How Expensive Is Sonlight, Anyway?

The Sticker-Shock Conundrum

By John Holzmann

Imagine if your utilities company sent you a bill for a year's worth of electricity. You'd probably have a moment of sticker shock, wouldn't you? But then, if you broke it down to a monthly or even daily cost, you'd probably say, "The benefits are certainly worth the cost!"

When you look at the price tag for a Sonlight History / Bible / Literature program, you might have the same feeling of sticker shock. But step back. If you think about Sonlight as preparation for your children's future, and break it down per month per child, how much does it really cost?

Allison did that for her D+E program that she used with all three children. Final verdict: about $160 per year per child. Less than a dollar per school day!

Not bad! Especially when you realize that many families enjoy the books not only for educational purposes during school, but later on read them repeatedly for entertainment as well.

Some families, of course, have children that are too far apart in age to combine. "Mamamoz" shared with Sonlight:

You know when I realized how inexpensive Sonlight really is? The first year I pulled out a full History / Bible / Literature program for my second child. Now we have four children, all a few years apart, and a corner of the attic dedicated to plastic bins, each with a History / Bible / Literature program in it. Let's see … $125 a year per child. No online or workbook curriculum could compete with Sonlight.

Some families will use a package for only one or two kids. I like the perspective of "Dcubed":

Even though I won't be reusing any of the programs I have purchased, I still find Sonlight a bargain – especially compared to the Christian school they were enrolled in: $4,000 per year per child.

Even public school is not really free. After fees, field trips, fund-raising donations, uniforms, miscellaneous supplies … it adds up. Sonlighters report that their children's public school "free" education costs several hundred dollars annually.

No education is entirely free. But if you break down the price by month, a Sonlight education might prove more reasonable than you expect. (And don't forget the flexible budgeting options of Sonlight's Payment Plans.)

I Tried Comparison-Shopping

By Judy Wnuk

Full disclosure: I've been a long-time Sonlight user. I've been a Sonlight Curriculum Consultant. I've talked with thousands of Sonlight customers and potential customers.

I wanted to know if it was cost- and time-effective for our customers to piece together their own version of Sonlight Curriculum as opposed to purchasing a History / Bible / Literature or All-Subjects Package. So I did an experiment twice, three years apart. And the results were the same.

I chose three Sonlight programs: an All-Subjects Package B, an All-Subjects Package F, and a History / Bible / Literature 300 with Science 350 and Math 571. I compared my experience ordering these items from Sonlight to the same experience ordering from

  • one of the largest "big box" bookstore chains in the nation,
  • the world's largest online bookstore, and
  • an online book merchant that offered the most aggressively low pricing I could find.

My goals were:

  • to see how difficult it was to find everything I was looking for,
  • to discover how much money I could save by ordering elsewhere than Sonlight,
  • and to evaluate the overall purchasing experience.

My experiment was eye-opening for me!

To sum up, my final results were as follows …

How tough was it to find everything I was looking for?

The "big box" bookstore: At the closest bookstore (about 20 minutes from my home), I was able to locate only 35 of the almost 400 books I had on my list. A nearby clerk said that I would need to search their website to find the rest. She offered to do it for me, but indicated it would be just as easy to do at home.

Further questioning revealed that this chain offers an educator's discount to homeschoolers, but only for purchases made in the store. Thus, to qualify, I would need to look up nearly 365 titles on their website and return to the store with the list of item numbers.

It took me about two hours of work to make my list at home. I made a return trip to the store to place my order, only to be told that the one individual who was able to make such an order for me was not working that day. I left my order and someone promised to get back to me when my order was to be processed.

Online book stores: I made the same attempt with the two online book stores. My efforts to track down and order the books I needed produced similar results and similar frustrations.

I spent about two hours on each merchant's site, typing in titles. On both, there were items I needed that were not available. In these cases, my search results listed dozens of books, none of which was the right one, but all of which had similar words in their titles.

That shopping experience required a great deal of patience. Certainly it was nowhere near as easy as the one- or two-click order process Sonlight offered!

In the end, both online and at the bookstore, I expended a great deal of time and effort in order to order.

And what further stood out to me: with all three vendors, I still had to purchase some of the materials from Sonlight. Not one was able to sell me all the books I needed.

Did I save any money?

I need to point out that I ran this experiment a few years ago, before Sonlight started offering 20% off All-Subjects Packages. But even then,

  • Sonlight came in third for Sonlight B: $26 behind first place (the local chain store), $32 ahead of last place ("the world's largest online retailer").
  • Sonlight beat all of its competitors on Sonlight F – by $133 when compared to the last-place "world's largest" and $64 compared to the other online company. (The local chain store was only $9 out of first place.)
  • Sonlight came in last on the Sonlight 300 materials – by $26 when compared to the winner (the aggressive online company).

In sum:

  • You had to check all of the competitors to find out which one would win. There was no consistent winner.
  • If I invested time with the "right" retailer, I was able to save a few dollars on two of my purchases compared to buying from Sonlight. But …
  • When I bought everything from Sonlight, I avoided some truly sizeable losses.

The overall experience

Between the hours invested in tracking down the books, various shipping expenses, and the fact that I still needed to order many of the titles from Sonlight, I am confident that onlight still offers more value for money spent.

Not only is there greater value in ordering from Sonlight because of the ease of ordering, but there are also all those other perks Sonlight offers: the 10% discount on whatever else you order for a whole year; unmatched guarantee; their fantastic customer support; and free domestic shipping on any order of any dollar amount for a year. And if your children use at least five History / Bible / Literature programs in their K-12 education (including at least one such program in high school), they are eligible to compete for one of the Sonlight scholarships.

And finally – and this is something I value: Sonlight treats its employees and vendors well and regularly contributes to Kingdom causes. When I purchase from Sonlight, I know I am part of that kind of honorable endeavor. And when I buy from the other vendors? …

But wait! What about buying used or borrowing from the library?

I surely could find many of the titles I need in good, second-hand condition. While I did not specifically pursue finding used materials, a couple of our customers have.

"MeAndTheBoys" wrote, "I bought Pre-K piecemeal and saved, I don't know, a third of the cost? And went nuts."

"That'sWhatSheSaid" wrote, "It was just not worth it to me to save $50-ish and make myself a basket case in my ‘quest.' I am happy to pay Sonlight to do that legwork."

It would seem that their experience was similar to mine. While they could possibly save some money by shopping around, both had to invest hours to turn up the savings. And the aggravation, they concluded, just isn't worth it.

And as for the library? "Mary Grace" wrote, "Sonlight books are VERY popular in my wonderful library system. … You can't count on getting them when you need, no matter how far in advance you schedule the hold."

Of course, your mileage may vary. I'm just reporting what I've experienced and what I've been told.

Education? or Recreation?

By John Holzmann

People ask why they should invest in Sonlight rather than some other homeschool program. I'd say it's because Sonlight is not merely an investment in your children's education, but an investment in some top-notch intellectual and emotional recreation as well.

And it's not just an investment for your children's benefit, but for you and your husband as well – because you will want to read many of the books for your pleasure and education. Really.

"Your books satisfy my soul," wrote Deb F.

Usually at the end of the school year, I trample the kids as I rush to the library to get something to read. After this first year with Sonlight, I didn't have that urgent need because the books are so beautifully written and well developed. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

You get to enjoy a multiplied blessing from your investment in your children's education. As your entire family reads and re-reads these wonderful books, you can legitimately amortize the cost of your Sonlight program not just over a single year and a single year's education, but over the life of your family's library.

Make learning natural, easy and fun. Build lasting bonds with your family, and acquire a valuable library that you and your kids will treasure for years to come.

Can you imagine a better investment than that?

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