Books in the Homeschool: A Quick Guide for Children’s Authors

Guest Post by Sarah Hovorka

With the popularity of homeschooling continuing to rise, children’s authors and publishers may be wondering how to reach this ever-expanding market. Since I’m an author and long-time homeschooler, my publisher asked me that very question. Here’s a quick guide to how books are used in the homeschool environment with some suggestions for ways authors could appeal to the homeschooler.

MIXED AGE GROUPS

Homeschoolers are often teaching different age groups together. Sometimes I try to send my older boys off for independent work…two minutes later they’ve joined their little brother for a reading of Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel. A homeschooler might take advantage of this and jump start a learning unit on biomes or story structure or spelling patterns for their kids of all age ranges.

Authors, how could your book jump start a subject for older kids or be used in a multi-age study? Can you pull out vocabulary words or math problems for different age groups? Or provide a creative activity idea for a group to do together, such as a puppet show?

BUDDY READING

Buddy reading is when a parent or older child reads alongside a younger kid. This could be to support an emergent reader with phonics practice or to support an older child with elocution and fluency. Books with natural switching places for multiple readers are excellent for this.

The parent could be Elephant while the child is Piggie with the Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willem.

The parent could read the regular narrative text while the child reads the letter or diary entries, graphic strips, or “commercial breaks” in mixed format books like STUNTBOY, IN THE MEANTIME by Jason Reynolds.

(P.S. Large font size is a big bonus for buddy reading and reading aloud, both for older parents who may have weakened eyesight and for younger readers whose eyes are still developing.)

Authors, please share how your book could be read this way.

RABBIT TRAILS AND BONUS ACTIVITIES

Homeschool students have more flexibility in their day. When a book sparks an interest they can follow it right away (called a rabbit trail). They also often have science and art materials, maps, and other school supplies freely available to them. For this reason, homeschoolers appreciate activity ideas or supplemental resources, whether as back matter or on a website, written directly to the student.

Please warn us if there’s mention of dangerous materials, though!

NARRATION

Narration is repeating what you just read or heard in your own words. For more information, click here.

Authors, chapter summaries and narration prompts would be so useful for chapter books, middle grade, and young adult books. Parents don’t always have the time to read every book, for every subject, for every child across multiple ages. This would be a relatively easy resource to prepare and would find much love in the homeschool community.

GRAMMAR AND HANDWRITING

Many homeschoolers will grab a few sentences from their student’s current reading book to assign copy work or parsing.

Already prepared copy work, especially in multiple handwriting styles, with space to copy, would be a quick project for an author to offer as an additional resource. And worksheets with sentences from your book to parse into parts of speech and parts of sentences, especially with answer keys, would go a long way with homeschoolers.

VISUAL AND PERFORMING ARTS

Arts often have a stronger focus in homeschools than in classrooms. Since books are such a great jumping off place for unit studies or to cover topics together as a family, homeschoolers look for ways to incorporate art study with their books.

Picture books are excellent for this! Illustrators, what style of art did you use? What techniques? What is the history of that style or technique? For novels that are not illustrated, is there a mention of art? Even if there’s not, what art is or was common during that time or in that place? What music? A short description with a list of resources or links to videos would help a homeschooler to integrate visual and performing arts.

LIVING BOOKS

It’s alive! Yes, this is what a homeschooler calls a book that’s not dry or poorly written. It’s a book that you read and feel the fun and love the author has for the topic. Author Karen B. Nelson has more information here: BOOKS ALIVE! OR: WHAT IS A LIVING BOOK? | Karen B. Nelson (wordpress.com)

Good news! The kidlit market is buzzing with living books already. If you write children’s literature for the modern market, you’re probably writing a living book.

ROWING

Rowing a picture book means to reread it for five days, each day focusing on a different element to support learning. It’s the method used with the curriculum Five in a Row, but homeschoolers may use this method for any picture book.

What five topics of study could your picture book teach or introduce for a whole week of learning?

I hope this quick guide to how books are used in the homeschool environment was helpful to you. I’m a children’s author who is also passionate about education and homeschooling and I love how these areas overlap.

Please share in the comments which homeschool-friendly idea sparks your interest the most.

Sarah Hovorka writes lots of stuff from big-hearted picture books to horror-ridden novels. Unlike Goldilocks, every genre she tries feels just right. She is the author of Hattie Hates Hugs (Beaming Books, 2022) and Same Love, Different Hug (Clarion, 2023) as well as several short stories for children and adults. Beyond reading and writing, Sarah loves to play games, bike ride, eat chocolate, and enjoy trees…when she’s not too busy homeschooling. She lives in northern California with her husband and three sons.

Website: www.SarahHovorka.com  Twitter: Sarah Hovorka is writing MG! (@HovorkaSarah) / Twitter

Instagram: Sarah Hovorka (@authorsarahhovorka) • Instagram photos and videos  Facebook: Sarah Hovorka, author | Facebook

8 comments

  1. Thanks so much for sharing these. I have many friends in the homeschool community and wondered how best to make my books useful to them. I particularly like the idea of creating LA activities for my website.

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  2. Someone reached out to me about using my book, YOU KNOW WHAT? illustrated by Nynke Mare Talsma, Clavis Books, 2017, to read with their grandchild. It’s entirely dialogue between the mommy and Oliver. She read the mommy’s part and her grandson read Oliver’s part. I loved that! In my upcoming, SOME DADDIES, picturebook, illustrated by Javiera Maclean Alvarez, Beaming Books, 2022, the format is Some daddies…Others…Two different readers can choose one of those lines to read throughout the book. Great ideas here, Sarah. Thanks for asking for our input.

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  3. Excellent ideas! Many of these will work (and do work) in classrooms as well: buddy reading, etc. But I love the application to homeschoolers. Thanks!

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  4. Thank you so much, Sarah. What a fresh perspective this is for me, and one that I will keep in mind as I write my books!

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  5. Some great suggestions. My books have been used for homeschooling in the past. One young man didn’t like reading but enjoyed Amanda’s adventures and got good marks for his report.

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  6. Ooh, so much detail here re homeschooling usage of books! I’m looking at my book now & several of these immediately jump out (for instance, older readers diving into Greek mythology or reptile care after reading “Little Medusa’s Hair Do-Lemma”) plus vocabulary building & usage. Perhaps it’s time I created a little worksheet for my website for homeschool use! 🙂Thx so much!

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