Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Art Instruction Books with DVD and BluRay: An ARTistic Pursuits Inc. Review

 ARTistic Pursuits
Art is often so neglected in our education.  For some, it doesn't seem like real learning and for others it is just so daunting a subject to teach.  The truth is, it should be neither!  Exploring the arts and having fun is so important to brain development and learning.  A good way to make that happen is to find good resources.  We are reviewing a standard in homeschool art curriculum, ARTistic Pursuits Inc. again and this time they have added a video feature!  The Artistic Pursuits Art Instruction Books with DVD and BluRay series includes: 
  • Art for Children, Building a Visual Vocabulary
  • Art of the Ancients
  • Art of the Middle Ages
  • Artists that Shaped the Italian Renaissance
For this review we received Art for Children, Building a Visual Vocabulary, the first in the series. It sets the framework for the other books by solidifying the student in the terms and ideas works of art are built on.  It includes 12 lessons in the book and 6 corresponding video lessons on DVD and BluRay. The materials required are listed in the front, but also individually as needed in each lesson.  The videos lessons introduce the new materials or mediums used and demonstrates how students are to use them.  Each non-video lesson takes about 10 minutes to complete.

 ARTistic Pursuits

What We Thought

My kids love art so they are probably going to like anything related to art.  They indeed did enjoy working in through these lessons, especially the video ones.  The landscape picture below was made by my 7 year old simply from watching the #3 video lesson and without any help from me.  One of the goals of ARTistic Pursuits Inc. is to teach children to make works of art, not just imitations.  I was really impressed by this particular picture of my son's because of the detail in the background that, knowing him, doesn't usually get noticed.

The interesting thing about the video lessons combined with the regular lessons is the varying ways this resource can be used in a day.  There is regular opportunities for different kinds of feedback.  With the videos I could have the kids watch one, but they had the opportunity to pause or go back to see exactly how something was done or just work on their own.  The regular lessons required my involvement at least to introduce and set up the project, before they work on their own for a while.  Each video and non-video lesson are simple enough that I can do it beforehand or with them.

The video lessons are also nice when the kids just want to go on an art binge.  The photo above (lesson #6) was from one such day when they watched all the videos and did parts of all the projects in one day. I'm pretty sure it would be different if I assigned them several different projects, but this way was somehow really appealing.  

ARTistic Pursuits Inc. is a wonderful resource for art education and makes the process so accessible.  If you are interested in finding out more about them or other books available, check out the Crew Members reviews below!

Keep Up With ARTistic Pursuits, Inc. on Social Media: 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ArtisticPursuitsInc     @ArtisticPursuitsInc.
Twitter:  @ARTistic Pursui1
Artistic Pursuits Full Video Lesson Grades K-3 {ARTistic Pursuits Reviews}
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Thursday, June 7, 2018

New American Cursive 2: A Memoria Press Handwriting Review

Memoria Press

Memoria Press is beginning to be a household name around here.  We have gotten the chance to review for them a couple of times before and this time we are trying out one of their cursive handwriting books, New American Cursive 2 (Scripture).   Most people have a love or hate type of a relationship when it comes to cursive handwriting, but we have really embraced it.  Even though J gets tires of it easily (he struggles with tensing up when he tries really hard), he is terribly proud of himself when he writes in cursive.  Either way, it is nice to find high quality curriculum to rely on if/when your students pursue it.

New American Cursive

Memoria offers a complete New American Cursive penmanship program for Grade Levels 1-4 and we were given Workbook 2 with Famous Quotations and Scripture.  The book itself is spiral bound at the top so that left or right-handed students can successfully utilize it equally.  Workbook 2 begins with a 7 paged Teaching Guide that covers everything surrounding learning to write in cursive.  They discuss the value of learning cursive, posture and pencil position, testing, how to use the workbook, complementary exercises, and even the best type of music for handwriting practice!  If you don't have a clue about penmanship or teaching it, this teaching guide gives you more than enough to equip you. 

New American Cursive 2 (Famous Americans)

Since this is Workbook 2 in a series, it begins with a review of the entire alphabet in cursive, pencil grip, posture and correct paper placement.  The next section highlights the individual letters, two to a page, along with practice words to trace and copy.  Every few pages there is a fun or open-ended page perhaps with a writing prompt and encouraging the student to illustrate their response.  The next section focuses on the size of their writing, encouraging the correct placement of letters on baseline.  Here several creative writing, scripture and quotations exercises are introduced.  Near the end of the book there is a Handwriting Evaluation Checklist that helps you determine what your student needs to work on.  It would be a handy page to reproduce whenever you need to check on their progress.

What We Thought:

Since J is not brand new to cursive, this level was great for him.  The review reminded him of what was expected out of his handwriting and inched him a little further in refining some of his letters.  The variety of exercises was perfect!  From days of the week, relevant scriptures like obeying your parents and being kind, to the incorporation of journal writing and drawing, there was always something new to distract from the usual weariness of handwriting.  This is a great resource for strengthening  handwriting skills that have already begun, but it is even more useful for building that bond of pencil and paper with journaling, something I strongly believe in.  This program shows a lot of wisdom and forethought for various learning styles as well.

We highly recommend Memoria Press and Workbook 2 with Famous Quotations and Scripture. is worked very well for our needs.  The Crew reviewed other books in the penmanship series as well as Traditional Logic and Classical Composition.  Don't forget to check out what they thought about the rest of the products.

Memoria Press on Social Media: 
New American Cursive & Traditional Logic {Memoria Press Reviews}
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Saturday, June 2, 2018

What Kind of Acorn Am I?

The inspiration for the Race Car's middle name is from Ralph Waldo Emerson because I love so many of his quotations.  A thousand forests coming from one acorn is a perfect reminder of how our life and its influence on those around us can be exponential.  I've heard it said that we are always one generation away from <enter your glory or doom of choice> and that puts a huge responsibility on me.  I vividly remember when we got our first computer and later our first cell phone.  I remember things like irc and aol and you've got mail.  But I also remember waiting for the mailman with agony and excitement to see if my friends wrote me back.  That's right, letters!  My world changed so drastically around 1994 - much more than I realized at the time - and has only sped up since. 

So here I sit at 38 with children of my own and a whirlwind of responsibilities, desires and questions that often bring me back to a time that didn't feel rushed, exhausted or as complicated.  It's not some biased memory that has forgotten all the troubles of the time, because life has always been complicated.  But we have let our technology and mass media set the pace of life and rarely ask if that's okay with us.  We accept 3 practices a week plus games and tournaments as okay and normal.  We accept eating dinner at the drive-thru as normal.  We don't bat an eye when doctors and schools make demands of us or our children that aren't best for them.  We might complain that Hollywood has its standards messed up and yet we are continually adapting to them as though they are considering what is healthy and good for you.

My little family of 5 is just one in so many more, but Mr. Emerson's implication is packed with wisdom.  The kind of people my three children become might influence their own little family of 5 and then those little families create more families and then the exponential influence is off and running.  The trouble is if we're just trying to get all the wants satisfied rather than focusing on the needs, the forest this little acorn has created is full of disease and destruction or there's no forest at all because none of it survived.  No matter what is trying to demand something of us, if the emotional and spiritual well-being of our families cannot be honored as well, then we must choose an alternative. 

Slow down.  When you catch yourself saying "I can't because..." (because I know you will), back up and start to look for ways you can.  It might lead to saying no to things, but it also just might help you pay attention better.

Think great-grandkids.  Every generation is going to have a harder time slowing down.  Will your great-grandkids have a legacy of true living or mindlessly chasing ambition?  Will they have courage to choose simple things because their grandparents did too or will they take a bad cue from you thinking the only way to make it in life is to compete, adapt and get their first?

Go outside.  I know I say this a lot, but the natural world is the best argument for what God desires of us.  We reap what we sow.  A tree bears fruit after its own kind.  What we choose to put into our families is the future ahead of us.  Let's course correct and ground ourselves and our families in genuine relationship, rest, and a growing community according to God's design.

Monday, May 28, 2018

When Life Changes You

Every stage of life brings about changes.  There is always plenty of physical changes that are normal.  If we move schools, homes, or jobs, our physical locations change.  If we are 'normal' our wants and desires change over time too.  But then there are crises or traumatic events that change you even further.  Returning to what is normal after that is sometimes not possible or not even desirable anymore.  The older you get, the more life may change you.  Is that good?  Is that the way it is 'supposed' to be?

I have an adorable little boy who just learned to walk.  He's extra adorable to me because he resembles another little boy who is now 7.  J and the Race Car embody two very different stages in my life.  One is newness, naivety and deep wells of feelings.  The other is bursting with activity, seasoned joy and determination.  And yet to me they are just two sides of a ball (another thing they share a love for).  This walk of motherhood has brought about changes in me.  This decade (plus) of marriage has brought about growing pains and harsh realities.  Shock and grief took hold of me last summer after a season of severe change. As it turned out, I had all kinds of emotions tied up in my sweet dog, Grace and when she died this final part of my shifting identity went with it.  Who I was when I first got her was completely gone (it felt like).

That feeling of change can be empowering and assuring, but sometimes it is unfamiliar and unsettling.  Or better yet, to me it is just overwhelming sometimes.  I feel loyalty to this person I used to be and the priorities she had, but the life that now is holds so many different things.  The reality is I cannot honor both fully at the same time and to try undermines it all.  So what can be done when life changes you and you're not exactly okay with it all?  I guess the same thing we always need to do when we don't like what we're getting.

-Accentuate the POSITIVE.  Be thankful about all things. Life is different and not what we expected, but that's not all bad.  Many of the things I dreamed of having or doing in my adult years are mine.   A God who has never left me without hope, a committed husband, healthy children, a taste of the country, many freedoms to do what I want.

-Set a Game Plan.  When things don't work out like you want, then it is usually time for a new and improved plan perhaps with slightly adjusted goals.  Instead of wallowing in what isn't, it's time to take what is and look for what it could be. 

The changing is never going to stop, so I'm told, but it is worthwhile to do it in as healthy a way as possible.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Home School Navigator: A Language Arts Curriculum Review

Home School Navigator
All the way through school, one of my most favorite classroom activities was discussing literature.  I had always been good at reading aloud and then found myself full to the brim of analysis and ideas!  I'm sure my classmates got tired of listening to me, but I adored it.  In my homeschool daydreams (long before I had kids), I would imagine a family of kids sitting around discussing a book we had just read.  It was glorious until I actually had kids and lost part of my brain along the way.  At the early stages of learning it is so easy to get pulled down in the mud of learning to read and not falling behind in math.  Even though I'm an avid writer, the demands and pressures of life had misplaced my love for literature and writing when it came to educating my kids.  I'm so thankful to be reviewing Home School Navigator Reading and Language Arts Curriculum from Home School Navigator because it has reminded me of an early love and orchestrated a fantastic language arts curriculum based on those loves.

Home School Navigator

Home School Navigator is a comprehensive language arts curriculum for beginning readers all the way up to established readers working on their paragraph writing skills (about K-5).  What sets this program apart is that it is divided into colored levels rather than typical grade levels and provide you access to all of them.  They understand the uniqueness of students and how they very well may find their expected grade level too challenging or too simple.  With your student's subscription, if at any point the curriculum becomes a stumbling block (too easy or too hard), you are welcome to move to the next appropriate level!  This speaks volumes about their innate design intended for homeschooling.


Each color/level provides 36 weeks of instruction (with catch up days built in) complete with book lists, extensive planning guides, handouts with answer keys, instructional videos, games, handwriting, vocabulary, word study, poetry, creative writing and so much more.  For higher levels (beginning with Green), they also offer some really neat interactive notebooks that are great for the hands-on student.  All of the various assignments and activities usually connect to the read-aloud book of choice for that day/week.  Most of the books are ones you might already own or certainly can get from a local library.  While it is ideal for students to have the books in hand, the curriculum provides a video of each book being read aloud both for reinforcement and in a pinch, your main focal point isn't lost because you don't have a book.  In addition to the assortment of videos, handouts and lesson plans,  the other online component of this program is the portfolio option.  At the end of each lesson or section their is an option to check items as completed and/or upload files to add to the student's portfolio.  In many states there is a portfolio requirement so this is a super handy element that they have built right in.  Otherwise, it still will keep track of how far you are from completing a level as you check off assignments.

You can manage a total of 4 students so we tried the program out with my 7 year old and 4 year old which translated into Level Yellow and Level Red.  The read-aloud videos were everyone's favorite and resulted in a double blessing because they both wanted to listen to each others'!  Some of the favorite activities all centered around writing.    In Level Red they are still learning to read so the writing began in the audible stage where the student and parent create together before it makes it to the page.  The 4 year old is enamored with stories already so this was right up her alley.  A similar activity expects more independence in Level Yellow.  The instructional videos were extremely helpful in part because it was someone else doing the teaching and I was merely reinforcing.  In the beginning when the Writer's Notebook is introduced, my 7 year old took to it really well and before I had even directly assigned it, during his afternoon quiet time he had written the first chapter of his book, Vacation to Colorado!  It was as if something sparked a fire in him and he just went with it.  As a writer, educator and a mom, I LOVED it.                                                                                      

Overall, I highly recommend looking into this program.  The interface was a little daunting at first, but made a lot more sense with more use.  The best part of the program is its versatility.  Wherever your student is in their learning and comprehension, this program encourages them there.  If one element is already mastered, it is flexible enough for you to leave it out with no issue at all.  It is designed with the typical home school family in mind!  If you would like more information or other perspectives on the Home School Navigator Reading and Language Arts Curriculum, check out other reviews at the link below.

Home School Navigator on Social Media: 

Home School Navigator Reading and Language Arts Curriculum {Home School Navigator Reviews}
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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

T is for Tree: A Bible ABC Review

Reformed Free Publishing Association
Long before I had kids and jumped into the homeschooling adventure, I loved books.   My Type B personality makes me worry I'll miss something really important one of these days, but then I watch my 1 year old fall in love with books over the last month like the big kids already have and I can relax.  Loving books becomes synonymous with a love for learning.  A love for learning is the entire point of education!  Our latest review is a beautiful book called T is for Tree: A Bible ABC from
Reformed Free Publishing Association that encourages a relationship with the English alphabet that also points to God's Word all along the way.

T is for Tree: A Bible ABC
As the title suggests, this is an ABC book where every page is devoted to a letter of the alphabet.  Each letter and its chosen word is then illustrated on the page somehow and depicted in rhyme that is connected to a Bible verse quoted at the bottom of the page.  In addition to the main illustration, all the pages include a thick frame decorated with some element mentioned in the scripture.  This is a sturdy, hard-bound book that provides many opportunities for learning and further discussion.

T is for Tree: A Bible ABCT is for Tree: A Bible ABC
T is for Tree: A Bible ABC
At church and in our own reading at home we rarely use the King James Version so it didn't take very long for the kids to give me a funny look when words like whereunto and wilt were used.  I bring it up not as a criticism though.  While KJV hasn't always brought about ease of understanding, in this context it actually broadens things for the reader.  Many of the verses are familiar enough that they recognize them, but also highlights new or different words.  My 7 year old would try his hand at inferring what the word meant and the 4 year old simply expands her vocabulary.  So not only are we reinforcing alphabet knowledge and vocabulary, we're given the opportunity to discuss illustrations in the Bible.  It is a safe and easy environment to learn a little more.

The variety of words used is a nice mix of the familiar with the unique.  Things like nest and king weren't a surprise, but things like faith and zion definitely set this book apart.  The author Connie L. Meyer also did the illustrations that are all worth noting.  The pictures are beautiful with bright colors and detailed drawings that are also simple and attainable.  Drawing is something we try to include in our children's curriculum pretty often (Mr. Butler is quite the artist himself) and this book could be used to draw from or imitate in drawing practice.

T is for Tree: A Bible ABC

This book would make a great gift with plenty of room on the inside to write an inscription and sturdy enough to last a while.  Check out other books from the author and Reformed Free Publishing Association by keeping up with them on social media.

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T is for Tree: A Bible ABC {Reformed Free Publishing Association Reviews}
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Thursday, May 17, 2018

PandaParents: An Early Education Resource Review


When my oldest was a baby, I knew we were going to try homeschooling so I was already eyeing curriculum options.  From that time to now, when I have a 7, 4 and 1 year old, I can see a change in my perspective.  Finding just the right method or materials seemed really important - and yes it can be.  What I missed sometimes is what is MORE important.  It is more important for a child to have a positive connection with learning and the person facilitating the learning.  Whether you have one small book or dozens of them, with the right relationship and time spent most children will thrive either way.  My latest review from the PandaParents has kept that concept in mind with their MESSYLEARNING FOR PRESCHOOLERS AND KINDERGARTNERS monthly program that includes a pdf book, online videos, and a pdf workbook for ages 3-6.
Panda Parents Kindy Curriculum

MESSYLEARNING FOR PRESCHOOLERS AND KINDERGARTNERS is a monthly subscription that sends you a new set of resources each month.  Each set (book, video & workbook) relates to each other through the story combining various subjects and skills. The MESSYLEARNING title might give you the impression that it requires heavy clean up or something, but that is not the case at all. 
MESSY stands for
  • Mixed subjects & activities for integrative learning
  • Engaging activities that challenge minds
  • Simple 1-2-3 steps: READ, LEARN, CREATE
  • Smart designs for creative learning
  • Yeah, a new way to learn!
There are various arts and crafts activities but they aren't any more destructive than a simple cut and paste activity.  The workbook activities are really flexible in that you can pick and choose what you want to do without taking away from other ones.  Collectively, the workbooks provide a balanced variety of activities, but each can stand on their own when necessary.  

Having three kids to keep up with now, I understand all the more how tempting (and sometimes necessary) it is to find something educational for your kids and just leave them to it.  How else does anything get done, right? Still, the 7 years learning process of motherhood is still teaching me how valuable I am to their education no matter what they are learning.  The comfort and assurance of a parent combined with engaging activities sparks a love for learning that is rarely matched.  So, to that end, this is NOT something you can leave them to work independently very easily.  The videos you can of course, but the activities build on the story and those require a parent involvement.

 For this review, we received 3 months worth of stories, videos and resources.  We started with the Christmas themed story first and even in April, it still gets kids excited. Then we moved on to Scotty Skunk, which even in the title I half expected miss Z to turn her nose up at it.  In fact, she LOVED it.  According to her, there aren't enough books about skunks, I guess.  She has her moments of being scared about things so I think she identified with all of Scotty's fears.  The final story is Mommy's Baby that introduces a lot of different objects while highlighting children that age's most favorite thing, Mommy!

The storybooks and workbooks we received were all digital and I do think the system would work so much easier if they came already printed and bound.  I believe that option will be available eventually.  If so, I would opt for that!  Overall, it is a neat way to incorporate learning into a simple story time with all kinds of different options that reinforce a positive learning environment.

Stay Up To Date with PandaParents: 

Messylearning For Preschoolers and Kindergartners {PandaParents Reviews}
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