Sunday, September 23, 2012

Deciding on Homeschool Curriculum

Deciding on a Homeschool Curriculum initially seemed very overwhelming. The same friend who had first recommended homeschooling sent me an email about Sonlight. I'd been checking out their website while we were in the midst of deciding what to do. It looked awesome, but it is also pretty expensive, at least as far as homeschooling curriculum goes.

I knew we did not want something traditional, so anything based solely on traditional textbooks was out. The more I looked, the fewer places I saw that offered complete packages like Sonlight does. The beauty of it is, everything is laid out for you so the time you spend preparing is almost nothing. I needed this! Not only for my first year in homeschooling, but because I'm running a business too. They also allow you to pay out your total cost over the course of several months so that helps with the expense. The number of months allowed probably depends on when you order in the year, but it may be helpful to some!

Once we decided to homeschool, I pretty much just went with Sonlight. I wanted to start school with the traditional school year and I was running out of time. There was definitely a feeling of that I was led to Sonlight too. So, I just went with it deciding that if it was absolutely horrible I could return it (that's their guarantee) and/or I would have time to figure out something different for first grade.

I ordered Core A. It's for ages 5,6.7 and considered the Kindergarten program. Sonlight has developed their own lesson plans and corresponding books for each core. THIS IS AWESOME. You can download a sample of free lesson plans for any core from their website. DO IT! You will see how simply everything is laid out for you. There are empty boxes at the bottom of the lesson plan page so you can add the lessons for Math and/or Science. They also have their own Language Arts section that includes a lesson plan, a letter for the week and creative writing/reading/listening and games. Some of that latter stuff is optional, but it's great that it's laid out for you. The Language Arts section also has corresponding pages for other writing practice books. If you decide to purchase those, the lesson plan already had the pages you need to work on for the letter of the week. Their Language Arts also includes beginning reader books. It really is all laid out for you.

I should also mention the lesson plans are really more like instructor guides. Everything is laid out for you on a daily basis, but there is further explanation for every activity for every day as to what the child is supposed to get out of the lesson. So even if you're reading a Curious George story, the guide tells you what vocabulary words to point out. How to discuss what happened in the story for reading comprehension, etc.

Basically you buy the core package which includes the language arts section and you add on Math, Science and additional handwriting practice. They offer different Math and Handwriting programs, so you'll need to read the reviews and descriptions to find out what you think would work best. Here's what we ended up choosing:
1. Core A-this includes the instructor guide, a massive number of books including chapter books, Egermeier's Study Bible...really it's too much to list. If you are first shocked by the price, take a look at what you are getting. It's A LOT for the money. And don't bother trying to piece meal it off's not any cheaper. I tried that. I also thought maybe I'd go to the library, but my library didn't have all the books on the list, so I bit the bullet and got it all!
2. Language Arts-Sonlight includes this in Core A
3. A Reason For Handwriting - I wanted Aiden to have more handwriting practice, so I added this book.
4. Go For the Code Series-More handwriting practice. This one is more than just copywork. It helps better with letter sounds and recognition. Aiden LOVES this series. I could probably have left out A Reason For Handwriting.
5. Horizons Math - This is a more traditional math, but I liked how it constantly reviews previously taught lessons and/or incorporates them into new lessons showing how you build on concepts.
6. 3" Sonlight binder...I'm adding this on purpose. It's worth more than the $20 they have it listed for! EVERYTHING fits in here! I take out each weeks lesson and keep it in a file folder for that week, but it's worth it to have their binder to keep it all organized!

That's it. I didn't order the science kit. It was like $80. I really wish I'd added it. We bought an $8 science experiment book at Costco and said this would be our science, but it's not really working out like I thought it would. Mainly because I never have the stuff I need for the experiments. The Sonlight kit has all the stuff you need included in the kit, so it would have been much easier. I will either add their kit or the Magic School Bus kits for next year.

Here's the little student opening up the huge boxes when they arrived. Honestly, it was like Christmas. We were both super excited to go through the all the books. He kept saying, over and over, 'Oh, we're gonna read this? I can't wait to read this!'
Like the bottom left pic where he's put a piece of corn over his tooth so he can have a 'gold tooth'? That's my boy!

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