Build Your Library: Several Years Later

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Several years ago I posted Build Your Library: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. It is one of my most viewed blog posts, so I thought maybe it would be a good idea to give an updated review as we have moved into the older elementary/early middle grades!

When I first started I loved the concept of BYL. It worked very well for my little kids but I kept thinking, “I just don’t know how it’s going to be enough for big kids?”. Turns out, it does a wonderful job of keeping up with bigger kids and the more I see of each grade (like the Grade 10 book list!), the more excited I get. There are some amazing titles in the middle and high school grades!

I have really enjoyed how flexible the schedule is. We only do four day weeks due to other scheduled activities we have going on and it is SO easy to fit a full week of curriculum into four days *or* just keep doing it one day at a time, whichever works best for your situation or even changing it week by week as needed.

Right now, for example, we double up reader on one day, history on another, and then spread out the activities as needed (like documentaries, biography pages, etc).

Also, in Grade 6 (what we are doing now) one of the literature books is The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. That same title is also used in the Evolution unit study so I ended up deciding that we would do that for science AND reader all at the same time, which is just another excellent example of how flexible the curriculum is.

I am always thrilled with the discussions that arise as a result of reading the books with my kids. I do try to read what they are reading on their own as well, for the readers, just so I know what to talk about with them. Once in awhile I also like to ask them questions about those books, mostly so I have something to give to the state to show “progress” as required by our homeschool laws. It’s something that’s easy enough to google “questions for *insert book here*” and find lots of good questions that other people have come up with.

The only place I have had trouble with Build Your Library is in science. The middle grades use Elemental Science, which overall isn’t *bad* it’s just not completely secular (so I would never teach biology with it). It’s a little bit dry too, but not horribly so. ALL that said, Emily (author of Build Your Library) is currently working on switching out Elemental Science for the completely secular REAL Science Odyssey  and it appears that she is going to be adding in a few living books as well, which is amazing.

The only things I have really felt the need to add in while using this curriculum is math (which is a given) and I do like to add little bits of comprehension for the readers. I have also added in Bravewriter mostly because my kids are EXTREMELY reluctant writers and this is a new approach I haven’t taken before with them.  I don’t think comprehension or a writing program are “required” but I think adding them in works better for my family.

So the long and short of it is, 3.5 years later I am still very happy with Build Your Library! Even though we just started week three of Grade 6 I have already purchased and had printed out (my preference, easy to use in PDF form on the computer too) Grade 7 and I look forward to the learning that is ahead of us!






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Using Texts You Don’t Agree With

Today I saw Build Your Library’s video about what she is doing this year with her kids and it reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to write about.  What happens when the text you are using says something you don’t agree with, don’t want to teach your kids, or is just plain wrong??

When I first started homeschooling I had no concept of how to deal with that. For me, it was easier to just toss out the writing and try to find something else. The trouble is, sometimes there ISN’T something else, or at least something else accessible.

My first experience with this was working with Story of the World. The first books presents many things as FACT that are *not* fact. When I first started I didn’t know how to deal with it so I ended up ignoring the parts I didn’t like and then being really annoyed that THIS was the book I was using because I was omitting so much of it, why bother buying if you aren’t going to use it?!

As time has gone on I have gotten more and more used to reading what is written and explaining why it is either wrong or why I don’t agree with it. In my experience this is a MUCH better way of teaching things like science and history (the two that are most often affected in a homeschooling world where for a long time it was mostly religious homeschoolers).

As an example, in Grade 6 of BYL the first book is The Slave Dancer. There is language used in that book that was appropriate of the time but is now highly offensive (the n-word). I approached this issue by saying the word, one time, and then explaining why it wasn’t okay and that I wouldn’t be saying it again for the duration of the book. I found videos and articles online to show them, even more so, why this was such a brutal word. This was all very new to them as we are a family where swearing etc isn’t a big deal. They are just words. So my sitting there and telling them why THIS word wasn’t okay and why I never wanted to hear it from their mouths ever made an impression.

For another example the history book that comes first in Grade 6 discusses Uncle Tom’s Cabin and describes it as a fantastic book full of excitement. It described the book as being very eye-opening for the North before the Civil War.  While it might have been eye-opening for the North I had heard over the years that it wasn’t a great book in both writing and in content. Being that I haven’t actually read the book I did some googling and checking on Goodreads to see what the criticisms were against the book. Sure enough, I found reviews explaining how the book, while helpful in riling up the North, was full of caricatures of slaves/black people and how it reinforced negative stereotypes. So I brought that to the kids to show them.

Really, in life, it’s an important skill to be able to see something you don’t agree with and explain WHY you don’t agree with it. I think itwill be useful to the kids to have seen me doing just that when a text says one thing but it’s not accurate.

In all, parts of me wishes I could go back to that original Story of the World series and approach it from the same viewpoint.  Though I suppose I will be able to in a few more years when the youngest joins us for homeschooling lessons!

Our Books

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And so Begins the 2017-2018 Year

Yesterday we started up the 2017-2018 school year. I wasn’t planning on doing so because my middle kid was supposed to be at sleep away camp, however on Friday we got a call that she was sick and needed to come home. And home she came. Due to the nature of her illness (not serious, just annoying) she won’t be able to go back.  Rather than wait until next week I figured we might as well start up this week!

We are *very* much in the finding our groove portion of the year. We didn’t do a whole lot school-wise over the summer so adjusting may prove to be a little bit of a challenge this year!

On our agenda for this year:

Math Mammoth Big kid is doing grade 6 and grade 4 for middle kid. We are also supplementing math with Khan Academy just to change things up and offer a different perspective.

For language arts we are using the books from JacKris Publishing both Growing with Grammar  and Winning with Writing.  We have Brave Writer too and I like the idea of it but I just don’t know that my mind is capable of wrapping around it! Maybe someday, but as of right now it’s on the back burner.

The bulk of our curriculum, as for the last few years, is Build Your Library. This year is grade 6 which is the second part of US history, starting with the Civil War. It seems all too timely to be REALLY studying this time period. As of right now I am reading history and the literature selection to them aloud. They are doing dictation and and reading the reader to themselves.

The first literature selection is The Slave Dancer. So far it has been a decent book BUT it does have language that makes me extremely uncomfortable (n-word). I know it is language that was used in the time period but it makes my skin crawl to read it aloud. We are three chapters in and so far it has been said twice. I read it the first time, explained as best as I could to the kids WHY it was such a horrible word, and then I only used “n-word” after that point. It brought up a good discussion and I have since been doing more research into how to get them to grasp what it really means. Google is my friend. All that said, it’s worth being more prepared for than I was!

The reader for the first few weeks is Amos Fortune, Free Man. They seem to be enjoying it though I haven’t read it with them as of yet, I hope to soon so we can discuss any content that needs discussing.

Science was a stumbling block for me this year. BYL suggests Elemental Science. It is marketed as “secular” but really it’s neutral, at best. The topic for the year, though, is earth science so I was HOPING it wouldn’t be too obnoxious to alter as needed. So far it looks like the only thing I really need to work with is The Big Bang Theory. The program offers it up as optional. It also defines things incorrectly stating that the BBT is a “theory” and not a “fact” which in reality, of course, a scientific theory is just a way of explaining observable facts.  I had to carefully keep track of definitions and explain to the kids not only what the difference is by WHY it is omitted in so many homeschool books.

The set of Elemental Science is actually pretty user friendly, which I like so I am going to try to make due with it. Our experiment this week (one per week) was calculating the speed of light with a chocolate bar and a microwave, which of course was a hit…because chocolate.

In all, it’s been a good first few days back and hopefully we can find our rhythm pretty soon!

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How Things are Going so Far

We have been back in the swing of things for three weeks now and so far things are going well! We have a “routine” of some sort figured out. Start with math, then reader, spelling, writing, history (or science, we alternate days)…CNN Student News. Then I read aloud over lunch time.

This has left our late mornings/afternoons free for things like hanging out with friends, running errands, or just playing at home. The kids have friends over on Monday, Tuesday is for errands, Wednesday is CSA pick up/Early Intervention for the toddler/band for Big Kid), Thursday is open gym, and Friday is the day the sitter takes them to homeschool activities.

We have been having good luck fitting things into a four day week. It is awesome for me because I am not trying to get the kids to get their work done before the sitter gets here on Friday *and* the kids like it because they only have school for four days a week! We are still completing the same amount work per week, it’s just condensed.

The weeks keep going by awfully quickly so I consider that a pretty good thing. It means the days are busy and exciting. Everyone knows boring days D.R.A.G. by…

So that’s us for now! Off I go to read more of next week’s reader for the kids so I can make a question for them from each section. I keep it simple but it lets me remind them to pay attention to the reading and make sure they are getting the more subtle details of the stories. Completed so far: Sees Behind Trees (reader) and Children of the Longhouse.  We have also started Around the World in 100 Years, which I am quite fond of so far.

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The Benefits of Homeschooling (for our family)

When people hear that I homeschool, typically the first thing I am asked is, “What about socialization?” (because children are dogs of course). The second is “Why? Are they too smart for regular school?” (because naturally I must think my kids are geniuses).

The reality is, that homeschooling just works better for my children and myself. I figured I would go over just a sampling of some of the benefits that homeschooling has for our family.

First up is a more flexible schedule.  We are no longer “ruled” by the 7:38am bus and the 3:22pm bus drop off.  Appointments can be made whenever they are available. There’s no rush to eat breakfast in the morning (middle kid will literally eat the same bowl of cereal for 2 hours, gross). I don’t have to worry about bedtime being by X time so they can be awake at Y time in order to get ready in time.

Secondly, I can really tailor learning to my kids. If we read something and they want to know more, I can look up and teach them more. We are also more free to go into “reasons” behind things that they might not be able to in public school.  For example, we watch CNN Student News every day and part of the episode showed that some people were upset with Trump’s appointment of Bannon as Chief Strategist.  Big kid asked why so we were able to research White Nationalism and what it means and why people would be upset with that viewpoint being in such an important role in the White House. I am also able to add more math if one of the kids needs more practice and am able to skip math if they “get” it quickly.

The third thing, and honestly the most important in my life is that my kids and I are able to interact during the day.  We aren’t stuck behind the “rush” to get everything done in a short amount of time. This allows us to have real, relaxed interactions. We can joke and laugh and play silly games.  And yes, while they were at school it was still possible to act that way…but I always knew we still had limitations and that they needed to get showers done and backpacks packed etc.  It was also more difficult while at school because they would come home D.O.N.E. After being with 23+ kids all day, every day, they were mentally exhausted by the time they got off the bus in the afternoon…but NOT physically exhausted because they spent so much of their day sitting and listening.

Honestly, they are different children when they are homeschooled, and I am a better mother because homeschooling allows me a chance to be much more relaxed and flexible. Yes, we still need to get math done, but it doesn’t HAVE to be done in X amount of time.  Yes, we have to make it to X, Y, and Z activities, but we don’t have to be there ALL day just a few hours.   Homeschooling is an amazing thing for our family. Of course it’s not all rainbows and butterflies, anyone that says so is lying, but the positives for us FAR outweigh the negatives.


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Prepping for the First Week Back!

The kids officially finished their last day at public school today which means Monday starts our school year here at home! It also means Mama needs to start going through our supplies and make sure things are settled and ready to go. Right now that means looking through the Math Mammoth books to see where each kid should be. Middle Kid has gone through part of this math book before but it was ages ago (in kid time) and they have been working on pretty basic stuff at public school so I need to get an idea of where she should actually start in her 3A book.  Big Kid is in a similar spot only MM and the local public school do things in a different order, even though both are CC aligned.

I also like to go through the readers that we use from Build Your Library and pick a question or “assignment” from each section. It’s not part of the curriculum and not really part of the approach that BYL takes but I like giving them a writing prompt related to what they read and having them answer it the best that they can.  This is especially important for BK as he started reading really young and while his vocabulary, spelling, and reading level are all way above average he still needs work on his comprehension so this gives him a way to think about what he read and to show me that he is “getting” what he read.  The bonus is the books chosen by BYL are pretty awesome so I have no problem reading them ahead of time myself!

The last thing I have to take care of is making sure we have all the supplies needed for the first couple of weeks of our science program. REAL Science Odyssey  is heavily experiment/lab based but has a lovely “supplies needed by week” list in the front of the book, so that step shouldn’t be too hard!

So here’s to some Halloween candy, some coffee, and a nice corner to read a lovely book!


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Coming Back Home

Hello readers! Anyone still out there?

I fell off the face of the Earth when it came to blogging and then Big Kid decided he wanted to go to public school in January 2016, so to public school he went. Then we decided Middle Kid would join him at the same school in August for the start of the 2016-2017 school year.

Both seemed to enjoy it well enough but they weren’t the same kids I had known through the years of homeschooling. Big Kid would be antsy and full of energy from sitting still all day. Middle Kid barely talked because she had been with people for hours and as a tried and true introvert, she was done *done* by the end of the day.

They started asking to come back home a few weeks ago. I wasn’t sure if that was something I wanted to do or not, though. I know they require a decent amount of interacting with other kids and with my anxiety in it’s current state (BAD) I knew that wasn’t going to be easy.

So, I started looking. I started reaching out to find ways to have weekly interaction with the same batch of kids so they could make consistent friends, good friends. I ended up finding a couple of groups locally that would fit into our schedule and I did the most important thing I could for ME, I hired a sitter. I found a sitter to come in every week for 5 hours. She is going to take the kids OUT while *I* get to stay HOME. As another member of the introvert club I can’t really “recharge” without getting time alone.  Anyone that has homeschooled knows that’s not an easy task when homeschooling any number of kids, much less three.

So, for now, we wait for our paperwork to come through from the state saying we are “allowed” to homeschool again. Once I have that in my hands I will let their teachers know when to expect their last days to be and make sure we have the contact information for the kids they have grown close to from school.

For curriculum I am planning on using Build Your Library grade 5, for both kids. I am really excited that grade 5 uses The History of US instead of Story of the World for social studies/history.  I am excited to read the books in the curriculum this year too, as they all look amazing.

We are going a different route with science this year. We are going to try R.E.A.L Chemistry for both kids.  I am hoping we like it because the idea is very appealing.

We are also adding in Soaring with Spelling and Winning with Writing. Big Kid doesn’t really seem to need spelling but it won’t hurt him and Middle Kid will benefit from it too, even if just from the handwriting.

I expect it will take a few weeks to find out grove again and how to fit in each activity and *still* get the schoolwork done, but we will find it and hopefully they are happy they asked to come back home.

So here’s to restarting the great adventure of learning right along with my kids!

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