Monday, April 8, 2013

Oak Meadow Versus Sonlight

It's funny, because I googled this (Oak Meadow versus Sonlight) while I was debating Oak Meadow. I didn't find much at the time, so it's kind of funny that I am now writing the post I was searching for. If some day you are googling like I was and come across this post, I hope it helps somewhat. If you have specific questions, I would be happy to help!

I mentioned here that we will not be returning to Oak Meadow next year. We used Grade 6 and Grade 4 of Oak Meadow this year. We used everything but the math. Before I share why it didn't work so well for us, I do want to say that I think it is a great program, for the right child. It is well thought-out, includes every subject, has lots of hands-on activities, and is fairly easy to implement. That said, we will not be using it past this year, and I wanted to share why.

Thoughts on Oak Meadow versus Sonlight

Combining Kids

It feels harder to combine kids with Oak Meadow than with Sonlight.  There is a curriculum for each grade level, instead of the lettered Cores Sonlight offers.  OM does suggest you could pick the year in the middle of two kids and tweak it up and down as necessary. We did not choose to do this, but I could see this working and perhaps we would have been more successful if we had. The major difficulty I foresee is that, because there are very few separate books with Oak Meadow, the child spends a lot of time using the bound curriculum book. This book is written for the child to read to himself and is needed constantly throughout the day, which would make sharing difficult unless I read everything out loud to them. Buying two copies would be cost prohibitive. With Sonlight, the child might read from as many as six different books each day, so if one is being used they can easily choose another. 

My older two enjoyed learning together when we used Sonlight. Oak Meadow definitely felt more like a "child working by self" education. It doesn't feel as "cozy" as Sonlight. Especially as the kids get older, it is nice to have someone else to discuss with. Not to mention that it is just plain easier to be able to have some of the kids working together!

Books Read

Oak Meadow deviates hugely from Sonlight when it comes to the number of books read. For Grade 4, eight books were assigned for the year. Grade 6 assigned only six books. Contrast that with Sonlight Core D which both kids did last year: there were 55 books assigned! The huge difference is because much of the reading in Oak Meadow comes from the syllabus book, rather than a separate book. My kids love to read and OM was just not enough for them. In contrast, the reading in Sonlight sometimes seemed like too much, but we have agreed too much is better than too little. The readings in the OM syllabus are fairly interesting, but they often read more like a textbook. The information also tends to be more shallow than we are used to, more like we are just skimming the surface of things than really diving in and learning about something interesting. The science was particularly unpopular with Grace, who said it was just a bunch of rather dull reading followed by answering questions or writing an essay. There are some pictures included with the text, but not the quality or quantity we are used to with Sonlight.

Language Arts

I cannot really compare Sonlight Language Arts with Oak Meadow because I have only limited experience with SL LA. One of my main reasons for switching to OM was the integrated language arts. I liked that the LA assignments would be right there along with everything else, that they would relate to what they were learning about in history or science, and that they would not have to be planned separately.  I found though, that using it this way was tough. My kids were both way ahead of the OM grammar and while I started out having them do it, we quickly dropped it. The writing assignments, on the other hand, were frequently too difficult for them. I credit both of these problems with our origins in classical education. The kids both started grammar in first grade with First Language Lessons. They have known the parts of speech for years. They do not need to practice writing sentences with adverbs or underlining action verbs. That's just busywork. Yes, we could use a separate grammar program-but again, I would have to tweak!

For the writing, even though we no longer use much from The Well-Trained Mind, the suggestions for writing and the three stages have stuck with me. OM 4 includes a lot of creative writing assignments, which Christopher is just entirely frustrated by, and TWTM doesn't recommend until much later. There are also a lot of "write a diary entry from the main character's point of view" type assignments. Good and fun, for the right kids. But Christopher would much rather write a report on bearded dragons, and I daresay it feels more age-appropriate for him to be doing so. More tweaking.

OM 6 includes a lot of writing, really too much in my opinion. And the writing is again, more advanced concepts than even TWTM would recommend. Grace is squarely in the logic stage, a stage at which she is making connections about why things happened. So while she can certainly write an essay about the four virtues (Confucius), she has a harder time writing an essay about how those four virtues are relevant in her life, complete with examples.  I am certainly not saying every child would have a problem with the writing assignments or even that the level of thought called for is inappropriate. It's just not something she is quite ready for, and many of the writing assignments involve similar themes that cause her a lot of frustration. More tweaking.  I do like how the child is given a choice of several different writing assignments, and a child who is ready to move on to more complex writing topics would probably enjoy the variety.

The Cost

The cost of Oak Meadow and Sonlight are similar. Neither one is a cheap program. I feel better about spending the money on Sonlight though, because I am getting a ton of really good books. Many of the books get read again and again, even outside of our lesson time. With OM, most of the money is in the syllabus: one or two textbook-type books that serve as the spine. There are very few additional titles. This also makes me quite nervous about the syllabus! I'm always like "Hey that's a $200 book! watch it with your pb & j!!"

Ease of Use

Sonlight divides each week up day by day. OM divides only into weeks. This can be a strength or a weakness. I initially liked that the week was more flexible with OM, but I found that I had to make lists for the kids, especially Christopher, so they would know what to do each day. In effect, I had to break it down day-by-day anyway! With Sonlight, we can just work from the Instructor's Guide which is already broken down day by day. I think, as long as you can feel okay about taking longer than a day to do a Sonlight day, it is more user friendly to have everything clearly laid out and broken down like they do. I also missed the discussion questions about the books Sonlight includes. OM has a teacher's manual but it doesn't generally include ideas for discussion, so I had to skim through the texts myself to come up with discussion points. Again, not necessarily good or bad, but with four kids, it is a huge help to me to have discussion ideas and notes about the books already laid out.  It lets me discuss with them when I don't have time to read the books myself.

Projects

One of the things that initially drew us to OM was the projects. There are usually a few project ideas per week in the younger levels and my kids were always saying we didn't do enough hands-on stuff with Sonlight. This very reason though, has also turned me against OM. Shameful admission: I don't really love to do projects! I mean, one or two, fine, but too many projects, or long and involved projects stress me out.  Christopher was assigned making a model of a natural landscape, complete with model animals, one week and a model of a Native American village another week. He is now due to make a model covered wagon. It feels like too much. Grace is constantly saying things like, " I need turpentine, an organic tomato seed, a head of broccoli, and six tubes of oil paint for next week". Aargh!! I can handle one extra project and maybe a couple of science experiments per week. To have two kids in two separate curriculums with two separate projects-oh dear.

In short, I think getting back to the basics is in order. We do better with lots of reading and discussion, a few science experiments, a writing project or two a week, and an occasional project for fun. As it stands now, Oak Meadow is off the table for next year, and we will be doing Sonlight with all the kids. 

17 comments:

  1. You really articulated very well my issues with Oak Meadow when we tried it (1st/2nd for Cassia, 4th for Cyrus). The writing assignments in 4th were either far too easy, or far too difficult, and I got tired of running around to find odd supplies. Naturally, I've been tempted by OM a few times since then, BUT I just remember how little the kids really enjoyed it, and then I look at the prices! I love to read good books with them, and to combine them in many of their studies... I can totally see where Sonlight would do that.I can't afford Sonlight these days, so we'll make do with my homemade lit studies, in other words, lots of good books!

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  2. Yes, I really think it has to be all about the books. I did debate just using the SL lists as a reading list and using the library instead of buying- I have heard this can be done-but I am hoping for some tax return money and being able to buy most of it just to make things easier!

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  3. I tried Sonlight for p4/p5 and did not love it. I actually did Oak Meadow K and 1. BUT, I swapped to Sonlight and did Core A for gr 1 and will be doing Core B this upcoming year for gr 2. I feel like Oak Meadow is actually behind in their teachings...I <3 Sonlight!!

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  4. We missed Core A on the first go-around, but will hopefully do it next year. We did Core B for 2nd too and it was perfect!

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  5. This is SO helpful...I have been searching the internet looking for someone to compare these two curriculums. We have never tried Sonlight in its entirety, but we use the reading lists. We did OM 3rd grade last year and did interest-led Kindergarten...but now, I have a 4th grader whom I've already bought OM for and I'm not sure what to do with my 1st/2nd grader who is doing 2nd grade math yet barely reading. Thinking of a completely different program for her like Sonlight...one where I can have my 3 year old follow along if he wants and my 3 year old LOVES books. My 4th grader is a really hands-on learner. So...after reading your review I'm going to stick with OM with my 4th grader but after that (and depending on how the year goes) we might just completely switch over to Sonlight for everyone. Does anyone use simply the instructor's guide and core? We already do Singapore for math.

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  6. Sarah-Sonlight doesn't include math in their program, they just sell other programs (like Sinagpore) through their company separately or with the multi-subject packages. We use the Core package which includes the IG, history, language arts, and literature. And we also use the science. Happy to answer any questions if you have any!

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  7. Oh and also, I have not done Core A yet, but I am planning on doing it next year when I have a first grader. I do have the language arts K which is recommended with to go with Core A and it is very basic: learning the letter sounds, beginning readers, handwriting practice, etc. So that could be a good fit.

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  8. Thank you! This is exactly what I was looking for.

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  9. Does anyone have a used OM kindergarten curriculum they would be willing to sell?

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  10. I have looked at sonlight many times over the years. It is pricey. What would be the shell to buy, if I could fill in the middle? Also, what fo you feel you couldn't live without from them? Thank you

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  11. Hi Kasha,

    Yes, Sonlight is pricey, but for me it doesn't feel too bad because I reuse each Core. I bought Core B several years ago for my older two and am now on my third time through it with my youngest- I definitely feel like I got my money's worth there. You could do it much more cheaply by just buying the instructor guide and any books that are serving as "spines" for the core (usually this will be a history book, like A Child's History of the World) and then getting the rest from the library. It would take more planning, but could def. be done. I find a lot of the books at used book sales and save quite a bit of money that way.

    As far as other stuff from them, I do like having the timeline books for each child, but I have only used the markable map a couple of times. If you want advice on what to get for a specific core I am happy to help!

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  12. Thanks for your thoughts. I've been homeschooling 4 children for the past 9 years. My oldest started out in a Waldorf School in CA, life brought us to IN and I had to dive into homeschooling. I've enjoyed sitting on the couch reading fantastic literature with my children through Sonlight for the past 2 years. I wish I would have found Sonlight sooner. That being said my second is now in highschool and we've been drawn back to Oak Meadow. She's enrolled in the correspondence high school, and so far I'm very pleased with all they have offered. I'm thrilled that she is being asked to respond artistically to very academic subject matter. It fits her learning style beautifully and allows her to express her understanding using a language she can express. Now I'm wondering what to do with my 10 year old son who is struggling with Sonlight reading this year. He loves to be read to and comprehends so much, the last two years he sat through his own reading as well as his older sister's reading and often engaged the conversation more then they did. This year we're reading the Eastern Hemisphere books together (I got tired of reading two different sets of books.). He's working on the readers for 5th, and they're just too hard. Maybe he needs more activity rather than sitting and reading, I'm not sure. I got on line this morning with the big question: should I switch to OM or continue with Sonlight? And then I found your post. Thanks, you've definitely given me food for thought.

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    1. Jane, I am glad it was helpful. For what it's worth, I have almost always had my kids on the older end of a range for their Sonlight cores and that has worked well. My 10 year old is doing BookShark 4 this year, which is basically the same as Sonlight Core E. The readers in that Core seem just the right amount of challenge...but I hear you about not wanting to read two sets of books. I have gotten used to doing it, but it was an adjustment in the beginning.

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  13. Thank you for posting this! I have been struggling with this exact topic! I LOVE what OM stands for but have found it so incredibly hard to teach my 4th and 2nd grader and lots of hands on which I thought we would love! I have just purchased Sonlight Core B&C and are even switching to their LA Programs for now! Thank you for posting!

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  14. I am glad it was helpful! I hope Sonlight works well for your family!

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  15. Thank you from here as well! Your wonderful review & experience has been very helpful. Our older 2 have graduated (we did TWTM & TOG til they were in 7th & 9th when our 3rd child was born - then classical went out the window!!). We now have 3 younger ones & I've never hsed with a baby...so classical is proving hard once again. SOTW is our history for now but I've always drooled over SL....we did waldorfy & montessori things for prek/k but now with one going into first & one going into 3rd along w/ a toddler....sonlight beckons once again.....

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    1. Homeschooling with a baby is never easy! But I did find that the SL part of our day was the easiest to accomplish with the baby, because I could read aloud while nursing/rocking/etc. Especially for the younger cores, the reading doesn't take much time, so it was pretty easy to fit in. Then, with any toddlers/preschoolers I had a lot of success with bringing out a basket of blocks or crayons and a coloring book, or a set of trains...I found that if they had something to do they were happier to sit and listen while I read to the older kids.

      Of course this didn't work all the time and many times they ended up on my lap, which was fine, or wreaking havoc in the other room...not as fine, but it's all part of the experience, right? Good luck with whatever you choose!

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