Finding Chapter Books for my Eclectic Homeschooled/Unschooled 4 year old

I’m starting to feel like a nit-picking nightmare mom. But the thing is, my kids are getting older, they really enjoy reading, and I want to encourage that with a beginner chapter book. But I’m hitting snags finding one that fits my family.

I define my kid’s learning as eclectic and unschooled. They are 4.5yo, 3yo, & 19 months, so we haven’t officially started, but I’m dipping my toes into the water. Unschooling doesn’t really have a set age. They have interests and we exlpore them.

I’m finding that the most popular chapter books revolve around the protagonist’s experience in school. Which I COMPLETELY understand! That is the bulk of a school aged kid’s day. But it’s not going to be mine. So I’m trying to avoid that.

To add to that, we aren’t big on the whole Santa production during the holiday and we especially don’t intend on doing the Elf on the Shelf bit. To each their own, but I just don’t like it.

Yes, yes, nightmare mom, I can hear it. But here are my attempts, fails, and likes so far.

My First Attempt: Diary of a Wimpy Kid

I Do Not Recommend

I picked this up because there wasn’t a great amount of text on each page and there were a ton of illustrations. It seemed like a win-win for a budding reader. The presentation was great, but the content was not. In “Cabin Fever,” the first chapters were devoted to getting the best presents from Santa, the elf on the shelf spying on you, dealing with bullies at school, and “borrowing” your dad’s credit card.

It has been brought to my attention that the reading level for these is more like 7-9 years old, but I don’t think I’d want my kid reading and emulating this character at any age. My husband came home while I was reading this book aloud and he was shocked I was reading it to the kids, and honestly I was dreading the words as I read them.

I will be taking them out of our library.

My Kids Love: Captain Underpants & Dog Man by Dav Pilkey


I picked these books because they’re big and beautiful and full of potty humor. For some reason my 3yo thinks her farts are the most hilarious thing in the world. I fully blame my husband. So I was pretty sure that they would enjoy a baby-man in underwear fighting evil toilets; I was right.

I’m not super excited that the main storyline of “Captain Underpants” revolves around two little boys in school, but I think it’s a small part that’s necessary to explain the super hero. The boys are naughty, but in a mischevious “kid” way that I don’t mind as much. They’re not being truly mean.

Then there’s “Dog Man” by the same author! I actually have two books, but my 3yo took the other book to bed with her. Both my kids love the pictures, they think Dog Man is hilarious, and I like that it doesn’t involve a school at all. It’s a bit goofy, but I used to watch CatDog on Nickolodeon and never batted an eye. It’s the same idea.

Are these “fluff” books? Absolutely. But my kids keep bringing them to me to read, so I’ll take it. The only negative I have is that some words are spelled wrong. But that is supposed to represent authentic “kid writing,” and I understand why the author made that choice.

A Book That Was Highly Recommended: Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park

Not Going
to Read

This afternoon I was speaking to a group of moms about being disappointed by the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books, and I was surprised how many people also complained about this one. This book was recommended by so many mom blogs, and the majority of the women I spoke to today said it was not a good read.

Their reasons: The protagonist is always behaving badly and that their kids starting acting out her bad behavior after reading it. One mom said she even chose to homeschool her kid because these books were mandatory reading in first grade.

Why I’m not reading it to my kids: The very first page states that kids MUST go to school at age 6. Add that to the naughty behavior, and I’m not going to read it to my impressionable kids.

I picked up “Junie B. Jones Has a Peep in her Pocket” at the thrift store today, and I’m probably going to pop it into a little free library down the road.

Tales for the Perfect Child
by Florence Perry Heide

Returned to the Library Unread

I can’t remember where I found the recommendation for this one, but I borrowed it from the library. It is a collection of stories from different kids in different situations. But the undertone of the entire collection is how to get away with things without your parents knowing… I pre-read a story and was shocked by the little kids’ actions.

Perhaps reading this with an older kid would be helpful because you could talk about bad behavior, but it’s absolutely not for little kids deciding what behaviors are acceptable.

Little House in the Big Woods
by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I plan on holding off on this one, but I want to read it to them eventually.

I think this will be a great read when my kids are a bit older. It’s the first book that began the Little House on the Prairie books. It covers rugged, homestyle living and I’d love to impart some of that onto my kids. It is illustrated, though not as much as I’d like; perhaps 1 picture every 4-6 pages.

Why I’m waiting: This book covers slaughtering animals pretty early on, and I’m not ready to have that conversation. Also, a mom friend warned that many of the Little House on the Prairie books have pretty strong racial feelings regarding Native Americans, and I’m also not ready to present that to my kids. Maybe I’m wrong for that.

Recommendations I Have Received:

“Mercy Watson” by Kate DiCamillo is a series that looks adorable! The pictures are bright and colorful and the books are about 80 pages, which feels perfect for a beginning reader. I have two in my library list and I look forward to reading them with my kids!

“Ivy and Bean” by Annie Barrow
Mixed Feelings: It was recommended by people who’s opinions I value and share, but the reviews I read when looking into it make me unsure. Apparently one of the girls is very bratty but eventually they work out their differences and become best friends.

“Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White! I’m picking this classic up from the library on Wednesday and I’m excited! I hope my kids like it. I’ve actually never read it, so I’m looking forward to it for myself, too.

Heartwood Home by Kallie George
I’m totally judging a book by its cover here, but this looks beautiful! The recommended age level is 4-8y so I’m definitely going to try these soon!

Additional Recommendations:

I’m really excited for my kids to continue their reading adventure! I never thought I’d need to pre-read their books to make sure the content was appropriate, but here we are. I didn’t expect to homeschool my kids, let alone be half the hippy mom I turned out to be! But I’m so excited for their education and I think they’re going to grow up to be very happy people. Life is good moms, snuggle your little ones and read them a good book.
Even though they’re probably driving you nuts.

Love & Adventure Everyone

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