As I gathered resources for this post, I realized that these books testify to the faithfulness of the Lord in leading and guiding me over the past eighteen years of homeschooling. I am humbled and awed as I remember where I was at the beginning of this journey. God has brought me a very long way. I am deeply grateful for the faithfulness of each author in answering the call to instruct, encourage and edify.
It is my prayer that these resources will bless you as much as they have blessed me.
Educating the WholeHearted Child
As a new homeschooler this resource was a life raft of sorts. Eighteen years later, the updated version of Educating the WholeHearted Child is the first resource I recommend to new homeschoolers. Now that I am on the far side of our journey, I can say with confidence that every bit of wisdom I received in this book, has produced a rich harvest in my family. From discipleship and strengthening a child’s mind, to teaching methods, learning styles and how to (practically) put it all to use, the Clarkson’s have left their mark for God’s glory in my home. This book set met me on the path to follow the Lord in our homeschooling, rather than continuing to be enslaved to curriculum and/or the latest homeschooling fad.
The Three R’s
Homeschooling doesn’t need to be complicated. The Three R’s contains an education plan that is simple, straightforward and effective. It is the ultimate, no nonsense approach to education, but don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that no-nonsense means dry or boring! The Three R’s is actually a compilation of three separate booklets that cover reading, writing and arithmetic. Inside you will find a complete phonics and spelling program, instruction on how to use dictation and narration, as well as how to use modeling as a part of your writing curriculum. It is a solid foundation, written by Dr. Ruth Beechick. The Three R’s is designed for the the teacher of Pre-kindergarteners to third graders, however, I refer back to it for older students as well. I especially use the information on using models in writing for older students.
You Can Teach Your Child Successfully
This volume, also by Dr. Ruth Beechick, follows The Three R’s and covers all academic subjects in grades four through eight. It contains practical instruction for the parent teacher in both content and skill based areas, mixed with encouragement throughout. It was in this book that it was confirmed that one doesn’t always need bells and whistles in education. Sometimes a simple plan, bit of chalk and a sidewalk will do!
“I meet teaching parents all around the country and find them to be intelligent, enthusiastic, creative people doing a marvelous job of teaching their children. But, sad to say, most of them do not know what a great job they are doing. Everyone thinks it goes smoothly in everyone else’s house and theirs is the only place that has problems. I’ll let you in on a secret about teaching: there is no place in the world where it rolls along smoothly without problems. Only in articles and books can that happen.” ~Dr. Ruth Beechick, You Can Teach Your Child Successfully
Learning in Spite of Labels
Learning in Spite of Labels is the book that gave me the courage to continue educating my children at home. My two oldest children had learning challenges, and God used this book to help me adjust my expectations and perspective. This is a comprehensive look at special needs education and answers all the questions we parents have when we learn that our children need extra help. The book is broken down into four sections. The first three answer the questions: “What do I need to know?” “What do I need to do?” and “Where do I start?” The fourth section covers the law, ADD, vision skills and therapy, speech and language development and other topics, including the IEP. I referred back to this book many times through the years. Joyce has a true heart of encouragement for parents, and she pairs that with solid information that not only helps us teach our children, but also gives us the wisdom we need to build our children up in strength, so that they can climb their mountains with confidence. This book made me a far better teacher. It is a cornerstone in my educational foundation. Learning in Spite of Labels appears to be out of print, but is available on Kindle. I recommend that you find a used copy so that you can highlight, underline and write notes in the margins. It’s invaluable.
The Way They Learn
As a new homeschooler, I quickly learned that children do not always learn in the same way. In my naive mind, I thought it would be possible to use a one size, fits all curriculum for my family. After all, they use a one size, fits all approach in the public school system, right? Thankfully, I came across The Way They Learn around the same time I had begun reading Learning In Spite of Labels. The Way They Learn leads the reader to discover their own learning style first. This was a huge benefit to me because I am a recovering public school student. Recovering, because I was a hands on student stuck in a visual classroom. In effect, most of my public school education was a waste of my time. I don’t say that lightly. I biggest lesson I learned in the public school system was that I was stupid. This book helped me see why I had struggled for so many years – and gave me the confidence to self educate in the manner that is best for me. As a result, years later, I tackled Algebra with a hands on approach and succeeded. In the meantime, I focused my efforts on educating my children by teaching to their strengths while stretching their weaknesses. I can say with 100% confidence that this method worked for us. I’ve graduated two students, and will graduate another in January of this year. All of my students have done well in college and trade school. The Way They Learn not only covers the major learning styles and how to discover them, but it also teaches us how we concentrate, remember and understand. It also educates us on the difference between a learning style and a learning disability.
Assumptions That Affect Our Lives
“Cultural habits don’t just come out of nowhere. Even if the people who practice them have forgotten why they do it, you can be sure their customs had a starting point in history. Although cultural habits often change over time, they do have original roots. For those of us who live in what is know as the “Western” world, our cultural roots go back primarily to two historic starting points: the ancient Greeks and the ancient Hebrews. This is not to say we couldn’t go back further. But for the purposes of this discussion, we will focus primarily on the Hebrews and the Greeks because they have so strongly impacted our Western ways of thinking, right up to the present hour.” So much of what we do in education is based upon cultural assumption. This book helped me understand the debate between Classical and Hebraic education. It is a fascinating book, but it is also the resource that helped me solidify my educational philosophy. It is also required reading for high school graduation in our home.
Keep a Quiet Heart
A very long time ago, I reached out to a group of homeschooling moms on a popular e-loop. I was having a terrible time with homeschooling while under pressure – living on a single income, one car, marital trial, four kids, and family members that were actively undermining our homeschooling efforts. A precious mom sent me this book, and what a balm it was to my sore and weary heart! Elisabeth Elliott, wife of missionary Jim Elliott, knows all about trial. Her words and life testimony helped me draw nearer to the Lord, and gave me the courage to choose rest in the midst of hardship.
Oh my gosh, how do I review Desperate? Fellowship – so much fellowship! Read every page. Watch every video. Ponder each Scripture. Talk about it with a friend. Be ready to see what God does. Here you will find fellowship – and not an ounce of pretense. Sarah Mae is open and real with her readers – so refreshing! She offers practical wisdom and an abundance of encouragement throughout the book. I’ve read this gem three times through. The first time, I read it for me. The second time I read it with a friend. The third time I led a book discussion with a group of moms. I’m about to go through it again. It’s a book that keeps on giving.
“A mother, living well in her God-ordained role, is of great beauty and inestimable value to the future of any generation. Her impact is irreplaceable and necessary to the spiritual formation of children who will be the adults of history to come. There are so many things that make up the world of a well-nurtured child. Fun, comfort, humor, graciousness, spiritual passion, compassion for the lost, hospitality, chores, meals, training, life-giving words, hours and hours of listening and playing, praying and reading and instructing in truth – all are parts of the mosaic that go into the process of soul development.”~Sarah Mae
Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change
I struggled with how to categorize this book. You see, I bought it for ministry purposes as an encourager, but I have used what I have learned in all of my relationships. (Marriage, parenting, friendships) It is a comprehensive Biblical look at relationships, and how God can use people in need of change, to help others who are in need of change. This book takes you from understanding your own heart struggles to knowing how to build relationships by entering the world of someone else, whether it is your child, another homeschooling mom, or your husband. It covers how to speak the truth in love, as well as how to maintain boundaries and require accountability all while pointing folks to Jesus – helping them understand their identity in Christ. Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands gave me a solid understanding of how to reach the hearts of my family members by being humble and compassionate, but it also gave me courage to step out in faith by speaking truth in love, even though I am a work in progress. Ken Sande summed it up well in his review of this book, “A wonderful application of the old Gaelic saying, ‘God strikes straight blows with crooked sticks.’ As inadequate as we are, God is eager to use us to help others change. The more you apply the biblical principles discovered in this book, the more readily you will fit into his mighty hand.” This book is required reading in our homeschool.
War of Words: Getting to the Heart of Your Communication Struggles
Eighteen years ago, I interpreted life through a damaged perspective, and a broken heart. I had been hurt by the words and actions of folks who were damaged and broken themselves. I am absolutely certain that most never intended to hurt me. They simply did not understand the power of their words. “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words can never hurt me?” Such a lie! Words can be just as damaging, maybe more so, because they leave invisible wounds. War of Words is a comprehensive study of the biblical principles of communication. God has a plan for our words! “God’s words set boundaries and give freedom. His words create life and bring death…..Words are not cheap. Words reveal, define, explain, and shape.” ~Paul David Tripp, War of Words. This book is required reading in our homeschool.
Seasons of a Mother’s Heart
Motherhood can be a difficult, lonely road. On the other hand, it is a profound journey – filled with opportunities – for learning, laughing and joy, or for discipline, sorrow and the hard work of accountability. On any given day, a mom can experience the ups and downs of life with children. Seasons of a Mother’s Heart contains inspiration, encouragement and Christ-centered wisdom for moms. This is another book, that keeps on giving.
“The joy-filled life is not found by trying to diminish my God-given responsibilities as a woman, wife and mother, nor can I find joy merely by refusing to face the hard realities of life in a fallen world. There is a tension that God is asking me to acknowledge and accept – the tension between ideals and realities. True joy is found by living somewhere between the “ideal life,” and the “daily realities.” That is where Jesus meets me, where his Holy Spirit empowers, and where I learn to live the Christian life with supernatural joy.” ~Sally Clarkson, Celebrating Life, Seasons of a Mother’s Heart
One Tough Mother: It’s Time to Step Up and Be the Mom
Ever feel tossed around, disregarded and disrespected by your family? Have you ever felt like you are less of a mom than someone else? Have you compared your children to others? Are you stuck in the trap of desiring or expecting your children to be stellar and phenomenal, and then cringing or covering up when they are not? Why isn’t average or normal good enough? Do others dump great ideas into your lap and then imply or suggest that you make them happen? There was a time in my life where I found myself having adopted a wrong perspective of motherhood. This book helped me set down strong roots in fertile soil. I learned to set firm and loving boundaries with my family and others – using words based on healing, rather frustration or guilt. I found encouragement in embracing my children as they were – and learned to celebrate who God had created them to be. (Some with learning disabilities, one beautifully average student, and a gifted guy.) Thirdly, I put to death the idea that I don’t need, “me time.” When I walk in the way God has made me, I celebrate His creation. So when I spend time drawing, swimming, dancing, quilting, or crafting I am worshiping Him, and He strengthens me. This book helped me toughen up…in a good and Christ-centered way.
The Five Love Languages of Children
I have one child who not only speaks my love language, but who also has the same love language himself. Quality time and words of affirmation. So he and I happily love on each other everyday without very much thought at all. But what of my other children? Well, they take a bit more intentional effort. The Five Love Languages of Children, written by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell, provides an overview of the five love languages and how to discover them in your children – over time. Why is it worth the effort? Because if your child’s emotional tank is full, they are in a good position to receive instruction and guidance in all areas of life. There are two particularly helpful chapters – “Discipline and the Love Languages,” and “Learning and the Love Languages.” In both chapters, the authors encourage us on how to implement the love languages within the context of discipline and education. Later in the book, the authors also discuss love languages in single parent families and within the context of marriage.
The Mission of Motherhood: Touching Your Child’s Heart for Eternity
In 1997, I was a new Christian and I did not fully understand the profound importance of my calling as a mother. But one of the very first things the Lord placed on my heart was to be at home with my children full time. So with a leap of faith, and a brand new baby boy, I quit my job. God had called me home, but why? This book answered my question and gave me much needed guidance. This is my favorite book on the crucial role of motherhood. From the author:
-Do you long for your home to be life-giving and peaceful?
-Is it your desire to pass on a legacy of righteousness to your children?
-Do you struggle to balance the duties of motherhood with a loving relationship with your children?
-Would you like creative ideas for keeping your child’s heart open to you and to the Lord?
No calling is greater, nobler, or more fulfilling than that motherhood. Every day, as we nurture our children, mothers influence eternal destiny as no one else can. Tragically, today’s culture minimizes the vital importance of a mother’s role. By catching a vision of God’s original design and allowing it to shape your life, you can rediscover the joy and fulfillment to be found in the strategic role to which God in all his wisdom has called you, for a purpose far greater than you can ever imagine.
Discover how understanding God’s purpose and design can empower you to be the mother you long to be.
Discipline and Discipleship
Are you weary of being encouraged to either lay on the rod or go with grace to the extreme? Heartfelt Discipline argues for a different path – a biblical, formula free model. Clay Clarkson likens it to a relational, “hands around,” approach to discipline. This has become my favorite parenting resource because it requires that I seek the Lord for continual guidance. That is the way it is supposed to be! Heartfelt Discipline teaches biblical principles, and exhorts me to implement those truth as the Lord leads me.
From the Back Cover:
Childhood discipline is your responsibility.
As a Christian parent, you know your children need you to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” The Bible is clear about what you should do. But what about how you should do it? The way you answer will shape how your children remember your parenting and family.
Heartfelt Discipline contends there is no divine “how to” formula for childhood discipline. Rather, there is a “way.” It’s the way of life, the path we walk with God. It’s about faith, grace, freedom, and heart, expressed in three principles of discipline as you walk the path with your children:
Direction: Guiding and showing them how to walk on the path with God
Correction Getting them back on the path when sin leads them off of it
Protection: Guarding them from temptations that could draw them away
In Heartfelt Discipline Clay Clarkson helps you understand what the Bible really says about childhood discipline. Drawing on thirty years of parenting and his personal study of the Bible, Clay fully fleshes out God’s way of “path of life parenting.” It will change how you think about childhood discipline, and put you on the path of life to your child’s heart.
Amen, I couldn’t agree more.
Parent friendly and child-engaging, Our 24 Family Ways teaches biblical principles and character/values education. It is a discipleship guide for young children, teens and adults. Perfect for the whole family. I only wish I had used this resource sooner. Simple to implement, and engaging. I will be going through Our 24 Family Ways with my daughter through the summer. From the back cover:
Our 24 Family Ways is a multi-purpose family devotional guide that will shape hearts in your home for God and his ways. It’s easy to use and hard to forget! Here’s what’s included:
–120 complete family devotionals…five for each of the Ways, in family-ready ARTS outlines.
–24 easy-to-learn family Ways…24 biblical values in six key areas of family life.
–24 Scripture memory passages…one for each Way, in NIV, NASB, and NKJV.
–24 character quality definitions…one for each Way, in child-friendly language.
–25 original screened illustrations…one for each Way, plus one for Proverbs 22:6.
–25 line art coloring pages…make My 24 Family Ways notebooks for each child.
The Life Application Bible
This list would never be complete without the Bible. In fact, if you need to boil it down to one resource, a Bible is the one you need most. Read it. Write notes in it. Underline. Highlight. When you run out of writing room – use sticky notes. Ponder it. Let your tears stain the pages – they will testify to God’s goodness later. (I promise.) Have your child autograph and date the inside cover each year. It will be a treasure to keep forever and ever. Trust me. This is your greatest treasure.
The Life Application Bible is my favorite Bible. I love the Scripture itself, of course, but I really enjoy the application notes, the book introductions with timelines, the in-text maps and charts, the character sketches, the dictionary and concordance, and the ample margins in which I can write my own notes. Each member of my family has one, and I love that when we read Scripture together we can, literally, all be on the same page.
Got young adults?
Age of Opportunity
When many folks talk about teenagers, it is often with the expectation of trouble. Conversations are peppered with dread and resignation, as though there is no other way. I want to tell you that having young adults can be challenging, but our experience has been nothing like the cultural expectation has indicated. Like any stage in a child’s life, being a young adult brings its ups and downs. I truly believe that when we expect rebellion or dread a particular period in a child’s life, we are really revealing something that is wrong in our own hearts. (Wrong expectations, perhaps?) Years ago, I read this article – The Myth of the Teenager – and it changed my perspective of young adults. I learned to reject the cultural norm and was blessed with better relationships with my young people. Age of Opportunity, furthers this perspective and helps both parent and young adult walk humbly and love more fully.
Marriage is Last On this List, but Don’t Let it Be Last On Yours!
Mama, it is easy to neglect our marriages. Children are demanding by default, and it is effortless to fall into the trap of seeing their needs as more important than our spouses. Please let me encourage you: Pay attention. Do not allow your children to become more important than your marriage. When we put children our first, we are ultimately hurting them. Children need security, and they thrive in the stability that a loving marriage provides. Your marriage is sacred, set apart for the glory of God. So treat it as sacred! Set apart time and space to be with your spouse. Make time for fun!
Sacred Marriage is the book that saved my marriage. When I didn’t think I could go one more day, God used Sacred Marriage to sprout new life in my heart. The first time I read it, the first chapter irritated me so much that I wasn’t sure I wanted to finish reading it. Interestingly, years later, a mom-friend told me she felt the same way at first.
The subtitle is the crux of our angst. “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?” It flies in the face of what childhood fairy tales are about! What? No happily ever after? It was time for this mama to grow up. I persevered with my reading, and as I did, the Lord softened my heart and showed me that there was life yet to be lived in my marriage. We celebrate tweny-six years in September.
“If your marriage is tough, get down on your knees and thank God that he has given you an opportunity for unparalleled spiritual growth. You have the prime potential to excel in Christian character and obedience.” ~Gary Thomas
Each chapter of Sacred Marriage teaches the foundational biblical principles that build a marriage on solid ground. Gary Thomas is also very good at exposing the lies that we often believe which leave us in sinking sand.
“In many ways, marriage is a slippery slope. If we are not vigilant, we will fall backwards. If we are lackadaisical, our spiritual sensitivity will become frozen. But if we enter marriage thoughtfully, purposefully, and with godly intentions, our wedlock will shape us in a way that few other life experiences can. It will usher us into God’s own presence.” ~Gary Thomas,Chapter 12, Sacred Presence
This is the only marriage book I recommend. It too, is a book that keeps on giving. I’ve read it several times now. So very good.
Devotions for a Sacred Marriage
Devotions for a Sacred Marriage is my favorite weekly devotional book for married couples. Each devotion covers a spiritual heart principle in a compassionate, conversational tone. The truths presented are plainspoken and may lead to honest, heart level discussion. Highly recommended. From the author:
“By popular demand, the author of Sacred Marriage returns to the topic of how God uses marriage to expand our souls and make us holy. With all new material, Devotions for a Sacred Marriage explores how God can reveal himself to you through your marriage and help you grow closer to him as well as to your spouse. Fifty-two devotions encourage you to build your marriage around God’s priorities. From learning to live with a fellow sinner, to the process of two becoming one, to sharing our lives as brothers and sisters in Christ, Devotions for a Sacred Marriage challenges couples to embrace the profound and soul-stretching reality of Christian marriage.”
Grateful for grace,