We're starting year nine of homeschooling so I've got a pretty good feel for what works for us and what doesn't. I still try new stuff on occasion but we pretty much stick to what we've always used. One of the best things I did when I started homeschooling was to go to the library and read a ton of books. After that I got Lisa Welchel's book, So You're Thinking About Homeschooling. In this book she shows a "day in the life" of several different types of homeschooling families. It really helped me to figure out what I wanted to use in the beginning. I also found out that a friend was using what I thought I wanted to use so I went to visit her and look over her books. Sealed the deal!
I'm so happy I found Sonlight from the beginning! The main things that sold me on it were the books and the schedule...and the books. Did I mention the schedule? I love the schedule. One thing I know about myself is that if I was going to homeschool I needed a schedule to keep me on track. We still have days where things don't go as they should but at least I've got the schedule to get me back where we're supposed to be.
The main core of Sonlight is history, Bible, and language arts. They also put together a great science package and sell most everything else you need to have a complete school year, math, art and other electives. Sonlight for each level has a main spine book, for example for the Introduction to American History they use The Landmark History of the American People. Using this, they schedule all sorts of great books to fill out the history, give it color and flavor. A lot of the books they use are Caldecott Award winner books, which means that they were favorites of mine growing up. My grandmother was a librarian and always gave us books for our birthdays and Christmas, always great books. Sonlight is what is called a literature based curriculum, using real books to teach history and sometimes science.
In the lower levels, Sonlight schedules the history books and read alouds for the parents to read to their children as well as readers for the children to read to themselves. At the high school level, Sonlight schedules all the reading to be done by the student with a discussion with the parents to deepen the learning. When the girls were young, I had them working together for most everything except math. I expected more from Sweet Pea in her written work since she's two grades ahead of Rosie Jane. They both did math on their own levels. As they got older, they did separate science since they became interested in different things. Now that Sweet Pea is in high school, they're mostly working on their own. We'll read the Bible together in the morning and we're also doing a history of classical music together this year; otherwise at this point they're working independently of each other. It was great in the lower grades to have them working together. I could read all their history, RAs, Bible, and science together, explain their language arts assignment then work with them individually on reading, spelling, and math. Now that they're older they can do a lot of self teaching and I discuss with them what they've been reading. School still takes a lot of my time, especially Rosie Jane, but it's definitely worth it.
I should see if I can find a picture of our school books. When you school using literature, you end up with a LOT of books. And books can be read over and over again, and can be reused by younger students. That last is not much of an issue with us since until the last year or so they were working together but now that they're now, the books I buy for Sweet Pea will be used in a couple of years for Rosie Jane and I don't think I'll have to buy anything.