After Dark

stargazingSummer is such a fun time for relaxed outdoor learning. Warm summer evenings are a great opportunity to learn about astronomy, especially since you don't have to worry about "school night" bedtimes.

Something my family looks forward to in August is the Perseid Meteor Shower event. Do you know about that? From mid-July to mid-August, we enjoy looking for "falling stars." Of course, the showers are best seen if you can get way out in the country away from the city lights.

One August, late in the evening after it got dark, we grabbed blankets and pillows and piled into the pick-up and headed out for a dark country road. Once we reached a safe place to pull over, with no man-made lights in sight, we spread our blankets in the back of the truck and laid on our backs looking up at the stars. It took a few minutes for our eyes to adjust to the deep darkness, but then out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flash across the sky. "There's one!" I pointed. Of course, by the time the others looked, it was gone. But then someone else saw one. We realized it wasn't possible to point them out to each other, but by keeping our eyes on the sky, it really did seem to be a shower of falling stars. That was a fun family memory.

Other times we've stayed up to watch a lunar eclipse. There's one coming up September 28 this year. Of course, it will depend on where you are... and the weather! to whether or not you'll be able to see it.

Even when there's "nothing special" going on in the sky, we still enjoy looking at the stars, picking out constellations, and noticing the appearance of some of the planets at various times.

I'm actually not all that knowledgeable about the skies, but we have read several books on the subject over the years and I love the Google Sky Map app on my phone. It identifies stars, planets, and even satellites. Occasionally I'll notice an extra bright star that isn't usually there, so I click on the app, hold the phone up towards the sky, and find out that it's Mars... or one of the other planets. Not that I can do anything about it. I just like knowing.

I've collected some great books and activities about astronomy on our Pinterest board, if you need more ideas.

The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
Psalm 19:1-2

Have you ever taken your kids out at night just to look at the sky? I'd love to hear about it!

Enjoying the adventure,
~Karla Cook
Lifelong Learner

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July Blog Party

JulyPrizePkgOur year-long 25th anniversary blog party continues today, and I can't wait to read your stories! In your blog post today, Share about homeschooling on-the-go (travel destinations, field trips, or sight-seeing that tie in with books).

Even if you don't homeschool or 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 August 11, 2015.

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Her Box Day Pile of Books

Our 12 year old daughter, Jessica, was excited to see all the curriculum in her new World History Core for this coming school year.

She is an orderly gal when it comes to her school books. After perusing the covers and backs, Jessica carefully and meticulously stacked her books by size ... largest on the bottom of course!

Sonlight Box Day!
Jessica with Her New Curriculum

Thank you for offering course curriculum that meets ALL of a student's learning styles! ;)

Julie B.

P.S. We enjoyed our U.S. History in a Year books last year -- such great memorable and life lesson stories! (We often refer back to "not tearing boards off of our character house" from Little Britches by Ralph Moody).

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Top 25 Reasons Sonlight is 25 Years Old!

25_final_main-punched-darkGreyIt's hard to believe that our 25th anniversary year is more than half-way through! I was flipping through some of the great pictures that were captured at last month's Anniversary Celebration and it struck me that there's so much more to celebrate, and very little time. I took that sense of urgency into one of our recent team meetings and had great fun brainstorming some "Top 25" lists about Sonlight. Not wanting you to miss out on any of that fun, I decided to make some of our lists into a blog series. I hope you'll enjoy yet another reminder to celebrate with us!


Top 25 Reasons Sonlight is 25 Years Old!  (Part 1)

1. Our customers love our curriculum! And they love to tell us why ...

Sonlight-Family-Stories-Cover-s2. We listen to our customers. Which is one of the reasons why I believe our customers love our curriculum!

3. We help homeschool families connect with one another. With the advent of Facebook and Twitter, this has become much easier. But before social media was as wildly popular as it is today, the Sonlight Forums offered a virtual connection for thousands of families around the world.

Just wanted to say how much I value and appreciate
those of you who have graduated your kids
and yet still take the time to check in here and lend your voice.
Your experience is valuable, your calm is steadying,
and your success is inspirational for this mom still in the trenches!
Thank you!

4. We make teaching easier since the work is all done for you. Just yesterday I was chatting with a new-to-homeschooling mom on the phone, and after describing how our Instructor's Guides are put together, this was her reaction. She was thrilled that she wouldn't have to spend hours researching and pre-reading and scheduling in order to give her kids a quality literature-based education.

5. We use our profits to impact the world through missions.

Mission India6. We produce award-winning curriculum programs.

7. We provide curriculum options for Pre-K through graduation.

8. We help families with the most important decision they'll ever make.

9. We take good care of our employees.

10. We have boxes that turn into castles!

11. We exhibit good stewardship.

12. We provide strong academic materials.

That finishes part 1 of my list. You may be able to think of other reasons why you believe Sonlight has reached this milestone as a homeschool curriculum provider. Please feel free to share those reasons ... we'd love to hear them!

Still on the journey ...
~Judy Wnuk

PS ... stayed tuned for part 2 next week!

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Mission India: Hope and a Future

Blog_800x340-missionindia-2 (2)

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Meet Nissi
Nissi lives in a slum with her parents and little brother.

Her father does odd jobs—moving furniture, cleaning bathrooms and drains, and doing stone work, but the work is not steady and doesn’t pay much. And some days, he can’t find work.

Many nights, there is not enough food.

Despite their poverty, Nissi’s dad spends most of his money on rituals and offerings at nearby temples, hoping to earn blessings from the gods.

When 7-year-old Nissi began attending a local Mission India Children’s Bible Club, the Club leader noticed her torn and dirty clothes. She visited Nissi’s family and taught them proper hygiene as well as how to repair and wash their clothes. Nissi began to wear clean clothes and take baths.

Although she couldn’t read, Nissi enjoyed learning and reciting Bible stories, songs, and verses at her Club. She was touched to learn about Jesus, who loves people whether they are rich or poor. Nissi began to pray to Jesus and received Him as her Savior.

When the future seems dim

For many of India's youth, the future may seem hopeless when you consider the following statistics:

• In India, you are 10 times more likely to die in childhood than in America.
• In India, more women die during pregnancy and childbirth than in any other nation in the world.
• In India, there is little access to health care. In fact, many go their entire lives without seeing a doctor.
• In India, many village girls never set foot inside a school, as parents consider the education of their daughters a waste of money.
• In India, illiteracy is passed down from generation to generation.

As the world's second-most populous country, with more than 1.2 billion people, India faces tremendous challenges, including: poverty corruption, malnutrition, illiteracy, inadequate public healthcare, and terrorism.

Nearly half the female population, about 200 million, can’t read or write – not even their own names. Many can't tell time. 86% of India’s people earn less than $2.50 a day.

In India, girls are expected to work, then marry young and immediately start a family. Girls are trapped in a system that leaves them powerless to change their lives, or the lives of their children.

Sonlight can help you help them.

Here’s how you make a difference

Sonlight has partnered with Mission India, an organization that is making a difference in the lives of women and children across the country by offering literacy programs and Bible Clubs.

Here’s how it works:

By simply making a purchase from Sonlight, you’ll be helping little boys and girls and illiterate men and women improve their lives. Sonlight will take a portion of your order proceeds and donate it to Mission India.

On any order up to $399, Sonlight will donate an amount that allows a child to attend a 10-day Bible Club, where they’ll play games, sing songs, hear stories and have the opportunity to be transformed by the love of Jesus. If your order exceeds $399, your purchase will enable an Indian mom or dad to attend adult literacy class.

This special promotion ends Aug. 15.

Inspiring stories

Here’s an up-close look at how a donation from every Sonlight purchase will help to make a difference in India:

Mission India Rini
Rini’s parents are illiterate.

They didn't see the value in educating their 8-year-old daughter.

So when she started going to school, they pressured her to drop out. They increased her chores at home. But Rini kept going to school, because she knew education was important for her future.

But the pressure mounted and Rini began to have trouble with her studies. Her grades began to drop. Then, Rini was invited to a Mission India Children’s Bible Club.

She loved the games, stories, and songs so much, she never missed one day — not even during the rainy season! She also received help with her homework at the Club, and her grades improved!
Touched by the love of Jesus, Rini soon received Him as her Savior.

She prayed for her parents to understand her passion for education, and now they support her desire to go to school. While she does her chores at home, Rini sings, worshipping the Lord.
Rini regularly shares about Jesus with her parents. Pray that they choose to follow Christ!

Mission India Tamil
Every day, 12-year-old Tamil fetched water and prepared a muddy mixture. Then, he carried a lump of mud about the size of a large loaf of bread, pounding it into a brick mold on the ground to dry. He made 1,000 bricks every week.

Tamil was only paid 350 rupees (about $5.50) for working 50 hours a week.

His parents and three brothers also work in the brickyard, but struggle to make ends meet. There wasn’t much joy or fun in Tamil’s life … until he was invited to a Mission India Children’s Bible Club.
There, Tamil made new friends. He enjoyed playing games and singing. And with his Club leader’s encouragement, Tamil even enrolled in school. Deeply impacted by the Bible stories he heard at the Club, Tamil joyfully received Jesus as his Savior and prays to Him for his family’s needs.

Today, Tamil dreams of becoming a teacher. He works at the brickyard after school and also before school in the early morning.

Teach a whole community

In India there is a saying, "When you teach a man, you teach an individual. When you teach a woman, you teach a whole community."

That’s where Mission India’s Children’s Bible Clubs, Sonlight and you come in. These 10-day Clubs give kids the chance to just be kids—play games, sing songs, hear stories, make new friends, and smile.

At the Bible Clubs, girls and boys are transformed as they discover the love of Jesus.

Now that’s a bright future.

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"I'm a teacher. I would never homeschool."

A friend shot me a link to the current quora thread If given a choice, will you homeschool your child? Why?

The response at the top right now is by Hiland Hall. He says...

I entered public school in 5th grade. It was traumatizing. I had no idea how cruel kids could be in general, and as an outsider, that cruelty was very quickly turned towards me. I'm 35 and I still have social anxiety that I believe started when I entered public school.

Reading that, I was totally confused as to why he also said, "I can't imagine homeschooling."

Why in the world would you toss your children into a system that traumatized you? Please, don't. Homeschool instead. It's awesome. It's good for your kids. It's good for you.

Me? Homeschool?
Me? Homeschool?

The most popular comment is from David Stewart. He is a special needs teacher, which I believe significantly skews his perception. Let's dig into why.

1. It's hard on kids returning to school after homeschooling has proven to not be a viable option.

This is based on his first hand experience (read: with special needs students). Special needs issues are multi-faceting, difficult, and have no easy answers. I know homeschoolers who homeschool their special needs students because the schools did a terrible job and created a very harmful environment. I also know homeschoolers who don't homeschool their special needs children because the schools offer a better environment. I'm not anti-school. But any transition in schooling -- ignoring the special needs element -- leaves kids reeling. Why do you think there are so many novels and movies about switching to a new school? It's difficult!

David is right: It's not pretty when homeschooling collapses for a family for one reason or another. But that's hardly a reason not to homeschool! Car crashes aren't pretty, but we still drive because of all the benefits it affords us. Same here. Homeschooling is awesome, but there are extreme cases where things aren't awesome. My guess: It's not awesome at school in those cases either, hence David's negative outlook.

2. There are large gaps in my educational knowledge.

And I can see how, in a highly specialized field of working with special needs, this matters a ton. Resources and training are helpful. And that's what we parents do with our own children! My wife and I took classes when we were in the adoption process. Parents read parenting books and pregnancy books and talk to friends and family and look stuff up online when their child exhibits a new behavior that they don't know how to handle. We learn all the time because we specialize in our own children. No other expert does that.

As far as not knowing stuff, two things to come to mind: 1. That just shows that you don't learn everything in school; and 2. You can learn and teach your children stuff you didn't learn the first time around. Seriously. And, by the way, it's awesome. Homeschooling is awesome.

3. I know homeschooling is no match for an expert in a classroom.

First, how does he know this? But, secondly, even if that is true, it's not reality. See, I get to talk to real teachers from the real world who teach in real classrooms, and their experience is more like this. The idea of every classroom led by an excellent professional dedicated to teaching in the field is a fantasy. Even my fantastic private university had some terrible teachers. I also suggest you swing by my short series on educators.

4. I've seen homeschool kids entering school really struggle.

Well, my own experience going from homeschool to public school was the opposite. What now? Whose anecdote do we accept as "reality" by which we should base our decisions? Rather than play that silly game, I simply contend this: Homeschooling lets you learn how to learn. You will succeed in whatever environment you get placed in, unless, of course, you've learned that schools can be silly and you have better priorities.

5. What about socialization?!?

<sigh> What about it?

Oh, you're talking about socialization ills? Gotcha. Yeah. Homeschool.

Why do people keep bringing up things that are negative about schools as if they were reasons to send your child there? I don't get it...

6. You can't shelter children forever!

Nope. You can't. But homeschooling is awesome because of what it's like to live a sheltered life while homeschooling. Can you do the shelter thing wrong? Absolutely. Don't do that. Instead, use the fantastic benefits of homeschooling to prepare your children for life.

7. It's vital children receive input that's not just my own.

Totally agree. But homeschooling does not stop you from enjoying all the benefits of multiple teachers.

There's more. There's much more to be said about homeschooling. This blog is packed with posts about learning both at home at and school and the interplay between the two.

The bottom line: Homeschooling is awesome.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Pseudo-Dad

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Why Sonlight Fits International Families ... And Therefore U.S. Families Too

At a missions conference one time, we asked a roomful of 100 overseas missionaries to stand up if they homeschooled their children. Many did. After they were seated, we then asked them to stand up if they used Sonlight. A large percentage of the homeschoolers stood.

That gave me such joy. You see, we deliberately created Sonlight to serve missionaries just like them. Some say Sonlight is the obvious choice for Americans living overseas. Back in 1990, the second highest reason for missionaries returning home was that they couldn't find good educational options for their children. So a friend challenged me: could I "package up" the revolutionary type of homeschool I was loving with my family, and send it to missionaries? Could we let missionaries keep their young kids at home instead of sending them to boarding school? I thought it was worth a try. If we could just keep missionaries on the field for one more year ... I'd count that as a win.

Sonlight took off immediately. Faster than we could keep up, really. At first, it was primarily families overseas who started to use it and love it. But then word spread in the U.S. as well. And I think the reasons Sonlight resonates so much with families homeschooling overseas overlap with the reasons families here in the States love it as well. I've always held these things close to my heart:

1. I want children to learn about the entire world, not just the U.S.
I think we live in a wonderful country. I want our children to know their heritage here. But I also want them to know that God cares about the whole world. Over 95% of the world's people live outside the U.S., and our nation has only existed for a small percentage of recorded history. We want our children to be prepared to live in our globalized world. And so Sonlight spends much more time on World history and cultures than most other homeschool programs do. Curious? Read more about Why We Study the Western and Eastern Hemispheres.

2. I want children to develop God's heart for the world
I not only want our children to know about the rest of the world; I want them to see people in the rest of the world as God sees them. They are real people, with real needs, joys, families, jobs and dreams. Even if they look different or believe different things, God loves them greatly and desires for them to know Him through Jesus Christ. I want children to consider that God can use them to help bring His Kingdom of love and truth to the whole world.

3. Homeschool families should have everything they need at their fingertips
When you are homeschooling in a remote corner of the world, you can't just drive down the street to Home Depot to pick up two screws, three washers and a magnet for your science experiment that day. You can't go to the library and find quality children's books in English. You need to have your supplies ready to go at home. I believe the same is true for families in the States. While you could track down all your supplies, I don't think you need that added stress in your life. You don't need the worry of always having to find quality books to read, or hunting down odds and ends for science experiments.

4. I want homeschool moms to have the planning done for them so they can spend their time teaching and enjoying their children
Living abroad often means that the logistics of daily life are just harder. Homeschool moms overseas don't have time to create their own curriculum. But it's no surprise that moms here in the States don't usually have time either! Here's the thing. You don't need to create your own lesson plans from scratch because we've done all that work for you. Instead, you can just open your Instructor's Guide to see what's scheduled for that day and find all the teaching helps you need. I love to serve you in this way by setting you up for success and giving you what you need. You have enough on your plate already.

5. Sonlight creates a home library for you
Studies show that the number of books in a home has a higher correlation with children's academic success than does the parents' education or occupation. Sonlight Cores create a fantastic home library that your kids will use again and again. Surround your children with good books, and good things happen. These same books serve as entertainment for hours on end. Whether you live in a yurt in Mongolia, or in the suburbs of Chicago, lining your shelves with quality children's books is a worthy long-term investment.

If you live overseas or know families overseas who are wondering what to do for their children's education, I wrote an article a few years ago that might help. It's full of tips and experiences from international Sonlight moms: Homeschooling Overseas: Is it Right For You?

I am so grateful to serve families all over the world, from Texas to Timbuktu. What a blessing to share the joys of learning with you!

Blessings to you and yours,

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