Jesus had a lot at stake in teaching his disciples and followers. The entire plan of his Kingdom rested on them cooperating with the Holy Spirit to carry forth his message and live transformed lives.
So what did Jesus do?
Did he cram his disciples full of facts and figures?
Did he just give them information from a distance?
No. First of all, Jesus loved his followers. He lived side-by-side with them. He walked with them. He talked with them. He shared in their joys and struggles. He led by example.
And he also taught them with stories. When they had questions about his parables and teachings, they asked, and Jesus engaged them in conversation.
Teaching with the Same Methods Jesus Used
Does this form of teaching sound familiar? Now, I am not saying we are Jesus. We certainly aren’t God and we are far from perfect. But does Jesus’ general approach to teaching sound like something we can emulate? Yes!
We live in close relationship with our children. We walk beside them in life. As we teach them with stories, we strengthen our relationships with them. (What do you think all those Read-Aloud sessions on the family couch are doing? They are teaching and building relationships!)
Sharing these meaningful stories with our children helps us see into their hearts. What grabs them? What moves them? What do they worry about? What are their questions? And then we can meet them there and help guide them.
The stories and curriculum Sonlight provides help you guide your children to discover answers to important questions such as:
You’ve probably heard it: Love to Learn, Love to Teach, Guaranteed. I get great joy from helping families love to learn together. But you may wonder what it actually means to love to learn? What does that look like?
Do I really think your child will suddenly want to just stay home and read the encyclopedia just because you start homeschooling with Sonlight? Do I think your kids will spontaneously break out in this hilarious studying, studying spoof?
Well, no. There’s nothing wrong with reading the encyclopedia or rejoicing at the chance to do hard math. Some kids are really into that. But it doesn’t have to look like that. And for most homeschooled kids, it doesn’t.
But My Kids Don't Beg to Do School
So don’t worry. Your kids can love to learn even if:
They would rather play outside with friends than do their math.
They don’t want to compete in Spelling Bees.
They’ve never asked to do school on a weekend.
I’m sure you’ve read stories of Sonlight kids absolutely begging to do school – choosing to do Sonlight over playing outside, watching Saturday morning cartoons or even opening Christmas presents! Those stories are real and they happen with surprising frequency. (Okay, I doubt the Christmas one happens often, but it has happened at least once.)
But even if your kids don’t wake up and beg you to start school, they might still have that precious desire to learn.
12 Clues That Your Kids Actually Do Love to Learn
It's important to celebrate those sparks of a love of learning where you see them! So step one is identifying the signs. Here are clues that your kids are gaining a love of learning:
It transformed our family. It transformed my relationship with our children. It transformed all of our relationships.
What’s more, our children got a great education. And, we all enjoyed the process.
You can do this
An oversimplification of the story? Yes. But if you're thinking about transitioning from traditional school to homeschool, I'd love you to think about the long view: Even if the prospect seems overwhelming, you really can homeschool and enjoy it.
When we talk about the transition from public school to homeschool, it’s so good to remember that all the advice in the world can’t compete with getting to know your child’s unique needs. Just as you are their best teacher, you’re also the ideal guide to love your kids through new experiences.
“You’re cheating me out of a good education.”
my fifth grader
I’ll never forget the night when I knew we'd bring my daughter Amy home from school.
I had just begun homeschooling Luke and Jonelle in kindergarten and first grade. Amy was in fifth grade in private school—the perfect student—getting good grades. Everything seemed to be moving along smoothly.
Over dinner, my homeschooled kindergartner and first-grader were telling my husband John how they had learned about centrifugal force that day.
Amy was appalled that she had yet to learn about centrifugal force. She pleaded with us to homeschool her, too. Although we were spending significant dollars on her private school, she believed she was being cheated out of a good education by not being homeschooled. What a request!
The stress lifted after our transition from public school to homeschool
We brought her home the next year with a bit of trepidation. I had two primary concerns with bringing her home:
I was already teaching two young students how to read while watching a toddler who wouldn't nap.
Of all my four children, Amy’s learning style was most suited to a classroom environment—she did exceedingly well, providing what the teacher wanted. Worksheets didn't bother her.
If it’s not broken, why fix it? And yet, when your fifth grader begs you to bring her home because she doesn't want to miss out, what do you do?
Although Amy had been doing well in school, I was amazed to see a transformation in her attitude immediately. It was as if a huge weight of stress had been lifted that we hadn't even realized was there. Where she used to sometimes needle her siblings to rile them up, now I saw her relax into her own personality and be the leader and peacemaker she was born to be. What a relief! How reassuring to see that even the dutiful student thrives in the homeschool setting.
Before you begin, check your state's requirements for withdrawal to ensure a smooth transition. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association has a helpful interactive map you can use to find what you need.
3. Don't recreate school at home
Trying to recreate the school environment in the home is an easy trap to fall into. This can happen in your schedule or approach, but also if you try to separate your role of teacher and parent. Homeschooling is an entirely new category!
My son Luke attended kindergarten, and when he came home in first grade, I remember him looking at me with a quizzical look. I could see him thinking, “Wait, you’re my mom, how can you be my teacher?”
We have to be authentic with our kids. Rather than try to change hats throughout your day from teacher to parent with false formality, it helps to integrate your learning and teaching into your parenting and lifestyle.
4. Give time to adjust and de-school
Give yourself room to breathe! Realize it might take some time to find your groove.
Some families take a few weeks (or a couple months!) to just enjoy being together again and to work slowly into new routines.
You might start just a couple subjects at a time and ramp into a full workload.
Consider planning some memory-making fun the first week to celebrate the change to homeschooling and share with your kids a positive vibe. Go to the zoo in the middle of the day, or eat donuts in your pajamas. Let it sink in that you can do that now!
Every family is different. Make your decisions and schedule fit your family's needs.
5. Enter relationship boot camp
Get ready to work on your relationships and enjoy them in new ways.
One of the greatest benefits to homeschooling is quality time with your kids. It can also be an adjustment in the beginning to spend so much time together.
(This totally terrified me before I began homeschooling. I soon realized my worries were unfounded and that I actually liked being with my kids! But all good relationships take work.)
More time together means you may initially notice both more of the “good" and more of the “bad." This is a gift! You want to know what is going on in your kids' minds and hearts. If you can work through the tough things that come up, you will come out stronger and enjoy one another in your family all the more.
Commit yourself to look for the positive and affirm the good things you see in your kids. Lean into helping everyone develop the kind of character they need to be mature adults one day, while letting them know you are on their side.
6. Find a support network
You want supportive friends who can help you during the hard times and celebrate the victories of your homeschool journey. You also want to find places your kids can connect with other homeschoolers. A local homeschool group is often a great way to meet both these needs.
Enjoy getting involved, but be careful not to overcommit as you adjust to the new life of homeschooling!
7. Plan social times with both old and new friends
Think broadly as you connect with people from your community. Planning playdates with public school friends as well as new homeschool friends can reassure your kids that they can maintain relationships while they also make new ones.
8. Tweak as you go
Observe your family as you go and continue to adjust to what works best for you. You'll be amazed at how much you learn about your children's personalities and how they best learn. You'll also start to get a feel for how you like to teach.
One of the beautiful things about Sonlight's guarantee is that you have time to really get into the program and try it out and still return it or swap it for a better fit. Even if you decide mid-year to try a different level, you have the freedom to do that. We really want every family to love learning together and want to do whatever we can to make that happen!
9. Get Expert Help
If you are transitioning from traditional school to homeschool and have specific questions, please contact a Sonlight Advisor (a veteran homeschooler) who can offer a free consultation and walk you through curriculum options.
For several decades, Usborne has been publishing staples of home learning. Every time we open one of these favorites, we encounter a new vein of knowledge to be mined and new connections to be made. Four we especially love are
Though fiction arguably benefits from sparing illustrations, the visuals in an Usborne non-fiction have as much to offer as the text. Usborne illustrations trust the reader to see the significance of the content, rather than distracting with illustrative flourishes.
Because we come back so often to encounter this content, there are certain things we do to find more in the page and to set more of what we do find into long term memory.
1. Read with a Timeline and a World Map
Previously, I have suffered from what can only be described as, achronologia: the abject inability to place world events on a timeline. The Protestant reformation, the voyage of Columbus and the French Revolution could all have happened in the same week as far as I was concerned.
The problem is that events, more often than not, are only memorable in context. So, thanks to achronologia, history was lost in the mists of time, which in my case were especially misty.
A turning point came when I started to think up ways to rescue my children from the same fate. One morning, I read four information-laden pages of The Usborne Book of World History to three captivated pairs of eyes.
I shut the book and prompted them to a Charlotte Mason-style narration. Though hearing back from them that Cleopatra is the president of Africa does of course betray an absorption of sorts, I decided there was more I could do.
The next day, I drew a horizontal line across six pages and laid them on the floor in front of the couch. I divided each into two, marking each section as a millennium from 4,000 BC to 2,000 AD.
I also laid a printed world map below it. Every time we encountered a major event in world history, we set a bottle-cap on the map and on the timeline. I was delighted to see the antidote to achronolgia was setting in: connections. “So this might be the same Pharaoh that Moses was talking to,” my seven-year-old said, as she moved the bottle-cap.
The Timeline Bookis an essential companion to this method. Children can annotate and color as they stick the Timeline Figures in the right spots. Keep these and your bottlecap pages close at hand, and you stand a better chance of saving history from the dank fog of achronologia.
2. Criticize and Question
I previously described Usbone books as being information-laden, and that is true, but I’d like to urge you not to take it for granted.
I have noticed that when I let the propositions in a book wash over me, rather than challenging them, there is a flatness to my cognitive processes that leads to forgetfulness.
Although it can be draining to have your sentences broken up with interruptions, the right questions can change everything. “How do we know if the ancient Egyptians actually believed in their gods?” Maybe they did, but the challenge is worth the interruption.
Suppose, after inquiry, we find that every sentence was indeed correct. Is the book therefore truthful? Let us ask if it is excluding something central. If a book on the circulatory system failed to mention the heart, an educator would be amiss if she didn’t criticize the omission even if everything stated was accurate. What if a history book fails to mention the Sovereign Lord?
Our kids read correct statements based on the truth behind, between, and beneath those statements. So let’s read between the lines and criticize what we find there. It may make the difference between a flat thinker and life-long truth-teller.
3. Repeat Key Phrases
Repetition has of course been the long-time ally of the educator. The final stage of education, moreover, is to be able to repeat your findings in a form that blesses others. It should be unsurprising, then, that the simple repetition of a word or phrase is a suitable first step to deeper knowledge.
“In an area called the Delta,” says The Usborne Time Traveler on page 101, “the river splits into many channels.” My children’s eyes, understandably, were elsewhere as I read it, so I asked them to repeat a few words: "the Delta; the river splits.”
Rather than resisting the task, my five-year-old spontaneously points out the Delta on the map as he says the words. He was glad to see something that would have otherwise passed him by.
In the past, I have embarrassed them by quizzing, “Where does the Nile split?" But I’ve learned that I’m more likely to sharpen the focus if I start by asking them to repeat the phrases that seem important.
With three more tools in your toolbelt, I hope you’ll feel a little less worried that the information you painstakingly curate is not just washing over entertained faces.
Be confident in your purchase. SmoothCourse™ will guide you in three steps.
When I homeschooled my children, one of my sons really struggled to learn to read. He didn’t become an independent reader until sixth grade, and to this day prefers audio books to print. (He attended public high school and was valedictorian, so he proves the point that there is no correlation between IQ and age of learning to read.)
For almost two decades, I have been looking for a remedial reading program to complement Sonlight’s elementary language arts. Although many children learn to read with no difficulty using Sonlight, other children struggle.
This came home to me when my daughter Amy started homeschooling her boys. Though the other two learned to read without difficulty, her third son made very slow progress, eventually falling about three grades behind.
And her fourth son made no progress at all.
She started with Sonlight, then moved to what we carried then as the remedial reading program. From there, she worked her way through a full dozen reading programs and therapies—all the ones you hear recommended, and then some.
Almost five years in, my grandson was still struggling through the kindergarten Fun Tales books.
Dr. Karen Holinga and the Happy Cheetah Reading Program
Around that time, I went to a homeschool convention and heard a presentation by Dr. Karen Holinga, the developer of popular spelling program Spelling You See. She taught information on remedial reading that I had never heard before.
I approached her after her talk. “Dr. Karen, my grandson can’t read.”
She said, “Send your grandson to me, and I will teach him to read.”
Amy and her son drove from Virginia to Ohio to meet with Dr. Karen. While there, Amy picked up the beta version of the Happy Cheetah program.
Amy and her son continue on their reading journey. My grandson has made progress, while overcoming both of the common hindrances to reading that Dr. Karen sees in her office.
At Sonlight, we are pleased to present the Happy Cheetah Reading System to you, primarily as an option for remedial readers, but also as an alternative for beginning readers. With Happy Cheetah your child can learn to read, frustration-free.
If you have a struggling reader, we would love to help. I personally know the pain of a delayed reader. And since 20% of students do need additional reading help, most likely you know someone whom Dr. Karen could help.
If you would like a free copy of Dr. Karen’s Cure, you can get a FREE digital version when you request it here.
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Four years before I was born, my father quit the band. He had made a living as a musician and record producer since the age of 18, and now he was in search of a life that prioritized family. He moved with my mother from Toronto, Canada to Buckinghamshire, England to learn a new trade. After meeting God as a result of a Christmas service, they started to see a divine kindness behind their financially devastated lifestyle change.
As Daddy studied, Mummy, a former school teacher, decided that school was not the place for her children. Clinging to God with the desperation of new faith, she stumbled across a Sonlight brochure with a literature package that was far outside of her budget.
God appointed, however, that my parents unexpectedly received the amount needed, three times over from three separate sources.
Granny Han’s Breakfast Taught Me God's Provision
Astonished at God’s provision, she bought the curriculum and started with the read-aloud: Granny Han’s Breakfast. It’s a true story of a missionary in China who was robbed of her food. Granny Han set the table for breakfast nonetheless, saying, “You know what you want from me, and that’s all I want,” —a prayer that proves powerful beyond its simplicity. A knock was heard at the door. As if from heaven, a friend was there for Granny Han with a gift of bread.
At age five, I felt my mother’s joy in God as she read the story. I knew she was praying with Granny Han, “You know what you want from me, and that’s all I want.” I delighted in recognizing a life that was appointed by God and to feel the call of a life that was consecrated to God.
Three years later, at 8, my mind was set on being a missionary in Africa. A decade after that, I was setting off to study Christian apologetics at university with a view to overseas missions. My mother traces this faith back to the 19-page book about Granny Han.
Granny Han's Breakfast is now discontinued, but don’t think that the work of a Sonlight book is done once it’s out of print. Granny Han changed my life, and it wasn’t florid or literary prowess that gave this biographical story its fruitfulness. The marks of this fruitfulness is even clearer in George Muller, David Livingstone and, most of all, the Sonlight biography that I will never forget—Gladys Aylward.
Gladys Aylward Ignited My Heart for Missions
Gladys, in Gladys Aylward was rejected from Bible school. It was a dreadful blow, but she decided that if she was going to follow God’s call to China, it would have to be without support. When she was detained on her journey to China in Vladivostock, Russia, an official reminded her, “You are a woman alone in a strange country. I can do what I like.” He raised his fist to strike her, but his fist stopped in mid-air, as if “guided by an invisible force.”
I was captured by what Gladys Aylward demonstrated. The threat was real, but God was more real. Earthly comfort is real, but divine joy is more real. The official’s malice was real, but God’s plan was more real. Granny Han’s empty cupboard was real, but God’s loving provision was a stronger and deeper. My parents’ destitution left them exasperated, but God the provider was more real. My little faith was the fruit.
Sonlight Biographies Still Convict and Inspire
After studying theology in Scotland while my wife cared for our children, we moved back to England. I homeschooled the three of them while she took a course in Biblical and Intercultural Studies at a missions training college. The plan was to team with an organisation, start learning a language, and move to the Middle East shortly thereafter.
One night, after a few months of serious health problems, I had a talk with my wife. We had only a few years before going overseas, and it seemed like our little family would not be ready. It would be best if we stayed in England to focus on health first, then our marriage, and finally our ministry.
I had a sense of guilt that I had led our family into pain and that the door to following God’s call had been closed. I continued homeschooling, and she started work at a restaurant. One morning, I awoke to find only the three children in the house.
From then on, I was to care for them alone.
I pressed on with homeschooling, knowing that God never leaves His own. In between tears, we started pouring through Sonlight books that my mother had kept from twenty years before.
Out comes Granny Han's Breakfast and Gladys Aylward again. My seven-year-old daughter hears Gladys’ encounter with the official and she says the same thing I said when I heard it: “I want to go.”
I still want to go, but these cupboards don’t get any more empty. Twenty years ago I started praying Granny Han’s prayer, “You know what you want from me, and that’s all I want.”
I pray that prayer when I have empty cupboards, because Granny Han did, and because my mother did. It’s because of Sonlight that I know that sometimes divine bread is less visible than the edible kind, but it’s more real.
Which did you like better, the book or the movie? This common question lends a wonderful opportunity to extend the experience of a story.
Practice critical thinking by comparing a director's presentation of a plot-line or an actor's impression of character with your own perspective. What seemed out of place? What felt familiar?
Given the amazing books in Sonlight’s repertoire, it comes as no surprise that so many are selected as inspiration for major motion pictures and TV series. This year is no exception. Here are 5 book-to-screen adaptations due out for 2020.
1. Call of the Wild (2020)
Harrison Ford stars as John Thornton in a screen adaptation of Call of the Wild. This beloved Jack London classic is found in Sonlight’s 9th grade literature choices. This adaptation uses computer-generated imagery (CGI) for the character of Buck (the dog).
Not only is this movie a fantastic conversation starter for digging deeper into plot and character, but it’s also a fantastic choice for technology buffs wanting to learn more about cinematic effects. Call of the Wild is now available on Amazon Prime Video.
2. Emma (2020)
Sonlight includes Jane Austen’s fourth novel,Emma in the British Literature (AP prep) collection. Jane Austen novels have characters and plots so universally beloved that multiple versions of them are easy to find. Emmais no exception.
What a great opportunity to compare and contrast different interpretations of Austen’s classic work! Here are four recent traditional and non-traditional adaptations of Emma available on Amazon Prime Video.
Peter Rabbit 2 is a sequel to the crowd pleasing Peter Rabbit released in 2018. Coloring sheets for this one are available from Sony Pictures. Set to premiere this summer, the release date has been delayed by the pandemic and it is not yet in theaters.
4. Brave New World (2020)
Aldous Huxley’s Brave New Worldis part of Sonlight's 11th grade curriculum, focused on 20th century literature. Perfect for science fiction buffs, the new series will premiere on the streaming service Peacock. The show is expected to be available July 2020.
5. Dolittle (2020)
Longtime Sonlighter’s will likely recognize the lovable Dr. Dolittle as a beloved character from past versions of the Introduction to World Culture’s Package. While the book is now discontinued, the story lives on in this year’s screen adaptation starring Robert Downey, Jr.
This film is a great choice for kids who love action, adventure, and talking animals, though some may find the realistic looking animals and emotion to be a tad bit overwhelming. Dolittle is also available on Amazon Prime Video.
Great Questions For Juicy Book-to-Movie Conversations
Regardless of the book and movie pairing you choose, these open-ended questions can get you started with a robust family discussion.
What if anything did you like better about the book?
What if anything did you like better about the movie?
How was the casting? Did characters look and act as you expected?
What was in the book that you wish had been included in the movie?
Did watching the movie affect how you viewed the story? If so, how?
As always please be sure to preview movies prior to watching with your family. While adaptations to books are wonderful ways to enhance and expound on a story, producers and cinematographers may take creative license or include material that you find inappropriate.
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.