Quick Reference: Curriculum and Learning Styles

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I offer the following as a reference to help you get a quick idea of different educational approaches. I have tried to be fair and fun in my presentations.

Curriculum Styles

  • Traditional/Textbook: You just need a summary of important information. Visual (reading); auditory (lecture).
  • Unit Studies: Do a project and focused study of something. Kinesthetic (projects).
  • Literature-Based/Living Books: Read great stories and you're set. Auditory (read-alouds); visual (reading).
  • Classical Education: Why read fiction when you can read Aristotle? Visual (reading), auditory (discussion).
  • Unschooling/Relaxed Homeschooling: Kids love learning; don't try to force it. Visual, auditory, kinesthetic (depends on the kid).

Learning Styles

  • Visual: See it and you've got it.
  • Auditory: Hear it and you remember.
  • Kinesthetic: Do it and you understand.

Sonlight Curriculum

How does all this line up with Sonlight? As a literature-rich homeschool curriculum, we do a lot of reading, both on our own and out loud. But we also offer more hands-on activities in the elementary grades than most of our competitors with Core Tips and Science programs built around fun experiments.


Sonlight is great for visual and auditory learners with enough kinethestic activities to engage your kids, no matter their preferred learning style.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Guardian

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15 Responses to Quick Reference: Curriculum and Learning Styles

  1. Katherine says:

    I don't agree that Sonlight "leads the market" in hands-on activities. I truly wish they did, because it would be a slam-dunk for my family. I have had to switch to Heart of Dakota to get the hands-on activities my creative children need and ask for. We did Core K after a year of Heart of Dakota and my dd asked, "Where is the art? Where are the projects?" There was nothing to show or look back on for our year. The Core tips are not helpful for my family. When we tried the Core K tips, they never got done. They are a list of websites that you still have to go through and cull activities from. They are not open-and-go for us. I really wish Sonlight would read the forums (Sonlight, WTM, etc.) and realize that people are clamoring for hands-on activities, activities that are already thought out and scheduled in the guide, activities that are easy to do and use things around the house, activities that tie into the history. People leave Sonlight for Heart of Dakota and My Father's World for this reason. I know that some Sonlight users don't want activities, and I understand that. But for those of us who have children who love to create and beg for projects, Sonlight is not "leading the market" in providing those hands-on activities for our children. It is truly frustrating because I love the Sonlight books, the notes, the mapwork, and the defined vocabulary. I would use Sonlight in a heartbeat if it actually had hands-on activities and notebooking that were as easy to accomplish as Heart of Dakota's. I feel like everyone who wants hands-on activities can see this void with Sonlight, but Sonlight either won't recognize it or refuses to do anything more about it. If only Sonlight would pay attention to the angst on the forums of mothers like me who need Sonlight to be "more" and are having to look elsewhere. Sonlight would have so much more of the market if they would really spend some time working on this area. Basically, I have gotten the impression that Sonlight is only for kids who want to read and do nothing else, and Sonlight has little interest in helping people like me who have kids who need projects and other outlets of expression like notebooking. Some of us actually do want something to show for our year and to look back on to remember what we learned. I am not a hands-on, artistic mom at all and I need someone to think through these projects, schedule them, and keep them manageable. I don't want a list of websites to sort through. I can Google and get that myself. I don't have the time or desire to sort through a buffet of projects. It overwhelms me. Heart of Dakota makes it very manageable for me. I don't have to pick projects to do or shop for strange items, and they are projects that actually get done. But I really appreciate Sonlight's global and missions focus, picture books, and notes. Please, Sonlight, hear me on this. I want to come back, and I know there are many others like me. : )

  2. Luke says:

    Katherine, thank you so much for sharing your experience. I know we've had this kind of feedback for a long time -- one of the reasons we created the Core Tips in the first place. And I can totally appreciate the desire for arts and crafts to be scheduled in the Instructor's Guide. That makes sense, especially with how much we work to do all the work for you. I'm sorry to hear that the Core Tips links didn't meet your needs.

    I will gladly pass along your thoughts to product development.


    • Katherine says:

      Thank you, Luke. I realize that modern day homeschoolers have it good compared to the pioneers as far as having a lot of the work done for us. I am grateful that we can focus on just teaching our children and not a lot of lesson planning. I am also grateful that there are a plethora of options so we can choose programs that work for our teaching styles and our children's learning styles. For me, because I am so artistically challenged and because my older daughter is just the opposite, it comes down to having to choose a program that helps me address that constant need for creative expression. I could read all day and be fine with it, but my daughter must have the hands-on. I really appreciate your hearing my heart on this and passing this along to product development. Even if Sonlight would coordinate with other companies, like Hands and Hearts, which offers history kits http://handsnhearts.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=1, and schedule in their products, it would be a start. I haven't personally used these products, but I've heard they are good. I know that for me and a lot of other people, we are going to choose the program that requires the least amount of planning and prep when it comes to hands-on. Thanks again, Katherine

  3. Luke says:

    Totally makes sense, Katherine. And I'm glad you've found something that works for your family. I've always been more interested in families having success in their homeschool than selling them curriculum (one of the reasons I love our "27 Reasons NOT to Buy Sonlight"). And it could be that reason #2 is why Sonlight doesn't have what you need: "we don't schedule time-consuming activities that ... don't have a strong enough educational payoff to make them worthwhile..." So, I'll pass along your Hands and Hearts suggestion as well and we'll see if we can create something helpful for you in the years to come.

    Thank you, again, for taking the time to give me this feedback. I appreciate it!


    • Katherine says:

      Thanks, Luke. I'm sure I wouldn't be continuing to read the Sonlight blog, emails, and forums if I had something that completely worked for my family. With Heart of Dakota, I am missing out on book-specific notes, mapwork, questions, and vocabulary definitions. That is also huge for me as a teacher, especially as we go up in grades. There isn't a lot of help for the parent. That's why I keep hoping and looking every year for Sonlight to jump on this void in the homeschool market. Sonlight has had years of flushing out book notes and that will take a lot of time for these other programs to catch up on. Sonlight is uniquely positioned to meet the needs of a huge portion of the homeschool market if they add hands-on activities and notebooking that are scheduled (but marked as optional).

      I do want to say that I don't want time-consuming activities. Sonlight is already a very full curriculum and there isn't going to be time for that. I don't want that, either. The Heart of Dakota activities are generally pretty quick and just help solidify the information and pack a punch. They are nice to look back on at the end of the year to remember what we covered. The notebooking pages are the same way. They create a nice memento. I think they would help some users build their portfolio as well. As far as activities go, I am looking for both history and art activities (maybe they could alternate?). Even cooking something simple related to the time period (e.g., johnnycakes) would be nice. I would love to see an art program scheduled separate from the history activities. Maybe Sonlight could look into the 5th day as a possible place for history and art projects and notebooking. With Sonlight being 36 5-day weeks, it is nearly impossible for us to finish a year in a year even with us schooling the full 180 days. We take field trips on at least 10 days and that really makes the Sonlight schedule difficult. If we had optional projects and notebooking on that 5th day, it would really make the Sonlight schedule much more doable/flexible. We never want to miss the day 5 books. : )

      While I have your attention : ) I will also mention that other homeschoolers on the forums and I need art and music appreciation scheduled, too. It would be really nice if the art and music appreciation was related to the time period being studied. It would really round Sonlight out so well. I know that I am always trying to find resources to add these kinds of things in. So far I have added Memoria Press' art cards and used their schedules for art and music appreciation. Next year I am going to try the Smart about Art series. Perhaps art and music appreciation could be added to day 5 as well.

      Other things the Sonlight team could consider are History Scribe notebooking pages or notebookingpages.com, scheduling Artistic Pursuits with any time periods they coincide with (I think 1 goes with Core B?), the Draw Write Now and Draw and Write through History books, Handle on the Arts, History Pockets, Treasure Chests (like the Ancient Egypt one), Time Traveler resource guide kits, and Simply Charlotte Mason picture study portfolios.

      Sonlight could also consider asking users for suggestions of things that have worked for them in the past (or look at the stickies at the top of the core forums). I have a two page list of suggestions for Core B alone that I culled from forum research. I am overwhelmed looking at it, honestly. I would prefer to pay people who are gifted in these areas to research and schedule it out for me. Thanks again for being willing to consider this feedback.

      • Luke says:

        Thanks, Katherine! We always appreciate feedback and get lots of it on the Forums and in the Instructor's Guide Surveys we send out with every IG. I love a little blog love too [grin]. We're always looking for ways to improve our products and love that people -- like you -- are so passionate about Sonlight. Thanks for the continued suggestions.


  4. Ann says:

    Not all "scheduled" "time-consuming" activities don't contain a payoff. To add that what she's asking for falls automatically under your #2 reason is narrow-minded and borders condescension.

  5. Luke says:

    I'm sorry my comment came across that way, Ann. That was not at all my intention!

    I was not trying to suggest that what Katherine is asking for has no payoff. I was trying to work through some of the reasons why we have failed to provide these kinds of resources over the years. The struggle for us will be to find activities that have enough educational value to be scheduled for everyone (even those who don't like crafts and such) and would require a significant amount of work and new thinking on our end. The related difficulty I foresee has to do with scheduling. Some kids, like Katherine's daughter, really love and thrive with hands-on crafts to have something to show for the year. Other kids do not. Sonlight has, thus far, not wanted to schedule activities that would merely burden some moms who already feel overwhelmed. So we'd need to find a way to strike a balance within our materials so those who benefit from activities are served and those who do not have such desires don't feel weighed down. Our Core Tips was an attempt to do that, and perhaps we need to simply improve that resource to include a schedule and extra connections. I'm not sure...

    Again, I am so sorry my comment here came across in any way condescending. Please forgive my clumsy wording.


    • Candice says:

      What about creating a completely separate activity guide (not a CD) that coordinates with each Core (or the younger Cores, at least) that schedules in specific activities to go along with some of the readings? I like the idea of possibly coordinating with a company like Hands and Hearts, as was mentioned. This could be a separate purchase, a separate product, and only those interested in adding in hands-on can purchase. Those who have no desire for hands-on don't have to purchase and thus, won't feel overburdened or overwhelmed.

      • Luke says:

        That could be an excellent solution. I have passed along that idea to product development as well. Thanks, Candice!


      • Katherine says:

        Candice, I think this is a great suggestion! I just replied up above to Luke's second reply and I think the things I mentioned there (history projects, art projects, notebooking, cooking, and art and music appreciation that correspond with the time period) could be scheduled in this separate activity guide. I know many people have attempted some version of this on their own, but it all becomes obsolete when Sonlight updates their guides. : ) Having a separate guide would keep people from feeling overwhelmed, and only those who want these extra things would have to pay for them. Alternately, these things could be kept within the main guide as an optional 5th day schedule. I guess I would prefer to have everything in one guide, but at this point I'd take anything. : )

  6. Ann says:

    Understood, because hands on activities, even time-consuming ones have a benefit for those kinesthetic learners and for those that need a little bit of everything. However, these posts are confusing. First you write, "SL leads the market." Then you mentioned that you've had this kind of feedback for a long time, which states that people are looking for activities that you don't offer. Then you say that it's part of #2 of why you don't do these activities, so SL can't possibly "lead the market".

    I agree that "options" are a good thing. Scheduled activities that are completely optional. It sounds like people want them scheduled, but many want them to be optional, so if you don't do them, nothing is lost from the program. If they want them, then they're there for those who wish to do them. I know you can't make everyone happy with activities, vs none, scheduled vs unscheduled, but your words are all over the place here. But what drew me to the thread was "leading the market".

  7. Luke says:

    Totally fair. I have updated the sentence to be more accurate and -- I hope -- clear up any future confusion for people reading this post:

    "But we also offer more hands-on activities in the elementary grades than most of our competitors with Core Tips and Science programs built around fun experiments."

    I hope that helps. Thanks for helping me improve my wording.


  8. Anne says:

    I would like to humbly suggest that the things Katherine wants to add to Sonlight describe one of your competitors perfectly. Perhaps MFW would be a better fit for her?

    Personally I picked Sonlight because I love to read to my children and I thought I could do it. They are auditory learners so I am sure that helped me as well.

    I wouldn't like SL with all those additions; so I give another perspective. I did think Candice had a good idea for an optional extra purchase. I don't think SL leads in hands on activities, but that is one of the reasons I originally choose them.


    • Katherine says:

      Thanks, Anne. Although MFW does have more notes than Heart of Dakota, it doesn't have all the book-specific notes, questions, mapwork and vocabulary like Sonlight does. They don't schedule readers or provide notes for those, either. I have read that their hands-on projects are more difficult to accomplish than Heart of Dakota's, too. And it's harder to figure out what to do for your child on grade-level. Heart of Dakota is middle-ground for me between Sonlight and MFW.

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