Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sonlight or Five in a Row?

(Sure...this is "exactly" how I look everyday...lol)

If you are a fan of my blog, you will know that we recently started a new literature based curriculum this summer called Five in a Row.  The program is called "Five in a Row" because a single book is read five days in a row.  (This is called "rowing" a book.)  Each day a different subject is covered which pertains to something discussed in the book. (Note:  You can see what a typical week of FIAR looks like for us here to get a better idea of how the program works.) We are using this program as a sort of a filler year over the summer and fall until we are ready to order Sonlight P4/P5. 

Since I began blogging about Five in a Row I have gotten multiple emails from people asking me which I like better:  Sonlight or Five in a Row.  


Here I will give some of my thoughts on the subject for those who are interested.

Sonlight or Five in a Row?
The short answer to your question is this:  I think that the two programs actually complement each other VERY nicely.  So I would say that there is absolutely no reasons that you would have to choose between the two programs.  So, I would start thinking in terms of Sonlight AND FIAR.

The two things that these programs have in common is an absolute incredible ability to choose wonderful children's literature.  I have been blown away by their selections.  They happen to choose books that not only appeal to the adult in the child, but also to the child in the adult.  Some of the stories/books are timeless classics that you will probably be familiar with.  Others are books that I never would have discovered on my own if it hadn't been for FIAR and Sonlight.  But my short answer is that all of these books are absolutely wonderful.  Even if you don't do the entire FIAR program as intended (reading the books five days in a row and doing all of the activities) I would at the very least use FIAR as a reading list.  You won't want to miss these books.   The one con to both of these programs is that they will probably turn you into a children's book snob. (I say that half jokingly.)  What I mean is that It is hard to go back to everyday children's twaddle after spending so much time with Sonlight and FIAR books. *

One of the big differences between FIAR and Sonlight, is that FIAR puts a lot more emphasis on picture books.  In fact, picture books make up their entire program until you get to Beyond Five in a Row which was developed for 8-12 year olds.  One of the most wonderful things that FIAR has taught me (as a parent/teacher) is to appreciate these picture books immensely.  I used to think that these picture books were "babyish" and basically just a stepping stone until the child has the attention span to listen to chapter books.  However, I have learned that these picture books talk about incredibly deep subjects and the stories they have to tell are anything but babyish.   I have also learned to have such an appreciation for them as an art form.  So I am happy to include them both in what I read to my children.

Sonlight books, on the other hand, put a lot more emphasis on books with fewer pictures.   Actually, the only Sonlight core which is made up of picture books is their very first preschool core (Sonlight P3/P4).  After that, they move to a lot more chapter books (even in their core for 4 & 5 year olds-P4/P5 books!)  This is one of the reasons I say that FIAR and Sonlight complement each other very well.  Sonlight is going to have a lot of the longer read-alouds that you might read each day over the course of several days.  FIAR is going to be centered around picture books that you can easily read in one sitting.    Which is better?  I think that both are important for different reasons.  With picture books much of the story is stated implicitly.  You have to derive details from the pictures which teaches children to pay attention to small details while they are reading.  (Example: Night of the Moonjellies).  Non-picture books force the child to imagine the story for themselves (picturing how the setting and characters might look or sound like).  They also help build attention span. 

Another difference between sonlight and FIAR is some of the topics that they talk about.  There is a really great article that I recommend reading called 27 reasons NOT to buy Sonlight.  I would say read these and if you find that a large amount apply to you , then I would skip sonlight because you probably aren't going to like it.  In particular I will talk about their reasons 6, 11, 15, 21, and 22.  Take for example, the Brer Rabbit tales included in Sonlight P4/P5.  Sonlight includes this in their core because they feel that these are classic tales which have a unique historical and cultural importance.  However, I have heard some people complain about these stories because in the stories Brer rabbit lies and cheats and generally gets away with it.  Although the stories are lighthearted and funny, their are some parents who don't even like to expose their chidlren to character traits like that at this age.   (Espeically when cheating seems to get the character ahead in life!)   It is Sonlight's opinion that parents need to talk with their children about right vs. wrong while reading the books.  And that books alone can't teach character lessons.  In fact, most of Sonlights curriculum is centered around the conversation that is supposed to happen naturally as you read these books.  However, if you feel like stories like this are not something you want to bring in your home, you probably aren't going to like Sonlight in general.  Another example would be Sonlight P3/P4 core are classic fairly tales.  In sonlight's opinion, these fairy tales and nursery tales are an important part of our handed down traditions in literature.  Sonlight feels that it is important that children be familiar with some of these stories since they are referred to so often in our culture.  On the other hand, some parents don't like fairy tales because of some of the topics that come up.   (For example in Hansel and Gretel, their step mother tries to get rid of the children by leading them off into the woods alone!)   As far as this issue is concerned, there is no right or wrong answer here.  I just bring this up so that you are aware of some criticism that Sonlight has received and you can decide what is right for YOUR family.  I also brought up some of the more controversial stories in both the preschool cores so that you might be able to check them out from the library and see if you have a problem with them.    The majority of the people I have talked to love Sonlight.  However, some have complained because they don't like some of the books sonlight chooses based on character issues.  You have to decide how you feel about this.

In both Five in a Row and Sonlight, some heavy topics are discussed through the use of children's books.  For example, in the Five in a Row book Who Owns the Sun the topic of slavery is brought up which wasn't something I would have planned to talking to my 3 and 4 year old about.  However, I think that all of the books are written with taste and sensitivity and in a way that even young children can understand.

Which Do I Personally Like Better?
Well, bottom line is that I like both programs...and I have found both useful and worthwhile.    Also, like I said before, the good news is that we don't have to pick one vs. the other.  We can have both.  :)  However, I guess if I had to pick one, I would probably pick Sonlight. 


We are three weeks into FIAR now, and to tell you the truth, I have very mixed feelings on it.  One one hand, it is a very fun program.  And the books are just superb.  I was pre-reading one of them last night (The rag coat) and I was seriously crying my eyes out at the end of it!  Over a picture book!  So they are truly great books and touch on a lot of important subjects that I never would have thought to bring up on my own.  Plus, we have been doing a lot of neat things.

On the other hand, I still feel like FIAR is VERY planning intensive for mom.  (That is my biggest complaint about FIAR.)  Also, Marcus really doesn't like reading the same book over and over again.  He likes more variety.   So--to be honest with you, our family enjoyed our time learning with Sonlight more than FIAR.  So if I could only pick one for some reason, it would probably be Sonlight.


I like it that sonlight does all of the planning and scheduling for you.  I just pick up the instructors guide and I have a complete put together curriculum that is also centered around great books.  So I had more time to actually just enjoy being with my children instead of time spent planning and gathering supplies.FIAR also seems more appealing from reading a blog point of view.  (Lots of great pictures.)  However, sonlight is more appealing from an implementation point of view.

However, like I said, FIAR books are excellent...so at the very least I would tell people to use the program as a reading list.  You don't want to miss these books.  :)

Are you thinking of ordering from Sonlight?
If so, if you click on the banner below to complete your order, you can save $5 on your order of $50 or more.  Just enter my rewards number upon registering (CH20271164). 

Sonlight Curriculum

Are you thinking of ordering from Five in a Row?
I have found that you can save significant money on the Five in a Row teachers manuals by ordering them used from Amazon.  I have gotten all of mine that way, and I have been very pleased with their quality and price.
Before Five in a Row
 Five in a Row Vol. 1
Five in a Row Vol. 2
Five in a Row Vol. 3

 
Do you have a question for The Attached Mama?  You can ask your question here!


*Links to Become Attached To:
Some other great reading lists/literature based curriculum that I would recommend checking out in addition to Sonlight and FIAR are:
(I haven't loved every book from Simply Charlotte Mason, but there are many treasures in there.  You will notice some overlap between all of these lists.  However, their are many treasures that I would see if your library has. ) 

Also, to see how other families like Sonlight and Five in a Row, check out these links:

11 comments:

Luke said...

Thanks so much for writing this up. I know many people look for solid comparisons between programs... and I do appreciate you discussing Sonlight's benefits (as well as the very real reasons Sonlight is not for everyone) [smile].

~Luke

Jennifer in MamaLand said...

Thanks for this comparison - we're Jewish, but I will now be looking seriously at Sonlight's booklists, if nothing else.
I was so impressed with the FIAR list that I repurposed it as our "summer reading list" - with free printable chart and stickers at my blog, just to make it super-convenient for others who want to do the same.

redkitchen said...

We use Five in a Row for kindergarten & first grade & then Sonlight for the remaining years. I LOVE both programs as well!

Monica said...

Great review of both programs! I agree with you...both programs have their strengths. I did Before Five in a Row (and am doing it again, in a not-super-intensive way, with my 2 year old son). We're also enjoying the Sonlight P 3/4 books and have already purchased the Sonlight Pre-K curriculum to start in the winter. With a baby due in the fall, I so appreciate that everything is all planned out with the Pre-K curriculum. I feel like I can just pick up a book and concentrate on enjoying time with my boys. The P 3/4 books have been great that way too. I just pick up a bunch of books, call the boys over to the couch, and we have a great time together. Like you said, though, FIAR has it's strengths too, and I think that at other times in our lives it will fit really well into our lives. I can see using FIAR as a fun supplement to Sonlight...maybe take a break from our regular curriculum routine and do something a little different, with more themed projects and trips, every once in a while.

Raising a Happy Child said...

Great post. I am not a homeschooler, so I use sort of adapted FIAR with available online resources. The good place to look is here - http://www.homeschoolshare.com/general_resources.php. Using prebuilt resources doesn't consume too much time, but probably could if I chose to follow the program fully.

kewkew said...

Thanks so much for this post. I have been looking into Sonlight for next year, but had just started looking at FIAR too. I thought maybe I would do the FIAR first while the girls are still younger (4 and 5 1/2) and then the next year go with Sonlight P4/5 when the girls are 5 and 6 1/2 because I have read so much on the boards about waiting until children are older before starting Core A. And right now I am reading books from the P3/4 list in addition to our letter of the week books.

Anonymous said...

I use both. I love both. I agree, that they go together really well. I have found that I keep finishing up with a Sonlight Core, but my daughter isn't ready for the next Core, and FIAR is a good bridge, and also helps improve her comprehension so she is ready for the next core. I also have found that the FIAR books and Sonlight books coorelate in a loose way. I am (right now) set about trying to make a chart - this FIAR book is nicely echoed in this Sonlight book - so books can be used as go alongs or for review down the road.

I also think that you may want to try FIAR as grab and go. We do it differently for each books, some books we go all out with field trips and lapbooks and science experiments, some we just do one of those things . . and many we do conversationally. I literally just read the TM and then we just have a conversation a day about a topice - yes, we refer to a map, and we might look at a book we have on the science topic, and do the art thing next time we feel like doing art . . . we can keep it very casual and no prep at all very easily, and still have a very good experience.

Natalie

Anonymous said...

Ah, the list cross referencing FIAR to Sonlight exists at HSS.
http://www.homeschoolshare.com/FIARSonlightmatch.php

I thought it would exist somewhere. :)

Anonymous said...

When do you plan to begin Sonlight PreK 4/5?

kewkew said...

Okay, pregnancy brain strikes again. I just read this post and was thinking, this is great info. Then I see I already commented last month which means I read it last month. Come back brain....please!!
Anyway, I guess I can just update now and mention we are going with FIAR for this year at least. I am definitely wanting to try out Sonlight P4/5 next year I hope. Sonlight seems like the curriculum I want to go with, but we couldn't afford it right now and I mentioned I want to wait so I don't have to worry about stretching the Cores out too much. We'll just start it later. You mentioned about doing both, but we couldn't afford to do both. We actually were able to get Vol 1 of FIAR and the cookbook and the Character Supplement for next to nothing because I had won a gift certificate to a book store. I am so excited. Is FIAR very planning intensive only if you do a lot extra, or is it planning intensive just to do what is in the manual? Just wondering

Chelle said...

Really ♥nice♥ post!
We've loved using a combination of FIAR and SL from the go get - you're exactly right they compliment each other beautifully - using our own twist, 3DAWS (Three days a week).
FIAR worked better for us 'conversationally, as opposed to lots of hands on moments ... we did those with SL ;}

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