I used to review curriculum, now I create it

5 Reasons Sonlight Curriculum didn’t Work for us

Sonlight is easily one of the most popular homeschool curriculums currently available. It has an amazing reputation as one of the most comprehensive programs and SO many homeschoolers I talked to recommended it. 

I did some research, I read their 27 Reasons NOT to Buy Sonlight® as well as all the reasons to buy it. I fell in love! I loved that their lessons were all planned, I loved that it was literature based, I loved the idea of snuggling with my kids on the couch learning together through reading a book, and I loved the prospect of doing school with all my children together. It was a VERY appealing program!

The reality is that I am really a gung ho kind of person. Once I set my mind on something, I tackle it full throttle. I wasn’t just a Sonlight advocate, I could have been their spokesperson. Box day was so exciting! I spent the whole next week setting up my instructors guide and learning about the curriculum. 

I purchased two Core’s that first year, Core P 4/5 and Core A. I planned on doing the P 4/5 with my younger two and the Core A with my older 2. About one week in, I was starting to feel overwhelmed.

Why Sonlight Curriculum didn't work for our family, come read more!


The Top 5 Reasons Sonlight Didn’t Work for Us.

1. Sonlight didn’t work with our large family time restraints (there’s only so much of me to go around!).

We have a brood of children in multiple grades. While I can pair certain children together, I simply can’t do all of them in one Core program. I need to purchase at least two and do it in stages with the kids. The curriculum is incredibly teacher-intensive. Language Arts, Bible, and History all needed me to be reading multiple books and chapters and lessons, etc. While I loved the idea behind this, I found it really hard to keep up. I think a lot of this was that my kids are so young! If they were older and doing the reading themselves it may have looked different, but with young children I just couldn’t keep up. We were doing school all day long!

2. Sonlight didn’t work at all for my Kinesthetic Learner or Visual Learner.


Take the Learning Style Quiz

Take the Learning Style Quiz

I have a kinesthetic learner, need I say more? Okay, maybe a bit more… My daughter is a kinesthetic learner. She doesn’t listen to stories, she doesn’t like to look at pictures, she doesn’t enjoy sitting calmly or cuddling on the couch. She jumps, she fidgets, she looks around and sings songs. You ask her at the end of the story what it was about and she looks right through you… she’s got nothing. She approaches learning in a completely different way. She cried when it was time for Sonlight, the reading time was pure torture for her, and the amount of work associated with the language arts (copywork/writing/etc) was just ten steps above what she could do in Kindergarten. It was so completely overwhelming for her that I felt that I was pushing something that just wasn’t working. We found the Core P 4/5 was a lot of reading with no pictures and my two little ones just couldn’t stand it. My visual learner was beyond himself with boredom as there were no pictures really, even in the preschool read alouds. It was a lot of reading at that age and I would much prefer to inspire a love of learning than to force my kids to read with me books that they were not enjoying.

3. Sonlight didn’t meet any of our learning outcomes in Canada for History/Socials.

This was a tough one for me, despite the difficulties we were having with our little two, my eldest son was doing really well. He is an auditory learner and responded well to the reading, he retained a ton, and seemed to excel! But the Socials Studies/History didn’t really meet any of our learning outcomes in Canada. While we don’t want to be a slave to learning outcomes, it felt like a lot of money to be paying for just LA and Bible.

4. Sonlight is an expensive program when you need to use it with multiple children.

Sonlight is expensive! To do it right, because of my kids’ different needs I would want to get three separate years worth and we simply can’t afford it. I have looked into doing the entire program (math, science, the whole shabang) but I am not super fond of the math they use and I much prefer to have the flexibility to choose my own Socials Studies/Science/Math, etc. I really like to create our curriculum based on what works for the kids. They all have different learning styles and being tied down to one specific math curriculum just doesn’t work to me. At the end, it just felt like I was paying a ton of money basically for the read alouds in which case, I can get those from the library.

5. I want my children to have some say in their education.

What I mean by this is that while I choose our core program (math, LA), there is a lot of flexibility with us. I often let my kids choose what to write or what to read. I think these little things help them feel more in control of their education and allow them to learn about what they are interested in. TELL my kid to read this book or let them choose any book and their attitude on the subject is completely different. A lot of the read aloud books were fantastic, but some of them were downright boring for my kids. And I have had a lot more success going to the library and letting them choose whatever they want than forcing them to read books because mommy spent a lot of money on a program 🙂

So, do I recommend Sonlight to others?

I still do recommend it in certain situations. I recommend it to parents with just one or two kids who could do just one Core. People who are completely overwhelmed and want a really well laid out teachers guide. Parents of children who are very auditory learners. I want to make it very clear that


Sonlight is an amazing program, it worked wonderfully for my auditory learner, but it just didn’t fit with our family dynamics. This does not mean it won’t work for you! Tweet this!

If you are still interested in Sonlight, I encourage you to do your research! Take the learning style quiz to see what your child’s learning style is and take some time to find if sitting and reading with them for 30 minutes straight will work well for them. How do they respond with reading chapter books with not a lot of pictures? Do they enjoy learning this way? Read reviews, pay attention to your child, take a look at the different Core levels available and do a live chat with a representative.

Why Sonlight didn't work for us

The best thing about Sonlight is there 1 year guarantee, I have returned 2 of the 3 Core’s we purchased, and held on to one of them (I just couldn’t bear to get rid of it!). I got a full refund nearly a year later so in the end, it wasn’t much of a loss for us! I still have 2 other littles I want to try it with when they get a bit older, and I may try it again with my eldest auditory learner when he is old enough to do all the reading himself (as this would solve the family dynamic issue/time issue).

Check out my live chat today on Periscope, and if you want to chat live with me, download the periscope app (it’s free) on your phone and find me! @hhomeschooling! I chat every day and you can ask your homeschool questions, say hi, etc. It’s SO FUN!

Do you use Sonlight? What do you think of it?


    • Thanks Erin! It really is a fabulous program, it IS the way I wish I’d been taught! But the reality is there is only so much I can do while they are young, and my kinesthetic visual learners just couldn’t bear sitting and listening to me read with no pictures or movement for that amount of time. Sigh.

  1. This was a very helpful review for me as I was planning to purchase Bookshark for Kindergarten through our homeschool charter. (A secular version of Sonlight.) I hadn’t really looked into it much since it was recommended to me, but your points are definitely noted. I don’t want to be overwhelmed since it will be our first year and I really want to give my son as much freedom and choice as possible. This might be a little too structured for us to start with, especially with a baby and toddler to care for as well.

    • I hadn’t heard of Bookshark before! Interesting! Ya, I think what I learned from it all is that it is important to take into account your teaching style, your family dynamics, etc. They are all important factors in whether a curriculum like this will work for you or not. I’m checking out Bookshark now 😉 Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment!

  2. Great review. I keep drooling over the Sonlight catalog, but ultimately know it wouldn’t work for me either… for many of the reasons you stated above. We’ve used My Father’s World for 8 years… and while MFW and Sonlight are similar, the big thing I hear in comparisons is that MFW has much more hands-on activities and lower cost (because rather than buy all the books, they utilize a “book basket” where you get many of the books from the local library). I am “incorporating” a bit of History 220 (Church History), I think that’s the right number, for my high school student this year. But I will not be using it as written. I’m combining the “best of” Sonlight, HOD, and MFW into “one” package that has what WE want to study. No one had exactly what we were interested in. So after 11 years of homeschooling, I’m “designing my own” in a sort by taking the pieces of a few that had SOME of what I want. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

    Came from #aftermycoffee link-up.

    • Thanks so much Trena! And thanks for clicking on my link 🙂 I am super interested in how it works out for you, this is kind of where we are at too. When I returned the Sonlight Core’s, I held on to my favorites. I think in the future I’m going to check out the booklist and buy the best ones off there. I like the idea of creating your own, pulling from the best of both worlds! I haven’t tried My Fathers World! I thought of it for this year but this is the year I think it is mostly American History (similar to Sonlight) and we’re up in Canada. Sigh. I wonder if they let you pick and choose, do you know?

      Anyways, thanks for stopping by!

  3. This was so helpful! I took the quiz you had on learning styles and my youngest came out as an auditory learner. (I loved how easy that quiz was to take!). Maybe that is one reason she is loving the history unit study that I created. I did base the study partly on what I learned about literature based learning from the Sonlight company. My daughter actually colors pictures or does the copywork as I read. I wondered if it would bother her comprehension, but it doesn’t seem to!

    • What grades do you incorporate in your Unit Study? Yes, that is my son, he can do anything while listening and then repeat it nearly verbatim, auditory to the core. 😉 My other two get too into their activity and can’t remember a word I said. The visual needs eye contact, pictures, etc. and the kinesthetic needs to stay focused on me but be bouncing or playing with something in her hands. It is a work in progress in this house. 😉 Can’t wait to hear more abut your unit study! Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment!

  4. Is there a cirriculum you like as a Canadian? This is my first year and I am so overwehlmed as to what to choose! Sonlight was my go to because it is all planned out. But I have 4 kids 6 and under.

    • I do use a lot of US curriculum, I’m not really afraid of them, it just gets hard with the multi-subject ones that are so focused on American History. That’s why I pick and choose. For socials studies, we use Donna Wards Canada, my Country and this year Canada’s Natives Long Ago. For math we are using a beka but we switch back and forth from that to math u see. LOVE math u see. You can see the full list of what we are using here: Hope that helps! And any other questions, pop over to my Facebook page at and send me a message OR come join in on one of my live Periscope chats, you can ask questions and I can answer them live! So fun! It’s a free app on your phone and my handle to follow me is @hhomeschooling. If you want more info on Periscope and how to use it, you can see my periscope page at

  5. I plan to start homeschooling my two preschool aged children this year, and the curriculum choices can be daunting. I have two older children in school, so this is more of an experiment for us with the younger ones to see if I can do it, and to see if they enjoy it. Reading your post is encouraging. Not every popular curriculum works for every family, but it can be hard to find families that will explain why. Thank you!

  6. Very sad it didn’t work for you. I have 3 young kids, I work as a pastor and run an online business and I couldn’t see myself using any other curriculum because of the way is brilliantly put together for me and there are tons of flexibility. I don’t do 100% of everything, neither I do in the order it is put everyday, it works well to focus on one subject a day, we picked our own curriculum for math as well and we spent tons of time at the library every week so my kids can pick any other books they want to read. Sometimes we skip readers and read them in the weekend or before bedtime. And read aloud is teaching my kids to listen and pay attention even if they are dancing around or climbing on the sofa. 🙂 but I have to agree Sonlight is not for everybody.

  7. SO needed this right now! Thank-you so much! I think I tend to get lured by a little flash, and the thought of it all planned and organized was pretty sweet, but it doesn’t sound like it would work for my kids either, at this point!

    • My pleasure! It is a HUGE expense. They have an amazing guarantee, they have taken two returns no questions asked nearly a year later. But it’s always disappointing to find out your curriculum doesn’t work for you. If I can help someone avoid the problems I had, it’s worth it! I hope you find something that works perfectly with your children’s learning styles!

  8. Such a great post! I have a Kinesthetic/visual learner too, and I am a Canadian who now lives in the Caribbean. I love the idea of bookshark. I want to be cuddled on the couch reading to my 5 yr old son, but I know he’d be jumping on the couch, or playing cars, anything but sitting still for a pictureless storybook. I am going to be using Timberdoodle K for him, but modified a little. I love how hands on it is. They use math u see, spelling you see, thinking games, hands on science kits, etc. I think its going to be a fun year!

  9. Can I ask your advice on curriculums that work for you with multiple ages? I have been homeschooling 4 years and fluctuate sooo much with curriculum because I want something I don’t have to be AS involved with between all of the different ages. I love the way almost everything is included in Sonlight and that there’s a plan already laid out for you for everyday. I think that was the most attractive thing about it for me, but I definitely can’t spend all of my time with just one child. I’m still trying to gain an understanding on how to accomplish spreading myself between them all.. Any recommendations?? 😉

    • Do you have any kids close in age you can combine? I have 6 kids combined into 4 cores and I only “teach” the younger two cores.

  10. This review is very relatable. My first year of homeschooling I bought a complete core (adding in all available subjects with their recommendations). I thought this would save me from “messing up” my child’s education. Since it was my first time homeschooling and I did not even know ANY other homeschooling families personally this did help me for the first few months. By the time I was getting the hang of it and seeing what worked and what didn’t I was learning enough about homeschool to not feel I needed to rely on any single company to hold my hand through all of homeschooling.

    Like you I felt that some of the stories were great and my son really enjoyed some of the readings but there was so much that was just the “blank stare” because he is the hopping around, jumping around, spastic artist. He wanted to paint pictures of the stories, draw them, write different endings. But you don’t have time for this when you move from book to book to book and have different children in different cores.

    For the parent wondering about sonlight I also suggest mentioning that a far advanced reader is not going to be on the same grammar /language level that is included in the core. It is an expensive core and expensive teachers guide and language arts. I had a far advanced reader who was still just a little guy so our grammar and language arts instruction made our guide useless. All it gave me was assigned pages to read. Any mom could pick the pages.

    It helped me in the beginning and I’m thankful but there were many things I did not realize until we actually dove into it for weeks. I would suggest to anyone borrow it from someone if you can before you buy! Or go ahead and try and take advantage of the return process if it doesn’t work. Don’t feel like you failed and just keep it and dread your entire school year.

  11. I just want to add a little comment on here for anyone who reads through these, even a year later like me. ?
    I am a mama of 6 and have used Sonlight for 11 years. I have another mama friend of 7 who used it all the way through as well. Sonlight can be a rich buffet. I do believe that if you feel the need to check every box you may feel overwhelmed by it.
    I have had 4 cores going each of the past 4 years. My older kids are self directed and we combine read alouds so there aren’t 4. I adore the literature rich curriculum and any time I did try something else with the kids, it always bombed, except Shirley Grammar (which is parent intensive).
    So if you love what Sonlight offers but have a lot of kids and are nervous, don’t completely write it off.
    It is worth it.
    I have reused all the cores from the first kid.
    It is a buffet and you can’t do ALL of it if you have a houseful….but you can still do a lot of it!
    God bless.

    • I agree with Jill!
      I don’t homeschool any more, but when I did, I approached it in much the same way as Jill. The booklists are excellent, and I still go back to Sonlight often, even with kids in public schools, to supplement their reading and supply books for their free reading so they don’t come home with the junk they usually find in our school libraries (like watching TV in book form, which I consider mostly worthless and sometimes harmful). I also plan to use their history timeline book for my bookworm so she can enter the dates of interesting events and things she read about and fill out her personal understanding of history. (This is when Laura Ingalls Wilder was born, and this is when Grandpa was born, and this is when the fire happened that I read about…)

  12. I love the idea of Sonlight, but the cost is a big issue. What I’ve done is purchased our Math (Singapore), Science (Apologia Exploring Creation), History/Socials (Story of the World), and Spelling (Sequential Spelling) elsewhere, and then used the book lists from Sonlight and bought many of them thrifted or picked them up as hand-me-downs from other homeschoolers, or from our library (hello inter-library loans!). So in many ways we are following the same general program as Sonlight, without the same cost, and with more flexibility to not feel tied down. I love that our kids are getting such a broad worldview from their read-alouds! And thanks to the Sonlight booklists, we’re reading books I would never have heard of before. I love it!

  13. We did sonlight for kindergarten. We are still going for a few more weeks here. My son likes it. It is very flexible as far as time goes. You can chose a 4 or 5 day week. It takes is about an hour and twenty minutes a day that includes math and language arts-k. We love the reading part. The down side is math, science, language arts, spelling, handwriting. All these things were not so good. We have thought possibly of using the sonlight core and the other things I listed abeka. Now we have decided to just use Abeka. We want to know for sure everything is being taught well and is sufficient. With sonlight I never knew. I felt a like there needed to be more. More of a challenge. But all families and kids are different. Als if you have more than one child it would be harder. Now as far as cost sonlight plus all that you need for a full grade cost over a thousand dollars a year. It’s worth it I think the product is wonderful. I just need more structure and I like the idea of grades and a few test thrown in there. I want to know if my child has to go to school for some reason he is ready to that. God bless!

  14. After homeschooling for 14 years and having some kids with learning disabilities, I still struggle some days when I think about doing school for 15 more years….BUT: Sonlight and Heart of Dakota have been our favorite curriculum by far. We have tried a plethora of them over the years, trust me. Being a box-checker, if I don’t watch myself, I will try to “do it all,” but I know this is counterproductive. We don’t cover all the questions they have in the guide for the readers and read-alouds. I just have the kids answer their reader questions 1x/week. We only discuss the vocabulary, we don’t write it out. I have never liked Sonlight for Language arts, so we use other things. If your kids are very young, it might be more fun to do unit studies and lots of hands on activities since they have lots of school ahead of them and you can enjoy that sense of wonder they naturally have! 🙂 I do combine kids in the cores even if the age gap is pressing it a bit with the recommended ages on the guides, simply because Sonlight is so rich, and my time is valuable. I have confidence in this after graduating 2 of our kids and seeing them both do well after graduating.

  15. I love the concept of Sonlight but don’t think it would work with my family. I did order their catalog and I use it only to find great books for my kids.

  16. I have taken all the read alouds and put it on my homeschool read aloud list. I wish you could just buy the read aloud teacher guides.

  17. I enjoyed reading your reasons for not using Sonlight. Every family is different and one curriculum will not fit the needs of every learner. I have used Sonlight for eighteen years with 7 children. I love the literature. My kids often go to the shelf and reread the books. I’m packing away my Kindergarten and 1st grade curriculum so that my children can use it to teach my grandchildren someday. The curriculum is expensive but to me it has been great for home library building. My 19 year old daughter was home from West Point over the summer and she was grabbing books from the Sonlight shelf to read for pleasure. I’ve had as many as 3 cores going at once. That was labor intensive. When my oldest children were doing the American history 9th grade core my 5th and 6th grade daughters listened in and did the readers from an earlier American History core It worked. I hope others will consider using this great curriculum too!

  18. This is a limited view but I hope it will help someone else. I have used Sonlight PreK4 and Moving Beyond the Page 4-5 with my 4 and 5 year olds. I also did Sonlight myself way back when as a junior high/highschooler. I love the book-heavy emphasis in Sonlight because both of my boys and I love books. Even on a non-school day, we regularly get through 7-10 picture books between snuggle time and bedtime. That is Sonlight’s strength. MBTP featured one or maybe two books for one week, and it was never enough for us! We often dragged out a one week unit into 2 weeks or more as we found multiple related books at the library and home. But, Sonlight isn’t functioning like that exactly – they feature tons of reading, but much of it is in anthologies or poetry collections, and if we curl up with an anthology, my kids try to insist we read the whole thing. Also, the Sonlight teacher’s manual has not worked for me at all: each day lists page numbers from multiple books, and I already know we cannot function that way. Also, it is not a unit study program – say we read about owls one week. We want to read 3 more owl fiction books and flip through some NonF books about owls too! MBTP is structured like this, so I often just scribbled in our added books and lesson on the roomier, more annotation-friendly MBTP teacher’s guide. I made it about 10 weeks into Sonlight before abandoning the guide and just using it for ideas. Despite all this, we are doing Sonlight full package A next year- but I already anticipate having to write my own schedule every week. MBTP was pretty book-rich for 4-5, but for the 5-7 curriculum added so many workbooks and “school-y” books as my 5 year old says (ie, obviously meant to teach you something). My sons love books and hate worksheets, and Sonlight has fewer worksheets to work around. Ultimately, with two kids mostly doing the same thing, no other kids or job, and with a learning style and personality suited to reading all day, Sonlight will mostly work for us. I’ll still be tweaking it though, so it’s not an open-and-teach program for me!

  19. Hey Rebecca! My 6yo is exactly the same (kinesetic/visual). Once he’s older I’ll do MB’s LA & math, but what have u figured out works for her in regards to history?? Btw I have an auditory 3rd grader (go figure!)
    P.s. we love Master Books!

  20. Hello from Windy Cape Town SA! So glad I stumbled on your materials and reviews, Rebekah! Thank you! I just want to give my two cents worth (those are South African Cents, so even less on your side! LOL) Sonlight is EXTREMELY POPULAR in South Africa for the simple reason that we get the high level of Literature dished out to us in a box. I agree, to do a WHOLE CORE plus Math & Sience was very intense, even if you have older kids do it. My daughter, who lapped up Jane Eyer when she was 10 years old, LOVED the schedule, the creative writing, the History. She sailed through the Readers and yes even she said one or two was very boring. Through Sonlight we were introduced to Apologia Science which made her love Science again, after 6 years of schooling in a private school. My son, two years younger, was less eager but I saw a huge improvement in his writing skills through Current events and the Creative writing. He started at age 11 with the Eastern Hemisphere Core which was wonderful. We made him do the American History Core which was bittersweet as the History was SOOO INTENSE (Bless our American friends for their love of their country and its history) but it was also the year that he got into Reading. After these experiences, I decided to School my youngest (8 year gap between her and her brother) from scratch with Sonlight.But we simplified it greatly, only using the Language Arts & Readers. This proved to have given us much peace. We then went with an eclectice approach for Math and the rest was interest based, Keeping in mind that Homeschoolers are not (yet) sternly regulated, we kind of can do what we want in terms of subject choices etc. Most high schoolers then switch to Cambridge or the American GED for a school finishing diploma. We switched to Cambridge from Sonlight and found the transition was smooth and their writing capability was up to par. So for the child with Reading abilities the Language Arts will not dissappoint. Maybe not as user friendly as the brand new Masterbooks LA. But the quality of Readers that we get given to us, after being reviewed and sourced is incredible and still unmatched in my humble South African opinion. Happe Schooling!

  21. Good Review. I used Sonlight for several years with my 2 children and loved it. I didn’t use it exclusively for several of the reasons listed in the article. By far, my favorite thing about Sonlight are the books to be read to and by the children. Even if you don’t buy into all the curriculum consider getting just the books. A lot of time was spent curating the lists for each age. And they are really good books! it’s also a lot cheaper to buy them as a group via Sonlight than to purchase them all separately. I haven’t read all the reviews here so I hope I’m not repeating something already said!

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I used to review curriculum, now I create it!