Sunday, January 22, 2012

How Sonlight Works

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! 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.



  2. Thanks for writing this up, Brenda! I appreciate you sharing this and taking the time to write up the curriculum selection process in your own words. We continue to try to make it easier and clearer, but customization does add to the complexity [smile].

    I'm so glad to hear that Sonlight's materials have been such a help to you! That is very encouraging.


  3. Thanks Brenda!! Lots of god if you can write me a post explaining how to teach different grade levels on one core....THAT might help too. lol. I am so traditionally minded when it comes to school that I feel overwhelmed with stuff like that. Thank you!!

  4. I have used Sonlight for 9 years. I can attest to the fact that not only is it fun and interesting and engaging and everything you want a curriculum to be - but it also achieves results. My 2 oldest kids both got 5s for the AP English Language exams. My daughter got accepted into the humanities honors program at Biola (Torrey Institute) and my son who is a freshman at Stanford just got an A- in his first Humanities course. He has the other students coming to him for help (A-s are practically unheard of in humanities courses there). He attributes most of the reason for his success to Sonlight.
    I firmly believe it is an excellent way to prepare your kids for college (btw - we did use the language arts, science, recommended math and much of the Bible plus most of their electives!)

  5. Meryl--that is good to hear!! :) Julie, I wish mine were closer in age. It would mean all your girls work on the same core, but on their own levels for math, handwriting, etc. I'm sure science could be done together as well. So if you chose a core in between their abilities, they would share the books for reading and history and you would do the read-alouds all together. No worries about what grade they are in, just everyone studying world history or whatever together. S might need more help--k and t might be more independent.

  6. yes, my problem is that I would need at the LEAST two cores... ARRRRGGG.

  7. This is my first year using Sonlight and Heather (OMSH) sold me on it last year with that post. Ha! I dropped.the LA for my kids though and went back to BJu. We do love the Core for history and reading. Having a hard time keeping up with the Bible though, sadly.

  8. Thanks for the very kind shout-out, Brenda! You explained it so, so well! Great job! :-)

  9. Some of them match up with the subject matter. Like...cores B and C match up with G and H. (both world history)
    Or B+C matches up with core W.
    Or D+E matches up with 100.

    If the ages/ability of your children work out--you could do 2 cores but on the same subject matter. Just sayin'.

  10. Carrie, I've been doing 2 Cores from the beginning, and it's really not as overwhelming as it might seem. My big kids are in one core and my little ones are in another, and I just do them separately. I do my little kids' core while my big kids are doing their independent work, and the little ones get to play or listen in while I do the big kids' stuff. (I'm talking about just Bible, Read-Aloud and History). It's do-able, and since each core covers a range of ages, it's easy to lump them into groups like that.

  11. I am so happy Sonlight is working so well for you guys. :)

  12. okay... that was the 'core' i was looking at getting -since we haven't touched american history in depth. just didn't know how it would fare with my two girlies. challenging enough for my classic book lovin' girl and easy enough to intrigue the youngest. i'd read the link over at pioneer woman today. too funny. seems easy enough. ;)


I don't get to talk to a lot of actual grown-ups during the day, so your comments make me really happy! :)