Literature Based Homeschooling – Does It Really Work?

Over the years, I’ve received many questions, as well as some skepticism, about our literature based homeschooling method. What is it? How does it work? Do the kids really learn? Do you really only use books??
My simple answer to all of those questions is a resounding YES!

However, you and I both know that my simple answer is not enough. So, here we are. Grab a cup of tea and let’s dive into the world of literature based homeschooling together.

Literature Based Homeschooling

Let’s start with the most basic question – what is literature based homeschooling?

Literature based homeschooling simply means that you rely on novels, living books, and even picture books instead of textbooks as your main source of information.

Essentially, you replace dry, fact-filled texts with engaging stories. There are four ways to enjoy the stories.

Now that we’ve covered that, let’s dig into those burning questions.

Literature Based Homeschooling | Read Alouds | Reading Aloud | Homeschooling

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How long do I have to read aloud each day?

That’s totally up to you!

(If you are new to reading aloud in your homeschool, I recommend reading Developing a Read Aloud Culture in Your Homeschool.) 

The amount of time you read aloud will depend on who you’re reading to. In general, the older a child is, the longer they’ll listen to you read. If you’re reading to a 2-year-old, you’ll be lucky to get three minutes of focus out of him.

One trick to stretch their listening time is to keep their hands busy. Read this article for some fun, easy read aloud activities.

When you first start reading aloud, you’ll have grandiose dreams of sitting in a chair, reading a wonderful book, while your children play silently at your feet. This is NOT going to happen.

At first, reading aloud will be a struggle- a real struggle. The kids will whine, bargain, and maybe even throw fits.

The key here is consistency. As long as you are consistent in reading to them, they will fall in line, I promise.

If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a read-aloud family, click the picture below get access to my free Read Aloud Workshop.

How to Become a True Read Aloud Family

Will it work with different ages?

Whether you have all littles, all bigs or a mix of both like me, literature based learning can work for your family. The beauty of this method is that you can school everyone together for several subjects.

My children who are still at home are 2, 4, 6, 7, and 16. Quite the spread, huh?

I can read a book – whether it’s a picture book or a novel – and they’ll all understand what’s happening in the story.

There’s no way my younger children would be able to read a novel on their own, but they can listen and understand just fine.

Think about it. Your children started talking and carrying on conversations long before they learned to write sentences or paragraphs. Reading aloud is the same concept.

If you’re looking for a great collection of books that will suit a range of ages, I recommend checking out Sonlight. Not only do they have the books, but they also come with a great support system.

How do you keep from feeling overwhelmed as they get older and the books get longer?

Ideally, the older your children get, the more independent learners they will become. And as far as I know, there is no homeschool rule that says you must read every single book your older children read.

If you’re worried about being able to have meaningful conversations with your kids about the books they are reading, there are several options.

If you are using a curriculum that has the year’s plans all laid out, don’t feel like you have to do absolutely everything. Guides are meant to help guide you, not be your whip-bearing dictator.

Of course, you could always have your children read the books aloud to you, or better yet take turns reading to each other!

Using Sonlight with Multiple Ages | large family homeschooling

Will my children retain the necessary information?


Think about it this way, would you remember more by . . .

A) Reading a list of dates, facts, and names.


B) Reading an engaging story of heroes, battles, love, loss, and overcoming outrageous odds?

You’d answer “B”, right? Well, so would your children.

By reading stories – whether made up or historical fiction – we make emotional connections with the characters. We form memory-making bonds with these books that inspire us for the rest of our lives. 

Here’s a side note about retaining the “necessary information”

Who decides what that necessary information is? Your teacher’s guide? Your friend?

As your children get older and start to discover what they think they’d like to do as adults, then they’ll know what information they need to know because they’ll want to know it.

If your child is planning on going to college, check that college’s admission requirements and make sure you hit those points in high school. But when your children are younger (7th grade and younger), mama, give your children and yourself a break!

They will learn everything they really need to know in high school. The younger years should be full of discovery, creation, and fun.

Trust me (as a mom who has graduated one already), your grown children aren’t going to look back on their homeschool career and remember the math worksheets or science quizzes.

They’ll remember sitting in your lap and reading books, eating brownies while using chalk pastels, planting and playing in the garden. They’ll remember the important stuff. 😉

How do you grade?

Okay, truth be told, I don’t.

There, I said it, aside from math in high school, I don’t grade my children’s school work. 

However, I do observe them and am able to see if they are mastering whatever they’re working on. I keep records of their accomplishments and breakthroughs. I keep book logs and samples of their work throughout the year.

We may not have report cards, but we do have proof of learning.

Why do you use this method?

I use the literature based homeschooling method because it’s freeing. We aren’t bogged down by workbooks and textbooks and deadlines and tests. We live life with curiosity and freedom to jump down whatever rabbit hole catches our eye.

Our days are filled with adventure, wonder, and whimsy. We have snacks with the Lost Boys, cheer for Winn Dixie, and cry for Charlotte. We talk about how other people live, what they eat, and try to make the same foreign foods ourselves. We experiment. We play games. We create.

We do the fun things, the important things. We enjoy life, one day at a time.

So, my answer to you is yes, literature based homeschooling definitely works. 

A few recommended materials to help you in your read aloud journey

All of these books are excellent choices to continue your journey in literature based homeschooling.

The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids

The Read-Aloud Handbook

Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace

For the Children’s Sake

Honey for a Child’s Heart

Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young

The Ramped-Up Read Aloud: What to Notice as You Turn the Page

Literature Based Homeschooling | Read Alouds | Reading Aloud | Homeschooling

5 thoughts on “Literature Based Homeschooling – Does It Really Work?”

  1. Thank you for this post! I’ve been using literature-based unit studies with my kids for a while now and I love it. But I feel that I really need a list of good books and recommended study topics to stay organized. My problem is that I can’t seem to find a curriculum that does that at the high school level. Do you have any suggestions? My dream book list would cover all major historical periods more or less chronologically with good literature. On top of that (a girl can dream, right?), I’d love a teacher’s guide that pairs ideas for history, geography, English, art and music, and maybe even science lessons with the books. For some reason, those kinds of lists and lesson plans seem to disappear after middle school. I’d be grateful for any recommendations for older students. Thanks again!

    • Hey girl! I totally recommend Sonlight for what you’re describing. My sophomore has used Sonlight all through high school and loves it! It touches on everything. Science, art, history, language arts . . . it’s awesome! And the best part, all levels come with easy to use teacher guides.

  2. I have a question about grades. I have never given my children grades, but I have been getting anxious as they get older about whether that would be okay for high school. I like your idea of only giving grades for math (we also use a literature-based curriculum, so math is the only subject that seems not to be too subjective to grade), but without grades, how do you make a high school transcript (for example, if the children want to go to college)? This is actually something that has been causing me a bit of stress lately (even though none of my children are beyond sixth grade), so I would love your input.

    • Hi Michelle! So, my son graduated from our homeschool two years. He also used our literature based method. When it was getting close to time for him to graduate, I signed up for the Total Transcript Solution from The Homescholar ( I watched her sessions, she has many about this type of issue and used one of her transcript templates.

      I filled in the classes/subjects we had done and gave him grades based on how he mastered the material. In general, you won’t find a homeschool transcript with anything less than straight A’s because us homeschool moms make them redo the work until they get it right!

      That being said, my transcript was not all A’s. My son isn’t academically inclined. He’s a music man. He’s artistic and self-taught in four different instruments. For the subjects that he wasn’t great in, I gave him B’s because he did his best, but I didn’t want to misrepresent what he was offering the university. He went to school for music and that was reflected in his transcript.

      When it comes time for your children to graduate, give grades you feel they earned. Grades can be based on mastery, effort, completion, time . . . there are more ways than just test to demonstrate what has been learned. 🙂 I hope that helps!

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