Secular Homeschooler reached out to Torchlight to request a sample of their program in order to write this post series as knowledgeably as possible. There are no affiliate links within this post.
Verdict: Super Secular!
Recommended For: Humanist-leaning families that LOVE books.
We have been using Torchlight Level One (with my 1st grader) and Level Two (with my 3rd grader) since September. It is heavily rooted in easy-to-access literature as well as a lot of hands-on projects. I was able to get most of the required books from our public library. Torchlight has a complete list of the necessary materials on their website! (Purchasing through their links supports their company through affiliate commissions.)
Organizing our material and plans, at first, felt overwhelming. It’s very complete. Luckily they include a full schedule for you to follow! I printed out the entire year-long plan on double-sided paper and popped it into a binder. Then I set up separate booklets (like Our Book of Myths) in folders! When I get around to it, I plan to have the pages printed and bound into a workbook instead, as the folder thing wasn’t the most sturdy of ideas.
Things I love about it:
- It’s an affordable program! This makes it accessible to many more homeschooling families than a pricier program might. For $40 you get an entire fully planned school year.
- It’s pre-planned for easy printing. I can move things around as I want or need but I can also go exactly by the planned schedule and make my life so much easier.
- It covers the entire school year. My family homeschools year-round, so we’re not rigid. I appreciate, though, that when I submit our learning plans to our advisor (we utilize a parent partnership program) I simply use the Torchlight schedule as our plan. It covers almost all the topics for easy approval.
- The book lists for each level are well-organized by week and in their own separate printable. I have a successful highlighter system for keeping track of what we have and what we need.
- It’s literature-based, but not in an old-fashioned way. It utilizes intersectional works of modern literature to spark thought and conversation. TL at first glance appears to follow the Charlotte Mason method but is actually Socratic.
Wait, what is the Socratic Method?
“Socratic method – A teaching technique in which a teacher does not give information directly but instead asks a series of questions, with the result that the student comes either to the desired knowledge by answering the questions or to a deeper awareness of the limits of knowledge.” –The Free Dictionary
From the Torchlight blog: What Does Using the Socratic Method Look Like?
- It teaches skepticism. This is a big one for me. It’s is what made me go from “this is intriguing” to “HOLY CRAP, WHAT A GREAT CHOICE.” Our family is secular humanist and I’m always looking for the best ways to teach our children to question everything.
- It lends well to eclectic learning. There are a lot of books and a LOT of reading. But it’s not the end of the world to pass on a book in favor or YouTube clips or a documentary. We love using television as a teaching tool in our household and it has been working well alongside Torchlight.
- It’s easy to modify and there are plenty of alternative title suggestions. If you don’t like a book choice or can’t find a particular book, there’s an alternative suggestion. This was useful for us because I didn’t want to buy anything. (We live in a tiny apartment. We have no space to keep things.) If I couldn’t find something at my library, I chose a different option.
- There is complete transparency about literary suggestions. If there are religious references, there are notes to tell you what they might be before reading the book with your child. Same with more mature content and scary themes. I’m not for censorship but I do really like to be prepared for questions that the kids may have about something they’ve not yet approached.
- This great User Created Content page on the site! You simply log in with your purchase email.
- There are SO many books suggested for the program. I’m doing two levels at the same time, so take this “downside” lightly. The look my husband shot at me on the way back to the car after picking up our holds from the library, arms overflowing with books, was hostile. And because I’m a walking boob for my infant, I haven’t kept track of anything we’ve checked out. Our current late-fees equal over $300. We have a great library system, though. Once we return the books we’ll owe nothing!
- I wish that there was an option to order pre-printed/bound workbooks. I’m that crazy homeschooling mom that doesn’t own a printer yet, so digital stuff is a big pain to print and organize. I usually use the library printers and then organize my paper into binders, but I would definitely pay more to have someone else do that for me. (Cue blush emoji.) I’m the type that will order multiples of the same physical workbook so my kids each have their own, rather than buying one digital copy and printing for both. I’m super lazy that way.
Conclusion: Would Recommend
It’s simply a much-needed breath-of-fresh-air in the homeschooling world.
E.M. Stone lives in Seattle with her high-school sweetheart and four homeschooled spawn. She prefers to be raw and real and open about the triumphs and struggles in life. She uses art and coffee as mental therapy and wants to publish a book of children’s poetry one day. Elisabeth started Secular Homeschooler with her husband in 2017.