Sonlight's History/Bible/Literature A for first grade focuses on American history, excellent literature, and an overview of the Bible. The program runs 36 weeks, and you can choose either the 4- or 5-day program depending on how many days each week you want to have scheduled lessons. You can also purchase the all-subjects program for this level which adds math, science, and language arts.
The 5-day program consists of the Sonlight A Instructor’s Guide, Grade 1 Readers Schedule/Study Guide - 5 Day, a music CD, 48 books, and a set of timeline figures. The 4-day program has a few less books.
The instructor's guide has a chart for each week showing which resources to use and when. It also specifies the pages to be read or the track to listen to on the CD. Under Bible, the chart shows a scripture memory verse to work on each week.
The chart is followed by specific notes for each day that primarily consist of questions to discuss after reading each book. In addition to the discussion questions, the daily notes tell you when to complete map or timeline activities, provide vocabulary words and cultural literacy terms (with definitions) that will be encountered in the reading, and occasionally explain concepts or ideas.
There are many books to read, and you might sometimes skip a book or discussion questions if you wish. Keep in mind that this is an introduction to American History, and your children will have more opportunities to study it if you skip something. My point is that you should use the wealth of material here to shape the program to suit your child.
For Bible, you will use The One Year Bible for Children and Sing the Word: Teach Me Your Paths CD. There are no discussion notes for the Bible reading or CD tracks.
Fourteen of the books used with this course relate to the history of the United States, and one book, Maps & Globes, is on geography. The books are scheduled in chronological order and introduce selected topics from U.S. history rather than trying to be comprehensive.
The history spine books used throughout the course are the two-volume Heroes and Happenings series. Other history-related books included in the course are Mary on Horseback, Johnny Appleseed: The Story of a Legend, The Very First Americans, Three Young Pilgrims, Abandoned on the Wild Frontier, George vs. George, How We Crossed the West: The Adventures of Lewis and Clark, The Very First Americans, The Amazing Impossible Erie Canal, The New York Colony, Your Life as a Settler in Colonial America, Granny Han’s Breakfast, and Civil War on Sunday. These books will be used as read-alouds, which you will then discuss with your child(ren) using questions from the instructor’s guide.
Some of the history books are geared toward a slightly older audience, so you might find some information beyond your child’s comprehension level. For instance, in George vs. George, two pages present a relatively simple comparison of how England’s government operated and how government was handled in the American colonies. The explanatory paragraph at the top of each page summarizes key differences, and below the paragraphs are illustrations with explanatory text to expand this information in a more visual fashion. Even with visual aids, children might not have enough background to understand topics on those pages, such as governmental organization, the British Parliament, and taxation. It’s no problem to skim over such topics. The books included with this course are excellent, so if any seem beyond your child, you might want to revisit them in a few years.
Timeline figures for history are included. These can be placed in the Timeline book sold by Sonlight or on your own timeline.
There are 19 fictional read-aloud books, such as The Bill Martin Jr. Big Book of Poetry, Cool Beans, Sled Dog School, Astrid the Unstoppable, and In Grandma’s Attic. Some of these books are historical fiction, such as Twenty and Ten about school children who helped hide Jewish children from the Nazis. Among the other books, some are character building and others indirectly teach about science, math, and other cultures. These read-aloud books are scheduled in the main chart along with the resources for Bible and history, but they have their own teaching notes. The teaching notes offer information similar to the notes for teaching the history books. These teaching notes are in their own section so that you can easily change the way you use the read-aloud books—skipping a book, using them in a different order, or taking more or less time to complete a book.
Thirteen books listed as Readers have controlled vocabulary for use as beginning readers. The Grade 1 Readers Schedule/Study Guide - 5 Day directs parents when to use them and provides discussion questions.
Sonlight’s Exploring American History, History/Bible/Literature A is an excellent program. Since first graders need to spend more time on basic skills rather than history, you might find there’s not enough time to use everything. If so, you can use the books over the summer or the next year.