parent reading homeschooling book

Inside: If you’re new to homeschooling (or even if you’re a couple years in!), these homeschooling books for parents can help you determine your “why” for homeschooling, define what a good education means to YOU, and give you the confidence you need to homeschool for the long-haul.

When I first started homeschooling, I had no idea what I was doing, or why I was doing it. Like many homeschool moms, I tried to replicate school at home, and as you can probably guess, that didn’t go so well.

Like my daughter staring out the window for an hour instead of doing the assigned work kind of not well. 

Faced with the horrifying possibility that I was seriously failing at this whole homeschool thing, I took a giant step back. We basically unschooled for several months (in retrospect, you could have called it deschooling). 

I used those months to do some serious soul-searching and a whole lot of reading. I needed to know why. Why on earth was I homeschooling at all when it was seriously counter-cultural and felt like an extremely risky experiment most days?!

I was not homeschooled. My parents have been educators in private and public schools most of my life.

I am a rule-follower by nature – I don’t typically leave the beaten path. So I needed a lot more than vague ideas if I was going to continue homeschooling.

These homeschooling books for parents have played a crucial role in figuring out my “why”.

(These are in addition to my all-time favorite homeschooling book that I read at least once, if not several times, a year.)

I finally feel confident and convinced that my choice to homeschool is the best possible choice for my kids and for our family as a whole, and I owe that confidence largely to these books.

Related: Relaxed Homeschooling versus Unschooling – The One, Major Difference

You Need More Than Vague Dreams of Homeschooling to Make It Long-Term – That’s Where These Books Come In

When homeschooling first crossed my mind, I think the desire came from the vague idea that homeschooling was better. That idea had no support whatsoever at the time, although now, I’ve done enough reading to be 100% convinced that homeschooling is the better choice.

And the vague idea that homeschooling was somehow “better” was not enough to sustain me through the challenging days ahead.

Don’t get me wrong: homeschooling has its share of awesome moments. But your first year or two can be HARD.

Homeschooling goes against the mainstream. Especially if you encounter regular opposition to your choice to homeschool (grandparents, anyone?), you will probably regularly question whether or not you are ruining your child’s chances at a healthy adult life.

Are you really doing enough compared to “real school”? How will your kids ever be socialized?

If you have decided to homeschool, you need to be able to answer these questions:

  • What the heck is the purpose of education, anyway?
  • What makes a good education, “good”?
  • Is what I’m doing enough?, or 
  • Why on earth am I doing this?

And if you can’t answer these with confidence and conviction, I’m gonna be real: you might not make it for the long-haul.

You need answers to these questions – written down, preferably – to sustain you through periods of self-doubt, questions, and uncertainty. Because there will probably be days (maybe a lot of days), when you seriously consider quitting homeschooling.

Those answers will remind you why you’re doing this on the days you seriously question whether your kids are learning anything at all.

They will sustain you on days when you drive past the local elementary school and get super nostalgic about your own first days of school.

They will remind you why homeschooling is worth it on the horrible behavior days, the ones when you’d rather just put shove all your wonderful kiddos onto that big yellow school bus.

These books helped me find my “why” and showed me over and over again that no, your choice to homeschool is NOT going to mess up your kids for life (a huge fear of homeschool moms everywhere!).

I hope these books do the same for you.

Related: Minimalist Homeschooling – Hope for the Overwhelmed Homeschool Mom

parent reading a homeschooling book while drinking a cup of coffee

11 Best Homeschooling Books for Parents

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1. Free to Learn

In Free to Learn, developmental psychologist and Boston College professor Peter Gray writes a compelling argument about trusting our children to learn through play.

He draws from extensive research to prove that play is how children learn best. He argues that traditional education stifles that desire to learn, potentially killing their natural curiosity long-term.

You just might walk away from this one with a strong desire to incorporate child-led learning into your homeschool.

2. Teaching From Rest

Sarah Mackenzie addresses the stress most homeschooling parents feel: the stress that comes from wanting to give their kids an excellent education but feeling oh so inadequate to do so.

Sarah encourages homeschool parents from her own experience of homeschooling six kids to teach from rest, instead of stress and anxiety.

3. Dumbing Us Down

This book is written by former school teacher John Gatto.

This book will challenge everything you thought you believed about traditional school: a critical read especially for homeschool moms who are not home-educated themselves.

You may come to different conclusions than Gatto did, but at least ask the questions he’s asking.

4. Caught Up in a Story

Sarah Clarkson (daughter of Sally & Clay Clarkson) grew up listening to great children’s literature. Her life, and that of her siblings, has been shaped by story.

In Caught Up in a Story, she examines the central role story plays in shaping the souls and future lives of young children.

Her book was one of the main reasons we rely so heavily on reading aloud in our homeschool to this day.

5. Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning

The terms Thomas Jefferson Education and leadership education are often used interchangeably.

I love this approach because it builds on the idea of learning through play, family interaction and unschooling during early childhood, trusting that with the right environment and support, children will develop their interests as they grow.

Eventually, those interests will result in self-motivated, passionate academic study in later childhood and the teenage years.

This book is filled with practical ideas either to implement a classic Thomas Jefferson Education, or to add to your own eclectic, relaxed homeschool philosophy.

6. For the Children’s Sake

This was the book that first introduced me to a Charlotte Mason approach to education. While I’ve left behind some of her practices, it does align extremely well with my parenting philosophy and how I see my children – as valuable, equal contributors to the world, if immature ones.

So much valuable wisdom in this book, for parenting and education both!

Related: I Ditched Charlotte Mason Narration – The Results Shocked Me

7. How Children Learn

How Children Learn calmed my fears about taking a relaxed approach to homeschooling. It confirmed what I saw in bits and pieces our first year homeschooling (and more and more every day): that children are hard-wired to learn.

They are motivated by their own vibrant curiosity, interests, and passions. They want to know about the world and will do so without traditional school.

8. The Read-Aloud Handbook

If you weren’t convinced before about the value and power of reading-aloud, you need to read this book.

Not only is it chock full of thorough research and statistics about the benefits of reading aloud, about half of the book is dedicated to a reading treasury of the best read-alouds (because not all books are best read aloud).

Related: 20 Best Chapter Books to Read Aloud (According to Homeschool Bloggers)

9. The Homeschool Highway

Amy Dingmann is my new favorite homeschool blogger (you can check our her site The Hmmmschooling Mom HERE). This book talks about the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of homeschooling. It addresses issues I have not heard discussed anywhere else.

Amy is not afraid to “go there” and speaks some strong challenges and encouragements to homeschooling parents. This is a must read for new homeschoolers.

10. Minimalist Homeschooling

As a minimalist, I was pretty excited when I heard about the idea of minimalist homeschooling.

No matter what homeschool style you eventually land on, the concepts in this book can be applied to any style. Because homeschooling doesn’t need to be overwhelming, and you don’t need to do all the things you see in your Instagram Feed (I’m lookin’ at you, clay diagram of a worm’s anatomy on a pretty wood block).

Use this book to guide your choices based on your personal homeschool vision and values.

11. The Brave Learner

This was released a year or two ago, and it is FANTASTIC. While Julie Bogart of Brave Writer doesn’t come right out and prescribe a homeschool style, I think she is definitely a relaxed homeschooler at heart.

Her wisdom from SO many years of homeschooling shines through. It’s a MUST READ for every homeschool mom.

What homeschooling books for parents would you recommend reading? Share in the comments!

Read Next: 12 Best Unschooling Books for Rethinking Education

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5 Comments

    1. Author

      I’ve heard that recommended several places now. I’m going to get a copy for this summer! Thanks for reminding me.

  1. The one homeschooling book, or really just education book, I recommend is Better Late Than Early by Dr. Raymond Moore. He was considered the grandfather of the homeschooling movement and wrote this book back in the 70s discussing the science behind why it is best to wait until a child is 8 or 10 to start formal schooling. Eye opening for me!

  2. These are great picks! I love Free-Range Learning by Laura Grace Weldon; it has lots of ideas and resources for mostly unschooling all ages. Some older (but good!) ones that are more like memoirs of families’ homeschooling experiences than how-to books are Homeschooling our Children, Unschooling Ourselves by Alison McKee and And the Skylark Sings with Me by David Albert. I had to get them through interlibrary loan but they are inspiring!

    1. Author

      Sorry I missed this Heather! I will need to add these to my book list. I haven’t heard of any of them. Yay for new homeschooling books!

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