A family homeschool library doesn’t need to be huge or take up a lot of space, if it is created with thought. It should be built with solid resources and classics. Passing interests can be researched at a public library. In today’s post, I’d like to explore some of the key book categories that deserve a place in your homeschool library, and why. The order is not necessarily by importance.
Field guides are amazing little books. I remember getting a flower field guide when I was in high school. I took it with me all summer to be able to identify new flowers I came across. That was the first time I saw swamp milkweed, which is a surprisingly beautiful flower.
Field guides are available for all different subjects. Nature guides cover flowers, bugs, trees, weather patterns, mammals, and birds. Make sure you pick a field guide appropriate to the region you live in. Guides with photos or realistic drawings are preferred. Field guide type books are also available for other topics such as submarines or airplanes.
Field guides can be used in multiple ways, the most obvious being to identify your discoveries. They are also fascinating to flip through. In winter, you can continue your nature study by creating your own “field guides” with information from the books. Children with a little artistic bent will enjoy drawing pictures of their favorite bugs and birds. If they don’t want to draw, realistic coloring pages are available here.
No homeschool library should be without some Bibles. Our passion for homeschooling, our desire to raise godly children, and our life choices are based on the principles found in Scripture. I recommend that each person in the family have their own personal Bible. Younger children can have a picture Bible. Reading Scripture together as a family, even once or twice a week is always a good idea. Here are some excellent read-aloud passages to get you started.
Make sure you pull out the Bibles during your school day, too. My older children read through books of the Bible, a chapter a day. I think it’s important for children to be in the Bible on their own, not just with the family. Copywork is also an excellent way to bring the Bible into your school day. I have ready-made copywork for younger children, and my monthly copywork lists are a great fit for older children (and mom)!
I also recommend you have a few different translations in your library for comparison and deeper study. I personally enjoy the Tree of Life version, ESV, Amplified, and others.
History is a fascinating subject, if taught through the eyes of those who lived it. While looking at dates helps us to keep events in order, learning about the people helps us to learn from history. Historical fiction is a great way to make history come alive.
Authors like Bodie Theone, Gilbert Morris, and G. A. Henty made up a large part of my history lessons when I was homeschooled. While many of these books can be found in public libraries, if you have multiple children, it may be worth it to invest in some historical fiction to keep in your own library. Having the books at home also allows your children free access based on their current interests.
Science books with photos
True science is observable, repeatable, and measurable. Science happens first in a child’s backyard as they use their senses to experience their corner of the world. As you look to expand their understanding through books, you should look for lots of photos and clear illustrations.
I recommend having a handful of books in different science topics, for example, a few bird books, a couple on volcanoes, etc. As your children get excited about a topic, then a trip to the library may be in order. Keep the science books accessible and see what your children are drawn to. Educational videos are also an excellent choice to help them learn more.
I offer one caveat to the science topic. Evolutionary thought is hidden in plain sight. Be particularly aware of earth science, where you will find faulty origin teachings. Because of this, I find it best to evolution-proof your child. I have never child-proofed my home. Instead, I home-proofed my children. A certain level of training is required to keep your children safe. As they learn to navigate the world of science, they need to be taught to recognize evolutionary teaching. Teach them buzz words and phrases to watch for, such as:
- Millions of years ago
- Carbon dating
- Adaptation of species
- Big Bang theory
At the same time, teach your children the awesome truth that they were created by a loving Designer who desires a personal relationship with them.
The books that fall into this category will vary by family. The idea is to put books on your shelves that demonstrate excellent writing, well-developed characters, moral examples, heroes, and deep plots. There is no place for garbage modern chapter books on your shelves. Sort your books the way you sort your food. The vast majority of your children’s book “diet” should be wholesome, quality books. The silly, nonsense books should be occasional rather than the norm.
Reference books include a good dictionary (an old Webster’s is an excellent choice), maps, thesaurus, history timelines, etc. It is also a good idea to have Bible specific dictionaries, atlases, cross-references, and cultural books. Another overlooked reference is some well-chosen cookbooks with basic recipes. We all have to eat, after all!
Keep your reference materials handy so that you will remember to use them. My mom had a lecturn in the dining room with a big Webster’s dictionary on it. We could easily flip through for a definition. My current dining room table never seems to be cleared off. But, if you can see your table, consider laying out maps and covering them with a clear vinyl tablecloth, another great idea from my mom.
How to afford books
With the exception of a quality dictionary and Bibles, most books can be acquired second-hand. Keep an eye out at thrift stores and garage sales. If you aren’t finding much, or don’t have the time to dig through the piles, consider visiting my online used bookstore. I sell many of the types of books listed here at affordable prices. When you buy multiple books in the same order, I include a mystery book that I think your family will enjoy- for free!