Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Keeping Sonlight Simple

This year we are continuing the Sonlight Cores we started last year. Grace (11) and Christopher (9) are working on Core D. James (7) is studying Core B. And Rose (4) is reading books from Core P 3/4. If you prefer secular materials, as I do, click on my secular Sonlight tab. I've been working on a master list of Cores we have used and how we made them secular-friendly (it's very easy to do this, at least with the Cores we have done so far!).

One of the common complaints about Sonlight is that it is just way too much reading. And I agree, that if a child doesn't like to read, Sonlight is not the curriculum to choose. Luckily, while we do have many issues in our house, reading is not one of them. So this curriculum really works for us. But there are still some things I do to make it easier to do 2-3 Cores every day.
My "Command Center"

  • I do not follow any sort of schedule for  P3/4. If I had only a younger child, I imagine I may find it fun to do so. But I don't buy the Instructor Guide for this level or plan it out at all. I bought the books I wanted, put them on the shelves, and we read them. I do list "read with Rose" on my daily checklist and I try to include a P 3/4 read-aloud every day or so. That's all we do for this Core.   
  •  I pull out just the weeks we are working on from the big blue Sonlight binders and transfer them to a regular 1" binder. This makes it easier for the kids to find their own reading assignments. I do not pull out all the separate book notes in the back of the big binder, but I try to make a point of having those big binders out at my "command center" so we can refer to questions, vocab, map assignments, etc.. Having the notes separate is a major pain, but I believe Sonlight changed that this year. I will be looking forward to using the new version of the Instructor's Guide with the notes right in the week tab! When we finish a week, it goes back into the big blue binder and the next week comes out.
  •  I delay starting the Cores just a bit. Rose will do Core P 4/5 next year (though we have already read some of those books this year) instead of starting Core A in her kindergarten year. James is doing Core B as a second grader, not a first grader. Many people start Core A in kindergarten, but I have found that by delaying just a year, my kids have been able to read much of the Core independently, rather than needing it read to them. Which brings me too...
  • I have the kids read as much of the Core to themselves as possible. James can easily handle the science books in Core B, and really they are better read alone because they are heavily illustrated and he likes to study all the pictures. Same with the supplemental history readings. I do read the main literature book aloud, as well as Child's History of the World, when it is scheduled. Otherwise, he reads on his own and we discuss. For Core D, same thing. Grace and Christopher read everything to themselves, except Landmark History and the main literature read-aloud. 
  • I keep discussions pretty brief. I do use the notes in the Instructor Guide for ideas to focus on. Our discussions are mostly Charlotte Mason style. I figure as long as I can tell they read and understood, I don't need to re-teach them everything. We don't discuss the science much at all, but I do have them answer the questions on the worksheets Sonlight provides, because most of the questions are good, thought-provoking ones- and the kids don't complain about doing them:).
  • Finally, and probably most importantly, I limit my Sonlight teaching time. We do not finish everything in one day. Our school day generally runs from 8:45-12:30. We stop at 12:30 regardless of whether or not we have "finished" a day.  We just pick it up the next day where we left off. I often use our lunch hour to go over any discussion points we didn't get to.


  1. HOW do you do everything in such a short period of time? Are you kid super focused for their math, language arts, and science!? Amazing. AS of now, this is before we are doing a second level of bookshark, we school 8-12, this is mostly their independent work and their three Rs that I work with them on, too. THEN we come back together from 2-4:40 to do all the group work and content subjects... but... this next year we are starting a new writing program that will take another 30mins-1 hour, and then a separate BookShark package to add more to my reading load.

  2. Well, these days we definitely do not finish school before lunch! Back when I wrote this, we did, but honestly that is only because I wasn't strict about us finishing 'everything' each day. We got to what we could, and picked up where we left off the next day. I tried to hit math and some sort of language arts every day for all of them and we usually read together. But they didn't necessarily write or do grammar every day and we sometimes cut the read-alouds short. They had checklists each day and I made it clear that they would be free to do what they liked if they finished their list. So they were pretty motivated.

    These days we can't possibly finish before lunch. We generally go from 8:30-shortly before 3. My third grader usually, but not always, finishes before lunch. My older two often need to sleep a bit later so might not start until 9, so some days they work later than 3. I wish we could go later many days, but mine are very involved in sports right now, so we leave the house pretty much every afternoon for several hours. So we do what we can. Most of my kids will have some work that needs to carry over into the summer because of our days needing to be shorter.


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