I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

25 Great Living Books for Sneaky Summer Learning

Ah summer! With its simpler schedules, winsome weather, and daily adventures lurking around every corner, summer has a way of showing me how to slough off the pressures of the homeschool year.

I wish that were it.
I wish I could just pack up the learning, set it all in a back corner somewhere, and then dust it off three months later when I need to get the wheels spinning again.

But that's just simply not possible--at least not if I want to avoid the summer slide, that ghastly phenomenon that occurs when children's brains sit in idle for three months out of the year causing them to forget nearly 75% of what they previously learned.

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In an effort to avoid such learning catastrophes, many moms choose to create a Sabbath schedule in their homeschool calendars.

Here in the near-tundra where we only get about seven minutes of snow-free weather, I refuse to do any formal learning in the summer. Summer for us equals a chance to get some vitamin D the old fashioned way. We say so long to school, hit the beach, and pray that the water temps are at least above freezing.

But that doesn't mean that I can't prevent summer slide. It just means that I have to get a little sneaky in my efforts. It means that the learning has to be slipped in when no one is looking.

One of my favorite ways to sneak in some summer learning is just by strewing some really great living literature all throughout our home--in our discovery basket, on our read aloud shelf, and in our earbuds.

If you have a desire to foster learning in the carefree days of summer, look no further. I've compiled a list of twenty-five great living books (5 titles for 5 of the main learning categories in the homeschool day) that you can strew in order to prevent that nasty summer slide!

This is an eclectic range of titles--books for all ages. Some are best read aloud. Others can be read alone.


Ten, Nine, Eight- Most counting books count forward. This book teaches a child to count backward. 

Over in the Meadow- The classic children's song "Over in the Meadow" is set to vintage illustrations in this book, creating a beautiful introduction to both numbers and nature. 

Benjamin Franklin and the Magic Squares- This book details many of Ben Franklin's discoveries, specifically his mathematical nine squares. 

The Boy Who Loved Math- This is a picture book biography of Paul Erdos, a 20th-century Hungarian mathematician.

The Toothpaste Millionaire- In this middle-grade fiction, 6th grader Rufus Mayflower discovers an economical way to package and distribute toothpaste. He enlists the help of a few friends to create a million dollar company. Financial language and mathematical equations fill the text. 

Science/Nature Study

Over and Under the Pond- This beautifully illustrated book depicts the action that happens both above and below the surface of a pond.

The Year at Maple Hill Farm- This book shows how the changing months and changing seasons affect the responsibilities of the farmer and the farm animals.

The Boy Who Drew Birds- This is a picture book biography of John James Audubon, the premier bird artist of the 19th century. The illustrations are created in the style of his original art and include replicas of his most famous works. 

Ben and Me- Amos Mouse, the narrator of this middle-grade fiction, takes full credit for all the many scientific discoveries and inventions of American patriot Ben Franklin. 

Kildee House- This book follows the adventures of an early American naturalist when he leaves the comforts of home to build a shack in the Redwoods. 


Boxes for Katje- Based on the true-life generosity of the author's mother, this book shows the hardships of post-WWII Holland and depicts how one American girl sent hope to a small Dutch community one package at a time. 

The Ox-Cart Man- This book tells of the year-long responsibilities of a farming family of colonial New England. 

Finding Winnie- This is the true story of the bear that inspired A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh and the WWI soldiers who found and cared for him.

Echo- This is the best audiobook I've ever listened to. It is actually four stories of four different people across the world and across time. Eventually, the stories converge to teach a valuable lesson about the power of music, forgiveness, friendship, and hope. 

Fever 1793- This YA is a fictional retelling of the tragic events of the yellow fever epidemic that swept through Philadelphia in 1793.

Fine Arts

Yellowstone Moran- Thomas Moran was a city slicker who knew nothing about survival in the Wild West. But, he had a desire to bring its beauty back to the East for others to enjoy. So, he set out on an adventure with his art supplies in hand, determined to recreate as many national parks through paint as he could. 

A Splash of Red- The mixed-media style illustrations of this picture book biography of Horace Pippin provide a rich backdrop for his art. 

Action Jackson- I'm not a fan of Jackson Pollock's art. But that's the wonder of biographical books. When well-written, they can help you form an appreciation for a person or their contribution to humanity.

Becoming Bach- The author of this very colorful and slightly whimsical picture book biography has done an excellent job recounting some of the very dark portions of Bach's life in a gentle, kid-friendly way for young readers. 

The Ostrich and Other Lost Things- In this middle-grade fiction, Olivia Grant auditions for a community rendition of Peter Pan. With the help of the theatre, she is able to learn how to better understand and appreciate her autistic older brother. 


The Keeping Quilt- A scrap quilt helps pass a family's Russian heritage and familial connections down from generation to generation in this award-winning classic by Patricia Polacco.

I Have a Dream- The larger-than-life illustrations that accompany Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech in this book can help even the youngest of kids understand the gravity of his words. 

Stone Fox- When his grandfather becomes ill, Little Willie determines to win the local sled dog race in order to earn enough money to save his grandfather's farm. It'll take hard work and a whole lot of determination to face the undefeated champion, Stone Fox. 

The Sword and the Tree- When his father suddenly goes missing, Shan must defend his mother and his kingdom from his corrupt uncle, Lionel. 

A Long Walk to Water- Based on the true story of Salva Dut, a young boy who loses his way during the 1980s Sudanese refugee crisis, this book is a MUST READ for older tweens and teens.  

To be honest, I can't say that these are my top 25 picks for sneaky summer learning. After fifteen years of reading living books to my children and seven years reading them to kids in the classroom, I've amassed quite a lengthy list of favorites. Asking me to pick five for each category is like asking me to pick a favorite child.

But, this list definitely contains 25 great books to help you sneak in some math, science/nature, history/geography, fine arts, and character building without making even one lesson plan.

One of the best parts about using books for learning this summer? Books are portable and can be brought to the beach!

More Sneaky Summer Learning Library lists

I joined forces with four other moms to create a giant sneaky summer learning library. For more book suggestions, check out their lists.

Our Journey Westward
Homegrown Learners
Over at Alicia's
Rachel R. Reeves

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