Help for the Child Who Can’t Fall Asleep at Night

LauraAll Posts, Character Training, Discipleship, Motherhood

You’ve tucked your child in bed.

An hour later, you hear those familiar little footsteps…

What you do next could have a big impact on our child’s heart.

Last year, our 7 year old son went through a long season in which he couldn’t fall asleep at night.

He would try, honest.

Yet every night, when the old farmhouse was quiet for the night and his siblings were sleeping peacefully, our son would climb down from his top bunk in the boys’ room, come find us and say, “I just can’t fall asleep. There’s too much on my mind.”

Some nights, we’d just send him right back upstairs. “Keep trying!” we’d say. On our better nights – when we were miraculously patient – we’d listen as he talked about his fears, his joys, his wrestlings with God, his questions about faith. Then, he’d say, “The worst part is that once I start thinking about these things, I realize that I’m not sleeping yet and it gets me really upset!

God meets us in our sleeplessness.

And then, one night, something dawned on me that changed everything. I wrapped my arms around our son and savored the inner thoughts of a boy not unlike King David, not unlike Samuel in the temple of the Lord. When they couldn’t sleep, David and Samuel discovered that God Himself was pursuing them in the quiet of the night.

I told him so.

Son, you remind me of King David. Do you know that he would toss and turn in bed? He wrote many psalms from the joys, tears, and wrestlings that would come to his mind when he’d lay his head on his pillow at night.

We read Psalm 6:6.

“I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.”

and Psalm 63:5-8

“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.”

Psalm 16:7

“I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.”

and Psalm 4:4

“Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah”

Maybe the quiet time before sleep is a holy time when God has our kiddo’s full attention.

Sweetheart, your sleeplessness could be a blessing from the Lord. What would happen if you accepted it? What would happen if you turned toward our Heavenly Father to pray, rejoice, cry, repent, and thank Him?

I contrasted this option to that of stewing, worrying, and over-thinking things.

“Try not to think too hard”.

Hot Air Balloons, Evening Moon, Cappadocia, Turkey

I told him this story about a guy in a hot air balloon:

Did you know that there’s actually a phrase, “Try not to think too hard?” It’s referring to those times when people fixate on something so intently and then freak out. Imagine someone up in a hot air balloon. He has waited his whole life to ride in that balloon. The weather is perfect and the balloon sails through the sky peacefully. But while he’s up there, he begins to notice how small and fragile the basket is. He notices the fire being torched above his head over and over again. He thinks about how dangerous this is. He looks at the thin silk of the balloon and the manmade ropes that are holding everything together. He looks down and notices that the earth is many, many feet below him. These thoughts begin to crowd in on him. He’s afraid he’s going to fall and there is nothing he can do!

And then, he freaks out. I mean, really, freaks out!

Imagine how dangerous it would be for him to lose control way up there in a hot air balloon. Imagine what would happen if he cried, screamed, kicked, or jumped out of the balloon that was peacefully saving him. Imagine how his opportunity to sail across the sky would be ruined by his fear and overthinking.

He needs someone to calmly say to him, “Try not to think too hard about this”.

He needs to take a deep breath and to be strong in his mind.

He needs to trust God.

To notice the beauty all around.

To relax and enjoy the ride.” 

A few months later…

Sometimes a child’s once-intense struggle will suddenly disappear… and we don’t even notice. That’s what happened with this. Weeks had passed without those late night footsteps creaking down the stairs, without the calming conversations, but I hadn’t even noticed the difference.

Then one night when I was tucking the children into bed, making my rounds with songs, prayers, lotion, and cups of water, that sweet and strong 7 year old boy lifted his head from the pillow and said, “You know, Mom, I never told you how much our conversation helped me. Ever since, when I lay down to go to sleep, I always think about that hot air balloon. I tell myself not to think too hard and I decide to spend my time with the Lord instead of getting so upset.

How comforting to be a human in the care of our ever-watchful Heavenly Father.

How deeply comforting.

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8

Enrich Your Middle Schooler’s Socialization Through Literature: The Call of the Wild Book Club

LauraAll Posts, Books, Middle School, Sonlight

Build homeschooling socialization while reading a good book together!

“The general tone of the team picked up immediately. It recovered its old-time solidarity, and once more the dogs leaped as one dog in the traces” (59)

Last year, Vivienne and I had such a great time hosting A Tom Sawyer book club together that we decided to do it again this year. Vivienne’s 8th grade Sonlight literature curriculum includes The Call of the Wild

We wanted to invite some friends along for the journey north. It just so happens that I teach a homeschool middle school literature class for Viv and her peers once a week. We agreed that this would be the perfect fit: we’d devote the first quarter to a The Call of the Wild book club.

(I received Sonlight 100 in exchange for a series of blog posts that contain my honest opinion.)

It’s more fun together!

Twelve enthused peers read The Call of the Wild together, cheering Buck’s survival, wincing at the gore, fuming at the human incompetencies and cruelties, and rejoicing at the love of John Thornton.

We read the book over the span of 6 weeks, covering 2 chapters each week for 4 weeks and using the final two weeks for writing workshops. (The parents had requested that the students write a 5-paragraph literary analysis paper during the course. This ended up being a wonderful opportunity to introduce this style of writing to the students: they learned so much from one another.) I can confidently say that the students thoroughly enjoyed experiencing the book together and I was honored to sit in on their laughter and discussions.

Ideas for The Call of the Wild book club:

Whether your student is reading The Call of the Wild as part of Sonlight 100 or you are simply wanting to connect with your middle schooler in a meaningful way, creating a book club around such an engaging adventure will be worthwhile. The Sonlight 100 curriculum provides many helpful text-level questions, discussion-starters, vocabulary help, and map work. I wove this material into our book club meeting each week.

First, make a few introductions…

Reading The Call of the Wild is greatly enriched by understanding the author Jack London, the concept of the dogsled team, and a bit of history about the Klondike Gold Rush.

Meet Jack London

Before the book club began, I read a biography about London so I could share some background with the students.  They were fascinated by his story: his rough start, his dog-eat-dog stint in prison, his struggle with alcohol, his love of reading, and his extremely hard work ethic as a prolific writer. A little bit of information about the man behind the typewriter helped the students to understand the themes of the story better. They loved learning that London found gold in the Klondike Gold Rush: London returned home with $4.50 worth of gold dust in his pocket + a priceless treasure in his mind. When he began writing about his Klondike adventures, Jack London became America’s first millionaire writer.

(Feel free to take a peek at the PowerPoint that I created to guide my talking points: Introduction to Jack_London PowerPoint.)

Meet a dogsled team

We watched some National Geographic videos about dogsled teams – how they train and how they live. This gave the students powerful visuals to know how a pack of dogs works together as one to forge through snow and ice in the Klondike. It also provided a reference point for how such dogs should be treated and how they are treated in The Call of the Wild.

Meet the Klondike Gold Rush

We also watched some footage about the Klondike Gold Rush so the students could see for themselves the daunting journey north-west.

Adopt a Dog.

Viv suggested that each student “adopt” one of the dogs in the book. We purchased a miniature calendar of wolves and divided the pictures amongst the students. Then, we divvied up the dogs: Curly, Spitz, Sol-leks, Dave, Teek, Koona, Billee, Joe, Dub, Pike, Nig, and Skeet. As we read, each student kept a careful eye on his/ her dog and updated us from week to week. This helped the students to care about the minor characters and to notice the personification, mannerisms, personalities, and outcome of each dog.

Read aloud.

The first week, we sat in a circle and took turns reading aloud Gary Paulsen’s introduction as well as the first few pages of the story. We were hooked!

Throughout our meetings, we would often read aloud passages that we liked or needed to discuss.

Keep a commonplace book.

Encourage each student to jot down favorite quotations each week. Some students will copy passages about characters, others will copy the descriptive writing, still others will copy the life lessons. (This time around, a few of the boys copied down all of the gory descriptions – Curly’s downfall was a favorite.)

These commonplace excerpts are a great way to spark conversation.

Simply ask, “What did you write in your commonplace book?” and let the conversation evolve from there.

Be sure to keep a commonplace book, too! Your students will want to know what catches your eye.

Enjoy conversations about the book.

Sit back and guide the students with a few good conversation starters. This book sparks fantastic discussion: there are countless interesting topics to explore: civilization vs. the primordial, human decency, survival, the treatment of animals, greed, ignorance, love, freedom, vengeance, teamwork, leadership, and strength.

What did your students like?

What made them angry?

I am a Read-Aloud Revival fan, so I use Sarah Mackenzie’s helpful questions to prompt conversation. In her newly released Read-Aloud Family, Sarah provides 10 poignant questions that you can ask about any book and expect to connect with your student. I stick with these and am never disappointed.

Create a Klondike Gold Rush Game.

One week, I handed out slips of paper and asked the students to jot down a handful of questions and answers from the book. I distributed a few blank board games and passed around a basket of amusing figurines and a few dice. Then, I plunked a pile of chocolate gold coins on the table for each winner. The students used the trivia questions to progress through their “Klondike Adventure” and – in the end – decided to share the gold coins.

Send the students on a Klondike Adventure as a “dogsled team”.

Create a physical challenge for your students to accomplish in small groups: the goal of this is to help the students recognize the power of the leader, the follower, the dissenter, the weak-link, . You could designate each student’s role on the team or you could just sit back and watch as each student naturally takes a place in the group dynamic. Talk about the experience afterward. Compare it to the dynamic on Buck’s dogsled team.

Oh, and of course, top the whole thing off with Klondike Bars on the last day! (Yum!)

“When the long winter nights come on and the wolves follow their meat into the lower valleys, he may be seen running at the head of the pack through the pale moonlight or glimmering borealis, leaping gigantic above his fellows, his great throat a-bellow as he sings a song of the younger world, which is the song of the pack” (139).

I hope that this sparked your imagination for ways you can invite some students to join you in The Call of the Wild! You’ll have a wonderful time together.


LauraDiscipleship, Ministry

Three years ago, I felt called to start a Women’s Ministry at our local church. I dog-eared a stack of Susan Hunt’s books and studied the material on the Committee on Discipleship Ministries website. I prayed and talked with other women about it. I presented a thoughtful proposal to our elders: they were enthused and supportive. Everything was moving forward… until I got pregnant with our fifth child. By the time I entered my third trimester of the pregnancy, I humbly told my husband and our Session that I had to “push pause” on the whole shebang. I didn’t have the energy or drive to continue. They were understanding, but I was disappointed and discouraged.

This wasn’t the first time I had to modify my commitments to the local church in order to tend to my life at home. In fact, it seemed like every time I offered my gifts to the church, I inevitably had a baby (wonderful!), or got sick (not wonderful!), or the kids got sick, or my husband traveled, or we moved, or we needed to visit family.

I felt doomed to inconsistency and undependability.

Being a daughter, wife, mother, and friend seemed diametrically opposed to my calling to serve the local church. Because my life ebbed and flowed so much, I believed that I was disqualified. I struggled with cynicism. Why should I volunteer when I know I’m just going to have to back out in 6 months?

Have you ever felt this way?

Head over to to read the 3 principles that have transformed the way I see my calling to serve the local church. I hope it encourages you as you pray about how you may use your gifts for the Lord.

You and Your Child Can Share the Gospel in India this Fall

LauraAll Posts, Discipleship, Family Fun, Sonlight

We want to share the good news about Jesus, but we are so self-indulgent.

Every morning, we gather at the breakfast table and thank God for our opportunity to learn and to develop our gifts for Him. We ask Him to use us in His world. Little by little, we want to learn how to love God and how to love people. Little by little, we want to share the good news with our friends and neighbors, near and far.

But I’ve gotta be honest with you: it’s hard! It’s hard to keep our eyes on Jesus when we are prone to focus on ourselves. It’s hard to offer our time and talents for Him when we have so many opportunities to indulge ourselves and to pursue our own pleasures. When I scan our schedules and budget, I’m alarmed by how consumed we are with ourselves. Even in our homeschooling, I’m tempted to make much of ourselves, while relegating Jesus (and the people He loves!) to the sidelines.

Lately, I’ve been asking God to give me more love for Jesus. I’m asking Him to help me guide our children toward living for Jesus, not for ourselves. 

May our prayer be, “More of you, Jesus. Less of me.” 

Here’s an Opportunity to Make Much of Jesus!! With Our Kids!! 🙂

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

Most days – during this season of our lives – the kids and I stay within the borders of our home, our town, our county. Every once in a while though, we get an opportunity to jump the hedges and reach out to the larger world.

This week, I heard about an awesome opportunity for us to share the gospel in India… and YOU can join us!

(This comes at such a wonderful time for us because our friends have recently adopted a precious child from India. Our kids have already been caring about India for the long haul of that adoption process. Now that they’ve met their newest friend – and are smitten – they will be even more invested in this opportunity.)

Did you know that 4 out of 5 people who believe in Jesus do so because of something that influenced them by the age of 14? In India alone, 22 million kids will turn 15 this year. Our family believes God has called us to do all we can to reach these kids before this great opportunity is missed.

A Free Opportunity to Learn about India Together

Would you like to join us in partnering with Mission India and Sonlight for a campaign called “Experience India“?

During the month of October, we can all learn how much people in India – especially kids – need to know Jesus! Over 400 million people there have never even heard His name. So, let’s do something about it!

Once you sign your family up, you’ll receive a FREE Adventure Pack (includes a free virtual reality headset) that will allow your family to walk in the footsteps of children in India – almost literally – through virtual reality! And once your experience begins, expect powerful videos, engaging devotionals, memory verses, special activities, and transformational stories from India that will captivate your family!

An Invitation to Raise Money for Year-Long Children’s Bible Clubs

There are no strings attached to the awesome opportunity to learn about India through “Experience India“.  But there is an additional opportunity!

In November, we’ll all have the opportunity to then raise money for Year-Long Children’s Bible Clubs, where kids sing songs, get homework help, and best of all, learn about Jesus. Let’s get creative in raising money – the kids can save their spare change, sell crafts, and earn money through odd jobs. We can ask friends and family to join us in supporting these Bible Clubs through a fundraising page.

Just $24 enrolls one kid, and Sonlight is matching gifts given by November 14, up to $100,000!

Join us in telling kids in India about Jesus!

Sign up for “Experience India” anytime until September 28th. Click here to learn more about it!

You and your child will learn about the children in India through the Virtual Reality Experience through the month of October. 

Then, you and your child can raise money to fund the Year-Long Children’s Bible Clubs from November 1, 2018 – November 16, 2018. 


How To Teach Multiple Sonlight Grades: Our Daily Sonlight Schedule

LauraAll Posts, Homeschooling, Sonlight

Two of the most common questions about Sonlight Curriculum are…

“How do you teach multiple students?” and,

“How much time does it take to teach multiple Sonlight grades?”

I don’t have all of the answers, but I’ll share what works for us AND give you a peak at our weekly schedule.

(P.S. I received Sonlight 100 in exchange for a series of blog posts that contain my honest opinion. This is one way that I can help provide for our family while sharing helpful information with you!)

First, a little background: We have 5 children and 3 of them are using various Sonlight curriculum.

Until last year, I kept all of my kids in the same Sonlight level, custom-fitting Language Arts and Math for each student. Halfway through last year, I noticed that our 7th grader needed more of a challenge, so she began Sonlight 100 American History while the rest of us finished Sonlight D.

This year, she’s still going strong with Sonlight 100, while our 5th grader is doing the complete curriculum for Sonlight E Intro to American History Year 2 of 2.

I use Sonlight E for our group History and Read-alouds (our 2nd and 8th grader join in). And, our 2nd grader is doing the 2nd grade Sonlight Language Arts curriculum.

Planning our weekly schedule took time and attention…

This summer, I invested a lot of prayer, time, and consideration crafting our weekly schedule. I worked diligently to figure out how our daily schedule would best promote a strong education, peace, independence, community, goodness, truth, and beauty.

What you see in our weekly schedule is a labor of love. Of course, following through with the schedule every day is a labor of love, too. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? God has called me to this beautiful and important work and I want to do it with my whole heart.

I am the schedule keeper…

I hesitate to share our daily schedule online because whenever I do, I get push-back. Critics say I’m too rigid, that I’m stealing my children’s freedom, relaxation, and wonder.  On paper, our daily schedule doesn’t look like the “gentle rhythmsthat other homeschoolers prefer.

I keep my eye on the clock.

I move us from one thing to the next when the time comes.

(But, I do it in a gentle, calm, and organized way. Does that count?)

I do this because it works best for our family.

I am happier with order and structure.

In my opinion, we have a peaceful-yet-productive atmosphere in our home. I think my kids are fun and that they have fun. Most of the time, they’re spunky, kind, curious, and relaxed kiddos.

We tend to have very happy days – even full of freedom and wonder. Our careful schedule is one of our vital tools.

Each day, we aim to complete each assignment in the Sonlight curriculum, but if we don’t finish something, we simply make a note of it and return to it the next day. If I get behind on the read-aloud schedule, we catch up by listening via audio book in the car.

I adjust the schedule as often as necessary…

As much as I am keeping the schedule, I am also always adjusting the schedule. I keep my eye open for how each child is faring. Does anyone seem too distracted? too isolated? too bored? too overwhelmed?

How can I adjust our plans to bring life into each child’s day?”

I make little adjustments on the fly and jot notes on my printed schedule. After each 6-week session, I analyze the entire weekly schedule. I keep the elements that are working and make changes where necessary. I print out a fresh schedule for the upcoming 6-week session of homeschooling.

Our schedule is based on our “best day ever”…

That’s really how I title our schedule: “Best Day Ever!!”

That title reminds me that this schedule will only happen when everything is humming along perfectly and all 6 of us are happy, healthy, and amiable.  How often does our day actually go according to plan? I don’t know… rarely? But, I do know that this schedule is our ideal and our expectation. It’s kinda like a compass that keeps us coming back to regular and good work after the tantrum, the bee sting, the frustration, or the mishap.

Without further ado…

Here’s my schedule for teaching Sonlight to Multiple Grades at Once:

(And here’s a link to the PDF: Sonlight_Daily_Schedule_With_Multiple_Grades.)


Session 1 (August 20 – September 28)

7:00 a.m. Kids wake-up (dress, make beds, chores)

7:30 – 8:00 a.m. Delightful Breakfast & Clean up (Play New City Catechism)

8:00 – 8:15 a.m. Personal Devotions (for the big kids)

8:15 – 9:00 a.m. Mom: Circle Time w/ 2nd grader, Pre-K-er, and 2-year old (calendar, songs, nursery rhymes, Bible story, games)

8th grader: Math-U-See Algebra

5th grader: Practice Violin (8:15 – 8:45)

9:00-9:30 a.m. Mom & Pre-K-er (using The Good and the Beautiful Pre-K)

8th: Sonlight 100 History

5th:  Saxon Math 6/5 (8:45 – 9:15), then Rosetta Stone French (9:15 – 9:30)

2nd: Play with 2-year old (We call this “BROTHA TIME!!”

9:30 – 10:30 a.m. Mom & 2nd Grader (Math, 2nd Grade Sonlight LA, All About Reading)

8th: Sonlight 100 Language Arts

5th: Sonlight E History (9:30 – 10:00), then practices Piano (10:00 – 10:30)

Pre K: Plays w/ special toy or does school drawers

2-year old: Crib Time (Blinds up! Music on! Fun toys and books in crib! When he’s ready to get out, he sits at the table with us and has a snack/ plays with a table toy like playdoh, a little tool box, or art supplies)

10:30 – 11 a.m. Mom w/ 5th Grader (Sonlight E Language Arts – especially Spelling, Dictation, and Writing)

8th: Typing (10:30 – 10:45), then Special Interest until 11:30 (sewing, choreography, science, art, photoshop)

2nd Grader: Sonlight LA (Explode the Code, spelling words, handwriting, copywork)

Pre-K and 2-year old watch a show (like Little Bear, Daniel Tiger, Leap Frog, etc.)

11 – 11:30 a.m. Mom: Five In A Row (FIAR) w/ 2nd Grader, Pre-K, 2-year old

8th: Special Interest

5th: Sonlight E Language Arts (including Wordly Wise)

11:30 – 12:00 p.m.  Lunch, clean-up

12:00 – 12:30 p.m. Mom: w/ each child (otherwise, recess/ free time until 1:00)

Monday: Violin w/ 5th Grader

Tuesday: Piano w/ 5th Grader

Wednesday: Bible Study w/ 8th and 5th Graders (trying Navigators 2:7 Series)

Thursday: SCIENCE/ LIT.  CO-OP

Friday: 8th, 5th, and 2nd: Take Dictation/ Spelling tests

1 – 2 p.m. Quiet Time

8th, 5th, and 2nd do Sonlight Reading assignments + Free Reading

Pre-K plays in room (sometimes naps)

2-year old naps

2 – 2:30 p.m. Afternoon Symposium: Part 1

M: Cards/ letters for people

T: Art Study

W: Nature Study

Th: Science/ Literature Co-op

F: Play a Game

2:30 – 3:00 p.m. Afternoon Symposium: Part 2

Sonlight E read-aloud while kids sketch or do water color

3 – 3:30 p.m. Tea Time w/ a delicious snack

M: Adventures in Odyssey

T: Share excerpts from Reading Journals

W: Adventures in Odyssey (Mom meets w/ mentor)

Th: Current Events

F: Poetry

3:30 – 4 p.m. Chores

6 p.m. Dinner

Scheduled evening activities: ballet lessons, worship team practice, meetings, etc.

In conclusion…

It’s easy to post an impressive schedule online at the beginning of the school year and never really implement it IRL. I feel confident in sharing this schedule with you because it’s very similar to the schedule that we enjoyed last year (and in years past). Lord willing, this is not just my “beginning of the school year pie-in-the-sky ideal that will fizzle away in a week or two”. This is really our daily life and it really works for us. Things are going well as we get the school year up-and-running.

(Now you know why I don’t talk on the phone during the day. Or knit scarves. Or run a business. Or follow through in creating even a smidgeon of the blog posts, YouTube videos, podcasts, or Instagram posts that flit through my mind. 🙂 I’m okay with that. These precious days – carefully filled with learning, connecting, discipling, and playing with my children – are what I want to do most of all.)

So, what are your questions? What other tidbits of “how homeschooling works for us” would you like to know?? 


How I Organize My Sonlight Homeschool Curriculum and Student Work

LauraAll Posts, Homeschooling, Sonlight

Check it out: A sustainable way to utilize the gargantuan Sonlight Instructor’s Guides!

This year, I’ll be teaching Sonlight 100 to our 8th grader, Sonlight E to our 5th grader, and Sonlight LA 2 to our 2nd grader.

You know what that means: larger-than-life Instructor Guides (IG). As much as I LOVE the wisdom, guidance, and plans packed in each IG, I don’t want those wide 4-inch binders stacked up on my desk. They’d be heavy. They’d be formidable. I wouldn’t use them! That’s why I came up with this plan that keeps our IG’s at my fingertips.

(First, a disclaimer: I have a new appreciation for anyone who can make their photographs of binders look beautiful. Wow. Mine look so… un-Pinterest-y. I guess the point is that I keep things simple: white binders, tabs, and clear labels from the label-maker are all I need.)

Here’s what works for us:

First, I plan our school year according to 6-week sessions. (Typically, we take a break for the 7th week, give or take a few weeks, depending on how it all works out around holidays. This gives me time to regularly re-evaluate our learning experience and restock the 1-inch binders.)

Then, I make my own slim “Mom’s Binder” that I can easily access every day. It’s a 1-inch binder with tabs that hold each child’s 6-week IG material. (It also includes plans for 6-weeks of preschool, morning time, and anything else that I like to keep on hand for daily use.)

Here’s a glimpse into that world: You’re looking at the Sonlight 100 LA section… (In the left-hand pocket, I keep the list of Sonlight 100 spelling words for easy access. On the right, I keep 6-week’s worth of IG material. Easy peasy.)

(P.S. I received Sonlight 100 in exchange for a series of blog posts that contain my honest opinion. This is one way that I can help provide for our family while sharing helpful information with you!)

Our 8th grader has a 1-inch binder for Sonlight 100 LA and Sonlight 100 History: Sonlight 100 provides a thorough Student Guide that contains most of the information in the parent’s IG. This works well for us because our 8th grader is very self-motivated and she does a great job keeping track of her own assignments.


Each 1-inch binder contains 6-weeks worth of the Sonlight 100 Student Guide for that subject. Each binder has a section for the  entire year’s worth of MAPS and any important Appendix items (like the comprehensive list of timeline figures).

It’s stored on the shelf next to a magazine file holder for that subject. Here’s a glimpse of her shelf. (Doesn’t it look so blissfully organized? You can tell we’re still basking in pre-school year organization. Love it.)

For those of you who are using Sonlight for younger kiddos, I also snapped a photo of my Pre-K and 2nd-grader’s shelf. Basically, magazine file holders are easily pulled off the shelf when I work with each child.

One contains all of the Pre-K Sweetie’s work.

One contains our 2nd grader’s math curriculum.

One contains our 2nd grader’s reading curriculum. (We’re using All About Reading and Sonlight LA 2 this year. (For most kiddos this is completely unnecessary, but All About Reading has been such a great fit for our boy and we’re going to stick with it for one more year.)

There you have it! Every 6 weeks, I pull out the bigger IG’s and simply exchange the past 6-week’s pages for the next. How do you organize your Instructor Guides? Tips and Tricks??

Want to Inspire Creative Writing? Try Sonlight Language Arts

LauraHomeschooling, Sonlight

So far, six of the kiddos in this picture love to write.

(The littlest one is still learning her ABC’s…)

Six of them have won young author awards for creative nonfiction.

And six of them have been raised on Sonlight Language Arts.

Half of these kiddos are mine, half belong to my dear friend. She and I have been friends for our entire motherhood and our children have grown up side by side. This spring, her girls wrote and illustrated outstanding picture books for the local library’s Young Author’s competition. They won 1st, 1st, and Honorable Mention.


100% of her students are incredible, thoughtful, creative writers! This points to one incredible teacher.

So I asked, “What’s your secret to raising such good writers??”

(This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support!)

Her answer: “Sonlight Language Arts.”

She said it’s as simple as following the curriculum. She doesn’t rush things, she doesn’t skip much. She simply progresses through the curriculum day upon day.

Then, she mentioned three specific benefits of the Sonlight Language Arts curriculum:

First, the read-alouds spark her daughters’ imaginations, build their vocabulary, and teach them effective sentence structure. Through the read-alouds and readers, her girls spend hours with excellent writers.

Secondly, the gentle Language Arts assignments build clear, precise communicators. Step by step, day by day, grain of sand by grain of sand. Again, she doesn’t rush things, she doesn’t skip much.

And finally, she took Sonlight seriously when it encouraged her to be the scribe for her creative children in their early years. As her spunky first and second graders imagined new civilizations, or created uses for a ball of string, or rattled off a list of words that describe the sunset, she’d write down their words and read them back aloud.

(Sonlight encourages young children to develop the skill of handwriting through handwriting curriculum and dictation, but wants to help kids to create and write stories without the complication and hardship of handwriting. It’s a brilliant plan!)

These days, her girls can handwrite easily, so they keep their notebooks close by and are constantly writing, writing, writing.

May the young authors continue creating, writing, and contributing to the world. Thank you, Sonlight Language Arts, for the gentle, solid, effective start.

5 Things I’d Tell My Newly-Wed Self: And Notes for Marriage Today

LauraAll Posts, Marriage

After 16 years of personal experience, Ryan and I wholeheartedly believe that God is for marriage and He wants us to make it.

That’s why He faithfully helps one frail human being love another frail human being, day after day.

For us, this has been a miracle of epic proportions.

Every June 8th, we celebrate our anniversary with the same prayer, “Lord, thank you. You have done great things in us. What would we do without you?!”

Ryan and I recently had the opportunity to encourage a group of newly-weds. We each shared a list of “5 Things I’d Tell My Newly-Wed Self”.  Here’s my list.

Dear Newly-Wed Self,

1. Be honest with yourself, your spouse, and God.

“Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” Psalm 51:6

It can be terrifying to share anything that reveals weakness, regret, need, or inefficiency, but I urge you to face this fear! Instead of working hard to maintain a strong, confident, got-it-together exterior, work hard to slow down, reflect deeply, pray openly, and speak clearly about yourself.

You will never regret being transparent and vulnerable with your spouse, no matter how hard it is to choke out the words or work through your humanity together.

2. Learn how to keep healthy boundaries.

“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7

Do not give your affection, approval, time, or energy under compulsion, manipulation, or guilt. This is not loving, generous, or submissive: rather, it’s dangerous and destructive to you and your spouse.

We all coerce and manipulate one another to some extent. Learn how to identify and overcome this unloving element in your home.

Enable and fortify healthy forms of communication.

Continually develop your own thoughts, desires, expectations, and voice. Share these valuable aspects of yourself with your spouse. Anticipate – and work toward – mutual respect.

Prayerfully figure out what you want to give so that you can give it cheerfully, healthfully, wholeheartedly.

3. Pride and self-righteousness are lying to you.

“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6

Don’t waste a moment thinking you are better than your husband.

Don’t think that you would make a better “spiritual head of the home”.

Don’t think that you know everything about your husband’s heart, motives, or spiritual journey.

You’re not more righteous because you have completed more Bible study workbooks than he has.

You’re not more righteous because you stay awake and take pretty notes during the sermon and he *ahem* dozes off. You’re not more righteous because you read infinitely more theology books than he does.

Attending a weekly women’s Bible study, keeping a more-regular daily devotional time, and building more orphanages does not mean that you love Jesus more than your husband does… nor does it mean that Jesus loves you more than he loves your man.

Oh dear girl, be humble.

Continually ask the Lord to search your heart. Indulge in confession and repentance of your own sin; then you’ll be free to notice your husband’s surprising spiritual strengths. You’ll be free to cheer him on!

Pray for your man, thank him, and notice the unexpected ways that God works in his life.

4. Be generous with yourself.

“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer, another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.” Proverbs 11:24

“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38

Ask God to help you overcome your guardedness, your trust issues, and your stinginess. Your marriage will blossom insofar as you give life to it!

Be generous with your smile.

Be generous with your stories, your strengths, and your support.

Be generous with your hugs, kisses, and affection.

Be generous with your hope, your joy, and your song.

5. Stop criticizing asap.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for the building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29

Take this 30-day “Husband Encouragement Challenge” asap and create a new normal.

(The challenge: “For thirty days, don’t say anything negative to or about your husband. Also, say something positive to and about your husband each day.“)

By Day 3 of your negativity fast, you will be AMAZED by the frequency of your urge to say something negative. As God gives you the grace to refrain from criticism, complaining, and negativity, He’ll also give you the grace to choose encouraging words that build up your man and your home.

This is going to rock. your. world!

Get to it.

And finally, dear newly-wed self, 16 years from now, you’ll write a little blog post about marriage and you’ll think, “Ooo, I want to keep growing in these things! I want to be more generous! I want to take that 30-Day Encouragement Challenge again!” But this time around, you want to – not because you need to – because you’ve grown to love your man.


Can You Combine Sonlight D+E with Sonlight 100?

LauraHomeschooling, Middle School, Sonlight

One of the beauties of homeschooling is learning together as a family.

As our children get older, I’m always looking for ways to gather everyone around the table to learn a common subject together.

History continues to be a great source of interest and unity in our homeschool. Every afternoon, we mix our ages and stages to enjoy a beautiful blend of stories, facts, maps, and watercolors.

(Just so you know, I received Sonlight 100 in exchange for a series of blog posts that contain my honest opinion. This is one way that I can help provide for our family while sharing helpful information with you!)

Good news! Sonlight D/E + Sonlight 100 pair well together.

With Sonlight, elementary students and junior high students can study the same historical time period, while being challenged appropriately.

This past year, I taught Sonlight 100 to my 7th grader and Sonlight D to my 4th and 1st graders.

We didn’t intend for things to work out as well as they did. We were just plugging along with our beloved Sonlight D studies of Early American History when we received a wonderful opportunity for Vivienne – our 7th grader – to begin Sonlight 100. I knew she needed more of a challenge, but I didn’t want to send her off into another historical time period or topic. Sonlight 100 was the perfect solution to our puzzle.

The timing couldn’t have been better.

“The abundance of sea-fish are almost beyond believing.” – New Englander 1630 from The Landmark History of the American People Volume 1

Viv tackled the Sonlight 100 curriculum while the rest of us – the 4th and 1st grader – continued to work through Sonlight D.

The beauty occurred when we realized that Viv’s Sonlight 100 history correlated perfectly with Sonlight D.

In the mornings, Viv read the Sonlight 100 assignments by herself – digging more deeply into the historical time period – and then joined us in the afternoon for tea, snacks, Sonlight D history and read-alouds.

Often, I would read the day’s selection aloud and all of the children would watercolor a scene in their art books from the reading – whether it was a prayerful George Washington, New England fish, or Sacajawea’s sweet papoose, Pompey.

While they worked, Viv would talk about her Sonlight 100 reading. Most of the time, she contributed quirky and lesser-known facts, which added interest to our studies and enriched our understanding of the era like, “Did you know that Benedict Arnold was fascinated by shoes?” and “Once, James Madison lost his hat and wouldn’t leave his room for two days until someone got him a big, fur hat he could wear.”

I LOVED that we could still share our history reading together and I plan to continue this plan next year.

Sonlight 100 spans early and modern history, so you can partner it with Sonlight D, Sonlight E, or Sonlight D/E.

(In our case, because Viv didn’t begin Sonlight 100 until mid-year, she’ll be completing the curriculum in the fall of 2018. It just so happens that when she picks it up again, she’ll be very close to the time-period of Sonlight E, Modern American History, that my 5th and 2nd grader will be exploring.)

Now I’m wondering, have you discovered a way to gather your children to learn together? What works for your family?

Help for the Child Who Internalizes Other People’s Negative Emotions


I am so thankful to be part of a generation of adults that aims to build empathy in children. Most of our kids need to learn how to identify with someone’s struggles and sorrows. They need to learn to jump in, speak up, and give life.

But some kids internalize too much.

They all-too-easily feel all of the pain and heartache; they shoulder the burdens of the world. They need to learn how to process and respond to negative emotions in a healthy and biblical way. These kiddos have a natural inclination toward empathy – maybe even a God-given gift of empathy – they just need to grow in wisdom.

Christians walk in the light of both Galations 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ,” and Galations 6:5 “…for each one should carry his own load.” It takes discernment to know when – and what – to carry for another person, and when to help a friend bear up under his own load.  (I first grasped this concept from Cloud and Townsend’s life-changing book, Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life.)

How do we help a child who unnecessarily feels responsible for another person’s bad feelings or bad behavior?

Here’s one idea…

It was late afternoon.

I was cranky and hungry.

The kids had just shared a huge bowl of buttery popcorn while watching a summer afternoon movie.  I took the quiet minute to fix myself some apple slices, pub cheese, and crackers. I placed it on the table next to my book, sat down with a sigh of relief, and savored a bite.

On cue, the toddler released a high pitch scream from the other room – as if a herd of rhinos were kidnapping him. While I jumped up to save the day (there were 0 rhinos), one adorable four-year-old girl took my place at the dining room table.

When I returned crankier and hungrier than ever, she was dragging a cracker luxuriously through the pub cheese. She tipped her chin up and dramatically descended the cheesy cracker into her mouth. Ironically, she was dressed up in her pink satin princess dress, complete with a beautiful tiara.

The poor girl had no idea that the scene was about to change dramatically.

Evil Queen Mother, enter stage right: “Hey, that’s my snack!” I snapped. “You kids just had your snack! This is MY snack! Please go play somewhere else.”

She froze, mouth still open, cracker suspended in the air. As quick as a wink, she removed the cracker from her mouth and skittered away.

The other kids who had gathered, presumably in hopes of their own turn at the pub cheese, skittered away just as quickly.

I sat down with a sigh of remorse.

The abandoned cracker was propped awkwardly in the tub of cheese, looking surprised at its simple twist of fate.

I ate my snack in high dudgeon and unusual quiet.

After I swirled the last cracker around the bottom of the pub cheese container, I went outside to make peace with my sweet daughter.

She was now dressed up as cowgirl, leading her pink scooter-horse to its stall. Happy as a lark, she had moved on from the incident.

I sat down on the porch swing and my 7-year old son climbed up beside me, snuggling close.

“I”m sorry, Mom,” he sniffled. 

“Sorry for what?” I asked, ruffling his hair.

“I’m sorry for what happened in there. Sorry that you don’t get to eat enough snacks. We kids eat so many sacks, but I want you to eat all of the snacks.” He cried big, unashamed tears.

“Oh, my sweet tenderhearted boy,” I said. “I appreciate that you care about me, but I need you to know that this is not your fault. It’s my own responsibility to feed and take care of myself throughout the day. I got too hungry and I let my crankiness take over. My angry response toward Audrey was wrong.”

He sniffed a big old sniff and lay his head against me, burdened.

“You know,” I added, “My snack-fit had nothing to do with you. You didn’t eat my snack. I didn’t yell at you. And you certainly don’t need to feel badly or to apologize.

There were bad feelings swirling around in there, but you don’t have to take them. Just because other people are mad or sad doesn’t mean that you have to take those bad feelings on as your own burden.

“Really?” he asked, wiping a tear off his cheek.

“Really.” I answered.

We swung back and forth for a few minutes, thinking.

Then I got an idea. “As you get older,” I began, “You’ll learn how to tell the difference between bad feelings that are your responsibility and the ones that aren’t.

It’s kind of like getting your luggage from the baggage claim area at the airport.

You get off your plane and you have to get your luggage from that big conveyor belt, right? Think about all of those suitcases that are rolling by! Black ones, blue ones, red ones. Big, little. It’s important that we know what our own baggage looks like so we can take responsibility for it and carry it home. But we don’t take the other people’s bags, do we?

Bad feelings are kind of like luggage: some are yours to carry, others aren’t. Sometimes you do need to take responsibility for bad feelings, maybe you need to apologize or to care for someone in a special way. But other times, you do not. You’ll grow in wisdom, learning how to discern the burdens that God wants you to carry.”

By now, that sweet boy was sitting up tall, almost ready to hop off the swing and return to his bike.

I took two more minutes to add,

“What would we do if we were at the baggage claim area and we saw someone who couldn’t lift his bag off the conveyor belt and get it into his car? We would help him, wouldn’t we? Sometimes, we are called to help people figure out how to carry the burdens of life, we come alongside them and help them in many different ways. I think you’ll be the type of friend who helps others to grow stronger and wiser so they can live well.”

I could tell: this particular burden was lifted. He smiled at me, all toothless and cute, and ran off to play.

This is just one little conversation in an ongoing discovery. How do you help your child to understand empathy, boundaries, and compassionate love? I’d love to know.