The Elementary Homeschool Library

Sometimes homeschoolers talk about “spines.”  These are books or series that form the backbone of a curriculum and the primary readings or activities for it.  Other people keep certain books or series around as essential resources that are in constant use.  Being a lover of lists, I thought I’d make a list.  These aren’t all ones I use, but they are all ones I’ve laid hands on and think are worthwhile.  I’m sure I’ve left many out, but I these are the books I see mentioned often when people ask for resources and I thought it would be especially useful for any new homeschoolers reading.  We own an astounding number of these, but I wouldn’t suggest anyone buy them all.  For one thing, many are series with dozens of titles.  We take many of these out of the library and many of them overlap.  For example, no one needs both the Kingfisher and the Usborne encyclopedias for any subject unless you have unlimited funds and bookshelf space.

Social Studies

A Little History of the World by E. Gombrich
A concise history of the world with a focus on Western history, also available in a new illustrated version

A Child’s History of the World by Virgil M. Hillyer
An older concise history of the world, with a Western focus and with more outdated attitudes toward non-Western cultures.

Builders of the Old World by Gertrude Hartman
An older history of ancient and medieval history, with a focus on Western history and a lot of social history explored.

The Usborne Encyclopedia of World History
A visual encyclopedia of world history, including both Western and non-Western history.

The Kingfisher Encyclopedia of World History
A visual encyclopedia of world history, including both Western and non-Western history.

The Smithsonian Encyclopedia of American History
A visual encyclopedia of American history.

The American Story by Jennifer Armstrong
An illustrated compilation of short stories and vignettes from American history.

The American Story (series) by Betsy Maestro
A detailed, well-illustrated picture book series that covers American history from pre-history through the War of 1812 with more volumes expected in the future.

American Stories (series) by Jean Fritz
A series of short biographies and stories from early American history, often with a humorous and readable tone.

A Young People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
A book aimed at slightly older children that seeks to tell American history from the perspective of minorities, women, and working class people.

The Drama of American History (series) by Collier
A detailed series for older children that tells about the gritty details of many aspects of American history.

Horrible Histories (series) by Terry Dreary
A set of humorous books about history.

The Usborne Time Traveler
A series (or in one volume) of books that tackle much of the same information in the Usborne encyclopedia, but in a more humorous and narrative way.

You Wouldn’t Want to Be… (series)
A series of humorous picture books about the down side of lives of various historical jobs.

If You Lived… (series)
An in depth picture book series about various time periods in American history.

A Kid’s Guide (series) by Laurie Carlson
A series of project books about various historical times.

Kaleidescope Kids (series) by Avery Hart
A series of project books about various historical times.

National Geographic World Atlas for Young People
A basic atlas with photographs.

Science

   

Let’s Read and Find Out (series)
A series of picture books about various science topics for early elementary.

The Magic School Bus (series) by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degan
A series of humorous picture books about science.

The Magic School Bus Chapter Books (series)
A series of humorous easy chapter books about science.

Science Books (series) by Seymour Simon
A series of photographic picture books about science for middle and older elementary students.

The Elements by Theodore Gray
An adult science book with beautiful photographs that makes it appealing for younger scientists.

The Solar System by Marcus Chown
An adult science book with beautiful photographs that makes it appealing for younger scientists.

Science for Every Kid (series) by Janice VanCleave
A series of experiment books on a variety of topics.

The Boston Children’s Museum Activity Books (series) by Bernie Zubrowski
A series of in depth experiment books on a variety of topics in physical science and chemistry.

The Usborne Complete Book of the Microscope
A book explaining the potential uses of a microscope and suggesting projects.

The Way Things Work by David Macaulay
A classic book about how machines work.

The Way We Work by David Macaulay
A book about how the body works.

A Really Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
A shortened, illustrated version of Bryson’s adult work about matter, geology and the universe.

Can You Feel the Force? by Richard Hammond
An illustrated longer picture book about force.

Car Science by Richard Hammond
An illustrated, longer picture book about cars.

The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins
An illustrated book about the origins of the earth and evolution.

The Usborne Science Encylopedia
A comprehensive science encyclopedia illustrated with drawings and photographs. 

Horrible Science (series) by Nick Arnold
A series of humorous chapter books about science.

Math
For more math books, see the book lists at Living Math, which list many individual titles.

  

Mathstart (series) by Stuart J. Murphy
A series of picture books about a wide variety of math topics at different levels.

I Love Math (series)
A series of picture books about math for early elementary.

Young Math (series)
An older series of picture books about math that often explored difficult topics.

Murderous Maths (series) by Kjartan Poskitt
A series of humorous chapter books about math concepts intended for middle and older elementary students.

Go Figure by Johnny Ball
A longer picture book about many aspects of math.

Primary Challenge Math by Ed Zaccaro
A book exploring different kinds of math problems that many people use as a supplemental curriculum.

The I Hate Mathematics Book by Marilyn Burns
A narrative book about math that can be of interest at different levels of elementary math education.

Language Arts and Literature

A Mink, a Fink, a Skating Rink: What Is a Noun? (Words Are Categorical)

Words are Categorical (series) by Brian Cleary
A series of short, rhyming picture books about parts of speech and other types of words.

World of Language (series) by Ruth Heller
A series of short picture books about parts of speech.

Eats, Shoots, and Leaves by Lynne Truss
There is a short, illustrated picture book version of this book as well as a longer adult book which older students many enjoy.

Stories from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb
An older collection of Shakespeare retellings.

Stories from Shakespeare by E. Nesbit
An older collection of Shakespeare retellings.

Poetry Speaks to Children
A collection of poems and a CD of authors reading them.

Sing a Song of Popcorn edited by Mary Michaels White
A poetry anthology.

The Random House Book of Poetry for Children edited by Jack Prelutsky
A poetry anthology.

D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths by Ingri and Edgar D’Aulaire
A classic book of Greek myths.

D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths by Ingri and Edgar D’Aulaire
A classic book of Norse myths.

Religion

  

One World, Many Religions by Mary Pope Osborne
A narrative book about different world religions.

The Usborne Encyclopedia of World Religions
A comprehensive encyclopedia about world religions.

What You Will See Inside a… (series)
A series of longer picture books about various religions.

Religious Leaders (series) by Demi
A series of beautifully illustrated picture book biographies about the founders of various world religions.

The Bible for Children by Murray Watts
A storybook bible with nice illustrations

The Children’s Illustrated Bible by Selena Hastings
A storybook bible with extra blurbs of information about history and more

Arts

  

Drawing Book of… (series) by Ed Emberley
A series of drawing books with easy to follow instructions.

Usborne Art Ideas (series)
A series of books with various art project ideas.

Drawing Books (series) by Mark Kistler
A series of drawing books that emphasize perspective and dimensions shown in a way that are easy to follow.

The Usborne Art Treasury
A book about art history.

The Story of Painting by Sister Wendy Beckett
A book about art history.

Cave Paintings to Picasso by Henry Sayre
A book of representative art from history.

The Story of the Orchestra by Robert Levine
A book and CD that explains music and instruments.

Various Topics

 

The Cartoon Guide to… (series) by Larry Gonick
A series of cartoon books about history and science topics.

Basher Books (series)
A series of cartoonish books about science, punctuation, math, music and other topics that are light and fun to read.

DK’s The Definitive Visual Guide (series)
A series of thick encyclopedias with many photographs about topics in history and science.

4 thoughts on “The Elementary Homeschool Library

  1. Thanks, this is a great resource! I am particularly glad to get suggestions for American history spines, because our plan is to stretch SOTW 3-4 over three years and supplement with American history.

    One book we love that isn’t mentioned here is the Kingfisher book Everyday Life in the Ancient World. It’s presented in travel guide format, advising readers about the customs, sights, and dangers they will encounter traveling to ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, and Tenochtitlan. Alex pored over it for ours.

  2. This is such an amazing list! Thanks so much for posting it 🙂 My mom and I love your blog, and it’s inspiring to read about your wonderful experiences homeschool your two boys. I’ve noticed that you also enjoy children’s and young adults books and I actually started a blog about a month ago focusing especially on children’s literature, but also a bit on film, art and education. Here’s the link, thought it might be of interest to you 🙂

    http://alice-peregrinations.blogspot.com/

    Best of luck!

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