Required Reading

The Well Trained Mind

One practice we made early on in our homeschooling routine was to have our children read at least one non-fiction and one biography each week. We do not pick these books on their behalf, they are free to explore for themselves, but one of each they must get.

Having to read non-fiction opens their minds to areas of learning we have yet to explore and/or solidifies topics already discussed. It helps them experience more about the wonderful world in which they live and exposes them to cultures different from their own.

Reading biographies inspires and provokes them to do more with their own lives. Through biographies they are learning a multitude of subjects (history, science, geography, social studies, etc.) and character building skills (perseverance, diligence, patience, kindness, and more).

Through the reading of just these two books every week, our children’s knowledge has grown incredibly.

In addition to the non-fiction and biography reads each week, mommy doles out a special reading assignment for each one. These reads are based on their capabilities, but are focused on a specific time period.

This year, “T” is focusing on Medieval-Early Renaissance Literature (400-600A.D.). Her reading list for the year has included (but is not limited to) Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Canterbury Tales, and Dante’s Divine Comedy.

In most cases, original versions of the stories were found. In others, mainly The Canterbury Tales, I was able to find a comic book version (go figure!) for her to read. So far she has enjoyed every single read! (Whew!) Although, she will confess she thought The Divine Comedy was going to be hard, she ended up breezing through it in about two weeks.

“Little Miss”, my middle daughter, is reading through Modern Literature (1850’s to Present). So far she has read a few books from Robert Lewis Stevenson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Heidi. She too is liking her reads, although at first she had to be convinced that Doyle was good reading.

“Mouse” is focusing her attention on the ancients (5000 B.C. to 400A.D.). Her list has included books about Greek mythology, worldwide folk tales, and Aesop’s fables. Her current read is Odysseus by Geraldine McCaughrean. She is slowly making her way through it, but has decided it is getting pretty good.

“Little man” is a bit too young to focus on anything other than his reading skills at the moment. So, we make sure he picks up some beginning readers each week. We also pick up plenty of picture books. For each book he reads to me, I read four back to him. This way he learns to not only read on his own, but to follow along and help mommy (or pop).

While the library has vast lists on which books might be of interest to our children and which levels of books would be most appropriate, I prefer to choose my children’s books for myself.

There is one resource, however, to which I do refer. I very much appreciate The Well Trained Mind – A Guide to Practical Education at Home, by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise.

I am very eclectic in how I educate my children, not fitting any one specific method. However, I highly value this book’s belief that children should be well read. I admire the detail and thoughtfulness that has gone into each area of study, challenging us to reach new limits.

It is from The Well Trained Mind that our assigned reading lists have been derived. Each grade level is accompanied by a comprehensive list of reads. Each year will focus on a different time span, taking them from the ancients all the way to the modern, within a four-year period of time. Every four years, the children begin the process again, with a more in-depth and complex selection of literature.

We are truly enjoying all of the suggested reading from this helpful book. I like that my children are being challenged and becoming well read. My children are enjoying new worlds in which to explore.

Through their reading of non-fiction, biographies, and required reads, our kiddos’ knowledge is increasing by leaps and bounds. Oh, how we adore books!

Do your children have required reading assignments?


28 thoughts on “Required Reading

  1. I love to read. My son and daughter love to be read to, but my daughter breaks down every time I ask her to read. I need to be more diligent about reading to them, and asking them to read, and finding books on their grade level that they are interested in. As of right now, there are no required readings in our homeschool, but next year that will be changing, mostly because my son will be old enough to start having some more things required of him.


  2. My kids don’t really have required reading assignments (or maybe it is all required at this point?). The boys are just so young. I know I should be thinking, instead, of getting them set on a path, maybe. Tumbler reads a LOT and I haven’t pushed her any direction…yet. I don’t know. I guess I am afraid that if we regulate it, it’ll just be a chore, not enjoyed. At the same time, routines are made by doing, not usually just by falling into them. Hmmmm. I’ll think about it 🙂


  3. My son is just on the cusp of reading independently; the addition of non-fiction books has been particularly helpful in providing wider practice with words he can (but does not think he) can handle. So, I have been assigning him texts, usually to supplement what we are studying or because a text falls at a particular level of difficulty for him.

    While we have a pretty good selection of trade books at home, I have a subscription to One of the things I really like about that site is the selection of non-fiction books (including some biographies) particularly at the lower reading levels. I recommend checking it out as a possible resource for anyone who wants to start their very young readers on non-fiction.


  4. Hi, my children are avid readers, even my dyslectic child. It took me three years to teach her to read, but she is now reading on a middle school level, and she is in grammar school. At first, I had my older children read to her (i.e. Harry Potter books,) then we would watch the movie. One day, she asked if she could read the books in her room. Now she reads on her own. I often give them reading assignments from Reader’s Digest!


  5. A Beka Academy had required reading assignments. There was the pages and pages of reading contained within the text books themselves, with followup questions and comprehension quizzes, and then full, hand written book reports for English, History, Bible, and even Science books were composed and graded.

    The books mandated were: Biographies, autobiographies, fiction, Christian fiction, Classical Literature, non-fiction, and one free choice. For high school Bible, the book needed to be about either a Great Missionary, or something spiritually edifying, like a book on eschatology. They all had to read Pilgrim’s Progress in third grade – absolutely my favorite book outside the Bible.

    I treated myself to a big, 125th anniversary, fancy version, containing Bunyan’s personal memoir, his last sermon, his personal account of his life before he accepted Christ, his time spent in prison for preaching, and many beautiful, original etchings. We now read this book aloud on occasion, with the whole family.


  6. I assign reading for my youngest two–10 and 7– that works along with their history or science studies. I find this to be an easy way to make sure they read nonfiction, and they rarely complain. Usually they enjoy their assigned reading and beg for the next book in the series (like The History of US or The Story of Science series by Joy Hakim). My older kids have assigned and suggested reading–usually classic literature. Like your family, we don’t have TV in our home, and my kids are voracious readers, so we work hard to fill some reading time with books of lasting value.


  7. Hi! New reader. Thought I’d say hey and weigh in. I ask my kids to read one ‘assigned’ book every other week or so during the school year. They really enjoy the books I choose (and I work hard to make it that way while maintaining a good level of difficulty and depth in the selections). I don’t focus on one historical area, per se, but am hoping to get well-read, well-rounded kids by the end. I’m so glad both of them enjoy reading and enjoy the ‘classics!’


  8. My children don’t have required reading at this point, although I am sure they will in the future. Each day, my children read to me (my daughter from Dick and Jane and my son from his chapter books), and I read poetry, classics, Greek mythology, etc. to them each day. We also do reading skills and comprehension activities. They also are encouraged to pick up a book at any time during the day, as opposed to plopping down in front of the tv. We love reading in our house!


  9. Well, we are new to this, my son is just 6, this is our first formal year of home school. I never really thought of it as required reading, but my son is starting to enjoy chapter books (I read out-loud to him) currently he is fascinated with the How to Train Your Dragon series. This has sparked his interest in both the Vikings and dragons/dinosaurs. So, to supplement we have been learning about the Vikings and dinosaurs. We have many books that talk about dinosaurs from a creation perspective, but we get others from the library too. I love the idea of getting him into reading biography’s, but I will say at this point I am satisfied with our method of listening to them with Your Story Hour CD’s, we do this during quiet time. We also are doing five-in-a-row as our base curriculum so I suppose we do have a required reading list after all. I also love The Well Trained Mind.


    • Our family did FIAR for quite a while, it is a neat way to study through literature.
      Listening to biographies is a great way for younger children to learn, not all books need to be held in your hand.
      It sure sounds like you guys are having a lot of fun!


  10. I make a point to read through The Well Trained Mind at least once a year (usually on summer break). It has so shaped my educational philosophies. We have been using Susan Wise Bauer’s “Story of the World” for history for almost three years and we absolutely love it. So many fun projects, and the literature crossovers you spoke of are all outlined in each chapter. Great, great, great!


  11. We’ve used First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind. I really like its simplicity. It has been effective for my children, even for my son, who has some language delays. I’ve never read the book that you mentioned, “The Well-Trained Mind”. I’ll have to check it out.


  12. I use to love to read, then I went to University and had all the enjoyment taken out of it but after reading this I realise just how much I miss sitting down with a good book.
    I started home educating a month ago and I must say this idea of being well read has intrigued me. My son finds it hard to sit down and read, he does enjoy it though and probably reads a couple of books a month, heck he has trouble doing anything without fidgeting and we need to work on this, but I guess I’m not helping by never picking up a book myself, or at least while he is awake.
    I’m really going to look into ways of getting us both back into reading because you’re right, it’s so important and yet something we’d forgotten about.


    • Your point is key; our children will not pick up a book to read, if we do not pick one up first. It helps when our children see us “in love” with reading. Through our excitement, theirs will begin to grow.
      Best wishes with finding some great reads!


  13. Love The Well-Trained Mind. It’s my educational Bible. I actually use both her 1st and 3rd versions because she describes some things differently. Like the one biography and non-fiction book per week idea. We just read so much – for pleasure and school – I can’t imaging adding something else! And yes, I have an assigned reading list from TWTM that follows their history lessons, too.


  14. Pingback: Decisions, Decisions | A Homeschool Mom

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