Why It's Okay That I Do My Entire Curriculum & Tick All the Boxes

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I’m going to share a secret with you. It’s not something I usually confess to strangers for fear of backlash, but I’ve recently been convicted that maybe I should be more open. Maybe, I suddenly realized, I need to be willing to prove that people like me are normal, too.

So here goes: I’m a Sonlighter and yes, I do it all.

I do the entire curriculum as designed, checking all the boxes and reading all the books.

Can I tell you how freeing it is to admit that? In most places where homeschoolers congregate—at co-ops, in Facebook groups, at library book sales—I play down the fact that I do the whole Sonlight program.

  • No, I don’t shelve science.
  • I don’t automatically ax half the Read-Alouds.
  • And I don’t set the Bible aside because a church program fills that need.

Barring incident (and yes, we’ve definitely had incidents!) we do a whole History / Bible / Literature program top to bottom—even if it takes extra time to get there.

Not Better, Just Different

I say all of this not to shame the homeschoolers who approach their Instructor's Guides like a buffet line, picking and choosing what fits their family, their season of life, and their needs. Instead, I say it to encourage moms who might not even take on homeschooling with Sonlight after hearing from so many others how overwhelming and book-heavy it is. I also say it to let other moms, like me, know that it’s okay to enjoy the process of homeschooling so very much that you dive headfirst into every resource available to you.

See, I think we’ve reached a point in the culture of homeschooling where it’s becoming a badge of honor to embrace such a minimalist approach to education that we cast suspicious eyes on mothers who don’t hold to the same ideas. We’re celebrating paring back, going bare bones, and simplifying so much that families like mine, who enjoy the rich banquet of a Sonlight education, are almost ashamed to admit that yes, at the end of the week, we’ve checked all the boxes.

I’m here to say that neither approach is right… or wrong.

Just like God created each individual family to reflect His glory with a specific calling to be fulfilled, our homeschools are hothouses for the background He wants to supply for our children. We’re all on a unique path. Why, then, is it not acceptable for one family to prune Readers, and another to strive to finish them all? Why is the admission that no, we didn’t take December off  but instead stayed the course unwelcome in some circles?

Neither is better. They’re just different.

A Peek Inside an Instructor's Guide

I’m Not Trying to be Supermom

Here’s another thing I want you to know: there’s absolutely nothing special about me that makes a full Sonlight package easier. Like you, I’m juggling multiple children, dirty dishes, and trying to get supper on the table at a reasonable hour. I’ve got a preschooler who interrupts math lessons, a husband who travels for a month at a time, and several children with learning disabilities. I have three in various out-of-home therapies, extracurricular sports for two, several in music lessons, and other obligations that mean packing everyone up and car-schooling several afternoons a week.

There’s nothing special about the way I feel on Monday mornings as I face a long week ahead, unless you count my relief at the fact that I have an open-and-go Instructor’s Guide holding my hand through it all.

I’m not exceptional in any way—trust me. I’m also not trying to outshine any one or to minimize the fact that homeschooling is hard work. I’m just doing what I feel called to do, and to do it to the best of my ability. I’m trusting that you’re doing the same, no matter what your day looks like. I’m not judging your wake up time, the number of math lessons your kids do in a week, or whether or not you count audiobooks as Read-Alouds. I have enough on my own plate without worrying about whether or not you feel handwriting is a valuable skill.

Sonlight and the Three Bears

A full Sonlight package happens to be a great fit for our family—our Goldilocks curriculum. Not too much, not too little, but just right. We tend to keep pace with the Instructor’s Guide, and don’t struggle to complete the scheduled work. We school year around. We average one program per year.

For some folks, it’s too much. They need to cut back. And, I’ve never met these folks, but I bet someone out there adds tons extra, feeling like they want even more.

And we’re all normal. We’re all doing it the right way. Be proud of who you are as a homeschooler!

Whether you do it all or homeschool buffet-style, Sonlight can work for you. Go to SmoothCourse to explore your options.

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Why Should Kids Care About Giving to International Missions?

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Why Should Kids Care About Giving to International Missions?

I was a missionary kid, born deep in the heart of southern Mexico and then lived in the former Yugoslavia. The idea of giving to missions isn’t merely conceptual to me; it played out in my life in a very real way.

How real?

Tithes often paid for our brown bread, eggs, carrots, tangy yogurt, and meat of occasionally-questionable origin. Missions contributions bought translated Bibles, many destined for a God’s Smuggler-esque journey behind the Iron Curtain. As Paul and Timothy wrote in the first chapter of Philippians, “For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities.”

1. Giving to Missions Reminds Us People Are Created in the Image of God

We sometimes forget the money from missions giving goes to living, breathing people, don’t we? In the Western church, we’re so conditioned to think of missions in terms of projects and outreaches, we don’t always remember the beating pulse of tangible humanity—or the living expenses—underneath it all.

But kids don’t think in terms of programs. While adults wrangle with logistics and numbers and people groups, children always see people. Understanding that both the reached and the reacher alike are people created in the image of God guards us against the skewed perspective that we—rather than Christ—are the Savior.

2. Giving to Missions Enables Us to Obey the Biblical Command to Tithe

There’s no question tithing is a Biblical idea; a plethora of passages address the concept of giving a portion of one’s income. While the Old Testament is clear on giving ten percent, the early Christians placed a placed a special emphasis on plentiful, generous, cheerful giving. Throughout the New Testament, we can see that the early Christians considered giving to originate with the church and proceed outward; meeting the needs of whoever had lack, both within the community as well as beyond its borders:

“...a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they did, sending their gift…” (Acts 11:27-30)

3. Giving to Missions Generates Gratitude

Talking to kids about giving as a means to meet others’ needs necessitates a conversation about lack. Most of us find it uncomfortable to have conversations with our kids about money, especially when it comes to discussing classifications like poor and the wealthy. But a frank discussion about

  • food availability,
  • clean water access,
  • sanitation options, and
  • shelter conditions

prompts gratitude in even the most modest of settings.

And that’s just touching on food, water, and shelter. Have your kids ever whined about picking up toys? When irritated by a mess of craft supplies or strewn toys, it’s easy for me to lose perspective and forget what a tremendously first-world problem of excess such clutter is.

As parents, we can use a gentle nudge toward gratitude from time to time, too. (Have you compared your income against a global scale? An annual net salary of $12,000 USD ranks in the top 15% of wealthiest people, worldwide.)

4. Giving to Missions Shifts Our Perspective

Especially for Christian kids raised in the church, it's easy to slip into the misconception that Sunday School is a normal way of life for everyone.  But Vacation Bible School and Wednesday evening services are not universal experiences of childhood by any means—worldwide, or even within America. If you and your kids have access to freely attend church programs, that’s actually a massive privilege and luxury. Kind of amazing to think about, isn’t it? It’s definitely an important point to discuss with our children.

For many children in India, Sunday School is certainly not a reality. Even simple Bible songs are wholly unfamiliar. Prior to the launch of Sonlight’s 2018 Giving Campaign: Experience India, I was not familiar with Mission India or with their focus on year-long Bible clubs. But throughout the coming weeks—alongside my fellow Sonlighters—I’ll be collecting coins and learning about India through the free virtual reality Adventure Pack.

5. Giving to Missions Allows Us to Play a Part in the Great Commission

Won’t you sign up to Experience India too? During this fall campaign, Sonlight will match every donation up to $100,000.

And I know many of you have the same question I did: Just how much of the money my kids and I collect will actually go toward these Bible clubs? Mission India explains, “For each dollar received, Mission India spends 80 cents on our ministry work, 8 cents on ministry management, and 12 cents on development.” Good to know, right?

As we step into the Great Commission together, let’s pray for God to open our hearts and our eyes to what He wants to do in our own lives through this encounter.  And let’s pray for the kids who will be hearing about Jesus—most for the very first time—through Mission India’s Children’s Bible Clubs.


Sonlight has teamed up with Mission India to bring you Experience India—a FREE, four-week, virtual reality (VR) adventure online—focused on how Jesus’ final command, the Great Commission, is being lived out in India.

We hope Experience India will develop in your kids a heart for the unreached by providing a fun and easy way to participate in the Great Commission.

We’ve set a goal of raising $100,000 for Year-Long Children’s Bible Clubs through the Experience India adventure—enough to enroll nearly 4,200 kids in India in Bible Clubs.

But, there’s more....Sonlight will match, dollar-for-dollar, all the money that's raised through Experience India—up to $100,000!

That means nearly 8,400 kids can learn about Jesus in Year-Long Children’s Bible Clubs this year! Will you join us in helping reach thousands of children with the Gospel?

SIGN UP HERE

NOTE: Experience India is an educational fundraiser, but there is no cost or obligation to participate.

 

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4 Tips for Parenting Shy or Anxious Children

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My kids come by their shyness honestly. I was so painfully shy when I was growing up that my classmates would ask my parents if I could speak. They weren’t sure because they had never heard me talk! Thankfully, after years of hiding behind my mom’s skirt, I grew out of my shyness. After all, it gets harder and harder to hide behind mom’s skirt!

A couple of my own children follow in my bashful footsteps. So I’ve learned a few tricks over the years for how to work through shyness in children. Although anxiety and shyness are not the same thing, some of these tips may work with anxious kids, too.

1. Homeschooling Helps Shy or Anxious Kids

When my oldest child went to a preschool program and kindergarten at our local public school, he withered instead of blossoming. Isaac's anxiety levels grew, and he became more and more shy. We were concerned when we started to homeschool that he would get worse from the isolation.

After all, what about socialization?

But, to our great surprise, homeschooling actually gave him the confidence he needed to come out of his shell. He made friends more easily at church, and his anxiety levels took a nosedive. He was suddenly so laid back and relaxed!

Homeschooling actually did the opposite of what we feared—exacerbating his shyness, and I am so thankful! I truly believe that homeschooling helps shy children build the confidence they need before heading out into the world.

2. Model & Practice Social Situations

Model and practice. Model and practice. Sometimes it seems that my days are much less about teaching and much more modeling and practicing.

In the case of shyness or social anxiety, we have found role playing or practicing a very effective tool. Since our children were old enough to speak, we’ve had them practice meeting people. They would stand up straight, look the person in the eye, hold out their hand, and say something like, “My name is Hannah. It’s so nice to meet you.”

Now, keep in mind that they were practicing with me. Of course, on occasion we were lucky enough to get a grandparent to help us practice! But practicing with a familiar person helps them to develop somewhat of a predictable script for what they need to do in certain situations. This gives them confidence because they know exactly what to do and say in “x” situation.

You can use the model and practice trick to work on all kinds of situations when shyness can cause misunderstandings or awkwardness:

  • meeting people
  • asking and answering questions
  • ordering food at a restaurant
  • asking to use the restroom
  • asking for directions

Model and practice is also a great tool to use when working on uncomfortable or even dangerous situations. In addition to pleasantries, we’ve also coached our children on what to do if they feel uncomfortable in a situation, and every so often, we’ll have a practice session. I think this is especially important for shy children who struggle to speak for themselves.

3. Remember That Shyness is a Super Power!

We generally don’t recognize character traits as super powers in our children. After all, they are young and haven’t quite figured out how to channel that trait in a completely positive direction. However, the fact is that shy kids are likely to be introverts, and introverts have proven to be some of the world’s greatest thinkers and dreamers.

Introverts are also known for their humility, servant-hood, and their deep compassion for others. While some kids are bouncing off the walls (and don’t get me wrong here...that’s a super power too!), shy kids are sitting back, taking it all in. They are making mental notes about how not to behave, how Susan is feeling after the fall she took earlier, and how he or she can best stay out of the spotlight.

So instead of worrying, always keep in mind that shyness is simply an element of a blossoming personality, and it’s our job as parents and teachers to help them develop those super power traits to the fullest.

4. Provide a Safe Place for Your Shy Child to Talk

The downside to being shy is that you tend to bottle up a lot of emotion. This is definitely a negative way to handle big feelings. Consider doing what my mom did for me by providing a safe place to talk. I don’t think it was intentional to begin with, but the front seat of our old tan Crown Victoria became what we lovingly referred to as The Confessional Seat. For some reason, it seemed I was comfortable to pour out my heart when I sat in that seat. I think it was probably because I was alone with my mom, without interruptions, and didn't have to make eye contact.

These days, as a mom of four stair-step children, I understand that front seat conversations are not always the most private or peaceful. No worries! I have heard plenty of alternatives.

One mom invites her children in one-by-one for a tea time to talk and visit. For some families, the bedtime ritual provides a perfect framework for some great heart-to-hearts. I personally also always enjoyed talking to my mom in the kitchen while she cooked dinner. There are many variations on this idea.

Of course, a safe place not only refers to the actual location, but also the person on the receiving end. When giving a shy child the opportunity to talk freely, it should be just that—free. Allow them to explore their feelings, fairly uninterrupted. Most of the time, they don’t really need advice, just a trusted, listening ear.

I know my parents worried about me as a child, wondering if I would ever come out of my shell, but I did! And today, I’m so thankful for their patient guidance in my early years. Oh, and if you’re wondering, I started speaking to my peers in probably about the fifth grade, and by high school, they probably felt that they couldn’t keep me quiet!

And my oldest son, Isaac, who I mentioned earlier? Well, he is currently on a two week mission trip across the country. The only person he knew on the trip was my mother-in-law. I’m happy to report that he is having the time of his life! So hang in there, moms and dads, there is hope for the shy kids! They just have to hone their super power.

Provide your children a safe learning environment at home where they can hone their unique giftings and blossom at their own pace. Go to SmoothCourse to explore your options.

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Jumping Dolphin Craft Plus More Extensions for Dolphin Adventure

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Jumping Dolphin Craft Plus More Extensions for Dolphin Adventure

As we progress through HBL A, I’ve been creating a series of activities to go along with each of the Read-Alouds. Although I’ve never been a very crafty parent, I find myself wanting to get involved with these extension projects! Here are my ideas, chapter by chapter, for Dolphin Adventure by Wayne Grover, culminating in a jumping dolphin craft made from paper plates.

A Special Day: Chapter 1

The story starts with pelicans looking for food along the shore. Depending on where you live, your children might like feeding the birds. My girls loved feeding the ducks around a pond near our house; you can also feed birds around the ocean or even in your backyard. While you are feeding the birds, you might wish to discuss why we must pick up trash around the area to protect the birds and other animals from eating things that might harm them and to keep trash from polluting our water and harming animals such as dolphins.

The author takes a boat trip to go deep sea diving. My husband has a great ability to make paper boats out of newspaper, so I handed him some paper! They spent the next hour folding paper to make their own boats which we later floated in a large tub of water outside.

During reading time, one of my girls asked how the Gulf Stream pushed people around in the ocean underwater. To quickly illustrate how this worked, we added a hose to our tub of water with the boats in it and practiced pushing them around with the hose water until they started to fall apart. Then we practiced using the water to push other things around underneath the water such as small pebbles and toys.

Down Into the Blue Sea: Chapter 2

The book progresses into a lovely bit of description of life under the sea. We did a bit of “deep sea diving” ourselves by getting snorkels, flippers, and plastic fish we used when we mapped Wild Island from My Father's Dragon and explored the fish underwater in the bathtub. Later we took them outside and practiced moving them around with our “ocean currents” hose.

We then visited a pet store to watch different types of fish swimming around. The pet store owner did allow my girls to help sprinkle a bit of food for them after they asked politely. If you have an aquarium nearby (or even Sea World) you might consider looking at bigger fish or even dolphins.

A Strange Feeling: Chapter 3

We didn’t make a float ball as described in this chapter but we did go out to our over-sized tub of water and drop in a dozen or so assorted items to see which ones would float and which wouldn't. We found out that one of the items that floated was a wiffle ball, so I tied a pieces of string to it and then tied the other end to one of our ocean animals. I had my girls take turns closing their eyes and then finding the ball. Then they tried finding their way to the end of it and finding the animal by feeling along the string.

We then did a quick online search and watched a few videos about dolphins and how they speak to each other, including what the clicks sound like.

The Dolphins: Chapter 4

I had run out of ideas in this chapter but happened to have a set of dolphin stickers and a tiny 3" x 5” notebook. My girls came up with the idea to compose and illustrate a story about a baby dolphin and his parents with the stickers and blank book.

I Try To Help: Chapter 5

In this chapter, the baby dolphin and his family try to communicate with the author. As a parallel, we practiced the bit of sign language we knew. Then I had my girls pretend they were dolphins and act out ways they could convey different messages without speaking or using their arms.

During their bath later that evening, my girls took turns trying to see how long they could hold their breath like dolphins.

Surgery on the Seafloor: Chapter 6

This chapter was a bit hard for my girls. They don’t like to see anyone hurting. But in order to save the dolphin, he had to be fixed. This seemed like a good time for role play. We used felt dolls and a dull-tipped plastic needle with yarn. We practiced gently stitching up places their dolls were hurt. Later we were able to remove the stitches and see that they were healed although the stitching did leave a little scar behind.

If dolls don’t interest your children, you might consider using lacing activities or sewing cards.

The Dolphin’s Thanks: Chapter 7

I truly had run out of ideas by this chapter, but my oldest daughter came to my rescue by suggesting we make models of dolphins with a lump of blue clay. I then looked up pictures online while we pointed out dolphin anatomy:

  • the blowhole for breathing
  • the gills
  • the flippers
  • the fins
  • the tail

My girls then insisted on reworking their dolphin creations to show more of those areas.

The Dolphins Return: Chapter 8

As we said concluded Dolphin Adventure, our final project was a craft of dolphins who could jump out of the water and say goodbye to us.

Supplies for Jumping Dolphin Craft

  • 2 paper plates
  • paint
  • paint brushes
  • construction paper
  • paper fasteners

Directions for Jumping Dolphin Craft

Leaving one paper plate whole, we cut the other plate about into 2 pieces—one measuring about ⅓ of the height of the plate, leaving the other at ⅔ of the height. Using the larger portion, we cut waves into the flat plane where we cut. We painted both plates in different shades of ocean blue using our paintbrushes. Using construction paper of each girls’ color choice, we cut out a dolphin shape for each child.

Once the paint was dry, we glued our dolphins to the larger plate. When the dolphin was also dry, we placed the smaller plate over the larger plate and fastened it in the middle using our paper fastener. Now our dolphin could spin, and we could watch him jump in and out of the waves.

After the Story

We also watched a few ocean-related movies for kids, including Flipper, Free Willy, and Finding Nemo. The sequel to Dolphin Adventure is scheduled later in this same HBL, so we have that to look forward to!

Sonlight History / Bible / Literature A

Dolphin Adventure is part of History / Bible / Literature A

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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Experience India and Give Your Kids the Same Advantage Mine Have

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My children have an advantage. I don’t mind telling you what it is.

My children have experienced life in a culture devoted to the worship of false gods.

  • They have watched families with dirty, barefoot, sunken-eyed children crowd around a rock splattered with red paint, offering up to an idol what may well have been their last handful of rice.
  • They have witnessed neighbors bowing to their car, setting a bowl of fruit on the engine block and sprinkling rice in an effort to assuage whatever deity they think provides safe travel.
  • They have seen people stringing prayer flags on balconies not because they are colorful and ornamental, but because they truly believe that the scraps of fabric will hasten their prayers to the ears of an otherwise deaf god.

Grasping Lostness and Loving Lost Souls

Why do I think this is an advantage? Because my children know what the faces of unbelievers look like. They know the bondage unbelievers face, and the fears they live with. They know how precarious life is when you are at the whim of a god who demands constant sacrifice, or what it’s like to be tied to a tradition that strangles your family into a hopeless way of life.

This advantage, I think, has done more for the spiritual life of my children than nearly any other experience they’ve had as young Christ-followers. Knowing the faces of the people for whom you’re praying, understanding the culture that is based on false religion, and grasping why those in power are so keen to oppress the Good News of the Gospel of Christ has made my children stronger and more passionate in their own faith.

Using Sonlight to Raise Mission-minded Children

What if I told you that you could sow those same seeds in the hearts of your own children? Not everyone can travel as missionaries into other nations, but it doesn’t take a first-hand experience to bring to life the reality that many in the 10/40 window wake to daily.

Long before our family ever stepped off the tarmac in Southeast Asia, we read about those who had never heard the name of Christ through Window on the World, Catching Their Talk in a Box, and countless other Sonlight titles.

Sonlight helps us raise mission-minded children and teens. We learned to pray for people groups we’d never heard of before, consider their cultures, and find ways to support those working to bring the Light into the terrible darkness of unbelief.

Contributing to Missions

Guess what? We’re still doing it. This year, our family has signed on to Sonlight’s 2018 Giving Campaign: Experience India with Mission India. We’re looking forward to learning more about a country we haven’t yet visited and meeting people whose work prepares the harvest in a land where the Christian population is radically small and often violently oppressed. God willing, we’ll be raising money to support the Children’s Bible Club effort, partnering with Sonlight as they match up to $100,000 in donations.

My children have an advantage, but in truth, your children can have it, too. They can be a part of preaching the Gospel and of setting the prisoners free. I promise you’ll see fruit in their hearts as they gain a new understanding of the Great Commission, and the privilege they have in knowing Christ. Sign up today.


Sonlight has teamed up with Mission India to bring you Experience India—a FREE, four-week, virtual reality (VR) adventure online—focused on how Jesus’ final command, the "Great Commission," is being lived out in India.

We hope Experience India will develop in your kids a heart for the unreached by providing a fun and easy way to participate in the Great Commission.

We’ve set a goal of raising $100,000 for Year-Long Children’s Bible Clubs through the Experience India adventure—enough to enroll nearly 4,200 kids in India in Bible Clubs.

But, there’s more....Sonlight will match, dollar-for-dollar, all the money that's raised through Experience India—up to $100,000!

That means nearly 8,400 kids can learn about Jesus in Year-Long Children’s Bible Clubs this year! Will you join us in helping reach thousands of children with the Gospel?

SIGN UP HERE

NOTE: Experience India is an educational fundraiser, but there is no cost or obligation to participate.

 

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Making Lunch a Bonus—Not an Interruption—to Your Homeschool Day

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Making Lunch a Bonus—Not an Interruption—to Your Homeschool Day

When homeschooling, it’s easy to think of learning as the main event, while mealtime is more distraction than necessity. Lunch can interrupt the daily flow, making it hard to get back on track with lessons again afterward.

Meals are Almost as Important as Curriculum

When we delay, skip meals, or rely on snacks to fill up rather than a balanced meal, it feels like we are saving time and energy. But in reality, children (and adults) need those nutrients to keep their minds working well. While you might not feel the effects of delaying a meal by an hour or two, your children might.

The signs might be subtle, but they include

  • difficulty paying attention
  • trouble remembering what they are learning
  • struggling with fine details
  • mild headaches
  • mood swings

While there are many reasons to have a strong breakfast to start your day off right, lunch is just as important for those hard-working brains. Here are some ideas to make lunch a natural part of your homeschool day instead of an annoying interruption.

1. Make Lunch the Homeschool Lesson

So many skills go into making of meals that I can make many of my meals a part of the lessons itself. Instead of viewing lunch as an pause in the learning, use it to expand and review what your children are learning.

Here are just a few things you can teach your children about meals that take little or no extra effort.

  • food safety
  • kitchen safety (safety with knives, hot oil, etc)
  • budgeting
  • fire safety (what to do if there’s a kitchen fire, how to use a fire extinguisher, never put water on a grease fire, calling 911, etc.)
  • different cutting techniques (dice, slice, julienne, etc.)
  • nutrition
  • meal planning
  • cuisine from around the world

2. Involve the Children in Lunch Preparation and Cleanup

If you have multiple children, one of your older children might like to help by doing meal prep while you work with a different child. Children as young as 5 or 6 (sometimes younger!) can help make sandwiches, pull out ingredients, or set the table. Older children can make complete meals, stir the food so it doesn’t burn, or chop the vegetables. This can be part of their daily homeschooling, filed under Home Economics. They might even like being in charge of deciding what to make each day.

3. Combine Meal Time with School Time

With a little forethought, meal times can also be times of learning.

Discussion Questions

Leave the discussion questions from your Sonlight Instructor's Guide until lunch. While you are eating, hold a family discussion about your Readers and Read-Alouds. With a relaxed lunch discussion, your children have leisure to express what they are learning beyond (or instead of) the discussion questions.

Stagger Your Meals

When my children were younger, I would stagger meals, giving my younger children (infants, toddlers, and preschoolers) a snack and letting them play while my older children ate. Then, when the older children were finished eating, I’d feed my younger children and myself while the older children worked on math, phonics, handwriting, and other independent table work.

Read-Aloud Meals

Another trick that works for me is to read Bible while my children eat breakfast and read History during lunch. Because the toddlers have their hands and mouths full, they are less disruptive. Once they finish eating, I eat by myself while the older children tidy up.

Musical Meals

If eating with your children is important, or it’s hard to have mealtime separately, you can play a custom homeschool playlist during your meals to sneak in learning during breakfast or lunch. Here's what our lunch playlist includes:

4. Categorize Your Lunch Options

One of the hardest parts of meal time for me is menu planning. Since I have a hard time committing to one food item weeks in advance, advance meal planning is hard for me. Instead I categorize lunches by day. Each day of the week corresponds to a category, and I stock up on ingredients so I usually have enough to make several different meal options in each category. When meal time comes around, I’m choosing between a couple of options rather than a few dozen.

A simple way to do this is to think of the different things you'd usually make. But instead of having the same meal week after week, try these options to keep your choices fresh and interesting.  Menu categories in my regular rotation are soups, sandwiches, salads, pasta, slow cooker recipe, and baked potatoes.

Add a Twist

If we have soup once on our rotation, that means we have it once a week. But we have a different type of soup each week, so it’s always something new. We might have lentil soup one week and corn chowder the next.

New Ingredients

When having sandwiches once a week, it’s easy to fall into a rut. But one of the fun things about sandwiches is that they are so flexible! You can liven them up with different types of bread: wheat, poppy seed bagels, English muffins, Italian, French, rye, pumpernickel, flatbread, tortillas, sourdough, pitas, lettuce wraps, etc.

Rotate toppings, too: cream cheese, peanut butter, other nut butters, various flavors of jelly, assorted lunch meats, egg salad, tuna salad, turkey, different types of cheeses, different condiments, and more.

This type of mixing and matching and rotating new foods can continue through other categories. For example, with salad, try using various greens, then mix and match toppings: cranberries or other fruits, various types of croutons, different styles of dressing, different meats or cheeses, and different veggies.

5. Prepare Ahead for Smooth Homeschool Lunches

There are several ways you can prepare your meals ahead of time so you have less actual cooking to do during school time.

Once a Month Cooking

There are several cookbooks and websites with meal ideas, but the basic premise is that by taking one full day a month to do advance preparation, you can make enough meals to last an entire month with very little work on each individual day.

Slow Cooker Meals

By simply throwing your ingredients into a slow cooker the night before, all you need to do is wait until lunch time, and your meal is ready to go. Clean-up is also a breeze with one dish meals like these.

Lay Out Lunches

Make the full meal ahead of time, and then lay it out so it’s grab and go. Make a school lunch like the cafeteria in a brick and mortar school. When lunch time comes around, there’s nothing to do but eat.

When I stopped looking at lunch as an interruption to our day and starting working with lunch as an important part of our lifestyle of learning, it was easier to take the effort to add balanced meals to our busy days. Later, when I started planning ahead and getting a lot of the prep work out of the way or delegating it to my children, I was able to keep our rhythm  flowing right through mealtime.  And by keeping our options fresh and interesting with my category rotations, we stay interested in the meals so we always look forward to our homeschool lunchtime.

Zero Prep with Sonlight Instructor's Guides

Want to know how Sonlight can put your daily routine on autopilot?  Start by taking an inside look at a Sonlight Instructor's Guide.

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Sonlight is Overwhelming!

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Sonlight is Overwhelming!

  • "I'm looking for a curriculum, but Sonlight seems so overwhelming! I can barely get everything done now. The book list is intimidating!"
  • "I just got my Sonlight order, and while Box Day was fun, I feel totally overwhelmed!"

Ah... the yucky feeling of being overwhelmed. It's a common concern about Sonlight’s comprehensive, book-based homeschool programs. Is there truth in the claim that Sonlight is overwhelming? Yes, in some ways, perhaps, Sonlight is overwhelming. But in other ways, Sonlight is the farthest thing from overwhelming—once you understand how it works.

Okay, Sonlight Can Seem Overwhelming

1. Sonlight Takes Up Space

Yes, it is true that a 60-pound box of materials is physically impressive and can be overwhelming. Box Day is like a fantastic Christmas Day that ends in satisfaction but also requires finding space for all the new gifts.

The sheer physicality of the product can be overwhelming.

2. Sonlight Takes Time

Yes, you are going to be present with your children more. Sonlight parents read to their children often between one and three hours a day, and do math, spelling, handwriting and other one-on-one tutoring besides that.

The reality is, if you spend two extra hours a day reading to your children, that comes to ten hours a week, or about six percent of the total hours in your week. A sacrifice, yes, but so very worth it in terms of academic achievement and parent-child bonding.

Where can you find those ten hours for reading to your kids? Here are a few places you may be able to carve out extra time. Added together, you can find your 10 hours per week to fit in Sonlight Read-Alouds.

  • Spend less time on social media. (Regain 30 min. per school day = 2.5 hours a week)
  • Relax your housekeeping standards, assign cleaning as schoolwork, or hire a house-cleaner. (Regain maybe 4 hours a week)
  • Ask your spouse or a grandparent to read to the children before bed. (Regain another 30 min. per school day = 2.5 hours)
  • Watch one fewer movie, or three fewer television shows, per week. (Regain about 1.5 hours)

There’s your time to read! Of course, your list will look different. The point is: six percent of your week is not that much time. Most people can find it, even without cutting back on sleep.

So, yes, Sonlight can seem overwhelming at first on Box Day and especially if you aren't used to so much one-on-one reading time with your children. But in several meaningful and wonderful ways, Sonlight is not overwhelming at all.

But Really, Sonlight is Not at All Overwhelming

1. Sonlight Requires Zero Planning

No, Sonlight is not overwhelming because there is zero planning required. Open your Instructor’s Guide and do the next thing.

This is the prep work each week: the parent calls the children to come. As the children are gathering, the parent locates the one or two new books for the week and opens the Instructor’s Guide.

That’s it.

2. Sonlight Requires Zero Preparation

No, Sonlight is not overwhelming because you don’t have to assemble anything or gather anything.

  • You don’t need to go to the library or make inter-library loans. (No late fees, either! The books are yours.)
  • You don’t need to print worksheets.
  • You don’t need to locate copywork passages.
  • You don’t need to sift through hundreds of books to find the ones that will appeal to your family.
  • You don't need to crowd-source resources in Facebook groups.

All that’s done for you. <Insert huge sigh of relief.>

3. Sonlight is Truly Enjoyable!

No, Sonlight is not overwhelming because you spend your time and energy doing meaningful things:

  • reading beautiful stories
  • talking with your children
  • discussing new thoughts
  • making connections

It’s not spent grading endless papers or enforcing busywork.

Basically, you can choose whether you’d rather spend your time grading, assembling, planning, seeking, or spend that time reading, laughing, talking, learning.

For Sonlighters, there’s no comparison.

Zero Prep with Sonlight Instructor's Guides

Want to know more about Sonlight’s not-overwhelming way of learning? Start by taking an inside look at a Sonlight Instructor's Guide.

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