A Homeschool Mom's Guide for Choosing Great Literature for Her Homeschool

So, mama, you’ve decided that you want to use great books in your homeschool. You want classic books, living books, books that will inspire and stimulate the minds of your kids. You want to find Really. Good. Books. So you head off to the children’s library with the idea of choosing great literature.

When you arrive, you look first at the current books that are displayed. Hmmm. These seem to be books about television and movie characters. You dig a little deeper. You find a few kids’ series, but you can’t seem to find those awesome living books that you’ve been looking for. Too many of these books have animated characters on the cover or seem to be the “diaries” of an often whining and complaining child. Now what?section of your local library.

First, let me give a little disclaimer. My kids have read and probably still will read books that are based on television characters. They’ve read the predictable and mundane kids’ series. They’ve read the diary books that just seem to consist of kids either whining about the difficulties of their lives or plotting ways to pull one over on the adults in the books. In true Charlotte Mason fashion, I call those books “twaddle.” But my kids have read them.

Those are the books that my kids have occasionally been drawn to when I leave them free to wander the library shelves. And, provided the books weren’t morally or Biblically problematic, I’ve let them check those books out. But I’ve maintained a much higher standard for the books that we read aloud, the books we use as a foundational part of our curriculum, and the books that the kids use during their Book Basket time- a guided reading time where they choose from books I’ve selected. I want the books I choose- those great living books- to be the main course, the books that the kids are primarily consuming. Those twaddle books? Those can be the occasional piece of candy that’s allowed.

How to find living books for your homeschool

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So where can you find these great, quality, living books? If it isn’t easy to spot them in the library- and it often isn’t- where are they? How can you know what books to choose? And where do you find the books once you’ve chosen them?   This post is part of a five day series- Five Days of Literature-Based Homeschooling. You can find the landing page with links to all of the posts here. And, if you’re looking for some great books recommendations, check out my free Living Books Catalog. I add to this periodically and try to give lots of great recommendations as well as age/grade guidelines and cross-curricular connections.

Sites and Books With Suggestions for Choosing Great Literature

There are several go to places when I’m looking for great living books recommendations.  

Ambleside Online- This is a free online Charlotte Mason homeschooling curriculum. You could use this as your complete curriculum, although I’ve never done that. What I do use, frequently, are the books suggested for each grade level. On the site you can choose Year 1-12. For each year, there are books listed for all subjects. I’ve found some great living books on these lists.  

Sonlight- Sonlight is another complete literature-based curriculum company. Each year’s curriculum that you can purchase is rich in great books. I like to look at the booklist for each year to get ideas for books to use at different grade levels.    

If you’re looking for historical living books, you can find 100 in this post of 100 books that correspond with a Classical history cycle.  

You can also download my free Read Aloud Planner that has books suggestions for each month and a planner to help you plan our what great books you’ll read this year.  

Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt is an excellent resource book that includes some great reading choices for kids up through age 14. After that, you cab check out Honey for a Teen’s Heart with great recommendations for high schoolers.  

How to find living books for your homeschool

Where to Find These Books

Now that you know how to choose some great literature for your homeschool, where are you going to get these books? And is it possible to do it without spending a fortune?  

The Library

  Even if you can’t easily find great books in your children’s library, that doesn’t mean they aren’t there at all. Look in your library’s catalog and see if you have the option of inter-library loan. Sometimes you can request the book and have it sent from a different library in the state. I’ve found quite a few books this way. You’ll usually have to put it on hold and wait, but you’ll eventually get your book.  


Although this isn’t a free option, I can find so many great books for very good prices on Amazon. You can often find a used option that is cheaper than the new version. Just be sure to check shipping. I have Amazon Prime which gives me two-day free shipping on most items. I do this because I can then order books and have them in hand to begin reading within the week.  

Project Gutenberg

  This site has over 30,000 classic books that can be read as ebooks for free. You can find a large variety on their Children’s Bookshelf. There are usually a variety of options for reading so you can read on your computer or send books to your Kindle or phone to read.  


  Want to listen to your books instead of reading them yourself? Librivox has a great catalog of audiobooks available for free. You can search by category, and there are lots of great children’s books to choose from.  

Library of Congress

  At the Library of Congress site you can find a collection of great kids’ books that you can read for free. These books are only able to be read online, not sent to an ereader. But it’s great for classic picture books because you can see the original illustrations.  


This site has a large collection of books. These aren’t just classics, but they include more contemporary books as well, so you’ll have to be selective in finding really good books. Some of the books can be downloaded and sent to mobile devices as well as read online.  

The Literature Network

On The Literature Network you can find books listed by author. There is also a complete collection of Shakespeare’s work. Most of these books can only be read online, but there are some that can be downloaded. One of the cool things about this site is that when you choose an author, you can get a brief bio as well as a list of books written. The site only shows text for books, not pictures.     Don’t get discouraged. Even if great books aren’t readily available on your library shelves, it’s possible- and simple- to choose great literature for your homeschool.      

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