How to be Successful in a Literature-Based Homeschool

By KT Brison of Lit Mama Homeschool

One of the best freedoms of homeschooling is getting to decide the method with which you’ll teach your kids. But there are a lot of options out there, and it can be overwhelming.

Seriously, sometimes just finding out what a particular method entails is enough to make you start checking bus schedules.

So I’m going to tell you all about my favorite type of homeschooling in one place so you can avoid those standardized tests.

I’ve homeschooled my boys with a literature-based curriculum for 8 years.  That basically means our entire homeschool has been built around novels, both classic and contemporary, written for children and for adults.

The outcome has been astounding. I have raised well-spoken, critical thinkers who can hold their own in just about any conversation about any topic. All because they are voracious readers who learn every other subject while reading stories that relate.

It. is. awesome.  And fun.

How to be Successful in a Literature Based Homeschool

This post may contain affiliate links, you can find my disclosure policy here.

Benefits of homeschooling with a literature-rich curriculum 

Those critical thinking and speaking skills are direct benefits of a lit-rich homeschool.  There are lots of other advantages to rocking literature, though.  Let me explain a few.

Literature is more interesting to kids than textbooks

Novels, living books, and even picture books often engage children more than nonfiction and therefore they are better able to relate to the subject matter.  They pay more attention and retain the information longer, too.

Increases attention span

Reading linearly, as we do in a novel, makes us slowly think about the information we’re receiving.  Thinking about the complex layers of the narrative and how they fit together actually increases the capacity for longer attention spans.

Especially in children.

Improves vocabulary

Reading good literature is going to put a LOT of new words in front of your kids.  You’ll be surprised by how much just one quality novel can improve their vocabulary.  When literature is the backbone of your homeschool, the vocabulary potential is limitless.

Lit helps you tackle difficult topics

According to a study at Emory University, after subjects who read character-driven novels like Anna Karenina were found to be more empathetic and emotionally intelligent:

They were able to ‘feel’ the movements of the characters in the movement areas of their own brains.

That brain activity is going to help your kiddos relate better to stories about characters having a difficult time and make discussions easier and more empathetic.

Improves diction, grammar, and expression

Especially if you take turns reading aloud, your children will get a chance to pronounce new words correctly, see how commas should work, and express themselves more clearly.

Improves critical thinking skills

Scientists Timothy Keller and Marcel Just discovered that reading actually causes the brain to rewire itself, which creates more white matter. More white matter means more brain communication.

Makes everything else easier to teach

Since we began homeschooling 8 years ago, I have chosen the fiction we read each year before I start planning anything else.  I choose history, geography, science, art, and many other subjects based on the books we’ll be reading.

Why?  Because stories help them remember the lessons better.

Keith Oatley, Professor of Cognitive Psychology at the University of Toronto, discovered that the brain does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life.  So when your kids are reading about Anne Frank hiding in an attic, the turbulence of World War II is being cemented in their minds.

This is because smell, texture, and motion words affect the areas of the brain that feel and sense those details. Reading novels produces a vivid simulation of reality, which helps our children understand the topic better.

How to conduct a literature-based homeschool

  • Read aloud together every day
  • Reading Assignments outside of school
  • Use audiobooks
  • Read with purpose:
    1. Take notes as you read
    2. Keep track of new words
    3. Make predictions about the story
    4. Summarize chapters
    5. Use novel study guides
    6. Write journal entries
    7. Have your child come up with discussion ideas from the reading
    8. Ask sensory questions to help your child visualize
    9. Give your child a specific purpose before he begins reading will help him. Say something like, “As you read this chapter/book, I want you to pay special attention to….”
    10. Make connections–ask your child if she’s ever experienced something like what happened in the reading
    11. Create character charts to help kids keep track of who’s who or for thinking about individual characters more clearly

Literature Based Homeschool

Using novels and living books to teach all subjects

Remember, literature can’t replace facts, but it can and does enhance the learning experience and make it more fun.

Here are a few ways you can enhance other subjects with literature:


  • Using strong words -Discuss strong verbs and adjectives and how they enhance descriptiveness.
  • Vocabulary – Have them write down the words and their definitions.
  • Spelling -Choose spelling words from the text and have your kids practice them along with the reading.
  • Grammar and Mechanics -Shows them how sentences should be structured, how commas should be used, and how a good paragraph is formed. Have your kids practice their grammar after showing them how it works in the book.
  • Sentence Fluency -Discuss how the writing is pleasing not just to the eye but to the ear.  Fluent writing has cadence and movement, varying sentence lengths, and styles.  They make the story easy to read.


  • Choose books with settings in the area you’re studying.
  • Have your child find the city or country of the setting in his atlas and on his globe.
  • Provide blank maps so your child can add the city to its country and color the country.
  • Keep a reading passport for your child to fill in with all the countries he visits in novels.


  • Choose books that are historically accurate. Try to find one that was written during the era you’re studying.
  • Study the era of the book through other resources and hands-on activities while you read.
  • Make sure the story is interesting so that it grabs your children’s attention and creates connections she’ll remember.


  • Choose books that have a strong political influence (like The Giver, Johnny Tremain, or A Tale of Two Cities).
  • Grab a copy of the Constitution or other legal government documents of the country you are studying. Compare the country’s current rights with the rights of the characters in the novel.
  • Print out the country’s branches of the government.  As you read the fiction, make a list of the branches of the fictional government on another page.  Discuss the differences as you learn about your countries’ branches and how they work.


  • Use living books to teach about animals, nature, and anything else you can find.
  • Good science fiction can coincide with astronomy and technology studies to get your kids thinking about the future of science.
  • Read novels that feature scientists (geologists, astronomers, archeologists, etc.) or characters that are interested in science so your kids can see how the job of science takes place.

Making literature fun

Now that you know why and how to create a literature-based homeschool, you are probably wondering how to keep it all fresh and fun.

I got you.

There are all sorts of fun reading activities that will keep your kids engaged and interested.

Perhaps the most important is to cater to their interests. We’re homeschoolers, y’all.  No one tells us what we have to study each year.  So find some topics that your kids are truly curious about, match up some fiction with them, and plan a couple of lessons around them.

You could also switch things up by reading your novel like a play, dressing up like the characters in the story, or cooking a food featured in the book.

Crafting and other art activities are incredible tools for making a book stand out in a child’s mind while allowing creativity.  Plus, it’s totally art class.

Other fun activities that will help your kiddos relate to a book include creating a Character Time Capsule, making a Novel Brochure, or keeping a Reading Passport to track the places they visit in books (also brilliant for geography lessons).

It’s not difficult to make reading fun since children tend to enjoy paging through books from a young age.  Encourage that interest and raise lifelong readers by homeschooling with a lit-rich curriculum, and watch your children blossom into the kind of thinkers you envisioned when you decided to homeschool.

You know, so you can toss that bus schedule.

Join me in my Homeschool Mindset Facebook Group.



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About KT Brison

KT Brison is a former children’s librarian and educator who gave all that up for the most important job in her life—homeschooling her boys.Though she loves the outdoors and rambling around her farm, she can usually be found with her nose in a book. Any book. As long as it has words.

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