Homeschooling looked very different twenty-plus years ago. Sonlight pioneered the literature-rich homeschool curriculum movement. All that existed before were textbook based curricula. In fact, Sonlight's model was such a radical departure from accepted educational models, my mom wasn't even sure anyone else would be willing to try it.
So what are the cultural shifts I've noticed recently?
Today, there are many startup companies trying to capitalize on Sonlight's wildly successful approach to homeschooling. But it's not just literature-based programs anymore. You can now find suppliers of other varied approaches to education. This has allowed niches to form. More than that, it allows homeschoolers to find "their approach" within homeschooling.
Homeschooling used to be counter-cultural. Homeschoolers had to fight to make homeschooling legal. Today, especially with the flood of anti-public school documentaries saturating the silver screen, homeschooling is seen by many as a far superior option. And a great option it is!
This incredible success has lead to a relaxing of the homeschool culture. Sure, we still wonder if our children are learning "enough," but given the other options, we begin to feel we needn't worry. I consider the rise of unschooling to be one of many indications of this.
Sonlight broke from traditional school environments by rejecting textbooks. The "living books" movement has had incredible success. The trend I see now, however, is a further break from educational models. It seems that homeschoolers are moving away from even a literature-based model toward programs with even less reading. "You don't need all those books," I hear. "Instead, just read these few, carefully selected ones."
And so parents, it appears, want things even more simplified. While Sonlight's homeschool curriculum offers many of these benefits--more instruction and opportunities with less parental preparation--I think the pendulum is swigging back. Textbooks are dull and uninspiring because of how their information is presented. The life and reality of historical events is replaced with a more quickly covered paragraph summary. Worse, textbooks do not inspire conversation and discussion. Stories provide a spectrum of human experience to consider, talk about and apply. As the homeschool world shifts toward a more simplified and focused experience, I fear that depth will again be lost.
Sonlight's literature-based approach does more than just make information memorable and enjoyable. As you spend time reading with your children, you draw closer to them and they to you. You get to experience the joy of learning with them. Your whole family gets to revel in the beauty of a well-told story, and you build bounds through the shared experiences of the worlds you visit within your books.
The cultural shifts of more curriculum suppliers taking advantage of homeschooling's success has created a demand for more study options and a more simplified approach to education.
Where does that leave Sonlight? Where we've always been: Seeking to offer you the very best homeschool curriculum so you are able to love learning with your students through great literature and resources.
What do you think of my summary? Have I totally missed it? What shifts have you noticed in the culture homeschooling?
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester