I am thrilled to be using Build Your Library Kindergarten with my oldest this year. Here is a quick overview of the program with some colorful commentary. A more in-depth review is below.
UPDATE: End of year review is posted!
Updated Review and Reflection
Why I Chose Build Your Library
Before buying any curriculum I took a close look at our homeschool goals. The following is a detailed summary and review of Build Your Library – Kindergarten Around the World.
Check out my Choosing Curriculum post to see how we set our goals.
This is a totally honest review. There are no affiliate links here.
√ A variety of engaging materials
The excellent book list is what first caught my eye. There is an assortment of chapter books, picture books, and interesting non-fiction spines. The spines are used as needed to teach about the different countries. This is different, I believe, than some curriculum which seems to force materials to fit into a template, sacrificing quality.
There is variety week-to-week. It is not a repetitive curriculum that will have you reading an atlas every Monday, doing poetry every Thursday, and cooking together each Friday (though you could certainly make it work that way if that’s what you like). Everyday is different. The time spent on each region varies and the literature provides a quality experience with the material.
Moving around and learning in short bursts is what keeps my oldest’s attention. I was happy to see that activities and readings usually take about ten to fifteen minutes to complete at most. The lessons are not so long that they become boring or tedious. We go from reading on the couch to doing an activity to reading on the rug to watching a clip to cooking in the kitchen. It keeps him up and busy and engaged.
√ Broad themes to dive deep
Around the World is the BYL Kindergarten Theme, but it is not limited to geography. The many components and exceptional book list take a close look at the people, animals, food, landmarks, history, and what life is like today on each continent.
One especially engaging book is Children Like Me. My oldest has really taken an interest in the children introduced in this book. It’s opening up great conversations about how people might be far away, look different than us, and live in a different way, but we are all the same inside. He loves pointing out how he is the same as the kids, and we have enjoyed talking through some of the differences.
Another component of the curriculum is the recommended animal report for each continent. The reports can be as in-depth as you want – anything from picking up some extra books about a specific animal and talking about it to exploring information through lapbooks or other written reports. This is an area my oldest really wants to dig into. We research his animal through library books and online media, and he works on his project over the course of a few weeks. Long-term projects are such a benefit to homeschooling on the elementary level.
√ Flexible guides
There is nothing rigid about this curriculum. There is enough space and time in the plans that we have time to go deeper into what interests my oldest. Lessons, projects, and literature can be substituted, rearranged, or eliminated if you’re so inclined. That said, we have done the majority of weeks by the book because it fits so well with our style.
Units – Broken down into seven units that range from 3-5 weeks (plus one introduction week). This year we are doing Kindergarten as it is written, but units can easily be reordered. Each unit could stand-alone as a short continent study to add to another curriculum or in order to combine kindergarten and another year.
Weekly – While there is plenty of material to fill a week, there is not an overwhelming amount to accomplish each day. The guide is written in a way that the activities and readings can be easily rearranged to accommodate whatever we’ve got going on in addition to school. We might do five days as written or three heavy days or extend a week into two if we are busy or really enjoying the material.
Daily – The oldest likes to have a say in what we are doing and when. I usually write down a simple list of tasks for him, and he will choose the order. BYL is perfect for this. The activities can be done in any order – all in a row or spread out over the course of a day. Depending on what projects we are working on, we may skip some of the regular daily activities.
√ Covering the basics and beyond
Build Your Library will certainly cover the basics for Kindergarten geography and the majority of language arts. We will be adding in curriculum for phonics and math, which are not included. I am inclined to add more art and science to the mix, thought not so much that I need more curriculum.
BYL goes well beyond just reading and geography. My oldest and I love cooking together, longer animal projects, and a diverse selection of quality literature. This program introduces each continent and its people in such an engaging way. I am thrilled with the quality of this program.
√ Quality, reusable materials
A literature program can get very spendy very quickly. However, the money I’ve spent on BYL is going to the right places.
Curriculum – $24.95 with seasonal sales up to 20% off (join the Facebook group for updates)
Spines – Purchasing the spines is recommended since they’re used weekly over the entire course. Bought new (or best quality out-of-print Cookbook) the spines would cost ~$85, but through the Build Your Library Book Swap page on Facebook all can be found for about $45 or less. Some people report not needing some of the books – similar crafts and recipes can be found on Pinterest, for example.
Literature – There are 24 additional titles on the book list. Most of these can be found at the library and are used for less than a month. The more rare titles are easily found used online for $6-7/each shipped.
We bought all of the spines and about half of the literature. In total, we ended up spending about $150 for the program. Dividing by three kindergartners, $50 per child plus a little library leg work is a pretty good bargain. I’m sure the atlases, especially will get a lot of use over the next eight years or so.
If you’re on a budget, consider purchasing from some BYL moms online. Many sell the entire program or just the spines as a set for a good deal. If you only have one child, you could do the same after you’ve completed kindergarten. Though, you might just want to keep these wonderful books.
Other deciding factors
Reading this article helped me make my final decision. It describes how BYL is more of a checklist than a curriculum. I would agree. BYL will not list the Common Core Standards addressed in each activity. There is not an in-depth teacher’s guide or any scripts. It doesn’t have excessive activities or advice on how to remediate or accelerate. You will not find long lists of requirements to advance specific skills.
That is perfect for us. I don’t feel that I need a curriculum that tries to address all different kinds of little learners’ needs, and I never even went by the script when teaching public school. I’m excited to have the flexibility to customize BYL as much or as little as we need. That is the beauty of this program.
UPDATE: See the updated end-of-year review here.