Pre-K at home with good books and hands-on lessons
Homeschoolers are opinionated when it comes to early childhood education. All you have to do is mention preschool or pre-kindergarten in a room full of homeschool moms, and you’ll instantly find yourself the recipient of a ton of free advice — whether or not you want it.
One of the most common bits of advice is to let kids play.
But have you ever stopped to ask, what is play?
[Disclosure: Sonlight provided me with the Pre-Kindergarten Package: Exploring God's World, and compensated me financially for this post. I have used many Sonlight products in our homeschool prior to reviewing this product. All opinions — and photographs! ;) — are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.]
To inquisitive kids, play takes many forms.
Adults compartmentalize, sort, and label some experiences as “play” and others as “academic”. But kids don’t care how adults categorize their ways of having fun. They’re just enjoying the process of discovery.
When a child is very young, they are delighted by the realization a cow says moo and a duck says quack. As the child gets older, they become similarly enraptured by the realization that the letter s says sss, the b says buh, and the numeral 3 represents a quantity of three.
This isn’t a shift from play to academics, but a natural progression of growth and learning. When a child is ready to learn the things adults call “kindergarten readiness skills”, then pre-kindergarten doesn’t detract from a child’s sense of wonder; it increases it.
Sonlight’s pre-kindergarten package, Exploring God’s World, is a complete way to teach pre-k at home…
…and teach kindergarten readiness skills, too.
But kids won’t be thinking about readiness skills. They’ll be too busy
- hopping like a kangaroo,
- jumping like a frog,
- plunging their hands in a sink full of suds learning how to wash a cup,
- learning to grip a pencil,
- tracing letters in sand and on paper,
- playing with an ice cube after hearing a story about really cold weather,
- navigating scissor mazes,
- sorting beads to gain a concrete understanding of number sense,
- feeling the rough surfaces of sandpaper letters, and
- listening to captivating stories about this wonderful fantastic world God made.
When discovery opportunities like this are presented in step with wild magical play and stories which soar around the globe, why shouldn’t the child be anything but utterly thrilled with this thing adults call pre-kindergarten?
Sonlight’s pre-K is a literature-based homeschool curriculum…
… which means the big white Sonlight box is jam packed with books. Oh, the books!
We’re a family of book-lovers, and we have completed quite a few Sonlight levels already —
- History / Bible / Literature A, B, C (here is my review of HBL A, and my review of HBL D)
- Readers 1, 2, 3, 4, (currently in Readers 5), and
- Science A, B, C, D
Since our family’s Sonlight journey began with HBL A / kindergarten, we’re discovering Sonlight pre-kindergarten for the first time. Although my youngest at nearly 3 is not ready for a pre-k program yet, that didn’t stop him — along with my 11-year-old — from clamoring to read these books now.
Sonlight’s book selections are always widely appealing to a broad range of ages, which makes the books a joy for parents to read aloud, too.
Ready to unpack with me and see what’s inside Sonlight’s Pre-Kindergarten Package: Exploring God’s World?
What kind of books are in the Sonlight pre-K package?
As I unpacked the Sonlight’s pre-kindergarten package, I found —
- folk tales from around the world,
- bedtime stories,
- a simple history book,
- illustrated science books,
- books about world cultures,
- poetry and classic tales,
- books with letters and vocabulary,
- science and nature books,
- an oversized fine arts book,
- an engaging Spanish vocabulary book,
- a tall tales audio book,
- missionary stories,
- a children’s Bible,
- 4 consumable workbooks,
- a full Instructor’s Guide, and
- a Montessori-inspired supplies kit.
Look at that glorious feast. How fun!
What’s new in the Sonlight Pre-K program? More hands-on experiences!
Sonlight’s pre-kindergarten program has been revised, new for 2022. It now includes a really wonderful hands-on component, which has been seamlessly integrated into the literature-based curriculum. The new 2022 pre-kindergarten supplies kit contains
- sandpaper letter manipulatives,
- number cards,
- Montessori-inspired number beads, and
- a teens board to help kids visualize number sense.
These tactile add-ons are such a fantastic addition to a literature-based pre-k curriculum.
The entire Instructor’s Guide has also been freshly updated, new for 2022! Everything is scheduled out for you in the 4-day/week, 36-week program.
The newly-revised Sonlight Pre-K Instructor’s Guide will help you guide your kids — using items from this supply kit and materials you already have around the home — through developmentally-appropriate tactile learning activities.
This is welcome news to me with a very wiggly little learner who loves to look at books, yes, but also loves to do things!
The NEW 2022 edition now features
- more hands-on lessons,
- explicit instruction in number sense,
- tons of Montessori-inspired practical life skills, and
- tons of really good books.
I’m so excited about this!
(Note that Sonlight assumes you also used Sonlight for preschool, and still have the geometric shapes from the prior preschool year. If you dodn’t, then you’ll need to add the shape manipulatives to your pre-K package.)
But I loved the old Sonlight pre-K books! Did any get removed in this update?
If you’re familiar with Sonlight, fear not; you’ll recognize the same beloved books in the updated pre-K package as were in the older pre-K package.
Sonlight’s pre-kindergarten still has
- all the read-alouds,
- the Bible storybook,
- art appreciation books,
- illustrated science books, and
- the international world culture books
it had before.
None of those wonderful books have gone away. (That’s such good news!)
And there’s one more book! Sonlight added a Spanish book to the lineup, so pre-kindergarteners can start familiarizing themselves with commonly used Spanish vocabulary en español. You know I’m a huge proponent of introducing another language as early as possible, so I love this!
Sonlight pre-k is a no-prep curriculum…
…which means it’s the very definition of open-and-go. Your Exploring God’s World Instructor’s Guide (download a sample) is the ultimate parent-teacher helper. It’ll get you started — and keep you going.
Everything you need to teach an entire year of pre-kindergarten at home is planned out for you in this easy-to-follow 36-week guide, commonly called the IG.
For each of the 36 weeks, your Sonlight Instructor’s Guide — or simply IG — provides a full-page week-at-a-glance, as shown below. I appreciate this organization, since my brain is constantly short-circuiting (yours, too?)
The Sonlight pre-K program schedules lessons for only 4 days each week, rather than 5, recognizing that many families have recurring extracurricular activities. I love the margin this provides.
Each IG schedule page is broken down into 6 different categories:
- pre-reading and writing
- science, and
- additional subjects (art, Spanish, life skills, etc).
There’s no prep! Just glance at the schedule to see exactly which pages you will read to your little learner each day. (Of course, not every book is assigned every day.)
Flip past the weekly schedule grid, and you’ll see a few pages of notes, suggested discussion questions, and simple hands-on lesson plans to help you teach concepts presented in the day’s readings.
In these additional pages, you’ll find
- prompts for learning practical life skills,
- ideas for large-motor play,
- art project ideas,
- letter of the week auditory and sensory activities,
- number and letter tracing pages,
- hands-on lessons to teach number sense,
- scissor coordination activities (see an example in the photo below),
- Scripture memory verses,
- kids’ songs with hand motions,
and so much more.
How much time does Sonlight pre-K take each day?
Exploring God’s World is designed to take just 20 minutes to 1½ hours daily. That’s so doable! There’s a wide span in this range, since it depends on how many of the optional play-based activities you choose to complete alongside your child.
As an example, in week 8, the optional play-based activities include
- hopping and clapping,
- foraging for dry cereal “manna”,
- painting, and
- digging for treasure
while the practical life skills include
- dusting, and
- learning to answer the telephone politely.
And of course, the 20 minutes to 1½ hours devoted to pre-kindergarten lessons can be spread throughout the entire day, as well. (The read-alouds are particularly well-suited as bedtime stories.)
So this program still allows for plenty of time left in the day for unstructured play…and interruptions.
How Sonlight pre-K teaches the Bible
Sonlight is a broadly Protestant company, but definitely adaptable to any creed-confessing Christians.
- Ura Miller’s 101 Favorite Stories from the Bible
and assigns it as a parent read-aloud 2-3 times each week. If you already have a favorite storybook Bible, though, it would be easy to substitute another one. (Day 67 of the curriculum for example, tells you to read the story of Elijah going to heaven.)
Each week, pre-K learners also work on memorizing Scripture. By the end of the year, students will have learned 36 short Bible verses. I love this!
Sonlight pulls memory verses from various editions of the Bible, choosing the one they feel will lend itself best to memorization by four- and five-year olds. Some weeks, the verse is from the NIV or NLT translation; other weeks, kids memorize the TLB paraphrase. Parents may prefer to have kids memorize directly from a translation most widely read at home, but that customization is easy enough to make.
The Instructor’s Guide also includes a related value kids can put into practice throughout the week. In Week 11, for instance, it’s thankfulness: “I show gratitude with words and actions.” I like this gentle application of learning manners and showing consideration for others — such a crucial life habit!
How Sonlight pre-K teaches language arts, readiness skills, and pre-math
This is a literature-based pre-K program with hands-on components, so the approach to teaching kindergarten readiness skills is very gentle and age-appropriate. There’s definitely no drill-and-kill here.
- Dr. Seuss’s ABC
- First Thousand Words in English
- First Thousand Words in Spanish
Sonlight has cleverly included two versions of the exact some book. Parents are encouraged to read aloud both English and Spanish vocabulary weekly. (There’s an audio component, too, if you’re not confident about Spanish pronunciation.) My kids got a big kick out of the matching books.
Sonlight’s pre-K program takes kids through the entire English alphabet, focusing on capital letters. (Since lowercase letters were introduced the year before in Sonlight’s preschool program for 3- and 4-year-olds, the pre-kindergarten program zeroes in on the uppercase versions.)
Here’s an example: on the first day of Week 8, you’ll read the two H pages in Dr. Suess’s ABCs. On the second day, you’ll introduce the sandpaper letter H and invite your child to trace the letter H in a sand tray. On the third day of that week, you will offer the tracing page provided in the Instructor’s Guide.
A similar lesson progression is offered each week for pre-math concepts,
- beginning with tactile manipulation of beaded rods,
- moving on to the sand tray, and
- finally culminating in the tracing page provided in the Instructor’s Guide
I love this use of the concrete + pictorial + abstract approach to learning math. It’s used extensively throughout our favorite math program as well.
Sonlight’s pre-K also includes
- four consumable Developing the Early Learner workbooks.
These aren’t your average dollar store busywork activity books; rather, the perceptual growth exercises in Developing the Early Learner: Books 1-4 will help your child gain practice in
- visual memory,
- auditory processing,
- comprehension, and
- motor skills.
How Sonlight pre-K prioritizes cultural diversity
I’m a third-culture kid with missionary parents trying to raise kids who love this big global world in its entirety, so I’m really glad Sonlight’s pre-K program places such a big priority on
- international world cultures,
- folk tales, and
- people around the world.
The books included in Sonlight pre-K give very young children a glimpse of the multifaceted splendor of all the cultures our global God has created. (And I love that Sonlight teaches world cultures first, before even introducing American history; that comes later, in kindergarten.)
Tradtional folk tales are such a beautifully literary way to expand a child’s horizons. Sonlight includes two big hardcover books of folk tales:
- The Lion Storyteller Bedtime Book, and
- Stories from Around the World
I’m just thrilled about this. This international focus does so much to nurture kids with a heart for the whole world.
Sonlight pre-K also includes
- Then & Now, a simple illustrated history book,
- Things People Do, a humorous yet informative title about occupations and careers, and
People by Peter Spier is the kind of book I would have spent hours pouring over as a child. It’s oversized, which makes it irresistible right from the start, and the quirky life-like illustrations and details draw readers right in. I love how it shows no two people are the same. My kids didn’t want to put it down!
I am also glad Sonlight’s pre-kindergarten read-alouds includes missionary stories like
- The Gods Must be Angry,
- New Toes for Tia, and
- Stories from Africa.
I know lots of of missionary tales can be cringey, but I’m happy to say the ones included in this pre-K program are tastefully-written and age-appropriate. These suspenseful books let kids peek into the lives of kids in Thailand and various African countries, without perpetuating an us vs. them mentality.
As someone who had access to missionary stories I was a pre-kindergartener myself, I can definitely say books like this kindled in me a lifelong heart for the world. Even growing up abroad, I vividly remember reading books set outside of my own Eastern European neighborhood, and I was conscious of how impactful they were.
How Sonlight Pre-K teaches science to 4- and 5-year-olds
I haven’t encountered a whole lot of pre-kindergarten programs with a science component, so I just love that Sonlight’s pre-K includes science! We really love science in our home, so these fascinating and marvelously illustrated books are a great fit for us.
- The Berenstain Bears’ Big Book of
Science and Nature
- The Year at Maple Hill Farm
- How Do You Lift a Lion?
- How to Dig a Hole to the Other Side of
- Is a Blue Whale the Biggest Thing
- What’s Smaller Than a Pygmy Shrew?
- Why Do Tigers Have Stripes?
- What’s Under the Sea?
There’s a little bit of everything here, from basic physics to nature and calendar studies to marine biology, perfect for curious little minds.
Sonlight pre-K is a treasure trove of read-alouds
This is a literature-based pre-kindergarten, so there’s no shortage of really good books. Sonlight’s pre-K includes even more read-alouds beyond the language arts, Spanish, folk tales, world cultures, missionary stories, and science books I’ve outlined above.
- American Tall Tales on audio CD
- A Child’s Book of Art
- Eric Carle’s Animals Animals
- Milly-Molly-Mandy Story Book,
- Uncle Wiggily’s Story Book, and
- Children’s Book of Virtues
My kids were immediately smitten with A Child’s Book of Art! This is an absolutely gorgeous book. Most art books are either too small to really show the art properly, or too heavy for little hands to maneuver. This one delightfully oversized with richly printed masterpieces, yet light enough for kids to easily hold.
If you’ve spent any length of time reading my blog, you know any mention of virtue-training or character studies sends my second-generation homeschool self running for the hills. So I was a little nervous to see William Bennett’s The Children’s Book of Virtues when I unboxed this package.
As soon I started reading it, though, my fears were put to rest.
This oversized hardback is a stunningly illustrated anthology of fables, nursery rhymes, and classic tales like
- The Little Red Hen,
- The Honest Woodman,
- The Little Hero of Holland, and even
- St. George and the Dragon.
(I am sorry, The Children’s Book of Virtues, for judging you by name.)
Milly-Molly-Mandy and Uncle Wiggily are longer chapter books, so they’re scheduled toward the end of the school year, to allow time for kids’ attention spans to mature.
American Tall Tales on CD? Especially perfect for the car! And of course, the Eric Carle-illustrated anthology of famous poems is a classic. We’ve been fans of this one for a long time.
Is Sonlight’s pre-K at home the right fit for me?
Wondering if Sonlight’s Pre-K will work for you and your little learner? Sonlight’s pre-K homeschool curriculum is a great match for kids who love listening to stories, and enjoy looking at illustrated books.
Its ideal for —
- parents who want to make sure their kids gain the readiness skills needed for kindergarten, even if they aren’t sure they’ll homeschool after pre-K
- parents who aren’t quite sure what to do with busy four- and five-year olds all day (the days can be so long!), and
- parents whose youngest kids are begging to do school alongside older homeschooled siblings.
Sonlight Pre-K is a superb choice for anyone who wants to share classic children’s literature with their kids, while also experiencing the sheer joy of those precious early learning milestones. (I can totally see grandparent caregivers using this with grandkids!)
Do I recommend Sonlight’s pre-kindergarten curriculum?
Absolutely yes! It’s truly a complete pre-kindergarten package that will have your child exploring the whole world. Through stories, activities, and play, your child will delight in discovering God’s great big world, and delight in uncovering essential kindergarten readiness skills, too.
What ages are best for Sonlight’s pre-kindergarten package?
Sonlight recommends the pre-kindergarten package for learners ages 4 or 5, and I think that’s really accurate.
Usually, with curriculum, I throw the age recommendations to the wind and make my own judgment call, but in this case I’d say they’re quite accurate. Sonlight’s pre-kindergarten level is designed well for a 4- or 5-year old.
Sonlight has several early childhood education options —
- Preschool for ages 3-4
- Pre-Kindergarten for ages 4-5 (that’s what I’m reviewing in this post today), and
- Kindergarten for ages 5-6 (here’s my review of Sonlight kindergarten history; also available with math and phonics;)
Not sure which one is best for your child? Sonlight can help!
Sonlight’s FREE placement consultations can help you find exactly the right level for your child
One of the great things about homeschooling is flexibility! If you —
- are not quite sure what your child should know before starting a Sonlight level,
- think your child might be between levels,
- want to update your older pre-K package to the new hands-on version,or
- need to add phonics instruction,
then definitely ask a Sonlight expert. Sonlight’s placement consultations are FREE!
And if you want to learn how to use a single Sonlight level to teach multiple kids, Sonlight’s academic advisors can help with that, too.
Enter to WIN Sonlight’s 2022 pre-kindergarten package!
Ready to add Sonlight’s pre-K package to your homeschool?
Every Sonlight History / Bible / Literature package is always 15% off. Get 15% off on the pre-K package now.
Still want to learn more about Sonlight Pre-K? You can do that too! Click through to see what’s included, download samples, chat with an advisor, see special offers, and more.
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And my comments are always open as well! Ask me anything, and I’ll do my best to answer.