Friday, February 28, 2014

My List of Book Lists

If you read my last article, you were cautioned about allowing book lists to paralyze you into feeling chained to particular literary recommendations.  Now that I've released you from book list slavery, let me share with you some of my favorite resources for finding the best living books.  ;)

Many years ago when I first began collecting books in earnest, I relied on Valerie's Living Books.  Valerie has been buying, selling and writing about living books for nearly 20 years and her website is a wealth of information.  (You can also buy wonderful titles from her.)

Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt is another resource that has been directing parents in choosing the best books for their children for many years. 

Books Children Love by Elizabeth Wilson is a great choice.  Based on the writings of Charlotte Mason. 

Read for the Heart by Sarah Clarkson is a relatively new publication of book lists.  You might recognize Sarah as the daughter of Clay and Sally Clarkson, authors of Educating the WholeHearted Child.  Sarah was brought up on the best the world of children's literature has to offer and shares her favorites in this book.

If you are looking to liven up your history study with living books, you might consider All Through the Ages by Christine Miller.  This book lists books by historical time period as well as geographically and by age.

Of course, the TruthQuest History guides offer an exhaustive list of books of each topic covered.  Michelle Miller is not only the author of these profound guides, she owns a homeschool lending library herself so is well-versed in the golden age of children's literature.

My most used resource is Jan Bloom's Who Should We Then Read Vols. 1 and 2.   Jan's books are unique in that she lists books by author including a brief biography of each and a list of every book he/she wrote.  This is an indispensable resource if you are seeking to build a collection of your favorites.  My copies are marked and highlighted treasures.

Last but not least is my precious copy of Realms of Gold and it's companion volume Five Years of Children's Books.  These books are from the 1930's and list the most wonderful titles published for children during those years.  Many of these we recognize from our childhoods.  In the introduction of Five Years of Children's Books we read the standard for books published during this time...

"As for the values which we claim are strong and clear in children's books, the first of these is a sense of God. 'God is a spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.'  A seeking after truth and beauty; a sense of wonder and reverence; the balance and proportion which humor gives:  these are values in terms of the spirit which shape the design and form for living.  The books which fill these pages have the power to add life and reality."

As we seek to find the best books to place in the eager hands of our children, may God lead us to life and reality, to truth and beauty.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Book Lists: Bane or Blessing

As a homeschool librarian I am often asked by prospective patrons if I have the books listed on various homeschool curricula book lists.  I remember as a new homeschooler 18 years ago trying to find a curriculum that utilized real, living books.  After we finished our time with Five in a Row, we definitely did not want to settle for dry facts common in the textbooks listed in most homeschool catalogs and marketed at homeschool conventions.  I found only one such curriculum at the time.  We plunged in, enjoying the books we could locate on that list, substituting books we could not find or...gasp...leaving them out altogether.  It really never occured to me that my child's education would somehow be ruined if I did not have the exact book recommended on a particular list.

I so appreciate the variety and sheer volume of book lists available today.  I collect these lists, mull over them, mark what I own, eagerly scour used book stores, library sales and internet websites to add to my collection.  But I don't own everything.  I never will own everything.  But I try to make every purchase count in my effort to put the best that the golden age of children's literature has to offer into the hands of eager young readers.  I have literally thousands and thousands of books, mostly out of print and written during a time when authors sought to edify their audience of young minds, on my shelves and add more almost weekly.

I can understand a new homeschool mom's panic when faced with the great responsibility of the education of her children and the outside pressure of doing everything "right."  She studies the homeschool catalogs, talks to veteran moms, goes to conferences, previews curriculum, and on it goes.  Mom brings the new, expensive curriculum to my library in anticipation of returning home with a tote full of the books she will need to fill her children's minds with all that is necessary for a well-rounded education...and I have only three of them. 

Let me explain.  By default, most producers of curriculum, even those that utilize living books, must use books that are in print.  Most public libraries have discarded the best books and are left with twaddle at best and poison at worst.  Unfortunately, although the homeschool library movement is growing, there are very few of us in the country.  So the vast majority of the moms will only be able to locate books that are in print.  Are these books the best that are written on the topic?  Maybe.  Probably not.  They are the best that the curriculum writer had available at the time of writing.  But I find so many moms distraught that they will somehow be shortchanging their children's education if the exact book is not found.  Also is the fact that there are often specific lesson plans that revolve around said book and mom has no idea how to deviate from those plans to make a substitution. 

Freedom is a wonderful thing.  I very much appreciate the admonition Michelle Miller gives to families who use her TruthQuest guides.  Use what you have!  If you are blessed to live near a homeschool lending library that specilizes in living books, become a patron and select the best of the best to lavish upon the minds of your children.  Read book lists, learn from them.  But don't be a slave to them.  Be willing to step outside the box of the curriculum to choose something better if it is available to you.  You will be amazed and blessed by the treasures you may find.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Book Sale Pages Updated

I have updated my Book Sale Page.  This is a massive list of wonderful living books. 

To help you add more books to your collection, if you buy 5-9 books, take 10% off.  If you purchase 10 books or more, take 25% off! 

There are some great titles here.  Email me at with your questions or purchases.  Thank you for your support.

Monday, February 3, 2014

So, What Are You Reading?

An innocent question from my husband to the boys.  A simple question you might think.  Let's see...

The Bible.  We are reading through the Bible and are now in II Kings with the reign of Hezekiah.

The Dry Divide by Ralph Moody.  We have been working our way through the Little Britches series for our nightly reading.  Not to be missed!

For geography we are loving The Book of Marvels by Richard Halliburton, who traveled around the world recording his adventures.  Charlotte Mason's Elementary Geography is fascinating. 

History always holds some wonderful treasures.  Right now we are enjoying mystery and intrigue in Web of Traitors by Geoffrey Trease set in Ancient Greece.

Our current poet is James Whitcomb Riley.  In addition to a book of his poems, we are learning about his life in this Childhood of Famous American gem. 

Picture study is one of our favorite subjects.  I've been wanting to study Millet for a long time so we decided now's the time.  Millet Tilled the Soil by Opal Wheeler and Sybil Deucher is so wonderful I'm not sure which I love most, the book or the art!

For science right now we are reading The Burgess Bird Book for Children.  We are huge Thornton Burgess fans.  We also have some books on snow that we've pulled out, found at this post.

We always have a "Sunday book" going that we reserve for the Lord's Day.  Right now we are immersed in the classic Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe.

In addition each boy is reading a book on his own.  My 10-year-old is almost finished with The Fellowship of the Ring.  My 9-year-old is finishing up Robin Hood Stories by Dolch. 

My husband and I have our own lists going.  I'm currently reading O Pioneers! by Willa Cather as a quick fiction story.  That, along with my Charlotte Mason assignments, and trying to keep books reshelved is keeping me busy.

So what are you reading?  Pull out a good book on a cold, wintry day.