Part 3 includes a comparison of science, amount of parent reading, ease of use “on the go,” independent reading, literature studies (especially in middle school), addresses the question of whether My Father’s World is really “Sonlight light,” “open and go” ease of use, which curriculum is more “hands on,” and a discussion of cost.
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.
Here’s a chart to give you a quick rundown. Details follow.
Both My Father’s World and Sonlight teach a “young earth” perspective. However, Sonlight’s science is an add-on, so you can just pick something else for science. My Father’s World includes science, unless your child is in 7th or 8th grade, and then you are supposed to purchase a different science book anyway.
I have read that some people are concerned about Sonlight because it included some books with old earth timelines. On the other hand, some people are concerned with that My Father’s World only has young earth timelines. Sonlight does use some books that contain old earth information, however, the teacher’s guides do not assign the old earth pages of those books. I don’t feel like Sonlight pushes either viewpoint, it leans young earth but you could easily teach old earth with it. My Father’s World presents young earth as the only viewpoint. There is a section in the teacher’s guide where they discuss the various theories, but nothing for the children to read, so it would be up to you as the parent if you wanted to teach something else.
My Father’s World schedules 40 minutes for doing history reading plus the activity and notebook response sheet. There is another half hour of reading scheduled later (historical fiction). It’s less than an hour per day of parent reading.
The amount of parent reading with Sonlight is significant. I know that with Sonlight it would easily take me an hour to do the daily novel read aloud, plus 30-45 minutes of history read aloud. It could easily be two hours per day of reading, especially if your kids need snacks, bathroom breaks, etc.
In this section I’m referring to the number of books that you open and read a bit from each day, but NOT how many whole books you read through in a day. Sonlight might have you using 14 books in one day, including science. It’s not necessarily a LOT of pages out of each book, so it’s doable, but it’s a lot of jumping around. That is a lot more than My Father’s World.
MFW might have around 4 books scheduled per day (just to be read in part!).
Many people fix Sonlight’s “jumping around” from book to book by taking a week of Sonlight “chunking” it so they’re taking about two books and doing the week’s reading out of those that day, then the next day do the week’s reading for three books, and so on.
There is an upside and a downside to these two approaches. Sonlight is jumpy, and there is so much reading that you don’t have time for much else. My Father’s World has different drawbacks. The MFW books are generally not as entertaining or as historically accurate. And because Sonlight lets a child listen to a topic in one book, then later read something like an Usborne book (with many pictures), it’s better at getting the idea across.
The other thing about the parent reading is that the content in the books you’ll be reading aloud may be too difficult for your younger children. It may be difficult for them to listen to, and it may be difficult emotionally if they are not ready for some of it. I thought that Sonlight’s read aloud books had some heavy topics (“Missionary Stories With the Millers” anyone?), but I didn’t even finish “Almost Home” with my kids last year. I observed that my children really prefer Sonlight’s read aloud books.
There is definitely less emphasis on independent reading in MFW. Sonlight assigns chapters out of books that you bought from them. My Father’s World gives you a list of books each week to get from the library to put in your “book basket.”
I don’t like the book basket.
First of all, there are only 15-20 minutes scheduled for the MFW book basket. This just isn’t enough. My oldest child reads for hours every day. 15-20 minutes is ok for a first or second grader. I think a minimum of one hour should be going on in 5th grade and up.
Second, books in the house are strongly linked to academic achievement. Take a look at this study, where the researcher is quoted as saying that “Regardless of how many books the family already has, each addition to the home library helps children do better (on the standard test). This held true even after parents’ occupations and education level and family wealth were taken into account.” TOM JACOBS, Pacific Standard, BOOKS IN THE HOME ARE STRONGLY LINKED TO ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT, MAY 27, 2014, quoting University of Nevada-Reno sociologist Mariah Evans.
The more books you have, the more kids will be curious about them. I can’t tell you how many times my kids have picked up Sonlight books and read them, or asked me to read to them. Bottom line, I think books in the house are really important.
Sonlight includes the student reading books in their package, so you have them in your home all year. Or longer, if you choose not to resell the package. And, Sonlight’s literature choices are excellent. They’re just really, really good. Each year there have been only one or two books that my children haven’t liked. I’m sad to say, but the My Father’s World books just didn’t have the same success in my house, except where they overlapped with Sonlight.
This is one of the reasons why I combine MFW and Sonlight. The Sonlight books are just too good to give up.
Sonlight’s upper elementary and middle school levels include literature studies. My Father’s World does not. MFW suggests adding two literature studies to 7th and 8th grade years.
I just flat out don’t think it’s enough in 7th and 8th grade to only do two literature studies, and zero in 6th grade. I don’t see how a child would be prepared for high school, especially not a child who wanted to go on to college.
There is a perception that “My Father’s World is really hands-on compared to Sonlight,” but I think that perception is false. Well, it is true at the Kindergarten level, but not as you go higher up. That’s why I think this perception is so wide-spread; people who are fairly new to homeschooling compare the K and 1st grade levels, but not higher than that. Well, they are really different for K and 1st grade, it’s true! But, as I used the older kid’s levels, they’re not that different.
The My Father’s World hands-on activities in the Family Cycle are often cooking, a craft, or a game, and they are scheduled about once a week. Sonlight used to have a disc or downloadable page of suggested activities like this, but they seem to have discontinued it. It was called “Core C Tips” (or B or D or whatever Core).
This type of hands-on stuff isn’t rocket science, but it does take an extra step if you want to add it on. If you have pinterest, you can do something like this. There were a lot of craft suggestions that we often had already done on our own.
The area where My Father’s World really and truly does allow for more “fun stuff” is that there is less reading. Basically, you have more time to be able to add on fun stuff. However, if you want to work at cutting down some Sonlight reading material, I think it’s easy to add on baking or a craft.
The student sheets that are included with each curriculum are really different. They don’t even really cover the same subjects. My Father’s World student sheets cover history, and they are very open ended. You can do anything you want with them. They allow for a Charlotte Mason style narration. They’re so flexible! They also include “goodies” with them, just little stickers, cards, or coins, etc., depending on the year.
Sonlight’s student sheets are more traditional closed-ended type of questions and copywork. As the kids get older, the student sheets cover history as part of what the child is reading in their historical literature, but it’s narrower than MFW. I just find it much less fun, and my children never enjoyed them. I prefer MFW’s more open-ended pages, I think they encourage the child to “own” what they are learning about, rather than completing a worksheet.
On the other hand, Sonlight’s worksheets make it very simple for you to see what your child should probably be doing for their grade level. There’s no guessing or wondering. It’s very clear whether you are on track or not. I can see where it would be much easier with My Father’s World to either push your child too hard, or to let your child slack off. Neither of those options is good.
You’ll notice I did not say rigorous. It’s like nails on a chalkboard to me when people use the term “rigorous” and they really mean “challenging.”
Both curricula use challenging literature.
It’s one of those things that somehow has spread through the internet and won’t go away. The “MFW is Sonlight light” perception is strengthened by the many people who say they left Sonlight for MFW because there was “too much reading” in Sonlight.
Anyone looking at Sonlight can see that there is a lot of reading. You don’t even need this review to tell you that. Just look at the booklist. Look at my video in Part 1 and see the huge stack of books.
It’s true that there *is* a lot less reading in My Father’s World vs. Sonlight, even factoring in the book basket. However, there is more time in MFW for the student to respond to what is being learned. You might as well say that Sonlight is “MFW light” because of Sonlight’s weakness in having the student respond to the reading.
MFW is not “Sonlight light,” (and Sonlight is not “MFW light,” that was a joke!) They’re just different. MFW is more unit-based. MFW is much easier to adapt if you want or need it to be lighter or heavier. Some of MFW is MUCH easier than a corresponding Sonlight level, but some of it is harder. It depends on the level. Sonlight in the early years is definitely more challenging.
Sonlight is open and go, but you are opening and going with like 14 books a day and a giant teacher’s guide. If you’re brand new to homeschooling, I think it is easy to start out with and be sure that you are giving your child a challenging education. Some children might need a more support in language arts, spelling, writing, or other areas, but for the average child Sonlight will provide a solid start.
My Father’s World requires a little preparation, but there is a list each week that makes it simple to prepare. Although the reading is less, you will have to schedule in your own language arts, spelling, reading, and so forth. All of that takes more time, and it’s easier to mess up if you’re new.
The package prices of each are comparable, although at first glance the sticker price for My Father’s World seems cheaper. The only way for you to truly compare your situation is to add up the price for each, and include everything that you need to use.
Overall, Sonlight would be quite a bit cheaper for me than using My Father’s World, when you factor in all that I had to add to MFW. I’m not including adding Sonlight to it, either. I’m only including adding Language Arts, Spelling, plus books beyond the book basket (having books IN the house at all times is vital, the library is not enough). Sonlight is easier for me to find used. I bought several used Sonlight levels, complete with student sheets, for about $150-$200 shipped. Some of those came with science, too.
We ended up basically following MFW each week but reading through all the Sonlight books on our own schedule. Or lack of schedule. We didn’t use the history spine, our Core D is really old and two spines is too much. The MFW book basket does not work for us, and I am not impressed with the suggestions in it. Most of what looks good is included in Sonlight, plus Sonlight’s are almost all “hits” with my kids.
I hope this series has been helpful for you. These are two fantastic curriculum choices.