Homeschooling with Little Children

In this blog post we will discuss homeschooling with little children. The first part will be about books and curriculum, the second will be about putting a program together.

What a privilege it is to homeschool little children. Their enthusiasm and zest are contagious, something we need so desperately in these times. In our last post (and video) we talked in depth about some of the misconceptions of early education. This post we will focus on some of the wonderful things we can enjoy with those of early elementary age.

Here is a basic list of items that I have found beneficial:

  • Bible stories. Believe it or not, you don’t have to use a Bible story book, just read these stories right out of the Word! (This is something Charlotte Mason encouraged.) Here is a link to a list of stories (they are not stories but accounts of actual events) with chapter and verse:
  • Nursery Rhymes (and other poems for children). There is something about the familiar rhythm of Mother Goose, Robert Louis Stevenson, and the like that enthuse little children. They instill a love of words and an understanding of the different patterns of the English language. This aids in speech and reading later on. One of the easiest ways to enjoy these is with the My Book House books. You can purchase an entire set of these as vintage books off of eBay, etc. Or…you can print them out, or…you can purchase reprints of In the Nursery. Here are some links:
  • Folk and Fairy Tales. There are all sorts of reasons these are important; from natural interest, to moral training, to God’s narrative, to English language patterns. As before, My Book House is a great way to grab hold of these pretty easily and cheaply. Pam Barnhill’s post is a place to find them online, and here is the Rainbow Resource link:
  • The McGuffey readers. These books have brought about some of the most revolutionary changes in our homeschooling. They are thorough, they are logical, they are moral, they point children to God, and they are affordable. Also, they enable children to read any book from any time, since they introduce complex sentence structure and vocabulary uncommon to most of today’s basal readers. When combined with things such as copywork, narration, and dictation (which Charlotte Mason encouraged and teachers have used for thousands of years), they make a top-notch, gold-standard language arts education.

Besides My Book House, there are other sources, sets, etc. Here are some that I have used personally and can recommend:

  • The Bookshelf for Boys and Girls. This is even more beloved than My Book House in our family, but it is hard to find versions that are reprinted or are in the public domain (although there is a really ancient-looking version, called Boys’ and Girls’ Bookshelf, but the online volumes are sketchy, and it’s even hard to find the physical versions. There do seem to be a number of these books in their physical, vintage form.
  • Childcraft. This is another set of books that include rhymes and poetry, folk and fairy tales, and historical stories that interest young children. This is the first children’s set we owned, and our first set of young children loved it until it was in tatters! I have since replaced it with another, newer-looking set that I used with some of our “later” children.
  • Reading-Literature series. This series of readers use a controlled vocabulary like other series, but the lessons are based on actual stories, such as The Little Red Hen, The Gingerbread Boy, et al. These can be used as the main course, but I use them as another way to practice that is more interesting and engaging than a textbook. Since the stories are familiar, the lessons build confidence that a child can read “real” books.

Reading-Literature, Primer, Google Books

Gateway to the Classics–all the Reading-Literature books free to read online

If you would like to see the actual books in my library, watch this video:

Here are some places you can find some of what I have shared and others I have yet to discover.

Yesterday’s Classics. This site offers a bunch of great collections of poetry and stories.

Project Gutenberg. Here you can find some free, public domain classics. Here is one link that may help:

The Big Book of Nursery Rhymes

In case you need help formatting the Gutenberg files so you can print them out and bind them into books, here are two helpful links:

Rosegate Harbour–formatting text files

How to Print and Bind Old Books for Homeschooling

“But how do I use these?” I hear you saying…

First of all, it is not about making lists and getting things done. It is more about enjoyment, with some exercises attached.

So, just grab a basket or bin and put these things in it:

  1. A stack of books with nursery rhymes and stories as we have discussed.
  2. A small wipe-off board or chalk board for drawing and beginning writing.
  3. Some colors and paper for coloring while being read to.
  4. Some play dough for fiddling with while being read to.
  5. Some scissors for practicing cutting while being read to.
  6. A special snack to add to the sweetness of the occasion.

Then, make a “place” in your day for your basket time. It could be in the morning, either before or after breakfast and chores. Or, it could be in the early afternoon, the evening, even just before bedtime.

Snuggle together on a couch or comfortable chair, and then pull out a book and read together, stopping to draw or write as you go along. Of course, there will be questions that will send you off on rabbit trails, but this is part of the wonder of learning.

Either starting or ending with a Bible story is essential, as it will put into the child’s mind that God is part of learning, not just Someone we reference only at church.

As time goes on, there will be room for actual lessons, such as phonics drills (you can use my free program at this link). Just place your materials in the same basket and continue on as before.

At some point, you can move the lesson work (such as the ones using The Lesson Book) to the dining room table, but you can also keep up the snuggle reading time, just with longer stories and then short novels split up into chapters for each sitting.

Then add in some math.

First counting actual objects, then learning the basic numbers, then practice with a 100’s board, some playing cards, and some dominoes and dice. After this some textbook learning can begin.

At first the lessons (in all areas) will be short. We have been taught that children need to be instructed for hours a day, but many homeschoolers are finding that consistency in only 15 to 20 minutes a day will yield amazing results. As the child matures, the time can be stretched into a half of an hour or more.

As the child is more able to read and write independently, you can assign reading and writing lessons that they can do on their own. Then you can also broaden the spectrum of their exercises to include some history, geography, and science.

Before you know it, they will be ready for grammar and essays, and on and on.


8 thoughts on “Homeschooling with Little Children”

  1. I LOVE this! Thanks so much for the links on which Scripture to read from the Bible to littles. I was looking for someone like this as I wanted to read straight from the Bible to my little ones without having to use a Bible story book. Many of the Bible story books are shallow or dumb down Scripture. I love the basket or bin idea.

    • I know what you mean; Bible story books are sort of watered down, and little kids love, love the stories directly from the Bible–they are smarter than we give them credit for, and their little hearts are spiritually tender and understanding. I have printed this list out and keep it in my mommy binder to go to at any time, even with my older children.

  2. Sherry, thank you! From the bottom of my heart I am so grateful that you have shared your heart and wealth of knowledge about teaching and raising godly children. We pulled our oldest son from public school just after Christmas this past year and quickly realized the curriculum we had chosen was not at all what I had envisioned for our homeschool journey. I have been binge watching as many of your videos as my free time allows. I have a whole new hope for what school will be like for us going forward. My other little ones are also excited to be included in more of school with big brother. It’s wonderful to see them all so engaged and eager to learn in a more natural and gentle way! I’ve also been able to relax and enjoy our new-found freedom not bound by empty school book pages.

    • This is so heartwarming to me, as it is my hope what we do here will set moms free to enjoy learning with their children. Thank you for taking precious time out of your day to comment here–God bless you!

  3. Thank you for this incredible resource!!

    Curious, do you prefer The Bookshelf for Boys and Girls over My Book House? If so, why? I can’t afford both sets right now…which would you choose to begin with?

    Thank you for your thoughts!

    • Good question! My Book House is better for younger children and the illustrations are prettier. The Bookshelf for Boys and Girls is good for younger children, and it also will be good for upper elementary. Also, the Bookshelf includes things like science (although evolution-based), crafts, etc. It’s sort of like comparing apples and oranges, but if you only have younger children, you could order My Bookhouse now and order the Bookshelf set later 🙂


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