Although your Sonlight Instructor's Guide might look overwhelming to begin with, after spending a few minutes getting acquainted, you will feel at ease with your big binder. It looks more confusing than it is! Even if you’ve never taught children before, you can do this!
Follow these five simple steps for a quick Instructor’s Guide orientation.
1. Identify the 3 IG Subjects
Sonlight sells Instructor’s Guides for three subjects:
- History / Bible / Literature (HBL)
- Language Arts (LA)
They have the same general format—a schedule grid with notes—but cover different topics. When you ordered, you chose either a 4-day or a 5-day schedule, based on the overall workload you want to do, and whether you are in a co-op on the fifth day.
2. Find Your 36 Divisions
All Sonlight Instructor’s Guides have 36 numbered divisions. A traditional school year has 180 days, and 36 x 5 is 180. You can think of each division as a week, and Sonlight materials speak of 36 weeks, even though you often won’t actually do the four or five days on the schedule in a calendar week. The school year is filled with holidays, field trips, occasional illness, appointments, and so on. Rather, think of your year as “doing the next thing.”
With a 36 “week” division, you have many opportunities to celebrate progress. Every four weeks you’ve finished a month, every nine weeks you’ve finished a quarter, every 12 weeks you finish a trimester, and 18 weeks equals a semester. You’re never more than four weeks away from a milestone!
3. Understand the 3 Main Parts
The Instructor’s Guide itself has three parts:
- Section One: An Introduction with some information that the program developers found helpful.
- Section Two: The bulk of information and the schedule, divided into 36 "weeks." You’ll spend most of your attention here throughout the year.
- Additional Notes: These depend on the type of IG—whether it’s an HBL, LA, or Science IG.
4. Get to Know Your Schedule
Notice that your schedule is a grid. At the top, you can see the total number of days you’ve finished (out of either 180, for a 5-day program, or 144, for a 4-day program), as well as where you are in that specific “week.”
The left column gives the name of the book you’ll use; the other four or five columns give the specifics about which pages you’ll read each week. For most weeks of the year, your weekly prep amounts to thirty seconds before you start reading to gather up any new books you’ll be starting that week. Easy!
Most Sonlighters work vertically, column by column, doing the assignments for a day, then moving on to the next school day. This gives you a range of assignments to enjoy every day.
Some people, however, prefer to work horizontally, perhaps reading all the poetry and all the History in a day, then doing the Read-Alouds next. This is a fine choice, too.
And other parents find that they want to read ahead in a book, and so they get a little ahead in the Read-Alouds, but stay on track with the History and Science. All of these are fine options.
5. Discover All the Extras in Your IG
Even if all you use is the Sonlight schedule, your IG purchase is still worth it. Sonlighters who only use the schedule still feel their children get an excellent education. But here are some of the additional features that you might choose to use.
- Bible and History Notes and Questions: Available to enhance your school year. You’ll find these notes directly following the schedule.
- Reader and Read-Aloud Notes: Find these organized in Section Three at the back of the IG. They are separated into a Read-Aloud section and a Reader section, and organized by book title in alphabetical order. This offers maximum flexibility for you—if you aren’t exactly in step with the IG’s assignments, you can easily find the book notes that match the book you’re reading. You can remove the notes and either keep them with the book you’re reading, or insert into the weekly division of your IG.
- Timeline figures, map points, definitions, cultural literacy notes: All of these are additional features. The HBL IG gives suggestions for characters you might want to note in your Timeline Book; the IG has a different symbol for the actual timeline figure stickers that you can add. The map points correspond to the small maps included with your IG, but you can also write in the place names on the Markable Map. Want to know a definition, or to know some aspect of history that isn’t as obvious? The IG includes selected entries—like a personalized dictionary and encyclopedia—so your family can learn as easily and quickly as possible.
- Activity Sheets: The LA and Science Guides include worksheets. Use as many or as few as you choose—classroom teachers never do all the worksheets available to them, and you needn’t feel you must, either.
- Assignments in lighter font: These are optional resources, scheduled for you—things like hands-on projects or workbooks. This is a courtesy for customers who ordered these products. (If you opted against purchasing these items initially, but would like to add them on at some point, you’ll get the same discount, and the same free shipping you would have gotten on the day you first ordered.)