I think this is going to be part one of a seven or eight part series about our homeschooling curriculum and organization that I have begun to put together.
Fair warning- this is a very lengthy post and it has no photos! Sort of the precise opposite of how I usually post but I think the content calls for such a post. So...here we go...
Here is what we’ve been reading over the past year or two. I've mainly just included what we have read together as a family and what we have all truly enjoyed (you'll see comments if I thought otherwise). In general, we don't ever drive anywhere without listening to audio books in the car so I have included a lot of commentary here on audio book versions of these books, particularly where I thought the narrators for the stories were really terrific.
The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder (I also highly recommend the audio books which are read by Cherry Jones. Her voice is somehow just right for these books). This is a series of nine books that we could read and listen to over and over again. We have also purchased some of the other Little House books about Rose Wilder and there are others about Laura’s maternal line but so far absolutely nothing comes close to the amazing authenticity and beauty of the original series. There are also Little House Chapter Books which are fun and brief versions of some of the original stories. These are great for a very new reader who had already enjoyed having the original series read to her/him and wants to live into it a bit on their own.
The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis- This series was one of my absolute all-time favorites. I don’t know how I missed these books growing up but I would read them again and again. The audio books are also excellent. There are differing opinions about in which order to read the books. You can read the seven books in the order in which they were published or the internal chronological order of the series. We read in the publishing order on the advice of a friend who is a Narnia fan and this seemed to work well for us:
1.The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950)
2. Prince Caspian (1951)
3. The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader" (1952)
4. The Silver Chair (1953)
5. The Horse and His Boy (1954)
6. The Magician's Nephew (1955)
7. The Last Battle (1956)
Chronological order: (this is the way the collection is ordered if you get them as a group)
1. The Magician's Nephew
2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
3. The Horse and His Boy
4. Prince Caspian
5. The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader"
6. The Silver Chair
7. The Last Battle
Tales from the Odyssey by Mary Pope Osborne-There are six books in this series and I highly recommend the audio book version of these stories. The actor who reads them is fantastic. We read these books as part of our study of ancient Greece. The kids absolutely loved these stories which are a very exciting and well-written version of Homer’s classic Odyssey. Susan Wise Bauer, author of The Well-Trained Mind advocates giving kids age appropriate versions of classic literature so that they grow to love the stories and are later able to appreciate the original texts without being intimidated by them and I completely agree with this concept.
As an aside- Nick (at age 5) really loves Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Tree House series. I like that they include so much history in each of the stories but I find them far less exciting to read than the other books I have mentioned so far on this list. I definitely think these are great for older kids to read to younger kids if parents (like me!)would rather read somewhat more eloquent and exciting writing.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan - We really loved these five books and this is another audio book narrator that I would highly recommend (Jessie Bernstein does an amazing job with a huge variety of characters in the books.) I am glad that we listened to the Tales from the Odyssey and studies Ancient Greece before we read these as I think it gave us a firmer foundation in Greek mythology before we were exposed to the mythology of Percy Jackson’s world (which is super fun but admittedly altered quite a bit from traditional mythology). You also will want to exercise your own judgment on what age you think this series is appropriate for. It worked very well for us but some kids might find some parts a little too scary.
We have just started the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling and we love book one but I don’t know yet how far into the series we will go this soon. I’ve heard it may be a bit old for them- stay tuned on that.
Books we have read for our book club this year included:
Half Magic by Edward Eager- very fun and cute story about four siblings who find a magic coin that only grants half of what anyone wishes for. We all enjoyed this one.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater- the kids loved this but it wasn’t one of my personal favorites (I thought it was a little dull).
Heidi by Johanna Spyri- I am really glad we read this and we all truly loved the story but it does seem to go on and on so prepare yourself for that before you dig in!
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin- We just loved this book. It was so beautiful and alive with such vivid imagery. We later read The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin and we enjoyed it but not nearly so much as Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.
A Cricket in Times Square by George Selden- Not my favorite book club selection but the kids enjoyed it and it sparked a little interest in Italian Opera.
Other great ones:
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl- very fun.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White- adored it.
The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White- another favorite
Stuart Little by E.B. White- loved this one too but a warning about some of these books that have been made into movies or even TV shows- I really try at all costs to avoid ever seeing the movie before reading the books. It tends to really diminish the experience of the book because of how the movie has already hijacked the imagination of the child (or the adult for that matter!).
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink- another pioneer girl story. This was also an excellent audio book.
The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgiesh- A true story set in 1707, young Sarah Noble and her father traveled through the wilderness to build a new home for their family. Another good audio book.
Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen- This was a beautiful story and a great audio book. If you can read this in March and tie it in with a visit to a local maple sugar farm it really helps the story come alive for the kids.
The Moffats by Eleanor Estes- A wonderful story and a great audio book too- old fashioned and sweet family fun.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett- We absolutely loved this timeless classic. The audio version is excellent.
Some other books that Alexa (age 7) enjoys reading on her own:
Every American Girl book ever written
Nancy Drew Mysteries
The Bailey School Kids series
Rainbow Magic books
Ramona Books by Beverly Cleary
Hoofbeats: Katie and the Mustang series by Kathleen Duey
Pony Pals series
Pony Crazed Princess series
Some other books that are a bit of a yawn for Mom but that Nick (age almost 6) really likes having read to him (I am so happy when Alexa reads these to him):
A to Z Mysteries
The Boxcar Children series
Puppy Place series
Dragon Slayers Academy series
These last two sections are not necessarily books that I am highly recommending, more just fun reading that the kids enjoy and that I don't object to. Not great literature but they are, I believe, appropriate for them, not in any way offensive and they often enjoy them together.
Stay tuned for more homeschool curriculum and organization posts. And if you have any great reading suggestions, I would love to know about them!