When you use a literature based curriculum, the boundaries between English course descriptions, history course descriptions, and reading lists get blurry! Instead of thinking you need to divide books between them all, think of it like a Venn Diagram:
Books that are ONLY in the English course description: textbooks, workbooks, curriculum. These might include: Sonlight Core 100, Spelling Power, Wordly Wise, Institute for Excellence in Writing High School Essay Intensive.
Books that are ONLY in the History course description: textbooks, workbooks, and curriculum. These might include: Sonlight Core 100, Mapping the World By Heart, History of US by Joy Hakim.
Books that go in BOTH English AND the reading list, literature read for school. For example: The Red Badge of Courage, Call of the Wild.
Books that go in BOTH the History course description and the reading list: biographies and historical fiction read for school. For example: Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin or Farewell to Manzanar.
If books fit in BOTH the history course description and the English course description, I would usually put the autobiographies in History and the historical novels in English, even though they help the child learn about both subjects.
The Reading List can include everything that is considered literature. For that reason, you can include literature reading for school, historical reading for school, historical novels, biographies, and any reading for fun. I usually leave off the list anything that seems like curriculum. Anthologies are collections of literature excerpts, and can be a little harder to place. When a reading list is already quite long, I suggest leaving the anthology as curriculum, either in the English course description or the History course description (or both!) but not on the reading list.
Because homeschoolers who use a literature based curriculum have so many books in the reading list (and always will, no doubt), I’d be tempted to remove the more schoolish books (such as Foxes Book of Martyrs, Beowulf, and Famous Men of Greece) and put those kinds of books ONLY in the course description, rather than on the reading list. But you know, that’s really just a “me” thing. Most high school kids read 5-10 books a year, so there is no need to include everything, and these completely overlap! Although my son Alex read Jane Austen’s books for fun and should have had those books on his reading list, the same books were ALSO on the reading list for Kevin, even though he didn’t think it was much fun at all!
The bottom line? The reading list is not just for high school subjects, it’s what your child read that year. It will include some literature they read for school subjects, especially when you use a literature based curriculum. Course descriptions are not about reading for fun, but might include books that are assigned for school and that might just happen to be fun to read.
Please note: This post was originally published in February 2013 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.