A review of Sonlight (Core and Language Arts)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Alright,  I originally had a lot of this information tied into my post about our 2013/2014 year, but I decided to give my review of Sonlight its on post.



This is our second year of using Sonlight.  It is a Christ-centered Core Curriculum, offering a full schedule (4 day or 5 day, we use the 5 day) which, when done as-is, is planned out for you.  (Cue the chorus!)  

Sonlight is unique in that they label their years by 'Core' levels.  These Cores are given different content/subject headings based on History.   For example, Core A is Introduction to World Cultures, and Core F is Eastern Hemispheres.

 The Sonlight day to day schedule includes:  Bible Reading, Memory Verses, Apologetics, Simple Read-alouds (Poetry, Mother Goose, etc.), Literature (also read-alouds, such as chapter books and short stories), History, Geography, and Cultural Studies. 
 
The basic Sonlight Core Programs do NOT include Math, Phonics, or Science.  One level of Language Arts IS included in the price of the Core and also includes several books (I photographed an example below.) 
 
Every week of Sonlight is clearly laid out in the Teacher's Guide.  Having done a lot of the year last year on my own, I've QUICKLY realized what a gift this is!  There's is still more to organize and prepare even while following a planned guide like this.  Why make life harder on yourself?  I open the Guide, review the plan for the week, add extra work, extra crafts, etc. and add my page of Math, Language Arts, Science, Art, Music, and Handywork and Home Skills and we're set.

A lot of people are familiar with Sonlight as one of the absolute best Christ-centered home curriculums.  It is presented in a Charlotte Mason-based learning style which is void of text books and rich in living books.  (Yippee!)  The younger level programs are about $500 but come with a PILE of books for that price!  It also includes one level of Language Arts and many books along with that program.  (This year, I ordered LA 3 with our core, which you can see below).

Some have said Sonlight is expensive, but I think it's worth every penny.  I actually think it's a fantastic deal.  I get a pile of fantastic books to read with the kids, loads of beautiful non-fiction resources, plus a fully organized, planned program that I can open and use immediately.  This program is non-consumable, so I can use it over and over with different children at various levels.  It you divide $500 by three kids by 9 months, that's not so bad...

This year we're studying Core B - Intro to World History, Creation to the Fall of Rome.

All the Core B books.

I'm also a huge believer in the old saying, "You get what you pay for".  Although Sonlight is on the more 'expensive' side of things when it comes to homeschooling curriculum, they really offer a lot of punch with what you purchase.  You're really getting your money's worth here.
 
There is also the option of buying the grade level packages, which include Math, Science, etc.  (Check their website).  I've never done this option, but for those looking for a comprehensive program, it could be very useful.
 

Here's a peek at the Teacher's Guide:

  
Weekly Schedule



After the weekly schedule, there are several pages of notes for parents to use with each task and reading assignment.  For read-alouds there is vocabulary, comprehension questions, suggested activities, conversation starters, resources, etc.
 
I find this part of the Teacher's Guide to be super helpful and I'm referring to it daily.

For me, while using Sonlight, every week has a two page spread like this:



This is a really effective way to organize the week so it's easy to follow on a daily basis.

On the left, is my own simple schedule I made up to include the other subjects not included in the Sonlight Teacher's Guide:


 
 

Language Arts Reviews

 

 Sonlight Language Arts K-

 I chose to go with Sonlight's Language Arts K program because it was inexpensive and simple. It will work  just fine for us as a basic pre-reading/reading program. 

If you are looking for a flashy, exciting, manipulative-heavy program, this IS NOT it.  This is a very quiet, calm, discussion-based program.

Every week a new letter sound is introduced, with the children learning to read basic words within a few weeks.  All the copy work pages are included with the program.  I didn't purchase the K readers Sonlight offers because we have a lot of readers already and I didn't read the best reviews about them.

Along with the LA K, I'll need to include a lot of fun activities with letters and letter sounds.  There are countless ideas online and in books.  Tactile fun, crafts, games, rhymes, etc. will be included as we go.  I'm not a fan of paying big money for what I can do myself easily with a little google searching.
 
I want to add that I'm not crazy about the Language and Thinking for Young Children book.  It is alright but there are just some stories in it that are strange...




Language Arts K Teacher's Guide: 



Copywork pages from LA K.
 
 

Language Arts 1-

LA 1 comes with more books than I've photographed, so if you're looking at it for your child, be sure to check the Sonlight website.  I really like this program.   This is for Audrey and she has been thriving with it.  The readers are easy to follow and are scheduled into the program to encourage daily progress.  At the beginning of every week there is a new list of words the children learn along with their sight words.  The copy work pages are fun and easy to follow and included with the program.  Everything is ready and there for you, which is SO LOVELY!

Just a note: I did not purchase any of the 'optional' choices from Sonlight.  I felt we had enough with the LA program on it's own, along with many other language building activities we do.

LA 1 Teacher's Guide:


Audrey's LA 1 Copywork pages.

The "I Can Read It!" books included with LA 1.

This is a page from near the end of Book 1.




 

Language Arts 3-


This year, Simon (age 8) is working through Sonlight's Language Arts 3.  I love the collection of readers included in this program.  Simon seems pretty excited about the titles, which is always a good sign.  I've realized that a lot of the reading is a bit simple for him, but the language arts/writing portion of the program is challenging.  LA 2 was way too easy, and LA 3 offered the language and writing I know he needs.  We compromised a bit with the ease of the reading.  As the program progresses throughout the year, however, the books do get more challenging, which is good. 

Luckily, we do a lot more reading beyond what is given to us through Sonlight, so, everything works out quite well in the end!

Here's a peak at the program (all these books were included as part of that $500 package with the Sonlight Core Curriculum) -



LA 3 Teacher's Guide: 


LA 3 Copywork pages.


Can I just say, Simon ASKS me to do Language Arts every morning.  He enjoys the time with just him and Mom and we have a nice time engaging with the material.

The first book of the year.  WAY too easy for Simon, but he enjoyed the simplicity or it and read through it very easily.  Sometimes, it's nice to breeze through something, especially at the beginning!



Organizing Sonlight...

This year, I've organized our Sonlight curriculum and plans in a huge binder along with all three Language Arts.  So far, it's been the best thing I've done for organizing our year.  Last year, I had my stuff everywhere and felt scattered.

It seems cheesy and kind of silly for me to write about putting tabs in a binder, but I could have really benefited from reading about this last year, so here goes.

What I did is this - I used separators with the months of the year and blocked out the weeks so they fit into the months.  So, for August, we will be doing Weeks 1-5.  September is Weeks 6-10, and so on.  What this instantly did is gave me a visual time-line for the year.  Because Sonlight is done in week numbers, I was always confused as to which week number would fall when in the year. 

This way is so much easier and makes it clear what is needed to accomplish in each month to get everything done by May.



Another big  help was adding the Language Arts to the binder.  So now, I have all the Core plans along with all the Language Arts all in one place. Oh, happy day.  I've blocked four weeks of Language Arts into the planner and will trade those blocks out monthly (so that everything actually fits).  I'm pretty sure Sonlight actually suggests doing this, but I just got with the program this year. 
 
It's so much faster and more efficient throughout the day!


 
 

More Review-type Info:

 

About the style of learning...

 Sonlight does not claim to be a hands-on program.  It is heavily based on the reading of high quality literature.  If you are looking for something very hands-on, and activity based, this probably isn't it.
 
Having said that, you CAN add and mix in your own activities with the program to add elements of hands-on exploration, crafts, Lapbooks, etc.  But, you will have to come up with this on your own, as the Sonlight program is not heavily loaded with activities.  There are a few more options now than there were 4-5 years ago, since they've updated their Teacher's Guides and added the bonus CD Rom to go with the program.  These help, but they still don't make the program super active.
 
The style of learning for Sonlight is very much based on reading and discussion studies which works wonderfully with our eldest who is a very analytical, pensive, auditory learner.  This style of learning doesn't work as well with our middle child who is much more creative and artistic (which is why we use Five in a Row with her).
 
We are all enjoying our study of Charlotte's Web (in Core B) but I have added many elements to make it appealing to all our learning styles.  I've included a Lapbook, art pages, Science, and various other activities to make it more engaging and to help the learning 'pop'.  This isn't always necessary for many children, but for us, I feel it really enriches our learning.
 
 

About the age recommendations for Cores...

Sonlight is serious when they give their suggested ages for the Core programs.  When we started Sonlight, our children were only 2, 3, and 5.  I ordered CORE A (which at the time was called Core K, which confused me into thinking it was a basic K program, which it isn't).  I now realize, I was way off.  I should have ordered Core P4/5 or MAYBE even P3/4.
 
Once you get to Core A, the reading is advanced.  The topics are complex.  You're really best to stick to the higher end of the age spectrum.  For example, Core B is recommended for ages 6-8.  Although our 6 year old can grasp some of the content (like, Charlotte's Web), there is much of the content that will be too difficult for her or too complicated (ie: understanding the fall of Rome and discussing tribal conflicts in Africa after Colonization...).  Our 8 year old, however, is in his glory with Core B.  Our 5 year old?  He's pretty much lost and only listens in.  He does pick up some of it but it isn't ideally at his level at all.
 
So, don't jump the gun - stick to the suggested age categories and even go lower if you think your kids are on the lower end of the spectrum.  I recently interrupted someone at a conference - she was suggesting Core A for a four year old, and I jumped in and expressed my concern with the idea.  (Annoying, I know...ha).  The Mom was so happy that I took the time to explain to her why P4/5 would be a way better option if she was choosing to go with Sonlight.
 
 

Top Reasons I Use Sonlight:

  • It is literature rich and full of Living Books.  Our children LOVE to read and this is hugely because of our studies using Five in a Row and Sonlight.  Programs like this that use beautiful, classic, living books are priceless.  Children not only fall in love with READING, they fall in love with LEARNING.  And, hey, they actually remember what they learn!  Amazing!
  • It is very Christ-centered.  So much of this program is tied to faith issues and to our belief in God as the supreme authority.  The kids learn about missionaries, about God's omnipotence, they read challenging literature that inspires them to really think about their faith.  It isn't fluffy stuff, it's often advanced, real-life faith topics.
  • It is such a great way to spend lots of time together as a family.   LOTS of reading, LOTS of discussion studies. Lots of inspiring and lively chats about meaningful subjects.
  • It is Charlotte Mason-friendly and void of grades, marking, tests, and textbooks.  This program is based on real learning through reading lively content and discussing engaging topics.  The comprehension comes through natural means.  Enough said!
 
I truly hope this is a helpful review for you.
 
The Sonlight website is full of great information, so don't forget to check it out.  I'd also really suggest ordering a free catalog.
 
Blessings!
 
 













8 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing this detailed review of Sonlight. I used it when I was in 11th and 12th grades, and loved it! (No idea what Cores I used.) It's at the top of my list to look into for my daughter.

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  2. Thank you so much for posting this review! I had planned on using another curricula with my very soon to be 1st grader, however after seeing a few books from Sonlight Core B at a used curricula sale a couple of months ago, I seriously reconsidered that decision. It seemed expensive to me and beyond my budget at the time, but now I realize it was a good deal that I missed. Here's hoping I can still find it on a used curriculum online site!

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  3. Thank you for your review and experience with Sonlife! I am looking for a new curriculum and I am considering this one. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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  4. This is a great review. I needed to hear about the age recommendations as my kids are 4 & 2. I am starting my 4 YO on prek 4/5 with Sonlight this August. She will turn 5 in the middle of the year. I am so excited. I too, added things to it like Spanish, beginning math worksheets, and some handwriting worksheets as my daughter loves worksheets as well as reading! She's been doing preschool workbooks, like you can get at dollar store, since she was 3 and loves them. She has a long attention span- can sit and do crafts for a long time- so I made a whole pinterest page of crafts to add to each day of Sonlight. Thank you for your review. It was interesting and helpful.

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  5. Hi Grace! Yes, I think the P 4/5 will be good. Wow, sounds like you're all set! Hope you have a wonderful year with your little ones. So glad this was helpful! :)

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  6. I love Sonlight and appreciate your positive, honest review. I totally agree with you about the suggested age level for the cores! We have used Sonlight for four years, starting with Core B for my then K5 and 2nd grader. I was hoping to challenge my 2nd grader. In hindsight, it has been pretty tough material for her younger brother! I wish someone had advised me differently when I started out. Now, my question is what to do coming up on Core F with a fourth and sixth grader!

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  7. Beautiful review of sonlight! We are so excited to be starting Core D this year. Another definite PLUS, is the curriculum is an investment in any upcoming children you may have. So little of it is consumable :) You are building a library.

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  8. I appreciate you sharing your positive views of Sonight's LA. I always hear so many negative reviews. I have decided to do P 4/5 with our 4 yo and Core A with our 6 yo. We have done All About Reading through the end of Level 1. We bought level 2, but I'm really leaning towards using SL's LA as written. I believe that there is no rush to accomplish everything so early. You've give me some confidence with my decisions. Thank you!

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