Tuesday, March 3, 2009

TOG vs. Sonlight

Warning: this is a long post!!

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately.

That will happen when you're the only adult in the house.

Ideas and thoughts tend to bounce around in my head instead of breathing life in the real world. So, I am going to dump them all on the blog as a means of trying to sort through them.

We started our homeschool journey when Ellie was about 4. We used Story of the World for a few years and enjoyed it so much. I love the thought of history being taught in a 4-yr rotation. I love making history the basis of all of our studies.

We "outgrew" Story of the World though. The geography work wasn't to my liking. Ellie needed writing assignments and more "meat" to the curriculum. I happily moved to Tapestry of Grace, still using the Story of the World book and CDs along the way.

I was really madly in love with TOG, but the love affair is over.

I'm considering switching to Sonlight next year. Before I make any rash decisions however, I'm going to try to mull it over for the next couple of months.

Here is my thought process:

PROS of Tapestry:
1. It follows the 4 yr history rotation that I love.
2. It allows me to have all 5 kids studying the same thing at the same time - which I REALLY love!!
3. It is a Christian curriculum and teaches so much Biblical and church history along the way.
4. Most weeks have wonderful books and activities to do.
5. I love the mapwork included.
6. The freedom to choose which books and activities we want to do and when we want to do them.

CONS of Tapestry:
1. While they have great teacher's notes and book selections, I hate that I still have to plan it all out and separate it into the daily schedule. It is time consuming for me and I don't have much extra time. Right now this is the biggest drawback for me. I have Homeschool Tracker, and technically if I wanted to spend a month entering in assignments for the year, then I would be fine. I just feel like that would be a bad use of my time during the beautiful summer months here. I would much rather spend that break outside with the kids or working on genealogy.

2. There were a few weeks during TOG 1 where we felt that there wasn't enough to do (ie. some of the weeks that the spine was only the Bible). While we enjoyed learning about these time periods also, I felt like so many weeks were devoted to it and there were so little books and activities during this time to engage the kids.

3. Looking ahead at TOG 2 (which we have used half of before), I feel like that year goes too quickly. I don't like that it encompasses the Fall of the Roman Empire through the Writing of the U.S. Constitution. I just feel like so many subjects are passed over in a hurry during this year. We would love to devote more time to the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and Reformation, Vikings, Explorers, etc. I realize that we could take things slower if we wanted, but for some reason this just bugs me.

4. I honestly don't enjoy the "Writing Aids" program. I want to, but I just don't. Since I'm not using it, it requires me to do the extra planning for writing assignments and that is SO time consuming. In the past couple of months, that has been falling completely by the wayside. I just never have time to get to it and I can't let that happen!

PROS of Sonlight:
1. All of the preparation is done for me. I can open the teacher's manual and know what we're supposed to read or do every day. It includes a languages arts program and comprehension questions for the reading assignments. I thought that I wouldn't like this. I wanted the freedom to plan our own curriculum, but reality is hitting. I have 5 small kids and it doesn't feel like freedom anymore - I feel pressured and out of time to actually DO the work with them. I feel like Sonlight could alleviate that problem.

2. I can even order other subjects through Sonlight. Science, electives, etc. Looking through their catalog, they offer much of what we already use or were planning on using in the coming years (Horizons Math, Artistic Pursuits, Apologia Science, Rosetta Stone, Spelling Power). I feel like we would be a good "fit" with Sonlight. We also already own many of the wonderful books used in this program.

3. It is also a Christian curriculum. I use a public correspondence school through which I get funding for our homeschooling. They allow the use of Sonlight, but won't buy the teacher's manuals or religious books (which is fine with me). They would not accept Tapestry of Grace at all, so it was more time consuming for me to "pull out" all of the religious content and turn in only the other parts of our schoolwork.

CONS of Sonlight:
1. The kids will be in separate "cores" and learning different things at the same time. I don't like the idea of one studying U.S. History, another studying ancient history etc. I like them all being on the same page. This is really the one deterrent from me running out and buying Sonlight right now.

In an ideal world, I would love to have Tapestry of Grace written in the format of Sonlight, if that makes sense. If Sonlight followed the same 4 yr rotation and included daily lesson plans for every level at the same time (with family read-alouds and projects for everyone to share), then I would be sold in a second.

I have a lot of thinking to do. I'm glad that I have started now so that I have some time before I have to make the decision. I don't like changing curriculum on the kids. I think that sometimes that can be frustrating and confusing, but other times it can be a blessing.

I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences on these two programs -especially if you have used both and can compare.

Do I order Sonlight and save myself a bunch of time in prep work, or do I spend my summer preparing the next school year?


heidi said...

Wow! We must be on the same page. A friend let me borrow her TOG to look at for a few weeks. But something keeps drawing me to Sonlight. I'm pregnant with #6 due in time for the coming school year. I needed something more laid out but that stuck to the the good books to read and was Biblically based. I also pondered Veritas Press. I like that too but I haven't seen their lesson plans which are supposedly like SL. It was good to hear what you liked/disliked about both. Thanks!!

God Bless, Heidi

SmallWorld at Home said...

I have no experience with TOG, but I've used SL for 9 years. PLEASE do not buy separate cores!! You can make one core work for all your kids at their ages. Aren't they all under 10? I used 1 core for my first two kids--who are 4 grades apart--up until my oldest was in 9th grade. I then bought him his own core which he did/does totally on his own. Now I do the same core with my younger two, who are also 4 grade levels apart. It works absolutely fine! You just have to tweak a little, but you may not have to do much tweaking with your kids closer together. I'd be happy to chat about it or look on the SL forums. There are lots of discussions about combining levels.

Luke said...


I just found your blog and I look forward to getting to know you and your family better over the coming days [smile].

Please, before you order, take advantage of our Sonlight Curriculum Advisors. These are homeschooling moms who can help you choose which Core (or Cores) you can combine and use for all your children. They can help you make an informed decision and answer any questions you have about having multiple kids on different Cores (if it comes to that).

The Sonlight Forums are another great resources to help you choose what will be the best fit for you and your family.

And I'm here if I can be of any assistance at all: Sonlightblog.com.

It's very exciting to hear you are considering Sonlight, and I want to make sure you have all the information you can get before you make a final choice.


Ps. Oh, and if you haven't glanced at the Reasons Not to Buy Sonlight, you may find it as informative as others have.

Pps. Sorry for the long comment. I just still haven't found a way to communicate all this information in fewer words [smile].

Lisa said...


I've used TOG for 3 years now but I do share some of your concerns as well. I'm not fond of writing aids I don't feel it gives me enough help. I also agree that year two is way too heavy. I'm not sure we will switch though. My oldest daughter likes the discussion part and is looking forward to WW2. She is in 9th grade. good luck with your decision.

Jennifer said...

Thanks! I suppose that I should hit the forums and see what other families have done to make it work with more than one child.

Audrey said...

Have you looked at My Father's World? After a lot of debating that's what we ended up with. :)

Julie Sanchez said...

I'm glad to see your post discussing the things that you liked/disliked about TOG and SL. I am very set on SL for K, but I had the thought in the back of my mind that for 1st or 2nd I may be willing to switch to TOG. Be sure toupdate what your decision is! PLEASE! : )

Craig, Taryn and our blessings said...

ditto with the combining cores - the electives, LA, maths etc can be different, but the cores kids can do the same thing. I've got 4 kiddos - 6 and under. We'll probably do 2 cores once they are all of school age - the 2 oldest together and 2 the 2 youngest together. Like your blog, btw - I picked it up via se7en's blog. Hope that helps! We love Sonlight!

the Steiger's said...

It must be that time of the year.
I am doing the same thing but the other way. I have been using Sonlight for 5 years and I LOVE it. I love the books, everything is done for me (I use same core for both of my boys and separate the LA and the readers)
I came across TOG last fall and I am looking into it. My boys love to read and they love history. I am now worry TOG would be to dry for them.
We have been praying and talking to people like crazy last few weeks and I will have to make up my mind soon.
I hope you will like SL if you try it.