Using Goodreads As a Homeschooling Tool

A few months ago I was introduced to the idea of using Goodreads for homeschooling. Our homeschooling “method” (if you could call it that) is very book-based, and the Senior Agents do a lot of independent reading as well. I like to Keep Track Of All The Books, because I’m crazy thorough like that. This makes that process so. much. easier.

There’s lots of fancy and social things you can do with Goodreads. I don’t do any of them, unless you count the cute widget in my blog sidebar. I don’t write reviews, or keep a list of books I want to read or am currently reading, or add friends, or make comments, or participate in discussions, or peruse suggested titles. I just scan bar codes and put books on shelves.

Getting Started


Setting up a Goodreads account is free and easy. From the Goodreads homepage you just need to type in your name, e-mail address, and a password. Once you have a profile, editing said profile as well as adding shelves is pretty self-explanatory.

You will have three default shelves: Read, Currently Reading, and To Read. When you add books it will force you to choose one of these first, and then you can add the books to any of the other shelves in your account. I use Read for everything and ignore the other two.

By clicking on Settings you can customize what you want to see on each shelf’s page. I’ve chosen to just include the title and author with a thumbnail of the cover, plus the date it was added and the shelf (or shelves). The other columns (ratings, reviews, notes, date started, date finished, etc.) are just extra information I don’t really need.

How My Account Is Organized


Each Agent has their own shelf. For Agents E (4th) and J (2nd) this is all the books (mostly fiction, but some nonfiction and poetry) they read independently. For Agent A (K) this is any books we specifically choose for him, whether he reads it himself or someone reads it to him or a combination of the two.

All of our school topics (math, language arts, geography, history, science, health, art, music, and physical education) also have a shelf. Each shelf is labeled as {subject name} 4th-2nd. I did this so that next year I can use the same account and the same shelf names but just add grade levels to the ends as appropriate. I purposely did not include K this year because we do not “do” individual subjects for kindergarten.

{Note that we combine most subjects for Agents E and J, which is why they are all labeled 4th-2nd, as opposed to having, for example, Science 4th and Science 2nd. Once Agent A is in 1st and we add him into the mix, I’ll likely have to revisit this system.)

Sometimes books end up on more than one shelf, because much of what we’re studying tends to overlap. This happens a lot, for instance, with geography/science (e.g., books about the earth), science/health (e.g., books on the human body), and science/history (e.g., books on human evolution).

My Favorite Feature


You can easily search for and then add individual books from the website. However, the super duper easy time saver way to add books is to scan them with your phone.

Download the Goodreads app for free, open it, and click on Scan at the bottom. Touch the scan button in the upper left part of the screen, and a camera window will pop up. Simply hold your phone over the barcode/ISBN number and it will automatically record it for you. Scan as many books as you like one after another. When you are finished, click Done and it will give you the option to shelve them.

Tip: All of the books you scan together will end up in group that is shelved together. So, if you scan multiple books at once, you can first add them all to Read (remember, it will force you to choose one of the default shelves first) and then you can choose additional shelves. However, it’s going to transfer all of the books you recently scanned to each shelf you click on until you clear your scanned book history.

Example: Say I have six books to scan. Two are books only Agent J read. One is a book both Agent E and Agent J read. The other three are books about the skeletal system. I want these books to end up on shelves in specific groupings. So, I would scan the two books that J read first, shelve them to Read and Agent J 2nd, and then clear my scanned book history. Then I would scan the one book both E and J read, shelve it to Read, Agent E 4th, and Agent J 2nd, and then clear my scanned book history. Finally, I would scan the three skeletal system books, shelve them to Read, Science, and Health, and then clear my scanned book history so it’s ready for next time.


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