38 Books from My First Year of Homeschooling

Jul 21, 2016

By the time I had Timothy, my oldest, in 1984, I had already spent three years reading about homeschooling so when he turned four I was chafing to get started.

We were already using the morning to review his Awana verses and read nursery rhymes and picture books, but I was anxious to start reading longer books—chapter books. So I picked up a Signature Biography I had on hand from a library sale and began reading a chapter. He listened, then asked for another. I read another and another and by the end of the year we had read thirty-eight chapter books—"read-alouds" we call them now.

Looking back I knew that we had read many books that year, but I would never have guessed the total could have been thirty-eight until recently I found the paper where I recorded them. Looking over the titles my mind returns to those happy days and those happy stories, and I bet Timothy’s does too on occasion. 

That year always stands out in my memory as my best year of homeschooling. The year before things got serious and stressed. Perhaps it was the year I taught from a state of rest—reading aloud, fishing at lunch, and looking at pretty pictures.

From 1989 to 1990 here is what Timothy and I read.

From the Signature Collection:

The Story of Mark Twain by Joan Howard

The Story of Winston Churchill by Alida Sims Malkus

The Story of Dan Beard by Robert N. Webb

The Story of Davy Crockett by Enid LaMonte Meadowcraft

The Story of William Penn by Barbara Somervil

The Story of Leif Ericsson by William O. Steele

The Story of Theodore Roosevelt by Winthrop Neilson

The Story of Clara Barton by Olive Price

The Story of George Washington by Enid LaMonte Meadowcraft

The Signature series of books are harder than the Childhood of Famous Americans (COFA) books, a little bit denser, but very well written. The publisher chose the best American authors of the time to write this series. This time period could be considered a golden period of American children’s literature with many publishers paying the very best authors to contribute.

Another popular series of that time period is the We Were There series produced by Grosset and Dunlap in the 1950s. That idyllic year we read two of those:

We Were There at the Battle of the Alamo by Margaret Cousins

We were There at the Battle of Gettysburg by Alida Sims Malkus

At this time we added our very first Landmark Book: The Landing of the Pilgrims by James Daughterty, another of those classic series of the time period.

In fiction we read:

King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry

Charlotte’s Web by E B White

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink

The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh

The Matchlock Gun by Walter D. Edmonds

And then the happy day came when I picked up Little House in the Big Woods for the first time. We would go on to read the Little House books four times over the years but in the winter of 1989 we read them for the first time. 

Little House in the Big Woods

Little House on the Prairie

On the Banks of Plum Creek

By the Shores of Silver Lake

The Long Winter

Little Town on the Prairie

These Happy Golden Years

Farmer Boy

All by that beacon of American prose, Laura Ingalls Wilder.

If that wasn’t enough my husband Tim read aloud what was destined to be a family favorite: Farmer Giles of Ham by JRR Tolkien followed by Smith of Wootton Major

In other fiction we read:

Howard Pyle’s Robin Hood

The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald

A not so classic or memorable The Secret of the Hermit’s Peak by Dan Scott

Followed by Fence Across the Train by Elsa, which my mother read aloud to the oldest three boys during the birth of our fourth son.

After I had convalesced (or rather while I did) we added:

Justin Morgan had a Horse by Marguerite Henry

Indian Captive by Lois Lenski

America’s Paul Revere by Esther Forbes

Theobold the Iron-Hearted by E Thomas Baird

Jared’s Island by Marguerite De Angeli

and finally Benjamin West and his Cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry

Our first year of homeschooling and already we had read some of the very best books available then and now. 

Life would go on to get complicated and certainly ‘school’ would too, but I can’t help but believe that that first year covered a multitude of sins (and "programs") at least for Timothy and certainly for me.  If this was "Kindergarten" then I was in it too and so were the littler fellows.


Cindy's new book MERE MOTHERHOOD: MORNING TIMES, NURSERY RHYMES, AND MY JOURNEY TOWARDS SANCITIFCATION is out now. Get your copy here. 

Cindy Rollins

Cindy Rollins

Cindy Rollins is a homeschooling mom of 9 (8 boys and 1 girl) who attended Stetson University and Toccoa Falls College.She is a freelance writer with monthly columns in the Chattanooga Esprit and Knoxville Smoke Signals. For many years now she has blogged through her efforts to  homeschool under the classical principles of Charlotte Mason at Ordo-Amoris.  She continues to follow her heart's desire to encourage and serve homeschooling moms with a special concern for those raising sons. She lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee with her husband Tim and however many children happen to be home.

The opinions and arguments of our contributing writers do not necessarily reflect those of the Institute or its leadership.

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