Our Read-Aloud List & Sonlight Core 200

I love read-alouds. In our homeschool, read-alouds have always been majorly important. If I could keep only one “thing” that we do, it would be read-alouds, hands-down. We have used Sonlight (or BookShark) for years ~ and both of these are book-heavy programs. I love that. We are all about books here. But a couple of years into using three different Sonlight/Bookshark levels something began to feel a little…off. Eventually I realized I really missed reading to everyone together. My oldest two are 16 and 14 and have completed all of the Sonlight and BookShark read-alouds (after SL Core H, there are no more assigned read-alouds).  My youngest two are 12 and 8, for the record.

So, I decided that since I really missed reading to everyone all at once, I could just start ~ reading to everyone all at once. Genius right? But I decided that it wouldn’t have to be a long and complicated thing, just 15 minutes a day or so, with a bit of discussion afterwards. Well, we are on our third “together” read-aloud book, and this is working so well for us.

As I said, we are Sonlight/BookShark users. I prefer to use BookShark, because it is secular, but alas, the high school levels of BKSK did not release early enough for my oldest to use. So she will finish BookShark 100 (tomorrow!) and begin Sonlight Core 300. We chose to skip Core 200 (History of the Christian Church). However, there were many books in the literature section of Core 200 that I wanted to read with the kids, so I decided to make those my read-aloud list. That way we don’t miss out on them, and we have a set list of books we can enjoy together.

These are going to be our “together” read-alouds:

  • Outlaws of Sherwood
  • The Best of Father Brown
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde ~ we actually just finished this one!
  • Enchantress from the Stars
  • The Gammage Cup
  • Going Solo
  • Jane Eyre
  • Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
  • Oliver Twist
  • A Parcel of Patterns
  • Robinson Crusoe
  • Romeo and Juliet ~ Shakespeare Made Easy version
  • Treasure Island
  • Twelfth Night ~ Shakespeare Made Easy version

I may or may not get the Sonlight instructor guide that goes with the Core 200 literature program – we are already one book in without it and I do find that I miss having the notes handy. Either way, I think this list will appeal to most of my kids ~ though I may hold off on Jane Eyre and Oliver Twist until we have read through the others. I don’t plan to read through these on any sort of schedule; we’ll just spend a few minutes a day working through them. 

As for my younger two, who do still have BookShark read-alouds, I will continue those with them. I am currently reading Strawberry Girl with Rose from BookShark 2. James is working on BookShark Eastern Hemispheres and he and I have been on a bit of a break from read-alouds lately, but we are going to start reading Daughter of the Mountains next week. 

Thanks for stopping by and happy reading!

TOPS Corn & Beans Review

Last month, James and Christopher completed the TOPS unit Corn & Beans, as scheduled in Sonlight Science D. They had a blast doing this unit and learned a ton, though at times it did feel like a lot of work and commitment. This unit takes five weeks to complete, with a daily time commitment ranging from 30 minutes to 1 hour (in our experience). Once you start this unit, it is difficult to skip a day without throwing things off, so I timed our starting week carefully to make sure we would be able to stay on track and not miss days due to holidays, vacations, and such.  Even so, we did have to double up here and there and make some adjustments for sick days.

 I love that Sonlight schedules the TOPS activities right in the instructor’s guide. Each day’s assignments are clearly listed, so you know exactly what you should do each day to stay on track.   I also really love that the Sonlight science DVD has tracks for most of the TOPS experiments. The directions in Corn & Beans are very clear, but it was still nice to have that visual before starting the day’s work. Also, in some cases the directions from SL were slightly different (in a good, simplified way!) from the TOPS directions.

Some of the materials needed to do the experiments are in the Sonlight Science Kit. We received potting soil and all of the seeds we needed. There is nothing strange to track down though, so you would certainly not need to order the SL kit just to do this unit.

A few highlights from this unit….

Growing corn and bean sprouts in a makeshift greenhouse…an orange juice carton. The boys really enjoyed checking their seeds each day and seeing the changes.

Corn & Beans is just a simple black and white softcover book, but it is heavily illustrated and very easy to follow. I love that each day’s work is broken down into numbered steps. My boys can be a bit flighty about following directions, but I tried to encourage them to take charge of their experiments as much as possible. An older/more mature student could probably do much of this on their own, but my boys tend to need more supervision in order to get things done!

They were instructed to make their own journals for this unit using photocopies of some of the TOPS pages, plus their own notes and sketches. This unit involved a lot of drawing, which luckily, they both enjoy. Most days they were asked to sketch the growth of various seedlings or to draw and label parts of their plants.

Some seeds were sprouted on a damp paper towel to be used in various experiments. The kids were often asked to weigh, sketch, or do other activities with these sprouts.

Beans seeds are great for experiments like this; their growth is often quick and dramatic.

One of the very first projects in this unit was to make a pole planter to house one bean and one corn sprout. The boys measured and sketched these two sprouts each day to track their growth.

Growing bigger…

One day they were asked to predict how the sprouts would change if put in a sunny window. They grew quite dramatically towards the light.

And they just kept growing.

They did some other experiments once the greenhouse sprouts grew up, like removing the cotelydons on one bean plant to see what would happen, and coating a leaf with Vaseline to see what would happen. Each day, their journal had space to record their observations. Christopher wrote all of his own observations, but I helped James here and there if the writing got to be too much.

They made graphs, predictions, and charts along with their sketches.

By the end of the unit, the plants were huge!

I need to try to get these planted outside! All in all, we had a very positive experience using TOPS Corn & Beans. It is a lot of work though, and I will admit that I was relieved on the last day to get a bit of a breather! Earlier this year,  James completed TOPS Radishes, and that was also a good experience for us, though I didn’t remember to take any pictures!

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!

    Combining Sonlight/Bookshark & The Well-Trained Mind

    I spent a ton of time this spring researching different curriculum options for all four kids. It takes just about forever to plan a year’s education for multiple kids! I knew for sure we would do the next Sonlight (or Bookshark) core, so that part was easy, but then there was math to figure out, and writing, music, art, grammar, spelling, handwriting, phonics, vocabulary, Latin, Spanish, science, and logic… and then Grace said she wanted to learn Greek…..it’s a lot to figure out!  I enjoy researching curriculum, but at a certain point it starts to feel overwhelming to me and I start changing my mind too many times and want to just throw my hands up in the air and unschool everyone!

    At one point, I got out my copy of The Well-Trained Mind to look up Greek recommendations and naturally I ended up reading through it again. And you know what? I really, really liked what I read! We have kind of strayed from “classical education” in our homeschool, though it was a mainstay in our early days. We don’t do history or science in four year cycles. We don’t do much copywork or dictation or use an incremental writing program. James has never done grammar and he will be in fourth grade (gasp!).

     Pretty much the only thing we held over from our WTM days was Latin, which both older kids still enjoy. But reading through that book for the fourth time? It actually sounded do-able to me for the first time! So I am switching gears a bit and combining WTM and Sonlight (or Bookshark), taking what I think will work the best for us from each.

    What I want to keep from Sonlight/Bookshark

    • The core– which is the history and literature.   Having all of our history and literature readings planned out for me is a huge plus. The WTM reading lists for each year kind of bog me down, I much prefer something all laid out.  I love The Story of the World for history, but I don’t like always having to look up supplemental books.  I don’t really want to do outlines or pages every week for history and literature, I mostly prefer to just read and discuss the books.  And we really, really like the Sonlight book selections!

    • The science-up to Core E, anyway. I prefer Sonlight science over WTM science for younger kids. There are more experiments, more books, and a wide variety of topics. That said, I am planning to do WTM science with Rose this year, but James will do Sonlight Science D and Rose will most likely do Science B next year.

    What I want to start doing WTM-style instead

    • Language Arts, definitely. We tried Sonlight language arts this year and it was kind of a flop for us. I do not think it is the fault of the program, but just that my kids don’t learn well with that style.  I would like something more incremental,with more review. Also, none of my children likes to do creative writing, at least for “school work” and Sonlight tends to have quite a bit of those assignments. We used Sonlight’s Grammar 5 this year, and while I enjoyed it initially, as we near the end of the program I realize we are still pretty confused. There is just not enough practice or teacher help for us. So we are going to go with  the WTM recommendations for language arts. This is already reflected in my first and fourth grade plans, and will be in my sixth and eighth grade plans once I finalize them!
    • Logic– Sonlight doesn’t really stress logic, but I want to try a more in-depth study, a la the WTM
    • Science– for my older two. I do not plan to follow the WTM model of doing mostly science kits in grades 5-8, instead I am looking for something more open and go for my older two. Not sure yet what that will be, but I am going to try to jump into the science cycle with them at this point, just studying one major topic per year. I think we will either do chemistry or earth science/astronomy this year since we have been light on both of those. 

    Just writing all that out helped to clarify a couple of things for me. It’s been a stressful and super busy week, but I find the planning process fun and relaxing, as long as I have a general idea of the direction we are headed!  Now I just need to figure out science, art and music and then the plans will be set!

    I Ordered Bookshark!

     I placed my first BookShark order over the weekend, the first day the company opened their site to web orders. The website is very basic right now, and not nearly as “pretty” as Sonlight’s, but I imagine that will improve over time. It was still easy to navigate, find what I needed, and place my order.  If you go to the BookShark website and create an account you can get a coupon for $10 off orders placed in June, which was a very nice plus.  I was afraid I would have to pay shipping, but I found a note in the FAQ that orders of $300 + receive free delivery. So, even though I had only planned to order for Rose, I also got what I needed to update our Sonlight Core D. I have a thing about free shipping!

    It isn’t made terribly obvious on the BookShark website, but you can order separate items by clicking on the “See All BookShark Products” link on most of the site’s pages. They do not yet have the separate items linked in each grade level package, so you need to click that “see all” link to add them to your cart if you aren’t buying them as part of the package.

    Luckily, I already own many of the books Rose needs for the “K” Level, so I did not need to order the whole package.  I ordered instructor guide K with a binder, the timeline book and timeline figures, “Create a Calendar”, and a new laminated map. We have an older Sonlight black and white map, but I think the color looks much more user-friendly.  I also ordered the ten books I didn’t already own from the reading list.

    I do not like how BookShark (or Sonlight now, for that matter) has all their levels numbered by grade, because in most cases I am not using the “proper” grade level- so I can’t help but feel “behind” even though I know we are not. The whole idea behind Sonlight/BookShark is that a range of ages can share a level. However, if you look at the BookShark FAQ they state that this is only to make it easier for new homeschoolers to choose their curriculum and that the instructor guides themselves are labeled with the range of ages they are intended for. So I can live with that. 

    For James, I decided to order the American History Part 1 instructor guide. I had initially planned on upgrading my current Core D American History IG with Sonlight, because it was a bit cheaper than buying from Bookshark. But since I will re-do this Core with Rose and I don’t  own Core E-American History Part 2- it made more sense to switch to BookShark now. I also don’t need the SL language arts, which made the decision a bit easier. SL includes language arts in the instructor guide for this level, while BookShark sells theirs separately.  I had to purchase just two new read-alouds– Secret of the Sealed Room and Winter Danger-along with the new Landmark History, Beginner’s American History, and the Children’s Encyclopedia of American History.

    I am really looking forward to getting my order and checking everything out! 

    Till Next Time!

    sonlight core c review: the first 12 weeks

    James (8) and I are actually on week 18 of Core C, so I am a bit behind in getting this post up. We are not using the most current version of Core C. I believe it has been updated at least once since I first bought it, however I have added or subbed in many of the newer books. This link has more information about how we are using Core C this year.

    So here is an overview of those first 12 weeks! The headings correspond with the headings in my Sonlight instructor’s guide.

    ~ Bible ~

    Each day has an assigned section from the Bible. We skip both this section and the memorization suggestions. He is reading the The Awesome Book of Bible Facts however. I waffled a bit on using it, but I am glad I did. The book is set up in two page spreads with titles like “The Exodus”, “David & Goliath”, and “Stories Jesus Told”. Now, if you don’t want to include any religious books, obviously you should skip this one. But I am a big fan of having the kids get very familiar with the Bible stories, and this book is a neat way to do that. Here are a few examples to give you an idea of what is in the book.

    In the “Stories Jesus Told” section, there is an explanation of what a parable is and then a parable about a pearl. Following this there is a short blurb about gems, pearls, and the invention of coins. On the next page there is a parable that includes the word leaven and a blurb about what leaven means. There is also a list of coins (shekel, drachma, mite, etc.) and how much they were worth.

    In the “Esther” section we are told who Ester was in the Bible and introduced to some of the customs of royalty (like the use of signet rings). There is also a section about makeup and beauty products in biblical times.

    This book contains lots of interesting facts and colorful illustrations, all linked with a section of the Bible. I did not find the tone to be preachy.


    Our history spine and read-aloud is A Child’s History of the World. I believe this is my third time reading through this book and I still find the narrative appealing. Other books that have been heavily used include The Usborne Book of World History, The Explorer’s News, and Time Traveler. He enjoys all of them. I have him read these on his own, so he can take his time looking at all of the pictures. Then we discuss.

    We are using Sonlight’s timeline book for the first time this year and I wish I had gotten it earlier. The book comes with stickers for many of the events and people we read about. Throughout the IG there are timeline symbols to alert you when there is a sticker to go along with a reading. The sticker just needs to be cut out and affixed on the correct page.

     We are also using the markable map sold by Sonlight this year. He does most of the map assignments on the map using dry-erase markers. In previous years, I would just have him look up the locations on our wall map, but now he needs and enjoys the challenge of a blank map. Geography Songs is another big hit. We received a CD of songs about different geographical areas, plus a workbook that includes the maps and verses. I started out having him color the maps but he didn’t enjoy that, so now he just listens and follows along in the workbook. We skip the assigned “test” sections, mainly because he still struggles with handwriting. Instead, he listens to the song an extra time.

    Under this heading we have also been assigned other shorter books here and there-such as Eric the Red and Maps and Globes-which breaks things up nicely and help us dive in a bit deeper.


    Each week we work on one main read-aloud and these have all been great so far. We are also assigned several tales from Aesop each week, but he reads those on his own. He also reads Cornstalks: A Bushel of Poems on his own. The major modification we made to this section was to replace Windows on the World with A Life Like Mine.


    The readers are easier books assigned for independent reading. James has been using the Grade 4-5 readers with this Core. They alternate between very easy and just right, which is fine by me. He tends to fly quickly through the easier ones and “forgets” to stop reading, which of course is wonderful:). He has enjoyed most of the readers. The ones he did not like were More Stories from Grandma’s Attic and Betsy and Tacy. However,  I think it was because he felt they were too “girly” more than anything.


    We are using Science C this year. The first several weeks rely on The Usborne Book of Knowledge and don’t include very many hands-on activities. He enjoyed the reading a lot, but would have liked more hands-on stuff. Sonlight does include some ideas in the IG each week. These have varied from being a bit young for him (he doesn’t have much interest in jumping around like a kangaroo) to being pretty big hits (making a cloud in a bottle). This is more reflective of the IG trying to cater to a range of ages than it is a flaw, however. Lately we have been assigned experiments one day a week from a science activities book. We usually watch a few segments of our Discover and Do DVD, then do the related activities.  He very much looks forward to these days. We have been doing the worksheet questions too,  and I find them helpful in assessing what he has learned.   I often have him dictate answers to me when a lot of writing is required.

    ~Language Arts~

    We are using Language Arts for Grade 4-5 readers. Each week we are assigned several spelling words, which I have him write out on a whiteboard. I make up a silly sentence to go along with each word to make this more interesting. If he gets all the words right, we skip spelling the rest of the week. Usually there are only one or two he needs to work on,  so we review just those daily until he knows them. Once a week, usually on Day 1, there is a short activity to do with the spelling words, such as alphabetizing them or dividing them into syllables.

    In addition to spelling, there is a writing or “creative expression” assignment each day. The first day is always copy work, which he doesn’t care for, but I think it is important so we struggle through. I do frequently let him write a shorter version of a sentence or do just part of the assignment. We often modify the LA writing assignments because he still struggles with the act of handwriting. Sometimes we just do them orally, other times I act as his scribe. We also modify assignments that call for writing he just isn’t ready for. One week he was asked to write about someone he admires, but he found that way too overwhelming. I  had him write about a favorite video game character instead. The writing assignments are often spread over two days, with the first day serving as a preparation/note taking day, and the second day as the writing day. On Day 5 there is an optional assignment, often creative writing. If it interests him, we do it, if not, we skip it.

     I will say, as a former  First Language Lessons user,  that there is a very different approach to grammar here. There really hasn’t been much grammar at all, and there is little review of concepts that are introduced. Prepositions, for example, were introduced in week 8 but we have not discussed them again. However, I feel okay with this approach for now. I don’t really think a 3rd grader needs a whole lot of grammar and the laid-back-exploring approach suits us just fine.  Sonlight does recommend using a grammar program for 4th grade, so he will get plenty of it then.

    We also use the MCP Word Study and Wordly Wise books, scheduled as optional for this Core. I like both of these, though sometimes they can feel a bit too “workbooky”. If there is a lot of writing involved, I act as his scribe or we do the assignment orally. I often modify the assignments to cut down on the busywork factor. 

    ~Electives C~

    We are using How Artists See Feelings right now. I took the time to schedule out the electives in my IG so that I will remember to do them. For Artists, I just divided the number of pages by 36 weeks. Once a week or so we study a painting from the book and read the accompanying narrative, which asks us to look at the painting and discuss certain aspects of it.  This is a very enjoyable and quick way to do picture study. We have also been using the Classical Kids CD’s. I also wrote these down in the IG, spreading them out over the 36 weeks. He likes to listen to these on a portable CD player with headphones, preferably on his bed, and preferably with the cat!

    Well, I think that’s everything! I’ll be back with an update once we hit week 24!

    Sonlight’s core P 4/5: thoughts on the first 12 weeks

    Rose and I are working on week 13 of Sonlight’s Core P 4/5 so I thought this would be a good time to do a little recap of how the first 12 weeks went. 

    We are really, really enjoying this program. I am very glad that I chose to use it for kindergarten instead of starting with Core A. After all, there is no rush, and most of the books have been very big hits with her. I would have been sad to miss them, and even though she has a long attention span, they seem just right for her.

    We started the year by adding Language Arts K to this Core, but I recently decided to hold off on that portion for a few months, as she isn’t quite ready for the reading and copywork yet. So the only things we are adding to this Core right now are handwriting (Getty-Dubay A) and math (Singapore Essentials). We also do occasional Five in a Row units.

    So, without further ado, here’s an overview of what Rose and I have been doing the past 12 weeks!


    I am using Sonlight in a mostly secular fashion, which basically means we do the majority of any given Core, choosing carefully when religious content is involved. This is because I prefer to teach in a secular fashion, although I am certainly not opposed to some biblical content. We are skipping the Bible entirely with this Core, though. It is very easy to skip over the Bible readings in the Instructor Guide, they are in their own little section right up top. Sonlight assigns a daily Bible story and a weekly memory verse for this Core.  It is important to me that the kids are familiar with the Bible, so I will likely add in a book of Bible stories for Core A.


    Rose adores the literature anthologies we have been reading. The Lion Storyteller Bedtime Book, Stories From Around the World and Uncle Wiggily’s Story Book have been huge hits. Children’s Book of Virtues is more mixed. Some of the stories and ideas are a bit complex and she has given me a funny look after I read them.  Others she loves, especially the story of St. George and the Dragon, which I have read several times.

    She also loves A Treasury of Mother Goose and we usually read two weeks worth of poems at a time. This is a nice, illustrated hardcover version. I wish I had had it with my older kids! Eric Carle’s Animals Animals draws a more mixed reaction from her. We are usually assigned to read just one little poem a couple of times a week, but I usually read several at a time. Some poems illicit a laugh, others go right over her head. I will say though, that I am enjoying it:).

    A Child’s Book of Art is one book I waffled about buying since it seemed kind of pricey. However, I was able to get it used, and I am glad we have it.  We just look at the assigned paintings in the books and talk a little about them. It is a very quick little “extra” but we both enjoy it.

    The IG often includes activity ideas that relate to the readings. We have done almost all of them, except for a couple that seemed too young and didn’t interest her. Most of the activities have been fun and she has been eager to try them.  For example, recently we read the story “The Little Dipper Girl” and she practiced walking with a dipper-full of water. After reading the poem “Simple Simon” there was a suggestion to make a piggy bank. Another time, we were given a recipe to make Puppy Chow (a snack for kids, not dogs!) after reading an Uncle Wiggily story.

    She has only been assigned one of the stories from our American Tall Tales CD so far, but she has already listened to the whole thing many times over, usually at bedtime.

    -Readiness Skills-

    Sonlight assigns pages from  Developing the Early Learner in this next section, usually a couple of pages per day. Rose flew through the first two DEL books, she loved them so much.  So we got way ahead on the assigments, and now we are taking a break until DEL 3 shows up on our weekly schedule. There are a lot of fun activities in these books, and we have not found them to be overly “workbooky”. 

    -Language Arts-

     We just started seeing this section in the IG a couple of weeks ago.  Each week focuses on one letter sound, using Dr. Seuss’s ABC. We usually read the whole book, not just the page for the assigned letter. I also read the relevant pages from My First Picture Dictionary (a Language Arts K book). We have also been reading First Thousand Words, which has illustrated double-page spreads such as “The Zoo”or “Special Days”. This one is not a storybook, more of an “I Spy” book. Both books are easy, gentle ways to introduce letter sounds. The IG contains ideas and activities for both books.


    Our science reading so far has been from The Berenstain Bear’s Big Book of Science and Nature, a book so well-loved that it is literally falling apart. We read the entire book the first week because she didn’t want to stop, but we are re-reading it off and on.

    -World Cultures-

    We usually read from Things People Do each week. We have read way ahead in this book, because she always wants just one more page. This is a very heavily illustrated, fun book that teaches kids about different occupations. We have read about doctors, fishermen and pilots, to name a few. This is a great book to play “I Spy” with as well. 


    Each week has it’s own assigned song and I try to have Rose listen to it a few times over the week. Usually I find the song on You Tube and let her watch and listen, which she really enjoys.

    -Optional Developmental Activities-

    This heading includes activities like having the child repeat a sequence of actions (clap/stomp/jump), learn to jump rope, practice playing catch, etc.. It can be a little disruptive to the bigger kids’ work, but she has fun!

    Well I think that wraps it up! This Core is working great for us so far. When I first looked over my P 4/5 Instructor’s Guide I thought that it looked a bit simplistic. I wasn’t sure that it would feel like “enough” for kindergarten. After completing a third of it though, I have realized that the simplicity is exactly what makes this Core so great.  Simple is good, simple is magical. We are having fun, reading lots of great books, and making lots of wonderful memories.

    I’ll be back with another update once we finish week 24!