10 Reasons to Homeschool with Sonlight®

by John Holzmann and Amy Lykosh

When you choose to homeschool, you have the opportunity to give your children a gift of sharing your values, your family stories, your life experience, your worldview.

No one else can give that inheritance to your children. Only you can.

At Sonlight, we've created a program and done the planning and prep work for you so you have time to share your stories and perspectives with your children. You have all the materials you need, and the schedule in place so that your school time is spent in direct, face-to-face interaction with your children, so they can learn, think and talk with you.

Note that, without you, the Sonlight® materials are just books and papers. You are the key to passing on your values and perspective.

Many Sonlight parents find that, because of the hours they spend with their children sharing experiences and thoughtful conversations, their children turn to them for insight and guidance, not only when the children are young, but as they move into adulthood.

A Sonlight education takes time, but time invested in your children creates a beautiful inheritance, and a great gift.

This is one of the best reasons we can think of to homeschool with Sonlight. Here are some of our other favorites.

Practical Reasons

1. Sonlight students aren't separated by grade. In classroom schools, children are separated by grades, according to age.

A Sonlight education isn't like that. We don't even name our programs "K," "1st," "2nd," and so forth, but "A," "B," "C." . . . Why? There are several reasons,including:

  • Because we want you to choose the subject matter that will best allow your children to thrive, rather than choose based on an arbitrary date of birth and grade.
  • Because we want to encourage you to combine your children whenever possible. (More on that in a minute.) But if you use a program with a number grade, you and your children have a constant reminder that you are "ahead" or "behind."

From age four on, Sonlight offers more than one option for your children each year . . . because each child is different and each family is different. Enjoy the freedom!

2. Several children of different ages can share the same program.

Not only do you have some flexibility in what you study, you can combine several children into one program.

How does this work?

Your Sonlight studies fall into two basic categories: Couch Subjects™ and Table Subjects™.

Couch Subjects

Couch Subjects are those you do sitting on the couch. You read the Bible with your children, read them a few stories from History, enjoy a couple of great books for Literature, and read some pages in a Science book.

With all of these subjects -- Bible, History, Literature, Science -- students are learning new information. Sonlight programs use nonfiction, fiction, biographies, historical fiction, and other works -- including mysteries! -- that appeal to both children and adults. I (Amy) read comments regularly on social media about how much parents are learning alongside their 5- and 6-year-olds. So you, as an adult, learn. And your children -- of almost any age -- learn, too. All at the same time. Because the appeal of a good book doesn't last for only a year.

Meryl in TN told the following story:

My parents are in town. My dad was enjoying a glass of white wine with his dinner and remarked that it tasted very good for its age. My son, 11, immediately started explaining the process of pasteurization that keeps the wine from going sour. My dad looked impressed.
Later that evening I showed him History of Medicine (part of Science F) and explained we'd been reading about Pasteur, hence all my son's knowledge. I then went back upstairs and forgot all about it.
Imagine my surprise when I came down 45 minutes later to find my dad (who has a Ph.D. in Engineering) engrossed in the book. He'd been reading it all that time!

Have you ever loved a book, and come back to it again a few years later and still loved it?

I was talking to two teenage sisters about one of the books all three of us love, They Loved to Laugh. It's been a few years since these teens read it, but after reminiscing a bit, they both said, "Oh, I've got to read that one again!"

Good books grow with you. They Loved to Laugh is good not only for children in their 14th year of age. It's good for children from about age 12 on up, and even for adults.

So for the Couch Subjects: you can use one Sonlight program for multiple children.

If your children are within about three years of age, we recommend you keep them together.

I have always combined several of my children in the Couch Subjects, and I love it. The excitement of one feeds the excitement of another, and I find it very satisfying to all read and laugh together.

Megan K put it well: "One of the best aspects of homeschooling is being able to learn together as a family. Even my younger kids love to sit and listen to Sonlight books. We talk about what we learned that day over dinner and I'm always impressed with how much each child has absorbed."

Table Subjects

The Table Subjects are those that you are most likely going to study at a table. They include Language Arts, Spelling, Handwriting, and Math. With these subjects, you build skills. They progress in difficulty (addition, then subtraction; c-a-t, then e-s-t-a-b-l-i-s-h-m-e-n-t).

With Table Subjects, you will want to choose one for each child, according to each child's skill level.

Lois B said, "Although it's a challenge to teach four kids at the same time, Sonlight helps me make it happen! Pairing the two oldest and two youngest for History and Science while teaching Language Arts and Math at their own levels has certainly made things easier."

3. A Sonlight education does not rely on tests.

If you think about it, classroom teachers give tests for a few reasons. First, any time a student reviews material, it helps solidify that information. So studying for a test, more than the test itself, helps a student learn.Second, tests also give teachers a snapshot into their students' progress. Teachers can see how well their students understand the material.

As a homeschooling parent, however, you have ample opportunity to figure out how much your children are learning. When you read a book and ask your children questions, if they are able to answer or talk about what reading, you know they were listening and learning.

The Sonlight Instructor's Guides include specific questions but, more generically, you might ask: What scene stands out to you? Which character did you like the most? Which character did you like the least? When does this story take place? And so forth.

If your children can't answer, then -- fulfilling the "reviewing content" purpose for tests -- you can try a simple multiple choice question, made up on the spot. For example: "Did Cinderella's fairy godmother give her slippers made of wood, metal, or glass?"

Children can usually answer multiple choice questions like that, and you can feel confident that your children understood what you read.

With these simple questions, you receive both benefits of tests: you help fix information into your children's memory, and you can see for yourself how well your children understood the material.

And if your children don't seem to understand much?

Sonlight repeats foundational topics.

So, if your early elementary children miss some of the finer points about Ancient Egypt, that's okay. Maybe your second grader only remembers basic information about the Pyramids, the Nile, and King Tut. When you revisit Ancient Egypt in sixth grade, you will build on that earlier knowledge, and learn additionally about Hatshepsut and court intrigue, about kohl eye shadow to keep the glare down, about the Valley of Kings and hieroglyphics.

Sonlight's spiral progression introduces younger children to a range of topics, most of which they will return to at least once, if not several times, in later years.

In The Shallows, author Nicholas Carr talks about how memory works. How does the experience of a fleeting moment become a long-term memory? Without getting into all the science of neurons and synapses, studies show that even if a person's memory fades, the brain doesn't go back to its initial state, but keeps some connections with the new (forgotten) information. This is why it's easier to learn something a second time.

So even if your children remember little of what they learn at age five, their brains make some permanent connections. And they relearn the information faster the next time.

It's like you are putting pegs in your children's minds on which they can hang information for the rest of their lives.

So. Back to tests. With Sonlight, your "tests" are simple conversation. And even if your children don't seem to understand everything you've read and that they are reading, you know that this information will be available when they cover it again.

A Sonlight education is low stress, for you and your children.

4. Sonlight schedules everything for you.

From the beginning, we wanted to help parents spend as little time as possible creating schedules and doing prep work for their homeschool.

And Sonlight's schedules work for you, whether you check every box or just need a general framework to give your school day some structure.

For more about Sonlight's Instructor's Guides, click here.

Content Reasons

5. Sonlight is gospel-centered.

Sonlight was founded to help advance the Great Commission. We believe that the world is important to God, and, in keeping with Revelation 5:9 and 7:9, in the last day, a multitude from every people and language will cry, "Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."

And so Sonlight teaches world history, including the Eastern Hemisphere.

Since the Bible tells the good news, Sonlight's packages include a Bible program. And, at times, our Instructor's Guides include additional Scripture to bring insight to the topic you're studying.

To find out more about the Sonlight Bible program specifically, scroll down to the Bible section of the History / Bible / Literature page.

What is an "integrated" Bible program?

By Luke Holzmann

Sonlight includes Bible in every History program. We make no claims to somehow match it up to history. Others, however, make such a claim. So I ask them about it. They happily explain that they read Genesis 1 when they study Creation. This makes sense. "But what," I ask, "do you read when you study, say, the American Revolution?"

One person put it best after a moment's pause. "I guess Bible isn't as integrated that year."

Precisely. Sonlight is deeply rooted in Scripture, missions, and God's heart for your children to follow Him to whatever He calls them to do. We include daily Bible reading and regular memorization. But we don't try to "integrate" it unless it makes sense to do so.

6. Sonlight teaches your children to interact with the world's ideas.

Ideally, in the supportive environment of their parents' home, with their parents' help, children learn about the beliefs and ideas of others. For those who don't worship Jesus, what do they worship? Idols? Spirits? Ancestors? Possessions?

What about ideas concerning good government? Or correct interpretation of Scripture? Or pacifism?

Sonlight is designed to help you teach your children to seek first to understand and then to be understood. We include books from different points of view, and our Instructor's Guides are designed to help you, with questions, comments, and talking points.

7. Sonlight teaches character organically.

Sonlight includes books with characters who confront realistic ethical and moral dilemmas, the kinds of dilemmas all of us face. When does poking fun at someone cross the line into bullying? How might you reconcile a relationship if you've hurt another? What is the right response to authority: unquestioned obedience? Resistance?

We want your children to think about these kinds of questions and to talk about what you believe, what you are thinking . . . and why.

At Sonlight, we believe that children develop good character primarily by observing the behavior of people they respect and by asking questions of people they trust.

We are convinced that the presence of true conflict and struggle in the Sonlight books makes their lessons memorable as well.

8. Sonlight interweaves subjects and topics for an integrated, multi-faceted education.

If you just read through the Sonlight booklist, you will read through dozens of captivating books. But that isn't the full Sonlight experience.

Sonlight schedules your children's readings so that they link to topics in different parts of the curriculum.

For example, when you read about the American Revolutionary War in Sonlight D,

  • Your History books provide an overview of the story of the War.
  • Your children's Readers include works of historical fiction about Benjamin Franklin and Paul Revere. And another book tells the dramatic true story of an assassination plot against George Washington that was thwarted by a girl.
  • Meanwhile, your Read-Aloud is Johnny Tremain, a true-to-life fictional story set in Boston at the time of the Boston Tea Party. Another book tells the story of a girl who needs to carry a message through enemy lines.
  • And your children's Language Arts assignments integrate with the Readers.

Your children will experience as full an immersion into the material they are studying as they can without dressing in period costumes and eating hardtack.

Another example: in Sonlight B, when you cover the Roman Empire, you'll read from several books in History -- one offers the big picture of conquest and large-scale building projects; two others are filled with detailed full-color illustrations that show what living in Rome looked like. You will also read aloud to your children an exciting mystery story set in ancient Rome. Then, as they hear the story, your children will remember the pictures in their History books.

After such interwoven experiences, your children will find it difficult to forget what togas look like, what it was like to receive an education in ancient Rome, and what it was like to go to the Roman baths.

This sort of layered, textured approach makes it almost impossible not to learn. Learning comes naturally, pleasantly, and memorably.

Sometimes this kind of interweaving isn't possible. There aren't many quality books for 7-year-olds set during, say, the Babylonian Empire. Or the Napoleonic era.

Rather than assigning lower quality books, or books that are too heavy or mature, when you study these time periods and events, we have you share other significant experiences through some of the world's best children's literature, books like The Hundred Dresses, The Year of Miss Agnes, The Cricket in Times Square, and Red Sails to Capri.

You will enjoy the interwoven parts of Sonlight, and you will enjoy the less integrated, but still life-changing, children's literature, as well. Anthea Y said, "My son (age 12) was already an avid reader before, but he believes that Sonlight has introduced him to the best books he has ever read!"

9. A Sonlight liberal arts education provides a good grounding for almost any occupation.

Training in the liberal arts helps students to think creatively and to discover solutions to problems they would not otherwise come up with if they had only narrower, skills-focused training.

Irving Wladawsky-Berger wrote in The Wall Street Journal: "a good education should include soft as well as hard competencies. Technical and business skills can get graduates get in the door, but an ability to think critically and communicate effectively can play an equal, if not larger, role determining success."

We have seen this first-hand, as Sonlight students successfully move on to careers in the sciences, the arts, business, and missions.

Creative thinkers are in demand, no matter what paths your children pursue as adults.

10. A Sonlight education creates lifelong learners.

During their Sonlight years, your children learn both how to learn and that learning is fun. The world is a rich place, full of new things to try, new things to explore. When your children enjoy learning, they gain an insatiable hunger to know more.

We never want a student to finish school and say, "Phew! Now I never have to read another book! My education is complete." We don't want students to stop learning after they graduate. We don't want you to stop learning, either. As you and your children use Sonlight together, we want you, also, to hunger to know more. As Megan D said,

Does anyone else read A Child's History of the World to your kids and think, "Wow! I'm learning so much more about history from this one book than I ever did in my years of public school!" This is one of our favorites, for sure! Reading a few chapters aloud as we travel to the beach, and my husband is loving it!

And when you are finished homeschooling, you have skills to move into the next season of life. As one Sonlight mom wrote, after her daughter graduated and moved to Alaska, "I joined my daughter and have been teaching in the Alaskan bush, and even earned my master's degree in special education recently . . . after a 25 year hiatus staying home with my kids."

We have heard similar stories from numerous Sonlight parents. After they had used Sonlight, they go on to pursue further education, or go out and try something else new

And so the journey continues.

In Conclusion: How a Homeschooling Parent Is Like an Archer

Sonlight doesn't feel like school. And when your children beg you to keep reading, you'll experience, too, how Sonlight offers a completely different kind of education.

As Amy D said:

I love homeschooling. Today we started packing up the trailer to head up north for a few days, as it is our week off next week. The girls have worked so hard for this break. As they are choosing what games and art supplies to pack my oldest says, "Hey, Mom, can we pretty please take school work with us even though it's our week off ?" To which my 5-yearold replies, "Yeah, Mom, can we, please?!"
Love Sonlight and how it engages my kids and makes them love to learn! I leave you with this picture of a parent, purposefully engaged in raising the next generation.

This story comes from Luke Holzmann, John and Sarita's son:

When I took archery in college, one of the first things I learned was that how they shoot in the movies is all wrong. Archers shouldn't grip tightly to the bow as they release an arrow. Rather, good archers leave their hands open with the bow resting between their thumbs and forefingers. When they release the arrow, the bow will fall forward and hang from a little rope around the wrist. This keeps archers from accidentally jarring the bow as it leaves the bowstring . . . so it flies more true.
There is much wisdom here. Point your children in the right direction, relax, and let them fly.

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