Seven Ways to use Books as Homeschool Curriculum
One of the lies that a lot of homeschool parents believe is that they need to purchase a curriculum to teach a subject. While curriculum can be a helpful tool, it definitely isn’t always a necessary one! I’m going to share seven ways to use books as homeschool curriculum that are easy to incorporate into your homeschool days.
How to use books as homeschool curriculum
When I buy a new (or new-to-us) book, and I’m not using it for a specific lesson, I usually set the book out on the kitchen table or out in the middle of our school room. This is an invitation for my kids to explore and read the book all on their own.
I really love to do this at breakfast time – I set these books out for them to find, and they always do. They will read them while eating breakfast, and if the book is very compelling, they’ll keep reading it even after they’re finished!
When your kids are interested in a topic, give them books about it! You can do a unit study about the topic or just let them read the books. My kids have done deep dives on a topic all on their own – without any direction, unit study, or curriculum.
To me, this is some of the best kind of learning, because it’s student-led and delight-driven! No one is telling your kids they have to learn about it – they do it because it’s something they’re excited to learn about!
This is the biggest reason why I love having a big home library. Yes, we can go check out books on any topic. But when we have books on many subjects right at our fingertips, we can follow the bunny trails whenever they come!
This is probably my favorite way to learn about almost anything in our homeschool. You can find pre-made unit studies, (like Beautiful Feet Books, which is one of our favorites or you can find a few of my pre-made unit studies in my shop) but it’s also really simple to create your own. Get a bunch of books related to a topic, read them together, and do related activities! You can add in field trips, art or craft activities, cooking, sensory activities, documentaries, etc. to round out your unit study. But when books are the center of your homeschool curriculum, they can guide your conversation and where the learning leads.
It’s also easy to tie in different subjects (math, art, science, etc.) together in a unit study. It’s not just about reading! If you’re doing a gardening unit study, make a graph of the different foods that are growing. If your unit study is on insects, your kiddos can do watercolors of different bugs. If you’re reading about the weather, your kiddos can map out the weather patterns.
In the Cultivate Your Home membership, you can find a video detailing how I create my own literature-based unit studies as well as some unit studies already laid out for you (like insect nature study, art study, and foraging). Unit studies are perfect to pair with journaling.
You don’t need worksheets to go with the books your kids are reading – just talk about what you’re learning together! If there are certain concepts you want your kids to understand, bring them up or ask specific questions for them to answer aloud or in a journal.
Let your kids draw pictures or write in their journal in response to what you’re reading and learning. They could write/draw things they learned or found interesting, new vocabulary words they learn, make connections to a story they read or place you visited, write a summary, or whatever else you think of!
If you’re looking for some guidance on journaling (especially around fiction books), try my Reading Response Journals:
But you can also use books as part of your nature journaling, to do copywork in journals, etc. The way you can use journals alongside books is endless!
Reading aloud as a family (or individually with your kids) is a great way for kids to learn about a topic without any curriculum at all. You can have conversation, journal, or create art in response to the books your family reads together. You could take a field trip to the place where the book takes place!
Read alouds can be part of a unit study or just a stand-alone book you read.
Reading aloud is also a great way for the whole family to learn about a subject together. If I’m reading a chapter book that my little ones aren’t as engaged in, I let them play with playdough or small toys or color while we read to keep their attention (or at least prevent them from being a distraction. ;)
But we don’t just read chapter books aloud; we love to read picture books – even my older kids! There are so many great non-fiction picture books that are an easy way to teach a difficult concept.
Morning Time/Morning Basket
There are many ways to incorporate books into your morning time or morning basket. You can use this time to gather together as a family to read aloud, do an art/artist study and read about different artists, read poetry, read Shakespeare, read biographies, do copywork, study new vocabulary words, read Scripture and pray, free read books on a topic… there are so many things you can do during this time! And even though it’s typically called “Morning Time,” you definitely don’t need to do it in the morning. ;)
In our family, we use our Morning Work Packet to set the tone for our morning time. We actually don’t do it all as a family, it’s actually more independent work. But it leads us into our read aloud/Scripture time and is a good way for my kids to start the day at their own pace. They can get going on their Morning Work as they begin the day, even if their other brothers aren’t ready to get started yet.
The Book Basket in the Morning Work Packet is a good way to present books on a specific topic that are not necessarily “core text,” but are additional study to whatever we are learning. For younger kids, the books could be themed around the season, a topic they’re interested in, or the unit study your family is doing.
If you have kids of multiple ages, you can put books in the basket that are appropriate for different all reading levels. Some could be picture books, some easy readers, some chapter books, etc.
What’s more fun than talking about a good book with a friend? Or a group of friends!
You could ask a few families to do a book club together, or if you have a few kids that are reading on a similar level, have your kiddos do a book club together!
The kids could come up with some discussion questions or you could do a quick Pinterest search for “book club discussion questions about ______.”
Book clubs are an especially great way for older kids to engage in conversation about books!
Or try having a family book club! Everyone in the family could read the same book, then have a movie night together to watch the movie version. If your kids have cousins who aren’t local, you could do an online book club and meet on zoom together to discuss the book.
Books can be an incredible bonding experience. Having conversations about books brings people together!