Sonlight's Top Ten Goals

by John Holzmann

What is your purpose as you think about teaching your children?

Sonlight grew out of our family's experience as Sarita and I taught our four children.

Below are our top goals from when we were homeschooling. Do these sound similar to your goals for your children? If so, I imagine Sonlight could be a good fit for your family.

1. Seek God's Kingdom first.

"Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33).

We believe this is the primary goal Jesus set before all of us who claim to be His disciples. We need to pursue this in every part of our lives.

At Sonlight, we want to keep that goal in front of ourselves – and our students – at all times.

2. Love to Learn for a lifetime.

What good does it do to pour information into children if they never learn how to learn, or if they never want to learn?

When students want to learn, even after their "education" has ended, they continue to teach themselves whatever they want to learn. They have a love to learn.

Sonlight works toward this goal in many ways. One example is our choice to study History instead of "social studies."

The standard "social studies" approach seeks first to teach students about things they already know about, like "our community" or "our state."

By contrast, Sonlight begins by exposing students to what is different and unfamiliar. That way, your students enjoy the delight of new and unexpected experiences. Only after they have become familiar with the unfamiliar do we re-introduce students to their own culture. Now they can see it in a bigger light.

With each new discovery, they are excited to learn more.

Besides our desire to generate enthusiasm and interest, we focus on the unfamiliar and "foreign" because we want to …

3. Raise children with a godly heart for the world.

We know that Jesus was angered when He went to the Temple and saw that the Jews had forgotten that it was to be a house of prayer for all nations (Mark 11:17). And we know that in the last day, there will be some who worship the Lamb from every tribe, tongue, people and nation (Rev. 5:9 and 7:9).

Until that last day comes, we, as the temple of the Holy Spirit, need to remember to pray for the nations.

But it is difficult to know how to pray if we don't have some idea of what life is like in these other places, to picture countries and cultures filled with people who have completely different experiences from life in the West.

So Sonlight is unwilling to focus solely, or even primarily, on the West and Western History.

Rather, we begin exposing students to world cultures and world history in the very earliest years. And even when we study American history, we focus not only on the stuff of which standard histories are made — the political heroes, the battles and large social movements. We focus, too, on the smaller things. If we take daily life at the time of the Revolution as an example, we read about George Washington, and we read about a family, contemporary with Washington, settling the western frontier of Pennsylvania. The life of a leader and the life of an average settler, both.

History – and life – is not just about the "big" and the "great." It is about all of us … around the world.

4. Honor Christ boldly, in speech and conduct.

From Preschool on, we include materials that help children read the Bible, study and grow in understanding of the Bible, and memorize Scripture.

In addition, we want to introduce our students to God's people through the ages. From the time of Christ until today, God's people have been carrying out the Father's business.

And so, each year, Sonlight includes biographies of faithful followers of Christ. We want children to find true heroes – people whose lives they can emulate. (Or, as Paul said to the Corinthians, "Imitate me, as I imitate Christ.")

And we want your children to see these people as they really were: people whom God used despite their imperfections. (If God can use a former con man and thief, like George Müller, let alone a former persecutor, like Paul, there is hope for God to use us all.)

We want children to sense the excitement and challenge of following Jesus in big and little things – not only at home and church, but in the bigger worlds of competitive sports, group activities with peers, and, as they get older, the worlds of work and cultural development.

5. Be winsome and effective ambassadors for Christ.

In II Corinthians 5:20, Paul says that we are "ambassadors for Christ."

Ambassadors represent their home country in a foreign country. This applies to all of us who are in Christ: we represent Him in the world.

Competent ambassadors know their home country.

And they study to know their host country. They learn what their hosts think, believe, and value.

They know how to effectively share their home country's message, how to win their hosts to their side.

They are the bridge between their home and their hosts.

What a beautiful calling.

In order to raise effective ambassadors, we need to know Christ, and we need to know about the people around us. So Sonlight focuses on both.

And that dual focus ties in with the next goal. …

6. Learn to listen.

Someone has said that God gave us two ears and one mouth and we ought to use them in approximately that ratio – two times as much listening as talking.

It makes sense. The act of listening communicates powerfully to another person that "I care."

Sonlight uses two vehicles to teach students to listen.

First, it has them listen to books that are read aloud to them.

Studies have shown, and we have seen it ourselves: children whose parents read to them regularly are far more capable of listening and understanding what they hear than are children whose parents don't read to them.

Sonlight Read-Alouds will entice you and your children to read together … often, and at great length. And so your children will learn to listen.

The second vehicle to teach students to listen: We seek to convey different sides to an argument.

It is not easy to listen to other perspectives. Our natural tendency is to be so intent on sharpening our own arguments or cheering spokespeople for our side that we fail to hear what advocates for the other perspective have to say.

Sonlight, by attempting to present different viewpoints, seeks to encourage students to hear (rather than fear) other sides of an argument.

This Goal #6, about learning to listen, fits well with the next one, too:

7. Experience God's faithfulness.

This is multi-faceted.

We experience God's faithfulness directly when he answers our prayers, even if the answer is as "minor" as peace in the storm.

We experience God's faithfulness vicariously when we read of God's provision to His children in the Bible or in books written about historical events or people.

We also learn that God is faithful when we listen to other perspectives without falling into sin or having our faith destroyed.

We want students to be convinced, through experience, that there are legitimate answers to questions coming from "the other side." Not only so, but even when they don't happen to know the answers, they need not fear.

They need not fear because the truth – God's truth – will prevail. He who is in us truly is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). And He who is by our side really will give us the right words to say when the time comes (Matthew 10:18-20). Students come to know this not just in their heads, as an article of faith, but in their hearts, through experience.

What I have just said above is intimately tied to another goal Sonlight pursues:

8. Excellent scholarship.

Through our books and Instructor's Guides, Sonlight offers outstanding academics.

We believe quality scholarship affects a person's ambassadorship. The person who has "done his homework" is better equipped to communicate effectively with a person who is coming from a different perspective than is someone who has not.

9. Love great books. Grow in wisdom.

Sarita and I can't imagine a quicker, easier, more enjoyable way to gain wisdom and knowledge than to read great books. We believe quality literature, whether written by Christians or non-Christians, should cause us to search the Scriptures to find out how Jesus would respond in similar circumstances.

And as we seek these answers and think about these subjects, we prepare ourselves for the future when we will find ourselves very much involved in situations similar to those about which we've read.

10. Raise "culturally literate" students.

In his bestselling work, Cultural Literacy, E.D. Hirsch, Jr. argues that there is a certain basic set of background information required to understand a culture, let alone infuence it.

This information includes historical events, significant persons, movements, groups, stories, and ideas; the things that have shaped the culture.

And so Sonlight seeks to produce culturally literate young people.

That's why you'll find we include so many famous, marvelous books in our curriculum. It's why we cover so much American and world history and why we include so many biographies.

We believe our children must be made aware of these things: so that they have a foundational base of knowledge and, more importantly, so that they will be prepared to respond to these cultural influences in a strong and godly fashion.

In the end …

Sonlight seeks to raise world-changers – people who will make a difference for good.

And whether or not you decide that Sonlight will work for your family, we pray that your children, too, become world-changers for good.

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