Starting Your Homeschool Year With Purpose

Starting Your Homeschool Year with Purpose

I absolutely adore this time of year. Though the warmth of summer is still around, there is a slight change in the days — something in the air that gently whispers fall.

The business of summer is winding down, and the children are returning to school.  It’s time once more to pull out the books and start a new season of homeschooling with purpose. The following are five simple steps to make it happen.

Begin with Prayer

Before you begin anything, pray.

It’s often overlooked in the planning process, but praying for the Lord’s direction and blessing on your homeschool year is really the very best way to start.

Set a Schedule

How many days will you school your children?  Will you take regular breaks? Will you be off for the holidays?  What specific tasks do you need to accomplish during this school year? How many days of instruction does your state require?

Each of these things requires careful consider consideration.  It is also important to realize we are frail humans, living in an unpredictable world. The schedule needs to have flexibility to allow for the unexpected events of life.

Make Your Plans

What is your planning style? Will you be working with a lesson plan, planner and calendar? Or, do you just work your way through your curriculum front to back?

For my family, our homeschool years differ with each season of life. I would encourage you to evaluate what is most important to you and what will work best for your family.

There were years when I was nursing a new baby or fighting a life-altering illness when we worked our way through the curriculum without any added frills. I used a notebook simply dated for each day and kept notes on our work as we progressed through the books. I have also been known to find free printable planners online and pre-plan our entire year.

If you are looking for a good planning option but don’t have a lot of time, there is curriculum plan with a built in scheduler tool —Illuminations. Much of what I’m using this year for homeschool is scheduled in Illuminations. But I love that there is also the option of adding curriculum that may not be listed.

It has been a wonderful, time-saving resource for me. Once I print out the color-coded weekly schedules, it appears as if I have spent months planning our school year. In reality it took only a few minutes!

Whatever you choose to use for planning, each year has unique characteristics and very few look like the year before.

Consider your Curriculum

What worked last year? What didn’t?

Time is too short to keep trying to use curriculum that is not working for your family.

Our second year of homeschooling was the absolute worst. That year, I chose a curriculum that created long and laborious days for our family. We weren’t learning as much as I had hoped, and even worse, it was making everyone miserable. It almost made me want to quit homeschooling altogether.

I was thankful for friends who encouraged me to try something different. The next year was a much better homeschooling experience for our family because I abandoned that terrible curriculum choice. 

Get Organized

It’s best to make all your copies, gather all your supplies, and have a plan before you begin your homeschool year. I have had many frustrating days where I started teaching my children only to realize we didn’t have the supplies we needed for a particular lesson.

Being prepared means you start on time each day and that you don’t waste time looking for something you need.

Remember that the beginning of each school year is a fresh slate for each family.  Having a purpose and a plan for the year will help you have a successful school year!

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Illuminations Users Love the New 3.0 Software Update


“I recently bought Illuminations Year 3 and have been trying to figure out how to customize a few more things. Well, your 3.0 update solved all of my questions! Thank you for the continuous improvements. You just made my life much easier. I cannot thank you enough!”
 ▬ Becky Baird, a happy customer

To learn more about the new and improved Illuminations 3.0 for grades 3-12, see the main Illuminations page or these specific years:

These years of Illuminations are based on The Mystery of History volumes 1-3 and include schedules for every academic area (except math).

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History for the Gifted Homeschooler

differentiating history

Differentiation in education means to change curriculum to meet the needs of a particular child. In everyday words, we call it tweaking curriculum.

I believe this approach should be used by every homeschooling family, but especially for children with advanced learning abilities, often referred to as gifted and talented children (GT).

Slowing Curriculum Progression to Explore More Deeply

Many GT children develop an insatiable need to learn. When they find a topic of interest,  they enmesh themselves in it until they have learned all there is to know about the subject. While this a great trait and should be encouraged, we as parents must be mindful of the total instruction in our homeschool.

Unit studies are ideal for allowing GT children a chance to explore until their minds are content.

In our homeschool we use The Mystery of History (MOH) which presents a chronological and biblical history. The way that I differentiate, or tweak, this curriculum for my gifted son is to slow down the schedule and use unit studies for each era of history. I align our  Bible study, geography,  literature, and art studies. Wherever possible, I include language and vocabulary as well.  Illuminations provides our literature plans which coincide with our MOH studies.

Doing this type of immersion learning means that we do not follow the suggested MOH lesson plans or the entire Illuminations lesson plans. The Mystery of History text is written in such a way that a beginning student in the first grade will complete volumes 1 – 4 three times in their academic studies, each time approaching the content at a higher level of learning and ability. For our academy, we will thoroughly explore each volume one time.

This is an example of how I have used this immersion, unit study technique:

  • History: Ancient Egypt during the building of the Valley of the Kings, Tutenkhamen, Amenhotep and others
  • Bible: The Israelite bondage in Egypt and the Exodus
  • Literature: The Golden Goblet using the literary guides from Illuminations
  • Vocabulary: Flashcards with vocabulary words from both history and literature texts
  • Geography: Mapping the ancient Egyptian lands as well as the land of Canaan at the time of the Israelite Exodus
  • Art: A study of the Egyptian arts including pottery, pyramids, sarcophagus, gold art, frontalism, and more

This particular unit study took us about five months. Gifted students are able to learn at a faster rate and process more information. So you can see that by slowing down the progression of a curriculum and extending the areas of learning to incorporate as many subjects as possible and as in-depth as possible, the student is given freedom to explore at a pace he is comfortable with whil fulfilling the desire to know more.

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Illuminations: The Well Lit Path to Homeschool Planning

Illuminations, homeschool planning

Homeschool Planning with Illuminations

It’s okay to admit that planning the homeschool year causes a little bit of head spinning and a big need for a cup of coffee.  Even for seasoned homeschoolers and for those who love to plan,  it is an undertaking.

The day I plan my homeschooling year mimics an event.  I set aside the entire day, gather all my materials, and make sure to brew a pot of coffee before diving in to schedule an entire year for three children.

Illuminations turns a day of planning into an afternoon of planning.  Most of that afternoon will be spent familiarizing yourself with the schedule and thinking of which flavor creamer to add to your next cup of coffee.  Yes, it is that easy.

Features of Illuminations

  • Weekly Schedule
  • Graphic Organizers
  • Literature Study Guides
  • Notebooks
  • Evaluations/Grading
  • Resuable

The weekly schedule is fully customizable to your needs.  Illuminations offers quick scheduling, using high quality materials, for 3rd-8th grade and high school.  Scheduling and maintaining organization for multiple ages just got easier.  Choosing the materials selected for the program turns your afternoon of planning into an afternoon of relaxation.

Illuminations: an All-Inclusive Curriculum Plan

*you will need to include a math program

  • Language Arts 
  • Bible
  • Science
  • Humanities
  • Geography
  • History
  • Life Skills
  • Literature

The curriculum plan centers around The Mystery of History and All American History series.

Homeschool Planning with Ease

Everything you need to plan a successful school year is found in Illuminations. Even the best laid plans fall victim to the unpredictable nature of life. Illuminations’ plug-and-play plan smooths out the rough patches with regard to homeschool chaos.  The plan offers strong bones to fall back on with life takes a turn.

Teaching multiple ages presents a challenge to a homeschool mom.  The balancing act teeters without the proper plan.  Through the unique method that incorporates a solid plan and full customization the challenge of multiple schedules is reduced to one schedule for multiple ages.

Illuminations is purchased in one download that is easy to navigate.  I downloaded the program easily and it ran without a hitch. Within minutes I was able to print off the first few weeks worth of lessons to place in a binder.  My husband was very impressed with my knack of organization and planning.  There really is no need to explain to him how easy it was with the Illuminations plan.

I taught my teenager how to access Illuminations on his own.  Now, if the teacher is sick or called away, school does not stop in its tracks.  Thank you, Illuminations for giving a jump start on a new and successful homeschool year.

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Why I Chose Illuminations Homeschool Curriculum

why I chose Illuminations four our homeschool

Hi, I’m Ticia, I’m a Bright Ideas Press addict.  I also am a curriculum junkie, and I am disorganized.  You need to know these things for the rest of this post to make sense.

When Illuminations first came out, I looked at it and thought, “That’s so cool!  I want to get it!”  It didn’t matter that my kids were too young for the intended age range, I needed it.

Then the voice of sanity broke in. I realized I’d already bought several of the resources used in Illuminations. Then the bigger voice of sanity broke through, “Your oldest kids are in first grade.  Do you really need it?”

But that voice kept whispering at me for the next two years.  Now, our family as a whole is ready for it.  Here’s why.

  • I need more structure.  I have struggled for the past few years to keep our homeschool organized; Illuminations will help.
  • It breaks down all of our content into bite size pieces rather than the monster marathons I try for.
  • My kids are old enough now that it is time to increase what I expect them to do.  Illuminations is thorough.
  • The extra graphic organizers and organizational tools will improve my children’s writing.

 How I am organizing Illuminations

Illuminations teacher manuals

I’m a highly visual person, and while I can look at Illuminations on my computer, I prefer to look at a print copy where I can scribble my ideas.  Call me old fashioned.

So I printed most of the manuals and bound them using my binding machine.   I then printed the notebooking pages and the images for the folderbooks from the Super Supplemental collection and bound those in as well.

To save ink I printed it in gray-scale and in draft format.  To save paper I printed double sided.

I’m still figuring out the fine points, but these are the bones of my Illuminations organization. I can look at any of the manuals to get more information as I need it because it’s all located in one convenient book.

How I’m using the Illuminations schedule

Illuminations schedule

The photo above is my quick mock-up of week 1’s schedule.  I edited a few things I know we won’t be using.  Here are things I changed:

  • We are not using the recommended science because I promised my kids a different program.
  • Illuminations includes two different writing programs and two different grammar programs.  I’m not ready for a full writing program, so we’re making that part up instead of following the schedule.
  • For grammar we are using Easy Grammar, so I just substituted that
  • We area third of a way through a two-year Bible program, so I substituted the Illuminations Bible reading for that.
  • We are learning Latin, so I added that in.
  • I left two rows blank for my daily errands.

The digital schedule grid makes it easy to make all of these personalized adjustments. Then when I print the pages, the plan suits my exact situation perfectly.

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Illuminations Curriculum Makes it Easy to Integrate Netflix Videos

Supplemental Video Selections in Illuminations

We are using Illuminations Year Four for our homeschool curriculum. In December, I wrote about Illuminations Literature Guides and in January I wrote how we used them. Today I want to share another great feature — the supplemental video schedule.

Bright Ideas Press has done the work for you!  Each week is laid out with suggested videos you can access via Netflix or Drive Thru History.

We had a streaming Netflix account. Unfortunately, most, if not all, of the videos in the Illuminations guide came up as DVDs and not in the  streaming category. So I bit the bullet and am now subscribing to both parts of Netflix. To me, the cost is worth it since all I had to do was search for the videos. I didn’t have to use brain cells to come up with the ideas.

Netflix and Illuminations

Since the only videos in my queue are school related, it will be super easy to keep track of what I have requested.  I went through the list from the Illuminations guide and added them in chronological order.

Do we use videos everyday? No. But they are great to break up the long winter days when we are home-bound by the weather.

We recently watched Just the Facts: The Declaration of Independence. My 15 year old just finished an online government class and the inauguration was coming up so this was perfect timing. Everything meshed perfectly.

There was a multiple choice quiz at the end of the DVD. Just when I thought the kids weren’t paying attention, they got most of the answers correct.

We will be watching many more of the suggested viewing list. Do you watch videos as part of your learning?

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