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    Books & Reading, Home Education

    11 Books I Assigned for High School That Aren’t on the AmblesideOnline Lists

    August 23, 2023 by Brandy Vencel

    I love, adore, and have always used AmblesideOnline as our homeschool curriculum. Also, I have always collected books. In the high school years, when AO takes a pick-and-choose salad bar approach, I can’t help but consider not just the books on the lists, but also the books on my shelves. They have been waiting their whole lives for this moment, and so have I! As much as I adored my littles, the teen years are my absolute favorite.

    I’ve also come to believe in the power of the perfectly chosen book. I’m not saying students should have a completely customized-to-them curriculum — in fact, I would 100% caution against that — but there are moments when students are ripe for a particular nutrition book, or they’ve been asking about a certain theological concept and you have just the book for it. That is why some of these books appear below — because I’m assigning the book once to a particular child — because it’s too perfect to pass up.

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    Eusebius: The Church History by Paul Maier

    Subject: Theology and Church History

    O-Age-15 is my fourth and final 9th grader to read Eusebius, the original church historian. I love this book so much.

    2000 Years of Christ’s Power (Vol. 1) by Nick Needham

    Subject: Theology and Church History

    This is a 5-volume series that I wish I could give more time to than I do. Q-Age-16 will be reading Volume 1 this year and Volume 2 next year, and that is the most I can do. Perhaps I will be able to work in one more than this with my youngest!

    None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of God by Matthew Barrett

    Subject: Theology and Church History

    You may recognize this book as the 2019 Afterthoughts Book of the Year. This is one I require for everyone before they graduate. My 11th grader is reading it this year. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it!

    The Roots of American Order by Russell Kirk

    Subject: Government

    This is, hands down, the Best Government Book Ever. I just love it. I love how it situates the American government — the United States Constitution — in its historical context by showing what we took from the Greeks and Romans, the Hebrews, the Christians, and the British. O-Age-15 is reading this for 9th grade.

    Mis-Inflation: The Truth About Inflation, Pricing, and the Creation of Wealth by David Bahnsen and Douglas Wilson

    Subject: Economics

    I bought this little book because David Bahnsen hosts a podcast I listen to religiously (Radio Free California) and he always makes me laugh. Also, inflation is sort of a problem right now, is it not?

    I assigned this to both of my students this year because Timely. Economics is one of my pet subjects and we read basically all of the books from the AO lists and then some — I even read economics books aloud for family fun. At least, I think it is fun. Ahem.

    The Communist Manifesto (1888 edition) by Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx

    Subject: Economics

    Can you guess WHY I would assign this book to my 11th grader? Hmmmm.

    Socrates’ Children: Ancient Philosophers by Peter Kreeft

    Subject: History

    Or is it philosophy? I dunno. Some books I categorize loosely and then move around later when I’m designing transcripts, depending on what make sense. It’s Kreeft, though. Need I say more??

    Your Body and How it Works by JD Ratcliff

    Subject: Health

    I wish this book (and others like it by Ratcliff) weren’t out of print. They are so good. With that said, please do not spend $61 (current price when I checked) on it. Just wait and check back. I’m sorry. I shared about it on Instagram and people snapped up the cheap copies within a couple hours. Maybe try Thrift Books?

    O-Age-15 is reading this for 9th grade.

    Niacin: The Real Story by Abram Hoffer, Andrew Saul, and Harold Foster

    Subject: Health

    This is an example of a “perfect match” book choice. Q-Age-16 reads books on personality typing, neuroscience, and psychology for fun, so this seemed like a logical choice. I think she will love it.

    Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics is Fueling Our Modern Plagues by Martin Blaser

    Subject: Biology

    This is a book I assign to balance out Microbe Hunters.

    Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin

    Subject: Geography

    This is another one that is hard to categorize. Is it geography? I categorized it as such because I’m using it like a geography book in the sense that they are tracing Darwin’s journey on a map. But could it also be biology? YES. History? ALSO YES.

    Most people have never read Darwin and speak about him in ignorance. I decided I’d rather my children have a more informed opinion. This is a step in that direction.

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  • Reply Rachel April 20, 2024 at 5:08 am

    These look like great choices. Even though I graduated my only in 2020, I still love learning on my own. We also read The Voyage of the Beagle for the reason you gave. I did decide on an abridged version by Millicent E. Selsam, which includes illustrations and other notes. We also read a biography entitled Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman, which describes their love and family life, Charles’ journey from agnosticism to atheism, and how Charles and Emma navigated their differences in faith (Emma remained a Christian her whole life). I found there to be many opportunities for discussion while reading this book. Darwin should be neither canonized nor demonized and I found this approach to be just right.

    I’ve enjoyed many of your thoughtful articles throughout the years and I’m grateful to the many people (mostly women like yourself) who have contributed to the understanding and implementation of Charlotte Mason’s method.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel April 20, 2024 at 10:39 am

      Ooh! The Leap of Faith book sounds amazing! Thank you for the recommendation.

  • Reply Jolie March 29, 2024 at 3:40 pm

    Thank you for all the recommendations. I will start pre-reading them in anticipation of my tween turning teen.

  • Reply Friederike E Lehrbass October 22, 2023 at 5:00 pm

    Wished I had time to add more books to my ds schedule. The missing microbe one esp looks interesting. Might have to get it and read it on my own anyways.

  • Reply Lisa A August 27, 2023 at 7:22 pm

    Love the economics rec. I just finished reading Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins. Have you read that one?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 29, 2023 at 11:51 am

      I have never read it, but I haveheard of it and I believe it is on my wishlist. Do you recommend it?

      • Reply Lisa A August 29, 2023 at 12:20 pm

        Yes, definitely recommend. It’s not surprising in that we all kinda just know that corporatocracy (as the author calls it) is a thing, but definitely one of those books that teach a reader how to read between the lines of MSM reporting. It’s also a thought provoking check on what investments are *actually* good for an economy as opposed to those that might only *appear* to be good.

        • Reply Brandy Vencel September 2, 2023 at 11:50 am

          Thank you! I’m putting it on my list. ♥

  • Reply MA August 25, 2023 at 8:02 am

    The Kreeft book is so good! I love “perfect match books during the upper years…for my oldest it was bio ethics and forensics, my third is all sustainable Ag and floriculture. It is wonderful seeing those interests flourish has they grow older. I will definitely check out the Maier version of Eusebius as our version is a tad unwieldy.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 26, 2023 at 12:03 pm

      I love this so much — I love how the differences in the children comes out in the book choices.

  • Reply Anna August 24, 2023 at 3:05 pm

    I also schedule Eusebius and Roots of American Order for my high schoolers! I love AO but I also love to tweak. 😉 I think I will try that Darwin book for my 11th grader – my husband says he will listen to the audiobook so my son can narrate to him. 🙂 And I want to get the whole set of the Peter Kreeft philosophy books for myself now!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 24, 2023 at 9:04 pm

      I seriously did buy the whole set. I figure she will get to two of them, but I will eventually get to four!

  • Reply Rahime August 24, 2023 at 2:29 pm

    I recently bought the Ratcliff book for much less–I was looking for something to use instead of the Apologia Anatomy book, which I couldn’t handle the tone of–I think it was around $7-12, so I guess I got lucky and bought it before you posted on IG. LOL!

    I always love your recommendations. 🙂

  • Reply Mama Rachael August 24, 2023 at 7:17 am

    This is timely! My oldest started “7th grade” this year (though its really AO Year 6B, as I decided to take 2 year to do Y6 so he could get a year older before starting Y7 and b/c we moved last year). And I am thinking about the high school years. I did just say that! Oh my. Its scary how time passes so quickly.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 24, 2023 at 9:40 am

      It’s really strange. The younger years felt to me like they lasted forever and then this end run is going so fast it makes me head spin!

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