About Build Your Library Curriculum

Build Your Library – secular homeschool curriculum, literature based – building young minds, one book at a time!

Have you been looking for a literature based homeschool curriculum that is secular? How about a way to incorporate narration, copywork, dictation and memory work into your child’s education? Or art study that ties into history? What about a secular science that is mostly literature based in the elementary years? Well, you have come to the right place! Welcome to Build Your Library Curriculum!

I am a homeschool mother, not unlike you. I spent years searching for a curriculum that fit my needs, and having to tweak each program to death to make it work for my family. Then one day, I realized it would be simpler to just write my own program. That is when Build Your Library was born. I thought I must not be the only one looking for a literature based program that was also secular. So I set to work to create a homeschool curriculum that would fit many needs.

I wanted a curriculum that was rich in great literature, not just old fashioned tomes, but modern children’s literature as well.  I wanted a curriculum that was history based but didn’t drown you in historical fiction. I wanted to make narration a priority, but in a way that was fun and easy. A curriculum that took passages from the books you and your child are reading and turned them into copywork in the elementary years and dictation at the middle school level.  I wanted to incorporate art study that was connected to history and included fun art projects, and secular literature based science lessons.  It was a tall order – but our children are worth it.

I hope you will try out a program and join the Build Your Library family, – building young minds, one book at a time!

Current Full Grade Level PDF Products Available for Purchase:
Level 0 – Level 1 – Level 2 – Level 3 – Level 4 – Level 5 – Level 6 – Level 7 – Level 8 – Level 9 – Level 10 – (See Levels vs. Grades vs. Ages)

Current PDF Unit Studies – Supplemental Educational Products Available for Purchase:
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Unit Study
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Unit Study
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Unit Study
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Unit Study
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Unit Study
History of Thanksgiving Unit Study
A Jan Brett Christmas Unit Study
Winter Holidays Around the World Unit Study
The Hobbit Unit Study
Darwin and Evolution Unit Study
Sharks! Unit Study
World War II Unit Study
Prehistory Unit Study

Other PDF Educational Products:
Narration Cards
Book of Centuries and Timeline Figures

A Literary Education: Adapting Charlotte Mason for Modern Secular Homeschooling (Paperback)

A Literary Education: Adapting Charlotte Mason for Modern Secular Homeschooling (Kindle Edition)

BYL Family Reading Crate (subscription-style book box)

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Black History Month Book Recommendations 2018

In honor of Black History Month, I thought it would be fun to again recommend some favorite books that deal with civil rights and famous African Americans. Each Wednesday throughout the month of February I shared a selected book on our Build Your Library Facebook page. Here is the recap:

2/7/2018: My first book recommendation for Black History Month is What Color is My World? by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. This book will introduce your children to some little known African American inventors. Told as a story within a story – two siblings are taught about the inventors by the handyman who is helping to fix up their dilapidated house. Filled with full-color illustrations and a list for further reading, videos, and helpful links at the end of the book, this book is sure to have something for everyone. Also of note, the author Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is known as one of the greatest basketball players of all time.

2/14/2018: Today’s Black History Month book recommendation is Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly. This beautifully illustrated picture book tells the story of the four black women who helped NASA with the calculations to launch men into space. What a great way to encourage our children to be persistent and passionate in everything they do!

2/21/2018: Today’s Black History Month book recommendation is Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. This is the author’s memoir, her childhood in the Jim Crow south during the Civil Right’s movement, told in lyrical free verse poetry. Beautiful and moving, this book is perfect for readers ages 10 and up.

2/28/2018: My final recommendation this year is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. My daughter recently read this book and she kindly wrote this review:

The Hate U Give, the debut novel of author Angie Thomas, is a heart-wrenching YA contemporary raising awareness of the importance of the Black Lives Matter campaign and the harmfulness of racism. The novel follows our main character Starr Carter, who recently witnessed the death of her childhood friend Khalil at the hands of a cop – an event that will change her life forever. For most of her life she’s lived in two worlds – Williamson: the fancy prep school she attends, and Garden Heights: the poor black neighborhood where she lives. She’s always been able to keep those two lives separate, until now.

Should she stay safe, stay quiet? Or should she speak up and fight for change?

I think Starr Carter was a very well written protagonist and a great role model for younger teens. Her resilience and strength were inspiring and something we need more of in this world.

Angie Thomas painted a vivid picture of what life is like for so many black people today. It’s unpleasant, but real. The honesty in this book will make you forget you’re reading fiction – Starr feels like a real person, as do all of the characters and the world they live in. Because…they are real. This is a real thing happening right now to so many people. How many Khalils are there in this world, reduced into only “drug dealers” and “thugs” in the media, who will only ever be remembered as such?

But amidst the dark reality of this story, it was still able to have a lot of heart and humor that made it even easier to fall in love with the characters. Angie Thomas is clearly a Harry Potter fan, you can tell by all the references she sprinkled in.

This is one of those books important enough that everyone should read it, even if you’re not that into contemporary YA. If more people understood and emphasized with those who were different then themselves, perhaps the world would be a much better place.

Honorable Mentions: Here are a couple final bonus recommendations:

  • Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History – this picture book introduces children to 40 female black heroes in history with very brief stories.
  • Mae Among the Stars – this lovely picture book is all about the first African American in space.
  • Freedom in Congo Square – this award winning picture book is all about 19th century Louisiana, when for half a day on Sundays, slaves could experience a taste of freedom in Congo Square.

I hope your family enjoys these recommendations and can use some of them into your Black History Month homeschool studies. What are some of your favorites? I’d love for you to share them in the comments below.  🙂

Related Article(s):
Black History Month Book Recommendations 2017
Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-10 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 14 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also makes incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
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Purchase: Family Reading Crate

Welcome to the fourth installment of the Build Your Library Family Reading Crate! The April 2018 theme is Bookception: Books Within Books!  I’m including four books in this box – a picture book for younger children, a family read aloud, a book for older readers, and a book for you, the parent! These books are handpicked by me so that you are all reading quality literature.

Every box will include a booklet with discussion questions and rabbit trail ideas, as well as a link to a page on our site with additional links, booklists, movies and documentaries, and printable activities to go along with the books.

You’ll also always receive a few exclusive crate bookmarks, and at least one or two additional items that go along with the monthly theme.

It’s like getting an all-inclusive family-wide unit study in a box each month!

See the full BYL Family Reading Crate (FAQ) here.


Order April 2018 Crate – “Bookception: Books Within Books” $34.99
($26.99+$8.00 S&H in the US, International shipping temporarily disabled until we can figure out a reasonable shipping method.)

Add to CartView Cart

Pre-orders are expected to ship by the the last week of March.



March 2018 Crate – “Goblins, Magic and Fantasy, Oh My!”

February 2018 – The World of Birds – BYL Family Reading Crate

January 2018 – Alaska: The Last Frontier – BYL Family Reading Crate


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Happy Darwin Day!

Today is Darwin Day (February 12), a day to celebrate scientific ingenuity and bravery. Charles Darwin was just one of many scientists who strove to change the way people think about the world.

Charles Robert Darwin, (February 12, 1809 – April 19, 1882) was an English biologist, naturalist and geologist. He was best known for his theory establishing that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors. He published his finding on the theory of evolution with a great deal of compelling evidence in his book On the Origin of Species (1859). He was truly a fascinating scientist.


Here are some tips to help you kick off your own Darwin Day celebration!

There is a wealth of information about Darwin and evolution at the Darwin Day website. You can learn about Darwin’s life, as well as find links to many different websites and documentaries to learn more.

What better  time to begin using the Build Your Library Darwin and Evolution unit study! Teach your child all about the Theory of Evolution, as well as the origin of the Earth and the life of Charles Darwin. In this comprehensive, multi-age unit study, I have scheduled 8 books to help you explain these ideas to your children.

They will create a huge Timeline of Life, journey around the globe with Darwin on the HMS Beagle, become a naturalist and study the world around them, learn about fossils and make their own, and much more.  While this study is best suited for children in 4th – 8th grade, I have scheduled several books for younger students and many of the activities are easily adapted for younger children.

And let’s not forget about some truly fantastic books to share with your children:

One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin – This is a great introduction for younger elementary aged children to learn about the life of Charles Darwin. They’ve just released a paperback version for a very good price, but if you can splurge and get the hardcover, the illustrations are worth it (recommended in our BYL Darwin and Evolution unit study).

Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be – This book is a fantastic resource for explaining Evolution to children (scheduled in our BYL Darwin and Evolution unit study).

Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth – This is a graphic novel, perfect for sharing with teens and tweens. Jay Hosler’s writing is witty, and he explains science in a way that anyone can understand. (scheduled in BYL Level 5)

The True Adventures of Charley Darwin – This historical fiction novel is a great book for those wanting a little more story to their history. Follow Charlie from his childhood in a boarding school for boys to his adventures at sea on The Beagle where he first began to realize his theory on natural selection and evolution (scheduled in BYL Level 8).

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate – I adore this book. Calpurnia lives at the turn of the century in Fentress, TX, and is the only girl in a family with 7 brothers. She befriends her grandfather and decides to become a scientist. This book is hilarious, sweet and heartwarming (scheduled in our BYL Darwin and Evolution unit study and BYL Level 6).

The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate – The sequel to Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, this book picks up just a few months after the events of the first book. There is a lot of information about veterinary science, as well as the Galveston flood.

Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story – This is a perfect introduction to evolution for very young children. It’s beautifully illustrated, and makes a lovely bedtime story.

Grandmother Fish: A Child’s First Book of Evolution – This is another fantastic introduction to evolution for very young children. It’s a great way to introduce your preschooler to the origins of life on earth.

Annabelle & Aiden: The Story of Life – The Annabelle & Aiden books are gorgeous picture books and this one is a particular favorite of my youngest. Told in rhyming prose, this book explores the origins of life on Earth, and answers a child’s simple questions about where we came from and why we look the way we do.

Perhaps you want to curl up on the sofa watch a movie or documentary to enhance your Darwin Day celebration? You could try one of these:

How do you plan on celebrating Darwin Day in your homeschool?

Related Article(s):
Purchase Build Your Library’s Darwin and Evolution unit study
Free Earth Day Mini Unit Study

Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-10 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 14 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also makes incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
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Happy, Hygge Homeschooling?

Have you ever wondered why Denmark is considered one of the happiest countries in the world? Especially during the winter months, you wouldn’t expect such a cold, dreary place to be so cheerful. And yet, the Danish people have mastered the “art of coziness”.

They call it hygge. Hygge is a word technically unable to be directly translated, only felt. Imagine sitting in front of a roaring fireplace, wrapped up in your warmest blanket, sipping a cup of tea (or coffee), and reading your favorite book. This is hygge. Even when the weather is nice, Danes are still one with the cozy.

My oldest daughter has also become recently obsessed with The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking. For those that are not familiar with this, we can try to establish some of the basics and hack together some definition like concepts.

hygge – noun |  hy·gge | \’hue-gah’\

Definition : 1. the art of building sanctuary and community, of inviting closeness and paying attention to what makes us feel open hearted and alive. 2. to create well-being, connection and warmth 3. a feeling of belonging to the moment and to each other 4. celebrating the everyday

The most basic definition equates to being cozy, which to be honest, I have always been a fan of with or without knowing that there was a complete hygge lifestyle devoted to such. I am disappointed in its actual pronunciation though, because it looks like it could be pronounced ‘hig-gy’, like jiggy… so you could be singing “Na na na na, na na na… Na na na na, na na… Gettin’ higgy with it…”, but “getting hue-gah with it” doesn’t quite have the same ring… (but I might still sing it when getting all cozy, and so will you now that I expertly placed this ear-worm out there for you). 🙂

If you really want to get in to the full details on all that is hygge – candles, tea, cozy socks and blankets, etc… you can get the book, or search for hygge websites. But for this article I will discuss some “hygge homeschool” things you probably already did without knowing that hygge existed, or some simple ways to incorporate the hyg into your routine.

Gettin’ cozy with it…

Who doesn’t already have kids homeschooling in pajamas? Or moms wearing sweats or yoga pants? Hygge is all about cuddling up with a good book in comfy, warm clothes or under a thick blanket… with or without a fireplace, with or without candles… But this already sounds like a perfect homeschooling session, and you didn’t even know about this hygge thing.

A hyggekrog can be roughly translated as a comfortable nook. It’s a special place within your home where you feel the coziest and can experience hygge to the fullest. Most people in Denmark have a hyggekrog somewhere in their home, often beside a window where they can get the best light. They’re really easy to set up – just arrange some pillows and blankets, maybe even build a fort, and get cozy. This may be the answer to stressful homeschooling – get away from sitting at the kitchen table for lessons and curl up under some blankets with a warm beverage to complete your school day. Who says learning can’t happen inside a blanket fort?

I have to admit, one of my newest favorite things is a “Catalonia Wearable Fleece Blanket with Sleeves & Feet pockets“, which I think is better than those as-seen-on-TV Snuggie Blankets with just arms. My youngest even just got one of those Snuggy Tails for Christmas, that looks like a shark blanket that is eating you. Definitely hygge!

Gettin’ together with it…

Another concept of hygge is spending quality time together with loved ones, without being attached to your cell phone or other electronic devices. Of course the second part of that seems difficult at times, but trying to put the cell phones away for extended periods of time and “being in the now” is always a welcome and enriching way to devote hygge-inspired energy into your homeschool routine.

This can be time spent reading together, taking a morning nature walk, enjoying a picnic at the park, or even playing board games together after dinner. Besides, isn’t this one of the reasons you started to hyggeschool, I mean homeschool in the first place?

Gettin’ outdoorsy with it…

While maybe not my personal idea of hygge, according to the book, hygge is something that a lot of people like to experience by going outside and playing in the snow, going skiing, sledding, hiking, etc… One of the first things that comes to mind is the nature study that you probably already do. If not, taking a formal “study break” and just getting outside to experiencing nature, both for fun and academic benefit is always a great idea.

Grab a notebook and some pencils and hit the backyard, park or nature trail. Sit under a tree, relax and draw some of the animals, trees and flowers that you see. I suppose it would be less hygge to pull out your smart phone and look things up, so maybe pack a field guide book for quick reference. Or use your phone… sparingly… we aren’t hygge purists!

Gettin’ crafty with it…

Cooking is one of the most obviously hygge – comfort food! But also other creative activities such as scrapbooking, journaling, and craft-making are all very hygge and relaxing, as well as being fun memory-making activities that are tech-free. It doesn’t have to be crafting – drawing and even coloring can be great ways to unwind and relax and experience hygge after a busy day.

Quick hygge

  1. Reading nook: Cozy socks, comfy blankets, comfortable and relaxing chair
  2. Hot beverages: Stock up on hot cocoa, coffee and teas
  3. Ambient lights: Candles (real or electric), string lights for less harsh lighting
  4. Get outside: Enjoy the great outdoors, nature studies, read in the backyard
  5. Limit devices: Occasionally put the electronics away, be present and thankful
  6. Stress less: Finding the happiness in everyday moments
  7. Enjoy a good book: Kind of goes with out saying… isn’t hygge great?

Hygge seems to be a concept that meshes so well with homeschooling. Just educating our children at home can be a comfort in itself. We can relax and spend time together without worrying about rushing out the door in the morning to catch a bus, meet with teachers or any of the other number of stressful things that comes with being tied to someone else’s schedule. Hygge homeschooling means you are spending quality together, being cozy at home, and learning together.

By the definition, Build Your Library is all about building a sanctuary and community full of living books, overflowing with literature that makes a family feel open hearted and alive. We strive to build young minds, one book at a time by creating a well-being, connection and warmth of knowledge. The feeling of belonging to the moment and to each other while celebrating the everyday is also a major tenant of our Charlotte Mason inspired homeschool philosophy. We might as well have been a Danish homeschool company, although we are from the United States.

And you are probably more hygge than you thought you were too.

One last time, “Na na na na, na na na… Na na na na, na na… Gettin’ hygge with it…”, in case our first ear-worm didn’t take hold!

I’m never going to pronounce it correctly now. I hope I don’t embarrass myself in person to someone who is all prim and proper and knows how to say hygge. 🙂

hue-gah, hue-gah, huuuuee-gaahhhh!

Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-10 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 14 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also makes incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. You can also check out her author page on Amazon.

Have you seen my new book?

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#bylcrateselfie Contest!

Request for pictures of you with your BYL Family Reading Crate!

We are looking for some pictures of you with your reading crate box for our use with future marketing efforts (webpage, Facebook, etc.).

If you would like to participate, please upload a picture of yourself with the hashtag #bylcrateselfie to your Facebook, Instagram or Twitter account, and/or post as a reply to any of our Facebook posts. Please use last month’s January box if you still have it, or use your February box after it arrives in a week or so.

All #bylcrateselfie pictures posted by Feb 28, 2018 will be eligible to win an April 2018 Family Reading Crate*, one random winner** will be announced on March 1, 2018 when the April 2018 Family Reading Crate pre-order goes live.

*Or a May crate is you already pre-ordered an April crate before the winner was chosen… 

**Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received throughout the Sweepstakes Period.

Fine print contest mumbo, jumbo:

  1. Any pictures submitted will be cropped to a square if used on our website, as seen in the examples. You do not have to do any cropping yourself, but pose in a way that accommodates that final shape.
  2. Please do not submit a picture with your child if you do not wish for that picture to possibly be used in our marketing (no names, just box selfie picture).
  3. Pictures become property of Build Your Library for normal marketing uses, such as webpage sidebar or collage pictures.
  4. Previous purchase of a BYL Family Reading Crate is required, simply because you need one of our boxes to snap said selfie 🙂
  5. Winner must provide a US mailing address for free shipping of crate, or purchase the shipping upcharge for an international USPS package

Actual Standard Fine print (we are official here… 🙂 )

By submitting any photo or information to Build Your Library, you hereby grant to Build Your Library an irrevocable, perpetual and royalty-free right to use, reproduce, edit, display, transmit, prepare derivative works of, modify, publish and otherwise make use of the submitted photo or other information in any and all media, whether now known or hereinafter created, throughout the world and for any purpose. In addition to other things, the rights granted to Build Your Library includes but is not limited to the right to resize, crop, censor, compress, edit, feature, caption, affix logos to, and to otherwise alter or make use of the submitted photo. By submitting any photo or information to Build Your Library, you hereby represent and warrant that the submitted photo or information does not and shall not infringe on any copyright, any rights of privacy or publicity of any person, or any other right of any third party, and you have the right to grant any and all rights and licenses granted to Build Your Library herein, including but not limited to all necessary rights under copyright, free and clear of any claims or encumbrances.
You acknowledge and agree that Build Your Library shall have no obligation to post, display or otherwise make publicly available any photo or information submitted by you, and may, in its sole and unfettered discretion, remove, edit, modify or delete any photo or information that you submit to Build Your Library.
You understand and intend that any photo or information submitted by you to Build Your Library may be available for viewing, rating, review and comment on by the public, and understand that comments or ratings with which you disagree or are unhappy about may be published or otherwise become associated with any photo or information you submit to Build Your Library. By submitting any photo or information to Build Your Library, you hereby waive any privacy expectations that you may have with respect to any such photo or information submitted by you to Build Your Library.
You hereby agree to hold Build Your Library harmless from and against, and hereby waive any right to pursue, any claims of any nature arising in connection with the inclusion in, publication via or display on any Build Your Library site, or any other use authorized under these Terms, of any photo or information submitted to Build Your Library by you.
Photos or information submitted by you to the Site shall be the property of Build Your Library, and Build Your Library shall have no obligation to preserve, return or otherwise make available to you or others any photos or information so submitted.
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Skip this book.

Every book that has been scheduled into Build Your Library products has been specially curated for a specific purpose. It has been pre-read, evaluated and assigned to be read aloud by the parent or read independently by your child in accordance with the specifically themed topic being covered.

But what do you do if your child hates the assigned reader, no matter how much encouraging, poking and prodding you do?

Read it aloud

If the book was scheduled to independently read by the child, try to read it aloud to them or find an audio version. Sometimes a child is just not able to comprehend as well when reading alone, and that makes them dislike reading. If you are finding the books too challenging, let them choose easier books for a time. Reading aloud those challenge books will take the pressure of decoding off of them so they can just listen and enjoy the story.

We have several post on how to read aloud if you have additional issues.

See also: Read Aloud SabotageThe Importance of Reading Aloud, or The Benefits of Reading Aloud to Teens

Try again later

Sometimes coming back to a book, topic or assignment later on will be enough reinvigorate your child’s interest. There have been plenty of times in my personal reading life when I picked up a book I expected to love but just couldn’t get into it. Often, just setting it aside and coming back to it later did the trick. So why should we expect that our children shouldn’t have the same issue? Maybe they aren’t ready to leave Ancient Egypt yet, so set aside the books about Greece and let them linger where their interest lies.

Perhaps it is not the book, but the reader? Just because a book is considered great, does not mean that every reader will enjoy it. That doesn’t make the book less great, it just means it’s not for you, or not for your child. Learning what kind of books we personally enjoy is an important skill, and letting our children know that they have some control over their reading preferences can go a long way into making them readers.

See also: How to Hook a Reluctant Reader

Swap it out

If there is another book on that topic, perhaps you can try to find an alternate. Perhaps a book written by a different author will speak to your child differently. Perhaps a “thinner” book will look less intimidating, or shorter book will appeal to your child a bit more if the topic isn’t high on their interest list.

A perfect example would be the Little House in the Big Woods assigned in our Level 0 program. This book is often either beloved or hated – there doesn’t seem to be a lot of in between. So if you find yourself in the hating camp, you might choose to read some of the picture book versions of the stories and call it good. Or you might seek out a different pioneering family book, like Caddie Woodlawn or Sarah, Plain and Tall.

Especially in the younger grades, it is more important to become a fluent reader in general, rather than absorb a lot of information certain specific topics. So feel free to seek out other options if a book is just not working for your child. There are too many wonderful books out there to get stuck on a book that isn’t working.

Video break

If you think your child just isn’t getting into the topic or can’t (or won’t) picture what is going on, you might try to find an engaging documentary that gives a visual representation of the time period or events that the book. Then go back and read the book with the visuals fresh in their mind.

If the book has been made into a movie, you can try to let your child watch the first half hour of the movie to see it that will trigger an interest. Typically we try to encourage reading the book before watching the movie… but if you are particularly stuck on a certain book, this might just be the thing to build some interest.


Sometimes you just need to stick it out. If this is a particularly important book, perhaps you can turn it into a family book club, and have mom or dad read it with them. Besides the normal discussion questions, you can talk about what you both liked and disliked about the book. Talk about what could be improved or changed. This becomes especially important when you hit the high school years. There will be challenging books that you just have to get through.

You can also look up online discussions or book reviews by other people to see what they thought about that piece of literature. Make sure you can cover the finer points of the book that might be missed by an unenthusiastic reader skimming through and point out what the most important parts were.

Skip it

If all else fails, or if this is not a battle worth fighting… can this book simply be skipped? If your child regularly reads everything else, but this book is particularly difficult to get through… and if this book isn’t the most important book of his or her academic career, skip it.

You won’t hurt my feelings. 🙂

I have a longstanding rule in my house that we have to give a book at least 3 chapters. After that, if a book isn’t holding your interest, or it feels like drudgery every time you pick it up, then you can stop reading that book. There are too many books in the world to waste your time on one that isn’t working for you.

When I wrote the Instructor Guides, they are just that, guides or suggestions. While all of my suggestions are well thought out, meticulously scheduled and cross-related to other topics and reading selections, you as the parent have the ultimate control of following, tweaking and swapping out any of your homeschool materials as you see fit, to perfectly suit your children.

BYL Book Selections that might be skipped or swapped…

Story of the World (Levels 1-4) – There are some issues with this series, except it is the best resource of its kind for that age bracket. Is it 100% secular? No. Does Build Your Library skip or point out what material may be questionable? Yes. Is 99% of the rest of the material great? Yes.

Girl in a Cage (Level 2) – I include a caveat about this one in the Instructor’s guide, because it can be a difficult story for sensitive children. But that being said, this is one of my favorite children’s historical fiction novels. Jane Yolen is a fantastic author and she does such a great job bringing the time period to life. Marjorie is a wonderful heroine – she’s so strong and brave despite all of the terrible things she has to go through. But if you think that this story might be too much for your child, feel free to skip it.

Rebel’s of the Heavenly Kingdom (Level 4) – This, again, is not an easy story to read. But it is one of those rare gems, in that it covers a time period that you rarely see in children’s literature – the Taiping Rebellion in China in the mid-1800s. It’s a raw and gritty story, which is why I scheduled it as a read aloud rather than a book for children to read on their own. But like Girl in a Cage, the author does a masterful job of bringing this time and place to vivid life.

BYL Book Selections that are non-negotiable…

Harry Potter Series – We can’t be friends, if you don’t like Harry Potter. Just kidding, (not really 🙂 ).

Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-10 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 14 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also makes incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. You can also check out her author page on Amazon.

Have you seen my new book?

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Read everyday. I love books.

We use several reoccurring phases at Build Your Library. If you have purchased one of our new Family Reading crates, you will find them printed on the sides of the box. “Read everyday.” “I love books.” Our catch phrase “Building young minds, One book at a time…” Even our name “Build Your Library” implies a two-fold reading themed meaning, building your home library by filling in with good literature and building a vast library of personal knowledge in the heads of your children.

With each curriculum level of Build Your Library, you and your child will read dozens of assigned books from the topics covered throughout the year. But it doesn’t have to stop there. Many times you will find that your children will long to delve deeper into a particular subject matter. Which is one of the best things about homeschooling your child, the flexibility and time to do just that!

More by author

Just like you probably have favorite authors, perhaps Stephen King, Neil Gaiman or George R.R. Martin, and you read as many of their books as you can get your hands on… the same can be true for your children. If you read an assigned book that your child particularly likes, look up additional works by the same author, just for fun. One of our favorite authors is Kate DiCamillo, and we use The Tale of Despereaux in BYL Level 1The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane in Level 2 and Because of Winn-Dixie in Level 4.  But I’m sure your local public library has several other of her wonderful works available to check out, such as Flora & Ulysses or The Tiger Rising.

Another favorite author in our house is Roald Dahl. His books are delightfully silly and thought provoking. You’ll read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in BYL Level 1, and from there you might want to check out Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, The Twits, or The Witches. Anytime a book seems to particularly speak to your child, search out more of that author’s work. They may discover another new favorite!

More by subject

I’m sure there are many assigned topics that become instant hits, prompting many further discussions and stacks of library books. Dinosaurs, sharks, knights and mythology have always been prolific and productive rabbit trails. If you have been following our blog posts here in the past, you know that even with over 50-60 books on dinosaurs in our personal home library, we have still carried several piles of dinosaur books from the public library at the request of our one-time aspiring paleontologist. And all of these borrowed books were actively flipped through, read and prompted many newly learned facts to be shared at the dinner table.

More by time period

There are several fascinating time periods that get too briefly covered throughout your children’s years of schooling. The ones that pique the most interest make wonderful segues into inspiring further research. We have found many popular time periods throughout our homeschooling studies that our children just begged to be covered more thoroughly.

But one of our personal favorites is when we can pull some family genealogical tie ins into a historical time period. My husband has been researching our family tree for many years, so we have a rather extensive set of branches that we can trace to many significant historical events. Our children have 8th great grandfathers in the Revolutionary War, 4th great grandfathers in the Civil War, 4th great grandparents living during the Irish Potato famine, and even 13th great grandparents traced back to the Mayflower. It comes up every year on TV watching the Peanuts (Thanksgiving)/Mayflower Voyage when they name our ancestors landing at Plymouth Rock with Charlie Brown.

It doesn’t even have to be that specific. If you know you have French ancestry, you can expect that certain events around the time of Napoleon must have occurred within the lifetimes of not-too-distant relatives. Perhaps that could spawn a desire to research your own family history, or at least inspire a more personal connection to certain historical events directly relating to cousins several generations back.

More by other media sources

Educational inspiration can come in many forms. While reading can be an exceptional learning tool on its own, I think that collaborating with other media sources can offer an even deeper understanding and richer illustration of topics. With YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime Videos or your cable on-demand offerings, you should be able to find a vast assortment of (mostly) historically accurate movies and documentaries.

We have had several instances when after we read through some literature, watching a visual representation on TV prompted many discussions on “Oh, that’s what the streets of medieval London or the Native American Indian settlement looked like…” Which in turn, can spur seeking out additional books to be read with an newly enlightened outlook to the conditions and hardships that occurred.

It can also be beneficial to giving your child pegs in which to remember when and how things happened and are related. An example from my own experiences – I adored the movie Lady Jane as a girl. It wasn’t until I’d seen the movie a half dozen times that I decided to learn more and found out how incredibly inaccurate the film was. I ended up devouring books, movies and documentaries about the Tudor family and was able to firmly place the events of the time period in my mind… all starting with that one movie.

Read, Read, Read.

While Build Your Library strives to do just that, fill your house with books, and fill your child’s mind with libraries of knowledge, we are also hoping to help foster a love of reading and a quest for learning. Using the assigned books and topics in the Build Your Library curriculum, Unit Studies or Family Reading Crates are great springboards into reading and learning more and more.

You can find many additional book suggestions contained within each of the BYL Level Instructor Guides, my book A Literary Education: Adapting Charlotte Mason for Modern Secular Homeschooling, other blog posts here or in our Family Reading Crates.

Happy Reading!

Other Related Article(s):

Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-10 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 14 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also makes incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. You can also check out her author page on Amazon.

Have you seen my new book?

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Build Your Library on Tour 2018

2017 SEA Vendor Booth in WV.

Its that time of year again when we can start to announce our 2018 travel plans so you can try to attend a secular homeschool convention and catch Build Your Library in person. So far, we have 2 conference appearances scheduled. We will update this page if any new dates or events come up.

[MARCH 2018 – Glen Allen, VA]
Build Your Library will be at the 2018 VaHomeschoolers Conference and Resource Fair on Friday, March 23, and Saturday, March 24, 2018 at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen, Virginia.

Their annual two-day conference usually yields over 1,000 homeschoolers from all around Virginia and the surrounding areas. Attendees will enjoy dozens of sessions featuring speakers (2018 Keynote Speaker: Melissa Wiley) and topics ranging from a wide variety of homeschool philosophies and approaches, as well as an exhibit hall (with a Build Your Library booth), used homeschool resource sale and several social events.

[JULY 2018 – Atlanta, GA]
A few months later, the S.E.A. (Secular. Eclectic. Academic.) Homeschoolers will be hosting their second annual SEA Homeschoolers Conference 2018 on Thursday, July 12 through Sunday, July 15, 2018 at Marriott Marquis, in Atlanta, Georgia.

They have a full 4-day schedule of events, over a dozen speakers (2018 Keynote Speakers: Julie Bogart / Blair Lee) and a bunch of secular homeschool related vendors.

If any of you are anywhere near or within travel distance to either of these conferences in Virginia or Georgia, we would love to see you in person at our Build Your Library vendor booth. If you have been looking for one of the few-and-far-between secular homeschool conventions, the SEA Homeschoolers Conference 2018 may be the one you want to make plans to get to. Last year the SEA Conference was in West Virginia and they plan on rotating locations around the country each year. Both of these events have close and affordable lodging options for those traveling from out of town and are both packed with activities and talks to keep you busy.

Please swing by one of our booths and say hello, grab some Build Your Library swag (BYL bookmarks, pencils, and catalog flyers), talk to us about our homeschool products in person or get a signed copy of my book A Literary Education: Adapting Charlotte Mason for Modern Secular Homeschooling. We might even have some of our past Family Reading Crates available too. See you there!

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2018 Practical Homeschooling Magazine Reader’s Choice award

For the fourth year in a row, Build Your Library has been nominated for the Practical Homeschooling Magazine Reader’s Choice awards!

While I am not particularly one for receiving accolades, I really do appreciate being able to describe Build Your Library as an Award Winning Homeschool Curriculum! Three years ago, our first year nominated, we received an Honorable Mention green badge in 2015. The following two years in 2016 and 2017, we received Third Place yellow badges.

If you are so inclined and you enjoy Build Your Library, we would love your vote this year!

Also be sure to vote for the other fantastic secular homeschool curriculum that has been nominated! Real Science Odyssey, All About Reading, Michael Clay Thompson Language Arts – this is a great way to support your favorite homeschool companies!

Vote in the Practical Homeschooling Reader Awards Here

Voting is open until December 25. Thank you so much for your support.

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Unit Study: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

I am very excited to announce the next installment in our Harry Potter unit study series! It’s time to head back to Hogwarts for Harry’s fifth year in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

This year Harry has a lot on his plate. The Ministry of Magic is actively working against him, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor is taking over the school, and school work as doubled as the fifth years prepare for their O.W.L. exams.

In this unit, like the units preceding it, you’ll continue your Magical Terms and Spells Glossary, Magical Devices Guide, Magical Creatures Field Guide, Travel Guide to the Wizarding World (Magical Places), and the Weekly Prophet. As always, there are copywork/dictation passages taken from the novel, as well as vocabulary and discussion questions to help you get the most out of the story.

This unit also includes a Defense Against the Dark Arts Hogwarts course – just like Harry and his friends had to work together to fight against the rising evil in the Wizarding World, you and your child will be learning about Activism and how they can fight against the evils in our own world. You’ll be reading about children who saw a problem and stood up to do something about it in It’s Our World, Too: Young People Who Are Making a Difference. The major project in this course will be working on a service project, using the book The Kid’s Guide to Service Projects for inspiration and guidance.

The Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix unit study will take approximately 4 weeks to complete and is appropriate for upper-elementary and up. The PDF file is 53 pages and includes a full schedule, project ideas and 9 activity pages.

Purchase the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Unit Study – $5.99

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Harry Potter Unit Study Frequently Asked Questions:
Do we have to start with the Sorcerer’s Stone unit study, or can we jump in at any of the books?

Yes and no. While these unit studies are semi-standalone if they had to be, they are designed to be completed in the order that the book series ran. Like the storyline in the books, the unit studies continue to build off of each other as they progress. You will start several activities such as keeping a glossary of magical terms and spells or creating a field guide of magical devices, to name a few. These will be used through the unit study series and new activities and additional entries will be completed in subsequent lesson plan.

If we already read the book, do we have to read it again to complete the unit study?

The unit study is designed to enhance the reading (or re-reading) of the book. While you are going through the chapters, vocabulary words are pulled out and activities are performed that correlate with what you are reading. This is the perfect unit to complete on your first reading of the book, as well as a perfect companion for reading the book again and diving deeper into the lore and story.

Are you planning on writing unit studies for all of the Harry Potter books?

Yes, absolutely! But currently, we have the following Harry Potter unit studies completed:

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Unit Study
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Unit Study
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Unit Study
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Unit Study

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Unit Study

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