Sonlight Spotlight - Martinez Family

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

Meet the Martinez Family!

Sonlighters Gerard and Karen Martinez from Bellflower, California had planned to homeschool even before they had their two children: Joshua (15), Grace (13). When they found Sonlight, it was a perfect match! This year the kids are working through HBL 100 together, while Joshua is working on the College and Career Planning course.

Mom Karen is a former public school teacher, but the Lord put it on her heart that she could do so much more for her children if she homeschooled them. After creating their own preschool program, a friend recommended Sonlight. They began with Sonlight in 2014, and according to Karen, "Sonlight's curriculum is a huge blessing to our family. Having the Instructor’s Guides (IG) has helped me as a homeschooling mom by making everything easier and very accessible.”

"Rich in literature and Biblically based, Sonlight has been amazing during our homeschooling journey. We plan to use it all through our homeschooling years." Martinez Family

Homeschool Freedom

One of the beauties of homeschooling is that it can be tailored to a family’s individual needs. The Martinez children have excelled with homeschooling and love it because they have been able to go at their own pace. Dad Gerard adds that “Homeschooling sells itself to the kids. There are some topics that are harder but other areas where they excel. It’s nice not to be limited by the level of your classmates.”  

“I think homeschool has brought out the best in our kids. When I look at how independent they are, they’re okay with being alone, totally cool with their own sense of style, and they’re not comparing themselves to anyone else. They’ve been able to find out and pursue their own passions.” - Karen Martinez

While Karen likes a good schedule, she has found they can be flexible with their days. This allows them an opportunity to explore new things and discover what they are passionate about learning. "Sonlight has helped tremendously with our family having the freedom to do what's necessary for each of our children to have the best education possible," she explains. The pandemic changed nothing for the Martinez family except that now Gerard works from home. They love being together as a family every day!

Homeschool Pursuits

When you’re homeschooled you don’t have to rush anything. Joshua and Grace are very self-motivated, and they prefer to learn on their own. They are developing skills that will carry them successfully into adulthood with their parents acting as a guide.

The family shares,  "Joshua loves to write, and he’s writing a book. He writes short stories. He loves to read and devours books. Grace is extremely creative and loves art. She loves to work with clay. Sonlight has given us so many great books, and a whole world has been opened up to them."  

Homeschool with Teens

Karen mentions, "The foundation that Sonlight has given my kids has transitioned us to middle school just fine." As the kids have become more independent, they go straight to their classroom area and dive into their work. They both work steadily through the day taking a break to fix themselves lunch. They know exactly what they need to accomplish each day.

Another Sonlight benefit is that the literature matures along with your children. The history becomes more challenging, and the Bible curriculum reinforces their faith and helps them dive deeper with the Lord. There are even books about dating. Karen loves that she didn’t have to determine everything needing to be taught. She orders Sonlight and is prepared to have enriching conversations with her kids.

Homeschool Literature Review

One of the best parts of Sonlight for the Martinez Family is the literature. They often let their grandmother borrow books because she wants to read the books they are talking about. "We love the literature!!! We can't pick a favorite book from our years with Sonlight.”  Some of their favorites are included below:

“I make small tweaks sometimes, but it’s totally fine. I don’t regret homeschooling at all! I always tell people to go to If there’s any gaps, Sonlight fills them in with multiple math options, language arts.” - Karen Martinez

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

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7 Reasons to Buy Your Homeschool Curriculum Early

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Although your new school year may be months away, now is the best time to order next year's homeschool curriculum. Here are 7 reasons why we think earlier is better when it comes to getting your new homeschool curriculum purchases squared away.

1. You Are Still in the Midst of Homeschooling

Because you are currently doing school, you know exactly what your children are working on and probably have some idea of what you’d like to do next. You know which subjects are really flowing, what your students are struggling with, and which brands you are really enjoying. You won’t have to scramble after a few months off to remember what you need —you’ll know precisely which things you would like to adjust while it’s fresh.

Buying your homeschool curriculum during the second semester is easy because you’re already thinking about school. So end on a high note, and be ready for next year.

2. Your Children Might Have Stronger Opinions Now

While your children are in the midst of the school year, working hard, they might have clearer thoughts on what they would like to change for next year. After a summer at camp and after days at poolside, they might not remember in as much detail.

3. You Can Enjoy a Decision-free, Stress-free Summer

One of the quirks of the human brain is that it keeps returning to unclosed loops until you close them. Have you noticed this? You’re almost done checking off the boxes in your Sonlight IG, but that one unfinished assignment keeps popping up in your mind until you check it off.

Or when you’ve already purchased next season’s clothes for your children…You don’t have to keep thinking, “How many pairs of shorts do the kids need? What if the weather suddenly turns warm and they don't have shorts that fit?"

When you go ahead and mark those tasks off the to-do list (whether on paper or mental), you can move into your next season with confidence. You’ve got what you need, and you are ready to start the next phase of life. When you buy your curriculum early in the year, you have maximum flexibility for the summer ahead and a school start when you want.

When you buy your homeschool curriculum early in the year, your brain can move from wondering, “What are we going to do for school next year?” to more productive topics.

4. You Get Special Offers

The best way to know about Sonlight's special sales and offers are to:

While following on social media is great, it's not the most effective way to always know what's going on because algorithms control what appears in your feed. But if you are on the email list, you have an open line of communication with Sonlight and will absolutely get the messages.

5. You Have Time to Get Your Questions Answered Early

While you can contact a Sonlight Advisor at any point during the year, it makes sense to get it done sooner rather than later. With plenty of months before the next school year, you can work with your Advisor on your education plan, and work out a system that works for you before the Advisors are crushed with frantic last-minute calls from other families.

6. You Have Your Materials Before You Need Them

With more and more people turning—and returning—to homeschooling every day, together with the occasional and unpredictable delays in the supply chain, we recommended getting your new homeschool curriculum purchases squared away as early as possible.

Families who order early in late winter and early spring had their materials in hand the soonest. The early bird truly does catch the worm when it comes to ordering online!

Avoid delays, bypass backorders, and get the upper hand with shipping delays by ordering as early as you can for your 2022-2023 homeschool year.

When you order early, you have your materials already at hand when you need them. You can enjoy your upcoming break with the knowledge you’ve already taken care of business and can start school again when you want.

Additionally, you have ample time to do any prep you might like to do—setting up at your own pace, reading ahead, or cutting out timeline figures. If you go to garage sales or thrift stores over the summer, you can be on the lookout for the specific items you might need—like book bins , crates, or other cute storage tools. Or you can watch back-to-school Sales for rolling carts or school supplies, with a good sense of what you might need.

7. You Can Do All Your Organizing in One Fell Swoop

With your school materials already in house, when you’re ready to organize, file, and close out the current year, the new materials are ready to take their place. This allows you to have one big organizational event, rather than an end-of-the-year putting away event and a beginning-of-the-next-year event.

Basically, earlier is better when it comes to ordering your new homeschool curriculum. Enjoy clearer thinking, less stress, relaxed preparation . . . and, of course, Sonlight bonuses like a payment plan, Sonlight Cares, and the help of Advisors.

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2022 Sonlight Scholarship Winners Announced

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Submit can homeschool through high school! Meet this year's bright, accomplished, servant-hearted Sonlight Scholarship winners. These exceptional Sonlight-educated students are poised to make a difference in the world. As the winners of our annual Sonlight scholarship competition, they have each been awarded $20,000, $10,000, or $4,000 for college.

Sonlight's 2022 Scholarship Winners

Many of these students have used Sonlight since they were young. They’re headed into promising careers in engineering, arts, medicine, and more. Most are headed to their college of choice, and many have superb SAT or ACT scores.

But they are also kind, big-hearted young adults. Through ministry and volunteerism, they live life with Jesus in their hearts and long to share God’s kingdom with the world.

$20,000 Scholarship Winner: Simon Ross of Rosamond, CA

Awarded $5,000 Per Year

Simon Ross of Rosamond, CA is a young man seeking to serve the Lord in all areas of life. “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21) has become a compass for his life’s roadmap. Opportunities for service have been major steps in this journey. Simon, an Eagle Scout, enjoys volunteering his time with the Scouting program by cleaning up the environment, collecting food for the hungry, and placing flags on Memorial Day. Gifted in the field of technology, he assists in producing and distributing his church’s livestream. These experiences, along with a love to design machines and create art, have drawn him to the field of engineering. Simon enjoys drawing, making circuits, programming, modifying airsoft guns, and designing and building large-scale projects. He hopes to be able to use these skills and hobbies to find an enjoyable job and support a family in the future. Simon is still deciding between attending Cedarville University or The United States Air Force Academy but is confident that God will guide him. This direction begins with a strong educational foundation. Using Sonlight since second grade has not only allowed him to excel on standardized tests such as the SAT but has also prepared him to succeed in whatever college path he chooses. None of this would have been possible without the excellent Sonlight curriculum. The education and spiritual guidance from the uplifting literature has helped set his life on the right track.

Simon Ross

$10,000 Scholarship Winners: Shaun Yamamoto, Sonja Dighe, Hannah Moller, and Naomi Hochstedler

Awarded $2,500 Per Year

Shaun Yamamoto of Houston, TX has been homeschooled using Sonlight throughout his entire education. He is blessed to be admitted to several universities and plans to major in mechanical engineering. Shaun excels in STEM, and from a young age, math has been his favorite subject. Thanks to homeschooling, Shaun has been able to take his school along wherever his family travels. Because his father is a professor, his family lived abroad for several summers while his dad taught American students in foreign countries. Shaun thinks the best part of his history education was seeing what he was reading about in all those Sonlight books.

When he is not doing schoolwork, Shaun is busy volunteering as a leader at Awana, being active outdoors with his friends, or working at his home business repairing iPhones. Last summer, he worked as an engineering intern for a magnet company based in Austin, TX. During his junior year of high school, he received the Gold Congressional Award medal with more than 400 service hours doing volunteer work, including repairing flooded houses in Houston with organizations like SBP and Samaritan’s Purse and working in his community at his local library. Shaun enjoys snow skiing, mountain biking, and running a 5k. One of his favorite parts of biking is repairing and upgrading his mountain bike. When he is not working on his mountain bike, he is working on one of the family cars, repairing an iPhone, or building up a hobby-grade RC car. He even made an RC car with a functional butter churn in the back! Shaun is looking forward to God leading him to the right university to develop his gifts to serve others wherever God may lead.

Shaun Yamamoto

Sonja Dighe of San Francisco, CA, is a self-starter and entrepreneur with a future in business and marketing. Academically, Sonja is a high achiever and enjoys using the literary analysis, research, and critical thinking skills she learned through Sonlight curriculum in all her studies. She also shines in a variety of extracurricular activities, from playing alto saxophone in advanced band for several years to assistant directing her homeschool group’s Shakespeare plays. She is a confident and natural leader in her team as part of Odyssey of the Mind, a creative problem-solving competition, where her team has placed 12th worldwide as well as 1st several times at the state level.

In her free time, Sonja indulges her creative side, designing art pieces and costumes on a commission basis. Recently Sonja has taken steps to learn more about business through a marketing internship at a small tech start-up in the Bay Area and through attending a week-long business camp, where she acted as head of her group’s company and oversaw the development of a business plan and pitch deck to present to mock investors. Her team won first in the camp and Sonja was also awarded first prize for a speech she presented in the camp-wide speech contest. Sonja is looking forward to college and is eager to attend one of the nine top-tier schools to which she applied. She hopes to experience different cultures and make an impact on the world as an ambassador for Christ and for homeschooling!

Sonja Dighe

Hannah Moller is blessed to be a missionary kid in Malawi, Africa. With a strong interest in the domains of nutrition and dietetics, she was accepted into the University of Stellenbosch's dietetics degree. Hannah says, "I've been incredibly fortunate to witness God lead me to this purpose for my life. I hope to further glorify Him, through a career in dietetics."

Being a third-culture kid has given her the opportunity to witness first-hand several people groups, each with their own diets and culinary practices. Starting from the age of 12, she would volunteer at the local orphanage that served over a hundred young children. During this time, she was also involved in her parent’s projects, such as literacy programs, children’s camps, and famine outreach in rural areas. The people group that her family works with - the Yawo, are subsistence farmers who frequently face hunger and nutritional imbalances. Hannah believes that a degree in dietetics is a much-needed area of knowledge for communities like the Yawo and others in third-world countries around the world.

"As a missionary kid, I have grown up to really appreciate the incredible Christians who pursue God's calling and come to places like Malawi seeking to broaden His kingdom," says Hannah. "I believe that throughout my own life, God has been opening doors and leading me to this same calling. I hope that in my future I too will get the chance to extend God’s love with the countries and cultures where I grew up," she further explains.

Overall, wherever God places Hannah, she hopes to continue to seek and glorify him while also improving the area's nutritional health. But most of all, she's excited to discover and embrace the plans that God has for her.

Hannah Moller

Naomi Hochstedler was born to a Brazilian mother and a Canadian father, and when she was four, moved to the city of São Paulo in Brazil, to serve children and families at risk. She has been homeschooled with Sonlight all the way through school and absolutely loves the books. When her middle sibling, Kaleb, was diagnosed with leukemia in 2018, homeschooling allowed her family to journey very closely together. Her brother was later diagnosed with a second, very rare cancer and passed away in May of 2020. "Throughout this journey, God has taught me so much and kept true to His promise: I will never leave you nor forsake you," shares Naomi.

Naomi grew up riding horses and has competed in showjumping throughout the past five years. Creating holds a special place in her heart – she loves painting, drawing, sewing, creative writing, and more. Sailing and First LEGO League (robotics) have taught her to think on her feet and work cohesively with a team. Choir, drama, public speaking, and mock trial have given her experience in front of an audience and working with different forms of public speaking.

Throughout her time as a missionary kid, she has served in different ministerial capacities such as service and maintenance, sports outreach with children, teaching Sunday School, and assisting a child with down syndrome in Junior Church. One thing she loves about working with children is that no matter what she teaches, she always comes away having learned something from them.

Naomi will spend her freshman year at Rosedale Bible College. After that, she plans to transfer to another university or college to complete a degree. Uncertain of what degree she'd like to pursue, Naomi wants it to be something that will equip her to either manage and organize people or teach and work with children. "I want it to be something versatile that would pair well with motherhood, as I would love to one day have my own children and homeschool them," declares Naomi.

Naomi Hochstedler

$4,000 Scholarship Winners: Juliana Yoder, Samantha Roth, Luke Becker, Gabriella Fields, Wynn Oakley, Braeden Geist, Kelton Cochran, and Thaddaeus Christensen

Awarded $1,000 Per Year

Juliana Yoder

Juliana Yoder of Hartville, OH is described by her youth pastor as “mission-minded, creative, and extremely kind. She has incredible artistic abilities as well, such as writing, music, and artwork.” She has also grown in her drawing and design skills and through a CCP class project, she solidified her desire to pursue a career in graphic design.

Juliana transitioned from public school to homeschooling with Sonlight in 3rd grade and she adapted wonderfully because she loved reading. Over the years her family moved to different countries but through the books that she read for school Juliana saw other families doing the same thing and she threw herself into learning the culture and language, making new friends, and helping her brothers navigate life in new places. Juliana is a self-motivated learner, and this was seen in her desire to study Latin starting at age 10 “because it would help me learn other languages,” she exclaims.

Juliana has taken piano, violin, guitar, and singing lessons over the years and she enjoys being on the worship team at her church. Juliana’s love for animals (specifically horses) and desire to serve others led her to volunteer for several years at an equine therapy program and participate in equestrian vaulting classes. Her coach has high praise for her leadership abilities, “Juliana has shown leadership in mentoring newer and/or younger members of the vaulting team and encourages them to do their best with patience and kindness.”

From living in another culture to understanding what being part of a church and community means, Juliana’s life has never been short of learning, growing experiences. She believes college will equip her with the training and skills needed to pursue what the Lord is calling her to do. After attending Rosedale Bible College for one year, Juliana plans to attend Kent State University (KSU) to obtain a BFA in visual communication design.

Samantha Roth

Samantha Roth of Earlham, IA, has used Sonlight since preschool. She has excelled academically and is a member of the National Home School Honor Society. She credits Sonlight’s literature-based curriculum with cultivating her love of stories and inspiring her to start writing. She has completed a novel and a novella, pitched her novel at a writers’ conference, and is excited for the publication of her first article in the summer of 2022. Samantha is a gifted writer who dreams of using her talents to glorify God and serve others. She says, “I want my imagination to be dedicated to Jesus and pray that He will lead me to ‘take captive every thought’ (2 Corinthians 10:5).”

Through Young Patriots Club, a local ministry, Samantha joined other youth in supporting and uplifting veterans, members of the military, and first responders. As a Youth Leader, she helped younger members to learn songs, speeches, and poems for performances. Along with starting an art and writing contest, she co-wrote a script that was performed during the club’s annual Hearts for Heroes program. During the Military Tribute Concert at the Iowa State Fair, Samantha had the honor of leading the children’s choir in reciting a poem that she wrote.

Samantha also enjoys leading worship and serving others at her church. She loves volunteering during Vacation Bible School and helping children to learn more about Jesus. Her pastor says, “Samantha is a pleasure to work with because her humble and positive attitude makes being around her easy and enjoyable.”

After graduation, Samantha plans to study marketing and creative writing at the University of Northwestern-St. Paul. As an aspiring author, she desires to bring quality fantasy books to youth.

Lukas Becker

Lukas Becker of Boyceville, Wisconsin has used Sonlight for as long as he can remember. His family chose homeschooling with Sonlight because of their constant moving in the military. He has been involved in his local school’s Science Olympiad since 8th grade and has scored in the top six at the state tournament multiple times. He received a 35 on his ACT and scored highest on English and Reading. He is currently dual-enrolled at his local university, UW Stout. His favorite class is Calculus. Every Wednesday he volunteers at his church’s AWANA ministry, and every now and then he helps out in the nursery as well. He is also active in his church’s youth group. He plans to pursue his passionate interest in politics, economics, and theology at Hillsdale College in Michigan, with a major in Political Economics. Once he graduates, he will do whatever God calls him to do and go wherever God calls him to go, with his highest priority being the fulfillment of the Great Commission. In his spare time, he reads Star Wars books, listens to theology debates on YouTube, and tunes in to the Ben Shapiro Show. Soli Deo gloria.

Gabriella Fields

Gabriella Fields of Key West, FL grew up in a military family and has used Sonlight all over the USA, including in both the largest and smallest states and most recently the southernmost point. Very self-motivated, she has taught herself to play the ukulele, sketch, and crochet, and she enjoys blessing family and friends with handmade gifts.

Gabriella has been a dedicated member of American Heritage Girls (AHG) for the last eight years. From serving as the Girl Shepherd to designing and publishing a monthly newsletter and coordinating flag ceremonies, Gabriella has volunteered in many leadership roles in her troop and has led multiple events and service projects. She is currently working to earn the highest award achievable in AHG, the Stars and Stripes award.

Gabriella has the heart to serve others and has volunteered for many different places in her community, including a community garden, a Mothers of Preschoolers group, and the Montgomery Zoo. She currently volunteers at the local sailing center and is also pursuing a sailing instructor certification.

Being from a Coast Guard family, Gabriella has taken the Coast Guard motto “Semper Paratus” (Always Ready) to heart and works to be ready for whatever God has in store for her future. While she currently plans to pursue a mechanical engineering degree, she is always open for God to direct her life as He sees fit. Ultimately, Gabriella seeks to serve God, her family, and her community while working to be ready for God’s plan for her future.

Wynn Oakley

Wynn Oakley of Jackson, MS has used Sonlight as the core of his entire academic career. Wynn scored a perfect score on the AP U.S. History exam as well as being named a National Merit Finalist based on his outstanding PSAT scores. In addition to Sonlight, Wynn has participated in several homeschool co-op classes with his peers—including the Starkville Homeschool Music Co-operative where Wynn has played euphonium for eight years.

Wynn has used his musical abilities to serve his church and community. He is a member of the brass ensemble, the student choir, and the youth group worship ensemble at First Presbyterian Church of Jackson and was selected to several Honor Bands around the state.

Wynn has also served as a leader in Trail Life USA where he enjoys teaching the younger boys to enjoy all things camping and outdoors. For the last eight years, Wynn has served as a volunteer for the local relay center of Operation Christmas Child—where he now helps to train other volunteers. Wynn serves as a member of the Mississippi Children's Museum President's Leadership Circle, where he holds the office of President. He has also been able to serve as a page for the Speaker of the House of the Mississippi House of Representatives for three years.

Wynn has been accepted into the College of Veterinary Medicine Early Entry Program at Mississippi State University, where he plans to pursue an undergraduate degree in biochemistry before attending vet school. He hopes to one day work as a small-animal vet in Mississippi, loving and serving the needs of the people in his community.

Braeden Geist

Braeden Geist of New London, OH has used Sonlight since he became a homeschooler in 2nd grade. He has been taking college courses since his freshman year of high school. Braeden has also run cross country and track since he was in 7th grade and has competed at the State Championship cross country meet twice. Braeden earned Academic All-Ohio on both occasions. He is active in his church and youth group, serving on his church’s Youth Ministry and Leadership team. He is a former 4-H member of 7 years, serving as his club treasurer on multiple occasions.

Braeden plans to attend college in pursuit of a Computer Science degree, though he has not yet decided on his college. He dreams to one day pursue a job in a sports-related industry, whether that is for a professional league or team, or with an affiliated field such as fantasy sports. 

Justus Cochran

K. Justus Cochran of Senoia, GA has used Sonlight since he was in 1st grade. In addition to multiple dual enrollment classes his senior year, Justus still chose to complete “one more core” with Sonlight because he didn’t want to miss the books he would get to read! Justus has lived overseas and in four different states during his homeschool years. He has grown in character through these challenges to be someone a supervisor describes as having a “cheerful attitude, a willingness to serve, and engagement to get a task done well.” He is a friend to everyone he meets; showing grace, kindness, and commitment to them.

In his local church, Justus serves regularly in the nursery, as a greeter, during workdays, as well as helping with events. He also serves with Vacation Bible School, volunteers with the preschoolers at his church’s homeschool co-op, and will serve with a team at an orphanage in the Dominican Republic this summer. Justus has also taken the opportunity to volunteer as a day camp counselor at both Winshape and Connect Camps during the summer. He’s been active in Civil Air Patrol as a basic airman and played varsity baseball where he was awarded the Most Christlike Award by his coach for always being ready to pray, encourage, and lead the other young men on the team.

While Sonlight has supported Justus in being a successful self-taught student, he has also applied that discipline and passion to music. He taught himself to play the acoustic and electric guitars, the ukulele, and basic piano theory. While he enjoys volunteering with kids in his church and community, his passion is mostly in leading worship. He has been given the opportunity to serve in the youth worship band, as well as to lead worship for the families in his small group.

Justus has been a faithful part-time employee throughout his high school years, but always finds time to participate in small group Bible studies, one-on-one accountability, and service projects for other families. Justus hopes to attend Covenant College in the fall and study either engineering or computer science with a minor in music. While his primary life goal is to have a career that provides for his future family, he also hopes to grow in the knowledge and skills to write music that will glorify the Lord and edify the local church.

Thaddaeus Christensen

Thaddaeus Christensen of Buford, WY grew up in a rural community and has used Sonlight from K-12. Thaddaeus’ mechanical aptitude was evident from an early age, and he enjoyed the hands-on learning activities afforded by homeschooling. Combining his Sonlight education and his family’s ranching lifestyle, he was able to fully develop this passion (winning the American Meteorological Society Certificate of Outstanding Achievement for his engineering project) and plans to continue to do so by pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering.

Thaddaeus has helped with youth in the bus ministry at his local church and in the local 4-H program. These two programs have given him an insight into many different social circles, and he plans to continue to seek out opportunities to work with youth. He sees the need in many young peoples’ lives for the Lord and the necessity of doing all things as unto Him. He plans to continue to use his investigative nature while pursuing his engineering degree and use the opportunities to share the wonderful good news of Jesus Christ.

Could Your Young Learner Win a Sonlight Scholarship?

From preschool through high school graduation, Sonlight prepares your students. We have the big picture in mind, and we help you raise students prepared to launch into any career God calls them to. We share your desire to help your children succeed, and we’ll walk alongside to help you create the long-term educational experience you envision.

Did you know we've awarded more than $1.5 million to Sonlight graduates to date?

Each year, our charitable foundation offers a number of college scholarships, ranging from $4,000 to $20,000, spread over four years. Each year, the Sonlight Foundation offers the following scholarships:

  • $5,000 per year
  • $2,500 per year
  • $1,000 per year

We offer scholarships on two tracks: one emphasizes academics, and the other creativity, mission-mindedness, and service. Got a perfect score on the SAT? Got average test scores, but served overseas during summer vacation for the last three years? In either case, you may qualify.

The Sonlight Foundation recognizes that academic giftedness is only one type of giftedness. If your student is gifted in academics, service, music, art, or has a heart for missions, we encourage you to submit an application.

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Simple Ways to Celebrate Lent with Children

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Simple Ways to Celebrate Lent with Children

If you did one of our Advent unit studies in December and haven’t done Sonlight’s Lenten unit study that follows in the Jotham tradition, then you will want to do that! You can order Sonlight unit studies here.

We won’t have a new Lenten study for 2022, but here are a few ideas to start meaningful Lenten traditions for your family. Following the format that we use when we design a Sonlight Unit Study, these suggestions include literature, crafts, and cooking.

A Devotional Spine for Your Lenten Study

This year I found a resource that I plan to use for my own Lenten devotional time: LENT IN PLAIN SIGHT: A Devotion through Ten Objects by Jill J. Duffield. The author focuses on ten ordinary objects in order to draw meaning from Jesus’ last days. With each object, the author focuses on scriptures that incorporate the object. For example, the week that focuses on bread, you read Exodus 16:4 where it talks about bread from heaven, and on the next day you read Mark 7:8 about the dogs who eat the crumbs under the master’s table.

Although this devotional not written for children, you can benefit from the devotional yourself and then share what you learn with your children, doing simple activities to reinforce what you read and learn.

Sadie’s Favorite Chicken

For example, the week you learn about bread you might bake a homemade no-knead bread. Or the day you read about bread crumbs, make breaded cutlets. My niece loves this chicken recipe so much that we now call it Sadie’s Favorite Chicken.

Breaded Chicken Ingredients

  • 4 thinly-sliced chicken breast, pounded eve thinner (or however many you need for your family)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs (my family likes Progresso seasoned Italian breadcrumbs)

Breaded Chicken Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Beat the egg and place it in a dinner plate.
  3. Sprinkle the bread crumbs onto a paper towel and place it next to the dish with the egg.
  4. Place an empty dinner plate next to the bread crumbs.
  5. Dip a chicken cutlet in the egg, coating both sides. Let the egg drip in the dish before moving the chicken to the bread crumbs.
  6.  Sprinkle bread crumbs on top of the cutlet and using the blade of your hand, pound the bread crumbs into the chicken. Flip to the other side and repeat the pounding.
  7. Place the breaded cutlet in the clean dish. Repeat until all the chicken is coated.
  8. Lay the cutlets on the prepared cookie sheet and either spray with olive oil cooking spray or brush olive oil on with a pastry brush.
  9. Cook for 10 mins then flip and coat with oil. Cook an additional 5-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chicken. Do not overcook or the chicken will be tough.
  10. Serve with slices of lemon.

Need more ideas? The week you focus on oil, you could make an olive oil lamp (do an internet search for ideas) and make ladokouloura (Greek olive oil cookies.) Fasting is one of the practices during Lent. When Greeks fast, they abstain from eating animal products (meat, fish, dairy, eggs). Since these cookies are vegan, they make the perfect sweet treat during nistia (lent).

My family really enjoys cooking and eating, so I would probably find additional traditional Lenten or Easter recipes. For example, what are traditional foods from your heritage? What would your ancestors have made for the season? In Italy, we make chiacchiere (or cenci) for Fat Tuesday (they are fried in oil – very rich!) and pastiera napoletana for Easter.

Here are additional suggestions to consider during the Lenten season.

Shrove Tuesday & Ash Wednesday

Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of Lent. Shrove comes from the word shrive, which means to give absolution after hearing confession. It was the last day before the period of fasting began so it was an opportunity to use up and not waste those foods that couldn’t be eaten during Lent. This is where we got the tradition of eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday because they included eggs, fat and milk, which were forbidden foods. In the French-speaking world, the day is known as Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday and in Italy and Spanish-speaking countries, it is known as Carnevale. For 2022, Shrove Tuesday is on March 1.

Ash Wednesday is on March 2, 2022. If you are not of a liturgical background, try to find a church near you that will have an Imposition of the Ashes service. This is a solemn service where we are marked with ashes in the same manner that we were signed with the Cross in Baptism on the forehead.

5 Spiritual Disciplines for a Beautiful Lent

In celebrating Lent, we hope to foster a deeper spiritual awareness through the practice of disciplines that will allow us to more fully experience the joy of the Resurrection.

For music, listen to Sonlight’s Lenten playlist on Spotify.

1. Self-examination and Repentance

If you are not familiar with the typical disciplines practiced during this season, we begin with self-examination and repentance. (Joel 2:12, Corinthians 13:5, Psalm 139:23-24). Each person should think about how they have fallen short of the glory of God and repent (turn away from) any sin they can name in their lives. They should ask God to reveal any sin that is hidden from themselves.

2. Prayer

If you don’t already make it a practice to spend daily time in prayer, develop a new habit and plan to set aside some time to focus daily on prayer. (Philippians 4:6-7). Brainstorm with your children a list of people you can pray for.

For example

  • Monday - family members
  • Tuesday - neighbors
  • Wednesday - friends

You might even reach out at the beginning and ask for ways you can pray for them. Then check back in after Easter for an update. Record their prayers on 3x5 cards as well as any answers.

3. Fasting and Self-denial

It is tradition to fast and practice self-denial during Lent but Jesus also expected his followers to spend some time fasting. Jesus said to his disciples “When you fast…” (Matthew 6:16) implying that it will be done. With younger children you might suggest they abstain from a favorite food or activity. Brainstorm together what that might be. It should be reasonable but not easy. It should be something you should notice or miss. Try giving up something that has a stronghold in your life.

4. Bible Reading

Reading and meditating on God’s word is another common Lenten practice. (Joshua 1:8). There are scriptures in the book I mentioned above, or you can read the passages in Amon’s Adventure if you have that title. Use the questions for reflection.

5. Almsgiving

Finally comes almsgiving or giving something away—the twin to giving something up. (Proverbs 19:17)

You can give away money, your time, or your resources to serve others sacrificially. One idea is to create a giving jar and donate the contents to a favorite charity. Children can deposit a coin for every act of giving they do in the family. Encourage them to think of various ways they can give kindness to their siblings: ask your sister to go first at lunch time, allow your brother to borrow the toy he asked about, tell mom that you will dry the dishes all week even if it isn’t your regular chore. Another idea is to shop for a food pantry. Let the children pick out something they would want to eat.

As you decide what new experiences you want your family to have during this time, start with some simple traditions. Give yourself grace when thing don’t go according to plan. Small, meaningful moments will create a home culture focused on Jesus.

May these 40 days (not counting Sundays – they are little Easters) bring renewal to your heart. May you experience joy in your faith, and your life as you are spiritually fed and nourished in your disciplines. Declare your dependence on God as you deny your cravings.

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Sonlight Spotlight - Meet The Davis Family

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

Meet the Davis Family!

Sonlighters Elizabeth and Matt Davis from Midland, Texas have found their rhythm with literature-rich curriculum for their 4 daughters: Anne (10), Grace (8), Jane (6), and Mary (4). 

Mom Elizabeth is a former teacher and found Math-U-See and Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Lessons to kick off their homeschool journey with their oldest in 2017. Because of their success, the Davis family continued with Sonlight and worked their way through Sonlight’s B, C, D, E, and are currently schooling F together this year. 

"I was a public school teacher for 11 years. I have a masters in education and went to public schools, so I never thought I would homeschool.  When my husband was starting his business, it was a very busy time for our family.  We realized that if we enrolled our girls in a school, we maybe wouldn’t see him for 8 months a year, and this was not an option for us." - Elizabeth Davis

Homeschool Hits the Road

Because Matt’s career leads him across the country, homeschooling allows the family to pick up and go with him on a moment's notice. “Our lifestyle simply does not work without homeschool. What started out as a family necessity has turned into the best blessing."

Travel is really important to the Davis family. In the past year, they have been to 23 different states. Seeing new places is part of their family culture.

Elizabeth states, "As far as travel goes, that is another reason I love Sonlight. It's not heavy textbooks but novels. Each of the girls have their backpacks that they fill with school items like math and language arts.  I bring the history, science, and Read-alouds in my backpack. That’s how Sonlight rolls!"

“Homeschooling is a part of our family identity now.”

Typical Homeschool Day

With 4 active daughters under the age of 10, having a strong family rhythm and routine is crucial for the Davis’. They choose to school on a 4-day schedule and find a block schedule system which helps keep them on track. Sonlight has helped established the Davis family rhythm with everything they with the easy-to-use and fully prepped materials.

"Sonlight saved me. I’m a Type A person and thought I knew about curriculum and schooling. I could see that I would spend hours planning our week if I didn’t have those Instructor’s Guides I can trust. It keeps me from being super legalistic and to rest in grace with the knowledge that this stuff is great. I don’t have to obsess about it and can do other things.  Everything is coordinated so beautifully that it’s exactly what I wanted. I could have spent hours on Pinterest trying to coordinate things, but that’s not necessary, " says Elizabeth.

Davis Family Sonlight Recommendations

Although the family says there hasn’t been “a bad apple” in the Sonlight book collection, here are a few of their favorite reads:

“Sonlight THANK YOU for helping me lay a feast before my children of ideas, experiences, and introducing them to saints and heroes that give them courage to live lives of faith. We are Sonlighters for good!” - Elizabeth

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

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Stories from New Homeschoolers: Celebrating School Choice!

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Celebrating School Choice in a Year of Forced Decisions
Pictured in face-masks made by their grandma, Rodger, age 14;Katherine, age 12; and Rose, age 7 are reading their current science book.

Jan. 24-31, 2022 is School Choice Week, a time when Americans celebrate their freedom to choose how to educate their children whether it's in a public school, private school, charter school, homeschooling, distance learning, or some other hybrid set-up.

In celebration of this annual event, we talked to new homeschoolers to find out how contented they are about their choice to homeschool compared to when they first made that choice.

Are they happier with their choice? Less happy? Or feeling the same?

But what we wanted to know is: Now that you are homeschooling, are you happy with it?

Homeschool Happiness Scale 5 out of 5

I was homeschooled in early elementary, but never thought I could do it for my kids, as I own a restaurant with crazy hours. But when schools closed, I started looking and kept being drawn to Sonlight. I almost decided to start in September but let self-doubt get the best of me and opted for virtual learning at my kids' public school, against everything in my gut telling me to homeschool. I called it quits after 3 weeks and ordered Sonlight for my K and 4th grader. It’s turned the dreaded year of more blessings than we can count. The juggling is difficult with a full time job, but the rewards are exponential. We traded frustrations for milestones and busy mornings to cuddly story times in front of the fire. It’s not all sunshine and roses, but I can definitely say the blessings outweigh the hard days. —Summer S.

[Homeschooling with Sonlight has] been by far the best thing I could have done for my kids. I wish I had done this sooner, but better late than never. —Iris T.

This is our first year in school (my oldest is a kindergartener). I had her enrolled in a private Christian school, but due to Covid, they had to close down. I was scrambling to find something as I didn’t want her first experience with school to be online. I asked around, and a friend suggested Sonlight. I’m so glad she did! At first it was a struggle, especially with two younger children (ages 3 and 1). But now that we are about halfway through, we have a system we love! I’m seriously considering continuing with Sonlight next year. —Jessica B.

My homeschool mom friends encouraged me that distance learning and homeschooling are not the same. Before long, I was discussing homeschool options with my husband and ready to move forward with it. I was scared, felt unqualified, and completely overwhelmed. Five months into it and, not only do I love it, but my kids do, too! Best decision ever! We have been able to review areas that my children feel that they struggle with, we have all learned new things, and their confidence in their learning ability is improving. We have our rough moments/days, but we really feel that the good ones out weigh the rough ones. I really never expected it to be like this! 😍🤩 —Lindsey M.

For my family, [homeschooling] has been a very good decision. Since we started in August 2020 our life has changed a lot: less stress, my son is very happy learning, he enjoys the readings, and he is eating better!! I was so nervous about his learning with no grades and no teachers But it was a very good decision, and we are very happy. —Jenny S.

Homeschooling Next Year, Too!

"I’m a pandemic homeschool mom. I have children with special needs. Though I was not sure if I could handle it, it has turned out to be the best thing for my kids. They are less anxious and have fewer meltdowns. I love the flexibility of homeschooling. We have decided to continue homeschooling next year." —Kim O.

Homeschooling has been the best choice for our family. As a former teacher, I said I could never teach my own kids. Well, God showed me not only that I could, but that this [choice] is not just for one year. We will continue to homeschool so that my kids can get individual, accelerated instruction at their levels, therapies, and still have time for fun! —Rachel B.

Happy Kids = Progress in All Areas

Homeschooling for the first time this year. Best decision ever! I love it; my kids mostly enjoy it. We decided to homeschool due to not wanting our children in masks all day. My son's attitude (3rd grade) was very poor while in public school. I felt like every weekend was a detox only to repeat it all over again. His attitude is so much better and my youngest loves preschool. We love all the books so far and really dig into the history. We love it! —Amy Roach

My daughter is very high risk [for Covid-19]. I was terrified. We pulled her out right before the schools closed last spring. We started dabbling in homeschool while the school was trying to get virtual up and running. Virtual was not good for us. I started researching, and Sonlight just kept coming up. I’m so glad we chose it for science and history. My daughter is dyslexic, and the read-alouds are just the right thing. I’m very happy with my choice. She will go back to public school eventually, but I’m not worried anymore and am very grateful for Sonlight to carry us through. —Angela G. S.

Flexibility that Works for Our Life

I needed a school day that revolved around my work schedule as a full time professor, instead of a zoom schedule and demands coming from a school system that did not understand how to be effective with a distance learning model. I found Sonlight during the summer and have been so happy to include Jesus and our Christian faith during this season. Both of my kiddos (2 & 3rd grades) are thriving! I get to see immediate connections made, and also see where they are struggling. —Erin H. W.

This has been the best decision I have made in regards of schooling for my kids! Last year public school ended in such upheaval! My daughter lost her entire second grade year of math due to shutdowns and struggles that the school wasn’t willing to help with. This year she is excelling in math! My son is reading for pleasure now instead of "because he has to" and will read to his little sister who’s a toddler. This is our lifestyle now. Homeschooling has offered such freedom! I’m here to say that homeschooling is easier than homework! —Katie J. B.

Share Your School Choice Experience

Use #sonlightstories

We'd love to hear from you, whether you are a brand new, 2021 homeschooler or a long-time Sonlighter. Choose one of the stories backgrounds below and personalize it with your own photos, text, and stickers that tell why you are happy you chose to homeschool with Sonlight. Just click the image to enlarge it.

Be sure to use #sonlightstories on your share.

Still on the fence? It's not too late to switch to homeschooling with Sonlight and get the same benefits our other rookie families have experienced.

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4 Reasons Never to Stop Reading Aloud to Your Children

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I cannot express how great my excitement was when my children began reading their own bedtime stories. Don’t get me wrong...I loved those precious memories of storytime, but on the other hand, my kids wanted to hear Goodnight Train exactly 19 times before bed every single night. After a long day, it was pretty exhausting by the time we got around to the seventh nightly reading. 

It’s easy to push for that transition when children can read to themselves without your help. Believe me, I get it.

Yet reading aloud is still valuable, even in the older grades. Perhaps I should even say especially in the older grades. Here are a few reasons we need to keep reading aloud to our children even after they have become independent readers.

1. Reading Aloud Develops Fluency

The best readers are often the readers who were read aloud to the most.

There is something about hearing the English language read fluently that registers in our child’s brain and allows them to perfect their fluency as well. Most children are not necessarily fluent readers by the time they are able to read independently. You might be surprised to hear your independent reader skip punctuation and get hung up on a few words.

Just because a child can read solo doesn’t necessarily mean they are reading fluently

Continuing to read aloud to them bridges the gap between reading independently and reading fluently. The more they hear your pauses and emotion, the more they will begin to work pause and emotion into their reading. The benefit to fluency is that fluency helps them comprehend what they are reading. Comprehension is our goal. 

2. Reading Aloud Develops Vocabulary

Did you know that most readers tend to skip words that they don’t know? Don’t believe me?

When was the last time you paused to look up a word in the dictionary as you were reading?

Don’t worry, I can’t remember either! We are generally content with skipping a word rather than digging in to figure out the meaning. 

However, when we read aloud to our kids, we are consciously reminding ourselves to look for vocabulary building opportunities. We are inviting our children to begin a conversation about words and ideas.

“What does that word mean?” are sweet words to the reading-aloud homeschool parent. Those words are the cue for us to pull out the big dictionary or ask Google. Those words invite us to store that word in our vocabulary bank and use it another day. Reading aloud is a tool to develop vocabulary.

Celebrate World Read-Aloud Day 2022 with Sonlight! And enter to win prizes!

3. Reading Aloud Models Good Comprehension Skills

I used to devour book series. I read the Ramona series as fast as lightning. I can tell you that I rarely stopped to think about whether I was comprehending the storyline, and I am sure that the author’s purpose for writing the books never crossed my mind. While I still loved my experience reading the Ramona books without thinking very deeply about them, I also wish that had thought about them a little more.

I realize now that Beverly Cleary was making a case for a child’s perspective on life. She was giving us a glimpse into the mind of a child and showing us the world through Ramona’s eyes. It was funny, because after I read Ramona the Pest as an adult, I found myself being much more patient with my children when they inevitably made mistakes. There is almost always more to books than meets the eye, and it is our job to dig into the goodness of author’s purpose, prediction, plot, and the many other facets of literacy. 

Reading aloud gives us the chance to model excellent reading techniques.

While we read aloud, we stop every so often and discuss the books. This is something we don’t really do very often when we are reading independently. While we may not need these skills quite as much in series reading, be assured that our kids will need them as they get older and begin higher level literature courses.

4. Reading Aloud Builds Bonds

As a mother of four children, I have plenty to do, so I tend to multitask during family movie night. During those nights in the living room when I'm trying to merge family time with productivity, one of my children will turn to me and excitedly say, “Mom, did you see that? It was so cool how he just….”

And I am stuck, not having a clue what they are talking about. I missed out on a moment to connect through movies, and it always makes me sad.

Books connect us too, possibly even more than movies do. When we read books together, we find ourselves laughing together, crying together, and even travelling together.

It is a marvelous thing. Reading aloud builds bonds

So when do we stop reading aloud? 


I often think about how in the old days, families would sit around the fireplace and listen to the father read aloud from the Bible. This continued forever, even when the children were out of the house and on their own, simply because there was likely only one copy of the Bible.

There is something special about connecting over literature, and there is no age limit to those precious opportunities for connection. I believe that reading aloud can be enjoyed by all ages, anytime. So don’t stop. Keep reading aloud as long as you can.

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We'd love to send you a free catalog, full of great books you can read aloud with your children. Request yours here.

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