I've been a fan of Maggie Hogan and the folks at Bright Ideas Press for a long time. I was first introduced to her at FPEA as she is a well respected and very popular speaker. She has a passion for history, geography, and science, and her motto is, "What we perform, we remember". Bright Ideas Press publishes the immensely popular Mystery of History (LOVE it!) and the Christian Kids Explore Science Series, just to name a few.
But now they have ventured in to the realm of one curriculum to tie all those things together. Illuminations is "Your Complete, Chronological, Customizable Guide to a Christian Education". Its subject outlines encompass history, geography, literature, grammar, spelling, copywork, Bible, writing, and spelling. Each week is laid out for you in an easy to customize, grid-like format. And every subject that I mentioned above is laid out on that grid. Meaning your lesson plans for every subject but math...and maybe some art and music are totally planned out for you. Illuminations offers two levels 3rd-8th grade (with Early Learner supplements) and High School, and currently offers 3 years of study covering time periods up to the Renaissance, Reformation, and the Growth of Nations. For the 3rd-8th grade programs, which is what we received, each level includes Family Study Guides to enhance the suggested read aloud literature. They also have some free reading resources, and an adaptation of Natural Speller that complements Mystery of History and provides a complete spelling program included with Illuminations. Oh, and because the Hogans are big on making learning fun, also included are suggested Netflix movies, Drive Thru History DVD schedules, and schedules for the Mystery of History craft pack and timeline figures.
The pros: The interface for Illuminations is amazingly easy to use. You just click on the icon on your desktop, and the screen below comes up:
The quick start button really is just that. This is by far the easiest program to "dive into" that I've ever seen. The quick start gives you most of the info you need to begin using Illuminations successfully. After you understand the program, you can either browse by subject or by date to get your lesson plans. The "by date" button gives you this grid below.
The red circle shows how easy it is to customize your schedule. Just click on the frame and the original plans disappear and you are free to type your new ones. Illuminations is planned for a 4 day week, which I love because that makes it easier for ME to make it fit my family since we inevitably have one day each week that doesn't work out like I planned. I love the literature that they have suggested to go along with what you are studying. So many great books I'd never read or heard of before. And the fact that they have the family study guide to go along with each one makes them even more meaningful. Below are some of the sample pages from Illuminations including one of the family study guides.
The cons: While the program is easy to customize, I think it probably offers the most bang for the buck if you actually use all the curriculums it encompasses. Personally, while I have Mystery of History and HITW timeline figures, I don't have the geography ( thought I did, but I actually have Hands-on Geography, not The Ultimate Geography and Timeline Guide), or the grammar, or the writing, or English from the Roots Up, or the science, so much of what was planned out, I really couldn't use. I'm happy with our spelling program, so while I can add in the one that comes with Illuminations, I would not replace my own. We do a weekly Bible study, and that dictates our Bible each week, so that's out too. And the very first read aloud book I could not get at all-no library in our county system nor any family out of 250 in my homeschool group had the book for me to borrow, which was really a bummer since it looked great.
The bottom line: Illuminations is by far the easiest curriculum of its type to use, and I've used two others like it. I think if you could make use of the WHOLE thing, or even a large part of it, it would be worth it, but $165 for a downloaded version of one year's curriculum can be a bit much if you aren't able to glean more from it than a schedule for MOH and some good books to go with it. I have to say I like it well enough though that I would consider investing in the other parts of the curriculum to make it work for me. I love this type of curriculum, and I think using it with my younger three would really make my life easier. I just wish I had more of the resources it makes use of already in my possession. I plan to keep using it, even in its limited capacity, for the rest of the year and may try to augment by buying the grammar they make use of as a first step toward really making full use of it. I want to be sure I say that I really, really do like Illuminations, I just want my readers to know that for you to get the most out of it, you should probably use the bulk of the curriculums it offers plans for.
To check out Illuminations, including some great videos by Tyler Hogan, Maggie's son, about how it works, please go HERE. You can also buy Illuminations from that site as either a download or a CD. I should mention that you can buy a half year of the 3rd through 8th grade levels for $82.50 and that the high school ones are less expensive at $95 for a year or $47.50 for a half year.
To read what other members of the TOS Crew had to say about Illuminations OR several other Bright Ideas Press products that they received to review, go HERE.
Legal Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a free download of Illuminations Year One 3rd-8th grade for the purpose of reviewing it. That download was the only compensation I received for my review.