The question I get asked most when discussing education is what books I recommend to get started with classical Christian homeschooling. So, here are what I consider “the essentials.” (I have a much longer list if you’ve read all these and want more!) If you’re considering homeschooling, curious about classical Christian education, or want to be more informed about what you’re already doing, these books will provide a broad spectrum of information and practical helps.
This was the first book I read about classical education. It stems from Dorothy Sayers’ 1947 essay “The Lost Tools of Learning,” which you can read in full in this book or here. This was the book that convinced me that I wanted classical Christian education for my children!
The Case for Classical Christian Education by Douglas Wilson
This builds on the previous book and examines what he (and the school he founded) have learned through the years. You could just read the former, but this one is helpful enough to be included in this list as well.
The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise
This is the book that convinced me (a die-hard “I will not homeschool. My kids will be taught by experts at a classical Christian liberal arts school” person) that I could homeschool and that I could do a better job than any of the “experts.” This book is intensely practical and readable. It’s also mammoth. But you have to read it. However, you don’t have to start by reading the whole thing. Read chapters 1-2 and 35-38. Then read the first chapter(s) of the section that pertains to your child’s age (either chapters 3-4 or chapter 13 or chapter 24). Then skim the other chapters that pertain to your child’s age (that’s chapters 5-12 if you’re just starting out with little ones).
Wisdom and Eloquence: A Christian Paradigm for Classical Learning by Robert Littlejohn and Charles T. Evans
If you’re already familiar with the Wilson books or the Sayers approach (which is also the basic approach taken in The Well-Trained Mind), then be prepared. This book will make you think very differently about classical education! They have some great ideas and ask some great questions. Their 12-K approach to choosing curricula is particularly helpful. Warning: This book could be a turn-off to homeschooling. (It lays out a pretty daunting schema for classical education.) Therefore, I suggest you read this–because you really should–and then, immediately read…
Campbell takes the same approach to classical education as Littlejohn and Evans (one very different from Sayers/Wilson/Bauer), but he makes it practical and feasible for homeschoolers. In other words, don’t skip Littlejohn and Evans, because you’ll learn a lot from them and they’ll challenge your thinking greatly, but then read this for practical advice on this alternate classical approach. He includes curricula recommendations and a suggested schedule and other helps. These two books together in conjunction with the others in this list (which use the Sayers approach) will help you to have a well-rounded vision for what you want your children to learn and how you want them to learn it.
Teaching the Trivium: Christian Homeschooling in a Classical Style by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn
This is another behemoth-sized book, but for good reason. It’s packed full of information, philosophy, and helps. The table of contents alone is 14 pages long, so it’s easy to find what you want without reading the whole thing at once. With this one, we’re back to the Sayers approach, but the Bluedorns apply the specifics a bit differently than Bauer and others.
The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education by Leigh A. Bortins
This book is written by the founder and CEO of Classical Conversations, so if you’re familiar with their curricula (or want to be), you’ll see the similarities here. However, I didn’t feel as if she were trying to sell something in this book. Her ideas are a fresh and very simple version of the Sayers approach.
An Introduction to Classical Education: A Guide for Parents by Christopher A. Perrin
If you read these eight books, you’ll be well informed about classical Christian education. I read some of these before we started our classical Christian homeschooling journey and some in recent days. I wish I’d read them all before we started! I don’t agree with every single thing in all of these, but with their varying perspectives and different tips and recommendations, they’re a wealth of information all together!