It’s time for some brutal honesty here...Chances are, you aren’t going to be able to do every single Sonlight level. I know! It’s a real bummer. They all look so good, and trust me, we haven’t found a lemon in the whole bunch yet! So when you begin this homeschool journey, how do you go about mapping out your Sonlight plan to create the very best education for your child?
Sketch It Out
A lot of Sonlighters begin planning in kindergarten or even preschool. At this age, it’s hard to know the course your child will take in life. Chances are fairly good that they aren’t leaning toward one profession just yet, and that’s perfectly normal! There is truly no pressure at this stage, so the best idea if you are just starting out, is to sketch out your plan in pencil, knowing it’s okay to change things.
Your sketch might look something like this progression of History / Bible / Literature programs:
- Preschool (age 3) HBL T
- Pre-K (age 4) HBL P
- Kindergarten (age 5) HBL K (It’s new, and it’s absolutely lovely!)
- 1st Grade HBL A
- 2nd Grade HBL B
- 3rd Grade HBL C
- 4th Grade HBL D
- 5th Grade HBL E
- 6th Grade HBL F
- 7th Grade HBL G
- 8th Grade HBL H
- 9th Grade HBL 100
- 10th Grade HBL 200
- 11th Grade HBL 300
- 12th Grade HBL 400
This is a pretty basic map for Sonlight HBLs from early childhood through high school graduation.
Condensed Courses for Starting Mid-career
But what if you didn’t begin homeschooling or using Sonlight at the preschool/kindergarten level? Don’t fret! You can begin any time! One of my favorite tips for folks starting midstream is to use the condensed courses so you get the very best of two levels in one year.
Tweak the Plan
As you go, tweak the plan! Make it fit your child. Take your cues from your child’s interests, get out that big pink eraser, and get to work tweaking your original plan.
- Is your child a science buff? Don’t let them miss out on HBL J History of Science for ages 13-15! For example, in seventh grade use the condensed World History course HBL W and use HBL J in 8th grade.
- Is your child not interested in Church History? Switch it out for World History instead.
Consider Alternate Options
If your child is laser-focused on school and wants to squeeze more Sonlight goodness into their education, consider alternative scheduling.
- Schedule a level during the summer.
- Schedule a program during a gap year after your child’s senior year.
- Or work more quickly through a program so you can cover 2 HBLs in a year or maybe 3 HBLs in two years.
Remember, a whole education doesn’t have to fit in the typical 13-year plan. Everyone is different. Some kids need more time. Some kids want more time. Some kids can’t wait to move on with life! Having regular discussions with your child will help you identify what they need.
Allow Your Child to Participate in The Planning
Ownership is a huge step toward cultivating responsibility in our children. They must own their education to value it, and we encourage that sense of ownership by giving them a voice.
Sit down regularly with your child. Ask them how their education is going. Talk to them about what they would like to study in the future. Browse the Sonlight catalog with them. Let them help you make your Sonlight order.
Give them the task of organizing the books when they come in. Older children can set up their own learning areas. There are multiple ways that you can encourage ownership over your child’s education. Don’t make all the decisions by yourself. Invite them in to the conversation.
Understand That Learning Isn’t Over at Twelfth Grade
Your child is likely going to miss out on a great book or even a great course of study. Maybe they really wanted to take that Church History course, but they just ran out of time. I understand, but here’s what I’ve learned. When I began homeschooling, I had no idea that there was so much I didn’t know. That first year, I learned probably more than my kids did, and I absolutely fell in love. From then on, I developed an insatiable thirst for learning, and to this day, I’m still learning right along with my children.
Learning doesn’t end at 12th grade.
Believe it or not, I ordered the Church History level when my kids were much too young for it, and I did it for me. I’m sure there was a part of me that thought that I would save it for my children, too, but I wanted to learn more about Church History, so I did.
We aren’t cranking kids through a 13-year program and saying, “Okay, you have achieved perfection now. Go be an adult!” Instead, we are saying, “This is how you learn things that you need to know. Now that you know how, you’ll be able to do anything that God calls you to do.”
Learning is a gift.
Pass that sense of value on to your children by showing them what a life-long learner looks like. Don’t worry about the things you couldn’t give them.
If you gave them the knowledge to figure things out, you’ve given them the gift of an education.
Work The Plan. Don’t Let The Plan Work You.
Finally, know that there will be bumps in your plan. Every year will have its interruptions. If you miss a book here and there, simply put it in the summer reading basket. Don’t stress when your plan goes awry.
Also don’t allow the plan to dictate every minute of your day. A great education sometimes feels like being trapped in the picture book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Let me demonstrate. If your child wants to chase a rabbit trail of world history, chase it with them. If that leads them to spend a semester studying Adolf Hitler, let them. If that leads to another semester of studying Germany Then and Now, do it. It’s okay to go off plan sometimes. Don’t let your plan be your master.
You want to get it right, don’t you? We all want to get it right. The stakes are too high to mess things up. But guess what moms and dads? You’re not going to. The fact that you are planning for your child’s future tells me that you are invested in who they become. That is a great start. Keep planning, and keep learning. It will all be worth it.
Sonlight Advisors can help you choose this year's curriculum and scope out a comprehensive plan for the years to come.