Great Homeschooling Books for Beginners

Because I had a feeling others might cover the more recent homeschooling publications, I’d like to introduce you, the beginning homeschooling parents or those considering the option, to a few slightly older books. They are the ones I read when homeschooling my daughter in the 1990s, and every one is relevant and helpful today.

Child’s Work: Taking Children’s Choices Seriously (1990) by Nancy Wallace

A customer-review on referred to Nancy Wallace’s book as “the homeschooling book which is most respectful of children”.

I remember the first thing that impressed me about the book was her telling how she and her husband began reading to their children. When son Ishmael and daughter Vita were babies they would wake often in the night. Nancy and Bob would take them into bed and whatever books they were reading to themselves would now be read aloud. No pictures, just the closeness of the parents and the sounds of their voices.

The Wallaces were unschoolers in Ithaca, New York whose educational focus followed the interests of the children, primarily in the areas of music.

Even if you plan to follow a structured teaching plan, you’ll find the ideas about learning and the information about public education highly useful and inspiring.

You’ll also want to pass this on to family and close friends who are concerned about your decision to homeschool.

Homeschooling Handbook (Revised Second Edition 1999) by Mary Griffith.

When I homeschooled my daughter in the 1990s, I often came across author Mary Griffith’s name. I referred to the original version of the Homeschooling Handbook many times for help in every aspect of homeschooling, from dealing with school officials to choosing curriculum to accepting the fact that homeschooling is not always peaceful and orderly. Like life, it has it ups and downs.

Griffith has also published a book on unschooling: The Unschooling Handbook: How to Use the Whole World as Your Child’s Classroom (1998).

Griffith’s latest book published in 2007 reflects back on her decision to homeschool, her daughter who didn’t read until age 12, and how this book became “a reflection on how I (along with a few of my friends) came to homeschooling, how it affected us and our view of the world, and how those changes in us may spark changes around us.”

Homeschooling for Excellence (1988) by David and Micki Colfax.

This has always been one of my favorites.

David and Micki were teachers who chose to build their own homestead from scratch and their very young sons pitched in and did more than their share, learning all the while. Three of the boys went on to Harvard. The fourth chose to attend community college.

I remember reading that experts felt it was a hereditary gene that allowed all four sons to do so well. What the experts didn’t know at the time was that the two youngest boys had been adopted.

I still like to reread this book and check up on the four Colfax boys via the Internet. One became a lawyer. I believe two became doctors, with one going becoming a leading AIDS researcher in the United States. The fourth, I think, used his community college degree to enter the social work field.

Dumbing Us Down (2002) by John Taylor Gatto

Gatto, says, came “to the sad conclusion that compulsory schooling does little but teach young people to follow orders like cogs in an industrial machine.”

Read about public education from someone on the inside. Gatto was a teacher for thirty years and was named New York State’s 2001 Teacher of the Year.

Teach Your Own (1981) by John Holt.

Holt was the guru of unschoolers. Formerly a teacher, he came to realize that the “traditional classroom model no longer works and may, in fact, ruin kids for learning.” (reader review at

This is only a sampling of the many excellent books available from libraries and book stores for those who are considering, or in the midst of, homeschooling. Our library system (approximately forty libraries and reading centers) in New York State currently offers one-hundred and one titles ranging from No More Public School (1972) by Hal Zina Bennett to The Homeschooling Option: How to Decide When It’s Right for Your Family (2008) by Lisa Rivero.

In between you’ll find such gems as…

*School at Home: How Parents Can Teach Their Own Children (1980) or The Home School Manual for Parents Who Teach Their Own Children (1991) by Theodore Wade (I found these valuable for the curriculum ideas and he has several more recently published books).

*numerous Raymond S. Moore books.

*School Proof (1988) or The Big Book of Home Learning (1990) by Mary Pride

*Homeschooling for Excellence (1988) another great book by David Colfax

*The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education (1991) by Grace Llewellyn

*A Sense of Self: Listening to Homeschooled Adolescent Girls (1995) by Susannah Sheffer

*Learning at Home: a Mother’s Guide to Homeschooling (2007) by Marty Layne

None of the books listed just above are from the period 1996-2006, not because there aren’t any available (there are many) but because I’m not familiar with them.

Whether considering homeschooling or already doing so, you’ll find these books helpful and inspiring. Enjoy them and enjoy learning along with your children.