"[My children] have grown to love memorizing Bible verses. Sonlight is great for our kids because they love listening to stories. They have tons of questions as we read, and their learning experience is never-ending as long as they are awake. Thank the Lord for Sonlight!"
Helena T. of Malaysia
Sonlight curriculum encourages students of all ages to store goodness, truth, and beauty in their hearts and minds. In every level, students memorize Scripture. As the students progress, they memorize poetry, songs, and great speeches. These treasures will shape your child’s character and world view; they’ll be a comfort and help throughout life’s ups and downs.
Every day, have your child repeat the segment aloud 3 – 5 times.
Say it once at every meal.
Say it once in every room of your house.
Say it standing, sitting, and lying on the floor.
Say it to 3 different toys.
Share it with 3 relatives via phone or video call.
2. Use Hand-motions for Memory Work
Adding a body element helps young children retain the pattern of the words. With your child, develop motions to accompany the memory work.
Learn ASL for the key words in the memory passage.
Record yourselves doing the motions so that you can watch it together.
Teach the motions to other people.
3. Post Memory Work in Strategic Places Around the House
Encourage your child to read and review memory work when they’re simply going about life by referring to small notes posted about the house. This is a great life-skill to develop!
On a wall by the toilet
On the wall by the shoe rack
In the car
At the table
In a ziplock bag tied to the dog’s leash to review while walking!
4. Create Puzzles and Games to Review Memory Work
Introduce new memory work by asking your child to create a puzzle or game containing that segment. This will help to establish the piece in her mind. Doing the puzzle and playing the game will help to review it over time.
Scramble the words or phrases on cards, wooden craft sticks, etc. Then put them in order.
Write the portion on a white board and erase one word at a time as you repeat the passage.
Create a simple board game on which each step contains a portion from the memory work with a word missing. The player must fill in the word in order to progress.
Create a trivia Q&A game in which the players are quizzed about the order of words, the key ideas, the imagery, etc.
5. Create a Memory Work Binder or Book
When your child graduates from high school, wouldn’t it be cool to hand him a book full of the Scriptures, poems, songs, and speeches that he has memorized over the years? This would be a source of review for a lifetime of pleasure and enrichment! In a way, it would be like your child’s personal Timeline book. As you work on this together throughout the year, your child will learn and review the memory work as well.
When asked which subject new homeschoolers are most anxious about teaching their children, reading usually tops the list. Most other academic subjects require a child to read, making it feel essential to teach this skill early. When children reach plateaus in their learning, parents may panic, wondering what they are doing wrong or how they can help speed up the process. But teaching reading early doesn’t mean you will have better readers.
1. Reading is a Developmental Process
Parents often compare their children to other young children. They see other children reading and are quick to assume that a child who isn’t reading at the same age has a problem.
But reading is a process created by brain connections not intelligence. Not all children make the same brain connections in the same time or in the same manner. Some children devote a lot of brain power to learning how to read very young and do well.
Other children devote that same brain power to skills they find more important, such as learning to climb, kick, sing, or do math. When their brain is ready to focus on reading, they will make the necessary brain connections.
A child builds the muscles in the back and neck to hold up their head.
They learn to balance their upper bodies by sitting up.
They use their legs and arms to scoot or crawl.
They begin trying to stand.
Once standing, they learn to balance themselves to be able to take a step or two
Parents can help children build those muscles, but they can’t rush the developmental processes that need to take place in the brain for each step. Some children learn how to walk early and others later. But after children have been walking for a year or two, the exact age begins to matter less and less.
Reading is another developmental process including many increments. Trying to rush reading doesn’t make your child read better, any more than trying to make your child walk sooner helps them be a better athlete.
3. Early Reading Instruction May Backfire
Often an attempt to teach reading early backfires, convincing your child that reading is too hard. Wait for your child to be ready for the next stage before pushing on. The less rewarding and enjoyable that reading seems, the less they will want to read.
A variety of studies show students who begin school (and consequently reading) before they are ready have higher levels of dyslexia, speech impediments, low self-esteem, higher anxiety, less motivation to succeed, and higher levels of frustration with or dislike of certain school subjects.
Wait and watch for your child to show developmental signs of readiness before beginning reading instruction. Some signs of being ready to read include:
pretends to read and write
shows a desire to learn how to read (like the child pictured at the top of this post!)
loves listening to and looking at books
demonstrates print awareness (recognizes that letters represent sounds)
These signs are not a guarantee that a child is ready. Some children love books from birth and enjoy being read to, but aren’t ready to read for years to come.
4. Younger Isn’t Necessarily Better
Despite public schools pushing preschool reading skills, teaching a child to read at that age isn’t endorsed by most child development experts and researchers.
Some children do teach themselves young. You’ll find there are children who read everything and seem to do very well with little instruction. But, if your child isn’t one of those, don’t worry. Your child is normal, too!
The best football players aren’t the ones who hold a football in the delivery room or throw a ball before age one. The best athletes are the ones who practice the hardest and have a natural ability even if they never hold a football until age ten. Here's another example: My husband is a musician who composes, writes, and performs his own music. He didn’t learn how to play his first instrument until he was 18. He didn’t learn his second until 22, or his third until 23. By standards in the music community, he should not be able to play well enough to be a professional musician. Yet, he does play professionally!
It’s hard to watch neighbors bragging about how early their children are learning certain skills in preschool, but by fifth grade, you’ll see that those early reading abilities are no longer important. No one will care anymore whether your child learned to read at 4 or 10. No college application will ever disqualify your child for learning to read later.
Once your child learns to read, no one will care when they learn to read. Only that they can. And that they do.
5. Intelligence is Not Linked to the Age a Child Learns to Read
The age at which a child learns to read does not indicate their intelligence level. Many gifted and advanced children don’t learn until first or second grade, some even later.
Schools are evaluated by reading test scores of their students. Having younger children do well looks good for them when standardized testing scores are tabulated. But the truth is children will learn to read when their brains are ready. Some read very early and others very late.
6. Eye Development Is Crucial
Children develop their distance vision before their close-up vision, so allow your young child to play in wide open spaces as much as possible. Park play equipment, nature exploration, beach-combing, outdoor sports, and backyard shenanigans are all useful in developing a good reader. Eyes mature around age eight.
As their eyes develop, teaching reading becomes easier and easier. Some children will still struggle beyond age eight. Playing outdoors is even more important for these children so they have opportunities to exercise their distance vision.
7. Children Who Learn to Read Later Do Just as Well as Everyone Else
There’s actually no proven benefit to teaching your child to read early. There is research that supports surrounding them with books and reading to them often, but none that supports actually teaching them to read young.
Dr. Sebastian Suggate, a researcher in childhood education in New Zealand, conducted multiple studies into the benefits of teaching children to read young (age 5) or late (age 7). His research shows that around age 10.89, there is no discernible difference between the two groups. The group that learned to read early showed no advantages for having done so.
Children who start school when they are ready tend to show more motivation, improved grades, better leadership skills, and a greater interest in school subjects. Overall, research shows there are benefits to teaching reading later rather than earlier.
If your child is impatiently waiting to start reading and seems to do well, by all means, start. But, if your child is balking at reading lessons and frustrated by the process, it is likely a sign their brain is just not quite ready yet.
Starting early isn’t a prerequisite for excelling:
Take Rocky Marciano, the famous boxer who started boxing at 20.
Or consider Julia Child, a famous French chef who didn’t know French cooking until she was 30.
And, most inspiring of all, think of Grandma Moses, the painter who took up her paintbrush at 78.
If your child isn’t reading by 5 or 6, all is not lost. They’re just beginning their life-long journey of reading a touch later because they’ve been so busy focusing on building other skills first.
Talk to an Advisor who can help you decipher if your child is ready for reading instruction (or remediation) and what program fits best. It's free!
It was Bible time, a part of every homeschool day and scheduled in our Instructor's Guide. Bible was one of the subjects that our whole family did together before going separate ways to tackle our own subjects.
Obviously, this was a good thing. I had nothing against studying the Bible. The Bible is great!
But I was a teenager in high school, and I had geometric proofs to write, theater scripts to memorize, research papers to outline...
Getting Bible Out of the Way
Mom loved teaching the Bible so much that she tended to go overboard, in my opinion. She would speak with great passion and at length during the teaching and commentary portion of the Bible lesson.
One day, she caught me tapping my foot, just a little, antsy to have this part of the day over and done with. Maybe I was even glancing at the clock, calculating the time I could be finished with the rest of my work for the day if Mom finished talking within the next five minutes.
She stopped her lesson immediately and said,
"This. This right here—the Bible—is the most important thing you're going to learn about all day. If we end up spending the entire day discussing this passage of Scripture, and don't get a single other thing done, but by the end, we truly understand this passage, that will be perfectly okay. This is what you need to know. The rest of school is good to know, but knowing your own faith is non-negotiable. This is the most important.”
The Bible is The Most Practical Subject of Them All
It's been more than ten years since my mother's calm rebuke and her reminder about what my priorities should be. In the time since, I've earned my college degree, worked a couple jobs, and had a son of my own.
And I've learned that she was absolutely right. I use my knowledge of English grammar regularly, and on rare occasion I've found being able to calculate geometric formulas for area and volume comes in handy. But I haven't used calculus since senior year of high school, and I'm no chemist, either. I enjoyed what I learned in those subjects and when my own children reach high school age, I'll enjoy teaching those subjects.
But what do I really need to know for my everyday life?
I need to know that I can trust my Savior with every aspect of my life, both when life looks better than my wildest dreams and when I’m facing tragedies that I don’t understand.
I need to live in the freedom of forgiveness.
As a wife, as a mother, and as a friend, I need to love the people in my life like the One who loved me first did.
I need to be able, when I face a loss I hoped I'd never have to face, to say in the midst of the storm, "It is well with my soul."
In moments of fear and frustration, when I realize that I don't even have control of my own future, I need to rest in the knowledge that I know the One who holds all of our futures.
My Mom Was Right About the Bible
I shouldn't have tried to rush through those Bible lessons as much as I did. Scripture was the most important part of our day. More than anything else she did, teaching me the Scriptures has irrevocably shaped my life and set me on the path that I now walk daily.
So, no, Bible may not be the most impressive class on a transcript. It may not increase SAT scores, be a key factor in being awarded lucrative academic scholarships, or help me get hired at an impressive job. But knowing your Creator—knowing exactly what you believe and the reasons why you believe—is going to matter in every aspect of your life for every day of your life.
Consider Your Goals for Homeschooling
Homeschool moms and homeschool students:
When you’re tempted to rush through those hard passages...
When you wonder whether Bible memory work is really worth the time...
When you don’t really want to devote the time to a discussion of a Biblical worldview on historical events...
When the days are too long and there’s too much to do and you’re tempted to skip Bible in favor of STEM subjects that are much more impressive to the wider world…
Consider whether impressing the wider world is the mission of your homeschool, or whether you are aiming for something different, something more like transformed hearts and minds and lives that have been surrendered to the lordship of Jesus Christ.
Perhaps, instead of seeing Bible time as a box that we check off in our schedules each day and get over with as quickly as possible, we ought to take a more holistic view, and more actively look for ways to integrate faith into every aspect of home education.
When we are intentional about integrating faith with learning, we realize that we can see our Creator revealed as we study Creation, we can consider our own characters as we read of the men and women of faith who have gone before us, and we can allow the Word of God permeate every aspect of our homeschool schedules. Sonlight provides this kind of education.
Other families do most of their work elsewhere in the home, but find that having everyone gathered around the table for a meal is a convenient time to practice spelling words, talk about science concepts learned earlier in the day, or go through another chapter in the current Read-Aloud.
Meal prep itself is a perfect opportunity to use measuring, fractions, and basic math facts before setting out plates and silverware.
Those approaches are all practical and good, but sometimes it’s fun to make the food itself part of the history or geography curriculum.
1. Foreign Food Night
Several years ago our family used the Create-A-Calendar from HBL A as inspiration for what we dubbed Foreign Food Night. Once a month we prepared a dinner comprised entirely of food from whichever country the calendar was highlighting that particular month. In a season with multiple little kids and no older ones, I chose the convenience of looking recipes up online. If I had it to do over, I’d opt to use the library system as a resource for cookbooks to peruse with my young kids as we created a menu together.
In the years of Intro to World History (HBL B and HBL C) , Eastern Hemisphere (HBL F), and World History (HBL G and HBL H), you can keep things simple by choosing to eat food from the setting of your current Reader or Read-Aloud. The Pre-K program is filled with options for cooking as Brittany R from Albany, GA shows in her photos below.
Baking bread in a bag was a fun activity to do after reading Jesus Feeds a Multitude (Pre-K). Reading this story and baking the bread also lead to some sweet conversations about how Jesus is the Bread of Life!
Reading Nail Soup from Stories From Around the World (Pre-K) inspired us to make some yummy nail soup for dinner! We love bringing stories to life through cooking and baking!
If you’re working through Intro to American History (HBL D and HBL E) or American History (HBL 100), you can go on a culinary road trip across the nation.
The route you take doesn’t matter:
move from one side of the country to the other
work in order of when the states were formed or joined the Union
A quick online search of state recipes or (insert state of choice) recipes will give you endless options of foods to try, so you won’t have any trouble finding dishes or an entire meal that appeals to you.
If you want to add a little emphasis to the geography aspect
of eating state foods, print out a map of the United States and have your kids
color in the states as you cook meals from them.
3. A Restaurant Experience
Maybe you’d rather be served a meal than to prepare it yourself. If that’s the case, find a local restaurant that serves food from the state or country your family is learning about and stop in for a meal. If your budget and location allow, you could make these restaurant meals a monthly field trip.
Stretch your restaurant field trip dollars by
using deal sites like Groupon
ordering just one dish instead of an entire meal
eating at lunch instead of dinner
Perhaps you live in a more rural location without diverse restaurant options or your budget simply doesn’t have the wiggle room for dining out on a regular basis. In that case, you’ll need probably need to stick with cooking your own curriculum-based meals, which is totally fine. Maybe you can do your shopping in an international market which is a great learning experience in itself!
Eating Your Curriculum
Incorporating meals from the places talked about in school books brings a tangible—and often delicious—quality to what’s being studied. At the very least, you’ll have a better understanding of cultural geography. And it's possible your family may end up with new favorites to add to your regular meal rotation.
If hands-on activities are the way to your child's heart and mind, we've got outstanding projects in easy-to-use kits, complete with supplies, clear directions, and short passages to provide historical context.
The other day, my five youngest children raided the chest of dress-up clothes, focusing on vests and flat woolen hats. Then they grabbed their tall farm boots, packed a small tea set in an old suitcase, and trekked the perimeter of our property. They were, it turns out, journeying to Calcutta— reliving the adventure of Momo as she searched for her prized dog in Daughter of the Mountains.
Today, they are trying to coax one of the horses in the neighboring field to follow them to Narnia, a la The Horse and His Boy. Who knows what will catch their imaginations tomorrow? It could be anything… but chances are good it will be something they discovered in a Sonlight book.
Play As a Learning Tool
There are multiple ways to process what you’ve learned. Writing a paper is a good one. So is making a video, creating an art project, retelling the information, or teaching someone else. The method most favored by my children over the years, though, has been reliving what they learned in active play.
Play is back in the news as an integral part of learning. Every day it seems a new report is published stating not just how valuable play is, but also how much it is lacking in modern education.
Classrooms, faced with testing deadlines and state-mandated scope and sequence charts, rarely have time for the slower pace of play-based learning and exploration. Homeschooling parents generally have a good understanding of how important play is simply from spending hour upon hour studying how their children learn best. Having a varied toolbox of educational tricks means tapping into multiple methods of learning, and play is one of the most simple and effective.
Setting the stage for play-based learning, as a Sonlight parent, doesn’t require an investment in expensive manipulatives or trips to teaching supply stores. A few essentials are all you need. Here's your four-part checklist:
1. Clothes for Dressing Up
Cast-off clothing, thrifted finds, costumes, and even sheets and blankets are essential elements in the dress up box. Your children will be well equipped when the urge to be William Tell from The Apple and the Arrow strikes or when you need to rise from slave to scientist like George Washington Carver. Nothing cements understanding—and fires curiosity— like stepping into the shoes of another person!
2. Household Goods for Play
Now, these can definitely be toy items—cute wooden toy plates and cups, little baskets made for carrying babies, that mini plastic camping set. But if you’re short on cash, it’s just as good to make a Goodwill trip and find some hand-me-down items to serve. Be creative! You never know what your child will imagine something to be, so if that flashlight is $1, it may just be worth throwing in the cart for later on.
Whether you’re figuring out exactly what a one-room schoolhouse might have looked like in The Year of Miss Agnes or staging your favorite Greek Myths for Children, you’ll need to set the scene. We even strip pallets of their screws and nails, sand them down, and leave them free for kids to use as they need.
Cultivate a schedule that leaves plenty of unstructured time for play, have a few props on hand, and keep the ideas flowing with your Sonlight curriculum. Suddenly you’re watching the learning extend well past school hours as your kids engage in the ideas, events, and times they’ve been studying. You can’t plan that kind of lesson… but it’s every bit as valuable!
Kickstart your children's interest in science with structured activities. See complete kits here. Then set them free to explore with the loose parts in the supplies kit.
We're missionaries living in the Philippines and have been using Sonlight almost as long as Josiah has lived. We couldn't imagine life without it. The full grade packages give us peace of mind, that we can really do homeschooling and make it work around our busy lives.
We travel to many countries, and we always have a special bag for Josiah's school books. The Instructor's Guides save us much time and energy as we just have to follow the clear instructions. Josiah loves the geography and learning about different tribes and cultures and praying for other people groups.
Jeffrey S. in the Philippines
When I was nine years old, my family moved across the country. Two years later, we moved to a third state. A year after that, we packed up once more— this time into suitcases only—and moved about as far away from my birthplace of Michigan as it's possible to get while remaining on planet Earth.
Each move brought upheaval into our lives. At various times, we lived in a 1970s era motor-home, in a big farmhouse in the countryside, and in a 1000-square-foot apartment in Southeast Asia—a tight fit for a family of nine. We had to start over in each new home: making new friends, building new family traditions, eating new foods. This was a great deal of change for my siblings and me to process at young ages.
One thing didn't change, however, no matter how many different places we called home: the school we went to.
Sonlight Laid a Foundation Even Before We Went Abroad
Because we were homeschooled with Sonlight long before our adventures around the world began, I had already read many of the books in Sonlight's Eastern Hemisphere HBL F. These tales of Asian history inspired curiosity about life far from where I was born.
Granted, some of the books I read may have given my imaginative mind an overly dramatic picture of modern-day life in Asia. However, given that my family actually has ...
done battle with monkeys that invaded our home
seen territorial battles between 5-foot monitor lizards on the playground
run from a tsunami wave that destroyed 11 homes in our neighborhood
... maybe what I imagined about living in the rainforest wasn't all that far from reality.
Based on my childhood experiences, I can tell you that homeschooling, especially with Sonlight curriculum, helps families living overseas in three main ways.
1. Homeschooling Brings Consistency to the Upheaval
While everything else in our lives turned topsy-turvy with each new transition, because we homeschooled, these three things remained consistent:
We moved to Southeast Asia on a Friday in August. On Monday, school began!
But there were no first-day jitters. There was no cross-cultural stress of trying to adapt quickly to a whole new grading system or educational style. We weren’t stymied by having to learn a new language before we could comprehend lessons. We had moved across the world, but we were able to continue our education without these bumps in the road.
Moving your children across the world to live in a place you've never laid eyes on isn't easy. Taking your school along with you, packed in suitcases, removes one level of extra complexity.
Kids handle big changes like international moves far better when some level of familiarity and consistency remain. When they are able to spend some time in familiar waters, they will gradually feel more comfortable diving into the new world that surrounds them. This bit of familiarity makes the initial adjustment easier for the parents as well, as they also aren’t laden with the additional responsibility of finding suitable schools for their children.
2. Homeschooling Allows Children to Connect to Their New Community
In many countries, expatriate children simply aren't allowed to attend public schools. That leaves private international schools the only option. Such schools are an excellent choice for many families, but because attending these schools is time-consuming and because most of the students are expatriates themselves, it is more difficult for them to send down roots in their host country.
Although they quickly make friends with expatriate classmates, they often miss the chance to get involved in their community and make friends of the locals. Homeschooled students simply have more time to spend in the local community and more motivation to develop a local peer group (if they want to know anyone other than their own siblings, that is!).
I credit homeschooling with the fact that my siblings and I were able to build a deep relational connection in our new home. We had lots of time to spend running around with the neighborhood kids. Our friends taught us their own language. We developed a multi-generational network in our local community. In high school, I could count on having older "aunties" from the neighborhood go tattling to my mom if we were seen roughhousing.
We are missionaries who live without access to a public library, which is one of our most favorite places to go when we're in America. We love all of the books incorporated into the program. I have to pace my daughters' reading or they'd be done with the books way before school is finished for the year. We love Sonlight!
The O. family has been Sonlighting since 2010.
3. Homeschooling Makes Life Overseas More Affordable
Living in parts of the world far from the land of your own citizenship is a fantastic opportunity for families to travel together. But if much of the family's budget is devoted to paying tuition to pricey international schools, funds will quickly dwindle.
Many families living overseas choose to send their children away to boarding schools in order to get a high quality education. Our family was fortunate. We were relocated to an island with an excellent international school that used American curriculum. But affording tuition for seven children?! That simply couldn't be done.
Sonlight curriculum, on the other hand, can be used with multiple children at once and uses real books that last for years upon years! The cost for workbooks and Sonlight curriculum for all seven of us for one year of homeschool was less than half the cost of sending just one of us to the international school.
Our family has visited Angkor Wat in Cambodia, swum in the clear waters of the Andaman Sea, and toured Hong Kong, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur. None of these exciting (and educational) adventures would have been possible if most of my parents’ income was devoted to paying tuition to a pricey international school.
Being homeschooled made living overseas a much better experience for my family than it would have otherwise been. Being homeschooled with Sonlight allowed us to have an education with a curriculum that meshed well with our own Christ-centered values, taught us both how to think critically, and encouraged us to engage with the cultures and histories of the whole world.
Whether you are homeschooling in your home country or abroad, Sonlight makes your days delightful and easy. Learn more.
We’ve all met a homeschool critic. From the well-meaning neighbor who retired from teaching in 1997 to the UPS guy who doesn’t have children but is sure your local public school is the best in the state, it’s annoying to have acquaintances or even total strangers question your family’s educational choices.
What’s worse, however, is when you have a dedicated critic like a friend or close family member you see often. This in-your-face critic feels compelled to spout a negative opinion or get in a dig at every gathering. Ouch.
Engaging With Grace
It’s tempting to snap back with a snarky retort, but Proverbs 15:1 reminds us that a gentle answer turns away wrath. A simple, “Thanks! I’ll keep that in mind,” is often all it takes to redirect someone whose intent is generally good.
But critics whose badgering is less benign rarely take a subtle hint, no matter how much grace is behind your response. If you’ve decided that it’s time to engage in conversation with your harshest of critics, here are some thought-provoking questions to start the dialogue. The hope is that they will set your critic on the path of understanding… or at least help him or her back off a tad.
2. Ask “Would you like to meet another homeschooling family?”
The unknown quantity is often much more likely to garner suspicion that the known. Offering to point out fellow homeschoolers at your son’s next birthday party might be enough to normalize the things that set you apart in your family or church circle. If nothing else, it provides solidarity!
3. Ask “Have you spent time in a classroom recently?”
It’s one thing to harken back to “the good old days” of first graders spending most of their time engaged in play and hands-on learning. It's quite another altogether to consider the consequences of the decades-long obsession with test scores and the ever-creeping skills race as its filtered down to early elementary. Critics who think that age-appropriate educating is happening in a modern classroom might be encouraged to look into what really goes on nowadays.
4. Ask “What do you think a homeschool day looks like?”
You count time spent playing a video game as math.
Your kids read serial novels all day in lieu of actual language arts instruction.
Giving your harshest critics the chance to voice their assumptions allows you to set the record straight.
Educating Your Critics
The purpose of asking engaging, open-ended questions is not to shut the naysayer down, but rather to bring them to a place where they can admit that their picture of homeschooling might be incomplete. Don’t expect them to stop asking questions, but encourage them to ask better questions.
Ultimately, you may open the door to the critic's admission—however reluctant— that homeschooling might not be as evil as they think it is.
Knowing When To Surrender
Of course, there’s no guarantee that this dream scenario will ever happen. If it doesn’t—even after you’ve invested time and time again in gracefully extending an olive branch—it might just be time to admit defeat. Some people will cling to their view that homeschooling is a poor choice no matter how gently you attempt to defuse their dislike. In that case, all you can do is find a way to smile, wave, and move on.
This no-strings offer lets you test drive the Sonlight way of learning with a novel and discussion guide. Sign up here.