I am so excited about our school year! With much trepidation, I have left the Sonlight fold and we are moving to a new curriculum for next year. This was a really big deal for me because I love being a part of the Sonlight family, and I absolutely LOVE the books that they pick for each year. Plus we’re in the middle of studying American history, which is one of their studies that span two years. But I realized that I am spending more and more time each week searching for and creating extension activities for what we are reading in Sonlight. And, if I made myself be really honest, the only thing I really love about Sonlight is the books they choose.
My kids are avid readers who often take off with our read-alouds and finish them in a day, and I refuse to curb their enthusiasm, but it has created some problems for us. First, they don’t have enough to do. Because they read so quickly, they are easily done with the Sonlight Instructor’s Guide checklists within two hours. They then spend the rest of the morning asking me to make up activities and games for them to do. So I’ve begun making a similarly formatted checklist for each child every week with extra activities and writing assignments and projects.
Second, I feel like they are taking so much in and not doing anything with it (unless I add stuff). Bloom’s taxonomy is something that really resonated with me in my undergraduate education degree. To sum it up very simply, Bloom theorized that real learning happens when the head, the heart, and the hands are all involved. And within each of those, he postulated that there are levels of increasing depth.
For example, cognitive or head learning begins with knowledge and proceeds to comprehension. The next four levels are application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. I think we can all agree that you must “know” something much more thoroughly to apply it to another situation than you do to answer comprehension questions about it. And then, you must know it even more thoroughly to analyze why it works the way it does. Continuing from there, once you have analyzed why it works, the next level of “knowing” it is to be able to synthesize or create something using it. And finally, one can really be said to know something if they can evaluate it by presenting and defending an opinion about it and/or make judgments using its principles.
My frustration with Sonlight stems from the fact that I feel the kids are not getting past a comprehension level for anything they are reading in history. Even science seems to rarely move past comprehension questions. So, their constant requesting of more activities to do and my desire that they move a little deeper in their understanding of things has had me spending hours every week searching for and creating activities for them to apply, analyze, synthesize, and even evaluate the things they are learning.
I feel that language arts is the ideal place to do a lot of this, which leads to my next frustration with Sonlight. I cannot understand why the language arts curriculum is not more closely linked with the core studies! It baffles me when the copywork is from a book we finished three weeks ago in the schedule, especially since that means my kids probably finished it over a month ago! (We wait to start each book when it’s scheduled so that we stay on the right topic, but the books are usually finished long before they are scheduled to be.)
And I get beyond frustrated when we are studying the American Revolution and the creative writing for the week is about how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or some other random topic. There are so many possibilities for writing about the American Revolution that I cannot understand the leaps of topic. If we’re learning about nouns and picking them out of sentences or even diagramming sentences, I want those sentences to be about the American Revolution, not Grandma’s cat! In short, I want our learning to be thematic and related.
I actually love lesson planning and hunting and creating resources, and since I love the Sonlight books, I’ve done it relatively happily for the past two years. But I realized that there might be a curriculum out there that had already done this work for me so I went looking. I found a few bloggers who were sharing all the extension activities they do with Sonlight, so at first, I thought I’d go with that. But then I came across a curriculum that uses a lot of the same books as Sonlight (and some I like even better), is similarly priced, similarly structured, and includes loads of notebooking ideas and pages as well as hands-on activities. It seemed too good to be true that I might have found what I was looking for.
And, to top it off, they offer most of their resources electronically, including the teacher’s guide and student assignment pages, which is massive for us while living in Malaysia and having no desire or ability to pay huge shipping bills for curriculum. So I made the leap and ordered for this year. We’re on week 8, and so far, I’m loving what I’m seeing!
I totally get that it really may turn out to be too good to be true, but we sure are excited to find out! So, any guesses what curriculum we’ve switched to? Leave your guesses in the comments and I’ll reveal next week!
*I want to make sure and be clear that I really love Sonlight and it has made our schooling so wonderful and so much fun for the past three years. I think it is a wonderful curriculum and company with a wonderful heart for the world, and I hope to stay connected via email with them, and I’m sure we will have a few unique-to-Sonlight books in our schedules every year. That said, one of the main benefits of homeschooling is that you can tailor the education to your child’s and your family’s needs, and I had to accept that my kids needed more to reach their full potential. It was a surprisingly hard decision for me, but I realized I was sacrificing that major benefit of homeschooling to stick with and support a company I respect so much, and it didn’t seem like a right trade-off. I will continue to support Sonlight by promoting their curriculum occasionally on this blog and to families I speak with when I think it’s a good fit for them, but I have always told others that they should pick a curriculum that fits their kids and I must take my own advice.