I could write a love letter to my Sonlight Instructor’s Guide. It’s a treasure trove of thoughtful material, helpful schedules, great discussion questions, and insightful notes. I’ve used Sonlight for over nine years and my kids adore reading and learning. But I have a little confession to make: I don’t always follow everything in the Instructor’s Guide exactly as written.
Instead of feeling guilty that I am wasting my investment unless I check every box, I lean into the freedom that I can use the Instructor’s Guide as a resource and adapt any of it to fit my family’s flow and get us toward our goal of learning and thriving.
If you find you want to tweak some things about your learning experience, here are a few ideas (based on Sonlighter questions) that you can use as a jumping-off point for your own strategy.
“How can I consolidate our reading rather than jumping from a few pages in one book to a few pages in another?”
One of the beauties of Sonlight (especially as you get into upper levels of D and above) is that you are reading from several different resources at a time and each book serves as a different strand in the whole tapestry. You can read more about Sonlight’s design and the intentional way all those ideas from various books weave together in this post.
However, if you tend to get on a roll and want to keep reading without jumping to as many different books at once, you may want to consider block scheduling subjects in your IG. You could do your History and Geography M/W/F and your Read-Alouds on T/TR. Whatever combination suits you, all the material is still right there for you.
In our family, we save our poetry readings for a once-a-week poetry tea time that has become a favorite tradition! You can do math daily, but map activities once a week, or work through the timeline figures every six weeks and review what you’ve studied. Just check off material as you complete it and don’t worry about which day it happened.
It’s usually easiest if you can do most of one week’s worth of related material together, even if in longer chunks. That way your children’s brains are processing different angles of similar information. You can read more about how different Sonlighters break up their school year in this post.
Adjust Your Pace
“I’m ahead or behind in different parts of the schedule! What should I do?”
If you are “behind” in the schedule, forget any sense of defeat. You are right where you need to be for your child’s learning. This is not a race! Be patient with yourself and stay flexible to keep everyone moving forward and learning at whatever pace makes sense and retains that sense of delight.
Easy Ways to Track Where You Are
Here are a few options when you are at different places in your IG. Put a post-it flag or a clear colored tab where you are in each subject to keep your place as you go. Some parents also use fun magnetic bookmarks or post-its to mark the space that is the scheduled ending for the week and also their actual ending spot in a particular book.
If You Want to “Catch-Up” …
Think outside of the bounds of normal school time. You can catch up on certain subjects in unexpected places in your week when you think outside traditional school hours. Read-Alouds can make perfect bedtime stories or weekend memories. Readers can become rewards for voracious readers. You can move science projects to a quarterly blitz or do lots of experiments over the summer. Your learning can fill all of life and sometimes moving it outside the “normal” school hours makes it even more special.
If You’re Ahead …
If you are way ahead on Read-Alouds, you can read the sequel to a book you’ve enjoyed or watch a movie inspired by the book as a fun follow-up. My kids get passionate comparing book versus movie!
This may sound like Mean Mom territory, but I now hide our Read-Aloud books and pull them out just when it is time to read them so I can wield that “new book excitement” power and channel it directly to school time. This translates into my kids hanging on every word, wondering with me how a book is going to end. My children are then allowed to re-read a school title as many times as they like after we’ve read it together. Providing them plenty of other good material keeps them from zooming ahead to finish all their reading for the year on Week 3.
If you have voracious readers like I do, keep a Free-Read Shelf of additional books that are up for grabs at any time. That keeps your kids reading for fun while you catch up in other subject areas. Sonlight Summer Readers, library books, or books from past Sonlight Cores can work well here.
Make It Your Own
No matter how you use your Sonlight Instructor’s Guide, you can pick and choose from the veritable learning feast laid at your fingertips. The body of background information and thoughtful planning is there for the taking. There are plenty of ways to adapt your schedule and still gain significant value from your Instructor’s Guide. You are the expert on your family and you can unapologetically flex your plan to what fits your family best.
Find the freedom of educating your kids at their own pace with a Sonlight program. No matter when you start your school year, your plans are ready.