I’m the oldest in a family of seven children that has used Sonlight curriculum since the 90s. I've noticed that certain books have become legends of family lore. These are usually the harder books—the books that have challenged us, broken our hearts, and exposed us to new ideas and feelings, including ideas we didn’t always like.
And I'm so glad that Sonlight includes these hard books.
From Pre-K through Level 600, Challenges Abound!
At very young ages, Greek Myths was a hard book. At the time, we could hardly fathom the scandal of reading about pagan gods and goddesses of ancient Greek religions.
Mara, Daughter of the Nile, was, for most of us, our first experience with a book that has just a touch of romance.
The pictorial history encyclopedias that included references to an earth that was billions of years old and mentioned evolutionary theories and prehistoric man shocked our Sunday-school educated selves. Yet they provided the perfect opportunity for our mom to talk with us about different ideas on how the universe came to be.
Later on, as advanced high school students, First They Killed My Father wrung our hearts with a portrayal of historical and horrific injustice.
Brave New World haunted our imaginations with its picture of a world that has gone down a hideous path from which there may be no return.
From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya challenged our understanding of the history of Christian missions...making us realize that some of what we thought we’d always known to be true wasn’t the whole story, after all.
These hard books are not the sort that you can read through quickly, put down, and retain only a vague memory of. These are the books that become milestones.
“Oh, you finished Brave New World? What did you think of that? I remember my first time reading it…”
At whatever level, Sonlight includes books that will challenge your children’s experience of the world and expose them to worldviews that differ from their own.
What Is Our Job When Educating Our Children?
The purpose of homeschooling is not merely
- to teach our children the most popular perspective on history and the sciences
- to help them feel comfortable as they learn more and more about their own cultural background
- to impress upon them the idea that our own family’s way of thinking about life and handling its challenges is always the wisest and best way
- to study primarily the happiest and most delightful aspects of human society
As educators, we must, at age- and developmentally-appropriate levels, teach our children the skills required for critical thinking. Otherwise, they are powerless to engage with worldviews and cultures different from their own.
Yes, preservation of innocence is an important part of our job as parents, but not to the extent that our children are unprepared to face the moral conflicts and tragedies of life.
Sonlight curriculum does an excellent job of weaving hard books through the History / Bible / Literature programs. Year by year, the difficulty of the hard topics grows.
Is It Safe to Allow Children to Read Hard Books?
A large concern with allowing our children and teens to read hard books that portray dark themes is the concern that portrayal of evil things is an implicit endorsement of such evil. The reasoning goes that reading about evil is an encouragement for our children to begin accepting such evil. This fear is a huge motivation behind many campaigns to ban questionable books from school libraries.
My response to this concern is that not all books portray evil the same way.
Books that endorse and glorify racism, classism, bullying, disrespect of parents, and all manner of sinful behaviors absolutely do exist. These are books not worthy of our homeschools. Sonlight does not include these kinds of books.
Other books portray racism, classism, bullying, disrespect, and sinful and horrifying actions as part of larger storylines that challenge the thinking of the reader and point in the direction of truth. These books may include darkness, but the overarching message of the book never condones that darkness. In fact, the overall storyline is one of redemption out of darkness.
These are the sorts of hard books that our children need to read in order to wrestle with these tough themes in a safe environment—at home with parents.
Is it safe for kids to read books that are hard? Perhaps not. But, like many things that couldn’t quite be called safe, it is indeed good.
Choose a curriculum that teaches children how to think critically and overcome evil in the world. See your options with Sonlight.