Real Books Approach

This article is part of a series for new home educators. In this, and several other articles, we cover What style of education is right for our family? And where do I get our curriculum?

Using Real Books is an alternative to using textbooks in your family’s home education.  By Real Books I mean books that were not written as educational texts. But this doesn’t not in any way mean that real books don’t educate! As John Taylor Gatto (a former New York teacher of the year) says, “Real books educate. School books school.

Real Books are the types of books you find in a bookstore or library. They are usually written by one author. They usually are about a specific topic, but not necessarily a school subject. Many times the topic is much narrower than a “subject” would be. Generally they are more deep than broad. They are not grade leveled. They do not have quizzes or tests at the end of the chapters. The best of them are enjoyed by all ages, and are interesting and delightful and/or thought provoking to read.

There are many educational approaches that use Real Books rather than text/work books, ranging from very unstructured unschooling where the child may just check out books from the library on anything he is currently interested in to highly structured classical curriculum that uses specific great classical literature. There are many other styles in-between these two that use Real Books. In the next few articles I will describe several of these educational approaches that use Real Books, including Lifestyle Education through Discipleship that you can learn much more about on this site and through our Exclusive Resources.

Home education resources have become so numerous that I will only be able to scratch the surface of what is available for Real Book learning. But I will share the major approaches and links to several examples of them in each article. Some approaches will be grouped together, as they have similar traits. This means that there may be aspects that more or less apply to a specific style or curriculum within the group. The goal of this article series is not to dig deeply into every individual approach, but to give you an idea of what is out there, and help you see how they compare to Lifestyle Education through Discipleship so you can determine if L.E.D. is the right approach for your family.

Finding Real Books to use in the approaches listed below

Unschooling or Delight-directed

Unit Studies

Living Books/ Literature-based – Charlotte Mason, Ruth Beechick

Classical/ Great Books

Christian Discipleship/ Worldview

Lifestyle Education through Discipleship™


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