Monday, 5 October 2015

Sonlight - a couple of weeks in

Recently I described our first week with Sonlight, and how this was a very positive experience for us. Of course not every day is filled with milestones and celebrations, and I imagine with every family there are days of great encouragement and others which feel like plodding up a mountain through thick mud. As we start our third week, I have a couple of further reflections:

1) The pace. I like the steady, step by step pace. Previously we tended to move more in fits and starts, some days doing a lot and other days very little. I know that one of the great benefits of homeschooling is that you can follow the child's pace, speeding up for areas of interest, slowing down during times of illness, life events or when challenges are faced. I never want to lose that! But what we are noting with Sonlight is that there is plenty more time in the day - so when the children are begging for more of something, we tend to switch to a parallel activity, something which complements and expands what we have been doing, rather than going faster through the schedule. (One big reason we won't change the pace from the schedule is because my husband and I are sharing the schooling, and it is really useful for us to be able to come in and know exactly where we got to the previous day. I appreciate this may be different with other families). I think it also helps the boys to know more clearly what will be expected of them every day - and to be able to see when the task is finished. My middle son has been really thriving on the joy of achieving new things and stretching himself - this has been a real joy to see.

2) The potential to go off on tangents remains - perhaps one worry I had about following a schedule was that it might be too rigid. However, with a little imagination, there are plenty of activities that can branch out of what you have been reading about. For example, today we made unleavened bread using some unusual flours (corn and millet) - we had been talking about what people would have eaten in early civilisations, and also had recently been reading about the Exodus from Egypt. So we experimented, made plenty of mess in the kitchen, and learnt about different types of flour (ie the absence of gluten, but high levels of protein and magnesium in millet). If you feel you need a bit of inspiration, the Sonlight forums (which are open access - all you need to do is register regardless of whether you have purchased their materials) - have whole discussions about creative activities which can go alongside the Core curricula.

3) Thinking about how useful it is that the whole package - including consumables - is shipped. Here we have no libraries, and it is much harder to just pop to the shops to pick things up. Yes, we are in the city where we probably can find things if we really hunt, but I can see the huge advantages in having had all the materials sourced, consolidated and shipped together particularly for those in remote areas. I would advise friends of mine who are going to low resource areas to consider choosing a curriculum package since whereas the eclectic pieced together 'do it yourself' style which relies on public libraries, museums and art galleries, second hand shops and ebay and good internet simply isn't an option out here.

4) The need to carefully consider 'electives'. One criticism of mainstream schooling is the emphasis on basic literacy and numeracy at the expense of other areas. Home schooling has the advantage of offering a rich, diverse 'feast' for the child, but I can see how if you rigidly follow the Instructors Guide for the core materials, language arts, science and maths, and then consider that 'school is over' that one could fall into the same error. We've taken advantage of being close to the music school and enrolled the younger two boys in a class for 3-5 year olds, and are considering an instrument (or voice?) lessons also. We've found a local home ed sports group on a Friday (which chooses a different sport every term, which is a good idea). We are trying to do some more art once a week (and have some art appreciation materials on their way to us), and we're going to start Rosetta Stone Spanish in a couple of months when the rest of our things arrive. We deliberately decided to focus on the core materials for the first couple of months, to establish rhythm and routine, but I can see the need to be careful to include the electives and to give the boys the chance to develop their interests and talents. I also think having the philosophy that 'education is a life' ensures that you do not compartmentalise your day into 'school' and 'non-school', but rather aim for a seamless continuity of learning.

5) I feel less pressure now that the days and weeks are mapped out. Previously I was always a bit concerned that I might miss a certain area, or might be neglecting certain foundations. I feel I can now spend more time prayerfully considering the whole of our lifestyle, using the curriculum as a basis, but taking a bit longer to look at the Bible, character formation, consolidating things we have covered as we walk along the road, visit the market, do other activities. I feel I am able to worry less and to focus more. (Not everybody would agree with this - my husband never really worried about these things at all! But he does get to benefit from a more relaxed wife, so he will appreciate this aspect).

I'll continue to write about  how things are going from time to time - particularly if there are any key encouragements or challenges. If you are following a curriculum (or have done at some point in the past) - I wonder what the main benefits have been for your family?

No comments:

Post a Comment