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About Build Your Library Curriculum

Build Your Library – Literature based homeschool curriculum - 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 yourself. 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 4Grade 5 - Grade 6 - ( Grade 7 coming July 2014 – Grade 8 coming 2015 )

Current Unit Studies Supplemental Products Available for PurchaseHarry Potter and the Sorcerer’s StoneHistory of ThanksgivingA Jan Brett ChristmasThe HobbitDarwin and Evolution

Other Products – Narration Cards

Grade 2 Updates

I recently updated the Grade 2 – The Medieval World lesson plans, so to make it easier for those of A-4izHJWg35u67YboAU3dM7r4nA8l8cHpqfizJL3I93Xj-upQld-RA_Qb8dHQkFJHw=w1118-h462you who had already been using the older plans, here’s a list of the updates:


  • Pg. 5 – You now have a list of all the documentaries/movies listed throughout the lesson plans, along with which week you will need them.
  • Pg. 15 – Science – new experiment
  • Pg. 20 – Science – optional book added
  • Pg. 26 – Science – new activity
  • Pg. 32 – Science – new website listed
  • Pg. 36 – Science – new activity
  • Pg. 48 – Science – writing activity
  • Pg. 49 – Science – new website listed
  • Pg. 50 – Science – new activity
  • Pg. 54 – Science – sketching activity
  • Pg. 58 – Science – new experiment
  • Pg. 86 – Science – new experiment (new activity page – pg. 268)
  • Pg.96 – Science – new activity (new activity page – pg. 270)
  • Pg. 98 – Science – optional book
  • Pg. 100 – Science – new activity (new activity page – pg. 271)
  • Pg. 140 – Science – optional book
  • Pg. 150 – Science – optional book
  • Pg. 167 – Science – optional book
  • Pg. 171 – Science – optional book
  • Pg. 173 – Science – optional book
  • Pg. 175 – Science – optional book
  • Pg. 177 – Science – optional book
  • Pg. 179 – Science – optional book
  • Pg. 209 – History – optional book
  • Pg. 211 – Science – optional book
  • Pg. 246 – updated history activity page


The Most Important Thing

When I first began homeschooling, I fell in love with the idea of a book based education. I DSC04267daydreamed about reading aloud beautiful literature to my serene children, as they snuggled close to me on the couch, their little eyes focused on me with rapt attention as I read. But the reality was something quite different.

I had always read to my children at bedtime, but it wasn’t until I began homeschooling in earnest that I added in a daytime story session. At that time, my oldest was 4 and I had one year old twin boys. That quiet snuggling time only happened if I planned our reading sessions around their naps. Otherwise it was chaos.

Things plugged along pretty smoothly, and I got through a hefty stack of books with my daughter. I was patting myself on the back when suddenly, the twins gave up their afternoon nap. I suddenly had no quiet moment in my day where I could continue our peaceful reading time. I would attempt to include them, but they were physically incapable of sitting still for longer than 10 seconds and they were SO LOUD. We went from reading a chapter book every other week to one each month, if we were lucky. I felt defeated by these little balls of energy. I began to question if it was worth the trouble to even try reading aloud.

230079_1967333258866_696346_nThat was when I had my epiphany. As I contemplated the future of our little homeschool, I realized that if my end goal was to have well read children who loved the written word and who loved to learn, then I had to find a way to prioritize reading aloud. It was literally the most important thing I could do for them. 

Reading aloud has numerous benefits, but for me, the biggest was giving my children a love of reading. I wanted them to appreciate books, to see them as the ultimate form of entertainment as well as a place to seek knowledge. Reading is powerful, and I wanted to give them that power. But in those early days, it was hard. How do I read aloud when they won’t sit still? When they interrupt every other sentence to ask a question? When the constant barrage of questions doesn’t even have anything to do with what we’re reading? When they argue for 30 minutes over which spot on the couch is “their spot?” How was I supposed to create this environment where we could read great books and discuss them, and most importantly THINK about all of those beautiful ideas when it felt like I was sitting in the middle of a three-ring circus?

First – I needed to realize that at that point in time, we weren’t going to be reading in solid hour long 28761_1407830191639_939050_nchunks. I set aside different times throughout the day that would be devoted to reading. I discovered that while they were sitting at the table eating, I could read for 15 minutes without anyone running around the room or arguing over where to sit. So I read poetry over breakfast and a chapter from our read aloud at lunch. I would let them run around outside for an hour and tire them out, and then we’d snuggle on the couch with a stack of picture books. On rainy days when everyone is a bit wired, I’d give them paper and crayons and let them draw while I read. Or I’d make hot chocolate and cinnamon toast and we’d have a story time tea party.

1557522_10202304540750770_392068234_nSecond, and I think this is nearly as important as reading aloud, I needed them to see me reading for pleasure as well as for educational purposes. Mothering is all about imitation, and I wanted them to imitate my love of reading. If they see that I’m always on the computer checking Facebook or grabbing my phone to “just check in for a minute” all day long, they’ll learn to value time wasted on the internet. But if they see me spending my free moments reading a book, researching for our spring garden, or studying a topic that interests me, they’ll learn that reading is a pastime worth pursuing. It’s music to my ears when my children come to me with a question and then ask if we can go to the library to find a book about it. Or when my daughter comes running down the stairs clutching a book to her chest and telling me, “you HAVE to read this book, Mama!” That’s when I know that I’m on the right path.

Difficulties come up along the way, but if you keep your focus on the end goal, and simplify your day when necessary, the important things can and will get done. School really can consist of reading beautiful books and talking about the big ideas contained within. It really is enough. Literature can be the focus of your studies. You may never have that daydream with the billowing white curtains and the calm, serene children silently sitting while you read for hours, but you will give them the most important gift – the gift of literature, a thirst for knowledge, and most importantly, the love of learning.



Birthday Sale

Celebrating my birthday two years ago.

Celebrating my birthday two years ago.

My birthday is on Monday, and I think this might be the first year that I’m not particularly looking forward to it. Suddenly, it’s hitting me that I’m getting older. I’ve always looked young for my age, but lately, no one has mistaken me for a teenager. It used to be incredibly annoying when the receptionist at the dentist asked me if I was missing anything important in school that day, or someone mistook me for one of the teens at a homeschool event. Now, I would completely appreciate one of those comments. I always looked forward to my 30s – finally I wouldn’t be the youngest mom in the group, people would take me seriously – it would be awesome! I didn’t take into account the graying hair, the crows feet creeping up around my eyes, that extra 10lbs that just wont go away, or feeling like I’m going to die after playing soccer or jump rope with the kids for 10 minutes. Ah, 30s…you are not all you were cracked up to be.

So rather than throw a pity party, I’d like you to help celebrate my birthday! I thought I’d give you a gift. Starting now, you can take 15% off of your total order. Just use the coupon code: Birthday at check-out. The sale will end on Saturday, April 5.

So put on your party hat, eat a slice of fudgy chocolate cake with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream, and shop for next years curriculum!

Nature Study When It’s STILL Winter

Enough with the snow already!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.

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. 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 (Peterson Field Guides) 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 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? Please feel free to share your ideas in the comments!

Introducing Our New Shopping Cart Checkout

As you know, up until today, we have been using the Paypal buttons for all purchases. This worked nicely, but I had to manually submit all orders as they came in. At first, this wasn’t a big deal, but as our business has grown, it was becoming rather time consuming for me. So, after doing some research, we decided to change over to a PayPal powered E-Junkie shopping cart.


Now when you place an order, you will be able to use a shopping cart, rather than having to place multiple orders. And when you order, you will receive an automatic link where you can download your purchase instantly! No more having to wait until I check my e-mail, and I will no longer have to be chained to my computer!

We have tested everything as best as we could but if you find any issues, please let us know and we’ll correct them as quickly as possible. 

Thanks so much for your support – I’m so excited that Build Your Library is able to upgrade and grow as a business. We couldn’t do it without you!

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 297033_4148205459308_1244382158_nother 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 curriculum in order to build your child’s vocabulary.

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

IMAG2151Suddenly, all of those words come to life and make sense.

Even before your child learns to read, you can be developing 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 “courteous”, and rather than call 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 day’s 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.

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!

New Unit Study: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

I’m really excited to present this new unit study! Does your child enjoy the Harry Potter series and harrypotter1-coveryou wished there was a way to make this passion more educational? I know my children adore the world of Harry Potter. It started about 8 years ago when my oldest was around 7 and she read the first book. She has since read the whole series dozens of times and has passed her enthusiasm to her siblings. The Harry Potter series is an epic adventure that appeals to people of all ages –  J.K. Rowling has created a world within our own full of magic and mystery, heroes, villains and quests to save the world. What child wouldn’t  daydream about getting an owl inviting them to study at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, shopping for your very own magical wand in Diagon Alley, and winning the House Cup.

10843_1278443077042_3239078_aI took my children’s passion for these stories and created what I hope will be a series of unit studies covering all of the Harry Potter books. This unit covers the first book in the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Book 1). While reading the book, your child will write their own Wizarding newspaper, make a wand, create a spell glossary (while also learning a bit about latin and word roots), begin a field 58838_4426125767142_329765418_nguide of Magical Devices, and study a Hogwarts course – this unit covers Herbology – a study of Plants and Herbs with just a touch of magic. You will use two books – Eyewitness Plant (DK Eyewitness Books) and A Kid’s Herb Book: For Children of All Ages as well as complete a variety of projects, from dissecting a flower to studying the lifecycle of a plant to creating a field guide of herbs.

This unit study takes approximately 3 weeks to study, and is appropriate for upper-elementary through middle school. The unit is 37 pages and contains more than 10 activity pages, as well as a complete literature study, including vocabulary, copywork and dictation passages, and discussion questions.

Below you can see some samples of a few of the activity pages:









Purchase the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Unit Study – $5.99

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Building Your Home Library on a Budget

When you homeschool with a living books philosophy, you’re going to need to invest in a good IMAG1660home library. But if you’re like me, you’re probably on a pretty tight budget. Being a living books homeschooler doesn’t mean you have to spend a small fortune or go into debt providing your children with an expansive home library. I’ve been an avid book collector for as long as I can remember, but I’m also extremely careful with our money. Some might even say that I’m cheap. ;)


This cost me about $13 at the library book sale!

My favorite ways to get great books for very little money are to hit the used book sales. Check your local library (and neighboring libraries) for sales – mine has a porch sale every spring, and the big city library 15 minutes away has a huge sale around the same time. I can get stacks of books for just a few dollars. You can check Book Sale Finder to see what sales are in your area.


Amazon is great for shopping for books on a budget. If you pay attention, they have sales all of the 1622756_10202583771891374_1674401534_ntime and you can get a really great deal. For example – if you plan on using Grade 5 and Grade 6 to study American History, you’ll need to purchase A History of US: Eleven-Volume Set: Paperback Set. These books are fantastic – they are colorful and well written, making history come alive. I especially appreciate that her books are more about the people who made history rather than memorizing a bunch of dates and names. She makes George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman, Franklin D. Roosevelt, etc. feel like real people, who had to make real choices, rather than just facts to be remembered. But these books, fantastic as they are, can cost a fortune if you aren’t careful. Retail value is $175! But right now, amazon has them listed for just $98.98. A few years ago, I purchased them for around $89. But when you see a great deal like this you need to act fast, as prices can change overnight.

Thrift shops can also be a great way to get a great deal on books – I love book-hunting at Goodwill. I’ve gotten some gorgeous books for extremely cheap. Along the same lines, you can find great deals at yard sales and flea markets as well.

The most important thing though – know what you are looking for. Even with great deals, you can end up spending too much on things you didn’t necessarily need. My house is small, so shelf space, unfortunately, is limited. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to purge books to make space – it’s not easy! But if a book hasn’t left the shelf for over a year and I won’t need it in the near future, it has to go. To keep from making too many spontaneous purchases, I keep a list in my purse of all the books I’m currently looking for. I try to shop at least one school year ahead. This helps me to avoid purchases of books I don’t need, no matter how pretty or cool or fun they might look. I mean, how many dinosaur books does one family need anyway (cause we have 50…seriously.)

DSC04267Inspring a love of reading in our children is one of the most important things we can do. So fill your home with the best-of-the-best children’s literature, but don’t break the bank doing it. With some careful shopping, you can provide your child with a great home library where they can learn and dream and grow.

A Little Preview of Grade 7


I’ve been going through my stacks and ordering like crazy on Amazon – but I think I’m ready to start actually working on writing Grade 7 – Discovering the World (tentative title – it’s still very much a work in progress!)instead of just daydreaming about it. I am a big geography nerd, so I’m REALLY excited to get started. It’s going to be a little while, probably late July, before it’s finished, but I couldn’t make you guys wait that long without even a hint of what’s to come! By late May I should have the definitive book list ready, but for now, you can see what I’ll be reading for the next few months.

One of these days I’ll spend as much money on a new camera as I do on books. ;)

Beating the Winter Blues

It happens every year, right around February. The thrill of the shiny new school year has worn off, 1512759_10202432947000846_1434096266_nthe daily grind has started grinding on your nerves – maybe the cold weather is keeping you inside and your family is suffering from a bout of cabin fever. Winter burnout hits all of us, homeschool newbies and veterans alike. Maybe you feel like it’s time to throw in the towel, send the kids to school and be done with the whole thing. But take a moment first and get some perspective!

There are many reasons we end up burned out, but I think the chief reason is the simplest – boredom. It’s halfway through the year and if you follow a routine, you’re maybe getting bored. Change things up a little bit and you will all feel better for it. Now I don’t mean drop everything and buy all new curriculum. But if things are feeling a bit stale, maybe take a week or two and do a unit study, or focus on an interest – art or space or whatever strikes you and your children’s fancy. Taking some time off from your routine and when you come back to it again, everything will feel fresh again.

All those kits and projects and fun books you bought at the beginning of the year (or 5 years ago!) but never got around to? Pull them out right now and declare Fun School! Your kids will think it’s Christmas.

If you live in a snowy climate, spend a few days on nature study – there are lots of great winter themed nature books:

A few other hints and tips to beat the winter blues:

Spring cleaning! Yes, I know it’s not spring, but sometimes sprucing things up around the house can make you feel so much better. And just the thought of spring can energize things. Not to mention, it’s easier to think in a clean, clutter-free house.

Get out of the house – this is hard if you live in a cold climate, but if it’s not below freezing, getting outside for some fresh air and exercise can make all the difference. And mom – you too! Don’t neglect yourself here. It’s easy to send the children out and think you’re getting some quiet time, but you need that fresh air and sunshine just as much as they do! So go out and play with them. Just think of all the calories you’re burning. ;)

1052489_10202481687419326_596813057_oAnd on that note – bake a treat. I don’t know about you, but I LOVE baking. Unfortunately, I also love eating all those delicious treats. So I have to make it a special occasion thing. But hey, winter burnout counts as a special occasion, right? So bake that recipe you’ve been drooling over on Pinterest and then go run around outside with your children for a while. And what kid doesn’t love to bake? Let them help and call it life-skills.

Grow something – especially if you live in a cold climate, bringing some green into your home can work wonders. Start planning your spring garden and plant your seedlings. Just seeing that green can make the whole world seem brighter.

Don’t forget to take care of you! It’s easy for us homeschool moms to get lost in the day-to-day mothering/schooling/homemaking 24/7, but we are people too, and we need to take a little time for ourselves. Burnout doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with homeschooling. We may not have the means or the time to take a week long spa vacation, but we can go out for coffee and then spend a quiet hour at the bookstore or library, or get a pedicure and a hair cut – whatever helps you relax. Even if it’s just for one hour once a week, that hour can make all the difference in your perspective. So don’t neglect yourself!

The winter blues don’t have to ruin your homeschool year – take a moment to focus on what everyone needs right now – whether it’s a clean space, more time outdoors or a week off from the routine – and then recharge your family’s batteries.