How to Homeschool the Tactile, Movement-Oriented, and Sensory-Seeking Child

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How to Homeschool the Tactile, Movement-Oriented, and Sensory-Seeking Child

In a classroom setting, highly kinesthetic or sensory-seeking children are notoriously difficult to teach because they have a deep-rooted need to perform actions generally considered distracting for the rest of the classroom. Those actions involve moving and touching, and they don’t learn as well without this sensory stimulation.

Naturally, this situation can be hard for parents and teachers who just want their child to sit still and do the work. For these kids, though, sitting still actually makes it harder to pay attention. Limiting their movement hinders their ability to process what they are learning. 

As homeschool parents, we are blessed with the opportunity to teach kinesthetic learners outside the limitations of the classroom, and apply unique techniques to help our kinesthetic learners become great students. 

Kinesthetic learners can be broken down into three main categories. 

1. Tactile Learners

Tactile learners need to touch and feel things as they learn. Feeling a flower as they learn about science would be more valuable to them than seeing a picture of a flower. Holding a baby bird would provide additional learning that a tactile student couldn’t get merely by looking at it. 

"Orion loves stories. He can listen to books for hours, but his hands are rarely still. He loves to paint, smack his baseball in his glove, look through other books, or play with action figures. Some would think he’s not listening but when I ask him questions, he usually remembers details I have forgotten. I’m thankful for Sonlight’s literature based approach to learning that allows my active, book loving boy the space to learn his own way." Sarah Z. of Clarkston, GA

2. Movement-Oriented Learners

Kinesthetic students need more than just touch to learn. They often need to be actually moving or feeling sensations to fully optimize their capabilities.

You’ll find them reading a book while hanging upside down from a sofa or skipping around during their spelling lesson. The thing you won’t find them doing very often is sitting still and being quiet.

Often kinesthetic learners also need an auditory aspect, and will therefore talk, sing, or hum to themselves, even when they are supposed to be listening to a book. They usually aren’t aware they are moving or humming until you bring it to their attention. 

3. Sensory-Seeking Learners

And finally there are the sensory-seekers—children who crave input to their body. You’ll find these children love to jump, climb, spin, twirl, run into things, and dance their way through life. They love loud sounds (including their own voice), bright lights, and flashes. For a parent who isn’t sensory-seeking, the higher energy requirements and loudness can be a bit overwhelming. 

Whether your child is tactile, movement-oriented, sensory-seeking, or a combination, the following methods will help you teach and help your child learn. All of these children fall under the kinesthetic umbrella and will benefit from a free homeschool environment that integrates motion into the learning.

How to Homeschool the Kinesthetic Learner

Children who need higher levels of sensory input or have a hard time sitting still will not do as well with traditional classroom methods because their bodies seek extra stimulation. Because I homeschool my two children who have ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) with SPD (sensory processing disorder), I have the freedom to let them move with almost every assignment. I incorporate the techniques below into our Sonlight curriculum, and they are easily able to concentrate and learn!

Kinesthetic learners learn best when doing projects or creating things. But the good news is, for most of these children, the activity they are doing doesn’t need to be directly related to what they are learning. They just need to be moving, feeling, or touching. 

How to Homeschool the Tactile, Movement-Oriented, and Sensory-Seeking Child

Here's a list of techniques that work well for kinesthetic learners in a homeschool setting.

  • Add craft projects to whatever you're learning. Use Sonlight’s lapbooks, activity packages, and coloring book supplements.
  • Don’t require your kinesthetic learner to sit still unless it’s absolutely necessary. Standing on one foot while doing math, sitting on an exercise ball while doing a reading assignment, and writing spelling words outside in sidewalk chalk help a child to learn far better than learning with minimal movement.  
  • Let them roam. Allow them to walk around while you read, hang upside down from the sofa while they read, dangle from the swing while they practice spelling, or run around the house between subjects a couple of times. 
  • Allow them to move, bounce, swing, twirl, or wiggle while you read to them.
  • Have your child act out scenes while you read them or do dramatic play with LEGO bricks to keep their attention on what you are teaching. 
  • Let them use quiet toys and activities during read-alouds. Playdough, LEGO, squish balls, thinking putty, and crocheting can keep a tactile learner’s hands busy while they process information. Sanding wood; sorting buttons, socks, or screws; and drawing can be effective, too. 
  • Using music is helpful. If you’re learning about a particular country, try having them dance to ethnic music from that country. While doing math, addition songs may be more helpful than flash cards. Play music during quiet times. 
  • Allow them to touch and manipulate blocks during math, mini-figures during history, or letter tiles during language arts.
  • Use breaks wisely. Some kinesthetic learners need frequent breaks to aid their learning. Breaks cause others to lose their attention and make their day longer. Those students might prefer working straight through with as few breaks as possible, and having more time for movement and play later on.
  • Use alternate forms of print: number stamps and stickers in math, chalk, textured paper, or typing in writing.
  • Serve as your child's scribe for longer writing assignments.
  • Get outside. Swinging while listening to a read-aloud or bouncing on a trampoline while reciting Bible verses can help children learn more effectively. 
  • Use food. Chewing gum can help create a sense of movement. Cooking a meal from a culture or character in your studies can link learning to something tangible.
  • Get outside. Take nature walks while you discuss books. Go to the park and do lessons while your child is sitting in a tree or swinging from a hammock. Those little motions will help move the information from short-term memory to long-term. 
  • Go places. Child-friendly museums often let children touch things they see. Other museums have displays which teach as children walk through. 
  • Add projects. Build a fort or construct a pyramid out of sugar cubes. Don’t be afraid to add art and crafts
  • Use art where you normally wouldn’t. Allow your child to draw in the margins of their math book, doodle on their science activity sheets, and build with their math blocks. Even the simple act of highlighting words on a page adds a little bit of the kinesthetic aspect and can help improve concentration. 
  • Use different textures and sensations. Writing on a dry erase board, on a chalkboard, or on the driveway adds a unique tactile experience. Using a vibrating pencil can help settle motor neurons in the hand that want to be moving instead of holding a pencil. Typing, especially with a keyboard setting that provides for tactile feedback, can also offer a bit of stimulation. 
  • Musical vibrations can help. One of my sons who needs tactile feedback loves strumming on his guitar, as it provides a nice sensation when he has to be sitting still. He also loves coming up with his own songs and lyrics to what he is learning. Both the sound and the sensation of playing aid his retention. Other musical instruments can also be used to provide sensory input. Songs already set to music can be used, especially if the child is allowed the freedom to act out the lyrics, dance to them, or just wiggle around. 
  • Use deep muscle stimulation in work. Allow your sensory-seeking child to do chores which involve lifting, carrying, climbing, and use of the large muscles in the arms and legs. Vacuuming using a heavy vacuum is often a great chore for this type of child, because it gives them the sensory input of a loud noise, combined with the deep muscle motion of pushing the vacuum around.
  • Use muscle stimulation at rest. Weighted blankets and highly textured fabrics provide sensory input so your child doesn’t need seek it out as much. You can also have them try isotonic exercises while they do their schoolwork. These can stretching exercise bands, sitting on an exercise ball, playing with thinking putty, and even some light weightlifting. 

The more I use these techniques that provide stimulation for both mind and body, the more I find myself at peace, too. When I see my children thriving with these methods, I'm able to let go of the anxiety their sensory-seeking produces in a sensory-avoider like myself. Because we flex our Sonlight curriculum with these techniques, we can all enjoy our studies together. 

Considering homeschooling to provide more freedom for your kinesthetic child?

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Seven Tips for the New Homeschool Year

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Box Day came and went. You snapped that first-day-of-school photo (or not), and now you may be weeks into your new homeschool year. How is it going so far?

I know the excitement and trepidation a new year can bring. So as a mom who has been there, done that, here are some tips to help you settle into a great year.

1. Start Small

Remember this verse from Zechariah as you start. Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin. (Zechariah 4:10)  No matter if you start with a lot of glitz or small beginnings, both are okay. God loves small starts … and small restarts.

Just like when a new baby comes home, I found it takes about six weeks to establish new patterns at the start of school. If your schedule now is a big change from your summer schedule, give your family some grace. You'll find your groove soon.

2. Allow Time to Deschool

For every year your children were in school, allow (at least) a week of homeschooling for them to get used to it.

3. Ask for Homeschool Help

You don't need to be a superhero. If you struggle with any part of your homeschool and want some fresh ideas, contact a Sonlight Homeschool Advisor at no charge or join and ask in the Sonlight Connections Facebook group.

Sonlight Connections Facebook group

4. Ask for Household Help

If you're feeling swamped, brainstorm ways to lighten your load in your non-homeschool duties.

  • Perhaps you could teach your kids to do more chores.
  • Maybe your spouse could cook dinner one night a week.
  • Could your older students work more independently in some subjects?
  • You might even hire a high school student to be a mother's helper and watch the kids at your house once a week while you organize, work or relax.

Asking for help doesn't mean you're weak, just wise.

Seven Tips for the New Homeschool Year
"Sonlight is such a wonderful program. We look forward to the start of each new year. Box day until first day of school is always hard, because we all just want to go ahead and start reading all the new books."—Kristin W. in Grand Isle, VT

5. Read and Learn Together

Don't know everything your kids are supposed to learn this year? That's okay! You'll learn alongside them and gain incredible knowledge as you go. It's wonderful to say, "I don't know, but let's look it up together."

You get to model the joy of lifelong learning.

6. Set Goals

If you haven't already done so, write down goals for the school year. When daily progress seems slow, long-term goals are key. If you write down physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual goals for each of your children now, you'll have something to evaluate at the end of the year. You'll be amazed at how they grew.

7. Keep the Long View

I love being a mom, but I don't love everything I've had to deal with as a mom. I loved homeschooling, but I didn't love everything about homeschooling.

In reality, there's not a job in the world where you'd love every single aspect. So keep the long view and remind yourself that there is no job more significant or important than raising and teaching the children God has given you.

Be encouraged as you adventure into the new year. I believe that God has equipped you to teach your children. We are here to help. You can do it!

Want more encouragement?

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

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

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5 Ways to Make Bible Memorization Natural in Your Homeschool

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5 Ways to Make Bible Memorization Natural in Your Homeschool

One of the most powerful aspects of Sonlight curriculum is the Bible memorization included in the History / Bible / Literature programs. When your child meditates on and memorizes Scripture, he is storing gold in the savings account of his mind—useful today and far into the future.

It is well worth our time and effort to help our children faithfully memorize Scripture. Consider these five ways to make Bible memorization a natural part of your homeschool day.

1. Use Music

Many HBL levels include and schedule songs from Sing the Word that teach each passage through music. Listen to, dance, drive, and sing along with the Sing the Word albums. If there's no album in your program, encourage your children to compose a melody themselves. If they can pair the song with rhythmic movements, all the better!

2. Use Car Rides

Write this week’s memory verse on a sticky note and affix it to your car or van's dashboard. Get in the habit of reading aloud the passage every time you start the engine.

Play round robin in the car as each person says the next part of the passage until it is complete.

3. Use Daily Moments

Review your Bible memory passage while eating breakfast, cleaning up lunch dishes, or getting ready for bed.

Your child may enjoy writing the verse on the bathroom mirror in erasable marker, then reviewing the verse while she brushes her teeth.

Write the verse on an index card and put it in a plastic ziploc bag. Hang the bag in the shower so that your child can review while bathing.

4. Use a Whiteboard

I've found this five-day system effective for memorizing Bible verses:

  • Day 1: Write the verse while saying it aloud.
  • Day 2: Read the verse aloud together.
  • Day 3: Erase a few key words. Then read the verse aloud.
  • Day 4: Erase a few more words. Then read the verse aloud.
  • Day 5: Erase the entire verse; try to rewrite from memory.

5. Use Index Cards

The same kind of method works with index cards, too. As a bonus, cards are much more portable, so you can tuck them into your tote bag and take them on your roadschooling adventures.

  • Day 1: Write the verse while saying it aloud.
  • Day 2: Read the verse at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
  • Day 3: Read the verse at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
  • Day 4: Cut the index card into pieces and put it together like a puzzle.
  • Day 5: Try to recite and rewrite the verse from memory.

Which of these methods are your favorite? Remember you can layer multiple options for even more repetition of Scripture memory verses. With repetition comes familiarity. The principles sink in, and eventually—with deliberate effort—kids can memorize them entirely by heart. What greater gift can your homeschool provide your children than to give them nuggets of Scripture, committed to memory?

Complete Christian Homeschool Curriclum

Sonlight's Christ-centered literature-rich curriculum teaches from the perspective of God's truth and his love for all people of the world. It gives parents tools to guide their children in the way of Christ as they learn about their own faith and heritage and interact with a wide variety of ideas and cultures.

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How To Have a Good Day After a Rough Night

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How To Have a Good Day After a Rough Night: A Homeschool Mom's Guide to Sleep Deprivation
Here, Miriam (12, HBL F) reads Science E texts to Jonathan (2) and Rebekah (5), while Cameron and Phillipa (10 and 7, HBL C) sneak in some educational swinging in the autumn sunshine.

"Our family has thrived with Sonlight over the past seven years! It was Sonlight that first gave me the courage to try the homeschooling adventure we felt God calling us to. As we added new babies to the clan, Sonlight provided just the right amount of structure and guidance for my poor, sleep-deprived brain to cope. Now, as we stand on the brink of high school, I feel confident I can trust the Sonlight material to grow and stretch both the kids and me through these potentially tumultuous years. And we just love rereading the old favourites, yet again, as a new crop of kids come through!"

Juanita G. of North Lambton, Australia

I’m the mother of six children, ranging in age from six-months to 14 years old. As you can imagine, I don’t often get a full night of sleep. I’ve discovered that the health and happiness of our home depends largely on how I respond to sleep-deprivation.

I imagine that most homeschool moms are in the same situation. We’re up feeding newborns, comforting toddlers, soothing coughs, cleaning sheets, talking with teens, planning for tomorrow, or praying through our cares and worries. How can you and I have a good day after a rough night?

How can we thrive during exhausting seasons of motherhood?

Sometimes after a rough night, I simply have a bad day. If I don’t get a good night’s sleep, I’m prone to be cranky… all day long. I lose my temper, I have no patience, I’m angry, I blunder through our school day, and it’s just ugly.

There are those days. But there are also days when God gives me the grace to thrive in the midst of this hardship. Despite sleep-deprivation, He helps me to lead and love my family well. Here are five things that I do to recover from a rough night of sleep and rejoice in the day that the Lord has made.

1. A Sleep-Deprived Mom Must Pray

Our all-powerful Heavenly Father sees us and loves us. He knows our situation and establishes the work of our hands for us. He ordains the work we do through the night and will give us grace for day ahead.

God’s mercies are new every morning.

The most practical thing we can do after a poor night’s sleep is turn to our Heavenly Father and say, “I’m exhausted. Can you please restore me? Can you please give me what I need to do this day well and homeschool my children?”

Time after time, God has saved the day for me when my brain feels so foggy and I feel like I’m dragging around a burden.  

2. Don’t Count the Hours that You Slept (or Didn’t Sleep)

There are certain things that we can’t think about too much. We could totally psyche ourselves out if we calculated our insufficient sleep. What we’d discover is that we got the same amount of sleep—and in the same REM-hijacked pattern—of a tortured prisoner.

If you’re tallying up those hours (or lack thereof) and they’re starting to get you down, move on. It is what it is, and you’ve got a day to live!

3. Instead of Complaining, Ask for Help

The days that I complain, “I’m so exhausted. I’m worn out. I’m tired.” are so much worse than the days when I choose not to complain.

I complain because I want pity, compassion, sympathy, and help, but it backfires by making me—and everyone around me—miserable. Instead of complaining, I simply have to ask for help. This is much more productive!

I’m improving at recognizing my need and asking my husband, family, and friends for help when I know I’m weak from exhaustion. They are happy to come to my rescue.

4. Do the Next Positive Thing

When I wake-up from a rough night’s sleep, I look for the first possible positive thing that I can do. Somehow, this starts me in a good direction for the day and puts some wind in my sails. It helps me to say, “I’m alive, and I have a day to live. I’m going to make good choices even though I’m tired. I’m moving forward!”

I make sure I get a refreshing shower in the morning. I add a squirt of fresh lemon juice to my glass of water to get my metabolism going. I take my vitamins. I open my Sonlight Instructor's Guide and get the lay of the land for the day, knowing Sonlight has already planned out my homeschool lessons (one less thing for me to have to do). I might go for a quick 10-minute walk to get my blood pumping.

What would get your day started on the right foot even if you’ve had a rough night? Maybe you’d feel encouraged after a rough night if you

  • sang a hymn
  • savored a 15 minute devotional time with the Lord
  • enjoyed a cup of coffee
  • flossed your teeth
  • put a load of laundry in the washer
  • read a chapter in your current novel

Whatever it is, take that step in the right direction and you’ll feel invigorated for the day ahead.

5. Look for Opportunities to Sleep

If you are caring for a newborn or for a child who is sick or having a series of nightmares, consider adjusting your schedule so that you can sleep longer in the morning, take an afternoon nap, or go to bed earlier than usual.

Seasons of sleep-deprivation call for a change in priorities: maintaining your own health is at the top of the list! Look for opportunities to sleep and care for yourself so that you can be strong to care for the ones who need you.

God cares about us when we’re up at night, loving and serving our children. Let’s discover the surprising ways He’ll strengthen and help us during the day.

Sonlight Instructor's Guides really do save you lots of time and energy... Learn how.

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5 Ways to Balance Work Life and Homeschool Life

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5 Ways to Balance Work Life and Homeschool Life

Whether you have a full-time job, a side gig, or volunteer in some capacity, that job takes a significant time commitment. Throw homeschooling into the mix, and your life may seem upside down very quickly. To create a lifestyle that isn’t engulfed in stress, I've found I have to be diligent to set boundaries and create order.

When determining how you will find balance in your daily schedule, there are five things I suggest you consider. These are the guideposts that help me juggle the plates of working and homeschooling.

1. Determine What Is Most Important To You

My primary roles right now are

  • to help my husband, a senior pastor, minister to our church
  • to maintain my blog writing ministry
  • to homeschool my children

There are a lot of plates to keep spinning, so I have to be diligent to determine what is most important to me in these roles and say no to everything else. If you are someone who has a hard time saying no, practice saying it and stick to your guns about what matters most to you. Otherwise you will find yourself taking cover from the hurricane of events bombarding you.

Make sure you physically write down what is most important to you, things that are non-negotiable, and keep them where you can see them often. This will help motivate you to stick to them.

Use this free printable journal to document what's important to you.

2. Make Each Job a Priority

Scheduling your time is important if you want to accomplish everything that is required of you. Pick a specific time for work and for homeschooling (and any other role you have), and schedule it with your family. Discuss with them what is expected of you in your various roles and what you are required to do. Having everything open on the table will help get everyone on the same page and help things run smoother. The biggest key here is that you show up to each job at your selected time and not allow other less important things to get in the way.

It helps to have a paper or digital planner where you can keep track of work things and homeschool things. Spend time each night writing out important tasks for the next day, as well as reviewing your appointments on the calendar. Or this task can also be done first thing in the morning. Keeping records is a vital key to balancing work and homeschool.

3. Set Boundaries in Your Homeschool Schedule

Sometimes my children and I get distracted during school time and lose track of time. When we all get behind, sometimes we neglect our other work. My children sometimes get stuck on a certain subject and take more time than normal, or they start daydreaming.

I have learned the hard way that I have to give clear expectations and set boundaries to make sure we stay on task. If one of my children gets stuck on a subject and I have re-explained something multiple times, we just put it aside and come back to it later, sometimes even waiting until the next day. This habit helps us stay on task and helps clear our minds so we can revisit the subject with clarity.

My Instructor's Guide serves as a foundation to maintain boundaries in our homeschool. While it's a flexible plan, it gives me ready-made goals for each week and day of the homeschool year.

4. Give Yourself Lots of Grace

I have a tendency to be really hard on myself and not give myself much grace when I get sidetracked and don’t complete my to-do list of jobs. God has shown me that there is so much more to life than a to-do list.

If our job is required to pay the bills, then we have to accomplish all the tasks, but allowing our self some wiggle room will decrease the stress in our life. Set goals, make lists, get your work done, but remember: we can only push so far before we give out. So grant yourself time, rest, and much grace.

5. Pray to God for Strength

God will grant you the strength to accomplish all required work and wisdom to be the homeschool mom your children need.

At the beginning of each day, we all have the same 24 hours to spend. We must look at each second of the day that is entrusted to us as a stewardship to honor God with. If we are wise, we will start each day asking God how to best invest the time He has given us. He gives us time to use for His purpose and His glory, so why not ask Him how to fit the important things into that time?

With Sonlight's Instructor's Guides, you won't have to worry about scheduling, comprehension questions, activity sheets. None of it. Because we've already done it for you.

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Charlotte Mason's Ways Applied to a Modern Sonlight Homeschool

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Charlotte Mason's Ways Applied to a Modern Sonlight Homeschool

Charlotte Mason was a school teacher in England during the late 1800s. Her dissatisfaction with the education practices of her day impelled her to devise a new method of teaching that would provide a broad curriculum to all her students, regardless of social class. In her day students from the lower economic class learned trades while students from the upper economic classes learned arts, literature, and other deeper subjects.

Through her training school and her books, she instructed parents how to become effective teachers of their children—homeschoolers, although that term wasn't used of course.

Charlotte Mason’s 3-Part Model of Education

Mason based much of her teaching on a model she created to describe what education should be: an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.

1. An Atmosphere

Mason believed that education at home begins with an educational atmosphere. Children should be surrounded by things that make them want to learn.

For example, she was an advocate of having children spend much time outside in nature, learning directly from nature itself. And she also believed in giving children high quality books. In addition, she knew that the attitudes of parents and tutors have a huge impact on how much children love learning.

How Sonlight Provides an Atmosphere

Sonlight curriculum provides a great atmosphere for learning by delivering a huge box of engaging books straight to your doorstep. The science programs bring nature indoors via the books and suggested activities. In addition, shorter lesson plans mean that children have more free time to spend outside enjoying and learning from nature. The lesson plans do much of the planning for you, so you also have time to get out and explore with your children. Finally, enjoying great books alongside your children with the Read-Alouds provides a home atmosphere of learning.

2. A Discipline

Part of Mason’s approach involved creating a discipline for your children. Usually when we think of discipline or habits, we think of chores and routines. Brushing teeth, making the bed in the morning, and getting ready for the day are all great areas of discipline to work on.

Another area of discipline most parents focus on is character training. Teaching children to obey and listen is sometimes a full-time job unto itself. But Mason took this approach one step further. She believed that discipline should be a series of habits. She taught parents to encourage in their children:

  • logical thinking
  • deductive reasoning skills
  • self-restraint
  • delayed gratification

How Sonlight Provides Discipline

Sonlight creates a spirit of discipline in your home by giving you organized guides that lay out a daily routine of work, step-by-step. Moral values and character training are built right into each day's lesson. Children learn from a young age to apply logic and deduction skills as they read stories with opposing viewpoints and then discuss those ideas with their parents.

3. A Life

Mason didn’t simply mean that education should be a lifestyle although she did believe that. But she also believed that education should be learning about life.

  • the lives of heroes who acted with bravery and self-sacrifice
  • the works of musicians and artists who gave the world beauty
  • the impact of inventors, politicians, and activists and what motivated them

But even more than that, she advocated for living books—books that brought the author’s passion for the subject to the forefront and made history come alive.

How Sonlight Provides Life

Sonlight offers a spirit of life in your homeschool by filling your house with living books on a great many inspirational people, places, and events. Some books are historical fiction, which help your child feel as if they are living in an accurately recreated time period. Other books bring real people to life by having your child view life through their eyes.

Sonlight also includes great electives such as classical music that helps bring composers to life, and over-sized picture books that help children see art up close. Missionary stories display the power of God, enabling your kids to feel both the hardships and the triumphs of the mission field.

Charlotte Mason's Ways Applied to a Modern Sonlight Homeschool

Defining Characteristics of a Charlotte Mason Homeschool

Living books, habit building, art study, music study, and time in nature are large components of a Charlotte Mason homeschool, but here are a few more:

  • Short Lessons Sonlight breaks up large books into small amounts of daily reading, growing in length as your child grows in years. You’ll find in the lower levels, for which much of CM’s methods are written, each individual lesson is only a few minutes long. You can do a couple of short lessons together or take a quick break between them.
  • Narration Sonlight incorporates discussion questions with answers rather than a strict narration format. These discussion questions help students evaluate the book more deeply. As parents grow in confidence, they find a few key narration questions work for most any reading passage: "What did you learn from this story?” and "What would you do?"
  • Copywork and Dictation Sonlight Language Arts incorporates copywork and dictation at least once a week in the 4-day program and twice a week in the 5-day program, once the child is reading and writing. Younger students will practice copywork, and the ability to switch over to dictation is available when your child is ready.
  • Nature Studies While Sonlight can’t bring the great outdoors to your house, they do include numerous books which bring nature to your home. Books with full-color, close up photographs of nature and animals are available in the lower levels, and books in the natural sciences are included in higher levels.
  • Free Afternoons Many parents of younger children find they are often done by noon (providing they don’t start late in the day as we do), so they have their afternoons free to explore their world, whether from the inside of a museum, a grocery store, or the great outdoors.

If Charlotte Mason Lived Today...

Some think that if you brought Miss Mason into the modern world, her whole philosophy would no longer work. I don’t believe that.

I think if Miss Mason could magically be teleported into our time, she would strongly support using the vast new resources that are available in our modern day. She would in no way want us to adhere strictly only to the books and methods she used in her time. She would find high quality books among modern authors. She might even have favorite Twitter accounts and Facebook pages!

Charlotte Mason used what she had. Let's see what she had compared to what we have today.

Charlotte Mason Used Nature

All around her were untouched wild lands, fields ripe with life, and places to freely explore whenever she and her students had a desire.

Today with increasing urbanization, many wild areas are cordoned off, with special paths for walking and signs telling children not to touch the plants or play in the ponds. While there are still many farm families who have unlimited access to nature in their area, many urban and suburban children are limited in their experiences with nature. Modern day nature study needs to look different for the modern Sonlight homeschool family. And Charlotte Mason would absolutely approve of zoo trips counting as nature study!

Charlotte Mason Used Books

Charlotte Mason loved books, but the only books that made it on her approved list were ones published before and during her lifetime. She had books that were written mainly to adults and had very few pictures. (Children's literature wasn't really a thing in the late 1800s.) When she wanted a new book for her students, she had to travel by horse, look through the slim pickings, or rely on suggestions by friends and other educators.

She didn’t have curriculum shops with free shipping, loyalty programs, and a guarantee. In fact, she had to wait months for books to arrive with no sneak peek inside and no customer reviews to determine appropriateness for children. Her books came with black and white illustrations, rather than full-color, glossy photos. She did the best with what she had and constantly sourced new materials, but her books were much more limited than what we have available today.

Would Charlotte Mason forbid families use modern day books? Of course not! We can look at what she chose from what was available and made inferences about what modern books would also qualify as CM-worthy.

Charlotte Mason Used Paper and Slates

Children recorded what they saw and learned on paper and on slates. Those were the tools she had. Charlotte Mason didn’t have Netflix or Prime Video that brought far away ecosystems and historic locales right into the living room. She didn’t have internet search or Google maps for children who wanted to know more. She didn’t have access to information at her fingertips.

I think Miss Mason would have embraced nearly every form of modern learning that puts children in the presence of worthy ideas.

  • a natural museum full of mummies, dinosaur bones, and historical artifacts
  • a zoo webcam showing the birth of new baby giraffe
  • e-readers with the ability to store hundreds of books in an conveniently portable format

Can you imagine how she would have rejoiced with the wealth of great books of today? And how easily it is to access them either with inter-library loan or shopping online?!

Charlotte Mason would be absolutely giddy with all the information she could access online today for learning. She would still make everything pass the test of living (book/website/resource) vs. twaddle. If she were alive today, her curriculum would look very different from what she espoused in the late 1800s. In fact, I think a modern day CM curriculum would look an awful lot like Sonlight.

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10 Can't-Miss Read-Alouds for the Early Years

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10 Can't-Miss Read-Alouds for the Early Years

I’ll begin my eighth year teaching my children with Sonlight curriculum this fall, and while my children have enjoyed it thoroughly, I have to admit that I have more fun than anyone! Let’s just say that my kids never have to beg me very long to read “just one more chapter!”

Over the last seven years, we have been exposed to the best of the best in children’s literature. My kids and I have read across the world, living vicariously through the well-developed characters that star in the perfectly-spun stories. There is no lack of options, that’s for sure. In fact, I can’t think of a single Sonlight book that has fallen flat in our eyes. So, as you can imagine, choosing only ten books for the early years was a difficult task! I chose the books which left us changed somehow. Here is my list of books from Sonlight early years that you absolutely cannot miss.

Watch a video version of this blog post!

1. The Hundred Dresses

This thoughtful book by Eleanor Estes tells the story of a group of girls who make fun of another little girl. It is a scene that you will surely find at least somewhat familiar.

We have read this book a total of three times because I feel we need a refresher every once in a while.

This book is a thought-provoking read that encourages self-examination. Everyone walks a different path in life, and this book truly captures that concept. My children pondered this book for several weeks after reading it, bringing up the themes and characters fairly often. 

This book is unique in that it allows the reader to see themselves as both the protagonist and the antagonist figures. It is so relatable that you will surely find empathy for each character, leading to plenty of great discussions. It is written in a way that makes it clear how easy it can be to fall into the pattern of making fun of others without realizing the repercussions. This makes an excellent book for the beginning of the school year.

2. George Muller

I think it is a rare gem to read a book that changes the course of your life, but this book was just that for our family. We were not the same people after reading about the life of George Muller. His testimony of following the will of God for his life and trusting Him for each and every need built our faith as a family, and we began to ask ourselves challenging questions. Before and throughout the reading of the book, we had been prayerfully considering adopting a child from foster care. By the end, there was no doubt in our minds that God was calling us to give our family to a child. 

We have read the story of George Muller four times over the last seven years, and I have recommended it to multiple families. Contrary to what it may seem, we are not big fans of re-reading books. However, sometimes a book is worthy of reading over and over. This was one of those books, and I am sure that it won’t be our last reading of George Muller.

3. The Year of Miss Agnes

This is the precious story of the impact of one excellent teacher on a rural community. From a homeschool mom's perspective, this book reminded me of what I wanted to be for my kids. As we discussed this book, I kept noticing my kids bring up one thread which ran throughout the whole story:“She understands the kids.”

To understand someone else and to be understood is one of the great desires of humanity, and Miss Agnes absolutely understood her students. This book also reminds us of the change that one person can bring about. This is a pretty quick read, but the effects linger. 

4. Gladys Aylward

I am pretty sure that Janet and Geoff Benge are among my favorite authors. While they definitely have excellent material to write about, they really do have a way of telling the stories of these Heroes of the Faith in such a challenging way. Honestly, I could include several more of their books in this list, but I limited myself to two.

Gladys Aylward is the story of a missionary who went to China and cared for several hundred children during a war. She adopted several of the children and impacted her region forever. 

This was not only a great biography, but it is also an exciting story. We stayed on the edge of our seats the whole time, anxiously anticipating the next chapter. We had many conversations about courage and God’s ability to do the impossible. 

5. Cornstalks: A Bushel of Poems

I know how controversial this pick is! Oh, the mothers who have found themselves scratching their heads on this book! At first glance, it is certainly an odd duck among the Sonlight treasury.

Many people can’t seem to derive the goodness from this collection of poetry. To appreciate it, you have to realize it isn’t typical poetry. For the most part, the poems aren’t rhyming, but they are amusing. The simple, everyday commentary that each poem provides on the most common subject matter is enough to make you think, “Hmm….”

I love brief, thought-provoking commentary on the most common subjects. That’s why this book contains several of my personal favorites. We have read this one almost every year! 

6. Walk the World’s Rim

This selection starts out slow, so slow that you may be tempted to abandon it. I implore you...don’t do it! You’ll regret it for the rest of your life.

This is one of only a handful of books that I absolutely bawled through. A sweet story of the journey of a young boy across the Southwest, this book has it all. Tackling difficult subjects such as hunger, honor, and slavery with grace is quite the balancing act, but Betty Baker does an excellent job. This story will no doubt leave you with much to ponder and discuss with your children

7. Detectives in Togas

In our family, we love a good, clean mystery, and that is exactly what this book provided. Set in Ancient Rome, this story is laced with great historical richness. A few students find their teacher injured and their classroom in disarray one day. To clear the name of their good friend, the children set out to find the culprit.

It is a fantastic story that will keep you wondering what will happen next. While it might seem serious, there is plenty of great humor woven within the plotline. It is a longer read with plenty of clues and characters to keep track of, but even my youngest children followed along well. Oh yes, and don’t forget to schedule a Toga Day during the reading of this book! It’s a must to get the full effect of the novel. 

8. Twenty-One Balloons

This is probably the most surprising selection, even to me! It seems that this book isn’t necessarily a stand-out in many lists, but it is so fun! A fantastical story, this will keep imaginations engaged. Also, with a great twist at the end, it’s sure to leave you highly interested. It was so much fun to speculate throughout the story about what would happen next. 

A man plans to fly across the Pacific Ocean but somehow lands on the secret island of Krakatoa. And that's where the story really gets interesting

9. Sign of the Beaver

This historical fiction has some sentimental value to me, as I read it when I was in grade school and loved it then. But it truly is a wonderful story of survival and friendship. A boy is left alone in the wilderness for a long while and forges an unlikely friendship with the Native Americans, who help him survive. 

This story provides opportunities to discuss preconceived notions of others, independence, and perseverance in the face of hardship. It also gives the chance to ask the classic question, “What would you do?”

10. Gooney Bird Greene

A more lovable character could never be found! Gooney Bird Greene is either who you were as a child or who you wanted to be friends with! This is a sweet story of a little girl who tries to find her place at school and learns plenty of good lessons along the way. Reminiscent of the Ramona books, Gooney Bird will definitely capture your heart.

One of the best features of this book has to be the lack of disrespectfulness that you might find in other books with a similar storyline. This is what makes her so captivating in my opinion: the spunk without the sass. 

Like I said, we have been with Sonlight for eight years now and we’ve yet to find a book that we didn’t appreciate. It’s so nice to know that you are getting a year’s worth of fantastic literature when you decide to go with Sonlight.

With a world full of what Charlotte Mason appropriately labeled twaddle, it’s refreshing to read through the Sonlight booklist. It was a challenge to chose only ten books from the expansive Sonlight read-aloud booklist, so don't stop at these ten! Read more great Sonlight titles.

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Request a catalog so you can see all the great books included in the original literature-based homeschool curriculum.

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