Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sonlight Affiliate

I have decided to become a Sonlight Affiliate. I love their company so much that I want to tell others about it.

Here's what they have to say:
"Sonlight is the leading literature-based homeschool curriculum provider. Families in the U.S. and around the world enjoy our literature-rich, internationally-focused curriculum. Our goal is to empower parents to nurture enthusiastic, life-long learners who are motivated and equipped to follow Christ wherever He leads and in whatever He calls them to do. Our curriculum comes from an Evangelical Christian perspective.

We offer complete curriculum in all subjects for Preschool through 12th grade. Our specialty is our Core Programs, which are literature-based packages that weave together History, Geography, Bible and Literature."

There are SO many reasons why we love Sonlight:
  1. It all started for me with their catalog. Their free annual catalog is full of amazing Sonlight stories along with most of their products, broken down by core. This year, when it came in the mail, I spent a week pouring over every square inch. I return to it often to get ideas. I get so excited to see what is ahead for my kids in the upcoming cores!
  2. I have a Master's degree in English specializing in children's literature. I love the book choices that Sonlight gives, and I love how the core subjects really are weaved together. Tonight we were talking about the Quakers and Puritans in one of our history books, and I was able to refer to our literature book, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and how "the witch" in that book is really a Quaker.
  3. We feel like buying the core is worth every penny. In kindergarten for Aidan, I got the instructor's guide and then found the books on my own. We loved the curriculum, but we were scared away by the price. For 1st and 2nd grade, we used their booklists from their catalog, getting them piecemeal used or off of amazon or from the library, while we supplemented with other curriculum. I had to patch together my own version of the reading lists and schedule all the books on my own. Now, I absolutely adore the planning part of homeschooling. Seriously. But the job of planning out all those books (at least the ones I could find) plus other books I supplemented with about did me in. For 3rd grade, we decided to fully use the Sonlight plan, and what a difference! The instructor's guide is fully planned out, all 36 weeks, in a 4 or 5 day schedule. The books are layered together in such a way that we can have amazing discussions about, for instance, the Aztecs, Incans, and Mayans in History, talk about what the Bible has to say about their belief systems and how they are different, look at maps and discuss where and when these peoples lived, and read literature related to these peoples. We are able to talk deeply because we are studying deeply. And we're having so much fun! This thoughtful weaving together of ideas coupled with the lesson plans (with extra notes, maps, and discussion points) make the core a steal of a deal--and you get all the books!
  4. Since we have 3 kids, and we all use Sonlight, we can spread the costs out on all 3 kids. Also, having the books available to them means they will be read and read again. The book choices are so excellent that there is no risk of them just collecting dust. Right now we already have P3/4, P4/5, and cores A-D. From here out we just have to buy Aidan's core and then the instructor's guide for the other cores (since we didn't use the IGs at that time).
  5. Language Arts is now included with every core. So not only do we get Bible, History, Geography, and Literature, we add Reading and Writing, with optional Vocab/Phonics scheduled. Sonlight also has recommendations for Spelling, Handwriting, Math, Science, and electives. You can even get a multi-subject package and order it all at one time!
  6. Since 2005, Sonlight has been able to give 50% of their profits to missions work. Read more about it here.
Potential Sonlight customers can get free personalized help from a Sonlight Curriculum Advisor. And Sonlight ships anywhere in the world.

Get your free Sonlight catalog and discover the way you wish you'd been taught!

Still not sure? Check out Sonlight's web site for yourself!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Difficult season, but much more aware

We are in the midst of a difficult season again with one of our kids, but this time we're much more aware. I wrote about it before here.

We are having nightly bedtime battles, often a couple of hours long. Lots of spitting, kicking, biting, trying to steal my glasses, running away, laughing...out of control. Today we had one because I complimented her. An hour later, I felt like I had run a marathon. Insane. Cried, read my Bible, and decided to call a friend and get out and talk. The funny thing was, we spent 2 hours talking about our kids, but she UNDERSTOOD COMPLETELY. There are no words for that.

I know God called us to this battle. Adoption is not for the weak. And I know we are not alone. We've been reminded of that so many times lately. Here. Here. And through good friends.

"Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us."--Hebrews 12:1

This is not a sprint, this is a marathon. And it will be lifelong. But when God sets it before us, He will give us what we need moment by moment.

I am so thankful for a community of believers to hold me up when the going gets rough.

I am so humbled that I often treat God in the same ways, fighting against what is best from a loving God who knows me better than I know myself.

I am beyond astounded at the husband God gave me to run this race with. He shows me such selflessness and cares for our children so well. Love his post tonight.

I love it that God is using these times with her to give us countless opportunities to speak truth to her heart, to share the gospel, to go to war with the lies in her heart. That she is a bad girl. That she is unlovely. That she is not wanted. The she is not accepted.

I'm in a small group right now going through Ann Voskamp's 1000 Gifts. Learning to choose joy, especially when everything feels like it is falling apart. Because it is through joy and thankfulness that we battle these lies and dig deep into the Father's heart.

"Isn't this the crux of the gospel? The good news that all those living in the land of the shadow of death have been birthed into new life, that the transfiguration of a suffering world has already begun. That suffering nourishes grace, and pain and joy are arteries of the same heart--and mourning and dancing are but movements in His unfinished symphony of beauty. Can I believe the gospel, that God is patiently transfiguring all the notes of my life into the song of His Son?" (page 100)

All is grace.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Orphan Sunday

On November 4th, as well as the surrounding Sundays, thousands of events will echo across America and around the globe, all sharing a single goal: that God's steadfast love for the orphan will also stir in our hearts.  From many sources, one voice.

Orphan Sunday is an opportunity to excite family, community, church and friends to God's call to care for the orphan.

As Orphan Sunday approaches, we pray you will dedicate time on one Sunday in honor of the fatherless.

Here are a few helpful and practical recourses for how to spend an Orphan Sunday from Christian Alliance for Orphans' Orphan website:

  • The Orphan's Table - Experiences impact us more deeply than words. On Orphan Sunday, share a meal eaten by orphans around the world.  Gather with family, small group or church for the meal, discussion and prayer.
  • More Resources - Check out for other church resources such as sermon starters, worship songs, bible studies, bulletin inserts, prayer guides, and much more!
We are hopeful you and your church family will honor orphans by participating in Orphan Sunday

Thursday, October 11, 2012

gluten free

Over a year ago Aidan had a bunch of health issues. After many, many tests, we cut way back on dairy for him. It worked! We tried switching him back about 6 months later, and we immediately saw the symptoms return. Back to the dairy restrictions.

This fall, we put him on a gluten free diet for a 6-week trial. After a couple of weeks in, we knew we were in this long term. We saw so many immediate changes, especially with his mood and his appetite.

I just took the kids to the pediatrician and I wanted to share our results with her and ask some questions. She said right away that she could see the change in his color. She said he even looks healthier! We agreed that we were on the right track with him. And I was so excited that he's gained 2 lbs in less than a year! That is HUGE for him!

school year update

We are LOVING most of our school choices for this year! We had so much fun a few weeks ago going to visit Chicago: 2 zoos, Navy Pier, and the Field Museum. Aidan and I were SUPER excited at the Early Americas exhibit...lined up EXACTLY with what we've been reading about. Aidan's favorite part? Seeing all the weapons in person. :)

I've loved seeing Iona pipe up with Latin words she has learned from Aidan's studies. She likes to come over where I'm working with Brendan and try to weasel in the correct answer to his work.

I've loved seeing Aidan get excited about reading his Bible and memorizing verses for AWANA. He taught himself to read silently, and he knows how to find his Bible passage I have noted for him to read.

I've loved seeing Brendan practically drool over seeing workboxes set up for him. He is often the first one to start and finish. He is such a hard worker.

What has not worked:

We had to drop Math U See Primer for a while. I hit a BIG FAT wall with Brendan AND Iona. After talking with some friends and doing some research, we made the decision to start using MEP Math, a free online math program, for the rest of the year. I am using the Reception level with both of them, though I have them staggered about a week or so apart to prevent Iona from giving Brendan all the answers. :) It is going SO WELL!! I love how well planned the lessons are. We adapt some of them from classroom to home use, but I love how much practice we are getting on some very new concepts for Brendan...just taught him what "above" means. It's been great to fill in some of those gaps with him since we brought him home from China last year.

Things are also getting interesting with teaching Brendan how to read. He does not have a bunch of the prereading skills necessary, so we're finding ourselves backing up a lot and doing a LOT of extra practice. We are possibly going to get a complete eval done at the public school just to see what is going on for sure, but we have some possible ideas from his speech therapists. Don't know if we will do services at the school, since we had a rough experience with that in the past, but we can at least get free evals done and work from there. I've been doing a lot of reading lately on learning disabilities and looking into some alternative learning-to-read curricula just in case we need to switch next year. There is so much great info available that I'm having a hard time getting through it in a timely manner. Or at least as fast as I want to!

Friday, May 18, 2012

School plans for 2012-2013

Since we started this school year late, at the end of Sept, due to bringing home Brendan, we are still going strong in most subjects, though I'm getting a bit weary and ready to plan for next year. I am thinking we may move to a year-round model of school, though we kind of do that now. I really like the options given for year-round school here. I'm not sure how we will do it exactly--3 weeks on, 1 off; 6 weeks on, 1 off; or possibly just taking natural breaks when we need them to enjoy the weather or get well or just rest. I do like the idea of schooling through the heat of the summer and then taking more breaks in the fall and spring, when we WANT to be outside.

Next year I will have 1 in 3rd grade, kindergarten, and preschool. I have most of our curriculum figured out and purchased, and we are making some big changes this year.

I will be working through Sonlight's P4/5 curriculum with Brendan and Iona.The reading time should be lots of fun, and it will encorporate Bible, world cultures, and science as well. I'll be starting Iona through the Developing the Early Learner workbooks--I'm not sure if she is ready yet, but we'll try. I may also add Get Ready for the Code since she is showing some interest in learning to read. And I'll start her on the preschool handwriting book with Handwriting Without Tears. I bought Math U See's Primer book just in case, but again, I'm not sure if she will be ready for it. I'm planning to track her learning along with Brendan, but I don't want to throw too much at her at once. I do have the K4 program from Confessions of a Homeschooler, but since the Letter of the Week stuff was so time-consuming, I'm not sure if I'll do the next level. I may instead just pull the pieces from it I want to highlight. Iona does not like me to just give her work to do and walk away to help her siblings...she will act out and run away and refuse to try most of the time when I do that. I need to take the time next year to sit with her more and help her build confidence in her abilities and show her she is loved through my time.   

Brendan will also work through Sonlight's P4/5 curriculum at the same time as Iona. I expect he will be more interested in the workbooks than she will be. Since Brendan has learned to write his name and is very interested in learning to write his letters, we may even start the preschool HWT book this summer. I also bought the kindergarten workbook for him. And he is definitely ready to start Math U See's Primer book. Brendan is a hard worker and often is the first one done with his workboxes, so I want to strike a balance with challenging him and getting his caught up with also just experiencing the easiness of kindergarten. He will continue with speech therapy--he understands so much of what we say, but he can't communicate with us as well because of his speech delays. I am going to slowly work through Sonlight's Language Arts K to teach him to read, but I'll admit I'm nervous that I won't know if he is getting the reading down if I can't understand what he says. I'm heard Sonlight's learn to read program is very gentle, and I think it will work much better for Brendan than the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading, which I used with Aidan with complete success. Brendan loves to sit and "read" a stack of books to his stuffed dog, so I think it's worth a try to teach him this next school year.

Aidan--grade 3:
We are making a big shift this year in curriculum to Sonlight Core D, American History Year 1 of 2.
We did use Sonlight for his kindergarten year, but we've dabbled with it here and there since, just not using the full program. Every year when I get the Sonlight catalog, I pour over it. I LOVE the choices they make for junior high and high school especially. Since we use their booklists anyway, I decided to make the complete switch and allow them to plan out the year as well! Thankfully, I was able to buy the IG AND Language Arts 3 used for very cheap, and I've been able to get a hold of all the books separately. This was a huge shift for us because it meant we needed to step away from Story of the World for history, which he LOVES. What we ultimately decided was that he just loves history in general, not just SOTW, and with Sonlight, we will revisit SOTW in middle school. It also means we will stop the scope and sequence of using Peace Hill Press for grammar and writing and instead use Sonlight's program. I think it will be a good fit for us. And I love that Sonlight includes a list of age appropriate chores and skills they should learn.

Bible--I'm don't think we'll use the exact Bible Sonlight recommends because Aidan already has one we want him to use. The 3 kids also do AWANA, so we may or may not also do Sonlight's scrupture memory program. We will continue to read missionary stories, and with this core, since we will be studying American History, we will be praying for different American Indian tribes. We may still continue to work on some hymns. I also have a devotional for kids that focuses on animals and character building and God's character that we may try out. This area is one of the areas I'm still a little up in the air about. I do know we will include all the children in on this.

History/Literature/Readers/Geography/Language Arts--Sonlight Core D. We will use the Readers D Advanced, 5 day, since Aidan is such a voracious reader. I like that the LA is tied in with the history and literature.

Math--Math U See Gamma

Spelling--All About Spelling Level 3

Handwriting--Handwriting Without Tears Grade 3, Cursive. I have the books for grades 3 and 4. We tried this in Grade 2 and he wasn't ready, so we shelved it for a year.

Science--Apologia's Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day and the notebooking journal. I may pull in the littles for some of the activities for this.

Art and Music--Harmony Fine Arts Grade 3. Aidan will also take an outside art class, since he's really interested in art.

Latin--Prima Latina

PE--We will continue with the co-op we are in, which includes PE, art, and nature classes, along with periodic field trips and community service opportunities. Sonlight also has some PE ideas in the IG.

Review of school plans for 2011-2012

Brendan and Iona, Preschool:
Their main curriculum this year was the Letter of the Week curriculum from Confessions of a Homeschooler. Next week is Z week, so we're almost done! I loved a lot of things about this curriculum, but it did take a lot of grunt work to get the pages printed, laminated, and cut each week. It was a good basis for me to work on colors, numbers, letters, patterns, etc. with the littles. I am definitely ready for a break from it, though!

We also supplemented with Sonlight's P3/4 reading. We didn't always keep to their schedule...we went through spurts with the reading and we are still planning to finish it up this summer. We didn't get to many of the activities with it, mainly just the reading. But the reading is excellent, and I think we will be returning to these books again and again!

Aidan, Grade 2:
Bible: We are finishing reading through the gospels and Acts using a study guide (Foundations 2) from Homeschooling Bible. Honestly, we abandoned the study guide partway through and have just been reading the bible and talking about it. We've also been reading a few missionary stories and working on memory verses for AWANA. This bible time is not just done with Aidan; the others kids are there too. I meant to also work through teaching the kids 6 hymns, but that never really got accomplished like I wanted. And we were going to be praying for unreached people groups around the world, but that also went by the wayside as we got busy. I'm hoping to work on some of those things with the kids this summer.

History: We are continuing to plug away at Story of the World 2: The Middle Ages. This is one of Aidan's favorite subjects. Since we didn't start school until end of Sept due to bringing Brendan home from China, we still have a ways to go until we are done with SOTW. While we love a lot of things about SOTW, we will be using a different curriculum next year.

Science: We are close to done with Apologia's Zoology 1. We used the Zoology 1 notebooking journal with it, and it has gone very well. Aidan has loved our study of flying creatures. We've taken things a little slower than my planned schedule because he's having lots of fun with it. We didn't do as much nature study as I would have liked, especially after the weather got colder, but we hope to spend sometime nature journalling this summer.

Language Arts--Grammar: We used First Language Lessons 2 this year and finished it already. I like how short the lessons are, and Aidan has seemed to retain it.

Language Arts--Spelling: We have loved All About Spelling Level 2. I feel like it's been a lot of review for Aidan, but I also feel like he knows the spelling rules a lot better. He really likes spelling and he's good at it.

Language Arts--Writing: We have finished Writing With Ease 2 this year. It got pretty repetitive and we were both bored with it, so we just did the lessons left that I wanted to make sure he understood. We will be trying something else next year.

Language Arts--Literaure and Readers: We've pulled from Sonlight's read aloud (core C) and readers (grade 3) list. We are very behind in our read alouds, but we have all summer still. Aidan has gotten through all of his readers and he's working through the Geronimo Stilton chapter book series now..basically anything he can get his hands on. The boy loves to read!

Art and Music: We are usin the lesson plans from Harmony Fine Arts for Grade 2. Aidan loves art but not music so much. Brendan, however, always joins us for music and LOVES it. I really like this material. Aidan probably wishes we could go a bit faster with the art lessons, but we supplement with an outside co-op art class.

Math: We love Math-U-See's program after switching from Saxon Math last year. This year Aidan is working through the Beta book, and I assume we will work through it all summer to keep math facts straight in his head. Math is hard for him, but I've seen such an improvement in his ability and confidence since using MUS.