Monday, April 30, 2012

Menu Plan Monday

I am so thankful to be back to meal planning. Last week went much more smoothly since I started doing  Menu Plan Monday again.

Last week I tried 3 new recipes and all were a hit.  Spinach LasagnaChicken Orzo SkilletSlow Cooker Italian Style Turkey Meatloaf (not exactly new...I made it once before but I hadn't tried it in the crock pot)

Monday: hamburgers, chips (grilled portobello mushrooms for me) 

Tuesday: Mary Lu's cheesy tomato soup

WednesdaySlow Cooker Honey Glazed Ham, potatoes, beans

Thursday:  Zesty Hamburger Soup

FridayVeggie Cheese Stuffed Shells, bread

Saturday: Grilled Chicken, Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce, Green Beans

Sunday: Makeover One Pot Spaghetti from Healthy Cooking magazine

 alternate meal: Chicken Noodle Casserole

Link up your own menu plan at This week is found here. (Or just find great ideas from other bloggers that share their menus.)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

J is for Jesus

As I was thinking about blogging for "J", I was having a hard time thinking of something until all of a sudden it dawned on me to blog about the best "J" of all.  Jesus.   I thought I would blog through the alphabet about Jesus.


B-Blessed and Only Potentate
D-Day Star
F-Faithful and True
G-Gift of God
H-Holy One
I-I Am
K-King of Kings
L-Lord of Lords
N-Never Sinned
P-Prince of Peace
Q-Quickening Spirit
U-Umpire (modern word for daysman)
W-Worthy to be Praised

"Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. " Revelation 5:12

Lift up His name.  He IS worthy!

(I skipped X and Z but please make a suggestion for those if you have any!)

Visit Marcy at the Ben and Me blog and join us by blogging through the alphabet.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Knitting with Craftsy

For years, I didn't think I could knit.  I did try in the winter of 2009 and even though I thought it was fun, it was SO slow going and I just wasn't that good at it.  Sadie was born in the fall of 2009 and I completely set is aside until last fall when I decided to try again (read the background here).

I started out by knitting dishcloth after dishcloth...then scarves and then I learned to knit hats in the round on circular needles and I was in LOVE with knitting.  I made a lot of easy just knit, knit, knit and then decrease and you're done.  I found that I really don't like knitting on straight needles and knit everything using circular needles.  I just love them.

a cowl scarf I knit

one of many dishcloths I made
I think this might be the last thing I knit on straight needles.

 For Christmas, my parents got me two knitting classes from  I had asked for a gift certificate to get a Craftsy class.  Right after my mother ordered it they came out with a buy one get one free deal and they let her add a course to her order so I got two knitting classes. I got Knit Lab and Knit Lab: Hats Four Ways.  Both courses are taught by Stefanie Japel and I think they are fantastic.  In the Knit Lab, course I learned many of the basics of knitting and did my first lace project which was a keyhole scarf which I just love.  I have made several of them now.  I also made a long scarf with a variety of stitches mostly different basket weave patterns.  I wore this scarf so much this winter and I am so glad that I made this one too.

2 of the keyhole scarves I made.  Love this pattern!

This scarf pattern is called Cambridge.
 A feather and fan lace dishcloth.
Taking this course helped me so much.  I really became confident in my knitting and learned so much by making these scarves. (The dishcloth wasn't part of the course but I did get a link to the pattern through the course.  I think it is on Ravelry though.)

Here is a course overview where Stefanie Japel tells about the course and how the courses work at Craftsy.

With the Craftsy courses you get patterns and course materials to download (they are pdf documents). Access to the courses never expire.  You also can ask question in a message board format and get answers from the teacher and/or from others taking the course.  It's really a lot of fun.  You can also post pictures of your projects (in progress or finished.) You can go here to see sample previews and a break down of what is included in the course.

After I finished the Knit Lab course it was getting closer to the end of winter so I didn't really want to make any more hats.  So I haven't knit the hats in the Hats Four Ways class yet but I have watched the whole course.  Stefanie is a lot of fun to learn from. :)

 I get the Craftsy newsletter in my email and one week Laura Nelkin's Mastering Lace Shawls class was on sale so I bought that.  I L.O.V.E knitting lace.  Here is the shawl I made in just 3 weeks while taking the Mastering Lace Shawls class.

The shawl being blocked
Me wearing the shawl

The back of the shawl.
 You can get this pattern by taking Mastering Lace Shawls (watch the previews and see what is included too) or you can just purchase this pattern from Laura Nelkin. (The name of it is Skywalker.) I am definitely going to make another one of these in a lace weight yarn.  I love it.

I am currently working on the second lace shawl in this course called Clarus.  I am enjoying making this as well.  One thing I have learned in taking this course is that I love to knit with a charted pattern rather than one that is written out.  At first I didn't think I would like it but now I just think it is so much easier to read a chart than try to keep track of stitches that are written out.  Laura is a great teacher and it's great to be able to interact with her through the Craftsy platform.

I am signed up for her new course, Knitting with Beads.  I haven't made anything from it yet but I have watched it.  I will start on the projects in that class either when I finish Clarus or when I get supplies for it.  I like to have more than one project going at a time anyway.  (I'm working on a worsted weight shawl that is very simple and I can work on it in the car or on the go without have to think about it.)

This is a quick preview of the course: has all kinds of craft classes....crochet, knit, quilting, sewing, baking and more. Check them all out here.  I would recommend signing up for the newsletter and watching for a sale. I've never paid more than $30 for a course.  If you'd like to see what the classes are like you can sign up for the Block a Month course which is free right now.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Menu Plan Monday

It has been a long time since I've posted for Menu Plan Monday.  I really dislike when I don't have a plan.  So here goes:

Monday: Spinach Lasagna and bread

Tuesday: Chicken Orzo Skillet

Wednesday: Slow Cooker Italian Style Turkey Meatloaf, Rice, Vegetable

Thursday: Chicken Noodle Casserole

Friday: Date night...kid friendly meal...not decided yet

Saturday: Grilled Chicken, Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce, Green Beans

Sunday: Slow Cooker Honey Glazed Ham,  potatoes, vegetable

Spinach Lasagna, Chicken Orzo Skillet and Honey Glazed Ham recipes are from Taste of Home Comfort Food Diet Cookbook.  The Slow Cooker Italian Style Turkey Meatloaf is from The The 400 Calorie Fix Cookbook.

Link up your own menu plan at This week is found here. (Or just find great ideas from other bloggers that share their menus.)

Friday, April 20, 2012

I is for Apple

What? How can "i" be for Apple?  I guess we all know that products made by Apple start with "i".  I am late joining in but have decided to blog through the alphabet with Marcy from Ben and Me.


Late last year, my husband's friend gave him his used 2nd generation iPod touch.   My husband already had a 4th generation iPod touch so I was fortunate enough to get the used one.  As soon as I started using it, I was hooked, but since it was a 2nd generation I couldn't get all the apps I wanted.  For my 44th birthday last month, my husband got me a 4th generation iPod Touch.  I just love it!

I thought I would share some of my favorite apps with you:

Bible Apps:

YouVersion: free  I love this Bible app that is loaded with multiple Bible versions including audio and loads of reading plans and devotionals.  I used it to read the Bible in 90 days and I'm currently reading the Essential Jesus plan as well as the Chronological Bible.

Touch Bible: free  Another Bible app that I like to use especially when I am not at home with wi-fi. free  I only just recently downloaded this one.  It has Bible, audio and video as well.

Pocket Sword: free  This Bible app has Bible, commentary, dictionary and devotionals.

Granny's Bible Dojo: $1.99  This app is sort of for kids but I like it too.  It teaches the Bible books in order. you can try a demo here. (This is one of the apps that I couldn't get for my 2nd gen.)

Calendars and Social Media:

CalenGoo $6.99 This one is a little expensive but I LOVE it.  I can use it offline and I have switched over from a paper calendar in my pocketbook to just using my iPod touch.  I was already dependent on my Google calendar so this just made sense for me.  It took me a long time to decide to get this but I'm very happy with it.

G-Whizz $2.99 This is my main app for G-mail, Facebook, Twitter, News and reading blogs through my RSS feed.  There is a free version available as well that I used for a while before buying it.  This one did not work very good with my 2nd generation iPod but works great on the new one.  I really love this app.

Other handy apps I love

iBooks free This one is great for reading your pdf documents.  I haven't used it for downloading e-books yet but I know you can do that too.

Evernote free If you don't know about Evernote you can read about it here.  I have used this for taking notes at meetings and even sermon notes. It's a very handy app for saving all kinds of information.

TOS magazine free When I first heard that The Old Schoolhouse Magazine was going digital I think I probably groaned.  I disliked reading on my computer.  I still dislike reading on my computer but I love reading TOS on my iPod.  I have read more in the digital magazine than I ever made time for when I was getting the paper version.

My FitnessPal free This app keeps track of calories, water, exercise and just helps you if you're tracking any of that.  Very handy.

Games for the Kids (and Mom)

Stack the States $.99 Fun game for learning about the states.  There is a free "lite" version too. (Also look for Stack the Countries.)

Presidents Vs. Aliens $.99 Fun game for learning about the presidents.  (Also available in a free "lite" version.)

Word Bingo $.99 and Math Bingo $.99 are fun, educational games for younger kids.  My kids like these.

Scramble with Friends $.99 My current favorite word game.  I LOVE to play this.  It's a fast paced word game like Boggle.  (A free version is available.)  I also like Words with Friends.

Chicktionary free Another fun word game where you make as many words as you can with the letters provided.

I have other apps that I like too but I think I've shared enough for now.  Do you have something you love that you want to share?  Please do.  I love to try new apps.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Free Creation Notebooking Pages

I am going to be reviewing a Bible curriculum soon and needed some notebooking pages.  I couldn't find what I wanted online so I made these up for our use and thought others might want to use them too.  This is what they look like:

In the real file there is no dark line on the bottom of this.

I just added these to Google documents.  Use this link to download them. They are free for your personal use.  If you have trouble with the link you can send me an e-mail and I will forward these to you in pdf format.

Cooking, Losing Weight and Using the Crockpot

So during my blogging absence (explained here) I got away from meal planning and posting about my weight loss journey.  If you read my explanation you know that I was pregnant for part of this year. Essentially I have only lost 1 pound since the beginning of the year.  On the one hand it is good.  I am keeping off the 63 lbs I lost and my summer clothes from last year are not falling off so I don't have to buy new ones.  On the other summer clothes from last year are not falling off and I really wish they were.  I wish I could find some new motivation but I just sit here stuck at a LONG plateau and I don't want to cut back more or exercise.  I used to be so strict with myself and not "cheat" at all.  Over time I have allowed myself a bite of this or that and I really need to not do that. It just gets frustrating to stay the same even when being good.

(I weighed myself today and I am down a tad more...almost to 64 lbs.  At least it's something.)

I thought I'd share a before and current (not "after" because I am NOT done) picture.  The first picture was taken after I'd already lost several pounds...maybe 15??  The other one was taken just recently.

Christmas 2010
(I hate looking at this picture still.)

Here I am wearing my new shawl. April 2012

I must keep going!!!!!

So this brings me to the second subject of this post. Cooking, menu planning, crock-pots.  During the illnesses of 2012, I had to stay home from church 3 weeks in a row with sick children.  I was able to have a nice hot meal prepared when the rest of the family returned from church and it was REALLY nice.  So, I have been thinking that I need to plan ahead and have crock pot meals on Sundays so that we come home to something nice on Sunday.  However, I do not have a good stash of slow cooker recipes that are low in calories (or even have a calorie count provided) and don't take 8 hours to cook (about 4 hours would be ideal...6 could be managed too).  So, I am on a quest for new recipes for Sunday dinner.  If you have any favorites I would love for you to share.  Hopefully, I will be back to Menu Plan Monday soon with some great weight loss recipes for the crock-pot.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Amazing Science DVD

Don't you just love when something educational is fun too?  I was recently give a copy of Amazing Science Volume I on DVD.  This set has 2 DVDs that teach fundamental principles of science including electricity, magnetism, heat, temperature, pressure, surface tension, buoyancy, and more.


Disk 1Disk 2
1) Color Changing Milk13) Floating Eggs
2) Egg in a Bottle14) Keep Paper Dry Underwater               
3) Exploring Air Pressure15) Dry Ice Bubbles
4) Build a Lemon Battery16) Balloon in a Candle Flame
5) Inverted Cup of Water17) Ocean in a Bottle
6) Candle Suction Power18) Build a Motor with Lights
7) Amazing Magnetic Force19) Simple Lava Lamp
8) Lift an Ice Cube with String20) Invisible Ink
9) Unburnable Money21) Density Tower
10) Matchstick Speedboat22) Soda Can Fizz
11) Reversing an Image with Water               23) Build a Motor #2

Watch this quick overview: (30 seconds long)

Many of the experiments are performed using household ingredients and supplies. It's great to be able to say, "Yes, we can try that!" because we already have everything.  At the start of each video a supply list pops up on the screen and he also tells you what you need.  I think it would have been helpful if a supply list was made available either inside the case or as a pdf document on the DVD but it's not that difficult to note what you need as you watch. (update: Ami from Walking by the Way has put together a supply list. You can find it here. Yay!!)

The experiments grabbed my kids' attention right from the start.  The experiments really are amazing.  My kids  love to watch these videos and want to do the experiments.   These are the kind of demonstrations that really make you say, "Wow!  How does that work?"  The creator of these videos, Jason Gibson, does a fantastic job of showing you how to do the experiment and then explains the science behind it.  I can't speak highly enough about them.  These would be a great addition to any home with children of all ages!  In my house, our entire family was glued to the set. 

Can we make an egg float by adding salt to the water?

We set the laptop right on the island so we could do the
experiment while we watched. (normally we watch on the TV though)

It worked!

Emma's idea was to add the salt water to the fresh to see how much it would take to get  it to float.
 I love when  the kids think of things to try themselves.

another experiment using blueberry juice and baking soda to write invisible messages
(this lesson is on acids and bases)

Here is a clip of a whole experiment from the video:  (one of my favorites)

There are a few others you can watch here.  If you like these, I think you will really love Amazing Science Volume 1.

The mission of is simple - 
to kindle your love of Science, Math, and the world around you!

Amazing Science is available for immediate download to your computer for $17.99 or order the DVD for $19.95 plus shipping. also has Math, Chemistry and Physics courses on DVD. (very reasonable prices too!) Also, you can sign up for the free e-newsletter to get free science and math videos.


Read what others are saying about Amazing Science on the TOS crew blog.

disclaimer:I received a free copy of Amazing Science in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Winter of 2012 or Great is Thy Faithfulness

This has been a very interesting winter for us.  I have been very silent on my blog except for reviews because I just have not had the time/energy to come up with blog posts.  About mid-February my husband and 5 of my children came down with influenza.  Two of the children also developed pneumonia and then my husband got pneumonia and ended up in the hospital for 4 days.  Then a couple more kids got sick.  Amazingly, I never got sick.  It was a surprise to me because I tend to be very susceptible to the flu and I've had it several times.  We had 6 straight weeks with someone in our house being sick with coughing and a fever.  During that time, I found out that I was pregnant too.  Our celebration was short lived though as I miscarried a couple of weeks later.  We have also since had a few children with a stomach bug.  It has been a long 2 months!

Even through it all I was reminded that God is faithful.  He was faithful to give us peace and comfort...faithful to provide friends to bring food and encouragement and prayer.

So, right now everyone is healthy.  I am very caught up on reviews and we are getting ready to wrap up this school year and start planning for next year.  I want to get back to blogging regularly and sharing more of what we are doing around here.

This week my husband is on vacation and yesterday we visited the aquarium.  Here are a few pictures.  It is unseasonably warm and wonderful.  It was a great time.

Emma watching the sea lion show


the shark tank


at the ray touch pool


Jenna and Emma

My favorite picture of the day.
Emma and Jenna walked out of the aquarium this way.

Monday, April 16, 2012

God's Great Covenant

God's Great Covenant by Classical Academic Press is a Bible course for children.  I had the opportunity to review the New Testament course and I can't wait to tell you about it.


In God’s Great Covenant, New Testament 1: A Bible Course for Children, students will follow the story of Jesus, the Messiah and King, as He is born and fulfills all God’s promises. But Jesus does not arrive as people expected. The people were looking for a mighty warrior to deliver them from the oppressive Roman government. Instead, He came as the suffering Savior, who would die as the sacrifice for sin and death. He was building a kingdom that was not of this world—it was the kingdom of God. He is the Son of Man, God’s Servant, the Messiah, and the Son of God. Each of the four units in this text emphasizes one of these names of Jesus. God’s Great Covenant, New Testament 1 teaches the Gospels to students in fourth grade and up, using stories, worksheets, memory verses, devotional guides, quizzes, and a little boy named Simon. In the introductions to the text, students will also learn about the historical, cultural, and geographical setting of the New Testament. This book is a most comprehensive and heartfelt study of the Gospels, and many parents and teachers will find themselves learning along with their students.                     -from the website

a sample of a map

 God's Great Covenant NT has a 23 page introduction divided into 6 sections

Historical and Political Information
Chronological Information
Geographical Information
Religious Information
Daily Life Introduction: Welcome to Simon's World

The introduction is followed by 36 weekly chapters with 4 themed units:

Unit 1: Jesus, the Son of Man, Has Come...To Live Among His People
Unit 2:Jesus, God's Servant, Has Come...To Proclaim the Good News
Unit 3: Jesus, the Messiah, Has Come...To Teach About God's Kingdom
Unit 4: Jesus, the Son of God, Has Come...To Conquer Sin and Death
Each chapter contains:
  • A memory page with a weekly memory verse, key facts chart, fulfillment of prophecy section
  • A thought-provoking “Think About It” question
  • A worksheet and quiz
  • Unit reviews that contain a memory verse worksheet, devotional guide, and a fun short story of life in Simon’s world
(Simon's world is found at the end of each unit.  Simon is a fictitious character in a fictitious Galilean village.  Each Simon's world section introduces daily living in Bible times.)

The worksheet sections include crossword puzzles, fill in the blank, matching, codes to crack, questions to answer and more.  You will also find maps.  Each section also ends with questions that cause you to think about how the weekly lesson applies to your own life.

You can see the entire table of contents and sample pages of the student edition here.

Sample of review worksheet

Each lesson has a Theme, Scripture (or Scriptures) that the lesson is based on, Memory Passage, Key Facts and a Prophecy Fulfilled section (which I love).  Next is Story-time which includes the Bible story told in a story format followed by the Worksheet section.

A detailed Teacher’s Edition is also available. It is a full copy of the student text (in a reduced size) with explanatory notes as well as lined margins for your own notes. It also provides answer keys and additional factual information to expand upon the historical, geographical, cultural, and theological concepts introduced in the text. 

sample from the Teacher's edition
Click here to view more samples from the Teacher's edition.

We have really enjoyed using this book.  I decided to use this book for our family devotions rather than as a workbook for one student.  We would read some of the listed scriptures and then read the story from the lesson and answer questions orally.  I have to admit to not using the teacher's manual but it really is a great resource and has a lot of  information. The print is pretty small for me though.  (I'm in the over 40 crowd and need bi-focals soon.) Though this book is recommended for "children" 4th grade and up, we found it beneficial for the whole family.  I can't imagine kids any younger than this working on this on their own but it was appropriate for our entire family for devotions.

God's Great Covenant is written from a covenantal and reformed theological perspective.  I am a conservative, fundamental Baptist and haven't found anything I would disagree with.

Every lesson is footnoted with multiple scripture references so you can look up EVERY thing you read for yourself.  Scriptures used in the book are from the NIV and NKJV.  We are a KJV family so we just read the scriptures from our own Bibles.  Most of the writings are not direct scripture quotations and it really wasn't an issue. Each book is just over 350 pages long.

The books are paperback and do not lie flat when open which is what I would prefer.  When I finally let one of my children actually write in this book I might take it and have it spiral bound.

The audio downloads are perfect for the car or bedtime (or any time really).  It would also be great to use if you want the child to listen on their own and complete the lessons.  Listen to the Chapter 1 sample.

You can purchase God's Great Covenant New Testament bundle for $56.95 which includes the student workbook, teacher edition and the audio downloads.

Individual titles are also available:
Student workbook $26.95
Teacher's edition $29.95
Audio downloads $9.95

Classical Academic Press also offers an Old Testament curriculum as well as Latin curriculum, Logic courses and more. (I reviewed The Art of Argument earlier this year.) Click for the .pdf catalog. You can also find Classical Academic Press on Facebook.  You also might like Headventureland which is a free website that has games and activities that go along with some of their curriculum. (not Bible)


Read what others are saying about God's Great Covenant on the TOS crew blog.

disclaimer: I received a free copy of God's Great Covenant teacher and student editions and mp3 downloads in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Wrapping Up with Illuminations-A Review

As this school year winds down and I start thinking about curriculum for next year, I thought I would share my thoughts on the main curriculum we used this year. In August of last year, we started using both levels of Illuminations (Year One) by Bright Ideas Press.  Illuminations is a curriculum guide that uses The Mystery of History as a spine. (Read what I said about it after about 5 weeks here.)

Illuminations-High School

The high school level of Illuminations has Bible,  literature guides for 19 books, lessons for The Mystery of History, lessons for English from the Roots Up and Write Shop I.  It also has grammar lessons, geography, humanities, a Life 101 course, and assignments from supplements such as Diana Waring audios, Drive Thru History DVDs and even movies on Netflix.

When you open Illuminations you see the menu below.  There is a Quick Start section where you will find a quick start guide, introductions, an interface guide to teach you how to use the program, the book and program checklist, notebook spines and a literature evaluation guide.

Next, you can browse by either subject or date.  If you choose "Browse by Subject" your menu looks like this:

 Here I selected English From the Roots Up.  It opens in a .pdf document which can be read on the screen or printed.  The lessons are divided up by week and day and you can easily find the lessons by clicking on the bookmarks on the left.   Besides the lessons you will find crossword puzzles and games, mad-libs, a final test and even an award certificate to print. This guide alone is 50 pages long.

The geography lessons are based on The Ultimate Geography and Timeline Guide. There are 2 lessons for each week.  This is a 27 page guide. Other guides include  59 pages for Write Shop I, a 23 page Bible reading guide (no lessons here just a list of readings and memory passages), 4 guides for books in the Life 101 course and a great supplement guide.  Even after a year of using this, I am amazed at how much is included (some of which I forgot about and never even used!).  

Easily choose the week you are on.  You can save any changes you make
without losing the original!

The most helpful part of Illuminations (in my opinion) is the schedule grid which you will find by clicking the "Browse by Date" button on the main screen.  The schedule grid is customizable. You can add things to it and change it to suit you. The only thing you cannot do is cut and paste text from one place in the grid to another. (This is one thing that I did find frustrating because if I wanted to move things around I had to re-type them.  This is not the case if you want to cut and paste from something outside of the grid.  For instance, I wrote up science lessons which I typed into a blank grid ahead of time and could cut and paste that into the grid each week.)

sample of a schedule grid

Watch this video by Tyler Hogan to see more about how this works.  I think it will be much more helpful than reading an explanation. He does show you how to work with the grid in this video.

So you're probably wondering what you need to buy, right? It really depends on how much of Illuminations you want to use.  You will definitely want to get The Mystery of History because it really is the core of the program (plus it's awesome).  I bought a few of the literature titles but I was able to find most of the literature through our inter-library loan system. (A few of the titles are included as e-books.) We have been using Easy Grammar Ultimate so I do not know anything about the grammar lessons included.  You also might want English From the Roots Up, The Ultimate Geography and Timeline Guide and an atlas, Write Shop I and supplements such as Drive Thru History and Diana Waring audios. Science and math are not included at the high school level.  Remember you can use what you already have or substitute if you have something you like better.

You can download a sample that includes the book list, 2 weeks worth of schedule grids, a sample family literature guide and sample of the graphic organizers which I will discuss below.

One question I was asked recently (as in today) was, " How long does it take each day?" I really can't answer that because I think it depends on how much of it you do, what other subjects you add in (such as PE, foreign language etc.) and how quickly your student works.

Illuminations-Grades 3-8

As with Illuminations high school, the spine of Illuminations for grades 3-8 is The Mystery of History.  Bible readings, spelling, grammar, copy work, geography, science and literature are all included as well.  With this program there are Family Study Guides and Read Alone Guides.  Most weeks you are reading a book aloud and the students also have a book to read to themselves with a guide to go along with each.  I chose to read the Read Alone books to the kids as well.  Otherwise, I wouldn't know what they were studying.  Looking back, I think they probably should have been reading more on their own but I can't say that I regret the time I spent reading the books to them. 

I have really enjoyed the literature selections this year.  They have all been really interesting and they are not books that "I" ever would have picked out myself.  I have been extremely happy with them.

One difference between the high school program and the 3rd-8th grade program is that science IS included. The lessons for Year One are from Christian Kids Explore Biology.  The lessons also have readings from the Kingfisher Science Encyclopedia which is a beautiful book but be forewarned it has evolutionary content.  I wish there was a similar encyclopedia written from a Christian perspective. (Anyone know of one?)

As with the high school books, (some of which are the same) I was able to obtain most of the needed literature and read alone books from the library.  There are 19 literature guides plus an additional 3 guides meant for summer use and 26 read alone literature guides and 2 do-it-yourself read alone guides, one for fiction and one for non-fiction.  These guides alone make the price of Illuminations worth it. Many of these guides are available for individual purchase but at $10-$14 each that adds up quickly. (and they are not all available to purchase individually.)

One of the other benefits to using Illuminations are the included Graphic Organizers that are used throughout the lessons.  Here are a few samples:

There are 36 different graphic organizers. (They are the same in both levels.)

The Spelling lessons are based on Natural Speller by Kathryn Stout. I have the book,but we never used it.  I  just used the words in the included spelling lessons.  (For my son in the 6th grade, we just spelled the words until we came across words he couldn't spell and used that as a list.  My 3rd grade daughter was using Soaring with Spelling.)

Lessons in this level are scheduled mainly for Monday-Thursday.  This is ideal for making Friday a fun school day, field trip day, catch up day or co-op day.  (or switch your "free" day to whatever day works for you)

I almost forgot to mention that at this level there are lessons for Early Learners (K-2) included as well.  

So, I think I have talked myself into buying Year Two!  :)  No, seriously, I do think I am going to purchase Year Two.  Mid-year I kept thinking that I missed doing unit studies. Lately, we have had a lot of review items for the TOS crew so we set aside some of our Illuminations curriculum to work on those and when we came back to Illuminations I was so happy and started really thinking that I am going to continue with this next year.  

On the Illuminations website you can download samples of each year of Illuminations (by level). 

Each sample includes:
  • A pdf version of their brochure
  • A Course Offering and Literature List. This will tell you what you need to buy (depending on which parts of the program you want to use).
  • Two sample Schedule Grids. 
  • Literature Study Guides. Family Study Guides (FSGs) and Read-Alone Guides (RAGs) for 3rd-8th grades, and High School Study Guides for the older ones.
  • Some of their favorite Graphic Organizers.

Purchase information can be found here.  You can purchase a full year bundle of both Illuminations 3-8 along with Illuminations High School for $240.  They can be purchased separately as well and there is even an option for purchasing just the first semester.  

My advice would be to buy this at least a few weeks before you start to use it so you can familiarize yourself with the grids and explore everything that Illuminations has to offer.  Please feel free to ask me any questions you may have.  I'd be happy to answer them if I can OR you can contact the folks at Bright Ideas Press.  They have always been very helpful when I've had a question.  

One other thing to note is that once you have registered your product you will gain access to a members area where you will find updates and additional things to download that are not in the program.  There isn't too much there but you won't want to miss it. 

You can find Illuminations on Yahoo Groups and Facebook. Bright Ideas Press is also on Facebook.

***No disclaimer needed on this one. I purchased this myself. :)  

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