Friday, July 11, 2014

Combining Sonlight/Bookshark & The Well-Trained Mind

I spent a ton of time this spring researching different curriculum options for all four kids. It takes just about forever to plan a year's education for multiple kids! I knew for sure we would do the next Sonlight (or Bookshark) core, so that part was easy, but then there was math to figure out, and writing, music, art, grammar, spelling, handwriting, phonics, vocabulary, Latin, Spanish, science, and logic... and then Grace said she wanted to learn's a lot to figure out!  I enjoy researching curriculum, but at a certain point it starts to feel overwhelming to me and I start changing my mind too many times and want to just throw my hands up in the air and unschool everyone!

At one point, I got out my copy of The Well-Trained Mind to look up Greek recommendations and naturally I ended up reading through it again. And you know what? I really, really liked what I read! We have kind of strayed from "classical education" in our homeschool, though it was a mainstay in our early days. We don't do history or science in four year cycles. We don't do much copywork or dictation or use an incremental writing program. James has never done grammar and he will be in fourth grade (gasp!).

 Pretty much the only thing we held over from our WTM days was Latin, which both older kids still enjoy. But reading through that book for the fourth time? It actually sounded do-able to me for the first time! So I am switching gears a bit and combining WTM and Sonlight (or Bookshark), taking what I think will work the best for us from each.

What I want to keep from Sonlight/Bookshark

  • The core- which is the history and literature.   Having all of our history and literature readings planned out for me is a huge plus. The WTM reading lists for each year kind of bog me down, I much prefer something all laid out.  I love The Story of the World for history, but I don't like always having to look up supplemental books.  I don't really want to do outlines or pages every week for history and literature, I mostly prefer to just read and discuss the books.  And we really, really like the Sonlight book selections!

  • The science-up to Core E, anyway. I prefer Sonlight science over WTM science for younger kids. There are more experiments, more books, and a wide variety of topics. That said, I am planning to do WTM science with Rose this year, but James will do Sonlight Science D and Rose will most likely do Science B next year.

What I want to start doing WTM-style instead

  • Language Arts, definitely. We tried Sonlight language arts this year and it was kind of a flop for us. I do not think it is the fault of the program, but just that my kids don't learn well with that style.  I would like something more incremental,with more review. Also, none of my children likes to do creative writing, at least for "school work" and Sonlight tends to have quite a bit of those assignments. We used Sonlight's Grammar 5 this year, and while I enjoyed it initially, as we near the end of the program I realize we are still pretty confused. There is just not enough practice or teacher help for us. So we are going to go with  the WTM recommendations for language arts. This is already reflected in my first and fourth grade plans, and will be in my sixth and eighth grade plans once I finalize them!
  • Logic- Sonlight doesn't really stress logic, but I want to try a more in-depth study, a la the WTM
  • Science- for my older two. I do not plan to follow the WTM model of doing mostly science kits in grades 5-8, instead I am looking for something more open and go for my older two. Not sure yet what that will be, but I am going to try to jump into the science cycle with them at this point, just studying one major topic per year. I think we will either do chemistry or earth science/astronomy this year since we have been light on both of those. 
Just writing all that out helped to clarify a couple of things for me. It's been a stressful and super busy week, but I find the planning process fun and relaxing, as long as I have a general idea of the direction we are headed!  Now I just need to figure out science, art and music and then the plans will be set!


  1. You might look at Elemental Science's Logic Stage materials. I am still on the fence about using the biology one with Cassia, since she's primarily interested in zoology, but they are very solid programs. I might even use the chemistry one with Cyrus, since physics isn't out yet!

  2. Thanks, I'll add it to my list! I am just starting to look and not finding too much out there that is secular for this age.

  3. I know! I looked and looked for a zoology text for Cassia, and Apologia seems to have a corner on the middle school market for that topic. Elemental Science is secular, so that's nice!


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