27 Reasons NOT to Buy Sonlight®

by John Holzmann, Sonlight Co-Founder

Sonlight® is not the right curriculum for everyone. Find out why.

Let's just get this out in the open: Sonlight Curriculum may not be a good fit for you. If it's not, what better time to discover that than now—while you're still just learning about us?

Here at Sonlight, we've heard from many, many customers in the past 20 years. Most feedback is very positive, but we appreciate the constructive and sometimes painful feedback as well. It helps us understand what we can do better and how we can help families make informed choices about our curriculum.

The following 27 reasons why you may not want to purchase Sonlight come from former customers who found our curriculum to be a poor fit for their families.

If only a few of the following reasons apply to you, know that many families happily modify Sonlight to fit their needs. You can ask questions about your family's situation and get helpful, realistic feedback from Sonlight customers on the Choosing Sonlight Curriculum Forum.

And if you buy Sonlight, start using it and then decide it's not for you, you can still return it for a full refund. (Learn more about our 1-year Guarantee.) But to minimize the possibility that you will be disappointed in that manner, please consider:

What are the main reasons people say they DON'T want to buy Sonlight curriculum?

1. They don't want a lot of reading.

(link to this reason)

When you use Sonlight, you and your children will read. A lot. Sonlight is thoroughly grounded in literature and reading.

If you don't like to read; if you won't enjoy reading out loud to your young children; if your older children find no pleasure in reading, you may need to either find audio versions of Sonlight books or use a program other than Sonlight.

On an encouraging note: Many parents have used Sonlight in hopes that the great books will "hook" their reluctant readers. I can happily report that in the vast majority of cases this strategy has worked!

2. They want a curriculum that revolves around hands-on activities.

(link to this reason)

Several programs on the market advertise their strong activity orientation. While Sonlight has more options for hands-on activities in the elementary grades than most of our competitors, we have chosen a different primary emphasis.

We recognize that hands-on learning greatly helps many children, and we give parents specific tools to incorporate hands-on learning in many areas. Core P4/5 brims over with developmentally-appropriate hands-on activities that are simple to prepare and that truly help your children grow. Cores A through E (for ages 5-12) come with weekly suggestions of many activities to correlate with your learning.

Sonlight's Science programs are loaded with activities and experiments. We also emphasize hands-on activities in early elementary Math programs. Such activities are particularly helpful for kinesthetic learners; they help families with different types of learners all enjoy Sonlight together.

But on the other hand, we don't schedule time-consuming activities that put the emphasis on parent preparation. We've found these activities often don't have a strong enough educational payoff to make them worthwhile. When my wife was homeschooling, she'd come across suggestions to do things like make raccoon-skin caps, create playground-sized maps of the world, cook Pilgrim-era Thanksgiving meals and so on.

While these kinds of activities may, no doubt, be loads of fun, it is our opinion that their educational value is not worth the hours parents must spend doing preparatory work. So if you want to do them, we bless you in your desire. But we have not incorporated them into our fundamental educational program.

We find that as parents read dynamic and engaging books to their children, they fill their minds with strong mental images and challenging ideas. Then children decide on their own, what activities they want to do. And they prepare for those activities on their own with minimal guidance from us. (Ever seen what kids will do with a cardboard box? Or a stick? They create ideas without Mom or Dad preparing something for them!)

Our own four children and countless Sonlighters over the past 20 years have borne witness to these ideas. We have seen positive effects in many families when parents focus on reading great books with their kids and do few if any parent-directed hands-on activities.

So even though we do include lots of hands-on activities that tie directly into what you're learning, these activities are never the main thrust of our curriculum. They're more of an optional, child-directed, supplemental tool.

We realize, however, that your situation could be different from ours. Perhaps you've found your children need intense, parent-driven hands-on activities in order to master the material you're teaching; or maybe you yourself feel energized by such activities.

In either case, you may want to do one of two things. 1) Come visit forums.sonlight.com and find loads of activities your fellow teachers suggest for Sonlight programs. (There are many moms who love to prepare hands-on activities and use Sonlight Curriculum with joy and good success!) Or, 2) Purchase one of the activities-based programs on the market.

3. They prefer classroom-style study with lots of quizzes, tests and grades.

(link to this reason)

Unlike most classroom teachers, most homeschool parents have daily, personal, one-on-one contact with each of their students. Particularly with a literature-based curriculum, we've found that this one-on-one contact equips homeschool parents to evaluate their students' progress without quizzes and tests.

When you read a book, for example, you'll discuss it with your children: "Why do you think he wanted to do that?" "What does this mean?" If your children are able to answer your questions, you will know exactly how much they have understood—or failed to understand.

Sonlight does provide tools for you to measure your children's progress. Our methods are less formal (and some say a lot simpler) than classroom-oriented programs. Still, Sonlighters have found that these methods can give you all the feedback you need, plus all the stimulation and test-taking practice your children need.

4. They believe Sonlight is too expensive.

(link to this reason)

Sonlight® Core packages cost between $269 and $679. Full-Grade Packages with all the main subjects for one child for one year cost between $269 and $879. Let me acknowledge up front that these costs are beyond the means of many families. Sonlight absolutely may be beyond your financial capacity. And if it is, we don't want to see you place your family in financial jeopardy by buying from us.

For many years, our family lived on the edge financially. We took full advantage of giveaways and garage sales. We budgeted very carefully and pinched our pennies.

At the same time, we recognized that if we were going to purchase certain products, it was worth it to go for the (more expensive) high quality brands. I tried generic vanilla ice cream a few times, and then decided it wasn't worth it. If I was going to buy ice cream at all, I wanted to savor it. The flavor of the generic variety simply provided no pleasure. Some things you know you want to pay a bit more for.

And that's been our attitude toward Sonlight.

Yes, you can buy used. You can piece together your own program. You can use a state-sponsored curriculum.

But if you want to enjoy a delightful program that has been coordinated, scheduled and laid out for you; if you want curriculum full of the finest literature available; if you want the assurance that comes from a one-year, money-back, "Love-to-Learn/Love-to-Teach" Guarantee, complete with all the support provided by its award-winning publisher and amazingly inquisitive customers; if you want to enjoy those special extras that Sonlight Core customers have been delighted to receive through the years; if you want to buy from a company known for bend-over-backward customer service, a commitment to the highest ethics, and one that dedicates a high percentage of its profits to charitable causes you can believe in, you may decide it's worth it to go for Sonlight Curriculum.

I should also point out that Sonlight (compared with other homeschool programs), reduces your costs by…

  • Making it possible for children at different grade levels—as much as three or four years or more apart—to study the same subjects together. (See How to Choose Curriculum)
  • Allowing you to re-use curriculum with your younger children when age differences are too great to combine all your children with one Core each year. When the younger ones are ready for each Core you've already used with the older kids, you can pull it off the shelf, order a few extra resources and get started! There are very few consumable items in Core packages.

Sonlight also offers additional value by…

  • Providing education and entertainment. (Families often say their children re-read their Sonlight books again and again for fun after they finish each Core.)
  • Providing opportunities for significant family times together: times that no one—not even a never-read-a-book-in-my-life husband—will want to miss.

You get all these "extras" from Sonlight for an investment that ranges from only $7.47 to $24.42 per week of school. Compare this with your other curriculum options, and you may realize what a good deal Sonlight really is.

Really. Take a detailed look not only at Sonlight, but at all your alternatives: "built from scratch," discounters and second-hand sources, other homeschool curriculum providers, state-sponsored homeschool curricula, and public and private classroom schools.

Once you do the full calculation, you may decide—as we have—that Sonlight is a better deal than you thought. And don't forget about Sonlight's interest-free payment plan options (click here for more).

For a deeper discussion of Sonlight's cost, click here to read the article "Pinching Pennies".

5. They want their children to study what their public-school peers study.

(link to this reason)

Many traditional schools boast that their curricula have no gaps—that their students will acquire complete educations, with no missing pieces.

This claim puzzles us. We don't see how anyone can be taught everything he or she will need to know by age 17 or 18.

When we first began to develop Sonlight Curriculum, we consulted several standard scope-and-sequence lists and quickly realized that no two curricula completely agree on what your children ought to know. Even programs that claim to have no gaps have differences between them!

We seek to offer a thorough education—more thorough than you can find in almost any classroom school. But Sonlight aims to create within students a genuine inquisitive spirit and love for learning more than to teach them a specific set of facts that their peers may or may not learn in another curriculum or school environment.

With Sonlight, you set the stage for your students to continue learning even after they have completed their formal education. Your students will pick up, later, any information they may have missed during their school years. Why?

Because they will want to learn. We've heard over and over that Sonlight gives kids an unquenchable love of learning.

Far better, we believe, to lack a few facts, love to learn, and grow for the rest of your life than to have "all the right information" and hate the learning process when you graduate.

6. They would rather not address false, foolish or questionable ideas.

(link to this reason)

Parents who object to Sonlight Curriculum on this ground may

  1. believe it is wrong to mention or teach about beliefs or practices that are different from their own;
  2. want to begin introducing these ideas much later than families who love Sonlight tend to;
  3. lack the time or confidence to process difficult or controversial ideas with their children.

Parents who fall into one of these categories often feel uncomfortable with Sonlight's commitment to present all sides of a case.

If the thoughts I've just expressed create a fearful lump in your chest, however, let me note that your children will run into these ideas and practices some day.

Since that is the case, consider with me: What better place is there for your children first to encounter and learn how to address false beliefs, foolish ideas or questionable arguments… than in the supportive environment of your home—with your help?

We believe that you, the parent, should introduce your children to the difficult subjects, carefully instruct them about why certain positions are false, foolish or questionable, and then teach them how to respond to people you (and they) may view as opponents—in gracious strength and humility.

We designed Sonlight Instructor's Guides to help you do all these things. You don't have to wade into difficult material alone—you just need the courage to put your toes in and talk with your kids.

7. They can't invest lots of time participating in school with their children.

(link to this reason)

With Sonlight, your children will do a fair amount of work on their own. Math and Handwriting, for example, require independent work. But in Sonlight's areas of unique strength—History and Literature—the program will not work if parents hand it to their elementary or middle school children to do on their own.

With Sonlight, you will even be involved in the high school years, though to a lesser extent. Your high schoolers will take initiative; but after they've done their work, they will get the most from the curriculum if you engage them in discussions about what they've studied and what they're thinking as a result.

The complete curriculum, including History and Literature, Language Arts, Science and Math, requires the kind of parental time commitments mentioned at the start of each year's program description (about 1.5-2 hours a day in the early years, 2-3 hours in the middle years and 1-2.5 hours for older students).


Because it is Sonlight's purpose to equip you to pass on your values, your dreams, your worldview. And as the Bible says, you should talk with your children about these things "when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up" (Deuteronomy 6:7, 11:19). In other words--at least if we are to believe what the Bible seems to teach, here—you must invest a significant amount of time and talk with your children. And Sonlight equips you to make the most of that time.

First, we've done the lesson preparation for you so you can invest almost all of your homeschooling time in direct, face-to-face interaction with your children, reading and talking about things that matter.

Second, we provide a wide range of thought-provoking experiences for you to share with your children. But how do you ensure you talk about worthwhile things? In our opinion (borne out in practice): By enjoying a broad range of thought-provoking experiences and opportunities to identify with and discuss believable characters in literature and history. These are exactly the kinds of experiences customers tell us they get when they read the books Sonlight provides.

Your steadying hand and thoughtful input as you read and discuss helps bind you to your children and them to you. As a result, they gain confidence in you and turn to you more readily for insight and guidance. You find yourself serving as trusted confidant—a privileged role that most parents would love to fulfill.

8. They want most school years to focus on U.S. history and culture.

(link to this reason)

In a standard American history/social studies curriculum, students begin with study of "my community," then move outward to "my state," "my country" and so on. They devote 10 of 12 years—over 80% of their homeschool time—to study of the history and culture of a nation that has existed for less than 10% of recorded history and encompasses fewer than 5% of all the people in the world!

We recognize that Western culture—and American society in particular within the last 150 years—has enriched the world in many ways. We want to highlight its unique contributions.

But because we believe that God is no respecter of persons on the basis of their racial or cultural backgrounds, Sonlight also seeks to emphasize the unique contributions, strengths, weaknesses, and needs—both physical and spiritual—of the other major peoples and cultures on Earth.

With Sonlight, your children begin their studies outside the United States (see our P4/5, A, B and C programs) so that when they look at American history and culture (beginning in D and E), they will understand more fully how and why American culture is different.

In all, Sonlight devotes four solid years to U.S. history and culture. Due to their astonishingly rich content and engrossing presentation, however, those four years are equivalent to at least eight in almost any other program.

But Sonlight also devotes eight years to the rest of the world, including not only Western history and culture, but also the cultures and histories of Asia, Africa, the Middle East and indigenous peoples around the globe.

We believe God desires to bless all nations and peoples of the world (Rev. 5:9), so we help you prepare your students—wherever God may lead them—to think about, pray for and serve peoples and cultures around the world.

Of course, in addition to our spiritual interest, as international commerce increases, there are practical "secular" reasons we think you should want to teach your children about the world beyond America's borders.

If our larger-than-average emphasis on other cultures bothers you, we understand. There are legitimate reasons to focus on the U.S., and if you are convinced you want to teach along those lines, we want to support you in that endeavor. In that case, we invite you to consider purchasing only those specific programs within the overall Sonlight Curriculum that will meet your needs.

9. They want a more "Bible-centered" homeschool program than Sonlight offers.

(link to this reason)

We believe that academics ought to be based on and intentionally related to Scripture. Bible reading, themes, memory verses and Scripture study are an integral part of each Sonlight Core program. In the upper-levels, the included Bible study (including Apologetics and Church history) can be quite rigorous as we help students find sure footing in their faith. As we have discovered, however, this is not enough for many people. They want their materials more frequently connected directly to Scripture references. They like to see a reference or quote from Scripture on nearly every page.

We believe there are many times when a certain passage of Scripture will provide insight or new understanding concerning a subject. We will of course quote or reference the appropriate Scripture there. But in general, our approach is to provide rich materials that help parents engage in more natural conversations about Scripture with their children.

When you read The Hundred Dresses in Core A, for example, the story itself presents wonderful opportunities to discuss Biblical principles in real-life settings. Why should we care for others? What does kindness look like? How do we stand up for what is right?

Instead of Sonlight filling up your Instructor's Guide with "Bible lessons" for each of these principles for such a small book, we let you decide what is most applicable to discuss. Depending on the unique needs of your children, you can teach whatever character principle you want to! We find that this fluid, natural method tends to stick with kids much more than simplistic moral tales about character traits.

But if you are looking for a program that displays a certain number of Scripture references per paragraph, page, chapter, etc., Sonlight Curriculum will not satisfy your wishes.

10. They enjoy creating their own plans and schedules and assembling lesson supplies.

(link to this reason)

Sonlight Curriculum, Ltd. was founded to help those who don't want to spend much time (or hardly any at all) creating schedules or doing preparatory work. Our Instructor's Guides, supply kits, and other materials help such parents spend more time teaching and interacting with their students, and less time preparing.

If you would rather do for yourself the work we have done; if doing such work leaves you feeling energized rather than worn down, we encourage you to develop your own curriculum.

Of course, we believe the individual books we offer can help you teach your children, so we are delighted to make them available to you. But we have no interest in pushing any services on you that you don't want or need.

You should note that while a Sonlight program is robust and sufficient in and of itself, you certainly can use it as a starting point and create additional lessons and activities in areas where your kids are interested. Our programs suggest a certain structure and schedule, but they are also as flexible as you want to make them.

11. They don't want any sad books or heavy content.

(link to this reason)

One of the criteria Sarita uses to choose books has to do with their ability to make a lasting emotional impact upon her. She looks for books where she feels an emotional connection with the characters. As a result, you are likely to find Sonlight includes more than the usual number of books that will bring tears to your eyes.

Please know: Sarita does not choose maudlin, sappy, romantic, nostalgic or sentimental books. Rather, she looks for emotions that fit more with words like poignant, heartwarming, powerful, deep and thought-provoking. Read her 7 criteria for Sonlight All-Star books.

If you enjoy books like these, you and your children are likely to love Sonlight. As different moms have suggested, these books create a "wonderful heartache" or "positive mark on your heart." The emotions not only make these books memorable but also strengthen your broader learning experience. We have found that students remember much more of what they read when they have emotionally connected with the characters.

We also believe that reading emotionally stirring books helps children develop moral imagination. As your kids read and imagine how the world looks and feels to someone else, they develop the capacity to empathize with others. The emotional impact of such books helps children understand how their actions affect the lives of others far better than if they only understood intellectually that actions have consequences.

On the other hand, we have discovered that some people—parents and children—find emotionally-stirring books unpleasant. They not only don't enjoy having their eyes well up with tears, they find the experience downright painful. They think of such books in terms like heavy, sad, dark, gut-wrenching and so forth. And such parents may joyfully abandon Sonlight for what they view as happier climes.

If you or your children fit in this latter group, then we encourage you not to buy Sonlight. There are plenty of curricula on the market that avoid emotional issues and/or avoid touching emotional nerves. Sonlight is definitely not one of them!

12. They want a light study schedule, so their kids can pursue non-academic interests.

(link to this reason)


13. They feel compelled to do everything their Instructor's Guide mentions.

(link to this reason)

We are convinced that homeschooling is much more time-efficient than traditional education, and homeschoolers don't need to spend near as much time in formal educational activities as students in classroom settings. But we also believe that we homeschooling parents have a responsibility before God to help our children acquire wisdom, knowledge and a foundation for future success as much as possible while they are under our care.

That's why Sonlight Instructor's Guides make lots of suggestions about reading assignments, reports students might write, subjects they might study, languages they might learn, skills they might want to develop, and so forth.

But think about an elaborate Thanksgiving feast where the banquet table was spread with scores of delectable dishes. No one would expect you to sample "some of everything." Indeed, even if you wanted to, there would be far too much food for you to accomplish such a feat.

So it is with Sonlight. Most parents pick and choose among the assignments we suggest. Almost everyone does all the readings, but many will ignore some of the comprehension questions.

... Or they will just use the Discover & Do DVDs in lieu of a full Science program in the early years.

... Or they will stretch a Sonlight program out over more than one year.

... Or they will do the Read-Alouds (some of them, anyway) at night, thinking of them as bedtime stories, or they will read the books during the summer, when the kids are bored.

Some parents, however, just can't shake the feeling that they are failures if they don't do every last item mentioned in the Instructor's Guide (and do it in the same order and at the same pace that the Guide seems to suggest).

If you are this kind of person—if you feel compelled to check every box—then we want to warn you: it is quite likely Sonlight will be a bad fit for you. You might consider whether another company's program will better meet your needs.

14. They want to present all content and history as absolute truth, without question or doubt.

(link to this reason)

Though we base our curriculum on a solid, missions-minded, evangelical Christian interpretation of Scripture, we recognize that much of history is open to conflicting interpretations. We can't present many nuances of historical eras in absolute terms.

Many of us learned history as simple facts. But the reality is that in many cases we cannot possibly know exactly what happened. We may know the primary facts about major events, but we also know that historical writings and archeological interpretations come from subjective human perspectives. So Sonlight refuses to speak as if there is only one interpretation of historical events. We do seek to give a fair representation of both (or more) sides of any issues concerning which we ourselves are in some doubt.

Since most of history was written by the "winners" in a given situation, we strive also to at least consider the viewpoint of those on the other side. For example, I imagine the defeat of the Spanish Armada looked very different to Spaniard eyes than it did to the British. Both perspectives are valuable.

We take this approach in history; we take it also in other subjects. (See "27 Reasons Families Love Sonlight," #7 and 11 for specific examples.)

We do this because we want to be fair when other perspectives merit discussion. We want to encourage students to think critically and to act with gracious humility toward those who hold differing views and perspectives.

Especially when it comes to theological considerations, we want students to know not only what they believe, but—almost more importantly­—why. We want to make sure students are able to differentiate what Scripture actually says from how people have interpreted Scripture, and to differentiate both of these from other, non-Scriptural ideas about events in our world… so they can treat each of these wisely and well.

15. They want their curriculum to focus on personal holiness and, generally, to avoid discussions of broader social, economic, political and legal issues.

(link to this reason)

Of course a Christian curriculum must focus on personal holiness. But we believe our broad goals in education—as in all of life—must never be merely personal or defensive in nature. Rather, as Christians, we must enter into the spiritual warfare that has engulfed the world from the time of Adam and Eve.

That is why Sonlight seeks to help you prepare your students to become courageous, wise soldiers and ambassadors for Christ in and to the world, and not hermits for Christ removed from the world (John 17:14-19).

In keeping with Scriptures such as Matthew 6:10 and 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, Sonlight seeks to prepare students to take the offensive against the strategies, tactics and activities of the wicked one—not only at home and in their personal lives, but in the broad social, moral, political, economic and legal challenges of our day. Read goals 3-5 in "Our Top Ten Goals" and the article "Why Sonlight Uses Certain Books" for insight into how we do this.

16. They want to teach history in a four-year chronological cycle.

(link to this reason)

Advocates of the four-year cycle approach often cite two primary reasons in support of the idea.

1) They say it makes sense. History should be taught in chronological order, and it takes about four years to adequately cover history from creation to the modern era. And,

2) They say that a four-year cycle permits them to teach all of their children—no matter their ages—one subject at the same time: Ancient History one year, Middle Ages another and so forth.

I want to recognize that this approach works well for many families.

But our view on the matter is this: Yes, students need to understand the flow of history. Yes, they need to grasp the time line. But they also need to understand where things happened, among whom they occurred, and why. In order to explain these points, sometimes you need a separate narrative—a flashback—that may be out of order chronologically.

Is that bad? No!

Think about the last movie or book you enjoyed that featured a flashback scene to fill you in on preceding events. Rather than creating confusion, this "jump" to another time probably helped you understand something important about the characters and the scenes to come.

Similarly, we find we enhance students' understanding when we remind them of parallels and contrasts with peoples, cultures and events of other times and other places.

In the end, every one of our Core packages emphasizes historical periods and incorporates time line activities. And when we are teaching about any particular people group or part of the world, we teach in chronological order.

But we don't believe chronology must trump geography (i.e., place) and culture.

Sometimes it is worthwhile to focus on the history and culture of a particular place: American history, perhaps; the Eastern Hemisphere nations; or civics in an historical context.

We think you might come to the same conclusion. However, if you are unconvinced, we encourage you to use a program that, in its multiyear scope and sequence, places a higher value on chronology than Sonlight does.

With respect to the second idea—that a four-year approach permits you to teach all of your children with one curriculum, we agree with the concept and practice of teaching the same topics to children together… as long as the children are within a few years of one another. Indeed, that is exactly what we encourage you to do when you use Sonlight: combine your kids so you use as few Core programs as is reasonable at any one time.

The appeal of great literature to a wide swath of ages makes combining kids possible. However, that truth is valid only so far. There comes a point where, say, a junior high school student won't get the kind of "meat" she needs from a book written to appeal to first grade readers. And few kindergarten and first grade students will grasp books whose content is designed to challenge their fifth and sixth grade siblings (let alone high school students).

We think that, to do justice to our children, we can't really teach all students at one time using a single curriculum. But Sonlight's approach reaches a happy medium that combines students as much as possible while also connecting them to the wonders of history at their own level of learning.

17. They want a curriculum to praise the Christian character and roots of the United States.

(link to this reason)

Sonlight Curriculum commits to train children with a missionary heart for all of God's world and to embrace all peoples with realistic discernment—European Americans no more and no less than others.

We are as fascinated as the next person with those aspects of American history that are uniquely Christian. We are happy to point them out. But we seek to go far beyond this.

For example, we seek to show how things look(ed) from the perspective of the peoples who were displaced by the European colonists. And we discuss issues of racism (for example) not only as they may have impacted the American Civil War but in other contexts as well. Over the years, we've found that this desire for a balanced perspective sets us apart from a large segment of the homeschool curriculum community.

18. They seek a program with a cultural background closer to their own than we are able to offer.

(link to this reason)

We think it is only fair to make absolutely clear: we who developed Sonlight are evangelical Christian middle-class white Americans. We were born and raised in the United States. We are the children of first- and second-generation European immigrants. Ultimately, we seek to be as sensitive as possible to the perspectives and values of others and we would love to serve you.

If you are looking for a broad-based, internationally-focused curriculum that is deeply committed to looking at issues from all sides, and if you can overlook some of our (usually unwitting) white American provincialisms, we expect we can provide the kind of educational program you are looking for. Customers of many ethnic groups, with a variety of worldviews, living in over 150 different countries around the world have successfully used our programs.

But if you are looking for a program that will focus more completely upon your particular cultural group—and that will speak more readily as an insider of that group—you will probably want to find another supplier.

19. They want a non-religious program.

(link to this reason)

Ninety percent or more of our books are non-religious. But the Sonlight Instructor's Guides are not religiously neutral! They are written from an unabashedly biblical, evangelical Christian base.

We are not strident in our Christian views, but we are not hesitant, either, to suggest where and how we think the Bible, as God's Word, may speak to the issues of today. We have written our Instructor's Guides from that perspective.

By merely eliminating the Bible portion of our Core programs you will not eliminate all references to God, the Bible, or Christianity. Though many families who do not consider themselves religious or evangelical use the program successfully, if you are bothered by a curriculum influenced by the Bible, Sonlight may not be the right fit for you.

20. They want their curriculum to promote the unique doctrines and practices of their particular Christian denomination.

(link to this reason)

Sonlight makes no claims to represent or advocate the views and practices of any specific denomination. Our primary commitment is to the preaching of Jesus' "evangel"—His Good News—among all the peoples of the Earth.

If you desire a curriculum that will promote a more narrowly defined theology, Sonlight, on its own, will not meet your requirements. Indeed, its broad vision, at points, may irritate you.

But many customers work around this by supplementing Sonlight's materials with others that more nearly match their own perspectives.

Please consider carefully whether you can work comfortably with materials that, upon occasion, may speak more directly to people who believe differently from you on matters that may be close to your heart.

21. They want a curriculum whose primary focus is on "character development."

(link to this reason)

We agree with those who say character is of paramount importance. Knowledge without good character truly is perverse. The question is: how should we go about helping our children develop righteous and godly character?

Sonlight is founded on the belief that "character is caught, not taught." People develop good character by observing the behavior of others whom they respect, by letting the truths of the Bible sink into their life, by addressing issues as they arise in real life, by asking questions of people they trust, and by purposefully thinking through circumstances that can cloud judgment and cause godly people to go astray.

We can also form character by meditating on the lives, moral dilemmas and ethical (or unethical) behavior of believable characters in realistic stories.

In order to provide plenty of fodder for this kind of meditation, Sonlight Curriculum includes books whose protagonists confront what we believe are realistic ethical and moral dilemmas, the kinds of problems whose solutions sometimes are morally uncertain and difficult to discern.

Why would we choose such books?

We are convinced that the presence of true conflict and struggle in the books we carry makes their moral or character-oriented "lessons" not only believable, but memorable as well. We believe that helping children find true heroes to emulate will help them develop their character more fully than will simply memorizing facts about character traits. Moreover, we believe that when children read of real people (or believable fictional characters) who face significant challenges, remain faithful to God and overcome their circumstances, they will develop heroes worth imitating. Children will be inspired to live with courage and faithfulness, just like their heroes, and character will grow out of this inspiration.

Some homeschoolers, however, disagree with this methodology. Partially out of concern for their time, and partially out of fear that they may not get the "right" answers, some parents want the moral lessons to be unambiguous. They want the stories themselves (without parental guidance) to state exactly what "lessons" their children are supposed to learn from what they are reading.

Others, out of a need to feel they have "done" character training want the moral and character qualities their children should learn to be named… and they want to be able to check them off on a schedule sheet.

If you are looking for a program that meets "check-it-off-the-list," "done for you" criteria when it comes to character training, you need to know that, as written, Sonlight won't meet your requirements. If you like the general outline of Sonlight Curriculum, but want to check character education off on a schedule sheet, you'll have to supplement it with a character development program closer to your liking.

22. They want to guard their children from anything offensive—at all costs.

(link to this reason)

Sonlight has no interest in promoting unbiblical practices or ungodly behavior. However, we believe a book should be judged on the positive value it offers, rather than the negative attributes it omits.

As you delve into some of the greatest literature ever written—especially in the older grades, you will probably come across some words, ideas or characters that will offend you.

We hope that when our customers encounter truly bad characters in literature, they can help their children examine good and evil and gain wisdom. How should we respond to wickedness?

We envision the literary experience as a joint parent-child effort that sparks quality discussion of the values you hold and the truth you espouse; it's a process of discovery, explanation and teaching, a process that helps to unlock the real treasures contained in excellent literary work.

Imagine eating a nutritious fish, grilled to perfection and filled with all the flavors you love. The nutritional value and flavor of the meat make it worth your while to "work around the bones."

Please consider: 1) If you want your older students never to read books with occasional profanities; 2) If you require that your children read literature with only wholesome characters; or 3) If you only want books with overt Christian themes in your home—to the exclusion of "literary masterpieces" or cultural essentials—then you will probably have difficulty with some of the classic literature we offer.

If, normally, you find yourself able to read around an occasional use of offensive language in an otherwise outstanding work, you should do just fine with Sonlight— at least through the Core 200 program. (Core 300 and 400 for mid- to upper-high school include a few raw works that we have noted in the listings.)

On the other hand, if occasional bad language or a wicked character (or other pesky "bones") will overwhelm your sense of propriety, you should look elsewhere. [For a more detailed discussion of this issue, please see the article "Why Sonlight Uses Certain Books Some Homeschoolers Won't Touch."]

23. They want a program that focuses on the "Great Books" that are part of the "Great Conversation."

(link to this reason)

Sonlight Curriculum is committed to introducing students to a large number of the most influential "Great Books" and authors of the Western intellectual tradition. We also desire to help our students enter into the "Great Conversation" of Western culture.

That's why our program includes a large number of classic works. That's why, too, many families use Sonlight as a foundation for what they call a Classical Education.

But unlike some in the Classical Education movement, we at Sonlight do not believe that seventh grade students need to read The Aeneid or that many eighth graders will profit from being assigned Augustine's City of God or Calvin's Institutes.

As one woman wrote, "The Great Books will be drudgery to anyone not yet taken captive by the Great Questions, the Big Ideas. If you are not yet given to pondering the meaning of life it is doubtful you are ready to read the ponderings of others."

Our goal is to raise children who love to learn and love to read. To that end, we believe that when we present works such as those I have mentioned above, students must be prepared to understand the books' content and to feel passionately about the issues that the books raise.

To increase the probability that students will be able to understand and will be interested in the works they read, Sonlight waits several years later than some in the Classical movement to schedule the more difficult works. Moreover, when we do schedule difficult books, we usually intermix them with more modern, fun works.

We do this in order to encourage students that school and learning is—or certainly can be—a mixture of disciplined hard work and of pleasure.

Finally, we have decided that some issues can wait for college or personal study in the adult years. If students have been inspired to pursue a lifelong career of learning, when the appropriate time comes, they will get around to the "Great Books" they've missed.

In sum: while Sonlight includes much of what its Classical Education counterparts cover, we realize we cannot possibly meet everyone's needs or interests.

24. They want a program that focuses on something other than academics and scholarship.

(link to this reason)

Sonlight is highly academic because we believe an academic, liberal arts education is valuable preparation for almost any occupation. Leaders throughout history, from Lincoln to Leonardo Da Vinci, benefited from an education that mixed various disciplines to give a big picture view of the world. Training in the liberal arts helps students think outside the box and discover solutions to problems they would not otherwise likely come up with if they had narrower, skills-focused training.

Though we believe our programs have strong practical applications, it doesn't much matter what we believe. If you are unable to justify in your mind—much less defend to your son or daughter—an academic, liberal arts education, we urge you to find a program that aims at a goal closer to your own than Sonlight does.

25. They prefer an "unschooling" approach to home education.

(link to this reason)

Sonlight Curriculum is structured and, from Core A on, is highly structured. As we mentioned in Reason 6, that doesn't mean you are under obligation to the structure. Our Instructor's Guides are designed so you can readily modify the program.

If you are willing to modify the program to meet your needs, you should do just fine with Sonlight. Indeed, some spontaneous souls have told us they appreciated having the foundational structure Sonlight offers: it gave them more confidence to launch out on their own beyond what our program suggested. They have woven their free-form program around the Sonlight base.

Still, if you are committed to a completely spontaneous and unstructured approach, or an educational philosophy that urges you to solely follow your child's heart interests, you may find you have to "buck [our] system" more than you'd prefer in order to maintain your sense of spontaneity. You will want to proceed with caution when you consider the possibility of purchasing a pre-selected program.

26. They want to touch and feel their curricular materials before they buy.

(link to this reason)

This is a concern for some because we sell primarily through our catalog and the web. But we have some suggestions to help you move past this barrier—suggestions that have been so effective, we're not even sure whether we should continue to list this as a potential reason NOT to buy!

It's true that in many cases, you will need to purchase Sonlight's materials to get your hands on them. But with Sonlight's "Love to Learn/Love to Teach" Guarantee, you get to not only touch and feel your materials, but actually use them in the comfort of your home for up to a year with our promise of a full refund if you feel the need to return them.

If you find yourself unhappy with your Core or Full-Grade curriculum in any way within one year of your purchase—and after using up to a full 18 weeks' worth (i.e., half a school year's worth) of the materials, please return the package (dog-eared pages, used workbooks and all) for a full refund. (Learn more about Sonlight's 1-year "Love to Learn" Guarantee.)

You may also attend a homeschool convention near where you live, and a veteran Sonlight mom will likely be present to show you her materials and answer your questions about Sonlight Curriculum. Please check the conventions section of our web site for information.

So, even if you can't attend a convention or a support group to "touch and feel" before you buy, we make it easy to try Sonlight with your children in your context with a promise of your money back in full. If you think Sonlight might work for you, why not give one of our Core programs a shot?

With 18 weeks worth of material to try, how can you possibly go wrong?

27. They want to do business with a company that changes less than ours does year to year.

(link to this reason)

We've learned a lot over the 20+ years we've been in business. One of the things we've learned is that change is necessary. Indeed, many changes are beneficial.

Let me suggest a few reasons why we view things this way...

1) We (all of us at Sonlight) realize we'll never reach the point where we know everything. As we live and learn, we'll inevitably discover some truth or some technique that profoundly changes the way we think and do things. Because we're committed to providing you with the best homeschooling products possible, we try to incorporate these discoveries into our curriculum.

2) The world changes constantly. What might have been "best" back in 1990, when we began, may no longer be best. The most practiced, most efficient ways of doing business today may be extinct tomorrow. And so we seek constantly to upgrade and update our products, systems and services for your benefit.

3) We listen to the feedback our customers give us and implement many of the great ideas we receive—because we believe they will benefit you.

We believe our change is a sign of vitality and forward momentum toward a better tomorrow.


We hope this article has helped you understand some reasons you may want to choose a different homeschool supplier.

If these reasons cause you no great concern, or if you are willing to work around any difficulties you see (look to a Sonlight Homeschool Advisor or the Choosing Forums for help with this) … then welcome to Sonlight. We look forward to serving you.

And whatever program you choose, from whatever supplier, we wish you God's blessing in finding the best curriculum to meet your needs!

If you enjoyed this article, check out 27 Reasons Families Love Sonlight.

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