"Sonlight keeps our family learning together. The beautifully illustrated books capture the attention of our wide age range of children and make homeschooling more enjoyable for the parent as well. With Sonlight's grab-and-go Instructor's Guides, it's easy for Dad to do a quick lesson before bed. Sonlight is the perfect family curriculum."
Mackenzie B. of Morristown, AZ
1. Good boy.
My son finishes his writing work and I reward him with a “Good boy.” On the face of it, this phrase is a congratulation of his moral goodness, reflected in diligence.
But the phrase actually winds up communicating something less straight-forward. He is not really hearing an appraisal of his performance, he is hearing an approval of his person.
The problem is that personal approval should be completely independent of performance.
Gospel-powered parenting means cherishing my son even before he is morally good: especially before he is morally good. He is good before and throughout his failure. He becomes worthy of approval when he knows he need not win that approval.
“...And that agreement was called the Magna Carta. Are you listening? What did I just say?”
“Something about an apple carton.”
Trying to control a child’s attention is like chasing the wind. We cannot grasp at it, but we can set up a windmill. To put it more familiarly, we lay the feast and send out the invitations, but we don’t decide what gets digested.
It’s only natural to try and control my child’s attention, and I may be able to capture it, but it won’t be held prisoner for very long. When I hear myself telling them to listen too often, I remind myself that the only sure way to secure attention, is to provide worthy objects for it.
An alternative: "It frustrates me that you didn’t hear that, and I don’t want to repeat it right now."
3. Act your age.
I have found out (the hard way) that, just as stomachs don’t respond well to commands about digestion, nor ears about attention, maturity doesn’t respond well to commands about attitude.
Kids don’t grow up because you tell them to; they grow up when they’re fed and exercised.
My son blows bubbles in his milk and gets some on the carpet, rather than putting it in the kitchen like I asked. At my worst, what I mean by, "Act your age," is, "I’m angry at you because I have to clear up the milk." Quite often, however, I mean something like "I wish you would have spontaneously cleared up the milk." In other words, I want him to do what’s right because it’s right rather than because I tell him to do it. The irony, therefore, is when I tell him to, "Act his age," I’m telling him to be the kind of person that doesn’t need telling. I’m providing external motivation for internal motivation, which is as impossible as it sounds.
An alternative: "I’m not happy with the way you’ve handled this. It means I have to clear up the milk, which I hate doing."
4. What’s your favorite subject?
It’s okay to have a favorite subject. It’s okay to enjoy one subject in particular, and to be talented at it. But how much do I care about the answer to this question, and why? Does it matter if the answer is nothing?
The freedom to follow your interests, is touted as one of the benefits of home education, but this may be putting the cart before the horse. I study mechanical engineering first and foremost because I want to help people and serve God. Talent and interest are part of the decision-making process, but sometimes we study things we find counter-intuitive and frustrating, rather than capitalizing on our talents. Let us be personality-sensitive, but not personality-driven.
An alternative: "It’s such a joy to see that you’ve taken to these grammar exercises. I’m looking forward to trying some painting with you."
5. Look how your sister is doing her work nicely.
Consider the moral reasoning here. I’m arguing that one child should do his work because of how embarrassing it would be to be inferior to a sibling. Should it be embarrassing to do less than your sister? If it is, it should not be the motivation for learning.
The fact is–being motivated by measuring up to others is a very straight-forward vice. It is envy.
Don’t be the schemer Rebekah, who had her son dress as Esau to win the approval of the father Isaac (Genesis 27). Vapid imitation turns to boiling resentment, and resentment to feuds. It doesn’t matter what your sister is doing: do what the Lord has asked of you.
An alternative: "[Sister’s name], it looks like you’re making great progress with that writing. I can see you really blessing people with that skill."
Well-intentioned though these first sayings are, when I hear myself say them, I take it as a cue to examine myself. Instead of defaulting to phrases that have disparaging or embarrassing undertones, I want to specifically choose words that build up my little students and infuse gospel power into our homeschool life.
Sonlight Instructor's Guides include complete lesson plans and notes for the entire year.
"I absolutely love that with Sonlight, your kids don't get stuck in a one-size-fits-all grade box with all the other kids. The stacks of delicious books, the discussions the books spark, the joy of learning together, and the confidence that our kids are getting a great education: it's well worth every penny. The IGs are so well-researched and easy to use that I can just open and start teaching!"
Anna C of Selmer, TN
While I don’t generally get too caught up in labeling our children, it is sometimes helpful to see the stages of your reader and explore how you can best support your child at each level. So much of homeschooling is simply facilitating a child’s natural curiosity and desire to learn and grow. So how do we support our reader at each stage of their journey? Here are a few tips.
Please note that I’m not including ages along with these reading stages, and I would discourage you from doing that as well. All children learn at a different pace, and you may find that you spend years in one of these stages and jump rather quickly over the next one.
This stage is all about exposure. In the emergent stage, you’ll want to talk, talk, and talk some more to your child. Talk all the time.
When I was at home with my young children, I would talk all day. I would tell them everything that I was doing. I would repeat the word for everything they looked at.
This is also the stage where you’ll begin to introduce letters. Reading picture books is a great way to start this process. Alphabet books like Dr. Seuss’s ABC Book are so fun for kids in this stage. You’ll also want to keep a good nursery rhyme treasury close by. Be sure to include some indestructible board books in your child’s toy basket. We also always loved the Leap Frog refrigerator magnet set for reinforcing letter sounds.
You’ll also want to keep plenty of age-appropriate writing tools at hand because you will encourage early writing at this stage. Don’t worry! I’m not talking about story-writing! Skills like coloring, early drawings, and finger painting all count for early writing experiences. Sonlight History / Bible / Literature (HBL) T, P, and A are great choices for an emergent reader.
I don’t recommend formal instruction at this stage. Most of the learning here happens independently and organically. Parents are, for the most part, facilitators, focused on gathering the supplies needed for the child to explore. Of course, interaction is always a good thing, but I would caution against pushing early instruction too hard. Sometimes, this can cause children to tire early because they are being pushed to learn something they are not ready for. Allow the child to initiate any type of instruction.
2. The Novice Reader
The novice reader’s focus is on phonics. This is the stage where you’ll want to begin some more formal reading instruction by introducing letter sounds. You may also begin to introduce sight words at this stage. This is a fantastic time to begin having your child sound out words and watch their little eyes light up when they figure it out all by themselves.
You’ll still want to talk to them often and read picture books aloud to them. At this point, it’s a great idea to begin following the words along the page with your finger.
Children in this stage will do best with predictable reader-style books such as easy Dr. Seuss or the Fun Tales set.
Novice readers will likely also be trying their hand at writing words. Don’t fret over spelling. Let them invent their spelling and encourage them to record it on paper exactly how they hear it. Encourage them to draw a picture and write a few words about their picture. Have them read the story to you and record it on the back of the paper correctly so you’ll have a record of those sweet early stories.
This stage is still heavily dependent on a parent. Lots of sweet memories are made here by reading first stories in the lap of mama or daddy. Sonlight HBL A is a great fit for a novice reader.
3. The Decoding Reader
In this stage, you’ll be headed into a new level of phonics. You’ll discuss more complex consonant patterns, syllable patterns, and of course, those pesky exceptions to the rule. The Explode the Code series will help you present these rules in a logical order.
While you’ll still be needed for formal instruction, you’ll get to hand over a touch of independence at this stage. Children begin reading independently, but you’ll still want to hear them read portions of their daily reading so that you can correct any phonetic mistakes before they become a habit.
Since I have multiple children, at this stage, I begin listening to them read a short portion of their daily reading and then assigning the rest. At the end of the reading time, I call them back briefly to talk about what they read. Sonlight HBL B and C are great options for this stage reader.
This is a great time to introduce an additional D.E.A.R. time (Drop Everything And Read). If you participate as well, this will become a much treasured time of your daily family flow. A couple of notes about this: D.E.A.R. time should be freely chosen books, but at the decoding stage, you’ll still want to assist your child in choosing a developmentally appropriate book. I never discourage easy books, but I do caution my young readers against books that are too complicated for their independent reading. A D.E.A.R. book should be something that can be read with little to no assistance.
I like to keep a home library, but the decoding stage provides a great opportunity to introduce your children to your local library with weekly or monthly visits. This habit promotes reading as a way of life.
Your decoding reader will also probably show a new interest in recording their thoughts on paper. Allow this often! This is a great time to encourage your child to explore their imagination and their new-found ability to put their thoughts on paper. If you find your child resistant to this, don’t worry! Be their scribe. Have them tell you their stories and you record them. Eventually, this will transition into independence. Just be patient, and you’ll have a blossoming reader and writer.
"[Lydia (9)] is reading her first missionary story and is captivated by the drama. At the time of this picture, we worked in a Bible translation organization and heard many stories. But this was the first biography on her reading level. The Sonlight readers have been an excellent fit as part of our language arts because we can customize the different parts for our needs and different levels depending on the subject. Our family's first Sonlight product was the readers. The variety and quality of the reading list has not disappointed us yet!"
Cynthia H. of Champaign, IL
4. The Fluent, Comprehending Reader
This is such a fun stage! Your child is discovering they can use reading to find out anything they want to know! Phonics instruction is basically finished at this point, and now you are moving into a new focus on comprehension. You’ll still be needed during instruction, but your child will likely be working independently for the most part.
In this stage, you’ll be handing over their reading assignments almost completely. Of course, if you just can’t bear it, you can do what I did, and continue to listen to them read just because you love the stories so much! However, if you can’t do that, you’re child will be just fine handling the daily reading assignments. Simply be sure that you check in and have them narrate their reading back to you. Show a genuine interest in the story and model skills of a good reader. You might say out loud…
Hmmmm...that sounds exciting! I wonder what will happen next?
What do you think ________________ should do?
I think _______________ seems cold and uncaring. I wonder if he will change?
You can depend heavily on the Sonlight Language Arts Instructor's Guide to tell you everything you’ll need to cover. Simply go over each day’s assignment with your child and turn them loose. Be sure to check over it after they finish and have them correct any mistakes immediately. Remember, you don’t want mistakes to become habits.
Again, if your child struggles with their writing, continue the partnership in writing until your child feels more confident. You might also allow them to record what they want to write first to get their ideas flowing, and then have them write it down.
Continue your regular visits to the public library and be sure to continue D.E.A.R. time. Your child probably has a pretty good grasp of what they can read now, so you’ll be able to let them choose their recreational reading for the most part. Sonlight offers a great range of options for this stage of reading. HBL D through HBL J are great choices for the fluent reader. Be sure to have lots of conversations with your child about what they have read.
5. The Expert Reader
Your child has arrived! This is the stage where all the hard work pays off. Your child can now read anything. No information is unattainable as long as there is a book to explain it!
They will begin exploring all kinds of topics ranging from math and science to philosophy. At this stage, the parent can truly sit back, relax and enjoy their new role as a facilitator and a book club member. Your job is now to talk with great interest about your child’s reading adventures. You might even decide to read a book together and have weekly coffee dates to discuss it.
This is also a great time to encourage your child to dive deeper into their Bible studies. You’ll want to provide a concordance and a Bible dictionary to help your child enter into a new level of exploring and analyzing the Bible. I would highly recommend having your child read the book Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin. Even if your child is a male, this is a great resource for learning how to study the Bible.
Your child will be at the upper levels of learning now. Instead of only comprehending literature, they will be able to analyze themes, evaluate ideas, and even create new ideas and opinions based on their reading. This is an exciting time in the life of a student. Make sure your child has plenty of exposure to great books. All six of the Sonlight high school courses are appropriate for this level of reader. Take advantage of the wide range of options and consult with your child to see what is most interesting to them.
Reading is such a wonderful thing. My son has been in our homeschool for the past seven years, and for seven years, we have depended on Sonlight’s reading and language arts to guide us. This year, he took the ACT Aspire test. While I truly don’t think much of test scores, I was impressed when he brought home a score that placed him in the 98th percentile in reading. He scored a full year ahead of most of his peers in reading.
Of course, even better than any standardized test, is the fact that he loves to read and chooses reading as a hobby. So I strongly encourage you to trust Sonlight. Follow the plan and enjoy it.
If your child is lagging behind where you think they should be, trust the process and stick with it. Reading proficiency will come. Whatever stage you’re in, enjoy it! It’s here today and gone tomorrow.
Language Arts includes so many pieces. This guide helps you see the big picture—what to teach and when.
"As a first time homeschool mom, I was very timid when deciding whether to choose to homeschool. After researching Sonlight, I came to love how the program is run and how each grade is set up. I love how much literature my son heard is his Kindergarten year. I absolutely love being able to stay home and allow him to continue to be a child most of the day. School takes us only a couple hours a day or less, and with all the extra time he is able to play and be a kid. It warms my heart to see his relationship with his siblings continue to grow whereas in public school he would be gone all day. I love that he can wear anything he chooses or work anywhere we wants. The flexibility is truly amazing. Sonlight is an excellent choice for our family."
But as you find your homeschool groove, you discover a load of seemingly insignificant perks that you may not have originally realized. These little joys add up in a big way and, for my family, have quickly become major benefits of learning at home.
As all educators know, motivation is key. Research has also shown that allowing for later start times may be especially beneficial for adolescents.
2. Pajamas as Uniform
It's a common homeschool joke—kids learning at home while wearing pajamas, being only partially dressed, or even sporting a costume. It's funny, but there's a deeper perk here. We are enjoying our children’s freedom from daily pressure to match their friends. While we may break out the tennis shoes and jeans for co-op days, our regular routine allows us a great deal of freedom for individual expression and relaxed attire.
3. Learning Alongside Your Child
For many homeschooling parents, getting a chance to relearn world history or getting a second chance to figure out how to use watercolors is a huge perk.
What we often overlook is how important learning alongside our children is for modeling lifelong learning. By joining our children in their learning adventures we are not only supporting them, we are also showing them that learning can be joyful, challenging, even hard, and beneficial at every age.
Learning never stops.
4. Laundry and Cooking Count as Class
Chores like cooking or cleaning during the homeschool day are often labeled life skills among homeschoolers. While humorous, it’s also true.
Our doctors and dentists are often relieved when we are able to book an appointment in the middle of the day. We rarely have to wait and are often able to get all our children seen within a single time window. That’s nice, no joke, but that schedule flexibility becomes a huge benefit when you think of the many other things this allows our children to pursue. Music lessons, job shadowing, and work don’t have to eat up evening family time. This flexibility is a huge homeschool perk!
6. Fidgeting Doesn’t Matter
For young children, sitting still and quiet for long periods of time is not developmentally appropriate. Fortunately, when you're homeschooling, fidgeting doesn’t matter.
Education is such a serious business, but for kids play is a huge part of the learning. In many ways it’s the main part. This is true even as they age.
Need an example? Go watch a group of pre-teens gathered around a Pokemon table. You have never seen such intensity, and man do those kids ever know the value of what cards they hold in their hands. It’s easy to assume that nothing is being learned, but that’s a huge mistake. This is high stakes play for many of them. They are playing games and interacting socially in a world where what you trade and what you make defines whether you win the game.
8. Snack Time All the Time
While we often joke about homeschoolers needing second breakfast, the reality is that eating when you are hungry and refraining when you aren’tmakes good sense. As homeschoolers, we can snack in our classroom and choose to stock our refrigerator with healthy options that result in good dietary choices.
9. School Outside
Fresh air and sunshine are a homeschool perk with benefits beyond those of getting to read outside. Spending time outside has positive psychological benefits for both children and adults. Problem solving, risk assessment, and social skills are all exercised through time in a natural environment.
Kids find themselves governed more by the natural laws of gravity, velocity, and buoyancy than parent- or teacher-imposed restrictions.
10. No Coupon Book Fundraisers
Around here, the public schools sell coupon books for classroom funds. There is usually a reward program where, depending on how many books are sold, kids can attend a classroom party or ice cream social. There is a lot of pressure to help the school raise money, and kids are often the ones that feel the pressure and disappointment the most.
As homeschoolers, we have freedom to choose our own means of funding our curriculum, supplies, and field trips. Our children can work for funds either through traditional jobs, direct selling, or alternative paths instead of outside-imposed fundraisers.
Enjoy your homeschool perks! The cumulative effect of these small benefits reaps massive rewards for our kids and for our families!
Learn more about those larger benefits of homeschooling with this FREE GUIDE.
As a mother seeks to build a home that is good for her children, one that inspires their happiness and holiness, she simultaneously builds a home that is good for herself.
Over the past 15 years, I’ve been working hard to understand child development. My desire is to bring lifestyles and experiences into our home that will help our children to thrive. I’ve discovered that my studies and hard work are actually helping me to understand human development in general, including my own.
What’s Good for Children, Is Good for Mom
Motherhood is good for women because what's good for children is also good for women.
Every time a mother leads her child to fresh air, she gets to throw her head back and breathe in deeply, too. Children, mothers, and fathers all thrive in the same atmosphere. Our souls breathe the same air and our minds are nurtured on the same sustenance.
It is literally good for me to be around my children, to be living like they live, every day. I believe that motherhood can enrich, strengthen, and stimulate women every day. This is a gift from God.
I’m just one woman sharing how this is true in my life, hoping that it inspires you to look for ways that motherhood is good for you, too.
1. Attention Toward God
In the morning, I lead our children in prayer to our Heavenly Father as the sun highlights the sky above the pond. Then we listen to His Word as we eat a hot breakfast together, slowly, regularly. We talk about Jesus, ask questions about Jesus, and offer answers about Jesus, sharing one-by-one as final spoonfuls are savored and dishes are washed.
I keep this morning ritual for their sweet hearts, but I find my own awaking.
2. The Glory of Nature
When I push back the curtains and push open the windows to bring fresh air into their growing lungs, I am bringing fresh air into my own lungs. I hustle them out the door with shoes on feet and hats pulled over their little heads. We step outside, and I look for the horizon. My eyes take in the beauty of the earth and the glories of the skies. I think about our Creator. We walk down the lane, maybe singing a favorite song as we go. Fifteen minutes later, we return home, and I feel my own blood pumping.
3. Music and Worship
I gather the children around the piano because I want to fill their hearts with beautiful songs. One of the kids usually plays a drum; another may play the violin, and someone grabs a harmonica. What’s left of our little choir sings:
“My worth is not in what I own,
not in the strength of flesh and bone,
but in the costly wounds of love,
at the Cross.”
As we sing, I hold the baby on my lap, her hair tickling my cheek, and I remember and “rejoice in my Redeemer, greatest treasure, well-spring of my heart."
4. Goodness, Truth, and Beauty
For ten minutes we work on memorizing poetry and Scripture, to build their minds; I find that I am building my own mind. During this daily habit, I am developing a stronger memory than I’ve ever had in my life, not to mention building a store of beneficial material to rehearse throughout the day.
Sometimes we look at beautiful artwork or nature together. Sometimes we make art together. I pull down my own sketch book from the shelf and become better at sketching than ever before in my life. Other times I gather some props and teach a life-lesson, about kindness or courage or sharing, and I listen to myself as I teach the children. I’m forever thinking, “Oh how I needed this lesson today.”
I work hard to provide life-giving food for the children: blueberries, cantaloupe, oatmeal, almonds, eggs. Of course, I feel healthier when I eat well, too. We sit down together when we eat (most of the time), we talk together, and build our relationships. This is good for me, through and through.
6. Peacemaking and Forgiveness
Every day, there are fits and arguments. The stress of living in a fallen world weighs down on each of us. But as we close our eyes in the midst of conflict and ask our Heavenly Father to fill us with His love, we inch forward toward peace.
We learn how to overlook offenses, address offenses, share, ask forgiveness, and extend the grace we’ve been given in Christ. Although this is the most exhausting aspect of my life as a mother, it is good for my soul. It builds my faith and directs me to Jesus like nothing else can.
In the afternoon, we enjoy a quiet hour so the children can read—each one in his or her special spot with a book in hand. I brew some tea and invest that hour in writing and reading, two of my loves.
My work during that hour is deeply satisfying. The peace and quiet restores each of us.
8. Serving Others
As a family, we serve others and pursue people in need. I want my children to love other people well and to learn that the secret of life is imitating our humble Lord. As we serve, my own heart is softened and matured. My guard goes down. I find my dependence on God’s grace.
9. Friendship and Fun
I plan playdates for the kids’ enjoyment, wanting them to build good friendships and to have fun. I find that greeting the other children and enjoying fellowship with other mothers builds me up just as much. While the kids play, I get to chat, to listen, to laugh, and to share. It’s a delight to my soul.
I look for little adventures that will broaden our children’s horizons and capture their imaginations, beckoning them to be discovers, wonderers, leaders, heroes, and God-worshipers. Wherever we go and whatever we see, thrills and inspires me. I am stretched and I become more courageous.
What a blessing it is to be a mother!
When we work hard to bring light, air, beauty, truth, goodness, exercise, music, literature, adventure, traditions, celebration, service, fun and friendship into our children’s lives, we bring them into our own lives.
May you discover the goodness of motherhood for yourself. Walk along beside your children. Dance, embrace, work, play, and snuggle into a world of wonderful things that psychologists and experts will always say are good for the human being.
Motherhood is a gift from God—a gift to children and a gift to women.
Switch to Sonlight and find a rhythm of homeschooling that nurtures both you and your children simultaneously.
I’m going to be totally honest right off the bat here. I never experienced those comments. You know the ones…those comments from well-meaning friends, family, and strangers who question your ability to homeschool because of your type of college degree or lack thereof.
You see, I am a former public school teacher, and I have a degree in early childhood education. It still sits on my shelf, a small reminder of those four years of transition into adulthood. I’m really quite thankful that I have it, but I try not to allow it to be a crutch for my current gig. Surprisingly, I really don’t bring a lot of my college education into our homeschool. Here are a few reasons why you don’t need a teaching degree to homeschool.
1. Teachers Are Taught to Teach the Masses
I applaud public school teachers. Having been among the ranks for a few treasured years, I remember the challenges we endured and the victories we celebrated.
Public school teachers are special because they are taught to teach a lot of children at one time. They are taught to teach to multiple learning styles in each of their lessons. They specialize in testing students to see in which group they should be placed. Licensed teachers study data to find trends and gaps within a set of students.
A homeschool mom or dad simply does not need these skills. First, with only a handful of students rather than a classroom full, we are able to give a lot of one-on-one instruction. You may not need to work in a kinesthetic link to your lesson if your child is mostly an auditory learner. If you decide to test your child, there will only be one set of results to examine. This does not require a degree.
2. Teachers Are Taught to Develop Curriculum
Licensed teachers are also taught to develop curriculum. They spend much of their professional development time aligning curriculum maps. They analyze the order in which concepts are taught, and they assure that every state standard is being taught at some point. This is important work in public schools. It enables teachers to assure that there is a continual and logical progression of learning with minimal learning gaps.
However, in a homeschool, this is generally unnecessary. Many qualified people at companies like Sonlight have already done the hard work for you. All you need to do is follow the curriculum that is laid out in your Instructor’s Guide. This requires no degree. In fact, Sonlight even includes plenty of notes to help you along in case you get stuck.
3. Even Teachers Have Areas of Expertise
Most teachers hold a degree applicable to a certain level of education. When I went through college, my degree was listed as Pre-K through 4th grade. I was officially licensed only for those age levels. So does that mean that I would have been completely lost if I had been assigned a fifth grade classroom? Not at all. In fact, all I would have had to do is pass a test, and I would have my next level of certification.
In a similar vein, I didn’t panic when my oldest left fourth grade. I didn’t suddenly believe that I was an inadequate teacher once he left my level of formal expertise. Homeschooling one grade is very similar to homeschooling another.
Simply follow the curriculum.
Facilitate learning, finding the resources to help when you can’t.
4. Teachers Don’t Have a Degree in the Study of Your Child...You Do
Yes, public school teachers are trained to teach all children, and many of them do an excellent job of it. However, you are the expert on your child.
You have spent hours on end studying them.
You live with them.
You know their quirks, their weaknesses, and their strengths.
There is no degree awarded in college for the study of your child, yet no one knows your child better than you. And that knowledge, combined with your love, makes you a great teacher.
5. Teachers Are Life-Long Learners...
....And you are too! As soon as you signed up to homeschool, you committed to being a life-long learner. In fact, chances are you will learn more than you ever bargained for, and that will make you hungrier to learn even more. That drive and determination will rub off on your child, and before you know it, you’ll both be hooked on learning.
Public school teachers log somewhere around 60+ hours of professional development each year. These are continuing education opportunities that teachers are required to attend.
Guess what? Countless homeschool moms and dads log even more hours of continuing education every single year!
Listening to podcasts
Watching videos that tell you how to enrich learning
I am the wife of a children’s pastor’s, and we talk a lot about being qualified. Many people don’t feel qualified to volunteer in the children’s department for one reason or another. We often remind them the same thing I want to remind you of now:
God doesn’t always call the qualified. Sometimes, he chooses to qualify those that He calls.
Homeschool moms and dads, if He has called you to this life, you are well-qualified.
Imagine having a personal homeschool mentor who plans and organizes your entire homeschool year, giving you customizable schedules, complete lesson plans, pertinent activities, and thoughtful discussion questions. This is exactly the support you get with a Sonlight Instructor's Guide.
I’m the oldest in a family of seven children that has used Sonlight curriculum since the 90s. I've noticed that certain books have become legends of family lore. These are usually the harder books—the books that have challenged us, broken our hearts, and exposed us to new ideas and feelings, including ideas we didn’t always like.
The pictorial history encyclopedias that included references to an earth that was billions of years old and mentioned evolutionary theories and prehistoric man shocked our Sunday-school educated selves. Yet they provided the perfect opportunity for our mom to talk with us about different ideas on how the universe came to be.
Later on, as advanced high school students, First They Killed My Father wrung our hearts with a portrayal of historical and horrific injustice.
Brave New Worldhaunted our imaginations with its picture of a world that has gone down a hideous path from which there may be no return.
From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya challenged our understanding of the history of Christian missions...making us realize that some of what we thought we’d always known to be true wasn’t the whole story, after all.
These hard books are not the sort that you can read through quickly, put down, and retain only a vague memory of. These are the books that become milestones.
“Oh, you finished Brave New World? What did you think of that? I remember my first time reading it…”
to teach our children the most popular perspective on history and the sciences
to help them feel comfortable as they learn more and more about their own cultural background
to impress upon them the idea that our own family’s way of thinking about life and handling its challenges is always the wisest and best way
to study primarily the happiest and most delightful aspects of human society
As educators, we must, at age- and developmentally-appropriate levels, teach our children the skills required for critical thinking. Otherwise, they are powerless to engage with worldviews and cultures different from their own.
Yes, preservation of innocence is an important part of our job as parents, but not to the extent that our children are unprepared to face the moral conflicts and tragedies of life.
A large concern with allowing our children and teens to read hard books that portray dark themes is the concern that portrayal of evil things is an implicit endorsement of such evil. The reasoning goes that reading about evil is an encouragement for our children to begin accepting such evil. This fear is a huge motivation behind many campaigns to ban questionable books from school libraries.
My response to this concern is that not all books portray evil the same way.
Books that endorse and glorify racism, classism, bullying, disrespect of parents, and all manner of sinful behaviors absolutely do exist. These are books not worthy of our homeschools. Sonlight does not include these kinds of books.
Other books portray racism, classism, bullying, disrespect, and sinful and horrifying actions as part of larger storylines that challenge the thinking of the reader and point in the direction of truth. These books may include darkness, but the overarching message of the book never condones that darkness. In fact, the overall storyline is one of redemption out of darkness.
These are the sorts of hard books that our children need to read in order to wrestle with these tough themes in a safe environment—at home with parents.
Is it safe for kids to read books that are hard? Perhaps not. But, like many things that couldn’t quite be called safe, it is indeed good.
As a homeschool parent, personal time for self-care is at a premium. After teaching lessons, driving kids to activities, cleaning, and cooking, there’s little energy left even if you can find a few minutes of time. It's all too easy to put exercise on the back burner.
But exercise is essential for homeschooling moms and dads. Exercising is a natural antidepressant, and some studies show it works even better than medication. It also increases energy levels and reduces stress, making running after little ones even easier.
I find myself leading a more sedentary life than I would like, just because I seem to have so many obligations that keep me inside and sitting. However, I am working on implementing the following tips to increase my activity levels. I hope my exercise resolutions help you invest in your own self-care!
1. Watch Exercise Videos
Online videos cover everything from walking to advanced Pilates; there’s something for everyone—often free. If you can’t get out and about, try doing exercise from your living room. You can follow a favorite video over and over again, or do a different kind of exercise each day. Your children might even like doing the videos along with you.
2. Use Music
Play upbeat music and dance along. Don’t worry about looking silly. It doesn’t matter if you can’t dance or have no rhythm. If you don’t like dancing, stretch, clean, or just jog in place. Moving your body will feel good, and you don’t have to worry about strangers watching you.
3. Take the Small Opportunities
If you can’t find time to exercise for a full 30 minutes without getting interrupted multiple times, then consider doing a little extra exercise at several different points throughout the day.
Lift cans of vegetables for 20 repetitions.
Squat as you declutter, rising fully in between picking up items.
Do lunges while vacuuming your way across the floor.
Take an extra lap around the grocery store.
Jump on a mini-trampoline each time you pass it.
4. Go to the Gym as a Family
You might find that joining the YMCA offers a lot of sports and activities for your children while offering swimming and other favorite activities for you. Some gyms offer childcare rooms where you can watch your children while you work out.
5. Check in with Your Body
Every time you give your children a break, don’t forget to give yourself one as well.
Take a few deep breaths.
Roll your neck in a circle.
Bend over to stretch your back, neck, shoulders, legs, and arms.
Do a few reps of squats, jumping jacks, or modified push-ups.
Singing has great health benefits for your body! Singing loudly can use a surprising number of muscles in the chest and abdomen. It increases deep breathing, reduces depression, and increases energy. So sing along with your children, and move around while doing it.
7. Get Outside
Take time each day just to get outside. The vitamin D from the sun will do a lot of good, as will the fresh air. Being outside is more likely to inspire you to get moving and do more fun outdoor activities that involve exercise.
Sonlight can be done almost anywhere, weather permitting. Some families like to pack up their books into a backpack or a wagon and go on a walk. When they find a nice place, they stop and pull out their books, wrapping up with a free play time in nature. Other families leave the books at home and just head out to learn more about what’s in the world outside their front door. Go for a walk with your children and learn more God’s creation.
8. Follow the Leader
Any parent of a toddler knows that children move far more than adults do. Try playing Follow the Leader with your children, doing all the movements they do. You’ll find it is usually better than a workout.
You can also get down on the floor and play with them. Children usually use a lot of big movements while playing, so try playing like a child, rather than with the conservative movements of an adult.
9. Work Out While They Play
If you go to the park with your children, you can walk or jog around the play are while they have fun. You can exercise in the waiting area of the karate lessons or take a short run around the library while you’re waiting for their painting class to finish.
10. Go Screenfree
When we aren’t on the phone or computer, we are more likely to fill that time with activities that get us moving. Make a pact to go screenfree certain hours of the day or for a longer period of time.
Finding time to exercise is hard. But once we do start exercising regularly, we typically have more energy and feel better. A good workout generates a cleansing feeling and leaves parents feeling refreshed. Invest in your own self-care by doing more physical exercise this year. The future you will appreciate it so much!