Oh no, I forgot to socialize the kids!

iStock_000046657522SmallThere's a wonderful conversation about socialization going on over on our Facebook page. I've been chuckling this morning at the various responses people are sharing. A few have made me stop and think, "I wish I'd thought of that when people questioned us about homeschooling our kids!"

As I've had many opportunities to address the whole socialization issue over the years, I've settled on a couple of thoughts that pretty much answer the question for me.

Socialization can be defined in a variety of ways, often dependent on the context of your conversation. One of the responses in our Facebook post said it best ... "We socialize our dogs, we civilize our kids." If you stick with the dictionary definition, socialization is an on-going process (as in, it's not automatically finished at high school graduation), and I'm not entirely certain that expecting my 5 year old to learn appropriate norms, values and behavior in a classroom of other 5 year olds is the best way to go!

The other thought is this ... when it comes to socialization, I want my kids to be able to interact, in real life, with people of all ages, sizes, shapes, and colors. Where else in life will your child be asked to work, live, and socialize, with only people of their same age/grade? One of the best choices my husband and I ever made was to take advantage of the opportunity to have my parents come live with us. What a blessing to give our children the gift of growing up in a multi-generational household. While that is not an option for everyone, there are many possibilities for providing your children the chance to interact with those both older and younger than themselves.

So if you've faced the "big S" question in the past, be sure to leave your comments in our Facebook conversation today. If you're concerned about how you would respond if you did encounter the question, there are some really great responses over on Facebook. Jot down a few to keep handy in case you need them!

Still on the journey,
Judy Wnuk

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The Grocery Store

It's late. Brittany, as the "con mom," needs foodstuffs to feed everyone in the morning. The egg salad sandwiches are her domain. That and helping people figure out how to make their costumes a reality. No, this isn't a homeschool convention -- though, perhaps, equally niche. This is cosplay. My wife scrubs off her Totoro whiskers and we make the snowy drive to the local natural grocery store down the street. It closes in 40 minutes.

Totoros in the Snow

The mini-cart, piled with string cheese, salted sunflower seeds from the bulk section, and over-priced organic juice packs, rattles quietly toward the checkout lane the young lady pointed me toward. "You work the late shift often?" I ask, trying to make friendly conversation in the quiet store while Brittany searches for an item she's just remembered to get.

"About once a week, but my schedule changes all the time. It's hard to keep track."

As a routine guy, that would drive me crazy. I tell her.

"Yeah," she chuckles. "But do it long enough and you get used to it, I guess." She scans the box of juice. "What do you do?"

I tell her.

"People still homeschool?" she asks, not surprised, but in a way that gives me the impression she thought homeschooling had died off long ago, like the dodo or the question of the color of that dress.

"Actually, with the rise of tax-payer funded options like K12 and the backlash against Common Core, more and more people homeschool."

I swipe my credit card. In the moment the computer takes to think before spitting out the receipt, she asks, "Would you homeschool your children?"

The one other guy in the store, and older gentleman, has queued behind us, so there isn't much time. "Absolutely," I tell her. "I was homeschooled myself."

"You were?" she asks, again, more bewildered than surprised. She hands me the receipt. "Well, have a great evening."

"You too."

We carry the bags into the cold, dark night, and I start giggling as we cross the parking lot.

"What?" Brittany asks.

I look down at my rubber-bottomed moccasins and comfy pants. We homeschoolers are a strange and sometimes confident group. Then again, my wife was going to be dressed as the website Pinterest in a few hours. The general populace may be unaware of us and find our choices bewildering, but this homeschooling thing is fantastic. ...a bit like cosplay: Fringe, but freeing; creative and compassionate; a chance to "be yourself" while also aspiring to be more.

Keep up the great work you are doing.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Pseudo-Dad

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How Sonlight Helps You Discover the Wonders of History: The Rationale behind Sonlight's History Schedule

A colleague asked me the other day why I schedule Sonlight's History the way I do. If you're just looking at an Instructor's Guide, the scheduling can look a bit random. But it is all very intentional to help children soak up their learning.

I generally choose a key narrative text as the schedule driver. For example, we use A Child's History of the World by V. M. Hillyer for a child's first tour of world history. It is a non-fiction history book, but it is not a textbook. Instead, the author tells a compelling overview of the history of the world. To do this, he picks out key narratives from history and tells them chronologically. He might spend a chapter in Europe, and then transition to the next chapter with "meanwhile in India ..." Then he'll describe what life looked like in India at the time and give the story of a specific ruler or event that exemplifies that era in Indian history. The whole book moves chronologically.

A Sonlight student watches history come alive
Many Sonlight families enrich their Sonlight history studies even more with field trips. Here, Keeley P helps tan a deer skin at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park.

That narrative text forms the backbone of a Core. Then as you move through that text, we supplement your learning with all sorts of treats. Most Cores use at least one stellar photo-driven text, such as an Usborne book. So when Hillyer talks about ancient African civilizations for example, the Instructor's Guide will jump you to the section in your Usborne book that highlights those same civilizations. You and your kids will see illustrations of what you're learning and gain additional knowledge from the bulleted highlights. This reinforces and expands what you learned in the primary text.

Then we enrich things even more by adding biographies and historical fiction that help bring that time period to life. This is often a family's favorite part of Sonlight. Since you've read the other history texts, and since you're building your own timeline as you go, you and your kids have context for what you read. That means you will pick up on all sorts of historical significance as you move through these can't-put-it-down stories.

The early grades also include many Readers and Read-Alouds that are just great books and may or may not tie in with the history you're learning. When kids are just learning to read, we focus on helping them practice that skill and get hooked on great stories. The Read-Alouds provide all sorts of cultural literacy and family bonding moments as you enjoy great stories together (such as a perpetual favorite, Charlotte's Web).

Starting in Intro to American History, 1 of 2 (Core D), most of the Readers and Read-Alouds do link in to the time period. This opens up a new level of richness in your learning.

Going through a year with Sonlight is like watching a rich tapestry unfold. You follow a single thread with your spine, and then get to watch that understanding deepen and come to life in several different ways.

And the best part? The tapestry is already sewn for you! All you have to do is pick up your Instructor's Guide and follow along. We tell you what pages to read, then we give you rich and insightful teaching notes to explain what you're learning. We provide counter-arguments when an author has a clear bias. We give you discussion questions, and we tie in Language-Arts activities to what you're already reading.

This is the way I loved learning with my kids as they grew. And this is the way that thousands of families around the world fuel a love of learning in their kids today. It is an honor to share that joy with you!


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February Blog Party

FebPrizePkgOur year-long 25th anniversary blog party continues today, and I can't wait to read your stories! In your blog post today, Share how you first decided to homeschool. How did you decide on a curriculum?

Even if you don't use Sonlight you are welcome to participate. Please grab a blog party button to include in your post or sidebar. Once your post is live, come back here to the Sonlight blog and link up with us. Then, be sure to visit and comment on other blogs who link up. It's a great way to gain new readers and make new friends!

Everyone who participates will be entered in a drawing for the great prize package pictured above. The winner will be announced on March 11, 2015.

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You Know You're a Homeschooler When...

During our Inspire 25 event in January we asked participants to complete the sentence: "You know you're a homeschooler when..." We got some great entries, and I thought it would be fun to share some of them.



...you have a strainer that says "for science, not food."

...all your classmates are siblings.

...you have to secure all the flashlights in the house because the children will read all night.

...you "school" by the sandpit or snuggling on the bed.

...the kids' play involves storks on the roof because you just finished reading The Wheel on the School.

...PE is going on a hike in the woods.

...you get new PJs for your back-to-school wardrobe.

...you sing The Continents Song in the shower.

...you use Legos for building letters and patterns.

...you try to figure out just how many "classes" one trip to the grocery store can cover.

...the kids think it's normal to pause movies for impromptu history lessons.

...a "snow day" means you get to shovel the driveway after you finish your school work.

...your dining table serves as a school desk, a science lab, and an eating surface.

...you know what the phrase "Box Day" means.

...you're reading to the kids on the bathroom floor while waiting for the toddler to potty.

...every baking recipe becomes a lesson in fractions and measurements.

...you constantly need more bookshelves.

...your son calls out from under a huge fort, "I love this math, Mom!"

...your kids have no idea what grade they're in.

How would you complete the sentence?

Enjoying the adventure,
~Karla Cook
Lifelong Learner


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Of dates and dynasties ...

Timeline BookI have rather unpleasant memories of my junior high and high school history classes ... spending late nights memorizing dates and names and events for the next day's test. And promptly forgetting it all just as soon as the test was done!

I was reminded of this the other day as I had the privilege of interacting with a mom who was concerned that her student was having a hard time remembering all the Chinese dynasties they were learning about in their Eastern Hemisphere studies ... and the dates attributed to each of them. I stopped for a moment to see if I could bring to mind the names of all those dynasties, or if I could even get close to the dates tied to each one. And what about all those other dates related to those eastern hemisphere countries?

  • When was the Boxer rebellion?
  • Which decade saw the Opium War?
  • When did Genghis Khan lead the Mongols in Russia?
  • When did Britain make India a colony?

I obviously hadn't had time to prepare for that test ... because I couldn't remember a single one! And I suspect if I were to ask my now adult children if they recalled the dates tied to all these people and events we studied together, they would "fail" just as miserably as I did.

So what's the point of learning all those dates anyway? And what good is a Timeline Book if you're not going to remember the contents a month from now, let alone a few years from now?

A friend shared the following quote on Facebook the other day:

"Much learning does not teach understanding." ~Heraclitus

Therein lies the answer to my questions. It's all about context! Memorizing dates and names and events, without any context or meaning, does not help our children to understand the bigger picture. However, when I would open our Timeline Book and my students could "see" that Mao formed the Communist Party in the same decade that Lindbergh made his famous transatlantic flight, and the Zhou Dynasty in China was in power at the same time as some of their favorite passages in the Old Testament were taking place (Jonah going to Ninevah and Daniel and Esther) ... then history came alive for them. Now they had context for those dates and names and events, and the larger picture of history began to make sense.

So I was able to reassure the concerned mom, and remind myself anew, why learning History through stories is a much better way to learn. What was going on in the world when Hudson Taylor traveled to China? What was it like to live in 13th-century Mongolia when Kublai Khan's army invaded? What kind of determination and courage was required to survive in Sudan in the 1980's? That is where learning ... and true understanding ... takes place.

Still on the journey ...
~Judy Wnuk

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A choice we make

I know that as moms we can get into ruts where we feel like we "need" to vent and question who our kids are, what it is we are doing, and how in the world we got here. We can complain about the state of our homes, how helpful our husbands are, the current issue with our children and a myriad of other complaints.

But my friends, what a slippery slope. I have found that as soon as I start looking at the negative, I blow that whole segment of my children, or my marriage, or the world around me, way out of proportion. I give it more space than I should.

While I don't think we should ignore hard things, nor pretend we feel no pain, or even suggest that our children are perfect or we know what we are doing each day, I think it is so important to focus on the good, to cast the years of our lives with a rosy glow.

Me and my children taking a rest while on a walk

When I think back on my own childhood, I remember it very fondly. Lots of reading, lots of time on the trampoline, at the pool, or in the hammock. And more and more reading. And, surprisingly, every day was sunny until that lovely afternoon storm where I would curl up under a blanket and wait for it to come. Ah, the cool refreshing breeze...

Of course I can pull up squabbles with my siblings, feelings that my parents didn't understand me, or even times when friends were very, very mean. But why would I do that? Why would I choose to live there?

So even now -- while yes, the days can be long, my children are children, my house the worse for wear -- I want to choose to see the good, to pull those "postworthy moments" and have them be the focus. When I get with friends, to seek to speak the good about my life, to tell the sweet things my children have said, to focus on their strengths.

I want to focus on the good things I'm doing: The yummy food I've cooked and the jobs I have gotten done, to speak about hardships in the light of hope. Things can get better and if we need help in an area, help is available.

I loved the Inspire25 event. It was such an encouraging night to "be" with people who are excited about homeschooling, books, and being good moms and wives; what a blessing to my soul. But I'm glad it's more than a night, but a year (and hopefully a pattern for our lives!). This is a season to look back, but also look forward the good that is yet to come.

My friend, all is not lost, though this February might have you been feeling that way! I'd like to encourage you to seek to see the good today, even if it's a swift snuggle, or a short song...there is good in the world. Let's be people who see it.

Until next time,

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