A comprehensive guide to beautiful, not as well known living books and older vintage books that will help add the best books to your homeschool library.
Book Lists for the Homeschool Years for Homeschool Moms
I was recently at a children’s book sale at my local library and came across a few women who looked like homeschool moms. How did I know they were homeschool moms? Because they didn’t just have a couple of books in their hands, they had a HUGE stack up against a wall because there were too many to carry. And they were planning on buying all of them. And, shocker, my huge stack was next to theirs because I couldn’t carry all of mine either. Instant. Kindred. Spirits.
We got to talking and one of the moms asked another mom and I (we both were English majors and sold children’s books online), what books to be looking for at book sales. Because I have sold books online and followed tons of veteran homeschoolers, I know a huge slew of books that I would never have heard about from mainstream book lists. So we both gave her ideas for what to be looking for, she wrote them all down on her phone and we left.
Building Your Homeschool Library
But then I got to thinking. So many homeschool moms like you are wanting to build a homeschool library filled up with beautiful, living, great books. I want that for myself and I want that for you too. It is my hope that this list will be an excellent resource for you to go to when you are at book sales, thrift stores or scouring Ebay. I, of course, am not the only one with great homeschool book lists. Check out these wonderful, veteran homeschoolers and websites for great book recommendations to help grow your homeschool library:
- Sarah MacKenzie (The Read Aloud Revival and The Read-Aloud Family)
- Rebecca Rupp (Home Learning Year by Year)
- Susan Wise Bauer (The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home, 4th edition)
- Gladys Hunt (Honey for A Child’s Heart)
- Ambleside Online
- Karen Andreola (A Charlotte Mason Companion)
My goal and hope here is that I can simply share some great books that others haven’t shared yet and add to the vast array of voices in this homeschool arena.
A Homeschool Curriculum of Living Books
The wonderful thing about getting a homeschool library filled up with tons of great books, is that it’s an excellent way to build a homeschool curriculum of living books. If you had all of these, you could pretty much have a stand alone curriculum because they cover such a wide array of topics.
In Sally Clarkson’s book, Awaking Wonder, she talks about how most of her children’s homeschool curriculum was composed of just reading great books. And not that going to top notch schools is the goal of education, but her children have gone to places like Oxford University and Berkley School of Music for their post high school colleges. So, turns out, reading books can be a pretty excellent education. And I hope these will help add to giving your children a living and comprehensive education.
But no matter what your teaching style is (or if you currently do public school and are here to see this list), I think we can all agree that our child’s education is SO important and that great books are powerful tools to that end. So grab a pen and paper to write these down and let’s dive in to my book suggestions!
My Top Picks for a Homeschool Library: The Best Homeschooling Books
Best Children’s Books
Junior Deluxe Books
These books are from the 1950s and published by Nelson Doubleday. They are easily recognizable by their fun, colorful spines and playful illustrated covers. They are a collection of the best children’s books including Alice in Wonderland, Around the World in 80 days, Charlotte’s Web, Five Little Peppers and so many more. There are over 80 in the series! They also seem to be in an abundance on places like eBay and thrift books and I always see them at Library Book Sales at very good prices. While doing research for this post, I found this lovely page that goes into more details about this series.
Illustrated Junior Library
While the Junior Deluxe series is fun, light and playful, the Illustrated Junior Library has a more mature, vintage feel. The spines are gorgeous and the books feel heavy and high quality. These books were published by Grosset & Dunlap in the 1940s and the covers are beautiful. Overall, these will just have you and your kids dying to take it off the bookshelf and read. There are 45 titles in the series of all the best Children’s Books from Pinocchio to Swiss Family Robinson. There are different versions and not all of them have 45 so I am sharing my favorite below so you can recognize the ones I love more easily. But of course, publication dates of these would be a delight to have. For more information on the series, head here.
Barnes & Noble Collectible Editions
If you’re a homeschool mom, you probably already know about these. But they are such good books and so pretty that they are worth noting if you haven’t. Once again, these are classic children’s books and the covers are oh. my. word. They are colorful, intricate and look beautiful on a bookshelf. I have heard that some may be abridged, though, so check and make sure before getting it. There are over 100 of these, but so many of them are duplicates because barnes and noble will reprint them with a slightly different cover every once in a while. These include not only children’s classics but also adult classics so they would be great for both younger children and students in the high school years. I found this page from One Girl Collecting and this one from Beautiful Books useful for more information about the Barnes & Noble Collectible Editions.
Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne Series) Published by E.P. Dutton
A lot of people know about Winnie the Pooh, but not everyone knows that there is another book about Winnie the Pooh and his friends called The House at Pooh Corner. He also wrote 2 children’s poetry books to make the stories of Christopher Robin a complete four book series. The first two are fiction stories and the second two are the poetry books:
- The House at Pooh Corner
- When We Were Very Young
- Now We Are Six
You can obviously buy these books paperback but I love the vintage hardback ones from the 1950s and 1960s if you can get your hands on them. The pictures above show what they look like for reference. Also, for a full list of my favorite children’s poetry books (because I’m obsessed with children’s poetry books), head here.
Companion Library 1922 by Grossett and Dunlap
The newer Companion Library Books are certainly not pretty, but if you come across one from the 1920s then grab it. Not only are they worth a good amount of money, but they are hard to find and are really gorgeous books. I debated mentioning them because they are so hard to find, but I figure you can be on the look for them out in the wild!
Living Science Books (And Some History and Geography)
A Discovery Book by Gerrard Publishing
This Discovery Biography Series is a true living book series and has great content. These are good books and such a great way to learn about history! They are appropriate for kids around the ages of 7-10 years old (Grade Level: 1st-5th). Not only are the thin cloth covers beautiful when lined on a shelf, but they are solid books and are sure to be a hit with your budding homeschoolers. I loved reading more about them here and here. Gerrard Publishing also has other living books to be on the lookout for including:
- A Holiday Book Series
- Animal Books
- Junior Science Books (more about these later)
- River Books
Step Up Books
In this post that I linked earlier, Cheryl Bastian says that Step Up Books are a great series to read before the Discovery Series by Gerrard Publishing and I agree. So that would put us starting these for younger children (at about age 6 or 7). There are about 37 books in the series that include living science and living history books. Books topics range from “Fish Do the Strangest Things” to “The Adventures of Lewis and Clark.” I am loving the Reshelving Alexandria website and here they go into a little more detail about these books than I have room to do in the post. But suffice it to say, these would be great ones to track down and add to your list of the best books for homeschool library.
Jean Fritz Books
Jean Fritz wrote children’s history books, most notably her series of children’s picture books about the beginning of America. She wrote a lot of books so if you ever see a book by her, go ahead and grab it. But today I’m going to be sharing a series that she is probably most famous for and can still be found easily. They were written in the 70s and 80s (and sidenote: some were illustrated by Tomie dePaola). Alright, so here’s the list of them:
- Where do you think you’re going, Christopher Columbus?
- Where was Patrick Henry on the 29th of May?
- And then what happened, Paul Revere?
- George Washington’s Breakfast
- Why Don’t You Get a Horse, Same Adams?
- Who’s that Stepping on Plymouth Rock?
- Will You Sign Here, John Hancock?
- What’s the Big Idea, Ben Franklin?
- Can’t You Make Them Behave, King George?
- Shh! We’re Writing the Constitution
Troll Associate Books
These children’s picture books are a combination of historical biography and nature science. It is hard to find more information about these or even a full list of what’s available, but they were mostly published in the 1980s and feature authors such as Louis Sabin and Laurence Santrey. They would make a great addition to your history and nature study book collections and aren’t too difficult to find. I hope to make a list of all of these in the future as I can’t seem to find one and I will let you know when I do.
The Children of All Lands
This is a series of 18 children’s books that were written between the 1920 and 1940s. Each book is set in a different country and follows a child through their life from a geographical, historical and cultural lens. To read more about the history of them, go here. If you can find them, these would be great to add to a geography lesson where you are learning about a specific country. I usually find them at antique malls or flea markets, but of course you can find them online as well.
All About Books
I believe there are 58 books in this series. They were published by Random House. These are mostly science books, but there are occasional ones that don’t fit this mold like “All About the Symphony Orchestra.” The point of them is so that by the end of reading the book, you end up knowing “all about” that subject. These chapter books are written by experts on each subject and written in a vey engaging, life giving way (including an animal book written by Robert McClung), making these living science books. They were written in the 1950s and can be found in both a hardcover and cloth cover. I think the cloth covers are gorgeous, but having either of them would be a great addition to your library.
Junior Science Books
These are beautiful living science books inside and out. I will say, though, they are hard to find (although not as hard as some…I’m looking at you 1922 Companion Library). Definitely be looking for these at library sales or antique malls as buying them online can get pricey. They were published in the 1960s and make each nature subject “come to life.” Those early printings have a beautiful cloth cover and are a real feast for the eyes. These chapter books were published by Gerrard Publishing, so always be on the lookout for that publishing name on the spine of books.
I just recently found out that some of these books have been reprinted by Living Library Press! These include “Rain Hail Sleet & Snow” and “Magnets.” Head here to buy. They obviously aren’t the pretty cloth covers, but having access to the content within would make it worthy of your home library.
What would a homeschool library book list be without landmark books? Not much of one. This series has 185 chapter books in it including American and World History books. The original 1950s editions of these books are in an unforgettable cloth binding with the signature landmark symbol on the spine. They are gorgeous. And the content is a perfect living history book, written by various famous authors of that time who were passionate about the subject they were writing. These books can be found online, but have been rising in popularity and the price has risen with it. Thankfully, these books have started to be republished, but if you can get your hands on the original cloth bindings, your homeschool library will thank you.
The Real Book About Series
This series of books was also written in the 1950s and are similar to the All About Books in that they each cover one subject, going into detail in a very engaging way. They were published by Garden City books. The original 1952 books are smaller and not as recognizable as the ones published in the mid 1950s. The later published ones are known by their illustration of four squares on the cover with a horse, ladybug, palm trees, and planet inside each one, with a rocket flying over head. Your kids will love these books and I highly recommend them.
A Science I Can Read Books (Vintage)
If you’re looking for a living science book that is a picture book, look no further. These books are lovely and tell science within a story so the child doesn’t even know they are learning! They were published by Harper and Row in the 1960s and some combine the author Millicent Selsam with the illustrator Arnold Lobel. Can that combo get any better? I couldn’t find a complete list online so here are the ones I have and I will add to this as I find out about more.
- Greg’s Microscope
- Seeds and More Seeds
- Red Tag Comes Back
- An Animal for Alan
- Hidden Animals
- Plenty of Fish
- Let’s Get Turtles
- Terry and the Caterpillars
- Look for a Bird
A Just Ask Book Series
Each book is a short book for young people (preschool aged) to help them learn about science in a basic, simple way. They are pretty easy to find and cheap. Published in the 1980s, they were a part of the Weekly Reader Books and published by Checkerboard Press. They are fun, thin books, perfect for little hands. Some even have family fun science experiments (they are really more of family science activities since they are for young children) to do together to make the subject come alive, as well as other book suggestions in the series that go along with it.
Let’s Read and Find Out Science Books
This is another picture book series great for a young child’s education. They are for preschool and elementary age and divided into Stage 1 and Stage 2. Stage 1 is for preschool age and Stage 2 is for elementary age. They are an easy read and because there are so many in the series, you are bound to find one that goes along with whatever science or nature study you are wanting to do. They are perfect for homeschooling families and I would highly suggest them. Along these same lines, check out Take-Along Guides by NorthWord Books.
Further Book Suggestions for Homeschool Families
- History Books by Genevieve Foster
- David Macaulay’s Architecture Books
- Katie Books by James Mayhew
- Opal Wheeler Books
- Poetry for Young People Series which I go into more detail here
- Signature Books
- Science books by Olive Earle
I hope this sets you off on a new adventure of reading and finding great books for your homeschool library. May it continue to spark your love of reading! Let me know down in the comments what YOU think are the best books for a homeschool library.
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