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									Books Fuel Unit Studies

By Jessica Hulcy

After a seven-hour seminar about KONOS, I plopped into a chair at my friend Bev’s
house while she fixed dinner. From the kitchen she yelled, “There is a box of books
beside your chair to look at, if you feel like it.” Books? I sat up and pulled the box
onto my lap and began sifting through the stack. The books were all books
referenced in my KONOS units, even some that were out of print! Bev related how
she had seen an ad in the paper announcing schools closing and free library books
being given away. When the sale commenced, she was there with boxes in hand.

At first, she selected books recommended by KONOS and the Honey for a Child’s
Heart bibliography, Newbery Award books, and Caldecott Medal winners. Then she
began pulling classics such as Heidi. She kept pulling for days—until she filled her
garage! When her husband lost his job, she tried to sell the books to an online used
bookseller but was offered only pennies a pound. Before I knew it, a friend and I had
bought five thousand books and were selling them in my backyard to homeschoolers
in Dallas—but not before we had each chosen three hundred books with which to
start our own personal library! Books make homeschooling moms happy.

Units Need Three Types of Books

Pre-Internet times and homeschooling on a shoestring made library cards golden in
those early homeschooling days. Since I lived at the library 24/7, finding books to go
with each KONOS unit, I should have earned a degree in library science! Each unit
needed three types of books: information books, classic literature books, and easy
readers. The easy readers were great if you could find them on the unit topic but not
worth straining over. There are tons of information books about the American
Revolution, but be careful! Look for information books that teach you tidbits that you
did not know, such as The Colonial Craftsmen: And the Beginnings of American
Industry by Tunis or the Picture Book of the Continental Soldier by Wilber,
where he shows musket loading and cartridge rolling. I finally learned why soldiers
bite the end of their cartridge and what a “flash in the pan” meant literally!

The classics and award winners provided unit literature books. Of course The Secret
Garden by Burnett is a must for the “Orderliness: Plants” unit, while . . . And Now
Miguel by Krumgold about a 12-year-old boy who wants to help with the sheep in
the mountains fits the “Trust: Sheep” unit perfectly. Excellent book choices don’t
merely match unit topic to book topic; rather, a combination of a topic match and
choosing books of unforgettable, richly developed characters and plot is essential.
For “Obedience: Horses,” one would think Black Beauty by Sewell would be a
natural, but King of the Wind goes past being a heartwarming story. It is a
Newbery Award-winning true story written in novel format about a heroic horse that
founds the lineage of thoroughbred horses. I never read it to my kids without crying.
The Wheel on the School by DeJong, about six Dutch school children trying to find
a wheel for the roof of their school to attract storks to their village, is memorable for
the wonderfully crafted characters and the plot of childlike means to find a wheel—
perfect for the “Bird” unit!

Vicarious Living Through Literature
We cannot go back and experience historic events firsthand, and there are many
things we do not want to experience, but we do want to understand. Literature
provides readers vicarious living for historical units. I would not teach the Civil War
without including Hunt’s Across Five Aprils. Not only does it chronicle the five years
of the Civil War, but through one family’s saga, you understand feelings of
Northerners, Southerners, and those pulled both ways by the war. Through Corrie
ten Boom’s eyes in The Hiding Place, you understand the atrocities of Hitler’s
concentration camps. Newbery Award winner Out of the Dust by Hesse, written in
free verse, paints a picture of how teenager Billie Jo fought economic and mental
despair during the Depression. My mother gave Hesse’s book to me with this note
penned: “So you will know what I lived through.”

If you read Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, you climb into black skin and
vicariously experience 1933 racial injustice endured by a Mississippi farm family.
That wonderful quote by Scout Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird at the end of the
book is equally true of literature: “Atticus was right. One time he said you never
really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just
standing on the Radley porch was enough.” I encourage you to use your pubic library
and build your own library, so your children can stand in others’ shoes and on others’
porches through literature.

Jessica Hulcy, co-author of KONOS Curriculum, the first curriculum written for
homeschool, is an educator, author, and formerly popular national homeschool
speaker prior to her near-fatal wreck in 2009. A graduate of the University of
Texas, mom to four grown sons, and “Grandear” to grandchildren, Jessica lives with
her husband Wade on acreage in Texas. Recently Jessica and Wade started the
ultimate online help for homeschooling moms called Homeschool Mentor. Visit and

Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally
appeared in the March 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family
education magazine. Read the magazine free at or read it on
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