This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Celee @ Miscellaneous Musings of a 5X Mom who won the $50 gift card to Sonlight.
Our family just started our seventh year using Sonlight. I have posted about Sonlight before, how we use it to effectively educate children who are at many different levels and how Sonlight fits into our daily schedule. For our family Sonlight has been a tremendous blessing. I often say that Sonlight changed our homeschool from a lecture into a conversation. I love the discussion and conversation that it has brought to our family and with that the opportunity to get to know our children better.
What does Sonlight offer?
You can purchase all of your homeschool curriculum from Sonlight.com. They offer some of our favorite programs for electives like Rosetta Stone for foreign language and Artistic Pursuits for art to basics like handwriting and math programs. Of course they also have a large offering of quality literature that is recognized by nearly all in the homeschooling community to be top notch.
What makes Sonlight stand out to me from other homeschool curriculum providers is that if Sonlight offers or recommends a program or curriculum, it is a program that is worth looking into. They attempt to offer products that fit with their excellent educational philosophy and so many of the lesser programs are weeded out.
Of course Sonlight is most well known for their original history curriculum (which includes Bible, poetry and literature). They also offer their own science and language arts programs. These programs are all literature based and are best implemented in a family where the parents are willing to invest time into reading to and interacting with their children. I also find that Sonlight’s programs are especially well-suited to multi-level teaching and educating a large family.
Sonlight’s History Curriculum
The backbone of Sonlight’s history program is the Instructor’s Guide. The IG (instructor’s guide) is divided into two main sections, the schedule and the study guides. Sonlight provides study guides for all of the books that you and your children will be reading over the course of the year.
Each day’s assignments are clearly laid out in the Sonlight schedule, the pages/chapters that should be read in each book along with time line and map assignments. To me this is the heart of Sonlight. This is what allows me to spend very little time in preparation for school, but rather spend my time teaching and interacting with my children.
Each day has a Bible reading and memorization assignment in addition to an assignment for further study or perhaps the children are introduced to a people group or nation that needs prayer. It was this portion of Sonlight that, years ago, burdened our then 4 year old son for the street children of India. He still, at age 11, believes that God has called him to be a missionary to that nation.
The history portion involves reading assignments in several books about one central event or person giving the kids more than one perspective and depth about the day’s topic. It also notates when you should add important events and people to the time line and do the map work.
The children have an independent reading assignment each day that coincides with the topics, peoples and cultures that are being studied.
Lastly are the read aloud assignments. Poetry is a regular part of the Sonlight curriculum from the very beginning levels. This gives the children regular exposure to all types of poetry and provides the opportunity for discussion, memorization and appreciation of poetry. In addition to poetry you and your children will be reading through many wonderful literature classics in addition to some lovely newer works.
The Study Guides
The study guides for the books that you will be reading include more information and ideas than needed. Here is a smattering of things that the study guides include:
- Specific time line assignments
- Map assignments and maps
- Important facts from the day’s reading which provide good ideas for writing topics
- Vocabulary words with definitions
- Discussion questions
- Historical notes that enhance the children’s understanding of the story and characters
- Comprehension questions
- Websites for further research
- Narration topics/ideas
This review is specifically in reference to Sonlight Core 6 and how we are using it this year.
I’m once again thankful and impressed by Sonlight’s balanced and fair approach to history. Core 6 uses “The Story of the World” as one of it’s main history readers. When I read the Sonlight study guide for this book and I was forewarned that “The Story of the World” does not stick with the Bible’s revelation of events. This was an important thing for me to know because I had considered purchasing the CD version of this book, but after reading “The Story of the World” for myself I would not want my kids to listen to it over and over without the commentary and discussion that we are having as we read it together. (We’ve actually skipped much of what “Story of the World” has to say about Biblical times because it’s just blatantly unbiblical! We’re considering substituting Mystery of History and skipping SOTW completely.)
I relate this about “The Story of the World” because I think this is a good example of how Sonlight handles book selection and why parents should be involved if they choose to use Sonlight. They do not shy away from a quality book because it may include something objectionable or some inaccurate information, but they clearly notate potential problems or areas of disagreement and leave it up to the parent on how to handle those issues. This is why I don’t recommend Sonlight to those who want a curriculum that they can hand to their children without any discussion or time investment. I also pre-read ALL of the Sonlight books that we won’t be reading aloud with the children.
How we are using Sonlight 6
This year our family is using Core 6 with our children ages 5-13. For the younger children (age 3-8) I am supplementing with resources from Core 1 which covers the same time period.
I think the key to successfully using Sonlight is flexibility, being able to use and teach the information that you believe is important, but not feeling as if you have to use and teach all of the information that is offered. On some days we don’t even look at the study guides and on others I give the children additional assignments and research from them.
We daily read aloud and discuss all the assignments from the Bible, History and Read Aloud portions of the Sonlight schedule. We also work on the time line and map assignments together. The younger children are our map experts since our older kids are already quite familiar with this geography.
Each day the children have a Bible study assignment that they work on individually and most days I pull a writing assignment for the children from the Sonlight readings or study guide. Those who are not old enough to write or who are just beginning writers also narrate to Mark or me. We also use the Sonlight readers as the source for our copy work and dictation.
We use the poetry selections to encourage the children to keep a poetry journal. Each week they choose their favorite poem from our readings and they copy this into their own book and illustrate as they see fit.
At the dinner table each night we discuss and review the topics that were covered during the day. Again this is part of our family conversation and contributes to a lifestyle of learning.
Every week I also incorporate a hands-on project that relates to Sonlight’s history. The last few weeks the children have made paint (like that used in the cave drawings), mud bricks with and without straw (like the Israelites), created coil pottery, bead necklaces, a model shaduf and written in hieroglyphics on clay tablets. (These projects are NOT part of the Sonlight curriculum but they are easy to incorporate with a little internet research.)
What we love
- The educational philosophy- Learning is not simply cramming facts into brains, but that history in particular is about understanding the story, what people of that time believed and thought and how that affected decisions and events that changed the course of history.
- The format and layout – Sonlight is extremely user friendly, simple to use and implement.
- The books. It seems like each book we read is the children’s new ‘favorite’ and nearly everyday they beg for me to ‘please read one more chapter’.
- The adaptability. On days that are full with other life events, it’s easy to go lighter on the discussion and assignments. It’s also simple to beef up a child’s work with additional research and writing work.
- Multi-level teaching – This allows us to accomplish many of our other family goals such as building relationships and discipling our children as we learn together.
- Focus on missions and a perspective of the global need for Christ
- Our kid’s love of reading – Reading is one of our favorite family past times, it seems that they will never get enough.
What we don’t love
- Some book selections – Sonlight does not have the same standards for our children that we do. That said, in 6 full years of Sonlight there have been less than a handful of books that we’ve had our children skip. There have been some that we’ve read aloud to enable discussion of different issues.
- Light on the amount of Biblical history that is incorporated – We’ve solved this problem by focusing on Biblical history during our family worship and using Mystery of History to pull in more Biblical history and perspective during the appropriate time periods.
If you would like to purchase Sonlight you may follow this link and receive $5 off any order of $50 or more and I’ll receive Sonlight credit on a portion of your order.
Sonlight is giving away a $50 gift card to Sonlight.com to one Raising Olives reader. You may use this to purchase some of their history curriculum or any of their book or other curriculum offerings.
- Visit Sonlight.com and then come back and tell me what you would be interested in purchasing with your $50 gift card.
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This giveaway will end at 11:59 pm on Thursday, July 22.
Sonlight sent our family Core 6 in order to facilitate this review. I was not otherwise compensated and all opinions and ideas are my own.
This post is included in the Homeschool Curriculum Review Roundup.