Best Homeschooling Guidebooks

Updated October 2020
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Buying guide for best homeschooling guidebooks

Homeschooling was once a fringe activity practiced by just a few families, but it has surged in popularity in recent years due to concerns about education quality and safety in schools. If you’d like help with your homeschooling endeavors, you’ve come to the right place.

The guidance you require depends on your own degree of experience and comfort with educating a child. Some parents seek answers to curriculum-related questions. For example, what sort of science lessons are appropriate for a second grader? an eighth grader? But curriculum isn’t the only element to consider when setting up a classroom at home. Some parents wonder how to create the right learning environment in a space normally reserved for lounging and video gaming. Some seek advice on how to juggle the roles of teacher and parent while keeping boundaries clear.

A solid approach to reining in homeschool stress lies in educating yourself. Reading books by experts is reassuring and allows you to fine-tune your own practices. This buying guide introduces you to the homeschooling guidebooks that can help you on your journey.

Because homeschooled students are often high achievers, Ivy League colleges and other reputable schools are known to actively recruit them.

Key considerations

Schoolteachers regularly engage in professional development to keep their skills sharp. It makes sense that homeschool teachers should do the same. When choosing a book to read about homeschooling, reach for one that tackles the issues important to you. Here’s a look at several broad issues you’ll find in these books.

Curriculum selection

A curriculum is a set of learning targets and associated lesson plans that lead to the ultimate goal of education. If you aren’t a college-trained teacher, you may feel hesitant about selecting a curriculum. Fortunately, many before you have done the job of assembling lesson plans and learning targets into prepackaged curricula. As a homeschooling teacher, you are also free to cobble together your own curriculum based on your goals for your child.

Personal values: Although you are free to choose a curriculum, that’s little comfort if you feel overwhelmed by the number of choices. Finding a guidebook that resonates with you philosophically will help. For example, if your aim is to create a Christianity-centered classroom, a book by a Christian author with similar values may serve you well.

Age appropriateness: Choosing a curriculum isn’t just about your personal values; it’s also about age appropriateness. A curriculum for a kindergartener looks far different from a curriculum for a fourth grader. A few homeschooling guidebooks offer a detailed curriculum you can follow from kindergarten to twelfth grade, but this would be a thick and comprehensive book indeed. It’s more likely that the book you choose will point you in the direction of online or print curriculum resources for individual grades.

Pacing: Homeschooling guidebooks are likely to offer you advice on how to pace yourself through a curriculum. Homeschooling offers great flexibility, but of course you want to make sure you neither overwhelm nor bore your kids. Many homeschooling guidebooks focus on creating a pace that helps maintain a sense of wonder and excitement so kids never tire of learning.

Differentiating instruction

Learning styles: “Differentiating instruction” is a hot term in education these days as teachers strive to personalize learning for each student. Every child has unique strengths and weaknesses. To use another buzzword, every child has their own “learning style.” For example, some kids are visual learners: they are more inspired by visual stimuli than printed words or auditory input. Some kids are physical learners: they must frequently move their bodies in order for information to stick.

When you differentiate instruction, you tailor the lesson to best serve the learning style of each child in the room. Let’s say you’ve asked your students to do a book report. You might allow one child to simply write the report, another child to create a video dramatization, and another child to create a sculpture or diorama.

Differentiating instruction is a daunting prospect, but there are resources to help. If the homeschooling guidebook of your choice doesn’t provide tips for differentiating instruction, it may point you to websites or other sources that do.

Grade levels: In addition to differentiating instruction for kids at the same level, you may need to find lesson plans for kids at different levels. While there are a handful of helpful websites that tackle the issue of homeschooling multi-age groups, fewer print resources exist on this topic.

Our best advice is to purchase separate curriculum and lesson plan materials for each grade level. That said, a guidebook that offers generalized strategies on how to manage homeschooling life would still come in handy.

Self-doubt

Any homeschooling parent will tell you they’ve suffered their share of anxiety and self-doubt along their journey. And although homeschooling is more popular than ever, you still might feel isolated and alone.

Here are some common expressions of self-doubt by homeschooling parents:

  • I’m afraid I made the wrong decision keeping my child at home.
  • I’m afraid my kids are missing out on great things because I chose to homeschool.
  • I’m afraid my lessons won’t meet state and federal guidelines.
  • I’m afraid my kids won’t learn how to socialize or make friends.
  • I’m afraid someone else could do it better.
     

A homeschooling guidebook written with the right combination of empathy and expertise can alleviate your anxiety while helping you make sure your greatest fears don’t come true.

"If you’re homeschooling only temporarily, check with your local school district to see if it offers a distance learning program. In light of the recent pandemic, many school districts in the U.S. have invested considerable money in the development of reliable and accredited programs."
STAFF
BestReviews

Features

Topics

Some homeschooling guidebooks focus on practicality, tips, and advice. Some explore developmental psychology to help parents gain a better understanding of what happens in the developing brain. Still others focus on educational philosophy and parental mindset.

Here are a few recurring topics we found in the guidebooks currently on offer. This list isn’t exhaustive, and not every book covers each of these topics.

How to create a routine: You and your kids might relish the fact that homeschool doesn’t have to start at 8 a.m. However, when you allow yourself to stray from standard conventions, it can be tricky to establish and maintain a routine. Some homeschooling guidebooks offer helpful tips and advice.

How to nurture social skills: The question homeschooling parents get asked most often may be, “How do you socialize them?” The fact your child doesn’t sit in a class with 30 others doesn’t equate to social isolation, but there are guidebooks with ideas for building social skills and providing social experiences for homeschooled kids.

How to accommodate special needs: Whether the diagnosis is cerebral palsy, ADHD, dyslexia, or autism, kids with special needs sometimes require special accommodations. Books with a special needs focus provide the resources, ideas, vocabulary, encouragement, and expert advice you need to navigate the terrain.

College prep: Some parents feel comfortable with early-grade material but balk at the idea of navigating high school-level work and college prep. While there are homeschooling books that focus on teaching higher-level math and language skills, we recommend reading some non-homeschooling books that focus on prepping for college entry exams like the SAT if college is the goal.

Ideas, ideas, ideas: Teachers always need ideas. Fortunately, there are plenty of books to feed you a steady diet of them. Some books take a “how to” approach: how to teach chemistry, for example, or how to incorporate music and art into the school day. Some books provide valuable advice about resources, like where to find the best free educational worksheets and videos on the internet. The more ideas a book offers, the better the value it usually is.

Did you know?
Public school teachers are required to attend professional development classes and read books about teaching throughout their careers. It makes sense that a homeschooling parent would feel compelled to do the same.
STAFF
BestReviews

Homeschool guidebook prices

Most paperback homeschooling guidebooks with a modest amount of information cost $20 or less. E-book versions of the same are likely to cost $12 or less.

If you opt to purchase a complete homeschool curriculum, which isn’t exactly the type of “guidebook” we’re discussing here but is nevertheless very important, expect to pay a lot more. Complete curricula can cost hundreds of dollars. Single-grade and single-subject curriculum books tend to cost less than $50.

Tips

  • Read the free preview pages. Every homeschooling book takes a slightly different approach, and the title alone won’t tell you much. You can usually peruse the chapter list and preface for free when shopping online for books.
  • Note that not all prepackaged curricula align with the Common Core. The Common Core is a set of standards established in the U.S. to guide curriculum planning for public school teachers. If you’re buying a prepackaged curriculum, it may or may not align with the Common Core, but the literature should advise you either way.
  • Remember that quality is better than quantity. Traditional students spend about seven hours a day at school. Homeschool kids needn’t hit the books seven hours per day if the quality of individualized instruction is high. In other words, don’t feel pressured to mimic what public schools are doing. Your situation is different.
Keep detailed records of everything you teach your child. This will help with your organizational efforts and make it easier to create an accurate transcript if your student applies to college.

FAQ

Q. Must I use an accredited homeschool program?
A.
No. While home schools aren’t required to receive accreditation, public schools must be accredited: an outside agency monitors the school’s ability to meet certain criteria and standards. That said, if you plan to transfer your homeschooled child to public school one day, it’ll be easier to do so if you can prove the child has earned credits from an accredited program. In that case, you may wish to enroll your child in an online distance learning program at home.

Q. How does the college admission process work for students who were homeschooled?
A.
Students who were homeschooled still need a transcript to apply for college. As a homeschooling parent, you are responsible for creating that document. The transcript should include a detailed account of the subjects taught over the years. Plenty of online resources exist to help you with this. Colleges often give greater scrutiny to the ACT or SAT scores of homeschooled applicants, so be sure your student studies for and takes these tests.

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