It’s that time of year again. When us home educating parents are starting to decide on curriculum and resources for next year. I knew that I wanted a secular, literature-based curriculum for my oldest next year. I also knew that after a year of working really hard at subjects he finds really difficult, he needed a year that would really key in on a few of his passions and interests. I became increasingly frustrated, couldn’t find anything I thought would fit my family or my son’s needs. I ended up stumbling across Build Your Library Level 8 – History of Science and immediately knew it was going to be JUST what we needed.
So here’s a “first look” review of what Build Your Library Level 8 is, and why we chose it for next year.
I was given a copy of this curriculum to review, but all thoughts and opinions are my own and unbiased. This post may also contain affiliate links, please see our Disclosure Policy for more info.
What Is Build Your Library?
Build Your Library is a secular, literature-based curriculum that is largely inspired by the Charlotte Mason philosophy, along with a small dose of classical. The creator, Emily Cook, has crafted whole-year curriculum guides from Kindergarten to Grade 11. Along with the full-year curricula, she has written some wonderful unit studies.
Emily Cook’s book suggestions are excellent – a well thought-out selection of both classics and modern literature. Also the author of “A Literary Education“, Emily is a big proponent of using excellent literature and snugly read aloud time to not only educate our kids, but maintain a deep connection with them all well.
Why Choose a Secular Literature-Based Curriculum?
If you’ve read my posts about secular homeschool curriculum here on my blog, it won’t come as a surprise to you that one of the most frustrating parts of being a secular homeschooler? Is finding quality curriculum that is based on living books and literature, and also doesn’t ask me to compromise my family’s values.
It also won’t come as a surprise to anyone reading this, that my family has always been heavily inspired by the Charlotte Mason philosophy. While Build Your Library is not, what some would call, a ‘pure Charlotte Mason’ curriculum – it works very well for many families. Mine included. We’ve had the opportunity to use a handful of BYL’s unit studies as well as a full grade level (Level 2).
With a focus on high quality living books, excellent literature, narration/dictation, copywork, and art – Build Your Library is an excellent option for families who want to embrace some of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy in their own way.
Build Your Library Level 8 – History Of Science
Alright, so let’s get to the specifics here. My 12 yr old has been reading from Joy Hakim’s book “Story of Science: Aristotle Leads The Way”, and it has been one of his favourite resources of the year. For a guy who has his sights set on a career in science/engineering, I am always on the look out for a curriculum that will fit my needs as a homeschool mom and also meet the needs of my very science-minded, stark-raving atheist kid.
In some Facebook conversation or another, it came to my attention that Emily Cook had created her Level 8 curriculum using the whole Hakim Story of Science series as the spine. My eyes just about popped out of my head and I raced over to her website to take a peek. It didn’t take me long to realize that this was going to be just – what – we – needed.
It has a book list that is rich, robust, and chock full of all the things my son loves – interesting, meaty literature, as well as non-fiction spines that are focused heavily on science. For me, I’m thrilled to give him a year of really sinking his teeth into the history of science. As he moves forward from here, he’ll have a really solid foundation of all that’s led to where we are now and what we know about science.
Learning a little about the giants whose shoulders he’s about to stand on, is our priority this coming year. And I don’t know who’s more excited – my 12 yr old or ME!
How My Middle-Schooler Will Use BYL Level 8
This year, my son has really started to make huge strides in not only his ability to process and understand material, but also his anxiety responses to doing work that’s hard or stressful. As this year is coming to a close, he’s asking more and more for independence and freedom in his own education.
My goal for him for the upcoming year is to let him take the reins and stretch his wings, creating his own plan and implementing his own schedule.
We’ll have core subjects – math, latin, and a second foreign language – that he will do each day, but then the remainder of his day will be his Build Your Library work.
We’ve decided that we will sit down at the start of the week, look at what is coming down the line for him on his schedule, and plan out his week together. Each day, he’ll have a list of what he’s expected to do and he’ll be allowed the space and flexibility to decide how it gets completed.
There may be one or two books that we leave out – mainly, the first Story of Science spine since we’ve just read it this year (though, my son did say he liked it so much he’d be happy to re-read it with this curriculum if I wanted him to). When I saw such a big booklist, I thought “my language-phobic kiddo is going to FREAK if I get him to read all of this”. I expected to have to pare down the list considerably, and asked my son to sit with me to go over the booklist.
Book by book, we went to Amazon and checked out samples, considering whether we wanted to keep it. And book by book, my son demanded that we keep each one. And so, with his input and opinions, he’s chosen what looks like the fullest, richest year he’s had yet. We high-fived, and went all-in and I started the process of ordering (just about) everything on the booklist.
Pros, Cons, and Things Worth Noting
So, since this is a review, I thought I’d lay out what I thought were some upsides, some not so upsides, and things that were interesting to note.
-Rich, robust booklist that is age appropriate while still challenging
-Firmly secular resources on the booklist
-Easy to follow weekly schedule
-Student can easily work independently
-Interesting ways to implement narration
-Sizeable booklist (though, most are easily found at the library)
-No actual science curriculum in the booklist (and the recommendation she gives is for Elemental Physics, which isn’t technically secular)
-Cost of buying the books can be a bit expensive, if you don’t have a library that has them.
-If you’re looking for a full-on CM curriculum, this probably won’t fit the bill.
-It will be incredibly easy to implement this curriculum using CM methods, for those of us who are bit more ‘flexible’ with CM.
-Emily Cook is in the process of adjusting some of her levels that originally recommended Elemental Science, so don’t let that keep you from checking out this History of Science
-Build Your Library is created by a homeschool mom, who is still actively homeschooling
So, after taking time to go over the curriculum and what my son’s expectations will be, I feel pretty confident that this is going to work just fine for us.
And now, with some of these amazing books starting to roll in (oh, sweet happiness of many book deliveries!), I can get to work on the planning and pre-reading part of this.
I will definitely post an update here on my blog after we’ve used this for a while – so keep an eye out here, and on my social media, to see how things pan out!