How and Why to Teach Your Children to See More Than One Perspective

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Teach Your Children to See More Than One Perspective

We don’t see perfectly, because we don’t (and can’t) see everything. But with our finite view of the world, we can do our best to listen to others and to hear their perspectives. This is something we strive to do as homeschoolers: to teach our children to see more than one perspective.

When I was a young girl, I was talking to my Dad about Rumpelstiltskin. “He was a bad guy,” I said, “trying to take the queen’s baby.”

“But did you ever think about the world from his perspective?” asked my Dad. “He could spin straw into gold. What appeal would a little ring or necklace have for him? In some ways, he had sacrificially served the queen by spinning her two rooms full of gold!”

My point is not to argue that Rumpelstiltskin is a great humanitarian. That’s not what my Dad was trying to say.

The point is: Rumpelstiltskin, too, has a story. And if we listened to the fairy tale from his point of view, we might have more compassion for him and might be able to have more grace for him.

Seeing Through the Eyes of Others

We all literally see only through our own eyes. But through books, and through our imaginations, we can catch glimpses of the world through the eyes of others, too.

Hopefully, as you homeschool your children, you help them look at the world from more than one perspective. Because the Powhatan Native Americans see the English settlers one way, and the English saw their settlement another way, and the Africans saw their journey to the New World in a third way.

If you only looked at the Jamestown settlement from the point of view of the English, you would miss out on other voices, other perspectives.

Understand First; Then Try to be Understood

One of the things that I hope for my children is that they seek first to understand, and then to be understood. Rather than immediately judge Rumplestiltskin, I hope they would hear his side of the story and understand him.

A quality homeschool program includes books from more than one perspective, including read-alouds, books that parents read aloud to their children. Children can, of course, listen to and comprehend far more than they can read, especially in the early years. Read-alouds allow you to introduce your children to a range of thoughts and experiences, often before your children could read them on their own.

Good books give you a starting place for good conversations with your children—so that you can share your thoughts and experiences with your children and have those deep discussions where you look at all sides of a story.

As your children listen to the great books, they will build their reading comprehension, and they will grow in their ability to listen. And, as they listen to more than one side, they will learn how to see more than one perspective, and to be thoughtful and discerning about what to think.

And you get to be there with them. It’s a beautiful way to learn.

For example, in the American History studies of Sonlight E, students read the perspectives of both sides of the Civil War. Their understanding is enriched by hearing different viewpoints and grasping the complexities of historical situations.

Education, Not Indoctrination

I see three basic types of people when it comes to perspectives. One extreme is the postmodern who dwells in doubt and uncertainty, and the other extreme is the modern who offers absolute assurance.

I prefer a third type of thinker, someone in the middle who says, “I have done some research, and thought about this, and I think X. At least until you persuade me otherwise. And you might! And that’s okay!”

Thus, not wallowing in doubt, but not dogmatically asserting one’s correctness, either. This third perspective means having the ability to hear more than one side, to be respectful of others’ opinions while not losing your own beliefs.

For things you have assurance about—like the resurrection of Christ—you teach your children with conviction.

For things that you are not fully persuaded about—say, the most cutting edge research on brain development—you consider multiple perspectives and put that knowledge into practice, while still allowing space for further research and information.

At Sonlight, we describe this way of thinking as education, not indoctrination.

If you, too, want your children to learn from multiple points of view, Sonlight may be a great fit.

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.

How and Why to Teach Your Children to See More Than One Perspective • homeschool
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Cultural Literacy in Your Homeschool

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Cultural Literacy in Your Homeschool

I still remember the first time I heard the story of Solomon and the two women with one living baby between them—in a children’s devotional when I was in kindergarten. I still remember my first introduction to the story of Odysseus’s return home and Penelope’s test of his identity, a story that’s been told for 3,000 years. Those stories added to my cultural literacy, and I am better for that understanding.

Life is more rich with at least a passing knowledge of the cultures of the world, of the fascinating characters and delightful stories that people have known and enjoyed for millennia. This knowledge forms the basis of cultural literacy—the general body of knowledge that an educated adult knows, the information that undergirds a culture.

Some cultural literacy comes from the deep past. Some cultural literacy is much more recent. Here are examples from the United States:

  • George Washington and the cherry tree
  • the Three Little Pigs
  • a glass slipper
  • the Trojan Horse
  • the Mona Lisa
  • Romeo and Juliet
  •  Charlotte’s Web
  • O. Henry short stories
  • Sherlock Holmes
  • The Chronicles of Narnia

I love this quote from The Shallows about why it is important and beautiful to keep cultural literacy alive. Building cultural literacy in our homeschools is all the more important in this age when most students skim more, when many students no longer have even a glancing knowledge of culture, and in a time when the social media feeds offer entertainment with little substance.

The offloading of memory to external data banks doesn’t just threaten the depth and distinctiveness of the self. It threatens the depth and distinctiveness of the culture we all share. In a recent essay, the playwright Richard Foreman eloquently described what’s at stake. “I come from a tradition of Western culture,” he wrote, “in which the ideal (my ideal) was the complex, dense and ‘cathedral-like’ structure of the highly educated and articulate personality—a man or woman who carried inside themselves a personally constructed and unique version of the entire heritage of the West.” But now, he continued, “I see within us all (myself included) the replacement of complex inner density with a new kind of self—evolving under the pressure of information overload and the technology of the ‘instantly available.’” As we are drained of our “inner repertory of dense cultural inheritance,” Foreman concluded, we risk turning into “pancake people—spread wide and thin as we connect with that vast network of information accessed by the mere touch of a button.”
Culture is more than the aggregate of what Google describes as “the world’s information.” It’s more than what can be reduced to binary code and uploaded onto the Net. To remain vital, culture must be renewed in the minds of the members of every generation. Outsource memory, and culture withers. (196-197)

At our time of history, facts are easily searchable. If you ever need to know the capital of Vermont, you can find Montpelier in a few seconds online. But entering into the sweetness of Wilbur’s friendship in Charlotte’s Web? That’s irreplaceable and precious.

Do you have moments from your childhood that you remember strongly, where you connected with a story, and it became yours like my examples of Solomon and Odysseus? If so, then you know what I mean by life being more rich.

As homeschoolers, we hope to pass on to our children this body of knowledge so that they are able to join in their culture’s narrative. This type of education does not come from merely sitting and memorizing facts: The capital of Alabama is Montgomery. The capital of Alaska is Juneau. The capital of Arizona is Phoenix. . . .

Students who use Sonlight don’t memorize a lot of facts, yet they are ready to join the narrative because a Sonlight education has introduced them to the stories and ideas, to the truth, goodness, and beauty of the world.

Sonlight covers all the cultural literacy references in this blog post and hundreds more. As homeschool parents, we too, are always growing our body of cultural literacy, so we don't assume that you have been exposed to all the references in the books we schedule. Our Instructor’s Guides (IG) have a Cultural Literacy category, so if a book references something you are unsure of, the IG helps define the terms for you. You learn alongside your children.

To see what our Cultural Literacy notes look like, you can download a free three-week sample of any Instructor’s Guide you’re interested in here. Please take a look!

Cultural Literacy in Your Homeschool
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Homeschooling Your Preschooler with Younger Children Tagging Along

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Homeschooling Your Preschooler with Younger Children Tagging Along

Your oldest child is four or five years old, and you are considering homeschooling. But you also have at least one other younger child. How can you make this work? How do you homeschool your preschooler or Kindergartener with other, younger children who are not ready for school tagging along?

For those of you in this scenario, kudos to you!  You are in a stage of parenting that is extremely physically demanding. To take on homeschooling on top of this already challenging time of life deserves applause.

With that said, let me assure you that you can do it. If you are ready to teach your older child but wonder about adding in a second child, start by reading aloud to all of your children. A good story is not restricted only to a single age, after all! Just like you might let all your children watch the movie Inside Out, high quality, living books are interesting and exciting for more than a single age. In fact, that's one of the characteristics of a great book—it appeals to all ages. After all, didn't you enjoy Inside Out as much as (or even more than) your children did?

Here's my own story to demonstrate how this type of homeschooling can work.

When Jadon, my oldest, was four, I also had two younger children. I didn’t want to delay preschool with Jadon, so I ended up doing all the reading with Jadon and made sure my second son, Isaiah, listened, too, while the baby sat on my lap or slept on my back.

Did Isaiah, at two, get much out of that reading? I don’t know, and, really, I don’t care because what I wanted for both boys was time and connection with me, exposure to vocabulary, enjoyment of illustrations—basically, I wanted a Sonlight life together. If I could read to the boys for an hour or two, that was satisfying and good, for all of us.

How did this play out over the next decade?

Really well! After going through both the Sonlight Preschool and PreK programs, I stretched out Sonlight A by reading all sequels of all the books, and, in between, I redid P3/4 and P4/5 several times. Those early programs don’t require much time, and I wanted all my children to get all those stories more than once.

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

Sonlight books are so good, I am happy for my children to reread them. They bear up under repeated readings. So there are no worries with getting bored with a book that we've already read. It's still good the second or even third time around.

That’s how I made Sonlight work for me with multiple children.

If you are wondering about a plan for your family, I cannot recommend the Sonlight Advisors highly enough. These ladies have used Sonlight, have dealt with the highs and lows of homeschooling, and are happy to give you suggestions and recommendations to meet the needs of your specific family. Go here to schedule a complimentary call.

Homeschooling Your Preschooler or Kindergartener with Younger Children Tagging Along
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How Missions is the Heart of Sonlight

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How Missions is the Heart of Sonlight

In the 1980s, my Dad worked at the U.S. Center for World Mission. Now named Frontier Ventures, this organization raises awareness of the Great Commission, encouraging believers to spread the Good News of Jesus to the rest of the world.

A world map, hung on the wall of our house, showed where the American Church spent its money: 95% stayed in America. 4.5% went to places that had already been evangelized. And a half percent went to the unevangelized world.

This struck both of my parents as a place where, strategically, we as the Church could be doing much better.

At that time, missionaries—those who had been called by God, who had spent the months raising support, who had worked to learn another language, and who had survived the pain of culture shock—were leaving the field for two primary reasons.

The first was squabbles within the team. You can imagine how challenging it might be to live in close proximity with perhaps the only other English speakers in your city, people you might not naturally mesh well with. How many chances for hurt feelings might there be?

The second reason people left the mission field was because of their need to educate their children. At that time, missionaries had two options once their children reached school age: they could either send their children to boarding school, or they could leave the mission field so their children could go to school back home.

Keeping Missionaries on the Field One More Year

My mom realized she couldn’t do much about squabbles on a team. But she could do something about children’s education.

She put together a quality homeschool program with everything the students would need and shipped these supplies to missionaries on the field. She hoped that the missionaries would be able to continue to minister where they were called. Even if it was just one more year—that was one more year that they could share the Gospel, one more year to see God move and work.

At Sonlight, we have a passion for spreading the good news of Jesus. Missionary biographies, prayer guides, and an entire History / Bible / Literature program that focuses on non-western cultures (Sonlight F): Missions has always been part of the heartbeat of Sonlight.

Picture the World, Pray for the World

Sonlight includes more world history, and more non-western history, than a standard education. Some school districts spend only two of the twelve years studying the world beyond the United States’ borders. Sonlight students spend eight years studying the world, and four years focused on the United States. (See the full scope and sequence here.)

We want your children to be able to relate to people who are different from them, to know about their neighbors elsewhere on the planet.

As a result of what you learn, your children will see people from other nations as real people. And beyond that, your children will have been taught about God’s heart for the peoples of the world.

One of the reasons Sonlight spends so much time on the world beyond North America is because we want your family to be able to pray effectively. You can pray for people in China more easily if you have some idea of what it’s like to live in China or even some idea of where China is.

In programs B, C, D, and F, Sonlight includes books that help you pray for specific people groups and cultures.

Pray for the World, Change the World

Your prayers are transformative. Here is an example. When Sonlight started in 1990, one of the elementary programs included an A to Z prayer guide, From Arapesh to Zuni, with 26 people groups who needed the Bible in their heart language.

About a decade later, this book went out of print. God answered the prayers of thousands of families, and so many of those 26 peoples now had the Bible in their heart language, the book needed to be redone.

Then Sonlight carried a second A to Z prayer guide, From Akebu to Zapotec.

And now that one, too, is out of print.

Today families studying Sonlight B read Around the World with Kate and Mack. My hope is that the publisher will need to redo that one, too, in a few years.

Your family’s prayers make a difference.

And while I’m talking about sharing the Good News of Christ, every Sonlight program includes at least one missionary biography about a person who followed the call of Jesus to share the Gospel. These stories tell, in thrilling detail, how individuals and communities change when people come to Christ.

You pray for people, and you read about people who have had their prayers answered. Inspiration and action, both. This is one of my favorite parts of Sonlight. I hope you’ll give it a try.

If you, too, have a heartbeat for missions and want to foster that passion in your family, go to SmoothCourse to explore your curriculum options.

How Missions is the Heart of Sonlight • Christian homeschool curriculum
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Homeschooling Gives Us Freedom to Celebrate Each Child's Success

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Homeschooling Gives Us Freedom to Celebrate Each Child's Success

I have five sons. Their brains work in wildly different ways.

I have one son who learned to read overnight when he was barely five. At Bible study that week, we took turns reading a verse aloud, and the study leader confessed at the end that he was distracted by this small boy, reading the King James Version so perfectly. (Mommy pride?)

And I have one son who, at seven, after a year or two of daily work on the first 26 letter sounds, still missed them sometimes, as he struggled painfully and laboriously through each page of Fun Tales. (Mommy guilt?)

And I ask you:

  • Should I take the credit for one son’s quick ability?
  • Should I take the blame for one son’s painstaking plodding?

Well, I could . . . but that seems a bit silly. The same gene pool and the same educational resources produced them both.

Celebrate Each Child's Success

If I had only one child, I might be inclined to feel either elation or despair at my success or my failing. But because I don’t have only one child, I can see that I shouldn’t project my sons’ abilities onto myself. Each of them is on his own journey.

What would be a better choice would be to celebrate my sons for their successes. Even though I don’t always succeed, I’m trying to celebrate the speed-reading of one son and keep him in books. And I celebrate the incremental victories of another son, rejoicing with him when he remembers that “of” says /uv/ and not /off/.

I can celebrate that I get to be the one to see the joy of living and the perseverance, that I get to be the one to encourage and spur on.

And that’s my hope for you, too—that you would be grateful for where you and your children are, without respect to where they “should” be. That you work with your children to master the spelling and the reading and the math and the writing, and whether they go through the materials by flying or plodding, that you get to be with them as they go.

Christ Has Set Us Free to Live a Free Life

We’re human, which means we’re imperfect. And so we can beat ourselves up in so many ways.

But the words of Paul in Galatians 5:1 keep running through my mind: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free,” or “Christ has set us free to live a free life.”

And I realize that this is talking about how we are not under the law but under grace.

And yet … I keep thinking about freedom! The freedom I want to enter into, the freedom I want for my friends and loved ones. If it were easy to live in freedom, Paul wouldn’t have had to remind the Galatians of truth. But it’s not easy. We need reminders.

Homeschooling is a great journey to be on. May you enter into the freedom to enjoy it.

If you wonder if Sonlight is right for you, we offer a 100% guarantee. No other homeschooling company can match this, so you have the freedom to order with confidence: either you will have a great year, or you will get a full refund.

Homeschooling Gives Us Freedom to Celebrate Each Child's Success
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Why Homeschooling Should and Shouldn’t be Hard

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Why Homeschooling Should and Shouldn’t be Hard

When you homeschool, your children learn more than you ever thought they could. And the reality is that even when kids love to learn, it is sometimes hard for them. And homeschooling itself is not always a walk in the park for the parents either.

But we hope that when homeschooling is hard, it is for the inevitable reason that you are an imperfect parent raising imperfect children and guiding them through the process of growing up to become loving, fully functioning adults.

Legitimate Reasons Homeschooling is Hard

In other words, homeschooling sometimes feels hard for various valid reasons:

  • You and your children are human. You all have room to grow in character, love, patience, and understanding of each other.
  • Your children are constantly learning how to listen, how to obey, and what is and is not appropriate. Loving and wise discipline is definitely not always easy.
  • Homeschooling is a worthy endeavor, and any worthy endeavor for God’s Kingdom is going to be a target for the enemy’s attacks. Satan does not want you to thrive in homeschooling as you raise your children to be equipped to do whatever God calls them to do. So of course, he will try to discourage you.
  • No matter what curriculum you use, your family still needs to eat, you all need clean clothes, and someone must earn money to pay the bills. Much of the difficulty of homeschooling is simply an extension of the difficulty of life. Raising children brings so much joy and laughter … and drives us to our knees to ask for wisdom and strength for the task.

Reasons Homeschooling Shouldn't be Hard

But there are also some common homeschool headaches that are quite unnecessary and can be avoided:

  • You have to figure out what to teach.
  • Your children are bored to tears and therefore climbing the walls or just shutting down.
  • You have to comb through the library to locate books that might possibly be good.
  • You are sacrificing much-needed sleep in order to plan your lessons.
  • You don’t know what to do with your homeschool materials.
  • You are scrambling to find random supplies so you can finally do a science experiment.
  • You don’t know what’s important to teach, so you live with constant anxiety that you are failing your children.

With the right curriculum choice, these burdens are eliminated. Here at Sonlight, we DON’T want you to struggle for any of those reasons. We want to take on the burden of optimizing curriculum so that you don’t have to.

Why do we go to all the work of constantly improving our programs?

We want you and your family to love your homeschool. We want you to feel confident and equipped. We want you to pull out your binders and say “I can do this! I have what I need to succeed.”

That’s the whole point of complete Sonlight packages. We take on the stress of creating curriculum and gathering materials, so you can just open up and do what you do best—interacting with your children.

We do everything we can to make Sonlight easy to use so that while homeschooling may sometimes be hard in the ways it should be hard, it's never hard for the avoidable reasons that come with a frustrating curriculum choice.

To find out more about Sonlight's easy to use homeschool programs, order a complimentary copy of your catalog today.

Why Homeschooling Should and Shouldn’t be Hard • Although homeschooling may sometimes be hard for legitimate reasons, many common frustrations are completely avoidable with the right curriculum choice.

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Give Kids Tools, Not Toys

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Give Kids Tools, Not Toys

My dad had a lot of great advice and wisdom. One of the many things I learned from him was the art of giving gifts to children. I remember it clearly. At that time I had three little boys, and Dad and I were standing in his workshop. While he was crafting something, I was holding tools for him. I commented that he and Mom always gave such great gifts to the kids. I told him how many of the moms at my women’s Bible Study were lamenting the amount of toy junk their children receive as gifts for various holidays and birthdays. They wanted ways to curb the toys and limit the junk.

Dad said, "You have to give kids tools, not toys."

That was the advice. He didn't really elaborate—which was unusual because he generally elaborated on everything.

Tools, Not Toys.

Dad is right, of course.

The reasoning is that we are raising kids to be well adjusted, functioning adults who will one day hold jobs, have families, and be responsible citizens. During the short time we have our children under our care, we prepare them to take their place in society. So they need to learn a lot along the way. They need to be molded and shaped and directed. They need the tools—we need the tools—to get them there.

My Dad was a history and shop teacher when I was growing up, and one thing he instilled in us from a young age is, "You have to have the right tool for the job." He would sometimes shake his head during my early married life when he looked at my husband's tools. Many times he would loan us the correct tool for the job. I mean, you cannot fix plumbing without a pipe wrench or work with electricity without a volt tester.

The same is true with kids. What kids need are tools, not toys. If folks could just get a handle on that, the junk found in the kid's section of most stores would be reduced by half or maybe even 90%. But, what is a tool?

Now that I have two toddling granddaughters, I have put together a list of sorts so that my husband I don’t become grandparents who give our sweet grandgirls junk and so that we don't give their parents the stress that comes along with it.

Tools for Kids

  • sports equipment—balls, mitts, bats, orange cones to mark off goals, etc.
  • blocks
  • dolls
  • small animal figures
  • musical instruments
  • flashlights
  • sandbox
  • wagon
  • bike
  • swings
  • picnic table
  • paper, markers/crayons, and scissors
  • construction blocks
  • games
  • backpack
  • fishing pole
  • compass
  • pocket knife
  • mess kit and other camping supplies
  • books
  • a screwdriver and hammer
  • wood-burning set
  • knitting, crochet, or any kind of handwork
  • magnifying glass
  • leathercraft tools and supplies
  • jump-rope
  • pogo-stick
  • baking and cooking utensils
  • puzzles
  • paddle ball
  • a big empty box
  • capes, hats, and costumes
  • gardening tools such as a shovel, a pail, and gloves

Tools encourage imagination and creativity. They often get kids outside where they can develop both large and small muscle groups. Tools stand the test of time and can usually be passed down from child to child in a family. Kids rarely get bored with tools.

When I helped Amy Lykosh develop Sonlight's Preschool Program, I relied on my belief that kids need tools, not toys. Together, we selected a great collection of tools for preschoolers.

Toys for Kids

So what is a toy? Here are some tell-tale signs that you are dealing with a toy instead of a tool.

  • anything that has batteries and makes noise
  • something meant for the child to watch rather than interact with
  • anything made of cheap plastic which breaks easily
  • stuffed things that talk and/or entertain

Simply browse the children's section of any big box store. Most everything there falls into the toy category instead of the tool category.

Of course, I am not saying, "No toys ever!" What I am saying is that tools should be a child's main diet, and toys should be like a dessert. Dessert is nice, but you have it only occasionally, not at every meal.

So, the next time you want to give a child a gift, remember my dad's words and nourish creativity with tools, not toys.

Give Kids Tools, Not Toys
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