Friday, August 28, 2015

Looks Like Summer: Kansas Sunflowers (episode 12)

I've been noticing the wildflowers more since we have no flowers left at home. The bridge at the end of our road has been a good area to find new wildflowers to photograph. I went down for some sunflower pictures this weekend, and then they mowed the entire area the very next day. I'm glad I stopped on my way home Sunday.

A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on


A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on


A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on


A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on


And I'm going to blame the weather change, and building thunderstorms, for this picture ...


It's still summer, though the weather is much nicer these days. I have children counting down to Fall, as well as to the double-birthday that comes just before the season change.

April E.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Crew Review: Illuminating Literature from Writing with Sharon Watson

Writing with Sharon Watson Review

Writing with Sharon Watson ReviewLast year I started to hear a buzz online. Homeschool friends of mine were talking about Writing with Sharon Watson and her new writing curriculum they were enjoying with their kids. I was impressed and I purchased all 3 of her writing programs to use with my children this school year. I hadn't realized she was also working on a homeschool literature program until Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide came up for review on the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

As members of the Crew, we were sent the entire set of Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide, along with the first two books used in the program: Pudd-nhead Wilson by Mark Twain and The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells.

We received the When Worlds Collide student text, the Teacher's Guide, and the Quiz and Answers Manual. We also received a pdf download of the Novel Notebook to print for our students to use. (The Novel Notebook pdf is available free to anyone who purchases the set, and the link is included at the front of the Teacher's Guide.) Each of these items is a softcover book, measuring 8.5 inches by 11 inches, my preferred size since it matches the size of most notebooks on our shelves.



That's my picture of what we received, but it doesn't really do the books justice - my daughter's desk area is dark. The covers are much brighter and more cheerful than this picture shows.

Illuminating Literature can be used at home on an individual basis, or it can be used as part of a monthly or bi-monthly co-op/book club. The Teacher's Guide includes instructions for both methods of teaching the course. Although we had the option to join into a facebook group to use it as a book club study, my daughter preferred to use it on her own. With 70 lessons, When Worlds Collide can be covered at a pace of 2 lessons per week, one book per month, to move through it on your own in a school year. That's two semesters of literature discussion questions, vocabulary, quizzes and writing assignments that all work together to earn a full credit of high school Language Arts.


Writing with Sharon Watson Review


One of the things I particularly liked about When Worlds Collide is that it covered books I haven't yet introduced to my high school students. In fact, I'm afraid of one of the books (Dickens) and hadn't heard of three of them. Among the ones I have heard of, I haven't seen literature guides for all of them. The only book I have used in our high school program thus far was Fahrenheit 451.  The books Sharon Watson includes in Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide are:

  • Pudd’nhead Wilson by Mark Twain
  • The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
  • The Friendly Persuasion by Jessamyn West
  • Peter Pan by Sir James Barrie
  • Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis

Another feature that I appreciate about Sharon's work is the very thought-provoking discussion questions she provides. I love reading and I enjoy writing, but I often draw a blank when it comes to engaging my teens in literary analysis and deep discussion. I have relied on literature guides in the past, though they have had to be bought individually to combine for a year of Language Arts credit.  The When Worlds Collide Teacher's Guide and Student Text provide those discussion questions and guidance for leading that discussion for EIGHT books, instead of just one. The Novel Notebook download helps the students watch for and take note of things they'll be discussing later. That's so much better than asking a question once the reading is done and nothing comes to mind for the student. If they know to be watching for it in advance, they are prepared for the discussion questions later.

Although my daughter preferred to just write her answers down or discuss them with me when she wasn't sure what to write, I actually love the idea of using this in a homeschool co-op setting. The Novel Notebook gives the students an idea of how to prepare for the upcoming meeting, and if each student also has a student text, they could answer some of the questions on paper in advance. But when they come together to discuss it, they'll gain much more depth in their understanding of the text and will be able to write more complex essays.

Sharon lays out a grading rubric for the teacher that explains exactly how to compile a month-long grade for each book. Averaging together the 9 chapter/book grades would then give an overall grade. The quizzes can be taken and graded online, or they can be photocopied from the Quiz and Answer Manual and done on paper and graded by the parent/teacher.

Although my daughter is never keen on literary discussion questions, the Novel Notebook was very helpful for her. Most of the time the questions had answers that weren't too vague or difficult to answer. The "why" and "how" questions were more manageable to her than some literary analysis questions she'd experienced before. It also helped that each set of questions began with questions that were easily answered from the text before jumping into more abstract questions.

Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide is well-written, versatile, and easy for homeschool parents and students to use. The student can do it all on their own simply writing their answers to the student text questions and taking the quizzes online, or it can be parent-led and include oral discussion and printed quizzes. The other options are for weekly or monthly book club and co-op meetings if you have enough homeschoolers in your area for that.

If you'd like to take a look at Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide, you can download free samples of the first two lessons. The Illuminating Literature books are priced as follows:
  • Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide - $39.49
  • When Worlds Collide Teacher's Guide - $16.49
  • When Worlds Collide Quiz and Answer Manual - $8.49
  • Download of When Worlds Collide Novel Notebook - FREE
Sharon strongly recommends using the same version of the 8 books that she used when preparing the curriculum so students can easily turn to the correct page and passage for discussion. The bundle of approved books are available at a discount from her website for a total of $53.26 at the moment. Just scroll down to her Amazon store widget at the bottom of the When Worlds Collide page.

Follow Writing with Sharon Watson on facebook and pinterest. Then join us for a Facebook Release Party on Thursday, August 27 at 9pm ET with more prizes and fun!

Writing with Sharon Watson Illuminating Literature Facebook Party



Thanks for reading my review. You can find other reviews form Crew members at the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

April E.


Writing with Sharon Watson Review

Crew Disclaimer

Friday, August 21, 2015

Looks Like Summer: Just doing life (episode 11)

We haven't had much going on this week. My husband and oldest son were away doing tornado-relief work with a group from church. The rest of us just tried to continue with school, chores, and life. They're on their way home now and we're looking forward to seeing them late tonight/tomorrow. 

Just a few pictures this week of some of the things at our home in these final weeks of summer. The weather has been cooler and we're enjoying it so much!











A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on



Counting down until Fall,
April E.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Schoolhouseteachers.com Back To School Sale!

It's the SchoolhouseTeachers.com Back To School Sale. You can get 2 years of membership for the price of 1, which gives you access to courses in all subjects, K-12. You can design your own course of study for your family (for two years) for just $139.  All you need is a computer, internet access, and a printer (optional).




And when you join, you also get to download all the different digital Schoolhouse Planners each year, and view archives of The Old Schoolhouse magazine. The membership also includes access to members-only free ebooks and the applecore record keeping system. In other words, you get a lot of bang for your buck!

 April E.

This post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Crew Review: AOP Horizons Preschool Curriculum

Alpha Omega Review


Our family has been using Horizons Math from Alpha Omega Publications from the very beginning of our homeschool journey (way back when our oldest daughter started kindergarten in 2000). We trust their content and their quality. However, we've never used any of their other subjects until the Schoolhouse Review Crew gave us the chance to review the Horizons Preschool Curriculum set.

The Horizons Preschool set is everything we've come to expect from AOP, an excellent Christian homeschool curriculum. The student workbooks are colorful and well-made. There are 2 student workbooks for the preschool set, just as there are for the math curriculum, though these workbooks are thicker than the ones we use in math. The teacher's guide (also two  softcover books) are thorough with lesson plans that encompass far more than just the workbook pages. The curriculum set also includes a loose-leaf resource packet that can be used to supplement and illustrate the lessons in the teacher's manual. My four year old loves the music cd that came with the set and is often heard singing the first song, "I love _____ and I know she loves me, too." We sing it to each other, actually.

Alpha Omega Review

My four year old has loved using the Horizons Preschool curriculum. She calls it her "giraffe book" and asks to do it every day! Since she is actually turning five next month (but not starting kindergarten yet), some of the early lessons have been just review for her. We whizzed through them quickly, until we reached a more challenging section of the workbook. That actually meant that we skipped the early lesson plans, as well. Once we reached a later section we were able to use more of the lesson plans.

A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on

The 180  preschool lesson plans vary each day. They include Bible stories, Bible memory verses, finger plays and songs, discussion ideas for science, language arts, and social studies, field trips, phonics lessons, physical education, and arts and crafts. Those aren't all covered in every single lesson, but most of them are covered each week. I really appreciate the finger plays and songs because my younger kids haven't been introduced to as many of those songs and finger plays as my older kids were. It helps to be reminded of them so I can mix them into our conversations throughout the day.

The Horizons preschool workbooks have the students learning numbers and letters, handwriting, cutting and pasting, counting, sequencing and finding patterns, working on shapes and colors and following directions. We've hit lesson 30 and have yet to cover time or addition, but I know they are introduced in later lessons. The pages are colorful and well-illustrated, and each page has instructions printed on it. The workbooks could be used separately from the complete set, though the lesson plans include phonics and so much more!
A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on




I'll be honest. The Horizons lesson plans are a little too structured for me. I never go through all the review steps in the Horizons math lessons, either. I looked at the lesson plans for the preschool curriculum and used some of the ideas for each day, but I didn't follow the lessons exactly. We mostly unschool or play school our preschool time, with lots of reading aloud, listening in on other homeschool lessons, and workbooks so they can "do school", too.

The teacher-led approach of Horizons complete preschool set is more than I really need or want for preschool in our large family, but it would work great for those with young children close in age, an only child, a smaller more structured family, or a Christian preschool. However, the workbooks are wonderful! They are colorful, comprehensive, and well-made. I will be purchasing new workbooks for our last child when he is ready for preschool.

The entire Horizons Preschool Curriculum set is sold for $125.95. It truly is a complete set, covering all subjects. You can view samples of each of the components by scrolling to the bottom of the page at the Horizons website. The two preschool workbooks can be purchased individually for $29.95 each.

Alpha Omega Publications can be found on facebook, google+, twitter, pinterest, and instagram. The Schoolhouse Review Crew actually reviewed a large variety of AOP products, so head over to the Crew blog to see what other reviewers had to say.

April E.



Alpha Omega Review

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, August 17, 2015

Illuminating Literature iPad Giveaway from Writing with Sharon Watson!

Our family has been blessed to review Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide this summer with the Schoolhouse Review Crew. It's a well-written, complete literature program for high school students. Crew reviews will be posted next week, so stay tuned! Our family also bought her three writing programs to start with our homeschool students this year.  I like that they aren't complicated for me to use, and they're written in a way my students can enjoy, as well.

In honor of Sharon Watson's release of Illuminating Literature and next week's Schoolhouse Crew Reviews ... we're having a giveaway! You can win an iPad mini and the complete When Worlds Collide set! 

Writing with Sharon Watson Illuminating Literature iPad Mini Giveaway

To celebrate the release of Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide, we are joining with Writing with Sharon Watson to bring you an incredible giveaway! 


One of you may win ALL of the following prizes, a value of nearly $450:

Apple iPad Mini 16GB, WiFi Only ($329 value)

  • 7.9-inch LED-backlit Multi-Touch Display; 1024-by-768 Resolution
  • Apple iOS 6; Dual-Core A5 Chip 1GHZ
  • 5 MP iSight Camera; 1080p HD Video Recording
  • Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n); 16 GB Capacity
  • Up to 10 Hours of Battery Life; 0.68 lbs

Illuminating Literature Curriculum Set ($64.47 value)

Literature in a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere . . .

Your teens will appreciate the unstuffy way Sharon Watson teaches literature. They’ll read some great novels, encounter the hero’s journey, learn literary terms and elements, and gain an appreciation for fine literature.

More important, eager and reluctant readers will become more discerning as they learn the secret craft of the writer.

Prepare your teens for college literature courses and for the rest of their reading life.
  • Written for Christian high schools, homeschools, and co-ops.
  • Two-semester course earning one credit for language arts or English.
  • 70 lessons.
  • Student-directed, with clear lessons and reading schedules.

Illuminating Literature 8-Book Bundle ($52.84 value)

This book bundle includes the following books used in Illuminating Literature:
  • Pudd’nhead Wilson by Mark Twain
  • The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
  • The Friendly Persuasion by Jessamyn West
  • Peter Pan by Sir James Barrie
  • Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis


Writing with Sharon Watson Illuminating Literature Facebook Party



To enter the giveaway, use the Rafflecopter below, then  join us for a Facebook Release Party on Thursday, August 27 at 9pm ET when the winner will be announced.

RSVP for the Facebook Party

Enter the Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Terms and Conditions:

This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.  Void where prohibited by law. Must be at least 18 years of age. This giveaway is in no away associated with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest. No purchase necessary for entry. Odds are determined by the number of entries. Selected winner will have 48 hours to respond to email notification to claim their prize or another winner will be drawn. Entry into this giveaway will subscribe you to the Writing with Sharon Watson email list.


Good Luck!
April E.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Looks Like Summer: Back To School Week (episode 10)

We're in the double digits. That means we're getting closer to fall arriving!  We started school this week, so we have been busy, but here are a few pictures of what summer looks like at our home this week.


Summer is exhausting ...

A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on


A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on


A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on



Enjoy your summer, what's left of it.  Is anyone else starting back to school?

April E.