Homeschooling with Excellence no. 18
The History of Sonlight Curriculum
How It All Started
The idea for Sonlight Curriculum, Ltd. was first sown in February 1990. Sarita Holzmann and Becky Lewis were back-fence neighbors at the U.S. Center for World Mission (USCWM) in Pasadena, California. They both homeschooled their children, and their children played together.
Over the previous six months, Sarita and Becky realized that they held a similar, low-stress philosophy of homeschooling. This was made clear when, on several occasions, they found themselves in the presence of mothers who were in tears over their homeschooling experience. "It's just so overwhelming!" these moms would cry.
One day, Becky came to Sarita and asked, "Why not start a homeschool supply company that compiles all the best materials in one location — a company that schedules everything out, and, especially, a company that provides an international, Christian, mission-oriented perspective?"
Becky didn't want to run the company herself, but having lived and attempted to homeschool for many years in North Africa, she knew what American moms face when living in Third World countries. She wanted the company she was envisioning to meet the peculiar needs of women in those circumstances. "I'll help you get the company going," Becky said, "but you'll have to make it work on a day-to-day basis."
So Sarita talked the idea over with her husband, John. The two of them thought that Becky's idea sounded good. It would be a wonderful service to so many of God's people living around the world who do not have access to the kinds of resources those of us living in the United States do.
And so the three decided Becky would write the manuals; Sarita would pick the books and John would fill in the gaps with editing, typesetting and whatever other help the women needed.
Sarita handled all aspects of the business for the first year. She worked out of a one-stall garage that the Holzmanns rented down an alley from their home.
By 1991, when the Holzmanns moved to Colorado, the business became a full-time concern for both of them: 20 to 30 hours per week for Sarita (on top of homeschooling); 60 to 80 hours per week for John.
Until May of 1992, Sonlight Curriculum was a sole proprietorship subsidized by the donations John and Sarita were receiving as a result of their involvement with Caleb Project, an evangelical missions mobilization agency. In May 1992 John and Sarita resigned their positions with Caleb Project to devote all their energy to Sonlight Curriculum.
Sonlight Curriculum took over both stalls of the Holzmann's garage in June of '92 and became Sonlight Curriculum, Ltd. One month later.
That summer Sonlight Curriculum hired its first employee — John's sister — who worked till the end of the summer. In the summer of 1993 we hired several part-timers, and one remained on staff through the winter.
In January of 1994 the staff was up to two part-timers besides John and Sarita. By September there were two full-timers plus a part-timer through the winter.
Today, Sonlight Curriculum, Ltd. has a wonderful staff of many dedicated people in full-time, long-term staff positions. During the summer our ranks swell into the seventies or low 80s with the help of many college and high school students who help pick, pack, and ship orders.
We have been truly amazed at how God has blessed our company. It has been a real blessing, and extremely exciting as we look to the future.
John and Sarita earned their undergraduate degrees at Michigan State University. Sarita earned a B.S. in Dietetics while John earned a B.A. in Philosophy. John went on to earn the M.Div. at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.
After seminary, the Holzmanns served for a year and a half in an assistant pastoral role (evangelism) in northern New Jersey. In 1983, they moved to Pasadena where John worked as associate editor of a Christian magazine dedicated to international evangelism.
John has written one book published by someone other than Sonlight Curriculum ( Dating With Integrity, Wolgemuth & Hyatt: 1990; then Word, Inc. and now SLC). He was nearing completion of a second book several years ago (working title: Your Part in HIS STORY) when the needs of Sonlight Curriculum forced him to lay that project aside. John has also written several books for use in our curriculum.
The Holzmanns have four children: Amy, Luke, Jonelle, and Justin, one son-in-law, and two grandsons. All of the kids were homeschooled, two of them have attended Christian schools, and all four of them attended public schools.
The Holzmanns are delighted that they were able to use the home school option with each of their children. It permitted them to lay a solid foundation from which the children have been able confidently to launch into the world around them.
At the same time, while they are grateful for homeschooling, the Holzmanns believe parents should carefully and prayerfully consider all educational options. There are distinct advantages and disadvantages in all school settings. And what is best for one student at one point in his or her life may be a bad option for another student — or for the same student at another time or in another context.
May God bless you as you seek His best for you and your children!
Who or What is Sonlight Curriculum?
Sonlight Curriculum is more than a company. It is more than a curriculum. It is a community as well.
The curriculum part of our identity is where we began. Sarita and I wanted to create a package of books and a set of instructor's guides that would meet the needs of American homeschoolers living around the world.
Within a month or so of when we began work on the idea, Sonlight Curriculum had to become a company. We realized that if we developed a curriculum, we needed some means to deliver it. And, in fact, before we began delivering books, we needed some means to acquire them from publishers. And so the company was born.
Traditionally, the Sonlight Curriculum catalog has focused on these two aspects of our identity: our products and our services.
But then I realized Sonlight Curriculum is something more than products and services, employees and customers.
Sonlight Curriculum is also...
Sonlight Curriculum was very deliberate about the first two aspects of its identity. We knew when we began working on the curriculum. We knew when we needed to pay attention to making the company work effectively.
But how did the Sonlight Curriculum community develop?
I think it happened online — on the internet.
Did you know that we've been online since early 1995? That's when the Sonlight Curriculum forum first appeared on CompuServe. We've been on the worldwide web since late 1996, I believe. And during the ensuing years, a strong community of Sonlight Curriculum users has grown up.
But what I want to focus on here is the kind of people who make up the Sonlight Curriculum community. I have a sense that we're a special group. (And I mean that "we." We — all of us — are rather unique.)
Sonlight Curriculum people — we parents, "customers," "Sonlighters" — are interested in learning. We are not interested merely in teaching our children. We want to learn, too. For ourselves. We realize that education isn't just for kids. It's for adults. It's for everyone. We all have more to learn. And we sense that it's fun to make new discoveries. Sometimes learning new things can be challenging and painful. But when all is said and done, learning is fun. And we want to participate in the joy of learning.
You'll see that attitude expressed within the pages of our catalog. You'll see it in our materials, as well. We take a certain attitude. We don't know it all. We're open to learning more and to being challenged. The way we've come to express it is that Sonlight Curriculum (company and curriculum) is "For families who love learning together."
Education isn't just for kids. We don't want to buy materials just to meet some kind of governmental mandate. We learn because we want to, because it's fun, because that's what our families do. Together.
And that's the Sonlight Curriculum community: people who love learning together.
Our Core Values
Empower parents to raise life-long learners who are fully equipped to follow Christ wherever He leads and in whatever He calls them to do. (Mt. 6:33; Rev. 5:7)
Reach families worldwide with remarkable, internationally-focused, literature-based homeschool curriculum.