Review last updated: July 2012
This is one of my 101 Top Picks!
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Sonlight Grade 1
Sonlight was begun by a homeschooling family that wanted to provide the best materials at a reasonable cost that would work for families living overseas and working as missionaries. They wanted to base their programs on the educational philosophy of Dr. Ruth Beechick—structured, yet allowing for maximum real-life learning. Influenced by Charlotte Mason’s ideas, they also wanted to include real books, but at the same time not create a program that required too much time and work from busy parents. These ideas actually reflected the needs of many homeschooling families, not just those in mission fields. As a result, Sonlight has grown to become one of the largest curriculum suppliers in the homeschool market.
Sonlight has designed comprehensive “grade/age level” programs with carefully selected resources and instructor’s guides that outline lessons for each day using specific pages within the materials provided. While Sonlight offers no oversight or teaching assistance, on their website they have free how-to webinars, workshop videos, podcasts and one-on-one sessions with curriculum advisors.
But Sonlight is not for everyone. They actually have a page on their website titled, “27 Reasons NOT to Buy Sonlight.” You should take time to read through this before ordering a program.
Sonlight offers a complete, eclectic, literature-based program integrated around historical themes for preschool through high school. They have arranged their program in an unusual fashion. There are 18 different Core Program Packages, each loosely designated for a range of from two to five grade levels (preschool through twelfth grade). This is possible because Core Packages primarily cover history, Bible, and language arts while also including many read-aloud books plus “readers” (real books rather than reading textbooks). History and Bible instruction are not especially dependent upon skill or maturity levels.
Most Core Packages focus on an area of history such as world history, U.S. history, or history of the eastern hemisphere. Core A is an introduction to world cultures. The two preschool Core themes are “Fiction, Fairy Tales, and Fun” and “Exploring God’s World.” At the upper end, Cores center around church history, British Literature, 20th Century World History, and Civics and American Government.
Read-aloud books for the Core programs are excellent choices that you would probably love to have in the family library even if you weren’t using Sonlight. Bible instruction uses scripture and other resources, including biographies of missionaries and Christian heros. This is essentially a Protestant program, although the “History of God’s Kingdom” Core presents a very even-handed study of church history and doctrinal issues comparing Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox positions.
.... [a portion of this review is published only in 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum.]
While Sonlight Curriculum’s hallmark is the use of real books—literature, historical fiction, and topical fiction rather than texts, they still occasionally use textbooks and workbooks. For example, they use Saxon Math, Miquon Math, Teaching Textbooks, Primary Mathematics, All About Spelling, Apologia science texts, and Handwriting Without Tears.
While Sonlight sells complete curriculum packages including each subject in preschool through fifth grade, and build-your-own packages for middle school and high school, they also permit you to purchase any individual items out of the complete packages or from their catalog for preschool through high school.
Sonlight offers a generous one-year money-back guarantee. You can read the details on their website. You can save by purchasing a multi-subject package for your complete curriculum. They will even help you customize your package. Returning Sonlight customers receive additional discounts. Prices for the Core or multi-subject packages might seem high (check the website or catalog for prices), but keep in mind that most of the books you receive are non-consumable and will be used either for more than one year or by another of your children. You save even more if you teach children from the same resources whenever practical even though they might be at different grade levels for math and language arts.
Sonlight has proven to be an excellent option for families who want something different from traditional curriculum but lack the experience to put it together on their own. I strongly recommend reading through Sonlight’s information or chatting with one of their consultants before determining which program, levels, or resources to use.
preschool through grade 12
Need for parent/teacher instruction: moderate
Prep time needed: low
Educational philosophy: Ruth Beechick/Charlotte Mason/Real books
Religious perspective: Protestant
8042 South Grant Way
Littleton, CO 80122-2705
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