…I feel silly asking you this, because of course you are a Timberdoodle supporter :-). but can you give me any thoughts about trying to choose between Timberdoodle and Sonlight?
I’m happy to give you my perspective, though of course I know our curriculum much better than I know theirs, so you’ll want to keep that in mind!
We actually like Sonlight, and have friends using it. It isn’t for all families though, particularly with its cost and the extensive reading required.
If you have used Sonlight in the past, my first question would be just to ask why you are thinking about changing. Is there something that didn’t work out so well for your family? If Sonlight works well for you and your family can afford it, why not stay with it?
This is the most obvious difference, and has a huge impact on the price of each package. Sonlight includes a ton of books, while we at Timberdoodle opt to simply advise parents to add books from their local library and their own favorites. The advantages of Sunlight’s approach are that you don’t have to think it through or remember to add them. The advantages of Timberdoodle’s approach are the lower cost and the ability to pick books best suited to your family’s standards/child’s interests.
While some of the options are different, (Sonlight doesn’t offer JUMP! Math, and Timberdoodle doesn’t sell the full Singapore program.) most of the math recommendations are the same, especially since we both agree that Teaching Textbooks is great!
Literature-Based or Practical
Sonlight is a literature-based approach, with an emphasis on learning by reading. Timberdoodle is more practical, and has a hands-on emphasis. Our goal is that the child learns how to learn, which is why our curriculum has such a focus on thinking skills. Sonlight emphasizes a broader exposure to different cultures, times and concepts through reading.
Teacher Led or Independent Study
While the beginning grades are always teacher intense until the child is able to manage their own reading, Timberdoodle emphasizes independent learning as soon as it is possible. While parents are encouraged to be as involved as they wish (in our family, absolutely everything was discussed, mostly informally, and we expect no less of our customers!), we feel that it is a benefit to both the student and the busy parent to have the child working independently as much and as early as possible. Sonlight emphasizes parental involvement with read aloud books, formal discussions, etc.
In third grade, for instance, Sonlight expects students to spend 3.5 – 4.5 hours a day, and teachers to spend 2-3 hours a day. Timberdoodle anticipates that most students will complete their work in 1-3 hours a day (depending on their focus and reading speed). The actual teaching should take up to half an hour, depending on whether you would like your student to independently read science and history or you prefer to read that aloud. Depending on your child, you’ll be more involved than that answering questions and helping redirect the student, but it isn’t the same as planned teaching time.
Both Sonlight and Timberdoodle are owned by Christian families, and the curriculum reflects that. However, Sonlight includes a Bible portion in their curriculum, while Timberdoodle has opted not to. Sonlight’s preference of having it included makes it easy to include this most important subject, while our choice to leave it out means that families can move this topic from school to family devotions, and pick the approach that is best for their family.
Timberdoodle’s core curriculum kits are the only ones I’ve ever seen focus on this every year, and we consider it one of the most important subjects. (Language Arts/Reading, Math and Thinking Skills are our big three.)
Sonlight’s curriculum is developed for PreK through highschool. Timberdoodle currently offers curriculum from newborn through 10th grade. We hope to add 11th and 12th grade options soon, but since those grades are so highly dependent on your student’s long term goals, we are still figuring out how to make them flexible enough to accommodate the future businessman, paramedic, homemaker, pastor and lawyer!
Timberdoodle offers a complete package for each grade, baby-10th grade and families are invited to contact us for free and easy customization. Sonlight offers complete packages for Pre-K – Fifth Grade. From 6th grade and up you will need to build your own custom core, which can be done on their site or by contacting them for assistance.
Sonlight comes with extensive documentation in the form of an Instructor’s Guide that “…tells you what to read and do each day, gives you extra notes to help you talk about any difficult subjects, suggests discussion questions to spur great conversations with your kids and helps you get the most from your books and timeline.” They also have a 3-week sample available online. Timberdoodle has opted for a simple planning folder which gives you an overview of each subject and how to schedule it. We also include an annual planning schedule and a weekly checklist for your student, so that you can get started immediately. The entire folder contents are free online as a PDF.
Both are great programs – but neither is perfect for everyone. Hopefully this comparison will help you figure out what is best for your family! As always, I’d be delighted to help if you have any further questions.