10 Brilliant Tips for Homeschooling Young Perfectionists

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10 Brilliant Tips for Homeschooling Young Perfectionists • Prevent Meltdowns & Teach Them to Accept Mistakes

Children are normally full of adventure and fun.  They love to experiment and are naturally curious. But some children break from that norm. They prefer life to be neat, clean, and linear. These are the young perfectionists who prefer to spend an hour organizing their art kit crayons by color rather than playing in the messy outdoors. They cry when they make a mistake, no matter how inadvertent, and don’t like to try anything new unless they can do it perfectly the first time.

Homeschooling young perfectionists may sound easy. They want to be the best at everything, whether it be completing a worksheet or a reading a book. They put a lot of effort into doing a good job, and they don’t want to just do a halfway job at anything. Sounds like a teacher-mom's dream, right?

Wrong. Any parent of a mini-perfectionist can tell you it is not easy. These parents spend hours struggling with the anguish of children who can't handle making mistakes:

  • a child who cries because of writing the letter S backwards or writing 3 when the answer is 4
  • a child who refuses to do a worksheet at all, out of fear each answer won’t be perfect
  • a child who declares he is incapable of reading after making two mistakes sounding out words on the same page
  • a child who beats herself up for not coming in first
  • a child who refuses to complete the board game when it appears halfway through that he is losing

Homeschooling these children is especially challenging because there is no room for medium in their little minds. It is all or nothing:

  • If they can’t do the worksheet perfectly, there is no need to do it at all.
  • If they aren’t the best in the class at gymnastics on the first day, there’s really no point in going back.

A lot of the time, this trait comes along with giftedness, as these children have never had to work hard at much in their young lives.  Everything always came easily, so they assume that everything always will, and everything always should.

For parents who are struggling to teach these types of children, here are 10 tips I have picked up on my journey of homeschooling a family full of perfectionists.

1.  Play Guessing Games with Your Perfectionist

Guessing games are good for perfectionists because they come without the expectation of getting the answer right on the first try.

Say, “Okay, we’re going to play Guess the Answer to these math problems. I don’t think you can get them all, but let’s see what you can do.”

Include a few harder problems that force them to struggle to get the right answer. When they get an answer wrong, don’t criticize or tell them they were wrong. Be encouraging, and act like it is part of the game.  Say, “Oooh, pretty close.  Try again.”  or “That was a good guess.  But, you’re still not there yet.  Let’s keep trying.”

Taking the pressure off them to be right by expecting them to be wrong gives them permission to be wrong—without guilt.

2.  Blame the Assignment, Not the Perfectionist

Perfectionists often fear that if people discover they are imperfect, something negative will happen, such as being thought poorly of or being unliked. By blaming the assignment, rather than the child, the child focuses on the mistake, not their role in the mistake.

Say, “Oh, this assignment is going to be very hard. I’m bet you will make 5 mistakes before you get it right because it’s so hard.”

Then, if they make fewer than 5 mistakes, they exceeded the expectation you set.

3.  Blame the Object, Not the Perfectionist

When a child is doing a task without success, don’t tell the child he is doing it wrong.

Say, “Oh, that pencil is trying to jump into your hand in the wrong position. Let’s see if together we can make that pencil stand up in your fingers the way it is supposed to.”

Or say, “I see you wiped down the table well, but it looks like some crumbs jumped back onto this side of the table when you weren’t looking. Let’s wipe them up.”

Your perfectionist knows he was the one who made the mistake, but because you focused the attention on the object, the child is usually happy to fix the object’s mistake, rather than dissolve into tears at the thought of their mistake.

4.  Play Letter Police or Number Inspector During Homeschool Lessons

This trick is especially helpful for twice exceptional children, especially those with dyslexia, or those who are prone to letter reversals or other simple mistakes. The premise of the game is simple. The child does an assignment. Then, together with the parent, the child is in charge of finding letters, numbers, or mistakes that didn’t obey the rules. Here are examples of what you can say:

  • “Look at that s. It tried to go the wrong way around!  Let’s fix it up and make it go around the right way.”
  • “These numbers are being tricky. I don’t think you can guess what’s wrong with this number 4. He’s trying to do something he’s not supposed to.”
  • “This word jumped really close to the next word. Let’s make him move over and give the other word a bit of space, okay?”
  • “I think some of the letter on this page tried to trick you by going backwards. Let’s see how many of these tricky letters you can find and make the right way before I grade it.”

When they find and correct a mistake, say. “I love the way you straightened that letter out. He’s so sneaky.  He almost got away with that. Good thing you are here to inspect them.”

5.  Set Realistic Expectations for Your Perfectionist

When trying a new activity, set a realistic expectation. Make it clear that your young perfectionist will not be the best and that your only requirement is that they try, not that they win.

Say, “We are going to the park today to join another family to play soccer.  Soccer is a really hard game, and everyone works together to score goals. I know you don’t want to play, but our rule is, we have to try new things before we can say we don’t like them. So, when they start playing, I’ll set my timer for 20 minutes. If you don’t like it after 20 minutes, you don’t have to play anymore.”

Usually, by the 20-minute mark, a perfectionist is either so frustrated, they are happy to quit, or having so much fun they want to continue.

The same strategy works with school work. Say, “We are going to read a new book today. It has 20 chapters. We are going to read all the way to chapter 7, a chapter a day. After chapter 7, if you don’t like this book, you can remind me, and we will talk about continuing. But, we have to give it a chance before we decide to give it up.”

6.  Don't Let The Perfectionist Win

When playing games with a perfectionist, it is important not to let them win most of the time. Instead, praise them for losing well throughout the whole game.

Say, “Oh, look, my piece just passed yours.  And, you did a great job just letting him go by. I see you are maturing, and I’m proud of you.”

Or say, “I really like how you are playing so well. I think you’ll have to try extra hard to catch up, but you might be able to do it.”

When they do lose, even if they are upset, find a way to praise their persistence, their effort, or any improvement since the last time.

7.  Stay Positive with Your Perfectionist

When teaching reading, especially with a dyslexic perfectionist, it is important to be positive. Keep in mind the “don’t blame the child, blame the work” attitude.

Warn your young perfectionist, "This is a very tricky word. I’m going to guess it will make you say the wrong word. Look carefully and see if you can figure out what the right word is, or if it will trick you.”

By focusing on the way the words are being silly, or being tricky, your child feels more comfortable figuring out the letter’s pranks, than just reading and making mistakes. Here are two more examples:

  • “You almost guessed the right word, but this last part here managed to make you say the wrong thing. Let’s look at the word slowly, and then try it again. Maybe this time, it won’t be able to trick you.”
  • “This letter is extra tricky, because it doesn’t talk here. It is just silent. Let’s pretend it doesn’t exist, and try that word again.”

8.  Cultivate a Growth Mindset During Homeschool Lessons

Praise the effort, not the finished work. When your child hands you a perfect paper, don’t gush over the perfection of it. Instead, gush over the effort they put into it.

Say, “Oh, wow, it looks like you tried extra hard on this paper. I can see how carefully you made your numbers, and it looks like you were able to concentrate well on getting the right answers. Thank you for working so hard on this. I think it was a beautiful job.”

By focusing on the effort, you avoid them thinking that what you wanted was the finished product. Later, when a page wasn’t perfect, you can still praise the effort and minimize the effect of the mistakes on the child.

9. Be Open About Failure and Errors

Show your young perfectionist examples of your failure and talk about them in a matter of fact way.

Say, “Oh, look, I was making this shopping list, and I spelled this word wrong. That’s okay. I’ll just cross it off and write the right word.”

Or say, “I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you carefully enough when you were trying to explain that. I will try harder to listen better. Can you start over, so I can understand you?”

By showing your child that even adults make mistakes, you are showing that making mistakes is a part of life, and showing them how to deal with the mistakes.

10. Pray with Your Perfectionist

Teach your perfectionist to pray before attempting something hard—not to pray for perfection but asking God to give them the desire to keep trying when things get hard. Teach them to pray to learn how to handle disappointments and losses, and to show God’s love to others by keeping a good attitude. By doing this, you are teaching your child that the effort is far more important than winning or losing.

Things will always be hard with little perfectionists, but by taking the focus off of their mistakes and shining it on their efforts, you can circumvent many daily meltdowns. And by doing so, you show them that God wants their effort and love, not their perfection.

Take advantage of our 100% guarantee. No other homeschooling company can match our Love to Learn, Love to Teach™ promise. You can order with confidence that either you will have a great year, or you will get a full refund.

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Troubleshooting 8 Common Homeschool Problems That Make You Nuts

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Troubleshooting 8 Common Homeschool Problems
Have you ever called technical support to troubleshoot a problem? It never fails that after hours of working by myself to no avail, three minutes on the phone with a pro will solve the issue. Most of the time, it’s not that I completely don't know what I an doing. I just need fresh eyes to help me think through the problem or reveal one tiny nugget of information that I am blind to.

I find that homeschooling is very much like troubleshooting technology problems. When you hit a snag in the homeschool routine, sometimes it simply takes a little help to think through the problem. It’s not that you don’t know how...it’s just that you need fresh eyes.

Let me be your fresh eyes today. Let me offer that nugget you haven't considered. Let’s consider common problems that homeschool moms face every day and troubleshoot together.

1. “I love a literature-based curriculum, but my voice doesn’t!”

Yes, there is a lot of reading in Sonlight, and every minute is valuable and worth it. So what do you do when your voice just won’t hang in there? Try these tips:

  • Hot tea with honey and lemon
  • Audiobooks (check your library for titles to borrow)
  • An older child to help with the read aloud load

2. “I love Read-Alouds, but my child just can’t sit still!”

Can I first say that you aren’t alone? Kids were made for moving. Asking them to sit still to listen to a book in this age? Many would scoff at the idea! Here are a few tips for active kids:

  • Let them play quietly with Legos or puzzles.
  • Let them color or draw...You’ll be surprised how much they hear when their hands are busy.
  • Use voices; make the reading interesting.
  • Ask questions—but not too many.
  • Engage in discussion when appropriate. (Your Instructor’s Guide can help you!)

Need more help than this list? Here are two full blog posts with even more suggestions:

  1. Reading Aloud Without Squashing the Life out of Your Lively Child
  2. Seven Ways I Keep My Kids Focused During Reading 

3. “My child hates to write!”

My son hates to write. It’s not just a preference. It’s actually a fine motor issue called dysgraphia. Tears were inevitable any time I brought out paper and pencil. Sonlight has been a breath of fresh air for us. If your child hates to write, try these tips:

  • Orally complete everything you can.
  • Have your child dictate answers.
  • Do written work in small sections. Sonlight Language Arts is perfect for this.
  • Have your child do handwriting during a Read-Aloud.

Keep in mind that handwriting is the only subject that actually evaluates penmanship. Therefore, children, especially children with fine motor problems, shouldn’t be evaluated in other subject areas based on their penmanship. In the early years, Language Arts can be dictated most of the time.

4. “My child never gets his work done.”

Don’t panic. Some kids work slowly. Some kids are incredibly distractible. A little patience and some creativity can do wonders.

  • Purchase a 10-drawer rolling cart and place the assignments for the day in the drawers. In the last drawer, feel free to put a small prize or treat as a reward for finishing.
  • Use a timer. Timers can keep kids on task because it gives them a concrete goal.
  • Shorten assignments when appropriate.
  • Complete assignments orally when appropriate.
  • Have them complete a small amount of problems and then come to you. Praise their effort and say, “Great! See if you can do five more and come show me!”

5. “I have multiple children, and I’m constantly getting interrupted while I’m working with one child.”

The plight of homeschool moms of multiples is alive and well. It’s the “Interrupting Child Syndrome”. You’re deep into an Algebra problem with one, and the youngest comes up and in a loud whisper says, “Mom...Mom…….Mom!” All focus is gone and you’ll have to start from the beginning. What’s a mom to do?

  • Get a whiteboard. Have kids write their names on the board when they have a question and go down the list when you are available.
  • Teach them the “hand touch” rule. If they have a question, they can place their hand on yours, and you’ll get with them as soon as possible, but they must be quiet until you finish what you’re working on.

6. “I don’t agree with…”

Great! You don’t have to! Keep in mind that one of the hallmarks of a great education is presenting differing views on various topics and having lively discussions about our personal beliefs. This not only helps children solidify their beliefs, but it also drives them to seek out the answers to their questions. So, it’s okay to not agree with every book or note in the Instructor’s Guide. Here are some tips:

  • Present both viewpoints. Let your child express his or her thoughts on the issue, and present the biblical viewpoint to the best of your ability. If you disagree, explain why, using scripture to backup your answer.
  • Make a Venn diagram. Compare and contrast what you believe with what the book presents.
  • Check in the Instructor’s Guide. Many times, on controversial topics, Sonlight will include a note that can be very helpful in presenting the biblical viewpoint.
  • Skip the book all together. Either substitute it or save it for when your child is older and more ready for the content.

7. “My child is a voracious reader. He/she goes through the books too fast!”

Now, this is a problem that moms around the world would love to have! I have always found Sonlight days to be a very appropriate workload for my kids, but some children  devour books. If you find yourself in this situation, try these ideas:

8. “Help! I have littles!”

Let me guess...you’ve got one hanging on your leg as you run to the kitchen to stop the other from emptying a whole box of Cheerios onto the floor? Oh yes, I’ve been there too! Homeschooling with littles underfoot can be one of the greatest challenges of parenting. Here are some thoughts to make it easier:

  • Schedule around nap times.
  • For toddlers, try sensory boxes and rotate toys to keep things fresh and interesting.
  • For preschoolers to elementary students, try workboxes.

I’ve always enjoyed solving problems. There’s just something refreshing about fixing a troubling area in someone else’s life or my own. I think that most homeschool moms are problem solvers. Many times, when you find yourself stuck, it simply takes a homeschool mom friend to help you look at it from another angle. Homeschooling will always require adjustments, sometimes every year, sometimes daily to hourly! So next time you get stuck, call up your closest friend to help you troubleshoot or find your way over here to the Sonlight blog. We are always here for you!

A Beginner’s Blueprint to Language Arts: The No-stress Guide to Teaching Language Arts with Purpose

This article is excerpted from our free guide A Beginner’s Blueprint to Language Arts: The No-stress Guide to Teaching Language Arts with Purpose. Download it here at no cost.

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Homeschooling Through Crushing Disappointment & Unanswered Prayers

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Homeschooling Through Crushing Disappointment & Unanswered Prayers • The Power of Just Doing the Next Thing

Are you facing a difficult season, in which answered prayers seem distant, and joy is scarce? Does God seems far away? Maybe you’re facing a health crisis, or maybe your arms ache for a precious child. Maybe your family is struggling, and paychecks are stretched thin—or are non-existent altogether. Does it seem as though everyone arounds you exudes joy and abundance, but you’re parched, awaiting deliverance? I don’t have all the answers; but I do know this—you are not alone. God sees. God knows, and you are not forgotten.

When hope has seemed elusive in my own life, here are several ways God has helped me battle for joy when homeschooling through unanswered prayers.

Consider Limiting Social Media Consumption

“Comparison”, wisely said Theodore Roosevelt, “is the thief of joy.” When you’re struggling with lack, feeding your mind with images of excess isn’t always healthy. Social media tends to be full of photos of smiling people,

  • posing in front of real estate signs,
  • holding up newborn babies,
  • redecorating,
  • pouring over stacks of brand-new curriculum, or
  • going on vacation.

There’s nothing wrong with each of these shares on their own, but focusing on them can serve to accentuate what we might not have. When we are struggling with unanswered prayers, keeping with several hundred varieties of Joneses might not be the best use of our time—or emotions.

This is not a blanket condemnation; social media can be used for good. The internet can provide fellowship over the miles, and connections to like-minded souls. And snapping photos of beautiful corners and joy-filled moments keeps my eyes and my heart practicing gratitude, seeking out the positive in the melee of my messy life.

It’s good to look for beauty amongst the mundane; it’s good to hold on to hope. We can model redemption in this way. But a constant diet of other people’s glimmering moments can leave our hearts limp and discontented.

Actively and Intentionally Focus on Gratitude

When we actively give thanks, something wonderful happens in our hearts. Our perspective is shifted from looking inward to looking upward, and joy begins to take root. “Let them give thanks to the Lord,” instructs the psalmist in Psalm 107:8, “for His unfailing love.” Even when we have nothing, we have His unfailing love. And counting our blessings opens our eyes to dozens—if not hundreds—of other forgotten gifts.

Ask God to Grant You Joy

When you’re not the one whose heart is breaking, when your arms are full, it is easy to recite, “You have not because you ask not.” But what about when you keep asking—

  • for the job,
  • for the move,
  • for healing,
  • for restoration,
  • for the infertile womb to be opened again

—and you still do not see the materialization of your heart’s desire?

What about when the only certainty is uncertainty? Or when you know in your heart your prayers are incense, rising up (Revelation 8:4), but your head still doesn’t hear a thing, straining though it does for the small voice in the stillness?

What about then?

When you know God can do it, when you’ve even seen His blazing glory before, but He’s choosing to conceal His effulgent light now—that’s when you don’t stop asking, but you also ask for joy.

You also ask for contentment.

You also ask for perseverance, for grace, for courage.

That’s when you stand in the kitchen with your hands plunged into the soapy water, tears streaming down your face, and you say—Oh Lord, give me joy.

“Joy,” said Corrie ten Boom, “runs deeper than despair.” (A survivor of the Holocaust, she knew a thing or two about despair.)

So, my friends, even when our storehouses aren’t full (Habakkuk 3:17-19) and our arms ache and our heart aches, let’s turn to Psalms and affirm, yes, Lord, yes, “You have put gladness in my heart, more than when their grain and new wine abound.” (Psalm 4:7)

This is the challenge, isn’t it? It’s our calling to rise above it all and embrace Jesus and keep on living joyously, even when His ways do not look like ours, and even when He’s not answering prayers the way we want Him to.

But how does that look in reality—in real, messy, authentic life?

Just Do the Next Thing

The Christian life is lived in out in the daily grind; not in the milestones, not on the mountain tops, not even in the answered prayers. The Christian life is lived in out

  • in obedience,
  • in perseverance,
  • in faithfulness, and
  • in continuing to put one foot in front of the other.

In fact, a faithful life looks a lot like ordinary daily life.

Christian author Elisabeth Elliot, whose husband Jim Elliot was among those missionaries tragically killed in in Ecuador, was an avid proponent of the advice quoted in an old medieval poem, “Do the next thing.” Throughout her life, she referred to this phrase often.

In the moments when we are most helpless and most powerless to effect change, we can obey that simple directive, can’t we? We can do the next thing. In fact, doing the next thing is our act of worship. In times of uncertainty, doing the next thing is the most sacred, most hallowed act we can offer, both to our families and to our Lord.

We may not be able to

  • secure employment for our husband,
  • heal a chronic condition,
  • materialize employment out of thin air,
  • open a closed womb, or
  • repair a broken home,

but we can do the next thing.

We can

  • hug the ones closest to us,
  • sweep the floor,
  • make the beds,
  • sing aloud,
  • wipe out the sink,
  • fold laundry,
  • wash dishes,
  • dictate a spelling list,
  • chop vegetables,
  • read aloud,
  • teach a math lesson,
  • run errands,
  • pick up toys,
  • clean the bathroom,

and a myriad of other selfless, seemingly-mundane tasks.

Hold Fast to Your Hope

These tasks, my sweet friends, are as rich an offering as gold, frankincense, or myrrh. It is in God-focused perseverance where joy is to be found, even in the dry seasons were there is no oasis, and all is parched. God will meet you there, in the kitchen, in the laundry room—for these places are holy, hallowed, high ground.

“Though the fig tree should not blossom,” writes the prophet Habakkuk in chapter three,

“And there be no fruit on the vines,

Though the yield of the olive should fail

And the fields produce no food,

Though the flock should be cut off from the fold

And there be no cattle in the stalls,

Yet I will exult in the Lord,

I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength,

And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet,

And makes me walk on my high places.”

Friends, won’t you partake of the Lord’s joy and strength during this difficult season, and join me—in simply doing the next thing?

Simplify your homeschool and reduce the burden of daily decision making with Sonlight. Try three weeks of any Instructor's Guide for free. Click here to get one for any level, preschool through twelfth grade.

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4 Ways to Engage a High Schooler with Literature

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4 Ways to Engage a High Schooler with Literature

It’s easy to engage a high schooler with literature if the high schooler already loves literature. And there’s the rub.

To add to the rub, as it were, Sonlight high school history and literature courses are so compelling, so engaging, so packed to the gills with great titles—who wouldn’t love literature presented to them in that manner? Many a high schooler, I’m afraid.

If you are homeschooling a literature-reluctant high schooler, take heart. Just as you may have had to be creative in how you presented material to your younger student, you will need to take the time to figure out how to make the study of literature attractive to your high schooler. As a mom who’s been there and done that (and been there and done that, repeat. . .), I’ll happily share some of my tricks. Take what you can use, and enjoy the ride!

1. Choose Important Titles, But Choose Them Wisely

It might be impressive that your high schooler has War and Peace under her belt, but if she’s hated every page and made the whole family miserable in the process, what’s the point? The way I see it, those truly arduous books can be assigned by someone else—maybe in college, by a professor who isn’t me and for a grade I don’t have to assign.

2. Add Challenging and Interesting Projects

When our high school junior read The Grapes of Wrath, her knowledge of the Great Depression wasn’t terribly deep. I assigned her two projects that I knew would stretch her and also serve as her midterm final:

  1. Design a multimedia presentation (using one or more media) presenting researched material on the life of John Steinbeck, his major works, and prominent themes.
  2. Research each of the main themes John Steinbeck wrote about The Great Depression and write a short paragraph describing each:
  • The Dust Bowl
  • The power of banks over the people prior to The Great Depression
  • What led to The Great Depression
  • Dislocation of people (i.e., forced to move from one location to another)
  • Living conditions for migrant workers
  • Dislocated people and clashing cultures (Think about how the Central Valley is home to so many diverse cultures and how that began.)

3. Go Places

Teenagers will often balk at the suggestion of a field trip, but once they get where you’re going, an impression is made on them, whether they’re willing to admit it or not.

Back in 1984, a less than enthusiastic teenager was driven from San Antonio to Carlsbad Caverns, and as her family made their way across the desert, she turned up the volume on her Walkman and practiced her stellar eye-rolling technique in the back seat of the station wagon.

But that teenager is 47 years old now (and, coincidentally, me) and she recognizes how dazzlingly beautiful those caverns were and that she will likely never have another opportunity to see them again in her lifetime.

Like the story of being driven to see the caverns, we set aside a Saturday to take our high schooler to the John Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California after she finished reading The Grapes of Wrath. She was definitely unsure about spending an entire Saturday doing something so literary, and so we suggested she bring a friend to soften the blow of such an outrageous parental educational requirement.

And then something curious happened. By the end of the visit, she was sharing her observations about Steinbeck’s life, making a mental list of the movies that had been made from his stories, and planning to watch them with us over the next few months. She also asked if we could drive by his childhood home once we left our tour because she learned while there that he grew up just two miles from the site of the Steinbeck Center. Her interest had been piqued.

4. Consider Other Forms, Such As Film

Yes, it’s okay to watch the movie. It also counts if you listen to the book being read instead of laying your actual eyes on the pages yourself. I personally wouldn’t prefer to substitute the movie or the play for actually reading or listening to the unabridged book, but there are circumstances where this approach might be appropriate. Viewing Shakespeare, for instance, is essentially listening to a word-for-word rendering of the written version because he wrote plays, not novels. So yes, do that.

What other mediums might appeal to your high school student? Art? Athletics? Science? Dance? Where can you tie the literature you are requiring them to read to the interests that are consuming their energy at the moment?

In the end, literature still might not be your high schooler’s favorite subject, but with a little creativity and some good old fashioned obligatory academic elbow grease, you can craft a year that both challenges and inspires your student in ways neither of you may have expected.

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

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5 Reasons a Sonlight Program May Have Anachronistic Books

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5 Reasons a Sonlight Program May Have Anachronistic Books

As you’re going through your homeschool year with Sonlight, you might occasionally wonder about the dramatic change in subject matter. Maybe you’re in Sonlight C, studying the Renaissance, when suddenly you have a Read-Aloud set in contemporary Manhattan.

What?! Where did that come from?

It's a great question, and this blog post will take you behind the scenes with Sonlight to understand why anachronistic books make their way into Sonlight programs.

noun • anach·ro·nism \ ə-ˈna-krə-ˌni-zəm \
a person or a thing that is chronologically out of place; especially : one from a former age that is incongruous in the present

1. A Lack of Age Appropriate Historical Fiction in Some Eras

If you want to find out about WWII, you have loads of option because this is a well-represented time period. There are picture books, children’s books, memoirs, historical fiction, biographies and autobiographies.

If you want to read about the Korean War, there's not much. When your children are old enough, you can read Keeping Score by Linda Sue Park (a Sonlight title in History / Bible / Literature 100).  The Korean War is simply not as popular a topic as WWII is.

Similarly, if you want to read about ancient Egypt, you have options: picture books, historical fiction, modern archaeology, and on and on. But if you want to read about ancient Nineveh, you can read the book of Jonah in the Old Testament. And, if your children are old enough, you might try To Ride the God’s Own Stallion (not a Sonlight title, but by the author of Sonlight title I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade). But otherwise, there’s not much.

There are some time periods that don't have quality historical fiction that's age appropriate.

You’ll find this fact especially true in the early elementary years. Your Read-Alouds are lovely books, but they only sometimes relate to the History. By Sonlight History / Bible / Literature (HBL) D, you’ll find the programs start to mesh significantly more than in the earlier programs.

2. For the Sake of Cultural Literacy

At Sonlight, we subscribe to the idea that there are topics that well-educated people should know:

  • George Washington
  • Cinderella and her Glass Slipper
  • David and Goliath

These ideas pop up in unexpected places, and in order to be conversant in a culture, you should know these basics.

Beyond the basics, though, there is so much else that is interesting and exciting. Where did the Morgan horses come from? How did the cotton gin change the South? Why was navigation so difficult before Nathaniel Bowditch? How is a book published? What is the Island of Capri known for? What is the Great Wall of China and why was it made? Who was King Tut?

These are all factual topics. But there are fictional classics that enrich your life as well: Charlotte and Wilbur, Mr. Popper and his penguins, Mario and his cricket in Times Square, Aesop’s stories, and so on. For the sake of cultural literacy, we include anachronistic books in Sonlight programs.

Each Sonlight title is selected for its beauty, its readability, its interest, its information, its quality. So don’t be bothered when The School Story shows up in HBL C—it’s a great book, and will still teach and inform and entertain even if it doesn't match the period of history you are currently studying.

3. To Offer a Variety of Genres

Anachronistic books are sometimes chosen to offer a variety of genres. Historical fiction is awesome, for sure. In one of my first conversations ever with my husband, he said something like, “Oh! If you teach history using real books, do you know about a book that was set in Boston? I don’t remember the name, but I remember loving that one as a boy.”

Johnny Tremain, of course.

But historical fiction isn’t the only good genre. And some children don’t love it.

Sonlight seeks to include multiple genres every year. Because maybe your children will always love historical fiction. Or maybe they’ll grow up to prefer mysteries or memoirs. Maybe they’ll like poetry, novels, survivalist stories, coming-of-age, dystopian, science fiction, biographies, or literary works.

Over the course of Sonlight programs, your children will read examples of each.

This is good not only because it opens new horizons, but because, in case your children really prefer not to read a particular genre, there will be only a few more books before they’ll get to a genre they do prefer.

And since most children do have books they prefer, this range of genres allows children of all personality types and interests to enjoy something from the book selections.

4. To Introduce a Variety of Authors

Many Sonlight authors have written many books. If you ever find yourself wondering, “What can my voracious reader read next?” think about what books he’s already enjoyed, then search out other titles by that author. Clyde Robert Bulla is a genius at emotionally rich books with an incredibly limited vocabulary. Andrew Clements has a large body of work dealing with the school story—early chapter books set in a school setting, or around the school year.

(Of course, always exercise good judgment for your family. Sonlight does not promote every book by every Sonlight author.)

5. To Provide an Ebb and Flow of Pacing

Some years back, I worked on Sonlight's British Literature. It’s a glorious course, filled with outstanding works of literature. I learned a ton. But the interesting thing about a chronological journey through British lit is that, up through Shakespeare and beyond, all the works are poetry. Beowulf, Sir Gawain, Canterbury Tales, Shakespeare, and Milton are all incredibly beautiful, and all incredibly unique. But to read that much poetry back-to-back would be a bit overwhelming. So in British Literature, other quality books intersperse the poetry. They help with the pacing.

All the other Sonlight programs are the same. Even as the schedule doesn't make you read the same genre over and over, it also doesn't make you read books of the same emotional weight back-to-back. The schedule is intentionally meant to be a bit of an ebb and flow. Though you might come across one book that you find a bit of a slog, you probably won't ever have two of those in a row. (And since what qualifies as a slog for one person is often another person’s absolute favorite—there’s not an easy way to just skip the “slog” books. This ebb and flow works well for just about everyone.)

This is true both for emotional weight, and for difficulty. In any given program, there are books that are a bit of a stretch and books that are more easy. That’s as it’s meant to be.

So there you have it—five specific reasons why you’ll sometimes find an anachronistic book in your Sonlight studies.

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.

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How to Push Through When Mom Doesn't Want to Teach

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How to Push Through When Mom Doesn't Want to Teach

As a newbie homeschool mom, I thought the winter months would be a piece of cake—staying cozy, snuggled inside with our studies. The reality is quite different. Being cooped up for long periods without a chance to get outside and run off excess energy is making me crazy.  Add a sinus infection, a massive holiday hangover, an upcoming move, and a third trimester of pregnancy to the mix, and I'm nearly ready to throw in the towel.

Getting to stay home with my kids and witness them learn is incredible. It’s also frustrating, exhausting, and humbling. There are days that I dream of going to work or living life as a trophy wife with in-home tutors. Fortunately, God knows me better than I know myself and He knows I’m up to this challenge. While I have faith in His plan, I also recognize my feelings of being overwhelmed as a warning sign to slow down to avoid complete burnout. I don't stop though! I push through even when I don't want to teach, using these three modifications.

1. Giving My Kids More Ownership of the Schedule Helps Me Push Through

Creating Oral Contracts

Instead of going about our daily schedule and checking off activities, I’ve taken to asking my children,

  • “What are you willing to do today?”
  • “What would you like to start with today?”

This simple oral contract has helped avoid lots of whining and stalling.  I don’t have to push and prod. We agree on a set amount of schooling and get it done. Any non-essentials or things I already know the kids can do get skipped unless they just want to do them.

Celebrating Milestones

If I notice certain subjects are being neglected for longer than a week, I gently point it out to my kids and ask how much of that subject they are willing to do today. When they complete a week’s worth of assignments in all our subject areas (which may easily take longer than a week), we celebrate the milestone. The kids get to choose something fun such as

  • staying up past their bedtime for half an hour,
  • choosing what we are going to eat for dinner that night,
  • or picking our next elective Read-Aloud.

Respecting Their Choices

I never stop them from working on subjects they request even if it’s one they ask to do every day. Sometimes this means that they complete three weeks of science in one week. It can also mean that math or language arts gets skipped for several days running. I’ve learned to be content with this arrangement since they are still learning to appreciate that their choices are being honored.

2. Having More Relaxed School Days Helps Me Push Through

Four-day Homeschool Weeks

Taking just one day off each week makes a big difference when you’re struggling with motivation. Formally homeschooling for four days doesn’t mean the kids aren’t learning on the fifth day either. I let the kids pick a topic in which they are interested and load up on library books covering that subject, hit YouTube, or arrange for another family member to escort them on a field trip.

More Flexibility

We typically follow a routine in our homeschool days. We get up, read Bible, have breakfast, do a few chores, and then set about our planned lessons. When teaching stretches me beyond my comfort zone, I allow free time in the morning and spread our lessons through the day. I’m also more flexible with regards to chores and other housework not getting completed.

Fewer Extracurriculars and Outside Trips

Giving myself permission not to load everyone in the car to check off a suggested field trip can be a huge relief. Scaling back on extras that require travel or additional funds gives the kids more free time to think about what activities are most important to them.

No Prep Field Trips

If we do a take a trip, I don’t focus as much on gathering materials beforehand. For example, for a recent trip to the orchestra, I originally wanted to go through a collection of handouts about instruments and composers. But when push came to shove, I realized the thought of all those printables was causing me stress. So I ignored the worksheets and just enjoyed the performance with my kids.

3. Investing in Self-Care Helps Me Push Through

Ask For and Accept Help

When you just don’t want to continue homeschooling, having a support system can make all the difference. My husband is great at running science experiments with the kids on the weekends and my mother is my go to for Read-Alouds when I need a break.

Take Breaks

Getting small amounts done is still progress. When the desire to quit gets too intense, I simply stop. Free play is one of the best things we can offer our kids and my needing a break is plenty good reason to give them a little more unstructured play time.

Do More of What You Enjoy

I love to read. I love to spend time outside, and I like to learn on my own. One of the best discoveries I’ve made is that if I embrace my own interests, my kids will occasionally follow my lead. My daughter can name most of the songbirds that visit our backyard feeder because I watch them every morning over breakfast. I haven’t tried to teach her about them. She simply senses my interest and pays attention, unconsciously absorbing the information.

Set a Good Self-care Example

Practicing self-care sets a good example. Think about what you might tell your grown child if they were feeling the way you feel right now.  Be kind to yourself. Recognize and respect your limits.

We all go through periods when homeschooling isn’t fun. The yellow school bus seems to laugh as it roars past your house without stopping. Know that this tough period is just a season; it shall pass. Don’t give up on yourself or your kids, but do give yourself a chance to recoup and slow down. Pray and reflect on what you need to keep going and remember all the compelling reasons you chose to homeschool in the first place.

When you buy from Sonlight, you get a great product that produces proven results. To learn more about the perks of shopping with Sonlight, visit Sonlight Cares.

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Homeschool Habits That Build Readers in an Internet-driven World

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Homeschool Habits That Build Readers in an Internet-driven World

Do you remember when we discussed the idea of teaching our kids to focus (since the average American's attention span has grown shorter than a goldfish's)? I often think book lovers like us won't feel the ramifications of a distracted digital culture because, after all, we know how wonderful books are and how we can benefit from them. But cultural change has a way of seeping in undetected, and what we know and what we do aren't always the same. Our homeschool habits, though, can build a fortress of protection around our desire to raise children who choose to read with attention and delight.

How the Internet is Changing Our Minds

I was stopped in my tracks when I came across an article entitled "The Death of Reading is Threatening the Soul" by Phillip Yancey in the Washington Post. He discusses his "personal crisis" regarding "the books he used to read," and his growing sense of distraction while reading online. I highly recommend reading Yancey's article in full, but I'd like to highlight one aspect of it here.

He takes an honest look at how even those of us who value and enjoy books can miss out on some of their benefits as we navigate our wired world. I found it sobering that this bibliophile noticed changes he didn't like in his reading habits. I'm inspired by the steps he took to make reading a more intentional part of his life.

We Model What We Value: How Do We Spend our Time?

While it's extremely important for us to talk about the dangers of the ipad for children, or how "smartphones have destroyed a generation," we have to look beyond our children's habits to our own as well.

We model attention to what matters.

Yancey highlighted Charles Chu's calculation of how we Americans spend our hours and the math is astounding. Here's the quote:

Charles Chu calculates that at an average reading speed of 400 words per minute, it would take 417 hours in a year to read 200 books—less than the 608 hours the average American spends on social media, or the 1642 hours watching TV.

"Here’s the simple truth behind reading a lot of books,' says Chu: 'It’s not that hard. We have all the time we need. The scary part—the part we all ignore—is that we are too addicted, too weak, and too distracted to do what we all know is important."

Wow. So if we know we need to read more, and we want to avoid the things that distract us (and make us less able to think deeply or even relate best to others), how can we get out of our own ruts? How do we resist being carried along with the cultural current? How can we avoid being slaves to the addiction of media distraction and choose instead to read well?

I don't know if this challenges or discourages you, but hang in there—there is good news!

A Fortress of Habits

Both Chu and Yancey mention creating a "fortress of habits."

As a homeschool mom, boy do I understand the power of habits! I understand them as the things we do regularly to nurture an environment in which our best can flourish. At the same time, those habits offer protection from behavior and patterns that lead us into what we do not want to be.

Help with Habit Formation: Consistency and Delight

How does Sonlight help with good habit formation and help us make strides in raising children who are widely-read and deep thinkers?

By reading with our children each day (perhaps especially when we think we don't have time) we are building in the expectation that we pause to sit down, read real books and discuss and think about them together. We are showing our children that this is a core value, not just an extra. We are helping build their fortress of habits each day in a delightful way!

Willpower is never the best motivator. Delight is a great one.

Forming a habit to make something automatic means less need for willpower. Once these tracks of a habit are formed, we more easily make more good choices.

When my own children had finished their table subjects each day (like math and handwriting), we always had a snack and then our Read-Aloud time. They often hurried through those first subjects because their treat of a good book was waiting! They lived in a world where getting to read good books was a great thing, and they tied it to memories of our family together.

There's Power in a Plan

Because Sonlight already has each day scheduled for you, goals like "make memories, reading life-changing books with my kids" doesn't have to be a lofty ideal that never happens in reality. You are committing to this idea by investing in it and making it a part of daily life with a schedule and a plan. Even if you miss a day, or don't follow the schedule exactly—even if you only completed 50% of the material, you would still have made huge strides toward offering your children the gift of the habit of reading.

I pray Sonlight is serving families well in offering an action plan for raising readers and by providing the kinds of books that make it a delight. Know that by simply following the plan, you are creating habits in your family that are life-giving, brain-stimulating, and distraction destroyers. You are helping set your children apart as potential leaders who can move past the cultural current to engage ideas on a deep level.

Dive Deep

Set yourself up for success in the goal of raising readers who can stop skimming the shallows and dive deep, even with the pull of instant-gratification media all around.

What habits are you leading your children into as a part of your lifestyle and what values are you hoping to emphasize this year?

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