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 I wanted to include science – literature based in the elementary years, and I use Elemental Science’s logic stage program in the middle school years.  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 Products Available for Purchase:
Kindergarten – Grade 1 – Grade 2Grade 3Grade 4 – Grade 5 – Grade 6Grade 7Grade 8Grade 9 – Grade 10 (Summer 2017)

Current 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
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 Educational Products:
Narration Cards
Book of Centuries and Timeline Figures

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

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

 

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How to Hook a Reluctant Reader

Do you have a child who just doesn’t like to read? Maybe they had a hard time when they were learning to read and it burned them out, or perhaps they had a bad school experience with boring reading material. Whatever got them to this point, we need to take a step back and help them to find the joy in reading again.

That is why I made this video:

Some other tips and ideas:

Movie adaptations! Read the book first, then watch the movie together. Talk about the differences from book to film and what they would have done differently had they been in charge of the film. Sometimes just knowing that they will get to watch a movie is enough to motivate them to read the book.

Strewing –  The idea of strewing isn’t an original one. It has been a staple of unschooling for years. If your child balks at having assigned reading, just stealthily leave great reading material lying around. Choose books that you know they would enjoy or books about topics they are interested in learning more about.

Use screens! That’s right – I said screens. Let them listen to audio books on their iPhone, or read e-books on a tablet. Sometimes the different format is enough to engage them.

Start a book club – Invite a few of their friends to read the same book and then have a meeting where you enjoy a snack and talk about the book. Making it into a fun social experience can be really rewarding for your child. With younger children you might want to design some sort of art project or craft to go along with the story, but don’t feel pressured. I really like the book Deconstructing Penguins to guide you in discussing books with a group of children.

The most important tip I can give you is to keep reading a relaxing and fun activity.

If they don’t enjoy reading, making it into a “school” activity where they have to complete assignments based around a book will kill any joy they might have gotten from reading. Instead, read with them, leave books around the house that they might enjoy and then step back. Let them see you read, point them in the direction of books when they have questions they need answered, but don’t make a big deal about it. Let them come to it naturally. When you love books, and you show them how important books are to you, they’ll pick up on it.

Books mentioned in the video:

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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Free Earth Day Mini Unit Study

April 22nd is Earth Day, the annual celebration to inspire awareness about pollution and appreciation for protecting the health of the environment. This is a great reason to get outside, especially if you’ve had a long winter. I know you can probably all enjoy a little fresh air and sunshine today. Hopefully your weather is cooperating.

This day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement starting in back in 1970. Originally a grassroots movement, Earth Day eventually gained enough public support to pave the way for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and contributed to the passage of several environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act, the Water Quality Improvement Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

With that in mind, I put together this fun little unit that you can do with minimal planning. Because, if you’re anything like me, you probably forgot to plan anything for Earth Day and are scrambling to throw something together last minute. No worries! I did the work for you. 🙂

You can do this on Earth Day, or turn it in to Earth Week at your house and spread out the reading and activities over the next couple days!

Earth Day Mini Unit Study:

Books to Enjoy:

For younger readers/listeners:

For middle grade and up:

Websites to Explore:

Fun Earth Day Activities:

Take a nature walk: you can use this nature scavenger hunt to help you look for interesting things.  Download the BYL Nature Scavenger Hunt Freebie here

Plant something! Go to your local garden store and pick our some new flowers, or plant a small tree. Buy some seeds and start your summer garden. Get your hands dirty and grow something!

Make trash art: use egg cartons, bottle caps, paper towel tubes, old newspapers or magazines, buttons, old greeting cards and other recycled objects to create a fun art project. Let your imagination go wild and create something new and beautiful with the garbage.

Clean up your neighborhood: take a walk around your block and pick up the trash. You might inspire some of your neighbors to join you. Talk to your children about why we need to keep our environment clean.

Learn about biomes and create a poster or a diorama of your favorite.

Feed the birds: you could make a simple pine cone and peanut butter feeder or a milk carton feeder, or just toss some birdseed in the grass and watch as the birds flock to your yard. Keep a small notebook by your window and make a list of the various birds that come to your yard over the next several days.

Watch a movie: There are a lot of fabulous nature documentaries out there. We have really enjoyed the Planet Earth series (which I believe is on Netflix right now). If you have younger children, this is a great time to watch Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax!


By making even the smallest changes to reduce your overall energy consumption and improving your environmental footprint, you can make a difference too. Turn off lights that are not needed and recycle whatever you can. Consider the lifetime cost and reduce your monthly utility bills by utilizing Energy Star and WaterSense certified devices and appliances. You can also purchase LED bulbs instead of incandescent or fluorescent lights and significantly lower your home’s energy use. You may even qualify for certain rebate programs or other incentives from local utility companies.

I hope you have a wonderful Earth Day with your children, enjoying nature and working towards creating a better planet for our children’s future. While officially celebrated for a day, the concepts should really be incorporated in to an Earth Day every day lifestyle. We only have one planet, and it would be great if we could keep it around for a least another 4.543 billion years. 🙂

According to the Earth Day Network, the nonprofit organization that coordinates Earth Day activities, there are over 1 billion people participating on or around April 22nd, making it “the largest secular civic event in the world.” How are you celebrating Earth Day? Let us know in the comments below.

Did you enjoy this free mini-unit? Why not give one of Build Your Library‘s literature based Unit Studies a try?

Related Article(s): Happy Darwin 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. You can also check out her author page on Amazon.
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B2HS: Build Your Own Timeline 101

 This is the 4th post in my Back to “Home” School blog series. So far this week, I’ve given advice to the new homeschooling mother, helped you to get your school materials organized, and given you tips to avoid burnout. Today we’re going to talk about timelines!

Timelines are essential when it comes to showing your children the grand scope of history. They help your children see connections, giving them a way to visualize when events overlap that they may have not realized when just reading about them separately. It is one thing to know that something happened in a particular year – memorizing dates is helpful for test taking, but if you want your children to have a deeper understanding of history, you really want to show them events on a timeline.

For instance, did you know that both Anne Frank and Martin Luther King Jr. were born in 1929? We may think of them as living in distinctly different time periods, but they would have been contemporaries, had Frank lived passed childhood. Timelines can bring these kinds of connections to your children’s attention.

In this post, I will show you the basics, as well as give you some examples of different ways you can make a timeline work in your homeschool.

But how do you create a timeline?

857000_10200317515356377_1699091222_oExample 1: Timelines can come in many shapes and sizes. When we first started out, I went the easy route. I bought the largest  tri-fold display board from our local Staples for about $5, pulled out a yard stick and divided the workspace into sections, drew colored lines and labeled dates. When we got to an event, we colored in the timeline figure, cut it out and used a glue stick to attach it to the board. As far as a “functional” timeline goes, it fit the bill. It was also portable as it folded flat and could be stored out of the way when it wasn’t in use. Was it the prettiest? Nope, but it worked.


Example 2: Eventually our first couple kids outgrew the large wall-style timeline and switched over to a 3-ring binder Book of Centuries, available for purchase at BYL. This was also neat, portable and worked well.

 


Example 3: But now our youngest is coming up to the year where she will start her timeline project. I told my husband a few weeks ago that I really wanted to put together a wall timeline for her. She’s a very visual person, and I wanted something we could keep out all the time. We have a large section of blank wall space in our school room (or kitchen as it is also known). I expressed a desire to utilize that real estate in some manner, but was quickly shot down by my husband who was hesitant to let me start taping papers to the paint and use my meager art skills to come up with something. So I dropped the project into his lap since he is much more artistic and tasked him into coming up with a visually appealing timeline that he would approve of…

He said he would think about it and a week or so later we noticed two good sized bulletin boards sitting out at our local recycling center. After a minute of quick brainstorming, we both knew that this would be the basis for our wall timeline and grabbed them. Originally I was thinking we could just give the boards a coat of fresh paint and use some sort of paper boarder strips for the lines and thumbtack the figures on. But then while they were resting against the bookshelves waiting to be cleaned up, my husband got a better idea. He looked up some old style maps on Amazon and found one that was just a few inched bigger than the boards.

20150821_155947Two days later after Amazon Prime shipping and a trip to Walmart, we were ready to create the “timeline masterpiece” in my husband’s mind. We gathered our materials – 2 “free” 23″ x 35″bulletin boards (notice they are kind of beat up), two 24″x 36″ antique style map posters ($9.55 each), 1″ colored scotch tape in 4 colors ($2.25 each), a Sharpie marker, ruler and thumb tacks. Not pictured are post-it notes, a pen and our handy-dandy label maker.

20150821_171817We removed the frame from the boards so the edges were way up under the molding and cut the maps to fit. Then we tacked them on with  thumb tacks. When we replaced the frame, we made sure the posters were smooth and tight inside the frame. Now we were ready measure out the spacing to add the tape lines to mark the time periods.

When you create a timeline, you want to differentiate the major time periods. For an 20150821_175913elementary student, you can simplify it into four categories – Ancients, Middle Ages – Renaissance, Early Modern and Modern. I like to color code these categories. It really doesn’t matter what colors you use, as long as they are different. Once you have your categories, you can start to place your dates. I used colorful scotch tape for our categories. They just happened to have 5 different colors of masking tape at Walmart, so we picked 4 of them. We measured to make sure the periods would be evenly spaced – it will depend on how large of a surface you are working with. We ended up with about 4 inches between each category.

Once you have your colored categories, you can start adding your dates. This is the part that caused me most stress to lay out. When you are creating a historical timeline, it can be difficult to figure out when to begin, how much space between dates, and how many dates. I like to keep things fairly simple – I look at what the earliest event we’ll be covering in history will be, and that’s our starting place. So for our timeline we started at 5000 BCE. Then the distance between dates will change depending on how many events you expect to add. These are the dates I used on our timeline:

Ancients                  Middle Ages – Ren         Early Modern              Modern

B.C.E.                                    C.E.                                      1600                                1860
5000                                       25                                        1625                                1870
4000                                      75                                         1650                                1880
3000                                      100                                       1675                                1890
2500                                      200                                       1700                                1900
2000                                     300                                        1725                                1910
1500                                      400                                        1750                                1920
1250                                      500                                        1775                                1930
1000                                     600                                        1790                                1940
900                                       700                                        1800                                1950
800                                      800                                        1810                                1960
700                                      900                                         1820                                1970
650                                      1000                                      1830                                1980
600                                      1050                                      1840                                1990
550                                      1100                                       1850                                2000
500                                      1150                                                                                2010
450                                      1200                                                                               2020
400                                      1250
350                                      1300
300                                      1350
250                                      1400
200                                      1450
150                                      1500
50                                        1525
.                                           1550
.                                           1575

20150823_115023I started adding temporary date markers with post-it notes so that it would be easy to adjust them as needed to be sure they all fit. You could add more dates if you have a larger space to work with, but I find these dates sufficient for the elementary aged child, and they fit nicely on a tri-fold display board or my two bulletin boards. Once I arranged the spacing to my liking (about an inch or 2 depending on how many dates I was trying to fit), I created the permanent date stickers with my label maker.  You could just as easily write them on the tape with a Sharpie, but we were aiming for pretty on this project. Since this timeline is hanging prominently in our kitchen where we spend a lot of time, we wanted to make it look as nice as possible. My handwriting is not the greatest, so we broke out the label maker. 😉

This is our finished product (along with my 6 year old who will be the main student using the wall timeline this year):

20150823_144747The maps are purely decorative and will eventually get covered up by timeline event figures, but doesn’t it look nice? 🙂

This is just one way of making use of a timeline. Not everyone has wall space for something like this, or the patience to put it together. For some more excellent ideas, I asked some Build Your Library customers to send me pictures of their working timelines so that I could share some of their creativity with everyone for some further inspiration.


Example 4: This timeline was created by Annie. She says:

AncientTimelineCollage“The cover and banner are from notebookingpages.com and the images were free printables from http://tendingourlordsgarden.blogspot.com/2012/05/story-of-world-timeline-cards.html, but I don’t have a color printer.  I just trimmed and taped together file folders, and guessed at most of it. It will be on a wall once we move, but for now it is folded on a bookshelf when not in use.”


20150824_103033Example 5: This timeline was submitted by Diana. She says:

“We used index cards paper-clipped to yarn on our dining room wall. It makes it easy to add additional cards later and gives us a room for a little review info (especially helpful for my husband and I!). It has led to lots of good dinner conversations and games. Our favorite is trying to guess which time line card someone is describing.”

 


timelineExample 6: This is how Amy set up her timeline. She says:

Here’s a photo of a timeline my daughter, Ava (age 8), and I have been working on.  As I read from Story of the World, she draws a picture.  She then narrates a short sentence or phrase to caption the picture.  We did a timeline for Book 1 about 18 months ago then put it away (attached).  This week, we took it back out to review before starting Book 2.  Although I wasn’t sure what some of the pictures were about, she was able to tell me exactly what they were and how they each tied in with the event!  This is a favorite part of our week for me.


Example 7: Finally, here’s Claire’s wall timeline. She says:We will be starting this week so there are no figures on it yet. I wanted to have the whole thing fully visible so I used an 11 foot long piece of paper and hung it in our hallway.”

TimelineCollage

Thanks Annie, Diana, Amy and Claire!

So as you can see – timelines can be as simple or elaborate as you want them to be. I hope that I’ve taken some of the fear and confusion out of the process.

Do you have any creative Timelines you want to share? Send us a message or leave us a comment and we can add your creation to the list above. Thanks!

Related Article(s): Back to “Home” School Series (B2HS)


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.


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Learning Vocabulary in Context

“I would have children taught to read before they learn the mechanical arts of reading and writing… A child does not lose by spending a couple of years in acquiring these because he is meanwhile “reading” the Bible, history, geography, tales, with close attention and a remarkable power of reproduction, or rather, of translation into his own language; he is acquiring a copious vocabulary and the habit of consecutive speech. In a word, he is an educated child from the first, and his power of dealing with books, with several books during the course of the morning’s “school,” increases with age.” – Charlotte Mason

A wide vocabulary is a necessity to success in life – it will improve your child’s ability to understand other peoples ideas, to be able to read extensively (and comprehend what they read), and articulate their thoughts clearly to others. But I’m convinced that you do not need to purchase any additional resources in order to build your child’s vocabulary. All you need are well-written books. That’s it! I’m willing to bet you already have a library card and/or a well stocked home library.

You can easily develop your child’s vocabulary through great literature. When they learn a new word in context, and see it repeatedly over time, they’ll retain it and add it to their own vocabulary. Learning new words in context just makes sense. The words will come alive within a story and burrow into their mind.

For example – if I just asked my child to randomly define this list of words:

  • ominous
  • perilous
  • venture
  • slither

They would do the assignment, but within a few days, they’ll have probably forgotten those words entirely. But, if they were to read this wonderful passage:

“From there it’s a simple matter of entering the Mountains of Ignorance, full of perilous pitfalls and ominous overtones – a land to which many venture but few return, and whose evil demons slither slowly from peak to peak in search of prey.”          
– The Phantom Tollbooth

Suddenly, all of those words come to life and make sense. Now the definitions have a deeper and illustrated meaning beyond their standard dictionary entry. The words have a purpose. They will more easily become usable in their daily speech the more times they are heard in a good story.

Even before your child learns to read, you can begin to develop their vocabulary by reading the best literature you can find to them. But don’t just stop there – build your own vocabulary by peppering your every day chatter with big, delicious words. Instead of saying that you enjoy your meal, my might say that dinner is “scrumptious.” Or instead of asking your child to be nice, you could ask them to be more “courteous”, and rather than calling something beautiful, you might say it’s “ravishing” or “stunning.” I’m a big believer in not talking down to children – don’t be afraid of using big words – dialogue with them about anything and everything and explain when you use a strange word that they might not understand.

So how do I use the vocabulary words that come listed each day in the Build Your Library instructor’s guide?

For most of the day’s assigned literature (or read aloud), I offer a list of vocabulary words that I think will challenge IMAG2152your child. In the early years, I encourage you to just go over those words orally with your child, either before or after the reading. Keep it simple – just read over the word and the definition, maybe talk about how it was used in the story, or why the author might have chosen that particular word.

With an older child, you might want to do a bit more – some things that I’ve done over the years:

Write a few of the vocabulary words on a small white board or sheet of paper and just let them look it over before the reading. Let them guess what the words might mean. Then after the reading, have them look at their guesses, and decide whether they were right or wrong. Talk about what the real meaning of the word is and have them write the correct definition.

Give your child the vocabulary words to define after the reading, and then ask them to write them in an original sentence. Be careful not to do this too often, though, as it can quickly become tedious. I wouldn’t do this more than once a week.

You could also play computer games with the vocabulary words at Spelling City or Quizlet, both free.

Maybe your child would enjoy “collecting” new words. Give them a lovely bound journal and give them the task of writing down a new word that they learned each day. At the end of a school year they’d have a book full of new vocabulary words! And it won’t feel like a vocabulary study, because rather than giving them a word and definition to copy, you are giving them the option of choosing a new word on their own, as well as making it sound like an exciting task – what child doesn’t enjoy collecting new things?!

You could also use this notebooking page that I created:  Download Free Vocabulary Activity  Page

The most important thing, however, is to read, read, read! Studies show that an average child needs to hear a word 14 times in order to use it fluently. What better way to expose them to language and all of it’s nuances than by reading beautiful literature!

************************************************************************************

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 Products Available for Purchase:
Kindergarten – Grade 1 – Grade 2Grade 3Grade 4 – Grade 5 – Grade 6Grade 7Grade 8Grade 9 – Grade 10 (coming soon)

Current 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 – 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


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.


Posted in Charlotte Mason, Language Arts | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Can I Combine My Children in One Program?

Many homeschool parents have asked this question, so I thought I would do a blog post to further explain my usual answer.

I have often found that our easiest school years were those when everyone was studying the same historic period and the same science topic. It makes planning easier, we can do group projects, read the same books… it’s just all around easier. My number one rule when it comes to staying sane while homeschooling is Keep It Simple. Whenever possible, simplify. One of the best ways to streamline my day is to include all of my children in the same lessons whenever possible.

I have created the Build Your Library curriculum with flexibility in mind. Having flexible lesson plans is one of the keys to a “Keep It Simple” streamlined homeschool day. If your children are fairly close in age, it’s easy to keep combine them in one program and keep them together. Great literature is still great literature, whether you are 7 or 77, so a wide age range can benefit from the books that I schedule. One of my favorite quotes:

A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” – C.S. Lewis

Good literature, whether assigned in Grade 1 or Grade 5, can be enjoyed by everyone in the family. I promise that it won’t be too babyish for your 3rd grader to listen to The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles while studying the BYL Grade 1 Ancients program.

Many of the assigned projects can easily be either broadened or simplified. For example – a research project can easily be extended for an older student by requiring them to take the activity page further and turn the information they found into a coherent paragraph. Or if they are more artsy, they could take the information and design a poster, write a short story, create a documentary style video about the subject matter, etc. In the same way, you could easily scale it back for a younger child by having them do more of the work orally. I’m often surprised at the answers younger children can come up with when they know they won’t have to write anything down.

But, what about the lack of readers in the early years? If you are using, for example, The Ancient World grade 1 program with a 6 and 8 year old, you may be wondering what your 8 year old should read. Many of the optional books I provide in the plans would work well as readers for that age level. Books such as:

As well as books that are sequels or by the same author as another book that I’ve scheduled, such as:

I’ve also created a list of optional readers for those years that you may find helpful, whether you are looking for books for your emerging reader or more advanced chapter books for your older student: Recommended Readers for Grades 1 and 2

Again – I’m a big believer in allowing younger children to be able to choose their own books. It gives them a sense of power over their learning, and it also helps them to figure out what sort of books they enjoy. For example, one of my twins, when he was around 9, was having a hard time choosing his next book. He couldn’t decide what kind of story he wanted to read. So, I helped him make a list of previous books he’d enjoyed. We found the central theme in his favorite books were mice – he’d loved the Poppy series, The Tale of Despereaux, The Mouse on the Motorcycle and The Cricket in Times Square. Once he realized he liked animal stories, it was easy for him to choose his next book.

The work itself within the plans is easy to adapt to older or younger ages. You could dig a bit deeper with the research projects and use an older or younger set of Narration Cards.

As far as choosing where to start, there are two schools of thought. Some people like to choose the level best suited for their older child and then fold in the younger listeners. This is a great idea, because now you don’t have to worry about beefing things up. Just be aware that some levels, especially those pertaining to modern history will have material you might not want to introduce young children to just yet.

For example, if you have a 6, 8, and 10 year old, you could start with Grade 5 – American History, Part 1 and add a younger text like The American Story, a few picture books like North American Indians , Squanto’s Journey, Who Was George Washington, and Paul Revere’s Ride; and an activity book or two like Explore Native American Cultures and Explore Colonial America to round it out. You will all be studying the same time period, just at different levels of depth.

You could also do the opposite – choose a level suited for your youngest (or somewhere in the middle) and then add in more advanced material for your older children. The major benefit here would be that there won’t be any questionable material to worry about. You can add more books, an older narration cards set, and more advanced lessons to make it age appropriate for your oldest child. You can see an example of how I did this in a blog post I wrote a few years ago when my twins were studying Grade 7 – Exploring Your World  and my oldest wanted to join in: Multi-Grade Teaching – An Example.

I highly suggest that you look over the booklists in our BYL Amazon bookstore. This will show you every book that is scheduled into the lesson plans for each grade level. See what your children are interested in learning, or which levels have books you might have already read or studied.

Don’t feel like you have to juggle 3 levels of curriculum with your 6, 8, and 10 year olds. You can do one level with all three and save yourself a lot of stress, not to mention saving your voice!


If you are looking for a structured literature based, secular homeschool curriculum, I hope you will try out one our our programs and join the Build Your Library family, – building young minds, one book at a time!

Current Full Grade Level Products Available for Purchase – KindergartenGrade 1Grade 2Grade 3Grade 4Grade 5Grade 6Grade 7Grade 8

For Some Additional Educational Topics, Check Out Our Unit Studies Available for PurchaseHarry Potter and the Sorcerer’s StoneHistory of ThanksgivingA Jan Brett ChristmasThe HobbitDarwin and EvolutionSharks!World War IIWinter Holidays Around the WorldPrehistoryHarry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Related Article(s): Multi-Grade Teaching – An Example


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.
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Homeschooling with Puppets!

From the beloved Kermit the Frog to the wacky Oobi, kids love puppets. It can be a full-blown puppet show with a whole cast of characters or a single puppet assisting during a read-aloud. Puppets are a great way to enhance your child’s literary experience while completing their homeschool lessons.

Our first family puppet was an awesome Kermit for our now oldest child. It was a full body puppet including legs, not like those half-body cut off at the waist ones they sell now. He has been through a lot. Several puppet shows, 100s of play times, read alouds, narrator of a Jim Henson biography for a homeschool co-op presentation, and he even suffered major optical reconstructive surgery after a horrible accident involving an overzealous family pet… Nearly, but not quite yet a velveteen frog.

Our next batch of puppets was a set of Baby Einstein animals. We probably had 10 different characters used on the VHS tapes and DVDs. Again, they were used quite extensively, this time by our set of twins. Also notable are our set of 3 shark puppets from the Finding Nemo movies. One of Bruce’s fins is a little worse for wear, again from a fight with the dog… but this time, in the dog’s defense… Bruce usually started it. He’s a shark, he couldn’t control himself.

Most of these have been handed down to our youngest, who has now had her fair share of use with them. Our most recent puppet purchase occurred just this past Christmas 2016. We found some wonderful Cate and Levi premium reclaimed wool handmade puppets on Amazon. You should have seen the eyes of a 17, 14, 14 and 7-year-old alike, all light up when they all opened puppets at the same time!

These puppets are really incredible. They are made out of reclaimed sweaters, so each one is a unique one-of-a-kind creation. If you order 3 elephant puppets, they will all be shaped the same, but the color scheme and texture will be wildly different. When we purchased 6 of them just this past December, they were all around $20 each. But now some of them are as little as $5.38 and up. They have a moose, bunny, horse, beaver, dragon, elephant, giraffe, hippo, monkey, walrus, dog, frog, shark, cow, cat and unicorn – probably others too. Highly recommended. They also have a line of polar fleece puppets, which are brighter colors and each animal looks the same, but they are not nearly as awesome and unique as the reclaimed wool ones.

OK, so what do we actually do with all of these puppets?

Puppet shows! The most obvious would be to re-enact their favorite stories behind the couch or an oversized chair. Or they can create a puppet theater out of a large appliance box or other suitable cardboard structure. Tension rods with an old curtain running across any doorway also create a fully functional makeshift puppet theater. You child’s imagination can run wild using an existing favorite story or creating their own original tales as a creative writing assignment.

Read aloud assistants. Adding some flavor to your current read aloud sessions might be as simple as having Kermit or a wool sock puppet horse take over the reading duties. Having a puppet on your hand practically forces you to use another voice… more so if you have multiple puppets “on hand”. Of courrrrrrse, a horrrrse puppet will rrrrroll his Rrrr’s, and neighhh his aaaa’s.

You can also give your children puppets and assign them roles to join in. They can then wait for their character’s part to come and either speak the lines or dance and act out the scene. This would get pretty chaotic during every read aloud session, but it makes a great occasional treat.

Create your own. Sock puppets can be rather simple or ridiculously complex. When our oldest daughter participated in a homeschool biography fair, she was supposed to do a biography presentation and supply a related craft activity for the group. As our family are huge fans, she chose to do her biography about Jim Henson. We bought a 10-pack of colorful socks, some yarn and a bag of large googly eyes. After she and Kermit read the bio, everybody got to grabbed a sock and created Muppet puppets. The possibilities are endless, so don’t throw out those socks that lose their partner and be sure to save buttons and scraps of cloth or craft felt. We have even been at a store and seen a pair of socks that would make a “perfect sock puppet” and bought them specifically make puppets.

You can also use simple popsicle stick and cardstock cutouts as puppets.

So how many puppets do I need?

Your puppet collection does not need to be as extensive as your home library book collection. Your puppets love to act, just like your kids. There is no reason why your monkey puppet can’t act out the role of Max from Where the Wild Things Are… unless you actually already have a Max puppet wearing a wolf suit. Then your monkey would have to be OK with picking a different part. One of the other wild things will have to do.

You can even accessorize or dress up your puppets in simple costumes to help them get into character. If your wool sock puppet hippo had a piece of scrap red cloth tied around his neck he could have a cowboy bandanna, or over his face to be a robber, or on his head to be little Red riding hood. See how creative you can be putting together a vast wardrobe of puppet outfits for various occasions or favorite stories. Your children can even be inspired to create simple paper masks and rubber band them around the puppet’s head. There is really no right or wrong way to play with puppets or act out your story. Just have fun.

Can you think of any other creative ways to enhance your homeschooling with puppets? Let us know below in the comments!


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.
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Bibliophile Training 101

bibliophile – noun |  bib·lio·phile | \ˈbi-blē-ə-ˌfī(-ə)l\

Definition : a lover of books; one who loves to read, admire and collect books.

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”
— Emilie Buchwald   

I saw a meme the other day that said that if you read one book to your child every day, you would have read 1825 books to them by their 5th birthday… I can’t remember exactly how the rest went, but all parents can probably guess the follow up… Good Night Moon 682 times, Where the Wild Things Are 592 times, <insert next favorite> 551 times…

But by all means, read every day to your children, even if it’s that same book over, and over. They are learning new vocabulary and correct sentence structure, lengthening their attention spans, and building their comprehension skills. Not to mention giving them a love of reading – which can be one of the best gifts you can ever give to your child. Reading to our children is such a simple thing – it can take no more than 20 minutes a day, yet it will reap a lifetime of benefits.

“So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away. And in its place you can install, a lovely bookshelf on the wall.”
— Roald Dahl

I know what you are thinking, this is a hard one to swallow in today’s day and age… but limiting screen time (to include smart phones, tablets, laptops, hand-held video games, television, etc.) would be a huge step in freeing up spare time to something more productive and fulfilling… like reading a book.

This will be much harder when they are older and more used to wasting time on electronic gadgets, but if you can start them early enough, books might have a fighting chance. Start them off with board books as a baby and absolutely read to them as much as possible. Teach them that stacks of books are more entertaining then stacks of DVDs.

I’m not one to ban all screens entirely, but I do require my children to meet certain requirements in order to “earn” their screens. They must finish their school work, do their chores and do something creative – whether that is practicing an instrument, working on a writing project or art. But if I notice they aren’t reading as much (or at all) I ‘ll add free reading to the list. I don’t care what they read so long as they do. But I don’t want to make it a chore to be gotten through in order to earn screen time. Ideally, when there are less screens to distract them, they’ll reach for books for entertainment.

“I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.”
— Jorge Luis Borges

Take your child to the local public library regularly. As soon as they are old enough to write their name, have them get their own library card. Make it a big deal, and they will be proud of the accomplishment of becoming a “big kid with their own library card.” I let them have free reign over what they choose at the library – but I also choose a few interesting titles that I’d like to either read with them or strew in their path.

You can also get them excited about going to the new or used bookstore, more so than the toy store. My youngest loves to go to our local Barnes and Noble, mainly to play with the trains… But I can often entice her to choose a new books as well. We probably go there about once a month, so it is a treat to look forward to.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
— Dr. Seuss   

I want to encourage my children to not only read for pleasure, but for knowledge. While plenty of reading is assigned for school subjects, I don’t want them to only associate non-fiction reading with school. When they ask questions, or wonder about something, I will often say, “Good question. Let’s see if we have a book about that!” And then we’ll consult our home library. If I don’t have anything, we’ll take a trip to the public library. I want them to know that books hold answers to the mysteries of life. Along this same line, when I am curious about a topic, I’ll read about it, and often tell my children about what I’m learning. This way they can see that even grown-ups are still learning!

I also want my children to experience what life is like for other people. The best way to do that is through books. We might not be able to travel the world and talk to people from other cultures. But we certainly can read about them. I particularly look for novels that are written by people of the culture they are writing about. When they read books about the experiences of people who live far differently from themselves, they are building a sense of empathy, and learning that their experience isn’t the only one.

Some of my favorites are:

  • Tea with Milk – really all of Allen Say’s picture books are fantastic stories about life in Japan or being a Japanese immigrant in America.
  • Ramadan Moon – a lovely picture book about why Ramadan is such an important holiday for Muslims.
  • The Night Journey – a beautiful chapter book about an American Jewish girl listening to her great grandmother’s tale of escaping the Pogroms in Russia.

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.”
— Lemony Snicket   

I want my children to be readers, so I want to lead by example. I have been a reader since I was a young child, so I always have books at hand. I want my children to see me reading not only for pleasure but to educate myself. When a child sees a trusted adult reading, they know that this is a worthwhile activity to pursue. Children are imitators, so give them good habits to imitate.

Growing up a reader will do much to educate your child. It will develop and enrich their vocabulary, give them interesting things to talk about and discuss, and create a sense of empathy for others. In short, reading makes you a better, more interesting human. So find other readers for your children to talk about books with. Join or start a book club with other kids their age, talk to the librarian at your local library, chat about what everyone is reading over dinner. You can even watch videos on YouTube (and make your own!) about books that you have read and loved. The book community on YouTube is fantastic, and a great resource for finding new reading material. Let them know that there is a whole world of readers out there to interact with.

Some great BookTube channels to get you started:

“A book is a gift you can open again and again.”
— Garrison Keillor   

Every Christmas, Easter, birthday, and any other excuse to give a gift – I give books. I want them to know that books are important, but I also want them to know that they are fun! This is the perfect opportunity to give your children a fun art project book, a new journal for them to keep track of their reading, a childhood favorite of yours that you are dying to introduce them to, or a silly book of poetry or short stories. We want our children to learn from books, but we also want to show them that books can be just plain fun sometimes!

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.” 
– George R. R. Martin

My goal in both parenting and educating my children, is to give them a love of books. I want them to know that reading opens the world to them. They might be limited by other factors, but when you read a book, you can go anywhere, become anyone, and do anything. Reading opens other worlds that only exist in our imaginations, it guides us into the great conversation, and shows us that we are just one small part of a great big world. So start today. Pick up a book and read!

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.


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Nature Study When It’s STILL Winter

[Original: March 2014] It may be March, but in many states, it’s still very much winter. If you are anything like me, you are dreaming of the day when you can throw open your windows to let in a warm breeze and see green grass and budding flowers again. Alas, it will be at least another month or two of snow and ice in my neck of the woods.

[March 2017 Edit: OK, so a month ago I updated and recycled a Beating the Winter Blues blog post on Facebook from a few years back. At that time, with 2 and a half feet of snow in my yard, I figured I might as well update and repost this Nature Study When It’s STILL Winter post during the first week of March… you know because it “should” still be winter here in March… The groundhog even saw his shadow this year! Except it has been 40, 50, 60, even 70 degrees up here in New England for the past several weeks. My yard is clear of snow, and the only snow that remains are the sparse remnants of huge snow piles from previous plowing. Oh well, I’ll still repost this just in case.]

It’s easy to get cabin fever this time of year. By now, we’re all sick of the cold, and the fun of playing in the snow has grown less exciting. We’re spending more and more time cooped up indoors, which makes for cranky and disruptive children (and mothers). Maybe we’re bored with snowmen and snowball fights, but there is a big wide world out there to explore. We just need a bit of inspiration. 😉

1. Study the snow. This sounds pretty obvious, but snowflakes are amazing things. This is a great time to read Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin. When it’s snowing, you can take a piece of black construction paper and collect some snowflakes to study with a magnifying glass or handheld microscope.

2. Look for animal tracks in the snow and try to identify them. Even in the winter there are many animals out and about. We’ve seen deer tracks and there are always squirrels around.

3. Build a bird center in your yard near a window. Set up a bird feeder or two and attract as many birds as you can. On the days you just don’t want to deal with all the winter gear and cold weather, you can sit in the window keeping watch over all the feathered friends who stop by for a visit. Keep a bird guide (Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America is a great one) and a notebook and pencil nearby to identify the birds you see.

4. Take a winter nature walk. What do you notice this time of year that you don’t at other times? Take some paper and crayons and do tree rubbings. Can you identify the trees by their bark? Which trees are completely bare and which maintain their leaves all winter? Pay attention to the sounds – the world seems quieter in winter, but there are still distinct “winter sounds.” Focus your attention and see what you can hear.

5. Bring some green indoors. This is a great time to start planning your spring garden!  Plant some seeds, or just purchase a houseplant for your child to care for.

6. Look at the night sky. Especially on a clear night, this time of year is great for stargazing. Read Find the Constellations by H.A. Rey and then see what constellations you can identify. Learn about the phases of the moon, meteor showers, and more.

Try to get outdoors at least once a week and explore. (And let them burn some of that pent up energy!) If you live in a winter wonderland, what do you do for winter nature study?

[2017 Edit: If you are suffering from snow deprivation, here are a couple Springy nature activities:

7. Practice Nature Photography! Taking pictures is a great way to get children to be more observant of their surroundings. Give them a camera and direct them towards taking pictures of the early signs of spring. You’ll be surprised at what they come up with.

8. Study weather. Because this time of year can vary so much, it’s a great time to study the weather! Keep a weather journal for a few weeks and track the different types of weather you get at this time of year. How much does the temperature fluctuate? What kinds of clouds are in the sky and what do they mean? One of my favorite books for learning about the weather is Weather! by Rebecca Rupp, it’s full of great information and it also has plenty of easy to re-create experiments and activities to keep your little meteorologist busy.

So, do you even have any snow in an area that is supposed to?

Yeah, I’m pretty sure I jinxed it now and we will be getting another blizzard soon… 🙂 ]

Please feel free to share your ideas in the comments!

For some other ideas, check out our year round Unit Studies that are 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
The Hobbit Unit Study
Darwin and Evolution Unit Study
Sharks! Unit Study
World War II Unit Study
Prehistory 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. You can also check out her author page on Amazon.


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Keeping Dad Involved with Homeschooling

Let’s face it. Most of the time, it falls to the stay-at-home mom to take care of the homeschooling responsibilities while dad goes to work. Besides equating the delayed discipline of “Just wait for your father to get home!” to going to see the “homeschool principal,” how can dad stay involved in the family’s homeschool adventure?

Here are some simple tips and tricks to keep dad in the loop.


Night at the Round Table – Daily (Weekly) Dinner Recap

When you all sit down to a family dinner, make this a time for everyone to go around the table and share something that they learned or worked on that day. It can be a brief synopsis of something that was read or researched that day, it can be showing off an art project or coloring assignment, or it can be a chance to share and brainstorm ideas for an upcoming project that they need to work on. Don’t forget to also let Mom and Dad both share some tidbit, good or bad from their day too. If earmarking some time during dinner doesn’t work for your family, you could also incorporate this into a before bedtime ritual.

A weekly recap could also be used if time is tight. Set aside Friday night, Saturday afternoon or other available time slot to go over a week’s worth of homeschooling highlights and big accomplishments. Have your child recite the memory work from the past week, read one of their daily writing assignments or save a couple selected items throughout the week into a showcase folder or display board. Whichever way you choose to recap, this would be a great way to keep dad informed and reinforce what your children have been learning.

[EDIT: See  Marie’s Facebook comment below for another excellent way to get Dad to initiate a dialogue with the children about their homeschool day! – Thanks Marie]


Story Time – Dad Read Alouds

We are always discussing how important it is to read aloud to your children. While this typically defaults to the mom, it is a perfect way to involve both parents. Give dad the bedtime story duties, or have your child read to dad to practice their reading with someone other than mom.

Fathers often bring a unique dynamic to reading to their children, especially boys. Many times reading aptitude scores are noticeably higher in boys that were regularly read to by dad. There is also evidence that reading may not be seen as a particularly masculine activity if only women are the ones reading to them (mom, female public librarian, other childcare providers), so dads reading their children some stories may help balance out this perception. Further research indicates that fathers tend to be more instrumental in the language development of both their young sons and daughters because of their reading style and may even spark more imaginative discussions.

“We found that fathers used more abstract and complex language. When sharing a book with their child, they would often link events in the book to a child’s own experience. For example, when a ladder was discussed in the book, many fathers mentioned the last time they had used a ladder to climb up on the roof or use it for their work. Mothers focused more on the details in the book and often asked children to label or count objects or identify colors.”  – Dr. Anna E. Duursma


Dad Outings or Family Field Trips

Depending on if mom needs a break or not, you can either schedule a field trip for the whole family or an individual dad outing. If both parents are available, you might be able to plan a trip farther away than usual, or just have double the hands and eyes to keep track of wandering children.

If you plan ahead, Home Depot or Lowe’s usually have free weekly kid’s workshops going on Saturday mornings. Maybe dad can turn the 30 minute trip to go get light bulbs into a 90 minute trip with a child or two and come home with light bulbs and a hand-made birdhouse? This will kill two birds with one stone – mom get’s 90 minutes of quiet, and dad and the kids have a fun bonding experience.


Father Knows Best – Specialty Dad Classes or Tutoring

Does dad have a specialty that you can turn into a weekly class? Important life skills such as home handyman tasks, auto mechanic work, woodworking, computers, cooking, gardening, survival training or whatever other expertise dad can pass along would perfectly supplement the usual reading, writing and arithmetic lessons.

Another way would be to have dad either tutor the kids on a subject that he is knowledgeable in that the kids are having difficulty with such as math – or – let dad deep dive into a subject to further enrich your family’s homeschool experience. Perhaps let dad run an interesting supplementary unit study, do some crazy science experiments or come up with some other fun activities relating to your normal syllabus if he is a self-proclaimed history, geography, or science buff.


Duo Grading or Homeschool Planning

I’m sure mom would welcome the help grading assignments. Make it a point to grade papers together, or leave a pile of work just for dad to go over. This is a great way to keep dad involved in the homeschooling process and with the progress of the kid’s studies.

While dad may not be quite as hands-on with the day-to-day planning, maybe he can help brainstorm some of those field trips, major projects or other aspects of the homeschooling schedule? Or perhaps simple feedback and support by letting you bounce some ideas off him when necessary can be a big help.


Mr. Mom – Dads Do Housework

Perhaps one of the biggest helping hand dad can do is pick up some of the slack as far as pitching in on laundry, vacuuming, dishes, occasionally picking up or cooking dinner.

There is research suggesting that children, particularly daughters, may be inspired to be more ambitious if they see their dads routinely sharing more of the domestic duties. They may also be encouraged to pursue career paths that are less traditional and potentially higher paying.

Besides, sometimes mom just needs a break and there is nothing more attractive than a man with a mop. 🙂


Even if dad leaves most of the formal day-to-day teaching to mom, he can still play a major part and significant active role in their homeschool education.

Do you have any other creative ways to include dad in homeschooling? Let us know below in the comments!


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.


Post Comments from Facebook

Rebecca via Facebook (2/27/2017) Haven’t read this yet but my kids absolutely refuse to tell Dad anything they did during the day. He does have to get involved as we save some activities for when he’s home. Some things are just too hard when it’s three against one and the youngest is barely a toddler.

  •  Marie via Facebook (2/27/2017) My 5 year old is like that sometimes; I tend to try to text photos to my husband that I’ve Instagrammed out that way when he gets home he can say “Did “someone” make a volcano today” to initiate the conversation and my son will start to engage from there.
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Black History Month Book Recommendations

In honor of Black History Month, I thought it would be fun to 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:

2/1/2017: Today I’m highlighting One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. This novel takes place in Oakland CA in the late 1960s, and it is about three sisters visiting their estranged mother for the summer. Narrated by the eldest sister, Delphine, you really get to feel like you are there. Funny, heartbreaking, and powerful, this was one of my favorite picks for Build Your Library’s Grade 6 – American History, Part 2 curriculum.

2/8/2017: This week I want to share one of my favorite picture book biographies – A Weed is a Flower by Aliki. This is a story all about George Washington Carver’s life and achievements. Dr. Carver’s life is such an inspiration. He is a great example to teach our children about perseverance and striving to learn and be the best we can be. The prose is lovely, but my favorite thing about this book is the gorgeous artwork.

2/15/2017: For the third installment of my Black History Month book recommendations, I want to share a fabulous resource for poetry. I, Too, Sing America is a gorgeously illustrated book of African American poetry. It covers a range of poets, from Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou to Countee Cullen and Gwendolyn Brooks. It also includes a brief bio for each poet. This book is a great way to add some diversity to your poetry studies.

2/22/2017: For my final Black History Month book recommendation, I thought I’d share a book for teens and parents to enjoy. I’m currently reading Kindred by Octavia E. Butler and it’s fantastic. Not only is it the first science fiction published by an African American woman, it’s a very compelling read. The story is about a black woman who lives in the 1970s who, against her will, time travels to the antebellum South whenever her ancestor, a white slave owner, is in trouble. I appreciate the genre-bending, it’s both historical fiction and sci-fi, and the story is very well crafted. I think it gives a very realistic and stark portrayal of life in that time period, and I highly recommend it.

Honorable Mentions: Here are a couple final bonus recommendations:

  • To Kill a Mockingbird – This is one of my all time favorite books – set in a small southern town in the 1930s, this book explores the idea of racism and what it means to be human.
  • The Story Of Ruby Bridges: Special Anniversary Edition – Beautifully illustrated picture book about a dark time in our history. Though it is about a hard topic – segregation in the 1960s south, this book is told in a way that even a young child can relate.
  • Amos Fortune, Free Man – This is another book scheduled into Build Your Library curriculum, this time in Grade 5 – American History, Part 1. This Newberry Award Winning story is a compelling read about Amos Fortune – a man who was captured by slave traders in Africa and sold into slavery in America, but never stopped fighting for freedom for himself and his people.
  • Poetry for Young People: Langston Hughes – I’m a big fan of the Poetry for Young People series, and this month is a great time to study a famous African American poet like Langston Hughes. This is a great introduction to his life and work, and the illustrations are beautiful.

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): 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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