Sonlight pioneered literature-rich homeschooling more than 25 years ago.
Back then, no company scheduled real books into a complete course of study. But when Sarita Holzmann started to homeschool her children, she did just that: scheduled books she loved, and read them to her children. She enjoyed it so much, she wanted to allow other families to experience the same benefits that she did, so she started Sonlight.
If you had a traditional education though, you probably learned from reading textbooks, filling in worksheets, and listening to lectures.
It's not necessarily a bad way to learn. It's fairly efficient, and you can easily tell when you're finished.
That has a certain appeal. Closure! Less time spent doing school!
And both minimal time on school work, and a sharp divide between school and life make sense when school is something to avoid, something to grind through as quickly as possible to get on with the rest of life, the more appealing parts.
Until you've experienced literature-based education, it's hard to believe that there is another type of education out there.
At Sonlight, we hear startling stories.
- The daughter who woke her mother at 6am so they could get started with school.
- The three siblings who staged a picket (complete with signs) in early August demanding, "Do school now!"
- The siblings who begged their parents on Christmas morning not to open presents but to keep reading their Sonlight books.
These stories are, admittedly, a little extreme. They actually happened, but they don't happen in every house.
In a typical Sonlight house — a house like yours — this is what you can expect to find.
- A regular plea to "Keep reading!"
- Struggling readers who learn to love books (even if they have reading delays or an established dislike of books).
- Parents who enjoy the school books at least as much as their children. (And often more — whether because of greater life experience, or more subtle thought … the books that children enjoy well enough will touch parents deeply.)
- The parent who does not do the bulk of homeschooling starts to hang around in the evening to hear how the school books turned out.
- Children who incorporate what they are learning into their play.
- Memories of favorite books that extend back years.
- Increased family connection, between parents and children, and between siblings.
Literature-rich homeschooling is not aiming for either efficiency or a finish line. Rather, it is aiming for connection and a love of learning that continues even when school is done.
Happily, this form of education ends up being surprisingly efficient. You read books to your children, and they absorb the information. You talk about what you read. And then move on. No stressful studying for tests. No boring lectures. Just enjoyable reading and interaction.
What does literature-based learning look like?
Let me give you an example. Let's say you're up to the Vikings in World History with your second-grader.
- In History, you read a narrative from A Child's History of the World that describes some of Viking history.
- You also read from several illustrated books. These give you a visual of Viking culture. What did they eat? What did their houses and clothes look like?
- You place the Vikings on your timeline and locate the Viking homeland on your map, to emphasize the chronology and geography.
- You read a short biography about some of the most famous Vikings, Eric the Red and Leif the Lucky, those intrepid travelers who reached Greenland and North America.
- In your Read-Alouds, you enjoy an adventure in 20th Century Denmark with some exciting Viking connections.
- And in your Language Arts, some of your assignments come from your reading.
And maybe even that description doesn't sound that exciting. Fair enough. But this overview is sort of like trying to summarize basketball: two opposing teams try to get a bouncing ball into a metal ring, to score more points in a given amount of time. That description is correct … but it misses all the drama of a game, all the excitement and emotion of a March Madness tournament. It misses the adrenaline rush of your team's come-from-behind win, or the crushing disappointment of a close defeat.
Not a sports fan? Have you ever read the Wikipedia summary of your favorite book or movie? "A wealthy man proposes against his better judgment to a girl who needs to marry well so her family won't be destitute. She dislikes him, though, and turns him down. But in the end, they happily marry!" Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite books, but told in summary … it sounds melodramatic and silly.
Summaries can be useful, but they miss the essence of the thing.
If the summary of what you would study about the Vikings left you cold, that's because, like a good game or a good book or a good movie, you have to experience it.
Why would children beg to keep reading? Why would dads start listening in? Why would moms end the school year feeling soul-fed?
Some things you have to experience. Sonlight is an experience, a lifestyle. I invite you to give Sonlight a try and love learning using real books.
Learn more about literature-rich homeschooling curriculum from Sonlight.
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