Books for Cultivating Honorable Boys

In a post on my old blog (the now defunct I wrote about how we are failing to give our boys a reason to learn, how boys are motivated by honor and how our society has left them without hope, and how one antidote to the problem may be using great literature to motivate our sons to pursue honor. 

But what books should they read?  

I recently asked a group of longtime homeschooling mothers, women I highly respect, what books they recommended for boys. The following is what I gleaned from raising my own sons combined with suggestions from these moms.

 I have broken the list down into 3 parts: fiction, poetry, and biographies. With a few added additions this is a fine list for girls also but girls are much more motivated than our boys, in general. 

Noticeably missing from the list are books I would classify as Victorian moralism.  The group of women I surveyed almost unanimously agreed that moralism is antithetical to real heart change.  My friend Chris put it this way, “Moralism looks good on the outside, which makes mothers feel more comfortable with their children: if they look good on the outside, I must be doing things right. It is just another kind of legalism. But in a world out of control and chaotic, one is always willing to sell their liberty for tyranny that will bring order. It's an old, old story.”  

Our goal is not to produce self-righteous prigs like our old friend Eustace Scrubbs before he met the dragon (See: The Voyage of Dawn Treader) but rather to motivate our sons by the examples of true heart change whether that heart change is in the real man Stonewall Jackson or the fictional mouse Reepicheep.  When we read of these sorts of characters we don’t feel smug and good, we feel challenged and even ashamed.  We question our own motives and behaviors.  In the best cases, we repent. 

38 Books from My First Year of Homeschooling

38 Books from My First Year of Homeschooling

By the time I had Timothy, my oldest in 1984, I had already spent three years reading about homeschooling so when he turned four I was chafing to get started.

We were already using the morning to review his Awana verses and read nursery rhymes and picture books, but I was anxious to start reading longer books—chapter books. So I picked up a Signature Biography I had on hand from a library sale and began reading a chapter. He listened, then asked for another. I read another and another and by the end of the year we had read thirty-eight chapter books—"read-alouds" we call them now.

Looking back I knew that we had read many books that year, but I would never have guessed the total could have been thirty-eight until recently I found the paper where I recorded them. Looking over the titles my mind returns to those happy days and those happy stories, and I bet Timothy’s does too on occasion. 

That year always stands out in my memory as my best year of homeschooling. The year before things got serious and stressed. Perhaps it was the year I taught from a state of rest—reading aloud, fishing at lunch, and looking at pretty pictures.

From 1989 to 1990 here is what Timothy and I read.