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Sonlight Curriculum - True 4-Day 1st Grade All-Subjects Package Review by Jennifer Do Nascimento

Sonlight Curriculum
8042 South Grant Way
8042 South Grant Way

Up until two months ago, I believed homeschool curriculum to be something like a revolving door- especially when there are multiple children involved. We’ve been homeschooling for seven years now, most of the time taking the Charlotte Mason approach to learning. I have spent the better part of those seven years on the hunt for "something better". I’d peruse catalogs, read reviews, and keep a close watch on several used curriculum groups. Why the change two months ago? I finally found what I have been searching for all these years. I found Sonlight.

For the past seven weeks, my first grader, Max, and I have been using Sonlight’s True 4-Day 1st Grade All-Subjects Package (recommended for kids ages 6-8). After a week, I knew I liked the program. Two weeks in, I was amazed by how smooth our school days were going. By week four, I was in love. And by the time we were in week five, I had ordered Core 100 for my older daughter and the Preschool curriculum for my 3-year-old. Yes, it’s that good. Sonlight has forever changed the way we homeschool.

As soon as we received our boxes of the new curriculum, I began to assemble and read through my Level B Instructor Guides. The main guide is the Sonlight B Instructor’s Guide (Intro to World History, Part 1- Creation to the fall of Rome) which contains the weekly schedules for history and bible, and the answer to pretty much any question you’d have about starting the program. However, if you still have questions or need some guidance, you can chat with, call, or email an Advisor (experienced Sonlight Mom) to get the information or clarification you need.

There are also individual guides for Science (Animals, Astronomy, and Physics) and Language Arts that contain not only weekly schedules and teacher helps but also consumable worksheets for phonics and science activities.

Sonlight is a literature-based curriculum that combines the best age-appropriate books to read aloud together or independently. Because my guy is learning to read this year, I read everything aloud, except his readers of course.

In preparation for our first week, I read through the first-week schedule for each subject. The weekly schedules have daily breakdowns of what to read from each book. And then to make your days even easier, they provide daily notes, explanations, and dialog for teaching new concepts. All this added support is found behind each weekly schedule.

It took us a couple of weeks to find our groove, but now school days have a smooth, familiar flow. Our days begin at breakfast when I read our daily scripture (verse(s) that correspond to what we’re covering in that week) and a lesson from Leading Little Ones to God. Leading Little Ones to God is a book I wish I would have had 12 years ago when my oldest was this age. It contains 86 short lessons that help young children to know God better. It speaks to children on their level, in a delightful conversational tone. This book is usually scheduled one lesson at a time, three to four times each week. From the get-go, I decided that we would read it twice a week and alternate the days with the Jesus Storybook Bible (not included in this package). The books work very well together.

After breakfast, the kids go outside for about an hour while I get some mom chores (or last-minute school prep) done. Once they come in (or I join them outside) I read our history and science books. The history books (spines, if you will) for this level are V.M. Hillyer’s A Child’s History of the WorldThe Usborne Book of World History, and The Usborne Time Traveler. We have long loved Hillyer’s work in our family, so reading this book as part of first grade only seemed natural. The Usborne books were new to us. Both of these books contain colorful, detail-packed illustrations that teach about family life, cultural achievements, discoveries, world religions as well as political and military history. My little guy is six and a half, so he’s on the younger end of this level’s recommended age group. So naturally, some of the books, or components of the books, are a bit advanced for him. This was the case with some of the Usborne history pages- not all of them mind you, but when discussing time and space, things can get a bit mucky for a young mind. Such concepts I’m confident he will understand better at an older age.

Each of the "spines" are read in one lesson or one page spread increments at a time. Accompanying the history spines are Tut’s Mummy Lost & FoundGeorge Muller, Around the World with Kate and Mack, and Catching Their Talk in a BoxTut’s Mummy was read in weeks four and five. It is a colorful, quick book about the man who discovered King Tut’s tomb. Around the World with Kate and Mack was just introduced to us in week six. Each week we follow Kate and her pet bird, Mack, as they travel to a different country around the world and get an overview of that country’s people and culture. The idea is to see the bigger picture of even though the people and places are very different, one thing is the same- God loves them all. Kate and Mack are scheduled once a week and since they follow the alphabet (A is for Arop, B is for Bwisi, C is for Catalan Sign Language.) it will last almost the entire year. George Muller is one of the YWAM Publishing biographies and doesn’t start until week thirty-two. We start Catching Their Talk in a Box this coming week.

There isn’t really a science spine, but our most regularly used book is The Usborne World of Animals. This wonderful book is full of amazing photographs of animals around the world. The first few weeks we learned general animal facts like growing up, how they smell, taste, hide, move . . . then a couple of weeks ago we got into continent specific animals. Along with our daily two-page spread of animal info, we also have daily activity pages. The activities range. Sometimes it’s a simple question about what we read, multiple choice question, cut and paste, or mapping activity. Once a week we read from Science Activities, Vol 1. It contains 72 experiments and science activities that are illustrated and explained in a child-friendly manner. Because the Science Supply kit was included in our package, doing the experiments each week is very easy to pull together. Plus, we watch the Discover and Do Level 1 DVD that gives us a visual of what we’ll be doing. Each segment is 3-5 minutes long. The other science books that are included but haven’t been scheduled yet are Pasteur’s Fight Against Microbes, DK’s Space, Usborne’s First Encyclopedia of the Human Body, The Magic School Bus at the Waterworks, as well as Usborne’s Why do People Eat? 

Typically, we read our books Monday through Thursday, and then do our activity pages and experiments on Friday. Friday is our "fun-schooling" day anyway, so the experiments and activities fit nicely within that. We also color and cut out our Timeline Figures to be pasted in our Timeline Book on Fridays, too.

After our history and science are done, we take a break. A little while later, we do math. Included in the All-Subjects Package is Math-U-See Alpha. We received the instruction manual, DVD, student workbook, tests, and the Integer Block Kit. This has been the perfect level for Max. Alpha focuses on teaching the concepts of single digit addition and subtraction. He and I had worked briefly before on place value, but he just didn’t get it. It wasn’t until we pulled out the Block Kit and made a trip down Decimal Street that things clicked and the lightbulb went on. He got it! I firmly believe it would have taken much longer had we not had the blocks to use. We watch the DVD together, then I see if he needs my help with his workbook pages. Usually, he doesn’t.

After math is finished we have lunch. During lunch, I read National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry. How I have not heard of this book before is beyond me. It is absolutely beautiful and each page contains fun, short poems about different animals around the world. The pages are thick and matte with stunning real-life photos of nature as each pages’ background. I have to admit, we often read ahead in this one. While only one or two pages are scheduled each day, we often read three or four. But that’s okay. I found out just the other day there is a National Geographic Nature Poetry book as well. Once we finish this one, I plan to buy that one.

After lunch and an afternoon outside playtime are over, we return to the couch for our read alouds. So far we have read Charlotte’s Web and Homer Price. This coming week we start Catching Their Talk in a Box. The other read-alouds (and there are many!) that haven’t been scheduled yet are Henry Huggins, Goodney Bird Greene, The Year of Miss Agnes, Greek Myths for Young Children, Understood Betsy, Detectives in Togas, Little Pear, Owls in the Family, Happy Times in Noisy Village, and The Year of the Baby.

After I read to him, it’s Max’s turn to read to me. Reading begins with the I Can Read It! Series. He has just about finished Book 1, then it’s on to Book 2 and Book 3. After those, come Put Me in the Zoo, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, A Fly Went By, The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, A Big Ball of String, and The Best Trick. 

When we first received all of these books, I thought no way were we going to be able to make it through them all. But we are! And it all happens so smoothly!

Typically, he does his handwriting while I make supper, although sometimes we do it in other parts of the day. The spelling words for each week are found in the weekly Language Arts pages. It is structured so that on day one you introduce the words, day two and three they write the words, and on day four, you mix it up. Each Saturday I take a couple of minutes to type the words in huge font and print them out. On day one, I hand him the paper and I have him read through them. On day two, he copies the words next to the ones I printed. On day three, I have him write the words on some Handwriting Without Tears lined paper. And then on day four, I put every letter he will need to spell his spelling words on our magnet board (an $11 oil drip pan from Walmart that I put on the wall) and then have him spell the words with magnet letters. Usually, he does pretty well sounding things out on his own and by the end of the list, he’s gotten or so words on the board. I have him read the words he has spelled, and then we’re done!

Included in our package is Handwriting Without Tears: My Printing Book, four Handwriting Without Tears: Print Alphabet Desk Strips, and 100 sheets of HWT lined paper. In most weeks there are only two pages from the printing book scheduled. These are easily done in less than 10 minutes during the week.

When it’s all said and done, we spend roughly three hours a day doing school, but of course, that doesn’t include any of our other read-alouds we do for fun, educational videos we watch due to interest sparked during lessons, or nature walks we might take.

Over and over again in the Sonlight Instructor Guides, you read that homeschooling is not a time slot, it’s a lifestyle. An atmosphere. A way of living and loving life together. Sometimes we don’t get to every worksheet, and that’s okay. Sometimes we get so engrossed in a book that we end up finishing it a few days early, that’s okay too.

One (of the many) things I really appreciate about this program is the scripture memorization. Begining with the entire chapter of Psalm 1, there are many portions of scripture that you and your child will memorize throughout the year. The Sing the Word- A New Commandment CD was included. It has every portion of scripture that you memorize this year set to song. Isn’t that wonderful? It stays in the van and is probably the most listened to CD in there. The kids love it. I really like it too, in fact, I often catch myself humming or singing the songs during the day around the house. Sometimes they’ll hear me and join in.

These past eight weeks have been some of the easiest homeschooling days we’ve ever had. With six kids, I’m in a season of life when having things planned out for me is a must. Simplify, simplify, simplify has been my mantra the past couple of years. The last area that really needed help was our homeschool, and Sonlight is the complete answer to that. Like I said in the beginning, we are now and until the end of our homeschooling days, a Sonlight family.

Sonlight’s True 4-Day 1st Grade All-Subjects Package is available for $765.37 on their website.

-Product review by Jeniffer Do Nascimento, The Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, October, 2017