Build your Library (BYL) and Torchlight (TL) are two fantastic secular curriculum.
I’ve been asked many times why and how I combine these two homeschool curriculum. In 2019 we did level 1 and I’m currently combining level 2 for 2020. I also have levels k/0 to use for the 2020/2021 year.
So why not just choose one of them? Isn’t it more work to spend the time and energy organizing and coordinating two curriculum?
Let’s start with the why, then we’ll go into the how.
What makes these two secular curriculum great?
BYL and TL are both fantastic literature based, multi-age curriculum for secular homeschoolers. They are very unique in their approach, book lists and what they offer. After going through the book lists, philosophy of each and yearly flow I couldn’t decide on which one to pick.
After purchasing both the levels 0/K, 1 and 2 from both of them, I’ve decided that they are both fantastic and I will continue to combine them for the foreseeable future. Currently Torchlight offers pre-k to level 3. Build your Library is from 0-12. You can read my review of Torchlight Level 1 here. Please note that for levels 1, I actually preferred to follow the flow of Torchlightas my spine rather than BYL. We’re currently using the Torchlight Pre-K with our preschooler, but we do that very sporadically.
Because I felt like I couldn’t choose just one, I decided to combine what I liked out of both, and take out what I didn’t want to do. Because I love planning, I have no problems spending that extra time (let’s be real… weeks of time).
Both of these secular homeschool curriculum offer
- Art/Music Appreciation
- Some elements of Language Arts
For both of these you need to add in math, and additional Language Arts (such as phonics for younger kids, additional grammar and writing for older students).
Each offers an element of Language Arts, but you’ll likely want to add in more. I’ll get into that soon.
When I combine these two I focus on going through the literature, history spines and other books
I’m very choosy with what I read, and certain levels offer different books.
This post will go into details on how I combine the two, and please feel free to share your experiences in the comments. These two curriculum offer private Facebook groups as well where you can ask many questions on how to use or review books on the lists etc.
- Torchlight Facebook
- Torchlight Facebook private discussion group
- Build your Library Facebook
- Build your Library Facebook private group
- Group for those that combine both curriculum
- Nature Homeschool facebook (my page)
Build your Library Language Arts approach
BYL offers a Charlotte Mason inspired approach with weekly copywork and a vocabulary words from the literature you’re reading. BYL offers narration cards in addition to the weekly copywork.
Emily prefers a more organic way of discussing the book, not a straight ‘read and answer’ the questions like some other literature programs I’ve seen. Emily sometimes mentions some discussion questions to ask, but the bulk is the narration approach. I LOVE Emily’s book ‘the Secular Charlotte Mason Homeschool’ and I enjoy watching her YouTube videos. You can really get to know the person behind the curriculum.
Torchlight Language Arts approach
TL offers more in-depth literature primers for the parents for the literature selection. These primers include any concerns that might arise from the literature, discussion questions and why she chose these books. She breaks down the content of many chapters so you know what the book is about, and what to discuss. TL focuses on the Socratic method, which I really like. Torchlight suggests using Logic of English, a LA program that I haven’t tried yet. In levels 2 there are some fun writing projects added in ( I LOVE the Bard writing printables), as well as a vocabulary pages and recommends grammar books in certain levels.
This post will mostly be about levels 2 for TL & BYL as that’s what we’re using right now.
Choosing the literature
Both these curriculum are literature based, meaning you’ll be doing a lot of reading.
What literature you might prefer will depend on what YOU want for your family and the ages of your kids. A lot of people see the book lists in curriculum and think you have to read each and every one of them.
Let me tell you that you honestly don’t.
As a home educator you have the freedom and flexibility to substitute any that you wish, or just drop certain ones. In fact, you don’t need to follow any curriculum perfectly, I tend to use curriculum as a guideline with the exception of math.
Make the curriculum work for you instead of being a slave to it!
It’s important to note that TL has a lot more books in the year than BYL does.
They also also offer a lot more newer titles, which is a pro and con
For level 1, I honestly preferred the literature selection from TL. Certain books from both have potentially sensitive topics for younger readers, some include death. It depends on your kids and what they are comfortable with, and what you are comfortable discussing. TL has some books that have concerning points, but they are written in the literature primers so YOU can decide if you want to read that book, or just a heads up before you discuss it.
I did find that a lot of the books in TL were too advanced for that age, they were middle grade books or coming of age stories. These can be great read alouds depending on your family. There were some I chose to wait on. It depends on whether or not you’re teaching grade 1, or older kids, or combining.
In my honest opinion I feel that the books chosen in both BYL and TL could easily be read to much older ages.
Both of these curriculum are great for combining kids of multiple ages
How to choose the literature: budget & availability
Personal preference, your budget and book availability are big factors in choosing books.
BYL has less books than TL, and many more classics making them slightly easier to find (although not always). Another problem with both these curriculum are the literature choices are unique and sometimes that means that they go out of print. There have been a few books I couldn’t get, which is when I substitute.
You can either buy or borrow your books.
That will often depend on your local library and your budget. That is one of the most common complaints is that these curriculum are a great price for the pdf file, however, once you add the price of the books, the cost goes up $300-600 or higher.
Perspective on the cost
This is my 5th year homeschooling, and I am only just able to see the investment into education. For example, say you spent $600 on buying all the books new (eek a lot right?!) but say you divide that into the 36 weeks of the homeschooling term and that turns into $17/week or around $66/month. Of course there are other homeschool curriculum to add like math, language arts, etc but I still find that’s a reasonable amount to spend a month on home learning.
I actually bought 1-2 books a month for about 8 months before I could dive into these curriculum, delaying the start date significantly. However, most ‘All in One’ programs range into the 500-1200$ range, so books are just part of the cost of literature based curriculum.
Check out thrift online book stores, local second hand book stores, costco or big book chains
(you’d be surprised at the sales on new books sometimes).
Both these curriculum have so many books that it can be a challenge to read it all in one year
My goal is 1-2 a month, but some months just don’t flow smoothly.
It’s taking us about 1.5 years to combine and go through, although you could omit certain books and do it in one. It really depends on how long your kids can sit for reading. I found that TL has unrealistic expectations for how long kids can sit for certain books. Both my kids currently in grade 2 and 4 can’t sit for 4 long chapters even with activities like lego and coloring.
I choose my books based on reading reviews and reading the book summaries. To do that I go through both book lists and do a little research online. I read what the stories are about, I go onto Amazon or Goodreads to see what the general reviews are like.
TY offers a lot more multicultural diverse literature, but I enjoy the books and classics too from BY.
Some of the books in level 1 TY show up later on in BY 2 such as Where Mountain Meets the Moon or Wishtree. Certain ones like Hundred Dresses in TY1 shows up as a reader in Level 3 BYL. It’s helpful to browse a few levels for that reason.
I make an excel spreadsheet of the books I would like to use from both.
Below you can see the one I made for Level 1 last year
I made the decision to purchase most of these as our library was very devoid of most of the books.
These are the books I personally chose to read for the 2019/2020 year. I’d like to add that we’re starting the level 2 half way through the year, because it takes us 1.5 years to cover each level. I am 100% ok with that time frame. I’d rather enjoy the experience of what the curriculum offers than rush.
I would like to add that I also (not to make it more complicated lol) add in Brave Writer.
I don’t follow the prescribed reading flow of either of the literature, I select the books, and then find the pages in each of BYL or TL to read the copywork or vocabulary, or primer discussion questions.
Level 2 Torchlight & Built your Library literature I’ve chosen to read (please note, these are my personal choice, yours might be different!)
The star * marks that it’s in both Build your Library and Torchlight
From Torchlight level 2
- Igraine the Brave – this was surprisingly not a huge hit for our kids, we didn’t end up finishing it!
- Snow & Rose (our kids LOVE this one right now, as do I)
- Vanderbeekers of 141 street (we used the Brave Writer Arrow for this at Christmas, our kids loved the book so much that we ended up buying the rest of the series and now I’m adding in even more books!)
- Odd and the Frost Giants *
- Case of the Missing Moonstone
- Favorite Medieval Tales
- Other books like Writing your Own Play, Writer’s Toolbox
From Build your Library 2
- Odd and the Frost Giants *
- Castle Diary
- Where Mountain Meets the Moon
- The Mad Wolf’s Daughter
- The Castle Corona
- The Mad Wolf’s Daughter
- The Shakespeare Stealer
Some of these books I read at bedtime, others I read during the day.
I also added in Brave Writer books (these we do during the day, as we do the copywork etc)
- The Vanderbeekers of 141st
- Ginger Pye
- Where Mountain Meets the Moon
- Green Ember
Build your Library & Torchlight History
Choosing your history spine is often the make or break of choosing between these two curriculum.
The spine for Torchlight is Curiosity Chronicles, which is in a graphic novel ish type discussion format. I don’t like reading those, and that’s been the complaint for many others that try to use these books. Others have said the audio versions are great, it’s all depending on your preference and your kids. I honestly haven’t tried CC so I don’t have a lot of feedback to offer other than what is mentioned in the groups.
However it’s important to note that not everyone likes to use Story of the World, especially as many claim it isn’t a secular resource. Some think it’s got too much of a Christian and European centered history point of view. Other secular homeschoolers don’t care. It depends on what you want to teach! I pre-read a lot to see if things align with our home discussions. I honestly don’t mind using SotW.
My PERSONAL preference was to use the BYL Story of the World as spines for history, however I do enjoy the use of TL City or Child Throughout Time and DK When on Earth for the visuals of history. BYL uses the large Usborne Encyclopedia of World History for many many levels, and even offers a pre-history unit study if you want to do something in between level 0 and level 1.
I preferred the myth books from TY instead of the BY, although I’ve included some of both. Some of them I’ve purchased slowly as our library doesn’t have it.
How does the history flow then when the weeks don’t match up the same?
Maybe I’m ‘messing up’ history flow, but we often read the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History and follow up with the visual fun books like DK When on Earth or City through Time.
Art & Poetry
I’ve chosen to follow and use a lot more of the art and poetry books from Build your Library for levels 2 than Torchlight. I finally have the Barefoot Stories of the Opera from level 1 Torchlight so I’m adding it into our morning basket and it’s a beautiful resource. I didn’t purchase any of the Logic and Legend books from Torchlight as I reached my book purchasing cap off, but I actually think our kids would really enjoy the Behind your Legends Unicorns and Dragons (I plan on adding them, maybe fall of 2020). As for the TL Pantomine poetry, that wasn’t a hit at all for myself or the kids. We continue to enjoy poetry as poetry tea time with our Brave Writer Lifestyle.BYL art books went out of print so I asked her for a substitute and she suggested the DK encyclopedia of art. For level 2 TL does composers and music, something I know nothing of but prefer to want until I have more time to fit it in.
I haven’t purchased the Real Science Odyssey, although I am intrigued by this science curriculum as I haven’t tried it yet. Because I personally enjoy it, I prefer to create my own science unit studies (they’ll be for sale spring 2020). So basically I am not following the BYL or TL’s science. I do use Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding and will share a review when I can. There are a lot of fun comic style science books in TL, and I do plan on adding them. I didn’t want too much comic/graphic novel as we also enjoy Beast Academy.
Combining these two curriculum is honestly, a lot of work, and doesn’t flow perfectly.
I truly love both curriculum and the books they choose, but find the perfect balance is in the middle.
Looking at level 3, I haven’t been that interested in the book selection of BYL 3, and seem to prefer more of TL 3. I will share my book lists and choices in the future for each level I do. You can always see what I’m up to on Instagram.
I hope this post was informative to those that are thinking about combining. I’m a tad worried that all of this sounds too complicated (and it likely is lol).
Do you use Build your Library?
Please share in the comments!