Sonlight, a company based in Colorado, provides Christian, literature-centered homeschool curriculum for kindergarten through high school to customers in 150 countries. Grown from a 1990 idea by two Protestant evangelical Christian homeschooling moms who wanted to provide complete instructional materials for homeschoolers, particularly those who are located in a Third World countries, where resources may be difficult to come by.
The complete Sonlight curriculum packages aim to guide you step-by-step through every aspect of scheduling and instruction. They claim that they have all the daily lesson planning. And they cover a very wide range of subjects, so if their claims are reliable, it could indeed make homeschooling much easier.
Sonlight offers an 18-week free trial on curriculum programs, up until the end of which you can return everything, including used materials, for a full refund. Make sure that you distinguish this from the 6-month satisfaction guarantee on individual materials, which requires return of materials in resaleable condition for a refund, minus a restocking fee.
Sonlight offers materials in a variety of subject areas including:
- History/Church History/Geography
- Reading Aloud
- Language Arts
- Writing Coach
And Electives in:
- Critical Thinking
- Driver’s Education
- Foreign Language
- Health and Nutrition
- Money Management
- Physical Fitness
- Practical Life skills
- Career Planning
Looking at Literature
In the highest level of the reading program, one finds that following materials:
- The Adventures and the Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass
- The Canterbury Tales – selections
- The Dubliners
- The Great Divorce
- Gulliver’s Travels
- The Importance of Being Earnest
- Lord of the Flies
- Paradise Lost
- A Passage to India
- Peter Pan
- Right Ho, Jeeves
- The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
- The Secret Sharer and Other Stories
- A Severe Mercy
- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
- Sound and Sense
- A Tale of Two Cities
- Three Men in a Boat
- Wuthering Heights
While in some ways this represents a fairly typical British Literature course, which is standard for the final year of high school, there are several notable oddities. First, it includes some literature that is usually read by students at least several years younger, including the Alice books, Peter Pan, and A Tale of Two Cities. Second, and perhaps more important, there is no modern or post modern work in the works listed. So, while the course claims that this collection provides preparation using these materials for the AP test in English Literature, a student who has had no experience with recent texts cannot really said to be fully prepared for this exam.
Looking at Spelling
Sonlight supports a particular approach to spelling called Sequential Spelling from another publisher, the volumes of which you can see here: http://www.sonlight.com/sequential-spelling.html
These books are a “required” resource. This means that they have constructed their program not to be flexible with different approaches you might wish to take but to get you to buy their products. It’s not clear what happens if you happen to have a different take on spelling, or already have a set of spelling books.
Furthermore, Sonlight’s presentation of these materials makes me extremely suspicious. I have written three spelling books myself, so I immediately notice that all their sample patterns are written with a hyphen preceding them, which is the proper way to notate a suffix, not just any word part, and at least some of them, like “-sk” and “ab” are not suffixes. This makes me suspicious about whether this company has the level of expertise needed to make a considered recommendation about this subject area.
The Value of the Warranty?
Looking further, it is true, as Sonlight acknowledges, that this is a reading, not activity-based curriculum. They claim that reading the books in their curriculum gives students ideas for their own, self-chosen activities. In fact, this may leave this element of the curriculum in your hands, making the claim of “completeness” questionable. There is also a reduced emphasis on any type of assessment, whether by worksheet, quiz, or test. Because sales are primarily over the Internet, you can’t see the contents prior to purchase, though they do have some samples here: http://www.sonlight.com/samples.html
That’s a lot of risk to take for purchases that may be up to $1000, even with the warranty, because if you have to start again with new materials in the midst of a school year, it could be a really problematic situation.
Qualifications and Accrediting
Sonlight says that the reason they are not accredited is because they are an international company. This seems disingenuous, as they then go on the query the validity of accreditation in general. Add to this, the fact that in their explanation of their history at http://www.sonlight.com/history.html they offer no information that suggests that the two people who began by choosing curricular materials and writing instructional guides – Sarita Holzmann and Becky Lewis – had any qualifications to do so. Holzmann has a B.S. in Dietetics. Becky somehow drops out of the picture, and whether she even has a college degree is not made clear. The observations above may lead you to choose an accredited program in preference to this one.