Not Just the Great Books – Choose the BEST Books
January 24, 2018
Hey Mama,

Don’t you love seeing your kids reading? Whether it’s the Bible or Anne of Green Gables it does a Mama’s heart good to see her littles (or teens) curled up in a happy place reading books. But we don’t want them to just read any old books; we want the best books, the classics, real literature. We want books that will train them up in the way they should go—books that will help them focus on what’s true and lovely; so they’ll go the rest of the day thinking on those things.

Not sure where to find books like that? Take a look at these fabulous finds from The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine :

And remember these words, Mama. . .

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are TRUE, whatsoever things are HONEST, whatsoever things are JUST, whatsoever things are PURE, whatsoever things are LOVELY, whatsoever things are of GOOD REPORT; if there be any VIRTUE, and if there be any PRAISE, think on these things.” - Philippians 4:8

Let them run through your thoughts and actions today, over and over again. Minds and hearts on the Lord. Think on these things. 

As you read. . .
As you walk. . .
As you go. . .

As a homeschooling Mama, you have a powerful opportunity with these kids. You have the gift of TIME. If they are off at school all day, your window with them shrinks considerably, and it's hard to force quality time—meaningful conversations—into those few remaining hours. 

Have you noticed how sometimes during the most harried and crazy day, where normally you'd think it was on track for failure, with few to no redeeming qualities, that you get these nuggets of precious encounters springing out of what seems like nowhere? You marvel at the dialogues that happened because of whatever string of events led up to it—that never would have occurred had the kids been out all day, apart from you. Apart from your influence. Learning moments. Treasured, divine appointments. God gives them to us (and I for one should stop taking these for granted)! We get so used to these gifts . . . but they may not always be here.

Think hard on these things. He’s got this, and He’s got you!

This winter I set about a seemingly massive task for a homeschool mom of 20+ years—I tackled the “weeding” of my bookshelves! Of our four children, two live at home now and only one is homeschooling. This “weeding” of books has me really taking stock of what types of literature we have fed our children. The shelf of books I am saving for when the pitter-patter of little feet returns to our house is an interesting mix of well-loved books, all well loved but not all award winning works.

Now “weeding” books is not foreign to me. Any homeschooling family knows that one can be quickly buried under a sea of books unless weeding takes place, and my job at a public library requires continual weeding of the library collection. Few enjoy this part of the job but shelf space is at a premium both at home and at the library; so it must be done.

What are “The Great Books” anyway? A quick search online will give you lists of books ranging from Alice in Wonderland to Crime and Punishment . Many of the books on these published lists will foster a sense of excellent writing and grow a strong vocabulary for the reader. As an English major and a Library CEO, I encourage people of all ages to read well-written books.

However, often I am asked, “What are the ‘best books’ for my child?” Our libraries and bookstores are full of books; so how can parents know what the best books are for their children? After many years of loving books, I have to admit that the best book is the one that will be read.

Is good literature important? Yes! Just as we begin our children on healthy diets, we should begin them on good literature. Good literature is well written, and many have been around for a while. Award winners are well selected by teams of literary professionals, and new books are added to these award winning lists each year. I will be posting list links for children’s reading on my site later this month; but until then, read your children’s favourites as many times as they like (or you can stand) and savour the time as you read.

As for me, I am off to weed some books and save some treasures. My next task is to help my eleven-year-old son with the finishing touches on his first picture book! If you really want to see what books were saved, you will have to come for tea.

Edna Latone is wife to John and mom to her growing
family . . . along with “bonus kids” who pop in from time to time. Edna has her own business as a homeschool consultant and helps families and businesses to better understand the homeschooling world. When she is not teaching at home or at co-op, Edna works as a Public Library CEO. Her perfect day consists of a long walk with her family and a cozy corner to read in with the people she loves.

7 Tips To Help Make Reading Accessible to Your Children
by Zan Tyler

“To learn to read is to light a fire.”  
Victor Hugo

Knowing that I love to read, my daughter, then 8, asked me about my reading habits as a child. I told her that I went to school and didn’t have time to read. She gave me a quizzical look. I explained to her that after being in school all day, staying for extracurricular activities, and then doing tons of homework, there was no time left to read real books—the living kind. One of the many beauties of homeschooling is that kids have time to read. They have time to read to learn, to read for pleasure, to read to expand their horizons, and to read to grow as people. Give your children time, space, and incentive to read so that their fires will be lit.

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading.”
Ray Bradbury

Help your children develop a passion for reading to offset the apathy Bradbury describes. Good books are friends that will teach both knowledge and wisdom, expand their imaginations, and serve as their travel guides. 

Here are ideas to make reading accessible to your children:
  • First and foremost—share your love of the Bible, the Ultimate Book, with your children.
  • Have a read-aloud time most days.
  • Keep books out in your home so that they are visible to your children.
  • Let them see you reading. 
  • Take them to the library. 
  • Build a home library. 
  • Expose your children to the classics.

 “A classic is classic not because it conforms to certain structural rules,
or fits certain definitions. . . . It is classic because of a certain eternal
and irrepressible freshness.” 
Edith Wharton

The best books feature excellent writing with high literary quality that grapple with important, thought-provoking ideas. 

Shop Apologia ’s literature curriculum and resources:
  • Readers in Residence by Debra Bell teaches young readers (grades 4+) to process and savor what they read and to appreciate good literature. It is imperative to teach your children to filter what they read through the truth of God’s Word. 
  • American Literature teaches high school students to analyze major works of American literature from a biblical perspective. The course is authored by Dr. Whit Jones, a homeschool dad and professor at Bryan College.
  • Read for the Heart by Sarah Clarkson is a parents’ guide to the best in children’s literature.

Our children need to be introduced to the great books and timeless literature to understand history, to recognize the references that come up in our language, and even to learn how to interpret Scripture – the Bible uses literary devices like metaphors, allusions, similes and personification, just like Shakespeare and Hawthorne!

But how can you know what’s good literature and what’s not? What do you do when somebody recommends a new author to your teenager? For that matter, where do you start with the entire avalanche of literature, music, and movies in our culture? How should a Christian parent respond? 
We use a simple standard we learned from Francis Schaeffer’s Art and the Bible . He wrote that every work of art has two dimensions – the technique of the artist, and the message that’s being communicated. So whenever we read a book, watch a movie, or listen to a song, we can ask ourselves two questions –

Is it good art? And does it have a good message?

The best art displays both qualities – it’s well done, and it’s got a good message. And it doesn’t have to be explicitly “Biblical” to be truthful – Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings says a lot about good and evil, temptation, prejudice, and courage in the face of defeat, and never references Scripture. 

But Hebrews 5:14 tells us that the mature believer has gained discernment through practice – in other words, he’s been confronted with good and evil and learned to recognize them and choose rightly. We want our sons and daughters to know there are other philosophies out there and learn to ask the right questions when they see them, and especially when something is well-packaged. 

Our older teens shouldn’t be shielded from everything in the culture. Instead, we need to walk through some of the world’s literature with them, so we can point out, “Here is the mistake,” or “Watch out for this trap.” They are going to encounter popular books, catchy songs, and blockbuster movies that give them very untrue messages – common themes like revenge is sweet, your feelings matter more than truth, sin is fun if you don’t get caught, and a good ending makes up for dishonesty along the way. 

At the end of the day, we need to remember the apostle Paul who told us to focus our minds on things which are honest, just, pure, and lovely (Philippians 4:8), also knew enough about pagan philosophers to use them as examples when they spoke truth (like in Titus 1:12-13!). 

So, let’s help our kids learn to recognize excellent and praiseworthy literature (and all art), discerning the good from the evil, by walking through it with them … teaching them to appreciate and prefer the best art, with the best message!
We want to help you make Biblical family life practical.

Download our free workshop, “ Media-Proofing Your Kids ,” and get links to our favorite books from picture books to great literature! 
Staying Relational   
Dear Friends, 

January is almost over, but it still may seem like YEARS before the end of the school year! If that’s the case, one of the best things you can do for yourself and your kids is to pull out some wonderful books to read aloud. With everyone comfy-cozy, let your kids immerse themselves in a different era, a different culture, a different way of life as you read aloud the words of great authors in these time-tested classics. Consider the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder . . . the Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maud Montgomery . . . and the Hank the Cowdog books by John R. Erickson. You may prefer The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, the Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, or Freckles by Gene Stratton-Porter. Your kids may enjoy the wonder of Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb, or the rip-roaring adventures in G.A. Henty’s historical fiction.

This is just a taste of some of the books we read aloud to our kids—books that caused them to laugh uproariously, to hang on every word, to beg me not to stop. However, the world of good literature is much deeper, much richer than this mere sampling. For some excellent ideas on great books for children, I highly recommend the following:

  • Books Children Love by Elizabeth Wilson and Susan Schaeffer Macaulay
  • Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt

With the suggestions found in these two resources, you may never run out of great things to read aloud!

Not only will reading these books fill the dreary days of winter with warmth and life, but it will enrich your children’s imagination, their curiosity, and their understanding.

Remember, stay relational!


P.S. For more on how reading can enrich your children’s lives, check out this Teaching Tip !

Share this newsletter with a friend, and be sure to let those 
CONSIDERING  homeschooling know about the enormous  FREE  info-pack which awaits them here: .
Did you know? Every class is INCLUDED for members! 
No limits.

Could you use some help guiding your students to great literature? There are over a dozen courses on designed to help you do exactly that. Whether you are looking for Adventures with Books or Literature Kits for your younger readers or helping your high schoolers navigate world literature, our lesson designers have created courses to bring wonderful literature to life! Plus, we have classes such as Worldviews in Literature designed to help high schoolers analyze and evaluate the worldview being presented in what they are reading, an invaluable skill they will be able to use long after finals are complete. 

And don’t forget our Monthly Book Lists for Families from Michelle Miller! These handy book lists are a treasure trove of suggested books on topics ranging from Africa and travel to heroes and snow! 

If you haven’t yet joined , come give us a try. We have resources for parents as well as courses for students. You can try the entire site for 30 days for $5 or join during our New Year’s special and save big! If you or someone you know would be interested in teaching or writing for us, let us know. You can email me at . We look forward to serving you and your family! 

in the latest issue of
The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine.
Contest Corner  
For the month of January

Learning comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes you have children who crave worksheets, other times you have a child who just wants to read a book. If you have the latter, like me, you will find that All Through the Ages - History Through Literature Guide is the perfect way to make history learning fun!

My family loves history, the adventure packed, what is around the next corner type of history. Not the boring, dry, textbook history. We love to live in the moment of the history we are learning about. The only way to do that is to ditch the textbook and find the living history books that make the history come to life for us.

Now, we could do this by looking up books at the library. I could proofread them, see if they fit our standards, age groups and time periods. But this takes time, time that I don’t have when I have four kids at home who want to learn -- and for whom I want to keep that desire for learning burning, no matter what.

Christine Miller from Nothing New Press has taken all the dirty work out of finding books for me with this guide. Now I am able to look up the time period, narrow down the age group, and find the books my family will love to learn from when it comes to their history lessons! (. . .)

One book in particular gives me names of books to read, or have my children read, from creation and the antediluvian world all the way up through the modern era. Not only that, but we also get geographical history of the top countries in the world. There are even small sections of books that cover the History of Science and Mathematics, History of the Visual Arts and Music, and Great Books of Western Civilization and the Christian Tradition.

Most of the books listed in this book can be found in your local library or within the common homeschool catalogs. There are codes listed after every book that tell the source where that book came from. Having this information will help you find the book if you can’t find it at your local library. 

I fell in love with this book so much that this is my go-to book. I could not make our history lessons fun and engaging without it! 

YOU can WIN this amazing resource for your homeschool! 

TO ENTER : Click on over to our entry page and follow the instructions! Contest ends at midnight, the last day of the month.
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