October 27, 2015

Sonlight & Multiple Students

This is a topic I have googled many times over the past couple of years. We are into our fifth year of homeschooling now, and just out of curiosity, I wanted to see how other moms might be juggling Cores for multiple age-ranges in their house-hold.

I was able to gather a few ideas, but, as with many other aspects of homeschooling, much must be invented by the mom, as one of our goals in homeschooling is to tailor education to suit our individual family culture, and the children's natural-born skills or needs.

This school year we have grades 4, 2, and 1, with a preschooler who is amazingly good at occupying himself, PTL!

We have chosen Sonlight because I love books, desire to raise a family of readers, and I trust many of the choices Sonlight brings to the table. Having a list of resources handed to me in a box is so helpful. On top of that, we are missionaries in Madagascar, so I cannot run over to a teacher supply store, or even go onto Amazon and buy additions to our curriculum on a whim. When I order from Sonlight, I know everything will be there and it will be fantastic!

For those of you who are familiar with Sonlight, the question of course is, how in the world do we work multiple levels into these rich cores? There's so much reading we could be doing if we try and complete everything. My answer to this question, "How do you school multiple grades using Sonlight?" is "We don't do it all."

The beauty of their history, geography, and science units are that they in and of themselves suit multiple grades within 3 or 4 years.

This year we are using the following resources:

  • Core A: World Cultures (Grade 1 daughter)
  • Core B+C: Condensed World History (Grade 2 & 4 children)
  • Science A (Grade 1 daughter)
  • Science C (Grade 2 & 4 children)
  • Language Arts 1 (Grade 1 daughter)
  • Language Arts 2 (Grade 2 son)
  • Language Arts 4-5 (Grade 4 daughter)
And of course we are doing math and music and physical education besides.

So the big question for sonlighters, how do we work multiple cores into our day. After all, it's a lot of reading!

We are doing our own Bible schedule. I have gathered some of the best resources from both Cores, and we are alternating between and everybody does this together. As well, my 4th grader is doing her own Bible reading.

We are doing our own Read Alouds schedule. And we are only reading one novel at a time to everybody. I have chosen books from multiple cores that I want to either hit again, or ones we haven't managed yet. We usually read our chosen novel during lunchtime or before bed, and we have a poetry or short story session in the afternoon which has fondly been named Tea Time.

This leaves History & Geography from Core A and Core B+C, and Science A & C to juggle. To start off with, we are not doing everything from each core. It's just too much for our family. For example, I have pared down my 1st grader's science to fulfill all of her science learning outcomes prescribed for grade 1 (which aren't very many), and then supplemented that with the weekly topics I would like to cover with her this year. Because Science C is written for Grade 2, 3, or 4, my 4th grader is able to guide my 2nd grader in it independently. This is the first year we have been able to do this. In the past I have read all of the science material to the kids. I still have to intervene at times, but mostly they are doing great on their own.

For History & Geography we are basically doing as written in the cores' schedules. I sit with my 1st grader and work through her history while the other 2 kids are busy, and then we switch. Again though, we aren't doing every single reading written into the schedule. If I feel the need to skip, or linger, we do. I think this is so key. Don't work for your curriculum! Make it work for your family.

I was mostly interested to see how some moms organize their curriculum and save their students' work. The Sonlight binders are huge! And I can't stand lugging them around, so I usually work on 4 weeks at a time in a smaller binder. I keep the Scope of Topics page in a plastic sleeve at the front of each section to make it easy for me to report on things we cover. (I am accountable to a teacher in Canada on a weekly basis.)

I have divided my smaller binder into sections:

  • Core B+C
  • Science C
  • LA 4-5
  • LA 2
  • Core A
  • Science A
  • LA 1
This way I am able to flip easily to each student's schedule and see what we want to work on for that day.

Each child has a weekly binder where they have all of their language arts work, history and geography notes, and science activity sheets. At the end of each week, I transfer their work into a yearly binder for each of the kids. This way when it comes time for writing portfolios or collecting proofs for each reporting period for my teacher in Canada, it's all handy in chronological order.

So finally, how do we actually do the work we want to accomplish? I have written out rough timetables in the past and they help give me a very vague plan with lots of wiggle room to get everything done in the day. I like to keep it vague so I don't feel strapped or overwhelmed. It also gives us flexibility for unforeseen things that are bound to come up.

Since writing the above outline, we have added children's French lessons with a tutor 3 times per week. So on these days things get juggled around, or we just take the day off, depending. :) As much as I thrive on structure, to help keep my mind clear and from becoming overwhelmed, I am learning that I must give ourselves plenty of room to bend the rules of the schedule. 


  1. Reading this, I see how your ability to home school grows w/ your children. I'm doing preschool w/ Judah, Charlotte Mason style, and have to continually remind myself to keep it lighthearted and flexible. The stretch of 3 kids older than he... I can see myself getting in my groove but that it will also be a continual growing. Thanks for sharing: It's very fun to see what other schooling rhythms look like!

  2. Thank you for this! It was oddly comforting to see a similar scenario (albeit a very different country!). Our kids are now 7, 6, 5, 4 & 3 and we have used p45, Core A, Core B, and Core C in various combinations with the two oldest children. This coming school year we will have children in Grade 3, 2, 1 & K with a toddler sitting in... and I was quite nervous about how to actually do that! I came across your site looking for how to organize Sonlight binders for multiple grades. I've never combined kids, I've only ever had one child in each core/science/la. So every week I transferred the Sonlight guides and LA/Science worksheets into each child's weekly/working binder. But this year I am merging the two oldest (Core B+C, Science D, LA 4 & LA 2), and also the three youngest (P45, LA 1, LA K). My mind was going blank about how to organize those massive binders ;) We are from Alberta and also have to report our progress and submit samples of work and so organization is KEY. Reading "Don't work for your curriculum! Make it work for your family." was so very helpful, I think I often forget that.

    Thank you again, I will be referring to this again before the next school year starts! God bless you and your family as you serve Him in Madagascar. Praying for fruit for your labours in your home and in your hubby's travels.