Sonlight has been an integral part of our home education experience. After what I’ve seen of fundamentalism in my past, I knew I had to find a homeschool curriculum that actively taught discernment and critical thinking from real-world sources (not rewritten resources.) As someone born and raised abroad, I wanted a curriculum which taught about the world as a whole, not just from one country’s perspective. And I wanted my daughter to learn how to think, not just what to think. After all, that’s a mark not just of a great classical education, but of a Christian learning to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
After using Sonlight Levels A and B, Sonlight approached me to write for the Sonlight Curriculum blog during the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years, in exchange for History / Bible / Literature Level C and History / Bible / Literature Level D and Science F. [Disclosure in plain English: As a Sonlight Ambassador, I received curriculum in exchange for my guest posts.]
I’ve been so delighted to share my thoughts on homeschooling with a global perspective, why real books about real people matter, how geography isn’t just about maps, and more. (I’ve linked to many of my posts below.) Sonlight is literature-based, but it’s not twaddle or fluff. Since the approach is to develop, not just recite, a worldview, my daughter is constantly challenged to think independently, apply what she’s learned, make connections, and go as deeply into the topics as desired. And the rich nature of the material lend itself easily to a classical education framework.
Sonlight is such a great fit for our classical-leaning home, and works so, so well for this quirky, neurologically gifted daughter of mine. Is there’s a topic you want me to tackle in an upcoming article? Leave a note in the comments, or drop me a line at gina [dot] munsey [at] gmail [dot] com.
My Posts on the Sonlight Blog
“Acids and bases are common knowledge in our culture, so much so that the term litmus test means not simply to test for pH level, but also to make a determination on whether or not something—or someone—is acceptable. It’s interesting how these terms make their way into our vernacular, isn’t it? Most pH tests in kids’ science courses are done with litmus paper, but you can also assess pH levels using red cabbage.” [Read how to create an acid-base indicator out of cabbage leaves.]
Can you relate to the frustration of not being able to find a pencil when it is time to start written work? Where in the world do all the pencils go?! Thankfully, there are simple practices we can put into place to create a more organized homeschool environment—starting with those pesky pencils. [Read ten homeschool organizational tips you can begin today.]
“An observational approach is terrific for nature study, but doesn’t quite do the trick when it comes to anatomy, does it? It can be challenging to adequately teach about muscles and bones, when all the moving parts all hidden away inside our bodies. We simply can’t see under our skin! But exciting hands-on activities—like building this set of faux muscles and bones—are an effective way to transform the study of anatomy into something students can actually see and touch.” [Read how to build a model of an arm muscle.]
“A 2014 study published in Psychological Science revealed overwhelming visual environments can disrupt learning. Most homeschoolers don’t have rows of primary-colored cubbies or dozens of educational charts, but are we reading, squished up next to a laundry basket on the couch? Are we working on neat and precise handwriting with our notebooks pushed up against dirty dishes on a tabletop that’s anything but neat? Have we replaced the visual environment of school with the cluttered environment of home?” [Read more about how clutter and atmosphere affect mood and learning.]
“How can we carry out God’s instruction to write his commandments on our hearts, in the midst of our nitty-gritty daily life? How does this work in the midst of math worksheets and dinner preparations and laundry chores? How can we incorporate this commandment into our daily habits?” [Read practical ways to make studying the Bible a hands-on activity for kids.]
“Not only does beauty matter in the trenches of homeschooling, it’s a non-negotiable point. Beauty isn’t merely a superfluous accessory to learning, but an essential element. And this integration reflects, life, doesn’t it? Beauty is not to be relegated only to the study of arts. Worship is not meant to be segmented out into a ninety-minute chunk of Sunday morning time.” [Read how beauty is an essential element of the Christian life.]
“If you have kids, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is inescapable. But this ordinary tune doesn’t exactly strike a chord as immediately worthy of Advent contemplation, does it? It’s no majestic carol; it’s squeaked out in recitals, scraped out from wind-up toys, and warbled in lullabies. The repetitive and sometimes off-key tune often grates on our nerves. So why am I talking about Twinkle, Twinkle in the same breath as truth and beauty? Shouldn’t we turn our eyes somewhere grandiose, instead?” [Read the connection between Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and the Nativity.]
NOTE: Looking for my main post Why Singapore Math Works Best for Us? Click here.]
“The study of math has two main components: arithmetic (calculations) and mathematics (concepts and theory). Singapore Math places a high value on conceptual understanding. A greater understanding of mathematical theory leads to fewer mistakes in arithmetic calculation. Rather than memorizing and blindly repeating a series of steps, the Singapore-trained student understands why he or she is executing these steps. Since so much frustration in math stems from simply not understanding, a program which takes time to stop and explain why has the potential to dramatically reduce frustration.” [Read more reasons I’m a fan of Singapore Math.]
“From time to time, I encounter curious questions about the multi-discipline format of Sonlight science. Most of us are accustomed to the model typically used in high school and college classrooms: focusing on one discipline—in depth—for an entire year. Because of this, we sometimes expect elementary and middle-school science programs to follow the same approach. While there is a place for such focused study, there’s also much to be said for a multi-genre method, especially in the years before high school. The most obvious benefit is exposure. ” [Read why a literature-based approach to science is so powerful.]
“I was a missionary kid, born deep in the heart of southern Mexico and then lived in the former Yugoslavia. The idea of giving to missions isn’t merely conceptual to me; it played out in my life in a very real way. How real? Tithes often paid for our brown bread, eggs, carrots, tangy yogurt, and meat of occasionally-questionable origin. Missions contributions bought translated Bibles, many destined for a God’s Smuggler-esque journey behind the Iron Curtain. As Paul and Timothy wrote in the first chapter of Philippians, ‘For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities.'” [Read more reasons why kids should give financially to missionaries.]
“Cultural geography takes on a life of its own, doesn’t it? It goes well beyond the facts of physical geography—such as landforms and bodies of water—and allows us to immerse ourselves in vibrant worlds beyond our own circle of familiarity. Cultural geography celebrates people, and draws us in to their incredibly varied stories.” [Read ways to find cultural experiences near you, and bring your study of geography to life.]
“We need more than a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils to get us through the school year; we need purpose. If we don’t have purpose, vision, and clarity, then we’re simply going through our days by rote, mechanically completing one task after another. Purpose elevates our daily tasks, transforming have-to-do chores into get-to-do opportunities.” [Read practical steps to trade homeschool drudgery for joy instead.]
“An individual child may not progress at the same rate across all subject areas. When this gap is considerably large, we call it asynchronous development. A child with asynchronous development is many ages at once; he or she is often significantly ahead of grade-level standards in one or more topics of study, yet considerably behind same-age peers in other areas. While schools sometimes have loose systems in place to address variations in academic progress, rarely are they are able to adequately meet the needs of a child with asynchronous development.” [Read more on how homeschooling allows you to customize education for an asynchronous child.]
“Reading rewards us with hidden beauty. Sometimes the nuggets of truth in a written passage are readily apparent; other times, the nuances require a little deeper digging before they’re visible. This is analogous to life; the profundity of life will not always shout to us from the surface, but is often hidden away in quiet corners, glistening in the shadows, camouflaged by the everyday, waiting to be discovered. Reading teaches us it’s not always the flashiest or the loudest moments which are the most precious. In quiet searching through the written word, we are rewarded deeply.” [Read more on reaping the dividends of a book-centered way of life.]
“At its root, the socialization question relies on the ingrained—but inaccurate—belief that no shy, dysfunctional, or socially awkward child or adult ever emerged from the public school system. Let’s think about that for a second. Is it really true that traditional brick-and-mortar education is the antidote for social dysfunction? Of course not! The socialization question itself reveals a clear double standard at play. When a disturbed individual surfaces on the news (night after night, in every local new station in the country), no one ever reports that the socialization practices of the public system are flawed and need to be changed.” [Read about the incorrect beliefs and assumptions driving the socialization question.] Note: you can now also click through to listen to an audio recording of me reading this post aloud.
“Dynamic characters are crucial literary friends for our children—and for us—because they model the spirit of humility, the essence of being teachable, the transformative power of redemption, the good which can arise out of failure, and the opportunities for growth resulting from mistakes. Perhaps most powerfully, dynamic characters remind us tragedy is not the end. Johnny Tremain’s story did not end when he burned his hand. Robin’s story did not end John-the-Fletcher failed to arrive. There is always more to the story.“ [Read how books with imperfect, dynamic characters enrich our lives.]
“I sometimes feel like everyone around me is doing more important, more appreciated, and more glamorous jobs, while I am stuck in the cycle of thankless tasks. In a culture so enraptured with superheroes, mountaintop experiences, and exceptional feats, it’s easy to feel lost, unable to see our own ordinary place in a world of more-than-ordinary influences.” [Read how ordinary homeschool tasks can actually be worship.]
“Can I let you in on a little secret? Some of us don’t homeschool by the book (pun intended) every single day. There are many reasons I love my Sonlight Instructor’s Guide—such as the structured framework it offers, and the invitation to anchor our days with a Sonlight Morning Time—but sometimes, our homeschool doesn’t look picture-perfect. In fact, we don’t even always flow through the Instructor’s Guide in a linear way.” [Read more on how I save time by deconstructing our homeschool schedule.]
“I don’t know about you, but I’m really skilled at forgetting blessings. Like the Israelites of old, I’m prone to amnesia the minute the Red Sea closes behind me, focusing on my mundane duties instead. As you probably know, in a homeschool mom’s life, there are a lot of routine tasks, begging to take our focus away from what matters. There are some days—or even weeks and months—I don’t feel like cherishing. You, too?” [Read more about how the Biblical command to give thanks can transform your homeschool.]
“I am a lover of poetry. My daughter, on the other hand, is very literal. Her mind is scientific and pragmatic, and while she can—and does—memorize how to properly use idioms, she doesn’t have an intuitive sense for poetic language. When we opened Cornstalks: A Bushel of Poems, my daughter exclaimed, ‘This isn’t poetry! It doesn’t even rhyme!’ [Read about how we learned to see beauty in modern poetry.]
“Feeding our children a steady diet of unrealistically perfect literary characters, to the exclusion of other books, actually has the potential to harm our children’s faith. You see, when children are presented with a constant stream of flawless literary characters who do no wrong and face no struggles—or who overcome overly-simplistic struggles in a formulaic manner—several things are bound to occur.” [Read more about how wholesome books can harm a child’s faith.]
“Approach cultural geography with a sense of wonder. Don’t simply learn the stories of missionaries, but also dive into the incredible diversity of the people and culture in which they serve. And listen. Listen to what others have to say.” [Read more practical things kids can do to support missionaries.]
“The big blue binder is a tidy compendium of schedules, notes, memory work, maps vocabulary, and discussion questions. In short, it’s a homeschool mom’s command central. Without the instructor’s guide, we’d still enjoy the cadence of the stories of the we read, but we wouldn’t have the information to fully appreciate the cultural and historical significance of each. And the steady rhythm of the guide lends a solid framework to each day, too.” [Read more about Sonlight’s built-in homeschool organization .]
“Many classrooms have themed centers, each center focusing on a different activity. In lower-level classrooms, these centers might offer painting or sensory play, while in other classrooms you’ll see areas for math, writing, or STEM challenges. You might not teach in a traditional school setting, but you can definitely incorporate centers into your homeschool day!” [Read more on creating homeschool activity centers.]
“Are you facing a difficult season, in which answered prayers seem distant, and joy is scarce? Does God seems far away? Maybe you’re facing a health crisis, or maybe your arms ache for a precious child. Maybe your family is struggling, and paychecks are stretched thin—or are non-existent altogether. Does it seem as though everyone arounds you exudes joy and abundance, but you’re parched, awaiting deliverance? I don’t have all the answers; but I do know this—you are not alone. God sees. God knows, and you are not forgotten.” [Read more on battling for joy in homeschooling.]
“Both my husband and I were homeschooled from pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade, and we both went on to receive four-year degrees in traditional university settings. Neither of us found the transition from homeschooling to college particularly traumatic. Our home education prepared us extremely well for the college environment.” [Read more about why college professors love homeschoolers.]
“Art, it seems, is one of the more misunderstood subjects. In my conversations with homeschool parents, I’ve encountered over and over the idea that only artistically-minded families can adequately teach homeschool art history, or that art is somehow more difficult to teach than other subjects. This simply is not true! You don’t have to be an art major to browse the art history section of the library, click through the galleries of any number of art museum websites, or peruse an art history timeline. In fact, you don’t even have to do any of that.” [Read more about incorporating art history into your weekly routine with confidence]
“If a system doesn’t work for your family, it doesn’t work—no matter how much everyone else raves about it. Start with PE to get the wiggles out, or switch circle time from morning to afternoon. As you get back into a homeschool routine after the holidays, make your routine work for you, not the other way around. Homeschooling is all about individualized education and flexible schedules. Launch into the new year with a fresh slate!” [Read more about making mid-year adjustments in your homeschool]
“Judging by the sheer quantity of posts which pop up in forums and online homeschool groups, there are a whole lot of homeschool moms really concerned about teaching handwriting properly. You’ve seen it, right? Or maybe you’ve even uploaded a photo of your child’s written work yourself, with the caption, ‘Does this seem right for his/her age?’ Anxiety, frustration and fear of being behind in handwriting are are all too common, but it doesn’t need to be this way.” [Read more about practicing penmanship for fluency, not perfection]
“Timelines are crucial in developing an understanding of what was happening in different parts of the world at the same time. Mapping, on the other hand, is essential in understanding what has happened over time, in the same part of the world. Unlike the linear presentation of a timeline, mapping creates rich layers, upon which we can build a deeper understanding of the world. [Read more about how to learn geography by writing on a map]
“Keeping children’s hands busy is often the key to allowing their minds—and bodies—to calm down long enough to focus on auditory input. There’s something very restful and therapeutic about working with your hands while taking in enjoyable audio. In our home, we look forward to our Sonlight Read-Alouds not just because Sonlight books are so carefully chosen, but also because of the fun projects we’ve worked into our routine. Here are some of our family’s favorite read-aloud activities.” [Read more about allowing kids to move and play while you read aloud]
“The more we learn about other cultures, the more our eyes are opened to the fact that our Americanized Western way, while more familiar to us, is not the only way. We needn’t fear that expanding our global worldview will cause us to promote moral relativism—a shift in absolute values of right and wrong. If we nurture a global perspective in light of the gospel, we can see many cultural differences for just what they are—cultural differences—and we can appreciate the diversity throughout our Father’s world.” [Read more about making a global perspective a priority in your homeschool ]
“Are you tired? I don’t mean the kind of tiredness which goes with the territory of being a full-time educator, full-time mom, and full-time renaissance woman. (Pass the coffee.) No, I’m talking about habitual, out-of-control, runaway tiredness, the kind of exhaustion born out of over-scheduling. I’m talking about the loop of endless chaos where there is no more room on the calendar, no more space on the countertop, and you’ve just said yes to a commitment which erased your last open weeknight. [Read practical tips on incorporating rest ]
“Culturally, we have a tendency to frame both mathematics (theory) and arithmetic (calculation) as difficult, and only meant to be truly understood by a select few. Can you imagine the damage we’d cause if we had this attitude toward reading and literacy? It would have a profoundly negative affect, not just on our individual students, but on our culture as a whole. Yet, we continue to perpetuate the “math is hard” idea, presenting it as something we just need to struggle through. …However we might feel about math, we must be careful not to pass on negativity to our children. Instead, we can encourage, we can empower, and we can employ little tricks to avoid abandoning our kids to hours of tears over an endless worksheet. The idea is to cultivate a positive math culture in our home.” [Read more about making math a positive priority in your homeschool]
“In Psalm 119, the psalmist prays, “[Lord,] order my steps.” When we read biographies, we get a glimpse into that glorious ordering. In the course of our own lifetime, we will encounter trials and suffering. We may even endure days and years which are so achingly painful, we might even feel as though they are a waste. But someday, when we no longer see through a glass dimly (I Corinthians 13:12), when the arc of our life is viewed in light of eternity, we will see how God has woven it all together—the agonizing twists and turns we didn’t understand, the seemingly unfulfilled prayers, the untidy ends, the tangled threads, the knotted mess—into a beautiful tapestry beyond compare.” [Read more about homeschooling with biographies]
” While it is admirable to wish to tell history from a Christian perspective, this attempt to smooth over the mess can be problematic. As our children get older, we must be careful to resist the temptation to paint rough patches of history in a purely positive light, or whitewash history to the point of inaccuracy.
If we take this paraphrasing too far, for too long, we do our children a disservice. The powerful triumph of victory over evil is lessened if we continually downplay the extent of evil. We need to be carefully not to accidentally narrow the gap between good and evil, between right and wrong, between light and darkness, or between truth and deception…” [Read more about why sheltering isn’t the answer]
“There is a welcomed familiarity in …expected pattern [s]. God created nature to run cyclically. It’s no wonder, then, that we’re drawn to the idea of an intentional habit at the advent of day, one which will settle our hearts, direct our eyes upwards, and set a positive and nurturing tone for the day. Even the most spontaneous and free-spirited among us partake in ritual, whether we realize it or not, through the necessary and life-sustaining patterns of sleeping, eating, and personal hygiene. Circle time—or symposium, if you will—constructs a sturdy scaffolding around which to train the wandering vines of our mornings.” [Read more about simplifying your homeschool morning] Note: you can now also click through to listen to an audio recording of me reading this post aloud.
“If you’re a city-dwelling homeschooler, it can sometimes feel like you’re the odd one out, especially as the rural homesteading movement continues to grow in popularity. But would it surprise you to know rural homeschoolers are actually the statistical minority in the United States? Recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) shows us that of the homeschooled students from which data was gleaned, only about 40% live in rural areas.
Forty percent! That means the rest—the majority—of homeschooled students in this country are based in cities, suburbs, and towns across America. While the reality of urban and suburban homeschoolers is a far cry from the folkloric ideals of prairies and pioneers, it’s no less valid—just perhaps much less represented…”[Read more homeschooling in urban areas]
“Books which deal with difficult topics are important because they cause us to look up and away from ourselves, and give us a little nudge out of any selfishness which might have settled down around us. When we read books in which the main characters combat grief, hunger, or other struggles, our gaze is lifted outward. It’s almost impossible to maintain a self-centered or entitled point of view if we are consistently being challenged by ideas and experiences—literary or real-world—which encourage us to look beyond ourselves…” [Read more about choosing to read difficult books]
“The six-foot map above my desk continually puts things in perspective for me. Somehow, the larger I see the world stretched out before me, the smaller the selfish world orbiting my own head becomes. (It’s remarkable how quickly first-world complaints evaporate when viewed in light of not only history’s timeline, but geography’s expanse as well.) And as I look at the map, I can’t help but notice what a narrow swath, both chronologically and geographically, United States history has carved out. And I think to myself, time didn’t start here. History didn’t start here. Geography doesn’t stop here — the ocean stretches out so much further. There’s so much more to know…” [Read more about why a global perspective matters in homeschooling]