5 Vital Road Markers of a Homeschool Plan for Gifted Learners

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5 Vital Road Markers of a Homeschool Plan for Gifted Learners

As a young student, I spent several years attending a pilot school as part of a gifted and talented program. The combination of challenge and freedom I experienced there sparked my love for learning and created a passion for discovery. When I had my own children, I knew that homeschooling in the style of this pilot school would be the best way to teach a diverse group of kids with different learning styles—several of them gifted learners.

Wonder, discovery, exploration, and awe—these are core values strive upon which I build my homeschool. In my effort to create an environment that helps gifted learners thrive and nurtures their accelerated learning, I discovered these five guidelines. They serve as road markers when I'm creating a homeschool plan for my gifted learners. As a bonus, all of my children have benefited from making room for these five things.

1. Give Control of the Instructor's Guide Sooner

With most of my children, I take more of a facilitator role in middle school when they reach Sonlight’s History/Bible/Literature Level F. Because this level teaches students to research independently, children are able to work in a self-guided fashion, following the IG with a parent on tap for support.

For our gifted learners, however, I have learned to turn over the Instructor's Guide (IG) sooner, even before Level F. Giving my gifted kids power over their schedules led to some curious choices. My daughter, for example, chose to read most of her books all of the way through instead of following the schedule which spaced the reading over a period of weeks. My son chose to hunker down with math, doing a high volume of lessons each day instead of following the steady drip of one lesson per day as prescribed in the curriculum outline.

When giving control of the IG to my gifted children, I still check in with them regularly, but I found two massive benefits with this self-pacing:

  1. My gifted kids stayed enthusiastic about their learning.
  2. They were given liberty to work at their preferred pace, one that was much faster than that of their siblings.

If you are homeschooling children in groups of two, three, or more, realize that your gifted children may need to diverge from your group plans so that they can zip ahead at a pace that's comfortable for them. Holding them back for the sake of the group can be demoralizing for them and crush their zeal for learning. Let them take control of the IG and work through it however they prefer.

2. Make Room for Electives

My gifted daughter is an extremely rapid reader. There were days she would finish all of her reading assignments before lunch. She and I would go over the discussion questions in the IG, and sure enough, she could respond with satisfying answers.

I was at a loss. Can a kid be done with school by lunch? Is that even allowed?

I heaped on extra work, but she did not see the fairness in that. As a parent, I had to humbly admit it was not a good way inspire her to love learning.

As a solution, I began introducing new subjects for student-led independent study. I would start the topic with a few key resources: a probing question, a video, a book, or a curriculum. Then she would follow the vein of interest as desired. In this manner, she delved into a wide swath of topics:

  • oceanography
  • geology
  • herbs and medicinal plants
  • photography
  • robotics
  • coding
  • drawing

We continued this smorgasbord of electives until my daughter found her passion in writing. It took time to find an interest that captured her imagination, but all of the searches were worth their time and effort. No learning experience is ever wasted.

3. Add Foreign Language Early

Take your choice—any language offers brain building benefits. Studies show that learning a foreign language is a great way to build additional neural pathways in a child’s brain. Many gifted children will love the challenge that learning a second language offers.

My first set of children took Latin beginning in sixth grade. My second group of children is starting their upper elementary foreign language with Greek. Two of our high-school students continued with Latin while my son chose to use Rosetta Stone for Japanese. The youngest, who is six, is using an app to learn Chinese.

4. Go Deep

In homeschooling my gifted children, I allow time to go deep as well as broad. Instead of skimming over the same series of facts year after year, we focus on studying with increasing complexity each year. When a subject catches our attention, we stay in one place and get to know it. Gifted students are known to get engrossed in a subject that piques their interest. Let them go as deep as they want. To force them to move on just to follow a schedule or checklist crushes their passion for learning more.

By spending the whole school year in one place and time in history, year after year, our students built a cohesive mental timeline, gaining a deeper understanding of how and why historical events were happening. This depth helped me build an education for my kids that was far beyond the model of memorizing names and dates which most of us experienced in public school. Whether it was in-depth American History or our year spent studying the Eastern Hemisphere, having a full year meant we had time to fully explore and enjoy un-rushed learning.

5. Keep Reading Classic Literature

There is concrete evidence that being read to leads to success in school. Thus reading has been part of our family life from day one. I wanted to capture my children’s imagination early by reading my favorite books to them, so nap time was always reading time. I made reading a habit; I modeled it and made time for it.

I found that my gifted children especially benefited from the influence of stories about  great people. Historical fiction and biographies are a beautiful way to fall in love with heroes every single day. Many of the characters in those books have quirky passions or were misunderstood for years before their unique way of thinking was finally appreciated. These themes help gifted learners come to grips with their unique talents and provide role models for guiding their own complex emotions.

I have built an amazing home library over the last thirteen years simply by using Sonlight curriculum. It turns out that in our family of ten children, there is not a single book that isn’t someone’s favorite.

Making a homeschool plan for gifted students is challenging, just like educating any student. But following these five road markers will help you devise a curriculum that overcomes many of the obstacles gifted children face in a regular classroom. As a bonus, you get to experience the deeply satisfying joy of being integral to your children’s learning! Homeschooling is the perfect model to help your gifted student excel, explore, and thrive.

Choose a curriculum you can hand over to your gifted learner with confidence. Try it today. Get three weeks of any Sonlight Instructor's Guide for free. Click here.

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4 Reasons to Read Books with Dynamic (not Static) Characters

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4 Reasons to Read Books with Dynamic (not Static) Characters

Recently we moved—a rather sudden, unplanned move—seven-hundred-miles inland, in the middle of the school year. I’m not the type to go poking around for change. We didn’t move because I wanted a change; in fact, I’d be quite content in Tolkien’s idyllic Shire, enjoying a book, second breakfast, and a dependable, comforting routine.

When faced with this move, my husband called it an adventure. I confess I echoed Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, “[Adventures?] I have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!”

I know better. I know the value of change. I’ve experienced the transformative power of change. And I know change is at the very heart of redemption, without which there is no life. But in the moment—in the

  • great,
  • tangled,
  • complicated,
  • uncomfortable,
  • farewell-filled

moment, I don’t like change at all.

Bilbo Baggins, of course, didn’t hold on to his adventure-averse attitude. He didn’t remain static, entrenched in the Shire, unwilling to enter any other season of life. Over the course of the book, his willingness to accept change enacts change in him, too. He undergoes an entirely relatable, and yet entirely fantastic, transformation. We need life-giving books like this, and we need to partake in the tremendous joy of sharing them with our children, too.

1. Dynamic Characters Frame Change in an Ultimately Positive Light

We all agree Sonlight books—like The Hobbit and The Door in the Wall and The Light at Tern Rock—are special. The main characters

  • capture our hearts,
  • teach us something of the world,
  • inspire us to embrace courage,
  • and stick with us for a long, long time.

But just what is it that sets the characters in Sonlight books apart from the rest?

To begin, the people we read about in these beloved books present the human experience with some degree of realistic imperfection.  “Heroes should not be flawless,” Sarita writes in her seven-part test for a Sonlight book. “Anti-heroes ought not to be thoroughly detestable. They need to be nuanced and complex – the way real people are.” (Even Smaug and Gollum are not flat characters, dripping in over-the-top evil. There is a subtlety to them which resonates with the human experience. And Bilbo himself is nowhere near perfect.)

Just as we desperately need books with flawed literary characters, we also need books with dynamic, developing characters. “The protagonist must change for the better over the course of the book”, writes Sarita in the second part of the Sonlight book test. (Dickens’ Ebeneezer Scrooge of A Christmas Carol is perhaps the most widely-recognized dynamic character.)

But why does this quality of being changeable matter so much?

2. Dynamic Characters Remind us Life Depends on Change

As nature’s most basic level, we see the importance of change. Jesus says, in John 12:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” The Message version translates the second part of the verse as follows: “In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.” (Emphasis mine.)

There’s a symbolic meaning there as well as literal, but either way, it is undeniable: without change, there can be no life. A sprout must trade the cotyledon seed leaves of its infancy for true leaves, else it will shrivel up and die. A blossom must disintegrate to make way for the fruit. In The Door in the Wall, young Robin’s very life depended on embracing the changes Brother Luke brought into his world.

3. Dynamic Characters Spur Us to Greater Growth

"Life is a process of becoming,” wrote author Anaïs Nin, “a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death." One would never describe Nin as espousing a Christian worldview, yet she understood well this rudimentary truth: growth cannot take place in a stagnant place.

Our children need to understand this fundamental principle, too. And we have the great privilege of feeding their souls with stories of those who did not remain static, stories about people like

all of whom did not elect a state and dwell in it, but grew from the conflict in their lives, as painful as those experiences sometimes were.

4. Dynamic Characters Model a Teachable Spirit

Dynamic characters are crucial literary friends for our children—and for us—because they model

  • the spirit of humility,
  • the essence of being teachable,
  • the transformative power of redemption,
  • the good which can arise out of failure, and
  • the opportunities for growth resulting from mistakes.

Perhaps most powerfully, dynamic characters remind us tragedy is not the end. Johnny Tremain’s story did not end when he burned his hand. Robin’s story did not end John-the-Fletcher failed to arrive. There is always more to the story.

No matter what seemingly-insurmountable challenge or grief you or your children are facing, this is not the end. You are yet in the middle of your story. It is still being written. And, in Christ, the best is still to come.

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How I Choose Sonlight Programs for a 4-Year High School Plan

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How I Choose Sonlight Programs for a 4-Year High School Plan

I’ve often been asked which Sonlight levels we use for high school and how I determine which levels to do and which to skip. I’ve also been asked about some of the middle school levels (F, G, and H mainly) and whether or not they are high school-worthy. In other words, are they rigorous enough to assign high school credit on a transcript?

Before I get into my methods for choosing Sonlight for high school, I want to offer two examples that demonstrate just how rich a Sonlight education is at any level and how a public high school course often pales in comparison.

Sonlight First Grade Versus My High School Education

I still remember the day when my oldest was just shy of 6 and using HBL B when a revelation flashed through my head, “I never learned any of this in high school.”

It’s true. Despite attending a highly rated school in a state with top education rankings, my history education in high school was lacking compared to Sonlight's program for ages 6-8! I was astounded that my child knew more about people and eras of history at age 6 than I did at 18.

In HBL B, we covered regions like Ancient Sumeria, Akkadia, and Nubia. We talked about people like Hammurabi, King Narmer, and Sargon the Great. We talked about historical events such as the Hyksos invasion of Egypt, the city-state building of Mohenjo Daro, and the rise and fall of Babylonia. And we weren’t even halfway through first grade! It was then that I had my first inkling of how much history schools fail to teach.

Sonlight American History Versus College American History

By the time my oldest had reached HBL D, American History Part I, I was back in college, taking an American history class with an extremely dry textbook. During the tests, I realized that I was pulling almost as many answers from what I learned via my daughter's Sonlight curriculum as I was from my college textbook. When got confused about time periods, I’d relate the events to what was going on in the Sonlight Readers and Read-Alouds to find my chronological bearings.

Of course, Sonlight’s HBL D is not college level material. However, it provided an excellent scaffold for what I was learning in college. It was at that point I realized that I had been far less prepared for college than I could have been.

More Sonlight Programs Mean More Choices for High School

When my oldest was four years old, I planned her entire homeschool sequence from kindergarten up through high school graduation.  But by the time she was five, Sonlight came out with a new preschool program. Should I scrap my plan to fit in the new level? No, I decided to hold strong and keep moving forward with my original outline.

After a few other surprises and upsets to my plan, Sonlight transformed level 530—which had been a supplemental survey of British literature—into a full 500 level program. This change added an entire new level to choose from! And it wasn't part of my original plan.

Because I love Sonlight and want to enjoy all the programs, I revised my plan once again, moving things around to make room for this new addition. But, shortly afterward, Sonlight started releasing 600 level materials. It was at that point that I realized that we realistically couldn't fit in all the levels and that my high school plan didn’t have to include every program!

As recently as 2018, Sonlight has released yet another new program—HBL J History of Science. I have high hopes that someday soon there will be so many levels that a homeschool mom no longer feels pressured to do them all because she simply can’t. Instead, she picks and chooses the levels she feels will work best for each student, year by year.

Sonlight Middle School Versus Sonlight High School

Around the time our first student started high school, we had an extra student with us. To protect her privacy, I won’t say much about her. But she hadn’t done all the Sonlight levels with our family, and so she wasn’t ready for the rigor of work in Sonlight's high school levels. Yet she had been in public school and was ready for high school according to her age.

So I was left with a choice. Should I forge ahead into Sonlight's high school levels with her? Or should I back up and do a lower level to prepare her for the hundreds level (high school) programs? If I did use a middle school Sonlight program with her, would it be enough to qualify for high school credit?

Sonlight High School Catalog

How is a High School Course Defined?

I started to study what made up a high school program, poring over high school textbooks and syllabuses and interviewing high school teachers. What I learned was a surprise!

There is no standard level of work for any grade. Even with the new Common Core standards in place, each school district—sometimes each teacher—is responsible for choosing materials and determining what is required for completion. In addition, teachers have leeway on grading and assigning extra credit. I found a wide diversity in what was considered adequate for high school level courses. For example, one program for traditional students used ten books in their literature program, and another for the gifted program only covered four books.

How Does Sonlight Compare to Local High School Courses?

I performed a side-by-side comparison of Sonlight levels G, H, and 100 with what I uncovered from public and private high school courses (including two AP courses). I found that Sonlight came out ahead in almost every area:

  • daily reading assignments
  • number of books covered per year
  • number of major topics touched on per year
  • number and length of writing assignments

(Sonlight did not always exceed the AP level program requirements but in many ways was equal.) Based on my research, I determined that G and H are, in fact, high school-worthy programs.

To verify my conclusion, a couple of years later I spoke to the admissions officers at a local university that accepts students for dual enrollment. Both admissions officers took a look at the Sonlight catalog and the transcript I made and assured me that the university would accept Sonlight F, G, and H for high school level credit. They said the courses were more than adequate!

Of course, this is anecdotal evidence. I cannot speak for the entire country or for every college. But according to my experience, Sonlight middle school and high school curriculum provides an equal or superior education comparable with the high schools in my area (southern Texas). You can do research in your area by talking with college admissions counselors at colleges your child might be interested in.

Mix and Match High School with Sonlight

How I Decide on Sonlight Courses for a 4-Year High School Plan

Since my research, I have long since given up extensive planning and worrying about levels. So instead of choosing a level based on trying to squeeze in every single Sonlight program, I decide based on what the child needs and is interested in. There are so many options!

I have been counting Sonlight courses as the following high school credits:

Each literature program is equivalent to 1 English credit on a high school transcript.

Know that you can trust the rigor of Sonlight's programs. They are enough—more than enough—for high school credit! And if you ever worry about designing the perfect high school plan, reach out to the Sonlight Advisors who can help you work through the process of weighing all your options.

Sonlight has homeschool consultants available to talk to you about the next step on your journey. Click here to schedule an appointment.

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How to Find the Time to Homeschool (Even if You Work)

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How to Find the Time to Homeschool (Even if You Work)

If you need to or want to work, but still want quality time with your children and a stellar education, you can do it. Whether you want to homeschool them full-time or supplement the brick-and-mortar school they get during the day, working and teaching are not mutually exclusive. You probably can find the time to homeschool or afterschool even if you work. You will have to stay flexible and change your way of thinking, though.

Laura Vanderkam, in 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, talks about the (often faulty) perception people have that there is no time. She points out that the 168 hours in a week is a tremendous amount of time. You can sleep 8 hours a night, work a full 40 hours, and still have 72 hours left in your week—time for almost two additional full-time jobs.

So where does all that time go?

Tracking Your Time and Then Using it Wisely

Vanderkam recommends that you track your time for a week in half-hour increments (or 15 minutes, if you have a lot of quick changes) to see how you actually spend your time. Are you using those 72 unaccounted-for hours in a way that is in line with your core values?

For those who choose to work and homeschool, this can be especially helpful. Instead of feeling chronically short, you might find that you do have time to help provide for your family, spend meaningful time with your children, and if you use a well-laid out curriculum like Sonlight, you’ll also get to spend some time for yourself.

Although brick-and-mortar school takes all day, homeschooling doesn't take that long, especially at lower levels. For example, in the younger years with Sonlight, the recommended schedule takes about an hour. Even by upper elementary school, the schedule takes only a few hours a day. Choose a 4-day homeschool schedule, and you'll free up an entire day each week!

If you view your week through the 168-hour lens, do you think you can find five or ten hours a week to devote to educating your child? There are ways to sneak in the learning:

  • Listen to audio books as you drive.
  • Use Sonlight Readers and Read-Alouds as bedtime reading.
  • Fit History reading between your weekend activities.
  • Use errand time in the car as book discussion time.
  • Spend dinner on round-table narration, when each child summarizes what he has learned.

Once you get beyond the mindset that "school must happen between 8 am and 3 pm, and children should be in bed by 8 pm," there's space for creative scheduling.  Nights and weekends are gifts of time. Use them well, and you will find that you really do have more time than you think.

Rethinking Housework to Make Time to Homeschool and Work

One of the other helpful things that Vanderkam emphasizes is that you get to choose your priorities. While a bored homemaker in the 1960s might have made a raspberry cake with 16 steps, you choose to do other things with your time now. That's great! What amazing options are open to you!

So it's okay to let your ideas shift a little. For example, changing sheets once a week is a holdover from farming days, when people would often get a lot more dirty—and bathe a lot less—than modern office workers. If your sheets get changed every few weeks, who cares?

Obviously some things, like car maintenance, shouldn’t be ignored. Dishes and laundry should be maintained, to keep the house running smoothly. But dusting and window-washing? Less important. Going to bed with a spotless house every night? Depending on your personality, this will be more or less important to you, but the reality of homeschooling is that you and your children are home a lot of the time, making messes and exploring the world. Maybe a once-a-week general put-away is sufficient. A fifteen-minute daily clean adds up to almost two hours a week. That might be more than you want to spend, or a reasonable amount. But you get to choose.

Adjusting Food Prep to Make Time to Homeschool and Work

In the realm of food preparation, you can also look for time savings. This is probably not the season to start whipping up crepes and galettes. Can you find meals your family generally enjoys, and rotate through them on a regular basis?

For example, one working, homeschooling mom went to all her children’s sporting events and ran the typical mom shuttle service. To stay afloat during her busiest years, her dinners looked like this:

  • popcorn and milkshakes on Sunday
  • spaghetti on Monday
  • Chinese food on Wednesday
  • pizza on Friday
  • hot dogs, beans, and macaroni on Saturday

She had a small range of dinners she rotated through on the other nights.

That isn’t necessarily the most healthy diet, but she saved her sanity. And the point is: you can rotate through meals once a week, according to your family’s food preferences. If a rotisserie chicken (or a chicken cooked in an Instant-Pot) makes your life run more smoothly, or pre-cut, frozen butternut squash saves you ten minutes, that might be worth it. There’s no award for “I riced my own cauliflower instead of using the frozen stuff,” or “I grated my own mozzarella by hand rather than using the food processor or buying shredded cheese.” Be grateful for the time savings.

I LOVE being with my kids; I LOVE building my business.

"This was our afternoon when this photo was taken: balancing business building with homeschooling, the best we know how! As the kids practiced their handwriting, I did a Facebook Live announcing the Grand Prize drawing for our team’s 30 day health and fitness challenge. I LOVE being with my kids, I LOVE building my business, and I LOVE that I live in a world and have chosen a vehicle that allows me to simultaneously do BOTH." - C. Wilson of Colbert , WA
Sonlight gives C. Wilson the liberty to invest time in her business instead of lesson planning. She can trust Sonlight's proven curriculum to provide everything her kids need to succeed. It's open and go!

Delegating and (Not) Multi-tasking So You Can Homeschool While Working

Depending on the age of your children, and the helpfulness of your spouse, you can also delegate. Or, if it’s in the budget, hire out for certain tasks you dislike. Cinderella didn’t also homeschool and work outside the home, so if you’re starting to feel overwhelmed, get some help. Or lower your expectations.

There’s no such thing as a good multi-tasker. There are people who shift their attention between tasks rapidly, but that is not efficient and helpful. It’s like sitting in a theater and having your phone ring every 15 seconds. Don’t do that to yourself. (The exception is, of course, for mindless tasks that you know how to do. A beginning driver needs to focus, but an experienced driver can listen to an audiobook. You can talk on the phone while doing the dishes. That isn’t actual multi-tasking, though, as those processes use different parts of the brain.)

Keeping Perspective as You Work and Homeschool

Young children grow up. This isn’t meant to be a truism, but in the early years of parenting, children need so much help in every area. Getting four children into four car seats and boosters can take a while. But getting into the car with four ambulatory, tall children takes about ten seconds for everyone to pile in. If you’re in a season of intense parenting, realize that this season will shift at some point, and your children will not need you as much.

Which is, I suppose, both a blessing and a warning.

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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5 Reasons to Teach History Without a Textbook

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5 Reasons to Teach History Without a Textbook

Sonlight teaches History using great books, in a method that over the last three decades has proven itself to be both powerful and effective. But why would we choose to rely on literature instead of other tried-and-true materials or methods? At Sonlight, we believe a literature-rich homeschool curriculum is ideal for a teaching history (and other subjects) for five main reasons.

1. Great Books Offer Context

Intuitively we know that context is important. For example, separate ingredients are better when they come together in a Caesar salad. That can of anchovies on its own isn’t so appealing, but as part of a dressing, it offers a savory note that enhances the salad.

Learning History, too, shouldn’t be a bunch of discrete facts. History is a series of interwoven stories, and stories are interesting to listen to. We all want to know what happens next! When you are engaged, you remember more. With the context, you understand more of what is happening.

The American colonies didn’t one day decide to shoot at British soldiers for fun. They had been building resentment for years. Sure, 1776, the year of the Declaration of Independence, is an important date. But so are the events leading up to 1776, the characters involved in 1776, the dangers, the monotony, the strategy, the daily life.

When you read for context, you gain far more than a flashcard date. You gain a story, a memory, an understanding.

2. Great Books Offer Experience, Not Factoids

If you treasure wonderful experiences with your children—who doesn’t?!—Sonlight is the perfect curriculum for you. Sonlight families don’t “do school.” They travel, with books, to a wide variety of interesting locations. They meet, with books, interesting people, some famous, some not. They experience triumphs (and some defeats).

Neuroscientists have found that reading about an event goes to the same place in the brain as experiencing that event.

If you’ve been thinking you would like to do more things with your children, go on more trips, expose them to more things, Sonlight is your ticket. Travel the world for far less than a plane ticket.

3. Great Books Offer Time and Desire For Independent Play

When you start Sonlight A with your children, your History / Bible / Literature education will take perhaps an hour. But that whole hour, your children will have been engaged with the learning process, as they listened to a comprehensive story Bible, a poem, some information about the wider world, a delightful book you read for their comprehension, and some sentences or pages that they read to you.

Many children, after spending this intensive time with a parent, are ready to spend time on their own: LEGO, outdoor activities, looking at books, drawing pictures, making up stories with a sibling. . . . They have time to experience the rest of the world.

You won’t be burnt out at the end of the year because your year won’t have been drudgery. It will have been filled with lovely moments!

Your children will check in with you a few times during the rest of the day, showing what they’ve made, coming for a hug, asking a question (“What’s for dinner?”)—but by spending focused time with them, they have thoughts to process and play to engage in, books to read, and creative endeavors to pursue.

Many Sonlight moms can go back to school for themselves or hold down part-time jobs because their children are able to be so independent once their school work is done.

4. Great Books Are Unique

There is only one Pride and Prejudice. There is only one Little Britches. Like the most outstanding people you’ve ever met, great books can’t be duplicated or imitated. In fact, although whole branches of the publishing industry spring up dedicated to bringing us books “in the tradition of Jane Austen,” that’s like store-brand cola—it’s a cheap knock-off.

With Sonlight, come meet the outstanding books, mostly published in the last century, but, especially in the high school programs, going back to ancient Mesopotamia. Four thousands years of unique, superb literature.

To enjoy these gems, you don’t need to go to university for an advanced degree. You don’t need tens of thousands of dollars for a private school education. You don’t need special tools or years of prep work.

If you can read, you can Sonlight. We’ve done the choosing and the planning for you.

  • No guesswork.
  • No late night scheduling.
  • No scanning library shelves, trying to avoid inappropriate topics.

A complete program, delivered to your door.

Great books produce outstanding students and thoughtful lifelong learners.

College professors routinely compliment Sonlight students on their writing ability, their clear communication, their depth of thought, their extensive knowledge of the world.

And Sonlight students, knowing that learning should be enjoyable, keep that joy going throughout their lives.

This is not History-because-we-have-to-get-it-done. This is History-because-we-get-to-do-it.

5. Great Books Are Enjoyable

Sonlight’s History program is so fun that Sonlight children beg to do school on the weekends and during summer vacation. This is not History-because-we-have-to-get-it-done. This is History-because-we-get-to-do-it.

Ready to enjoy learning?

At Sonlight, we know that every homeschool family is unique, and every student has individual strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. That’s why we offer multiple curriculum options, completely customizable to meet your needs.

Curious to see what this type of education might look like for your family? Go to SmoothCourse to explore your options.

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A Beginner's Walk-through of the Sonlight Instructor’s Guide

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A Beginner's Walk-through of the Sonlight Instructor’s Guide

Although your Sonlight Instructor's Guide might look overwhelming to begin with, after spending a few minutes getting acquainted, you will feel at ease with your big binder. It looks more confusing than it is! Even if you’ve never taught children before, you can do this!

Follow these five simple steps for a quick Instructor’s Guide orientation.

1. Identify the 3 IG Subjects

Sonlight sells Instructor’s Guides for three subjects:

  • History / Bible / Literature (HBL)
  • Language Arts (LA)
  • Science

They have the same general format—a schedule grid with notes—but cover different topics. When you ordered, you chose either a 4-day or a 5-day schedule, based on the overall workload you want to do, and whether you are in a co-op on the fifth day.

2. Find Your 36 Divisions

All Sonlight Instructor’s Guides have 36 numbered divisions. A traditional school year has 180 days, and 36 x 5 is 180. You can think of each division as a week, and Sonlight materials speak of 36 weeks, even though you often won’t actually do the four or five days on the schedule in a calendar week. The school year is filled with holidays, field trips, occasional illness, appointments, and so on. Rather, think of your year as “doing the next thing.”

With a 36 “week” division, you have many opportunities to celebrate progress. Every four weeks you’ve finished a month, every nine weeks you’ve finished a quarter, every 12 weeks you finish a trimester, and 18 weeks equals a semester. You’re never more than four weeks away from a milestone!

3. Understand the 3 Main Parts

The Instructor’s Guide itself has three parts:

  1. Section One: An Introduction with some information that the program developers found helpful.
  2. Section Two: The bulk of information and the schedule, divided into 36 "weeks." You’ll spend most of your attention here throughout the year.
  3. Additional Notes: These depend on the type of IG—whether it’s an HBL, LA, or Science IG.

4. Get to Know Your Schedule

Notice that your schedule is a grid. At the top, you can see the total number of days you’ve finished (out of either 180, for a 5-day program, or 144, for a 4-day program), as well as where you are in that specific “week.”

The left column gives the name of the book you’ll use; the other four or five columns give the specifics about which pages you’ll read each week. For most weeks of the year, your weekly prep amounts to thirty seconds before you start reading to gather up any new books you’ll be starting that week. Easy!

Most Sonlighters work vertically, column by column, doing the assignments for a day, then moving on to the next school day. This gives you a range of assignments to enjoy every day.

Some people, however, prefer to work horizontally, perhaps reading all the poetry and all the History in a day, then doing the Read-Alouds next. This is a fine choice, too.

And other parents find that they want to read ahead in a book, and so they get a little ahead in the Read-Alouds, but stay on track with the History and Science. All of these are fine options.

5. Discover All the Extras in Your IG

Even if all you use is the Sonlight schedule, your IG purchase is still worth it. Sonlighters who only use the schedule still feel their children get an excellent education.  But here are some of the additional features that you might choose to use.

  1. Bible and History Notes and Questions: Available to enhance your school year. You’ll find these notes directly following the schedule.
  2. Reader and Read-Aloud Notes: Find these organized in Section Three at the back of the IG. They are separated into a Read-Aloud section and a Reader section, and organized by book title in alphabetical order. This offers maximum flexibility for you—if you aren’t exactly in step with the IG’s assignments, you can easily find the book notes that match the book you’re reading. You can remove the notes and either keep them with the book you’re reading, or insert into the weekly division of your IG.
  3. Timeline figures, map points, definitions, cultural literacy notes: All of these are additional features. The HBL IG gives suggestions for characters you might want to note in your Timeline Book; the IG has a different symbol for the actual timeline figure stickers that you can add. The map points correspond to the small maps included with your IG, but you can also write in the place names on the Markable Map. Want to know a definition, or to know some aspect of history that isn’t as obvious? The IG includes selected entries—like a personalized dictionary and encyclopedia—so your family can learn as easily and quickly as possible.
  4. Activity Sheets: The LA and Science Guides include worksheets. Use as many or as few as you choose—classroom teachers never do all the worksheets available to them, and you needn’t feel you must, either.
  5. Assignments in lighter font: These are optional resources, scheduled for you—things like hands-on projects or workbooks. This is a courtesy for customers who ordered these products. (If you opted against purchasing these items initially, but would like to add them on at some point, you’ll get the same discount, and the same free shipping you would have gotten on the day you first ordered.)

See our IGs up close. Try three weeks of any Sonlight Instructor's Guide for free. Click here to get one for any level, preschool through twelfth grade.

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When Homeschool Moms Feel Invisible Like “Captain Nobody”

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When Homeschool Moms Feel Invisible Like “Captain Nobody”

I need to confess. While packing carry-ons for a flight, I pulled Captain Nobody off the Sonlight shelf and quickly stuck it in my daughter's backpack—as a independent free read. (You’ve never done that, right? Judged a Sonlight read-aloud by its cover, then ditched it?) After the sophistication of The Apprentice in History / Bible / Literature Level C, the cover of Captain Nobody just seemed...juvenile.

My daughter, who hasn’t yet learned to make snap judgements, enthusiastically devoured Captain Nobody in record time, oblivious to my uninformed opinion. Last month, when we spotted the book—narrated by author Dean Pitchford!—in our our library’s audiobook section, she nudged me and reminded me I was missing out.

So I entered the world of Captain Nobody. (I can’t believe I waited so long!)

How a Homeschool Mom Can Feel Invisible

If you haven’t met Newt Newman aka Captain Nobody, you might be surprised to hear me suggest the adventures of a spindly fourth-grader could have anything in common with the life of a homeschool mom. But good literature is relatable, and the common threads of human experience ring true across generations and cultures, bridging time and place.

If you’re already acquainted with Newt, you know he struggled with feeling

  • invisible,
  • overlooked, and
  • even neglected.

“I felt so angry on his behalf,” said one Sonlight mom as we chatted about Captain Nobody, “thinking it was so unfair that he, as a kid, went through it. But...I think that some of my anger was me feeling riled up about all the times I am taken for granted, myself.”

Young Newt was in charge of making breakfast, waking his brother up for school, and stepping into the roles his absent-minded parents forgot. And he felt like everyone around him could see directly through him. He writes,

“...nobody had eaten my breakfast.

I looked down at what was left. The sausages were cooling in their grease. The eggs were getting watery...

Now, I realize there’s not a lot I can do to help my family as they whiz through their busy days. And maybe I don’t build buildings or win ball games. But if make breakfast, the least they can do is eat it!”

Newt felt unappreciated and invisible, day after day, even as he obediently maintained his school and chore responsibilities. Fellow breakfast-maker, do you, too, feel as though the effort you pour into your household and family goes unseen? Does it seem like you’re plugging away on a hamster wheel with no visible progress? I’d venture to guess you’ve experienced inklings of these feelings at some point in your parenting journey; I know I certainly have.

And, like Newt, I sometimes feel like everyone around me is doing

  • more important,
  • more appreciated, and
  • more glamorous jobs,

while I am stuck in the cycle of thankless tasks. In a culture so enraptured with superheros, mountaintop experiences, and exceptional feats, it’s easy to feel lost, unable to see our own ordinary place in a world of more-than-ordinary influences.

Our Day to Day Work is Worship

Our culture—human nature as a whole, really—holds a skewed sense of heroes, doesn’t it? We walk right past those toiling quietly behind the scenes, and make a beeline toward the charismatic, flashy, extroverted personalities engaged in highly visible work.

As Newt faithfully plods forward, looking for examples of heroes, he slowly comes to the realization he has nothing in common with the kind of heroes people admire. You, too? Newt mourns,

“For one thing, most of my heroes stretch and transform their bodies into fantastic shapes. Tommy Origami, for instance, can fold his body into a packet the size of a postage stamp. Who was I kidding? I can barely touch my toes.”

To put Newt’s lament into homeschool mom terms, “Most of my heroes are put together, organized, and have time to write books on top of curating a picture-perfect homeschool” or “Most of my heroes are running orphanages, feeding the hungry, and forging new paths in faraway lands.” Like Newt, we might sigh to ourselves, “Who am I kidding?” as we’re limping through yet another math lesson and stacking yet another round of dishes.

But when done for Lord, work—all work—is worship. When we embrace this, we see the hallowed holy ground in quiet thankless tasks, carried out in the uneventful mundane hours. Our daily chores may not be prettified with the label of any official ministry or broadcast out to the world, but this work of raising and schooling children is elevated to the highest calling, when viewed in light of the gospel. So if we’re looking to find fulfillment by emulating a homeschool guru or other elusive hero, we simply will not find it. But when we dedicate our every task to God, we find peace and contentment.

You Are Not Invisible to God

Fellow mama, you who are

  • wonderfully made,
  • delightfully unique,
  • redeemed, and
  • the daughter of the Most High King,

don’t waste your energy striving to mimic someone you follow on social media! Don’t wear yourself out comparing yourself to a homeschool convention speaker or inspirational, do-everything, author you admire. They all have behind-the-scenes bad days, too—and just as many of them as you do.

Precious friend, you are you. You are not ‘supposed to be’ anyone else. You are you.

And our literary pal Newt Newman, too, discovered this.

“I’m not ‘supposed to be’ anybody...I am Captain Nobody.”

Maybe heroes walk around in stretched-out red sweatpants and a handmade mask, like he did. Or maybe they wear a top-knot, a slouchy homeschool tee, and printed leggings. That’s not the important part. The important part is—

You [yes, you!] are Captain Nobody! Defender of the little guy, champion of the downtrodden. Remember?

You’re doing the most important work.

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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