When I was first introduced to homeschooling, I read up on the homeschool philosphy of Charlotte Mason. I loved her emphasis on living books and learning through experience. My husband and I both hated the textbook teaching we got in the public schools. We got excellent grades, but were bored to death. The learning moments that I cherish most from my public school years almost always involved classic literature and hands-on teaching. So, I knew that was what I wanted for our homeschool.
I have been aware of Sonlight for years. Their emphasis on learning history through literature, using read-alouds and plenty of exciting independent reading really appealed to me. Not only that, they incorporated comprehension questions, timelines, poetry, bible study and geography into their core studies. All of it was neatly parceled out into an instructors manual that told you what you had to accomplish each day. I had a horrible case of curriculum-envy, but I couldn't get past that steep price tag.
I worked my way through several other homeschool curriculums. We used some Beautiful Feet books, Homeschool in the Woods and Veritas Press. All had great literature programs, but weren't great fits for us. Too easy, too hard, too many projects. Like Goldilocks, we were perpetually in search of a good fit. So, after a hit and miss start to last year, we started using Sonlight books to enrich our Early American History studies. We got some of the books from the library and some were 2nd hand, but we pieced together the books shown in the catalog for their grade level. The kids LOVED the books! They devoured the readers in half the time I had planned. I knew this was the curriculum for us. We just needed to find a way to fit it into our budget.
Around that time, I signed up to do a used curriculum book sale that was hooked up to a small homeschool convention. I didn't know what to expect, but I brought several boxes of books, a dish of jellybeans and a bit of optimism to see what I could do. We walked away with over $300 in sales that day! It was fantastic! While I was there, I bought Abeka language arts and science text books. A few weeks later, we ordered our Sonlight curriculum for this year.
So, why Abeka? It is a bit of a step into textbook learning, I'll admit. First off, science has always been a weak point in our curriculum. It was hard being consistent when we were constantly piecing together curriculum. We did a little better with language arts. However, Abeka workbooks not only covered grammar, but also included sections on using reference materials, doing research and writing reports. This creative writing momma needed more structure in our writing program. Second, I knew that we would be adding my 4-year-olds to the homeschool table and I needed help making sure my big kids' curriculum covered all of their learning needs. The instructor's manual and lesson plans from Sonlight and the Abeka textbooks give us the structure and consistency we need.
So, after the first 3 weeks and 95 hours of school, how's it going? It's going fantastic. The hours are, admittedly much longer than last year, but the kids LOVE their curriculum. They love their science, math, langauge arts, history, reading, writing, bible studies, art, music and so on. They love it all. My preschool/kindergartners are loving their pre-K packets and math books, too. So, even though I'm a little burned out after the first few weeks, we're going to stick to what we've chosen for curriculum this year. We may only get 3 Sonlight days done each week, instead of 4, but that's okay. We may not do all of the comprehension questions or do every geography match up. That's fine. My kids wake up each morning excited to do school and they're learning. That's all that matters.
Today is the first day back to school for the public school kids and we are headed out for our Homeschool Celebration Day! Every year, on the first day of public school, the kids and I head out to play, go to a museum and go out to lunch. We love celebrating the blessing of being together! Today, we'll be headed out to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science for their free admission day. Maybe we'll get some Sam's Club hotdogs on the way home. Our love and prayers are with all those students, parents and teachers that are starting their school year today. We support you wholeheartedly and wish you happy learning days ahead.
P.S. - We've submitted the photos from my last post to Sonlight. We're hoping to be featured in their next catalog. It's one of my favorite features of their catalog. I love reading all the comments from other Sonlight families and seeing their lovely pictures. Crossing my fingers!