Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My Favorite Homeschool Vendors: Sonlight

Okay, so I decided to post about a few of my favorite homeschooling companies, just to close out 2010.  And probably my absolute favorite homeschool vendor is Sonlight, so I have to start with them.

When I first started looking into homeschooling, about a dozen years ago, I had no idea that there was anything out there besides your basic textbooks, and that wasn't something I wanted.  What I wanted to do with my kids (all two of them at that point) was to read.  A lot.  To learn history by reading biographies and historical fiction.  To learn science by reading biographies and lots and lots of great non-fiction titles.  To spend time at historical sites.  To play with magnifying glasses, batteries and magnets.

I assumed that what I'd have to do was to find a good math program, find a grammar book and a spelling workbook, and probably something that gave me ideas for how to teach reading... and otherwise make up everything myself.

Then I went to a homeschool conference and discovered Sonlight.  They had Basic 3 (the first half of American history) on display... and I fell in love.  There are a lot of things to love about Sonlight, and things to not love, too.  The obvious stuff for me is that they use a lot of biography and historical fiction.  But there are other things:
  • It isn't US history every year.  
  • They teach multiple points of view.  When learning about the Revolutionary War, for instance, you hear about the patriots (the only point of view I ever heard), but also the colonists who were loyal to England.  You also get some perspective from Canadians, the British government, and ordinary British citizens.  You even get the perspective of France.
  • Most of the money spent on the curriculum is for real books.  Real books that can be read again, and again, and again.
  • My kids know that there are good books that aren't Sonlight books.  But when we read a book that starts slow, they will ask:  "Is this a Sonlight book?"  Because if it is, they assume that it is going to get better.  Once in a great while they are disappointed.
  • Sonlight cares about missionaries, from a variety of faith backgrounds.  They care about church history.   Prior to Sonlight, I didn't know enough about either one to try to create my own "thing" to teach from.
At this point, we have used Sonlight up through Core 6 (first half of world history for older kids) and Connor will be starting Core 7 (pictured below) in another week or so.  It no longer works for us to do one core for everyone, and my middle guys have made decisions to do something else for now.

Of course, Sonlight is more than just the history packages.  Their Mathtacular videos are fabulous.  Their science programs are good and about the only thing I've found for elementary levels that really push biographies.  I'm really excited about some of the options they have been introducing for high school -- Economics, Psychology...

After a decade or so of using Sonlight, some things I definitely can say about my children:
  • they love a good story
  • they are generally pretty quick to look for another side when they hear pretty much anything
  • they have a decent grasp of missions works
  • they realize that history did not begin in 1492
I hope that we will be able to continue to make Sonlight work for us for many more years, because I especially appreciate how Sonlight makes me think instead of telling me what to think.

Disclaimer: I was not obligated in any way to write this post and received absolutely nothing for doing so.  All products mentioned were purchased by my family.  Although I can fantasize about reviewing Mathtacular 4 or Core 100, can't I?


Kara said...

Great post! I agree with most everything you said...these are all the things I love about Sonlight too! :-) I'll be curious to hear how Core 7 goes...we're not quite halfway through Core 6 (plus we're going back through PreK too...)

Luke Holzmann said...

Thanks so much for sharing this, Debra! Posts like this one always brighten my day [smile].