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!

Sonlight’s Core B: A Little Review

Rose and I are still slowly finishing up Sonlight Core B.  We only have about a week and a half left of readings, but our rather hectic summer routine has so far left us only bits and pieces of time for read-alouds. But, I thought I’d post a few thoughts about this Core since I hope to finish it by next week ~ we are in the middle of Detectives in Togas, and I want to know what happens next!

 I have mostly switched to using BookShark at this point, since it is basically a secular version of Sonlight, which I prefer. But I had Core B on the shelf from Rose’s older siblings and I couldn’t find any good reason not to just reuse it, so that’s why Rose and I are doing Sonlight while the other kids do BookShark.  My Core is a bit “outdated” from the current Core B Sonlight sells, but many of the titles are the same. We did not use the language arts for this level, but we did use Science B alongside it.

Core B is the first half of a two-part World History program, covering roughly through the fall of Rome. We have the 5-day version of the program. Our Sonlight part of the day usually went something like this (though not necessarily in this order):

  • We read a chapter or two of our read aloud.
  • She read to me from her reader (we used BookShark Readers 2 this year).
  • A couple of days a week we were assigned poetry to read. 
  • We did our science reading (or assigned experiment) and went over the discussion questions.
So…more about the books!


History & Geography: The spines used for this Core are Usborne Time TravelerA Child’s History of the World, and The Usborne Book of World History. Time Traveler was Rose’s favorite of the three. This is a really fun book that takes you back into time to every day life in the ancient world through cartoons and short entertaining stories. By contrast, CHOW has few illustrations and is a very accessible narrative history that ties everything together in chronological order. The Book of World History is heavily illustrated and has slightly more involved information than Time Traveler. Its presentation is a bit “choppier” than the other two, but I do like the way the three work together to reinforce each other. For all of these books, we just read, discussed, and occasionally looked something up on a map; I did not really use the notes in the Instructor Guide for these books at all. We skipped over the religious history titles, but we did read The Great Wall of China, Tut’s Mummy Lost and Found, and Archaeologists Dig for Clues. These were all very short, and we finished them in one or two days at most. I read all of the history books aloud to her.

Read-Alouds: Every day we had a read-aloud, and the read-alouds for this Core are absolutely fabulous. They were Rose’s favorite part of the program. I can honestly say that she adored every single book we read together and usually complained when I stopped! For these, I did use the notes – the vocabulary words and discussion questions in my Instructor Guide. We went over the vocabulary before the reading, and I asked her the discussion questions after. If  we were a bit pressed for time I skipped the notes, and for the last two read-alouds, I also skipped the notes and we just read the books. The only book we skipped from this Core was Mountain Born, because I just wasn’t in the mood for a sad book at the time! I think Rose’s favorite from this core was Greek Myths – she adored all of the stories and we read through that one at double-pace because she didn’t want to stop! Even books that I thought might be a bit slow-paced for her, like The Year of Miss Agnes and Understood Betsy, were very much enjoyed.

Science: Science B was a success for us. We enjoyed the books, we usually did the questions from the Instructor Guide each day, and we watched the Sonlight Science DVD’s (which I love), and did most of the experiments. If I have one complaint about Science B, it is that it sometimes felt a little short and choppy to me. We read small bits of the same book three days in a row, then had an experiment day based on The Usborne Book of Science Activities, then read a bit from a different book on day 5. Sometimes I felt like science was kind of rushed through in our day, a tacked-on addition – read a little snippet, discuss, move on. It did get done though, which is always nice!

Notes on next year: I am considering switching to BookShark 2 (the equivalent of Sonlight’s Core C) for next year, even though I have Core C on the shelf.  My Instructor Guide for C is quite a mess of pencil marks and damaged pages these days, and I am not sure I can stand using it again. I do think we will be going in a different direction for science than what I had previously planned (Sonlight Science C), but more on that later!

Sonlight Summer Readers 2016

I ordered Rose the elementary girls Sonlight summer readers and she has started reading through them. This year she is reading them on her own; last year I read them to her. Exciting, and of course a bit sad for me, all at the same time. But mostly just plain exciting.

 Here’s a little peek at what was in her box. 

She has already read No Flying in the House and the Nancy Drew Clue Book (actually she read that last one three times). For a child that struggled and got quite frustrated at times when learning to read, she has really taken off. I often find her stretched out on her bed reading, usually when she is supposed to be cleaning her room. So she was quite pleased to get her box of shiny new books in the mail.

The plan is to finish up Sonlight Core B with her (we’ll be starting week 33 this week) and then switch to summer reading mode, where I will read a bit to her each day from a book we decide on together. She has already decided that she wants me to read her summer readers to her after she finishes reading them to herself. I think she likes to check that she didn’t miss anything. She has also been loving the Secrets of Droon series lately, and I have been spending some time each week hunting down the next one she needs in the series. I must say I am jealous of the sheer amount of time she has to read to herself each day – definitely one of the things I miss about being a kid!

Four Day Versus Five Day Sonlight

 Last year I ordered the five day Sonlight program for both Core B and Core D.  Mostly because, I will admit, I was afraid of missing anything. Last year’s Sonlight’s catalog, while it made it clear that the four day was an option, definitely seemed to favor the five day option: for even more great books!! The five day option was the “regular” option and the four day was the “abbreviated” option, or at least that’s how I read it.

This year, I just assumed I would do the same-order the five day. But the other day I watched a video about the changes to Sonlight this year. It seems that they are changing the Instructor Guides so that the four day option is the “regular” option and the five day program is just the four day program with a stand-alone fifth day. I requested a free sample of one of the Instructor’s Guides to try to figure out if this was the case.

I was only able to look at a sample for Core C because the Core E sample isn’t up yet….but the four day is definitely looking more attractive now. In the sample I saw, the read-alouds and history readings are no longer spread over five days as in our current Instructor Guides. Instead, they are spread over four days, and on the fifth day there are extra readings from other books.

My Core C sample would have us reading The Usborne Book of World History on days 1-4, but on day 5 we would read two pages from Medicine News. Our read-aloud for the same week is Red Sails to Capri for days 1-4, but on the fifth day we would read chapter 1 of Sir Lancelot the Great. We wouldn’t read either Medicine News or Sir Lancelot again until the following week on the fifth day.

This strikes me as a little odd. The five day science program is already set up this way- the fifth day is entirely unrelated to the rest of the week- and we generally end up skipping those books or just using them for free reading.

 So- we will be doing the four day program for next year. I am excited about this because I feel like we will have a little more wiggle room in our schedule. I like to reserve Fridays for art, Spanish, and nature study, and it will be easier to fit those in with the four day program.  I also like the idea of having Fridays be catch-up days, for whatever we didn’t get to during the week. Maybe we would even finish a Core in a year.

Four day it is!!

Sonlight & Our Routine

I have come up with a routine for our lessons each day. I would call it a schedule, but there are not particular times associated with anything, nor do we necessarily do things in the same order each day. I would love to have everything happen according to my pretty plan…don’t plans always look so nice on paper? But naturally, each day is prone to it’s own chaos and with four children odds are one of them (at least) will be difficult….so the order of things is often screwed up. However,  this routine is so simple that even when issues crop up, we can still usually get our work done. Currently, we are using Sonlight Cores C and P 3/4. My older two switched to Oak Meadow this year, but we are heading back to all Sonlight and back to our old routine this coming August.


Our Routine

I start each day with the read-aloud, because it’s easier to get everyone together for that before they go off in separate directions. Two separate Cores means two separate read-alouds, plus the P 3/4 books. I usually do our more advanced Core first while my younger Core kids play or start independent work. Then I swap, doing the next Core’s read-aloud while the older kids start on math and their independent readings. I do our P 3/4 read-alouds a bit later in the morning, after snack time while everyone else works independently.

While I am working with one child, the other kids are working on their independent lists. Or, more likely, fighting with each other, running around in circles, daydreaming in the bathroom, or sneaking off to play with Legos (!)…but they are supposed to be working on their independent lists. And for the most part, they do, but it does take some training!

The independent list includes:

Any Sonlight readings we have decided will be independent
Review Latin chants and do a page or two of Latin work
Work on handwriting (my boys only)
Life of Fred-read more about how we do math here

So our lesson routine (Monday-Thursday) goes like this….we usually start around 8:30….

Read Aloud from Sonlight Cores
Math for all, plus independent work during “wait for Mom” times.
Snack break at 10-I usually discuss some of the older kids’ reading during this time.
Language Arts-we are currently using Sonlight Language Arts, everyone at their own level
For the rest of the morning (until about 12:30) we just work on whatever is next in our instructor’s guide. ~I try to alternate between the Cores and grab some time to read the preschool books to my little as well~
We do stop early for outside classes on Wednesday, but the other days I try to keep us working until 12:30. I will often discuss some of the readings with the kids during lunch.

Our Friday Schedule:

Do an art project while listening to some classical music.
Work on nature journals and/or nature study.
Do picture study. More on how we do that here
With any time left, catch up on any Sonlight readings/activities not finished during week

Friday is a short day because we have homeschool group.

So that’s the plan, and it really is helpful to have a plan, even though it frequently needs to get tossed out the window or rearranged. It’s always helpful to have a goal in mind! Really though, the best thing I ever did to organize our homeschool was to set specific hours to do it in. I try not to make appointments during this time, but even if I do need to, we rarely do lessons in the afternoons. I would personally rather do a bit of light schooling in the summer than feel rushed to finish everything each day. Plus there are a lot of other things we want and need to do!