This is my first WTM post ever. I've been successfully avoiding being sucked in for a few years now, but I finally had to get an account a few months ago to avoid the ads, and then I started following a few threads because the Sonlight forum was so slow, and then... here we are. It's a slippery slope. :tongue_smilie: I figured I could make an exception to my "lurking only" rule to talk about Sonlight, since I am a Sonlight person more than a WTM person.
We have used SL through p3/4 through E. (pre-K through 4th). I plan to continue using SL through G, seventh grade, at which point we may go a different direction. My three kids are 21 months and 19 months apart. I combine the youngest two in one core and the oldest does a different one.
I use the history, readers, and read alouds. I do Bible with all the kids together, so we use some of SL's Bible books, but we don't follow their Bible reading schedule or do their memory work, I make up my own. I also use PHP's Telling God's Story curriculum once a week. I used SL science through D (minus the YEC books, and there were only a couple). We moved away form SL Science because I wanted a more structured, linear program, and because it moves into Apologia resources, which I didn't want to use. It was good for elementary though. My kids still pull out the books and look at them. I used SL LA with my first child through half of LA3, but I didn't like it. We switched everyone over to Writing With Ease this past year and have been much happier. I also use Winston Grammar with my oldest. I do use the SL phonics (Explode the Code) and spelling (Sequential Spelling starting in D).
I recommend Sonlight to people who want a living books curriculum where most of the planning work is done for you. I also recommend it to Christians who are less conservative or who aren't Protestant, because I think it is one of the few Christian curricula that leaves most of the worldview instruction to the parents. It is easy to tailor it to your own perspective. For example, in Core C we read a book about a girl who prays to her dead grandmother for help throughout the story. The IG says something neutral like "Philomena is Catholic and believes her grandmother can intercede for her in heaven. You may want to discuss this with your child." So you as a parent can choose how to handle the teachable moment based on your own family's beliefs. I trust SL not to use a bunch of books that are dogmatic about debatable things, and I have been happy that so far it has avoided (mostly) the things that make me crazy in the homeschooling world - the founding father worship, the view of history where the US is the new Israel, the Republican/Tea Party rhetoric when talking about government, the constant imposition of young earth creationist view on archaeology and anthropology, the proof-texting of Bible verses out of their historical/cultural context, the tendency to equate Calvinism with Christianity, and the deference to New Patriarchy gender views. But on the other hand, if you wanted those things, it would be easy to add resources that put them in.
Like others, I don't really like the LA. But it is super easy to sub it out and do something else.
What I like most about SL is the schedule. It pulls together several spine resources with the other book selections and it is pretty easy to adapt and modify to fit your preferences. It is an incredible time-saver to have it as the starting point. For me the schedule itself is worth the price of the IG. I have been very happy with the book selections. My kids love to read and be read to and generally like school and look forward to the next new book and the next new school year.
We have always finished a Core in a year, and we have added in a lot of other books too, so I can't relate to the complaint that it is impossible to finish in a year. Lots of people take longer, but it is their choice.
As for an older IG, I don't think you would be getting that much more by updating it. The new format is more user friendly for people who stick closely to the IG. But it makes it a bit harder to adapt and modify or change the pacing of certain elements, so a lot of the veteran users who are used to lots of tweaking prefer the old style. I think they both have their pros and cons so I'm ambivalent. I use a lot of post-it flags to keep track of where we are in what book since we aren't usually all on the same day or week in everything. Lots of people use older IGs but update their libraries with some of the newer book selections and work those in. And lots of people add in books that have been dropped from the new guides because they are usually good books.
One thing you might want to be aware of is that the older Core D guides use a different version of the spine, Landmark History of the American People than Sonlight currently sells. A few years ago, SL totally re-wrote the books to gear them to children (the originals were written to adults) and put in a lot more visual aids and pictures. I have both and definitely prefer the new version. If you are using Core D with a younger student, the new version is so much more appropriate. Anyway, you can use the old IG with the new Landmark books, but you will have to adjust the page numbers/chapters. I'm sure someone has probably done this already if you ask on the Sonlight forums.
The IG has comprehension/discussion questions for the history, read alouds, and readers. Some people use them, some people don't. Some people just do narrations. I tend to use the history questions but the readers and read alouds we just discuss more generally. The IG also pulls out vocabulary from the readings and passages for dictations if you want to use them. There are also sometimes background history or culture notes, though not as often as I would like. I sometimes use other literature guides so that we can get more background on the author or historical context of a particular novel.
Hope that helps.