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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