Sonlight was not our first choice of curriculum for two reasons. First, it’s not cheap. Second, it’s literature based and I have three boys who are NOT avid readers. As you decide what is best for you, I pray my Sonlight curriculum reviews can be helpful. Read more about other curricula we use.
After frustration with other curricula and discussing Sonlight with a veteran homeschool mom, I decided to try it for a year. That was five years ago. I can tell you will absolute certainty that the decision was one of the pivotal and best decisions I have made in our journey of home education. We enjoy reflecting on past family experiences and many of our favorite homeschool memories are related to the books we have read through the Sonlight programs and the discussions we have had as we learn together. I will honestly tell you that Sonlight is not perfect because nothing is, but we are so thankful we have this resource.
There are many reasons people choose to educate in the home, many theories on home education and many approaches to it. The core of our purpose is to raise our children with a love of learning, compassion for others, and provide a solid education that encourages critical thinking while honoring Christ as we discover God’s love for all people. Whew!! That’s a tall order! Does Sonlight really do all that?
Sonlight is a curriculum provider for homeschool with resources for all ages starting with preschool continuing through high school including all subjects, even valuable electives. It truly provides everything needed. Sonlight has been trusted for 30 years while continually updating and improving what they offer in response to technology, new books and feedback.
Sonlight provides well-planned, thorough schedules for Bible/History/Literature in addition to the books and other resources to go along with it. Science and Language Arts are separate subjects with separate schedules along with the required resources. Sonlight has suggestions and options for all other subjects through their catalog or website. I have never been disappointed with any of the electives purchased through them. They don’t have an enormous selection but what they offer is high quality.
What Does Literature Based Actually Mean?
My reflection on what literature-based means simplified is that we learn through stories. I have always had an interest in history but never really loved it. I dislike having to memorize list of names and dates. In my experience, when I remember history class, I remember taking tests and having to memorize facts that didn’t carry much meaning in order to pass the test. In a literature based setting, we learn the historical facts, we do memory work enjoyably but we really learn through connection with characters. We don’t always remember facts but we do remember feelings much easier.
We started with Core B and the story we remember most intensely that first year was the biography of George Mueller. He has a redemptive story with a wild childhood and then a deep passion for the Lord. Even now, as we are surviving this worldwide COVID crisis, we have reflected back to how George cared for his neighbors and so many orphans, often risking his own life, through the cholera epidemic in Europe in the 1800s. We don’t remember the date or city, but we remember feeling the anguish with him as he lovingly took in children orphaned from the epidemic and committed to caring for them even when he didn’t know how he could ever afford it. He trusted the Lord, prayed every day and every day, God provided exactly what was needed. We walked through the pandemic with him, felt what he felt, and witnessed the power of his faith. This type of learning is so much more meaningful to me than simply memorizing that there was a second cholera pandemic from 1826-1837.
We have really enjoyed almost all the books Sonlight schedules. Some have started slowly but, keeping with the program, have finished strong. Sonlight chooses historical fiction with characters about the same age or slightly older than the recommended ages for the core. In the younger cores, the characters and stories have an element of silliness which makes them fun and easy to read. Almost all the characters undergo some trial or challenge through which they gain tremendous character growth. These are the foundations for many treasured conversations. Because we’ve read the stories together, we also have shared memories and experiences surrounding these experiences.
What if My Kids Don’t Love to Read?
My boys don’t love to read. In fact, given a list of ten things to do, reading is almost never something they choose to do with their free time. Building forts, playing sports, bouncing off the walls, listening to music…. are all things they prefer over sitting and reading quietly. It’s the sitting quietly part that they struggle with. They do enjoy listening to me read because I support their needs to move by encouraging them to color, draw, work on puzzles or play with fidget toys or allowing them to lay down, even if its upside down!
Last year, I had the brilliant idea to free up some time by listening to the audiobook version of a book rather than read it out loud. My oldest son protested by saying, “but mom, you have the voice of an angel and I don’t want to listen to an audiobook.” After years of forced reading out loud where I sometimes doubted whether they were even listening or if they even cared, my momma heart overflowed with joy at that simple comment that meant the world to me!
*Love of Learning
Learning history through stories is meaningful and my children do not dread history- they look forward to it. Bonus that we read cuddled up on the couch, outside when its warm or sprawled out on the floor. One of the biggest challenges is that my lap is not big enough to support three children while holding the book and trying to read. Sometimes this leads to arguments over who gets to sit closest to mom. Sibling rivalry is a different topic I’d like to talk about another time… but I love that my kids want to listen to stories and want to cuddle up while we read!
*Compassion for Others
God created all people in His image. Every. Single. Person. His creativity is evident looking at the diversity of His creation. We are stronger together so our differences should be celebrated and appreciated. By surrounding ourselves with people different from ourselves, we learn from them and grow in compassion and empathy. How in the world can I do that on a budget?! I would love to travel the world with my family to experience different cultures but that’s not a possibility for us. Even if it were, that only leads to an appreciation of current cultures.
What about developing compassion for people throughout history. It’s incredibly easy to read history and point out mistakes and claim what they should have done differently. More meaningful, however, is to walk a mile in their shoes. The characters in historical fiction provide incredible insight to lead to an understanding of why certain decisions were made. What was it like when and where they lived. What were they thinking and feeling? What were the choices? What could have happened with either decision? I believe that people make the decisions they believe are best at the time with the information that they have.
By learning to look at the world through the eyes of other people, we can learn compassion and empathy.
*Solid Education that Encourages Critical Thinking
Solight provides a very thorough and solid education through their programs. Simply looking at a stack of books will remove all doubt otherwise. The books are carefully chosen and all quality. There have been less than a handful of the hundred+ books we’ve read that I’d say aren’t my favorite. The IGs (Instructor Guide) provide discussion questions to encourage conversation with your kids if that doesn’t come natural to youl
*Honoring Christ and Loving ALL of God’s Creation
This is a nondenominational Christian homeschool curriculum. Controversial topics are brought up to encourage discussion. For example, the topic of old earth vs new earth is discussed with both sides of the argument provided. Families are encouraged to read the scripture, look at scientific evidence and decide for themselves.
Love for God first and all people is a theme throughout the entire curriculum. Controversial and negative parts of history are definitely learned with an emphasis on praying for everyone. What an amazing way to connect with people through history and geography.
Are There Any Downsides?
Nothing is perfect, so yes, there are downsides.
- Cost: Sonlight is not cheap. I’ve done a few things to try to save money. Buying a full course provides a discount. I have also bought used. You can search “used Sonlight curriculum” to try to find older cores. I personally prefer to buy the IG and student sheets new and then try to find used books when possible. This is tedious and time-consuming. I often wonder if it’s even worth all the time but continue to do it every year.
- Overwhelming: Sometimes the book lists can seem overwhelming. I prefer to think of Sonlight as a buffet sometimes. Many valuable resources are scheduled but you don’t have to use every single thing all the time. Honestly, we have fallen behind in reading and occasionally skipped a book.
- Travel: An intense desire to travel has been a side effect of learning to love the world around us!
**Blessings to you in whatever you choose. I hope this has been helpful. Please leave me a comment and let me know your experience. Here is a more extensive list of other curricula we use in educating in our home.
Learn as much as you can, Love God and others and Live fully!
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