School in a Book: No-Frills, No-Filler Knowledge Checklists with Essential Facts of Science, History, Literature, Life Skills and More

Twelve years of elementary and high school plus extracurricular studies leaves us with a lot of information. Too much information, sometimes. Since we can’t retain everything, our brains have to pick and choose. And sometimes they make pretty bad decisions. We might live with our in-depth understanding of the oboe forever, say, but can’t recall whether Alexander the Great lived before or after the Roman Empire. If we don’t want our most important knowledge areas to fade out, then, we do well to periodically review the basics.

That’s where School in a Book comes in.

For each subject listed below, I’ve written a knowledge checklist of sorts: a collection of essential terms and other information. It’s not a textbook; instead, it’s an overview, a handy guide to help you pinpoint your knowledge areas that need a bit of padding.

I’m having lot of fun–so much fun!–writing these for myself and my homeschooling children. If you find any mistakes or other opportunities for revision, please let me know.

And since I love lists so much, here’s another one for you: the eight main advantages of using this book.


School in a Book is, unapologetically, a generalist, liberal arts curriculum. It is a straightforward, basic overview of each topic–nothing more. Though the advantages and disadvantages of such an approach must be weighed by each individual, most educators believe that a wide knowledge base is a good thing.

It almost goes without saying–but maybe not quite–that there is more to life than fractions and the Mayflower, though. Take these basic concepts and use them to build yourself into a great generalist … then branch off from there in the direction of your choice.


The book’s biggest advantage, I think, is a hidden one: By reading the entire outline of a topic in one sitting, you’re able to feel, maybe for the first time, you truly understand it. Here’s a metaphor I like: If a physics textbook is a detailed travel guide to the world of that subject, the School in a Book physics checklist is a physics map. By reading the checklist all at once, you’re able to see the bigger picture: physics has to do with energy, motion, gravity, electricity, magnetism, light, sound and nuclear forces. With the confidence you gain by having this guide in hand, you’re able to carefully decide which areas of the subject to explore further.


We all have areas of special interest that we will explore in depth during our lives. School in a Book isn’t a complete education, just a jumping-off point, a framework on which to build slowly over time. Studying these essentials, though, helps you relax into your deep-dive learning, giving you confidence that you didn’t miss important areas while focused on your niche.


I know, I know: memorization is out of fashion these days. But let’s not take our emphasis on critical thinking and creativity too far. If thinking skills are the toolkit, facts are the raw materials. It’s impossible to arrange an interesting proposal, plan, article or analysis–or even have a fluent conversation on a topic–without the facts–the building blocks–in hand. (Okay, it’s possible, but we all know what that looks like and it isn’t pretty.)

The very best way to use School in a Book is as a tool for memorization. This is the stuff you’ll want to know–to retain–for the many efforts, decisions and conversations to come in your life. And if you don’t know them, you will regret it.


You might be surprised at how much you don’t know about the world, even if you’ve completed twelve or more years of school. I was. (Okay, that’s not quite true. I knew I badly needed help.) Our minds don’t always pick and choose well. They might record every word our favorite teachers say, but almost nothing from certain textbooks. Here, discover what you missed on the days you slept in, and what you forgot.


Though this resource purports to be an elementary through high school educational reference text, the checklists were all designed to cover college 101-level material (and, in a few cases, levels higher than this). This is because I believe that college 101 classes are generally meant to catch up incoming college students on the subjects they should have learned in high school, but didn’t.


As a homeschooling mom, I realize how difficult it can be to locate the right list at the right time. Other books spread out the essential knowledge between pages of description, introduction, images, callouts and the like. School in a Book eschews such inefficient use of space in order to provide extremely easy access to a broad range of information.


As you peruse the lists in this book, you will discover a great many facts you already know. This is excellent. I highly suggest that if you have the book in print form, you mark your retained facts as you go. There’s a saying in psychology: “Shrink the change.” The more facts and lists you finish, the more encouraged you’ll be to move on to more challenging areas. (This also prevents you from wasting time re-reading old-to-you material.)

I hope that you find these terms and facts as useful as I do, but if you don’t, wait a few years. By mastering the School in a Book material, you’ve paved the way for an easier high school and college experience. You’ve also obtained a good knowledge foundation that will serve you well your entire adult working life.

Don’t believe the rumors: you can be a generalist and a specialist both. Why not? Life is long, and learning is life. Be curious. Be unafraid. Read nonfiction every day. Watch documentaries. Find a passion (or six). Be great.

Oh, and have lots of fun while you’re doing it.

School in a Book Sections:

A Brief Timeline of World History

A Brief History of North and Central America

A Brief History of South America

A Brief History of Europe

A Brief History of Africa

A Brief History of the Middle East

A Brief History of Russia

A Brief History of Asia

A Brief History of Australia and Oceania

Basic Chemistry

Basic Physics

Basic Astronomy

Basic Biology and Genetics

Basic Botany and Zoology

Basic Human Body and Medicine Science

Basic Computer Science

Basic Technology

Basic Geology, Ecology and Meteorology

Basic Geography

Basic Grammar and Punctuation

Basic Writing

Basic Literary Analysis

Basic Arithmetic and Measurement

Basic Algebra, Geometry and Statistics

Basic Philosophy, Logic and Rhetoric

Basic Psychology

Basic Sociology

Basic Political Science

Basic American Government

Basic Religion and Spirituality

Basic Fine Arts Appreciation

Art and Craft Skills

Basic Physical Education

Basic Mandarin Chinese Vocabulary

Basic Spanish Vocabulary

Basic Life Management Skills

Learning Games and Other Essential Educational Activities

Homeschooling Process Tips

Recommended Resources: Classic Literature: Older Kids and Adults

Recommended Resources: Classic Literature: Children’s

Recommended Resources: Classic Films

Recommended Resources: Classic Songs and Musical Artists

Recommended Resources: Other Recommended Resources


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  1. Wow I love the idea of mini text book or memory help mini books. Because I agree with you, we cannot remember everything for ever. Unless we read it often or use the knowledge in some way we forget.

    1. Thanks so much. I am excited. Some of them are just checklists but the actual info can be recalled or looked up as needed. I have a spreadsheet for each child with all this stuff on there. It’s huge.