I'm sorry for those of you who could care less about Sonlight curriculum. It's just that friend asked me about Sonlight this weekend and I realized when I was first looking at it, I needed a lot of guidance. So, I thought a post was in order. Hope it helps someone!
I don't know why Sonlight is so confusing when you first look at it, but it is. I had Erin to guide me via e-mail and also learned a lot from googling various blog posts. I'm going to try to really easily and in plain ol' English, tell you how it works.
So Sonlight started out offering complete packages for a grade. One of the founders had lived in North Africa and knew how difficult it was to get homeschool materials. You can read the brief history here.
As time went on, as I understand it, more and more people were using Sonlight's materials, but wanted more choice. For example, maybe they really liked everything else, but wanted to use a different math curriculum. So, math was offered separately. Or, perhaps they liked everything but the Language Arts curriculum. So, LA was offered separately. Sonlight kept splitting things up (you could still get it all in a package deal if you wanted) until they got down to BIBLE, HISTORY, and READING. These three, they decided, were not workable if spit up. These three things then, make a "core."
You can still get a package deal from Sonlight with absolutely everything you need for a grade. These are the "multi-subject packages." Want simple? Just order the "Third grade package" for your 3rd grader. Simple. Easy.
But, if you like to pick and choose, you can also order things by subject. Sonlight has a LOT of choices from various homeschool companies including Teaching Textbooks, Saxon, Singapore, Horizons, Mathtacular....that's just MATH! So you can order what you want to use for math, for spelling, for science, for handwriting, etc. I ordered a lot of things we needed from Sonlight instead of directly from the various companies and many times there is a discount offered when you order through Sonlight!
But when it comes down to History and Reading....well those come together. And there is a good reason. Almost all of Sonlight's cores are based on a History theme. For example, this year Sweetheart is studying American History (Core D+E). So all these books I showed you the other day?
Those are her history books and her reading books all together. There is not a huge dividing line between history and reading in these upper cores. You read about history. You don't study history and then some other reading books that have nothing to do with the price of eggs. Your reading and your history are all based on the subject you are studying that year. In our case, American History. Even the read-alouds that I read to her are about American History. And they are SUCH GOOD BOOKS!!!
So here is how we use Sonlight. We ordered a "CORE PACKAGE." They are lettered because they don't have to pertain to any certain grade level. They give some guidelines such as Core D+E is recommended for ages 9-12 or grades 4-7. They say they often run a bit on the harder side, so I chose this core as Sweetheart is 12 and in 6th grade. She's at the upper end of the recommended ages/grades and that is making it just right to easy for her this year. If you have a very advanced 9 year old/4th grader, they might find this core just right. It's up to the parent.
Then, we did the "pick and choose" method for the other subjects. Math? We did not order from Sonlight. Science? We did not order from Sonlight. Handwriting? Sonlight offered what we already used and at a discount, so we ordered it. Language Arts? We did not order from Sonlight. Spelling? Sonlight offered what we already used, so we ordered it. See? You can customize your order for you.
Whatever you choose to buy from Sonlight--whether a complete package, or just a core, or just individual subjects--comes to you in a box all together and ready to go.
I didn't tell you about Bible. Since many non-religious homeschoolers also wanted to use Sonlight, the Bible curriculum is not automatically included in your core. But it is automatically included in your Instructor's Guide. And one of the books for our core goes along with the History and Reading. It is called The American Indian Prayer Guide. But I chose not to purchase the other things for Bible. We just use the prayer guide, and a Bible. The assigned readings for both of these are included in the Instructor's Guide.
Speaking of the Instructor's Guides....wow! They rock. No need for me to try to explain these any better than Heather at OMSH did already. Here is her post (and this just about sold me on Sonlight!)
You get a LOT for your money. A lot of materials. A lot of pre-thought out organization. A lot of now-I-don't-have-to-do-everything. I try to read ahead of Sweetheart, but if I don't, there are questions and answers for me in the Instructor's Guide so we can still have an intelligent conversation about what she has read. I can literally wake up on Monday morning, give each child their new assignment sheet, and get to work. And I've already told you about the independence it is fostering in my daughter.
By the way, Sonlight is still available for overseas families AND they offer discounts for missionary families. I like that.