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Thursday, May 25, 2023

Sonlight High School Classic Literature230

 Review of Sonlight 220 Classical Literature

 High School Language Arts Homeschool Curriculum 

"Stories set mostly chronologically through history, mostly by British authors, you’ll travel from first-century Israel to World War II and beyond in this 36-week program."

 Summary of Review:

 So many wonderful Classic books! Do not get this curriculum if your children are not readers!!! For my bookworms is was absolutely perfect!  We covered all the classics that I would want them to read, but the writing program fell short to meet our needs.

 We used My Father's World from K-9th grade.  I would still usually recommend MFW for K-8th if you have multiple children, but their high school curriculum was not working for our family. We were able to switch to Sonlight for 10th grade. 

Even though my twins are 10th graders, we still had to complete a year of American History so we did Sonlight American History 120 alongside the 230 Classical literature.  (We will be skipping Sonlight 220 Church History)

We will be revisiting American Literature again in 430 so I am ok skipping it and focusing on some of my favorite pieces of literature, like Dickens, Shakespeare, and Austen. 


1. Great choice of entry level classic literature.

The choices of classic literature were just right for this age.  Hugely popular books, but also easy to access for a 10th grader. As a fan of classic literature, I was thankful they chose to introduce them to my favorite authors through books that the child might already have a small frame of reference for, like Jane Austen through the her most humorous book Pride and Prejudice.  As they read a few chapters we would slowly watch an episode of BBC 1995 Pride and Prejudice Mini-Series for them to understand the humor a little better. 

Sonlight introduces Charles Dickens through Christmas Carol and Shakespeare through Romeo and Juliet.  And yes of course this 90s loving girls did watch the 1996 Romeo and Juliet with her kids that week!

2.  In depth reading comprehension questions

I am really thankful for the discussion questions in the student guides so we can talk about what they are reading in a more meaningful way.  In My Father's World I was suppose to meet with them and just ask them about what stood out to them, but Sonlight really engages the student and parent daily to discuss what is being read.  The parent guide is helpful because it also provides answers. While I am looking forward to discussing some of the my favorites, I haven't ALL the books on the syllabus and need those answers!


1. Lack of step by step instructions in writing 

There is so much presumption on prior learning about formatting.  We know how to format paragraphs and they learned how to write a 5 paragraph essay last year, but the jump to this longer research paper seems very lacking on practically outlining and formatting instructions.   I literally had to buy a teaching guide from Teacher Pay Teachers on beginning research papers to help us. 

At one point they are to 'write a bibliography" with no instructions on how to do that.  They tell them how to find good research sources, but no MLA or APA formatting is given. The length is suggested of 12-20 pages, but no real outline of formatting is given, other than telling them to make a "working outline" in just a few paragraphs.  

Another example of lack of step by step instruction is in Wek 11 you are to write a character study on The Outlaws of Sherwood. It  just says "write a character study" with no explanation of what an actually character study was.  We had to supplement with other sources to help us understand some of the writing structures asked for in Creative Expressions  

I asked in several Sonlight groups to see if I was missing something and the resounding answer was that Sonlight High School does lack on those specific step by step instructions. Eventually we dropped the research paper all together because my sons will be taking a Dual Enrollment Class this summer that covers a research paper.  

2. No grading rubrics for writing

This is similar to the lack of step by step instructions.  This curriculum assumes the teachers has prior knowledge of grammar, formatting, and writing skills.  English is my strength, but I would never recommend this as the sole writing curriculum for many of my friends. 

3.  Overlapping next book before done processing or writing from last book 

In Week 9 and 10 we skipped The Shining Company because the boys were suppose to write a compare/contract essay about Jane Eyre, the book the had just read. I skipped MANY creative expressions, but I didn't want to skip this one.  Unless the essays was expected to be written in one day, it didn't make sense to end Jane Eyre on Monday and start a new book on Tuesday. I wanted them to sit in the book they were writing about before moving on. I let them have a full week to write their paper, turn in drafts, and work on revisions. 


1. Adding a different writing curriculum

I will still use Sonlight Literature next year, but we will be skipping the majority, if not all of Creative Expressions. I have found great step by step writing curriculum, with grading rubrics, from 7sisterhomeschool.  A friend recommend them and I love their price and selection. 

I bought their High School Writing Bundle 3: Advanced Guide to High School Writing  for only $35,  to go alongside our literature study.  I have opened up the PDF and I am truly excited about the easy instructions for my kids and grading rubrics for me.   I will write a full review of them next year after we use them for a longer period of time.

2. Adding a Book Basket for more diverse perspectives and more historical fiction/non fiction

Sonlight provides so many great books for high school, but I did miss having good quality books for their non-school hours.  Both of my boys read ALL day when they are done with school, so they filled our book basket with fantasy novels from the library.  There is nothing wrong with this, but I want to go back to MFW roots of ALSO filling the basket with picture and fiction  and non fiction books that relate to the time period we are studying.  

This will also give me an opportunity to add non European focused fiction and non fiction to our reading. 

3. Friday Meeting with Mom, instead of daily

The one downside to ALL the daily discussion questions if we didn't always meet EVERY day and sometimes I fell behind for several weeks.   It was a very big switch to go from almost completely independent My Father's World to daily meetings with Sonlight. I also began a part time job outside the house this year so it became almost impossible for me to meet with hem daily.  I plan to schedule a more doable week-end meeting, similar to MFW, but use the Sonlight parent guide to talk about the reading more in depth.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Peace-Faking is not Peace-Making

 I used to say I was the opposite of a conflict avoider. If there was something wrong between us, I would always talk to you about it.  As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that isn't really a good way to describe me. It seems that the opposite of a conflict avoider would be someone who seeks out and enjoys conflict.  Some people revel in debate and confrontation.  That is 100% not me. 

I don’t enjoy the mess and hard work of clarification to fix a miscommunication. It grieves my heart to confront and then someone has to suffer the consequences of their own actions. 

But I do love genuine peace. Conflict avoiding is not real peace-making, it is peace-faking. I hate the pain and bitterness of peace-faking more the pain and mess of peace-making.  

If I confront you with something that hurt me, then take it as a compliment.  I either care about our relationship enough to fight for it, and/or I believe you are healthy enough to have a dialogue. 

If I seek to clarify a miscommunication it is because I have given you the benefit of the doubt that you didn’t mean it the way it came across. It also means I believe you will give me the benefit of the doubt when I am vulnerable about my confusion.

 I used to confront an clarify with EVERYONE, because I didn’t want to be in conflict with ANYONE.  I can thank my people-pleasing tendencies for that and  I’ve learned that isn’t a safe space to be either. I have to discern what relationships are worth fighting for and who is safe enough to be vulnerable with my hurt or confusion.

When I stop feeling the safety to confront and need to clarify, the relationship is probably about to die. Recently I was reminded that when I stop clarifying or confronting, it does the opposite of keeping the peace, it make my heart bitter and slowly the relationship dies.

Friday, April 28, 2023

Beautiful Vitiligo


Both my twins have Vitiligo, but only one has it in visible spots. He loves his skin. We have had people ask/give suggestion how to "cure" it (there is no "cure" and it doesn't hurt him)  but we've also had perfect strangers tell him how beautiful it is. He chooses to love it, and I am slightly envious of my 15 year old's confidence.

Growing up in the 90s spray tan/tanning salon era I was always deeply insecure about my very pale skin, especially since I wasn't the skinny girl. Porcelain skin in the 90s, and sometimes still, was beautiful only on the thin.

I had a cheerleading coach tell me to go tanning anytime we had to wear our white uniforms because "Tan fat looks better than white fat!"  Even though I knew this was an awful thing to say to a teen, it has always stuck with me.

I thought I made peace with the fact that I'm never ever ever going to be tan, even embraced my pale skin for a long time, but sometimes those old insecurities can come bite you when you least expect it. This summer I suddenly became I insecure about my paleness again. I'm good and working through it (this is not a solicitation for compliments on my skin tone!!) but just know words matter, especially to teenagers.  

I saw Isaac light up when a stranger complimented his vitiligo. Teens hear what we say and can make it part of their identity.  I was so scared it would make him insecure like I am, but we choose to see it as beautiful and unique, so he does too.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Repeating Christian Choruses


Christians who make fun of repeating choruses on worship songs, this scene from Good Will Hunting is why you need to STOP. 

Ten times Robin William's character has to tell this broken young man it wasn't his fault that he was repeatedly abused. Ten times.

He says he knows the first few times, but it doesn't really become truth in his heart until the tenth time. Many of us need to be told over and over a truth about God, or what God says about us. 

I had to sing " I surrender all" over and over before I truly did.

I had to sing "You're a good good father and I'm loved by you" a half dozen times before I believed it. 

Please stop making fun of repeating choruses. Some of us really need them. 

If you've suffered abuse on repeat, you need healing words of Jesus on repeat. 



Monday, February 27, 2023

Teaching Soft Skills to Homeschoolers

Teaching Soft Skills to Homeschoolers

Homeschooling is a challenge as we balance to teaching hard and soft skills. Hard skills are specific abilities, or capabilities, that an individual can possess and demonstrate in a measured way.

Soft skills are non-technical skills that are how you work and interact with others. Unlike hard skills, they are not necessarily something you'll learn in a course, like literary analysis or coding. Instead, they reflect your communication style, work ethic, and work style.

My 15-year-old son loves Tinker CAD, which is the younger version of CAD (Computer Aided Design). He wants to go into a job that includes this type of design. He is learning the hard skills of CAD that will most likely be useless in his future employment.  I value this learning time highly, and yet he is grounded from it for two weeks. Let me explain:

He turned in an English paper that was almost unreadable, I would even call it lazy writing. Before you say lazy is an objective word, remember that I know what he is capable of in regard to writing. He has had three weeks to complete the paper or ask questions about anything confused him. I have years of evidence what his writing work looks like when he makes it priority. It is the laziest writing he has ever turned in, written in an hour. This wasn't an instruction problem; it was a problem work ethic and work style.  

After initial frustrations, I wasn't sure how to give him a consequence other than just a bad grade.  Upon further investigation I discovered he was rushing through writing to get to Tinker CAD. 

I know my son will most likely use the hard skills he learns in CAD is his future career more than hard skills of writing research papers, BUT time management is a skill he will need in his future. The soft skills of work ethic will keep in in good graces of his future employer. Learning to communicate that you might need extra support when an assignment is confusing and putting his best effort even into something he doesn't value are skills we must all learn to be successful in life.

Soft skills are just as important, sometimes more important, than the hard skills we are teaching through homeschool assignments. We have done a disservice to our children when we only focus on hard skills they enjoy at the expense of the soft skills of work ethic, communication, and problem-solving.

Homeschool teachers, don't get so focused on teaching hard skills that we forget the soft skills our kids are learning, or not learning.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

We Are Responsible

Some parents hesitate to pursue homeschooling because of the fear of taking on all the responsibility of their child's education. The problem with that thinking is as parents we never really do handoff responsibility for our children’s education, we just hand off control.

Parents are ultimately always responsible for our children's education no matter what educational choice they make. 

This fact is why I tell parents that a student can do well in public school, private school, or homeschool as long as the parent is advocating and involved. There will always be educational gaps and bad experiences with curriculum or teachers, but an involved parent helps the child navigate the situation and learn skills from the hardship.

I have seen public AND homeschool moms do this well. You don't necessarily have to homeschool to gain the control back over your children's education, but you do need to get involved. Ask questions. Establish line of communication with their teacher. Keep in the process.  

I also see public AND homeschool moms do this poorly. Homeschool moms, you can't outsource the end result to a screen or software. You can use these as the wonderful tools they are, but you still have to be checked in to where your child is and what they are struggling with. You help find tutors and resources instead of blaming the curriculum or excusing bad habits.

If you want to homeschool but don't want the responsibility, too late. Having children makes you responsible.  

This is a great responsibility that I do not take lightly.