I am finally getting back into the swing of this year and I thought I would peruse the long list of homeschool questions you have all sent me and get started on answering them one by one. Then I realized I had Se7en Sonlight Curriculum questions and I thought, let’s put them all together. So here they are Se7en Sonlight Questions.
Before I get started I just want to say that Sonlight does not pay me to say I love them, we genuinely love Sonlight and have used it exclusively in our homeschool for the past number of years. Love it, won’t change it!!! Otherwise Sonlight have great customer service and you can ask them anything – don’t be afraid to head over to their web site and ask away. Seriously I have never had a query go unanswered, never!!! And you can almost feel the smile pop out the screen as they serve you – really if you have a Sonlight question I highly recommend you head straight over there and ask them directly.
That being said: Here are the questions you asked me – in no particular order… just as they arose.
- When and how do you read all the read-alouds?
- Core 2 seems much harder than Core 1, do I pack it away and go back to Core 1?
- This would be my first year with Sonlight, should I buy a Newcomer package or a Core?
- What Math Program do we use?
- Can you do bilingual school using Sonlight?
- When do your kids start doing Language Arts on their own?
- How and when do you get started with Sonlight?
- The cost of shipping to South Africa is horrendous, what do you do about it?
For the younger grades I read all the read alouds, we keep them in piles and as we work through our day I will say bring me your history reading, your science reading or whatever. If you see the pile of books for each child there is: A Bible reading, a history reading, a science reading and a read-aloud. That is just four quick reads a day, about a double-page spread for each subject. Really I can take the time to sit and read eight pages to each of my children once a day!!! And the fact that everyone else is listening in is great – the more the merrier. By grade three they are reading very independently and wouldn’t dream of me reading their history or science to them and certainly not a chapter book. I rely on narration, to see that they have read their work, grasped it and can explain it back to me – if they stumble we will look at it together and some books like “Landmark History of America” can be really daunting and I am happy to help out with that. What about read-alouds… I alternate the younger grades read-a-louds and we never ever read just one chapter at a time so we tend to spin through the books quite fast. We read those sometime during the day – often during meals or on outings. For my older guys – they read any book they get the day they get it, there is no way they would wait for me to read to them, so I read the books beforehand so I can chat with them about their school books.
I have found quite a big jump from core to core and at first it shocked the socks off me as we rallied through the first weeks of a new year. But I am used to it and expect it now and my kids know it is coming and they very quickly seem to rise to the challenge… within a month they seem to have risen to the new level often doing far more than I thought they could. I have learnt to just present the work with a straight face and see of they conquer it or not. Often I will be open ended and ask: Do you think you could write this essay? Do you think you could do a book review like they are asking. Most of my kids think they can and then go on and do it! I have one who is quite convinced that they can’t… and then I ask if they can do the first step… and by the time they take the first step they can do it!!! Try to keep in mind that your child is growing and learning at an alarming pace and the curriculum is a guide… so what is really hard at the beginning of a grade is really easy at the end of it. What seems to take ALL day in the first few weeks of school we breeze through at the end of the year… Really it is all about raising the level of the game and I have found it to be a good thing and worth the effort to raise the level of the game from grade to grade.
This is really a question you have to ask Sonlight, I cannot suggest what you should buy!!! I can say that we have always bought a Core program and then mixed and matched the math program, the writing and language arts we want for a particular year and a particular student. If you want to get a complete package with everything in it then go for the Newcomer package. If you would like to specifically choose one of the subjects like math or handwriting differently to the ones they use in the Newcomer package then you will need to get a Core and the various courses you need to add to it for a complete curriculum.
We use Singapore Math, we always have… I enjoy it, I enjoy the emphasis on mental math and problem solving. I do find that there isn’t always enough practice between the textbook and the workbook, so we get the Intensive Practice and Challenging Word Problem Books as well. And then there is quite enough practice!!! Now because I don’t want my kids to learn math from just one perspective I use Your words and a Miquon Math in the first three years as well, though I would never use this program exclusively it has its merits and it adds a few more numerical skills to their collection and they can work on it pretty independently and I am all for that!!! Once they finish with Miquon at the end of grade 3, then I use the Key-to Series I have found this series of books to be excellent. Each booklet covers a very specific topic with the series, so if within the series on fractions one of the books will be entirely on adding fractions. Then the book marches through step by little step everything the student needs to know about the topic. From page to page the lessons are easy enough for the student to work independently
If I was to add another language into the Sonlight mix then I would do it pretty much as I add our South African culture into the mix… Make sure you have a couple of books in your reading pile in both languages. Make a list of books you would like to read to your kids, books that would pass on the culture at the same time. We read picture books from a couple of languages together for fun and nursery rhymes in other languages are fun to. What about cd’s and tapes of stories in both languages. And making a time when you only speak a particular language. I understand that introducing a second language is not quite the same as being bilingual. We have bought Rosetta Stone courses from Sonlight and played with them, so we have a smattering of words in a couple of languages but nothing formal yet.
By on your own I am presuming you mean independently. My kids do whatever their reading level allows them to do. So during grade K I read the instructions to them and I do a bit of scribing. Grade 1 I do less reading and much prefer their one line of essay written by themselves than the eight lines they ask me to write… so while they tell me stories I expect them to write their own stories even if there is more drawing than story – they are communicating through pen and paper and that works for me. From Grade 2 they can read all the questions, understand what is asked of them and mostly do it. However I think language arts and all the associated communication skills are too important to leave my kids to their own devises. So, while my kids work pretty independently I spend time with each of them everyday as soon as they get through their workbooks and onto their file. So I usually start my school day with them talking through their language arts and checking they have covered the topic and done as much as they could… No clever little blank pages saying: “This is an essay about nothing.” Trust me if your kids are still small – this is coming!!! I have also found that by pushing them for more they can come up with more. They usually write something everyday and one day a week I will ask them to rewrite something maybe once or twice or thrice… each time honing it a bit more!!! This has really improved their writing as they think more about what they are writing the first time around, not just filling the page!!!
I usually start official school in grade K, but I wouldn’t miss out on the P3/4 books at all they are books that stack quite highly into our cultural literacy and they are too lovely to miss. I rotate through the P3/4 books throughout the year. We just read them round and around and around again. I don’t bother with activities or pre-school workbooks I have a feeling they will learn far more from life. You must understand that my official school is really not very much like traditional school at all. I really think they learn far more from playing and exploring and doing their own thing than they can possibly learn from any worksheet or formal lesson. In Grade K we announce that they are in school and we spend the year concentrating on learning to read, anything else is really just overachieving!!!
We buy our books once a year and I try not to look at the price of individual books – I know I can buy bits and pieces of curriculum for cheaper here there and everywhere… but I am paying for the complete package – I just don’t want to spend the time sourcing individual items. When I have everything in my “shopping basket” I mentally add on fifty percent to pay for shipping. This amount has to be within our schooling budget. So if a book is twenty dollars, we will pay thirty dollars with shipping. I used to think this was madness (it is!!!). That being said, when I look at what I pay for a year of Sonlight for five and this year coming five and a half students – even with shipping… I probably couldn’t school one of my kids in public school for the same price. So that in itself is a bit of a comfort!!! Of course the more kids you have the cheaper Sonlight gets per student as I only ever have to buy the leading child’s Core and the subsequent children’s consumable books. Since so many people ask me this question and so many people say to me: “I don’t believe you pay this much for shipping school books.” They are right, I assume the shipping is part of the book price and I suck it up. I wish I had a special carrier pigeon… I do often make use of the free shipping option within the United States and then get a friend to send the books on to us, it takes a long time to get them that way but it can work. I have asked friends to bring them when they come over but trust me on this: books are heavy and people do not have a lot of extra weight available in their luggage and it can ruin a friendship. It just not worth it!!!
That’s it for now, hope it helps!!! I am making a “collection post” with all our homeschool questions: asked and answered, in one place… I will pop it onto our site for you next week.