Sonlight Catalog Cover Competition Winners

Congratulations to the R family of Lombard, IL and all Sonlight photo contest winners!

Sonlight 2017 Photo Contest Winner

Click here to see all the winners.

We enjoyed looking at all the selections you submitted this year. The photos and quotes are such an encouragement! We look forward to sharing the love with you in the 2017 catalog. We can't wait to print all these amazing reminders that homeschooling is worth it. Thank you so much to all who documented the joy of homeschooling this last year.

And if you missed the deadline this year, we are now accepting photos for the 2018 catalog cover competition—feel free to submit pictures here at any time! We look forward to seeing photos of you and your beautiful children as you enjoy learning together.

Amy's pic

Amy Lykosh
John and Sarita's oldest daughter
Second-generation Sonlighter
Homeschooling mom to five

P.S. Purchase now with Sonlight's 100% Hassle Free, No Risk 18-Week "Love to Learn, Love to Teach," Money-Back Guarantee. If Sonlight doesn't help you transform your homeschool, then we don't want your money. But I'm positive Sonlight gives you the tools to greater homeschooling success than you thought possible. Purchase now!

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What is the point of education?

Those yellow school buses have started to roll by here in Colorado. And though not as visible, homeschooled kids are gathering on couches and at kitchen tables for a new school year as well.

As you dive into a new year (or not, depending on your schedule), now may be a good time to review your big picture vision: Why do you want your kids to be educated? What is the point of education?

Here’s my take on it.

At a basic level, I believe we all want our children to be able to survive in this world when they grow up. That is usually easier with some education and some job skills.

On a deeper level, we all want our children to be happy and fulfilled in life. We want them to be able to do something they enjoy as they make their way in the world. Of course, I want that for my own kids and grandkids.

But as Christians, we have an even deeper motivation for education. We believe our children’s stories matter in the grand scheme of things. We believe God is working in the world and that we are part of His story. We believe God has plans for our children’s lives; plans to bless others through them. And because of this, we want our children to be prepared to live the life God has for them.

Which brings me to my fundamental belief about education:

Education should help children develop their gifts and equip them to do whatever God calls them to do to further His Kingdom.

We are not educating our children just for their own sakes. We do not teach them just so that they can get good jobs and make a lot of money. We teach them, nurture them, help them discover and develop their gifts so that when God calls, they are ready.

I believe God calls us in (at least) two ways: God’s general call for all Christians and God’s specific call for an individual. God clearly asks all Christians to love their neighbors, to help care for the poor, and to be a witness to Christ in the world. We should try to nurture the hearts and minds of all our children to live like that.

And God also often gives people specific calls. God’s plan for your daughter might be that she becomes a medical missionary. If that’s true, she better study up! She’ll need an effective education in math, science and the humanities, plus solid training in the faith. (Don’t worry – Sonlight helps you do that!)

But here’s the thing. You often don’t know what your children will be called to do later in life. That girl who will grow up to serve in medical missions may only be six years old now. How do you know how to prepare her for her future life? I offer that you do what I believe all Christian homeschool parents want to do: notice and nurture your child’s gifts, and help give her a well-rounded education from which she could launch in any direction that God calls.

That doesn’t mean each child needs to excel in all subjects and all areas. But we should help all children who are able to gain proficiency in key subjects and then to really thrive in the areas where they show interest and special skill.

And of course, this is exactly what Sonlight helps you do. Whatever God calls your children to do down the road, Sonlight gives you and them the tools now to help them thrive and be ready.

A solid Sonlight education has launched children toward careers in the sciences and the humanities, mission-work and entrepreneurship. Students who complete Sonlight are really ready for whatever comes next for them. I’ve seen them go on to become doctors, pastors, attorneys, missionaries, homeschool parents, politicians, engineers and more.

I’ve seen Sonlight students with significant disabilities grow in their abilities, their character and their faith to become the people God wants them to be. (God knew what He was doing when he created your children, no matter what their innate abilities. They don’t have to work for NASA or become Bible translators in order to be where God wants them in His Kingdom.)

This is at the heart of why I created Sonlight. I want to help you equip your unique children, develop their specific gifts, and nurture their hearts toward God and towards God’s work in the world. I want our children to graduate high school with a deep love for God, compassion for the world, and the confidence that they can do what God asks them to do. Even if that seems hard or scary.

Sonlight comes alongside you to help you nurture and bless your children. So as God directs their lives, they are open and ready to continually follow. Isn’t that what we all want for them? We are with you in this!

Blessings to you and yours,


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Combining Children #5

5. Some Options to Schedule a School Day

There are motivated children who get up before their parents and start school.

I don’t have any of those.

I think most people have breakfast before school. You get to do so when it works for you, whether it’s at 7am or 9am, or earlier or later. (One of the best parts of homeschooling, I think, is that I know that my children get the sleep they need. They have an approximate bedtime, and they wake up naturally in the morning.)

For me, I’ve found I do Bible most consistently when I read while the brothers are eating. But whether that specifically works for you or not, many families choose to do Bible first.

Alternately, some opt to do the most frustrating subject first and get it out of the way. (Presumably not while eating breakfast.)

Or if there’s a subject that you know could use a little extra practice, perhaps that always comes first, at least for a season, to make sure that subject gets covered.

After that initial burst, though . . .

Maybe you do table subjects™ first

If you choose to do table subjects first (as Sarita did), you have options.

I suspect that most moms have all their children do math at the same time. You are available to answer questions. (Or, like my mom did for the youngest brother, to sit next to a child and help him focus on each problem.)

After math, you can listen to reading and do spelling or creative writing one by one. Or, if your children are old enough, you can have one do creative writing with you, while the other goes to read independently.

After table subjects, which might be an hour or two, then you move to couch subjects as the pleasant end of your school day. The motivation of the happier subjects coming helps keep students focused.

Or maybe you do couch subjects™ first

I usually prefer to do the couch subjects first. I am not a morning person, and I like the comfort and good cheer that reading and connecting first thing allows for me and my boys. I don’t know if it makes the other subjects easier, but I am happier when we’ve had a fun morning.

In my house, the table subjects sometimes follow directly after the couch subjects, but more often, I fit them in as the day unfolds. The boys have an awful lot of free time, and are generally good-natured about breaking from their play for a bit to come and do math, and then, a little later, to come and do some more with me.

To conclude . . .

And, as another option, you might choose to reserve the Read-Alouds for the evening. That was what my mom did in our family growing up, which allowed my dad a part of the homeschooling. But my husband falls asleep when he reads aloud, so that doesn’t work in my family now. Sometimes I read at night, but sometimes my boys don’t have quite the focus I’d prefer (and the two-year-old gets really energetic!), and so I let them play and then head to bed.

Your day and your personality are different from mine. I hope you feel inspired to experiment to find your groove, and, when you find it, that you hold it loosely, as, at some point, your household and schedule will change. That’s part of life. And you’ll find your groove again.

Okay! Please let me know of any questions! Or send some comments! I love hearing from you, and I read every one!

Amy's pic

Amy Lykosh
John and Sarita's oldest daughter
Second-generation Sonlighter
Homeschooling mom to five

Sonlight Curriculum

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Combining Children #4

4. Two Children with Different Reading Abilities

If you have two children using the same program, you might have a more advanced reader and a less advanced reader. (This is most obvious when the two children are different ages, but this even happens sometimes with twins.)

In Sonlight A, B, and C, you can simply choose a different Reader package for each. And in D, you could get the Advanced Reader package, and allow the stronger reader to do the additional books.

But what if your children are using Sonlight E or higher? Or what if you know you'll need to add more books because your children race through them? (Many Sonlight titles are compulsively readable, after all!)

How can you adjust the Sonlight Readers to fit the needs of a more advanced and a less advanced reader?

As always, you have options.

  • Some moms let their children read the scheduled Reader however fast they please, but not start the next Reader until the next book is scheduled. Meaning, if the child finishes Prairie School in one day, and it's scheduled for one week, that's fine, but the child cannot begin Cora Frear until Cora Frear is scheduled. These parents make additional books (such as sequels, or other classic children's lit) available, so their children are reading at all times.
  • Some moms let their children read all the books they want, whenever they want, with the understanding that when a book comes up in the schedule, the student will read it again, at the proper pace, and talk through the questions.
  • Some moms assign their stronger readers more than one day at a time, and add in additional books by topic. So if the schedule assigns Prairie School for a week, the less strong reader would do one day's worth, the stronger reader would do two or three, and when the stronger reader was finished early, the mom would assign some additional book (not from Sonlight) on pioneer life.
  • Shameless plug: some moms add on Sonlight's Summer Readers. These are books that don't necessarily have the same historical insight, or haven't found a permanent place in the curriculum yet, but are excellent and enjoyable books (not just in the summer).

And I'm sure there are myriad others, including just "Read at least thirty minutes. Have you finished your Reader? Choose one from this stack of additional books."

It is always good to leave enticing books lying around!

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Amy's pic

Amy Lykosh
John and Sarita's oldest daughter
Second-generation Sonlighter
Homeschooling mom to five

Sonlight Curriculum

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Combining Children #3

3. Sonlight D and Later: Really? Use the Same Program?

As you probably know, younger children have a shorter attention span, and a smaller vocabulary. Fine motor skills are still developing. The basics of decoding (early reading) happen at some age between 3 and 8, but by age 8, most are starting to read.

By about age 8, the basics of education are usually well begun. In my experience, I don't think attention spans are terribly different between ages 8 and 10, and although vocabulary recognition will continue to expand, an 8-year-old knows a good bit more than a 5-year-old. And, at eight, the child has almost twice the number of years of living experience to draw from.

Thus, from Sonlight D on, Sonlight's programs can be used by an even wider range of ages than the earlier grades. D, for example, works for children ages 8, 9, 10, and 11, and sometimes even older (or younger), depending on the needs of the family.

If you think about it, once Reading and Writing are well begun, two children in two different grades can do the same assignment, like "write a book report." The older child will hopefully have more complex sentence structure and better spelling, but it's not like a book report itself will change much from third to fifth grade.

If your family has two later-elementary aged children, consider combining them.

It is absolutely possible to use Sonlight D and up with more than one child, even if they are spread apart in age.

I like how my friend Judy put it.

Part of the reason you can spread out the age range from Sonlight D and above is because up until that point, children are learning to read, so their brains are focused on phonics and comprehension and foundational concepts. But once they are reading independently (usually by about Sonlight D), then they are reading to learn. Now it doesn't matter as much that a book is "too easy," or not "challenging" enough. Instead, it's all about content. Beautiful prose and a compelling story are far superior to sophisticated vocabulary or number of pages at that point.

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Amy's pic

Amy Lykosh
John and Sarita's oldest daughter
Second-generation Sonlighter
Homeschooling mom to five

Sonlight Curriculum

P.S. Still not sure how this works? Send me your questions, and I'll see if I can explain it more clearly!

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Combining Children #2

2. What to Do When Your Oldest Is School-Age

When my oldest, Jadon, was four, I also had two younger children.

I didn't want to delay school with Jadon, who was a bookworm before he could speak, so I ended up doing all the reading with Jadon, and made sure my second son, Isaiah, listened, too, while the baby sat on my lap, or slept on my back.

Did Isaiah get much out of that? Who knows? (And is it bad to admit that I didn't actually care?) What I was after was time and connection with me, exposure to vocabulary, enjoyment of illustrations . . . I wanted a Sonlight life together, basically. If I could read to the boys for an hour or two, that was satisfying and good, for all of us.

How did this play out over the next decade?

Really well! After going through both of the Sonlight Preschool programs, I stretched out Sonlight A by reading all sequels of all the books, and, in between, I redid P3/4 and P4/5 several times. Those early programs don't take that long, and I wanted all my children to get all those stories.

My older two sons did the same Sonlight program until 100, when Jadon continued on his own, and I dropped Isaiah back to work through a full D and E by himself in a year, as he had only vague memories of the books at that point, having been on the young end the first time.

Sonlight books are so good, I am happy for my children to reread them. They bear up under repeated readings!

So if you are ready to teach your older, but wonder about adding in a second child . . . you can do it. Start to incorporate reading now, with all your children. A good story is not restricted to only a single age, after all! Just like you might let all your children watch Inside Out, even if a few are older or younger, the stories you read with Sonlight are interesting and exciting for more than a single age.

Okay! Hope that helps!

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Amy's pic

Amy Lykosh
John and Sarita's oldest daughter
Second-generation Sonlighter
Homeschooling mom to five

Sonlight Curriculum

P.S. You may have read this quote by C.S. Lewis about rereading books. I love it!

An unliterary man may be defined as one who reads books once only. . . . We do not enjoy a story fully at the first reading. Not till the curiosity, the sheer narrative lust, has been given its sop and laid asleep, are we at leisure to savour the real beauties. Till then, it is like wasting great wine on a ravenous natural thirst which merely wants cold wetness.

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Combining Children

I have five children. I cannot imagine doing five Sonlight programs at the same time. I know there are families out there that manage . . . but that would be too much for me.

So if you have more than one child, how do you manage your school days?

There are, I’m sure, as many answers to this as there are families, but here are my best recommendations, based on my own experience and what I’ve received from others.

1. Defining "Combining"

Some Sonlighters choose to combine more than one child into the same program.

And you might think this is bizarre. After all, most students in America are in a single grade, and you can observe the progress when a student moves up a grade, such as from First to Second.

So how could you possibly combine students into the same Sonlight program? How could this possibly work?

The easiest way I know to explain is to break subjects down into table subjects and couch subjects. These categories might be a little blurry (just where do Science experiments fall?!), but overall, you can picture which subjects you do at the table and which you do on the couch.

You only combine children in the couch subjects.

So when you read the History books and the beautiful stories in Read-Alouds, you can do that with a range of ages.

These books are satisfying even for children a few years apart in age. To use an extreme example, Go, Dog. Go! from P3/4 still thrills me every time ("It's a dog party! A big dog party!") . . . and I am not the target audience.

But I don't have to use such an extreme example. If you've ever had your 8-year-old come over to hear you read a picture book to a younger sibling, you've seen this at play. (And if your children are still too young . . . this will probably happen to you. I still have my 12-year-old hover nearby when I'm reading a particular favorite to his 2-year-old brother.)

The Sonlight History and Read-Alouds are not restricted to a single age. And though the readings do get longer as the children get older, they are satisfying to a range of ages.

Similarly with Science, especially in elementary school. The elementary Science programs are quite interchangeable. (If you're finding it challenging to get to Science, you might even consider doing just one program for all your elementary students. Really.)

And the table subjects? Math, Reading, Writing? Handwriting and spelling?

Each child gets age-appropriate materials to work through, progressing at their own pace.

There is a limit to how well combining works, of course. Many families choose not to combine children more than about two years apart in age. That makes a lot of sense—there are developmental things going on that can make combining a challenge.

For my family, I actually went through H with all my boys combined (a six year spread of ages). In order to make this work, I read all the Readers aloud, and kept my older boys supplied with additional books to read instead of the Readers. None of my boys are particularly sensitive (so I wasn't worried about introducing WWII, say, to young ones; I doubt my youngest has much memory of the WWII books anyway).

That worked for our family. The older two boys now do their own work, and I have my third and fourth sons working together on the couch subjects, with the fifth waiting in the wings, listening as he chooses.

(Having admitted that I used only one Sonlight program, let me also say: I always also read more age-appropriate books to the younger boys, too.)

If you don't know exactly what will work, try something that seems to make sense. You know your family, and if you need to make a change a little later, you can.

And I don't think there's only one right answer, either. So whether you choose a separate program for each, or combine portions of children, or do one program for everyone . . . may you enjoy the good, and have wisdom to minimize the bad, and may you rejoice in the good gifts of God, especially those of family, of creativity, and of meaningful labor.

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Amy's pic

Amy Lykosh
John and Sarita's oldest daughter
Second-generation Sonlighter
Homeschooling mom to five

Sonlight Curriculum

P.S. It is a vulnerable thing, to talk about my own homeschooling journey. So I would be so grateful if you could take what I say with much grace for me, as a fellow homeschool mom who is doing the best I can.

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