Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Essential Skills Advantage Review

Have you ever wanted a supplemental curriculum that is fun, online, arranged into easy to mange segments, and one that gives you the ability to change subjects or grades at the click of a mouse?  That is exactly what we found when we received an online subscription for one year to the Complete Home Learning Suite from Essential Skills Advantage to review.  Essential Skills Advantage offers a curriculum that is fun and filled with engaging learning activities.
Essential Skills Advantage ReviewOnline education, literacy, parenting, mom, children, school, success, math, science, geography

What is Essential Skills Advantage?
Essential Skills Advantage was created by educators as an online program that minimizes distractions while allowing children to focus on the skill they are working on.  It features thousands of skill-building activities that support visual, auditory, and tactile learning styles for grades K-6.  The courses they offer allow children to work on their own and at their own pace.  Their course options include the Complete Home Learning Suite, the Premium Spelling, Language, Grammar and Creative Writing Suite, Complete Math K-6, Science: Comprehensive K-3 and Geography Comprehensive: 4-6.  They offer several different pricing options on their website depending on which course option you choose.  Another great advantage of ESA's programs is the built in progress tracking and marks management.  You can quickly and easily see what your child has been working on and how they are doing in the dashboard area of this program.  They also have printable certificates and report cards that can show your child areas they need to work on, areas they have succeeded in, and it gives them something tangible to show their progress.
Subjects offered in the Complete Home Learning Suite
This is at the top of the screen where you or your student can easily change subjects, grade levels, or programs.
How did we use it?
We received the Complete Home Learning Suite to review.  I thought that Little Miss would really like using this program and she did.  I figured that the Learning Suite would be a great way to review what she has learned this year and that she would also find some areas of information that our curriculum did not cover so this Suite would supplement our curriculum.  I put Little Miss in the second grade level and then let her choose what she would work on.  Her options were Reading, Language & Grammar, Math, or Science.  Throughout the review period, she worked in each of the areas.  Once she picked a subject to work in there were several different topics she could work on and I allowed her to pick and choose what she wanted to work on.  She did a great job of picking a wide range of topics in each subject to work on so that she completed a little bit of everything.
Topics offered in Reading
This is the spelling area Little Miss loved.
What did we think?
We really enjoyed the Complete Home Learning Suite from Essential Skills Advantage.  Little Miss didn't mind doing the work because she could easily sit down and work on several lessons in only 30 minutes.  She liked earning the stars for completing tasks and she really liked seeing the little green bar under the tasks fill up as she completed the skill she was working on.  Little Miss enjoyed being able to change subjects and tasks easily just by clicking.  It is a VERY user friendly site.  She did a great job of asking me if she could switch around if she got too board with one task.  She especially enjoyed the spelling, math, and science areas as these are her favorite subjects in school too.  The only thing that she really didn't like was that she couldn't work on Geography as it is only for grades 4-6 and this is a subject she really wants to start working on.  I will say that I could have changed her grade level for her to work on it, but I just wanted her to focus on Grade 2 stuff for the review.  I really appreciated that the site is VERY user friendly and it was easy to get Little Miss all set up and ready to go.  I also liked that she could work independently.  Most day she spent about 30 minutes using the site, but there were a few days she was really not feeling good so she only spent a few minutes on it.  I feel like we barely scratched the surface of this program even though we were using it very consistently.  I think this is really a good thing because that means there is a lot to this supplemental curriculum and it is worth the money.  I definitely will continue to use this Learning Suite from ESA for Little Miss.  I will have her continue reviewing some second grade concepts and then start working on third grade material to get a little ahead for school.  I will even let her try the Geography.
Math topics
More math
Little Miss really enjoyed the Life Science
Parents can quickly check how your child is doing
This is an example of the report card I can print for Little Miss.  Once she completes all of Life Science I will print it.
Where to find out more:
You can find out more information about Essential Skills Advantage  and the courses they offer on their website.  You can find out more about the Complete Home Learning Suite that we received to review here.  You can also find ESA on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, and on their blog.

You can also click the banner below to find out what my friends on the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought of ESA.
Essential Skills Advantage Review

Monday, May 30, 2016

Happy Memorial Day

Thank you to all the soldiers past, present, and future who have served in the military to protect our country, our families, and our freedom.  Thank you seems too simple to tell them for all they do to serve and all they give up for our country, but I can't begin to tell you how much it means to me and my family.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Summer Reading - Crossing books off the list

I just finished my first book on my summer reading list and I was posting a review of it on Goodreads so I thought I would share that here with you guys too.

  Be SweetBe Sweet by Diann Hunt

This novel is a sweet story of forgiveness, letting go, and moving on. Char comes back home to help with the Maple Syrup harvest, her parents' anniversary party, and to look for property for clients, but she finds so much more. She has always felt like the odd person out and not good enough, but by being home to help she learns she isn't the only one stuck on something in the past. Once I got into this novel, I couldn't put it down. It is funny, sweet, sassy, and heart warming. I really got into the characters and felt like I was in the room with them watching their lives unfold. I definitely recommend this book and I will be searching for more books by Diann Hunt to read.

View all my reviews

I also added the book Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God, Student Edition by Henry Blackaby to my reading list.  We just started working our way through this student in our church teen room where I am a teen leader.  So far I have read through week one and it is amazing.

Now the hard part is deciding which book I will read next for fun.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Making Math a Game - Sunya Publishing Review

Math doesn't always have to be frustrating or boring, it can be fun when you make it a game.  We got a chance to review Sunya - The Magic and Wonder of Math and Science Multiplying & Dividing from Sunya Publishing recently.  Sunya Publishing has found a way to make multiplying and dividing into a game that is recommended for ages 9 and up.
Math and Science {Sunya Publishing Review} hsreviews, math supplement math practice, math fact fun, math game

Sunya - The Magic and Wonder of Math and Science Multiplying & Dividing is a brand new learning game from Sunya Publishing.  The game includes an instruction booklet, sixty custom multiplying and dividing playing cards, the Sunya Multiplying & Dividing Number Line Tool, and thirty amazing math and science fact and riddle cards.  This is a game where students can learn while they play and I am all for learning while having fun.
This game is intended for ages 9 and up, but since Little Miss (who is younger than 9) learned her multiplication facts this year I thought she would be able to play this along with the family. I knew that Buddy wouldn't have any problems playing the game since he is already in Jr. high, but reviewing multiplication and division to keep the facts fresh is always a good idea in my opinion.  I sat down and read through the instructions for the Basic Game.  The instruction booklet for this game is pretty big (25 pages) for a game, but the instructions are very detailed with examples, there are variations of the game that can be played, and the booklet also includes a copy of the math and science fact and riddle cards.  I really wanted to get the hang of the basic game before we even attempted any of the variations especially since Little Miss is new to multiplication and she had just started learning the basics of division when her math book ended this year.  I will tell you that the instructions are a little overwhelming to try and figure out, but as I kept reading I got the general idea of how the game is played.  One person deals the cards and lays out the cards for the number sentence - the x and = cards.  Then you deal out 4 cards to each player.  When it is your turn you draw a card and then try to make a multiplication sentence (or division sentence if you are playing the division game).  If you can't play, you keep drawing until you can make a number sentence.  The goal of the game is to be the first person to use all the cards in your hand, but before you go out you have to say "Sunya."  Sunya is a word from Sanskrit that means "empty."  If you want to you can use blocking when the person goes out, which means that the next person to go can make a number sentence from what is in their hand.  We did not use this rule the first couple of times we played to help keep the game simple.  We did try to add that rule into one of our games, but the next person to go couldn't block so it didn't work.  The player that wins gets to draw a card from the fact and riddle cards and then they can read the card aloud and ask the other players to solve it if it is a riddle card or they can ask questions about the fact if it is a fact card.  What I just explained is a VERY simplified version of the rules and this is how we played the first time so that Little Miss would understand the game.  There are more rules to the game that we have been using and adding in each time we play the game.  This is really a game that the more you play it, the more you understand it and can build on it.
We sat down and played this as a family.  Like I said we started out playing the multiplication version since Little Miss does know her multiplication facts through the 9's.  She did very a very good job of understanding the rules and being able to make sentences.  She did need a little help a few times and that was fine with us because she is younger than the youngest recommend age for this game.  We also tired the division version of this game and that was fun also.  Little Miss needed much more help with this one, but she has not formally learned her division facts yet, she was just starting to get introduced to division at the end of her math book.  In the math book we use, division is taught in 3rd grade so she will learn it next fall.  We did have a lot of fun playing this.  Hubby read through the rules a few times as well so that he understood the game too and was able to help us add in a few more of the rules for us.  There are a total of 4 variations of game play in the instruction booklet and we are working on learning how to play the second variation of the game, but we mainly focused on learning the rules for the Basic Game of Sunya Multiplying and Dividing.
So what did we think?  We really enjoyed this educational game once we figured out the rules.  My kids are playing it as I type.  We will continue to play it and use it to reinforce multiplication and division in our house.  Our goal is to be able to play all the variations of this game, but I chose to make our focus for the review the basic game play.  I really wish that the instruction booklet was simplified a little more as it can be a little overwhelming to sort through.  If anything, the instructions feel a little over complicated because they do such a good job of explaining the why of the rule.  I know this sounds like an odd complaint, but the instructions were a lot to process even for my hubby that is required to read Test Standards for his job.  I was sent a booklet that was printed in gray scale with a few pages in full color.  Sunya Publishing wanted my opinion of whether I liked the color pages or gray scale best and I truly preferred the color pages more especially because the example refer to the card color sometimes.

Sunya Publishing is producing this brand new game and continuing to get it ready for release.  You can find more information on Sunya Publishing  at their website.  They will soon have their Sunya - The Magic and Wonder of Math and Science Multiplying & Dividing game ready for sale.  They also have a adding and subtracting game they are producing too.  Please go and check out their website for more information on these educational games.

The Schoolhouse Review Crew has been busy playing these games and reviewing them too.  Please click the banner to go and find our what they thought of Sunya Publishing and their games.
Math and Science {Sunya Publishing Review}

Monday, May 23, 2016

A Review of Introductory Science from Science Shepherd

Little Miss has always been very curious about how the world works and why.  She really enjoys science class so we were very excited to receive Introductory Science from Science Shepherd to review.  Introductory Science is a complete homeschool science curriculum that has two different levels of instruction - Level A and Level B - and it is recommended for ages 6-11.  We received the workbook and Answer Key for Level A which is for ages 6-8 along with 12 months of access to the online video course.  The online video course has a daily video to watch that takes anywhere from 2-5 minutes and it is divided into 35 weeks.  Since you get 12 months of access to videos, they can easily be adjusted to fit any schedule.  Science Shepherd also offers curriculum for Biology, Life Science, and Creation Science for other ages as well as the Introductory Science.
Science Shepherd Review homeschool science  video science curriculum online homeschool science​ homeschool biology  high school homeschool biology  high school homeschool science ​homeschool life science  middle school homeschool science  junior high homeschool science​

Science Shepherd is a homeschool science curriculum company that was created by homeschool dad, Scott Hardin, MD.  Based on his personal experiences with his own children and through speaking to parents of other homeschooled children, he saw the need for quality, higher level science curricula to be developed for older students.  After introducing their first courses, Science Shepherd also saw the need for science courses for all ages and that is when they developed Introductory Science for elementary age students.  All of the curriculum that Science Shepherd offers contains a Biblical perspective.  After using the Introductory Science for awhile now, I am very happy that they did develop this product for the elementary age.
Little Miss was very excited for a new science curriculum.
Watching a video lesson
Like I previously stated, Little Miss has always been very curious about how stuff works and why.  It is a great curiosity to have and we have always encouraged it.  It makes science very interesting to her and although we have always used a Christian curriculum with her, they don't always use Christian science materials as they can be hard to find.  The science curriculum we had been using before reviewing this product, provided notes about how to work with your student to teach them how the book's view is different than a Christian view, but sometimes that gets burdensome and repetitive.   I was very excited to introduce a science curriculum that has a Biblical perspective to Little Miss because I knew I wouldn't have to do all the explaining of how this is different from what we believe.  Little Miss was excited to get going on Introductory Science because she was curious about the videos and what she would be working on in the workbook.  Science Shepherd's Introductory Science covers topics like creation, geology, biology, astronomy, oceanography, and meteorology as well as other topics.  We started on Week 1 and it began with Creation.  The videos for the week talked about God's word being final, God creating everything, how God created, why God created, and then they started talking about what God created on each day.  Every day after Little Miss watched the video online, she would open her workbook answer the questions and complete the activity if there was one.  The questions were very easy for her to understand and some of them were easier for her to answer than others.  Many times she knew the right answer, but she asked if she could watch the video again just to make sure she was right and I was perfectly okay with that.  Some days there was no activity to complete, just the questions and other days it was a puzzle of some sort, an experiment, or a hands on activity.  Little Miss really enjoyed doing them all.  Week 2 finished up teaching the days of Creation in depth   I really liked Week 2, Day 4 that talked about dominion.  The activity for this day had Little Miss think about the things she has dominion over and how she could take care of those things.  This gave us a chance to really talk about her responsibilities and taking care of the things that are hers to show that she really appreciates them.  Week 3 was about Science Skills and Tools.  She liked learning about the tools scientists use and learning about using her senses in science.  Weeks 4, 5, and 6 are all about Meteorology and Little Miss has been having a lot of fun learning all about this subject.  She really liked the condensation activity (which I forgot to snap a picture of...bummer) even though it took a little longer to work because it was a cold Spring day.  We are planning to try it again this summer on a nice hot, sunny day since it should work a little faster then.  The timing of Week 6 has been really good because it is about storms, thunder and lightning, wind, tornadoes and hurricanes, and The Great Flood.  We live in the Midwest and since Spring is here, it increases our chance of severe weather.  It has reminded me to talk with her and her older brother about what we do in storms and to practice for severe weather.
Inside the workbook
The answer key
This was a great activity and discussion for Little Miss.
We have really enjoyed Introductory Science, Level A, from Science Shepherd.  I really, really like the Biblical perspective of this curriculum and knowing that I don't have to worry about explaining anything about this curriculum having different beliefs than our Christian beliefs.  That is truly a blessing to me.  I also like that I can get Little Miss to the website and she can find the video she is on and get it playing.  We both liked that the videos are short, but very informative.  Little Miss wanted to watch several of them more than once because she wanted to make sure she got all the information from them.  She also liked that there weren't tons of questions for each day.  She liked the assortment of activities that the workbook had you work on.  We will definitely continue working our way through this science curriculum next Fall for her third grade work because we both liked it so much.  I also plan on checking out their other courses for my son for his 8th grade science.
Creation drawings
More creation drawings
You can find out more about Science Shepherd and all the course they have to offer on their website.  You can also find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.  You can find the Introductory Science that we used here and then determine if Level A or Level B is the right level for your student.  All of their products are very reasonably priced in my opinion.

My friends on the Schoolhouse Review Crew have also been working on reviewing products from Science Shepherd.  Please go and check out which curriculum they have been using and what they think about it.  I will definitely be checking out their reviews.
Science Shepherd Review

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Summer Reading 2016

summer reading
Hello my name is Cassandra and I am addicted to reading.  There I said it.  I can admit I have a problem and that is the first step right?  I do have to admit that my problem runs pretty deep and I am okay with that.  I have always loved reading and if I didn’t have anything else to do during my day, I could certainly spend it curled up with a book.  My current problem is that I have a little bit of an attention problem when it comes to reading.  I go to the library get several books and then can’t decide which one to start with (unless it is part of a series) and so I start more than one…insert sheepish grin here.  Please tell me that I am not all alone on this one.  Who else is like me and is reading more than one book at a time?  Anyone?  Okay if you want to admit you are like me and join my short attention span book club let me know.  Anyway, now that I told you my secrets about my reading habits, let me tell you what I am currently reading and what is coming up next on the shelf. 

Currently Reading
  • What Happens When Women Walk in Faith by Lysa TerKeurst - I read this book in the spring of last year and I picked up to re-read at the end of last year.  I am working through it again because it has SO much good stuff in it.  Every time I pick up this book and start reading I feel like I get something out of this book, something I didn't see before or a new understanding of some Scripture.  It is a book that I pick up and read some and then set it down and let the words sink in.  I recently have picked it up again and made it through several chapters.  I am hoping to finish it by the end of May.
  • Be Sweet by Diann Hunt – This is just a fun inspirational fiction book I picked from the library.  I am not too far into it yet, but I really enjoy the author’s humor and I am looking forward to seeing where she is going with the characters.  I have an idea of where she is going, but I always love to see if the plot twists or turns like I think it might.
  • The Glass Castle by Trisha White Priebe & Jerry B. Jenkins – This is a book we are currently reading for a review.  I picked it for my son to read, but then it sounded so good that I couldn’t help picking it up to read.  Look for more info on this on in the near future in a review.
  • I’m Not Wonder Woman But God Made Me Wonderful! by Sheila Walsh – I have a terrible Wonder Woman complex.  You know that I can do it all belief that leads us to so much trouble.  The one that makes us over commit, compare, and feel guilty all at the same time.  That is me.  My hubby is always very lovingly telling me to take off my cape.  I thought this would be a great book to help me see that I am not Wonder Woman even though I try to be and just maybe I would learn to let her go.
  • The 7-Day Doubt Diet by Renee Swope – This is one I got on Amazon for free.  I have been reading it occasionally, but I am really loving what I am reading.  It is another one that I read a few pages of and then have to let those pages digest and speak to me.  It is really thought provoking and I am looking forward to finishing it.
Books to be Read
  • Penny Wise by Dave and Neta Jackson – This is book 3 of the Windy City Neighbors series and I am loving this series.  I already finished books 1 and 2 of the series and can’t wait to pick this one up.  I loved Neta Jackson from the first book of her Yada Yada Prayer Group Series.  I really love how she develops her characters and they move with her from book to book.  When I picked up the first book in the Windy City Neighbors Series, I was delighted to find one of the Yada Yada ladies as a character and that the books were connected (don’t worry you can read the 2 series separate from each other).  I can’t wait to pick up this book and get lost in it.  I am trying very hard to finish at least one of the other books I am reading first.
  • Pound Foolish by Dave and Neta Jackson – This is book 4 of the Windy City Neighbors series and I will definitely be reading it….SOON.
  • A Mom After God’s Own Heart by Elizabeth George – As a mom I am always looking for things I can improve on and things I can do to help my children as they grow.  I am looking forward to digging into this book to see what Elizabeth George has to say on this subject.
  • The Love Dare for Parents by Stephen and Alex Kendrick – I LOVE the movie Fireproof so when I saw this book at the library I was intrigued.  I want my children to know I love them without a doubt and to help them grow Spiritually.  I think this is going to be a great resource for that.  I already love doing little things for them, but I want to be even more intentional about it and I think this book will help.
  • Taming the To-Do List: How to Choose Your Best Work Every Day by Glynnis Whitwer – I started this book last year as part of a Proverbs 31 Bible Study, but I have to admit the Bible study moved too fast for me and I got behind and I had to put this book on hold.  This year I am ready to tackle this book again, but at my speed.  I know it has great things in it and I am looking forward to reading it again.
  • The Money Saving Mom’s Budget by Crystal Paine - I am looking forward to reading this one.  I shared our huge news of paying off my student loans here and I can't tell you how exciting this is for our family.  It is HUGE to not be strapped down to that debt anymore.  Now my brain is churning about what else we can pay off/pay down.  I think this book will help me focus on that and help us find extra money we didn't even know we had.
  • Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst - I have had this one on my bookshelf for awhile and I truly intend to read it this year as I have heard lots of wonderful things about it.
This is just the start of my summer reading.  I am POSITIVE I will be adding more books to this list.  This list definitely does not include all the books I read with my kiddos.  We always participate in summer reading programs at our local library so we do lots of summer reading.  I may not get to read much during the school year due to our reading heavy curriculum, but I try to make up for it in the summer time.  I am on Goodreads if you would like to add me as a friend to see what else I am reading.  I do try and update it a few times a week.  GoodReads is a website where you can track what you are reading, you can get book recommendations, and you can find books that you want to read.  I am not super familiar with Goodreads, but I am learning more every time I am on there.  What is on your reading list this summer?  Have you read any of these books?  Are you on Goodreads?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Looking Back: Blessings from our 2015-2016 School Year

We just finished our school year and I am not sure who is more excited for summer break, me or the kids.  We have worked really hard this year and overall it has been a good school year.  I survived another year of teaching 2 completely different grades and both kids will be promoting to the next grade.  We have read a lot of books, learned a lot of facts, and had some fun along the way.  We have conquered carrying and borrowing from 2nd grade and we have survived Pre-Algebra from 7th grade.  I can’t say that Pre-Algebra always went smoothly, but I can say that we did work our way through the bumpiness.  When I look back over our school year, I see the good days and I see the bad days, but most of all I see the blessings from this school year.
  • Ability to Homeschool – I am blessed that I am able to stay home with our kids and homeschool them.  I don’t take this fact for granted.  I am very grateful to God that He has blessed my hubby with an amazing job that provides for us so that we can afford for me to stay home, buy our curriculum, and allow for extras like piano lessons and sports.  I am also thankful that we have the right to homeschool here in our country and our state. 
  • Flexibility – I am so blessed that we are able to have a flexible schedule.  I am thankful we don’t have to do the school bus hustle every morning and hours of homework every night.  I am thankful that we can take the odd appointment times at the doctors, dentist, and orthodontist because we usually get right in and out.  I am thankful that my kids can “go with the flow” and we can change up our schedule to fit in field trips, Bible study, and illness.  We can adjust and do what we need to do to get school done.  This has allowed us to go on trips with my hubby during the school year, jump on board for last minute field trips, and spend time learning about topics that may or may not be covered in public schools.  Flexibility is a MAJOR part of our school and it is a MAJOR blessing to us.
  • Support – Support is crucial to homeschooling.  We have many friends that homeschool, our families support us in our homeschooling, and we belong to a homeschool group.  It is always a blessing to have the support of so many on our homeschooling journey.  It is nice to have others to bounce ideas off of, get help from, and just get and give encouragement from others.
  • The Schoolhouse Review Crew – I am new to the Crew this year.  I was just selected for the Crew this past December, but there are so many ways it has been a blessing to me.  The first blessing is just being a part of this Crew.  It is made up of an awesome group of people that are homeschooling at every age.  It is a place for me to go to get ideas, encouragement, and advice and that is just invaluable to me.  I know when I go to our forum I can find someone who has been there and made it through, someone who is going through the same type of experiences I am, and someone who might face the experience in the future.  We are a community even though we are spread out all over the globe.  It has also been a blessing to me because it has broken me out of my curriculum rut.  Don’t get me wrong, I really do love the curriculum we use, but parts of it just weren’t working this year.  Before I found the Crew, I was just trying to push through and still make it work even though I knew it wasn’t.  I was stuck in the “we paid for this so we have to use it” rut.  Through getting various products to review and try, I have been able to switch out what wasn’t working and find products that do work to fit the gaps.  My mind has been re-opened to the fact that I don’t just have to settle and make something work.  I am finding so many invaluable resources that it blows me away and without the Crew, I can honestly say I wouldn’t have found the resources or thought to take a chance.  I am so blessed not to be stuck in my rut anymore.  I am just blessed all the way around by the Review Crew from the leadership to the members to the reviews we are blessed to do.  It has been great and I truly hope to continue on the Crew for many years.
  • My Hubby – This AMAZING man works very hard for our family.  He has always supported our homeschool journey – he was the one that suggested homeschooling in the first place so many years ago.  He has been such a HUGE blessing to me this year.  He prayed for us and our school.  He encouraged me countless times this year when I had my doubts that we would ever make it through Pre-Algebra and science.  He spent time in the evenings working with Buddy on Pre-Algebra concepts and homework.  He read some of our chapter books with Little Miss because she wanted to read with Daddy and sometimes read to Daddy instead of me.  He stayed home to teach a couple of times when I was too sick to teach.  He brought home a cup of my favorite coffee on days where everything seemed to go wrong.  My hubby has been a blessing to me this year because he always had my back, helped out, supported, and encouraged me through the year. 
I had my moments where I thought we may not make it through this school year, but what homeschool mom doesn’t have those moments?  We made it through and it was never as bad as I thought it was, truth be told my kids passed with flying colors.  I am looking forward to a summer of relaxing, fun, and good times, but I am also looking forward to watching my kids thrive next school year.  Were you blessed in your school this year?  I would love to hear your blessings too.
Some of my friends on the Schoolhouse Review Crew are sharing their blessings from this year too.  I would love for you to go and read all about it, I know I will be reading their blessings.  Click on the picture below to go there (the link will work on 5/13/16 and after).
Our Biggest Homeschool Blessing is

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

ARTistic Pursuits Middle School Book One Review

Sometimes it is hard to find a subject that your student really enjoys, especially when they hit the middle school age.  Lately my son has really been enjoying drawing and art so we were very happy for the opportunity to receive ARTistic Pursuits Middle School Book One from ARTistic Pursuits Inc. to review.  I thought that this book of art lessons would be perfect for him to develop and practice his art skills.
ARTistic Pursuits Inc. Review Homeschool Art, Fine Arts,  Art Curriculum, Art Instruction, Artistic Pursuits, Scultpure Techniques, Elementary Art, Middle School Art, High School Art

ARTistic Pursuits Inc. has created a homeschool art program that teaches children to create art while developing their observation skills.  Their program helps students use their critical thinking skills while they learn about creativity, art history, art appreciation, and various techniques to create real art using real materials and tools.  The lessons allow the student to make choices about what and how they will draw.  Middle School Book One, which is the book we received, is designed so that students don't need any art experience before they start and they can work through this book on their own without the need for parental instruction (which was great for my son because I am terrible at art).  This book is broken down into units and then within each unit there are objectives for the student, techniques for them to try, projects for them to work on, culture and history for them to learn.  The materials for each project are clearly listed and at the end of each unit there is a "look back" section for the student to review their projects for what the unit taught them.
Buddy was pretty excited to get this ARTistic Pursuits Middle School Book One from ARTistic Pursuits Inc. since he is interested in drawing.  He was interested to see what the book would teach him and how his drawing would improve.  I was also interested to see what he would learn and how his skills would improve, especially since art is one subject that I am terrible at and feel like there is nothing I can teach him about drawing.  He has some sketch books that he had been practicing his drawing in before we received this book to review.
Buddy looked through the book and decided that he wanted to start at the beginning of the book with Unit 1 Lesson 1.  In that lesson he learned about space and the proper use of space in artwork.  He also learned the differences between a sketch and a study among other things.  He had a fun time creating his illustration of the story The Blind Men and the Elephant.  He learned about lines and graphite pencils in Unit 2,  I really liked his sketches he made during the unit on lines.  Unit 3 was about textures.  I have been seeing much more texture in his work since he worked on this unit.   It took him about a week and a half to two weeks to get through each unit he worked on because he really wanted to take time to practice the techniques he was learning.  He is still working through this book and plans on continuing work on it this summer, but has been going back and  re-drawing some of his old drawings to practice the new techniques he has been using.
Learning about space
Learning about texture.
Buddy's drawings have been getting better and I can really see him applying what he has been learning.  I can look through his sketch book that he had before he started the Middle School Book and I can tell what he drew before he started working on the lessons and what he has drawn since then.  There is much more depth to his work now.  He is much more conscience of space and shapes now than he was before.  I have seen him really planning what he is drawing and making sure that it makes sense.  He said that he does want to continue on working through the book from ARTistic Pursuits and that he really did like working on it.  He said the book has been very helpful for his drawing and he agrees that with each lesson he does, his skills are getting better.
Before and after ARTistic Pursuits.  The drawing on the right  Buddy did for our homeschool Art Gallery coming up
Buddy and I both recommend the ARTistic Pursuits Middle School Book One from ARTistic Pursuits Inc.  They do offer different books for several levels of art.  You can purchase the book we used here.  You can also find out more about all that ARTistic Pursuits Inc. has to offer on their website and you can find them on Facebook as well.

My friends on the Schoolhouse Review Crew have also been reviewing the art books from ARTistic Pursuits Inc.  We all got to pick which book we wanted to work on so please go and read their reviews to find out more about the different books.
ARTistic Pursuits Inc. Review

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Zeezok Publishing LLC - Music Appreciation: Book 1 for the Elementary Grades Review

Little Miss loves music and she started piano lessons this past fall.  When we were given an opportunity to review Music Appreciation: Book 1 for the Elementary Grades from Zeezok Publishing LLC, I was very excited.  I thought this product would help her piano skills since she would be learning about composers and the history of music.  I thought it would encourage her to practice her piano more and it would give her a better understanding of the theory she was learning in her piano lessons.  We chose to work through the biography of Joseph Haydn first for the review.  We had not heard of him and thought Joseph Haydn would be a very interesting composer to start with.
Music Appreciation for the Elementary Grades {Zeezok Publishing LLC Review} Zeezok publishing, music appreciation, homeschool music program

Music Appreciation: Book 1 for the Elementary Grades from Zeezok Publishing LLC is a collection that includes a student activity book, music discs, and seven composer biographies.  The seven composers featured in this collection are: Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Paganini, and Schubert.  The biographies include information about each composers childhood and adult life.  They even include written music that your student can learn to play.  The student activity book includes a wide variety of assignments to work on that include geography, history, recipes, instrument facts, and much, much more.  It also comes with a disc that has instructions and papers to print off to create a lapbook for each composer.  This collection could be used for Kindergarten through Sixth grade.
Little Missreading about Joseph Haydn
We started out by reading the first chapter of the biography of Joseph Haydn.  The book was easy enough that Little Miss was able to read it.  She only needed help pronouncing names and places as his story takes place mostly in Vienna.  The biography starts in Haydn's childhood so she got to learn about his family and how he grew up.  It was amazing to her that as a very young boy Haydn was sent from home to be a choir boy.  She couldn't imagine leaving home to go live away from us at this age to live in a completely different town.  She thought that was very brave of him.  After she read through the first chapter of the biography book, she began work in the student activity book.  I was happy that it started out comprehension questions for the chapter she had just read.  We continued working our way through the student activity book reading and creating our very first lapbook.  I have seen several projects with lapbooks, but we have never made one before.  This curriculum came with a disc for my computer that had all the pages I needed to print off for the lapbook and several pictures of what the finished lapbook should look like which we found extremely helpful.  Little Miss had a lot of fun creating her lapbook.  She liked completing each part and then as she was adding new parts she would go back and tell me all about the other parts that were in the lapbook.  We learned that Haydn is known as the "Father of Symphony" and he wrote over 100 symphonies.  This curriculum was easy for Little Miss to work through because she would read some and then work in the workbook on the activities.  This curriculum is scheduled to take four weeks to work on a composer which is a very reasonable amount of time to complete each composer.  We completed our work on Haydn and now Little Miss has started work on George Handel.
Adding to the lapbook for Haydn
We really enjoyed working on this Music Appreciation curriculum from Zeezok Publishing LLC  I really liked that it was not just all reading and book work.  I liked that Little Miss was encouraged to try out instruments in the activities and that there were hands on activities for her to complete after she finished her reading.  I liked the pace at which this curriculum was scheduled because it wasn't too fast or too slow.  We really enjoyed the music discs that came in the curriculum.  It was clearly marked where to listen to them and which disc and track to listen to.  Little Miss thoroughly enjoyed listening to different kinds of music and she really enjoyed Haydn's music.  She loved how lively and upbeat it was.  She loved being able to get up and march to it or dance around the room to it.  She also had fun learning about all kinds of new instruments which the book taught her about.  I loved the variety of activities in the workbook from making Kugelhopf to learning some history on our own town to the sweetest thank you note I have ever graded, there were so many activities that Little Miss didn't complain of getting bored while learning all about Haydn.  I also really appreciated all the character qualities of the composers that were pointed out.  It gave us a chance to discuss why you would want those qualities and how she could work on them.  Little Miss also really liked trying to read the music in the biography book so that she could play it in her piano lessons even though it is much harder than the music she is currently learning.  She was at least able to read some of the notes and she has set a goal for herself to work hard to eventually learn some of the music from one of the composers.
The completed lapbook
The sweetest little note I've ever graded.
We highly recommend Music Appreciation: Book 1 for the Elementary Grades by Zeezok Publishing LLC.  It has plenty of choices of composers to work on and plenty of material to learn.  It is a great way to introduce a music curriculum into your school.  You can find Zeezok Publishing LLC on their website, Facebook, and Pinterest.  You can find the collection we used here.  Please go and check it out for yourself and see how it could work for your family.
Little Miss is now working on learning about George Handel
My blogging friends on the Schoolhouse Review Crew have also been working their way through this curriculum.  Please go and check out their reviews since we all got to choose which composer we wanted to start with.
Music Appreciation for the Elementary Grades {Zeezok Publishing LLC Review}