Why We Use a Literature Based Approach in Homeschooling

I’ve mentioned before (but only in passing) that I prefer a literature-based approach in homeschooling. It didn’t used to be that way. When the teenagers were small, we were more workbook based, but it wasn’t enjoyable for anyone. That’s not to say that everything needs to be fun all the time, especially in schooling, but if your kids aren’t engaged in what’s being taught, they won’t retain any of the information you’re imparting to them. And that’s if you can even get them to do the work in the first place.

Two children are standing in a forest with mythical light. Each one is holding and reading a book.

About the time Ballet Boy was 9 and Scorpion was 6, I joined the Homeschool Review Crew for the first time. Leading up to that point, I’d read an ebook called Homeschooling: Take a Deep Breath – You Can Do This! by Terrie Lynn Bittner. I got it for free at some point in an Amazon promo, and I mostly read it during the nights when I was up with a baby Grasshopper. (It doesn’t appear to be available as a Kindle book anymore, but you can get a paperback copy for about $15.) That book changed our homeschool permanently! There were so many ideas in there for how to run a homeschool, particularly one that didn’t look like “school at home.” It was there that I learned about lap books and that playing games could be a reasonable – and successful – form of learning. I learned about Unit Studies, and that was the method of schooling that really spoke to me the most.

Some of our earliest unit studies were Penguins and Newspapers. I created my own studies for the boys, and all were based around – you guessed it – a book. When we studied penguins, we read Mr. Popper’s Penguins. I created a spelling list for each of the boys revolving around penguins and the antarctic. We created a lap book, and generally had fun learning together. For our newspapers unit, we read Henry and the Paper Route, learned about how paper is made (including creating “wood pulp” from existing paper and reforming it into our own new paper), and took a field trip to the local newspaper office. Those are some of my fondest memories with my older boys.

It was around this time (the next school year, I want to say) that I found Ambleside Online, and we did an entire school year using their curriculum. It’s a lot of reading, but such a good curriculum if you’re looking for something based on “living books” (novels and picture books rather than textbooks). Doing that year of Ambleside, I realized just how much I wanted to incorporate books into our homeschool. They are so vital to memorable learning, and I’m forever grateful I finally came around to a different way of teaching my boys.

These days, we get a lot of review products to incorporate into our school days, but I still favor a literature heavy approach. We read a ton of books together, and going heavy on the literature is a good way to incorporate a lot of different learning styles into a single teaching session. Obviously you can’t do everything together when you’re teaching different ages, but you definitely can read books to many children at once. And they’ll all absorb different things from the same book.

You don’t have to “write” your own curriculum if you want to try a literature-based homeschooling approach. There are lots of options out there. One that I haven’t used, but I have gotten a sample of and think has amazing potential is from Leah at As We Walk Along the Road. She even has quite a few free literature unit studies! Homeschool Share has lots of unit studies based on children’s books (both picture books for the younger crowd and kid novels). Progeny Press is an obvious choice for making sure your students get “more” out of each novel. The list goes on and on.

What’s your homeschooling style?