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This is not the first time I find myself writing about the Proverbs 31 woman. I suppose that I'm really intrigued by her. For years, I would read Proverbs 31 and I would feel the weight of this woman of God and all she did, and it did not bring me joy or comfort. It brought me fatigue and the feeling that I would never measure up.

But in more recent years, I have found myself being drawn back to this woman again and again, examining the text over and over, searching for the deeper meaning.

The Proverbs 31 Woman is Exhausting

This last time I revisited the passage, I was charged with doing the devotional at our annual Mother-Daughter Tea at our local church. When I was first asked to do a devotional on the last three verses of Proverbs 31, I have to admit that I was not super excited. Again, I have never found Proverbs 31 to be very inspiring at all. Frankly, she’s exhausting.

She selects wool, works with eager hands, provides food, buys fields, plants vineyards, works vigorously, feeds the poor and needy, makes her bed, and she is never idle. She is Superwoman. But here I was with the task of the Proverbs 31 devotional. So, I prayed and asked God to help me see the passage with fresh eyes. And I must say that I’ve never seen it quite the way I saw it during my studies for that devotional. So it is my prayer that this article helps you see it with fresh eyes, too.

Proverbs 31 is Not About You and Me (or Her)

Reading through the list of the Proverbs 31 woman certainly is exhausting, but a truer picture of a woman could not be painted any other way. While at first it may seem more draining than inspiring, we can certainly all identify with her in one way or another. Moms are notoriously the jack-of-all-trades for the family, and even more so when you throw in homeschooling.

But, if we look at this passage in the context of the entire Bible rather than a stand-alone passage, you will see one simple thing...this passage is not about the Proverbs 31 woman. It’s not about me, and it’s not about you.

It’s about God.

Let me explain. When we look through the passage, we see all the traits of the Proverbs 31 woman.

She is worth far more than rubies.

She is worthy.

We see that her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.

She is faithful.

We see that she brings him good and not harm.

She is good.

We see that she considers a field and buys it, planting vineyards.

She is wise.

She works vigorously.

She is powerful.

She opens her arms to the poor, extends her hands to the needy.

She is compassionate.

She clothes her family in scarlet.

She is attentive.

The Proverbs 31 Woman Reflects God

As I was studying this passage, it hit me why she is included in the Bible as a model for us. It’s not because she is busy all the time. It’s not because she’s Superwoman. It’s because she is a reflection of the character of God.

Though reflections are always at least slightly imperfect, when we look at this woman, we see the character of God shining brightly through her.  

He is worthy. He is faithful. He is good. He is wise. God is powerful. God is attentive.

This is the beauty of the Proverbs 31 woman—she helps all those around her to know the character of God. Through the work of her hands and her heart, the attributes of God can be known by every person within her reach. This is where our beauty lies as well. It’s not in our hair and our nails, our smooth skin, or our figure. Our beauty lies in our reflection of the Creator. One of my favorite authors says,

“True beauty has staying power. It doesn’t terminate on its owner, but points others toward its origin.”

Jen Wilkin

We are image-bearers of God. If we point others to Him, to His glory and goodness, well... there is nothing that compares to that beauty.

The Hope in Proverbs 31

Unfortunately, there is no seven-point blog post to tell you how to become a Proverbs 31 woman.

Sanctification is a process. But I think I can give you hope.

When you, unseen homeschool mama, go through the mundane routines of everyday life...washing dishes, teaching children, making the beds, feeding all the people, you are reflecting God’s character. You are demonstrating the attributes of God to everyone within your reach. And in that place, that unnoticed place, you will find the fullness of joy. Because that is what God created us to do and to be.

So, if you are like me and find the Proverbs 31 woman exhausting instead of inspiring,

  • stop doing it for your family
  • stop doing it for success
  • stop doing it for physical beauty

Instead do all the things to be more Christ-like. Do all the things because there is rest in the fullness of joy we find in that place.

Join a community of other homeschool parents (mostly moms), striving to be more like Christ as they teach their children at home. You're welcome to join us! Request membership here.

The post Finding Hope in the Exhausting, Proverbs 31 Superwoman appeared first on Sonlight Homeschooling Blog.

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Reading is the academic building block for every other subject and is often used as the primary standard when evaluating how well a child is doing in school. But deciding how (and when) to start can be difficult. There are so many great reading programs out there, and they all teach so differently.

Despite these facts, teaching reading doesn’t have to be so frustrating and intimidating. Here are six nuggets to keep in mind when you start teaching your child to read.

1. Start with Pre-Reading Basics

Just like your child learns to walk by first holding up their head, you can also teach pre-reading skills very young.

Reading Aloud

Research shows that being read to daily improves reading abilities later on by developing vocabulary, listening skills, comprehension skills, and phonemic awareness.

Close Up Play

Close up work builds eye muscles and the visual discernment needed for reading. Encourage pre-reading skills with these activities:

  • Modeling with play dough
  • Cutting and pasting
  • Working puzzles
  • Solving mazes
  • Sorting objects
  • Playing matching games
Distance Play

Distance work develops the eye muscles for depth perception. Examples of activities include:

  • Climbing
  • Throwing/catching
  • Playing on monkey bars

Children this age learn best through playing, so allowing them to play will also build their reading readiness skills.

2. Teach Letter Sounds

Letter sounds are the basic building blocks of reading.

Focus on teaching the sounds the letters make, not the name of the letter. For example, when reading cat, use the sounds, not the letter names. Say “k-ah-t,” not “see-ay-tee.”

3. Use a Reading Program

Not all children need reading programs, but it is more difficult for many children to learn to read without some instruction. Reading programs are designed to be easy to use and teach in a logical, structured manner that's superior to the trial and error method many children naturally use.

If you aren’t sure whether you need a program to teach your child to read at home, I would advise using one. If your child breezes through with little effort, you’ll feel better knowing you didn’t leave any gaps. If your child begins to struggle after hitting some confusing reading rules, you’ll appreciate having a program there to guide you through.

Should you decide you’d like to try teaching reading without a program, prepare yourself with a book like The Three R’s by Ruth Beechick.

4. Expect Plateaus

Many parents find that their child does well with letter sounds but struggles with putting them together. Or they read well but later seem to stall or hit a wall.

If your child is struggling to go from one reading skill to the next, don’t worry. Shelve the materials, work on easy skills for a while, and come back later on. Some children need a few weeks or months to develop their brains between skills just as some children need time to go from standing to taking their first steps on their own.

5. Expect Regressions

Learning isn’t organized and linear; in fact, it's usually sporadic and even chaotic. Children often experience regressions in ability, inexplicably moving backward in skill. When you are teaching a child to read at home, one day they might be reading well, and the next day they are crying the work is too hard.

One reason for regressions is the brain sometimes redirects power to other areas during certain seasons. For example, it’s hard to focus on trivial details after a traumatic event. Another illustration: people watch television to distract themselves from worry or stress. The brain likes to focus on one main task at a time. You may be asking your child’s brain to learn about reading, but their brain is telling them, “Let’s learn everything there is to know about how trains work” or “Wouldn't it be way more fun to learn about the periodic table?”

Regression is often a sign your child is reaching their cognitive limit and they need more time to develop before progressing. The good news is that re-learning what seems lost is usually fairly easy.

6. Let Kids Read Below Their Ability

Parents sometimes feel alarmed when a child is advanced in reading but only wants to read easy books below their ability. My response is, “That’s great. Let them!”

Reading for fun, below maximum reading level, is a great way to reinforce a variety of skills:

  • word recognition
  • fluency
  • vocabulary
  • comprehension

Reading easy books is just as important as reading harder books. I can easily read at a graduate school level. But I would get very bored and frustrated if that were all I was allowed to read. I can enjoy and learn from both college textbooks and my favorite childhood classic.

Some easy-looking books are deceptively difficult, hiding educational material, large vocabulary words, or a lot of content broken up by pictures to give the eyes a chance to rest. Don't be afraid to use these books if they encourage your child to read.

As for children who learn to read young and advance quickly, but later stall out, it gets hard to remember that they are really just little children. The 5-year-old who reads at a third grade level doesn’t really need to worry about 4th grade reading for at least 4 more years yet, and by then, they’ll likely be well beyond that level anyway.

Being the parent of four dyslexic children, I recognize that not all children are easy to teach, and some do require more effort than others. But it’s better to wait for a child to be ready to read than to push ahead until they get frustrated.

It’s a fine line to walk. If you would like advice from someone with years of experience, reach out to a Sonlight Advisor. She can help you recognize signs of reading readiness and choose the best materials to guide your children into successful reading.

The post 6 Things to Know Before Teaching a Child How to Read at Home appeared first on Sonlight Homeschooling Blog.

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Homeschool families come in all varieties! In some, homeschool duties are split equally by parents while in others the father is the main homeschooler. But many families are like mine growing up—Dad worked a demanding job and attended graduate school in the evenings. Mom homeschooled us on her own.

When a dad is away from home much of the time, he can sometimes feel a bit left out of the homeschool dynamic. He’s a homeschool dad, but he’s not there during the day, so sometimes he doesn’t even really know what’s going on in the homeschool.

Here are four simple ways a father can play a vital role in his family’s homeschool day, even if he’s often away from home.

1. Save One Read-Aloud for Dad

Sonlight has so many fabulous Read-Alouds, it should be easy to reserve one for the whole family to read together with Dad.

Depending on his work schedule, perhaps after dinner or before bedtime might work for a family read-aloud session. Otherwise, you could read the book together on his days off. The benefit of this will be that Dad gets to join in on family conversations about the books that you have all read together!

2. Have Daily Homeschool Check-ins

If Dad is home for dinner with the family, make the “What did you do in school today?” question a regular routine. Sometimes homeschool families neglect to ask this question. After all, with the siblings and Mom in the same class all day, talking about what you did in school might seem redundant.

But if Dad wasn’t there, having the kids tell him what they learned and did can help him feel more connected to their education. Plus, hearing their descriptions of the school day will give Mom a good chance to see how well they are retaining the day’s lessons!

3. Have Dad Take a Child to Work

Depending on workplace policies and the field of work, letting a father take one of the kids to work with him can be an enriching experience. As a bonus it allows Dad to play a larger role in educating his child and can give Mom a day with one less student to be in charge of. That's a win all around!

My father was a lighting engineer who designed lenses for the interior lights in cars. I went into work with him once and spent the day learning about the science and engineering that goes into lights as I played around with lenses and colored films. Nearly 20 years later, I still haven’t forgotten about my day at work with Dad.

"As a military family stationed in Germany, we were privileged to take our daughter Cami, 11, to many WWI and WWII sites as we learned about these somber events in HBL E. Here, her father brings history to life and helps her explore the American Cemetery in Luxembourg where General Patton is buried." —Danielle L. 4. Let Dad Take Over One Class

Let Dad choose one class that he wants to be in charge of. If he works long hours, it’ll probably need to be an elective rather than a core class.

  • If Dad is great with computers, choose coding.
  • If he loves plants, opt for botany.
  • If his weekend hobby is renovating and repairing your home, go with a shop class.

It’s good for the whole family when the kids know that Mom and Dad are a united team when it comes to the business of homeschool. Allowing Dad to be in charge of planning and teaching in his own way is a fantastic method to accomplish that unified front while fostering a family culture of learning.

Even though homeschool days often feel long when you’re in the middle of them, the school years of your children will fly by faster than you might expect. It’s worth it to find a way for both parents to be involved in the educational process.

What are some strategies your family uses to get both parents involved in homeschooling?

Sonlight is open-and-go so that either parent can jump in at any point without missing a beat.

The post 4 Ways to Get Dad Involved in the Homeschool Day appeared first on Sonlight Homeschooling Blog.

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When I choose homeschool curriculum, I’m not only thinking of my child. I’m also thinking about myself.

Sonlight is my education, too.

And that's why I make sure that my curriculum choice will be enriching for both of us. While there are countless reasons I choose Sonlight for the benefit of my child, here are a three ways Sonlight benefits me as a person and as a mom.

1. Sonlight Keeps Me in the Word of God

Some days, I roll out of bed and am immediately on the job. My family’s basic needs can keep me from my personal devotions. I’m grateful that Sonlight incorporates a strong and consistent Bible curriculum because I need it as much as my children do.

As I read Scripture aloud to my children (or they read to me), I am fed spiritually. I take our reading to heart and prayerfully look for God’s character, will, and ways. The conversations that flow out of our Bible reading and memory work sharpen my faith and encourage me.

2. Sonlight Enriches My Own Education

I joke with my children that homeschooling benefits me just as much as it does them: “I want you to have a good enough experience so that someday, you’ll homeschool your children and get an education!” I say that because I am educated by Sonlight Curriculum every day.

Although I had an excellent private and public school education, I have learned more about history, science, literature, grammar, spelling, and mathematics as a homeschool mom than I ever learned in grammar school or high school. Since using Sonlight, I have become more well-rounded and knowledgeable. I’ve grown in my understanding of and love of God, people, science, and history.

3. Sonlight Enhances My Motherhood

Through the Read-Alouds, I have learned how to be a better mother. First, the sheer act of sitting down with my children and reading to them has been deeply transformative. It has taught me the value of giving children goodness, truth, and beauty. It has taught me about child development, the dignity of humanity, and the power of story.

Secondly, the Read-Alouds themselves instruct and inspire me to be a better woman. I have met many literary role models and stored up precious insights from Sonlight read-alouds. Here are nine of my favorites.

  1. Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank You Book (HBL A): Besides the reminders of common courtesy, Pig Will’s mother who writes her children’s book all day inspires me!
  2. In Grandma’s Attic (HBL A): This book inspires me to pay attention to the details in my life and to keep a good sense of humor so that I may have something special to give my grandchildren some day.
  3. The Year of Miss Agnes (HBL B): Oh, to know how to touch the hearts of children and inspire them to learn! Miss Agnes teaches me the way.
  4. Understood Betsy (HBL B): There are themes in this book that touch on the very fabric of a mother’s heart. I learned so much about what it takes to nurture a child from this book.
  5. The Penderwicks (HBL C): The delightful children in this book inspire me to encourage my own children in their unique interests, as well as to promote their friendships with one another and their sense of family responsibility toward one another.
  6. Adoniram Judson (HBL D): Adoniram’s wife, Ann, supports her husband as he obeys God. Her devotion to the Lord in the face of suffering is deeply touching and beckons me to a life of sacrificial love.
  7. Caddie Woodlawn (HBL E): Another book with golden insights about what it means to nurture children.
  8. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (HBL E): Mama is strong, courageous, and loving. She leads, teaches, and transforms her community. My heart grew simply from spending time with Cassie’s amazing Mama.
  9. Little Britches (HBL E): Even though the theme of this book is the relationship between Little Britches and his father, I couldn’t keep my eyes off of his mother. She is supportive, hard-working, and she teaches me a great deal about loving a man and raising a son.
Sign up for the Sonlight Invitation and see if this literature-rich education is right for your family—both for you and your children. You're guaranteed to love it.

The post 3 Ways Sonlight Homeschool Curriculum Makes Me a Better Person appeared first on Sonlight Homeschooling Blog.

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Sadly, there is one aspect of homeschooling often overlooked by parents—spiritual self-care. We are overachievers when it comes to making and checking off homeschool planning checklists:

  • Math program? Check
  • Spelling curriculum? Check
  • 36-Week Instructor's Guide? Check
  • Field trip list? Check
  • More art projects than can be fit into the year? Check

But taking care of yourself as a parent is just as vital as taking care of your children's lesson plans! Taking care of your spiritual needs by focusing on God throughout your day will replenish your soul like no other self-care activity can!

Waking up a few minutes before your children or spending a bit of time in the Word at night can help to refresh your soul and renew your energy. Those are great! But if you seem to be going nonstop all day long, here are ten low-key ways to sneak in extra time with God while still going about your day-to-day homeschool routine.

1. Listen to the Bible on Audio

Play your favorite audio Bible out loud while you clean or over headphones while the baby naps. There are many free sites that will read the Bible for you as well as others that provide dramatic representations. By hearing the Word, you allow yourself a chance to stop thinking about all the problems of the day and instead focus on the One for whom all problems are solvable.

2. Play a Bible Movie

It’s okay if you don’t have time to watch the whole movie. Catching just 10-15 minutes of the life of Jesus or Paul via video can encourage your soul and re-center you. Play a movie as background noise in whatever room you are working. It can provide a little lift of spiritual self-care.

3. Listen to Bible Studies on Audio

There is a great assortment of Christian podcasts to keep you on track spiritually. Choose from sermons, Bible studies, or discussions about Christian topics. Listening to other adults talk about God and the Bible is mentally stimulating and can deepen your understanding of the Bible. I have found that audio Bible studies fill part of my need for adult interaction while simultaneously providing spiritual self-care.

3. Watch or Listen to Bible Programming for Kids

Bible adventures such as Keys for Kids, Adventures in Odyssey, or What’s in the Bible with Buck Denver are probably favorites for your kids. You, too, can listen in and learn along. Or you can spend that time focusing on your own Bible study while the kids are occupied.

4. Stick with a Daily Family Prayer Time

In a daily family prayer time, you teach your children to pray while reviving your own soul. Choose a time when there are fewer distractions. Prayers before meals and at bedtime are often shorter by necessity. But having a mid-afternoon prayer or after-dinner prayer allows more time for you to connect with God. You can allow the children to go play after a while if you’d rather linger in prayer alone.

5. Choose a Prayer Activity

Choose one activity per day—such as doing the dishes or vacuuming—when you make an effort to pray and think about God. I like to thank God for my blessings one by one while folding laundry. I've trained myself to mentally connect laundry with prayers of gratitude. So while I'm getting household work done, I'm also tending to my spiritual needs.

6. Listen to Classical Bible Music

Slow, lovely Bible music can make a good background for studying and quiet play. I love to play our Sing the Word CDs or old-fashioned hymns to lift my mood and place a focus on God in our homeschool. We do other types of classical music at other times, but I do try to set aside a couple of times a week for hymns playing in the background because I like the way they make me feel.

7. Listen to Upbeat, Inspiring Bible Songs

Put on fun Christian music while cleaning and sing together with your children! Listen to fun songs while driving along in the car, while doing exercise, or scrubbing the bathroom. Music makes a great antidepressant. And even if the songs are for kids, the Gospel truths in the lyrics can sometimes strike you in a fresh way be just the encouragement you need!

Looking for more Christian encouragement from homeschoolers who understand what you're going through? Join the Sonlight Connections Group today.

The post 10 Low-Key Ways to Add Spiritual Self-Care to Your Homeschool Day appeared first on Sonlight Homeschooling Blog.

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“You can do it all!” That’s the mantra we hear from all directions. It’s intended as an expression of encouragement, but it's not true. We can’t do it all.

There are only so many hours in a day, and we all have limits to our physical and mental capacity. As homeschooling parents, it’s all too common to take on the task of educating our kids without adjusting the rest of our responsibilities accordingly. When paid employment, volunteer work, ongoing medical appointments, or other outside commitments are also part of the picture, burnout is likely.

If we try to do it all, we’re guaranteed to fail. We’ll either do all the things poorly, or some things will be totally neglected. Either way, we’ll be discouraged and stressed out.

When we’re confident that homeschooling is the right choice for our family and that we’re the adult primarily responsible for teaching, it’s essential that we delegate some tasks to other people.

Delegating Around the Home

Household tasks are often the easiest ones to hand off to someone else. I think kids are the best workers to give those jobs to.

That being said, spouses, hired help, and other services can also help to lighten our load.

  • Assign meal prep, deep cleaning, and/or laundry tasks to your kids—at least occasionally if not regularly.
  • Ask your spouse which of your household responsibilities they could consistently help with or take over completely. Then let them do it in their own way.
  • Use a store’s shopping service to save time walking the aisles yourself.
  • Hire a housekeeper to come as frequently as your budget allows.
  • Pay for a meal delivery service to cut back on shopping time and eliminate the need to plan menus.

With the time we save by not being in charge of those jobs, we can grade math, give a spelling test, or curl up on the couch to read a great Read-Aloud to our kids.

Delegating School Work

Even if the responsibility of homeschooling falls primarily on our shoulders, we don’t have to do every single part of it ourselves. Sometimes the best option is to let someone else handle academics while we take care of other things.

  • Hire a tutor to help a kid who’s struggling with a particular subject.
  • Play an audio version of some Read-Alouds.
  • Invest in a curriculum that requires minimal prep work for you.
  • See if your spouse is willing to help with whichever subject is causing you the most stress or that they’re naturally better at.
  • Have siblings give each other spelling tests and help grade math assignments.
  • Enroll kids in a homeschool co-op or have them take a class or two at the local school

While a portion of homeschooling is handled by someone else, we can knock out some of the tasks on our family’s to do list or relax for a while. Self-care and hobbies are a valid use of any time you gain by delegation!

Be Realistic

We can certainly educate our kids and manage our homes at the same time, but it’s crucial that we know our own limits. Sometimes we’ll have to lower our standards in one area of life in order to succeed in another area.  Other times we’ll have to drop something completely. Often, however, we’ll discover that sharing the workload allows everything to be accomplished in a satisfactory way. We simply need to have realistic expectations, then act, and delegate, accordingly.

Investing in a well-planned curriculum is one of the best ways to delegate your homeschool tasks. Let Sonlight do the planning for you. LEARN MORE HERE.

The post You Can't Do It All: Do This Instead for a Happy Homeschool appeared first on Sonlight Homeschooling Blog.

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STEAM is all the rage in education circles, and it’s easy to see why. Making science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM) meaningful opens doors to a deeper understanding of key topics and even career options that might otherwise fly under the radar for students from all walks of life. Like classrooms all over the nation, homeschools are now exploring robotics, digging in to coding languages, and learning problem-solving skills by planning long-range building projects.

Sonlight Isn’t STEAM Friendly… Right?

But one of the main strengths of Sonlight is its strong focus on high quality, engaging literature! How can you bring STEAM to life in your family through books? Do you need to ditch all the hours your family will spend exploring culture and history through Sonlight read-alouds in order to latch on to this new focus on the sciences? Do you need a supplemental curriculum, or something else altogether? And what if your child has a natural STEAM bent? Can Sonlight possibly work for your family?

Making connections between literature and STEAM topics is easier than you think. It requires no special skill on behalf of the teaching parent (promise!) and no additional curriculum resources.The bulk of what you need is at your disposal the minute you open your Sonlight box!

Most of the Work Has Already Been Done!

Have you taken a deep dive into your Sonlight Instructor’s Guide? You already have a STEAM guide at your fingertips! There, mingled in with notes on vocabulary, plot points, and historical context, are science rabbit trails waiting to happen.

Sonlight has done the bulk of the hard work for you in illuminating animals that may be unfamiliar, pointing out new technology for the time, mentioning innovators, and more. Utilizing those notes and simply highlighting them as you read and discuss with your children is the simplest, most streamlined way to begin integrating those hard sciences and creative problem solving skills into your homeschool.

Personalizing Your STEAM Rabbit Trails

If you want more out of your homeschool’s STEAM focus, it’s easy to turn any Sonlight Read-Aloud into a treasure trove. You can create your own unit study of sorts by simply pulling a notebook alongside as you read and jotting points as you go. Mark your sheet with the acronym, and note topics to explore more deeply later.

Don’t believe it’s this easy? Consider this quick list from the unlikely STEAM candidate The Land I Lost, the story of a boy growing up in Vietnam in the mid 1960s, included in Sonlight’s HBL F:

  • S (science): The first story discusses the selective breeding of water buffalo in the search for an animal with the perfect blend of temperament and power.
  • T (technology): In the story, “What Can You Do With a Monkey,” we see all the ways the villagers employ monkeys to do tasks for which we now use machines.
  • E (engineering): In the introduction, the author discusses the village’s bamboo huts and their coconut leaf roofs, as well as “monkey bridges.”
  • A (arts): The village works to solve the problem of “Mr. Short” with the creation of a homemade decoy.
  • M (mathematics): The author’s family uses a trained otter to fish for them, increasing their productivity.

…and that’s just a quick list of options from a book set six decades ago in a rural, agrarian society!

Finding STEAM in Any Book

Once you have an idea you’d like to follow up on, enlist your kids to help you explore that rabbit trail! Library books, internet resources, and hands-on projects will all reinforce your learning and put skin on those STEAM connections.

You don’t have to abandon your love of literature-based learning to pursue a STEAM-enhanced education for your children. Simply embrace the great tools already at your disposal, and read with an eye towards the full feast on display. Finding—and following— the opportunities for learning about the sciences as they’re presented in story form is perhaps the greatest method of making those coveted STEAM connections of all!

The post How To Turn Any Sonlight Read-Aloud Into STEAM Gold appeared first on Sonlight Homeschooling Blog.

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A few years ago I found a homeschool planning method that has completely changed my life! I switched from weekly homeschool planning to planning for the entire year, and I will tell you...I will never go back!

I don’t know if every homeschool mom feels this way, but when our school year begins in mid-August, I hit the ground running. There is very little breathing room, especially as the kids get older and their activities multiply.

Even though Sonlight is open-and-go, when I plan by the week, I still find myself spending an hour or two every Sunday evening writing out assignments and pulling Activity Pages for each of my four children. While that isn't horrible by any means, I prefer to spend my Sunday evenings relaxing with my family.

The solution I came upon is to plan my entire year (nearly) all at once. Maybe it will be a good fit for you too? Let me share with you how it works around my house.

1. Choose Your Curriculum

In April, I start getting the annual itch to begin looking into curriculum for the next year. I’ll start doing research and checking my mailbox at least three times a day for the newest Sonlight catalog. By May, I like to have a pretty solid idea of which History / Bible / Literature and Math programs we will use.

Then I’ll take a break from planning. I’ll focus on finishing up the end of the school year and enjoying a little time with my kids. By the end of May, I’ll be ready to make my final decisions on homeschool curriculum and get everything ordered.

I always recommend that homeschool moms give themselves two windows to choose their curriculum. This helps moms to make wise decisions, and it helps us not be so taken by all the options. It gets our eyes focused on what is right for our kids. Also I always recommend that they choose the next year’s curriculum right on the tail end of the current school year. This way, everything is fresh—what worked, what didn’t work, and what might work better.

2. Unbox the Curriculum

Box Day! Oh my goodness...it’s the most exciting day of the year, rivaled only by Christmas Day. We always make a big production of Box Day, pulling out every book and ooh-ing and aah-ing over each one. This may seem like an unnecessary step, but it has always helped my children get excited about next year’s studies.

The next more important step to unboxing the curriculum is to box it right back up! Or at least, get it out of sight for the children. You don’t want next year’s curriculum to get old to them before they even begin. Keep things fresh. They are then able to spend the summer anticipating the goodness that awaits them when school-time rolls around once again.

3. Prepare Your Teacher Materials

I do some pretty crazy, unconventional things when I’m planning. One of those things is that I don't use the Sonlight binder. Instead, I collate each week’s Instructor’s Guide (IG) pages into 36 separate file folders—one for each week. That way, I can grab one week of lesson plans at a time. I then clip those pages into a smaller binder to work from each week.

As I'm organizing the IG pages, I also go through and note in pencil any extra activities I may want to do or videos I would like to show. Sometimes I also write down math plans in the extra boxes on the Instructor’s Guide for each child. These math notes help me stay on a well-paced schedule and give me an idea of what’s coming up. On the outside of the folder, I slap a sticky note with a list of the materials I need that week.

I set up all the books for the year on a shelf close-by. (But I warn my children that those books are not to be read until the school year.)

This routine of breaking down and annotating my 36 weeks of IG pages streamlines my weekly preparation, especially since I have multiple HBLs to teach from. It puts all my information in one place for the entire week.

4. Prepare Your Student Materials

For this step, I use 36 file folders for each child—color coding each child with a unique color of folder. (Of course, manila files work just fine, too.) I file the Activity Pages for each child in the appropriate week. Sometimes, if a child needs more guidance, I may label each set of questions with the days of the week—M, T, W, TH, F—to help them work independently. I really appreciate the way that Sonlight includes the page numbers on the Science Activity Pages, because my older kids automatically know the assigned science reading for the day and are able to do it independently without my writing it in.

The next step is probably the most painful. You’ll need to tear apart those crisp shiny Explode the Code, Wordly Wise, handwriting, and math workbooks and file the pages into the appropriate weeks. Yes, it’s tough.

Make neat, clean cuts using your best Exacto knife. Again, to make your weeks even easier, you may want to go ahead and label the pages with M, T, W, TH, F.

5. Plan Your Field Trips

Now I know that all homeschool mamas are experts at spontaneous educational opportunities, but it helps me so much to plan our field trips ahead of time. I find that when I plan by year, we are more likely to coordinate field trips to our studies. Hmmm….we are studying animals the first three months, so I’ll plan a field trip to the zoo for September.

For me, planning our field trips for the year also keeps me accountable. When I have a trip penciled on the calendar, it’s less likely I will cancel or skip it. I usually plan one educational outing per month during the school year, but you can plan as much or as little as you wish.

6. Enjoy Your Summer and Relax When School Begins

Now, I can sit back and relax because my school year will be waiting on me in dozens of file folders! When I'm ready to start Week 1, I’ll just pull out my teacher file for Week 1 and all my kid’s files for Week 1. And I'm set to go!

The same is true when you hit Week 36! The only weekly planning you have to do is pulling files! Your planning is done! Enjoy your summer!

I’m sure you’re wondering, What if we get sick? What if something comes up? Yes, there will always be some need for wiggling things around. Nothing is ever set in stone. Life happens. But, we take the punches as they come. We will either double up one day or work on a Friday since we use the four-day curriculum option. We’ve even been known to skip an assignment or two here and there. Don’t worry. Even if you get hung up on a section of math, pushing everything back a week or two is really easy and will only take a few minutes of your time. Adjusting your plan is not difficult when you plan for the year, so don’t worry! It is worth it.

Finally, you can reclaim your Sunday evenings, homeschool moms!

I have followed this method for three years now, and it has taken a huge burden off my back! Summers are slow and easy for the most part around here, so I am able to plan as I want. I can do a little filing in my spare time, and leave it when the mood strikes to take the kids swimming. So, it’s been a perfect fit for me. Then through the school year, we love having weekends together without the pressure of assembling homeschool lessons each week.

The post How to Plan Your Entire Sonlight Year and Reclaim Sunday Nights appeared first on Sonlight Homeschooling Blog.

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Odelia (6) reviews her memory verse for the week.

"[My children] have grown to love memorizing Bible verses. Sonlight is great for our kids because they love listening to stories. They have tons of questions as we read, and their learning experience is never-ending as long as they are awake. Thank the Lord for Sonlight!"

Helena T. of Malaysia

Sonlight curriculum encourages students of all ages to store goodness, truth, and beauty in their hearts and minds. In every level, students memorize Scripture. As the students progress, they memorize poetry, songs, and great speeches. These treasures will shape your child’s character and world view; they’ll be a comfort and help throughout life’s ups and downs.

Here are five tricks homeschoolers can apply to effectively memorize Scripture, poetry, songs, and great speeches.

1. Repetition, Repetition, Repetition
  • Every day, have your child repeat the segment aloud 3 – 5 times.
  • Say it once at every meal.
  • Say it once in every room of your house.
  • Say it standing, sitting, and lying on the floor.
  • Say it to 3 different toys.
  • Share it with 3 relatives via phone or video call.
2. Use Hand-motions for Memory Work

Adding a body element helps young children retain the pattern of the words. With your child, develop motions to accompany the memory work.

  • Learn ASL for the key words in the memory passage.
  • Record yourselves doing the motions so that you can watch it together.
  • Teach the motions to other people.
3. Post Memory Work in Strategic Places Around the House

Encourage your child to read and review memory work when they’re simply going about life by referring to small notes posted about the house. This is a great life-skill to develop!

  • Bathroom mirrors
  • On a wall by the toilet
  • On the wall by the shoe rack
  • In the car
  • At the table
  • In a ziplock bag tied to the dog’s leash to review while walking!
4. Create Puzzles and Games to Review Memory Work

Introduce new memory work by asking your child to create a puzzle or game containing that segment. This will help to establish the piece in her mind. Doing the puzzle and playing the game will help to review it over time.

  • Scramble the words or phrases on cards, wooden craft sticks, etc. Then put them in order.
  • Write the portion on a white board and erase one word at a time as you repeat the passage.
  • Create a simple board game on which each step contains a portion from the memory work with a word missing. The player must fill in the word in order to progress.
  • Create a trivia Q&A game in which the players are quizzed about the order of words, the key ideas, the imagery, etc.
5. Create a Memory Work Binder or Book

When your child graduates from high school, wouldn’t it be cool to hand him a book full of the Scriptures, poems, songs, and speeches that he has memorized over the years? This would be a source of review for a lifetime of pleasure and enrichment! In a way, it would be like your child’s personal Timeline book. As you work on this together throughout the year, your child will learn and review the memory work as well.

  • Type and print the memory work.
  • Ask your child to illustrate in the margins.
  • Underline key words in the text.
  • Add photos to the page.
See if Sonlight is a good fit for your family! Try it free.

What other tricks do you use to help your children memorize? Add them below as a comment.

The post 5 Tricks to Memorize Scripture, Poetry, Songs, and Great Speeches appeared first on Sonlight Homeschooling Blog.

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"When my three-and-a-half year old asked to learn to read, I panicked. I had no idea where to start. I talked to one of Sonlight's Advisors, and she got us all set with Kindergarten Language Arts. The Instructor's Guide is so helpful, and I now feel confident about teaching my daughter."—Jordan B. of Mound, MN

When asked which subject new homeschoolers are most anxious about teaching their children, reading usually tops the list. Most other academic subjects require a child to read, making it feel essential to teach this skill early. When children reach plateaus in their learning, parents may panic, wondering what they are doing wrong or how they can help speed up the process. But teaching reading early doesn’t mean you will have better readers.

1. Reading is a Developmental Process

Parents often compare their children to other young children. They see other children reading and are quick to assume that a child who isn’t reading at the same age has a problem.

But reading is a process created by brain connections not intelligence. Not all children make the same brain connections in the same time or in the same manner. Some children devote a lot of brain power to learning how to read very young and do well.

Other children devote that same brain power to skills they find more important, such as learning to climb, kick, sing, or do math. When their brain is ready to focus on reading, they will make the necessary brain connections.

2. Developmental Processes Can't be Rushed

Reading is a series of developmental skills, not one large skill. It's a lot like walking. A child doesn’t just start walking. There are many milestones before that child ever takes the first step:

  • A child builds the muscles in the back and neck to hold up their head.
  • They learn to balance their upper bodies by sitting up.
  • They use their legs and arms to scoot or crawl.
  • They begin trying to stand.
  • Once standing, they learn to balance themselves to be able to take a step or two

Parents can help children build those muscles, but they can’t rush the developmental processes that need to take place in the brain for each step. Some children learn how to walk early and others later. But after children have been walking for a year or two, the exact age begins to matter less and less.

Reading is another developmental process including many increments. Trying to rush reading doesn’t make your child read better, any more than trying to make your child walk sooner helps them be a better athlete.

3. Early Reading Instruction May Backfire

Often an attempt to teach reading early backfires, convincing your child that reading is too hard. Wait for your child to be ready for the next stage before pushing on. The less rewarding and enjoyable that reading seems, the less they will want to read.

A variety of studies show students who begin school (and consequently reading) before they are ready have higher levels of dyslexia, speech impediments, low self-esteem, higher anxiety, less motivation to succeed, and higher levels of frustration with or dislike of certain school subjects.

Wait and watch for your child to show developmental signs of readiness before beginning reading instruction. Some signs of being ready to read include:

  • pretends to read and write
  • shows a desire to learn how to read (like the child pictured at the top of this post!)
  • loves listening to and looking at books
  • demonstrates print awareness (recognizes that letters represent sounds)

These signs are not a guarantee that a child is ready. Some children love books from birth and enjoy being read to, but aren’t ready to read for years to come.

4. Younger Isn’t Necessarily Better

Despite public schools pushing preschool reading skills, teaching a child to read at that age isn’t endorsed by most child development experts and researchers.

Some children do teach themselves young. You’ll find there are children who read everything and seem to do very well with little instruction. But, if your child isn’t one of those, don’t worry. Your child is normal, too!

The best football players aren’t the ones who hold a football in the delivery room or throw a ball before age one. The best athletes are the ones who practice the hardest and have a natural ability even if they never hold a football until age ten. Here's another example: My husband is a musician who composes, writes, and performs his own music. He didn’t learn how to play his first instrument until he was 18. He didn’t learn his second until 22, or his third until 23. By standards in the music community, he should not be able to play well enough to be a professional musician. Yet, he does play professionally!

It’s hard to watch neighbors bragging about how early their children are learning certain skills in preschool, but by fifth grade, you’ll see that those early reading abilities are no longer important. No one will care anymore whether your child learned to read at 4 or 10. No college application will ever disqualify your child for learning to read later.

Once your child learns to read, no one will care when they learn to read. Only that they can. And that they do.

5. Intelligence is Not Linked to the Age a Child Learns to Read

The age at which a child learns to read does not indicate their intelligence level. Many gifted and advanced children don’t learn until first or second grade, some even later.

Schools are evaluated by reading test scores of their students. Having younger children do well looks good for them when standardized testing scores are tabulated. But the truth is children will learn to read when their brains are ready. Some read very early and others very late.

"Sonlight Readers helped my children learn to read with more giggles than tears. Hooray! We love it when we run in to a Reader or a Read-Aloud that makes us laugh because it describes our silly childhood ways so perfectly." —Ruth L. of Postville, IA
6. Eye Development Is Crucial

Children develop their distance vision before their close-up vision, so allow your young child to play in wide open spaces as much as possible. Park play equipment, nature exploration, beach-combing, outdoor sports, and backyard shenanigans are all useful in developing a good reader. Eyes mature around age eight.

As their eyes develop, teaching reading becomes easier and easier. Some children will still struggle beyond age eight. Playing outdoors is even more important for these children so they have opportunities to exercise their distance vision.

7. Children Who Learn to Read Later Do Just as Well as Everyone Else

There’s actually no proven benefit to teaching your child to read early. There is research that supports surrounding them with books and reading to them often, but none that supports actually teaching them to read young.

Dr. Sebastian Suggate, a researcher in childhood education in New Zealand, conducted multiple studies into the benefits of teaching children to read young (age 5) or late (age 7). His research shows that around age 10.89, there is no discernible difference between the two groups. The group that learned to read early showed no advantages for having done so.

Children who start school when they are ready tend to show more motivation, improved grades, better leadership skills, and a greater interest in school subjects. Overall, research shows there are benefits to teaching reading later rather than earlier.

If your child is impatiently waiting to start reading and seems to do well, by all means, start. But, if your child is balking at reading lessons and frustrated by the process, it is likely a sign their brain is just not quite ready yet.

Starting early isn’t a prerequisite for excelling:

  • Take Rocky Marciano, the famous boxer who started boxing at 20.
  • Or consider Julia Child, a famous French chef who didn’t know French cooking until she was 30.
  • And, most inspiring of all, think of Grandma Moses, the painter who took up her paintbrush at 78.

If your child isn’t reading by 5 or 6, all is not lost. They’re just beginning their life-long journey of reading a touch later because they’ve been so busy focusing on building other skills first.

Talk to an Advisor who can help you decipher if your child is ready for reading instruction (or remediation) and what program fits best. It's free!

The post 7 Reasons Not to Teach Reading Early appeared first on Sonlight Homeschooling Blog.

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