101 Reasons to Use a Literature-Based Homeschool Curriculum

Do you use a literature-based homeschool curriculum?

I can remember the day I decided to ditch our textbooks.

My daughter- a first grader at the time- and I were reading a lesson out of her history textbook. I could see her eyes glazing over. She trudged along, reading the lesson, but my mind was wandering as well. Both of us were moving through the lesson automatically, not really listening to the dull, measured text.

I knew there had to be something different!

Using literature-based homeschool curriculum

My Journey to a Literature-Based Homeschool Curriculum

In my life before kids and homeschooling, I was a “real school” teacher. I taught in a small private Christian school. In that school we used a very structured, textbook-based curriculum. It was so structured that the teacher’s guide had a script to read for each lesson.

I was young and idealistic, and I didn’t like the super structured curriculum. I learned that I could “tweak” things or leave them out and add learning activities that I wanted to include. We had a good bit of flexibility as teachers. One of the things I particularly disliked about this curriculum was the lack of real books.

I’ve always loved to read, and I’ve always recognized the value of reading to kids. So I added read aloud times. I brought real books to our “reading group” instead of just the textbooks we had. We worked on how to do lots of different types of book reports, and I had them read real books and write reports. I kept a well-stocked classroom library.

When I first began to homeschool, I used the same curriculum I had been using in my classroom. It was all I knew. I was still “tweaking”- even more so with my own kids. As we got further along in homeschooling and I began to learn more and more about homeschooling styles and methods, I realized that I didn’t have to use those textbooks and that structured curriculum. I began to see examples of other homeschoolers who were using (gasp) real books as their curricula.

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Over the years, we’ve primarily stuck with real books for our homeschooling. I won’t say we’ve never used a textbook. I have one child who preferred textbooks over lots of literature in high school. But we’ve used primarily literature-based curricula for our homeschooling.

If you’ve been considering changing up your curriculum or if you’re like me and you just love literature and want to use real literature instead of textbooks in your homeschool, I’m sharing lots of reasons- 101 in fact- for why a literature-based homeschool curriculum is my choice.

Why use a literature-based homeschool curriculum

Using a literature-based homeschool curriculum is simple and effective.

1. You can often find the books you need at your library.

2. You can plan out a full unit study (check out my unit study planner) or you can just read. It’s that simple.

3. It’s easy to find great living books. I have a list that will get you started.

4. There’s so much to do with a book- read it, talk about it, find extension activities from it.

5. If you don’t want to read aloud, look for audio books. This post has some audio book freebies.

6. Reading can be done anywhere, so it’s good for on the go homeschooling.

7. It’s easier to get the kids to read a real book that looks exciting than a textbook that looks dry and boring.

8. You can read for any length of time depending on the attention span of the kids.

9. You can vary how you read- read aloud, have the kids read independently, have the kids take turns reading.

10. It’s easy to find books for almost any subject. This post lists 100 living books that you can use with a Classical history cycle.

11. Using a literature-based curriculum is a good way to teach kids of multiple ages. Books can be read as a family with all kids participating.

12. Choosing living books is simple. This post from My Little Robbins has some great ideas.

13. You can use a literature- based curriculum even with reluctant readers. This post has some good suggestions.

14. You can find great children’s books to read for free at Project Gutenberg.

15. Using good books to read aloud to very young kids can help them to learn to read- especially if they sit on your lap and see the book as you say the words.

16. Even if you want to use a textbook or workbook, you can use great books as the base of your curriculum. Read the book and then expand on it with a textbook as a reference tool or a worksheet as a follow up activity.

17. Reading good books encourages children to learn naturally. One book sparks an interest in a particular topic. The child reads another book about that topic, and her interest is sparked in yet another topic which encourages reading another book. And on and on.

18. Using literature as the base of your curriculum works well for eclectic- do what works- homeschoolers. Read the book to all of the kids together. Then extend the book in a way that fits each individual child- a hands-on project for one, an art project for another, writing in response for another, etc.

19. Living books offer more variety than plain textbooks.

20. There are many homeschool curricula companies that sell literature-based homeschool curriculum. The Unlikely Homeschool has a great list here.

21. Geography is even simple- and fun- to teach using living books. Our Journey Westward has some great ideas for it.

22. A literature- based curriculum can even work with learners with special needs, such as dyslexia. This post from Raising the Extraordinary has some good ideas for using literature-based curriculum with a student who has dyslexia. (Some of her suggestions would be good for other special needs too.)

23. Many curricula that are based on real living books cover multiple subjects. There are a few that cover only specific subjects. This post has a great list of literature-based curricula and the subjects that they cover.

24. Find a used book store- or sometimes a yard sale- and it’s easy and inexpensive to stock up on great books.

25. It’s simple to see what kids have learned through the books you’re reading. You can use narration as a tool for this. Simply Charlotte Mason has this post that explains more about narration.

A literature-based homeschool curriculum is great for kids… and for moms.

26. There are so many good books to choose from.

27. Real books are much more interesting than textbooks.

28. There are fun, hands-on activities to do with books. You can find my free Ultimate Book of Unit Studies for Literature Lovers here.

29. Using living books allows you to follow the child’s “rabbit trails” and read more and more about what the kids enjoy instead of doing a shallow survey of material.

30. A Quote from Karen Andreola, author of A Charlotte Mason Companion.: “If we want the mind of a child to come alive, we feed him living ideas. Ideas reside in living books,…”

31. Great books capture the imagination.

32. Living books can encourage kids to want to read more. Dry and dusty textbooks can teach kids that reading is boring.

33. Reading good books together can encourage a reluctant reader to read.

34. Reading aloud together has so many benefits. (See some here.)

35. Reading aloud with older kids has many great benefits as well. (See some of them here.)

36. Learning to read is more than just sounding out words, and reading real books gives kids the opportunity to comprehend as well as just sound out words.

37. Good books do more than just give facts and information. They help kids make connections to their lives and the real world.

38. Good books show kids the world.

39. Great books inspire big ideas in kids- and in adults. The Chronicles of Narnia are one example of a set of books that have done this for us.

40. The amount of material that a child covers in a curriculum isn’t what matters. What’s important is how a child connects with the material. And living books facilitate this so much more than a textbook.

41. Using good books for history can immerse kids in the time period.

42. When kids read a great book, they find characters and stories they can relate to and engage with. In my experience as a classroom teacher and homeschooling mom, this rarely happens with a textbook.

43. Reading well-written books can inspire kids to think deeply as they process the story.

44. Living books are also great for science because kids can dig deep in a particular subject or topic. (This post has a list of living books for elementary and middle school science.)

45. Great living books increase vocabulary and writing skills.

46. A well-written book draws kids in, and they won’t even know that they are learning.

47. When kids are using worksheets as curriculum, they often just want to get through. Good books make them want to spend time on the material.

48. Living books introduce children to characters that they can emulate.

49. Because textbooks most often just skim through a large volume of material, kids are less likely to remember the material after the chapter is completed and the test taken.

50. Using real books as your primary curriculum can allow you to follow the interest of a particular child. When a topic or time period sparks the interest of a child, you can find more good books about the topic to read.

51. I can’t count the number of times I’ve started reading a book out loud with the kids, and I’ve fallen in love with it myself.

52. When you use narration with good books, you can see the child’s comprehension and learning.

53. Reading together makes for great family time. (You can get my 2018 Read Aloud Planner here. You’ll be able to plan out the books you’re going to read and find some great reading suggestions.)

54. Reading great books together is a good way to fit in homeschooling when you’re busy.

55. Good books are timeless. The information isn’t dated. It’s classic and lasting.

56. You can find a free literature-based homeschool curriculum – much of which can be read for free- at Ambleside Online.

57. It’s always so much fun to see kids make connections with things they’ve read. I can remember being at the museum and seeing an exhibit watching my excited kids remembering a book we’d read and talking about how it related to the exhibit we were studying.

58. Reading together is something you can do even when you don’t feel like homeschooling.

59. A literature-based homeschool curriculum can be easily adapted for kids that are advanced or kids that are struggling.

60. Whether you’re looking for a Biblically-based curriculum or a more secular homeschool curriculum, you can find great books that fit. Up Above the Rowan Tree has a good round up of Charlotte Mason resources that are secular.

61. When kids use a literature-based homeschool curriculum, they learn how to learn from reading good books. This is a skill that can help them to become lifelong learners as they realize that they can find information they need in good books.

62. A textbook tries to just fill a child’s mind with a certain amount of knowledge. Real books, in contrast, can help a child to learn to think, to comprehend, to respond.

63. Moms can easily find great books because there are so many awesome reading lists online. This post is a massive round up of reading lists!

64. A literature-based homeschool curriculum can be very flexible. If you’re having a good day and everyone is super focused on the book, keep reading. If kids are antsy and distracted, call it quits for the day.

65. Although you can spend lots of time prepping what you’re going to read and when or you can purchase a ready-made literature-based homeschool curriculum, there is also value in simply reading with little prep.

66. Although I mentioned geography before, Beautiful Feet Books publishes literature-based curricula and has books that teach geography in a beautiful and rich way. This post from My Little Poppies has more information about it.

67. Reading real books can often help your homeschooling to feel more relaxed.

68. When and if you get “behind”- and we all feel that way at times- it’s easy to catch up with literature-based curriculum because you can just read more the next day.

69. Completing workbook pages or answering questions from a textbook can often feel like busywork. Reading real books doesn’t.

70. The time we’ve spent reading together in our homeschool has been time that is so precious to me.

71. It’s been proven in scientific studies that we retain more when we have a frame of reference for the information we’re hearing or reading. Real books provide that frame of reference for our kids.

72. Literature gives context. When kids read a fact in a textbook, they just read it. But when kids read a real book, they’re given context to help them to connect with and remember what they’ve read.

73. Reading real books can give kids variety. They are written by different authors who use different words and techniques, who stress different things.

74. Giving kids a passage from a book they’re reading for copywork or dictating a passage for kids to write can help to improve vocabulary, spelling, and writing skills.

75. Reading good books with kids allows them to grow up in a book culture and see reading as a normal- and necessary- part of life.

Using a literature-based homeschool curriculum

And other reasons…

76. Living books can be a frugal choice. This post has links to places to find great children’s literature for free.

77. Reading from the fantasy genre can give lots of opportunity to discuss deep, worldview topics.

78. Reading good books inspires great discussions.

79. Living books allow learning to progress naturally instead of trying to push kids through material in a specific amount of time.

80. Stories are powerful. Even Jesus used stories as He told parables to illustrate Biblical principles.

81. Poet Edgar A. Guest said ” ‘Now’ – said a good book unto me -‘Open my pages and you shall see; Jewels of wisdom and treasures fine, Gold and silver in every line, And you may claim them if you but will Open my pages and take your fill.’ “

82. Great literature can encourage Bible study. This post from Our Journey Westward has some good suggestions.

83. You can even find living books for math- like the Life of Fred series.

84. The great books you use don’t just have to be fictional stories. Biographies are a great example of nonfiction that can pull in the reader and give him something- and someone- to relate to. We love the YWAM biographies.

85. A literature-based homeschool curriculum doesn’t have to involve just reading the books. There are great hands-on activities you can use with literature too. This post from Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus is a great example.

86. Good books can bring joy and delight as is so well-stated in this post from Our Muslim Homeschool.

87. It is easy to create a unit study that focuses on great books. This post has a mega list of my literature-based unit studies and a link to my free unit study planner.

88. Kids become better writers when they read great books because they pick up good vocabulary and sentence structure.

89. The writer- or writers- of a textbook is trying to cover a wide range of information. The authors of specific books, however, are experts on the subject they’re writing about. This makes real books more authentic.

90. Living books have time to develop a subject well as opposed to a textbook that has a brief amount of material for any subject.

91. There are many, many advantages to reading together as a family. One of my favorites is all the great discussions you can have. Kingdom Tales is a series that we read little by little during our lunch times. It’s an allegory that gave us some great discussion topics.

92. A curriculum like Five in a Row combines great books and fun activities for the family to do together. We loved this curriculum when the kids were younger!

93. There are even some fun real books for teaching math skills. Homeschooling Ideas has a great list.

94. There are some great learning activities to go along with some of the classic children’s book series. This post lists resources for the Little House on the Prairie books.

95. And this post has some great resources to go along with the Chronicles of Narnia.

96. Often movies or television shows make literary references, or these references come up in a conversation. Exposure to good, classic books helps kids to be aware of and understand these references.

97. There are some fun and unique literature-based curriculum choices that we’ve tried. Moving Beyond the Page is one I particularly liked. You can buy their literature units individually or buy a whole grade pack. I liked these because they have some good thought-provoking, conversation-starter questions.

98. Reading a history textbook can give some dry facts about what happened in a specific time period. Reading a historical fiction book helps the reader to see the time period through the eyes of the characters. That’s something kids will connect with and remember far better.

99. Even books in the fantasy genre can have so much value- especially when you read them aloud. This post talks about the power of fantasy.

100. It’s easy to use literature in a variety of ways- read it aloud, have kids read independently, allow kids to take turns reading passages in books, have older children read with younger children. It’s fun to change up what you’re doing.

101. Last, but not least, reading is just plain fun.

Here's a simple way to get started with a literature-based homeschool curriculum. Download my free ebook of literature unit studies here. You'll get over fifty literature unit studies for great kids' books!

1 comment

  1. I think I've told you before that I'm not a homeschooler but value education in the home. I love this post! So much to learn from literature--fiction and nonfiction.


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