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Monday, January 21, 2013

Exploring Eastern Cultures with Sonlight

fair button2013-001Welcome to the 3rd week of the Virtual Curriculum Fair for homeschoolers!  This week’s topic:

Exploring Our World: Social Studies and more Science

This theme can include history, geography, world cultures, worldview, biology, botany, geology, etc., etc., etc.

You’ll find last week’s edition here:  Discovering Patterns: Mathematics, Logic, and Science.

Exploring Eastern Cultures with Sonlight

The very first year that we homeschooled, my oldest was in 2nd grade.  We started out by studying Daniel Boone because we were traveling across Missouri so that my husband could take part in a conference being held at the historical Daniel Boone home near St. Louis.  We read books, researched Boone’s life, studied the geography of the area, and even did “Daniel Boone Math” (word problems all about D. B.). 

Back then I was only “schooling” one kiddo and it was fun to put together my own materials and making our studies pertinent to our life.  But after a while, putting together everything yourself gets to be a lot of work.  Especially when you’re teaching 3 kids and they are all learning at different levels.

This year, my husband and I agreed that I would (grasp), stop trying to reinvent the wheel and instead use a history and literature curriculum that did all the planning for me.   For various reasons, we chose a used Sonlight core 5 (now known as F), the Eastern Hemisphere.  We wanted something that I could conceivably teach all the children from with minor tweaking.  I also wanted to have all the books on hand without having to worry about seeking them out from the library and other sources.  The library and me don’t always get along.  I’m really, really bad about forgetting to renew books, and let’s just say that sometimes it really is cheaper to buy than to pay library fines.  Ahem.


Some of our Sonlight books, plus some extra “goodies”

Let me just say that having all my books on my shelf so I can just pull them out when we are ready for them is bliss.  It is also nice to have everything planned out and scheduled. 

But we are not strictly following the schedule

Schedule tweaks:

  • We are using Circling the Globe: A Young Peoples Guide to Countries and Cultures of the World in place of the World Book Encyclopedia that this core schedules. 
  • We are doing the 5-day schedule (using all the books), but we don’t do Sonlight 5 days a week. We typically do the read alouds 5 days a week and the rest 3-4 days a week, depending upon the week and how the heavy the reading load is that week. 


  • I look at each week as a whole, rather than as separate group of days, which makes it easier to rearrange and rebalance it when we take a day off or when things come up.

Here’s how we make Sonlight Core F work for us:

Only my oldest is technically old enough for this core.  It’s aimed at grades 5-8, and he is in 7th.  So, David is the only one doing the whole core

All of the children:

  • listen to and discuss the read alouds
  • listen to and discuss entries from Circling the Globe and other history selections that I’ve decided are appropriate for everyone
  • do mapping activities
  • create notebooking pages for each country
  • do various other crafts and things that I’ve added to the core to make it more hands-on

006kendo notebook page wide lines

Click on the images to see some of the extras I added to our study of Japan.

In addition, David also reads all the readers, and reads independently any history readings I don’t read aloud.  He is also reading some books that I’ve added in. 

We are not using the language arts portion of the core as I found that it didn’t particularly fit our needs, but David’s non-fiction writing practice has come from taking notes and writing short papers on topics from the core.

What we’ve enjoyed about Sonlight:

The great literature selection---We’ve enjoyed every single read aloud.  Even the ones that had trouble getting started.  There have been no duds.  Even my highly distractible special needs kid loves the books.

Getting to work together as a family for one more year---David is at a different cognitive level from the other children and is pulling away to work more and more on his own.  Sonlight has made it possible for us to all work together some of the time, and yet allowed him to work independently on more challenging material.

I get to think about the teaching and less about putting it all together.

Why we won’t be using Sonlight next year:

You weren’t expecting that, were you? 

Sonlight has been a good tool for me this year, I really needed a schedule to refer to, a “no-brainer” to get back on track this year.  But getting a breather from creating my own materials has re-energized me!  I’m looking forward to choosing from a number of different resources and putting something together to fit our particular needs.  There are a number of reasons for this.

The Sonlight Instructor’s Guide has been good to have, but I’ve found that I don’t really use it much beyond the schedule.  I feel confident discussing the books on my own.  And the schedule is more detailed than I need.  Given the cost of the IGs, it doesn’t make sense for me to invest that much into something I only use a small part of.

I’ve also found that I’ve been adding a lot to the core.  While I don’t mind adding to a basic resource, the cost of a full Sonlight core (even used) makes it a little impractical to buy it and then add so much to it, especially if you consider that we’re only using it for history, geography, and literature. 

Next year, I also plan to study ancient world history with the children, and there are a great many more options available for that topic than there are for Eastern Hemisphere.

But, this has been a really good year.  I credit Sonlight for that.  It was the right thing at the right time…and I’m holding onto this core, because I’ll be taking the younger children through it more fully in a few years, when they are more mature and can get more from it.

Now, read what other homeschoolers have to share this week about Exploring Our World through Social Studies and Science (I’ll be updating these links at they go live):

Cell Unit Study - Mitochondria and Energy by Julie @ Highhill Education

Our Blended Social Studies by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

2013 Virtual Curriculum Fair-Exploring Our World: Social Studies and more Science by Leah C @ As We Walk Along the Road

Exploring Canada by Annette @ A Net In Time

Project Passport: The Middle Ages by Missouri Mama @ Ozark Ramblings

Virtual Curriculum Fair- Exploring Our World by Karyn @ Teach Beside Me

Our Absolutely Positively Favorite History Curriculum Ever by Wendy @ Homeschooling Blessings

Science: learning to use what you are given by Piwi Mama @ Learning & Growing the Piwi Way

Historical Significance by Kristi @ The Potter’s Hand Academy

How We Are Exploring Our World as Homechoolers by Laura O in AK @ Day by Day in Our World

VCF:  Week 3 The Social Sciences by Lisa @ Golden Grasses

A Trip Around the World:  Homeschool-Style by Nicole @ Schooling in the Sun

Virtual Curriculum Fair ~ Exploring Our World: Biology by Dawn @ Guiding Light Homeschool

Virtual Curriculum Fair: Learning about our World  by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

Science is Cool by TechWife @ Playground of Words

Read 2012 edition of Exploring Our World through Social Studies and Science here.

Don’t miss a single edition of the Virtual Curriculum Fair! 

Let’s connect:

Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link.


  1. We used Sonlight for two years and are still enjoying some of the books that were with our cores.

  2. LOL @ your comment about the library fines!! That's so me. It's scary how much I currently owe. Someday I'll return the books... I really will!! ((sigh)) It is SO much easier to just have the books on hand, rather than have to search them out.

  3. Yes, the books are awesome!

    And, yes, I love the library, but when your family typically has 30 or more books checked out at any one time (we've had MUCH more than that out at times ;0), it can be a challenge to keep track of them all. And for some reason books have a habit of slipping under a car seat when you think you've already returned them. Have you noticed that?

  4. We're doing Core 5 this year and it's a tie for our favorite core. We really enjoyed core 4 a lot too. Of course there hasn't been a core that we haven't loved but those two are top of our list.

    It amazes me how much my oldest rereads the old cores. I'm finding that she's wore some of them out. lol

  5. I think we'll be rereading these books for a long time to come. ;)

  6. This is my favorite SL Core. I don't used SL anymore, but in a year or two I am going to do this core with my youngest - it is a must do!

  7. It really is a unique core, I'm glad we decided to go with it this year.

  8. I have never used Sonlight although I see a lot of my friends using it. I love the look of it, but really need more flexibility than I think a Boxed Curriculum could give me. Maybe when the boys are older...

  9. Oh, I'm very anti-box curriculum myself, and anti-checking off boxes, in fact I avoided Sonlight for the first 5 years of homeschooling because I categorized it that way. But Sonlight is actually very flexible---at least if you buy an old core or just the IG and put together your books. We are only using the literature and history/geography. The language Arts, Bible, and science would not be a good fit for us. And we add things to make it better for us and drop parts that don't work. Unfortunately the new IGs include Bible and LA as integral parts---another reason I probably won't use any other cores. Making the LA and Bible integrated was a deal-killer for me, I will NOT buy it new for that reason.

  10. Great linkup!! Go you for braving curriculum on your own!

  11. Oh, I loved Core 5. I have to make it so that I do that with my little two.


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