A couple of weeks back I posted So Whats Inside a Sonlight Instructors Guide? and the post raised a heap of great questions… and do I love questions!!! My answers in the comments just got longer and longer and I thought it was only fair to blog the responses in their own post. The answers I provide are really solutions that have worked for us and our homeschool. I have to say that every homeschool is different so use the information you need and leave the rest!!!
So here you go: Se7en more Sonlight questions…
- How long does a Sonlight day take – really? The thing about Sonlight is that it can take all day… we do everything on the schedule and I am sure many families do… bible study, history, language arts and science… and then grammar and vocabulary, as well as math workbooks. On most days my kids can make school take all day, they love it and we add in quite a few extra bits and bobs. The only thing I really insist that gets done by lunchtime is bookwork, I want to be finished with “school” by lunch-time… and I am not available to help with math problems or grammar questions after lunch. In practice my kids can get carried away on a journal page and totally involved in making a newspaper… they might spend an entire afternoon doing science experiments – so be it!!! I am not going to stop them and they really enjoy it!!! That doesn’t mean my kids are scheduled with school activities throughout the day – I am all about down time and they get lots of it. However they do have a daily list that they need to get through and I don’t mind if they wander through it rather than rushing. That being said, we do have “bare-minimum” days and those are the days when haircuts are scheduled or we have to run errands or an unexpected visitor arrives… then they still do everything on their list but a whole lot more purposefully and a whole lot faster. On those days they read just what is required – the two pages of history or science and so on… and no extra creative distractions… work done and dusted. All my kids can do their day of school in under an hour if they put their mind to it, except my grade 8 fellow and he can get up earlier to finish.
- How much work is Sonlight for the Parent?
- What about Supplementing Sonlight?
- What do you do with the work you don’t complete? Do you go back and do it or just press on?
- At what age do you start Sonlight?
- When do your kids start working through their Sonlight on their own?
- What do you do about books you don’t want your children to read?
- Is my 6 year old too advanced for Sonlight K?
Let’s face it we are all busy and having a lot of time for school preparation and marking and all the other things that go into homeschooling just isn’t on the cards for moms who also have to clean, cook, maintain an home and BLOG!!! And the arrival of the boxes can look somewhat daunting, I always think we will never get through all that… and then one day at a time we do!!! I do very little maintenance from day to day… and even less preparation. I work really intensely for the week or two before I start school with my kids… And I get their files completely in order and totally familiarize myself with their school year. I find the lists of weekly topics for science and history quite handy… I keep them in the back of my mind in case I come across something that would be interesting to a particular student during my travels around the internet. So in our large Instructors Guide file I have thirty six weeks of school scheduled and each week has the appropriate history, reader and science notes filed with it. So each day I sit with each student for about half an hour and go through their schedule, their workbooks and their language arts, which they tend to need me for. On Fridays when I go through their work for the week then we swap the finished weekly schedule notes for the fresh weeks ones and right then put away any books we are finished with and bring off the main school shelf any books we will need for the following week. At that stage I write a few keywords per kid for the following week into my diary and while I am surfing over the weekend I will look for any interesting snippets for them and pop them into their file for them.
I can hear folks gasp at that one!!! You do more than Sonlight… yes we do a whole lot more and I used to be random about it and tried to fit it in whenever we could and it never happened. Now I am a lot more intentional about it… and in our daily schedule we have family fun lessons… you might not think these are the fun things but my kids love them!!! This year I have been quite purposeful about beginning school timeously and just getting going in the mornings. So this is when I do the Family Fun stuff, directly after breakfast, – most of it is a variety of writing or drawing assignments – its fun and we are learning heaps together. This usually takes about an hour and involves a lot of creativity… at the end of the hour of fun school my scholars are usually ready to settle in and get on with their work and my little ones feel as though they have been part of school for long enough and they are ready to go off and play. I will write a full post on all the extra’s we do… because they deserve it!!! How do I choose fun things to add to our school, well I think about the things I want my kids to try and my kids suggest a lot of them – “Why don’t we learn about… This or That?” Then I pop that into the early morning slot.
Mostly our work does get done but there are some things that slip through the cracks. Map work is the first thing to fall off our list. I think that even if we had a huge map on the world and heaps of markers we would still not get around to it. Anything that gets done once or twice a week instead of everyday tends to slip off our radar. This year I made a list of the itty bitty things and scheduled one of them for each day of the week – it’s working!!! Too be honest I don’t panic about work that gets left behind. They are learning all day long and really in the scheme of life I don’t think my kids have to know everything… just where to find it!!! If a dictation doesn’t get done or half a math exercise is left out a years work then the world will not come to an end!!! If we do miss a series of days for one reason or another then we just keep going where we left off.
Six of my kids will not remember a time when Sonlight wasn’t a major part of our home and lifestyle… a lifestyle of reading great books throughout our day and sitting at the table and doing a couple of workbooks sometime during the morning. By the time they actually start school they have been part of the process of school and listening into our reading for quite a while. A lot of “school” happens throughout the day and we tackle it as a family. I like to split up our reading, a little bit at breakfast and at lunch, after lunch and so on… little people are part of that and everyone likes to listen in!!! I have to say learning is a way of life and while I don’t do work books and formal lessons with my little ones they sure are learning!!! This is probably my most asked question and I have answered it in this post on Our Goals for Se7en Sonlight years.
My kids don’t work through their school on their own…but they do do a lot of their work independently and my goal would be eventually for them to work independently. As soon as my kids are able they insist on reading their science, then their history and then their read-alouds to themselves. Usually through the year of core 3 their reading gets better and better and by the end of it they are doing most of their reading themselves. I let them, they enjoy it and they hate waiting for me to get round to them. Because their work is scheduled it is quite easy to see if they are doing their reading… and I talk about what they are reading all the time. I usually work through their history journals and science notes with them and do their language arts with them. I sit with each student each day and check that the work on their schedule is done and help them with anything they need help with. I begin with the youngest student and the older students work alone until I get to them. As soon as I am finished with a student I either leave them finishing up a project or send them on their way and I move onto the next student.
Well the obvious answer is we don’t read them!!! Sonlight has an excellent article on Why Sonlight Uses Certain Books That Some Homeschoolers Won’t Touch.” I am all about teaching my children discernment… I cannot possible pre-read every book my children read – they are five readers amongst them and the older ones read at least a novel a day, without blinking. They have to learn that if they come across a topic that isn’t appropriate that they need to talk to us about it and put that book aside. They have learnt from me doing the same. I will put a book aside and say it is inappropriate or switch off a movie or whatever. There will come a time when they are out in the world and they will have free reign, hopefully by then they will have mastered discernment, not just in books, but in selecting a career and friends and so on. That being said, some books I don’t read because I don’t like them and that is okay too. If there is a prescribed book and a student doesn’t want to read it because it is difficult then I am happy to read alongside them and help them through any tricky parts. That being said there are so many superb books in the Sonlight Curriculum if you come across one that just doesn’t appeal to you, for whatever reason, then let it go… Just like you don’t have to do everything in the schedule to benefit from the overall curriculum, you don’t have to read every single book.
And the Se7en + 1th Question…
This question is another frequent flyer!!! I think Sonlight K is a very broad year of school, lots of topics and lots of new ideas and lots of scope for you to be totally laid back and just read the page for the day or totally intense and reading countless related projects for each page – depending on the intensity of our kid!!! I don’t think the Sonlight K is too young at all and the grade 1 books, also mostly Usborne readers for their history and science, are very much at the same level. What I can say, having had one super bright kid was that he loved and devoured the books that were read to him and he loathed and detested any written work – still does. For me I think if he is learning then that’s great, and he was, and I considered all bookwork and worksheets to be training in discipline… the art of having to sit still when you would rather be running free. Lessons that we all have to learn eventually but not so much at age six. I think it helps to have an “intention” for the year… do you want your child to cover a broad range of topics, which you can explore deeper with them via countless trips to the library, and widen their world experience or do you want to achieve seat work… Seriously your child can learn all the bookwork it needs to learn a little later, I know I wasn’t filling in any worksheets at age six, let alone science worksheets. I do worksheets and workbooks alongside my small kids and at most we spend twenty minutes on them in the year before grade 1. We do spend hours reading and reading and if your child has a passion then humor them… I can tell you that I read every single book in the library on flight one year… not just from the kids section and I mean every single book!!!
I have said it before and I will say it again, regarding any Sonlight level:
Folk say to me I love the P3/P4 books but my child is so advanced I think I will skip them and just go to the P4/5 books. And since this is my blog I will just say: Don’t be mad – skip nothing!!! Your kids synapses will connect better and they will learn more sitting in your lap reading countless stories than they will ever get being “taught stuff”, with a schedule, filling in workbooks and doing math manipulatives.
I hope this all helps!!! I do have a couple of questions still to go but they weren’t Sonlight specific. I am tackling them, one question at a time, and will post more solutions and about a couple more things that are really working well for our school this year… next week!!!