F.A.Q.s – Layers of Learning

On this page we try to answer the questions that have cropped up so far.  If you have more questions, leave a comment at the end of this page and we’ll answer as soon as possible.

Is Layers of Learning a Christian curriculum?

Layers of Learning Unit 1-19
Religion crops up when it is historically relevant, but worldview, is purposely developed as we ask questions that you and your kids answer together.

No.  Our worldview, including our beliefs in individual worth, individual freedom, personal responsibility, and loving your neighbor do come through in the units.  But we do not intersperse Bible quotes or references or preach ever.  The exception is that in the Unit on Christianity (1-19) and a few other units, where historically relevant, we do reference and quote the Bible.  We do not teach either evolution or creationism.

Instead of teaching our version of religion, our approach is to ask questions that challenge you to think actively about your philosophy regarding religion, politics, morals, and the world in general.  We ask, you discuss with your kids what you believe, and together you develop your own answers to the important stuff.  Critical thinking is built in to the program.  Parents are given back the responsibility of training their children’s morals and worldview.

How do you teach science if you don’t assume either evolution or creationism?

There are three ways to approach scientific knowledge.  We’ll use the example of the turtle’s shell to explain.

Photo by Brocken Inaglory, shared on Wikimedia, CC license.

Evolution method: The turtle’s shell evolved to protect it from predators.

Creation method: The turtle was created with a hard shell that protects it from predators.

Factual method: The turtle has a hard shell, which protects it from predators.

We use the factual method. We simply explain what is observable and don’t speculate on origins.  This is actually the most scientific and responsible way to present information.  Science is merely one way of learning about the world, not the only way.  Science can only answer questions about what is observable and testable.  It can not answer questions in the realm of faith or about knowledge gained in other ways.  That does not mean other ways of gaining knowledge are wrong, but they are unscientific.  We keep science firmly in the realm of science and don’t allow it to creep out of its area of expertise.  In a few places we do address how different points of view have affected scientific inquiry, classification, and politics.  We usual do this in the form of questions for you and your student to think about and discuss.

Which ages of kids is Layers of Learning written for?

It is for kids from 1st grade through 12th grade.  There are colored smileys throughout the books to indicate which age group we feel particular books and activities are best suited for.  It was written so it can be used with multiple ages of kids at the same time.


Do I have to read everything on the book lists?

No.  The book lists are comprised of the best books we have found on the particular topics in each unit.  Search for them at your library.  But if you can’t find these or don’t like these, read something else.  We list far too many books to read in just one unit anyway. Choose your favorites and pass on the rest.  Only rarely do activities in the units depend on the library list.  Instead the books are listed because we expect outside reading to be you main source of information as opposed to textbookish writing that we might supply.

How do I translate Layers of Learning into credit for our local school system or to put on a high school transcript?

Each year, if you do all the topics in Layers of Learning, gives you a credit or course in history, geography, science, and art.  For a high school transcript you would give one credit (.5 credit per semester) for each topic.  Here’s a chart to show how it breaks down.

History* Geography Science** Arts
Year One 1 credit Ancient History 1 credit general Geography .25 credit Physics
.25 credit Chemistry
.25 credit Earth Science
.25 credit Biology
1 credit Art history
Year Two 1 credit World History 1 Credit World Geography .25 credit Physics
.25 credit Chemistry
.25 credit Earth Science
.25 credit Biology
1 credit Art Appreciation
Year Three 1 credit World history
.5 credit American history
1 credit World Geography .25 credit Physics
.25 credit Chemistry
.25 credit Earth Science
.25 credit Biology
1 credit Art Appreciation
Year Four .5 credit World History
.5 credit American History
.5 credit Government/ Civics
1 credit US Geography
.5 credit (Your State) Geography/ History
.25 credit Physics
.25 credit Chemistry
.25 credit Earth Science
.25 credit Biology
1 credit Modern Art

*History Units also include recommendations for reading classic literature and some literature guides and writing assignments.  If you do these explorations and reading assignments you can give an additional .5 credit for World Literature in each of the first two years, for British Literature in the 3rd Year, and for American Literature in the 4th year.  (The specific topics: World, British, and American overlap a bit, but this keeps it simple in assigning credits).

**Because the science is arranged so that Biology, Physics, Chemistry, and Earth Science topics are covered each year, it takes all four years to earn a whole credit in any of these.  But if you only do Layers of Learning for some of the high school years, you can adjust.  For example, completing activities and experiments plus outside reading in the Year 1’s astronomy section easily covers the material for a one semester astronomy course in high school, so award .5 credits for completing an Astronomy course.  You can do the same thing with any of the other units. To get high school credit for science courses requires that students do labs, so don’t neglect the labs, though you don’t need to do all of them, one or two a unit is enough.

How much time should I spend on each Unit?

The units were designed to be used for two weeks each.  For example, Year One Unit One has The Fertile Crescent, Maps, Planets, and Cave Paintings.  Each day of that two week period you will spend around an hour doing Layers of Learning.  Here is a sample schedule of how it might break down:


Week One

Day One: History – You might do a map of the fertile crescent and make some flat bread.

Day Two: Geography – The second day, you might talk about maps, explore the globe a bit, and start making a paper mache globe of your own.

Day Three: Science – The third day you might make a model of the solar system.

Day Four: Arts – The fourth day you might take a virtual expedition of Lascaux cave and make your own cave painting on a brown paper bag.

Day Five: This is a flex day.  You can use it for a field trip, homeschool group, catch up, another project, or nothing at all.  This week you might want to work more on those paper mache globes for geography.

Week Two

Day One: History – You could do a project about the tale of Gilgamesh and create your own cuneiform writing in clay.  Write about your cuneiform desing and explain what it means.

Day Two: Geography – Finish your paper mache globe by painting on the oceans and continents. Label the globe once it is dry.

Day three: Science – Maybe you choose to do a few experiments to learn about some of the individual planets in the solar system.  Do an experiment write up.

Day Four: Arts – You could take a field trip to a petroglyph or pictograph site near you. Take photographs then create a scrapbook page with captions that explain the art.

Day Five: Flex day!  Finish up any work you didn’t get to during the week.

All through the two week period you are also reading books from the library on all these topics during reading time and possibly using writing prompts from the sidebars for writing practice. You should always include some sort of writing in every unit, whether that is a report or a narration page or a poem or captions under pictures.

Not everyone will use the curriculum as a two week program or in the subject-of-the-day pattern.  You might want to do history several times a week, or spend less time on some topics and more on others.  It’s very flexible allowing for you to create your own schedule, while keeping you on track.

Do I have to complete all the Explorations, Experiments, and Expeditions?

No.  This is a pick-and-choose curriculum.  We give ideas, you decide what works for you.  Most people will probably only do one or two explorations per topic.  But you should complete a few activities in each unit to make this a complete learning course for your kids.

How do I download the product I purchased?

After you complete a purchase you should be immediately returned to a page with the download links. You also should get a receipt in your email inbox within seconds of your purchase.  Click on the link to your online receipt.  The link to download your purchases is located in the lower left of your online receipt.  If you do not receive an emailed receipt within a few minutes of your purchase then contact us (contact@www.layers-of-learning.com) right away.  We can send you your receipt or your units directly.

Click on the books to go back to the catalog.


  1. Jennifer Dedman

    This is my first year to homeschool. I taught in public school for 12 years. My boys are in 7th and 3rd grade. My 7th grader is not on grade level in math. Just this school year he has learned multiplication and division. We just got done with order of operations. My 3rd grader is above level in all areas. I chose bju press for our curriculum. I am not using it all completely. I am supplementing. I was very overwhelmmed with all the choices. I do like the concepts of the layered curriculum. I guess what I am asking is can I begin this now….we are wanting to homeschool for the rest of their school time. I have one that wants to be a vet and one that wants to be a crop consultant. I just want to make sure they are prepared for college and don’t want to let them down.

    1. I know the feeling . . . Wanting your kids prepared and not wanting to let them down. It’s the scariest thing about parenting. You’re so terrifyingly responsible for other people.

      Yes, you can start Layers of Learning at any point with your children. If you do our hands on curriculum, including the recommended outside reading, your kids will be prepared with a far broader and deeper education in history, geography, science, and art than most high school graduates. You can also use Layers along with BJU to supplement the lessons there or just replace their history with our history, etc.

  2. I was wondering about terms of use. Namely, if I buy this for our family could I also use it with my co-op? We do story of the world but I could see where sometimes I might want to incorporate things from this.

    1. Our terms of use are that the books may be used for any single family or class. These terms of use are similar to physical books in the education genre. If you are using it for a co-op class that you teach, that is fine. We would prefer it to not be digitally shared with others just as a physical book should not be copied in its entirety and shared around.

  3. Natalie

    Hello! This looks like a very interesting way to teach. We are new to home schooling this year. I am using the Calvert curriculum for my 4th and 7th grader. I like the concept of being able to teach both at the same time, giving additional work to the older one. I’m considering this curriculum for next year, so 5th and 8th gr, would I start with year one or year four? Thank you for your help!

  4. Amy Pavlovik

    Is it permissible to print the PDFs if I prefer a hard copy? In the free unit I received, it mentioned asking for permission if you want to print, so I just want to be sure.

    1. The code for the free printable packs is only in the physical copies of the books, the ones you buy at Amazon, Rainbow Resource, Barnes and Noble, etc. You don’t need the printable pack for the pdfs because you already have the printables at the back of your unit in digital form.

  5. Bev

    Hi, last autumn I purchased a few units to correspond with the history we’d do this spring, but I didn’t get to them. We are using Build Your Library as our main curriculum but I feel like Layers of Learning supports it extremely well. I looked at them on my iPhone a few times, and was very impressed, but wasn’t ready to work with them now. We’ve caught up and when I went to open my units I received a message that I’d downloaded them too many times. What is the download limit and is there any way I can regain access?

    1. Hi Bev, I just reset all of your downloads and sent you a message with a link to the units you purchased. Thanks for contacting us. The purchases automatically come with three downloads, but we’re always happy to reset your downloads if needed. Hope you enjoy the units!

  6. Angela

    I just purchased the planners and got the receipt but when I have it downloaded and it asks what program I want to use to open it and I choose Acrobat Reader a screen comes up and says:
    Adobe Acrobat Reader could not open ‘Mom’s’ because it is either not a supported file type or because the file has been damaged (for example, it was sent as an email attachment and wasn’t correctly decoded).

    I have tried opening it with other programs and no success. What should I be doing?

    1. Hi Angela,

      The Mom’s Planner is in a zip file, so before you can open the files you have to extract them. Then you will be able to see all of the files individually and open them individually with Adobe.

      For desktop or laptop: To extract the files, first make sure you are in the upper level. On my computer downloaded files go into my “Downloads” folder automatically. This is usually the default. So from inside the “Downloads” folder I can see the zipper folder icon. Right click on the folder and select “extract all”. After that they should open just fine.

      If you are using a phone or a tablet you will probably need an app to open a zipped file. Try this tutorial: http://fieldguide.gizmodo.com/how-to-open-zip-files-on-ios-and-android-1723069413

  7. Julie

    Is the text in the layers of learning guide meant for the parent or student? It seems a bit to in depth for my youngest kids. I’m impressed with all the information in the guide and I understand that it is a pick and choose not do it all curriculum but I’m a bit overwhelmed with all I need to read through just to decide what to do.

    1. Hi Julie. It’s really meant for parents as a guide to help their kids. This is not a “workbook” type that kids are supposed to trudge through on their own. The little smiley faces are a good guide to help steer you to things that will match the levels of your kids. Also, the more you use it, the more quickly you’ll be able to navigate it. After using a few units I think you will find the format grows on you (at least that’s what we’ve heard a lot of customers say!).

      We usually read the introduction together and then choose a couple of explorations, but we certainly don’t do all of it. There is intended to be more there than what you would use. Try to remember that the goal of this curriculum is not to teach your kids everything there is to know about every single subject, but rather to help foster an enthusiasm and love of learning that will be lasting. We need to learn HOW TO LEARN, not have a knowledge of everything right now. Hope that helps a little bit. Please don’t hesitate to let us know if there’s anything at all we can do to help as you get started. It’s a really fun way to learn and we love sharing it with people. 🙂

  8. Maria Bates

    I homeschool 4 children, raging from grade 4 to grade 9. If I were to start on Year One next year, how could I complete it with my 10th grader, since he only has 3 years to go? Would you still recommend starting on year One?

    1. If you really want your high schooler to cover all of world history and all of the basic sciences in three years (plus the art and geography) then you will probably have to cut out the topics/units that you think are less essential.

      For example, few high schoolers do much earth science so you could cut out all of those units and just cover the biology, chemistry, and physics units. In history you can just skip over or skim over the topics that are less essential. Ancient South America isn’t covered in any other curriculum we’ve ever seen so you can probably skip it without losing any cultural literacy. That’s one example.

      You should take a look at Planning Your Homeschool where Karen explains how to plan out a year (or in your case, three years) in advance so you can fit in everything you need. Pay special attention to the pacing guide description. I also recommend making a long term education plan for each of your children. This will help you define what is most important for your high schooler to be learning over the final three years in your homeschool.

      However, you can also just begin on any year you like. You do not have to start with Year One for this curriculum to work and be cohesive. Every single unit stands on its own without need for prerequisites (in a few places in the science there is foundational information needed, but we alert you to that in those places so you can catch up on the fly). Take a look at what your child has already spent a great deal of time on and compare that to the Layers of Learning topics in the Units at a Glance to help you in making those decisions.

    1. No, Judy, we don’t sell any language arts materials. We do have lots of free lesson plans and printables about writing. We call it Writer’s Workshop. Look at the menu above under “Lessons”. https://layers-of-learning.com/writers-workshop/

      We also have specific information about how to do narration pages which can be used as a writing assignment to go with any subject/unit: https://layers-of-learning.com/homeschool-curriculum-catalog/curriculum-guide/. Scroll down towards the bottom for the explanation on narration pages.

  9. Irene

    Hi there, you have a wonderful curriculum here. Wish I had seen it much earlier before I purchased another curriculum.
    I am interested in your Art Curriculum. It seems to suggest that your product is sold as a whole package. Do you just sell the Art Curriculum alone? If so, could you advise the price. Many thanks and keep up the great work…

    1. Hi Irene, our units are all sold as packages – with each of the 4 subjects presented in one book. They are in isolated sections of the book though, so you could just utilize the arts section if that’s all you wanted to use. The pdfs are pretty affordable, especially if you are buying the whole year at a time (they’re discounted about 20% when you purchase a year instead of individual units). Quite a few of our customers use just one or two of the subjects, depending on their needs.

  10. Mary

    I just want to tell you ladies that you are amazing. We’ve decided to pull our 6 year old out of the public school (after a very stressful kindergarten year), and I am so grateful I stumbled upon your site. You are organized, thorough, and your writing is so clear. As a brand new homeschooler, I’ve felt overwhelmed at times, but with the help of your website and materials I feel I’m starting to get my footing.

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience!

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