Studying Modern History With My High Schooler: Sonlight 300 & Modernity


>> This is a post about homeschooling. Just giving you non-homeschoolers fair warning so you can skip out and not waste any time. Affiliate links.

My high school junior has asked me to homeschool her English courses each year, and we've done a number of things together to boost her knowledge of great literature and college-prep writing. 

This year we focused on literature of the 20th century, using the Sonlight 300 curriculum. I wrote a couple of posts on the Sonlight blog about how we organized our year using Sonlight 300, and you can read them here if you're interested:

Using Sonlight 300 for Our Unconventional High Schooler

4 Ways to Engage a High Schooler With Literature

In addition to our literature selections that spanned the turn of the century to the 1990's, I wanted Caroline to have some historical framework for the period she was reading and writing about. But I'm also teaching world history to the 5th grader, and we're in the 1700's, so that's no help. My high schooler needed her own level-appropriate historical discussion of the modern era, and specifically of the 20th century.

As I was pondering the best, most non-mom-involved way to go about this, Compass Classroom released their new Modernity video series. I love it when the stars align! I grabbed the streaming option and we were good to go, assigning her all of the topics and lessons that corresponded with the literature we'd already settled on.

Modernity is an excellent tool. The student can start and stop the videos as needed, take notes on the content, and answer questions sparked by the thoughtful dialog of veteran instructor Dave Raymond. Mr. Raymond teaches from a distinctly Christian worldview, placing events and people in the contexts of prevalent theology, literature, art, and religious views. 

For our purposes, Mr. Raymond's discussions gave my daughter the relevant background she needed to understand the historical context of each literature choice. More often than not, she would finish a video lecture with an "Aha!" realization that helped her comprehend what was driving a character's actions or the plot of a story.

You can find the Modernity series here.

How We Organized Her Year Using Sonlight 300 and Modernity

1900’s - A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Study Guide: 7 Sisters Study Guide

Modernity     12.1 Nationalism: The Principle

                      12.4 Making Nationalism International: Communism

                      12.4 Communist Manifesto

                      16:4 Woodrow Wilson

                      16.5 Wilson’s Presidency

                       17.1 The Principle

                       17.2 The Scope of the Great War & Its Beginning


1930‘s - Murder on the Orient Express 

Study Guide:     Sonlight 

Modernity         21.2 G.K. Chesterton

                         21.3 Evelyn Waugh and Dorothy Sayers

                         21.4 C.S. Lewis

                         21.5 J.R.R. Tolkien


1930’s - The Grapes of Wrath

Study Guide: Penguin Guides

Modernity     20.1 The Principle

                      20.2 Hoover and the Crash

                      20.3 FDR and the New Deal


WWII - The Book Thief 

Study Guide: The Book Thief

Modernity    20.5 The Austrian Devil: Hitler

                    22.1 The Principal and the Rise of Nazi Germany

                    22.2 The Rise of Nazi Germany II and the Start of the War

                    22.3 France, Britain, and The Soviet Union

                    22.4 The Empire of the Rising Sun

                    22.5 American Entrance and Early Battles

                    23.1 The Principle and the Invasion of Fortress Europe

                    23.2 The Fall of Man’s Empires 

                    23.3 The Atomic Bomb and the Holocaust

                    23.4 Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Winston Churchill

                    23.5 Winston Churchill II


Apartheid (1950’s) - Cry the Beloved Country 

Study Guide: Sonlight

Modernity     25.2 The Civil Rights Movement (skipping ahead in time, and also dealing with civil                          rights in America, not the rest of the world, per se)


1960‘s - The Wednesday Wars 

Study Guide: Sonlight

Modernity   24.1 The Principle and Pop Art

                    24.2 TV and Suburbs

                    24.3 The Cold War

                    24.4 M.A.D. and China


                    25.1 The Principle and Kennedy’s Presidency

                    25.3 The Culture of Revolution

                    25.4 LBJ: War and Peace

                    25.5 The 10,000 Day War: Vietnam


1980's Hope Was Here 

Study Guide: Sonlight

Modernity    26.1 The Principle

                    26.2 The Sexual Revolution and Abortion

                    26.3 Modern Israel

                    26.4 Watergate and Iran

                    26.5 Alexander Solzhenitsyn


1990's My Father’s Daughter

Study Guide: Sonlight

Modernity     27.1 The Principle and the Church Today

                    27.2 Ronald Reagan

                    27.3 Margaret Thatcher, Pope John Paul II, and the Leaders Against Communism

                    27.4 Gorbachev and the Fall of the Evil Empire

                    27.5 Postmodernity

You can modify the above schedule to fit your student's needs, but I'm also a big believer in not reinventing the wheel, so if this would work for you, go for it!



Audiobooks For Kids and Adults to Enjoy Together


Let's be honest. Some audiobooks that kids love to listen to can be the most insipid and annoying stories we adults have ever heard (or forgotten, as it were). Are there audiobooks that can truly be enjoyed by both adults and children?

Yes, of course! We've put in a good 25 years of audiobook listening with our kids so far, and I thought it was time to share our favorites with you.

These are affiliate links below (thanks!) but we often find what we love to listen to from free sites like HooplaDigital and Librivox.

Audiobooks to Enjoy With the Youngest (Ages 3-6)

(This list does not include shorter picture books.)

Riki Tiki Tavi

When We Were Very Young

The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter

James Herriot's Treasury for Children

Winnie the Pooh


Audiobooks to Enjoy With Tweens and Middle Kids (7-12)


Just So Stories

Hank the Cowdog

From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

All the Wrong Questions series - Lemony Snicket

The Chronicles of Narnia

Swallows and Amazons

Adam of the Road

The Adventure Collection: Treasure Island, The Jungle Book, Gulliver's Travels, White Fang, The Merry Adventures of Robin

The Ralph S. Mouse Audio Collection

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar


There are plenty of classics and options for older kids that are enjoyed by both both parents and teens. I'm choosing not to create a list here in the interest of time, but am happy to help with specific suggestions.

What's your family's favorite audiobook?

Planning a Homeschool Week in Just 15 Minutes

Hey there! I know what you might be thinking: But I don't homeschool. That's totally okay. From time to time I will be posting good things for my homeschooling readers, and those of you who aren't, feel free to delete and move along! Isn't it nice to have one less thing to read online anyway?

Back in the day (January, 1997, to be exact), I spent my Sunday evenings planning the upcoming week of curriculum and school goals. I hated it. I mean, seriously, who wants to spend their Sunday nights doing that?

But now it's 2017 and I've gotten much older and a tiny bit wiser. I've learned to:


Make a whole year's plan all at once over the course of a weekend in the summer. 


Adjust each week according to what needs adjusting.

Let's begin with that first one. The whole year? Really??? Yep. And I wrote about it at length on my homeschooling blog, so here's the beginning of the series: Planning a Whole Year of Homeschooling. You can do it! And come December, you'll be giving yourself a high five.

But what about making adjustments as things change during the year? Things do change, don't they? Kids get ahead, kids get behind, unexpected visitors hijack the school hours, etc. It's totally okay. What you take 15 minutes to plan at the beginning of each week (or on Fridays, as I do, for the next week) can be adjusted according to what the current, weekly needs have become.

You can use any planner that suits your fancy. I use this free, customizable printable from Crystal Paine:

I fill in the spots, he does the work, then he checks the boxes. Straightforward, uncluttered, done and done.

Get your copy of Crystal's 1-Week School Planner here.