Hello, friends! So, it’s an exciting time of year for many homeschoolers as the Spring planning season is upon us. Catalogs and Vendor Halls and Conferences, OH MY!
This year, I spent most of January and February praying, researching, and planning. This was mostly done while feeding a precious baby in the middle of the night. *wink* We had a beautiful baby boy join our family in December through adoption and it has been a wonderful whirlwind! I haven’t done babies for 8 years… but we are back in the swing. And loving it!
I realized quite quickly, however, that I couldn’t possibly put together all my own plans this tear.
And actually, I didn’t want to. We prayed for years for this baby in my arms (yep typing one-handed…) and I want to spend as much time as possible holding, cooing, and cherishing and as little time possible planning, printing, scheduling.
I previously used and reviewed Sonlight and Heart of Dakota.
So – this year, we are doing Sonlight Core B+C along with Heart of Dakota’s Preparing Hearts for His Glory together as a family. All three of my bigger kids (age 12, 10, 8) will be doing these programs together with their individual Language Arts, Math, and Reading mixed in.
There two major differences between HOD and Sonlight that I’d like to mention with regards to implementing the programs in the home:
- Sonlight gives a weekly grid style schedule of readings from wonderful books. These include the subjects of Bible, History, Geography (mapping), and Literature. There is usually a poetry book or two mixed in. The Teacher’s Guide includes discussion questions, maps, and vocabulary words. There are very few (if any) hands on activities or projects in the program (though you could add your own and many people do). It is pretty much all reading, mapping, discussing for Cores in Sonlight. This does not include Science. One weekly grid is shown on one page of type. It is historically based (so everything revolves around an historical time period).
- HOD gives a full-out daily program schedule/outline including: Scripture memory, Bible Study, Literature, History, Geography, Science readings, notebooking activities, plus experiments, poetry and poetry assignments, narration prompts, hands on activities and history projects, crafts, recipes – not to mention individual assignments that include copywork, art, sketching … there are just way more things ‘to do’. The daily spread takes up two pages of print. (See my snapshots in this post.) It is historically based also.
So, you can see how these programs could definitely compliment each other if you want a really rich curriculum for your kids with lots of reading and activities added in.
(P.S. I actually plan to write a post completely comparing and contrasting these two very popular Charlotte Mason-friendly, books-based homeschool curriculums really soon…)
Can I just interject with my two cents for Canadians?
I know one of the biggest stumbling block for SO MANY Canadian Homeschoolers wanting to use programs like these is the seemingly overwhelming amount of “American” content. I’m in this boat as well (being Canadian) but haven’t found this to be a huge issue – you can navigate around it or you can go with it…
I would highly recommend just doing the year or two of American History and adding in some Canadian History books… American History is FASCINATING and so connected to our own history. Thirdly – If you really don’t want to do the American History years, there are ways around it by staggering and slowing down and adding in your own content to ‘skip’ forward in most literature based programs. Don’t let it stop you from looking into these amazing programs just because they are American and you are Canadian. *smile* Ok, I’m done.
OK… back to the plan…
So that is how I ended up with 2 programs. You don’t need both. One would MORE than suffice… but I’m always filling in space and reading through the Summer and adding titles for Morning Time or evening reading. Our kids are accustomed to a ton of read-alouds, so getting lots of reading in isn’t usually a problem.
Also, in a nutshell, I’m a little crazy.
Here’s a peek at the Teacher’s Guide and books for Preparing Hearts for His Glory:
More titles recommended by Heart of Dakota for Preparing and a few of my own choices mixed in.
The Science package from Preparing Hearts. I’m missing one title from the One Small Square series… still on its way.
All the Science is done with living books, notebooking pages, narration, and one experiment per week to go with what you are reading and studying. Science is scheduled into the guides but it is optional – I think you’d be missing out on a huge part of the program, however, if you didn’t do the Science portion. It coincides with the historical timeline and time frame.
I’m used to doing a lot more outdoor, hands-on Nature Study but this works for us in this season.
A peek at the Heart of Dakota guide for Preparing:
The two page spread show ONE DAY of the program. It is very detailed.
A look at one day of the schedule of Preparing from the HOD website:
A look at the Teacher’s Guide and titles for Sonlight Core B+C:
In the top photo: The Teacher’s Guide, and several core books. One core not photographed is A Child’s History of the World. Bottom photo: Many of the read-alouds scheduled in Core B+C.
How we will use Sonlight:
This is a screenshot taken from the Sonlight samples section of their Core B+C listing on their website. This is the most current format of their Teacher’s Guides.
I LOVE that everything is so beautifully laid out with map prompts and timeline suggestions, and a wonderful daily mix of quite the ‘feast’ of literature. The problem for us occurs usually with the read-alouds… my kids aren’t the best at reading only one chapter a day of a novel they love. They will beg to read more of the titles they love and less of the titles they don’t love as much and it takes only a few weeks for us to get that beautiful schedule all muddy.
So… what I’ve learned to do is relax and use the guide as what it is A GUIDE and not worry so much if we get ahead or behind. I just work through and add checkmarks where we’ve read the given title and discussed the questions/maps/timeline figures. Slowly but surely, it all works out.
Readers and Reading Titles:
Alright, these are now the individual readers the kids will (hopefully) be using. I’ve chosen them based on their personal level, interests, and based also on the book lists I trust for readers. I used Sonlight’s Grade 3 and Sonlight Grade 4 readers as a guide as well.
The kids will always read WAY more than their assigned readers, but these are books we will be intentional to read aloud together (the kids reading to me for the younger two) in order to improve our reading skills and comprehension.
Some of the Assigned Readers For Alex (grade 3):
Some of the Assigned Readers For Audrey (grade 5):
Some of the Assigned Readers For Simon (grade 6/7):
Individual and Additional Studies:
Alright… so if you are still reading this post… BLESS YOU! I know, I’m long winded! But it’s homeschool planning… c’mon!
I always get asked what we are doing for individual studies, so I thought I’d better add it here.
As for individual work, the kids are doing quite a bit of Notebooking, Narration, and some writing and projects, etc. through Heart of Dakota. For example, every week they will do Copywork of the memory verse selection in their Common Place Notebooks, a Science Notebooking page, a Science Exploration page, etc.
Here’s the other stuff we are doing:
I really love Christian Light Publications. They offer such Godly, wholesome books and resources. I have ordered many books from them and always wondered about their Language Arts and Math, which I’ve heard great things about from friends. Just as a side, their Bible Curriculum looks amazing… I’d consider using it as a guide for family discussion and study or even allowing the kids to do their own level and then narrate aloud for some of the questions rather than having them become exasperated with too much ‘writing’ (for the boys anyways).
So, this year, we are doing Christian Light Language Arts with all three big kids.
It isn’t how we have typically done Language Arts in the past, but I actually love it. This is a workbook based Language Arts program that is extremely open-and-go. In these grades it includes spelling lists and activities, penmanship, grammar, and writing (though minimally).
My Workbook-loving daughter THRIVES on these because she adores working independently and following a checklist type system. If she can do a test, score perfect, and get stickers and checkmarks, she’s a HAPPY GIRL. (So, you Charlotte Mason people out there can see how CM’s methods of Language Arts wouldn’t be as exciting for this type of learner…)
You can very easily work through the lessons just by following each step consecutively. The lessons say things like, “Go to page 62, cut out your spelling list, keep it somewhere safe… or, Underline the common nouns, circle the proper nouns…” etc. (See a sample here.) Some kids love this style. It is helpful for parents (like me!) who just want to open and go with certain subjects and also offer the kids a chance to take some initiative and work independently.
My boys are a bit reluctant to this style of learning, but they are reluctant to a lot of things that look like ‘school’. (So… yea…)
I find this style of Language Arts helps with getting through content in a logical manner in which they can measure their progress. So, reluctant workers can see they need to accomplish Lesson 5 and can visibly understand how much is included in this work. Sometimes I compromise and do a bit orally rather than having them write as much as my daughter likes to write.
This is much different than the super free-spirited style of Language Arts we’ve embraced in the past where my kids would always be asking me, “are we done yet?”. Now, they can see when they are done and it isn’t me making it up as I go. It is a book telling us when we are done for the day. It’s kind of nice.
The ‘tests’ have actually been enjoyed by the kids (go figure, after 7 years of never implementing a single test in our homeschool… they LIKE it…).
I’ve seen progress already in my youngest son’s handwriting and the kids’ spelling overall.
The boys do willingly accomplish these books and my daughter enthusiastically embraces them. She woke up one Saturday recently and begged me to ‘let her do her tests’ because she was SO looking forward to them and didn’t want to wait until Monday. *HAHA!* I love her. Her brothers just think she’s completely nuts.
More Language Arts…
Dictation has been of huge benefit to our children over the years. I know they have learned a ton from it because I didn’t do any other spelling for years and my kids are decent spellers.
For Dictation, we are using the Dictation Day by Day passages at the back of the Heart of Dakota Preparing guide for Alex. This is a resource that is available for free online.
Individual Task Books:
I adopted the Spiral Bound system for daily planning/records of the kids’ individual work a few years ago. It’s helpful in letting them know what is expected of them individually. I’ve adapted it as we go along.
Typically, parents would write out what is needed for the task list the next day (like a daily hand-written bullet list). I LOVE the idea of hand writing their work but, boy, have I have struggled with actually getting 3 lists written out every night. I either forget, can’t remember what to put on the list, or write the wrong thing. I als find it very repetitive as they do much of the same thing every day.
This year, to simplify, I created weekly grids for each child to be able to easily see and check off the work they need to do every day of the week. There is a little space for me to jot in specifics too. These print outs get glued into or taped into their little spiral notebooks. A fresh one goes in each week.
This is for their individual work and does not include our family learning, which makes us a good portion of our day. That information is in my own planning binder (the Teacher’s Guides).
Here is what Audrey’s looks like close up: