Here is a chart showing a quick rundown. Details follow.
Part 2 includes a comparison of structure, flexibilty/ease of modification, combining grade levels, book quality, content and publishers.
Together, all three parts of this detailed review of My Father’s World vs. Sonlight includes a comparison of difficulty, what’s included and what you get for the cost, structure, flexibility and ease of use, combining grade levels in each, book quality, book content, publishers, science content, amount of parent reading required, “on the go” ease of use, independent reading required of the student, literature studies (especially for middle school years), addresses the question of whether MFW is really “Sonlight light,” “open and go” ease of use of each, which curriculum is more hands on, and the overall cost for those of you on a tight budget.
Part 1 of this comparison between My Father’s World and Sonlight was more factual, comparing what’s included and what’s not. However, now I’ll get into areas where my opinion is part of the equation. Of course, what works for you and your family might be different, and that’s ok!
The structure has some important differences. I like the way that MFW is structured. In fact, I prefer it! MFW’s structure makes it easy to add or substitute stuff, and I like to do that. If you have a week with a lot of field trips or a mini unit study you wanted to do, it’s fairly easy to just keep the MFW weekly concept and combine it with the next week, so you can stay on track.
If you compare the teacher’s guides, Sonlight has only page numbers listed but does not include a description of the topic. MFW details the topic right there next to the page numbers. It makes it so much easier to look things up on YouTube or get extra stuff from our house or the library. You could look things up ahead of time with Sonlight, but that’s extra work that I don’t want to have to do.
MFW is structured so that you’ll easily have a little portfolio at the end. The portfolio is convenient if you need that. We don’t need it to turn in a portfolio to the state or anything, but my kids like it. You could make a great portfolio using Sonlight, but it’s not inherently part of the curriculum.
The My Father’s World portfolio, plus the way that MFW has a sort of “weekly topic,” has made it easier for me to get my kids to understand what they’re supposed to be learning. And, they and I know whether or not they have learned it! They are “learning about learning,” which I like. Sonlight is more “absorption.” However, Sonlight does have a list of “suggested learning objectives” for each week, but everything is so specific and there are so many facts, and you have to flip around to in the teacher’s guide to find them. Plus, even once you’ve found them, you don’t know which reading assignments cover which topics, so you’d still have to do the reading to find out.
If you compare the flexibility of My Father’s World vs. Sonlight, Sonlight is less flexible. It’s hard to cut certain things out because so many of the same concepts are taught or covered in the literature. You’re assigned about three history novels at once plus poetry plus the history spine, which is separate from language arts readers. These all could cover and re-cover the same history topics, but stretched out over the week. That means there is a lot of jumping around, but it also means that if your child wasn’t paying attention on one day, or you missed one day, the topic might be re-covered. But it might not be re-covered, and you wouldn’t know unless you page through the books to check.
There isn’t really a weekly topic in Sonlight, so it’s very hard to know what is being covered that day. MFW allows more wiggle room and usually a week’s work goes together as a weekly unit, at least to a degree. With MFW you could skip a concept or teach the concept in a different way. You’re probably not going to be reading about the same topic in a different assigned book, though.
Finally, because there is less assigned reading in MFW (something I expand on in Part 3), you have time to add foreign language and other interests.
First, realize that even if you combine into one history (etc) curriculum, you still might need to buy separate curricula for their math, language arts, etc., depending on their needs.
If your kids are within three years of each other and they are both reading and writing pretty well, I find that you don’t need to do a lot of extra work to combine kids into one Sonlight Core (now H/B/L).
However, if your children are more than two or three years apart, or have very different reading and writing abilities, MFW works with a wider range of ages. MFW is easier to supplement, and that’s due to the way it’s structured. But, there’s a caveat, because if you have 7th and 8th graders, MFW just might not be enough for them, something which I cover more in Part 3 of this series.
Another reason why MFW is easier to combine is that it allows for more time to respond to what’s being covered rather than just reading through it. The MFW history student sheets are very open-ended and work for many different grade levels. My kids are remembering a lot more history this year than the years when I just used Sonlight. I could go back and use Sonlight the same way, adapting it like I do MFW, now that I have taught a year through MFW, but it would be more work. The downside to those MFW student sheets is that if you aren’t sure what to expect of your student, you could easily be too harsh or to lax.
Sonlight does not publish any of their own books, but My Father’s World does. I am not a fan, so far, of the MFW-produced books. At least in the years we’ve had (Exploration-1850 and Adventures), MFW is not doing a good job with historical accuracy. Thank goodness I have Sonlight and my own knowledge of primary source material. My 9-year-old learned to consult primary sources, check multiple sources from multiple authors, and not to blindly trust what one book says. That’s a silver lining.
The US history years of MFW are structured so that US history is mixed with what was going on in world history at the same time. I like that a lot.
So, as I said, I have a problem with some of the MFW basic history concerning events that happened within the last 200-400 years. Really, you can probably find accuracy issues in every curriculum, it’s just that when comparing My Father’s World vs. Sonlight, Sonlight does a better job in this area. Why is that? Sonlight also uses books that could have historical issues or contradictions. However, Sonlight’s teacher’s guide has a page on why this happens, and what to discuss with your children. Sonlight also has notes in the teacher’s guide detailing pages to skip or issues to address when certain potentially problematic chapters are assigned. Sonlight also covers the same topic in multiple books, and sometimes you get different perspectives from the different books. As a lawyer, I like this. Developing critical thinking is important to me. I don’t see it in MFW (although you could add it if you like).