Our Homeschool History and Literature this Year

This is an ongoing series where I share how we have been doing different subjects in our homeschool this year. This is how we are doing history and literature this year!

The short answer: We use BookShark (or Sonlight).

The slightly longer answer: I love both programs because I am a dedicated box checker and I love having everything neatly laid out for me each day. In my instructor guide I have book summaries, questions to ask the kids (plus the answers!), vocabulary words, and suggestions for timeline and mapping work. There are also lots and lots of notes. I love the notes in the early years because they add a little extra layer of understanding or clarification. Starting at about Core 100, the notes get very long and are often overly opinionated for us. So we tend to mostly ignore the notes starting at that level. We don’t use the language arts portion of either program, but we do use pretty much all of the history/literature as it is written. We started using Sonlight about 9 years ago and have used it pretty much ever since, with a short break when we tried Oak Meadow. When BookShark started selling secular versions of the Sonlight cores, we switched to primarily ordering from that company, except when Sonlight has a product we need and BookShark doesn’t (case in point, Core 300).

Here’s what we’re doing:

11th grade: My 11th grader is using Sonlight Core 300, which is 20th Century World History. The history spine for this Core is the The History of the Modern World. I would rather have seen a more engaging spine, like my younger kids have this year, but it serves it’s purpose. It is a very comprehensive encyclopedia and I do like how it is divided up by year. Basically, she just has assigned pages to read each day and we discuss them once or twice a week. I started out the year trying to read ahead of her so that I could more properly discuss, but have found it difficult to keep up with. To go along with the spine, there are several biographies and historical fiction novels. This level also has included mapwork and timeline work, but we mostly keep it simple and just focus on reading and discussing. Here’s a little peek at some of the books used:

She also uses the Core 300 literature. I try to read some of these before she does in order to better discuss them, but I don’t always succeed! There are some great titles here, though there were a couple she didn’t enjoy overmuch ( like Kon-tiki) and one she ended up skipping because she just couldn’t get through it (Cry, the Beloved Country). She’s going through this program a bit more slowly than previously planned because she’s also juggling a couple of dual enrollment classes right now, but she should still finish by year’s end. This will be her last Sonlight core, which I cannot believe! She plans to take history and English at the college next year.

Here is a sample of the literature books for this level:


9th grade: My 9th grader is using BookShark 100, American History, along with the literature. In general, I am a fan of this level. I love the spine, Joy Hakim’s History of Us. I love many of the literature selections. I love that this is the first year when he has his own guide so he can see what’s on the schedule and what we will be discussing. We don’t stick strictly to the schedule though; he just has “work on your BookShark reading” on his daily list and he gets to what he can. This is the first level that has no scheduled read-alouds, but his dad and I have read several of the titles aloud with him anyway. He isn’t a big fan of fiction and he seems to process it much better when read-aloud. It’s fun doing it this way too! We tend to read with him in the evenings, and we each have a book from this level we are reading with him. I also read-aloud from his assigned poem book with him, because I just think poetry is better read aloud.

I haven’t had to skip much from this level, though I did skip the book World War II because it is very opinionated and I just didn’t feel it was appropriate as a “history” book.   Like I mentioned above, we also skip most of the notes in the instructor/student guide. The instructor guide has daily suggestions for dates to add to the timeline book. We pick and choose from among these and add them in. His timeline book is getting quite full! You can see my review of the Timeline Book here.  I still love it! This level also has separate mapwork, where the kids are supposed to plot various locations on black and white maps.  We found this too time-consuming, so we gave it up pretty quickly. Instead, I have him look up the locations on a globe or map. Here’s a selection of history books used in this level:

And a peek at the literature titles:



7th grade: My 7th grader is using BookShark 6, World History 1.  This is my second time through this level, so I am getting to read books again, which I always enjoy. The main history spine is The Story of the World, which I at first thought was a bit too easy, but I find it actually works really well when read at this age. The simplified information is easy to digest and he tends to retain it pretty well. Volumes 1 & 2 are used at this level; volumes 3 & 4 are read at the next level. The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia is also used at this level, along with plenty of historical fiction. The poetry book for this level is Favorite Poems Old and New, my favorite poem book of all time ~ it’s huge! I love all of the read-alouds for this level; the readers have been a bit more hit and miss with my guy.   He could not get into Mara, Daughter of the Nile or Black Horses for the King, so I ended up letting him skip those. He is not usually a fan of fiction however, so this isn’t necessarily a reflection on the books themselves. The instructor guide for this level includes locations to find on the included map (it’s hole-punched and fits right in the instructor guide, which is great). This level also includes timeline figures to add to his Timeline Book. Here’s a peek at some of the history and read-aloud titles for this level:


And a preview of some of the readers:


4th grade: My fourth grader is using BookShark 3: American History 1. This is one of my favorite levels, and it’s my third time through it since my older two did the Sonlight equivalent, Core D. I love re-reading these books with her and she is my bookworm child so she is really soaking it all up. We have a few different history spines with this level, which is nice. We read from The Landmark History of the American People, Beginner’s American History, and The Children’s Encyclopedia of American History. We are usually assigned one to read from each day. Like the other kids, she has a lot of historical fiction, a good poetry book, and a set of readers. There are two choices of readers for this level: regular and advanced. We went with the advanced because she loves to read and goes through books quickly. She also does map work most days with the map included in my instructor guide and keeps a timeline book. Because she loves reading more than anything else, she often asks me to read more than what is scheduled and reads ahead in her readers. She makes me feel accomplished because we are usually right “on schedule” or ahead!

Here’s a peek at the history and read-aloud titles:

And a few of the reader titles:


And that’s how we’re doing history and literature in our homeschool this year!

The IKEA Raskog Cart for Homeschooling

I picked up a Raskog cart on one of last year’s IKEA jaunts. I am pretty much in love with this little cart! For the first few months it lived in our laundry room holding detergent and bleach and other not-so-exciting-but-necessary-stuff. One day I was dragging books out of our home library to start our homeschool day, and it occurred to me that  wheels would make the job a heck of a lot easier and more fun. So the little cart moved into our library and now I use it to store the books I need to work with the kids each day.

Every morning I wheel this baby out to the kitchen, where it is central to everything we are doing. We are very much a “homeschool all over the place family” but I tend to center operations in the kitchen. I originally thought I would store supplies like pencils, erasers, scissors and such plus books on this cart, but we have a lot of books so there is not enough space. On my next trip to IKEA, I am planning to get my Raskog a sibling and use her to store those sorts of things.

I use this cart for the books I need most days and the contents switch up as we finish books and start others. Each kiddo also has a crate of independent materials. So the cart is really for the subjects I do with them. I arrange the contents in roughly the order we work each day. I start the day with my youngest and the top shelf holds:


Going down a shelf, my older kiddos do much more work independently, so their shelves are shared.

On the middle shelf, I have:


Then, on the bottom shelf I have:


I honestly could not do without my little cart….and as a plus, it is just too cute. The only thing I am sad about is that I really wanted to get a blue one, but they were out of stock and it seems they don’t make a blue Raskog anymore. This color is the red/brown and I like it, but I have my fingers crossed there will be another fun and different color by the time I make it back to IKEA.

I Can Read It! A Little Review

Since Rose is officially finished with her phonics primer, she has been spending a bit of time reading aloud to me each day. She is currently reading through BookShark’s Grade 1 readers, starting with the delightful I Can Read It! books. We’re on Book 3 (the last one), so I thought I’d share just a few thoughts about this little series.

Before starting ICRI, Rose read to me from a set of Fun Tales each day. We started reading through the ICRI series in September, and I think we will finish in just a few weeks.

I really like this series! First of all, I love the title. Rose has had a rougher time learning to read than my other three did. Although she is finished with phonics, she still needs plenty of practice. My favorite thing about these books is that she doesn’t complain about reading them (usually). That says a lot right there. She really can read it.

The books are divided up into short stories or “lessons”, and those stories are further divided up into mini-chapters of about two pages each. It takes Rose about a week to read each story. I ask her to read at least one mini-chapter each day, and often she will read two just to find out what happens next.

The books progress in difficulty, but the third book is still very doable for a beginning reader. I am trying to strike a balance between challenging her to read harder things and keeping her confidence high. These books have been wonderful for building her confidence.  The stories are colorfully illustrated and she often finds the pictures humorous. I also like that while the illustrations certainly complement the story, she can’t usually guess what the story says just by looking at the pictures…which she has been known to do;). 

I ordered the Grade 1 Readers schedule with discussion questions and notes from BookShark. It certainly isn’t strictly necessary at this level, but it was inexpensive and I like checking boxes. So after she reads I take out the discussion questions for that day.  These are just very short questions  that help me gauge her reading comprehension. We probably spend about 15 seconds each day on these. 

A nice bonus is that the answers are also there….I will admit my mind sometimes drifts as she reads. I am checking that she is reading the words correctly, but I don’t always pay attention to what’s going on! Having the answers means I don’t have to flip back to the story.

So, these little books are working very well for us right now. There is also a book of Word Lists that goes along with the three I Can Read It! books, but we have never used it, so I can’t comment on it.

A Review of BookShark’s American History 1

James and I are finishing up our last read-aloud for BookShark’s American History 1: Swift Rivers. BookShark puts grade levels on all of their packages, which I don’t care for because I always feel like my kids are behind somehow.  American History 1 is called “third grade”, but they recommend it for ages 8-11. For the record, James was in fourth grade (9-10 years old) when we did this, and for the most part, I think the reading level was great for him. The read-alouds were just right challenge-wise; he certainly had to pay attention while I was reading, but he usually understood what was going on and could discuss it.  Some of the readers were a bit on the easy side, which I initially saw as a negative, but then decided not to worry about. James had no trouble keeping up with the reading assignments, which meant that I didn’t have to nag him, and that is always a plus! And after all, it is nice to read an easy book after a more challenging one. I like to do that too.

A few of the books James and I read this year
The Readers

As I said earlier,  I chose the advanced reader package to go along with this level. The advanced readers are not harder…. there are just more of them. The advanced reader package includes the regular readers, plus eight more books.  Many of the readers were very easy. In fact, James read several of the shortest ones, like Stone Fox and Sarah, Plain and Tall, in just one day. I did not read the books myself, but the notes in the instructor’s guide were sufficient to help me discuss each day’s reading with him. Many of the readers are classic historical fiction like The Bears on Hemlock Mountain, The Corn Grows Ripe, and The Matchlock Gun. There are also a fair number of biographies at this level, such as The Story of Eli Whitney and Meet Thomas Jefferson. James really prefers nonfiction right now, so I appreciated that there was plenty of that  mixed in this year. On average, it probably took James 20 minutes a day to complete his reading assignment.

The Read-Alouds

The eleven read-alouds for this year are mostly historical fiction. There is also a poetry book, A Child’s Introduction to Poetry, scheduled once per week. I reviewed the poetry book earlier this year and you can see the whole list of read-alouds on the BookShark website. I enjoyed all of the read-alouds and appreciated that there was a good mix of writing styles and topics. Rose (6 at the time) wanted to listen to all of them, so I think a child on the younger end of the recommended age range would probably do fine with them, depending on their patience. On average, we spent 20 minutes on our read-aloud each day.   Johnny Tremain and Carry on Mr. Bowditch are long books that definitely challenged James in his listening abilities. I needed to have a glass of water along for those readings! I will admit that I was not looking forward to re-reading either of those two books, since I had already read them with Grace and Christopher for Sonlight’s Core D. I had memories of them taking approximately six years to finish and the kids being just a wee bit bored. But I did read them aloud and was pleasantly surprised to find that I actually enjoyed both books much more the second time around. And while James never exactly begged me to read more, he had much more patience than I remember his brother having for our read-aloud sessions. I wonder if that has anything to do with his years of listening to his older siblings’ Sonlight read-alouds?

Secrets of the Sealed Room was a really fun read, and we both enjoyed trying to figure out the mystery. We were totally wrong, for the record! I enjoyed The Witch of Blackbird Pond, but it wasn’t such a hit with James. I think it may have been a bit too girly for him, with a little too much romance and talk of marriage to hold his interest.  He preferred Winter Danger, Sign of the Beaver, and Toliver’s Secret, which all have a lot of action and adventure.  I think the age range for this set of read-alouds (8-11) is right on target, with the possible exception of Carry On, Mr. Bowditch. I think that one is better suited to the upper end of the age range, because the story is a bit harder to follow and there is a lot of scientific terminology in it. I definitely appreciated the vocabulary notes in the IG for that one! For sensitive kids, you might want to preview Walk the World’s Rim, because there is a death in it that may be upsetting. James was fine with it, but I did wait to read that section until Rose was out of the room, because she does get bothered by such things. There are quite a few deaths in Bowditch as well (that guy had a hard life!), but I warned James about it ahead of time and he was fine with it, as was Rose, who listened in off and on.

The History

There are three main history spines for this year: The Landmark History Volume 1, The Children’s Encyclopedia of American History, and The Beginner’s American History.  Each day we were assigned  a reading from one of the spines or one of the supplementary history books.

Landmark  was recently updated and now has plenty of full-color pictures and a much more readable text.  I already owned an older Sonlight Core D, but I purchased BookShark American History so that I could use the new Landmark. The reading assignments are generally just a few pages, but I do think the text might be a bit difficult for an eight- year old. I thought James was the perfect age for it.

 The Children’s Encyclopedia of American History is your typical DK encyclopedia: heavily illustrated with both small snippets and full paragraphs of text. I had originally planned for James to do the DK readings independently, but I found that he he got much more out of the readings when we did them together. I loved  the reproductions of historical paintings scattered throughout the book;  it was like a mini art history lesson along with our reading. The back of the book was a good source for memory work ideas for us this year. It includes the list of American presidents and the text of the Declaration of Independence, among other things.

 The Beginner’s American History seems like it was designed for a public school setting since the last few pages of each section are devoted to comprehension questions. We skipped those questions and just did the questions from the IG, which were often the same anyway. The readings from this book are short, with a casual, narrative style. We often combined two days’ readings into one day. This is the easiest of the three spines, as far as reading level goes. The readings focus primarily on specific people, rather than just historical events, so it is a nice complement to the other two books.

 In addition to these three spines, we read If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution, Pedro’s Journal (historical fiction in diary form, which I thought was a neat idea), a book about Lewis and Clark, and a picture book about North American Indians, which we didn’t read, because I couldn’t find it!


James kept a Timeline Book for this level, which I reviewed here. I do own the markable map and markers, but we never used them; we always did the map assignments with the smaller  maps included with the IG. We did not use the Language Arts for this level, so I can’t review that. 

Overall I think this is a great core, and I will definitely re-use it with Rose. James will be moving on to BookShark’s American History 2 next year.

BookShark World Cultures Review

Rose and I finished up BookShark K (BookShark World Cultures) a few months ago, so I thought I would post a few thoughts about it.

This is a 36-week, literature based program. It is the secular equivalent of Sonlight Core A. It took Rose and I about seven months to go through this program, during her first grade year. The reading is very light, and we often doubled up on readings. I did not buy the language arts component, so this review only covers the readings. (Peek inside the Instructor’s Guide here.)

Together with our other books for the year, we had quite an impressive pile of reading! Some of these books are not part of the Core: I was taking a photo of all of her school books for the year.

We both really enjoyed this Core. I think the recommended age range of 5-7 is spot on. An advanced 4-year old might also be able to handle it. A 7-year old wold probably find the reading to be light, but doubling up as needed worked great for us.

The literature in this level is just about perfect for this age. There was a nice mix of titles I was familiar with and titles I had never heard of. Rose loved pretty much everything we read. Her favorite was Beezus and Ramona, which launched us into reading the whole series at bedtime – we are currently reading Ramona Quimby Age 8. I have fond memories of reading this series myself as a child, but I will admit that I edit as I read. Sometimes Ramona is just a little too bratty and mean-spirited for me.

We also went on to read all of the My Father’s Dragon series and all of the Little House books, which we had actually started before this Core.

Some of the books were very short. We read Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank  You Book in one sitting.Others, like A Grain of Rice and The Light at Tern Rock took just a couple of days. I honestly enjoyed every one of the read-alouds. I almost didn’t buy No Children, No Pets because it seemed kind of pricey, but it ended up being one of Rose’s favorites, and she has already made plans to re-read it.

If I had to pick a least favorite book for this Core I think it would be The Hundred Dresses, and I am pretty sure that Rose would agree. She didn’t care much for the “girls picking on another girl” theme, though it did have a good message and everything worked out in the end. I hesitated a bit over Twenty and Ten when I read the back cover…it’s about Jewish children hiding from the Nazis… but it was extremely well done. Rose didn’t find it at all scary, just adventurous, and she is sensitive to such things.

We purchased and enjoyed Fun Tales, which I reviewed earlier in the year.

I purchased Create a Calendar, but we didn’t get much use out of it. The idea is to discuss the calendar each month and then use it as a springboard to learn about other countries. Each month features a black and white drawing for kids to color, but these were not very interesting and Rose never felt inspired to color them.  Better drawings and country information included with the calendar would have made this product much more useable. We did use the stickers that came with the Create a Calendar on a different, more interesting calendar. There are stickers for holidays, birthdays, parties, thunderstorms, and all kind of things. That was the best part of this product!

I bought the Timeline Book, which I love. I reviewed that here. I also bought the markable map and markers, but I think we only used them once. It always feels like too much effort to get them out, though I think it would be good to do! BookShark includes a hole-punched, laminated color map with the Cores and I do use that because I can stick it right in my binder.

As far as the history books for this Core…

We skipped Mary on Horseback. I picked up a copy at a used booksale, but after flipping through it I decided it would be too much. It seemed like a pretty sad book overall.  I probably would have read it to a slightly older/less sensitive child. We did read Charlotte’s Web, and she admitted that it was sad, but she was okay with it and it does have a nice, happy ending.  

Wild Places and Living Long Ago were both enjoyed over many weeks. We did quite a few of the projects from Living Long Ago: more about that here. We also enjoyed Johnny Appleseed, The Children’s Encyclopedia, and The Story of Exploration. At first I thought Out of Darkness (about Louis Braille) was a bit of a strange choice for this age (and for the theme of the core), but I did enjoy the book. I think a lot of it did go over Rose’s head, though.

I took a quick peek at Sonlight’s Core A, and BookShark K seems to be exactly the same as the 4-day Core A program, minus the books with Christian content.

Rose and I are now doing Sonlight Core B. We are on week 6, and I think once we finish out that week we will stop until our new school year. In the meantime we will focus on her other subjects – mostly reading and math – along with beginning her summer readers

A Review of A Child’s Introduction to Poetry

James and I have been reading through A Child’s Introduction to Poetry, as scheduled in BookShark’s American History 1.

This book is also scheduled in Sonlight’s Core D, which I did with Grace and Christopher, so this is my second time through the book. It is one of my very favorite books from this Core, and it’s a really easy way to do a poetry study with young kids.

This book is scheduled over 36 weeks: a full school year. We generally cover one poet per week.  Each poem has an accompanying CD track, so you can listen to the poem being read aloud. 

Our poetry CD has a permanent spot in our disc changer. I don’t think it has moved since last August!

A Child’s Introduction to Poetry is a full-color, nicely illustrated book with lots of helpful sidebars. It is definitely a book best read side-by-side on the couch, so you can pore over it a bit.  Each poet generally gets a double-page spread, though some poets have three pages. Each week I begin by reading aloud the main text, which includes information about the poet’s life and work.

Next I read the “Words for the Wise” section, which introduces words from the poem that might be unfamiliar. In the poem itself, these words appear in bold, colored print.

A sidebar includes information about when the poem was published, as well as some insight into its meaning. This sidebar also includes the relevant track number on the CD that we will listen to.

Then I read the poem aloud. This week we had “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost, one of my very favorite poets.

 After I read the poem aloud, we listen to the narrator read it on the CD. We usually listen to each poem twice, because I feel like we get more out of it that way. Some poets are given space for two or three poems, depending on length.  This takes us only 15 minutes tops, and then we are done until the next week.

The only small quibble I have with this book is that I don’t like the narrators’ voices. I just don’t always love the way they read the poems and the voices they do are kind of cheesy. For the record I don’t enjoy hearing Jim Weiss reading The Story of the World either, so I may just be weird. Other than that I love this book/CD combo. There is a good mix of easier, shorter poems and longer, more advanced ones. Many forms of poetry are included: sonnets, pastorals, limericks, ballads, nursery rhymes, and more. I think Amazon’s age range of 8-13 for this book is spot on.We are using it during James’s fourth grade year.

Thoughts on Sonlight’s Core F

Christopher and I just finished up Sonlight’s Core F, which he shared with his sister Grace (she finished three weeks ahead of him). We had a lot of fun with this Core and I am glad I will get to do it again with my younger two.

 I wanted to post a few thoughts on this Core while they are fresh in my mind.

First off, you can see how I tweaked Core F in this post. We started this Core in the pre-BookShark days, so that was not an option for us and I did have to make some modifications. Core F is definitely the most religious Core we have done from Sonlight to date, mainly because it uses so many missionary stories. But there is so much good stuff in this Core that it was worth the small amount of time it took to come up with a few alternate books. We used the 5-day version of Core F.

A few notes…..

  • 100 Gateway Cities: We did use this book, though I am not sure that I would again. It is mostly just a collection of facts about each country in the Eastern Hemisphere – it wasn’t really a book I thought would be easily substituted for, which is why I decided to use it. It was quick to read each day, but pretty dry. There is a little section on suggested prayers for each country and I told my kids to just ignore those parts. We had several discussions over the year about how there is absolutely nothing wrong with people having different beliefs. 
  • The missionary stories: This Core uses quite a few missionary stories: we read some and skipped others. I read both Mission to Cathay and Teresa of Calcutta aloud and found nothing preachy in either. I mean, obviously, there is a lot of religion mentioned in the books (they are about missionaries, after all) but I thought they were just plain interesting stories, plus they gave a lot of good cultural information. Teresa had the kids feeling a bit squeamish with some of the graphic descriptions of illnesses, but I felt like they were ready to hear about that sort of thing and it definitely gave us an appreciation for Mother Teresa’s work! I had the kids read David Livingstone  because I thought they should know about him and they liked that one a lot. We skipped William Carey in order to read a Gandhi biographyAnd Grace read Mary Slessor, but she complained a lot about itshe found it too depressing – and I ended up skipping it with Christopher due to time constraints, so I can’t comment too much on that one.
  • The China Kit: I have mixed feelings about the optional China Kit for this core.  The calligraphy portion of it was okay…the kids enjoyed trying it out, but I don’t think the materials were the greatest. The kit also includes chopsticks, which we already had, so we never used those. There was also a little card game, but we never got around to playing it. If I had it to do over, I would just buy a nicer calligraphy set for the kids to try out. 
  • Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? I have to say that a lot of this book went right over Christopher’s head. Probably mine too! We had some interesting discussions though and all in all I think both kids got a good basic introduction to economics. I am thinking it would be better read at the high school level, though.  On Amazon, the recommended age for it is 8th to 10th grade, and I think that seems more reasonable.
  • World Book and the Eastern Hemisphere pages: I had heard of some people having issues searching for articles on the World Book CD-ROM, but we did not experience that.  The reading is a little dry -it is an encyclopedia!- and I sometimes chose to get library books about the country instead of reading the articles.  Grace read (or at least skimmed) the articles and filled out her Eastern Hemisphere Notebook pages on her own. These pages are sold by Sonlight and I really liked the format of them. The kids were assigned a small amount of writing to do most days…maybe filling in a timeline, working on a map assignment, or writing down things they found interesting from the readings.  For Christopher, I mostly read portions from the assigned World Book article out loud and helped him pick out the information needed to complete his sheet.  At the beginning of the Core he was still frustrated by the act of writing so he did a lot of dictating while I wrote.  But we stuck with it, and by the end of the Core, he was doing all of the writing by himself with no problems. I think the kids learned a lot this year about researching – how to skim articles, how to pick out important information, and how to summarize.They each ended up with a pretty impressive binder full of info on these countries. I think the World Book CD will still be useful as a research tool going forward, though I do see they have updated the Core to include a World Book DVD.  Here are a few completed EHS pages.  

      The Adelie penguin page above is part of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” part of this program. To wrap up the study of each area, several project ideas are suggested.  There is usually a recipe or two, a craft idea, writing ideas, or making a country or animal fact card – like this penguin one. Sometimes we also chose to end our study of a country by making an ethnic meal (or getting Thai food as takeout, which was very popular!).

    • The Read-Alouds: Most of the read-alouds for this Core were a hit. Our favorites were Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Seven Daughters and Seven Sons, and Shadow Spinner.  We also really enjoyed having Best-Loved Folktales of the World to read on day 5 (we did the 5-day program).  The assigned folktales matched the country we were studying and were a fun way to end each week. We skipped a couple of the read-alouds. Neither kid enjoyed A Horse and His Boy when we tried to read it a few years ago, so we didn’t bother with it again. We also skipped The Land I Lost, because some of the stories in the book were pretty graphic. I have to be somewhat careful reading aloud,  because I have a six-year-old listening in. So reading a story about a monkey that dismembers a toddler…yeah, that isn’t going to cut it. To be fair, there were warnings about that story in the Sonlight Instructor Guide, but some of the other stories also had similar graphic things in them and there just didn’t seem enough value in the book to offset the bad.
    • The Readers: We skipped two of the readers to  make this program more secular – Star of Light and Hudson Taylor. I would have liked more of the readers to be at a higher reading level, but overall the books were enjoyed and there was a pretty good variety. The kids most enjoyed reading The Hobbit, even though they had read it once already. I stared out pre-reading the readers so that I would be better prepared to discuss them with the kids, but it quickly became too hard to fit that in. I think it would be ideal to be reading the books myself, though. I think my favorite from the lot was Around the World in 80 Days. I was a bit iffy about reading Sadako and the Paper Cranes and almost skipped it (cancer is a bit of a sensitive topic around here, because of my mom). In the end though, I made the book optional and both kids chose to read it. I read it too, even though it made me cry. We got the origami kit and the kids made quite a few things from that, so that was great.

    This Core took us about a year to finish, Christopher took slightly longer with it. We bogged down a bit here and there on the weeks that were heavy with Eastern Hemisphere Pages, but I am very glad we stuck with it. Both kids are doing Bookshark World History 1 now and the readings are much more streamlined.  Core F had the kids reading small sections from books like 100 Gateway Cities, All the Small Poems, their reader, and the World Book articles. Bookshark has them reading The Story of the World, an occasional reading from The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia, and their reader each day. We read the poetry and the read-aloud together. So, fewer books overall, but the readings are a bit longer than Core F. We have a 4-day reading schedule now, instead of the 5-day option I always got with Sonlight.  I am finding it really helpful to have that extra time to catch up on things we missed earlier in the week, but the kids did miss those extra books at the end of the week at first.

     I was curious to see what differences there were between Sonlight’s Core F and the new Bookshark Eastern Hemisphere. When James gets to this Core I will most likely replace our Core F with the Bookshark version. I counted three differences in the read-alouds (no missionary stories and no Best-Loved Folktales, since that was in the five-day program). The readers are also mostly the same, except that Hudson Taylor and Star of Light were swapped out for two secular titles. The biggest difference is in the history section, where the more religious books, like 100 Gateway Cities and the missionary stories were swapped out for books about Nelson Mandela and Gandhi. I also see an extra book about Ibn Battuta and one about the Sahara. It looks like the EHS pages are still used in Bookshark. 

    Whew! This post took me the better part of a month to write for some reason. It was very much written in bits and pieces here and there, so I am pretty excited to actually be posting it! I would be happy to answer any questions about this Core in the comment box or through email.

    Till Next Time!