Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Thin Stix 6pk of Classic Colors byThe Pencil Grip, Inc. *REVIEW*

When it comes to school supplies, there are two things I just can't pass up, good books and art supplies. When I saw that The Pencil Grip, Inc. makes a product we have never tried before, I knew we needed to test these out!

Tempera paint is one of my go-to's for art projects. It's vibrant, dries fast and washes easily-- basically it's great for kids. I never knew that solid tempera paint sticks even existed, but that's what Thin Stix are. The set we used are the Thin Stix 6pk of Classic Colors.

This set comes with yellow, red, green, blue, black and brown. These Thin Stix are about the size of a marker and have a blunt, crayon like end. They are really easy to hold and perfect for little hands. Depending on the angle you move the tip, you can achieve both fine and thick lines.

I found these to be much smoother to use than I expected. I anticipated them being more crayon-like. Really, they are super smooth and almost feel like you are coloring with a glue stick. They have held up to scribbling, smashing and all other sorts of art shenanigans. They dry super fast, in only 90 seconds. Even when they are wet, they are only sticky. It is so easy for littles to catch a sleeve or elbow on their paintings, but these have minimal mess involved. They are non-toxic and they wash off easily if needed.  

We even experimented with color mixing. These dry super fast, so they are not ideal for mixing. It is possible though. We drew with two colors and then used a finger to mix. My kids enjoyed experimenting with what other colors they could make. Kwik Stix makes tons of other colors too, even metallic ones. I also learned that if any other color gets on the stix, you can easily wipe it off with a paper towel or a finger.

We have been focusing a lot on our nature study recently. We are really blessed to live in a place where we can step outside and learn so much. We packed a lunch, Thin Stix, paper and our lesson down to the creek. Generally, we use portable field watercolors to paint outside. For this lesson though, I thought the Thin Stix would be perfect.  

While the kids ate, we talked about what the riparian zone is and why it is important. We identified where our stream, riparian zone and uplands are. My goal was then to have the kids draw this and label the zones.

They did a great job using the Thin Stix to paint the stream, mud/sand, rocks, willow trees and the grassy field. These worked really well for this project. They are so easy to grab and go and would fit perfect in a backpack. There was no water needed, so nothing extra to pack. We were on rocky and uneven ground and I didn't need to worry about anything tipping over or paint running. Best of all, NO MESS at all. These aren't super ideal for detail work, but this project was more about identifying the zones, not about detailed painting.

 The kids really enjoyed using these. My daughter has since used them every day. She loves to paint and I love to encourage her to be creative. However, I don't always love the sometimes epic mess. She can get these out by herself, use them and then put them away with zero mess or spills. The caps need to be securely attached or they will dry out. They are easy to put on though, even for a four year-old. I love that they make art more accessible for my kids.  These would be absolutely perfect for toddlers even, as they are easy to grip.

Here's the Thin Stix 6pk of Classic Colors in action! 
I would highly recommend these for the little artists in your family!

To find out more about this product and see how other families are using it, click the banner below.

No Mess Art with Thin Stix Classic Colors {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}

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Around Our House Week 20

  It's beginning to feel like summer around here! We have been spending lots of time soaking in the creek and putting in the garden. The creek water is so cold it hurts, but the kids don't seem to mind..

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Around Our House Week 19

We have been enjoying the sun and closing out the school year. Titus finished up all his books and now we are working on getting in some nature study. The weather couldn't be better for it. Our yard is full of flowers and we have been journaling and observing! 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Around Our House Week 18

I have had this idea in my head of us sitting outside in the green, green grass painting our apple tree and field... Except the rain has been relentless.

So we traded in our plein air painting for some dining room painting-- looking at a picture of our field on a nice day.

Before we started we looked at a bunch of different landscape paintings and talked about horizon lines and such. My favorite part was hearing my kids opinions of the artists. Titus loves Van Gogh and Cezanne with their swirly, dreamy landscapes. Violet loves Renoir and Monet, especially if there are flowers. So fun to learn about my kids in this way.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Drive Thru History® -- "The Gospels" *REVIEW*

The weather here this spring has been so wet, I'm not sure we will ever totally dry out. It has meant many more afternoons spent inside than we are use to. The kids get antsy, bored and bickering. I have pretty much exhausted my tricks for keeping them entertained. I always say no to TV in the afternoons, but recently I have said yes! Drive Thru History® has been a awesome, educational resource that has kept us captivated on some very dreary days.

Drive Thru History® – “The Gospels” takes the viewer on a trip through Mathew, Mark, Luke and John. Our guide for this tour, Dave, visits over 50 ancient sites that connect with locations in the Gospels. Through it all, he presents the story of Jesus in an interesting and interactive way. He provides historical, archaeological and Biblical truths in a way that make the Gospels really come alive.

There are 18 episodes with a total of 9 hours of viewing material. Each episode runs about 30 minutes. This length was perfect for watching in the afternoon after school. It was short enough to keep the kids attention but long enough to feel like you really got something out of the lesson.

The DVD case looks like a book and contains an 118-page study guide inside. The guide goes through each of the episodes and provides a summary, questions and additional tidbits. The images in the study book full color and a real treat to look through. I thought the whole design of the guide and the general quality of the DVD's was just excellent. In my experience, sometimes resources like this can be a bit cheesy or low-budget-- that is not Drive Thru History®. The filming, music and art are incredibly well done. 

It has been exciting to see how the Lord has used this series to connect the story of Jesus together for my kids. What started as a cure for rainy day boredom, has turned into so much more. We were already learning about ancient times, right around when Jesus entered the scene. We were also reading through Luke as a family in preparation for Easter. I really think watching Dave explore the Holy Land helped in sink in that these are real places, real locations and real people. 

Growing up, I never really connected Bible history with reality. When I understood history from a Biblical perspective a lot of things in the Bible really started to click for me. I hope that with resources like this my kids can get a full picture of history.

Drive Thru History The Gospels
I watched this series with my four and six year-old. They are definitely on the young end of the spectrum for this material. I am sure that there are certain things that they didn't quite catch, but there will be many opportunities to re-watch this later. The four year-old's attention generally starts to fade toward the end of each episode, but that's okay. I have discovered the key to getting the kids excited about any educational show-- it's all about the popcorn.

This series is totally family friendly and appropriate for any age. In fact, what makes Drive Thu History® so great, is that it's entertaining and educational for young and old. I think older elementary and teens would get the most out of the study-guide. I picked a few of the questions to discuss with the kids, but in more of a conversational way. This would be a great series to do in a small group or a youth group.

I am really glad we own this series and I can see us pulling it out and re-watching it in a few years. If you are curious if Drive Thru History® is a fit for your family, you can check out a free full episode here. To see how other families are using this resource, click the banner below.

The Gospels {Drive Thru History® Reviews}
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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Around our House Week 17

We had a great Easter around our house! The weather was just amazing and it was a great day with family.

I also thought I would share what our morning time is looking like right now--

A few picture books- An Egg is Quiet, Where the River Begins and Rechenka's Egg.
We have been really enjoying The Story of the Orchestra. Quick, informative and really fun for the kids. We just started Old Story New this week and so far it's been working great as a devotional.
We are getting close to the end of the Story of the World: Vol 1. We are nearly done with Farmer Boy too. This month we have been leaning about John Constable and his paintings. We always pray together and work on some memorization- right now Titus is memorizing some of All Things Bright and Beautiful. They generally color as I read and squabble over the markers. Violet loves the picture booksand music but mostly loses interest after that.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Around Our House Week 16

We began our new read-aloud not long ago. My son is a huge fan of the Little House books. We read the first three last summer/fall and then I decided it was time for a break. After finishing a few other reads we are coming back to read Farmer Boy. So far it has been such a fun read and now we are nearing the end. 

I usually read a chapter or two during our morning time. This has proven to be nearly torturous as we read about Almanzo eating donuts and all sorts of his mother's cooking. I gave in and made donuts the other day because I couldn't stop thinking about them! 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Around Our House Week 15

The sun has decided to come out for a visit, and I am making the most of outdoor days!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Around Our House Week 14

We had another fun weekend at the beach.  

Whenever I stress about not getting in enough nature walks or journaling I have to remember how much fun we have exploring as a family. It might not be a designated school time, but we get out a lot together. This time we watched some geese eating little sea creatures at low tide, we caught crabs and peeked under rocks and found baby lingcod. Best of all, we did it all together.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Around Our House Week 13

Yesterday was the first day of spring! It is certainly starting to feel like spring in Oregon. We have been getting some beautiful sunny days and then pouring rain! Sunday was even hot and I got out for a bike ride. 

I have a feeling there will be more outside school in our future. It's so hard to call him inside to work when the days are nice. Especially when the days ahead call for rain!

Creating a Masterpiece Monthly Plan *REVIEW*

Online Art Course

Nothing puts a smile on my face like finding little pictures my kids have made. It's like I get a little peek inside their minds. It's a window into their imaginations. Making and studying art is one of my favorite parts of homeschool. I knew that Creating a Masterpiece would be a perfect fit for our family.

As much as I enjoy art, I am definitely not an expert. I try, but sometimes come up stumped with the best way to explain a process or technique. This online art program brings a master artist to you. Sharon Hofer shares her vast knowledge through a variety of different projects. With the Monthly Plan you get unlimited access to all the projects!

There are currently 58 projects to explore with over 144 lessons. Projects use a variety of media, including, acrylic, batik, block printing, conte crayon, copper tooling, glass mosaic, ink, oil painting, oil pastel, pencil/charcoal, sculpture, silk painting, soft pastel, watercolor and wood burning. All of these projects range in difficulty starting with a beginners section and moving through 5 different levels. Beginner projects are short and simple, the lower levels are designed to teach an artistic foundation. The levels increases in difficulty and teach new techniques and processes. You can see the different projects and difficulty levels here.
I loved that while some of these projects might seem difficult, they are really quite accessible to younger children. My 4 and 6 year-old completed a level 2 project without much difficulty. The projects are broken down into smaller lessons that explain each step thoroughly. We spaced the lessons out and worked gradually through the painting. I set Sharon up on my computer (you can see the video behind my daughters head in this photo). We watched her demonstrate each step and then we would pause the video and recreate what she did. I actually love the flexibility of a video because we could replay anything we missed or didn't understand. There was no pressure to keep up or move quickly like there might be in an actual class. I acted as the physical teacher and was hands on in helping both kids when they needed it. This really helped my little people get the most out of these lessons.  

Sharon is a great teacher and you can tell she has taught hundreds of students. She does an excellent job of taking just enough time to teach each technique but does not lose the students interest with long-winded explanations. She encourages each persons unique creative voice and offers lots of suggestions on how to make the projects your own. The lessons are not aimed at any specific age and she teaches to all students. An adult looking to learn more about art would not feel talked down to and a younger student would not feel out of their depths.

For my family, physical art lessons aren't really an option at this time. We don't have the extra funds or extra time. The nearest studio that offers anything of that nature is an hour away. It would be a big commitment to cart all the kids to the city to participate in something like that, especially with a baby. I love that this program is not outrageously expensive and we can enjoy it from our dining room. I can put the baby down for nap and dig in with the kids. That accessibility means I have a much higher likelihood to follow through in making these lessons a part of out schooling.

If you are looking for a fine art curriculum that your whole family can enjoy, I would suggest taking a look at Creating a Masterpiece. You can even give it a try with a free sample project. You never know, you might get inspired to create a few masterpieces of your own!

If you are interested in checking out what other families and created, click the banner below-- 
Creating Beautiful Art at Home {Creating A Masterpiece Reviews}
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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Around Our House Week 12

This last week we spent the weekend at my parents house. It was nice to get away for a bit. They were on vacation so I took care of the doggies. We got a little snow and tons of hail! The weather this March still continues to excite. Spring is coming, no matter what the weather may say. All our plum trees are in bloom and the garden is waking up.

Eclectic Foundations Language Arts: Level B *REVIEW*

I was instantly intrigued when I read about Eclectic Foundations Language Arts: Level B. This curriculum integrates many areas of language arts into easy to follow lessons. It's not just a reading program, or a handwriting book. Eclectic Foundations has students learning cursive, grammar, phonics, improving reading fluency and studying poetry.

Language Arts

I decided on Level B to use with my son. Students are ready for level be when they can read CVC words. If your child needs to work on reading comprehension, Level B is a great place to start. No knowledge of cursive is required, as they will learn that throughout the lessons. If you are unsure what level your child would be at, this is really helpful.   

The Teacher's Guild is very comprehensive and basically leads you through each lesson. I love that this requires no work ahead of time for me. It's nice to have at least one resource that we can just do, no extra planning involved.

So what does a typical lesson look like? First we do our work in McGuffey's First Reader. The student is either reading a lesson from the book, or they are working on their word cards. For each lesson in McGuffey's there are corresponding word cards. The student cuts these out and then colors them, nouns are red, verbs are green and so on. These are kept in a little stack and referred to often for different activities.

Next we open up our Student Workbook. The Student Workbook houses all the worksheets, poems, handwriting and phonics. Each lesson has a list of phonics words for the student to master. Any words that they struggle with can be worked on in the practice sheets, which are laminated sheets the student fills in letters on.

Below the phonics words in the Student Workbook is the handwriting section. Level B introduces the student to cursive. First, letters A through Z are introduced, one for each lesson. An example is given that shows the student how to write the letter on each page. After the alphabet students move on to easy, short quotes.

Next we turn to the poem for the day. Often, one or two stanzas are read a day. The parent aids the child in finding the rhyming words and circling them. There are also questions that you can ask the student about each poem. These aid in comprehension and understanding of the poem itself.

Finally there is a grammar section to work through. Sometimes there are worksheets for the student to do, and other times you are expected to use a whiteboard (or a piece of paper) to do a short lesson. These lessons have the students learning sentence structure and grammar terms. For example, the student might be asked to put a jumbled sentence in order, or correct an incorrect sentence.

There were a lot of things about this curriculum that we have been enjoying. My son watches me write cursive in awe and has really wanted to learn. He is confident printing and it seemed like a great time to start. While getting the hang of it has been frustrating at times, he is making great progress.

The poems are always a highlight of each lesson as well. I love poetry and any excuse to get into it more with the kids is a win to me! It has really helped his understanding to discuss the figurative language and symbolism in the poems. Of course, to him we are just having fun.

The grammar aspect of these lessons I have mixed feelings about. I really like that he is getting an introduction into grammar, it just feels way over his level at times. The curriculum specifies not to worry if they don't have a full understanding, that this is just an introduction. However, the way that it is introduced feels so dry and bare bones. For example, telling my son that a conjunction is a word that is used to connect or coordinate words, clauses or sentences, basically means nothing to him. I have tried to break down what nouns, pronouns, verbs, prepositions and so forth are, in a way that goes beyond the very "dictionary" like definitions given in the book. At least. if nothing else, he has heard these terms and we can build understanding later.

I feel like their are a few things that this curriculum could improve on, just to be a little more polished. For example, the handwriting is intended for students learning cursive but the provided spaces are very small (seen in the above collage, third picture). For young kids learning all the loops of cursive, I really feel like they need more room. In such a small space everything starts to look smashed. There is a good deal of white space left on the page, it would be very easy to make these lines a little roomier. I also found a few small mistakes while going through the teacher's guild. Just small things, but I think they take away from the professionalism of the curriculum itself.

Overall, if you are looking for a no frills, old-fashioned way to teach your child grammar, increase their reading fluency and learn cursive, this curriculum is great. Eclectic Foundations also offers their curriculum in PDF form.  All the components are nicely integrated into lessons that your student will enjoy!

If you want to find out what other parents think about this curriculum, and more about Levels A, B and C, click the banner below.     

Language Arts {Eclectic Foundations Reviews}
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