Wednesday, October 21, 2009


When Joe and I found out last year that we were expecting a new baby right about the same time I was going to start our third year of home-schooling I had a bit of a panic attack. Not only would I have a new baby to care for, but two students to teach, one of whom was moving from kindergarten work to more time intensive, laborious 1st/2nd grade work.

Sonlight's literature based/quasi-Charlotte Mason-y/quasi-classical method has always intrigued me and I considered it strongly but eventually decided not to pitch the idea to Joe; there were too many things we were already using that I liked and I didn't want to throw out the baby with the bath water. Ultimately I suggested to Joe we splurge on their reader packages for Madeleine and Hank. My thought process was even if our new baby was colicky and high-needs at least they'd be reading some quality literature each day, with much of what they were going to read corresponding to important historical events. It was a bigger outlay than we wanted, but boy oh boy do I not regret it!

For the past two years I've struggled mightily with what the kids should be reading. Madeleine gravitates towards everything. If there are words printed on paper she generally shows interest. In that category, of course, are a lot of worthless books, i.e. simplistic vocabulary, elementary sentence structure, subpar plots, etc., etc. I spent a lot of time discussing the issue with Joe and wringing my hands about how much I should intervene and dictate to her what she could and could not read.

I struggle no more. Madeleine has an aggressive reading list to finish this year for school and the books are everything Joe and I want, she doesn't complain because she gets to spend school time reading, she generally finds she enjoys the books she's assigned and, best of all, I don't bother her any more about what she chooses to read in her spare time. I've also found that while she still picks up a book that I wish she wouldn't choose, more and more often she's choosing books that I would choose for her.

Then there is Hank. Hank is a great reader. The problem is he is convinced he doesn't like to read. The real issue isn't that he doesn't enjoy reading, the issue is there are other things he'd rather be doing. Sonlight's list of assigned reading has helped me with Hank immensely as well. He's now reading every day and realizing as he reads through these assigned books that he likes them. Don't tell him I told you, but there are days when he'll read more than what is assigned because he's enjoying the book. For him too, many of the books are historical fiction and he has learned a lot just by reading about Swedish immigrants and the Pony Express.

We could do all these things were I to spend time researching books, creating a reading list, visiting the library, etc., etc. but I know my weaknesses. I won't and I don't. It just simply wouldn't get done and my kids and I would still struggle about what to read, how much to read and all the rest of it.

A recent highlight was Scholastic's Harriet Tubman biography. Madeleine enjoyed it very much and, even though we're still pre-Revolutionary War in history, she was asking questions about the Civil War and will be better prepared (and interested, I bet!) when we do get to learning about the Civil War.

This year it's finally all coming together in the sense that everything I had hoped to get out of home-schooling we are. The kids are interested and engaged in what they're learning, and they're learning a lot. To a large degree, I am so thankful to Sonlight for that because the fighting and angst about books that were read last year was causing a lot of consternation around our house.


Erin said...

I do the cheap version. Copy the book titles out of the Sonlight catalog and order them from inter-library loan. I probably should just order them from Sonlight, they would be great books for our collection. Each title we have read is a gem!

Bob said...

Perhaps some time a field trip is in order to PA and VA, as part of the study of the Civil War battlefields...Count me in for that trip (although I know a separate car would be