Everything You Need to Know About the McGuffey Readers

The McGuffey readers have been the solution to many of my homeschool problems. They are:

  • Excellent
  • Simple
  • Affordable
  • Readily available

They are excellent because they:

  • Go from pre-k through high school (and college prep)
  • Are re-usable (for multiple children)
  • Are filled with godly wisdom, even whole passages of scripture
  • Gently build reading, vocabulary, and grammar skills far superior to any other modern alternative

They are simple because they:

  • Are open-and-go (little to no teacher prep)
  • Take only minutes a day
  • Don’t require any other materials other than a pencil and a composition book (or free lesson sheets or The Lesson Book)

They are affordable because they:

  • Are a one-time purchase
  • Don’t require peripherals
  • Cost little compared to other curriculum choices
  • Can be found second-hand
  • Can be downloaded for free (the revised versions) from the Internet

They are readily available because:

  • They have continually been in print since the 1830’s
  • They can be found on Amazon and many other outlets

Yes, you read that right: McGuffey wrote his first reader in 1836. He did such a good job that folks have continued to buy up his books and use them over and over again for the last 170 years or so!

When I discovered these gems I was on the verge of burn out from trying to use the Charlotte Mason method with seven or more children at one time. It was difficult to find appropriate passages of poetry and prose for everyone on his or her particular level. It was even more difficult trying to keep track of their work when it was done.

McGuffey gave me a break. Included in each reader was a collection of the greatest literature, both prose and poetry, of the English language. No more searching, no more having to compile everything myself and then watch my hard work disintegrate before my eyes as my children and I both lost track.

Of course I was lost at first–who wouldn’t be? I mean, where are the guides and manuals for these?

everything about the mcguffey readers from a mom of 15

Well, there are a few, but they take deciphering. I needed something more to-the-point. So, as usual, I grabbed everything I could find on the subject and I studied until I could make some sense of the whole thing.

What did I come up with? With God’s help, something wonderful, something that any mom anywhere could use and understand.

If you are interested in learning more, make sure and watch these videos– free, with free downloads suggested:

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12 thoughts on “Everything You Need to Know About the McGuffey Readers”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge about using the McGuffey readers. I have had both sets for about five years now. I have used them off and on with my children, and even bought four of your lesson books a couple years ago, but I wasn’t really using them well. Your videos were very helpful, and I intend on having my children continue with their lesson books this year. (And by now I have another child ready to learn to read!)
    I have used Gentle Grammar level one with one of my daughters who is a “right brain” learner, and therefore struggles with reading comprehension and following directions. She really enjoyed it, and it gave me a way to introduce her to grammar concepts in a way she could mostly understand. We will be continuing with level two.
    I feel so blessed to have found your blog. You writings and videos have been so encouraging and inspiring to me. I feel like you actually “get it.” You’ve been there, done that, and won the victory. Thank you so much for ministering to us younger mothers! You have helped me so much! I have seven children (so far). I couldn’t believe when you said you’d been homeschooling since 1989! I would have been 5 years old! My mother did not homeschool, only had three children, and pretty much thinks I must be crazy. Again, thank you for being a mentor. May Yahweh continue to bless you and your family.

    • Thank you for leaving such a sweet comment, Mama. It’s so gratifying to hear that my efforts are helping precious moms like yourself 🙂

  2. Hello Sherry! I love this…thank you so much. AGAIN!!
    I have a question about the Pictorial Primer: could it be that it was “re-done” as the McGuffey’s New First Eclectic Reader?? I have that one downloaded ( https://books.google.com/books?id=GfoAAAAAYAAJ&source=gbs_slider_cls_metadata_7_mylibrary from Google Books and the copyright date is shown as 1885) and although the formatting is different, the lessons are the same according to the ones you show in this the first video. If so, hurray! I already have what I need! If not, I will download the Happy Primer. In either case, bless you ten times over for taking the time to create a beautiful primer for us to use.

    • Wow Lindsey! That is almost exactly the same content–you get the blue ribbon, the silver badge, the golden goblet 🙂 Thank you for sharing–I’ll make sure and post this on my social media…

  3. Edit: The *first several lessons* are the same, only formatted differently. Once the format changes (your lesson XXIII), the format is similar, but he words and sentences are different. So the question is still, could the New First Reader be used in lieu of the Pictorial Primer?


  4. Thank you Sherry! (Accepts gold goblet, blue ribbon and silver badge, blushes, and returns to her seat)

    I appreciate you so much.

  5. Hi Sherry! I discovered you on YouTube about a month ago and was inspired to buy the McGuffey readers for my homeschool. I have basically watched all of your McGuffey and homeschool-related videos. I can’t remember which video you mentioned this, but you said something about supplementing with the McGuffeys… Is there something I should be doing with my kids besides the readers and Grammar (Gentle Grammar and Harvey’s)? I bought the Complete Eclectic Education Series from Dollar homeschool, so now I have all kinds of goodies

  6. Hi Sherry,
    Do you have the older children read their lesson aloud to you or do they work through it on their own?

  7. Thank you Sherry for your wisdom! You are a pastoral figure to me in this area of mothering and educating my four little children.

    I have an interesting comment on the second great awakening, (similar to the first Great Awakening and the Azuza Street Revival) you mentioned at the beginning that this was a great time of revival but some wacky stuff happened. I personally wonder if you are referring to some of the spiritual manifestations (such as during the great awakening, Charles Wesley mentioned people barking like dogs and other odd phenomena, some of it must have been the genuine activity of the Holy Ghost but others, like acting like snakes, seem too dark to be Holy). The Azuza street revival certainly included some odd things, in my opinion I believe some of these were actually demonic manifestations that were being driven out of people by the heavy presence of God.

    To me this is reasonable because it makes sense of the fact that these people knew these odd signs were of a spiritual nature but because deliverance has fallen out of knowledge and favor in the church (even though it was a third of Jesus’ miracles ) they didn’t know it might have been of an evil spiritual nature. These “manifestations” were brought out of people as a direct result of the presence of God falling so heavily on people that evil spirits couldn’t stay in the midst of it. So the presence of God was shown in signs and wonders of a Holy nature and marked by evil leaving, although the church didn’t know enough of the Bible (in regards to deliverance or the working of the evil spiritual kingdom) to recognize what was happening.

    Anyway a curious thought that I’ve recently been made aware of and is my personal opinion that I lightly hold to, I could be completely wrong.
    Thank You 🙂 Linda


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