Sleep: A Surprising Reason to Homeschool

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Sleep: A Surprising Reason to Homeschool

By itself, the promise of getting enough sleep is probably not a big enough benefit to convince you to start homeschooling. But once you begin homeschooling, and your children get enough sleep, you will wonder how you survived before.

The authors of Nurture Shock dedicate an entire chapter to sleep deprivation in children. They say that children today "get an hour less sleep each night than they did thirty years ago. . . . A loss of one hour of sleep is equivalent to [the loss of] two years of cognitive maturation and development" (30, 32). Meaning: an hour less sleep means your fourth-grader will think and behave like a second-grader.

How much sleep do your homeschool students need?

The National Sleep Foundation suggests

  • Toddlers ages 1 to 3 need 12-14 hours of sleep per day, including naps.
  • Preschoolers ages 3 to 5 need 11-13 hours in a day.
  • Children ages 5 to 12 need 10-11 hours per night.
  • Teens need between 8.5 and 9.25 hours.

With homeschooling, your children are able to wake up naturally, allowing them to get the sleep they need. Your family will enjoy increased focus and better attitudes.

Sleep deprivation and teens

With increased activities, events, and appointments, sleep deprivation only increases as children grow up.

As students hit puberty, their circadian rhythms change. This makes it hard for them to fall asleep as early as they once did. Optimally, a teenager would sleep from about 11pm to 8am. Yet most high schools start so early that students have to wake up by 6am in order to get to school on time.

Unfortunately, the massive sleep debt of most classroom school teens puts them at much higher risk for car crashes, depression . . . even simple irritability.

Some school districts have actually changed their start times because of this research. They've followed the advice from several studies showing that teens perform better in many areas of life when allowed to sleep a little later in the morning. In districts that have made the change, parents report that their teens are now easier to live with.

But homeschoolers don't have to change an entire school district in order to help their students sleep. You can implement a change tomorrow, if you want, allowing your children to wake when their bodies are ready, without an alarm clock.

Homeschooled teens have the chance to get far more sleep than their peers who go to school. And that sleep translates into better health, better moods, and better ability to learn throughout the day.

I love that homeschooling helps us meet our children's needs in different ways, including a flexible schedule:

  •  We can pause a math lesson to meet an emotional need.
  • We can take a day off if a child is sick.
  • We can take a break to pray at any time.

And we can orient our family schedules to help our children get the sleep they need to refuel.

Sleep easy by switching to Sonlight. Order a complimentary catalog today

Sleep: A Surprising Reason to Homeschool

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You'll be encouraged by the words of founder Sarita Holzmann, inspired by real-life stories from other homeschoolers, pick up practical tips for the journey and more.


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One Easy Way Homeschool Moms Can Model Lifelong Learning

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One Easy Way Homeschool Moms Can Model Lifelong Learning

You model lifelong learning through your words and actions. Your attitude helps shape your children’s feelings about education. If you are excited to learn about this fascinating world, your kids will notice that.

You probably love it when your children really get into something they’re learning. I’m sure you encourage them to pursue their interests:

  • check out more books about a topic
  • watch videos online
  • get their hands dirty to master a newfound skill

Do you do the same for yourself?

What if you pursued your own interests in whatever ways your life allows right now? I imagine it would enrich your own life and help show your children what it’s like to be a self-motivated learner.

Model lifelong learning by pursuing your own interests

So here’s the big question to encourage you: What do you want to learn about? If you take a deep breath and ask yourself what you’re interested in, what comes up? It might not be what you expect. It might not seem very practical. But that doesn’t mean you have to ignore it.

Here’s an example: I have always loved birds. I think they’re beautiful, and I smile to see them fly by. So I bought a bird feeder, and I keep it stocked. I have a few bird identification books to peruse as I see birds at the feeder. And you might laugh, but it is such a thrill for me to be able to identify unusual birds that sometimes stop by.

Now, no one relies on my bird expertise. I don’t get an award for it. But it brings me joy and helps me appreciate God’s handiwork. Great!

Is there something that would bring you joy, refresh your spirit, and help show your children how to follow their own passions?

  • Perhaps you’ve always wanted to learn to knit, or bake, or read Biblical Hebrew.
  • Maybe you’ve longed to pick up your high school oboe and take lessons just for the thrill of it.
  • Maybe you feel a vocational tug and want to learn about it.
  • Perhaps you want to start learning about the causes of world poverty and what works to address it.

Whatever it is, pay attention to it.

Different passions for different seasons of life

When my children were at home, I challenged myself to try one new recipe a week. I didn’t have time then to read serious Bible commentaries, but now I’m enjoying the chance to read some of John’s old seminary books. I’m also in the middle of the thought-provoking work How God Became King by N.T. Wright. And in recent years, I have taken up gardening and discovered a deep love for getting my hands dirty and changing my small part of the world.

I’ve discovered the world of podcasts, and enjoy listening to Radiolab and TED talks when I do work that doesn’t require much brain power.

In short, I think the world is indeed a fascinating place, and I want to learn about it!

So what do you think? Do you want to give yourself permission to learn about something that interests you this year? Do you want to explore new books, podcasts, or sections of the craft store?

Feel free to show your children what it looks like to be a self-motivated, lifelong learner. That’s a lesson that will serve them well.

If this all sounds overwhelming and you are in a season of simply trying to get through each day, know that that’s fine, too. Eventually this season will pass, and you’ll find yourself ready to expand your horizons again. And in the meantime, remember that you are already learning boatloads in your daily life just by homeschooling with Sonlight!

We have experienced homeschooling moms who would love to talk to you. Click here to connect with your homeschool consultant.

One Easy Way Homeschool Moms Can Model Lifelong Learning

Want more encouragement?

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You'll be encouraged by the words of founder Sarita Holzmann, inspired by real-life stories from other homeschoolers, pick up practical tips for the journey and more.


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10 Ways to Rediscover Your Homeschool Joy

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10 Ways to Rediscover Your Homeschool Joy and Prevent Burnout

If you are hitting a wall in your homeschool today, this post is a virtual hug of encouragement to help you rediscover your homeschool joy. Although it's a list of suggestions, please don't hear them as another list of tasks to add to your already overburdened to do list. I'm like you—a fellow mom who also struggles with feelings of failure and exhaustion. My arm is around your shoulders as I speak these words. I don't have it fully figured out, but these are ways I ward off the negative feelings and stay focused on the long-term prize of raising my children in this homeschool lifestyle.

1. Take a moment to breathe.

I know that this suggestion can seem nearly impossible, especially when you are in survival mode. But I find that merely going to bed 30 minutes earlier or doing a babysitting swap with another mom for a couple of hours of quiet—whatever it takes to make a little space to reflect—can work wonders on my perspective.

2. Remember why you chose to homeschool in the first place.

Maybe those reasons have changed, but digging into why you started is key as you develop endurance in the hard times.

3. Review your goals and your mission.

  • What do you want as a family?
  • What do you want your family culture and lifestyle to be?
  • What do you value?
  • What do you most want to pass onto your kids?

Now think about the steps to get there. If you haven't sat down with your spouse to talk about family goals, do it now! Discussing my goals energizes me by taking my eyes off of the everyday grind and onto big picture, purposeful living. If you want to make your goals formal, write out a mission statement to put into your journal or the front of your Instructor's Guide.

4. Simplify with your goals in mind.

As you pare down to the basics, you distinguish between what is non-negotiable and what is the icing on the cake. Sometimes even a certain child may be a homeschooling priority for that year! Maybe your big goal is to help Sam learn to read this year or to help Hannah conquer Algebra II before taking the SAT.  While you create a lifestyle of learning for the whole family, most of your energy will be spent toward your particular goals.

5. Did I mention simplify?

While you are simplifying your goals, simplify your schedule. Go over your calendar and determine what you really love and what is simply adding stress and frantic activity to your life. Cut ruthlessly what doesn't match with your goals and values.

Consider changing up your homeschool routine to see what might work better for you. Some moms decide to work with older kids during the little one's nap time. Some even do night-schooling! Shift things around and see if you find your new groove.

6. Declutter your home.

Less stuff=less to clean and maintain which frees you up for the things that bring you joy.

7. Ditch Lone Ranger mode.

Think about how you can get your family on board to help reach these goals. To keep our household operating smoothly and happily, we expect everyone to participate in both the fun of life and the chores. Older siblings can read to younger siblings or help teach colors and shapes to a toddler. Think through how to get your family working together to thrive as a team. (Also, think how you could cooperate with a friend from time to time. Be creative!)

8. Surround yourself with Scripture.

You can bank on the promise that God inhabits the praise of His people. Put favorite Bible verses where you can see them. Listen to praise songs and Scripture set to music. Lift your soul to God throughout your day and let His presence make a difference in your homeschool routine. Turn your kitchen into a cathedral by doing the valiant work of prayer while you put your hands to simple tasks. Being mindful of God’s presence brings meaning into each of our days.

9. Add a shot of unexpected fun.

Sometimes ditch the routine and load everyone up for a surprise field trip to a free museum or to sled down the biggest hill in town. Announce a dance party and require everyone to groove for five minutes before moving on with the day. Bake something together. Start a tickle war. Do these things out of the blue and make memories with your kids. Something small that says, "We're okay even if this is a hard day,” goes a long way.

10. Focus on relationships.

I often get burned out when I become overly task-focused and miss connecting with my people. I sometimes have to shake myself out of commander-mode where I find myself barking orders and ask, “Am I really getting to know my children as people? Am I 'loving my neighbor' who lives right here in my house?”

We have to get things done, but I've been pleasantly surprised with how a few well-timed questions (and taking the time to listen) when we are driving, cooking or reading together can give us a sense of connection.

Spend a little quality time with each of your children and find out what's going in their hearts. Reconnect. I know that taking time to slow down and talk may mean you “get less done,” but the relational bonds you are building will smooth the paths to enjoy the process of learning together all the more. It’s worth the time! We need heart checks just as much as to do list checks.

God knows you, and He knows your children. He is with you as you walk this adventure of homeschooling. Through His grace, you will find joy and purpose as you remember your goals, simplify, and connect with one another.

To find out more about Sonlight's complete book-based homeschool programs, order a complimentary copy of your catalog today.

10 Ways to Rediscover Your Homeschool Joy and Prevent Burnout
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The Best Way to Build Vocabulary in Your Homeschool

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The Best Way to Build Vocabulary in Your Homeschool • Sonlight Curriculum

The average active vocabulary of an adult English speaker is ten to twenty thousand words, with a passive vocabulary (the words you recognize, but don’t use) of 40,000. As a point of comparison, Shakespeare’s vocabulary is estimated at over 66,000.

When you read, your children learn vocabulary in context, without work or study. When you come across an unknown word, your children make an educated guess about what the word means, and they usually come pretty close even if they don’t come up with a dictionary definition. These facts make reading the best way to build vocabulary in your homeschool.

Though your children won't immediately remember each new word they come across, they'll hear those words repeatedly in their Sonlight books.

Your children will gain an extensive vocabulary

  • as they listen to you read
  • as they read for themselves
  • and as they participate in conversation.

Why spoken language is not enough: you need books, too

When was the last time you used the words invariably or relinquish in everyday speech? These words regularly show up in children’s books, though you probably don’t say them often. But these are examples of the types of words that will enrich your children’s vocabulary.

Academics Cunningham and Stanovich report in What Reading Does for the Mind that "children's books have 50% more rare words in them than does adult prime time television and the conversation between college-educated adults.”

This same report also explains that vocabulary grows primarily through exposure to language, rather than direct teaching or study. This makes sense: toddlers learn to speak from listening to conversation and repeating words, rather than focused efforts with workbooks or quizzes.

The authors also say that the quantity of reading, rather than listening to spoken words, is what creates the differences between children’s vocabularies.

Sonlight reading improves vocabulary

Over the years, I have had the opportunity to interview Sonlight Scholarship winners. These students have used Sonlight for at least five years, including one year in high school. Since each Sonlight program has between forty and sixty titles, each of these scholarship winners, having used five Sonlight programs to be eligible, has read at least 200 Sonlight books.

After the interviews, I often describe them as articulate. These Sonlight grads express themselves clearly, succinctly, and wisely. It's not that they use impressive words to make themselves sound smart. Rather, they choose words that communicate effectively.

I come away so encouraged by these young people who can express themselves so well, who can winsomely communicate their thoughts, dreams, and ideas.

The Sonlight method works. Your children acquire large vocabularies through reading frequently about a wide range of subjects.

Reading gives your children the chance to grow their vocabularies painlessly as they listen to stories and read on their own.

To read about the beautifully curated collection of books that you get to enjoy with Sonlight, download a catalog today and order a paper copy to arrive in your mailbox soon

The Best Way to Build Vocabulary in Your Homeschool • Sonlight Curriculum

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You'll be encouraged by the words of founder Sarita Holzmann, inspired by real-life stories from other homeschoolers, pick up practical tips for the journey and more.


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Learn Effortlessly by Reading Great Books

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Learn Effortlessly by Reading Great Books • Sonlight Curriculum

If something ma[kes] us incredibly frightened, elated, sad, or angry—four of the primary human emotions—we're more likely to remember it. The Organized Mind, 52.

Neuroscientists have found that humans remember the things they feel. This makes sense—in the midst of a generally happy childhood, you're more likely to remember your trip to the circus (elation!), rather than the everyday, cheerful, "Good morning” that greeted you routinely.

Scientists discovered that whether you read about a powerful experience, or live it, the brain files both in the same way. Did you catch that? For the brain, reading is the same as experience!

When you read a book, your brain experiences the reading as if it were happening to you. So all the emotion you feel as you read gets transferred to your memory.

Textbooks vs. real books

If in your homeschool lessons you read a fact, like, "The American Civil War lasted from April 1861 to May 1865," that is true, but it is not memorable. And yet that is the way most children are taught: with factual textbooks that communicate information without much interest.

Contrast that sentence with the Sonlight book Across Five Aprils—historical fiction that tells the story of one family during the five Aprils of the Civil War. In one scene, two brothers decide, both according to conscience, that they need to fight . . . on opposite sides.
Two brothers going off to fight.

  • Both good men.
  • Both men of principle.
  • The two love each other.
  • But they will fight on opposite sides.
  • And you know that they may find themselves on the same battlefield, each called on to kill the other.

Now that is memorable. You can learn effortlessly by reading great books.

Experiencing emotion with Sonlight books

When you read Sonlight books, you experience emotion.

You laugh over an unexpected encounter with an owl or what the Christmas story looks like when unsupervised children act it out. What a joy to witness the belly laughter of children, as they connect deeply with a story.

Tears are common, too, even for parents who aren’t normally tearful. Tears for how intensely beautiful perseverance is. Sorrowing tears because of injustice. Rejoicing tears over new-found freedom. Sorrowing tears for broken relationships, and rejoicing tears at reconciliation.

Sonlight books are designed to make you feel something. Because when you do, your learning and thoughts are better and deeper.

Find out more about Sonlight’s ground-breaking method of learning in our catalog, available digitally and online. Get your copy today

Learn Effortlessly by Reading Great Books • Sonlight Curriculum
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How Reading Fiction Helps Kids Develop Empathy

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How Reading Fiction Helps Kids Develop Empathy • Sonlight Curriculum

You know that reading helps your children develop vocabulary, become great writers, and receive information in a way they actually remember.

But did you also know that reading, particularly reading fiction, helps your children become more empathetic, able to understand and share the feelings of others?

Why is empathy important?

  • Empathy helps children develop a heart of compassion for a broken world.
  • Empathy helps children care about more than possessions, so they focus on people and relationships instead.
  • Empathy helps children see beyond themselves, so they are aware of the others who God puts in their paths.

How do books help develop empathy?

Children aren't born with the ability to guess at people's inner worlds; it's something they must learn. And first, children must learn that other people even have emotions and desires distinct from their own.

In real life, you may get an occasional glimpse into other people's minds, like when a friend tells you what she's thinking or how she’s feeling. Usually, however, you can only guess at the thoughts, emotions, and motives of others.

Reading fiction takes you outside of yourself, out of your own thoughts, and into the mind of another person. You enter into the world of others and experience life through their eyes. You consider their predicaments. You hope that things work out for the good guys.

In one book, you might read about a girl whose friend is unkind to another girl in the class: How should you respond?

Or you read about a boy who is learning what it is to be a man: What does responsibility look like? How should you deal with fear? What is the appropriate use of violence (or is there any)?

Or you read about a family who befriends a lonely boy: What does kindness look like, especially in difficult situations?

As C.S. Lewis described reading in An Experiment in Criticism:

We want to be more than ourselves. . . . We want to see with other eyes, to imagine with other imaginations, to feel with other hearts, as well as with our own. . . . [I]n reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself.

Fiction helps you imagine what others are thinking and feeling and trains you to feel empathy for others.

If you are considering a new direction for your children’s education, and could use an empathetic ear, we have experienced homeschooling moms who would love to talk to you. Click here to connect with your homeschool consultant.

 

How Reading Fiction Helps Kids Develop Empathy • Sonlight Curriculum

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Three Reasons to Read Out Loud to Kids Who Know How to Read

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Three Reasons to Read Out Loud to Kids Who Know How to Read • Sonlight Curriculum

You probably understand the appeal of reading aloud to young children. Who can resist a preschooler, book in hand, saying, “Read, pwease?”

But once children can read for themselves, parents often assume their days of reading aloud are done. In fact, a survey by children’s book publisher Scholastic showed that most parents stop reading to their children by age six.

Sonlight parents, though, don’t stop reading to their children at six. Instead, Sonlight’s programs include Read-Alouds all the way through middle school. Here are three reasons why.

1. Children want their parents to read to them.

One of the surprising findings in the Scholastic survey I mentioned is that many children wish their parents had continued to read aloud to them after they could read for themselves. Children love the special time and shared experiences of reading together. Even if older children don't want to sit on your lap like they did when they were three, they still enjoy the experience of sharing a book with you.

2. Children have a "reading gap."

Until eighth grade or so, children can comprehend a much higher level of writing when it's read out loud to them than they can when they read on their own. This “reading gap” happens because the mechanics of reading can be tricky. It’s similar, perhaps, to writing. You know that when a child is just learning to form her letters, she can only write a few very simple words, though she could tell you a much more complicated story when she's talking to you. It's similar with reading. Reading out loud to your children up through eighth grade helps them access ideas, vocabulary, and concepts that would otherwise be out of reach. Just because your children wouldn’t want to read a book to themselves doesn't mean it's not perfect for them if you read it out loud.

3. Reading together builds relationships.

Reading together is such a precious time to spend with your children. It's a break from a busy day, as you get to slow down and immerse yourselves in a story together. When you share a book, you and your children will go on remarkable adventures together—through history and throughout the world. Reading together also provides opportunities for your children to ask you questions about things they wonder about, such as love, loss, careers, family, and what it means to follow God.

Many Sonlight families say that inside jokes from books they've shared together have become part of their family culture.

Your school-age children want you to read to them. You not only help them academically when you read aloud to them, but you also expand their understanding of the world and deepen your relationship with them.

To find out more about Sonlight’s unmatched Read-Alouds, and our complete book-based homeschool programs, order a complimentary copy of your catalog today.

Three Reasons to Read Out Loud to Kids Who Know How to Read • Sonlight Curriculum

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You'll be encouraged by the words of founder Sarita Holzmann, inspired by real-life stories from other homeschoolers, pick up practical tips for the journey and more.


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