Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Review: ARTistic Pursuits

Jacob loves to draw, and does so quite a bit in his spare time.  As much as I appreciate the benefit of art, we've never really done it as an official part of our homeschool.  Jacob was pretty excited when the opportunity to review a book from ARTistic Pursuits became available.  He looked over the options, and chose Elementary 4-5, Book 2:  Color and Composition.

This book is priced at $47.95.  While this particular book is for grades 4-5, ARTistic Pursuits has books available for preschool through high school. What caught my attention is that the book is written to the student.  All I had to do was gather the supplies and tell Jacob to have at it.  It is suggested that you schedule an hour twice a week for your student to complete the lessons.

ARTistic Pursuits Review
To use Elementary 4-5, Book 2:  Color and Composition, you will need:
  • Watercolor pencils (set of 12)
  • #8 watercolor brush round
  • watercolor paper pad
  • sketch pad
  • vinyl eraser
  • metal handheld pencil sharpener
  • Prismacolor colored pencils (set of 12, optional)
  • can or jar for water container
  • masking tape
  • paper towels
  • tracing paper
To make it easy to get the right supplies, there are art supply packs available at Dick Blick.  However, you can also easily pick up the needed supplies at a craft or hobby store.

ARTistic Pursuits Review
There are 16 units in the book, and each unit is broken down into four lessons:
  1. The first lesson of each unit focuses on "Building a Visual Vocabulary".  The topic of the unit is explained to the student, and they are given a creative exercise to do. 
  2. The second lesson of each unit focuses on "Art Appreciation and Art History".  In these lessons, the student is exposed to great works of art that use the topic they are focusing on in the unit.  They then apply what they've learned by creating another piece of artwork. 
  3. The third lesson of each unit focuses on "Techniques".  Much as you'd expect by the title, the student learns different art techniques and uses them to create more orignal artwork. 
  4. The fourth lesson of each unit focuses on "Application".  Here the student completes a final project using what they've learned in the unit.
For example, the first unit is on the Color Wheel:
  1. In the first lesson, your student is introduced to and shown the color wheel.  They are exposed to primary and secondary colors.  The purpose of the assignment is to get your student to relax and observe, and they are instructed to watch an activity that allows their mind to wander.  After a bit, they are told to pick up paper and pencils and to draw what they see. 
  2. In the second lesson, the piece of art "The Oregon Trail", is printed in the book.  There is a short biography of the artist, Albert Bierstadt, and a paragraph about the time period in which the work of art was created.  The student is instructed to study the color in the art, and it's pointed out how the artist used different colors, such as gold, orange, and purple, to create the mountain, which we normally think of as brown.  Their assignment is to sketch a landscape scene and color it with watercolor pencils, using a paintbrush to blend the colors.
  3. In the third lesson, the student is taught how to use watercolor pencils.  The assignment for this lesson is to choose something, draw it with watercolor pencils, and use the technique they learned to add water with a brush to paint.
  4. The final project in the fourth lesson is to paint a landscape scene, paying attention to the colors and technique learned in the unit.

Other projects your student will complete throughout this book are: drawing a picture from a photograph, using a technique to layer colors to create brighter colors, studying an object (like an animal) from the front and back and then drawing both points of view, drawing a figure, keeping correct proportions, and using colored pencils to draw a picture using marks to show texture.

This book is full color, and all of the artwork and pictures and lessons are in color.  It's easy for your student to figure out what their project for each lesson is, because all of the assignments are printed in blue.

As instructed, I gave the book to Jacob and told him to work through it.  He really enjoyed using it, having art as an "Official School Subject", and learning how to use watercolor pencils to color in his artwork.  When asked, he said "The book was fun, and it did a really great job of teaching me how to do stuff."  I liked that it required none of my time, and since we've been studying American history this year, it was nice that the artwork featured throughout the book are from American artists.  

Here's a sample of Jacob's work:

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Saturday, April 26, 2014

When Pigs Fly

Micah brought this little pig home this week. He made it at the enrichment program he attends.

"It's a flying pig.  It flies using its ears." --Micah, age 10 



Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Review: CTC Math

I've mentioned before that I started working part time at the beginning of this year.  Since I'm home less often, I have less time to teach.  Therefore, I was excited to have the opportunity to review CTC Math.  We were given a subscription to the 12 Month Family Plan to review. 

CTC Math is an online math program for grades K-12.  The Family Plan provided access for up to 10 students.  There are 1,367 math lessons, along with 57,000 math questions.
There are 16 different courses you can choose from:
  • Kindergarten-6th grade math
  • Basic Math and Pre-Algebra
  • Elementary Measurement
  • Elementary Geometry
  • Algebra I
  • Algebra II
  • Geometry
  • Trigonometry
  • Pre-Calc
  • Calculus
Inside the different courses are different streams you can choose from.  In the kindergarten through 6th grade courses there are four different streams:  "Numbers, Patterns, and Algebra", "Measurement", "Space and Geometry," and "Statistics and Probability".  The other courses are broken down into either 2, 3, or 4 parts.

Inside the different streams are different topics.  This is where you'll find the lessons and problem sets.  You can either have your student work through all the lessons, or you can have them take the diagnostic tests provided for each topic.  By having your student take the diagnostic test, you can potentially skip lessons that your student doesn't need work on.

If you are looking for lessons on a particular topic, there is a search function that works pretty well.  If you type in a topic, such as division, it will bring up the lessons in the order they come up in the program.  You can play the lessons directly from the search window, or you can open the topic.

You can also pull up printable reports for each student.  There are summary reports and detailed reports.  The summary report lets you know how your students are doing overall, while the detailed report gives you a breakdown for how they're doing with each topic.  From the Parent's login, you have the option to change the percentage correct needed to pass a topic.

In addition to the lessons, there is also a "Speed Skills" option.  From this button, your student can work on the speed at which they can answer math facts.  There are 4 different levels, and the four basic operations are covered (single and multi-digit), along with division with a remainder and order of operations.
CTC Math Review
Using this program is fairly straightforward.  The student watches a lesson online, and then completes the problem set, and I used this program at grade level with my 6th, 4th, and 2nd grade sons.  I had them begin with the first stream and topic for their grade levels and work through sequentially. 

All three of the boys told me at different times that they love the teaching and find it very easy to understand.  The teaching is done my Pat Murray, who is a father of 10.  They also enjoyed the fact that lessons are short.  They could complete a lesson and problem set in 15 minutes. 

I liked that I could easily glance (from any computer with online access) at what they were working on, when they last logged in, and how they were doing.  I also liked that they're able to continue to progress in math, even if I'm not always readily available to teach.  It's a huge bonus that they like the program as well, and it's great that they can take diagnostic tests so they don't have to do stuff they're already solid in.
The 12 Month Family Plan we received is currently available at a discounted price of $118.80 for homeschoolers.  As you can see below, there are several other pricing options available:
If you are looking for a solid, complete math program for any student in your homeschool, make sure you check out the parent and student friendly CTC Math.
CTC Math Review

Check out CTC Math on Facebook:  Facebook CTC Math

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Review: Philosophy Adventure

Thinking.  Writing.  Speaking.  Biblical worldview.  These are all things I want to teach well in our homeschool.  Therefore, I was excited to get the opportunity to review Philosophy Adventure from Home School Adventure Co..
The program includes:
  • Reader
  • Student Workbook
  • Teacher's Resources
There are a few different options for purchasing, ranging from a printed and CD combo to a complete digital downloadable version.  I received the digital download version, and it is priced at $39.95.

Philosophy Adventure revolves around the Reader.  This is a lovely, full color book that contains the stories, articles, and assignments.  For example, the first lesson is on Thales (the father of Western Philosophy, and to whom the quote "Know thyself." is attributed.  It begins with explaining who Thales is and why he is important.  There is a nice sidebar that gives pertinent information, like when he lived and who his contemporaries were (Ezekiel, Buddha, and Pythagoras, are a few, if you were wondering).

There are colored coded sections within each lesson.  The first is the red "Write" section.  This contains writing assignments.  In the first lesson, the student is asked to grapple with big questions, like "Where did I come from and why am I here?".  There are no wrong answers, and the student is told to set a timer for 30 minutes.  They are instructed to read their answers aloud when finished, and to make sure they are true for what they believe today.

The second is the green "Think" section.  In this section, students read about what Thales thought.  It discusses when Thales lived, and the possibility that he was exposed to Hebrew scriptures.  In the assignment section, students are challenged to develop their memorization skills, especially for the purpose of memorizing the Bible.

The third is the brown "Speak" section.  In this section, students are exposed to more of Thales' ideas.  In the assignment for this section, students are told to answer 3 questions in their "Write Think Speak" journal.  One of these questions is "Can you identify a prize for which you would be willing to suffer?".  Again, not an easy question, but one that will truly cause the student to think.

Following the Write, Think, and Speak sections are sections that include geography, additional information on the philosophers and their contemporaries and world, and a section that includes writings by philosophers. The final section analyzes the information within the context of a Biblical worldview.

The other major portion of this course is the Student Workbook.  This workbook contains questions about the readings in the Reader, along with a map to color.  This map also includes a space to record facts learned in the Reader about each place on the map.  There is also a creative writing assignment.  For the Thales section, the student is asked to describe seeing an old man falling into a well.  The assignment gives the student several tips to help them get started, and they are instructed to set the timer for 15 minutes.  The Student Workbook also contains the "Write Think Speak" journal referenced above.  This gives the student a place to write and answer the questions in the Reader.  You have the option of printing the workbook and having your student handwrite the answers, or having your student type the answers into the workbook before printing.  In order to do the mapping assignments, you will need to print the workbook at some point.

The final portion of the program are the Teacher's Resources.  This portion includes memory cards, timeline resources (printable timelines & images), map keys, & quizzes.

While this program is designed for grades 6-12, I would be hesitant to use it with a 6th or 7th grader, and possibly some 8th graders.  I think that students who are in high school will get far more out of this program than middle school students.  Depending on how you use the program, you can award the following high school credits:
I used this with Luke (9th) and Ezekiel (8th).  There is scheduling help in the front of the Reader, so it was easy to decide how much to use every day, and the program can be used either four or five days a week.  Since I received the digital download version, I had the boys download the Student Workbook and Reader to their laptops.  They read the Reader on their computer, and I had them type their answers in the workbook.  I had technical difficulties when trying to print, so they didn't actually get the opportunity to do the map work, though they were able to answer the questions about the map.  I liked that it wasn't time intensive for me; I could tell them what to do each day and they were able to do it without assistance from me. 

The only thing I would change is the layout of the Student Workbook.  It is split into two sections--the notebook & mapwork section, and the "Think Write Speak" journal.  There are assignments for each lesson in the reader in both sections, and I think it would be so much easier to use if the assignments for each lesson were together.  Of course, you can do this yourself if you print the workbook.

I love the way Philosophy Adventure made the boys think.  I've mentioned before that I think knowing your worldview is very important, and I love the way this program had them think through what they really think.  It is a challenging program (it's easier not to think, after all), but oh, it's so very important.  Luke & Ezekiel both liked the program.  They both think it is challenging, but well worth their time, and would like to continue.
Home School Adventure Co. is offering a 10% discount on download purchases.  This discount expires May 15, 2014:
 Check out Home School Adventure Co. on:




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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Fire Safety

"I believe everyone should shave their bodies so they're less flammable.  Don't you think that's a good idea?". --Micah

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Review: Victus Study Skills System

I'm pretty positive that I'm not the only homeschooling mom who struggles with teaching her students study skills. When the boys were younger, it wasn't a big deal.  But now that my older boys are, well...older, it's been something that's more on my mind.  Because of this, I was excited to receive the Student Workbook ($20) and Teacher Edition ($40) from  Victus Study Skills System.  This study skills system can be used with all ages, but is best suited for grades 5 through 12.

The Teacher Edition begins with the philosophy of the Victus Study Skills System.  I found this section very important to read in order to fully understand the system.  This introduction is followed by an explanation of how to best use the program.  This first section gives several helpful tips and techniques to help you become a more effective teacher of the program, as well as a sample plan on how to teach the lessons.

The second section in the Teacher Edition contains the lessons.  These lessons are not scripted, but instead they give you the big ideas behind the lessons and some teaching suggestions for introducing the lesson, as well as instructions for teaching the lesson.  These instructions are written to you, the teacher, and you will want to read them before hand because you will need to put them into your own words to teach the lesson.  A very helpful feature of the Teacher Edition is that it includes reduced versions of the pages in the Student Workbook, so you will know what your child is looking at and working on for the lesson. 

The third section contains reinforcement exercises for the course.  Most of these pages are views of what is included in the Student Workbook.

The Student Workbook begins by giving an introduction of the Victus Study Skills System to the student.  It's always good and helpful to know why we are doing things, and I know my homeschoolers haven't always seen the need for study skills.
There are 10 lessons in the program. Each lesson takes about 1/2 hour to complete, though you can break them up as needed.  Younger students will take longer to complete the lessons than high school students. 
There are three "Foundational Cornerstones" to the program:
  1. Where am I now?
  2. Where do I want to be?
  3. How do I get there?
Lessons 1 and 2 make up the "Where am I now?" cornerstone.  In order to get where you want to go, you need to really know where you are.  Lesson 3 makes up the "Where do I want to be?" cornerstone.  Here your student will set goals and create a mission statement.  This allows them to truly define where they want to end up.  Lessons 4 through 10 make up the "How do I get there?" cornerstone.  This cornerstone contains the nitty-gritty of how to actually study.  Time management, note taking, and test taking are just 3 of the six skills covered.  If you'd like to view the table of contents and a sample page, you can do so on the Victus Study Skills System product page.

When I first received the program, I was a bit overwhelmed.  I understood the beginning lessons; it's important to know where your student is and what their learning style is.  But once the lessons shifted over to goal setting and creating a mission statement, I froze.  I've never been good with this process.  I always have a goal in mind, but ask me to write it down and I panic.  Mention "mission statement" and my mind quickly empties.  Thankfully, the lessons walk you through this process and make it fairly painless (or at least make it possible, even for those like me whose minds go blank when this information is requested).  The actual study skills lessons were a bit easier for me to grasp.  There are great tips that I never would've thought of directly teaching, like explaining how to use shorthand when taking notes.  I also appreciated the fact that the pages are clean and uncluttered, and I liked that there are inspirational quotes sprinkled throughout the book.

Since I don't have a lot of large blocks of teaching time anymore, I appreciated that the lessons could easily be broken up or extended to fit the amount of time I had available.  Thankfully, my son (11) didn't pick up on any of my nervousness about the middle part of the program, and he did well with the lessons.  I know I'll need to keep working with him and remind him to use what he's learned.  I think the skills and information are so helpful and worthwhile that I'm going to go through the program with my 14 & 13 year old sons this summer.

If your students, like mine, need instruction on how to study, make sure you check out Victus Study Skills System.  The importance of learning how to study is summed up in the quote on the front of both the Teacher Edition and Student Workbook:
"For the sole true end of education is simply this:  to teach men how to learn for themselves; and whatever instruction fails to do this is effort spend in vain."      --Dorothy Sayers

Check out Victus Study Skills System on social media:
Twitter: @VictusStudy

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Saturday, April 05, 2014

Review: The Jesus Bible

Nicholas was in need of a new Bible.  His Bible was the International Children's Version, and he was the 5th boy to use it, and it was falling apart.  He was also asking for a different translation--the International Children's Version is wonderful for younger children, but he wanted a translation like his brothers.

Therefore, when I had the opportunity to review The Jesus Bible (NIV), we were both thrilled.  This Bible is intended for ages 9-12.  The subtitle is "Discover Jesus in Every Book of the Bible".  Even the events of the Old Testament point to Jesus, and there are 365 devotions that point to this fact, as well as where Jesus is seen in the New Testament.  In addition, each book of the Bible has an introduction, and part of these introductions include "Where is Jesus in this book?".  The introductions also have other helpful information, such as who the key people are, when it took place, etc.  There is a timeline of Jesus's life, as well as a simplified family tree.

The font of this Bible is an easy on the eyes brown color, and the accent color is red.  Words of Christ are in red.  There are additional helps:  maps, concordance, and lists of the devotions.  It's a nice, sturdy hardcover, and has held up to Nicholas's 8 year old boy ways.  Most importantly, he loves this Bible.  He's talked to me about some of the devotions, and has mentioned that he is learning a lot.  I like that it's pointing him to Jesus.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”