Wednesday, October 15, 2008


One of the most common questions I am asked regarding homeschooling with Sonlight is how I manage to cram more resources into an already jam-packed schedule. Those familiar with--but not using-- Sonlight tend to see it as a juggernaut of a program that only the bravest homeschooling souls sign on to tackle. While I (obviously) disagree, there is something to that myth. Sonlight is a full program. The number of books that comprise a single early-elementary Core is far greater than the number I was required to read in my senior AP English class. The depth and scope is frankly, often more than a young child needs ... but rarely ever more than he wants. Sonlight is a time investment that makes textbook snippets pale by comparison. And, did I mention that you still have to add the Three R's if you're not using one of the Newcomer options?

So how do I tuck in even more than what my Instructor's Guide (IG) has scheduled?

I view the IG as a spine. That's right; the same way that many people look at their trusty copies of The Well-Trained Mind as a resource on how to piece together an educational roadmap, I see my SL IG as a starting spot. I look it over, decide how the recommendations will fit our family and begin to formulate a plan of action.

I am not super homeschooling mom. I don't even play one on t.v. But I am the mother of some fairly eclectic and curious children who have come to expect that the answers to their questions are out there. Sonlight is, often, the springboard for forming the initial questions. Part of my job as their mother/teacher is to give them the tools to find the answers.

This year, we are studying Core 5. We are on week 8, and have finally hit one of the destinations that we've been looking forward to: Japan! But guess what? The entire rich history and culture of Japan has, by necessity, been squashed into a mere week and a half. A week and a half? Seven school days to digest the shogun? The samurai? Shintoism? Tanka? Kabuki?

This is where my inner supplementary engine kicks into high gear. Sonlight is a spine. A starting place. When we are transfixed, we take what they have given us as an appetizer and delve headfirst into the main course as provided by the internet, our library and whatever else we can get our hands (and minds) on. See this post to find out what kind of things I add in to our SL schedule.

The same mindset works in the opposite direction, of course. When you begin to see a Sonlight schedule as a tool, you can feel guilt-free in walking away from the topics that just don't grab you. For instance, we decided to abbreviate our stay in the Antarctica earlier on in this Core. My children were happy to locate the area on the map and to look up some of the scientific work going on there (that was my own addition to the program,). But nothing else seemed to be in need of further digging. We moved on.

A lot of my fellow homeschoolers have asked why I bother with Sonlight at all if I end up doing so much modification. Many of these families build their own literature-based unit studies around well-known history resources using our (astounding) local library systems. Several have upbraided me for shelling out so much money for a single year's curriculum when they have managed to homeschool their brood for under $100. I have to say that I have yet to regret a single penny I've spent on Sonlight Cores. The fact that I can't seem to box up the books we aren't using speaks for itself; while we may be studying Japan right now, Logan is literally lounging on my bed as I type with Core 2's Time Traveler book propped just below his chin. It's a horrible reading posture, yes ... but it's also a resource that was at his fingertips and beckoned to him at rest time instead of warming shelf of a library this afternoon.

I'm probably not the typical SL customer. I seem to add more in the way of additional books than the average forum user. I don't find the reading overwhelming, nor do I find it overly difficult to plan a craft or activity from time to time. What I have found is that we're quite happy with our own, personalized, self-guided tour through education. It's like having our cake and eating it, too!


Anonymous said...

Good to hear you say this cuz I have been afraid to take the plunge into Sunlight.

Sarah at SmallWorld said...

I use SL EXACTLY like you do. I loved Core 5. We spent so much time doing extras because it was just so awesome. We still have "fortunes" (Scripture) above our doorframes from when we did Chinese New Year 5 years ago!! I take SL very slowly, richly enjoying it.

Unknown said...

I shift and change, too ~ with the exception of my dd's Core 100 this year. Seems she's quite the accomplished self-starter, ticking off each task that's set before her with nary a prod from me.

I'm waiting for her to ask for more. In the meantime, I'm relishing the fact that SHE is engaging HERSELF with the materials.

A battle won not by human hands.

Thank you, Lord! :D

Lori said...

So good to hear you say that. I'm typically a very "listy" kind of girl but I find myself freestyling a bit with our Sonlight (Core K). I think the nuts and bolts of the program are so strong it gives me the confidence to be creative.

Unknown said...

I tweak sonlight too. But I havent added too much, some books from Ambleside online and that's it..Mostly I've turned over books to my DD who asked me too. She's much happier reading and learning on her own.. Of course I hoard the Read Alouds for myself. LOL

Luke Holzmann said...

Mary Grace, fantastic post, as usual. I love reading these kinds of things. Posts like this make me smile [smile].

And I love the Haiku post above.


Julie said...

Great post. We're doing core 5 too and are absolutely loving it. My oldest is totally into Japan/China etc. We use SL in a rather conventional way...sort of..except with my two youngest, we're actually doing both ends of core K at the same time! The readers/read alouds some of the history at night for story time.The boys are loving it because Daddy reads at night! LOL! It's so great to hear how much someone else loves SL when there are those "detractors" out there...many who've never even tried it!!! Julie