A Precious Gift of Homeschooling: Investing in Your Kids

We only have a limited time here on earth. A very limited time with our kids at home. What will we do with that time?

Although the Lord gently pushed me into homeschooling, I have no regrets in having invested so much of my time in my children. I could not have chosen another season of my life to focus on them in the same way. The Lord granted me the opportunity, and I am so grateful I took it.

We got to share each morning together learning and reading together on the couch – precious memories indeed. We built up so much quantity time together as we learned together, that our quality time naturally arose out of that.

I believe my time at home with them forged deep bonds between me and each of my children, and between the children themselves. It’s no surprise that I love my children. But I am so grateful that I also really like my children. I love that they can talk to me, John, and each other about heart issues – and they know we’ll listen.

You are in a unique position to truly know your children. You can learn their personalities, their learning styles, their quirks, their joys. What a privilege to help educate them in the context of that close relationship.

Greatest responsibility

"I love that Sonlight focuses on God, Christian morals and history, and has a challenging curriculum. I was a middle school history teacher at a charter school and became frustrated with the way public education is going. I prayed and felt tremendous clarity that as a parent, the greatest responsibility I have is to teach our children the love of God. How could I do that if I only spent a few hours with them in the evenings while focused on cooking dinner or winding down from work?" – Wendy W, Panama City, FL

Here, Whitney (14, Sonlight 200), Ashley (12, Sonlight W) and Mason (10, Sonlight F) pose with Mom and Dad in the South Dakota Badlands during their epic homeschool kickoff trip.

I love that when my kids struggled in learning, I knew them well enough to know how to help them. And even if I didn’t know the answer right away, I knew I had time to stick with it and figure it out. I knew that Justin was extremely distractible and needed a LOT of help moving from one math problem to the next. I knew that Luke had to work very hard at the mechanics of reading, but that his comprehension was through the roof. I knew that Amy loved to check things off lists and feel a sense of accomplishment in her day. And so John and I could tailor their education to them.

As the kids got older, our deep investment in them helped them find their paths in life. You can read about how my homeschooled children found their careers – it wasn’t a straightforward path for any of them. But we got to be a true support to them as they spread their wings. What a blessing!

You may not be able to or even want to give your children all the latest gadgets and everything they say they want. But I do believe you can give your kids what they really want. And I believe homeschooling is a great way to give yourself the space and freedom to truly invest in your kids.

After all, the gift of your presence is what they’ll remember about their childhood anyway. So blessings to you as you do the hard yet beautiful work of investing in your children. Never doubt that your work is meaningful. Enjoy the journey!

Blessings to you and yours,
Sarita


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Why We Organize Sonlight's Programs Around History

Have you ever wondered what you're doing here on the earth? Ever wondered how our country got to the state that it's in? Ever wondered why people in other countries live differently than you do?

Well, I think the answers lie in understanding history. To put it simply ...

Studying history helps children make sense of their world and their lives. That's why Sonlight centers on history. Our curriculum chronicles the past in order to prepare children to understand and influence their world in the future.

As they learn the story of the world (people, places, and events tied together to tell an historical story), children start to understand the wonder, tensions, and troubles in today's world. They build a framework in which to understand new information about their globe. It's like they develop an internal timeline with anchor points on it, such as the rise of the Greeks, the Chinese dynasties, the Industrial Revolution, and the era of Colonization. (And Sonlight provides a tangible timeline to help this along!)

As children develop this internal timeline, they have places to hang new knowledge. When they learn something new about the Renaissance in Europe, they have context in which to place that nugget of information. When they read about a country in the news, they at least have a vague sense of what that country's story is. And so the new information means something to them because they have places to hang it. The new knowledge is more than unconnected tidbits of information.

Of course, children who learn history the Sonlight way also get to learn it in an enjoyable way that they actually remember. And so they really get to reap the benefits of learning history. They truly understand how the world's peoples and places came to their present state.

But that's not all.

Understanding the flow of history helps children understand the meaning of their own lives. They learn where they are in the story of the world.

For us as Christians, we know that we are living in the time between Christ's first coming and His return. It's huge that we understand that. It helps us make sense of what we're doing here. As I've written before:

The incarnate Christ returned to heaven, and we are His representatives on earth now. He has given us the Holy Spirit to work through us and guide us as we labor to bring God's Kingdom to earth. We are part of God's big plan; we have a role to play, a purpose for living, and a call to serve. We can partner with God, or not. He will work His plan out, with or without us. May we and our children be people who help God's Kingdom advance.

And the story is moving forward! Though we don't know the exact timeline, we do know we are moving to an end point where Christ returns and ultimately redeems His people. He will establish His kingdom in full and we will live forever in perfect communion with Him in the new heaven and new earth. How can this not affect how we live today?

So that's why Sonlight centers on history instead of social studies, unit studies, or any number of other ways to organize your study of the world. It helps our students understand the world and their place in it. This is intentional, and we have seen that it truly works.

Blessings to you as you live out your family's story!
Sarita


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A Heart for the World (5 Gifts You Can Give Your Children That Last a Lifetime, Part 5)

world

I grew up in a community so tiny we didn’t even have a post office. We had to drive an hour to the nearest mall. And yet, the world came to my kitchen table while my family homeschooled together.

What were some of the practical ways my family developed a perspective that ranged beyond the mile markers of our town?

  • I remember all of us practicing our Spanish each morning around the table and then attempting to carry on conversations with our neighbors who came to work in the cotton gin next door each fall.
  • Our family hosted many missionaries in our home. A particular favorite when I was a little girl was larger-than-life Jo Skaggs from Africa who enthralled me with her tales of eating grasshoppers and seeing God work.
  • I learned more about listening to others and sharing my faith as I discussed the tenants of Islam with my dad and the owners of our local gas station and as my parents welcomed Arab families into our home.
  • I was moved by the example of my grandmother who has influenced nations from her rocking chair through her prayers, her hand-written cards and her sacrificial gifts.
  • My dad helped me fund and prepare for my first mission trip out of the country.
  • Our spinning globe was well worn from locating the places of people we read about and met and prayed for.
  • My parents helped spur on a passion for the world that influenced my choice to serve in Tanzania as a missionary and to reach out to refugees in my own community in the U.S.

Now I long to develop a heart for the world in my own children and I’m thrilled that this is also one of Sonlight’s passions.

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Offering families a global perspective is one of the hallmarks of Sonlight. Rather than focusing on American history for 80% of your school years, you’ll get access to almost twice as much world history as a traditional program. (See Reason #8 of Reasons NOT to Buy Sonlight and Sarita’s post).

You’ll find missionary biographies and literature that reflect different cultures woven through your Sonlight studies.

You’ll find prayer guides that help you pray for specific nations and people.  You’re even likely to be invited to participate in a charitable giving  project that aids people around the world who have never heard the Gospel.

akebu

Be encouraged, this intentional look at the whole world is built into your curriculum from the beginning and gives your kids a solid foundation to build a lifetime of learning about people and ideas.

So why is it so important that we give our kids a global perspective? You’ll have to read Sarita’s post on why Sonlight encourages study of both hemispheres, but I’ll give you four quick reasons here:

4 Reasons to Give Our Kids a Global Perspective

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A global perspective helps us …

  1.  Battle entitlement

When we learn that not everyone in the world is as privileged as we are, we begin to view our blessings in a different way. Not only are we more thankful for what we do have, we are more likely to be drawn to use our resources to aid others who don’t have as much.

Anyone who has looked around at our generation knows fighting again entitlement is much needed!

  1. Better understand an increasingly connected global society (in business, politics, technology, religion and more)
  1. Reflect God’s heart for the nations

We can help our children pray–specifically, intelligently and intentionally–for real needs in the world. As we watch the news or discuss what is happening in a certain area, we can bring requests to God with a specificity that is powerful. We want to see the world with wide open eyes so we can demonstrate love and empathy.

  1. Be prepared to impact the world

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God cares about the whole world. When students reflect His priorities they are more prepared to make an impact.

Sarita began Sonlight with a vision to help missionaries stay on the field one more year, and she continues to impact the world not only by giving and praying strategically, but also by equipping students to be passionate, well-informed, global-minded people who are prepared to do whatever God calls them to do.

Now that’s a gift!

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Box Day Castle

We recently moved to Uganda (hence the many boxes) and are half way through our first year of Sonlight which we love. We took some photos today of the Sonlight box as the capstone of a castle as well as part of the bottom layer of a pyramid.

box-day-w-family-castle

We first came across Sonlight when we met a family of seven children aged four to nineteen. All been educated using Sonlight. What impressed us most was the way even the young children seemed able to appraise both sides of an argument and reach a logical conclusion based on the evidence; these were skills I only learnt during my PhD and were entirely lacking from the mainstream education I had experienced. We were also impressed at how each individual child was able to develop at their pace, and explore their specific areas of interest without becoming one-sided or missing out on anything that seemed fundamental. Considering this, and having the desire to instill a strong Biblical worldview in our children, we naturally reached the decision to home educate.

We have boys aged six, six and four. The older two are six months apart to the day. They are very different from one another in their learning styles.

We are using Core A. Our oldest is doing language arts 2, the middle boy is using language arts 1 and the youngest is making a gentle start joining in with the others when he can. We use Singapore maths, the older two are working at the same pace, Science A with as many experiments as we can do, and Rosetta Stone. For electives, we are doing some art appreciation, choir and music classes, learning one of the local languages and doing weekly sports with a home education co-op. We also still do a lot of our 'education' on the move, learning numbers and money in the market places, doing maths and measurement in the kitchen, and so forth.

My middle son had been reluctant to read, and would become quite upset and frustrated when he struggled. Using the 'I Can Read It!' series, he realized that he could indeed read! Here is the photo of him reading to daddy on his first day of Sonlight, completing the whole story and being utterly delighted by what he had achieved.

box-day-w-family-read

The whole family has benefited greatly from the well chosen and well structured curriculum that Sonlight offers. My husband and I both work part-time and take the lead on home schooling on the days we are home; having a very clear timetable maximizes our efficiency here, whilst allowing us to draw on our complementary strengths.

And the box makes a fabulous castle!

Kondwani

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Flexible and Doable: Behind the Scenes of our 2016-2017 Curriculum Changes

I pray every day for homeschool parents like you. I want you to know you can do this. I want you to be equipped for this worthy task. I want you to love your homeschool.

So, I constantly ask myself how Sonlight can help your family have a great homeschool experience.

And this year, my top priority was to make sure our curriculum felt doable. I want new and seasoned moms alike to dive in and be confident using Sonlight.

My daughters and I read hundreds of potential new books for our curriculum programs this year. We found some replacements for our already great titles. So you'll find 34 new titles throughout our History / Bible / Literature packages this year. Each had to be weighed against the old titles and had to be better. A tough but thrilling task!

But to make our curriculum more doable, we also pulled titles from each lower-level History / Bible / Literature program. We kept the best and focused on quality over quantity. All of the lower-level programs now have fewer titles, so you have time to savor them all. And of course, you are still welcome to drop books or add in extra titles as you please.

You'll also have much cleaner, clearer Instructor's Guides this year. We kept the content (though we cut down some longer notes for the sake of keeping the whole doable). But the layout and design now make it easier for you to adapt the schedule as you please, just as Sonlight parents tell us they do. Even if you read ahead or go slower with your books, it's now easier to find the notes and teaching helps you need. If you're headed to the park or on a road trip, you can easily grab the Instructor's Guide pages and books you need, and be ready to go.

And at last, you can build your own Full Grade Package and still get all the discounts and benefits that come with doing so. Don't prefer the math we recommend for our 1st Grade Full-Grade Package? Pull it out and add the one you like. Need a different level of Science? You can do that now. So now you have the flexibility to either pick the package we've already built with our best recommendations, or you can build your own based on your own needs.

More flexible and easier to use: I can stand behind that!

Your new 2016-2017 catalog should be at your doorstep soon so you can see exactly what your year ahead holds. Or if you're not on our list to receive the catalog already, request your catalog here.

Here's to a wonderful and effective homeschool experience for you and your family now and in the year to come!

Blessings,
Sarita


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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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What's New: Sonlight F (Eastern Hemisphere) now book-based, too

As John and Sarita's daughter, I can say that Sonlight F – Eastern Hemisphere – most accurately shows the heart of my parents. They long for the Church to be a house of prayer for all nations. They long for people from every nation to meet Jesus. They long for people in the West to know about, and pray for, the people in the East.

So it is with great joy that this year we present …

A New Centerpiece for Sonlight F

Every Sonlight History program has a centerpiece book, or "spine," that serves as the foundation of that particular program.

This year, we are pleased to announce a new title, Journey to the Eastern Hemisphere, as the spine for Sonlight F. This book, which replaces the digital World Book Encyclopedia, is packed with informative articles about the countries and regions that Sonlight F covers.

Each location has a big-picture overview, a description of the geographical features, a look at everyday life, a summary of the area's history, and full-color maps and photos.

Journey looks in-depth at 11 countries: China, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Russia, Vietnam, India, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Australia, and New Zealand.

It also looks at five regions: Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, the Pacific Islands, and Antarctica.

Journey Sample Page
Click here to view a sample!

I got to do a final proof of the book, and I enjoyed the descriptions of the various places. If you've ever tried to summarize a lot of complex information, you know that condensing can be difficult. I thought the author did an admirable job summarizing such a wide range of topics as the Vietnam War and the story of the Endurance.

And … a Revised Reading List

Journey to the Eastern Hemisphere is informative. But it isn't intended to be story-based, the way most of our spines are.

For stories, we have the rest of the books!

Counting the Instructor's Guide, this program has 51 items (plus 13 more, if you add Science F). Sonlight F has 19 Readers, 18 Read-Alouds, eight History books (not counting timeline figures, the China Kit for calligraphy, and origami), and, for Bible, a book and a CD with Bible verses set to ethnic music.

This is a rich program!

In the 26 years since Sarita started Sonlight, the book publishing industry has experienced an explosion of new books from this part of the world. We're excited to introduce you to these new books.

Here's more of what you can expect.

We now have a collection of incredible stories of God at work in Iran.

The section on Russia expanded with two glorious books about life in St. Petersburg, one about the siege during WWII (it's outstanding!), and one set about 50 years later … same family, different time. Such a great way to look at these pivotal moments in the largest country on Earth!

We also have a collection of short stories from Africa, beautifully illustrated with woodcuts (Ashley Bryan has such joyful pictures). We have a Newbery Honor book set in Mozambique and Zimbabwe. We have a book set during the Partition of India! (How many books have you read about the Partition of India?! It's such a gift!)

And we have one of my personal favorites in recent years, Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters. A young girl enjoys the stories of her globe-trotting neighbor, and this helps her find her own voice. (One sentence is not going to do this book justice. Even if you don't ever get to Sonlight F, you should read this book.)

To sum up: Sonlight F now has a book for a spine, and the other books in the F program have more stories, and more stories specifically about the Eastern Hemisphere.

This program was already a customer favorite. We believe it's even better now.

Celebrate all the richness of diversity on this planet and how God is at work!

Hooray!
Amy Lykosh

P.S. If you haven't heard the music from the Sing the Word CD, you should check out the sampler. "All nations whom you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord! And they shall glorify your name, for you are great, and do wondrous deeds. You alone are God!" So many different musical styles!

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What's New: All Programs Now 5-Day (and some great new books, too)

This is a deep change – and it begins with our books.

Book Changes

Our goal at Sonlight has always been to give people everything they need to teach their children for one full year. In the US, a full year is 180 days of school.

Over the past year, Sarita reviewed all the programs, A-H, with the purpose of adjusting the schedules, and, by doing so, she created a more cohesive experience.

At the same time, she realized that she has new favorite titles. (She reviews books constantly.) So books that had been good choices when she created these programs were no longer the best possible.

In some cases, she ended up dropping ten titles and adding only four or five new titles. Most of the books that are out are short or ones that don't usually show up on anyone's "favorite ever!" list. So longer and better books are in … making the books lists better.

And each schedule is completely reworked to make each day's reading a bit more even and manageable; there aren't the marathon sessions some days and short sessions other days. The schedule has been re-balanced. And that is good!

(If your absolute favorite has been removed – I feel you. My absolute favorite was, too. But I hold The Westing Game still in my heart, and am happy to make room for the new books that I also really, really like. And I can acknowledge that The Westing Game really had nothing to do with the subject matter in level H, so other choices make more sense. Which is all to say: yes, feel free to grieve any true losses, but then wait with eager expectation for the exciting new additions.)

In a co-op? Like to take field trips? Don't Panic!

Maybe you attend a co-op once a week, and the idea of adding an additional 36 days to an already full year seems overwhelming.

Let me try to help you see a way forward.

Subjects like Math remain the same this year. Other subjects, like Science and Language Arts, have minimal changes – Day 5 is light and easily adjustable.

Sonlight has always had Bible and Readers scheduled for five days, assuming that time with God and practice reading are both valuable and important, whether your school is spent with Sonlight or at co-op.

You figured out how to make Bible and Readers fit your life. Probably, you doubled up on some things and cut some others, depending on the workload for the rest of the week.

And if the schedule didn't perfectly fit your life, the reality is, your year was still incredible, even with minor adjustments.

And so we have the new schedule for two subjects: History and Read-Alouds.

The scope of History has not changed. In previous years, it's not like the full schedule, 180-Day people got an extra 300 years of World History, and the 144-Day people ended their studies in 1700. No. The 180-Day people enjoyed a few supplemental books tacked on to the last day of each week.

You will still be able to cover the History. And if there's a few additional, supplemental books that you don't get to over the course of the year … that's okay.

And if having too many Read-Alouds overwhelms you … pause for a moment.

It is incredibly challenging to find good books.

The Sonlight books are outstanding.

And if you only get to, say, nine of the twelve during the school year … then you have three more to read over the summer.

Think of it as "reading a good book with Mom." That doesn't need to feel like "too much school." It feels like connection and joy.

It feels like … Sonlight!

Rejoice with us! We are so happy to share these updated programs with you!

Warmly,
Amy Lykosh

P.S. Remember: coming soon, a description of the new Sonlight F. Watch for it!

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