I did not include in this list any of the books that are in the Top Ten Charlotte Mason Must Haves even though there are some public domain books in that list as well. All of these titles are ones that I have actually in our homeschool. They are all highly recommended.
1. Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare by Edith Nesbitat Main Lesson; at Archive
2. Tales from Shakespeare by Charles Lambat Archive; at Librivox
Numbers one and two are both retellings which make Shakespeare’s plays accessible to elementary aged learners. Don’t “save” Shakespeare for high school. Go ahead and enjoy him now with these stories.
3. Alfred Church’s Greek Classics retold for Boys and Girls: The Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Aeneidat Main Lesson; at Librivox
There is a reason these three classics are called epics — they are still as enjoyable today as they were in the days of ancient Greece or Rome. Again, a simplified retelling makes these easier to grasp than the more advanced translations your children might read in high school or college. (Heritage History sells attractively formatted and affordable eBook versions of these as well as providing the entire texts, free online.)
4. Thornton Burgess’s Nature Storiesat Main Lesson; at Librivox
Sheer delight. Burgess’s animal stories have a beautiful way of weaving in facts about nature in a way that is not distracting from the tale but rather enhances it.
5. John H. Haaren’s Famous Men Series: Greece, Rome, Middle Ages, Modern Timesat Main Lesson; at Librivox
These four volumes can be used as history spines or supplements. They take a biographical approach to history, telling narratives of men from the time period. This is the interesting way to learn history. (Heritage History sells attractively formatted and affordable eBook versions of these as well as offering the entire text free online.)
6. Poems Every Child Should Know by Mary E. Burtat Main Lesson; at Gutenberg
If you need a poetry spine for daily poetry study or for a unit of study, this free book is a good option. Of course, there are no funny poems from Jack Prelutsky, but all of the classics are included.
7. Grammarland by M. L. Nesbitat Google Books; at Librivox; PDF at Homeway Press
This may be the single book that takes a narrative approach to grammar. In Grammarland, children meet the parts of speech as they are personified in unique characters. The book includes grammar exercises to reinforce each chapter. This book sounds strange, and it is, but it is also interesting and engaging.
8. Number Stories of Long Ago by David Eugene Smithat Google Books; at Archive
Like Grammarland, Number Stories takes a narrative approach to an topic that rarely gets that kind of treatment –math. It is really a math history primer, taking the reader through the major civilizations of history and finding how each one dealt with numbers and computation. This was one of those books that my daughter was always happy to listen to.
9. The World’s Great Men of Music by Harriette Browerat Google Books; at Many Books
I like to add a biographical sketch to our composer studies, and The World’s Great Men of Music is a free alternative to a book like The Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers (without the Christian content, of course). I keep this one on my Kindle and refer to it occasionally.
10. Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyanat Archive; at Many Books
Of course, I assume that your home has a Bible. That is the supreme public domain book that you can use in your homeschool and life. But it really goes without saying, so I didn’t include it in the top ten. Instead I will remind you of a spiritual classic that has stood alongside the Bible for centuries –Pilgrims Progress. Read it for literature, for discipleship, or create an entire unit study. It should be included in your homeschool schedule at some point in the 12 years of education.