Sonlight Curriculum on a Budget, or How to Use Sonlight and Your Library

It's that time of year again~ the time for homeschool planning. The early days of summer find many of us planning for next year, selling curriculum, and buying curriculum.

{This post contains my affiliate link. It doesn't change your price at all, but I may earn a small credit with Sonlight if you shop through my link. And you can save $5 by using this link.}

This is when I usually get lots of questions about Sonlight Curriculum. People are often shocked by the price. Often this is because they are accustomed to buying one text book per subject. Other times they are shocked because they really want to take the plunge but just do not have the cash to jump in.

Before I dive into the subject at hand, let me just say, Sonlight's price is absolutely fair and worth every penny. When you buy a Core from Sonlight, you get a ton of amazing books, and you get the ease of having all the planning done for you. You can open the box and start school the minute the UPS delivery person drops it on your door step. Plus, you are building an amazing home library. Sonlight is truly worth its weight in gold! (and all those books weight a lot!)

That said, I have never bought a brand new Core from Sonlight. I have never been able to afford it. Let's face it, just because something is worth the money, it does not mean that I have said money. Instead, I put together our Sonlight Cores using the library. For Cores 1-4 (the first time through), now known as Cores B-E,  I bought the IG from Sonlight, along with anything else that it looked like I really needed. Then I got everything else from the library or interlibrary loan.

But you need details. Otherwise the enormity will make your head spin. I'm happy to oblige. This is how I did it.



First, I sat down with my Sonlight catalog at the library's online catalog. At the time, the Sonlight catalog had empty squares beside each book listing in the Core. (The 2011-2012 catalog does not have these, but you could still use the same system.) I looked up each title for the Core on the library catalog. If our library had the book, I put an "L" for "Library" in the box beside the book description and the call number below the description. Any book that I already own gets an "H" for "Have" in its box.


(You can still find this in Sonlight's online catalog. When in the Core description, click the link that says, "View booklist with descriptions.")


The books that have an "S" in the listing are published by Sonlight. I buy these books. If the catalog listing has an "X" at the end (like in the picture above), it's by a Christian publisher, and I will likely not be able to get it from the library. I buy most of those books, as well as the Usborne books. For the History portion, I look at the number for the quarter in which the book is used. If it has a "+" beside it, it may be the history spine. It is at least used for more than a few weeks, so I buy those books. I check prices at Amazon and CBD and write their prices under Sonlight's price in the catalog, along with an "A" for Amazon or "C" for CBD. I figure the price for buying all of the books that I can from one place, along with the shipping cost. The lowest price wins. Once upon a time, Amazon normally won. These days, Sonlight's prices sometimes win. But I don't buy yet!



Now you have a list of books you can get from the local library and a short list of books that you will want to buy. What to do with the rest of the books that have nothing in the squares/ beside their listings?

The most economical solution that I have used for these remaining books is interlibrary loan. Many of the remaining books will be easy to get from a library because they are award winning books or commonly read books. The best thing to do is ask your librarian how interlibrary loan works at your library and maybe even request a book. This will give you an idea of how long it may take for the book to get to you. It does take some forethought and planning, but it's doable. Many years, interlibrary loan was a way that we had access to the books when there was no money to buy them. It was worth the extra planning. (Another post on the planning is coming soon.)



That said, our library's system for interlibrary loans has gotten difficult to use for these purposes. So now I save money through the year, ask for curriculum money for Christmas, or set aside some of our tax return, and then buy used cores. Sometimes I have bought a new Instructor's Guide (IG) to go with a used Core. One time I bought most of the books used, bought a few others new, bought a new IG, and got a few books from the library. Other times I have bought a complete used Core and used the IG that came with it.

It is scary at first to buy used curriculum from someone. I was hesitant at first. But I am on the Sonlight Forums a good deal and felt like I could trust the people that were selling there. So I took the leap. The easiest place, I think, to find a complete Core with everything you need is the Used Curriculum Forum on the Sonlight Forums. (You must register in order to see the Used Curriculum Forum, but you can do that free for 30 days.) I now find my used Sonlight Curriculum at Homeschool Classifieds. You have to search– alphabetical is easiest, but you still need to search under "Sonlight Core x" and under "Sonlight x" and any other variation you can think of. However, the search is worth it!

After thirteen years of homeschooling with Sonlight (now entering my fifteenth year!), the biggest problem we have is finding a place for all these wonderful books! My children have read them over and over again. I have not regretted buying all this literature. We have a wonderful home library now!

I hope that helps some. It really is about seeing what your library has to offer, how their interlibrary loan system works, and how much you like to plan ahead. Keep looking. You'll find a system that works for you.

I hope this helps you a little!



How do you use Sonlight Curriculum? How have you been able to creatively manage it on a budget?


Look for a post soon (hopefully tomorrow!) on how I managed the details of planning ahead while using the library with Sonlight.


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Disclosure: Links are my affiliate links. When you shop through them, your price is not affected at all. I do earn a small percentage from your purchase– sort of like what you get for hosting a Pampered Chef party. Thank you for helping to keep the daisyhead running!

15 thoughts on “Sonlight Curriculum on a Budget, or How to Use Sonlight and Your Library

  1. Thanks for sharing! We don't use Sonlight, but My Father's World which still uses quite a few books. One great place I've found to get books cheaply is You can list books you own that others might want, pay for shipping to send them to someone and then recieve a credit which you can use to request a book for free. (If you sign up, I would appreciate it if you would say that blessedmomof4 refered you!) Have a blessed day!


  2. Connie, just swinging by to say thanks for writing this up and to make a note about your Rewards link. In order for your readers to get the $5 off, you need to change the link URL from to The Rewards link with your Rewards ID does take people to the Registration Request page, but it includes your Rewards ID on that page so you can earn points and they can save money [smile]. Without your Rewards ID, the system can't reward anyone …hope that helps! Thanks again for sharing your love of Sonlight [smile].


  3. Thanks, for catching that, Luke! I really thought I had the right one in there. I guess I didn't double check it. You, however, are always on the ball! Thank you!

  4. Thanks for mentioning paperback swap, Michelle! I forgot all about it. I've been meaning to try it out. I'll have to pop over there!

    I love it when we can all add more tips to the pool! Oh, the learning that happens… and the good deal finding! I love it!

  5. This post was a blessing when I least expected it. Sonlight has been a dream of mine ever since I saw it at homeschool conference 2010. However due to the hefty price tag I didnt purchase it and put in the back of my mind until your post. I came across it through a retweet a few weeks ago. So since that time I have been busily checking my library's catalog, amazon, and ebay for resources. Thank you for this amazing tip and encouragment. I have 3 kids (DS 6 yrs, DD 2.5 yrs, DD 1 yr). We will be starting first grade. We did MFW this year for kindergarten & really enjoyed it. Also any math suggestions. DS shows a knack for math just like my husband. I really like what I have heard & seen of Math U See. Help 🙂 Also should I just order the IG first or go ahead & get the IG plus the items I can only get from Sonlight? I havent not asked about Interlibrary loan yet. THank you again!

  6. I am using a combo of sonlight and CM recommended books – but I'm not sure how to work them into our "lesson plans". Any ideas and tips?

  7. Connie- this is an excellent idea. I know fmailies that buy the new cores each year and spend a fortune doing so! I’ve always been interested in sonlight but the price is way out of our budget. So glad to see another mom who puts their local library to good use.
    Thanks again,

  8. Hi Connie, According to a posting I found in the forums when I searched “used curriculum for sale,” Sonlight’s used curriculum forum has been removed. Do you have suggestions for finding the curriculum discounted, now? Thanks.

  9. I love Sonlight as well, and used it with another family’s kids when I homeschooled them for five years overseas. It was nice to be able to use it and have someone else pay for it!

    Now I have three kids of my own, and my oldest is 5.5. My husband is in law school, so we are on a really tight budget. Consequently, I’m just using the catalog for a list of books to work through via the library in the early years until we get to where Core B would be (I’m planning on using that in 2nd grade for my oldest). Thankfully, I have a sister who is using Sonlight Core B right now and I’m hoping to buy her IG’s or maybe the whole core if she’s willing to sell when she’s done with them. But even if she wasn’t, I think I would find a way to pay for the Core once we get to 2nd grade, even if it meant doing something like selling plasma. Seriously, I love Sonlight so much I’d be willing to sell my blood for it! The price tag can seem high, but when you divide it over the course of a year, it’s not that bad. And it does save you so much time in terms of planning and curriculum selection. I don’t think it’s that hard to come up with the $400-500 for a Core if you get creative – have a garage sale, apply gift money, devote a portion of your tax return if you have one, etc.

  10. Hello! I got to your blog by way of Pinterest. I wanted to share a tip I’ve learned while getting used Sonlight curriculum. I purchased the IG for Core A and Science A from a friend, along with about a dozen books. I got the majority of the books through They are used books. Sometimes they are only a few cents cheaper than Sonlight but if you are able to order multiple books from one distributor you get a $.50 discount and they offer free shipping. Many of the more expensive books are several dollars cheaper. Recently they had a special where they doubled the discount so I got 25 book for $100, including many that cost quite a bit more from Sonlight or Amazon. They don’t have everything so I still need to get some new. Happy hunting!

  11. Love this article! I make a list of what I need and check our homeschool consignment sale throughout the spring. I can usually find over half that way. Then I buy the IG and other books from Sonlight. I do check Amazon, but unless it is a big difference I buy from Sonlight. I want to support the company that is such a blessing. The books are amazing and Sonlight is so worth it!

  12. excellent tips! I buy the Sonlight IG’s (teacher guides) used off ebay, or off the facebook group that sells used sonlight items. These are easy to resell later too!

  13. I came across this by chance when searching for other Sonlight related information. But it was fun to read about another mom doing almost exactly what I do. 🙂

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