High Quality Early Readers

For some reason, there is a very popular idea out there that it doesn’t matter what children read, as long as they are reading. I strongly disagree with this! It does matter because what they are exposed to develops their taste. Some books ARE better than others. Below are some early reader books that I did or would keep in my home.

Let your child read at the level he is comfortable with. This builds fluency. And PLEASE forget about what AR level you were told he is at. I have heard way too many stories about that system failing kids. Let him read what he wants to read within (moral/ethical) boundaries. Don’t limit him to books within his “reading level.” Read alouds and audio books (especially if you do narration) will build his vocabulary and reading comprehension. Right now the main purpose of reading books like those below is building fluency in decoding and encouraging a love for reading!

Some tips for helping your child become fluent:

Do “buddy reading” where you take turns reading every other sentence or every other page so your child doesn’t get fatigued too quickly.

If she is working so hard on decoding that you can tell she wasn’t able to hold the entire sentence in her mind and understand it, read it aloud to her before moving on to the next page. This way she can still follow the story while working on building up the skill of reading for herself.

Help him sound out longer words by reading one section of the word at a time. It might help to cover over the part you don’t want him to read yet with your finger or a small slip of paper.

If you know phonics rules, it might help to throw a little reminder in now and then. (“C says /s/ when it is before an E.”)

It’s okay to sometimes just tell her the tricky word if she is doing well reading through a section. Keep in mind the goal of building a love of reading. She’ll run up against that word again at some point and have to sound it out.

Keep reading practice SHORT! A little bit every day is much better than a long chunk of time less frequently for most kids.

If he is really fighting you on this or isn’t making progress, put it aside for a few weeks or months before trying again. In the mean time, read aloud to him lots and lots of high quality books.


Easy Readers

Henry and Mudge series

Billy and Blaze series

Frog and Toad series

Books by Millicent E Selsam

Little Bear series

Mr. Putter and Tabby series

Go, Dog, Go!

Are You My Mother?

Gerald and Piggie series

Dr. Seuss books

The Fire Cat

Greg’s Microscope

Amelia Bedelia series (If you have an early reader, she may not fully understand the humor in these!)

Daniel’s Duck

Carrot Seed

Mouse Tales

Frances series

The Bravest Dog Ever

Nate the Great series

The Big Blue Book of Beginner Books

“I Can Read” books (vintage ones are great!)

Treadwell and Free Primer

Abe Lincoln’s Hat

The Big Balloon Race

Mouse Soup

Clara and the Bookwagon

Hill of Fire

The Long Way to a New Land

The Long Way Westward

Wagon Wheels

Put Me in the Zoo

My First Little House series

Books by Syd Hoff

Commander Toad series

Mr. Pine books

Books by Joan Heilbroner

This is My Home, This is My School

Berenstain Bears Big Book of Science and Nature

Science books by Robert E. Wells

Owl at Home



Almost Ready for Chapter Books

(This is a good time to pull out your picture books. Some have vocabulary that is too difficult, but many are perfect for readers at this stage!)

Mercy Watson series

Marco Polo by Graves

Amigo by Byrd Baylor

Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out books

Usborne Beginners books

Treadwell and Free 1st and 2nd Readers

A Question of Yams (Christian)

The Titanic

Tut’s Mummy

Prairie School

Just a Few Words, Mr. Lincoln

Little Sure Shot

Ben Franklin and the Magic Squares

The Snow Walker

The Trojan Horse

Pompeii – Buried Alive

Snip, Snapp, Snurr books

Flicka Ricka Dicka books

Grace books by Hoffman

Ling and Ting books

Mother Goose

Poems to Read to the Very Young

Nonsense Poems by Edward Lear

When We Were Very Young

Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie

George, the Drummer Boy

Sam, The Minuteman

The Josefina Story Quilt

The Drinking Gourd

A New Coat for Anna

Nate the Great books

George Washington’s Mother

George and Martha books

Least of All

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales

Snowflake Bentley




Early Chapter Books

The Magic Treehouse series*

The Cul-de-Sac Kids series (Christian) *

A Grain of Rice

The Boxcar Children (books #1-19)

Dolphin Adventure

Dolphin Treasure

The Last Little Cat

Books by Clyde Robert Bulla

Stone Fox

Li Lun: Lad of Courage

The Arrow Over the Door

Linnea books by Bjork

Books by Beverly Cleary

Little Pear


Milly Molly Mandy

There’s an Owl in the Shower

Because of Winn-Dixie (emotionally intense)

Childhood of Famous Americans series

“The Adventures of…” books by Thornton Burgess

Janette Oke’s Animal Friends series*

Grace’s Letter to Lincoln

Thomas Alva Edison by Davidson

Mary on Horseback

The Light at Tern Rock

Tornado by Byars

Morning Girl by Dorris

The Story of Holly and Ivy

The Year of the Dog and sequels by Lin

Jake Drake


Biographies by D’Aulaire

Step Up book series (most are titled “Meet ….”)

Anna Hibiscus books

My Father’s Dragon and sequels

Water Buffalo Days

Owls in the Family

A Toad for Tuesday

The Bears on Hemlock Mountain

The Hundred Dresses (bullying)

The Story of Holly and Ivy

Fables by Lobel

Flat Stanley

A Bear Called Paddington and sequels

The Courage of Sarah Noble

Books by Marguerite de Angeli

The Matchlock Gun

The Ordinary Princess

Twenty and Ten (possibly scary for sensitive children)

The Sword in the Tree

“All About ….” books (vintage)

Books by Jeanne Bendick

Fairchild Family series

A Nest for Celeste

Tumtum and Nutmeg series (intense)

Find the Constellations

The Enormous Egg

Cobble Street Cousins series

The Whipping Boy

Tales from the Odyssey, Volumes 1 and 2

The Minstrel in the Tower




Look HERE for more great book lists for all levels of readers!

Homeschooling Through Anxiety and Depression

I have been there, friends. The desperation. The despair. The lack of energy or motivation. The hopelessness. The overwhelming stress. The racing thoughts. The burden of the world on my shoulders. You are not alone. So, let me tell you that it is hard homeschooling through these things, but it is not usually impossible. And, if you simply can’t and have to put your kids in school, that is OKAY. Do what you need to do. But here are some tips for those of you who want to and feel able to continue homeschooling as you work to overcome your mental and emotional difficulties….


  • Be organized. Have a checklist for every kid so they each know what to do if you are unavailable. Have a routine to your days so that schoolwork can keep sailing along somewhat smoothly even if you’re not manning the wheel. Order calms chaos. When you are feeling well, prepare for those times of chaos by setting things in order as much as possible.


  • Have independent work ready for the kids for the times when you are unexpectedly needing a break. Here are some excellent ideas for you.


  • Choose open and go resources so that you don’t need to work up the energy to do any prep when you are already exhausted.


  • Choose resources that don’t have 180 days, 36 weeks’ worth of material. Or, if you do, be okay with not finishing a “year’s worth” of work in a year.


  • Keep the screens off! Seriously, if you do this one thing (along with filling your home with objects and books of educational value), it will guarantee that your kids spend their days productively even if no “schoolwork” actually gets done. BUT, with that said, do what you need to do if you truly don’t have other options. I understand the place of deep desperation. Sometimes we need to give up “perfect” for “good enough.” Some good educational shows are Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, Liberty’s Kids, WildKratts, What’s in the Bible?, Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?, Sister Wendy DVDs (high school).


  • Decide ahead of time what your one or two nonnegotiable subjects are that must get done if at all possible every day. Usually that is math and reading. Do those during your best time of day so you can call it a win.


  • Use a loop schedule so that you can keep making forward progress even when you’ve had a lot of tough days in a row.


  • Utilize any available outside resources. Sign your kids up for an online class or two. Ask grandparents, babysitter, or other parent to read to the kids. Allow a friend to take the kids for a few hours each week. Let people help you! Last year was especially rough for me. On Fridays I dropped off my youngest at a local homeschool co-op for 3 hours. A friend of mine graciously said she would be the adult in charge of her so I didn’t have to stay. Think outside the box. Find opportunities for others to help you. It blesses them to bless you.


  • Lower your expectations. Okay, this one is totally a “do as I say, not as I do” one. I really stink at this. When I get anxious, my thinking becomes inflexible, I get more stubborn than ever, and I insist that we MUST complete the plan, even if I am the one that made it! Yeah. Don’t do that. Some years you will get more done, some you’ll get less, but it will all work out in the end.


  • This is not necessarily homeschool related, but I’m going to say it anyway. Don’t try to completely hide your suffering from your children. They’re smart. They know something is up. I’m not saying to show all, but if you pretend everything is always okay, they will begin to doubt their perception of reality. You want them to be able to trust themselves when they sense that something isn’t right. Seeing you suffer allows empathy to be built inside of them. It sensitizes them to the suffering of others, and that is a pretty good antidote to the entitlement culture we live in. Alright, back to homeschooling….


  • Take advantage of the good days. When you are feeling good, give your full focus to homeschooling. This will help make up for the bad days.


  • Take a break before you break. This is a big one. For everyone’s benefit, learn to be aware of your body and catch yourself before you fall over the edge. If you find yourself tensing up, your heart pounding, hands sweating, whatever your personal response to stress is, tell your child you need a break before continuing on. Go outside. Get in the shower. Meditate or pray. Find something that will snap you out of it and calm your nervous system. This has the added benefit of teaching your kids by example the right way to handle stress.


  • Take care of yourself. Go to bed on time and at the same time every night. Avoid screens during the 2 hours before bedtime. Exercise daily, even if it is just going for a walk. Enlist someone to go with you if you are too depressed to make yourself do it alone. Take your supplements and/or meds. Spend time with friends and family. Spend time alone when you need it. Get in the sun. Get in water – bath, shower, pool, lake. Take an Epsom salt bath. Try EFT tapping. Go out in nature, the longer the better. Look, really look, around you. Study the details of what you see. Don’t just label something a tree, bug, car, bike, bush and move on. Become as aware as possible of the world around you.


  • Find the balance between pushing yourself to do things that are out of your comfort zone and pushing yourself too far. Only you know where that sweet spot is, and it may change daily or even hourly. If something makes you uncomfortable, push yourself just a little step past that line, but if you are overwhelming yourself with all you are trying to do, reign it in a little bit and rest.


  • Fill your homeschool days with things you love to do. Use curriculum that inspires you. Start a “Morning Time” routine with the whole family and flood your soul with Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Play music throughout the day that lifts you up. Work by a window with a nice view.



Now, if all of the above feels like a massive burden suddenly placed on your shoulders, please know that these are suggestions, not demands. And a mountain cannot be crossed in one leap. Take ONE step, my dear friend. Choose one thing to do. After that is completed or has become a habit, choose another. Enlist the help of those around you. And, if you are truly desperate, please seek the help of a doctor and a counselor.


Here is a great podcast episode on this topic.

Lastly, just know that the world needs what you have to offer. You will make it through this. Your life is worth living and fighting for. You are a treasure of infinite worth. Keep holding on. You’re gonna be okay.


Activities for Preschoolers During School Time

Here are some ideas for activities for preschoolers to keep them busy and happy during homeschool time! Remember to spend a little one-on-one time playing with them first thing in the morning as well! They will be much happier throughout the day if you make that a priority!


Magnetic Building Blocks

Sensory Bins

“Washing” dishes in the sink

A hose and a shovel

Paint the deck/gate/wall with water

Glue sticks, tape, and miscellaneous paper products you have around the house

A BIG box (check department stores) and crayons

Masking tape and recycling materials


Pattern blocks and cards

Lacing cards

Pony beads and pipe cleaners or shoelaces

Busy/Quiet Book

Cutting the grass with age-appropriate scissors

DUPLO Blocks

Playdough/Modeling Clay

Bag/bowl of buttons and muffin tins for sorting

Sandbox or Sand Table

Kinetic Sand

Dried beans/lentils and different sized spoons and bowls

Kiddie Pool or Water Table

Chalk and Easel

Freeze big containers with little treasures inside and let them hammer away

Small Tent

Paper and child scissors

Ball Pit

Homemade hammock for under the dining room table

Audio Books

Train Set

Rod and Staff ABC workbooks