The Ultimate Reading List for Homeschooling Parents

For a while now, I’ve been thinking about putting together a reading list of sorts for parents who are thinking about homeschooling.

If you’ve read my earlier posts, you probably know that I am a big advocate of new homeschoolers not jumping right into curriculum and taking some time to develop their convictions about why they plan to homeschool and how exactly they plan on going about the process. This isn’t always possible, yes. But if you’ve somehow stumbled across this page, read on for the affiliate links to a fairly large list of must-reads for new and experienced homeschoolers. Some of these books are my favorites, others not so much but I think if you just pick up a handful of them you will be much better prepared for your journey.

They follow no particular order and are not categorized. My advice? Read as many of them as you can. If you already have a well developed reason for homeschooling, you are less likely to get overwhelmed and give up when the going gets hard – as it usually does in something worth pursuing.

So without further ado, here’s the master list:

The Well Trained Mind by Susan Bauer – considered by many in the classical community to be indispensable in a classical education. This is a great handy reference for how to structure a homeschooling day and what to teach, broken down by subjects. Can be a tad overwhelming for new homeschoolers, but worth the read.

Why Johnny Can’t Read by Rudolph Flesch – an excellent, spirited book on how to teach reading and why the look-say method is a bad idea.

Homeschooling For Excellence by David and Micki Colfax – one of the first books I read about homeschooling. The two were teachers when they decided to homeschool and… well, let’s just say, it’s very inspiring.

Teach Your Own by John Holt – must read author. He has also written How Children Learn, How Children Fail and Learning All The TimeHolt coined the term “unschooling,” but even if you don’t see yourself as an unschooler, don’t be scared off by the title. When he coined it, he meant simply “homeschooling.”


Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich – great, small book to get your mind wrapped around the fact that education doesn’t need to happen in an institution and the institution of school has led to society itself not being able to think outside of it.

The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child by Linda Dobson – I can’t remember if it was this one or one of her other books, but she had a great list of people who were homeschooling in non-traditional ways (for whatever reason) and were doing well. Her other books are Homeschoolers’ Success Stories, Homeschooling The Early Years, The Homeschooling Book of Answers.


For The Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay – a great book to add to every homeschooler’s library. It was everything I always knew to be true about education but put together succinctly.

Home Education by Charlotte Mason – a good introduction to the Charlotte Mason form of home education, especially for the younger years.

A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola – If you’re interested in the Charlotte Mason approach, this is about as complete a book in introducing it as you will find.


The Lost Tools of Learning by Dorothy Sayers – a short essay packed with the ultimate questions (and answers) of education and how to go about it. A must read, especially for those inclined to the Classical school of home education.

The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto – I can’t say enough about this book. If you’ve ever wondered why the American system of education got to be the way it is, you should take the time to read this book. You will never see school the same way again. Gatto, by the way, is another prolific writer and your homeschool library should include a smattering of his books, the best of which are Dumbing Us Down, Weapons of Mass Instructionand A Different Kind of Teacher


Better Late Than Early by Raymond and Dorothy Moore – If you think that you need preschool or early childhood education, this is the book you should read. Challenging the myth that early is better, there is a wealth of research cited which indicates that it is better to wait when it comes to school. The Moores have also written Home Grown Kids, Home Spun SchoolsThe Successful Homeschool Family Handbook and others. I would not start homeschooling without reading at least one of their books.


Teaching the Trivium: Christian Homeschooling in a Classical Style by the Bluedorns – Excellent book. I recently happened to come across it at a homeschool conference and intend to pick up a copy soon.

The Readaloud Handbook by Jim Trelease which is always mentioned when reading aloud is spoken about.

The Messianic Character of American Education, The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum by RJ Rushdoony – If you’re a Christian who is thinking of homeschooling, you must read Rushdoony. It will help clarify and deepen your understanding of homeschooling and the philosophy behind it.


The Case for Classical Christian Education by Douglas Wilson – comes highly recommended by a lot of classical homeschoolers, including some of my blog readers.

The Christian Homeschool by Gregg Harris. Amazon just reminded me that I bought this book when I had a 2 year old and a 3 year old and we were pretty sure we were going to homeschool. I especially enjoyed the part about delight-directed learning.

The Core by Leigh Bortinis is a good, brief introduction to the classical method if you get bogged down by The Well Trained Mind. 

So You’re Thinking About Homeschooling by Lisa Whelchel – This was the first book I read that made me think, “Okay, I can do this. If she can, I can.” The book gives you snapshots of the lives of homeschooling families that are doing in their way. It emphasizes that there is no ONE way to do it and you are free to blaze your own trail. Very encouraging.


Feel Bad Education by Alfie Kohn – Clearly, he’s not for everyone and I don’t agree with a lot he says. However, I do read Kohn and take his work seriously. This is a book worth reading about the present state of education in our country.


A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver deMill. This one has recently been brought to my attention by my readers and I have yet to read it, but I wanted to add it because it looks intriguing.

When You Rise Up by R. C. Sproul Jr. – One of my absolute favorite books on Christian homeschooling. I loved it so much, I gave it away. I must buy another copy soon and I’m going to have a hard time not foisting it on someone who should read it. Heartily recommended.

The Montessori Method by Maria Montessori. So, here’s the thing about the Montessori method. I incorporate some of her ideas and I appreciate what she did but when I read the book and found out that much of her ideas were based on Rousseau’s philosophy, she lost validity with me. Still, there are people who really love this method and it’s worth exploring and learning about it.


Boys and Girls Learn Differently by Michael Gurian – I appreciate Michael Gurian’s work and sincerely believe that before homeschooling it is a good idea to take into consideration the personality and the sex of the child. My son and daughter are so different in how they learn and Gurian deals with just this issue so you don’t end up with false ideas and hopes about your children.


And, lastly, you have read my book, right? In case you haven’t, here’s your reminder: The Classical Unschooler by Purva Brown.

Happy reading! (If I’ve missed any, be sure to comment! If there are enough, I’ll add another post.)

 

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Memorization Makes It Harder For You To Be Manipulated

I have mentioned memorization as an indispensable tool we use in our homeschool in my book The Classical Unschooler. I know memorization is usually a sticky point with a lot of people today. After all, the argument goes, we can always look something up. Why bother memorizing dates and details? Isn’t that a little dry? Surely, we could be spending more time creating something beautiful, reading, enjoying something rather than memorizing?

Look, I get it. Even my children know to say, “Let’s just ask Google!” when I say I don’t know the answer to something.

Yes, we can of course “just google it.” We use calculators. And, yes, memorization can sometimes seem dry and completely not in keeping with the freedom that unschooling is supposed to be.

But today, in the midst of planning for our next homeschool year, I realized why memory work is almost as – if not more – important than all those other fun things like reading and creating.

Here’s how it happened. I’d been flipping through some of my children’s books lately. There are those I found at random library sales and some that people have graciously given me and some which who knows how ended up in our pile. There was one in particular that drew my attention. It was about Isaac Newton.

This will make a great read aloud, I must have thought when I acquired it, and since we’re now starting our study of science in earnest, I was leafing through the slim book, considering if it would make a good choice for this fall. I realized I knew almost nothing about Newton besides the falling apple and him having figured out gravity. So I read it.

Boy, was I glad I did.

The anachronisms were glaring. It wasn’t so much that the book was lying, but that it seemed to give a veneer of reality to its opinionated thinking by generously padding its sentences with “perhaps” and “maybe” and then drawing from the poetry of the time to fill in the blanks as to what Newton might have been thinking. This in a children’s biography, which didn’t need to be anything but facts. Why the conjecture? Why the guessing? I would be horrified if someone for instance ever tried to guess my thoughts by today’s popular music.

It seemed to me, the book was at best speculative and at worst malicious, injecting doubt, falsehood and drama to “spice up” the story when there was no need for such an approach. Was this done just to interest 10-12 year olds? Sadly, this kind of writing is far from uncommon.

Increasingly, I am beginning to find writers rewriting biographies and looking at people in the past through modern eyes. Yes, some of this is normal and happens almost unknowingly and can be overlooked, but to have to dog ear nine instances in a book under 50 pages was unforgivable. The book ended up in the trash, where it should have been in the first place – among its kind.

So where does memorization come into this?

Years ago, I was told that federal agents learn to detect counterfeit money by studying real money first. The same is true of memorization. It is only if you can call up information at a moment’s notice that you are relatively immune from revisionism and counterfeits.

In fact, it is precisely because we have access to all the information in the world at our fingertips, that memorization becomes even more important.

When information abounds, it’s easy to let the majority swing us in the wrong direction because “everyone thinks so.” If I didn’t know my history, I would be taken in by this badly written book. Lack of knowing makes it easier to be manipulated. Lack of memorized dates makes it so easy to paste the modern era onto the past – complete with current ideologies, battles and ways of dealing with them.

I have come a long way from the time when I didn’t understand why learning dates was important. But if my convictions have changed, it’s because I’m still learning.

Have you read The Classical Unschooler? Reviewers are calling it, “A thought-provoking, helpful book.” Get it here.

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The Myth of the Uninvolved Unschooler

I’ve had it. I’ve really, really just had it.

Every time I’m at a social event, someone who genuinely wants to know will ask me, “So how’s school going?”

And someone else will pipe up, “Pssh! School? She’s an unschooler!” Laughter.

As if that means something. As if being an unschooler means I have completely abandoned all parental responsibility as well.

As if being an unschooler means I am uninvolved, unconcerned, unplanned, uncaring about my children’s education, or worse, completely lazy.

In case you’re wondering, I’m not.

And, yes, your ten seconds of guffaws reveal your ignorance.

So put aside those prejudices for a while and let me tell you what unschoolers really do, how we do not shun sit down work and how our children are not wild and how, really, we’re not hanging out in our pajamas eating bon-bons every day. You probably won’t listen, but let me tell you anyway.

Unschoolers are almost always planning the next step

Unschoolers are usually great researchers. They revel in learning and collecting information. They have scores of lists and they are members of at least five different online groups. Based on their children’s interests, they are almost always planning the next book, the next curriculum, the next week. I have a book list that I have compiled, for example, with 500+ books on it.

You can find unschoolers poring through online sales, library sales, library catalogs, yard sales and pretty much every place you can expect to find something their children can learn. They are found at homeschooling conventions, even odd places such as their neighbors’ and relatives houses and garages because their children have expressed an interest in learning to change a tire, or sew, or learn to play a musical instrument.

With very few exceptions, unschoolers are observing their children and planning the next step almost all the time.

Unschoolers guide their children’s education with an eye to their interests.

The reason why an unschooling education doesn’t look like school to those who love to poke fun at us is because unschoolers tend to keep an eye out for the children’s interests and guide them in that specific direction.

I’ve said before that I have some non-negotiables that I absolutely focus on in our sit down work, but otherwise, our school days are very fluid and the children barely know that they are learning. Our lessons are short and, more importantly, customized to their individual personalities and interests.

As I have mentioned in my book, The Classical Unschoolerif I see the potential in a child that he does not see himself, I will push him a little toward it. As an unschooler, I am not abdicating complete responsibility as a parent. But for the most part, I work within his interests and abilities.

Unschoolers are non-institutional in their approach to education

I think this is the rub that gets most people and this, right here, is the reason unschoolers get such a bad rap. We are not afraid to flout the rules. We are not asking teachers for permission, for guidance. We want nothing to do with how it’s traditionally been taught. We don’t want their tests, their teaching material.

We don’t like classrooms. We want to do it ourselves.
Most unschoolers have a well defined philosophy of education and want to do it our way.

That’s the reason we have pulled our children from said institutions to begin with. And we work hard not to bring institutional thinking into our homes. The worst thing you can tell an unschooler is the right way to do things because we know that most of what you’re saying is just plan old convention. And convention doesn’t usually work for unschoolers without a compelling reason.

Unschoolers teach skepticism

…or discernment, if you will. Because of the way unschoolers conduct their schooling and their lives, because we do not accept any textbook, school or institutional authority as having the gospel truth without first researching and double-checking it, unschoolers teach their children a basic skepticism that I see as important.

“Don’t believe everything you hear!” goes the old mantra and yet, teachers in traditional schools spend an inordinate amount of time reading from textbooks approved by a committee, only recommending books approved by the school board, teaching and testing toward a curriculum that the school wants them to teach and then shake their heads at unschoolers who want to teach their children to think.

From all these jibes big and small, I am beginning to conclude that humor sometimes is the last weapon left in a lot of people’s arsenal. And if that fails, there’s always derision. Hence the jokes, the talking down.

Some might accuse unschoolers of being proud, but I don’t think that’s it at all. Just because we refuse to take something at face value and trust our judgment over that of a school’s doesn’t make us proud. It makes us self-governed and humble. It makes us responsible – something many have forgotten how to be and something we desperately need in the people of today and the days to come.

The Classical Unschooler: Education Without School is now on Kindle! Get your copy here.

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How Flashcards Saved Our Unschooling Day

I hated flashcards with a passion. Same for worksheets of any kind. I loved calling them busy work that seemed to be done more for the parent’s or teacher’s benefit than the student’s need.

It wasn’t until I threw away our math curriculum that I began to love them.

This is how it happened.

My daughter is a very systematic thinker and learner. She needs structure. She is not intensely self-motivated. She likes being taught; she enjoys the interaction, the back and forth, the dialogue.

She is very different from my son, for example, who can be left alone with a book / a chart / a piece of information knowing that he will come back knowing much of what was in it.

The mistake I made was the mistake many parents make – they mistake a need for structure with a need for institutional structure. They claim the child needs to learn the same rules they live by – and call it discipline. Sometimes, this works. Usually, it’s not the best idea.

As I mention in my book The Classical UnschoolerI bought a popular math curriculum. It worked for a while. Pretty soon, I wanted to tear out my hair and burn the textbook.

So I did what most parents won’t do. I put aside the curriculum. I listened to my gut. I saw that she was struggling in math because she didn’t know her math facts. As I explain in my book, I don’t expect to move my children along to the next “tool” of logic if they can’t grasp the grammar. And my daughter didn’t have the grammar.

Yes, she understood it but it wasn’t available to her for recall at the drop of a hat. And that is not the way I teach math.

So we did it our way. We made our own flashcards for math facts to 18. (Believe it or not, these are hard to find.) They were simple. And they worked!

We spend about 20 minutes every day with our homemade, made from scratch flashcards. They learn, quiz each other, I quiz them and, well… it works! They’re learning. And I love not having to battle someone else’s idea of how and what my children ought to learn.

 

Does classical homeschooling seem like a worthy but overwhelming goal and unschooling too lax in its approach? Find out how to combine the two. Get your copy of The Classical Unschooler today! Now available on Kindle. 

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The Classical Unschooler – It’s Time!

Wow… would you look at the date! It’s almost May – the month I promised The Classical Unschooler: Education Without School would be out.

It’s almost time!

I’ve been driving myself crazy getting it all done – the writing, the editing, formatting. Since this is my first time going through the Kindle Direct Publishing program, I honestly did not know what to expect. But the good news is it really is relatively easy – after the writing (the hard part!) is done.

I’m very excited about this book and I hope you will enjoy it.

If you added your name to my subscriber list, I have arranged for you to get a free advance copy this weekend in your email. If you have not, don’t worry! It will be available next week on Amazon for purchase for just $2.99.

If you’ve ever wondered what classical unschooling is, how I apply it in our homeschool or my vision for my homeschooling my children with it, this book should be able to answer all your questions.

However, I’ve been careful to say (and I hope it comes across loud and clear in the book) that this is one way of home education. It is NOT for everyone. I do unequivocally believe in homeschooling and am deeply passionate about it but I believe the method and style differs for each family depending on learning styles, temperaments and, simply, the way you manage your time every day.

This is just one way. This is my family’s way. And it works for us. Amazingly well.

Perhaps, it will work for you, too. Give it a look!

The Classical Unschooler: Education Without School will be available for purchase for $2.99 as an e-book on Amazon Kindle next week. I will add a link here when it is available. Check back often!

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Most Recommended Read Alouds For Fantasy Fans

If you’re like me, you’ll probably never stop reading aloud to your kids.

Now, I was never a fantasy reader. I mean never. My husband had tried – unsuccessfully – to get me to read Tolkein’s works but I would fall asleep. No, I’m not lying. But something about reading aloud to my children has given me a new interest in – well, pretty much everything. Including fantasy. I’ve started for instance trepidatiously heading over to the fantasy and sci-fi areas of bookstores and even – gasp! – picking some up to read. I’m slowly beginning to enjoy them.

So I recently asked a few hundred of my homeschooling friends what books they would recommend for those of us that love fantasy and adventure stories as read alouds. I was working on a list. Then I thought maybe you would like to see this list, too.

So I’m sharing it with you.

Roald Dahl started the read aloud adventure for us. We started readingJames and the Giant Peach and were hooked. My kids loved it.


I read a ton of Enid Blyton as a child and you couldn’t tear me away from my books. For some reason, my kids didn’t have the same attraction to these, but yours might.


The one we have enjoyed the most is The Hobbit. But doesn’t everyone?

Edward Eager’s Tales of Magic has had multiple recommendations.


If a squirrel for a hero is your (or your kids’) thing, you might like The Mistmantle Chronicles. I just can’t get Reepicheep out of my head and this one might be, well, let’s just say way down on our list.


Gregor and the Underland Chronicles have also been highly recommended and I’m actually excited to read these for myself as well as to the kids. A note of caution – both this one and the Mistmantle Chronicles apparently have some themes that might be disturbing to some children, so be sure to check them out yourself and edit, edit, edit if necessary.

The Wingfeather Saga is another one I’m quite looking forward to reading to the children. Sounds promising.


Lloyd Alexander has had numerous awards and The Chronicles of Prydainalso comes highly recommended. Just the reviews on the Amazon page makes me want to read this series.

And, of course, where would fantasy be without our beloved Harry Potter? We’re enjoying it so much!


Any that I missed that you love? Let me know!

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3 Must Visit Curriculum Hot Spots to Homeschool on a Budget

I’m feeling the pinch lately.

The children finished what we had set out to do by May in March and we’re scrambling a little to piece together a curriculum for the next stretch of our homeschool. I hate to call it a year because what I buy never lasts an entire year – apparently the learning never ends in homeschooling, even for me!

So what does a homeschooling mom do when the budget is small but her vision is grand? What do the children do when their thirst for learning and reading is growing? How do you piece together a curriculum that works for everyone but also works on a budget?

Everyone knows about the public library and how to use it. Here are some others that you may not have thought of while building your curriculum.

Your local thrift stores

Yes, I know what you’re thinking. This seems like an unlikely place. But trust me on this one. I have had great luck finding not just educational games in thrift stores but also flashcards and beginning reading curriculum.

But my absolute favorite thing to buy at thrift stores is read aloud books. You won’t believe the treasures. And I do mean treasures because how wonderful is it to find a hardcover wonderfully illustrated copy of The Wizard of Oz for $2? It always feels like a treasure hunt.

Another tip: To keep from getting frustrated, go often but make the time you spend there short. If you don’t find anything within the first ten minutes, leave.

Used curriculum stores

I love these. Not only do I get to peruse and take a peek inside the books (which I can never do shopping from an online catalog) I also get to compare curricula against each other.

If you don’t know if there is one in your area, ask around. And if you’re in the greater Sacramento area, you’re in luck! My favorite one is Kingdom Builder Books which, incidentally, also has various classes for different ages of students. Check them out!

The owners there also offer free consultations (with an appointment) to help you find the right curriculum for your style of homeschooling.

Google Books

Ah, my favorite. If you have a computer or a pad, this is an amazing resource for books that are now out of print – good books that have fallen out of favor with the educational system for whatever reason (that’s a whole other blog post!) and are now only available digitally. For FREE!

I have found language arts readers, history, grammar and many others. Go browse!

And there you have it! Have you used any of these free or cheap unlikely resources? Know of any others? Let me know!

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I’m Planning Next Year’s Curriculum on Snapchat

Oh look, it happened – we’re out of things to do. Between the motivational chart and the burn out sessions and the readalouds – in the midst of life and whining and being bored, learning happened. We’re done.

We’ve exhausted all our planned, available resources. It’s happened sooner than I imagined. Not that I’m complaining.

So here I am scrambling to find more things to put on the agenda. Okay, okay, not scrambling exactly. While we’re enjoying the easy days of “just one sheet of math” and Minecraft broken in with some reading and writing, I’m beginning to start the search for next year’s (whatever that means!) curriculum. (whatever that means, right?)

In the upcoming weeks, I intend scouring the books/resources I have, checking off what I want them to learn in the upcoming months, gauging where they currently find themselves and working to engage them as much as possible in their education. As someone put it, homeschooling is of course “trying to work yourself out of a job.”

Only this time I’m doing it on Snapchat.

If you haven’t been on Snapchat, you should definitely check it out. The idea is that the content there only lasts for 24 hours. So come find me and watch the videos I put up. They can only be 10 seconds long, so I’ll try to make the most out of each snap.

I’ll provide you with a good idea of how to pull from many places depending on what you and your kids like. And you know I’m cheap, so I’ll do it frugally. If nothing else, you’ll come away from my snaps with your mind bursting full of ideas for your next curriculum planning session.

I’ll show you places I shop and what I buy and don’t buy. And also (to my great sadness) what I have bought in the past that was a complete disaster. And some curricula that looks nothing like curricula but teaches real life skills and even some – sigh – worksheets and flashcards. Because much to my disdain, I have one kid who likes them.

If I’m feeling really brave, I might even let you into the sit down work part of our day. Ten seconds at a time. Eep.

So come find me on Snapchat. Let’s have some real fun planning curriculum! Why should our kids have all the fun?

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Now in Practical Homeschooling!

If you picked up the latest issue of Practical Homeschooling, you would find a nice, long article written about classical unschooling by yours truly.

So many people have asked me what classical unschooling really means and how it all works out to fit into a normal day at our home that I enjoyed writing about it.

I have heard the argument a dozen times of course that this is not “unschooling,” that it is merely relaxed homeschooling and to that I say I respectfully disagree.

Here’s why: the word “unschooling” was coined by John Holt. And when he used the word “unschooling,” he simply meant “taking kids out of an institutional school setting.” In his 1981 edition of Teach Your Own, he approved this index entry: “Unschooling: see Home Schooling.”

This post about a closer definition of unschooling seems to fit the bill.

Notice he is not talking about radical unschooling which, unfortunately, seems to be what people seem to think of when they think unschooling. It simply means taking kids out of school and giving them as much freedom as possible in the act of learning.

By John Holt’s definition of unschooling, we are unschoolers.

And then there’s the classical part. That’s because I love history and I see the beauty in memorization. And because I have one daughter who loves worksheets and a son who loves flashcards. And from what I have observed, they learn best when we take the classical route of the trivium – first grammar, then logic, then rhetoric.

Be sure to sign up for a copy of the book The Classical Unschooler coming this May by entering your email address to the right of this blog post. (It will be free for a limited time!) I’m hard at work on it and I hope by writing it to give you a template of our methodology.

I hate to prescribe a specific way of homeschooling because I bristle against that, but perhaps a look at our day will change yours in a positive way. I don’t like people telling me what to do but I do love a peek into what they show me about their lives so I can make mine better by inspiration.

Oh, and pick up a copy of Practical Homeschooling until then!

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The Master List of Graphic Novels to Include in Your Homeschool

As I write this, sitting in the midst of graphic novels, we are on the last chapter in the last book of our readaloud – The Chronicles of Narnia. It feels like the end of an era. We have been reading C.S. Lewis’ classic and have loved it (and have lived in it) for so many weeks, that we doubt anything else will fill that.

I think most homeschoolers would agree that read alouds are great for various things: they give children an imagination, they encourage narration, they give them the templates necessary for building language. Which is why we love our readalouds. But we also share a love for good graphic novels.

But wait.

Don’t graphic novels undercut all those efforts at learning good language? Don’t they create a generation of people obsessed with short attention spans?

I don’t think so.

From the time my father read the Sunday comics to me from before I could read (or understand them, really) I have come to appreciate pictures as well as words. Cartoons took me into a world much like the worlds of the Shire or Narnia. I still think fondly of Gaul, the village that held its own against the Roman empire. I followed Tintin and his dog Snowy into the Egyptian tombs.

At a time when I thought mostly in pictures, graphic novels and comics ushered me into worlds that spoke my language, gently nudging me in the direction of the adult world with its own narratives linking history, geography, mystery and the joy of finding out. It gave me just enough of a glimpse into other worlds to make a point without overwhelming me.

And that, I believe, will always remain the enduring beauty of graphic novels. This is why I include them in our homeschool and continue to read them myself.

If you haven’t checked out these treasures, this is good time to do so. What we’re experiencing today might well be the golden age of graphic novels.

Here’s a selection of my favorites, both for kids and adults alike. Be sure to preview them yourself before passing them off to your children because some have adult themes. As I have said in the past, I let my children read whatever they pick (within reason) but I do make sure to have a conversation about every book.

And so, without further ado, here is the master list:

The Odyssey by Gareth Hinds – my gateway into Greek mythology. I always wanted to read the original but was daunted. And then I found this book in the teen section of my local library. Ah! So beautiful. I fell in love with Greek drama right here. Be sure to follow this up with Mary Pope Osborne’s Stories from the Odyssey in audio format (which we loved to listen to in the car) or the books in the Odyssey series: The One Eyed Giant, The Land of the Dead Sirens and Sea MonstersThe Grey-Eyed Goddess, Return to Ithaca and The Final Battle


The Iliad by Thomas and Sepulveda – I have not read this one yet. The reviews sound good but there seems to be some concern with the print being small. When is Gareth Hinds going to work on this one?

Beowulf by Gareth Hinds – While we’re talking about heroes in mythology, I have to include this one. Another one I have not read yet, but I remember enjoying the movie. If you are so inclined, follow this one up with Beowulf by Burton Raffel for older readers – considered the most readable Beowulf.

Gifts From the Gods: Ancient Words of Wisdom from Greek & Roman Mythology by Lise Lunge Larson & Gareth Hinds – This one seems to be the Aesop’s Fables on Greek & Roman mythology. While not technically a graphic novel if put to the test, it still remains a good book to read to children with timeless wisdom and beautiful illustrations.

Romeo and Juliet by Gareth Hinds – I think some of my favorite work by Hinds is his adaptation of Shakespeare’s plays into graphic novel format. Since the plays were staged and not read, this makes a wonderful first introduction to future readers of Shakespeare. After reading this, you can go watch the play or read it.

Macbeth by Gareth Hinds – This was, hands down, my absolute favorite graphic novel in the Shakespearean genre. I think it captures the essence of the original play and I loved it from beginning to end.

The Merchant of Venice by Gareth Hinds – I have a confession. When I saw this was available, I squealed a little. I cannot tell you how many times I have tried to read The Merchant of Venice in its original format. Yes, I said it. I have never finished. The characters always get confusing and with Shakespeare’s penchant for beginning plays with smaller characters, I don’t get beyond the first few scenes. I can’t wait to get my hands on this one!

King Lear by Gareth Hinds – Need I say more? Beautiful book. This was another play I could not get into. The graphic novel was my gateway.

Bearskin by Gareth Hinds – This is the retelling of a Grimm brothers’ fairy tale. It seems to be out of print though so if you find a copy, hang on to it!

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang – Two graphic novels that show two opposite experiences of the Boxer Rebellion of China. Fascinating and gives a glimpse into history.

The Eternal Smile by Gene Luen Yang – These are three short stories that won the 2010 Eisner Award for Best Short Story. I plan on reading this one but haven’t done so yet.


Frankenstein by Marion Mousse – part of the Classics Illustrated Series. I, needless to say, love all these books. I think they’re a great introduction for young readers into the world of classics and will gladly collect them all!


Much Ado About Nothing by Appignanesi & Vieceli – If your kids/readers are into Manga, they might truly appreciate this adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy. I prefer a little more color, so I didn’t like it as much.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Kate Brown – Another Manga Shakespeare.

Hamlet by Vieceli – I tend to be drawn to the tragedies of Shakespeare more than the comedies, so this Manga version of Hamlet is my preferred book of the three.


Graphic Revolve – This is a series of graphic novels which, I have to admit, are NOT my favorites. They are referred to as “Common Core Editions” and may have been created as an introduction to good literature, but many of them come across as poorly put together with only an emphasis on plot. Nowhere in the ones I have read do I see real creativity or beauty. So, it goes to follow that I don’t recommend these, but I’m adding them in here so you can look through them and see if you find that one diamond among the rocks.

Campfire Graphic Novels – This series also includes many classics – Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe and the like, but also includes some historical books – World War One, World War Two and also biographies – They Changed the World, Leonardo da Vinci and mythology – Zeus and the Rise of the Olympians,  Legend: The Labors of Hercules. Campfire graphic novels seem to be created in the style of the true comic books of the past as we would consider them today and would likely appeal to readers who like reading Marvel comics.


Tintin – I’ve already mentioned this before as something I loved to read as a child. They now come as collections but I prefer the big versions because the compact collection is a little hard to read. Then again, it’s easier to curl up in bed with a smaller book.


The Adventures of Asterix – These are my absolute favorites! Even today, I love, love, love these Gauls and will fight my daughter to be the first to read them. Here’s a box set of 34 titles.


Templar by Jordan Mechner – I thoroughly enjoyed this one. It had all the hallmarks of a good historical novel – drama, plot, interesting characters and it was in full color! Bonus.

Of course there are tons more and the more you look, the more you will find.

In keeping with my general philosophy of being a classical unschooler, I try to use graphic novels as a way to enhance what we’re learning or as a jumping off point to engage interest.

What would you add to this list?
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