation accounts, present counter arguments to mainstream scientific theories, and promote alternative explanations for natural phenomena. These materials typically align with religious organizations or ministries that advocate for young earth creationism.

Ultimately, when selecting homeschooling materials, it’s so important to align your choice with your family’s values, beliefs, and educational goals. It’s sometimes baffling to see people make big purchases without fully researching this simple idea of worldview. Or choose a free curriculum that doesn’t align with their family. Don’t do it, it’s not worth it! No matter what your worldview is, I would think you would want to know what they are purchasing. Consider what type of education you want to provide for your children, and choose materials that support those objectives. It’s also worth noting that some families blend different types of materials to create a well-rounded and personalized curriculum.

Now of course, there is a big difference between not quite grasping the importance of worldview in your choices and downright getting scammed.  So let’s talk about it.

Nefarious homeschool curriculum purveyors and how to avoid them. (25:54)

This is again something that really started to become a problem since Covid. Maybe, before doing our own podcast and so much research, we didn’t notice it as much, but there definitely was a surge because of a sudden awareness in an untapped market.  Especially following the pandemic, when you had a ton of people that were desperate and looking for answers quickly, it was prime time for companies or people to take advantage.

Like we mentioned earlier about using your critical thinking skills to determine the legitimacy of groups and organizations, we recommend taking the following steps before purchasing a curriculum or program:

Website and Online Presence

Check the company’s official website and online presence. Legitimate companies typically have professional websites with clear information about their products or services, contact details, and terms of use. Did their website just go up in the last couple years?  Can you find information about their company prior to that?  Is their name very similar to another popular curriculum that is actually legit, but so close in name that you may accidentally buy the wrong one.  That’s not an accident! 

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Does the company have a website that attracts certain vague key words?  One company we’ve been seeing in particular recently had a web address that read like “online homeschool curriculum” when it’s a company that only provides pdfs.  They recently changed the address when that came up (though you can still route to it through there).  This was and still is a very popular keyword/s that new homeschoolers would search.

Does the company advertise deceptively by putting fake profiles in homeschool groups or even setting up fake homeschool groups themselves in which they can block any negative commentary about their products, or advertise without regard to the rules?  One such company set up a homeschooling group in each state that they run.  They also got mad that they were banned from a popular middle and high school homeschooling group and set up their own with a very similar name.  Not surprisingly, we’ve both been banned from this company’s fake groups for calling them out! 

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Typically homeschool groups have rules about spam and advertising.  It is not considered appropriate on most groups to provide affiliate links or links to groups without indicating it as such or disclosing that it’s your company.  There is a very popular homeschool company that pays people for posts with links.  Several groups have made rules that you cannot mention that group with the clickable web address you have to  say “company name DOT com”, spelled out.  It made me completely wary about the company in general when I found out they market like that.

There is a local husband and wife with a homeschool business in which the husband will come on posts and talk about it vaguely, never mentioning his wife’s business.  They’ve been banned from a couple groups for deceptive marketing practices.

Contact Information

Ensure that the company provides valid contact information, including an email address, phone number, and physical address. Legitimate companies are going to be transparent about their location and how to reach them. Legit companies are also usually pretty open about who the experts writing their programs are, too.  They usually want you to see that their writers are actual people that have some kind of advanced education or relevant experience in the subject that they are writing about.  They probably have an actual photo of the real person, much like an author bio does on any other book.

Reviews and Testimonials

Look for reviews and testimonials from customers who have used the company’s products or services. Online reviews can provide insights into the company’s reputation. Make sure the reviews and awards won are from actual legitimate reviewers and resources.  We’ve mentioned Cathy Duffy before as a great source for curriculum reviews.  One such predatory company lists themselves as award winning, though the only link to their award is from a website that they also own, and all of the other reviewed items are companies with affiliate links that also benefit that particular provider.

Pay attention to the company’s overall professionalism, including the quality of their website, branding, and communications. Legitimate companies tend to invest in a professional image. A couple of these companies are so easy to pick out once you notice them because not only are they not professional, but they have the same style to everything they put out from supporting websites, posts, and even their fake profile pictures.

Business Registration and Customer Support:

Check if the company is registered with relevant authorities in its jurisdiction. Legitimate companies often have official business registrations and licenses. Contact their customer support with any questions or concerns you might have. Prompt and helpful responses are indicative of a legitimate company.  

A very popular homeschool company last year made a big change in how you could use their product, resulting in tons of homeschoolers losing their students’ work and records.  When parents complained online, they were blamed for using the product incorrectly, their posts were deleted by the company, and then the owner came on and doubled down with some very ugly comments about homeschoolers. They lost so much business when this happened. We never looked at them as a resource in the first place considering the owner was in a cult and lacked professional education experience, but a lot of people were willing to overlook that for the bargain monthly fee.  You get what you pay for, folks!

Search for companies in homeschool groups and see the ones that do not provide as promised, and then do not refund when they said they would. Also, when you see a post or recommendation, click on that person who is recommending to see if they are also contributing to the community or are they just promoting this product?

Red Flags

Be cautious of companies that ask for personal or financial information upfront, make unrealistic promises, or pressure you to make quick decisions.  Lifetime memberships?  I would seriously advise against buying anything marketed as a lifetime membership. Kids grow and mature and the things and methods that you want to use to teach your children often shift as you progress in homeschooling. So often people are stuck with a lifetime membership that they can’t use because it doesn’t even work for their family anymore. 

What about a program that is for sale this week only?  Deeply discounted?  Sometimes these programs are actually always for sale, you just happened to pop on right then. It’s like going to a store with your 20% off coupon.  It’s not that you are actually getting 20% off, they just upcharge 20% and you paid the actual price.  But everyone likes to feel like they are getting a deal, right?

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We ultimately decided not to name names in this episode because these are businesses that make money and can probably afford lawyers whereas we are doing this as a passion project and exist to help others.  We’ve already seen how they block and delete comments online. You are totally welcome to message us before buying and verify that that is not the company we are talking about though.  *Wink wink* We’ve got your back!

How do I find out if a group is right for my family? (37:00)

So, what about in person groups or local homeschool co-ops, university model schools, pods?  A lot of states have very loose regulations about how many people a person can homeschool, whether you can homeschool people that aren’t your kids, how many students constitute a school and are then subject to health and other local business and insurance regulations.  Following the pandemic, a lot of options in alternative schooling and social groups popped up.  Determining whether a homeschool group is the right fit for your family involves careful consideration of several factors. 

Research Options:

Start by researching the homeschool groups available in your area. You can use online homeschooling forums, social media groups, local community centers, and homeschool association websites to find potential groups. You may like to search with words like secular or inclusive.  If these are not included, you can assume the group is a religious one as a default.

Activities and Offerings

Look into the activities and offerings provided by the group. Some homeschool groups focus on field trips, social events, co-op classes, and extracurricular activities. Assess whether these align with your family’s interests and needs.

Goals and Philosophy:

Consider your family’s homeschooling goals and educational philosophy. Different homeschool groups might have varying approaches to teaching, curriculum, and learning styles. Ensure that the group’s values align with your family’s educational goals. Remember that homeschoolers are all very different- some families may want to outsource more than others.  Some may want to outsource academics, or some may only want to do extracurriculars.  Make sure you are on the same page with the rest of the group. Make sure the world view is a match.  Don’t sign your child up for a science class that uses Christian content if you want a secular class. Learn more about Finding Your People

Membership Requirements:

Check the membership requirements of the group. Some groups might require a certain level of commitment, participation, or financial contribution. Make sure you are comfortable with the group’s expectations. Some groups have strict rules that you may not have qualms about, things like dress code, for example, even for parents!  Many religious homeschool groups require a statement or faith, and some people are so desperate for a social outlet that they are willing to sign this, even if they don’t believe it.  Many times, these statements are discriminatory against certain people, often there are specific anti-LGBT statements.  These are not the groups for me.

Inclusivity and Diversity:

Check whether the group is inclusive and open to families of different backgrounds, beliefs, and homeschooling styles. A diverse group can enrich your homeschooling experience. Also, carefully look through mission statements.  There is a local university model school here that has a very vague inclusion statement that leaves out significant groups of people.

Size and Composition:

Consider the size of the homeschool group. A larger group might offer more diverse activities and opportunities, but it could also be overwhelming for some families. A smaller group might provide a more intimate setting but with fewer resources. And you don’t have to just be part of one.  We are part of several groups, and they all have a little something different to offer.

Location and Schedule:

Evaluate the location of the group’s activities and events. Consider the distance you need to travel and whether the timing of events fits your family’s schedule. Remember that the myth of socialization!  It can be super easy to over schedule yourself with activities.  While many of us are willing to drive for awesome things in the beginning, that may not be a workable option long term.

Parent Involvement:

Consider the level of parent involvement required in the group. Some groups might expect parents to contribute in various ways, while others may have a more relaxed approach. Many people post looking for drop-off co-ops.  Co-op means co-operative and implies that parent participation is a must.  And don’t be afraid of parent participation- it can be very rewarding.

Trial Participation or Attend a Meeting or Orientation:

f possible, attend a few events or activities hosted by the group as a trial before committing. If the group offers orientation sessions or informational meetings, attend one to learn more about the group’s structure, goals, and expectations. This will give you a firsthand experience of the group’s dynamics and whether it suits your family. Some groups even require this of you before you attend.   Give it more than one chance, too, if the vibe isn’t quite there the first time.  You may meet your new bestie family on the third go! Reach out to current members of the homeschool group and ask about their experiences. Their insights can provide valuable information about the group’s strengths and potential drawbacks.

Trust Your Instincts:

Trust your instincts and how you feel about the group after gathering information and interacting with its members. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s okay to explore other options. Remember that every family is unique, and the right homeschool group for one family might not be the best fit for another. Take your time, gather information, and prioritize what aligns best with your family’s values.

This Week’s FREEBIE:

043. Top 10 Books Every Homeschool Parent Should Read

Top 10 Books Every Homeschool Parent Should Read


Top 10 Books Every Homeschool Parent Should Read

We’ve had a lot of homeschoolers reach out to us asking for our favorite book selections they can read to help them on their homeschool journey so we created this list of our absolute favorites just for you!

Tune in!

Episode 043:

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Show Notes

Whether you are just starting or thinking about starting to homeschool or you have been homeschooling for many years already, there is so much value in reading books about homeschooling.  Even as old-hands, we have a couple favorite books that we often reread every year just to get re-inspired and motivated for the upcoming school year.  

Also, every week we do a “Favorite Book Friday” social media post (Follow us: BTDT Facebook and BTDT Instagram). Oftentimes, these books have something to do with the current episode, but even if it’s a topic that we know a lot about, we like to stay current and keep a fresh list of books that we’ve read ourselves so that we can share them with you. We always feel a little weird about sharing a book we haven’t read so we really do try and read all of them, or at the very least, post books that lots of friends have recommended. The list we are going to present today is a combo of our personal favorites and books that seem to frequent everyone else’s favorite lists.

There’s so many reasons to read and continue reading homeschooling books.  For one, it can really help you to understand all the different homeschooling methods out there. Homeschooling approaches vary widely, from traditional to unschooling, Montessori, Charlotte Mason, and more. Books can provide insight into different methods, helping parents identify the one that aligns with their values, teaching style, and their child’s learning needs.  Our homeschool style has changed a lot from when we first started. Just like parenting, we have evolved and grown and we always try to keep an open mind to new ideas and methods as our children’s learning needs have changed. 

We talk in our Getting Started page and in our 7 Steps to Choosing Curriculum episodes how knowing your homeschool method/style is really going to help you narrow down curriculum choices and there are a great many books that offer recommendations for curriculum, teaching materials, and resources.

Homeschooling involves careful planning and organization to ensure a well-rounded education. There are a lot of books that can guide parents on creating schedules, setting goals, and tracking progress. And we especially like the ones that talk about maintaining home and day to day activities, too, because this really is an entire lifestyle. 

So many families have turned to homeschooling because their children have special needs or different abilities that were not being met in traditional school and  benefit from homeschooling one on one. Books can offer guidance on overcoming these challenges specifically in your homeschool.

Some parents worry about socialization and extracurricular activities when trying to make that decision about homeschooling.  A lot of homeschool books talk about the pros and cons of homeschooling/traditional schooling and can really ease your mind and offer ideas and insights into these different concerns. Reading books on homeschooling can really boost your confidence by providing a deeper understanding of the educational process and dispelling some of those myths and misconceptions. Some of these books are also going to provide insights into the long-term outcomes of homeschooling, including college admissions, career paths, and the development of well-rounded kiddos. 

Homeschooling is a huge decision that affects a family’s lifestyle and dynamics. Reading books can help parents make informed decisions by considering various factors and potential outcomes.  This is one of the things we really encourage parents to do while deschooling – which is a vital step to a successful homeschool after withdrawing your child from a school environment. Read, read, read! Learn more in Deschooling 101

Remember that while books are a valuable resource, they should be used alongside other sources of information, such as online forums, local homeschooling groups, and educational websites, and podcasts like this one! Each family’s homeschooling journey is unique, so finding the right resources and support is essential to create a successful experience for you and your kids.

Top 10 Favorite Books (10:31)

1. John Taylor Gatto “Dumbing Us Down”

“Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling” by John Taylor Gatto is such a thought-provoking critique of the modern education system. Drawing from his experience as a long-time teacher in public schools, he argues that compulsory schooling suppresses individuality, creativity, and critical thinking. 

He delves into the hidden agenda of education, revealing how it has become more about social control and conformity rather than fostering true learning and personal growth. Gatto challenges the traditional model of education, suggesting that it stifles students’ curiosity and innate desire to explore the world. Throughout the book, he advocates for a more personalized and student-driven approach to education, emphasizing the importance of self-directed learning and real-life experiences. 

While some may find his ideas radical, “Dumbing Us Down” is really an eye-opening read that can spark important conversations about the purpose and effectiveness of our modern education system. It will make you question the status quo and consider alternative approaches that empower students to become active, engaged, and critical thinkers. It’s an older book- published in 1992.

2. John Holt “How Children Learn” 

3. John Holt “Teach Your Own”

John Holt’s books, “How Children Learn”  and “Teach Your Own,” are timeless classics that have profoundly influenced the homeschooling movement. (And when we say timeless, these were originally written in 1967 and 1981). Holt talks about the natural ways that children absorb knowledge through curiosity, play, and self-discovery. He draws from his observations as an educator and advocates for a child-centered approach that respects the individual pace and interests of each learner. 

In “Teach Your Own,” Holt collaborates with co-author Patrick Farenga to provide practical guidance for parents considering homeschooling as an alternative to traditional schooling. They emphasize the importance of fostering a nurturing and supportive learning environment at home and encourage parents to trust their instincts in facilitating their child’s education. Together, these books present a powerful argument for respecting children as active participants in their own learning journeys and highlight the benefits of a more flexible, self-directed, and personalized education. Holt’s insights and wisdom continue to inspire parents and educators alike, offering valuable perspectives on how children truly learn and the potential rewards of embracing a more natural, child-led approach to education. 

4. Raymond and Dorothy Moore “Better Late Than Early”

“Better Late Than Early: A New Approach to Your Child’s Education” by Raymond and Dorothy Moore was actually required reading for parents joining our homeschool co-op in North Carolina with younger than school age kids. This book really challenges conventional wisdom by advocating for a later start to formal education. They argue that children’s natural development and readiness should dictate the timing of formal schooling, favoring a more relaxed and child-centered approach. They present compelling research supporting their stance, highlighting potential negative consequences of early formal education on children’s physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being. By emphasizing the significance of hands-on learning, exploration, and play during early childhood, the authors provide a refreshing perspective on education. 

While the book may not appeal to everyone, especially those who prioritize academic rigor from a young age, “Better Late Than Early” offers so many insights into the potential benefits of allowing children to mature naturally before introducing structured schooling. It encourages parents to be attuned to their child’s individual needs and readiness, promoting a more holistic and balanced educational experience. 

5. Julie Bogart “Brave Learner”

The Brave Learner

“Brave Learner: Finding Everyday Magic in Homeschool, Learning, and Life” by Julie Bogart is an empowering and heartfelt guide for homeschooling parents seeking to create an enriching and joyful learning experience for their children. With a warm and encouraging tone, Bogart shares her insights as a seasoned homeschooling mother and founder of the Brave Writer. The book explores the concept of “Brave Learning,” where the emphasis is placed on cultivating a love for learning, fostering creativity, and nurturing curiosity. She encourages parents to embrace a more relaxed and flexible approach, tailoring education to each child’s unique strengths and interests. Throughout the book, she offers practical tips and engaging activities that parents can easily incorporate into their homeschooling routine. 

Furthermore, “Brave Learner” delves into the importance of family connection and making learning an integral part of everyday life. This book is not just about homeschooling; it’s about cultivating a family culture that values growth, exploration, and the celebration of each individual’s learning journey. “Brave Learner” is a compelling read that will inspire and support homeschooling families in creating a thriving and authentic educational experience for their children.

6. Rebecca Rupp “Home Learning Year by Year”

“Home Learning Year by Year: How to Design a Homeschool Curriculum from Preschool Through High School” by Rebecca Rupp is an indispensable guide for homeschooling parents seeking to craft a comprehensive and flexible curriculum tailored to their child’s individual needs. Rupp’s book offers a well-organized and practical approach, covering various age groups from preschool through high school. The book provides valuable insights into age-appropriate learning activities, subject recommendations, and educational milestones for each grade level. 

She emphasizes the importance of nurturing a child’s curiosity and interests while ensuring a solid foundation in core subjects. The suggested resources, reading lists, and project ideas make it easy for parents to plan engaging and well-rounded lessons. Whether new to homeschooling or experienced, “Home Learning Year by Year” serves as an invaluable resource, empowering parents to confidently navigate their child’s education journey and foster a love for learning that extends beyond the traditional classroom setting.

7. Emily Cook “A Literary Education”

We can’t really talk about Emily’s book without starting out by talking about Charlotte Mason’s original book series. Her educational series is a wealth of timeless wisdom and insights into a holistic and child-centered approach to education. It consists of six volumes and this series lays out Mason’s educational philosophy and methodology in a comprehensive and accessible manner. Mason’s ideas revolve around respecting the child’s personhood, fostering a love for learning, and presenting a wide range of living ideas and living books to capture the child’s imagination. She emphasizes the importance of short lessons, outdoor exploration, and cultivating good habits. Through her writings, Mason advocates for a rich and diverse curriculum that includes literature, the arts, nature study, and practical life skills. Her approach places a high value on narration as a means of encouraging children to absorb and assimilate knowledge actively. The series beautifully intertwines philosophy and practical advice, making it a valuable resource not only for homeschooling parents but also for educators seeking to create a nourishing and meaningful learning experience for their students . These are really old- 1886!  But Charlotte Mason’s educational series has stood the test of time and continues to inspire and shape progressive educational practices that honor the unique potential of every child’s mind and spirit.

Now some people really struggle with the old books and there are a lot of adaptations of her ideas. As a homeschooling parent or educator seeking to cultivate a love for literature and a deeper understanding of classic works, “A Literary Education: Adapting Charlotte Mason for Modern Secular Homeschooling” by Emily Cook is a valuable and insightful resource. Drawing inspiration from the educational philosophy of Charlotte Mason, Cook presents a secular adaptation that resonates with a wide range of homeschooling families. The book offers practical guidance on how to incorporate living books, narration, and other Charlotte Mason-inspired methods into a modern homeschool curriculum. Cook skillfully navigates the complexities of literary analysis and presents practical strategies for fostering critical thinking and meaningful discussions around classic literature. 

The emphasis on cultivating a living relationship with books and allowing children to form their own connections to the stories they read is a refreshing and engaging approach. “A Literary Education” serves as an excellent companion for both novice and experienced homeschoolers and it offers a wealth of ideas and tools to create a rich, literary-focused learning environment. 

8. Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise “The Well-Trained Mind”

“The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home” is an essential resource for homeschooling parents seeking to implement a classical education approach. Written by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise, the book offers a well-structured and comprehensive guide, providing clear steps and practical advice on designing a rigorous and balanced curriculum at home. The authors emphasize the importance of a classical education’s three stages – the grammar, logic, and rhetoric stages and they explain how to tailor the learning process to suit the child’s developmental needs. “The Well-Trained Mind” not only introduces parents to the classical model but also offers a wide range of subject recommendations, teaching techniques, and educational resources. 

While the classical approach may not resonate with every homeschooling family, the book remains a valuable reference for those interested in a time-tested and intellectually stimulating educational philosophy. Its detailed guidance and thoughtful insights make it a valuable addition to any homeschooling parent’s library.  

9. Peter Gray “Free to Learn” 

“Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life” by Peter Gray is a compelling and thought-provoking exploration of the innate drive for play and its profound impact on children’s learning and development. Gray, a prominent psychologist, challenges the traditional education system and argues that children learn best when given the freedom to explore, play, and pursue their interests autonomously. Drawing from extensive research and real-life examples, Gray makes a convincing case for the importance of unstructured, self-directed play in cultivating creativity, problem-solving skills, and emotional intelligence. 

He examines the detrimental effects of overly structured schooling, emphasizing the role of play in fostering resilient, self-reliant, and motivated kids. “Free to Learn” offers a fresh perspective on education and it urges parents and educators to embrace a more natural and child-centered approach that allows children to thrive and flourish as curious and engaged learners.

10. Amber O’Neal JohnstonA Place to Belong”

Amber O’Neal Johnston, a homeschooling mother of four, shows parents of all backgrounds how to create a home environment where children feel secure in their own personhood and culture, enabling them to better understand and appreciate people who are racially and culturally different. A Place to Belong gives parents the tools to empower children to embrace their unique identities while feeling beautifully tethered to their global community. This book is a guide for families of all backgrounds to celebrate cultural heritage and embrace inclusivity in the home and in our communities. Socially conscious parents today are looking for a way to authentically embrace the fullness of their diverse communities. 

A Place to Belong offers a path forward for families to honor their cultural heritage and champion diversity in the context of daily family life by:

    Fostering open dialogue around discrimination, race, gender, disability, and class

   Teaching “hard history” in an age-appropriate way 

   Curating a diverse selection of books and media choices in which children see themselves and people who are different

   Celebrating cultural heritage through art, music, and poetry

   Modeling activism and engaging in community service projects as a family

Additional favorites:

Obviously, it is hard to narrow down books to just one list of 10 because there are so many more great books out there.  As always, we would love to hear from you if you have additions to this list or comments and feedback about any of these books.

“Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids” by Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross

“The Call of the Wild and Free: Reclaiming Wonder in Your Child’s Education” by Ainsley Arment

A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning” by Karen Andreola  (this is actually a favorite of mine- it is not secular, but it is easy to just skip over the bible chapter).

“The Montessori Method” by Maria Montessori

“The Unschooling Handbook: How to Use the Whole World as Your Child’s Classroom” by Mary Griffith

“The Well-Adjusted Child: The Social Benefits of Homeschooling” by Rachel Gathercole

“For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School” by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay

“The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education” by Grace Llewellyn

“Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners” by Lori McWilliam Pickert

This Week’s Freebie:

Download your FREE Companion Workbook

042. Favorite Books for Middle Schoolers

Middle School Books


Favorite Books for Middle Schoolers

As parents and homeschoolers, we understand the importance of nurturing a lifelong passion for literature and finding the right books can make all the difference. This is especially important during those middle school years as your kids begin to read more hearty chapter books on their own.
Today we’re giving you strategies to ignite a love for reading during this age and share an exciting list of books that helped our kids fall in love with literature.

Tune in this week while we discuss these topics and more!

Episode 042:

Brand New to Homeschooling?
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

Show Notes

As parents and homeschoolers, we understand the importance of nurturing a lifelong passion for literature and finding the right books can make all the difference. This is especially important during those middle school years as your kids begin to read more hearty chapter books on their own. The fundamental skill of reading serves as a gateway to academic achievement, personal growth, and lifelong learning and by immersing themselves in the world of books, middle schoolers can develop crucial skills, expand their knowledge, and unlock a world of opportunities. 

We talk about Charlotte Mason often on our podcast as we’ve both subscribed to this homeschool method. She was a 19th-century British educator and believed in the power of living books and a more holistic approach to education. Living books are key to a Charlotte Mason education. These are well-written, engaging books that come alive and captivate the reader’s imagination. Facts and other information are often more easily retained when learned in this story form rather than using dry textbooks with no context. 

We encourage you to take your kids and visit libraries and explore bookstores. Create a home library with all your favorites and make it easily accessible. By surrounding them with a wide range of quality literature, you are taking the first step to encouraging a lifelong love of reading. You can create a reading culture within your home by setting aside dedicated time for reading. Designate a cozy reading nook and model the love of reading by reading alongside your children. Let your kids see you reading often, as well!

Reading opens the door to a wealth of information and ideas. It allows students to explore different cultures, historical events, scientific discoveries, and social issues. By immersing themselves in books, middle school students expand their knowledge, broaden their perspectives, and develop a deeper understanding of the world around them.

Middle school marks a pivotal stage for refining reading skills. Regular reading practice helps kids bolster their vocabulary, comprehension, fluency, and critical thinking abilities. These skills lay the groundwork for success across various academic subjects and sets the stage for more complex content as they enter high school.

Reading forms the backbone of achievement in all disciplines. Whether it involves deciphering math word problems, analyzing historical texts, or comprehending scientific articles, proficient reading skills are indispensable. Middle school will introduce students to more complex texts and engaging with more complex content, it really empowers kids to navigate and tackle academic challenges with confidence.

The significance of reading extends beyond subject-specific knowledge. It plays a vital role in language development and communication skills. By immersing themselves in diverse genres and styles, students are exposed to a range of sentence structures, vocabulary, and writing techniques and fortifies their overall communication skills. These skills prove invaluable for problem-solving and decision-making in so many aspects of life.

We understand that for some kids in this age bracket, reading may not be a favorite activity. Especially if your child was pulled from a school environment that didn’t foster a love of reading but you can help guide them to discover the joy of reading. It’s also totally ok to do these books as read aloud if you have a kid that isn’t a strong reader. You can also listen to audio books or include graphic novels.  Explore different genres like adventure, mystery, fantasy, or even graphic novels. That’s one reason that we came up with this fantastic list. There’s something for everyone! 

Time can be a challenge too, so try setting aside a specific reading time each day. It could be during a quiet moment before bed or during a cozy weekend afternoon. Make it a habit, and soon you’ll find yourself eagerly anticipating that special reading time. 

Remember, reading is not about speed; take your time to enjoy and savor the story. Also, help them to not be discouraged by the size of a book. Some of those books are really intimidating when you look at how fat they are. So, with those larger novels, you will want to teach them to break it into smaller chunks, reading a few pages at a time, and before you know it, they have finished the whole book. 

Middle school serves as a crucial phase for cultivating a love for reading that extends far beyond the school years. By encouraging regular reading habits and nurturing a passion for books, you can instill a lifelong love for learning and personal growth.  Books are such a wonderful source of inspiration!

Our Favorite Books List: (12:58)

The following books we list have captured the hearts and imaginations of not only our kids, but we love them too. We are including a variety of books from magical worlds to thought-provoking themes. These have become cherished favorites throughout our homeschooling journey. So grab a cozy spot, dive into these captivating books!

“The Penderwicks” by Jeanne Birdsall. 

The series follows the adventures of the Penderwick family, Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty, along with their father. The books are set in the fictional town of Cameron, Massachusetts and chronicle the Penderwick sisters’ escapades and their interactions with various characters they encounter.

“The Borrowers” by Mary Norton

This is a series of children’s fantasy novels that focuses on a family of tiny people who live secretly in the houses of “human beans” and “borrow” items to survive.

“Gone-Away Lake” by Elizabeth Enright.

This book (and its sequel) tells the story of two cousins, Portia and Julian, who discover an abandoned community called Gone-Away Lake during their summer vacation.

“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling

This timeless classic introduces young readers to the power of imagination and the joy of following Harry’s incredible journey. 

* J.K. Rowling’s hateful statements have steadily grown more blatant over the years and it caused us to be conflicted on whether we wanted to recommend this book series. But ultimately, we wanted to mention it because these books were cherished for years in our homes and the story is not a hateful one, and worthy of mention. 

“Swallows and Amazons” by Arthur Ransome. 

It introduces the Walker children—John, Susan, Titty, and Roger—who sail a small boat called Swallow on the fictional lake called Wild Cat. They encounter another group of children, the Blacketts, consisting of Nancy and Peggy, who sail their boat, Amazon. The two groups of children engage in imaginative and exciting adventures, including sailing, camping, treasure hunting, and forming rival pirate crews.

“The Lightning Thief” by Rick Riordan

 Riordan introduces mythology in a fun and accessible way. All of our kids were obsessed with Greek mythology. This is an epic adventure of mythical proportions! Tag along with Percy Jackson, a half-blood hero, as he battles monsters, uncovers divine secrets, and gets caught up in all sorts of hilarious and dangerous situations. We discussed in our learning disabilities episode how Rick’s own child suffered from dyslexia just like the demigods he depicted in his books.

“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis

Step through the wardrobe and embark on an epic adventure in a land of mythical creatures and epic battles. We adore the way Lewis weaves together fantasy and moral lessons, creating a thrilling read. 

“The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins

Follow Katniss Everdeen as she battles it out in a deadly televised competition. This thrilling series will keep your middle schooler on the edge of their seat.

“The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien

Introduce your child to the captivating world of Middle-earth with Bilbo Baggins’ thrilling adventure. Tolkien’s rich storytelling and vivid descriptions will transport readers to a land of dwarves, dragons, and daring quests. 

“Wonder” by R.J. Palacio

Prepare to have your heart melted! This is such a heartwarming and thought-provoking book that tells the story of Auggie, who is a boy with a facial difference navigating the challenges of middle school. We love how it promotes empathy and acceptance and the power of kindness and friendship.

“The Giver” by Lois Lowry

This dystopian novel was one of my personal favorites. Imagine living in a society where everything is controlled, even your emotions. It’s mind-blowing as the main character, Jonas, unravels the truth about his seemingly perfect world. It’ll make you question everything you thought you knew!

“The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank

Step into the shoes of Anne Frank and experience her remarkable journey during World War II and the holocaust. Through her personal diary entries, you’ll get a glimpse of her fears, hopes, and dreams. It’s a powerful and moving account that will stay with you. This memoir gives a glimpse into a dark period of history while emphasizing the strength of the human spirit. 

“The Mysterious Benedict Society” by Trenton Lee Stewart

 Meet a group of exceptionally gifted children who are recruited to infiltrate a secret society and save the world from a nefarious villain. Packed with puzzles, wit, and teamwork, this series will keep you guessing until the very end.

“The Maze Runner” by James Dashner

This is a dystopian novel where Thomas wakes up in a mysterious maze with no memory of his past. It’s an entire series and fantastic.

“The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green

Prepare to laugh, cry, and be moved by the touching story of Hazel and Gus, two teenagers living with cancer. 

“The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton

Rival gangs and teenage struggles in this timeless coming-of-age novel set in the 60s. Friendship, loyalty, and social class Lucan resonate with young readers today. 

“The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Enter the magical world of an abandoned garden and witness the transformative power of nature. This timeless classic celebrates the beauty of friendship, resilience, and the wonders of the natural world. 

“Holes” by Louis Sachar

 This is a hilarious and twisted adventure! The main character gets sent to a camp where he has to dig holes every day. But there’s more to it than just digging—there are secrets to uncover, friendships to be made, and unexpected surprises that’ll totally keep your kid reading!

“A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle

This science fiction classic tackles themes of love, courage, and the power of individuality. 

“Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card

This book is set in the future where child prodigies are trained to save humanity, Ender emerges as a brilliant strategist. 

“Anne of Green Gables” by L.M. Montgomery

Follow the delightful and imaginative Anne Shirley as she finds her place in the world of Avonlea. Montgomery’s vivid descriptions and Anne’s infectious spirit make this classic a joy to read. 

“The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak

This is a moving story set in Nazi Germany follows Liesel Meminger as she steals books and finds solace in the power of words. Appropriately for the times, Death is our narrator and a major character. It’s really such a good book and makes you realize that there really are good people in the world.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

Experience the transformational journey of Scout Finch as she learns about racial injustice and the power of empathy. Lee’s masterpiece tackles profound themes with grace, making it an essential read for every young mind. 

“The Girl Who Drank the Moon” by Kelly Barnhill

This is a fantasy tale about a young girl named Luna, a witch, and a magical forest. Such an enchanting story. explores themes of love, sacrifice, and the power of stories. It’s a bit dark in the beginning but the story is beautifully written and great for all ages. This would be a good read aloud for those who aren’t quite reading yet too. 

“A Series of Unfortunate Events” by Lemony Snicket

Join the Baudelaire siblings, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny, as they navigate a series of unfortunate events after their parents’ tragic death. This darkly humorous series is filled with quirky characters, clever wordplay, and mysterious plots. Also a movie and a show.

“The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate

Such a heartfelt story of Ivan, a gorilla who lives in captivity in a shopping mall. The book is written from Ivan’s perspective. Your kids will learn about friendship, freedom, and the importance of compassion. This story was written simply enough for young readers to read on their own. Yet, well written enough to enable meaningful discussions around whether humans are good or bad.

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

It’s 1936, in Flint, Michigan. Times may be hard, and ten-year-old Bud may be a motherless boy on the run, but Bud’s has big ideas and a suitcase full of special things! The book is such a heartwarming story and shows life in the 1930’s through the eyes of a young boy. It shows the tragedy and the joyfulness of this era. You will fall in love with Bud.

The Secret Lake: A Children’s Mystery Adventure by Kanen Inglis

I love time travel books. The Secret Lake follows Stella and Tom on an amazing journey as they begin a new life after moving from Hong Kong to London. Living in a townhome community with a large garden the two overcome summer boredom and homesickness by following the comings and goings of their neighbor’s disappearing and reappearing dog, Harry. Little did they know their furry friend would lead them on a wild journey through time tunnels and across a secret lake to friendships unimagined, intrigues and heroic rescue missions.

Additional books that promote inclusivity and diversity in literature: (29:55)

Books, especially those with diverse characters and narratives, are powerful tools for fostering empathy and understanding. Promoting diversity and inclusivity in literature is essential to ensure that all young readers can see themselves reflected in the stories they read. 

Here are some exceptional books for middle schoolers written by people of color or featuring diverse characters:

  1. “Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson: This memoir in verse shares the author’s experiences growing up as an African American girl in the 1960s and 1970s. It addresses meaningful topics like identity and the power of words.
  2. “Ghost” by Jason Reynolds: The first book in the “Track” series, it follows Castle “Ghost” Cranshaw, a talented runner dealing with his troubled past while discovering the potential within himself.
  1. “The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros: This oat a coming-of-age story of Esperanza, a young Latina girl living in Chicago, as she tries to find her place in the world.
  2. “Inside Out & Back Again” by Thanhha Lai: This award-winning novel in verse chronicles the experiences of a 10-year-old Vietnamese girl named Hà as she and her family flee Saigon during the Vietnam War and settle in Alabama.
  3. “The Crossover” by Kwame Alexander: Wow! This book is awesome! It’s filled with slick wordplay type poetry and clever font techniques. It follows twin brothers Josh and Jordan as they face challenges on and off the basketball court. Sibling rivalry and identity- it’s so good! Seriously, don’t discount it because it’s written in poetry word style. 
  4. “The Gauntlet” by Karuna Riazi: This middle-grade fantasy adventure draws inspiration from Arabian folklore and follows a Bangladeshi-American protagonist named Farah as she embarks on a treacherous board game-based quest to save her brother.
  5. “One Crazy Summer” by Rita Williams-Garcia: Set in the 1960s, it follows three African American sisters who travel to Oakland, California, to spend the summer with their estranged mother and become involved in the Black Panther movement. It’s so good and is one of the readers in Byl
  6. “Stella by Starlight” by Sharon M. Draper: Set in the segregated South during the Great Depression, the story revolves around 11-year-old Stella as she grapples with racial injustice and finds the courage to speak up.
  7. “Front Desk” by Kelly Yang: This empowering novel explores the life of Mia Tang, a 10-year-old Chinese American girl who helps her parents manage a motel and faces challenges while fighting for justice and equality.
  8. “We Are Not Yet Equal: Understanding Our Racial Divide” by Carol Anderson and Tonya Bolden: This nonfiction book examines the history of systemic racism in the United States, providing crucial context and fostering conversations about race, justice, and equality.

These books offer authentic voices, diverse perspectives, and stories that resonate with young readers from various backgrounds. They celebrate diversity and provide windows into different cultures and experiences, fostering empathy, understanding, and a sense of belonging.

Amber O’Neal Johnston of “A Place to Belong” also maintains a large list of diverse titles at her website

A Place to Belong >>

Reading stands as a cornerstone of middle school education, unlocking the potential for academic success, personal growth, and lifelong learning. By embracing the written word, students develop critical skills, expand their knowledge, sharpen their minds, and cultivate empathy.

As we empower middle schoolers on their literary adventures, we equip them with the tools they need to navigate life, both academically and socially.  Hopefully you’ll find some new favorites on this list or are nodding your head in agreement over books that are already on your shelf at home. 

There’s no way we can cover all our favorites in one podcast episode so we will be creating an entire page listing. All our favorites with a short synopsis to find just the right one for your middle schooler, Please feel free to add titles in our comment section on social media.  We’d love to keep adding to this list.

This Week’s Freebie:

FREE Unit Study: Before the 4th of July

Before the 4th of July Unit Study
This 3-week Unit Study is an American Girl history exploration with Kaya to help your child understand what it was like to live as a Native American in the 1700’s.

As we gather to celebrate the Fourth of July, it’s crucial to recognize that the roots of this significant occasion extend far beyond the year 1776 when the colonists declared their independence. The land we now call America was and continues to be inhabited by a remarkable and diverse array of Indigenous peoples, whose vibrant cultures and deep connections to the land shaped the very fabric of this nation. Within this context, we embark on a captivating journey with Kaya, an extraordinary American Girl doll who represents the rich tapestry of Native American heritage.

Kaya 2014 Mini Doll & Book (American Girl)

Kaya stands as a unique figure among the American Girl dolls, as she embodies the spirit and resilience of the Indigenous peoples who inhabited this land long before European settlers arrived. As we explore Kaya’s life, it’s important to remember that the sight of a European person in her world would have been an unexpected and unfamiliar encounter. Through the exploration of her story, we gain a profound understanding of the profound influence Indigenous cultures have had on America’s history and identity.

Throughout this homeschool unit study, we will begin on an enlightening adventure, honoring the legacy of the Indigenous peoples while celebrating the significance of the Fourth of July. We will discover the intricacies of Kaya’s life and the astonishing diversity of Indigenous cultures that thrived and continue to thrive across this vast land. By understanding and appreciating the Indigenous heritage that predates the birth of the United States, we deepen our connection to the collective narrative that shaped this nation.

Join us as we journey through the pages of history, weaving together the stories of Indigenous peoples, the struggles for freedom, and the rich cultural tapestry that makes America truly unique.


Begin to read Kaya: An American Girl: 1764:

You don’t need to complete all the books before beginning this unit study. Read 1-2 chapters a day to your children. There’s a good chance they may love them so much that they want to keep reading all the way through the 8-book set. This set will take you and your children on an incredible journey through history as you explore Kaya’s life and learn about elements of Nez Perce customs and language.

Incorporate Play:

Kaya’s Paper Dolls

Have fun with Kaya and her friends with outfits to cut out and scenes to play:

6 pc Horse Play Set

Have fun with these detailed miniature toy horses while you read about Kaya’s life.

The narrative of the story immerses readers in Kaya’s character, providing an authentic depiction of her Native American culture in the year 1764. As the story unfolds, Kaya undergoes significant personal growth, evolving into a compassionate individual who gains wisdom from her errors. Her cherished horse assumes a vital role, symbolizing an inseparable bond with Kaya’s existence. Ultimately, “Meet Kaya” imparts a valuable lesson about transcending youthful arrogance and discovering redemption through acts of selflessness. The very source of pride, embodied by the swift and magnificent horse, becomes the catalyst for a remarkable rescue.

Week 1

  1. Map: Mark Kaya’s home on the map. Explain that, unlike later girls, we don’t know exactly where Kaya lived. In fact, she probably didn’t have homes in the traditional sense, since the Nez Perce were a nomadic people who moved around to follow hunting opportunities. Explore an interactive map of Native American tribes across the United States.
  2. Timeline: Find 1764, as well as 1754, the year Kaya was born and record in the Book of Centuries. Check out the internet to find other events happening in America at about that time and record those too. The most significant of these for Kaya would have been more and more European settlers coming to the Northwest. Discover important events in Native American history on this timeline and record them in your Book of Centuries to help gain perspective of these events.
  3. Craft: Choose a craft to work on while you’re studying Kaya. Consider either a leather craft or beading, both of which would have been popular among the Nez Perce. Remind your child that beads would have been very valuable and obtained by trading with European settlers. So much of the beautiful beading was so intricate and may be difficult for your young child. This natural clay bead kit would be a good alternative for young hands.
Leather Bag Craft Kit

BTDT Homeschool was created with a heartfelt mission: to empower and give back to the secular homeschool community.

Through our informative podcasts, blog posts, daily inspiration, and a wide range of free printable tools, we aim to empower you on your homeschooling journey.

New to Homeschooling>>>

Week 2

  1. Introduce the Founding Fathers, the Founding Mothers, and their contributions. Remind your child that Kaya would not have heard of these people.
  2. Explore and Learn about the Lewis and Clark Expedition from an Indigenous perspective. Remind your child that Kaya may have heard of Lewis and Clark, who came through the Northwest when Kaya was much older. Go outside and explore and teach your child to respect the natural world they encounter.
  3. Native Nations: Explore this map and all the Native American Nations that were encountered on the Lewis and Clark expedition.
  4. Act It Out: Have your children choose a scene or event from one of the books to act it out together.
Explore Native American Nations encountered by Lewis and Clark

Week 3

  1. Animals: Animals were a very important part of Kaya’s life. Have you child consider how the life of your pet is different from the animals in Kaya’s tribe. Learn about the unique relationship between Native Americans and their animal counterparts.
  2. Video: Watch this 2 min YouTube video on How Appaloosa Horses Keep Nez Perce Traditions Alive. See their horses and meet a a Nez Perce Family and see their traditional clothing and the pride of a young girl wearing her great grandmother’s dress.
  3. Nez Perce Today: Learn more about the Nez Perce Tribe and the Nimiipuu people that live in north-central Idaho with more that 3,500 citizens.
  4. Learn More: Visit The Nex Perce Museum in person or on their website and learn more about the objects they made and used over the past 10,000 years. Basketry, beadwork, ceremonials, toolmaking, language, their daily rhythms and cycles and how they were attuned to the land, and more!
Nez Perce Dugout Canoe and Tipi
20 Best Tips for Teaching Reading and Spelling

Homeschool Lesson Planner and Ultimate Organizer

BTDT Homeschool Lesson Planner and Ultimate Organizer

Introducing the BTDT Homeshool Lesson Planner & Ultimate Organizer – the essential tool for every homeschooling family! This 187-page planner is all about tailoring it to your unique needs and making your homeschooling journey a breeze.

A homeschool planner is a tool designed specifically for homeschooling families to help them stay organized and track their progress. It typically includes various sections and features to assist with lesson planning, scheduling, record-keeping, and tracking academic goals. 

Whether you have one child or a bustling homeschooling household, this organizer is here to keep you super organized and on top of things. It’s like having your personal homeschooling assistant! Completely customized and flexible planner that adapts effortlessly to your homeschooling needs. Say goodbye to scattered records and hello to an all-in-one solution! With everything in one place, you can easily access all your information as you move through the school year.  

Planning your homeschool lessons has never been easier. Our user-friendly design makes planning a breeze, allowing you to map out your curriculum with efficiency and precision- whether you are a child-led unschooler or a scheduled parent, the flexibility will work for you and your kids.  

Stay on top of your homeschooling schedule effortlessly, empowering you to focus on what truly matters – educating your children.  

Our planner empowers you to track anything and everything related to your homeschooling journey. From attendance and grades to extracurricular activities and field trips, you’ll have a comprehensive overview of your children’s progress.  

Page by Page view of the BTDT Homeschool Lesson Planner & Ultimate Organizer

What is included in this planner?

We’ve taken the time to include detailed instructions on how to use this planner effectively, but let me give you a friendly overview of how it’s organized: 


  • Resources list from BTDT Homeschool- Including: BTDT Homeschool podcast, getting started in homeschooling, tips, free downloads, and more to help in your homechool journey.  
  • Password Tracker 
  • Membership/Subscription Tracker 
  • Field Trip Tracker 
  • Attendance Tracker 

BTDT Homeschool was created with a heartfelt mission: to empower and give back to the secular homeschool community.

Through our informative podcasts, blog posts, daily inspiration, and a wide range of free printable tools, we aim to empower you on your homeschooling journey.

New to Homeschooling>>>


  • Curriculum & Resources Brainstorm 
  • Literature Selections and Rating 
  • Planning For the Year Ahead 
  • Monthly Goals and Accomplishments 
  • Quarterly Term Goals 


As parents research how to get started homeschooling, budgeting is a top concern. Families want to know how much it will cost to homeschool. Preparation for the costs will minimize the stress that can affect your homeschool efforts and overall success.  

Several factors determine how much it will cost to homeschool. These include the number of children, the grade level, the type of curriculum you select. Each family will have different homeschool requirements, so providing a dollar figure before evaluating your family’s needs is difficult. Your Homeschool Budget is listed in an organized way so you can stay on track and not bust the bank:  

  • Curriculum Budget by Subject  
  • Outsourced Classes/Workshops/Etc.  
  • Summary Budget  
  • Annual Household Bill Tracker  


  • Monthly Focus Dashboard 
  • Monthly Schedule 
  • Weekly Lesson Planner for 12 Months 
  • Grade Tracker/Student Checklist 


  • Year-End Reflections 
  • Year In Review 
  • Notes 

Get yours today!

Transform your homeschooling journey by staying organized and on track with the ultimate organizer! With 187 pages, staying on top of your schedule has never been easier, giving you the freedom to focus on what truly matters – educating your children.

Homeschool Lesson Planner and Ultimate Organizer


Free Summer Reading Challenge Bundle

Summer Reading List

Free Summer Reading Challenge

Stay motivated throughout the summer with this FREE Summer Reading Challenge List and Reading Log, complete with a Book Rating column!

Ensure that your kids fall in love with reading and maintain their reading skills by marking off each task on their summer reading list.

For those of you that take the summer off and don’t homeschool year-round, here’s a fantastic method to keep your kids actively engaged and allow their imagination to soar. Regular reading not only fosters a love for books but also helps children maintain and enhance the reading skills that you have diligently nurtured. By encouraging consistent reading habits, we can encourage their joy in reading and ensure that new readers, in particular, retain the valuable skills they have acquired through your dedicated efforts.

To get your kids excited about reading, we’ve put together a winning combination of suggestions that is sure to inspire them. They just may never put the books down! One of our favorites is Calvin and Hobbes:

See our TOP 50 Books for New Readers.


BTDT Homeschool was created with a heartfelt mission: to empower and give back to the secular homeschool community.

Through our informative podcasts, blog posts, daily inspiration, and a wide range of free printable tools, we aim to empower you on your homeschooling journey.

New to Homeschooling>>>

Books for New Readers

Learn How to Teach Your Child To Read>>


Summer Reading List
Free Summer Reading Bundle

Also, get your free reading bundle from All About Reading:

Summer Reading Bundle

024. Favorite Books For New Readers

Books for New Readers


Favorite Books For New Readers

This is a special episode for elementary age children that are learning how to read and new readers. We will discuss branching into beginning chapter books and talk about great read-alouds they will love!

Books for New Readers

Scroll Down for this week’s Freebie:
Reading Log with book 5-star rating (pdf)

Brand New to Homeschooling?
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

Show Notes

In episode 15, We covered how to Teach your child to read– how to know when they are ready, we talked about curricula, and games for learning.  If you haven’t listened, you may want to revisit.

As we said in that episode, reading is fundamental and necessary for learning. And instilling a love of reading at an early age is the key that can unlock the door to lifelong learning. It’s the foundation that helps us learn and make sense of the world around us. Reading builds social and emotional skills and ignites imagination. Reading builds self-confidence, independence, and is a critical foundation for developing logic and problem-solving skills.  

Once you are past that very initial part of beginning to read, you may wonder where to go next and it can be confusing to see all the options and different terms and technical jargon out there describing various stages of reading. We see terms like Emergent, Early, Transitional, and Fluent, when referring to groups of reading levels. These might be where students may have different reading abilities, writing skills, and sight word proficiency. There is a range of terms to describe readers in the different stages of their literacy journeys. 

When we talk about developing and emergent readers, we are really just talking about the same thing.  Technically, anyone who reads could be considered a developing reader, as we are all still strengthening our comprehension and writing skills into adulthood. But when we say that in relation to children, these are kiddos that are learning the basics of reading such as decoding, phonics, the alphabet, and sight words that are essential for long-term literacy. They may be making the transition to longer books with more complicated plotlines and they are just overall evolving into a more skilled and confident reader. They probably recognize high-frequency words, both in books and just things you see in daily life- while driving, in the kitchen, on TV.  Usually they show a strong desire to read and listen to others read

Sometimes we use the term  “Emergent” to emphasize these kids that are developing the foundational skills that will support lifelong literacy, and are truly emerging into a new territory of reading potential.  

When we talk about transitional readers, Transitional is that stage right before moving onto chapter books.  It’s totally ok to let your child decide when this is.  And then also, when we hear the terms Early or Easy readers, this often means the books, not the child.  They are books with age appropriate vocabulary and word usage, simple sentence construction, they can be utilitarian but they should also be rich and vibrant,  keep your interest,  keep the child motivated and able to decode words that are unfamiliar.

Remember how exciting reading was for you and you may rediscover your zest for reading alongside a child- it can be really refreshing for both of you.  Because language used to describe reading development can be complicated, we just encourage you to meet your reader where they are at. 

So when our child first learns to read and they have begun their own unique reading journey, you may ask what kind of books should we be looking for? What books are going to continue to ignite their interest and encourage them to build upon those skills? 

So again, as you go looking for Early Readers or first step readers, sometimes it’s helpful to go to the library and see how they organize different level books- but remember you don’t have to stick to one level or kind. Some kids do like that or like to track their progress.  Some kids may just jump right in to full on chapter books and that’s ok, too.

One of the things we think about as a Charlotte Mason homeschooler is avoiding Twaddle. Twaddle is defined as books with lots of pictures and action but with short snippets of no sentences and little character.  They can sometimes talk down to children, or require little effort.  It doesn’t help to strengthen a child’s imagination. I always use the example of Winnie the Pooh, the original books by A.A. Milne. They are beautiful and deep stories full of adventure, humor, and lovely language.  And they are more than just funny- in fact, I often say to read these aloud to young kids, but also hand them off to older kids, because there are so many silly things in the ways the animals misspell things and use  puns that you almost have to see it rather than just hear it.  Now Disney Winnie the Pooh, is a whole other story- they are animated, and just really dumbed down.  There aren’t puns and deep jokes but surface level funnies and storylines.  Much of the very best things about the story aren’t even in those books/shows.

But also, consider that reading preference can come in many flavors and a reluctant reader may require other currency- graphic novels, for instance. Calvin and Hobbes and Far Side were favorites for our kids and their friends.

Favorite early picture books and readers:

Sandra Boynton

Dr. Suess

Ezra Jack Keats

PD Eastman 

Roxaboxen by  Alice McLerran

Kevin Henkes books: 

Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse


Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel

Little bear books by Else Holmelund Minariik 

Henry and Mudge/ Annie and Snowball by Cynthia Rylant

Mr Putter and Tabby by Cynthia Rylant

Zoey and Sassafras by Asia Citro

Elephant and Piggie by Mo Willems 

Katie Woo Pedro book series by Fran Manushkin

Where the Wild Things are by Maurice Sendak 

Alexander and the no good very bad day  by  Judith Viorst

Shel Silverstein poetry books

While looking at lists to make sure we didn’t leave things off.  And by the way, we have left a lot off because there’s only so much episode time!  We probably could go on and on forever.  See the complete List of Top 50 beloved titles for new readers

We created our Top 50 books for new readers. We have enjoyed all of these books in our own homes with our own children. They have been beloved favorites throughout the years, and we really wanted to share all of them with you. This collection of early reading books has colorful illustrations, they have shorter lengths, clear formatting, and they’ve been picked with the readers in mind that are going to be bridging the gap between reading board books jumping into lengthier chapter books. 

The one thing that I really love about this list is that we really combined a mix of beloved classics with some newer titles, and I think we did a pretty good job of incorporating diverse voices and characters and things that we enjoyed in our own homeschool. Representation really does matter, and we really want kids to see themselves in the stories that they read so I think that we did a great job on combining that so make sure you check that out on our show notes we will have the entire Top 50 list and we actually wrote a very detailed description for each book so make sure you check that out.

As we’ve both mentioned many times on our podcast, we both love to (and sometimes still) Read aloud to our kids, even though they are high school level now.  But as younger kids this was definitely an every day, several times a day occurrence. And when we weren’t reading, we were often listening to audiobooks while we were driving.

Some favorite read-alouds or early chapter books:

Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osbourne– we’ve mentioned these before, too.  We both really liked them. These books are sometimes predictable and they are definitely formulaic, but it adds to their charm.  These siblings go on lots of adventures and introduce readers to a variety of real historical events and figures.  They are a great stepping stone into deep dives on topics and they even have accompanying reference guides if your kids want more after the story.  They are about 80 pages long.  You can easily read them in a sitting or at least in a day or so.

Ramona series by Beverly Cleary–  These were my favorite as a kid and I could not wait to introduce my kids.  We went through all 8 of the Ramona series and then the spin-off Henry Huggins series (her sister’s best friend). The author also has a series about Ralph S.Mouse that we loved- a mouse that befriends a boy on vacation.  

Geronimo Stilton books are really funny, have impactful illustrations and highlight new words. 

Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne-also big favorites that we talked about earlier.  There are 4 books in the series but really two of them are Winnie the Pooh focused, the others are poetry and story collections.   

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame– another in the same vein as Winnie the Pooh.  Animal stories are full of adventure and really, really funny.

Some kids don’t really like books with characters that have a lot of sibling rivalry.  Not that we don’t deal with that in our homes, but there are books where that is the hallmark of the sibling relationship, and we just didn’t like it because they couldn’t always relate to kids that talked to each other like that.  Some kids also don’t like books with constant school settings- especially as homeschoolers.  So, one way we found our way around that was to search out older books.  

Books by Elizabeth Enright- “Gone Away Lake” and “Return to Gone Away Lake”. The Melendy family series that starts with the “Saturdays.”  These are older books that are about siblings or cousins and their adventures.

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Warner– These books are a sweet series of about 160 titles and written by a first grade teacher about 4 orphaned children that create a home in an abandoned boxcar and encounter many adventures and mysteries.  There’s other adaptations of these including a version for younger kids even.  

Sometimes adaptations are good- maybe read an adaptation of Shakespeare when you need a better understanding of the story. We definitely recommend reading both though, so you don’t miss out on the language, but start with that so you don’t get caught up in figuring out what is going on. Some things I think lose the beauty of the language when you read an adaptation and some risk that dumbing down and twaddle we are trying to avoid.  

Swallows and Amazons” by Arthur Ransom- another older book about siblings or cousins that spend the summer camping out on an island across from their summer house and have a lot of adventures.  

Modern day versions of these kinds of stories would be “The Penderwicks.” Another sweet family that has their moments of rivalry or jerkiness but are otherwise loving and supportive.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin– this is a fantasy adventure novel inspired by Chinese folklore.  This particular book is about a girl from a poor village seeking good fortune for her people.  There is a sequel, but I haven;t read it.  It’s a beautiful story.

Very Very Far North by Dan Bar-el (series). Kind of Winnie the Pooh-ish and inquisitive bear befriends an array of animals.  This is also a series.

The Borrowers by Mary Norton

Half Magic series by Edgar Eager

Kate DiCamillo- I think her writing is just absolutely fantastic, people seem mixed on her sometimes.  Some of her stories are dark and dreary, but she always comes through with a happy ending, often a bit of a tear jerker.  The Tale of Despereaux, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, One and Only Ivan.

We really could go on and on all day about our favorite books.  We will continue sharing our favorites in a middle school favorite books episode coming in the near future.

This Week’s Freebie:

Top 50 Books for New Readers

Top 50 Books for New Readers
Top 50 Books for New Readers

Finding the right book is essential to help ignite young readers and set them up for a life-long love of literature. We want to guide them successfully as they make the leap into their first chapter books. On this book list, we have picked a selection of short, illustrated books that were our family favorites and are perfect for children launching into independent reading.

This collection of early reader books – with colorful illustrations, shorter length and clear formatting – has been picked with those readers in mind who need something to bridge the gap between reading board books and lengthier chapter books.

We talk about all this wonderful literature in Episode 024. Favorite Books For New Readers.

Some of these titles might be too much for your new reader. Reading skill development will vary from child to child. For those titles, we encourage you to read those selections to your child. Reading rich stories to your children is proven to enrich their vocabulary and instill a lifelong love for literature. We have enjoyed all of these stories with our own children. Feel free to share reading time by alternating pages or have them read one page per chapter. Whatever works for you! If they are resistant, they may not be ready and just want to cuddle up and enjoy the story and that is perfectly ok too!
Also, if you are struggling with a new reader and new to teaching your child to read, be sure to check out Episode 015. How Do You Teach Your Child To Read? where we give a lot of tips and tricks to set your child up for success!

Download our FREE REVIEW and READING LOG SHEET (pdf)

Click each title or book image below to read reviews or add to your wish list

1. Elephant & Piggie Series by Mo Williams

We love elephant and piggie. So funny! Lots of laughs for new readers, few difficult words, fun to read, and not so long that kids get burnt out from effort when starting to read. 

2. Go, Dog. Go! by P.D. Eastman

This is an awesome book for young readers. It is masterful at showing relationships that can be very abstract to little ones—in and out, up and down, over and under. The car goes on green and stops on red. Dogs play and dogs work. “It’s a dog party!

3. Fred and Ted Go Camping by Peter Eastman

Our family loves outdoors and camping! This book helps illustrate the concept of opposites and is great for children learning to read as well as toddlers that enjoy being read to. The word choices draw in their attention and gets them to rhyming and learning sounds and colors. Teach your child about sharing in camping and outdoor activities. An absolute favorite in our house!

4. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

A simple story, few characters, and a lot of imagination. You’ll love it so much you’ll want to eat it up!

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5. I am enough by Grace Byers

“Like the sun, I am here to shine”. This is such a beautiful book – from the beautiful black princess on the cover, to all the beautiful and colorful pictures inside. Grace Byers did an awesome job telling a story of being proud of who you are, respectful of others, and loving others as they are, and acceptance. Your budding reader will love the illustrations too!

6. Fred and Ted Like to Fly by Peter Eastman

Another adorable Fred and Ted book for new readers. I got this for my kids right before their first time to travel on an airplane. It was really cute, and we read it over and over again getting them ready for their big trip in the sky!

7. What Do People Do all Day by Richard Scarry

Fantastically detailed drawings & answers to many a child’s questions to how the world works. From building roads & houses, how trains and planes and the postal service works, electricity, paper-making, farming, and baking bread. It does have stereotyped gender roles, but it ignited conversations with my children about that topic. These are teaching moments!

8. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein is one of those rare and gifted children’s book authors who truly understands the odd, amazing and ever-so-fleeting world that children inhabit. His writing speaks directly to children with incredible wit, hilarity, wisdom and absurdity. You can’t go wrong with any of Silverstein’s books -his poems are so funny and entertaining for the entire family!

9. Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne

This series is absolutely delightful! These stories are full of adventures with Jack and Annie, two siblings and likeable characters that kids can relate to. These books really ignited my children’s love of literature. They are also fun to read aloud with lots of description and dialogue. These are wonderful stories with real facts and bits of history woven into each one. Your children will learn about of all the places they visit and you can even get the non-fiction companion books to read more on each topic and make it a unit study. Mary Pope Osborne does a phenomenal job at keeping every book educational and yet magical!

10. Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! by Dr. Seuss

Fun read and keeps their attention and gets their thinkers thinking! This was a favorite in our house and always made us laugh. Who can forget the funny, “And you don’t have to stop. You can think about SCHLOPP. Schlopp. Schlopp. Beautiful schlopp. Beautiful schlopp with a cherry on top.”

11. Corduroy by Don Freeman

This is a classic heartwarming tale of finding your place, being broken and getting fixed, finding love and comfort. The story is adorable and filled with a little mystery and a very happy ending. The illustrations look vintage and beautiful which definitely add to the reading experience. Everyone in your family will fall in love with this sweet little bear!

12. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

Wonderful story of a little boy who wakes up on a snow day and makes his first encounters with the snow, by creating different traces on the ground and keeping a snowball in his pocket to play with the next day. 

13. The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne

This is such a precious book! Full of adventure, humor, and lovely language. Not only is the story classic and wonderful, but this particular copy is also wonderful as a reprint first edition – just adorable. Winnie the Pooh is such a great classic piece of child-like innocence and sweet humor in literature. It isn’t just for young children to enjoy!

14. Frog and Toad Books by Arnold Lobel

Excellent stories with simple but powerful life lessons. Frog and Toad books are simple, gentle stories with just enough everyday mayhem to make kids laugh. Everyone will fall in love with these two silly characters. You cannot beat the simplistic friendship of Frog and Toad!

15. Buzzy The Bumblebee

My children and I absolutely love this book! It’s fun and sends a powerful message to children about trusting your heart and not letting fear get in the way of doing things you know in your heart you can do. The imagery is cute, the wording and length makes for perfect book for a new reader. We hope you and your family love Buzzy as much as we did!

16. But Not The Hippopotamus by Sandra Boynton

All Sandra Boynton books are so silly, cute and fun to read. These books aren’t just for babies, new readers will love to read them on their own. They are clever and adorably illustrated. Follow along as this shy hippo observes spirited animals cavort in a bog, try on new hats, and go for a jog, all while longing to join in the fun.

17. The Mitten by Jan Brett

This beautiful pictorial book is based on a Ukrainian folktale. It is a wondrous winter tale, and the story with delights your young reader. The text is written with almost a poetic cadence with lovely sounding words and the illustrations are so sweet. The story tickles the imaginations and offers a grand platform for talking about animals who might or might not fit into a mitten. My kids love to read this story during the cold winter days!

18. Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran

This is a very sweet story about the power of imagination and childhood. The children in this story find endless uses for what most people would call trash – and the story is told in such a way as to excite children to use their imaginations with the things they find lying around. I loved watching my kids mimicking the story while playing outside with their friends!

19. Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes

It’s a great story good for lots of laughs! Even though this is a story about going to school, we really enjoyed it in our homeschool. Teaches a great lesson but the main character Lilly maintains her strong personality throughout the highs and the lows. Lilly receives a purple plastic purse containing her many treasures from her grandmother and brings it to school to share with her teacher and her friends. It’s really adorable!

20. Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Chrysanthemum is a sweet and unforgettable story about mouse with, according to her parents, an absolutely perfect name. When she starts school however, she is teased about her long name. This book teaches kids about kindness and embracing everyone’s unique differences. Another one that the character goes to school but we still adored this book in our homeschool.

21. Little Bear Books by Else Homelund Minarik

Little Bear’s adventures with his various family members and friends are great fun and teach important lessons without being preachy. The stories are simple, easy to understand, and creatively illustrated. We have loved every single Little Bear book and your young reader will too!

22. Henry and Mudge by Cynthia Rylant

I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t love Henry and Mudge. Henry is a sweet kid from a nice family, and he has the kinds of interests and adventures you hope any kid might have. Mudge is his adorable 180lb English Mastiff dog. They do everything together – walking to school, exploring, and even sleeping.

23. Mr. Putter & Tabby Books by Cynthia Rylant

These books are so cute! Cynthia Rylant is a genius with these “easy reader” books—the words are relatively simple and few, but she weaves them in such a way that you are still completely drawn into the story. The accompanying illustrations are so charming, sweet and humorous–a perfect match to the text! Mr. Putter and Tabby the cat have great adventures together that will make you fall in love with them.

24. Geronimo Stilton Series by Geronimo Stilton

Geronimo, the mouse and newspaper reporter will have you giggling alongside your child. The Geronimo Stilton Series have fun illustrations, and the added graphic kick applied to the text throughout makes this a good choice for those transitioning from early chapter books to more advanced ones. The entire book series is full of tongue-in-cheek cheese humor with all the mouse and cheese puns!

25. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena

Every week, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don’t own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them. It finds beauty in unexpected places, explores the difference between what’s fleeting and what lasts, acknowledges inequality, and testifies to the love shared a little boy and his grandmother.

26. Katie Woo and Pedro Mysteries by Fran Manushkin

These are adorable simple first chapter books with dialogue and a few sentences per page. The gorgeous illustrations bring this series to life and add to the storyline. They are so sweet with simple enough dialogue for a budding reader. Your child will fall in love with these kind characters and be so proud for reading a real chapter book!

27. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

A childhood classic that is fun to read and lets children know that not every day is going to be a perfect day. This is an excellent book that can be used as a springboard for discussions. This is a great book. Alexander definitely is NOT having a good day. It helps kids learn to laugh at misfortune, to know they’re not alone in feeling misunderstood and unfairly treated sometimes, and that running away from their problems to magical far-off places probably won’t solve anything, and sometimes you just have to get through the bad stuff and hope tomorrow will be better. It’s a cute, funny book!

28. Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown

This creative series follows Flat Stanley — a boy who was flattened when his bulletin board fell on him. In the set of four books, children will learn more about Stanley and read about his adventures with becoming invisible, catching bank robbers, traveling to space, and more.

29. Narwhal and Jelly Books by Ben Clanton

Narwhal and Jelly books introduce children to the fun and friendly characters as they go through various adventures under the sea. The books are laid out like a simple graphic novel, with multiple images and text boxes on each page. Your kids will be laughing at this one!

30. Diary of Pug Series by Kyla May

Diary of the Pug series follows Bub, formally known as Baron von Bubbles. The chapters were short, making it a good book for that in-between stage of being too old for picture books but not ready to read most chapter books alone yet. I love it because it is funny and also recommended for dog lovers!

31. Dragon Masters Series by Tracey West

Drake, an 8-year-old boy is taken from his home and trained to be a Dragon Master. During his training, he must learn about training his dragon and discovering his special powers!  The chapters are a manageable size and there isn’t too much text on each page so isn’t too intimidating for children who haven’t read a chapter book before. The story manages to be really engaging without using vocabulary that is beyond a 5-year old’s understanding. Let the adventure begin!

32. Nate The Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat

Join the world’s greatest detective, Nate the Great, as he solves the mystery of the lost picture! Perfect for beginning readers and the Common Core, this long-running chapter book series will encourage children to problem-solve with Nate, using logical thinking to solve mysteries! This is the first in this wonderful series.

33. The Berenstain Bears’ Big Book of Science and Nature by Stan Berenstain

I grew up reading these books – everyone loves the Berenstain Bears! In this treasure, your children can learn more about various scientific concepts. The collection includes an almanac, nature guide, story about the science fair, and more. It’s a great introduction to many science topics with a lot of good pictures.

34. Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

 In retelling her migration story, the Yuyi Morales celebrates the gifts immigrants bring to America and the wonder of public libraries. It’s a story to remind us that we are all dreamers, bringing our own strengths wherever we roam. Such a beautiful book and a great conversation starter for children.

35. Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o

This is a beautiful book and story. Sulwe has skin the color of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family. She is darker than anyone in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything. A welcome celebration of girls of color, an important lesson for all kids (and grownups), and a necessary message for any child who has been made to feel unworthy of love on account of their looks. It’s so heart felt and perfect for any new reader but especially those who can truly relate to the story.

36. The Ramona Collection by Beverly Clearly

The appeal of Beverly Cleary’s stories about the wonderful, blunderful Ramona Quimby has never faded. Ramona has a unique way of looking at the world as she tries to adjust to new teachers, feels jealous about Susan’s curls, and is secretly pleased by Yard Ape’s teasing. These books are funny and heartwarming, and sometimes embarrassing. No matter what, Ramona’s lively, curious spirit shines through!

37. The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad

With her new backpack and light-up shoes, Faizah knows the first day of school is going to be special. It’s the start of a brand-new year and, best of all, it’s her older sister Asiya’s first day of hijab–a hijab of beautiful blue fabric, like the ocean waving to the sky. But not everyone sees hijab as beautiful, and in the face of hurtful, confusing words, Faizah will find new ways to be strong. This is an inspiring story about identity, visibility, and confidence. This book warmed our hearts!

38. Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall

Little ones who love Milne’s classic stories will be enchanted by this heartening account of the bear’s real-life origins. The story is full of wonderful Lighthouse facts as discussed briefly in the informative afterward. This book inspired me and my children to learn more about the history of lighthouses.

39. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner

This is a heartwarming series about four siblings that are orphaned but looking for their grandfather. They are always loving and caring for each other and have a lot of adventures. They are perfect for children who are just beginning to show interest in reading chapter books, or for younger children who are being read toThere are a few topics within the books that may be culturally outdated, but that is a great opportunity to discuss these things with your kids. They are a very simple read but have more of a story than a typical level 1 or 2 books. My 6-year-old loved that he could read these almost independently!

40. Half Magic by Edward Eager

We love this series with the four children discovering the magic in the various places they find themselves, and then figuring out how to use it as they face various challenges. Fun and imaginative. A laugh a loud funny story that we all loved. The chapters are a bit long so it may be a good book to share reading with your young new reader.

41. The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

 It’s a wonderful story about a little brown Mouse taking a walk through a deep dark wood and not getting eaten by bigger animals by convincing them of the existence of a terrible creature, the Gruffalo. All is going well for our Mouse, until he meets the Gruffalo face to face! Then he has to convince the Gruffalo that he’s actually a big scary creature. We love this book because of the repetitive rhyming scheme and it’s easy to jump in words at the end of sentences for even your youngest pre-readers.

42. Bark, George by Jules Feiffer

Great illustrations and a funny take on the somewhat familiar story of an animal or animals who for some reason do not make the sounds they are supposed to make. So cleverly comical. A genuinely funny story that will have everyone if your family laughing out loud!

43. Ivy and Bean Book Series

The fun book series about 2 girls that are best friends and appeals to curious, adventurous, and imaginative spirits. This is not like other “girl-oriented” chapter books that focus on fairy bunnies, or the mystery of the disappearing dolls, or other really girly plotlines. Short chapters with simple illustrations. Let the adventure begin!

44. The Magic School Bus Series by Joanna Cole

The Magic School Bus books are filled with fun science facts inserted throughout the fictional stories. The details are great for kids that love science. Miss Frizz takes her class on a lot of adventures on the Magic School Bus. They are loaded with facts and information worked into an entertaining format. They often let to us learning more about the topic in each book. Every homeschooler needs these for budding scientists!

45. The Magic Rocket by Steven Kroll

This is the #1 book that we have loved and adored in our home. It was the first book that my preschooler read to the baby after he was born and unfortunately it is out of print. You can find used copies by clicking the picture. Having two children that were really into science, the toy magic rocket that grows and grows taking Felix on an adventure when his dog is captured by aliens is a fun adventure book that your new reader will love as much as we did!

46. Amelia Bedelia Series

We laughed through all of Amelia’s taking life literally. She is an endearing character and creates love and laughter everywhere she goes. They are perfect books for beginner readers. You may start to hear chuckling from the other room when your child gets a hold of these books!

47. Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney

The book has a rich storyline, and an uncle instructs her that it is important to do something to make the world a better place. She sows lupine seeds as she walks and her flowers dot the countryside. We need more stories about sweet, older people like Miss Rumphius. We love books that have a deeper meaning and something can be learned from them along side a beautiful (and true) story with lovely illustrations.

48. Annie and Snowball Series by Cynthia Rylant

The stories are simple but have developed and likable characters doing fun things together. The illustrations help tell the story and have their own humor. This Collector’s Set is a wonderful addition to your homeschool library! It comes in a sturdy, magnetic securing, container to help keep the collection together and organized! We all love this collection!

49. Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola

t is a wonderful charming little tale that is quirky and fun. Strega Nona has a magic pot that makes pasta. It starts with the magic words only she knows and it stops making pasta when she says the ending magic words. A favorite line is, “The pasta will cover our town!” Tomie DePaolo has the warmest and most charming illustrations to accompany this wonderful story. We highly recommend this book!

50. The New Kid on the Block

Jack Prelutsky is one of the best children’s poets out there. Teach your child in the joys of reading poetry. This poetry collection centers around problems children encounter, with a twist. Prelutsky writes amusing poems that still acknowledges how these issues can really affect kids’ lives. The poems vary in length and vocabulary, so your new reader will love to find the ones at their level!

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