Yes, and no. While I use quite a few tenets of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy, such as narration, copywork, dictation, artist study, living books, and short varied lessons I am by no means strictly Charlotte Mason in Build Your Library’s philosophy. I like to think of myself as an eclectic homeschooler, and our “Charlotte Mason inspired” Build Your Library curriculum is a reflection of that. You can learn more about how the Charlotte Mason Method works in a secular homeschool environment in this blog post.
Or you can read more in my book: A Literary Education: Adapting Charlotte Mason for Modern Secular Homeschooling
One of the biggest components of Build Your Library curriculum is literature. And yes, you will have to read aloud. Reading aloud to your children is one of the most important things you can do for them. It will build their vocabulary, give them wonderful things to ponder and pretend, expand their cultural literacy, build fond family memories and leave a legacy of beautiful literature in your child’s life. However, we live in an age of great technology. So if reading aloud isn’t for you – audiobooks are a great substitute!
When a book is listed as Literature, it is meant to be read aloud by YOU, to your child. A reader is a book that is meant for your child to read to themselves. However, I recommend for at least the first few years of reading, say up to about the age of 9 or so, you have your child read aloud to you for at least a little bit of their reading time. This helps them to work on fluency, articulation, and it helps you catch those mispronunciations that you may have missed otherwise. ( See also: No. You Read to Me. )
Yes! Build Your Library is a literature-based, secular homeschool curriculum. One of the things I’ve found discouraging over the years is that so many homeschool curriculum take an Evangelical Christian or other religious approach with their programs. While that’s fantastic if you happen to be of that particular faith, for those of us that aren’t, it can make home educating your children a frustrating experience. I’ve often thought it is easier to add in your own religious beliefs to your home education program than it is to remove someone else’s.
With that in mind, this program is NOT anti-religion by any means. I try to be respectful of all faiths. Does this mean an Evangelical Christian shouldn’t use this program? Not at all! If you want to teach your child your faith – by all means do so. However, our lesson plans will not formally schedule this in.
The history texts we use still teach ABOUT religion, however, it is from a secular worldview and doesn’t have a bias towards any religious group. Our science teaches evolution.
We only use two volumes of Story of the World – volumes 3 and 4, and while they discuss religion as it pertains to history, they do not deal in the mythology that people tend to take issue with in Volume 1. Basic religion will always be discussed in history as it was a major motivation of so many events. To remove all mention of religious belief would be a disservice to the study of history.
[NOTE: We have found a suitable replacement, and have swapped out SOTW for History Quest. BYL Level 1 conversion was completed in February 2021, and BYL Level 2 was updated in April 2021 .]
Before I even started writing any of the programs I outlined what I was planning to cover. I’m planning on writing Kindergarten – 12th grade – ( See also: Levels vs. Grades vs. Ages ). My outline looks something like this:
Reading levels vary so much at those younger age levels. Sometimes 6 or 7-year-olds are early readers and can easily read most chapter books, while some 6 or 7-year-olds are still sounding out cvc words. Usually by around 8 or 9, everyone evens out. But in the early stages of reading, I would encourage any and all reading – if all your child wants to read is the Magic Tree House series, let them. If they want to linger in the easy reader stage, encourage it. If they want to read War and Peace, that’s awesome.
My point is – if you push a list of books on a child who isn’t ready, they will grow up to dislike reading. If you give them some freedom in their reading choices in the beginning, then reading will be more fun and relaxing for them. ( See also: Bibliophile Training 101 )
I suggest you set aside a time of day that is strictly for reading – aim for 15 minutes or so in the early years, and build it up to an hour by middle school age. Make sure you take some time for yourself to read during this time too – they need to see us parents reading as well! BYL begins to schedule student readers in the Level 3 program.
If you are looking for ideas for suitable books to include before Level 3, I have some recommended readers for Level 1 and 2 here.
If your children are fairly close in age, then yes, definitely! I have written a blog post on combining multiple children in one curriculum here. There is some flexibility with any literature based program, mainly because good literature can be enjoyed by people of any age. You can also purchase higher or lower level sets of age-appropriate narration cards so that you can combine your children more easily.
But, if you have a broad age gap, then I would suggest doing a separate level for each child. It would be too difficult to make the Level 1 Ancient World program work for an older 12-year-old… or for a younger 7-year-old to complete the work in the Level 5 American History program.
Each level includes a full schedule of all the required readings for the history, literature, readers, poetry and science. I’ve pulled vocabulary words, copywork and dictation from the literature readings and there is a set of narration cards for each level as well. There are included activities based on the readings, timeline figures, map work, research projects, poetry memorization and other memory work, art projects and science experiments.
See also: Level 9 | Level 10 | Level 11 | Level 12
Each Build Your Library secular homeschool program contains full year lesson plans for history, literature, poetry, art and science as a PDF download. The comprehensive plans include a reading list, narration cards, vocabulary words, copywork passages, poetry memorization, map work, research projects, notebook pages, science and art projects.
However, as it does not contain a math program, so you will need to purchase that separately. While I do include copywork, narration and dictation lessons, you may also want to purchase separate spelling and grammar programs as well, depending on your child.
If you already own some of the titles, you are ahead of the game. You could also try to borrow some of the books from your local library, but it may be far more convenient and highly recommended that you purchase the materials that are used for more than a few weeks to build your personal home library (such as books listed as “spines”).
If the book is listed in the required section, there will be material or activities scheduled for it. Anything in the option booklist or optional documentaries may or may not be added to your scheduling at your discretion.
There is a booklist included with the lesson plans, and hyperlinked through Amazon.com. If you are going to purchase the books, it would be greatly appreciated if you did so through our hyperlinks within the Instructor’s Guide or on the product’s web page (afflinks). ( See also: How to Source Books for Build Your Library )
Sometimes your child wants to delve deeper into a topic, or maybe you just need a little change up in the middle of the school year. This is where unit studies come in handy. A Build Your Library unit study is a short self-contained intensive study of a particular subject.
For example, my popular Hobbit Unit Study covers a literature study of the book The Hobbit. You’ll read the story as well as complete a variety of activities, such as: study artwork by famous Tolkien-inspired artists, write a character journal, design a map of Bilbo’s journey, and create a field guide to Middle Earth. You could drop all your other school work except math, and just focus on this one unit for four weeks. Each unit study is comprehensive within it’s own subject matter – for example the History of Thanksgiving Unit Study covers history, cooking and literature, the Darwin and Evolution Unit Study covers literature, history (including Prehistory) science and geography.
You could absolutely use our unit studies in conjunction with your regular full year homeschool program. For example, the Darwin and Evolution Unit Study is designed exclusively to work as an add on secular science course to enhance any program. The Hobbit Unit Study ties in nicely with Level 5, as that book is already scheduled to be read aloud that year and this unit deep dives further into this piece of literature.
Each unit study can be used with a wide range of ages unless otherwise noted. Currently we offer the following Unit Studies:
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Unit Study
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Unit Study
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Unit Study
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Unit Study
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Unit Study
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Unit Study
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 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
No. When a level is updated, it isn’t just a simple switching of books. It’s making corrections, adding new material, new timeline figures, activity pages – it’s an overall improvement to a level. Trust me, you will prefer the update just for ease of use!
Not only that, but the logistics of having multiple editions of each level is just too much for me to manage.
Does that mean you can’t use the previous spine alongside? Of course not! It’s your homeschool and if you prefer a different spine than what I schedule into the level use what works best for you! Build Your Library is flexible enough that you can make adjustments and still make it work for your family.
We are constantly updating our lesson plans to refresh out-of-print books, add in new titles or otherwise improve the curriculum. Once you buy a level, updates are free – you can simply re-download another PDF from your original purchase link. if you need the newest version. If you no longer have that e-mail, you can contact us and we can look up your purchase and send you a new link.
If you already have all of the books and material from previous use, you would always be able to re-use the “old” curriculum regardless of whether there is a newer one. Any new books and materials would need to be acquired separately If you do want to update to the latest curriculum.
However, once we update a level, we do not keep a library of all of the older versions – so we would only be able to provide the latest iteration.
Contact us. We will either e-mail you or add it to our FAQ list (or both)!