From Public School to Homeschool: Shedding a Testing Mentality

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From Public School to Homeschool: Shedding a Testing Mentality

Spelling tests on Friday, language tests every other Friday, math tests after each unit (usually landing on Friday somehow), science test after each unit (also on Friday)....

If your school experience was like mine, Fridays were usually test days.

In addition to regular, routine tests and quizzes, public schools administer yearly standardized testing, too. In some schools, teachers can spend significant time teaching how to take standardized tests, how to get high scores on those tests, and how to manage stress and anxiety during testing times.

Public school students become accustomed to plenty of testing.

Why Do Public Schools Test So Much?

In a class of 25, it's impossible for a teacher to constantly monitor which skills each student knows without widespread testing. Routine assessments allow teachers to pinpoint exactly where a child is on the learning spectrum. If her class is consistently low in a particular skill, she will be able to adjust her instruction to cover those weak skills. Testing also allows teachers to concretely communicate with parents about how their child is performing in class.

On a larger scale, standardized testing can give schools a picture of how they are doing in comparison to other schools in the nation. This can help schools to identify weak areas and address them. Standardized testing can also help a student’s parents to see weaknesses and strengths and stay informed on their child’s progress without being right beside them all day.

These are a few valid reasons that public schools use a lot of traditional testing methods.

Why Should Homeschoolers Shift Their Mindset on Testing?

Homeschoolers should shift their mindset on testing methods because homeschooling is a totally different method of educating.

Homeschoolers have significantly lower teacher-to-student ratios. In addition, homeschool parents are even more invested than teachers in the endeavor of educating because they are educating their own child. Finally, most homeschoolers use a curriculum that is already developed from beginning to end, so they are constantly building on concepts. If homeschoolers stick with one curriculum company throughout their schooling, they can be fairly certain that there will be minimal, if any, gaps in their child’s education. 

Because of this unique combination, homeschoolers simply don’t need testing in the traditional sense. Most homeschool parents work closely enough with their children each day that they will know their child’s weaknesses and strengths. We also don’t have to test masses of children at one time. We are able to assess what a child knows in a one-on-one setting. This is what makes assessing different for homeschoolers. 

So If I Don’t Do Traditional Testing, What Should I Do?

When you think of testing, the picture in your mind is probably a child sitting in a desk with paper and pencil and a little anxiety mixed in.

I want to challenge you to shift your mindset from testing to assessing.

Assessing means to evaluate or estimate one’s ability. This is what we are doing constantly, and we usually don’t even know it.

When I watch my daughter work on a gymnastics skill like a cartwheel, I am assessing her ability to accomplish that skill. When she first starts, I will probably say something like, “That was a good try! Keep working on it!” As she keeps trying and progresses, I might say, “Oh, you’ve almost got it! I can tell you’ve been practicing!” When she finally nails the landing, we are going to celebrate, and I’ll probably say something like, “Yes! I knew you’d nail it this time! You’ve got it! Way to work hard!” I have just assessed her ability in that gymnastics skill. If I had handed her a pencil and a piece of paper, and said, “Okay, show me with this pencil and paper that you know how to do a cartwheel,” well, you’d probably call me crazy. 

And yet, we tend to think of school only in paper and pencil terms.

If a child can spell a word correctly out loud, must I force him to write it down to know that he can? Of course not! He just spelled it out loud correctly. As homeschoolers, we need to shift our mindset past the traditional testing methods and move toward the methods that best suit our children.

So that’s brings us to the million dollar question: 

How do I assess my child?

There are so many ways to assess your child that I couldn’t write them all down if I tried, but let me see if I can give you a short synopsis. 

Assess with Oral Narration

Oral narration is an undervalued yet extremely effective and gentle tool.

After reading a passage from a novel or a science lesson, have your child narrate (tell back or summarize) what they read to you. In the early years, you’ll probably need to prompt their narration with some questions, but as your child grows accustomed to the practice, narration will come completely natural, and you and your child will both forget that you are assessing them.

Generally, the practice of oral narration leads to a life of rich discussion between you and your child. It also hits those speech and communication goals. In oral narration, you are asking your child to go above simple memory recall and move on to  more mature levels of information processing, such as synthesizing, summarizing, and analyzing. 

Assess with Projects

Many times after reading a book, I’ll have my daughter create a piece of art that reflects her reading. She has the heart of an artist, so this type of assessment is very exciting for her. She has created some gorgeous works of art as a response to her literature reading. Most recently, she painted a portrait of the award-winning racehorse, Sea Biscuit, after reading his biography. Her attention to detail was stunning, and it showed me so much more than a multiple choice test ever could. From her artwork, I could tell that she lived in Sea Biscuit’s world while she was reading his story. 

Another example that comes to mind is when our co-op recently learned about adding money, so we opened a restaurant. The children designed and wrote out their menus. Then, they planned and prepared the opening of their restaurant. They each took turns being customers and waiters and all had plenty of practice adding up the customers’ tickets. They had the time of their life, and the restaurant business kept going long past my assessment time. 

Other project-based assessments could include

  • science projects or experiments
  • opening a lemonade stand
  • creating a diorama for history
  • building a cardboard clubhouse to demonstrate measurement skills
  • writing a quick book recommendation for a friend

Your imagination is your sole limit when it comes to project-based learning. Most of the time, you’ll find that project-based assessments will cross into multiple academic areas, and you’ll be able to assess a few other skills too.

Of course, the best part about this type of learning is that there is zero anxiety. Your child will not even know that they are being tested. They will just think that Mom and Dad are the best teachers ever. (And you are!)

Assess by Trading Places

There is nothing that shows your knowledge on a certain topic more than having to teach it. Leverage this power of teaching with your kids. Trade places with them and tell them that you’ll be the student while they are the teacher.

If your child can explain a skill to you, you can be sure that they know it. This is a particularly great way to assess math, but it works for any subject. 

You can also do this in a more organic way by saying, “Could you teach your sister how to multiply 3 x 4? I’m just so busy right now.” Teaching siblings is a great way to assess knowledge...that is, of course, if the younger sibling is a willing student!

Assess with Paper and Pencil Testing

Are you surprised that I included this method? Believe it or not, I’m not opposed to traditional testing, but I use it sparingly.

There is value in teaching your child how to test well, especially as they get in the upper grades. Your older student will need to know how to take tests, so it’s important to sprinkle in formal assessments as they get older.

However, I would give a little advice: Don’t beat a dead horse. If your child can do three problems correctly, don’t make them answer twenty. Testing with paper and pencil should be purposeful, not busy work, and it should challenge students, especially in higher levels, to think on higher levels, not simply recalling information over and over. 

I listed traditional testing last, because I think it should be the last option on our minds, particularly in the younger years. While there is value in it, homeschoolers have the ability to make assessment as exciting as learning, and children should be thrilled by learning, not burdened by it.

If cramming for a test is necessary, your child probably hasn’t really learned the material yet, and I would recommend that you spend a little more time on it. The educational process should be a delightful time in a person’s life. It should be full of wonder and appreciation for all the wonderful things God has given us to marvel. Assessing doesn’t have to ruin that wonder and appreciation.

Sonlight Tools Save You Time

Imagine going to bed each night without worrying about what to teach in the morning. That's what Sonlight Instructor's Guides offer you!

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Homeschooling Multiple Children: Top Tips For Success

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Homeschooling Multiple Children: Top Tips For Success

Homeschooling is a choice that can make a big difference in the overall education of your child. But what happens when you need to consider the needs of multiple children? The fact is most homeschooling families are doing so with multiple children. If you find yourself wondering how to best approach educating more than one learner at home, you are not alone!

The Reality Of Homeschooling Multiple Children

Although it may feel overwhelming at first, homeschooling multiple children is not only doable, but in many instances, it may actually add to your children’s educational experience. Combined learning offers opportunities for discussion and contemplation. Having siblings who can work together may take some of the pressure off of you, as the teacher/parent. Finally, homeschooling multiple ages allows for an overall lifestyle of learning that supports sibling closeness and parent-child relationships.

While there are many benefits, that certainly doesn’t mean that it is easy!

Because we know this is a pressing concern for many homeschoolers, we gathered Sonlight parent mentors from all walks of life, with children of all ages, and asked for their very best tips and tricks for homeschooling multiple ages.

Top Tips For Homeschooling Multiple Ages

We met with several of our Sonlight Homeschool Mentors and asked them to share what has worked best for them in their own homeschools, and in their experiences supporting other homeschool families.

These are their very best tips for thriving while homeschooling multiple children.

1. Use Your Parental Expertise

You know your children best! One important tip is to use this to your advantage. 

When you are homeschooling multiple children, you are also homeschooling multiple personalities and energy levels. Jen Price, a Sonlight Homeschool Mentor and mom of four children of mixed ages shares,

“Deal with the highest maintenance kid first thing in the day. This should keep the highest energy child calm and focused, and that sometimes helps everybody else do the same. Also, you know who the instigator is in your family. If you keep the instigator within your line of sight, or even within your reach, things can go much more smoothly. You’ll be able to head things off at the pass as behaviors are brewing, rather than letting them fester into something that takes the entire day off the rails.”

2. Use Your Personal Discretionary Time Wisely

Each time you add a child to the homeschooling mix, you will notice less and less discretionary time available for your wants and needs. You will want to be intentional about scheduling and keeping your personal time your own. You will also want to consider how to best use it wisely. Sonlight homeschool mom and Mentor, Amber Severance’s advice went so far as to recommend that on homeschool days, you have an easy hairstyle.

Anything and everything you can do to preserve your own time is essential to maintain your own health and self-care as you homeschool multiple-aged children. 

3. Flexibility Is Key

Ask any veteran homeschool mom, and she will likely tell you that the most predictable thing in your homeschool is that there will be interruptions and a need to adjust your plans and schedule. Essentially, the most predictable part of homeschooling multiple children is the unpredictability.

“My top tip for homeschooling with multiple students is to always be adapting and adjusting to what works best for the time. Over the years, this has looked different for us as we have homeschooled with 1, 2, 3, and 4 students. For example, one of my favorite things to do during the Christmas break is to step back. It's a great time to evaluate what you've been doing, if there are any problem spots, and how you might adjust. Just little adjustments sometimes can make a big difference.”

Christie Cook, Sonlight Homeschool Mentor

4. Schedule It All

Many parents homeschooling multiple ages say the secret to their success is scheduling every part of the day, by subject, by child. For example, homeschool mom Johna Lawrence shares,

“I did it by scheduling. When I had all four kids during school, or even just the top three kids, I would schedule one of my oldest kids to play with the youngest while I worked with the other two. They may or may not be in the same subject, but handling two at a time was a lot easier than having four kids asking me five different things. Chart out your day and schedule some bonding time with the older kids to be with the youngest ones to help them read a book, play blocks, anything that helps create some space in your day.”

5. Manage Expectations

Sometimes, the very best thing you can do in your homeschool, no matter how many children you have in your care, is to let go and be realistic about your expectations.

For Sonlight Mentor Amber Severance, one of her most challenging homeschooling times was having her fifth child and then moving within two weeks to live with her parents. She has been homeschooling since her oldest, who is 24, was in preschool, with a 12-year age gap between her oldest and youngest children.  She says, 

“We made it through by managing expectations. We can talk about scheduling, but part of it is a mental game where you say, this is my life and this is my choice and we're going to accept it, and do our best by God's grace.”

Homeschooling Multiple Ages With Sonlight

We agree with our homeschool mentors and appreciate their sharing so many wonderful tips and hard-won wisdom!

Sonlight is designed to support families homeschooling multiple children in so many ways. A simple example is in our schedule. We help you schedule your homeschool with a well-planned, day-by-day schedule, created to make your homeschool day run smoothly. Sonlight is an excellent choice for homeschool families with multiple children as our program includes these essential components:

  1. Literature-based learning that allows for multiple ages to gather around and read aloud together.
  2. “Couch Subjects" and “Table Subjects” that allow you to clearly delineate which subjects can be tackled as a family and which ones need an individualized approach.
  3. Hands-on, creative supporting resources that are appropriate for a variety of ages.

Learn more about how Sonlight makes homeschooling multiple ages a breeze in this video.

Take a look at the Sonlight catalog. It has helps for combining children along with detailed package descriptions to help you make the best choices. For even more help and advice homeschooling multiple children, please contact our Advisors.
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Your 5-step Summer To-do List for Homeschooling this Fall

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Your 5-step Summer To-do List for Homeschooling this Fall

Did you know a winning school year starts in the summer? Summer is a time for rest, vacation, adventure, exploration, and also for planning and gearing up for the new school year. If we approach the summer months with strategic intention, we can lay the groundwork for a more successful school year.

There are five simple summer actions to set your homeschool on a successful trajectory.  

1. Review Math and Reading

Throughout the summer, I continue to work on math facts and reading to keep those skills fresh. Although we don't work on these everyday, I make sure that there is enough review throughout the summer that we don’t have to start the school year re-learning everything.

Making math and reading fun throughout the summer will increase your child’s excitement and willingness to review. That's why I recommend playing games, exploring math in real life, and investing in bonus resources like MathTacular! and Summer Readers.

2. Clean Out and Reorganize

If this is your first year homeschooling, your summer to-do list for sure needs to include creating a space for learning and storing school supplies and books.

If you are a returning homeschooler, take time during the summer to clean out, file, and throw away old papers. There is nothing worse than starting a new school year with old student papers and last year’s curriculum still scattered about.

Re-organize your home library and take inventory of your curriculum to make sure you have all you need. If you're using an older program with a younger sibling, consider what consumables you may need. Go through all of your school supplies and remove any broken crayons or dried-up glue.

Declutter closets, shelves, and tables. Reorganize any learning activities and supplements. Newbies and old-timers alike need to make room for new curriculum.

3. Prep Your Curriculum

I learned this tip the hard way. My very first year homeschooling, I did not cut out, print, or prep anything ahead of time. It was a disaster!

If you have anything that needs cutting out, like Sonlight’s Sound Cards for example, or anything that needs to be copied ahead of time, like some of the TOPS science books, do it during the summer to avoid frustration during the school year. To avoid feeling overwhelmed by the planning and preparation, break it up into small jobs over the summer months. Don’t feel like you must get it all done in one sitting.

4. Invest in Yourself

Use the time during the summer to teach yourself. Consider it your own professional development or teacher in-service:

Educate yourself and help yourself grow as a mom and homeschool teacher by digging into the many resources available, like Ruth Beechick’s You Can Teach Your Child Successfully.

If you're a first-time homeschooler take advantage of an appointment with a Sonlight Advisor. They can help!

5. Plan a Schedule or Routine

Writing out a schedule or routine for the new year will be immensely helpful by creating a vision and keeping you focused. Think through each child’s needs and the subjects they will be learning. Create a plan that will benefit everyone’s activities and produce a low-stress environment.

If you're new to homeschooling, read through our library of posts about planning and scheduling. There are many ways to structure your year, week, and day.

By taking advantage of our summers we can set up our family up for a successful school year. Have fun this summer and make memories, but don’t forget to look ahead every once in a while along the way.  

Curriculum Checklist
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Favorite Kids Books Also Made Into Movies: Fun Homeschool Study Ideas

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Great books are foundational to learning for all ages. Finding a book that has also been made into a movie can take reading to a whole new level in your homeschool. This list of favorite kids books that have also been made into movies is a great way to kick off summer learning.

The Best Reading Lists For All Ages

This summer, we put together lists of favorite books personally recommended by Sonlight homeschool families. Because good books are the foundation of everything we do at Sonlight, we were thrilled to see so many amazing titles, and favorites of homeschoolers everywhere, all in one place.

While compiling these comprehensive catalogs, we noticed that many of these compelling books were also made into wonderful movies or TV/streaming series! Reading a good book, and then watching the movie together as a family, is a great way to inspire reading, discussion, and relationships in your homeschool.

Top Children's Books Also Made Into Entertaining Movies:

Mr. Popper's Penguins

Mr. Popper's Penguins
Get the book | Watch the movie

Mr. Popper’s Penguins is a classic American book for children which was first published in 1938. Mr. Popper is a humble house painter who is sent the gift of a male penguin from the great Admiral Drake. The arrival of a second, female penguin means the house is soon alive with 12 penguins! Mr. Popper’s Penguins is a fun and enchanting story for children and parents and can be found in Sonlight's History / Bible / Literature B program.

Nim's Island

Get the book! | Watch the movie!

Nim lives on a remote island in the middle of the ocean, with her father, an iguana named Fred, a sea lion called Selkie, and a turtle named Chica. Wonderful and free, Nim loves her life. But when her father disappears while our sailing and disaster threatens her home and friends, Nim must be braver than she's ever been before.

The Hunger Games

Get the book! | Watch the Movie!

Katniss Everdeen is a sixteen-year-old girl, strong and an expert in hunting for food to feed her family after the death of her father. In an annual lottery, her younger sister, Prim, is chosen to be a "tribute" and compete in The Hunger Games. Despite the extreme danger and injustice of it all, Katniss volunteers to go instead.

The Hobbit

Get the book! | Watch the movie!

Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit living a quiet, comfortable life, never traveling further than the area around his hobbit hole. This changes when the wizard, Gandalf, and a company of 13 dwarves, come to his home to whisk him away on an important, adventurous journey to "there and back again".

The Lord Of The Rings

Get the book! | Watch the movie!

The Fellowship of the Ring, is the first volume in this trilogy. At the core of the story is the fateful power of the One Ring. A magnificent tale of adventure, members of the Fellowship of the Ring are plunged into a perilous quest that sets the stage for an important clash between the powers of good and evil.

The Bad Guys

Get the book! | Watch the movie!

These wannabe heroes may look like Bad Guys—after all, there is a wolf, piranha, snake, and shark—but these animals known for their rottenness are committed to doing good deeds, often with hysterical consequences. This cheerily illustrated and cheekily funny book was featured in Sonlight's 2020 Elementary Boys Summer Reading package.

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

Get the book! | Watch the movie!

Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie, four siblings, step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia. Narnia is under the power of the White Witch, eternally frozen. When it seems like hope is lost, the Great Lion, Aslan, returns and brings a great change and a great sacrifice.

The Book Thief

Get the book! | Watch the movie!

Markus Zusak's unforgettable story is about how books can feed our souls, no matter how dark our circumstances. Set in 1939 Nazi Germany, a young Liesel Meminger is a foster girl near Munich. She survives by stealing when she finds something she can’t resist—books. She shares these stolen books with neighbors during bombing raids and with the Jewish man hiding in her basement.


Get the book! | Watch the movie!

Lucky for Sophie, the BFG is a sweet and bumbling giant. But when Sophie hears that the other, more threatening giants are heading off to England to kidnap more children, she and the BFG are going to stop them once and for all.

The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind

Get the book! | Watch the movie on Netflix!

A captivating memoir of survival and determination about a young, brilliant inventor who brought electricity to his Malawian village.

Charlotte's Web

Get the book! | Watch the movie!

The timeless story of Wilbur the pig and Charlotte, the wise and maternal spider who saves him. This book has touched hearts for more than 50 years. You can find it in Sonlight's History / Bible / Literature B and B+C program.

The Tale Of Despereaux

Get the book! | Watch the movie on Netflix.

The story of a mouse, a rat, and a girl who embark on a journey that leads them into a terrible dungeon, up to a beautiful castle, and, eventually, into each other's lives. A kind of fairy tale that shows anyone can be a hero, and that there is darkness and light in all of us.

Watership Down

Get the book! | Watch the series on Netflix

A perilous journey of courage, adventure, and survival for a small band of rabbits seeking the safety of Watership Down. The characters and the culture they share are engaging and meaningful for readers of all ages.

The Mysterious Benedict Society

Get the book! | Watch the series!

A group of children with extraordinary gifts and talents are recruited by the mysterious Mr. Benedict. Their goal? To infiltrate an evil institute run by his reprehensible twin brother.

Make Movie Night Fun And Educational For The Whole Family

There are many benefits to watching movies together as a family. Here are just a few:

  • Bond over a shared experience. Watching a movie together can help you and your child connect as you experience the story together. It's easy to share thoughts and feelings, and even laugh together as you discuss the movie. Check out our list of open-ended questions to get you started with a robust family discussion after the movie.
  • Movies can help introduce new ideas. Seeing it on the screen can be a wonderful way to expose your child to new ideas, places, and characters. Movies can also help kids learn about different values and cultures.
  • It's relaxing and fun!  Watching a movie together is an easy way to relax with your child. There's virtually no prep and it allows you to simply enjoy some time together.

Make movie night a special, fun, memory-making activity (and add in a little learning too) with our list of favorite children's books made into movies!

From this list, what movies have you seen?

We'd love to hear which you liked better—the book or the movie? And share any additional books made into movies we may have missed that you'd like to see added to this list!

Request a Catalog
Whether you read the book before or after watching the movie, Sonlight has hundreds of titles your home library needs! Request a print catalog to dive more deeply into what Sonlight can offer your family.
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Winners of the 2023 Sonlight Photo Contest

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Did you know we only feature real photos and testimonials from our customers in our marketing? That's right! Every family you see on our website, in our catalog, in emails, on social media, in our blog posts, and more—are real Sonlight families!

Every year we host a photo competition to give Sonlighters a chance to share a compelling story and photo about their experience with Sonlight. Not only is it a chance to showcase your #sonlightstories, but all entrants to the competition earn a shot at being on the Sonlight catalog cover!

We love seeing how Sonlight shows up in your day-to-day life as you love learning with your kids, and we thank you to all of the families who participated in this year's photo contest. Congratulations to the three winners featured below!

WINNER: The V. Family, Sonlighters in Idaho

We had always planned to homeschool, but when the time came, I was overwhelmed by all the different options. I knew that with lots of little ones in our family, I needed a curriculum that was “open and go" and didn’t require a lot of preparation from me. Sonlight was the perfect solution," admits Kirsten V. "That first year showed me how wonderful literature-based learning could be. I like to say “I came for the IGs and stayed for the books!” We have been using Sonlight for 9 years now, and it has been such a blessing for our family!" Pictured: Sophia (9), Brennan (7), and Levi (5) having fun playing with baby chicks while learning about them in their Science A program from several years ago! Not pictured: Sara (13, Level H), Daniel (12, Level E), Anna (10, Level E),  Levi (4), Zoe (3), Brielle (2), and Joshua (8 mo). —The V. Family, Sonlighters in Idaho

WINNER: The R. Family, Sonlighters in New York

During our first year of homeschooling, I felt completely overwhelmed," admits Alicia R of New York. "However, Sonlight provided the structure we all needed to have a successful first year. We loved the curriculum, which offered beautiful books, intentional lessons, and tremendous opportunity for creativity. As we gained confidence, we found we were able to customize even further. Our homeschool thrives on Sonlight’s hands-on, literature-based approach to education! History, Bible, and literature have especially become favorite subjects. I love watching my boys learn to love learning!" Pictured: For active boys, history really needs to come to life in order to keep their interest. Owen (10) and Leeland (8) enjoy acting out some of their favorite HBL C characters in one of their favorite locations—the trampoline! Henry (3) and Hudson (baby) will follow in their older brothers' footsteps starting next year with PreK." —The R. Family, Sonlighters in New York

WINNER: The M. Family, Sonlighters of Sheridan, IN

Sonlight has become the heartbeat of our family," recounts Emily M of Sheridan, IN. "From the deep, theological discussions we have had regarding the Bible and what Jesus means to us, to the tears we've shed while reading about George Müeller and his legacy, as well as the excitement of completing a successful science experiment, Sonlight has been central to our days. As their primary teacher who does not have an educational background, the thought of teaching multiple children at different levels intimidated me. However, because of the way Sonlight has curated the curriculum, I am confident that each child is getting exactly what she needs. I thank God every day that I found Sonlight, and that it is working so well for our family." Pictured: The M family's favorite time of the weeks is Poet-Tea where they read poetry and take turns fixing teas and snacks. They have loved the rich poems in the poetry book, and they have worked on hospitality and manners, all in one lesson!" —The M. Family, Sonlighters in Indiana

Thanks again for making this year's photo contest a success. Keep sharing your #sonlightstories year-round! We love your Box Day photos, your day-to-day experiences, and the end-of-the-year #sonlightstack shots of all you've accomplished.

Keep sharing your #sonlightstories

You don't need to wait for the annual photo contest to encourage other families with your everyday homeschool stories. You never know when something you submitted may appear in a catalog, on our homepage, or on the Sonlight blog.

We invite you to share your pictures directly on the Sonlight website or on your favorite social media platform all year long. If sharing on social media, tag us (@sonlightcurriculum and @sonlight) and be sure to include hashtags #sonlightstories, #sonlightstack, or #sonlightboxday.

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Test Drive Homeschooling this Summer: A DIY Guide for Families

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Test Drive Homeschooling this Summer: A DIY Guide for Families

I would be a millionaire if I had a dime for every time I’ve heard, “I would love to homeschool. I just don’t think I could do it.”

Plenty of parents see the value in homeschooling and are drawn to the family togetherness and the student-centered, one-on-one instruction. But the difficult part of making the decision to homeschool is going in blind, unsure of what it will actually be like. If they could see a small glimpse of how it would work, they might be more willing to commit to homeschooling.

I have a solution for anyone in this situation! Give homeschooling a test drive this summer! Summer is a great time to test the waters of homeschooling.

Don’t worry! I know your kids want nothing to do with school during the summer, but that doesn’t mean that your homeschool test drive is on the outs before it even begins.

1. Decide on a Theme

Themes make everything more fun. Counting is okay, but counting whales is awesome. Studying history is alright, but studying knights and castles...what kid would turn their nose up at that? I recommend you think about what your child is interested in. Use this list of summer themes as a jumping off point, but remember, it’s your camp, so get creative!

  • Under the Ocean
  • Buggin’ Out
  • Dinosaurs
  • Around the World in 80 Days!
  • Mad Science
  • Once Upon a Time
  • Inventors & Inventions

2. Gather Resources as a Base for Your Homeschool Test Drive

Unless you have some specific academic goals, you’ll probably want to gear your summer homeschool camp toward the more engaging subjects like science and history.

One good way to jump-start a homeschool test drive would be to purchase a Sonlight Science Program or a Discover & Do Science Experiment Kit. These packages come with a guide that tells you exactly what you need to do and all the literature you will read. But the best part is that it comes with a well-stocked supplies kit containing most of the hard-to-find supplies for the suggested experiments. While Sonlight Science is a 36-week program, it would be easy to split that into three sections and use one each summer or simply condense the course. Of course, if you decide to homeschool, you can just continue the curriculum right into the school year.

Or if you prefer the history route, consider purchasing a Hands-on History Kit from Sonlight. These kits are time period specific and contain a colorful guidebook and several projects that your family can do together.

Once you have your foundation for your summer homeschool, you may want to check your closest dollar store for trinkets and toys to go along with your theme to use as incentives. The library is also a great place to find supplementary reading material. Some libraries have themed kits already put together for you to use as a jumping-off point.

3. Create a Flexible Summer Schedule

Once you have your resources ready to go, you’ll want to make a schedule. Now, my first—and most important—piece of advice is do not overplan. If anything, underplan. It’s always easy to add activities in, but you’ll feel defeated if you get behind. So be realistic.

What is your summer schedule like? Will you have a lot of time or just a little to devote to your summer homeschool? Also think about your child. Will they come along willingly or will you have to work to get them excited about it? Adjust your schedule accordingly. Remember, it’s just a test’re just giving homeschool a spin. You aren’t in it for the long haul just yet. Don’t feel like you have to do every subject or every activity you find. Focus on engaging your child and take your cues from him.

Your summer schedule may look something like this:

  • 8:00-10:00 wake up, do chores
  • 10:00-12:00 Animal Planet Camp
  • 12:00-1:00 lunch

You’ll want to keep your schedule flexible because you’ll want to take advantage of the spontaneous fun that summer is known for. Don’t let your schedule tell you what to do. Create a flexible schedule that can be changed as needed.

4. Choose 2-4 Activities Per Day for Your Homeschool Test Drive

The idea here is to keep things simple. You’ll want to choose 2-4 activities or tasks each day, and I would even encourage you to only do your summer camp only three or four days per week. You don’t want to be too rigid in your summer planning. Here is an example of a summer camp day.

Animal Planet Camp Sample Day

  • Read aloud & discuss a book pertaining to the theme
  • Do an experiment or art project on the theme, or research an interesting fact further
  • Watch a video clip on the animal studied
  • Solve a math problem together: World Wildlife Fund says that 100 million sharks are killed every year around the world. What percentage of sharks are killed each year? At this rate, in how many years would sharks be in danger of extinction?

Yes, it’s really that simple. This will be just enough to get your feet wet and get a feel for what homeschooling might be like. It will also give you a chance to see how your children react. When you see how they respond to you, you may notice a few areas that you’ll need to work on. Don’t let these areas be a deal breaker though. Most trouble-spots can be worked out with time, patience, and communication.

Congratulations! You’re on your way to becoming a great summer homeschooler! You may just decide that you like it. Your kids may just thrive with the interest-led learning they did over the summer, and you might just decide to give formal homeschooling a try come fall. That’s great! But you’re probably asking, “Now what?”

After The Homeschool Test Drive: Should I Homeschool in the Fall?

You’ll probably want to start talking to some local homeschool moms. Building a local support system is a great help when you are new to homeschooling. You might also talk to a Sonlight Advisor who can point you in the right direction and talk you through choosing a curriculum.

You’ll want to check your state laws concerning homeschooling and find out the procedure for withdrawing your child from school. Then, you’ll probably think, “Oh my goodness, what have I done?” At this point, you’ll want to give yourself a pep talk. Here’s a script that I like to use myself. You can borrow it if you’d like!

I’m a little nervous about this, but I can do it because God is with me. Everything worth doing is a little scary. I know things won’t be perfect everyday, but I’m ready for the challenge. The mountaintops will outshine the valleys. I don’t know what I’m doing yet, but I’m a fast learner, and we’ll figure things out together.

If only this pep talk were all that you needed! It will give you a small boost, but you’ll still be nervous...and probably a little scared. That’s exactly how you need to feel! It means that you want to do a good job, and you will. I remember when I was pregnant with my first child, and the early labor signs were upon me. I had decided to go without any pain relief, and I was scared. I remember thinking to myself...Hundreds of thousands of mothers have been in exactly this situation before me. I can do it, too. That thought of solidarity with centuries of women really helped me through that moment. And I made it, even though I was scared.

Well, the great news is that hundreds of thousands of mothers have blazed the trail of homeschooling for you too. We are all together in this, and whether we admit it or not, we’re all at least a little scared. So, join hands with me and hundreds of years of women before us, and let’s all do it scared.

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When you are ready to get started on your journey, call the Sonlight Advisors today and join the Sonlight Connections Group.

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The Ultimate Summer Reading List For Elementary Students

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The Ultimate Summer Reading List For Elementary Students

Summer is here and we have the ultimate summer reading list for your elementary learners. This carefully curated list of books has been personally recommended by Sonlight families as the best of the best! Take a look at the titles and get some tips for keeping your kids reading all summer long.

The Ultimate Summer Reading List For Elementary Students

As part of our literature spotlight this year, we asked Sonlight families to share their very best recommendations for summer books. The following titles were crowdsourced directly from other like-minded parents. As always, please be sure to examine the books yourself to ensure they are appropriate for your family's individual needs.

Take a look at all the amazing books we have on our list and download a printable PDF copy below!

Titles that are part of a series are indicated with an asterik (*). See below for the complete list of series recommended by Sonlight families.

Sonlight Titles Recommended By Parents For Summer Reading

We were thrilled to see that many of the parent-sourced titles are books that we recommend and study as part of our literature-based curriculum. These 25 recommended titles are among the very best for elementary-aged readers and many are recommended in our curriculum packages.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh took our family by storm—we could not put it down! The heroism! Oh, we loved it. My children, 9,7, and 6, were all as absorbed as I was. Absolutely perfect for a summer read! B. Family Sonlighters

The Top Books Recommended By Parents Of Elementary Readers

In addition, these elementary-age books were repeatedly recommended by Sonlight parents.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

I just absolutely love The miraculous journey of Edward Tulane. It makes me cry every time.— M. Family Sonlighters

Top Book Series For Elementary Students 

It's wonderful when your child finds an author they love. This is a list of the top multi-book series recommended by parents for sensational summer reading.

And the #1 most recommended books/series...

Dream Keeper Saga (3 book series)
Dream Keeper Saga (3 book series)
Green Ember Series (4 book series)Green Ember Series (4 book series)
The Wingfeather Saga (4 book series)
The Wingfeather Saga (4 book series)
I Survived Series Complete Books Set (21 Books)I Survived Series Complete Books Set (21 Books)

(Looking for Summer Reading Lists for older readers? Check out our Middle School and High School Guides.)

Here is what we will be RE-reading this summer. The Dead Sea Squirrels is part of a 10 book series. Michael tags along with his dad on an archeological dig at the Dead Sea and he finds two squirrels that he thinks will make the perfect souvenir. Very funny and light hearted, quick reading kind of books. Lots of 5th grade type mischief and tons of giggles."

— K. Family Sonlighters

Keeping Your Children Interested In Reading Throughout The Summer

Here are some ideas to help keep your child engaged and reading all summer long:

  • Set a reading goal. This might be a specific number of books, a number of pages, or even just a target amount of time to read each day.
  • Make it fun. Make your family's approach to summer reading something enjoyable and fun. Going to the library, a special trip to the bookstore, or even reading aloud together can turn reading into a special event for your little one.
  • Create a habit of reading. One of best ways to keep your child reading is to make it automatic. Encourage your child to read every single day, even if it's just for a few minutes. Or, you may also set aside some time each day for family reading time.
  • Follow your child's interests. Finding books that correlate to your child's interests makes them that much more engaging.
  • Offer fun rewards. Small tokens of progress towards reading goals or special trips taken after finishing a book are a great way to encourage summer reading. For example, one Sonlight family went to visit the beach after reading a Who Would Win book about aquatic creatures.

By following these tips, you can help your child keep reading all summer long. Track your summer reading progress with Sonlight's FREE Summer Reading Challenge Kit too!

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