A few years back, we used what was then called Sonlight Core A, which is now "Intro to the World: Cultures." The children were much younger then, so we took our time through it all and tried a few different things along the way. Here's what we thought about it all.
What is Sonlight?
Sonlight is a literature-based curriculum. The “core” for each grade level, includes History, Bible, and literature. Additional subjects and curricula from Sonlight and other curriculum companies can also be purchased through their website to complete your homeschool year. They also have bundled packages of readers and summer readers for children.
The History/Bible/Literature portion of the curriculum comes with a large number of books to be read throughout the year. In the younger years, there is a gentle introduction to history, along with a variety of read alouds. In “Core A,” we also read through Egermeier’s Bible Story Book and enjoyed the CD: Sing the Word from A to Z.
The day-to-day readings were found in the accompanying Instructor’s Guide. This guide included vocabulary words, historical or contextual insights, and discussion questions. Each day, I would simply look over any teacher notes, share any noted vocabulary or insights, and then read the assigned pages. We would then discuss the questions. Samples of this Instructor’s Guide can be found on the Sonlight website.
What We Learned from Sonlight
1. I learned that it's okay to "just read" and discuss great books. The ideas themselves inspired far more "projects" and hands-on activities than I ever could have found in a workbook.
We gathered each day at the breakfast table to read, and by the end of the day, the children were often inspired to recreate the settings or actions of the books. They pretended to be penguins, asked to find out more on capybaras, and reenacted some of their favorite scenes. Simplifying our homeschool day meant more time for imaginative play and meaningful learning opportunities.
2. I learned that it's okay to read books that take us just outside of our comfort zone. Some of our best discussions came from those books. From our experience, I found that some of the Sonlight books were wholesome but still challenging in some ways. I know that not everyone is comfortable reading about certain topics, and each family will have to determine what that looks like.
In all honesty, we did remove a couple of the titles that I felt were a bit too mature for my children, and I skimmed over a couple of sections of other books as I read aloud. What I appreciated, however, was the opportunity to have these discussions with our children.
As they grow, my hope is to teach them discernment and how to wisely select books for themselves. Although we are highly selective, reading a vast variety of books alongside them helps me teach them to do just that.
3. I learned that books connected us in ways that I never imagined. We took the adventures together and ended up with a treasure trove of shared memories that will forever be in our hearts.
Although it’s been a few years since we shared our Sonlight books, the stories and characters still resonate with our family. The books are also now a part of our home library, and it’s been neat watching the children now pick them up to read them on their own.
Reading connects us and inspires us. I love having this collection of books in our home.
4. I learned that school could look far different than I once thought it should. It could happen on the couch, snuggled under blankets, or out on the porch beneath the oak trees and sky.
We had so much fun reading our books at different locations. We had picnics and tea times, and often, just enjoyed the books on the couch. I loved that we didn’t have to sit at the table with workbooks and pencils in hand. The learning came from the reading and the discussions themselves. This literally could take place anywhere . . . even on road trips and camping trips.
For us, education is a part of our lives. It is not separate from it. Sonlight helped us integrate learning and living in a seamless way.
5. I learned that giving our children shelves full of rich books is one of the greatest gifts in the world. It's a place they can come back to time and time again to relive our wonderful adventures.
After boosting our home library with our Sonlight books, we have slowly gathered more and more books over the years. Seeing the children return to old favorites time and time again has really helped me see how important it is to treasure wisdom and stories in our home. We are now adding four bookcases to our home library to make plenty of room for it all.
What You Need to Know About Sonlight
1. Sonlight offers so much richness for homeschool families, but if you prefer a more hands-on approach to learning, then you may feel the need to supplement with other resources or choose something else altogether.
In our case, we chose to keep things simple and just use Sonlight without anything else. We had a new baby at the time, and in stepping back, the children were able to create so many new learning opportunities for themselves. It truly was one of our sweetest of years.
2. Sonlight may also seem expensive for many, and this is definitely something to consider. From time to time, Sonlight offers financing that can help offset the cost, but it is still a big investment. Some parents opt to purchase the curriculum used, or they buy the Instructor's Guide, then check out the books from the library.
Although both are great options for those in need, I do encourage homeschoolers to support curricululm companies as much as is possible. When you purchase directly from the company, you support families that share your heart for homeschooling, and you invest in the development of more great resources.
3. Some parents have commented that Sonlight is not “Christian” enough since their secular company BookShark is very similar and simply takes out the Bible portion. It is important to note that most of the readings are secular, but the Instructor Guides do warn you of any concerning topics or mentions. If you are looking for a currilculum that is more focused on a Christian and Biblical worldview, then this may not be the best fit for your homeschool.
Again, this is a personal decision or conviction for each family to consider. If you find that the other pieces of the curriculum work well, another option would be to supplement with additional Bible readings and/or intentional discussions centered on a Biblical worldview.
The beautiful thing about homeschooling is that you can pick and choose the resources that work best for your family in order to focus on what is most important.
Our Homeschool Curriculum Journey
Although we thoroughly enjoyed our Sonlight year, we personally opted for My Father’s World for our core instruction in the years that followed. For our family, we preferred a curriculum that was more Biblically-focused overall.
Sonlight, however, has still been a helpful resource for us over the years. The kids have really enjoyed their book packs and readers, along with other subject-focused curricula we have found helpful.
To this day, I still look forward to getting my Sonlight catalog and am always inspired by their book choices and curriculum options. Sonlight has continued to be a meaningful part of our homeschool and very much holds a special place in our hearts.