Friday, July 15, 2011

Sonlight and BJU History Videos

As I've mentioned before, history was my least favorite subject in school, and I really think a literature-based approach, including historical fiction, is the most intriguing way to teach history. However, I also really liked what I saw in the sample elementary-age distance learning history videos from BJU. They include skits, re-enactments, and props which I think can bring history alive just as much as historical fiction. If I'm going to be buying a full-grade BJU distance learning kit anyway, I am very tempted to use their history too, and not just the English and math which is my primary teaching concern.

Sonlight, BJU - is there a way to combine them? Is it too much to do both? I think it would be too much to do both in their entirety, unless history is going to be your primary focus in school. (That's one qualm I had about Sonlight earlier even - history is pretty much the core for them, and is more of a focus than I had really wanted. Math and English should be the primary focus for the earlier grades, and I really prefer science to history, as far as the secondary subjects.)

However, BJU history (which they call Heritage Studies) in 1st-4th grades and in 6th grade, are just 1 semester courses. I think there will be time to add in select books from Sonlight to go along with each BJU course, spreading it out to a full year. To add even more flexibility, BJU is a textbook approach, despite the videos, and has quizzes and tests, which I could easily omit for elementary history work. Now, I am more comfortable with having some form of testing for student accountability, which is an aspect of using BJU that relieves some of my concerns about homeschooling, but I'm not too set on using tests for elementary history. As long as they are hearing (and seeing) the material and able to tell me about it verbally, I think that's enough for their age in history.

Another issue for combining is that BJU history does not follow the same sequence as Sonlight. BJU focuses on chronological US history for 1st-5th grade, not going back to do world history until 6th grade. Sonlight does world cultures in Core A, world history in Cores B & C, and US history in Cores D & E. But even though BJU does primarily US History, they add in a few choice world history tidbits from the same timeframe for each year. I have gone through the Sonlight book lists for cores A-E and categorized the books I like by time period and location, fitting them into whichever BJU year they match. Most of them end up being readable by the student at that grade level, though for 1st and 2nd, many of them I will have to read aloud. Adding these books is essential, I believe, for gaining the broader cultural "friendliness" and exposure which I love about Sonlight. The Sonlight books that are not history-related (just being readers), or that don't have reviews I like, we will just skip (or replace). This brings the total down to a very reasonable number to go along with the BJU videos.

For 6th grade world history, I will most likely add in more of my own choices to preface the BJU course, adding in prehistory from an old-earth perspective. In some ways, it is better to do this in 6th grade instead of in Core B of Sonlight (around 1st-3rd grade), as the student will be more mature and able to understand all the controversy and different options concerning this time period.

As for the higher grades, I will probably use more of Sonlight. I think I want to do the entire Core F of Sonlight, as it will introduce many valuable history lessons, instead of BJU 7th grade (more ancient/world history). I will probably use Cores G & H too (world history) in the next 2 grades, though not in their entirety, since I don't like the core spines Sonlight uses then. I may even use portions of the BJU 10th grade world history text as a spine. We'll see when the time comes. I plan to combine Sonlight's Core 100 and BJU's 11th grade US history courses for 10th grade, similarly to how I'm combining the elementary courses. I will also use parts of Sonlight's Core 300 (20th century world history) in combination with BJU's 10th grade world history textbook (not the video) again for 11th grade. For US government and economics in 12th grade, I will most likely use BJU's video course alone. So, that gives me a full plate for each year!

As we actually get to these grades, I will post a list of the extra books we end up using. Soon, I'll post a list of what I'm planning on using for 1st grade. If you are interested in what books I'm thinking of for a certain later year, feel free to ask me, and I can go ahead and give you my preliminary list.

As for other BJU courses past 6th grade, I am trying not to make up my mind yet, until we see how the first 6 years go. I do favor BJU English for the entire schooling adventure. Their math sounds good (mostly mastery), but they do not go all the way to calculus, so if my children are math whizzes, we may switch to something else at some point - either plain textbooks or other more advanced video/dvd programs (Chalkdust or Thinkwell, for example - see my earlier post too). We will probably use Math Mammoth worksheets for summer review sessions during elementary school too. So, we may or may not get full-grade BJU videos past 6th grade, but for the 1st 6 years (or 7, including kindergarten), I think I will easily make use of BJU math, history, and English (which includes reading, phonics/grammar/writing, handwriting, and spelling).


  1. Hi could you tell me what books you have combined from sonlight's core 300 literature with BJU world History for 10 th grade to make it a complete literature and history credit? Thank you!

  2. Well, my oldest is just starting 4th grade this year, so we haven't made it that far yet. What I was thinking, in this post, was to mostly just use the books in the "Biographies and Historical Fiction" section of Sonlight Core 300, combining that with the BJU 10th grade textbook, just for history (not literature). I've done a lot of "re-thinking" since this post though, and at this time, I'm leaning toward just using Sonlight, and not BJU at all. I have learned, in the past few years, that I tend to change my mind a lot as time goes by! So, what we actually end up using in high school may well be something else entirely.... Sorry I can't be more help!

  3. I know this is old, but if you still have the book lists, could I see the ones for elementary?

  4. It's been a while since I tried to make these lists, but here's what I found in my notes. There's some overlap in time periods. I should say that I ended up not following this plan, but went more with Sonlight alone. And while we've read many of these books, we didn't get to them all.

    2nd Grade: Jamestown - War of Independence
    Hillyer's A Child's History of the World - 1st half
    Usborne World History - as it fits in?
    Detectives in Togas
    Follow My Leader
    Greek Myths for Young Children?
    Little Pear
    Mountain Born
    Understood Betsy
    The Year of Miss Agnes
    The Wheel on the School
    Peter the Great, by Stanley
    Toliver's Secret
    Winter at Valley Forge
    A Lion to Guard Us
    Pocahontas and the Strangers, by Bulla
    And Then What Happened, Paul Revere?

    These could fit in 2nd or 3rd grade:
    The Door in the Wall
    The King's Equal
    The Minstrel in the Tower

    3rd grade: late 1700s - mid 1800s (Constitution, Civil War, Westward Expansion)
    Hillyer's A Child's History - 2nd half
    Usborne World History - as it fits in?
    The Apprentice
    Red Sails to Capri (this one's just fun!)
    The Twenty-One Balloons
    Phoebe the Spy
    Calico Bush
    Justin Morgan Had a Horse
    Robert Fulton: Boy Craftsman
    Sarah Whitcher's Story
    Sarah, Plain and Tall
    The Cabin Faced West
    The Courage of Sarah Noble
    The Skippack School
    By the Great Horn Spoon
    Plain Girl

    These can be read by the student themself:
    Keep the Lights Burning, Abbie
    Prairie School
    Riding the Pony Express, by Bulla
    Secret Valley
    The Long Way to a New Land
    The Long Way Westward

    These are the right time period, but may be too heavy for this age - could go in next year too, as there is some time overlap:
    Witch of Blackbird Pond
    Johnny Tremain
    Carry On, Mr. Bowditch
    Sign of the Beaver
    Across Five Aprils (Civil War)
    Freedom Train
    Moccasin Trail

    4th grade: late 1700s - early 1900s
    Imprisoned in the Golden City
    Incans, Aztecs & Mayans
    The Lewis & Clark Expedition
    The Journeyman
    Swift Rivers
    Walk the World's Rim
    Wagon Wheels (a little too easy)
    Cora Frear (a little too easy)
    Mustang, Wild Spirit of the West
    Story of Eli Whitney
    Little House books?
    Understood Betsy
    Lumber Camp Library
    Caddie Woodlawn
    George Washington Carver
    Shades of Gray
    Sing Down the Moon
    The Great Turkey Walk
    The Story of Thomas Alva Edison
    Turn Homeward, Hannalee

    5th grade: late 1800s - 2009
    William Wilberforce
    The World Wars (some heavy reading - may need to omit parts)
    Shoes For Everyone
    All Sail Set?
    The Little Riders?
    More Stories from Grandma's Attic
    Strawberry Girl
    A Letter to Mrs. Roosevelt
    Helen Keller, Davidson
    Hero Over Here
    In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson
    Miracles on Maple Hill
    The Wright Brothers
    Thimble Summer
    The Terrible Wave