Preschool and Thirty-Three Classic Picture Books

This series of articles is in response to the question, “What curriculum do you use?” which we’re freqently asked. Read the first in the series here. Don’t miss the freebie at the bottom of the post!

Preschool is a time when you can really hardly fail. You have years and years and years to make up for what you don’t teach. Unfortunately, though, we find it is one of the most bollixed times out there with stressed out parents and tired children. It is so easy to succumb to the race to prove your child smarter than all others. Or for fathers to panic, “How will they get into college?” I always think, “Hello. Reality check time. The child is THREE!”

After shepherding eight children through this stage, here are the things we think of when we are deciding what to do in the preschool years:

We’re careful not to start too soon or too formally. Made that mistake with our first and we learned that you really don’t want your little student to burn out by seven! Don’t think by this that we are loosey-goosey folks that recommend you just wander through all their years schooling. Our oldest son went to a top 15 university on a full ride merit scholarship and studied at Oxford University. Just remember, though, you have plenty of time and these are not the years to push.

So, if we’re not pushing workbooks and formal schooltime on our preschoolers, what do we do? Let me tell you the story of Maria Montessori. You’ve heard of Montessori schools, right? Montessori developed her ideas in an effort to help the children in daycare have the same developmental advantages of those home with their mothers. That’s why you’ll see folding and polishing cloths, child-size brooms and mops, button boards and dishes in a Montessori school. You can have the most elite Montessori-type school in your area right there in your own home. It’ll be so elite you have to be born into it!

The key is to begin discipling and teaching intentionally. Instead of “Run along and play while I fold the laundry,” try “Look, when I fold this square washcloth in half, it becomes a rectangle. Fold it again and it’s a square. Here, you try one!” In the same way, teach basic math casually in real life. “Honey, put the forks on the table. How many will we need? Grandma and Grandpa are coming.”

On the way to the courthouse to pay your taxes, talk about why we pay taxes (both practically and Biblically), about government, government services, democracy, the mayor and the town council and more.

It’s really just a matter of grabbing hold of your role as your child’s foremost teacher. Look for opportunities to share, to talk, to discuss. This makes a tremendous difference in teaching them to love learning and giving them the basic background that makes it easy. Let them work alongside you. It’s okay if it’s not done perfectly; you’re raising an eternal soul, not a house. All those lessons we learn following our mothers around – diligence, patience, love of beauty, creativity, obedience, orderliness, and more – are the foundations for learning.

It’s also a great time to begin memorizing. We love the Catechism for Boys and Girls for its simple, clear introduction to theology:

“Who made you?”  “God made me.”

Books? This is the time to buy books for yourself. Learn all about the different philosophies of homeschooling. Subscribe to a homeschool magazine. Grow in the Lord.

Thirty-Three Picture Books Every Child Should Read

It’s also a great time to start collecting all those fantastic classic picture books and to read them aloud (again and again) to your children. Here are some of our favorite classic picture books. Links are affiliate links.

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

One of our all time favorite books, this sweet story of the travails of Mr. & Mrs. Mallard will leave you longing for Boston’s Public Garden.


Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

The parallelism between the adventures of Sal and the bear cub make this story so funny! Notice the expressions on the mother’s faces.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

This weirdly wondeful book captures so well the delaying tactics of those avoiding bedtime. Still a punchline in our house. “And a little old lady whispering HUSH!”

Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown

Deals with those confusing emotions of wanting to run away from your “mean” mommy, but also wanting to know you never can, that her love will always follow you.

Freight Train by Donald Crews

Donald Crews does a wonderful job of illustrating the sounds and speed of that boy-favorite, the freight train.

Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina

Another odd, but wonderful book, you can hardly help but be delighted with the antics of the monkeys when they swipe the caps.

Pig Gets Stuck by Stephan Cartwright and Heather Amery

The illustrations in this book are so fun as we see Pig learn the lesson of contentment.


The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack

Teaches an important lesson that taking your discipline is way better than the alternative.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin

A fun book that teaches reading comprehension and listening as the children anticipate the next animal.


Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel

So, so funny to read aloud, especially if you get into the story and read fast when you are supposed to. A lesson the advantages of humility.

The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper

Oh, this books gets old fast, but the children never, ever tire of it!


Cordoroy by Don Freeman

You’ll fall in love with the little bear with the loose button.

Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton

A great story about a snow plow that finally gets her chance. A natural way to learn about maps.

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton

An exciting story about usefulness. We’re always so happy to see Mike and his steam shovel find a place to fit in.

The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton

Another great story about adjusting to change.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter

Get the original illustrations and enjoy this classic with your children – and see Peter suffer the consequences of his foolishness.


Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree by A.A. Milne and Ernest Shepherd

Hunt until you find the original words and illustrations. The Winnie-the-Pooh books are delightfully witty and much more complex than the Disney adaptations. Teach your children to love words!

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff

Does your child ever act like this book? Mine do! Once you’ve read this, head off the “gimmees” by just saying, “Ooooooh, it’s give a mouse a cookie, is it?” with a great big smile.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Delight with your children in the caterpillars prodigious appetite and miraculous change.

The Little Old Man Who Could Not Read

Great motivation for persisting no matter how hard it is! An all-time favorite around here.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett

This is one of those wonderful “what if” books. So much fun to think about food falling from the sky — remind your children, that once upon a time, God provided manna!

The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Anderson

In a world where all too often the emporor is naked as a jaybird, your children need to understand that just because “everyone” says it, it ain’t necessarily so. 🙂


Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmens

The rhythm and pace of this story is delightful!


Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt

A toddler classic, your little ones will never forget touching Daddy’s scratchy face.


Stone Soup by Marcia Brown

Another great commentary on civilization.


Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel

One of those you may tire of, but your children won’t. They love the repetition of “That is not my button!”


Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish

 Poor Amelia Bedelia’s misinterpretations of her orders are hilarious.


The Napping House by Audrey Wood

A sweet and funny book about a whole houseful of family napping.


The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Anderson

A reassuring story, particularly for little girls, that things are not always what they seem.


Where’s Spot? by Eric Hill

Children delight in opening the flaps and crying out, “That’s not Spot!”


When the Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant

A wonderful story about the pleasures of a visit with extended family.


Monkey in a Lion’s Skin (A Jungle Doctor Picture Fable) by Paul White

Love, love, love the Jungle Doctor books, all of them.


Andrew Henry’s Meadow

Although you have to explain to your children that running away isn’t the answer, I think all children fantacize about having a house all theirs, just like they want it. A favorite from my childhood.


One set of books that will help you think of easy and natural ways to begin teaching phonics and math to your children is The Three R’s Series by Ruth Beechick.

Enjoy these short years. I really believe that lots of reading aloud and lots of interaction with mom and dad while they work beside you is the very best preparation for school there is. Those that grow up with a love of learning and the character learned at mom’s knees will be lifelong learners!

Cherish these years!


For more on making the preschool years count, download our workshop, Homeschooled From the Beginning: Teaching Your Little Ones FREE

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