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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You'll be encouraged by the words of founder Sarita Holzmann, inspired by real-life stories from other homeschoolers, pick up practical tips for the journey and more. Plus, you'll be the first to hear about product updates, special offers and more!

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6 Ways to Cultivate Interests and Raise a Well-rounded Child

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6 Ways to Cultivate Interests and Raise a Well-rounded Child

I was half amused and half overwhelmed one day as my children were gathered around the lunch table with me.

  • My oldest son was chatting on continually about current signees for our favorite college basketball team.
  • My other son found an open spot and changed the subject abruptly to the latest animal article he read.
  • My seven-year old daughter jumped at a short pause in the conversation to tell me about the art piece she had been working on
  • And my youngest child chimed in at every opportunity to tell me about all the things she wants to climb.

It never ceases to amaze me how four children from the same family can be so dramatically different. God makes life so very interesting!

It’s a wonderful thing to know the individual gifts and interests of each of your children. It’s another thing altogether to cultivate those gifts and interests. It can be overwhelming for homeschool moms to think of these things on top of reading, writing, and arithmetic—not to mention breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

Homeschoolers don’t always have automatic easy access to art classes and basketball teams, so how do homeschool parents cultivate the interests and gifts of their children and raise well-rounded children? As always, a simple look outside the box will provide your child rich opportunities to grow.

1. Cultivate Interests by Bringing Experts To You

You might be surprised by the people in your community who would absolutely love to pour into a small group of interested children. For example, this year, my boys have been reading through the Usborne Human Body Book in Science F. I asked one of our nurse friends from church if he might be willing to share with us some about his work in the medical field. Not only was he willing, but one visit turned into a weekly biology lesson. It was such a fun, rich time that not only invested in an interest but also grew into a great relationship between my family and our friend.

Each Friday this past semester, my mother-in-law has visited to give a nutrition/cooking lesson. My kids have absolutely loved learning new recipes that they can make themselves, and I’ve noticed that they are all much more observant about their nutritional choices, oftentimes commenting, “Well, carrots are healthier than chips, so I’ll go with carrots.” It’s a win-win, and the shocking thing that I’ve heard over and over from our visiting experts? “I just love coming! It’s my favorite time of the week!”

2. Cultivate Interests by Outsourcing Lessons

Private or group lessons can be expensive, but as homeschoolers, we are no strangers to investing in our child’s education. My daughter began drawing recognizable people shapes when she was two years old. When others were scribbling away, my daughter was carefully drawing full portraits of her mommy and daddy. We knew early on that this was a gift that needed to be cultivated. We tried books and videos, but we struggled with consistency and often pushed it to the side. So we felt that the best option was to pay for lessons. Our little artist has been working with her teacher for several months now, and we are seeing fruit already from our investment. Her interest in art has only multiplied, and her skill level grows seemingly with every lesson.

If you are interested in lessons for your child, reach out in your community. Ask around in your church and social circles for recommendations for good teachers and for average rates so you’ll know what is an acceptable price to pay. Also, talk with your child often about their lessons. If they remain excited and enthusiastic about it, keep with it. If not, re-evaluate in a month or two to decide if it’s something worth continuing.

3. Cultivate Interests With Online Lessons

Sometimes, I am embarrassed to admit that I forget the vast opportunities lying at my fingertips via the internet. Just last night, my oldest daughter was watching me type on my laptop, and she announced that she wanted to learn to type like me. So, I stopped my work, switched over to my search engine, and simply typed free online typing lessons. I clicked on the first link, and within seconds, my daughter was learning to type, and doing quite well too! She worked all evening last night and woke up this morning ready for more!

Of course, it’s always a good idea to research the websites your children will be using, but there is literally a wealth of opportunities that your child can explore from your living room. Many of those opportunities are free, so always remember to explore your options online.

4. Cultivate Interests Through Community Opportunities

Although larger communities generally have more to offer, I have been delighted to learn all the opportunities that are available in my little town. We have participated in the community basketball and football leagues, and we’ve taken advantage of art and theater camps. We keep an eye on the city’s Facebook page and subscribe to our local newspaper to keep up on all the upcoming classes and sign ups. One of the great things about community opportunities is that they are usually less expensive than private lessons.

5. Cultivate Interests With Dual Enrollment

While this option is not available in all states, it does seem to be gaining ground in our country. Just recently, my state passed the Dual Enrollment law. This law allows homeschoolers to enroll in one or more classes in public or private schools while still retaining the homeschool status. I think this can be a great way for homeschoolers to explore areas of interest. If you’re interested, visit your local school to see if this program is available in your area.

6. Cultivate Interests With Books

Never underestimate the power of books. When I was in high school, I decided that I wanted to learn how to knit, so I went to my local library and checked out a beginner’s book on knitting. I worked through that book, and then went back to check out another book to challenge me even more. That free book turned into a decade and a half of knitting and crocheting that brings me and others that receive my creations so much joy (and warmth!).

One of my sons was interested in survival skills a few years ago, so of course, I bought him a book on survival skills. Soon, he was tying knots and making lean-to shelters from fallen branches. Books can be life-changing.

Of course, your local library is a great resource for this. But you will also want to check out Sonlight’s Elective selections. From art and music to physical education and public speaking, Sonlight has homeschoolers covered, and you and I both know that if it’s from Sonlight, we can trust that it’s an excellent resource!

Life stays pretty busy around my house between basketball practices, art lessons, and gymnastics. While we do try to keep to the one-thing-per-kid-at-a-time rule and are careful to protect our family time, dinners do occasionally have to be eaten early or late, and we probably play taxi cab driver more often than we would like, but we view it as an investment in our children’s futures. While they likely won’t go on to be NBA stars, it gives them much needed physical conditioning and life skills.

But don’t worry Mom and Dad! You don’t have to have crazy good basketball skills! Getting your child the instruction they need to explore their gifts and interests doesn’t have to be difficult. Many times, all you need to do is take advantage of the people and resources already in your community and your home.

Enrich your homeschool experience with Sonlight’s Electives.

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Transition to College with Advanced Placement in High School

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Our oldest daughter worked at an accelerated pace through Sonlight's upper level courses and had finished Sonlight 400 by age fifteen. Because of her advanced writing skills, we knew she was ready for college level coursework. But at the tender age of just 15, she was not ready for college living. When advanced teens are in this in-between stage, Advanced Placement (AP) courses are a great way bridge the transition between homeschooling high school and college.

Two Reasons to Choose an AP Course for Your High Schooler

Through AP preparation courses from Sonlight*, my daughter maximized her final year of homeschooling and also earned college credit. Seeing her succeed in the courses assured me that she was ready for college level work, and we had the college credits to prove it!

My daughter took British Literature and Psychology, but Sonlight offers AP prep courses in Biology, Economics, and Chemistry as well. Sonlight’s AP prep courses are each 36 weeks long, giving plenty of time to cover all of the material. We added several other classes and electives to round out a full year of high school with college credit.

Taking an Advanced Placement course will yield a higher GPA and can possibly mean transferable college credit—both of which set your student’s transcript apart from their peers.

1. Earn a Higher GPA on the High School Transcript

Advanced Placement courses cover the material that would be taught in a first year college course. If your student earns an A letter grade, you may give it more value than an A earned for regular high school level coursework, for example, 5 points for an A versus 4 points in a typical class or 4.5 in an honors class. The higher points mean a significant increase in the GPA on your student’s high school transcript.

If your child is thinking about attending college in the future, this GPA boost can set them apart as a strong candidate before an admissions board. We have already seen the benefit of adding AP courses. Our daughter has been offered several academic scholarship awards as well as a merit scholarship of over $14,000 from the colleges where she has applied.

2. Earn College Credit During High School

There is more that an AP course has to offer your student beyond a strong high school GPA, namely college credit. All of the hard work involved in an AP Course is really a study aid to help your student prepare for the final AP test.

To earn college credit your student will need to take the AP test in May following the completion of their course. Each test is scored on a scale of 1 to 5. Earning a score of 3 is the equivalent of a first semester college course which is three college credits. Earning a 4 or 5 merits the equivalent of a full year college course. These are earned college credits, so for example, earning a 4 on the AP test for Psychology will earn six college credits to transfer to the school my daughter will later attend.

How Advanced Placement is Saving Us Money

AP credits earned by taking the final test transfer to nearly every school and are in prerequisite or required subject areas. Earning theses credits means taking fewer first year courses in college.

The college where our daughter will attend next fall gives college credit for AP scores of three and up. In our case of two English tests and one in Psychology, passing with scores of 4 could earn my daughter twelve college credits while still in high school. That is one full semester of college for the cost of three AP tests—just under $300. The average college credit hour is $594 each, so this savings can be significant.

To get detailed information about the 30 subjects available and details about the AP tests check out apstudent.collegeboard.org. I have found this site extremely helpful for college planning, updates, and timelines. For tests each year, homeschoolers need to contact their local district or AP services by March 1 for a list of schools where a test can be arranged.

Help Your Teen Prepare for The Future with Advanced Placement

AP courses are a great way to continue to educate an advanced student at home while simultaneously earning college credit. With the AP course work my daughter has completed with Sonlight, I feel confident that she is ready for college level course work next year.

With hard work, good grades, and AP credits on her transcript, our homeschool student has earned significant merit scholarships from the colleges she has applied to. These will cover the majority of her tuition for all four years of school.

You can help your kids earn freedom from college debt while they earn their degree. This is the best graduation gift I can give my kids—an open path to the future they choose, without the burden of years of debt.

(*Note: Advanced Placement, Advanced Placement Program, and AP are registered trademarks of the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, these products.)

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

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The Joy of Revisiting My Childhood by Reading Aloud to My Kids

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The Joy of Revisiting My Childhood by Reading Aloud to My Kids

Just glancing at the cover of a book can draw you back to a moment in time and evoke strong feelings whether heartwarming or heartbreaking. My first memory of my mom reading aloud to me was the unfortunate summer that my siblings and I caught chicken pox. My poor mom was stuck inside most of the summer, caring for us and keeping us from passing the sickness to our friends. She picked up one of her childhood favorites—a Nancy Drew novel—and suddenly we were solving mysteries instead of wallowing in our pain. To this day, I still get warm, fuzzy feelings inside when I see those yellow and blue Nancy Drew hardback covers.

Now as a homeschool mom myself, I savor the chances I have to revisit my own childhood with my children, one page at a time, through favorite books. I count it a huge homeschool perk to share with my kids why a particular story is so special to me before we begin to unravel the adventure anew.

Bonding Through Books With Our Children: Looking Back and Looking Forward

What do we share with our kids about ourselves and about life when we share a book from our childhood? And what do we, as parents, gain along the way?

1. We Were Once Young

If you are prone to being a serious homeschool parent like I am, it is nice to let your kids see a different side of you through your childhood memories of favorite books. Most of the fun in our house happens with Daddy unless it is anything relating to books. When it comes to books, it's Mama’s time to shine. On trips to the library, my kids to see this normally serious mama light up with excitement at the sight of a picture book like Harold & The Purple Crayon.

Through books, I invite my children to meet the younger me. Curious kids are always eager to know more about their parents, and having a sense of family history has been tied to a sense of security and confidence in children. Sharing my favorite childhood books with my kids has been one of the best ways I know to gives my children a glimpse into my own childhood. They realize Mama was once a child just like them who loved to be silly.

2. We Are on a Well-paced Learning Journey

When I pull out my tattered copy of Dr. Seuss's One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (in Grade 1 Readers) I explain to my kids that everyone has to start somewhere. There was a time before I learned to read that I couldn’t read this book either! But each day of life and homeschooling brings us closer to reading bigger stories and learning new things.

Sometimes I need the reminder that educating my kids isn’t something that is going to happen overnight, it is a long distance journey. My Antonia is one of my most treasured books from high school. When I catch a glimpse of it on my bookshelf, I anticipate with excitement that someday my kids will read it, too. But once upon a time, I couldn’t read it either! In a world that rushes our children forward in their education, I am thankful for the reminder that a gentle love of books in childhood translates to a lifetime love of learning in adulthood.

3. The Same Story Can Teach a Different Lesson

Reading Charlotte’s Web (in History / Bible / Literature B) in my 30’s with my oldest child approaching double digits had a completely different impact on me than it did when I was a child or even when I read it aloud to my oldest child for the first time as a homeschool mom.

As a child, my key memory of the story was heartbreak—how Wilbur feels when Charlotte dies. This most recent reading, however, I had a child very nearly in the same stage of childhood as Fern. Naturally, I couldn’t help but focus on Fern on the ferris wheel with a boy and Mrs. Arable’s wonder at how Fern had suddenly stopped daydreaming with the animals and was now interested in boys.

My daughter is a daydreamer, too, so I must confess I have spent years wishing she would snap out of her little world and enter our own. There I was listening to the story for the third time and wishing for a few more daydreaming years. As I revisited Charlotte's Web this most recent time, suddenly I was taking notes not from the young protagonist Fern, but from Mrs Arable, her mother! As I looked across the room, I made eye contact with my daydreamer. Her smile told me that she knew the mental notes I was taking.

A Homeschool Saturated in Family Memories with Books

The way Sonlight uses classic literature for learning means these bonding moments come naturally! Many of the books I read in high school with Sonlight are still sitting on my bookshelf just waiting to be shared with my children when when they get older. These moments centered on books are the conversations they will remember—the homeschool memories that will last the rest of their lives!

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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