Sonlight vs Seton

If there is a curriculum out there I have probably used it. But I keep coming back to Sonlight. On Instagram, I was recently asked about the difference between Sonlight and Seton:

Very curious about this as I make the decision whether I’m going to homeschool my son for the upcoming school year. (He will be 5!) I’ve never heard of this curriculum and am looking forward to checking it out!! I was looking at Seton. Have you tried that curriculum and if so what are the similarities/ differences? If not, what do you like about Sonlight? Thanks!

Some quick thoughts about it below.

Yay for five-year-olds! I am a big fan. I feel like five is the first fully childhood year, no baby left. Their actual capabilities start to come in line with their desires to Be Big. Their work is play, very much, but they begin to get an attention span and focus that three and four year olds just lack. My general principle for under-tens is that doubling their age in minutes is their approximate lesson length. So a five year old can handle about ten minutes (or less) of a subject before his brain starts to reject new information and he needs to ruminate on it for a day or so.

I have used Seton’s Pre-K, K, 1st, 6th, 7th and 8th. I have used Sonlight’s Preschool (T), Pre-K (P), Kindergarten (K), and levels* A, B, C, D, E, G, H, and 100. So I have experience with preschool, kindy, elementary, middle, and junior high in both curricula. (I’ve also used Oak Meadow and Memoria Press but I won’t get into that now.)

Seton is very much a Catholic school-in-a-box at every level and for every subject. It is mostly consumable workbooks with supplemental texts, and the parent is given scripted notes in most books (and in all of the lesson plans you get if you enroll in the school.) Notably, Seton is almost absurdly Catholic throughout: the subjects are Math, Science, English “for Young Catholics,” the math problems have Catholic content, the phonics pictures are items you will see at Mass, etc. It’s very endearing to me, actually.

We did Seton for a while. It was great to have everything so laid out – it’s truly open and go. But… it’s boring. It’s so dry. Especially in the older grades. The Pre-K through 1st are okay. But my big kids were in revolt after a few months at the read workbook, answer worksheet, take test sameness. Occasional essays. It’s very rigorous, it’s not busywork, but it’s super predictable. We stopped.

Sonlight is not like that. Sonlight is Christian and is evangelical Protestant in creed, though I haven’t encountered anything out of line with the Catholic faith. It is “living books,” which is to say, books not textbooks. With Sonlight you read a book like Johnny Tremain or Charlotte’s Web out loud with your kid and then you talk about it. That’s it. Once your kid can read there are also books for him to read alone, but they give you discussion questions for those as well so you can talk about them too. It’s delightful. There are worksheets in the lower cores for Language Arts and Science if you like

Every Sonlight level corresponds to a wide age range, and generally you should aim for the top, i.e., if it says “ages 9-12” don’t put your nine year old in unless you’re ready to slow it down a bit. This year we’re in Pre-K, K, and 100 for a kindy, a second grader, and 7th, 9th and 10th. I use the History and Literature right out of the box and some of the Bible. We aren’t using Sonlight Language Arts or Science this year but we will be again next year, with core B and core J. For the person who actually asked the question, I’d get Pre-K with the Kindergarten readers (you can easily customize the reading level with Sonlight) for a five year old. The K level is new, and really too advanced for most 5-6 year olds in my opinion. It’s not a bad choice, just a little more than it should be.

What I like about Sonlight is the literature-rich year. Every core comes with dozens of books to read together. Other homeschool curricula have 4-8. If you like reading, and your kids do, Sonlight is wonderful. Since each level covers a wide age range it’s not hard to combine kids at all. I have a 13, 14, and 16 year old all together in core 100 this year, all reading the same great books about US History together. The six year old and the eight year old are usually found listening to each other’s read-alouds as often as not. (And the four year old tags along too!)

This has touched on why we use Sonlight but there are more articles on the Sonlight website too, including why not to use Sonlight.

*Sonlight uses the term HBL to refer to the history, bible, literature portion of a level. They used to call them Cores instead of HBL and I tend to still say that.

Lesson planning on the porch. It’s so nice today! I love living here already. I didn’t realize how much I missed an urban environment. This is a small town but it’s a town.

We start homeschool on September 7. It was with a heavy heart that I told the kids they are not doing art/drama/PE this year, because I’m concerned about coronavirus. That means we could go ahead with a fine day week but I think we’ll stick with four, and have the fifth day for fun each week. Park, usually. I haven’t decided whether I’m going to squish the fifth day into the four. (I expect I will sometimes.)

A sweet pink egg with little white speckles laid by our hen, Sky.

This week I’m going to get everything ready to bring the cats over from the old house. I’ve been going over there to feed and water them and man is that old. We have to catproof the dog run so they won’t escape, which involves putting a roof of hardware cloth on it and making the gaps around the gate smaller. They are both familiar with the outdoors but neither is an urban cat, so I want to keep them both inside for the time being.

Went to Walmart with Perry, Fox and Bede. Perry wanted a mask and wore it the whole time. This is such a weird year.

Then we went to the local feed store, which is so great. They’re about 3 blocks away and much better than Tractor Supply. Not that TS is bad or anything. But me not shopping at TS won’t affect them, whereas Willoby’s needs me. Hashtag choose Guthrie.

I’m transitioning away from Instagram because it makes me crazy. I still want to have a photo record of our lives though, and the kids enjoy looking at my pics as well.

So this is really a test to see if I like it as well as Insta. The ease of posting there for my phone is the major draw.

we moved

We bought a house but not the house a few posts below. The one we ended up with is a few blocks west of that one and built in 1910. It’s just great.

I love it. We had a few things to change to make it suit us a little better but really it was just perfect.

I keep thinking of my parents, especially my mother, and how much she would have loved it. I can imagine all of her reactions. I miss her so much.

Malcolm is big.

2020-21 plans

(NB: We stopped Seton, it was too dry for us.)

The Littles

Perry (3): Pre-school. Simply Classical A, but just for fun.

Clementine (6): Kindergarten. Simply Classical B.

Dorothy (8): Second grade. Simply Classical 2/3, Seton Math FYC 1 and Teaching Textbooks 3, First Communion prep.

The Trio and Bede

Gloria (12): Seventh grade. Memoria Press 7.

Trix (14): Ninth grade. Simply Classical 7/8.

Gilbert (15): Tenth grade. Memoria Press 9.

Bede (17): Eleventh grade. Self-directed, Xtramath and Teaching Textbooks.

The Trio will also be doing IEW Structure and Style, Teaching Textbooks, Confirmation prep and Art of Argument. Everyone but Clemmie and Bede will be in Drama, Art, and Dance.

switching horses in mid February

So I did the ill-advised: got involved in a land war in Asia. No, no. But I did switch our homeschool curriculum in February, a classic rookie move.

It’s working out GREAT though. First, a little history.

I used to be an unschooler. I thought the kids would learn everything they needed if I provided an information-rich environment. Well, they didn’t. They learned no math at all. Some of them learned to read, some didn’t. So I gave up on that. I started nudging them into phonics and arithmetic.

I still felt bad about it though, for years. Like, who was I to tell them how to spend their time? I finally came to terms with that. Who I am is their mother, and my job is to prepare them for adulthood. And I was doing a piss-poor job of it. So we got a boxed structured curriculum, and everything went pretty good. Nobody hated it, or me.

We started with Bookshark. Bookshark is lovely. It’s the sister company of Sonlight, and the two programs are almost the same, but Bookshark is secular while Sonlight has Christian content. (I chose Bookshark because I haven’t had good luck with generically Christian, which is to say, Protestant, things, coming from a Catholic worldview.) Bookshark is literature based, which means lots and lots of books. The kids read so. many. books. But I had a hard time keeping up with it. I wasn’t sure if they were retaining it, at all. (Spoiler: they weren’t, much.) I think if I could have done more with each kid, it would have stuck better, but I can’t. Much of the reading is intended to be read aloud and we never had the time, with babies and autism and a dozen people in the house all being Very Loud Environmental Noises. I pushed the kids to do most of the reading alone, and I read some of the books they were reading. It wasn’t great. There aren’t really any tests, so there’s no reason for the kids to hold on to the information if they aren’t discussing it. If I was able to do the read-alouds I would love to stay with it. As far as the kids went, some of them like that level of reading and some do not.

So we switched to Memoria Press. Much less parent-led literature, it’s a classical Christian curriculum. There’s literature but it’s on a more reasonable level, a few books a semester. They come with literature guides, and they are neat. The kids didn’t love it, but they didn’t hate it. Memoria Press has a really unique English composition program and they thrived with it. They also started Latin, which they enjoyed. But… it was too hard to implement. I had Dorothy, first grade, Gloria, sixth grade, Trix, eighth grade, and Gilbert, ninth grade. I had the older three together for Latin, Composition, and Christian Studies, and apart for all their other subjects. We were all over the place in the curriculum manuals, and keeping up with it was really difficult. Keeping them together seemed like it would be a good idea but it was hard since they all worked at different speeds. I started to dread homeschooling – not fun! Again, I think this was a Gleeson family problem due to our family dynamics. Another family might have a much smoother ride. Also, the Christian Studies component had the same trouble I mentioned above with Protestant material. Nothing bad, just not Catholic.

Back to Bookshark. I thought, this time, I’ll keep my hand in more, really lead the discussions. And I did, but the texts were so secular that they had outright falsehoods about Catholicism. I don’t like arguing with the textbook. And I wondered, if this is what I’m catching because the kids mention it and I happen to notice, what am I missing? How bad does it get? No thanks.

And now, if you’ve made it this far, you are rewarded. We have switched to Seton, the Catholic-est of the Catholic homeschool programs. It’s workbook-style study, like Memoria Press, and it’s very rigorous. It’s so easy to implement – we enrolled, so we got the lesson plans. I toyed with just getting the books alone but I know me, and if I don’t have clear-cut instructions I won’t fuss with it, and it just won’t get done. We are a week in and liking it. It’s super Catholic. I’m not worried about the kids missing any other viewpoints because, hello, that would be Everything Else They Ever Encounter. For right now my plan is to keep them all enrolled so I get the lesson plans, and to add Dorothy in next year as well. (Clementine, I haven’t decided. She might fit better with Memoria Press’s Simply Classical.) It’s a five day program, generally, so we are just chugging along a day at a time (since we take a day off for art/drama/PE through the Parks Department here.) I sure hope it continues to be a good fit for us.

we bought a house

Well, we will be buying one. Contracted etc. It’s 130 years old (!!) which is not only old by anyone’s standards, it’s ancient by Oklahoma ones. Built in 1892, 3 years after the Land Run and 15 years before statehood!

It has 8 bedrooms and has been used as a bed and breakfast. It’s less than a block from St Mary. It’s perfect.

We will move in in April, which gives me half of February and all of March to pack. After we move, we’ll get this house ready to sell. It would be impossible to get what it’s worth if we put it on the market while we are living here, I can’t keep it show-ready and homeschool/care for eight children. So either put the kids in school (nope) or wait.

I’m super excited!

sadness and love

Today at Mass, which we were late for as usual, Perry was uncontainable. I made it in to the pew and within seconds he was screechy. So up I went, to the narthex. He quieted down after a few minutes, and I said “Do you want to go sit with Malcolm?” He nodded, so, in we went. We sat down, he lay on the floor, tried to go out the aisle on his belly, and began screeching again when the kneeler was lowered for the Sanctus. So, out we went. Narthex was pointless since he was SO LOUD, and it was too cold to stand outside, so we went to the car.

I fastened him into his carseat so he wouldn’t be a wild animal ravaging the van interior, and he calmed down fairly quickly. But I didn’t. For some reason I was overcome with sadness. Sometimes that happens to me these days. So I sat there in the van with my most voliatile (neurotypical, probably?) child and wept. I touched his little head, because I love him so, so much, and cried.

He regarded me, a bit puzzled. “What you doing, Mama?”

“I’m sad, baby. Mama is sad.”

“You be okay, Mama? You need to wipe you eyes.”

I did.

“I sure do love you, Perry.”

“I wub you Mama. Kiss?”

Well of course.

So then I still felt sad, but I sure do love that boy.

week one

Week one went fine! The kids eased right back into Bookshark and Sonlight. (I need a ship name for those two. Booklight? Fine.) Next week we’ll add Composition back, and I’ll start Dorothy on a math program of some kind. So far we’ve tried Rod and Staff and Singapore. Neither is what I want. I’ve used Miquon in the past but I can’t keep up with the rods with all these little babies. I’ll look at Saxon, maybe.

Next week the kids start drama class again, along with art and PE. Dorothy will be going this time, a first. I had been waiting for her to become a stronger reader, but she’ll do fine. She has entire episodes of shows memorized, which she and Perry re-enact all the time. I think she’ll love it.

Back to Bookshark (and Sonlight)

We didn’t like Memoria Press. It was too dry. The literature guides made the children irritated to despondent. I don’t homeschool for that, so, I said, y’all want to go back to Bookshark? YES, they said. We’ll be keeping Latin and Composition but otherwise back to the best.

Gilbert and Trixie will be in Level 100, American History. It picks up about where they left off in Level 6, around the discovery of the New World by Columbus, and goes through the end of the 20th Century. Gloria will be in Sonlight W, One-Year World History, which I happen to have in the old 4-day format. Bookshark doesn’t make a one- year condensed at that level. I could go with Level 6 with her and then Level 7, but for now we’ll shoot for one year. Next year Gil and Trix will be in Level 8, and Gloria will be in Level 5, probably.

Dorothy has been doing Bookshark K and will continue.

This will change our schedule around though. We’ve been year-round with a short break in summer. Gilbert’s best friend is a. in high school and b. in Michigan, so summer is a big time for them to game together. I think we’ll go half-time in summer, but I’ll play it by ear.

We start Monday!

I just bought a book on runes for the rune reading kids. It was tricky to find one without any spellcasting or divination, just linguistics. I don’t want any new-agey silliness. I hope this fits the bill.

Reading the Runes, by R.I. Page

They are so into it.

Blond teenager copying a map inscribed with runes from The Hobbit, another teen writing, table covered with books and papers

We are also memorizing the Dwarves’ Song. So Gloria is writing that in runes as well.

Fall is here and we love it. Our foxy baker is keeping the oven on all the time with fresh bread and cookies. Today is gingerbread cookies, a little sweet. Faith likes pumpkin spice but not pumpkin, so this is the happy compromise. Not sure what to do for dinner. We don’t eat meat on Friday, so I tend to fall into a few meals that everyone likes that are meatless, like scrambled eggs or fish. It’s difficult to make the whole crowd happy though. I expect it will be eggs.

Little guy is very sleepy and nursey today and last night. Hope he’s not sick!

memoria press switcheroo

Had a great year with Bookshark. But I want more for the older kids. I’m switching to Memoria Press. Here’s what I said on instagram.

I’m switching our homeschool around for next year. I’m keeping Dorothy in Bookshark for her first grade year, but I’m moving Gilbert, Trixie and Gloria to Memoria Press. Everyone liked Bookshark very much but I was already finding it difficult to keep up with 2 read-aloud levels at once. I realized that there was no way I could manage 3. I was cutting so much from the plans that they were gutted. .

Also, the kids’ test results this year, while just fine really, showed some weakness in grammar. That makes sense because they have never, ever studied it, and we did no formal Language Arts last year at all, just journal writing and lots of reading. I was looking at other LA programs because Bookshark’s LA was not a good fit, and I just didn’t really like anything I saw (well, except for Institute for Excellence in Writing, but it is expensive.) So that was two reasons why Bookshark was not going to keep working for us. And a third reason, the history spine is Story of the World, which I was already not using, opting for TAN’s Story of Civilization. SoC is nicely Catholic, and the kids actually remembered those parts. SotW is nominally secular but has an anti-Catholic bias. .

I stand by Bookshark as an excellent curriculum, just not for all of my kids right now. .

So, I’m keeping some of the Bookshark history, especially for Gloria, but putting the lot in First Form Latin and the corresponding English Grammar level, and Christian Studies III (which is the New Testament.) They’ll do some literature together, and maybe science. They’ll all have appropriate math and Gilbert the lucky dog will do Logic too. Gloria’s Social Studies are in Rome, Trixie’s and Gilbert’s Greece. I may add other stuff as we get closer but that sounds pretty good.

Teaching reading

Dorothy is having trouble reading. Well, she’s not. But she doesn’t like it. And she should, there’s no reason not to.

I’ve watched 6 other children learn to read as a homeschool mother. Faith and Abby picked it up from being read to and playing on Starfall. Bede is hyperlexic and could read before he could talk. Gilbert also went the Starfall route. Trixie was the first child I taught, with Bob books and mother-led Starfall. Gloria I also taught, but she was very reluctant. I don’t really remember what we did, but it was a lot and it took much longer than the others. There were tears. But today she is my most avid reader among the kids.

Dorothy is like Gloria. She’s been doing Reading Eggs, but she kind of drags her feet and makes a face when I tell her to do it. And she fully brings the misery when I say she’s going to read to me. So! I’m starting over. We did the first lesson from the above book, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. And do you know what, she laughed during the lesson! I’m sold.

I forgot about the cute Usborne phonics readers where the proficient reader reads the harder text and the newb reads the easier bit on each page. Much more fun because you get a good story instead of the odd ones that come up in most CVC books. I have a few of them (somewhere?) and I went to buy the rest and found this My First Reading Library set for just a little more, so I got it instead.

I hope they’re as fun as I remember. If nothing else they’ll work as read alouds, and there’s Clementine, Peregrine and Malcolm coming up behind Dorothy who might like them too. Hashtag justification of splurge. And then another Bookshark mom mentioned them on Instagram too so it must be fate 🙂

I’ll update in a week or so after Dorothy’s had a chance to settle in.

Week 26 wrap up

I’m going to blog more regularly about our school days. I love to look back on it later, and it might be helpful to someone doing the same things I am at some point.

Dorothy; Bookshark Level Pre-K with K readers.
Gloria: Bookshark Level 3 with advanced readers
Trixie and Gilbert: Bookshark Level 6

Monday: Dorothy read two books from Fun Tales. She starts with deep trepidation which switches to tears, then sniffles, then smiles. Every time the unpleasant reaction gets shorter. I had the same experience with Gloria, years ago. I asked her (Gloria) if she felt emotionally scarred or resentful about learning to read and she said she barely remembers it, and not as a bad thing. Hope Do is the same! Gloria reads voraciously now.

Trixie woke up, started her math, made many frustrated noises, shed a few tears herself, then went back to bed and slept for another two hours. Woke up and said, “I think I can do my work now.” And did, went right through all of it.

Sean and Dorothy read the read-alouds at bedtime. They’re on The Berenstain Bears Big Book of Science and Nature. She likes it as much as I did when I was her age. Heart eyes.

Tuesday: I got a tooth pulled, ow. I expected the kids to take the day as their Fifth Day, but only Gil did. Gloria and Trixie got out my Instructor’s Guides while I was out and did all their stuff. I was impressed.

I shirked a bit myself, though. I couldn’t manage our read-aloud, The Shakespeare Stealer, because my mouth hurt! Day off for me.

Wednesday: Gloria was the only one up before 9, a rarity. I roused the rest and we were off. Dorothy is using Reading Eggs along with my instruction, which she also at first resists then likes. Kids.

I changed something this week: science in two days instead of our usual three. Trixie will get days 1 and 2, Gilbert days 3 and 4. It’s laid out so clearly already that it’s easy to break day 3 in two and give half to day 1, half to day 3. Day 4 is experiments, which we don’t do that often, but can easily fit in any day. So this was the first week with the new schedule for science and I liked it. Kids didn’t notice a difference so, yay? Heh.

Finally got to read aloud and start Shakespeare Stealer. It’s first-person, which is fun to read aloud because I always feel a little like a noir detective.

Thursday: Gil complained that the calculator won’t do fourth roots. I was unsympathetic. Gloria is reading Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by herself, even though it’s scheduled as a read-aloud. She likes it a lot and is a few chapters ahead of the IG. I’ve read it too – if I’m not reading a given book aloud I read it myself so the kids get a book-club style discussion partner. She and I both think it should be called (SPOILER) Carry On, Mr. Bowditch Even Though Everyone You Love Dies.

Friday: Gil’s the only one today, since he took Tuesday off. I use the fifth day to look over the kids’ journals that they write in 4x week and to check on their math with Teaching Textbooks. Trixie seems to have a fundamental misunderstanding of division and fractions, unsurprising given that this is her first year with structured math. I’m dialing her back and starting with Division 2 from Math Mammoth, my favorite gap-filler.

Fifth day is also my catch-up as well as the kids’, so I read some more Shakespeare Stealer. It’s a good ‘un!

Lent First Monday

I had a hard time sleeping last night. I’d say I sleep poorly about half the time. I’m still deeply grieving my parents’ deaths, and I think that has something to do with it. It’s not the babies, really, both little boys sleep well. Perry might wake in the night once a week or so, and Malcolm nurses around 11 and then is out for several hours. Nobody to blame but me.

So I’m pretty groggy today. I’m offering it up. The children are all still sleeping as I write.

Sleeping baby

Except for Dorothy who just woke up.

Little girl with stuffed animals

She’s watching one of the nine or so iterations of Littlest Pet Shop, a cute, if predictable show with bug-eyed animals learning important moral lessons. There are worse things. Notice her row of animals in front, to watch it with her. I do love six year olds. There’s my Bookshark IGs in front of her, I was in the middle of reading up for the day when she came in.

I think I hear Perry, and I need to go rouse the slugabeds.

Lent First Sunday

[Housekeeping: I changed to an Instagram plugin over there in the sidebar, along with a new theme. If you’re on mobile, the Instagram feed is down at the bottom now. EDIT: the plugin is janky, I’m working on it]

I want a real social life. I can’t go visit people because I have an autistic almost-five year old who needs all of my attention when we are at someone’s house or in public. The only place I can socialize is here. So! Now I’m setting a new goal: weekly open house. I’ll be home, with the kids, on Friday afternoons and evenings. I’ll have a snack and even dinner if you stay that long. All will be welcome. Don’t get too excited, I cant start this until mid-April after the kids finish drama class. But pencil us in. We have a whack of kids, a lot of wild land, a fenced, slightly less wild area, a ton of Nintendo games, and open hearts.

I miss the socialization of my youth, where things were more loose. I can’t manage that, but I can do this, what, planned spontaneity? Sure. I have two friends who do this but I can’t ever make it (see above re: autist.) I hope someone takes us up.

The time change cut us up this morning. Like many others, we missed Mass. Sigh. I’m a grownup, really.

Lent First Saturday

So far so good on the Facebook fast. I’ve caught myself a couple times defaulting to the website, by accident. I just closed it up and did something else. I have to check the group I moderate about twice a day, so I bookmarked a direct link.

The BILLY bookcases are filling up so quickly Sean told me to get two more. They’ll come next week, I’m still deciding where to put them. There’s room on that wall, but I have a giant world map that I want to put there. Those two are almost all homeschool books, with more to come.

We got a Memoria Press catalog last week with some penmanship material I ordered (they seem to have the best cursive program for an older student.) Sean really likes their curriculum but there is no way I could manage it, nor do I want to. I told him he needs to trade us in for a new family, sorry. I’m all in for Bookshark. He relented.

This year has gone well so far, speaking of Bookshark. We are on week 25 of Levels 3 and 6. A typical day is: wake the kids by 9:30 if they aren’t awake, though usually most are, eat breakfast, check in with each kid for their scheduled work for the day and what needs to be done, or questions from yesterday’s work. Then off they go. We have two computers that they use for Teaching Textbooks, so there’s usually no waiting, and they all have their own books for the other subjects.

I tried once to have Faith and Abby share a Sonlight Core and it was unpleasant, so now if two kids are in the same level I buy two of everything but read-alouds. Used copies means it only costs a little more than new.

While the big kids are working independently, I get Dorothy set up. She’s learning to read and write this year, with a mix of Reading Eggs and paper books, and Handwriting Without Tears. It takes about ten minutes with me and however long I let her do Reading Eggs. She does read-alouds too, but those are with her daddy at night.

The big kids check in with me as they finish each item, math, history, a chapter of a novel, and science. (We completely dropped the science experiments, sigh. Nobody was into it and it was a lot of work. I think next year will be better, it’s robotics!) They also write at least a page a day in their journals, for our unstructured language arts.

We also have a read-aloud going most of the time, which I read about every other day, to save my voice.

And on Tuesday they do homeschool drama class and PE.

Everyone’s done in a few hours and then they are free!