Sonlight Curriculum - Review & Information
Although these were the needs of missionary parents, most homeschool families continually echo these needs. Sonlight has been a massive success and has a very large share of the curriculum market.
Sonlight homeschool curriculum structure
Sonlight publishes "easy-to-use" comprehensive programs for every grade level. One of the highlights of the Sonlight curricuum are the teacher guides. In their words:
An Instructor's Guide (IG) is at the heart of each complete Sonlight History / Bible / Literature, Language Arts or Science program.
The teacher/parent/instructor guides clearly outline each day's lesson by using specific page references within the packaged materials. No matter what type of package you purchase, Sonlight includes an easy-to-understand week-by-week lesson plan for the teacher to reference. Additionally, parents enjoy the record-keeping calendars and teacher's guide. The curriculum also includes activity sheets, work sheets, test/answer keys, and more.
Sonlight only sells curriculum, they do not monitor, grade, or assist the parent along the way. Nevertheless, they have a wonderful parent support forum and offer many free resources. Some of their free resources include podcasts and livestream webinars.
One of the coolest free resources that Sonlight offers are their professional curriculum advisors. They offer free consultations!
Is Sonlight a unit study?
Sonlight can be described as something of an in-between -- not just a unit study and not just a textbook method. Sonlight math is an easy target here as it is most definitely separated from the other subjects.
However, if math is take out of the equation, many of the language arts connect to each other and to history/science. But, you cannot always count on this to happen. The history and all reading will always be inter-connected. Sometimes writing assignments and other literature-based assignments will connect to the history. Daily assignments are often taken directly from the day's reading/material.
Yes, in the younger grades especially, there will be lots of read-alouds in the Sonlight curriculum. This means, if you have multiple young children, you won't be able to split up different ages and subjects -- it would simply become too time consuming. Families often become "two-level" families, combining similar age children into one of two units.
Sonlight curriculum packages
There are two distinct options for purchasing Sonlight curriculum.
- Build-your-own packages
- Complete curriculum packages
Build-your-own core packages
Sonlight has 16 available core packages that are designated to appropriate a range of two to five grade levels. This allows parents with multiple children around the same age to group children together. These core packages cover history, geography, Bible, language arts, and literature. Read-aloud books and books/textbooks are included as well.
What about Sonlight math and science?
Math and science are separate from the Sonlight core. This allows math and science to be combined with your choice of core curriculum. Sonlight provides three+ mathematics choices for most grades/levels. The science curriculum comes with the ever-handy instructor's guide and the necessary equipment for experaments/activities.
Additionally, Sonlight creates elective packages for additional subjects like: art, college prep, computer programming, critical thinking, drivers ed, foreign language, health, nutrition, music, physical fitness, and practical life skills. Many parents love these resources, while others choose to create their own (or mix and match with other curricula).
There are many reasons why you might not want to customize your own core package. That is why there is a second, more simple, curriculum option -- the full-grade package. This package has everything you need to teach one child for a full year. It covers all the subjects, can be ordered for any age/grade, and is a convenient way to get started homeschooling.
This package has a price range from $285 to around $1,000.
Free Sonlight curriculum samples
If you are considering Sonlight curriculum, make sure to take advantage of their free curriculum samples. Visit this page of their website to download the first three weeks of any of Sonlight Instructor's Guide. As we mentioned earlier, the Instructor's Guides are one of the most essential facets of the Sonlight curriculum.
###Is Sonlight the best curriculum for your homeschool?
Sonlight published a list of 27 reasons why you should not buy their curriculum. Simultaneously, this was a list of reasons why many families choose to buy Sonlight's curriculum. Unfortunately, it seems as though these reasons are no longer available. This will be our best attempt at re-creating that list.
So, you should not consider Sonlight curriculum if
You don't want a lot of reading
When you use Sonlight, you and your children will do a lot of reading. Sonlight is grounded in literature.
If you, the parent, don't like to read and if you won't enjoy reading out loud to your young children there may still be some hope. There are audio versions of Sonlight books. Many parents have used Sonlight in hopes that Charlotte Mason's "great books" will "hook" their reluctant readers.
You want curriculum that revolves around hands-on activities
Sonlight's primary emphasis is not on "hands-on activities." Hands-on learning greatly helps many children, and Sonlight give parents specific tools to incorporate hands-on learning in many areas. Pre-Kindergarten brims over with developmentally-appropriate hands-on activities that are simple to prepare and that truly help your children grow. Sonlight's Science programs are loaded with activities and experiments. Early elementary Math also emphasizes hands-on.
Nevertheless, Sonlight will not schedule time-consuming activities that put the emphasis on parent preparation. (Remember, designed for parents without all day free.) Of course, it is very easy to incorporate as many hands-on actvities as you want. You'll just have to find them yourself.
Don't get them wrong, there are many hands-on activities that tie directly into the curriculum. However, these activities are never the main thrust of Sonlight. They are optional, child-directed, and supplemental. Check out the forums for supplement ideas. ;)
You want classroom-style study with lots of quizzes, tests and grades
It doesn't make very much sense to rigorously grade and test a literature-based curriculum. Sonlight does provide tools for you to measure your children's progress. Their methods are less formal (and some say a lot simpler) than classroom-oriented programs.
You want your children to study what the public schools are learning
Sonlight wants to offer a thorough education. Even more thorough than what you can find in a classroom school. But Sonlight aims to create within students a genuine inquisitive spirit and love for learning more than to teach them a specific set of facts that their peers may or may not learn in another curriculum or school environment.
You want to avoid ideas you disagree with
Sonlight has a strong and unwaivering commitment to present all sides of a case. Parents that don't use Sonlight for this reason usually do so because: * They believe it is wrong to teach or consider beliefs/practices that are different from their own * They want to begin introducing these ideas at a very late time in student development * They lack the time or confidence to process difficult or controversial ideas with their children
You want to present history and ideas as absolute facts
This goes right along with avoiding ideas you disagree with. If you aren't willing to accept the possibility for other ideas, you're likely under the impression that everything you know is absolutely true. Especially not in history.
The reality is that in many cases we cannot possibly know exactly what happened. We may know the primary facts about major events, but we also know that historical writings and archeological interpretations come from subjective human perspectives. So Sonlight refuses to speak as if there is only one interpretation of historical events. Sonlight does want to seek to give a fair representation of both (or more) sides of any issues concerning which [Sonlight] are in some doubt.
Don't forget -- history was written by the winners.
You want a more "Bible-centered" homeschool program than Sonlight offers
Although Sonlight is religiously affiliated, some families want their materials more frequently connected directly to Scripture references. Sonlight will not provide a reference or quote from Scripture on every page. Instead of Sonlight filling up your Instructor's Guide with "Bible lessons" for each of these principles for such a small book, they let you decide what is most applicable to discuss.
You want to make your own plans and schedules and assembling lesson supplies
Designed for parents who are short on time. Remember?
If you would rather do for yourself the work we have done; if doing such work leaves you feeling energized rather than worn down, we encourage you to develop your own curriculum.
Don't forget -- Sonlight does offer individual books. It doesn't have to be an all or nothing decision.
You don't want sad books or heavy content
Sonlight books will have a long-lasting emotional impact on the readers. They is what they are designed to do.
You want to unschool your children
Let's be honest - if you want to unschool your children, you aren't reading this page. There is simply no way you can hold true to the unschooling principles and still adopt a curriculum.
Sonlight homeschool reviews
Sonlight Facebook support groups and social media
If you're interested in Sonlight, make sure to join the most excellent Facebook group: Sonlight Homeschool Moms.
Sonlight's official (brand) Facebook page: Sonlight.
Their official Twitter account.