Curriculum · Reading

Reading for Homeschoolers

I remember when we started homeschooling and I was trying to figure out what curriculum to buy. My oldest children had gone all the way through public school: K-12. My youngest two had just finished Kindergarten and Second Grade when we started homeschooling. I had also just finished yet another year as a combination stay-at-home mom and substitute teacher.

I was accustomed to kids having “Reading” as one of their school subjects. They got grades in Reading. They had Reading homework. They had Reading tests.

So why was it so hard to find “Reading” curriculum for homeschoolers?

One great perspective is reflected in this short article by Taryn DeMartile.

In addition, I think more experienced homeschoolers realize that a simple love of reading, access to reading materials, and encouragement go along ways. (For this post’s purposes, I’m talking strictly about “reading” here, and specifically not about “literature.” That will be another post.)

I must explain that I would begin my more formal reading instruction (apart from “love of reading” and “comprehension”) with phonics lessons. Google and Pinterest can lead you to lots of Phonics activities (including on my Pinterest Homeschooling board), but I will admit to loving the Bob Books. They are sequenced in a way that a child can start reading these books themselves with only a minimum of instruction. Confidence in their ability to read comes quickly with these books! I wouldn’t skimp on phonics instructions, but the difference between phonics and reading is like the difference between handwriting and writing (sentences, paragraphs, essays, etc). You need the underlying skills to accomplish the desired outcome.

I had the opportunity to study public school Reading books and teacher’s manuals. One thing to notice is that they contain “excerpts” from real books. The kids read these excerpts and their knowledge and skills are built and checked using this material, but then they don’t really get to enjoy the experience of reading the entire book.

As homeschoolers, we can either let out children choose books to read, or we can choose for them, or assign them. We have the luxury of more time to discuss the books with our children.

Things to discuss: the theme, the author’s perspective, other perspectives to consider, characters, plot, sequence of events (what happened first, then what, and last?), your child’s feelings, the characters feelings, what did your child like, what did they not like, etc. One of the main skills you want to develop is comprehension, but this can be checked through verbal conversations between the two of you. They don’t really need a multiple choice or fill in the blank worksheet for this skill check. (That said, if you’re homeschooling multiple children (or if you work) and you have middle-ages who can read and write independently and it’s better for your family’s time if they put their answers on a worksheet or in an essay so you can check it later when you have time, there is nothing wrong with doing it that way!)

Honestly, if you want to know what skills your child needs to learn, a quick Google search (click on “Images”) or Pinterest search will give you more than enough material to choose from … but you can use real books to develop these skills! You don’t need a “curriculum!”

I have a few favorite books I like to recommend, and by linking to them on Amazon, I have the opportunity to earn a few bucks towards the cost of my blog (yes, I pay for mine – it’s not free). You don’t even have to buy anything, but if you would click on one of the links and browse around on Amazon, they will thank me for sending you there to window shop. I appreciate your help with that!

One book for the little ones that I love is Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever. This book has so many opportunities for conversation with little ones. It can go from “See the truck? Say truck.” to “What color is the truck?” and “How many trucks do you see?” And finally, this is my favorite book for playing I Spy games. The illustrations are so chockful of a variety of objects to look for! And as their reading skills progress, they can even search for certain words as part of the I Spy game.


Richard Scarry Best Word Book
How many farmers do you see?

Before spending too much money on Early Readers (Leveled Readers), I would suggest hitting the library (ask the librarian to show you where the leveled readers are if you don’t know) and do some browsing. Become familiar with what’s available, and maybe even scope out a series your child might like. If they can come back and find more books by the same author or with the same characters, you’re more likely to get more reading time out of them. Once you’re familiar with these readers, it will be easier to make purchasing decisions.

For young readers who are ready for chapter books, I can’t recommend the Magic Tree House series enough! The kids in the stories are kind and respectful, they go on amazing adventures, and they learn so much along the way (and the reader can’t help but to learn along with them – sneaky!). This is often the first “set” of books a new Chapter Book Reader receives as a gift. There are dozens of these stories available, and they’re numbered, but they do NOT have to be read in order! If you decide to start this set, maybe you could make up a chart before starting with the total number of books available (this changes as she continues writing – but you can go up to at least 54!) and have your child mark off the number each time they finish one of these books. This will be a great record for your homeschool portfolio if you keep one!

Other recommendations for this age: American Girl TodayChronicles of Narnia; Captain Underpants Series (Great for reluctant readers – don’t discount this one just based on the title!).

I saw great growth in my children’s reading abilities and the amount of time they spent reading when I allowed them to read books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid – after talking to them about NOT adopting the kinds of attitudes they might see displayed in the books!

From the age of about 9 or 10 on up (give or take, depending on ability), the Rick Riordan books are a huge hit and one of the best ways to get some kids reading larger tomes. I watched my son’s reading ability, desire, and enjoyment grow exponentially through these series (he has more than one).

Andrew reading 2014-09-19 001 (480x640)

Other recommendations for this age on up: The Ranger’s Apprentice Series; the American Girl Collection; (showing my age here:) the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary (actually, anything by her!), and the Judy Blume “Fudge” Boxed Set.

Once your child hits about age 12 or so, the three most popular series right now are: The Maze Runner Series; The Hunger Games Trilogy; and The Divergent Series. I would also thrown in The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowery.

I hope this post answers some of your “Reading” questions and gives you a good jumping off point for wherever you are in your homeschooling journey right now. If not, please comment and let me know more specifically what you’re looking for!

Much love from your own personal homeschooling librarian!

~ Jane



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