Using Sonlight to homeschool multiple children

Posted by on Dec 16, 2014 in Homeschooling, Kid Stuff | 0 comments

When I first started homeschooling, I had just quit my job and gone into private practice, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on homeschooling because #1, I wasn’t sure what to get, and #2, I *had* just quit my job and it takes a while to build up a business. Homeschooling and keeping my work hours to part time were my priorities, so money took the back seat to my kids (and always will).

Sonlight was a bit confusing for me when I first looked at it. They sell packages by grade level, but I knew that I didn’t want that because I prefer different math programs. I also unschool quite well in science and social studies. I looked at many language arts curricula but I couldn’t find anything that fit the level that my son was at. I’m also not a fan of textbooks or traditional style teaching.

Since I taught elementary school for 7 years and also specifically taught first grade, and my oldest was in first grade at the time, I decided to wing it last year. That worked out fine. We used a lot of Robinson Curriculum stuff, but I let him read a lot of books that I consider to be modern classics, and not only the books that are listed in the Robinson Curriculum. That also worked out fine.

This year he’s in second grade, and unschooling has been much harder. I feel like it takes a lot, I mean a LOT of work to unschool and do it right. I also feel like unschooling went much better when at least twice per week I went to work and my younger children went to my mom’s house, and my oldest stayed at home with dad and worked quietly next to him. (Now, of course, I say we “unschooled,” but we used a math curriculum, he always had Chinese homework to study and was tested at Chinese school, and I provided work to be done. I mean unschooling to be that I really didn’t force anything and I didn’t do much of what people think of as “teaching”)

I have been busy with work, and my mom can’t watch my younger children very often right now, and to top it off I signed up for way too many “extra curricular” activities like music, gym, and homeschool co-op. Our schedule has been off and I cannot stand the inconsistency.

I took another look at Sonlight and realized that you do not have to buy an entire grade level package. You can order a “Core” and include Language Arts and Bible, but you don’t have to get their math, science, or social studies. Their language arts is flexible – meaning that you can order one “Core” with different levels of Language Arts. You can even order one Core and get TWO Language Arts packages with it.

I had read about people using Sonlight with two or three children at different levesls, and they described hunting down alternative books. Look, I am not paying $$$$ to make my life more complicated. If I wanted to hunt everything down, I could do that for free. Because I could get different Language Arts sub-packages with Sonlight, I don’t have to hunt down anything. We can do our Core activities and then I can get the kids through their separate Language Arts, and all we have to do is follow the schedule. I chanced upon the sub-packages on the website, I didn’t think it was easy to find at all, and when I chatted with the Sonlight advisor nobody mentioned that they were an option.

So, I was able to order one Core (I got Core B), with the 3rd grade Language Arts, and also got the Kindergarten Language Arts AND the First Grade Language Arts to go with it. I went ahead and ordered both because my 4 year old is already reading and writing fairly well, so I think she will burn through the Kindergarten level quickly, but she is not yet ready for the First Grade work.

To decide where to start, I put the years and kids on a spreadsheet and did my best to match up where they would be, so that I would be able to keep the kids in the same Core if at all possible. This is the only year when I’ll be able to teach one Core. Both my 4 year old and my 7 year are will be in Core B. My 4 year old won’t get a whole lot out of it, and that’s fine, because in order to get my younger two kids to match up well in the same core, my middle child is going to do Core B again after next year! I’m sure that as a 7 year old she’ll have a different perspective on all of it.

I went through the “Scope and Sequence” to decide what Cores I would plan for my children to do. When I wondered about which Sonlight Cores to skip, this helped my decision. Should I do the combined B/C Core, or the separate B and C? At first it was recommended that I do the combined Core B+C, but it turned out that B and later C will work better for my children’s ages. We are skipping Core G and Core H, not because I wanted to skip those, but because they are covered in one year in Core W. When I put everything into the year by year spreadsheet, my youngest would have been really young when she was supposed to do B+C with my middle child. The same thing happened if I combined D+E.

My kids right now are 7, 4, and 2.

2014-2015 – Core B with 3rd grade readers for the 7 year old (the reading is easy for him, but the Language Arts is not), and Kindergarten and First Grade for the 4 year old. This year was expensive since I had to order one Core with three levels.

2015-2016 – Core C with 4/5 readers for the 7yo, and Core A with second grade readers for the 4 year old (their current ages, they will obviously be older then). My 2 yo will also come along for the ride in Core A, and she can look at the K readers. Also an expensive year, since I have to order two Cores.

2016-2017 – Core D for the 7yo, and then my 4 and 2yo do Core B. I’ll get to re-use both Core B and the third and first grade readers. Finally, we get to the cheaper years where I get to re-use stuff! There are some consumable worksheets in the Language Arts, but not much, and you get a half price discount when you re-order those.

After this, it pretty much just continues with us ordering a new Core for my oldest, and using what I already have for my younger girls. On paper, it all looks great.

Because I am, shall we say, “thrifty,” I also priced out the cost of ordering all of the books separately, and included at $0 the books on the lists that we already own. I could have saved about $80 if I ordered all of the reading books separately from Amazon instead of Sonlight. We own a lot of the books already, so that is a considerable portion of that cost. You know what? I ordered 74 kid’s fiction books from Sonlight….it is not worth $80 to me to try to track down 74 packages of books from 74 different Amazon sellers (very few of the books were Amazon Prime). I did that last year with about 20 books and it was a huge ordeal, with some of my books arriving damaged, sometimes being sent the wrong book, books not being mailed for weeks, and having to deal with all the different boxes. This time, I ordered directly from Sonlight. The discounts they give were pretty good, and I am looking forward to one large shipment from Sonlight instead of potentially 74 different boxes to track.





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