The minute I heard about schools closing due to COVID-19 and self-isolation, all I could think was, “How in Hades will I know what to teach my kids?!?” While the advice and memes and homeschooling plans started to flood my social media, one of my teacher-friends reminded me to keep it simple: Start with what you know. Well, I know comic books and graphic novels. And that’s what saved my school quarantine (and my sanity).
Before you use this list to go wild on Amazon (with my blessing), check with your kids’ teachers for the topics your kids would have been covering in class. The following tips are based on general syllabus and topics to apply across a range of subjects and school-ages. However, it is not a textbook list for your class. Instead, these are the books we have found to work as a starter for discussion and research. To be honest, none of us knows exactly how long this newfound homeschooling is going to last. So right now, our parenting personal best should be to maintain their curiosity so they want to keep learning.
And now. May the books be ever in your favour.
7 of the Best Educational Comics for Homeschooling
Hilda and the Troll by Luke Pearson
Okay, I’m easing you in with this. Hilda and the Troll is the first of a series of comic books, recently made popular by Netflix series. It is suitable for all ages; both soft and whimsical for kids as young as 6 while inspiring and educating college students. For English studies, Hilda encourages young students to develop their sequential storytelling and character development. It is one of the loveliest examples I have ever seen for narrative experiences. The imaginative play with characters will allow young minds to explore their own expression during these questionable times. If your kids wish to explore this through graphic storytelling, let them. It is all an expression of language, and if they are inspired by the likes of Hilda, then they will be following a path of thoughtful exploration.
Science Comics: Plagues: The Microscopic Battlefield by Falynn Koch
Another for all-ages. If you are struggling to explain the current medical environment to your school-aged kids, this one could be very helpful.
Science Comics: Plagues: The Microscopic Battlefield is one of 21 comic books in the Science Comics series. They are all both entertaining and educational. If Plagues is a little too close to home, I also strongly recommend Science Comics: Coral Reefs: Cities of the Ocean by Maris Wicks. Although they are different topics, they share the same approach in making science interesting and fun. These are nonfiction comics presented in a format that appeals to kids. Sometimes they are first-person narratives filled with explanations and examples; sometimes the lessons come from a creative story based on historic fact with a lead-up to future potential. Either way, there is a comic book for almost every science topic and a great starter for your kids.
The Not-So Secret Society: Tale of the Gummy (1) by Matthew Daley, Arlene Daley, Trevor Crafts, Ellen Crafts, and Wook Jin Clark
Still in the realm of ‘all-ages’, this one makes it super-easy for you – it comes with free parent and teacher guides at the back! The creators themselves have been involved with storytelling and teaching over many years. The Not-So Secret Society: Tale of the Gummy starts off with a science fair project but delves into so much more. It looks at group assignments, research, preparation, planning, and definitely the importance of accurate science reporting. While not strictly educational in regards to the content (they bring a gummy bear to life), it is absolutely spot on with educating our kids on the 5P’s: Prior preparation prevents poor performance. Bonus points for the sub-topic: How to NOT kill your colleagues on group projects.
Women Who Were Kings: Hatshepsut by Queenie Chan
I found this series at Oz Comic-Con last year and picked up both Women Who Were Kings: Hatshepsut and Women Who Were Kings: Wu Zetian from Queenie Chan herself. Unfortunately, neither are available on Amazon as yet, but you can purchase them directly from her website: queeniechan.com. There is also a third book coming in May 2020, Women Who Were Kings: Elizabeth I.
In true Chan style, the artwork is amazing and so expressive in the faces of each character. However, the part I really love is the list of references included in the back of the books PLUS a full set of footnotes and artistic sources on Chan’s website. The storytelling is well-researched and presented for kids aged 10 years and over, with great detail into the sociological environment at the time. An excellent starting point for younger kids looking at specific historical figures.
Greek Myths Retold and Illustrated by Marcia Williams
I loved reading all about Greek Myths when I was a kid. So many of these stories continue to reappear throughout literature. I could geek out all day about Greek Myths, and comparative mythology in general. However, I also know from experience how difficult it can be translating these stories into a format that is age-appropriate for school kids.
To be honest, this Greek Myths leans a little more into ‘illustrated graphic novel for kids’ than comic books or graphic novels in general. I am including it because it is still one of the best books I have come across for kids. Williams has shared eight classics, including Pandora’s Box, Arion and the Dolphin, Orpheus and Eurydice, and Arachne vs Athena. The illustrations are friendly and light-hearted in most cases but they do not shy away from the content. For example, Charon and the River Styx in Hades are drawn with the gloom and doom befitting to the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. Remember: these are not happy-ever-after myths. They are, however, very accurate re-tellings and suitable for kids aged 10 years and up.
Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Penelope Bagieu (English Translation by Montana Kane)
It is no secret how much I love Brazen. It is a graphic novel made up of multiple short stories featuring many different women over history. Each story is beautiful and poetic, while also being honest, entertaining, and sometimes heartwrenching. *sigh* Every story is told with the utmost respect and honesty in a style that is filled with the nature of its subject.
Ideally, this book would suit kids aged 13 years and older. I had shared this with our then 11-year-old son, who loved the book but originally thought his friends might not appreciate it as much as he did. After recently revisiting the book at age 13, he agrees with his original view. He still loves the book. However, he still appreciates a certain level of maturity needed to understand the historical significance within some of the stories.
Prince of Cats by Ron Wemberly
Thanks to fellow Book Rioter Shiri for her recommendations; this is The Book to read for any student studying Shakespeare. It is a hip-hop retelling of Romeo & Juliet with the focus on Tybalt Capulet, the ‘Prince of Cats’. Both scene and dialogue are set in the 1980s but Wemberly has kept the iambic pentameter and subsequently the Shakespeare feel that is so needed in the dramas like this.
Taking the educational use one step further, Prince of Cats is also perfect for analysis into to the characterisation of villains in literature; a good sub-topic in any English Lit class.
I will be the first one to admit: I am not ready for this new life of ‘homeschooling’. I absolutely respect the need to close schools and quarantine during these turbulent times but that does not make me any more ready for maintaining some level of education with our kids at home.
However, the advice is still the same – Start with what you know. If comics and graphic novels work for you (and your kids), then I know this list will be a great starting point for you. Good luck everyone!