I love a good book list, so when a friend mentioned she was going to a homeschool book sale and wanted to know what my “must buy” ideas were I was all over ransacking my bookshelf and trying to find the books I had acquired second hand that I felt were worthwhile.
I have been so blessed by incredibly generous friends that have passed on their homeschool ‘hand-me-downs.’ A box here, a stack there … I have an extensive collection of resources from some incredible women and I have been able to explore a lot of various homeschool materials because of second hand material.
Some of the books on this list have come as hand-me-downs. Others I have purchased at a book sale. Where I knew what I had paid for a book – or had seen at book sales – I noted it for reference.
Math and Readers are the only two categories that are really reflective of a grade level, which for us is K and grade 1. Everything else is appropriate throughout elementary school.
Tips for shopping at used book sales are at the bottom of this post.
Please share your suggestions of treasured books! I would love to have ideas to keep my eyes open for.
Now I’m Reading for Beginning Readers by Nora Gaydos were the first readers I used with my boys upon the recommendation of an older home school mom. They are fabulous. I have found them at book sales for $5 a set and my mom once found a set at a thrift store!
Alpha and Omega has a set of readers called Bible Stories for … Early Readers. They are simple rhymes that build upon themselves, and each one is a modified Bible story.
Rod & Staff has published a set of readers called God is Good series. These books are meant to go with their grade one Bible Nurture and Reader Series, but certainly aren’t necessary (we only use these readers.) These books are a bit trickier to acquire secondhand – mainly because excellent books are never outgrown and painful to part with. As you grow to know and love characters from the past – cry with them, rejoice with them, learn from them – you want to keep them around. If you find biographies at a homeschool book sale take a moment to figure out if it is a worthwhile biography – many are poorly written and regardless how incredible a life the person left a poorly written book is never worthwhile. Some of the biography series we enjoy that I have had passed on to me and/or purchased second hand:
Heroes for Young Readers by Renee Taft Meloche are done in rhyme with images on each page. They are easy to read in one sitting and give a brief overview of a characters life. I appreciate these as a wonderful tool for introducing young children to the lives of other people in a simple and friendly manner. Published by YWAM.
Trailblazer Books by Dave and Neta Jackson are fun biographies that use fictional characters to tell the story of real life people. The perspective of the fictional character adds a lot of life to the story and really draws the child into the book. I have found these at the second hand store for $1.
Christian Heroes: Then & Now and/or Heroes of History by Janet and Geoff Benge are biographies we have enjoyed as read alouds in our family. They have many (George Muller and Eric Liddle are favorites). These are also published by YWAM, and it has been useful for me to connect the poetry biographies mentioned above with these deeper books.
Pattern Blocks and books have served us well – and all have come from homeschool used book sales. I know they can go for a lot even second hand, so if you are wanting them just know your prices so you can determine if the used price is worthwhile or not.
Math-U-See Manipulatives – I have been given a lot of manipulatives and these are my favorite! (I also like the Base Ten Starter Set.) We are not formally “doing” math, but we play with math and these manipulatives are really nice even if you aren’t doing their math curriculum (which I have heard fabulous things about.)
Dover Coloring Books – I have read all the negative things about coloring books, but frankly, the kids love them and learn so much with these coloring books that I think the negative effects of coloring books is over rated. I once happened upon a massive lot – 20 or so – for $10. We are set for life with these books. The cover all sorts of time periods and subjects and offer little informative tidbits on the pages.
Masterpieces a Fact-Filled Coloring Book is a pretty cool book that has 60 famous paintings for children to color in themselves. Accompanying each image is the story about the piece of art. It does not offer images of the original art, but that is hardly a big deal given our technology – Google to the rescue!
A Shakespeare Coloring Book – wonderful illustrations with explanation about which play the art comes from and who the artist was and what year it was done. Quotes from the plays are also scattered throughout.
Professor Noggin’s History of Art Card Game – a fun game for art appreciation. Some of the art cards are nude people, those cards can easily be removed if that is your preference and it will not interfere with the game.
Drawing With Children – a great book that starts at the basics for teaching drawing to children.
Draw Write Now is a combination of a drawing and writing course. The books are themed (Farm Animals, Animal Habitats, The United States, Native Americans, etc.) Detailed instructions are given for how to draw, very easy for children to follow. I have been given all my copies, but see them in the $5 range at sales.
The Nature Connection – a great nature book for nature observing and journaling
Handbook of Nature – this 900 page book is full of answers for kids about many different aspects of nature. It does not have color images, but the information is incredible and wide spread.
The Story of the Orchestra is an exciting and educational book with accompanying cd all about the orchestra. A wonderful way to learn about the orchestra!
History Alive Through Music is an informative and lively way to learn about history and folk songs. These are book and cassette tape combos that were published in the 1990’s. As far as I am aware no cds were ever published to accompany these books. It’s of little matter – with the internet you can find any tune and the stories in the book bring the songs to life. I have found these for $1.
Story of the World – I have almost all of these books and their activity books, either given to me or purchased for under $5 each at book sales. What I love are the audiobooks that have been done by Jim Weiss – I buy them full price on amazon but would snatch them up in a heartbeat if I ever found them at a book sale! This series does not draw scripture and history together, which is a hang up for a lot of people (which is why I mention it.) It’s not a problem for us and we really enjoy the story telling style of this history series.
Mystery of History – I was given year one and two of these and am so impressed with it. It is another great option as a ‘history spine’ to use with supplemental reading and incorporates scriptures with history.
Streams of Civilization covers world history through the early 1600’s, from a Biblical worldview, and is a great resource to have on your shelf.
A Child’s History of the World by V.M. Hillyer is on my wish list. I haven’t found a used copy yet (I am hunting for the older version, not the newer one – but if it is cheap enough I would take any!) Even though I don’t own it I think it is worth mentioning it. Should you find this it is a treasure worth owning!
A Child’s Geography of the World is a much harder book to find than the history one, and ironically I own the geography one and have not yet found the history one. Anyways, this is an out of print book and is such a beautiful story about the world. It was written in 1929 so there are some things that are outdated – such as when it takes about perhaps one day a man will land on the moon – but should you find this being sold by someone who doesn’t know what a treasure it is, buy it!
G.A. Henty wrote a lot of historical adventure novels that are both exciting and educational; an excellent way to learn!
We are doing a 4 year cycle through history and are one year “behind” what Classical Conversations is doing with their 4 year rotation. This is perfect because it means that book sales will have the books for the time period we will be studying next. But regardless of what history era you will be studying next; if it is a good book at a good price and you have the storage space for it buy it! I can’t possibly touch on all of the wonderful living books there are that exist for history study but there are some wonderful lists created online and you can make yourself familiar with their list (Ambleside is one I enjoy).
Apolgia has created some quality books with their Young Explorer Series. If your child is into notebooking they sell those, but I have never seen them at book sales (they are consumables).
The Stars by HA Rey – yes! the same man who did Curious George has written a memorable book on constellations for children.
The Golden books have some wonderful books on science in their publication collections, so keep an eye out for them.
Books by Holling C Hollings - he writes in such a beautiful way everything becomes real, you truly feel like you are a part of his world.
Books by Ernest Seton (with discretion) we have learned a lot from the animal books of his that we have read.
It Couldn’t Just Happen; Fascinating Facts About God’s World is an informative book that gives kids real answers to prove God’s existence. It is a bit advanced for my boys, but I use it to extract little bits from and it is worth having on your shelf! I found it for $3.
Hymns for a Kids Heart is a book and cd combo of hymns for children to learn. The book has a story about the author’s life and the hymn. It’s a great resource for teaching hymns to children – and many of the old hymns have sound teaching in them. Found for $1.
The Children’s Illustrated Bible was first discovered by me at a book sale, and I have seen several since then. It is a beautifully illustrated and well detailed account of many Bible stories.
Trial and Triumph: The Story of Church History - I do not own this, and am a bit surprised I haven’t stumbled across it at a book sale yet as I know it is on a lot of reading lists and surely some people are passing it on! I have heard excellent things about this, and due to it’s popularity on book lists I feel like it is probable to find it at a booksale.
Charlotte Mason Companion – it explains, in a concise manner and with original quotes, the Charlotte Mason educational philosophy, but it is really an all around wonderful book for parents on the homeschool journey regardless of your approach. I have seen these for $5, but they almost always come with underlining and personal comments from the previous owner.
Educating the Whole Hearted Child is such an encouraging book to the parent that is educating their child at home. I bought the original one for a couple dollars, but really want the third edition. Watch for that edition!
The Well Trained Mind is a classical approach to education and has excellent ideas and resource lists in it. I was given this book, but have seen them for $5 or so.
Laying Down the Rails by Sony Schaffer – this is an excellent resource on habit training, offering practical ideas and the entirety of habits a child should develop according to Charlotte Mason. This is hard to come by, and all copies I have seen have been over $12.
Homeschool in the Woods Timeline and Sonlight Book of Time. I have two of these, both came from second hand sources and each had a dozen or so of the timeline characters placed in them.
First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind (for grade 1 and grade 2, some editions are two separate books) ours was given to us so I can’t give a price point, but it is an excellent book that we have all enjoyed.
Lamplighter Publishing has an extensive collection of old books that they have republished and beautifully bound. They are gorgeous looking books, and rather pricey, and I have been shocked to have found several at book sales for a few dollars each – or less! Most definitely worth keeping ones eyes open for.
While a lot of sellers are thoughtful and pack plastic bags to put your purchases in, they are flimsy and a pain to carry so bring your own sturdy bag.
Different areas will vary for used prices, but regardless it is very useful to know your prices. I have seen people sell their used books for literally pennies to the dollar. I have seen others sell it for 10% less than what they had paid at the beginning of the school year – which was a lot more than Amazon prices!
I have found that, in general, there are two types of people at book sales – those that are emotionally attached to their books and price them as such (though usually still less than Amazon prices) and those that are so happy the year is over they are eager to purge and price to sell. Both sellers are of value, but at the beginning of a book sale move quickly by those you ascertain to be attached and look for those who are purgers – this is where the great deals will be and, well, you don’t want to miss them!
Then circle back to the attached sellers – their books are often of excellent quality and they may have something on your list that is cheaper than elsewhere.
You can, of course, ask for a deal, but be mindful that these are parents who invested a lot into what you are wanting to purchase and the money you spend will likely be going towards next years books or activities for the children.
It is really hard keeping straight what price lists are – or for that matter, even what books are worthwhile! I have found a smart phone to be of extreme help in these circumstances. Amazon has a bar code scanning or scan flow search option that makes searches quick and simple. You can do quick price checks and reviews.
My final tip for shopping used homeschool books is to let people know that you are interested and looking to buy used books and materials. Friends have let me come and pre-shop their book sale items, others have picked up items they knew I was wanting. And, like I mentioned above, some have just been extremely generous and given me their books which is an encouragement for myself to do the same in turn.