Sonlight Core 5 - Eastern Hemisphere
(San Diego, CA)
Product: Sonlight Core 5 - Eastern Hemisphere
Levels Used: Core 5 - (5th - 7th grade)
Dates Used: 2006 - 2008
This was my first time using Sonlight curriculum, and we absolutely loved it. I bought the entire core 5 directly from Sonlight, which saved me from making a library trip each week or searching down the materials as we needed them. We purchased the basic core plus the science and Bible that went along with it. There is a choice to buy a 4-day or 5-day per week curriculum, and we chose the 4-day since we do other things on Fridays. It covers the same material, but condenses some and omits some of the books that are least relevant.
When the package first arrives, you need to spend a couple of hours putting together your teacher books in a way that makes sense to you. There are step-by-step directions, so it is not a difficult thing to do. There are 2 notebooks included: a fat one, and a skinny one. We chose to put most of the lessons in the fat one and use the skinny one for only the current week (so I changed the week during each weekend). We kept the notes and answers in the small book as well so we never needed to get out our fat notebook during the week.
Sonlight is all planned out for you, and the weekly schedule tells you exactly what to do each day for each subject. I loved having it all planned out so that I didn't have to spend hours preparing our lesson plans.
I loved the reading material that Sonlight suggests. They choose interesting books that take place in the area we are studying. My kids (5th & 7th grade) enjoyed the reading, especially the read-alouds. The books were interesting to me as well, so we all couldn't wait to get to (and didn't want to miss) the reading.
The course was taught from a Biblical world-view, and was very missions oriented. There was a prayer-time for the country being studied, and also a DVD included that gave a short introduction to the country as well as what their main religion was and what they needed prayer for. I loved being able to see the people from the countries, and sometimes hear what they sounded like. It was great to see the kinds of clothes they wore, how crowded the cities were, and see their methods of transportation. The Bible curriculum went along with the rest of it perfectly, and was fascinating for both the kids and myself. The cultures were emphasized, and there were many activities (cut & paste, puzzles, etc) that made it interesting to the kids.
Also included, was a CD of World Book Encyclopedia (or you could access World-book online if the CD doesn't work on your computer). There was a part of the day where the students gather information like population or kind of government from the encyclopedia and also read a few paragraphs or pages about that country. There was a map section where the kids filled in major cities and capitals, or other notable land markings with colored pencils.
There was something called the "Eastern Hemisphere Explorer" which was a bunch of worksheets that we bound together into a spiral notebook (with a cardstock cover) (it only cost us a couple dollars at a copy-center) so they had their notebook of all the countries and just filled it in throughout the year.
There were also hands-on activities for each section so the kids could work on a long-term project. There were choices for the activities so there was something that each kind of child would enjoy. Examples might be to research and cook a meal that would be traditional for that culture, to write a fact card listing three facts about the country, to write and perform a puppet show similar to the ones they read about, etc.
Another fun thing about the core was that it came with an "Ancient China Treasure Chest" (we ordered an extra for our 2nd child) that was used with the study of China in week 10. There were coins, games, and calligraphy included in this, as well as some paper-folding to do with one of the reading books. My kids couldn't wait until we studied China so they could open their treasure chest (complete with a key).
We also liked the science of core 5 - it was anatomy (the Human Body). There was some copying to do out of one of the books (unless you wanted to write in the book), and my kids already knew much of the information, but it was easy for me and for them to do. It was completely separate from the rest of the curriculum so you could choose to do your own science if you would like.
While we LOVED this curriculum, and also LOVED the readings, there was much time for the parent to spend reading or teaching. This was hard for us since I have three younger boys as well who needed attention. My older kids also had a hard time doing the encyclopedia readings on their own, and thought the questions from the reading were too hard. They had no prior research experience, though, so this was really good for them to do. We did skip this sometimes if time was short. I usually had them fill in the answers, even if they hadn't found them on their own.
I think overall we learned a lot about Geography, and a little bit of history. We learned a lot about cultures and countries, and read many books. We would definitely recommend this curriculum to others.