10 Reasons We Still Stick with Sonlight After 10 Years

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10 Reasons We Still Stick with Sonlight After 10 Years • reasons to homeschool • why homeschool • choosing homeschool curriculum Recently, I came across an old Sonlight catalog where my then four-year-old daughter, Kiera, and her best friend Tegan are featured on the back cover. Their obvious delight in their Sonlight books still brings a smile to my face. It's been ten years since that photo was taken. These girls are both 14 years old now—still firm friends and still loving Sonlight. (For a bit of memory-recreating fun, we had the girls pose for an updated version of their photo from ten years ago, this time with books from Science 150 and Sonlight 100.)

Ten years ago, when we started our Sonlight journey, we didn't know what kind of adventures our lives would bring. But I knew that it would involve Sonlight in some way or another. And I was right. Despite all the changes in our lives, Sonlight has remained one of the constants that has stayed us on our course. And, with our youngest being just eight years old, I suspect we will have another awesome 10 years of Sonlight. Here are ten reasons we stuck with Sonlight with Sonlight for ten wonderful years and why we will continue to do so.

1. The Way I Wish I Had Been Taught

The first time I considered homeschooling as a serious option for my (then) infant daughter was when Sue, a dear friend, pressed an old Sonlight catalog into my hands. I was an ex-teacher, disillusioned with the public school system and open to exploring other options. Homeschooling was a vague thought in the peripheral area of my brain.

Then I opened the Sonlight catalog.

The books! The stories! The photos of happy families enjoying learning together! The article 27 Reason to Homeschool with Sonlight that resonated so deeply with me!

I fell in love with a curriculum before I had any real idea of what homeschooling even was. I read the catalog cover to cover. I remember thinking, "Ahhhh! This is how I wish I had been taught!" only to close the back page and see the Sonlight tagline for the first time: "The way you wish you'd been taught!" A sign, perhaps?

2. The Books

Without a doubt, the biggest appeal of Sonlight and homeschooling were the books. This intriguing idea of learning about the world around us from a springboard of excellent literature made sense to me. I had witnessed the power of stories in my own classroom, seeing even jaded teens come alive with excitement and interest when we explored deep topics through a poignant novel.

My own learning had been best facilitated through living books, too. Ten years down the line with Sonlight, learning through literature has been an incredibly rewarding experience, not least of which is hearing my kids say, "Oh, that was such a great book!" or "Please read another chapter!"

3. The Discussions

I wish I had kept a record of every time a Sonlight book touched our hearts or generated deep discussion. The questions that the kids ask inspire deep in discussion long after the chapter has ended. Often, discussions continue in the car or come up again at the dinner table. They may not remember every historical event, person, or date, but hearing their broad understanding of historical periods and how that impacts their worldview has confirmed time and again the value of all that we are learning.

4. Parallel Themes for Multiple Ages

Juggling the learning needs of four kids can be incredibly time-consuming. Some families manage to cover one History / Bible / Literature program (HBL) per child, but in our family we've found that Sonlight's repeated HBL themes make it easy for us all to follow one historic theme for the year.

For example, currently our family is enjoying learning about the history of the USA. While my eldest child works on Sonlight 100 mostly independently, the rest of the family gets to enjoy some of her 100 Read-Alouds together with a selection of titles from HBL D and HBL E that we already own from our first trip through US history. It's a joy to revisit old favorites as a family while mixing in new-to-us stories, too.

5. The Customer Service

Every encounter I've had with the people who work for Sonlight has been incredibly positive. In fact, time and again, Sonlight has gone above and beyond to help me find solutions—and always with gracious warmth.

Recently, a friend gave me a slightly bent book. It turned out her Sonlight shipment included a few slightly damaged titles, something Sonlight realized before her Box Day! She was informed that her shipment would be slightly damaged but that replacement books were on the way. The second package arrived with instructions to keep the duplicates! She was amazed. (And we scored a free book!) I've yet to find a company with better customer service than Sonlight.

6. The Support

From the customer service team to the Sonlight forums and Facebook communities, I have never felt like we have been doing the Sonlight journey on our own. Receiving and giving support to fellow Sonlighters has been such a highlight of this journey. In some ways, it's a blessing we've taken for granted.

7. The Ever-improving Range of Choice

There have been times when I've scoured the Internet and homeschooling groups for great resources only to find myself back on the Sonlight site, discovering exactly what I needed has already been recommended and sold by Sonlight.

Winston Grammar is one such program. I had tried my hand at this and that for grammar, never quite settling on anything that stuck. Then a friend introduced me to Winston Grammar, and I was sold. Little did I know that Sonlight carried it!

In some cases, I've found a program that really works for my kids, only to discover that Sonlight has since added it to their stable. Math-U-See is one such program for which we have been grateful. Having a one-stop shop option for all our homeschooling needs has been a huge blessing over the years.

8. The Extras

Even when we took a break from Sonlight books to explore living books from my own home country of South Africa, we continued to order extra resources from Sonlight. If it weren't for Sonlight's introducing us to the Classical Kids Collection, my kids would never have come to know and love classical music. We've enjoyed ARTistic Pursuits with fellow Sonlight families and benefited from the Piano Wizard program in the kids' early years.

9. The Friendships

When we finally dived into homeschooling, it was alongside the same mom who had shared the Sonlight catalog with me in the early 2000s. Our girls, both 4 years old at the time, both started with the PreK program that year. Oh, the delight!

I remember those early days with great fondness. Now that they're both 14, their passions lie in different arenas from one another. One is all-consumed by musical theatre, history, and literature while the other loves all things biology, nature, and marine studies. Yet still, thanks in part to Sonlight, their friendship remains firm. They continue to share many homeschooling moments together, from comparing their favorite readers over the years to studying the same Sonlight high school science program.

10. The Memories

Looking back on these past ten years, without a doubt, our favorite homeschooling moments center around Sonlight.

  • Hours spent gathered around our fireplace in the winter or outdoors in the dappled shade of our tree in the summer, reading aloud literature rich in story.
  • Hilarious videos of Sonlight science experiments that worked—and those that didn't!
  • Geography Songs, including "The big big sticks are the wally..." which loosely translated is "'The Pacific states are Hawaii..." as sung by our youngest, then 2 years old!
  • Long road trips, consuming more Sonlight favorites via audiobook.

And a multitude of moments with other Sonlight families sharing and delighting in all the Sonlight has to offer.

Next month, our family is embarking on our biggest adventure yet. My husband's company is relocating our family from Cape Town, South Africa to Brisbane, Australia. It's been, without a doubt, one of the toughest decisions we've ever had to make with plenty of unknowns ahead of us. But schooling is not one of them. With homeschooling, we will continue with the kids' education wherever we are in the world. With Sonlight, we can enjoy doing it.

Start your Sonlight journey the same way Taryn did. Order a complimentary copy of your catalog today.

10 Reasons We Still Stick with Sonlight After 10 Years • reasons to homeschool • why homeschool • choosing homeschool curriculum
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Homeschool Grading and Transcripts for High School in 3 Steps

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Homeschool Grading and Transcripts for High School in 3 Steps

Grading is a topic that generates a whole range of emotions among homeschoolers.

  • Some folks began homeschooling to get away from the stigma of grades.
  • Others just want an easy way to assign a grade and be done with it.
  • Still others are uncertain how to navigate the maze of grading and high school transcripts.

Homeschooling allows us the freedom to ensure mastery. In other words, there is never a reason for a homeschool student to fail a subject. You simply move at your child’s pace and help them reach their best potential. Thus, if one of my children does not meet the expectation I've set for a particular assignment, she has the privilege of working on it again until the assignment is mastered.

Although the pass/fail concept is good, for many students, when they reach high school and are thinking about college you may need to create an official transcript. At that point more detailed or specific grading becomes necessary.

1. Educate Yourself with a Guide

We recommend ordering Cafi Cohen's book Homeschooler's College Admissions Handbook while your children are in middle school or as soon as you can when they have entered high school. This is one of the most practical and easy to read resources on the whole topic of homeschooling high school, writing transcripts, and preparing for post-high school options. You might also find our high school webinar (embedded below) to be a good resource. And we also have a free guide if you prefer a print format.

2. Set Clear Expectations for Your Teen

Each time I began a new college class, the professor handed out a syllabus on the first day. It listed the titles of the books required for the course, an outline of what to expect during the course, and what it would take to pass the course. I have found it helpful to provide the same details for my high school students.

A possible syllabus for Sonlight Level 400 - American Government / Civics and Economics might look something like this:

  • Passing this course requires you to read 14 of the 24 American Literature titles included in this program. You must read Moby Dick, but you may choose any other 13 titles.
  • Passing this course requires you to read the following History/Civics titles: Basic American Government by Carson, Never Before in History by Amos and Gardiner, and Emancipating Slaves by Hummel.
  • Passing this course requires you to read 6 of the 8 biographies/historical fiction titles included in this program.
  • Passing this course requires you to complete the writing assignments associated with the 14 American Literature titles you choose.
  • Passing this course requires your comprehension of the History/Civics titles you are required to read. This will be determined by verbal discussion with me, and occasional writing assignments (simple chapter or section reviews).

[I am not saying that a student should not read all the books in 400, or that these titles are better than those not listed. This outline is purely for the sake of demonstrating a possible syllabus.]

A similar approach can be taken with math, science, or any other subject assigned for a given high school year.

Though it will take you some time at the beginning of the year, there's a huge value in creating a written syllabus. All players are aware of the rules and expectations from the start. You as the parent are not stuck making up requirements as the year progresses, and the student begins the course with a thorough understanding of what is expected.

3. Create a Grading Chart for the Transcript

Determine ahead of time what level of work earns what grade and how that will ultimately translate to a high school transcript. Cohen's book is a good resource for how to grade and determine grade point equivalents for a transcript. Here's a suggested grading chart:

Completion of all assigned work with exemplary output

98-100% (A)
Transcript Credit Equivalent: 4.0

Completion of all assigned work with outstanding output

90-98% (A-)
Transcript Credit Equivalent: 3.7

Completion of all assigned work with good output

85-90% (B+)
Transcript Credit Equivalent: 3.3

Completion of all assigned work with average output

80-85% (B)
Transcript Credit Equivalent: 3.0

Completion of all assigned work with a struggle

75-80% (C+)
Transcript Credit Equivalent: 2.3

Completion of all assigned work—just squeaking by

70-75% (C)
Transcript Credit Equivalent: 2.0

It will be up to you as the parent/teacher to define exemplary output or with a struggle, but once you have that foundation, your grade equivalency chart will save you much time and effort.

The bottom line is you as the parent will determine what grading you will use for your high school students. You determine the standard by which your student is evaluated. And the amazing blessing of homeschooling is that you can set that standard based on what you know about your student. The trick is to spend some time well before the school year begins to establish expectations for every course, create a grade equivalency chart, and communicate these with your teens.

This level of grading detail is far less necessary (if at all) in the lower grades where there is no need for creating a transcript. Creating a much simpler pass/fail scale or grade range expectation works just fine.

Homeschooling high school is an exciting challenge. You will encounter all sorts of life-changing experiences with your students and build memories that will last a lifetime. Don't let grading become a roadblock to your high school journey.

Educating high schoolers? Get your free guide for Homeschool High School Transcripts.

Homeschool Grading and Transcripts for High School in 3 Steps
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Six Ways to Schedule Your Homeschool Year to Fit Your Family

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Six Ways to Schedule Your Homeschool Year to Fit Your Family • homeschool schedules • homeschool planning

One of the many perks of this lifestyle of learning we call homeschooling is the ability to set your own schedule. Even if you are required by your state to fulfill a certain number of school days each year, you still maintain autonomy in where to fit those days into your calendar and whether you choose a four-day or five-day school week. Although every family's schedule is unique, there are six broad categories of yearly plans. Find the one that fits your children and your family goals by weighing the pros and cons of each.

1. Standard School Schedule

This homeschool schedule runs roughly August to June, taking off two weeks at Christmas and one week for Spring Break.

Pros

With this schedule, you are schooling and breaking in tandem to everyone else in your area, allowing you the least disruption for extracurriculars (which are often tied to the public school schedule).

Cons

Your schedule is similar to everyone else's. Your vacations and days off are in sync with the general public. Expect larger crowds for field trips and family travel than if you went during off-season times.

2. Long Christmas Break

For some families, taking six weeks from Thanksgiving week through the New Year is one of the joys of homeschooling. You could start earlier in the summer to complete an 18 week fall semester before the long break, or follow a pattern of a 12 week fall and 24 week spring.

Pros

If you love the holidays, this is a dream come true. You get time to travel, bake, read Christmas books, and decorate—all with minimal stress.

Cons

The spring can seem interminable. When other people are finishing their year, and you have a month or so yet to go, that Christmas splurge seems really far away.

3. Six Weeks On, One Week Off

This is a popular schedule. Starting August 1, if you have six weeks of schooling, then take a week off (with two weeks off at Christmas), you’ll be through your 36 weeks of school before the end of May, and have a good ten weeks of break before you start again.

Pros

The built-in weeks off give you a regular break to look forward to. Six weeks is less of a push than a full semester. You have time to catch up on the stuff of life and evaluate how your year is going while still enjoying a lengthy summer vacation.

Cons

Not everyone is ready to begin their school year on August 1. If that’s you, you might consider a modified version, like nine weeks on, two weeks off, which starts a bit later in August.

4. Modified Summer Vacation

This is an excellent option for children who will start homeschooling for the first time after some years at public school. When you’re ready, introduce subjects one at a time. Perhaps you start Science the second week in July (including an experiment or two), and then add Read-Alouds the next week to start experiencing the joy of reading together. Math begins the next week, flying through some of those early review chapters. The next week you introduce, say, History.

Pros

By the time your school year officially begins, you’ve eased into the work; you have some of the lessons out of the way, so you have greater flexibility during the rest of the year. With a few introductory weeks under your belt, you have figured out some of the hurdles you might need to overcome so you’re not overwhelmed.

Cons

“The First Day of School” is anticlimactic. You don’t have a true and complete break (which, if you are inside with air conditioning all day, every day anyway, isn’t necessarily a bad thing).

5. Year Round

Prefer to take a week off here and there, and keep the learning going through the year? Try year-round homeschooling.

Pros

Days off are totally flexible. You enjoy a more relaxed schedule, with days off as needed. There's the possibility to stretch topics for delight-directed learning, while still finishing a program a year. You have no summer slide because the learning doesn’t stop.

Cons

You have no restorative summer vacation.

6. The Unschedule

There’s always the option to start at some point in August or September and move forward, as best you can, until you finish, without any pre-defined breaks. Depending on appointments and playdates, vacations and interruptions, your end date might be sometime between May and July.

Pros

No stress about falling behind in your schedule—you’re right where you are, every day, with no sense of whether you should be farther along.

Cons

If you’re not naturally disciplined, you might get to the end of the year and find you’ve accomplished less than you had hoped.

Does one of these options stand out to you as especially promising? Or maybe a combination of several of them? There isn’t one right answer. And what works for you this year may not work in the future. So be willing to revisit your homeschool plan on a year by year basis.

Want a practical picture of how to implement one of these homeschool schedules? Take Sarita's daughter Jonelle as an example.

She starts by blocking out the trips and family visits she has already planned for the year. Then she pencils in her expected start date. If something comes up during the school year, it’s easy to move the remaining weeks forward as needed.

She begins some of her subjects during the summer to take the pressure off later. Sick day in October? No worries. Everything is just fine. She knows she needs a few weeks off for a true break, so she works in a month off at the end of school before resuming in the fall. But because she keeps the Sonlight books available, she finds her children are already asking to re-read them. So while it’s not a formal school time, she’s still reading with her children, which means the pattern of doing school is not lost.

Order your homeschool program today. Sonlight works with whatever schedule you choose, whenever you start your year.

Six Ways to Schedule Your Homeschool Year to Fit Your Family • homeschool schedules • homeschool tips • homeschool organization
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Goal Setting for Homeschool: Wisdom, Stature, and Favor with God

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Balanced Goal Setting for Homeschool based on Luke 2:52: Wisdom, Stature, and Favor with God

Judy: Today I've asked Kelly and Jill to sit down with me once again and talk over the topics of goal setting, organization, and time management. I don't know about you, but this is an area in which I sometimes struggle greatly. Yet other times I find that I conquer it, and things run smoothly.

So how about you guys? Is time management something that just comes naturally, or do you find that you struggle with it as a homeschool mom?

Listen to this audio chat with three homeschool moms, Judy, Kelly, and Jill, or continue reading below.

 

[The following is an edited transcript of the audio recording embedded above and originally published here. It has been modified slightly from the original for better readability in text format.]

Audio length: 10 minutes

Time Management for Homeschool Moms

Jill: I think at some stages of my life, it came naturally, and then at some stages of my life it was like, "Oh my gosh! How am I ever going to organize the crew in this house?!" I think it really changes through time.

Kelly: It's a seasonal thing.

Jill: I think it's a seasonal thing; you are right.

Judy: It's funny. I was talking with a young homeschool mom last night, and she was saying how she really thought she had everything all set to go this year. She has one in school and two toddlers. She said, "My whole plan for organization has just fallen apart. As much as I try to get things done on time and get school started for my daughter, for whatever reason, things seem to be conspiring against me to make that happen."

Probably about a week ago I got up on a Monday morning, ready to start the day, and you know if anything could go wrong that day, it did. We ended up with a car trouble, and somebody in our household got sick. Things just seemed to fall apart right and left. About halfway through the day, I decided to stop fighting and give up on the schedule. I figured we'd try again on Tuesday morning.

Jill: I can remember when we lived in Florida, our laundry was in the unattached garage. At times, I would feel like I was on top of things, and then I would just happen to go into the garage and see the laundry was enormous! I mean the laundry was starting to eat the lawnmower! Oh man, it seems like when you get one thing under control, something else rears its ugly head, and you feel out of control again.

The Homeschool Day is Derailed by the Phone

Kelly: And there's always the phone.

Judy: The phone is probably the greatest time management killer that exists.

Jill: Except with an answering machine! If you're strict, you really can get that monster under control too.

Kelly: That's true, I think in the early years of homeschooling, the phone was like the recess bell. When it rang if, I moved toward it, the boys immediately thought, "Oh! Recess!" And they hit the floor or whatever.

Jill: Yeah I never thought of that, but you're right. That's kind of what it seemed like in our house too.

[Editor's Note: This interview was recorded before mobile phones were as pervasive as they are today. The principles are the same. Our devices can be a distraction unless we are deliberate with boundaries.]

Why Set Homeschool Goals?

Judy: Well I think we can all agree that sticking to a schedule and managing our time well is a challenge for any homeschool mom even if you tend to be organized by nature or if you struggle with organization.

Why are organization and goal setting so important? What's the point of setting goals?

Jill: Well if you don’t set any kind of goal, you have no idea what direction you're going. I think you have to have an overall idea of why you're homeschooling.

  • Is it because you live too far from the school, and it was too long to drive?
  • Is it because you want to pass on your core beliefs to your children?
  • It is a safety issue?
  • Do you want to give your child a superior education?

There will be days—there might be weeks—when you'll think, "Why am I doing this?" And it's really nice to go back and remember your reason, refocus, and re-gauge. It helps to have your goals written down and to have something to aim for.

Kelly: Without that target, you've got no opportunity of going in a more direct direction. Have you ever taken your children outside and told them to walk across the field while looking down at their feet? I did this to teach my kids about goals. It took them forever on their circular path! They stopped along the way to check out this or that. When we started again,  and I said, "Okay, now look at that tree over there and walk to it." In timing it, of course, they were much faster. But if you're only looking at what's immediately in front of you—what step you're taking now—you're going to get nowhere.

Jill: And you can't really see if you're making any progress if you don’t know what you're aiming for. So if you know what you are aiming for, then you can see you can look back after a year or six months or whatever and say, "Oh gosh, we have made progress towards that goal!" To see that you're making progress means a lot to keep you at a task for any amount of time.

Goals Help You Make it Through February

Judy: I think one thing that you said just a moment ago, Jill, is the key for me when it comes to setting goals and that is write them down. In my homeschooling experience, February is always the worst time of the year. I don't know why it's that month, but for me February is exactly when I start asking myself what you said—"Why am I doing this?"

Jill: If you look back in your notes from October for instance. You can look back and think, "Oh my gosh! Look at how much we've learned since then! Look at how much we are going toward that goal!" Whereas if you didn't jot things down along the way, you would sometimes feel like a failure.

Judy: I agree. So I think we can say that it's a really good idea for our sanity as a homeschooling mom to figure out why it is we're doing this homeschooling thing. Sit down with your spouse and talk through what we hope to accomplish. When we're all done, then write it down.

Setting a Big Goal and Then Breaking it Down

Jill: And the goal can be big. It could be something like I want to raise well equipped adults who'll be able to take their place in society, to be able to do the job that they need to do, whatever that is. Whether they're going to go to college, whether they can get married, whether they're going to have a career—whatever. It could be as big as that at the very top, and then you could gear it down.

Judy: I think that's actually the next step in setting goals—make this nice, big, overarching mission for your homeschool and your parenting. But then you have to start setting very specific, measurable goals because if you only have this big, overarching thing, you can see the tree across the meadow like Kelly said. But then you still have to figure out the most direct path to get there.

A Balanced Goal Setting Structure: Wisdom, Stature, and Favor with God

Jill: Right. I know when we sat down to figure out why we were homeschooling, I mean beside the immediate thing—my child is in a horrible school, and I've got to pull him out before he gets beaten to a pulp—after you do that, we took the verse from the Bible (Luke 2:52), "Jesus grew and wisdom and stature and in the favor with God and man." And we said that is a good list of goals for us to accomplish with our children.

Balanced Goal Setting for Homeschool based on Luke 2:52: Wisdom, Stature, and Favor with God

Judy: That's an excellent place to start, I think, and it's very similar to what we've done in our homeschool when you think about growing in wisdom. We set academic goals for our kids each year. My husband and I would take an afternoon or an evening about a month or two before school was set to start to go for a walk in a park or go out to dinner—someplace where we knew we could talk uninterrupted. We would review the past year and set a couple of goals in each category for each child for the coming year:

  • wisdom—academic goals
  • stature—physical goals
  • favor with God—spiritual goals

That gave me, as the teacher, very clear direction so when February rolled around, I could remember why I was doing what I was doing. When it seemed as though Johnny just couldn't get the math concepts down, I would go back and look at those goals and think, "Well, Johnny still needs to work on those math problems. But you know what, that's not one of our overriding academic goals this year. This year our biggest goal for him is to learn to read well. So maybe math, although it's important, is not the goal we set for this year."

Jill: Or maybe even if they're growing somewhat academically, it may not be as fast as you want. But maybe their spiritual life is really growing, or maybe they're developing so many large motor and small motor coordination things. So sometimes they don't need to necessarily excel in all of these areas. I think it evens over a period of time, but in the short term—six months or a year—grown can heavily lean toward one area or the other. I think that's okay.

If you are considering a new direction for your children’s education, and could use an empathetic ear, we have experienced homeschooling moms who would love to talk to you. Click here to connect with your homeschool consultant.

Balanced Goal Setting for Homeschool based on Luke 2:52: Wisdom, Stature, and Favor with God
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4 Crazy Things People Say When They Find Out We Homeschool

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4 Crazy Things People Say When They Find Out We Homeschool

This situation, in one form or another, happens to all of us homeschoolers. We are out in public during the week  at a time when other kids are in school. We are spotted by a stranger—a stranger who loves to ask questions. So, there we are, maybe in the frozen pizza aisle, when a complete stranger asks, “No school today?”

It has happened to you, right?

My seven year old gets a thrill out of telling people that we homeschool, so she shouts it out for all to hear. I am glad she is proud of the fact that we homeschool, but I brace myself for the inevitable responses that we get from these strangers. These are the top four rejoinders we hear when strangers find out we educate at home.

#1 How long will you homeschool?

Has anyone ever asked a public school kid how long they plan to stay in the system? I would love to ask that question and see the response. If the tables were turned, then the question would seem as odd as it is.

I can understand the question—sort of. I think what they really mean is, “You won’t be teaching them in high school, right?” I don’t feel the need to explain to strangers how long we plan to homeschool, so I typically answer by saying, “We take it year by year.”

While that is true, we also plan to continue until the Lord tells us to change what He called us to do back when we made this leap. This is our third year homeschooling, and we have been using Sonlight since the beginning. We love this curriculum so much that if we ever stopped homeschooling, I think I would still buy the books and read them to my children. The homeschool lifestyle has forever changed me for the better.

#2 Do you think they’re missing out?

This question is usually asked in ignorance because not everyone knows a homeschooler personally. These strangers honestly have no idea that the homeschooling world has activities galore:

  • co-ops
  • field trip meet-ups
  • prom/dance celebrations
  • spelling bees
  • recitals
  • sports teams

Sure, homeschoolers can miss out on things if parents are not proactively looking for these things. But parents who care about their children are going to search high and low for the perfect fit for extracurriculars and socialization opportunities.

This tendency towards a full schedule is precisely why strangers see us out and about during the week! We tend to arrange our piano lessons, sports practices, swim meets, and co-ops during the times when everyone else is at work or in school. After all, those extra things are learning. Plus we like to keep the majority of our outside pursuits scheduled during the weekday to keep weekends free for family time when Daddy is home.

#3 Where do you get the patience?

This response is actually quite comical to most homeschool moms. We do not boast in having a special dose of patience. Sonlight doesn't ship out a mega pack of patience with the catalogs or each History / Bible / Literature program on Box Day. And God doesn't magically bestow it on the first day of homeschool lessons. On the contrary, patience is something we learn, frustrating moment by distraction-filled moment.

Homeschooling reveals a lot about us as parents. It shows us where we are lacking—whether that be in patience, homemaking skills, compassion, gentleness, or temperance (self-control).

All parents need to work on character issues. Homeschooling is just another vehicle by which our character flaws are made evident. Being home with your kids all day and serving as both teacher and mom has a way of squeezing sin from the inside to the outside where it is plainly on display. The upside is that we can mature into patience (and other virtues) if we are willing to look in the mirror of the word of God, see our flaws, repent, and commit to walking in grace.

#4 I could never do that!

I hear this claim from so many people, and I understand the sentiment! We homeschool moms sometimes do think we can't make it through another day. But be assured public school teachers feel this too! I know since my husband teaches 24 kindergarteners every day.

What most people mean when they say "I could never do that!" is that they can’t handle the thought of being with their kids all day, every day. I have those days too, but the benefits and joys we experience are so far beyond what any bad day can bring.

Some people reveal to me that their kids don’t listen well enough to be taught by their own parents. I think this is true in some cases; homeschooling isn’t for everyone. I do think this is sometimes a cop-out, though. We would like for someone else to discipline and correct our kids because we either do not know how or we lack the backbone to do it ourselves. My husband and I chose to homeschool, in large part, because we do want to be with our kids and we feel that it’s our responsibility to teach them—not someone else's.

These four responses will, no doubt, be asked of us for years to come, but for those who may be new to homeschooling, you have been warned! Prepare your patient smile and kind responses now so you can do your part to educate the world about this great journey of family life that we call homeschooling.

To find out more about Sonlight's unmatched Read-Alouds, and our complete book-based homeschool programs, order a complimentary copy of your catalog today.

4 Crazy Things People Say When They Find Out We Homeschool
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8 Ways to Use Your Summer for a Smooth New School Year

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8 Ways to Use Your Summer for a Smooth New School Year

Many families homeschool year-round, going straight through the summer, taking breaks only when needed. But for the rest of us, a long summer break is a great way to rejuvenate. This summer as you are relaxing quietly in the air-conditioning on those days when it is too hot to go outside, think about your summer bucket list. What can you do now to make the transition back to daily homeschool lessons in the fall a bit easier? Here are eight things I plan on doing this summer to make for a smooth new school year.

1. Invest in Summer Self-Care

It’s so easy to let self-care slide while we are taking care of little ones, but summer is a great time to commit to taking care of yourself. If you’ve always wanted to try a new craft or sport, community education classes are an affordable option. So, while your children are at Bible camp or swimming lessons, you might be able to sneak in some time for painting, yoga, pottery, or tennis.

While your children are busy at day camp, invest big chunks of time to relax on your own, doing what builds your spiritual, emotional, and mental reserves:

  • a soothing bath
  • a trip to the nail spa
  • quiet time to meditate
  • thrift store shopping
  • painting, knitting, or some other creative hobby

You’ll be thankful when things get hectic again in the fall that you took time in the summer to put yourself first.

2. Establish Healthy Summer Eating Habits

Use this summer to get back into the habit of eating healthy. Try new recipes and practice them so that, come fall, your children are used to the new flavors and the recipes are easy to throw together at a moment’s notice. Maybe you want to try your hand at fermenting foods for the healthy probiotics or you want to experiment with a more radical way of eating such as low-carb. Summer is the perfect time to test these new ventures in the kitchen.

Perhaps even go so far as to create a few sample meal plans with ingredient lists, so when things are busy, you have something to fall back on to maintain the healthy habits you started.

3. Savor the Sunshine and Get Exercise

If you’re like me and find less and less time to exercise outdoors as the school year progresses, grab the summer as an opportunity to get back into your routine. The more exercise and fresh air you get now, the easier it will be to keep in the habit during the school year. Your body—and mind—will thank you for it.

 


Taking good care of you means the people in your life will receive the best of you, rather than what’s left of you. –Carl Bryan • from 8 Ways to Use Your Summer for a Smooth New School Year

Taking good care of you means the people in your life will receive the best of you, rather than what’s left of you. –Carl Bryan


4. Order and Organize Homeschool Curriculum

Don't procrastinate; order early. When your packages come, get familiar with the resources you bought and get them organized on your shelves. If you feel confused, call publishers for advice or make an appointment with the Sonlight advisors to get your questions answered.

After Box Day, I love looking through my new Sonlight History / Bible / Literature and Science programs. Handling the books builds an excitement to get started again. I page through my Instructor's Guides and start making lists on index cards or sticky notes:

It's also during the summer that I take advantage of the back-to-school sales not only to stock up on crayons and notebooks, but also to treat myself to fresh teacher supplies that make organization easier and prettier.

5. Purge Your Home's Clutter

Try to get rid of clutter during the summer months so that your house is easier to keep clean and your supplies are easier to find. Go through cupboards to find items to discard, donate, or declutter. The fewer toys you have, the less time it takes to organize them. When everything has a place, it makes clean-up much easier and allows you to move on faster. Bonus points if you get the kids involved in the purging process!

6. Start Early with Select Summer Activities

If you're someone who tends to get behind easily, you can use the summer to get ahead for next school year. Take 20 minutes a day to work on a school subject. For example, if you listen to an audiobook in the car to and from swimming lessons each day, you could knock out a read-aloud or two before school even starts. Being ahead by a couple of novels will give you wiggle room in your schedule.

You can also do a few minutes of math and language arts or even work through a few of those science experiments you never seem to have enough time for. Find the subjects that are the hardest for you to work into your day and get a head start on those. You will start the school year with a sense of being on top of your game.

7. Read Ahead

If your goal for older children is for more independent learning, use the summer to preview their books so you are aware of sensitive content before it comes up. You may decide there is a book or two that your child isn't ready for, and you will have plenty of time to find replacements or ask for advice in the Sonlight forums.

8. Pray

Use the lighter schedule of the summer to take more time to pray, read devotions, and meditate. Your prayer time will provide a bit of calm as you head into a new school year; you will have assurance that you are on the path God wants for you.

Summer will be gone before you’re ready for it to be, and your mind, body, and soul will thank you for taking better care of it. Likewise, your children will be appreciative of smoother days. Take the time now to take care of yourself and prepare for an amazing back to school in the fall.

Need more help with a smooth back to school transition? Go to SmoothCourse to explore your options.

8 Ways to Use Your Summer for a Smooth New School Year
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Nine Reminders for When I Think I'm Failing My Children by Homeschooling

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Nine Reminders for When I Think I'm Failing My Children by Homeschooling • homeschool doubts
Some days I get discouraged and fear that I'm failing my children by teaching them at home.

  • I see the gaps in their learning.
  • I fear they are behind or may fall behind.
  • I wonder if we do too little bookwork and too much playing.

It's on those days that I have daydreams of chasing the yellow bus and begging the driver to take my children, too. Let the experts in the public school take this burden from me. Surely they are more equipped than I am to educate my kids.

And then I come to my senses by reminding myself of these truths.

1. The Reading Bar is Very Low in Our Country

Half of all Americans can't read above a fifth grade level. I got this statistic from my nursing textbook. It explained why medical pamphlets should have lower vocabulary to reach the most people even when writing with a higher reading level would provide better information.

If I can get my children to fifth grade reading level by the time they graduate high school, they'll be doing better than half the country. Of course, I want my child to do even better than that, but the point is that the bar is very low in our country. I am not failing my children.

2. Math is Really Not That Difficult

Math can seem overwhelming. It's one of the 3Rs that you don't want to skip even for a single day. Surely it's worth getting antsy and insecure over, right?

No. It's not as scary as you think. To get your kids set for pre-algebra, they need to master this short list of topics:

  • addition
  • subtraction
  • multiplication
  • division
  • fractions
  • decimals
  • percents

3. Grade Levels are Arbitrary

No one in college cares whether your child at age seven was reading at a Kindergarten level, first grade level, or a tenth grade level. Really. No one.

All that matters is how well they can read (or do whatever subject) in college. Honestly.

No employer cares about when you learned to read -- only that you CAN. Don't stress over "grade levels."

When you stop to think about it, what is the difference between eleventh grade reading level and twelfth grade? Is there a difference at all? What's the difference between seventh grade grammar and eighth grade grammar? These levels are all arbitrary.  And any actual deficits can easily be overcome when the need arises, when children are developmentally ready, or when teens are motivated to do so.

As an example, consider this situation: Malnourished children in Africa are given no education until they start school around 10 years old. They immigrate to the US at around 12-16 and then proceed to get college degrees that would make most of us exhausted. If children aren't reading by age 10, it's not over.

In any given second grade classroom, there is a broad mix of reading proficiency:

  • a few children who can read everything in sight
  • a few who can read at a second grade level pretty well most of the time
  • a bunch who struggle through second grade reading
  • a few who are still struggling at kindergarten level

So, if your second grader is reading at a first or third grade level, they’d be perfectly fine in a second grade classroom.  There would be no reason to move them to first or third grade.

4. Homeschool Parents Tend to Take Grades Personally

Homeschoolers beat themselves up a lot. If your child were in public school and brought home a report card with a B math, you would be perfectly happy. But as homeschoolers, when they get three questions wrong on their math test, you think you're falling them.

Really, a B means a student can answer two out of every ten problems incorrectly. On a 30-problem page, they can get 6 wrong and still get a B. Twelve wrong is still passing. And half the time, the grade on that page wouldn't have been counted anyway.

F is usually below 60%, not counting bonus points and extra credit. And not every assignment is graded. Honestly, what you consider failing as a homeschool parent, schools usually consider passing

5. A Literature Based Curriculum Lays a Broad Base of Knowledge

Sonlight sets children up for success, even if you use don’t use it exactly as written.  The books will teach your children to think about life and evaluate opposing viewpoints. The characters in the books become their friends who bring the world alive for them and make remembering history easy. Can’t remember Napoleon was like?  Read Betsy and the Emperor, and you’ll never forget. Read Red Sails to Capri, and learn about overcoming superstition and the beautiful island of Capri.  

Learning by doing is the best way to learn.  But, because we can’t do everything and go everywhere with our children, reading about fictional friends doing these things is almost as good.  

6. Plenty of Kids are Behind

Children don't need to be homeschooled to be behind. The whole premise of No Child Left Behind was too many children were being left behind. Note, the program is generally considered a failure—hence the Common Core debacle. The bottom line is that our schools are full of children who are behind. I am not failing my children because I homeschool. The schools are already failing plenty of children.

7. Play is Better than Schoolwork

Children this age actually learn better through play than seatwork. If they want to spend most of their day playing, give them educational toys and have at it. You’ll be doing them (and yourself) a favor.  

8. A Diploma May Not Mean a Lot

Public school is good and useful at times, but it really does a poor job with the very best of students and the worst of students.

My brother failed at school, and graduated high school (yes, diploma and all) reading and doing math at no higher than a second-grade level. (Yes, they will graduate you even then.)

He went on to college and got a degree in pipe welding because he knew his trade and could pass exams based on skill. He never purchased a single textbook or passed a single written test. Yes, he has a degree in pipe welding from college. He still can't read above a second grade level, and thanks to practical use, his math skills are about at a third grade level now.

My brother who can't read has won awards for his welding skill. If he had been homeschooled where special considerations for his dyslexia and ADHD were allowed, he could have gone much higher. But, in second grade, he labeled himself stupid and has essentially never tried since.

Public school standards are far lower than you think they are. You are not failing your children by homeschooling.

9. Love of Learning is Key

The biggest goal you can have for your children is to teach them to love to learn. If they know how to learn and loving doing so, then they can do anything, go anywhere, and be anyone. If they are super bright and hate learning, well, good luck.

I was that child who barely paid attention in high school, made good enough grades to pass, aced my ACTs and then decided that was enough. No more school. Ever. A few years later, I took one college course and was hooked. I feel in love with learning and went so much further. That passion for learning is what I want for my children. And it's precisely what I can offer them through homeschooling.

To ease your fears about failing your children, pair these nine reminders with a time-tested homeschool curriculum. Go to SmoothCourse to explore your options.

Nine Reminders for When I Think I'm Failing My Children by Homeschooling • homeschool doubtsSome days I'm pretty sure I'm failing my children.
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