Top 5 Influential Home Education Books

There are a lot of homeschooling books on the market. So many, in fact, that one gets bogged down just scanning the Amazon search results. There are several reasons why there are so many books.

  • There is no one “right way” to homeschool.
  • Homeschooling educational philosophies vary.
  • Different states have different requirements.
  • Homeschooling has become more commonplace.
  • Veteran homeschoolers desire to share their wisdom.
  • Curriculum options are endless and ever-changing.
  • Available choices for charter schools, hybrid schools, university model schools, and homeschooling co-operatives have exploded in recent years.

In order to help you wade through all of the information available, here are 5 highly influential books that have stood the test of time and have managed to maintain their relevancy amid this information-overloaded and chameleon-like landscape.

The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home


by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise

All you need to teach your child at home is dedication, some basic knowledge about how children learn, guidance in teaching the particular skills of each academic subject, and lots of books, tapes, posters, kits, and other resources. This book will provide you with everything except the dedication.

This book covers everything you could possibly need or want to know for the nitty-gritty of day-to-day classical homeschooling from kindergarten through high school. The mother-daughter authoress team cover each stage of a child’s learning development. For each learning stage (grammar, logic, and rhetoric), they outline a course of study for each “subject.” The book is also packed with innumerable references and reviews for curriculum that follow this classical trivium course of learning.

What is classical homeschooling? Classical homeschooling’s perspective is that of Western Civilization and culture. The focus is on following the stages of learning development (the trivium: Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric stages) and emphasizes history, classic literature, grammar, and ancient languages like Latin and/or Greek.

Before you pick up this book, understand that you will never be able to do everything that is written in the book. The book is written to be a “highest” possible goal. The authoresses understand that no one actually homeschools that way day-in and day-out—they surely didn’t. However, having a lofty goal while making choices and concessions helps maintain focus.

For more information about a classical education, you can also read:

Towards a Philosophy of Education



by Charlotte Mason

Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.

Charlotte Mason’s approach to educating a whole person is three pronged.

  1. Education is an atmosphere. The surroundings that a child grow up in have a tremendous influence. The values and love of learning (or lack thereof) will be absorbed by your child whether you like it or not.
  2. Education is discipline. Cultivating good habits of character are an essential part of a child’s education.
  3. Education is life. Dry facts don’t hold a candle to living thoughts and ideas.

As an educator and educational advocate in England for many years, Charlotte Mason wrote 6 volumes about children’s education over a span of about 40 years. (All of her books are available for free at Ambleside Online.) Her last book, Towards a Philosophy of Education, brings together all the wisdom of her years and experience and is the most thorough of her educational works, outlining her 20 philosophies of education principles. The main idea of a “Charlotte Mason education” rests on living books, a variety of knowledge available to digest, narration, and classic literature.

The Unschooling Handbook: How to Use the Whole World as Your Child’s Classroom

by Mary Griffith

Simply put, unschooling puts the learner in charge.

While unschooling may sound like a lazy educational philosophy of “no schooling” it certainly isn’t a course of “no learning!” Unschoolers generally forgo formal “subject” learning and curricula. Instead, the informal learning is led by the child’s interest. But just because there is (for example) no math book, it doesn’t mean that your child doesn’t learn math! Every day situations become teaching and learning situations. A child who is interested in baking is naturally going to learn about arithmetic basics (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) and fractions while they bake up a storm. A sports fanatic will need to learn about statistics as they compare their favorite players and teams. If children are interested, more “formal” learning can be done, for instance, a book about geometry can be purchased for a child who is interested in it, but a book wouldn’t be forced on a child just because of their age or grade.

For more books about unschooling, pick up:

Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling


by John Taylor Gatto

If we can fix it [the school system], fine; if we cannot, then the success of home-schooling shows a different road that has great promise.

If you’ve ever wondered why some parents and children living in A+ school districts still choose to home-school, this is the book to read. Less a homeschooling book as it’s an “everything you-never-knew-was-wrong with the public school system book” and ways to fix it from within—though you may find yourself choosing to leave the public education system after reading this book. Gatto argues that the curriculum of all public schools is the same—whether Common Core or not—because public school’s main curriculum is to teach children to be emotionally and intellectually dependent on adults and to have confusion and indifference to everything except class position and power.

Gatto’s focus is on giving children more autonomy and space for self-knowledge. Self-knowledge leads to self-teaching, “and only self-teaching has any lasting value.” The focus then becomes interest-led education with teachers and adults acting as mediators and mentors.

Still want to make changes to the public school system from within? Get some more ideas from:

102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum



by Cathy Duffy

One of the beauties of homeschooling is that it allows us to recognize and nurture each one of our very special individual children. We have the glorious opportunity to help them figure out who they are, what they want to be, and how they might get there.

So you’ve decided to homeschool? Depending on state requirements, you may be able to build your own curricula, but time is a luxury that few parents have in abundance. Cathy Duffy has done the heavy lifting for you, reviewing over 100 of her prime curriculum choices. She also has information and questions to help you decide which type of homeschool framework or curriculum would fit you (since no two children and no two families are alike).

Her extensive table of Top Picks highlights what learning styles each program might appeal to, how much parental involvement is required, which homeschool philosophy it supports, and ease of use. You can also see reviews online at

When it comes down to it, whichever homeschooling philosophy you choose to ascribe to, or whether you homeschool or not, the most important thing that any parent can do is to love their children and to model a love of learning. Those two things will go further than any educational philosophy will ever take you on its own.

Need some more direction about homeschooling options? Check out Homeschooling Curriculum Options.

Photo Credit: Stefani

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Stefani was raised in California; with her husband hailing from South Carolina, they've settled in the middle and are now raising three Texans. She loves classical homeschooling, great books, period dramas, modifying recipes, simple living, deep thinking, and cuddling up with her family to watch silly YouTube videos.

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