Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Sonlight for the Secular Homeschool

We're almost four months into our homeschool year and I have to say it has been one of my favorites. This is in no small part due to Sonlight. For years I pieced together a curriculum which focused heavily on history, geography, and literature. And while I'm pleased with the outcome (my two oldest, Peter and Ethan, graduated with a much fuller knowledge of those three subjects than I did), I have come to a point where I just don't have the energy to do it all over again. Maybe if I'd been taking copious notes during those twelve years on everything we ever read, discussed, and studied, I'd have an open and go curriculum ready and waiting for me. Unfortunately, I was under the impression our family was complete. I figured at this point I would be through having to use any curriculum at all. But by the time Peter and Ethan were teenagers, it was clear we were ready for our family to grow. Along came Bess, Max, and Rose, and while I'm so, so happy they did, I find myself at the beginning again. I'm sixteen years older than I was when we first homeschooled, and man, I feel those years. The energy I had then for planning our days has evaporated. I'm just too darned tired to sweat the small stuff. You want to eat candy before dinner? Well, that's not an argument I want to have, so go ahead. You refuse to put on pants for breakfast? Well, pants probably aren't that important in the grand scheme of things, so yeah. You want to skip science to watch Dora the Explorer for the freaking one thousandth time? Well, Dora did teach you the Spanish word for chocolate, so I'll take a nap while a talking map and a monkey make you bilingual.
These aren't the decisions of a woman who is pumped and motivated to spend her evenings choosing books, writing discussion questions, and creating fun, imaginative crafts.

I really love homeschooling. I do. I'm just at a point where I want a little help. And that's where Sonlight comes in.  Sonlight has saved me countless hours of research to find just the right books for our history studies. It's literature-based with living books teaching history, rather than dry textbooks. My kids love it and so do I. Our days are much more relaxed, because I'm more relaxed. I don't have to worry about whether I've planned enough or too much. The instructors guide lays out everything we need to do with notes for discussions, timeline activities, and mapping. Sonlight plans everything, as I did through all those years of teaching Peter and Ethan, but without the headache.

So can Sonlight be used by secular homeschoolers? Yes. Easily. The majority of the religious material is in the IG which only I read. I skip anything I don't feel we need. The handful of books which are religious can be replaced with similar secular titles from the library. If, for instance, the missionary story for the day focuses on India with mapping and timeline activities, I just replace it with a secular story about India and do the activities. Sometimes if I feel it's of no educational value, I just eliminate a book or story without replacing it.

The IG is so easy to use. I open to the week for a quick glance at what we're reading, and then turn to the following pages for a more in-depth look at the history and literature selections. A map with all the locations from the readings is there, and so are instructions for what dates and figures to enter on the timeline. Everything is already done for me. I don't have to schedule anything. It's very easy to tweak, and even though it's all planned out for me, the schedule isn't burdensome. We can use two days to complete a day of work or, when we're motivated, finish a week of readings in a day. The cores are easy to tailor to more than one age level. We have an advanced 6 year old and a not-quite-as-advanced 5 year old using the same core.
Yes, Sonlight is an evangelical company, and yes, they do believe in a young earth. And shockingly, yes, there is a paragraph at the back of the IG on how to talk with children about homosexuality with a short script on how to explain to your children why gay marriage is wrong.(As the mom of a bisexual son, this made me grind my teeth in frustration.) However, all of these issues are in the IG which my children don't see, and I can ignore.(The script on how to make your child into a future bigot made a swift trip to our garbage can.)

So that's a quick look at Sonlight. I hope it's helpful. I remember, when I was first considering Sonlight, searching a long time online to find any real information on how Sonlight could be used by secular homeschoolers and not finding much. So here are a couple of helpful resources on how to secularize the cores:

SonlightSecular Yahoo Group

Our Enchanted Place Blog: Sonlight Cores

For a three week sample of any core:

IG samples

My next post will be on secularizing Core A.

Until next time!