Category Archives: Book Review

There have been a LOT of books written about homeschooling. Here are my top recommendations published from the 1960’s to the present.

The Colfaxes: they are THE original modern homeschool family. I love how they just went for it, pre-internet, out in the boonies, their strong family culture of learning, and their academic results. Homeschooling for Excellence and Hard Times in Paradise.

John Holt: a single, childless educator, but you gotta love his deep faith in childrens’ natural ability to learn, if they are allowed time and surroundings conducive to their unique development and interests. Teach Your Own, How Children Learn, How Children Fail, and others.

Raymond and Dorothy Moore: their slant is Better Late than Early, School Can Wait, and others. Service is one of their unique aspects of a balanced education. Their concern about too much reading damaging eye development is outdated, but there are some recent interesting studies about nearsightedness and outdoor time.

David Albert: And the Skylark Sings With Me. He blew my mind with community based education. His family circumstances are about as opposite mine as you can get [a dad educating two daughters widely spaced in age], but this book completely inspired me to embrace our community resources, and just get out there and experience life as much as we possibly can.

Marva Collins: the only other person I know of with this much energy is my MIL. Marva Collins’ Way is an exuberant book . It’s also nice to read something by an educator who is not white and middle class. I guess she could be described as more cottage school than homeschool but her drive to provide individual inner city kids with a classical-ish education is very inspiring.

Dorothy Sayers and Susan Wise Baeur: Lost Tools of Learning, and the Well-Trained Mind. I don’t buy into neo-classical educational theory at all and don’t follow either of these philosophies, but reading the essay and the book helped me articulate some of the ways I don’t want to educate our kids. 🙂 And the Well-Trained Mind forums have been incredibly helpful as I decide on curricula every year.

Ruth Beechick: she has some really strange ideas, and her books sound like the 90’s version of fortress homeschooling, but these two books are what I would want if I had no internet. The Three R’s and You Can Teach Your Child Successfully cover how and when to teach the basics K-8, they are simple and concise, and have a very can-do, encouraging tone.

Grace Llewellyn: caveat–The Teenage Liberation Handbook was published just after I had been homeschooled through the middle of 10th grade and  graduated from community college at age 17. It was a great read about non-conformist kids. I was an anarchistic and a hippie then; now I’m just a libertarian wanna-be hippie, and I haven’t read the book since then, so it might not be as great as I remember. 😉 But back then it was awesome!

Daniel T. Willingham: Why Don’t Students Like School? is a strangely named book. It’s really about brain science, and debunks the myth of learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) while explaining how people DO learn and how to use those ideas in education. Sounds dry, but it is quite readable and has strongly influenced me in how we do what we do at home.


Book Review: The Knowledge Deficit by E.D. Hirsch, Jr.

Whew! This one was a bit of a slog, but worth reading. The Knowledge Deficit by E.D. Hirsch, Jr. The author makes the case that Americans are terribly lacking in general knowledge that ought to help us be literate citizens, and help define our common culture. I admire his idealism and zeal for public school reform, although in my opinion, that is a losing battle from the start. Brain science and education are not my specialties, but he has a convincing argument for how to teach reading comprehension. In a nutshell, he says public school students spend way too much time learning reading “strategies” and way too little time reading actual content. They stay at a low level of literacy, because reading comprehension depends on background knowledge. Authors assume the general public has some familiarity with many topics. So, if someone reads an article about baseball, he needs to know how the game is played, and maybe what the World Series is, or he will have a hard time comprehending the article, even if he is a “good” reader.

Hirsch would like to see more time spent reading (history, arts, literature, science) in the classroom so that everyone has a “common core” of knowledge. Not to be confused with the most recent Common Core! He also delves into the lack of any coherent, continual curriculum for the public schools, and the disservice it does to students, especially those from lower social classes.

As a homeschooler, about half the content of this book was not particularly relevant (other than reaffirming my decision to keep our kids out of public school at this point). It does help pinpoint why the system is so broken. And I found the reading section useful, and thought-provoking. It makes me more inclined to go very broad (rather than deep) with our kids, at least while they are young.

My Rating for The Knowledge Deficit: Check it out of the library and read it. If you are an educator, buy it and re-read it. 🙂

Book Review: Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Engelmann

It has such a gimmicky title, doesn’t it?

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Engelmann. And if you read the reviews, it’s a love-it-or-hate-it book….we love it! Our two oldest kids have completed it so far. We started each of them the day after their fifth birthdays, and it took about 6 months to complete. It should be titled Teach Your Child to Read in About 150 Llloooonnngggg, Repetitive Lessons. The first 75ish lessons are written in a unique orthography, which eventually changes to a regular script for the last 25 lessons.  The introduction is worth reading (for the parent); after that, each lesson is scripted and easy to open-and-go with no prep. The first few lessons are quick–about 10 minutes. The middle lessons get longer and longer until we start splitting them into 2 or even 3 days (otherwise, they would take over an hour to finish). Then the last 20 or so get shorter (about half an hour). There’s also a writing section included in each lesson, but we use this book only for reading instruction, and have never used the writing.

I love that there is no prep for me, and there are no booklets or charts or anything to get lost–it’s all contained in one big book. I also love that the girls have both been able to actually read stories within the first few lessons instead of spending months learning charts of sounds and blends. It is a stand-alone resource, but I would recommend following it with something to fill in some of the phonetic gaps, and for more practice. At the end of the book, there’s a section of suggestions for the parent.

So what do we do after 100 EZ Lessons? Kid Uno immediately started reading aloud a couple little phonics books and picture books. Then she went through the McGuffey Primer and First Reader. And then she discovered the Little House books and became a voracious reader 🙂 I also went through The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading (helpful but horribly boring) between McGuffey’s First and Second Reader. I plan to have her continue reading aloud through the McGuffey series, and other books.

Kid Dos just finished 100 EZ Lessons so she is starting with some Dr. Suess, picture books, and easy readers. My plan is the same for her, but I’m looking for a replacement for the OPGTR.

My rating for Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons : Buy it, use it, keep it. Unless you hate it…then maybe you’d prefer something else 🙂