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 Level 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 Level 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 Levels 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 Level 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 Level 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 on each level’s page. 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 – Level 0 – Level 1 – Level 2 – Level 3 – Level 4 – Level 5 – Level 6 – Level 7 – Level 8 – Level 9 – Level 10 – (See Levels vs. Grades vs. Ages)
For Some Additional Educational Topics, Check Out Our Unit Studies Available for Purchase – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – History of Thanksgiving – A Jan Brett Christmas – The Hobbit – Darwin and Evolution – Sharks! – World War II – Winter Holidays Around the World – Prehistory – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Related Article(s): Multi-Grade Teaching – An Example