November Blog Party


Our year-long 25th anniversary blog party continues today, and I can't wait to read your stories! In your blog post today, share your best  homeschool organization tips.

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!

This month's Advent-themed prize package includes:

  • The Jesse Tree
  • Jotham's Journey
  • Bartholomew's Passage
  • Tabitha's Travels
  • The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus
  • Sonlight's limited edition 25th Anniversary tote bag
  • PLUS a Sonlight gift certificate for $25!

Everyone who participates will be entered in a drawing for this fabulous prize package! The winner will be announced on December 14, 2015.

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Is It Really Worth It? Stories from Moms Who Are Grateful They Homeschooled

When you think of what you're grateful for this year, I trust that having the freedom to homeschool makes the list. I know it can be hard when you're in the trenches of day-to-day parenting and teaching. But know that most veteran homeschool moms look back at their time of teaching their children at home with deep gratitude. I know I do.

To encourage you with some long-term perspective, I have a gift for you. We collected stories from moms about why homeschooling their kids has been worth it – worth all the hard work, worth the sacrifices and worth the huge time commitment.

That collection is called: It Was Worth It: Real Stories to Inspire Your Homeschool Journey. It's an e-book that includes honest, fresh, encouraging stories from homeschoolers such as Sarah Mae, Ann Voskamp, Crystal Paine and several more.


The whole thing came about after a conversation I had with some friends who had also finished their homeschool journeys. We were talking and laughing about how hard it was at times to teach our children. (Like all those days I practically had to sit on Justin to get him to focus on his math!) Then my friend Jill and I broke out at the same time with an emphatic "But it was worth it!"

And it was indeed.

So, we set out to collect people's stories to encourage you during your homeschool journey. To give you just a taste, here's a short excerpt of my chapter, "How Homeschooling Freed My Children to Be Themselves":

In fact, I wouldn't trade my time at home with any of my kids. I firmly believe that homeschooling kept both Luke and Justin from being labeled. I fear Luke would have gotten the message in school that he was unintelligent. In reality, he just had an eye-tracking disorder that it took us far too long to figure out. The mechanics of reading were painstakingly difficult for him. But as I taught him at home, we were able to progress in reading at his own tortoise pace while we raced ahead in our other subjects. I simply read his Science and History out loud to him, and let him dictate his writing assignments to me. In school, his difficulty with reading would have put him behind in all subjects.

Instead, Luke knew reading was hard, but he never once thought he was unintelligent. By the time he started public high school, he had figured out how to work around his difficulties. He graduated valedictorian and went on to pursue a meaningful career in media and film.

I also think that homeschooling protected my youngest son, Justin, from being labeled. ... (Read the rest in the e-book.)

I trust that God will honor your hard work. The time and love you are investing in your children now will bear fruit for years to come. I pray that when your kids are grown, you too will have an inspiring story of why it was all worth it.

God bless you in this great and worthy task of raising and educating children!


P.S. As Thanksgiving approaches, I am also incredibly thankful for you! I am so thankful for you and your noble commitment to raise and teach the next generation. Thank you for being part of the Sonlight homeschooling community!

Want more encouragement?

Sign up for Sonlight's bi-weekly e-newsletter

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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5 Gifts You Can Give Your Children That Last a Lifetime: (Part 1) The Gift of Your Presence

(Part-1)-The-Gift-of-Your-Presence (2)

I think a lot about what I want to do for my kids to help them succeed in life. Just recently I was combatting the “I’m not doing enough” feeling and a simple Pinterest browse sent me reeling. As I was scurrying around to provide experiences for my kids, I ran headlong into a truth so simple, it stopped me in my tracks.
As a homeschool alum looking back, I’m shocked to discover that when I think about what made me feel most secure, most thankful for my parents, most fulfilled and happy, it was less about the things my parents did for me or produced (think Pinterest-worthy crafts or perfect unit studies) but their availability and attention.

As a child, I almost took it for granted that of course my parents wanted to hear this new poem I wrote or wanted to come and see the map my brothers and I had created or that they would want to be drawn into a game we just knew everybody in the family would love. Not that they never had moments when they were busy or that they made their world revolve around us, but they listened and were available enough that that was the default. They made us think it was worth it to say  "Come see!" "Did you hear ...?" I can't wait to tell you about ….”

This child-like assumption of unconditional love and interest is a great gift we can give our children. When we give the gift of attention, we are modeling selflessness and the art of listening well; we teach our children that though they are not perfect, that they have ideas worth sharing.
My parents directed my learning, sure, but I now appreciate the restraint it required for them to give me time to absorb and produce and process and speak it back to them in the different ways I was inspired, before driving on to the next thing. In that sense, I felt I was active in my own education.

As a parent, however, it’s all too easy for me to slip into production-line mentality. Let’s just get everyone through the right book, the meal, the clean up, the next activity and get through a Successful Day, easily forgetting that life and love and memories are made in the in-betweens.


I remember someone laughing about a phrase I used during a Sonlight Conversations webinar earlier this year when I said that I want to remember that our children are not a herd to be managed but souls to be nurtured. But it’s true that we need that reminder sometimes, right?

In the midst of the busyness of all the things I need to do for my children to give them a good education, I’m reminded that sometimes one of the best gifts I can give them is to be still and listen, watch and ask, and just “be” with them without an agenda.

Yes, we need to get through the math book and we need to clean up breakfast, but I am going to take an extra few minutes to look into those eyes, let him finish that story, grab that little hand, absorb it all as he explains the jet propulsion of the Lego ship he just built or she pulls me out back to show me the little pile of acorns and petals she gathered.




The of work of being present doesn’t necessarily give me results to show off on my Facebook page. My children’s creations might sometimes look more like Pinterest Fails than pinnable beauties. However, the act of being present and tuning into my kids teaches me selflessness, it purifies my motives and it’s an investment in their hearts. How I spend my time with my children teaches them volumes about who I believe God created them to be: People of value, people with interesting ideas, people worthy of my best time. I pray they will learn to value, listen to and enjoy other people through my example.

As we are going about the things we need to do, I have to remember to hold these children up as treasured even in the midst of the crazy. As simple as it seems, the gift of my presence is one that will last my children a lifetime.


I'd be negligent not to add that this is one of the things I am most thankful for about a tool like Sonlight: Sonlight helps me make the most of my time together with my children. By its very nature, the curriculum encourages parent-child interaction and discussion, not just a “go do this worksheet” mentality. Having resources like the IG and great literature already hand-picked frees me up to do more of the parts of homeschooling that matter most to me, like spending time cuddled up with my kiddos, making memories.

What are ways you carve out time to just be together in the midst of the every day?

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You should write a book ...

His-mercies-sunriseI've wrestled this week with what to write. Nothing profound or inspiring has come to mind, partly due, I'm sure, to being somewhat overwhelmed with life at the moment. As I was reading during my quiet time this morning, it struck me that surely there are others who are swimming in deep waters, and might just find encouragement in what encouraged me.

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. (Lamentations 3:22-23). The writer of my devotional reading this morning referenced this passage, and then remarked that she finds that worrying gives her the illusion of control ... that a lot of days it feels easier to worry than to trust. She obviously has been spending some time inside my head!

She went on to observe that with all her worrying, the one thing she never frets about is whether or not the sun is going to come up in the morning. And with each new sunrise, God promises fresh, new doses of mercy. It's a sure thing!

I recall talking with my mom shortly after 24 hours of labor and delivery with our oldest daughter. One of my comments to her was something along the line of "no one ever told me how hard this would be." I'm sure she smiled and replied with the quiet wisdom she seemed to always possess. As we went on to have more children, and raise and homeschool them, I recall similar conversations with good friends. "No one ever told us how hard this would be!" On the tail end of that statement we would invariably smile at each other and say "We really should write a book."

It came to me again this morning that while my mother has never written a book with pages and covers, she most definitely has written a book in my life. And I (and you!) are doing the same thing, every day, as we love and raise and parent and teach our children. While this season of life no longer has me actively parenting my children, I am now in the position of "parenting" my parents. It is a difficult and often exhausting season, but I am encouraged that each morning when I awake, there is a fresh supply of mercy waiting for me. And while I doubt that I will ever write that book, if I did, God's mercy would surely be the recurring theme throughout.

Please be encouraged as you start your day today, in whatever season you find yourself ... as sure as the sun rose this morning, God's supply of mercy is brand new for you as well.

Still on the journey,
~Judy Wnuk

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Blog Party Winner!

The winner of the prize drawing for October's blog party is...

Renai who blogs at Creative Play Bilingual Homeschool!!!

Congratulations, Renai! I hope you and your family enjoy your prize package.

The next installment of our year-long Blog Party will be on November 25, with another fantastic prize package.


Plan to join us later this month for your chance to win the bundle of prizes pictured above, including a collection of advent books and more:

  • The Jesse Tree
  • Jotham's Journey
  • Bartholomew's Passage
  • Tabitha's Travels
  • The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus
  • Sonlight's limited edition 25th Anniversary tote bag
  • PLUS a Sonlight gift certificate for $25!

In your blog post on November 25th share your best  homeschool organization tips. Even if you don't use Sonlight, or even if you don't homeschool, you are welcome to participate. Once your post goes live on the 25th, come back here to the Sonlight blog and link up with us. I'm looking forward to reading each of your stories!

Enjoying the adventure,
~Karla Cook
Lifelong Learner

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How to Prepare for the Holidays, Homeschool Style

What if you could be more intentional about how you and your family spend the holiday season? As you prepare for Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas, I'd like to encourage you to ...

Take advantage of one of the biggest benefits of homeschooling: flexibility. You can do what works for your family. You don't have to do what our culture expects or what everyone around you does. You can be intentional and freely implement what you choose.

Instead of falling haphazardly into the craziness of late November and December, look ahead to it calmly and with joy. Now is the time to set some intentions for the holiday season.

Cuddled by the Christmas tree for a Read-Aloud
Cuddled up by the Christmas tree for a Read-Aloud. The W family of Yucaipa, CA

I encourage you to take an hour this week to dream about what you want your family's experience during this holiday season to be like. What emotional memories do you want your kids to have of this time? What will help you feel like you've invested your time well?

Some questions to help you get started:

  1. Do you want to take some special time to celebrate the Advent season with your family this year?
    There are some great family advent devotionals or storybooks on the market, such as those by Arnold Ytreeide and Ann Voskamp. Many provide a short family reading for every day in December, helping your family focus on Christ throughout the season. If you want an advent wreath and don't have one, now is a great time to buy or make one. And don't forget to pick up candles so you're ready when the first Sunday of Advent comes on November 29th. If you're curious, check out what other Sonlight families do for Advent on our Forums.
  2. Do you like your family's approach to gift giving, or do you want to change things up?
    If you're ready for a change, you could:

    • Check out the popular Advent Conspiracy video and website. Pray about what an Advent/Christmas season with fewer gifts and more generosity could look like for your family.
    • Consider limiting to three gifts for each family member (in honor of the fact that the Magi brought three gifts to the young Jesus). Many Sonlight families give something like one book, one piece of clothing, and one item the child really wants. That frees the family to focus on sharing quality time as a family and helping others instead of frantic shopping.
    • Plan for homemade gifts instead of store-bought. Save your sanity and start creating now. You can find loads of ideas on the Sonlight Forums.
    • Read the popular Sonlight blog post about the philosophy of buying children tools, not toys.
  3. What do you want your homeschooling days to look like during the holiday season?
    Do you want to keep your typical homeschool routine? Or do you want to take a break for a Christmas School unit? Many families change up their school routine somewhere in December. You really have freedom here to do what you want.
  4. If money is tight, embrace that reality now and find joy in the small things.
    If you need to tighten the belt this year, I encourage you to accept that now and get creative. Brainstorm low-cost ways to enjoy a wonderfully meaningful Thanksgiving and Christmas. Since you homeschool, you already have the gift of time to give to your children. Make the most of this special season with them! Activities like sledding, playing in the snow, caroling at a local nursing home, decorating cookies, family game nights, eating by candlelight and reading Christmas stories together don't cost much but can really feel special. One activity we always look forward to is playing Christmas music as a family each year. I received a set of bells for Christmas once and marked up Christmas music with the color of each bell above the appropriate notes so we could all play the carols. Even the little ones participate each year. We all love it.

The point of this dreaming is to help you look forward to a calm and meaningful holiday season. Are there one or two ideas here that you'd like to try? Is there anything you usually do that you want to cut out? (For example, I hereby give you permission to serve a more simple Thanksgiving dinner if it will mean you have more energy to enjoy your family and friends that day! When we lived in California, we would go camping over Thanksgiving weekend and skip the elaborate meal all together. We made some great memories outdoors.)

And as we look forward to Christmas, what better way to celebrate the Incarnation than by the Church acting as Christ's body to serve this hurting world? How can we all be part of that this season?

I'd love to hear your plans for making this season meaningful. Please leave a comment here or head over to our newly re-opened Home for the Holidays Forum.

Blessings to you in the exciting months ahead,

Want more encouragement?

Sign up for Sonlight's bi-weekly e-newsletter

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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The Book We Didn't Love

Guest post by Heather Schwarzen


The thrill of Box Day had faded, and I was knee-deep in making the school year a reality. I had three students that year; Mary Hannah was 8, Mathaus was 5, and Jack was 3. One was a conscientious, empathetic bookworm who lived for the smell of a horse barn. Another was a curious, hands-on doer. The last was a spunky new preschooler happiest with a pile of building blocks or an easel ready for finger paints. We were ready for an adventure of epic proportions with spiders who spun messages into webs, the birth of Rome, the unearthing of a pharaoh’s tomb, the antics of the fallible, fickle Greek gods.

What we got was George Müller.

Sandwiched between the dramas of establishing new civilizations, the perils of attempting to appease false gods, and the intrigue of following the arc of classical history was a simple story of a simple man serving the Lord. Flipping through the pages, two things immediately stood out to me: George Müller had lived a breathtaking life … and my kids weren’t really going to be interested in it.

You see, there were other missionary tales in that box, and to be honest, they had much more of a hook. Miraculous escapes. Exotic locales. Man-eating wild animals. These are the things that captivate the elementary set. A guy who prays for bread to feed orphans and has a baker show up? Eh. I mean, it’s cool and all, but what about that cannibalistic river tribe? Now that’s some missionary heroism!


When the IG said it was time, I picked the book from the shelf, heaved a sigh, and began. Each afternoon, the reading seemed to flop. Whether it was the fact that we were still picturing the expanse of China being broken by the building of the Great Wall or the subject matter at hand, I don't know. But what I recall most about George Müller even today were hours spent reminding fidgety children to stop loudly pawing through the Lego bin and to listen, please, guys Just five more minutes, I promise. Unlike most of our history reading, which found children angling for the spots closest to my side, this one seemed to cause us all to grit our teeth and soldier on rather than relish the tale at hand.

We never did fall in love with that book. Unlike some titles that redeem themselves a chapter or two in, George became something like an unwelcome relative in our home; we had to answer the door when he knocked, and we did our duty by him, but our heart was certainly not in the right place. When it was over, there were no bubbly reminisces, no recounting the details to Dad around the dinner table. The book went back into its place on the shelf, and we moved on to bigger, better, more thrilling things.

A month ago— ten years later, if you must know— I again found myself sorting through the books of Core B. This time, I was preparing to teach an 8 year-old with learning challenges, a super-wiggly 7 year-old, and a precocious 5 year-old. My older children— all teenagers now— crowded around, pulling well-loved, dog-eared books from the box and sharing their memories. Detectives in Togas. Charlotte’s Web. Tut’s Mummy. When one of them found the still-pristine copy of George Müller, I gave a little groan.

“Oh, no. They’ll never make it through that one,” I lamented, picturing distracted, disinterested children chomping at the bit to get their teeth into something with more action.

“What?” my 15 year-old asked. “Are you kidding? It’s George Müller! Remember when he prayed for milk, and the dairy cart broke down right in front of the door?”

I do, I thought. I remember it well. You were just about ready to swing from the rafters and … wait a minute. What?

“Yes! And the way he kept track of everything so that he could look back and see how God had met his every need?” the 18 year-old chimed in.

Hold on— you heard that?

“I just remember how he prayed for everything. All the time. And he never asked anyone for a single thing, but God never let him starve—no matter how many kids they had in their homes,” shared the 13 year-old.

“When we started fostering, I thought about him a lot.”


And on and on it went. A retelling now, a decade later, of a life of faith so quiet, so bereft of heart-stopping deeds of bravery, so faithful that it stood out. Written on their hearts, all these years … George Müller, the man who opened his doors to children he couldn’t afford to feed. Right there, in that year so full of pyramids and the Parthenon, my children met a mild follower of Christ who gave them an example to draw on as God guided our family through the journey of faith He had written specifically for us. A decade later, they can still point to reading that book, hearing that testimony as being a time when the beginning foundations to their trust in God was formed.

And I had no idea it was happening.

Later that night, as I shelved books for the upcoming year, I wondered what would have happened if I had decided to give up on George Müller. I wondered what my children would have missed out on if I had followed my own inclination and quietly slipped the book back, pulling out instead something that would have elicited more excitement. I wondered, too, about the books I have skipped over the years. The ones that seemed maybe too mature, or like too much work, or just didn’t strike my fancy. Was a learning opportunity missed? Had God planned on speaking to them— to me— through one of those titles? Had I denied us all a powerful lesson through my own biases or assumptions?

I’ll be reading George Müller again, this time to a new set of squirmy littles. I’ll also be carefully praying over any other books that just don’t seem to be hitting the right note. Maybe I’ll still set them aside. I strongly believe in fitting the curriculum to the family, not vice versa. But maybe I’ll push through anyhow. Because that book we didn’t love? It took root in the hearts of my children and is bearing fruit, even now.



Heather Mills Schwarzen is the wife of one globe-trotting, church-planting adventurer, and Momma to 9 beautifully messy people who range from toddlers to late teens. She writes about parenting, homeschooling, adoption, special needs, and serving a very big God on the family's blog, To Sow a Seed. You can follow the entire family's adventure in a life of ministry on their Facebook page, or via instagram:

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