Sonlight Spotlight - Smith Family

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Each month the Sonlight team will choose a current family to highlight by sharing their #sonlightstories. If you’d like to shine a light on your family, apply here for a chance to be featured.

Meet the Smith Family!

Andy and Jillian homeschool their three children, daughter Harper (10), and sons Finley (7), and PK (6), in Oklahoma City. They were homeschooled themselves and met in a homeschool co-op at ages 9 & 11. Both ended up in traditional high schools, so they had a contrasting view of homeschooling and traditional school.  They really preferred homeschooling. Jillian says "When you’re having to pick curriculum or research learning theories, stuff that I didn’t have to do as a student, it was all new and maybe just as scary as starting without any experience. Andy was a big proponent and thought that we could do this."

Andy chimed in, “I really liked the freedom of learning at your pace, learning on your own and with your parents, and we wanted to cultivate that.  We thought we’d start it and take it year-by-year, and see what happens. We’ve really enjoyed it so far!” 

As Christians, the Smiths wanted to make sure during those formative years of their children’s lives, they were as involved and engaged as they could be to better shape and present their faith to them in different ways.  With parents who love reading and learning, they enjoy building memories around learning together. Some of Jillian's fondest memories are from the read-aloud books her mom ordered from Sonlight. Her mom still has these books and Jillian has gone back to read them again and again.

"I really wanted to give the kids time to learn to love to read, to learn, and to find the things they’re interested in. They’re not going to love every moment of it, but I wanted to give time for that." ~ Jillian Smith

Smith's daughter reading a book.

Field Trip Extreme

Something else the Smiths have enjoyed is taking their studies to the next level.  After finishing Red Sails to Capri, Jillian told the kids that the Blue Grotto is a real place. They turned to YouTube to see what it was like, and they realized they all wanted to go there!  The family thoroughly researched how they could travel there and was able to go in April of 2022.  They went to Rome for the first part of the week seeing some of the things they learned about in HBL B, and then took a train to Naples and a ferry to Capri to see the Blue Grotto. 

"It was pretty amazing to connect a place that we read about with a real place we could visit.  It was really wonderful!  The kids made connections between what they’re learning, real life, and other cultures.  I’m trying to make the argument that we need to go to England in preparation for D next year." ~ Jillian Smith


Thanks to the flexibility homeschooling offers, the Smiths have been able to travel when most kids would be in school. It took them a few years to realize that, but now they’re fully leveraging it. Upon realizing they have a finite number of summers with their children at home, they decided to travel more. Both Andy and Jillian came from military families and were able to travel as children, so they travel around in their RV and overseas.

Jillian says, “It’s still a process of trying to think outside the box, which is not as easy as you might think. You still fall back into thinking you need to take school breaks in the summer, but we are really trying to figure out what’s going to work for us.”

This summer is the first time they’re doing some school work when most children are taking a break. They are anticipating this will make getting back to school easier since they’re doing light math and reading right now.

Father's Role

With Andy working from home, he is in a unique position. Jillian still does the majority of the teaching, but he supports her and is excited about the opportunities that are coming. They already get to share Read-aloud times, and the kids do presentations for him.  

Andy adds, “These little tidbits when I grab a cup of coffee and I get to say hi. These are the moments I’m engaging with them. I think in years to come, we’ll learn even more about how much that really means to us.”

For Jillian, Andy’s support keeps her going when things get tough.  She’s not homeschooling alone because he is there and encouraging her and the kids.

 “This is a small amount of time that your kids are at home in the grand scheme of your life. Helping them learn and grow and being a part of their education is really priceless. We didn’t realize it while we were being homeschooled, but in high school and college, we had a way to learn and a different view of learning. It’s work, but it’s worthwhile for sure.” ~ Andy Smith

Smith Family in Italy

Smith Favorite Books

The Smith children have a lot of favorites, but these were the most memorable.

Red Sails to Capri

Captain Nobody

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library

About Average

Encyclopedia Brown

You can learn more about the Buckler family’s Sonlight experience by listening to their full interview on the Sonlight Connections podcast.

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Winners of the 2022 Sonlight Photo Contest

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Winners of Sonlight's 2022 Annual Photo Contest

You may not already know that we only feature real photos and stories from our customers in our marketing materials—in our homeschool catalog, online, on social media, and at homeschool conventions. So thank you to all of the families who participated in this year's photo contest and for sharing your #sonlightstories. Congratulations to the three winners featured below!

WINNER: The M Family, Sonlighters from Bartlett, TN

Sonlight's 2022 Annual Photo Contest Winner: The M Family, Sonlighters from Bartlett, TN
In this picture, the M Family children are reading at the library.

"We love starting our day by reading the children’s Bible provided in the curriculum and praying together. The rest of our day is centered around snuggling together and reading, which is an amazing way to bond with both of my children! I love that the curriculum is so thorough, and that both of my kids are learning science and history through the books and stories,” admits mom, Miranda.

"Our son was diagnosed with dyslexia this year, and it should have been a hard hit, but it wasn’t because we’ve been reading and sharing Sonlight books since he was a baby. Our son isn’t deterred by the dyslexia and is thriving!"

-The M family, Sonlighters from Bartlett, TN

WINNER: The C Family, Sonlighters from Ray City, GA

Sonlight's 2022 Annual Photo Contest Winner: The C Family, Sonlighters from Ray City, GA
Sonlight walks alongside of us as we joyfully disciple our children.

“Sonlight's curriculum has an honest approach to history that is wholistic and well-rounded at an age appropriate level. Throughout my education, I don't remember learning much history about men and women of other races or backgrounds. I am grateful that Sonlight is the type of program that any child that comes to our home can pull from our bookshelf and see a little boy or little girl just like them. They can read about a hero in history that made a difference, served others, and advanced the kingdom of God, and it just so happens that the hero they read about has their same eye color or skin tone or same textured hair.

The beautiful diversity of the Lord's creation is interwoven through Sonlight.

With Sonlight, our children can step into cultures and times in history while snuggled up next to the fire or at the kitchen table or while on a picnic.

As a family, we are thankful for Sonlight’s flexibility in our schedule to learn, explore, and discover something new. Our children ask us hard questions and wrestle through tough topics in human history. We parents get the privilege and honor to show them the goodness of God even in the midst of a broken, hurting world. Thanks, Sonlight!”  

The C Family, Sonlighters from Ray City, GA

WINNER: The C Family, Sonlighters from Selmer, TN

Sonlight's 2022 Annual Photo Contest Winner: The C Family, Sonlighters from Selmer, TN
Sonlight keeps the joy of learning alive in our home!

“We have used Sonlight from the start and fall more in love with it every year,” confesses Anna C of Selmer, TN. “As the years go by, we’ve made many memories, experienced sweet connections, created inside jokes, and have learned so much together, side by side, reading these beautiful books.

Because of Sonlight, our children love books, love history, love learning, and most importantly, are learning to love and serve our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

The C Family, Sonlighters from Selmer, TN

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.

Thank you for sharing your #sonlightstories

Keep sharing your #sonlightstories

You don't need to wait for the annual photo contest to encourage other families with your everyday homeschool stories.

We love your #sonlightboxday photos, your day-to-day experiences, and the end-of-the-year #sonlightstack shots of all you've accomplished—all year long! 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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Sonlight Spotlight - Buckler Family

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Each month the Sonlight team will choose a current family to highlight by sharing their #sonlightstories. If you’d like to shine a light on your family, apply here for a chance to be featured.

Meet the Buckler Family!

Andrew and Sierra homeschool their three children, Matthew (6), Hunter (4), and Lana (2), in California. They are first-year homeschoolers. While researching her curriculum choices, her neighbor shared that they kept coming back to Sonlight after trying other options. Sierra loved the Sonlight philosophy and that it was fully planned for them. As a first-time homeschool family, she felt comfort in knowing that everything needed was in one place. She was also excited that it was a Christ-centered curriculum, and Sierra loved that it was literature-based.

Sierra is aware that many families try a lot of different curriculums before finding what works best for their family. She is so thankful to her friend for introducing her to Sonlight because it is perfect, and they love it.

I feel so lucky and blessed that I found Sonlight so early in our homeschooling journey. We hit the homeschool jackpot because we found what works so perfectly for our family.  ~ Sierra Buckler

Homeschool Discovery

Sierra was blessed to get to stay home with their children since they were born and has always enjoyed teaching them. Sierra began to feel it was her calling to be raising my children and nourishing their little hearts and minds. 

"I think back then I had this hidden desire to homeschool, but I was unfamiliar with it. I didn’t know anyone who had done it before. I’ll admit I had some wrong preconceived notions about homeschooled kids. Since I was unfamiliar with it, I definitely lacked confidence within myself." Sierra Buckler

Sierra never lost that feeling, that desire, that little spark inside. All during this time, her mom would mention how she thought Sierra could homeschool and how great she thought Sierra and her husband would be at it. Circumstances began to line up that the subject of homeschooling kept arising making it evident that God was working through her because she would just continue to mention it and plant that little seed that started to build Sierra's confidence that, “Hey, maybe I could do this!

“I was unsure and not fully confident yet, but we decided to take a direct involvement in their education. We discovered Sonlight and embarked on this beautiful journey all together.” ~ Sierra Buckler

Homeschool Desires

The Bucker family started to seriously consider homeschooling when their oldest son was four.  They didn’t want their children to spend so much time away from home. They didn’t think the kids needed to be away from home for 6+ hours to receive the best education and maybe be influenced by worldviews that didn’t necessarily align with the Christian beliefs the Buckler family holds. They wanted their children to develop a great love for learning. Sierra and Andrew wanted more quality time with their children and to create a family that would grow and thrive together.  The Buckler kids could play, be creative, be outdoors playing, and get lost in their imaginations. They knew homeschooling would give them the opportunity to do all those things. When schools closed down in person due to COVID, it was the final nudge the Bucklers needed to make that decision to homeschool. They're really thankful for how it worked out because it wasn’t their vision at the very start.

"We wanted our children above all else to know God and love God, and we wanted to inspire them to honor him every day.” ~ Sierra Buckler

Homeschool Devotion

Because this is their first year of homeschooling, they know they still have a ton to learn. The Bucklers discovered that teaching is natural because as parents we are the first teachers to our children in life. There will be flaws in your homeschool, just as there would be in school anywhere. The family feels that they have grown closer together and you need to surrender the idea of what the ideal homeschool day is. There will be unanticipated situations that will arise. The Bucklers try to remember that the true way to live is to enjoy every moment that passes and the true beauty of life is in those little, everyday things around them.

"One thing that was big for me, an encouraging word for anyone considering homeschooling. You can do it! God gave you these children, made you their parent, you’ve already taught them so much, you are more than capable of doing it." ~ Sierra Buckler

There is always an opportunity to learn, and Sierra tries her best to guide her kids with grace when they’re not getting it, frustrated or overwhelmed. There are days she needs to take a break and show them love. The way she interacts with her children is more important than keeping up with a schedule. The Buckler children’s hearts and minds are more valuable than the checklist.  Sierra offers "For anyone considering or thinking about homeschooling, you will never regret this time you have with your children watching them grow and learn at their own pace. Being able to see their strengths and help strengthen their weaknesses is priceless. Give yourself grace. It is a beautiful journey that is worth taking!"

Buckler First Year Favorites

In their first year of Sonlight Matthew and Hunter selected these as their favorite readers. They also say science is their favorite subject.

The Silver Balloons

The World According to Humphrey

Ecosystems, Meteorology, Physics, and Engineering Design Science K

You can learn more about the Buckler family’s Sonlight experience by listening to their full interview on the Sonlight Connections podcast.

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Summer Camp at Home: A DIY Guide for Homeschoolers

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Summer Camp at Home: a DIY Guide for Homeschoolers

Do you want to enrich and refresh your child this summer? Many families in my hometown turn to day camps—from Computer Programming Camp to Ninja Warrior Camp—as a way to fill their children’s summer days with fun and learning. I’ve signed my children up for 2 weeks of incredible day camps, but after a while, those day camps get expensive! Not to mention that packing lunches, applying sunscreen, and getting out the door by 8:30 every morning can make summer feel frazzled and hectic instead of slow and restful.

When it comes to summer, I prefer most of our days to be spent lolling about at home, exploring, day-dreaming, playing, and reading. Of course, the lazy days of summer have their beauty, but they also have their chaos.

Choose a Theme for Your DIY Summer Camp at Home

Even in the summer, my kids need a bit of direction, and I want to guide them towards constructive activities. So I’ve been brainstorming themes for DIY summer camps at home to add just enough structure to make summer, enriching, refreshing, and affordable.

1. Camp Fun, Fun, Fun!

I happen to believe that knowing how to create good, clean fun is a life skill. I want my children to be well exercised in the pleasant and generous art of play.  In this summer camp at home, explore activities, skits, juggling, jokes, and magic tricks. Check out these resources:

2. Creative Cooking Camp

Just because it’s called camp doesn’t mean the food has to taste like a day-old brown bag lunch. Don your aprons and get cooking together with this DIY summer camp theme. A cookbook like Good Housekeeping Kids Cook! will help your child prepare mac n’ cheese, lasagna, salads, smoothies, burgers, cakes, and more! (Bonus idea: If you allow screen time, consider watching Chopped Junior or Food Network Star Kids.)

3. On Your Mark, Get Set, Go Camp

Plan a week full of fitness games that will strengthen your bodies as well as your friendships with this P.E.-based camp theme. In Homeschool Family Fitness, you’ll learn games like Speedy Soccer, Frisbee Football, Deck Tennis, Cops and Robbers, and dozens more. You’ll also learn the correct techniques for walking and running, rhythm activities, basketball free throws, and football punts.

4. Build It Camp

Pull out a different building toy each day of Build It Camp:

You’ll be stimulating your child’s brain with STEM skills all while having fun. In the afternoon, snuggle up the couch and read a chapter in Engineer Academy for more inspiration!

5. Awesome Artist Camp

For one full week, keep the art supplies in sight and don’t worry about cleaning up at the end of the day. Each morning, explore an art project with your child. Take a look at these goodies:

6. Simply Sewing Camp

If you have a child who is interested in textiles, sewing, or crafting, The Usborne Children’s Sewing Kit is just the thing for your Simply Sewing Camp. It has everything you need to sew, stuff and decorate 7 adorable felt animals: all the sewing, stuffing, and decorating, the felt shapes, along with pins and needles, buttons and thread. The accompanying 32-page book provides simple, step-by-step instructions, along with video clips with sewing tips and techniques for additional support. Your kids will end the week with completed crafts and a valuable life skill, too!

7. Chess Club Camp

My kids would love a camp in which we played chess each day. Maybe we could make a tournament bracket, have lunch with an expert chess player, and maybe even watch a tournament game. Sonlight recommends No Stress Chess to get us suited up with the rules of the game and strategy.

Finally finish your Science curriculum by holding a summer science camp at home.

8. Science Wonders Camp

Did you know that many Sonlight families save a couple of Science experiments for summer? (Or, as in my case, we’re actually catching-up on what we didn’t complete during the school year.) Why not batch the experiments together into a one-week Science Wonders Camp? At the beginning of the week, head to the library to check out books on relevant topics and enjoy afternoon science reading!  

9. Computer Coding Camp

Do you have a child who is interested in computer programming? Sonlight recommends Get Coding! for students who are 9+. Here’s what you can anticipate: “Get Coding! is the essential book for teaching coding to kids from the expert coding community Young Rewired State. Computer coding is a key skill and is now part of the National Curriculum for children aged 5+. This fun and exciting book teaches you how to code using the three most important programming languages in the world: HTML, CSS and JavaScript.”

A Relaxed DIY Summer Camp Schedule

A DIY summer camp at home will look different for each of us. Some of us will plan full day of thematic wonders with hands-on experiences, field trips, snacks, guest speakers, music, and themed t-shirts. Others will be happy with one simple activity each day.

Here’s a bare-bones schedule that keeps things simple. It includes enrichment while still prioritizing summer’s glorious free time. From here, you could take things in a million directions. The sky’s the limit!

  • After breakfast (approximately 1 hour): Explore the week’s theme with a hands-on experience. Take your time and allow yourselves to ask questions, relax, and create.
  • After lunch (approximately 30 minutes): Snuggle up on the couch to read a couple of books that relate to the week’s theme.
  • Once per week: Take an afternoon field trip or meet up with a fellow homeschooling family for a combined learning experience.

Practical DIY Summer Camp Structure

Think about how to structure your DIY summer camp for maximum enjoyment. You know your kids best. Consider these aspects:

1. Create Stations

If you have multiple children, you may want to create stations so that each child can play and learn independently. This approach may bring peace to sibling rivalry or competition. Choose a couple of activities that are related to your theme and allow each child to explore that station for 15-20 minutes before everyone rotates.

For example, if you have three children doing an art camp, create three stations:

  1. one with watercolor paint
  2. one that provides materials for cutting and pasting
  3. another that provides sidewalk chalk on the front stoop

Each child will enjoy having his or her own space and opportunity to explore the medium. Of course, if you can’t think of three art-related activities each day, feel free to include a physical activity like jumping on the trampoline or splashing in the baby pool.

2. Foster Teamwork

When you prepare the day’s activity, imagine what it will look like for you and your children to explore the theme together. Will you and your two children be cooking together? Plan to divvy up the steps in the recipe. Or, allow one child to read the recipe while the other follows the steps. Switch roles the following day.

3. Inspire Exploration

Perhaps you’d rather provide the materials and books so that your child creates and explores on her own. All you have to do is to gather the resources and create a space for this to happen! Could you designate a spare table for science experiments? Or a sand table for an art-themed sensory bin? By changing the theme each week, you’ll provide a helpful amount of variety for your child and you’ll nudge them toward fun and enrichment.

I would love to hear about your ideas for summer camp at home this year! Share your DIY summer camp plans the comments.

Of course, no matter what you choose to do with your summer days, you’ll want to stock the bookshelves with lots of great summer reads. Check out Sonlight’s super-fun Summer Readers. There’s something there for everyone.

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17 Fabulously Fun Summer Activities for Homeschool Families

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17 Fabulously Fun Summer Activities for Homeschool Families

Welcome to summer! Whether you homeschool year-round or take a break in the summer, these next months can be rich times of getting outdoors, building family memories, and letting your children explore what interests them.

If you’d like some inspiration for intentional ways to make memories and expand your children’s horizons, try a few of these fabulously fun summer activities.

1. Let Your Kids Get Bored

First and foremost let’s remember that it is OK for kids to be bored this summer. It can even be good for them. Check out this article and scroll down for a motivating video about letting your kids pass through the stages of boredom that lead to creative breakthrough and reflective self-knowledge. (You could also check your library for Peter Spier’s funny and inspiring picture book called Bored, Nothing to Do.)

Now for the actual activity ideas …

2. Go to the Farmer’s Market

Head to your local market to explore the produce and talk to the farmers. Pick something new and prepare it with your children. Or give each child a few dollars to browse and buy whatever they want to share with the family.

3. Live Up the Picnic Season

Pack up some peanut butter and jelly, grab a blanket, and head to your backyard or a park. Add something unexpected to your bag, such as a Frisbee or sketchpads and pencils.

4. Head to a Summer Festival

Many towns have a special festival at least once a summer. Look up your options and put something on the calendar now so you remember to go if you want to.

5. Read, and Read Some More

Whatever you do, please read this summer! Read out loud to your children, keep the house stocked with good books for them to read on their own, and let them see you enjoying your own books. Of course, our Summer Reader packages are a great place to start.

We've found the best summer reading for your kids!

6. Experiment with Science

Whether you missed some of the scheduled science experiments this past school year, or you want to find new ones to tackle, you might take advantage of your relaxed schedule to attempt a few experiments. Summer is the perfect time to take the mess outside so you avoid the worries of spills and disasters in your kitchen.

7. Get Out the Art

If you didn’t have time for much art this year, or if your children really love it, you might want to bless them with the opportunity to create. Provide some supplies, a vision, and be willing to let the kids make a bit of a mess. Check out ARTistic Pursuits or our other art materials for inspiration.

8. Find a Family-friendly Outdoor Concert or Play

From Shakespeare to a string quartet to your favorite bluegrass group, pack up dinner and make a night out of it.

9. Help Your Kids Build at Fort

Choose a locale in your yard, down by the creek, or anywhere that feels special and exciting. As you know, kids even love a simple blanket fort inside. (Stock it with books and a flashlight if you want!)

10. Get Ideas from Your Kids

Ask your children what they want to learn how to do this summer. Even if they answer with something outrageous, you still might let them give it a try and see where it takes them.

11. Tackle Home Improvement

Let your children help in the planning, budgeting, shopping and the actual work. It will probably take longer than if you did it yourself, but it will certainly be a learning opportunity for everyone. Your kids will feel so proud of the finished product.

12. Tour a Local Farm

Many farms are happy to have visitors–especially eager, “love to learn” visitors. Look online to see what your local farms have to offer by way of tours and visiting hours. Some even let you come and volunteer for a while! If you visit a farm now and in September, you’ll be amazed at the difference from the beginning to end of a growing season.

13. Go Camping

It’s the ultimate family-bonding, nature-appreciating, funny-story-generating adventure. We camped often when the kids were young. I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything!

14. Look for Wildflowers

Do you have particularly good wildflowers anywhere around? Take a camera or some sketchbooks and go explore.

15. Make Homemade Ice Cream

What child wouldn’t be excited for the chance to make and eat real ice cream? Even without an ice-cream maker, you can definitely make it at home.

16. Suggest a Lemonade Stand

Inspire the entrepreneurial spirit in your children. If you want to add some real-life math and money lessons, have your children calculate the cost of all the ingredients they use for lemonade and cookies. Then have them pay you back from their earnings and calculate their true profit.

17. Marvel at the Stars

Look online to see if any meteor showers will be visible soon. Or just pick a clear night to go lay out under the stars somewhere away from city lights. You can be sure your kids will remember that special night for years to come.

Again, please don’t feel pressure to do more than you want to here. If you just need to relax, organize your house, and send the kids outside, that can be great too. But I also know from experience that if you do want to do some special activities this summer, it can really help to make some simple plans or write your ideas down now.

I pray you enjoy the next few weeks of summer with your family!

Want more encouragement?

Sign up for Sonlight's bi-weekly e-newsletter

You'll be encouraged by the words of founder Sarita Holzmann, inspired by real-life stories from other homeschoolers, pick up practical tips for the journey and more.

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2 Fixes for When You Aren't Finished with Homeschool in May

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2 Fixes for When You Aren't Finished with Homeschool in May

As we near the end of the traditional school year, many families are looking forward to summer vacation and a change of pace. But what do you do if you’re behind in schoolwork and you were really hoping to be done by the end of May? If you find that you have more pages in your Instructor's Guide than you have weeks left to school, what can you do?

Here are two fixes for when you still aren't finished with homeschool in May (or June...or even July).

Fix 1. Change your expectation of what you need to accomplish.

Do you remember how many textbooks you finished in school when you were growing up? How many math books you finished? Probably ... zero.

Ignore some assignments. Really! It’s okay to skip a book or two and not check every box. Instead, remember how many books you have already read! (Take a #sonlightstack photo to document everything.)

Share your #sonlightstsack

Sonlight provides many resources on all topics you study. And while the Instructor’s Guide is a key component of your homeschool routine and daily plan, don't consider it a rigid taskmaster.

Remember, your children will continue learning for the rest of their lives! Kindling that love for learning is a higher priority than checking every box.

So when you still aren't finished with homeschool in May, look at the books you have left and prioritize. Already read about Vikings in two books? Skip the third. Of the remaining books, which ones do you think you’ll enjoy the most? Set the others aside.

Fix 2. Change your expectation of when you need to finish your schoolwork.

This might mean that you shift your summer vacation a little. You can start vacation now, when the warm spring air refreshes the soul, and then return to school later in the summer—July or August—to finish the year when you’re ready to be out of the sun.

Or it might mean that you do modified school over the summer, finishing up the books you didn’t quite complete.

Or, if you are ready to be finished with this year, but want to finish the program you’re currently working through, you can plan to pick it back up in the fall, right where you left off. Some Sonlighters take 16 or 18 months to finish a program. Give yourself permission to do that, if it’s right for you.

There are a multitude of ways to schedule your homeschool year, and they don't have to begin in the fall and wrap up in May. When you still aren't finished with homeschool in May, give yourself permission to change your schedule.

Life rarely goes the way we predict. So if you're not where you hoped to be in the IG, your school year is still what it was supposed to be—filled with learning and life lessons, challenges and joys.

All the best to you as you look to the end of the traditional school year. Whether you keep pressing on or take a break, enjoy these moments with your family and remember: It’s a journey, not a sprint.

Whether you are struggling across the finish line or had the best school year ever, what’s next?! In this video, we'll tackle homeschool end-of-the-year concerns and offer tips to get you to the finish line.

If you want advice on how to make your schedule work for you, experienced homeschooling moms would love to help. Click here to connect with a Sonlight Homeschool Advisor.

Want more encouragement?

Sign up for Sonlight's bi-weekly e-newsletter

You'll be encouraged by the words of founder Sarita Holzmann, inspired by real-life stories from other homeschoolers, pick up practical tips for the journey and more.

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Way Behind in Homeschool? Tips, Resources & More to Catch Up Fast

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Every once in a while we have one of those years where we fall behind schedule in homeschool. Just kidding! We fall behind schedule at least a few times every year. Usually, I get a head start by beginning school in August; however, this year in an effort to enjoy summer a bit longer, I postponed our back to school date to mid-September after enjoying our family vacation. That choice turned out to be a huge mistake.

Hurricane Irma gave us an obvious aversion to the idea of flying to our destination the same morning Irma pounded through Orlando, FL. We love adventure, but that was too much adventure for us. So the vacation was delayed.

By the time we arrived home from our adventure and started school, Week 1 was glaring at me through the very last calendar pages of September. Much to this Type A mama’s dismay, I was already suppressing anxiety over our late start and feeling behind schedule. 

"Breathe in. Breathe out," I told myself.

On top of a late start, our first few weeks of school were just plain rough!

Oh, Lord, help me.

Help! I've Fallen Behind on My Homeschool Schedule!

Within two weeks I feared if we continued at this pace we might get through half of our curriculum over the course of our 36-week school year. I was used to playing catch up after the holidays or mid-spring, but this rough and late start was not something I was used to!

I wallowed in a bit of defeat, and then I got a grip and started coming up with a plan. Here are the ways I managed to gain traction and catch up on my homeschool schedule.

1. Use Audiobooks

If, like me, you are balancing two History / Bible / Literature (HBL) schedules at the same time, you may find audiobooks a schedule saver. I alternate a Read-Aloud from each HBL to enjoy in audiobook format.  It is much easier to catch up on other subjects when I’m not reading aloud for over an hour a day. As a bonus, sometimes we listen in the car as well.

2. Double a Subject Each Day

This tip is easy. Instead of doing one day's assignment, we cover two. I rotate through the subjects where we are lagging so this isn't a huge burden every day. So for example, on Day 1 we do two History assignments. On Day 2 we cover 2 Science assignments. On Day 3 we check off two Vocabulary lessons. This method helps us make slow but steady progress without overwhelming me or my children.

3. Throw a Big Subject Party

This solution works out especially well for Science. We set aside an afternoon when we knock out an entire week of lessons. I call it a Science party and shorten the lessons a bit. Adding a fun game or activity and a warm pan of brownies with hot chocolate usually helps to motivate my kiddos.

4. Plan to Skip School Breaks

This is always a time saver for my family because we live in a state with serious winters! When my kids' friends have a snow day off from school, we go ahead with school anyway, saving our day off for a sun day later in the spring when we are back on track with our 36-week schedule.

5. Skip Lessons

The wonderful thing about Sonlight is that it gives plenty of resources on any topic you are studying! For example, in HBL B, you may read about Vikings in 3 or 4 different books.

One way to catch up is to look at the schedule, decide you’ve read enough about Vikings and move on! It is okay not to do it all! In the Instructor's Guide, we are given the freedom to skip assignments, but we need to actually do it! I've learned to be okay with not checking every single box.

6. Read on Weekends

When reading aloud is something we struggle to keep up with, we add extra reading to bedtime on the weekends. If Dad can help out here, all the better!

7. Assign Homework for Evenings

As homeschoolers, we revel in the freedom not to have our kids doing homework at night, am I right? However, we don’t need to have such an aversion to the idea that we miss a good opportunity to catch up if we fall behind. I have found evenings are an ideal time to get extra school work done. My husband occupies the baby while I offer the older children one-on-one teaching.

If you find yourself falling behind schedule in homeschool like I so often do, I hope some of these ideas help you catch up! Don’t underestimate the power of momentum! Once you decide what way of recovering your year works best for your family, set your plan in motion and the progress will feel really good.

Scheduling Your Homeschool So You’re Not Behind

Now that you know how to catch up on school work when you are behind, let’s consider how you got there in the first place so you can minimize this situation going forward. Notice the word minimize. There is an ebb and flow to life that means you’ll always be swimming upstream to stay on track with your desired timeline. Sometimes you get a bit ahead; other times you get a bit behind. The goal is to stay on track most of the time so that you don’t feel you’re drowning.

If you always feel behind, there are two obvious corrections:

  1. Change your expectations.
  2. Or change your execution.

Change Your Expectations

Maybe you are homeschooling many children or you have a chronic illness. Maybe you’re a single parent with little outside support. Maybe you’re simply not a Type A person, and you need a more laid back lifestyle to feel whole. 

Whatever the reason, you may want to rethink your expectations for working through your homeschool curriculum. 

There is no magic to 36 weeks. It’s simply the norm of the public school system and the way most homeschool curriculum, including Sonlight, is structured. It's okay to spread out the 36 weeks over 18 months or 2 years! 

Reframe your thinking: It's 36 sequential units and not necessarily 36 weeks of time.

One Sonlight mom provides excellent advice when it comes to changing your expectations.

“Avoid deadlines! We don't have to finish in June. We don't have to start in September. A week doesn't need to be done in 5 days. A week doesn't need to start on a Monday or end on a Friday. It's ok to do school on weekends and holidays. It's ok to take days off pretty much anytime you want.” —Jennifer Lauda

If you consistently feel behind, maybe your timeline is not doable for your family. Change the expectation instead of looking for ways to meet something that’s not attainable.

So Are Homeschoolers Behind?

Because homeschoolers have the freedom to redefine for themselves what’s on track, they may be labeled behind according to state standards or public opinion. Then the question becomes: Do state standards or public opinion really matter when it comes to homeschooling your child? 

Some families have the confidence to totally discard outside standards and set their own course while other families keep at least one eye on what’s commonly accepted as being on grade level. You’ll need to find that sweet spot for yourself when it comes to who gets to define what’s behind in terms of working through a curriculum and the difficulty of the work.

Change Your Execution

If you think that the problem isn’t unrealistic expectations but more about structure and discipline, then change your execution.

One solution that provides flexible structure is to opt for routines instead of schedules. The video below will explain everything you need to know about routines compared to schedules. 

Maybe you simply need a more clearly defined curriculum that does the heavy lifting for you. If you’re spending hours each week on a DIY homeschool, you may be exchanging learning time for planning time. Get that time back by choosing a more open-and-go program like Sonlight.

How Do You Motivate a Child Who Doesn’t Care?

The seven tips above help you get caught up in school when you feel like you’re falling behind on your 36-weeks of lessons that you expect to accomplish in the span of 9-12 months. But what if the issue isn’t time management, scheduling, or routines? 

Sometimes you fall behind in school due to a lack of motivation. So how do you stay focused when homeschooling?

Transitioning from Public School to Homeschool

It’s not uncommon for kids who used to be in public school to resist homeschooling and lack motivation for their lessons. To be honest, they probably had little zest for learning in the classroom, too! But now you are fully aware of their resistance and are the person responsible for working through it with them.  

This lack of motivation doesn’t mean that homeschooling is a bad idea. It just means that you need to rewire the connections in your child’s brain which are telling them school = boring

Try a period of deschooling before you jump back into schoolwork. Just letting them play video games all day or watch TikTok videos is not an effective way to erase that negative brain training. During this time, establish a pleasant daily routine that allows for plenty of sleep, healthy meals, and a bit of daily exercise. Incorporate meaningful activities that don’t involve paper and pencil or books:

Don’t try to sneak in learning. Just let learning happen naturally throughout your day. Talk to your child. Ask questions, listen, and observe. What are they interested in? What gets them excited to learn? 

Then partner with your child to create a curriculum plan and weekly schedule that they can be, if not excited about, at least accepting of. 

During this transition, your brain may be screaming at you, “We’re falling behind in school! We don’t have time for this!” But shush your brain and invest in this period of healing negative attitudes. Not only can you restore a love of learning but you will also mend and improve your parent-child relationship. What greater investment of time is there?

How to Keep a Kindergartener Focused

Although all children can struggle with focus and motivation, a common question posed to Sonlight Advisors is, “How do you keep a kindergartener focused?” Remember that children mature at their own pace, and your 5-year-old (or 3- or 4-year-old) may not be ready for extended periods of formal schooling. That’s okay! The most useful advice in that scenario is to simply put it aside and try again in 6-9 months. 

Unlike the child transitioning from public school, a kindergartener probably has no negative experiences with school to tarnish their motivation. So if working through kindergarten lessons is a consistent battle, that’s probably a sign that your expectations are unrealistic. Try these adjustments:

  1. Opt for shorter lessons, even just 10 or 15 minutes at a time.
  2. Look for a less challenging program.
  3. Switch to play-based exploration instead of bookwork.
  4. Press pause and resume your kindergarten curriculum a few months later. 

Remember that you’re homeschooling precisely so you don’t have to force your child into a mold. So don’t fall prey to the lie that all 5-year-olds should be doing the exact same kind of schoolwork. You can go at your own pace, and you are not in danger of being behind. 

For High Schoolers: How to Catch Up in High School Credits

When it comes to high school graduation requirements, you have less flexibility. Your state does have certain requirements for earning particular credits for mandatory subjects. Getting off track during the freshman and sophomore years can set up your upperclassman for a frenzied game of catch up! So it’s best to stick closely to your 4-year plan from day one.

But if you find yourself in the situation of needing to catch up on high school credits, it’s possible! 

Summer School

Use any summers you have remaining to study and earn credits. Of course, summer is a much shorter time frame, so the pace is intense! It will likely be difficult to take more than 2 different courses over the summer.

Prune All the Extras

Your teen may need to cut back extras like part-time work or recreation to focus on finishing the required coursework. 

Speed up the Pace

Instead of working through a curriculum over a full school year, speed it up to just a semester to fit more in. Yes, this will be a much more challenging route, but it’s doable with a new sense of focus and discipline.

Provide More Accountability

It’s happened to the best of us. We trust a teen to do their work, and it turns out they’ve been slacking off. While giving teens independence is wonderful, your particular child may need more supervision to graduate on time. So get more involved in the day-to-day coursework, making sure assignments are completed and concepts are mastered. 

Postpone Graduation

If all else fails, you can certainly extend the high school years and delay graduation for a year as needed. If you’re catching the problem too late, this may be the only option, especially if your teen has missed out on credits for the math courses that build one upon the other. 

What if Your Child Is Behind Academically?

Sometimes the sense of being behind is more than just checkmarks on your Instructor’s Guide. In fact, your child may be working through the assignments right on time, but there’s little comprehension or mastery

If you sense your child is behind academically, first take stock of the situation:

Then move to the solutions. If you are homeschooling a child who is behind in reading, spelling, or handwriting, or are wondering how to catch up in math, here are some great subject-specific articles to read:

As you grapple with a child who is falling behind in homeschool or wade through the feeling of being behind on your curriculum schedule, remember that you are not alone. This struggle is a universal concern, and it may reassure you to hear how other moms are handling it. Download the Sonlight app to connect with like minded parents and gifted Advisors who can give you the practical tips and reassuring words you need. 

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