5 Homeschooling Reads to Encourage You

Ever feel a tad overwhelmed by all the homeschooling research and information out there?

Sometimes we know we’re making the right choice in educating our kids at home. They’re learning, thriving, and right on track.

But in certain seasons, self-doubt swoops down and threatens to envelop us. Bickering seems front and center, and no one appears interested in learning anything.

Or maybe you’re just considering homeschooling, but the conflicting views and information you come across leave you stressed and confused.

In other words, sometimes we need a little encouragement.

There will always be a need to occasionally delve into books on curriculum and philosophy. But there are also times when we just need to be affirmed–when we want a literary cheerleader to come alongside us and say “Yes, the choice you’re making matters.”

If that sounds like the type of help you could use, hurry to your library and check out one of these encouraging books.

1. The Call to Brilliance by Resa Steindel Brown

I read The Call to Brilliance: A True Story to Inspire Parents and Educators cover to cover in two days. It was food to my hungry homeschooling mama’s soul, allowing me to believe that yes, I could actually do this–and that it might not even be as hard as I thought.

The author comes to the conclusion that all children are born brilliant, and that our job as educators is helping them discover and nurture their particular genius.

The book follows her journey with her own three children, as she seeks to find the best educational path for them. Steindel Brown covers her children’s education from the cradle to the graduation cap.

2. The Hurried Child by David Elkind

The Hurried Child: Growing Up Too Fast Too Soon is technically not a book on education, but its themes cannot fail to encourage homeschooling families.

Originally written in 1981, the author released a 25th anniversary edition just a few years ago. Unfortunately, even more children suffer from the stress of overscheduling today than when Dr. Elkind first sounded alarm bells regarding this condition.

This books always makes me thankful for the extra hours my children have to just “be” kids–without agendas or pressures. Elkind delves into the topics of school cultures, the Internet, violence, television, and movies.

3. Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto

I felt stunned the first time I read Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling.

I’d never heard anyone openly confront the educational questions Gatto raises in this series of essays, yet reading his words sent shivers of understanding up my spine.

Gatto taught within public schools as an award-winning teacher for over three decades, so he has the experience to back up his viewpoints. He also tackles the history of the American school system.

Some of the essays include “The Seven-Lesson Schoolteacher,” “The Psychopathic School,” “We Need Less School, Not More,” as well as four others. It’s impossible to come away from this small book without large questions in need of thoughtful answers.

Photo by Alex

4. Homeschooling Our Children, Unschooling Ourselves by Alison McKee

In my early days of considering homeschooling, I was especially drawn toward books that chronicled a family’s actual educational journey.

I wanted to know how families successfully navigated the homeschooling lifestyle long-term. Homeschooling Our Children, Unschooling Ourselves provided the type of hope and encouragement I was looking for.

McKee writes about the process of trusting her two children to direct their own educations–as she and her husband watched and assisted when asked.

This family wholeheartedly followed an unschooling philosophy, but any type of homeschooler will feel inspired after turning the last page.

5. Teach Your Own by John Holt

I have a confession–last year I skipped out of many sessions at a homeschooling conference because I was completely engrossed in Teach Your Own by John Holt. It seemed impossible to put the book down once I had started–I just had to keep reading.

I didn’t regret it.

Many of Holt’s books are considered educational classics, and for good reason. This title is no exception.

Originally written in the early 80’s, when homeschooling was not as common as it is today, Holt addresses the legalities of teaching your child at home as well as the politics of the choice. Part of this information may not be applicable to modern day readers.

But other chapters–like “Why Take Them Out?,” “Living and Working Spaces,” and “Serious Play,” are just as profound for parents today as when Holt first wrote them. Even if Holt’s style of schooling doesn’t appeal to you, his words provoke deep thoughts about education.

As homeschoolers today we’re privileged to have so many resources available at our fingertips. But we must guard against informational overload. That’s why looking for books that encourage and don’t condemn can give us the fuel we need to continue our educational lifestyle with joy.

Which homeschooling books have you found the most encouraging?

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She is the co-founder and editor of Simple Homeschool, where she writes about mindful parenting, intentional education, and the joy found in a pile of books. Jamie is also the author of a handful of titles, including her newest release, Give Your Child the World.


  1. I enjoyed “For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaffer Macauly. (daughter of Francis Schaffer) Also “Homeschooling for Excellence” by David & Micki Colfax…another story of a family’s homeschool journey…similar to Alison McKee’s book, but an unschooling ideology, with a bit of structure thrown in. 🙂
    .-= Ashley’s last blog: Thankful =-.

    • Hi Ashley. Yes, great recommendations. I’ve read “For the Children’s Sake”–it was my first introduction to Charlotte Mason!
      .-= Simple Homeschool~Jamie’s last blog: 5 Homeschooling Reads to Encourage You =-.

    • Ellie Ferguson says:

      Oh my gosh, I can’t believe my two all-time go-to favorites aren’t on the list.

      The first is “Legendary Learners: The Famous Homeschoolers’ Guide to Self-Directed Excellence” by Jamie McMillin. She tracks back the factors that went into making some of the world’s Big Thinkers and Doers, then helps us employ those factors in our own family’s life. Not only do we learn about famous homeschoolers like Louis Armstrong, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, John Muir, and Walt Whitman —- we also what they had in common (not found in school!). Entirely worthy read.

      My other favorite is so battered from use that I’ve repaired some well-thumbed pages with clear packing tape. It’s “Free Range Learning” by Laura Grace Weldon. Whenever I’ve just had it with our overly full days, I open to the first half of the book where she explains how children (any of us, really) actually learn and gives great advice for connecting with people outside the home to help us make that learning come alive. Far more often I open to the second half of the book which is absolutely packed with ideas for hands-on learning. When I’m stuck I just flip to a section like “math” or “current events” and let the kids (5, 9, 11) pick something that inspires them. This is a large format book, something like 300 pages, and practically an atlas for my family.

      Give both these books a try!

  2. Hey, Ashley. I just picked up a copy of the Colfax book at our library’s book sale.

    Count me as another Gatto fan. Same with Holt.

    The only book I would add to your list is Homeschooling: A Family’s Journey by Gregory and Martine Millman. Excellent! Comments on why homeschooling works, the socialization (non)issue, what their homeschooling journey looks like, and a wonderful chapter on colleges. They are unschoolers in NJ, so of course I’m a big fan.
    .-= monica @ educating magpies’s last blog: Product review: an e-zine to help you save =-.

  3. Teach Your Own has been hugely formative for me (and my parents, back in the day), and right now I’m reading Dumbing Us Down.

    It’s not a book, but a steady source of inspiration has come from Home Education Magazine. I look forward to each new issue.
    .-= Jennifer Jo’s last blog: Lemons and goat cheese =-.

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you! For the past year, I have been trying to take in all I can get about homeschooling. I will definitely look for these books in our library system. Anything to help me in my decision to homeschool versus public school AND how to stand strong in my decision to homeschool against family/friends disputes. I just mentioned going to a homeschool convention and the looks killed me. lol. So, I need everything and anything to make sure I’m in this 100% if I decide to homeschool.

    • Sorry you’re meeting with resistance to the possibility of homeschooling, Michelle. It can be tough to deal with those looks, especially at the beginning when you’re not sure of your ideas yourself.

      I found that those types of discussions happened more when I first made the decision–now that it’s been a few years, and my kids are thriving, others seems to be more accepting.

      Hang in there!
      .-= Jamie’s last blog: 5 Homeschooling Reads to Encourage You =-.

  5. I really liked Lies Homeschooling Moms Believe by Todd Wilson. It was really true and REALLY funny! I suffer from the “Am I doing this right?”syndrome. He made me laugh and see that I wasn’t the only one who thought that way. AND I love the Successful Homeschool Family Handbook by Raymond and Dorothy Moore. Very hard to find since they’ve been out of print since the 80’s, but very encouraging to the thinking “outside the box.”
    .-= Alisha’s last blog: YOU’RE INVITED TO…. The Ultimate BLOG PARTY 2010! =-.

  6. Would you believe the only one of those I’ve read is the John Holt? I think my library list just got a little longer …. thanks, Jamie! 🙂

    I love this blog!
    .-= Kara’s last blog: Weekend Showcase: Link Love =-.

  7. Allison Mckee’s story is what took me over the edge into the journey of Unschooling. I also love The well adjusted child: the social benefits of homeschool by Rachel Gathercole. It addresses the topic of socialization pretty well. Dumbing us down was an excellent book too. I think the only book I don’t have from this list in my personal library is the first one and I’m going to put it on hold at our library. Thanks for sharing these Jamie.

    I did a post on my favorite Unschooling books here if anyone is looking at that area of homeschooling.
    .-= Rana’s last blog: Post it Note Tuesday =-.

  8. I’ve had A Call to Brilliance on my Amazon wishlist for a long time — you may have just pushed me over the edge! That 1-click ordering is so dangerous. 😉

    A friend just recommended to me the book “Homeschooling and Loving It.” Have you read it?
    .-= Hannah’s last blog: An Island; A Book =-.

  9. Even though we are opting for public schooling, several of these books seem relevant to ensuring the quality of our children’s education. I plan to track several of these titles down. Thank you for putting forth such a stimulating list.
    .-= Julia’s last blog: Teaching My Child to Read: What is the Best Way? =-.

  10. Mandy Lovelace says:

    Thank you for these suggestions. I am very new at all of this and overwhelmed does not begin to describe where I am at. My daughter is soon to be 5 and I want to homeschool and I am so unsure of everything. I will find some of these books and get to reading!

  11. Thanks Jamie, I’ve starred this post to remember the next time I need an inspirational educational read.

  12. If your on the fence about homeschooling , because you want your child to be exposed to a social life… think again. Socializing in public schools means being cool, trendy, drugs, pier pressure, etc…

    With my 5 children, I lived it and saw my 17 year old son almost destroyed emotionally. He’s now out of school cause we pulled him out, and I won’t make the same mistake with my 12 year old.
    .-= Jon’s last blog: HOMESCHOOLING Brings $184,852 Full Tuition Scholarships! =-.

  13. Looking forward to checking these books out as we are in the research phase of our homeschooling pursuit! Thank you!

  14. Thank you so much for this! My oldest is 3.5 and I’m starting to explore the idea of homeschooling/unschooling (just found this blog about a week ago). It’s such a hard decision. So many issues to weigh. A couple of the books listed are at our local library, so I figure it will be a great way to get started.

    Are there any unschooling books you recommend?

  15. Finding “The Teenage Liberation Handbook” at the Homeschooling Conference sued book sale was undoubetedly the best thing I got from my homeschooling conference! It is a fantastic book for anyone considering homeschooling (not just teenagers!)

    I also loved Family Matters by David Guterson. And there is a new book that just came out which I’ve been reading snippets of at the bookstore–Love in a Time of Homeschooling, which chronicles the author’s year of “temporary homeschooling” with her 10 year old (I think) daughter. What I like about that one so far is that it is a very realistic view of the good as well as the incredibly frustrating elements of homeschooling, in particular some of the relationship issues.

  16. I always love your book lists, Jamie! Thanks for these!
    Leslie’s latest post: Another confession

  17. A great book for those considering homeschooling or just starting is The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child: Your Complete Guide to Getting Off to the Right Start by Linda Dobson. I really liked the insets in which veterans tell what they “wish they had known” in their first year. Very encouraging!

  18. Thank you for posting such a valuable list of reads for us! I only fear, that I will have such a very hard time choosing which one to read firs. I plan on reading them all 🙂

  19. “The Homeschool Journey” by Michael and Susan Card. So, so good. I have it highlighted all over the place and grab it when I’m discouraged during the year, and I make sure I read it before starting a new school year to get me pumped up and ready to go!

  20. Not really a homeschooling book title, but “Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers” by Gordon Neufield and Gabor Mate. It sealed the deal for the “socialization” reason that I homeschool. I’ve gone back to re-read parts of that book a few times.

  21. Amen to anything by John Holt and amen to anything POSITIVE.
    Three books have been pivotal to me. Hope others find them as inspiring and useful.

    First is a classic that’s entirely relevant. Hard Times in Paradise by David Colfax and Micki Colfax. They were carving out a homestead on the side of a mountain with the help of their kids. Several of their kids were adopted, three of four went on to Harvard.

    Second is my main resource book for useful ideas. Free Range Learning by Laura Weldon is what made me decide to take my kids out of preschool and public school. The first half of the book explains in detail how kids really learn, the second half is full of activity ideas for every subject (including current events, business & finance, volunteerism, all sorts of things). My kids refer to the second half of the book too!

    Third but not last is Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn. Honestly, when I read this my kids were very young and I thought more about how it related to me than them. Still a mind-opener.

  22. Stefanie Hadden says:

    One book that struck me, in addition to nearly all those mentioned, was “How Lincoln Learned to Read…Twelve Great Americans and the Educations that Made Them.” Describes the largely self-educations of some of our country’s most famous personalities, like Lincoln, Ben Franklin, Helen Keller, Henry Ford, Jack Kennedy. Whenever I feel that intense pressure of “Am I doing this right?” I remember that historically, education was largely a self-driven enterprise.

  23. YES, YES, YES!!! I think these should be a part of every homeschooler’s library. My absolute favorites ever!
    Purva Brown’s latest post: Homeschooling Moms Are Happier

  24. I have a question. My son is hard to homeschool. I’m on k-12program. We fall behind constant. He hates to read. I’m now doing intervention reading curriculum. I just would like to know what book is good for me not To be so frustrated with school. My son is soon to be 9and not even at 2nd grade reading level. Help pls.

    • Don’t get discouraged, my daughter was nine before she started to read beyond basic Bob books. I let her listen to lots of audio books and made readingan enjoyable part of our lives. It’s been a slow process but now she reads chapter books to us at twelve.

  25. My all-time favorite is an unschooling manifesto! A close second is Free to Learn by Peter Gray.
    June’s latest post: The Terrible Twos: How to Love This Stage (not just survive it)

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