May Blog Party

MayPrizePkgOur year-long 25th anniversary blog party continues today, and I can't wait to read your stories! Homeschool convention season is in full swing, so we'd like you to share your best homeschool convention tips and experiences.

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 June 10, 2015.

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Specific Reasons to Homeschool at Each Stage (Preschool, Early Elementary, Late Elementary, Middle School and High School)

Regardless of your children's ages, you probably have overarching reasons to homeschool. But today I'd love to offer some specific reasons to homeschool at the various stages along the way. Whether your oldest is three or sixteen, here's a little encouragement to keep at it.


  • Give your children what they need in preschoolPreschoolers don't need worksheets and flashcards in order to be ready for academic success. In fact, too much "seat work" at this age can squash children's innate love of learning, or even convince them that they are unintelligent. The two most important things preschoolers really need for later academic success is time for free play, and loving parents who read and talk with them. You can definitely provide those things at home! While traditional preschools continue to push academics earlier and earlier, you can give your little ones freedom to discover that learning is exciting.
  • Enjoy a gentle entry point to homeschooling
    Are you curious about homeschooling but intimidated by the thought? Preschool is the perfect place to start. If you can read, talk and play with your child, you can homeschool preschool. So what do you have to lose? Test the waters and see how it goes for your family. I have a feeling you'll love it.
  • Family bonding
    These are such precious years with your little ones. As you homeschool the Sonlight way, you will develop rhythms of reading, cuddling, talking and creating that will help lay the foundation for a deepening relationship for years to come.

A Sonlight student reads while wearing a puppy dog hat
As a homeschooler, Sonlight student Caleb S has freedom to be himself and get excited about learning. So naturally, he dons his puppy dog hat as he explores a classic book about dogs.

Early Elementary

  • Let your kids develop on their natural timelineResearch confirms that it is unhelpful to push children to read before they are ready. (What it does instead is bring lots of tears, frustration and labeling!) Most kids who learn to read at age seven easily catch up to those who have been reading since age three. So protect your child's love of learning and let them develop on their own timeline – something which can be all but impossible in a traditional school.
  • Watch the light bulb go on for readingWhen your child is ready to read, you get to experience one of the highlights of homeschooling. There is nothing else like the joy of introducing your children to the amazing world of literacy. You get to open doors for them that will facilitate wonder and discovery for the rest of their lives. I still get goose bumps when I think of how precious it was to sit on the couch with my kids and watch each of them gradually take off with reading.
  • Let your little kids act like little kids
    Little children don't need to learn to sit still for hours on end, with only a short recess squeezed in. God created them with bundles of energy, curiosity and joy. You can give your kids outlets for all that at home. Does your son want to practice his math facts while he jumps on the trampoline in his Superman costume? Great! Be thankful he can get his energy out in acceptable ways instead of being disciplined in school for not sitting still.

Late Elementary

  • If things are going well, why stop? If homeschooling during preschool and the early grades has worked for you, why send your kids to school now? If you just need to tweak some things, give our homeschool advisors a call at no charge – they'll help you brainstorm solutions.
  • Give your children the time for free play and physical activity that they need
    Children absolutely need physical movement and free play in order to learn and develop to their capacity. Schools know this, but feel like their hands are tied ... and so by late elementary (and often earlier), recesses have been drastically shortened. Kids spend most of every day sitting quietly in chairs. Homeschooling gives your children the freedom to learn how God intended them to learn at this stage.
  • Enjoy some of my favorite Sonlight programs!I adore every single Sonlight program. But Cores E and F hold a special place in my heart. Many of my all-time favorite books show up in American History Year 2 of 2 (Core E). And Eastern Hemisphere (Core F) is truly special; many Sonlighters say it is their favorite. As far as I know, it is the only homeschool program of its kind.

Middle School

  • Give your children freedom from the immense social pressure at middle schools
    Middle school can be the hardest time socially for many children. In these years more than any other, there is incredible social pressure for children to walk in lockstep with each other. The social emphasis is on conformity, conformity, conformity. Homeschooling can spare your children from pressures that they aren't yet mature enough to handle.
  • Protect your children's sense of selfDoes your son wear funky clothes? Does your daughter love astronomy and math? Homeschooling in middle school can go a long way toward allowing your kids to continue to develop as their own people, with their own interests.
  • Give them tools to deal with social pressuresSome studies show that girls' self-esteem often plummets in middle school. I don't have data to back this up, but it seems like many homeschooled girls are spared this trauma. Free to be themselves without the fear of ridicule, they can continue to focus on learning as they also develop the emotional maturity they need for life.

High School

  • Reap the rewards of all you've done so far and savor your last years at home togetherYou've spent years reading and talking with your children, guiding them through their education. Now you get to reap the rewards of all that hard work! As your high schooler matures into an independent thinker, get a front row seat to hear his or her thoughts and questions. Many parents who homeschool through high school are amazed at the quality of relationship they enjoy with their teens.
  • Tailor their education and extra-curricular activities to their needs and desiresNow more than ever, you can tailor your children's education to their own interests and needs. With the amazing resources available through co-ops, college classes, online resources, and teach-yourself programs (such as Teaching Textbooks for Math and Apologia for Science), you can help your child soar, even if you don't understand Calculus yourself. You can focus on a STEM track (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), let them dive deep into music theory,  or track down electives that develop their talents. Homeschoolers often have significantly more academic freedom to pursue their interests than traditional students do.
  • Give them more time to experience the real world Many parents worry about their child missing the "real world" experiences of prom, football games and pep rallies. But I think homeschooling high school can offer more time for them to engage in the actual real world (instead of the relatively artificial world of hundreds of teens confined in one building together day after day). Your child will have time to pursue enriching outside activities– whether that's volunteering at the local pet shelter, serving as a "mother's helper" to a young mom once a week, getting an apprenticeship in the medical field, or shadowing professionals in various fields to discover what she likes.

As much as I love homeschooling, I realize it won't be the best fit for every family at every stage. But if you're on the fence, I pray this quick list will encourage you to consider the benefits of teaching your children at home.

I obviously just brushed the surface here. What would you add to the list?

Blessings to you and yours,

Posted in Sarita's Word | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Memorial Day Facts

Memorial Day is far more than just a vacation holiday or a time to have a barbecue. It is the day Americans commemorate those who gave their lives while serving in our nation’s armed forces.

The tribute dates to May 5, 1862 when Union General John A. Logan called for a nationwide day of remembrance for the nation's fallen soldiers. On May 30, 1868 the first "Decoration Day" took place. Future President General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.

For decades, Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, the date Logan had selected for the first Decoration Day. But in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May.

Here are some quick facts about Memorial Day:

  • Each year on Memorial Day a national moment of remembrance takes place at 3:00 p.m. local time.
  • The first Decoration Day took place about one month after the end of the Civil War in 1865. In several states, the practice of placing flowers on the graves began in 1866. Although several towns lay claim to the holiday, in 1966, Waterloo, NY was designated the official birthplace of the holiday.
  • Although there are many different customs and traditions associated with the holiday, there are two common traditions observed everywhere. The first is lowering the flag to half staff until noon and raising it to full staff until sundown. The other tradition is playing Taps at military funerals.
  • The first large federal observance occurred at Arlington National Cemetery, the former home of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. After the war, it became a cemetery to bury the nation’s dead. During a ceremony where speeches were given, children of the Soldier’s and Sailors’ Home and members of the Grand Army of the Republic walked through the cemetery singing hymn and reciting poetry while strewing flowers on the graves, reports Veterans Affairs.
  • Millions of people will travel over 50 miles to commemorate the holiday. Last year over 36 million people traveled during the Memorial Day weekend.

U.S. War Casualties:

Revolutionary War - Approximately 25,000 Americans died.
War of 1812 - Approximately 15,000 Americans died.
Mexican-American War - Approximately 13,283 Americans died.
Spanish–American War - Approximately 4,196 Americans died.
Civil War - Approximately 620,000 Americans died. The Union lost almost 365,000 troops and the Confederacy about 260,000. More than half of these deaths were caused by disease.
World War I - 116,516 Americans died, more than half from disease.
World War II - 405,399 Americans died.
Korean War - 36,574 Americans died.
Vietnam Conflict - 58,220 Americans died. More than 47,000 Americans were killed in action and nearly 11,000 died of other causes.
Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm - 148 U.S. battle deaths and 235 non-battle deaths.
Operation Iraqi Freedom - 4,424 U.S. service members died.
Operation New Dawn - 66 U.S. service members died.
Operation Enduring Freedom - 2,355 U.S. service members have died as of December 31, 2014.
Total of Major American Wars - 1,301,181 Americans died.

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A Time of Plenty

Tiredness is hard. Carrying heavy thoughts, emotions, feelings can become quickly overwhelming. I experienced this last month when I went from, "I'm good, I'm handling this..." to complete melt down. I sent one of those panic emails and my sister came out the next day. It was pouring rain and my sister and her youngest arrived on the 5th anniversary of my daughter's death.

It was perfect.

Amy stayed 9 days. Every day my parents and my brother, Luke, and his wife, Brittany, would come for dinner. We'd do dinner, and after a few hours my parents would head to their home and their beds and Luke and Britt would stay to talk until midnight or so. Many good conversations. Encouragement all around.

And, because my sister has energy like you wouldn't believe, during the day we did a project: we went through my house. Every room, every drawer, every basket, every piece of anything, we touched it all. (Honesty begs me to say, I have one box filled with articles and old letters, special things I want to hold on to and not sort today...and one other small box that I should just finish -- but that's it!)

My newly cleaned pantry

We started in the kitchen. Look at every item, every spice and ingredient. Amy would ask, "Do you use it?" (Well, I did...) "Do you love it?" (Well, I actually hate it, but it's all I have!) "Talk to me about this..."

That was Amy's way of helping me decide what to keep. "Talk to me about this."

So as we sorted and sifted and laughed, we laughed hard. Sometimes we would pause and I would talk about why I held on to something. Many items I've had for years and they caused me pain. They were reminders that things get broken, that there is sadness, that time marches on. And after talking, I would get rid of it. I would let it go. I would put it away so I can cling, instead, to the memories I have which are filled with light.

It was a beautiful time.

My pastor preached on living a life of plenty instead of scarcity. And I heard the encouraging message, "You have plenty Jonelle. Plenty of time. Plenty of pans. Plenty of clothes. Plenty of food. Plenty of friends. Plenty of joy. You are not living in scarcity."

That is a message I'm working on -- working to implant deep in my heart. Those 9 days helped me see plenty in a new light. The people I have help me see my plenty.


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Oh the places you'll go ...

IMG_4038I've just returned from spending 10 days in Alaska meeting homeschool parents. What a wonderful experience it was! Not only did I meet some amazing families (no matter where I go, homeschool families are some of the most committed, hard-working folks I've ever met), but I also had a chance to experience the majesty and beauty of Alaska's countryside. From Kenai to Anchorage to Fairbanks and back ... we saw some of the most awesome scenery. God was surely at His most creative when he painted Alaska.

As I marveled often at the fact that a homebody country girl from rural upstate NY was actually driving through mountain passes in Alaska, it reminded me of one of the points that Sarita makes in her workshop on the benefits of literature-based education. Through the pages of a book, you can enjoy traveling far and wide for pennies on the dollar ... without ever leaving your living room sofa!

Even if you never get to physically visit Alaska, as I was blessed to do, you can travel there along with me through the following stories ...

Water SkyWater Sky by Jean Craighead George

An upper-middle class, white American boy is brought face-to-face with the values, beauty--and challenge--of living among another people: the Eskimos of Barrow, Alaska.





The Year of Miss AgnesThe Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill

A teacher from England connects with the hearts and minds of students in a one-room Athabascan school in Alaska in 1948.

We love this book, and we think you will as well. It offers so many insights into effective education and cross-cultural communication. Miss Agnes, a late middle-aged English woman, shows tremendous respect for the Athabascan children in her classroom, children who had never been respected by an "outsider" before. The effects are electric not only in the relationships that result between teacher and students, but also in the relationships that subsequently develop between Miss Agnes and her students' parents. These produce benefits that flow to the village as a whole.

The Call of the WildThe Call of the Wild by Jack London

The gripping tale of a heroic dog who, thrust into the Alaska Gold Rush, faces a choice between living in man's world or returning to nature.





A Tale of GoldA Tale of Gold by Thelma Hatch Wyss

GOLD! GOLD! scream the headlines in July 1897. Fourteen-year-old James Erickson, alone in the world after his father's death, is mesmerized when he sees the first ship of prospectors enter the San Francisco harbor. Caught up in the fever, he books passage on a steamer up to Alaska. Treacherous treks, con men and bitter cold await. Is fortune waiting around the next bend?



Perhaps you too can "travel" to Alaska this summer with your students and gain a whole new appreciation for the "land of the midnight sun" as I did. Whether you visit Alaska or somewhere else this summer, never forget that your exploration of distant lands is hindered only by the distance between you and your local library (or Sonlight catalog!). Why not plan on investing some of your summer days immersed in great literature ... then you too can say, along with Theodore Seuss Geisel ... Oh the places you'll go!

Still on the journey ...
~Judy Wnuk

P.S. If you're looking for some great titles to fill your summer, be sure to check out our Summer Readers for 2015, and get a free title to add to your collection.

P.S.S. If you're looking for some engaging, hands-on activities to add to your literature "travels", be sure to check out Sonlight's Pinterest page. It's filled with all sorts of creative ideas for filling those lazy summer days.

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Please Share Your Input: Why Homeschooling Is Worth It

Sonlight has an ebook coming out soon titled, "It Was Worth It!" More importantly, we'd love to share your story in it.

Have you been homeschooling for a while (your children graduated or in high school)? Do you have a specific moment when you realized that homeschooling was absolutely worth it? Were there long days when you wondered if the hard work and investment was going to be worth it, and now you're glad you stuck it out? Do you have examples of how homeschooling was good for you -- not just your kids? Is there something you've shared with other homeschoolers to encourage them that what they are doing is worth it?



Please share your 600-1200 word story of how homeschooling has been worth it for you and your family. Email it to by May 29. That's a very quick turnaround, so if you want to contribute, please write up something now and send it our way. And, yes, if you've already written a blog post about this, feel free to use that as your submission.

Worth It

The details:

  • 600-1200 words
  • emailed to
  • by May 29, 2015
  • on the topic of "It Was Worth It!"
  • If your submission is selected, we'll also include a blurb about you, your photo, and a link to your blog or website if you want.
  • We may also pull quotes from each submission for the ebook or other Sonlight materials.

Questions? Please ask.

I'm looking forward to reading what you found made homeschooling worth it!

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Pseudo-Dad

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Blog Party Winner!

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

Julie who blogs at Butterflies and Barefoot Lasses!!!

Congratulations, Julie! I hope you and your family enjoy the African-themed prize package.

The next installment of our year-long Blog Party will be on April 25, with another fantastic prize package... featuring a set of four biography/history books by Genevieve Foster.


Plan to join us later this month for your chance to win the bundle of prizes pictured above, including:

In your blog post on May 25th share your best homeschool convention tips and experiences. Even if you don't use Sonlight 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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