Levels vs. Grades vs. Ages

December 3, 2017

When we started Build Your Library, we adopted the “standard” public school style naming conventions, such as Kindergarten, Grade 1, Grade 2, etc. Of course, there is no “standard” in homeschooling, but those grade levels seemed appropriate at the time. Appropriate and familiar. When I went to public school, I didn’t go to the Level 12 classroom… But then we started to get some pretty relevent questions about the set up of our curriculum:

“Which grade level should I begin at with my 8 year old?”

“My sixth grader hasn’t studied any American history, can we start with Grade 5 or will it be too easy?”

“Will Grade 1 be too hard for my advanced 5 year old?”

I get these and similar questions about the “grade levels” all the time. It’s probably my most frequently asked question. My usual response is that the grade levels are subjective. The material that Build Your Library covers is content based – history, art, literature, science – these courses aren’t typically measured so much by grade as by interest. No one would pick up a copy of A Wrinkle in Time and ask themselves “What grade level is this book?” Yet when it comes to history, science, or any of those other content subjects, we tend to think in terms of grade level. Why is that?

I think we have been ingrained by society to think of education as boxes to tick off – a 6 year old  is a 1st grader who must know these specific things. That is a public school model for learning. As homeschoolers, we are freed from those chains, yet we have held on to them. They are comforting. They tell us that we are on target… that our children are learning what they ought to learn.

Over the years, customers have asked me if we could change the Grades to Levels. I have been brainstorming about that for a while and I think it is finally time that Build Your Library evolves and adopts this change.

As of now, all of our full year programs will now be designated “levels” rather than grades. This currently doesn’t change any of the content. But it might make it easier to choose a level to begin at when you are first starting out, or make it easier to use one level with multiple children without the oldest thinking they are doing “baby” school work.

The levels will work like this:
(BYL Level – Approximate School Grade – Recommended Age Range)

  • Level 0 – Kindergarten – ages 4 – 6
  • Level 1 – Grade 1 – ages 6 – 8
  • Level 2 – Grade 2 – ages 7 – 9
  • Level 3 – Grade 3 – ages 8 – 10
  • Level 4 – Grade 4 – ages 9 – 11
  • Level 5 – Grade 5 – ages 10 – 12
  • Level 6 – Grade 6 – ages 11 – 13
  • Level 7 – Grade 7 – ages 12 – 14
  • Level 8 – Grade 8 – ages 12 – 15
  • Level 9 – Grade 9 – ages 14 – 16
  • Level 10 – Grade 10 – ages 15 – 17
  • Level 11 – Grade 11 – ages 16 – 18 

For those accustomed to the previous “Grade Level” format of Build Your Library, Level effectively equals Grade. If you have previously purchased a BYL Grade Level curriculum, this update is very minor and only difference is the reference to Level vs. Grade vs. Age. You would not specifically need an updated copy of this instructor guide (like if we made changes to the booklist, schedule or other functionality…) unless you want a copy that references a numeric level. Let us know and we’d be happy to send you a new copy.

Please bear with us as we update the references throughout the webpage. There may still be instances where levels, grades or age ranges may still be used interchangeably.


Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-12 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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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?

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