Monday, December 22, 2008

Let's Make a Web Page! from Motherboard Books

Links, text, graphics, sounds, colors, and Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). Websites are designed using these components. Do you know how to put them together to build your own? Could you teach your children how to create a website? Phyllis Wheeler from Motherboard Books has created a step-by-step E-book to walk kids through the process of building a web page.

Let's Make a Web Page! is a 60-page E-book that, together with a free trial of CoffeeCup HTML Editor, enables you to make a web page that contains an original write-up (an interview), a photo, animation, a background design, sound, active links, and finally instructions for how to upload the final product to the Internet.

My final verdict: Kudos to Phyllis Wheeler! Let's Make a Web Page! is a great introduction to HTML and web page design. Each step is illustrated using a screenshot, a picture demonstrating the written instructions, so it is extremely easy to follow. My husband sat down with our Kindergartner one afternoon, and the two of them had a great time putting the web page together. My daughter chose to do a Christmas theme for her page. She picked the background, some animated graphics, included a favorite Bible verse, and created links to her favorite websites (my blog made the cut!). My husband is computer savvy, but he agrees that the tutorial is well done and very user friendly so that a novice can successfully and easily follow the steps. This E-book is recommended for ages 8-12 to do mostly on their own. Parental supervision is suggested when the tutorial takes the student onto the Internet to search for animated pictures.

Let's Make a Web Page! is a fun and easy way to unlock the secrets of web page design for both children and parents. It is available at Motherboard Books for the great introductory price of $19.99 (regular price will be $29.99). It also comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee! Check out Motherboard Books, and sign up for the email newsletter to receive a free download of The Internet Scavenger Hunt--a fun way for kids to practice using the Internet for research!


Homeschooling families know that each of their children learns differently. Some enjoy workbooks, some need a demonstration, while others work best with a hands-on activity to retain a lesson. Parents learn to be creative in teaching their children, and one 'handy' resource to use (forgive the pun) is a puppet. Puppetools is a website where teachers can discuss ideas for using puppets in the learning process. Creator Jeffrey Peyton provides a pattern for a special hinge fold--the framework for a successful paper hand puppet. There are also 37 downloadable patterns for a variety of insect, animal, and object parts and pieces that you can print and attach to the base to create a finished puppet. For individual access to the website for 60 days, the cost is $20. For an annual subscription for up to 30 different users, the prices is $99.

My final verdict: I like puppets. My children like puppets. I think puppets can be a very effective tool to aid in teaching a whole range of subjects. But, I would not pay $99 to join a forum to discuss puppets and their uses. After checking out the Puppetools website, listening to and watching the provided videos, and looking for opportunities to use puppets during our homeschooling day, I have determined I can get the same kind of information and patterns using the local library, bookstores, my own ingenuity, and my child's own imagination. For some families, though, $20 for 60 days may be a worthwhile investment. Take a look at Puppetools for yourself.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Crayola Art Studio by Core Learning

Fun with crayons, markers, and paint is no longer confined to a physical piece of paper or canvas. Crayola has developed Art Studio, a powerful piece of software that enables kids of all ages (and even adults!) to experiment and create all sorts of digital artwork with all sorts of tools.

An animated Quick Start Tour will get you going in less than ten minutes with a nice overview of Art Studio's key features. You'll start off learning how to customize your work area, and then it's on to a thorough explanation of the toolbar. There are 12 different Crayola digital art supplies you can choose from including marker, paint, colored pencil, spray paint, crayon, charcoal, and oil pastel. A really cool feature of the art tools is that they respond on the digital canvas like they would in real life. So, for example, you'll see that paint bleeds a bit and blends with other colors as they 'mix' on the work area. You can choose to draw freehand or use shape tools to create lines, circles, or polygons. You are able to change color, mix color on a palette to make your own, or use a color chooser for even more color options. You can even change the hue, shade, or transparency of color. Crayola has included a large stamp library with a collection of hundreds of images to add to your artwork. Images can be resized and altered in appearance. There is a nifty cut picture feature where you can cut out a silhouette of an object and a fill tool to color in closed space with either solid color or patterned motifs. Fortunately there is an undo tool and a redo tool to fix mistakes and a clear picture option to clear the canvas totally and start all over again. Digital creations have the option of being saved in numerous formats, including JPeg, GIF, and Windows Bitmap among others. A 47-page User Manual and a 31-page Activity Guide are also provided in PDF format. The User Manual reveals even more features than the Quick Start Tour, and the Activity Guide gives a great introduction to using the software to practice art techniques such as proportion, using color, perspective, and drawing the human figure and face.

My final verdict: It is amazing just how powerful a piece of software this is! Drawing with digital crayons may seem like child's play, and believe me my 5-year-old loves it, but with the tools that are provided it is possible to create complex and sophisticated pieces of art! I like to tweak around with Illustrator and Photoshop, but those would be extremely intimidating, too complicated, and ultimately frustrating for my young daughter to try to handle. Art Studio is wonderful because it has the ability to work for both the younger and older child, the art beginner and the more advanced. My husband and I both enjoyed using the software to make some interesting creations. I would highly, highly recommend Crayola Art Studio! The price is right--just $24.95--available at Core Learning as a Windows download or a physical product shipped to you. Check out the entire Quick Start Tour and then download a Demo!

Monday, December 15, 2008

All About Spelling

Marie Rippel has put together a comprehensive spelling program called All About Spelling that utilizes three methods of learning: auditory (hearing), visual (seeing), and kinesthetic (touching). There are four levels available. Each level is sold in a set that includes a teacher's manual and a student material packet. Letter tiles and magnets need to be purchased separately.

My final verdict: Absolutely wonderful! This program is thorough, well laid out, easy to teach, and fun with no distracting fluff. I have gone through Level One with my kindergartner, and it's been a delight! Each session includes teaching reinforced by flashcards (provided in the student material packet), spelling by the student with magnetized letter tiles on a magnetic board (2'x3' board easily obtained at WalMart or office supply store), and a small spelling test and dictation written out by students on paper. My daughter has so much fun using the tiles to spell out words on the magnetic board, and we are both excited that she can write down three and four word phrases of dictation correctly! We tracked her progress through each of the 24 sessions using an included progress sheet (with a cute beehive theme) which we laminated and used stickers on. As long as you don't have more than one student going through the same level at the same time, you need only one student material packet per level. AND, the entire All About Spelling course is non-consumable so you can use it with siblings year after year.

I highly recommend All About Spelling! It is a no-nonsense, effective program for children to learn phonograms (letter sounds...phonics), to understand the rules for spelling in the English language, and to gain confidence in pronouncing and spelling unfamiliar words. Check out the products. Currently there are four levels available. Levels five and six are in the works. All About Spelling is just what I'm looking for to help my children become strong spellers and confident readers!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Alphabet Alley

Don't you love when someone comes up with new improvements on old ideas that turn good products into great products?! Alphabet Alley does just that with their versions of some familiar kids' toys and games.

Noah's Ark Go Fish Card Game: You'll find Noah, the ark, and oh-so-cute (and I do mean CUTE!) animals on these laminated (so they wipe clean and have some durability!) cards. Rules are the same as the game you know and love, though you could play to match sets of numbers, colors, or animals to switch things up a bit. These cards are nice and big...much larger than regular playing cards.This would be excellent for preschool kids (no reading is required to play) through early readers as a party favor, stocking stuffer, gift topper, or travel game! Pick up a set for only $5.99.

Two By Two Matching Game: Watch out...Noah, the ark, and his crew of cute animals are back. Matching games are great for testing and improving memory, and this game is perfect with its 2" x 2", nicely laminated, VERY thick tiles...much heftier than the sets you'll normally find.This set of 24 tiles (12 matching pairs) would be great for 3 and up and no reading is required to play. Purchase a set for a special wee one for $10.99.

My final verdict: I recommend both of these products. They are very well done for what they are--durable, fun, classic toys for kids. You need to see what other great looking products Alphabet Alley offers. They've got different versions of both Go Fish and the Matching Game as well as magnetic play sets, stacking blocks, wooden toys, puzzles, and stickers!


Homeschool families have more curriculum options today than ever before. Some families use textbooks, some use literature, and some even use videos or DVDs for instruction. An additional option now available is to use the Internet for teaching and learning.

Time4Learning is an online education program that touts itself as a fully automated, fun, and complete curriculum for PreK-8th grades with lessons that are self-paced and correlate to all 50 State Standards. It covers four major school subjects: Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies. Over the last couple of months our family has been given the opportunity to try Time4Learning for ourselves.

Our final verdict: What she liked: Let me say right away that my daughter (a Kindergartner) loved Time4Learning. And why wouldn't she? It is a large collection of learning games filled with bright colors, animation, sound effects, and music. She thought they were fun and they built her confidence in a lot of the skills we are working on with other curricula. What she did not like: She had a bit of difficulty with clicking and dragging to play some games as she is still learning how to use a computer mouse. A few games were too intense for her--ones that had a beat-the-clock element. It was stressful for her, and she would ask to skip those. Sometimes she needed the directions reexplained and demonstrated a few times which would frustrate her. Overall, though, she enjoyed the games and would frequently ask to be allowed to log-on to Time4Learning.

And me? What I liked: Time4Learning has a ton--a TON--of stuff for the parents: lists of scope and sequence, lesson plans, answer keys, and extra printable materials to reinforce the online learning. I have the ability to log in to my daughter's account and see what activities she did, the date and time she did them, how she scored, and even how much total time she spent on the section. I can print all that information for record keeping purposes. I can customize the grade level she works at to match her abilities in each subject. I can set the minimum time she needs to spend on lessons and the maximum time she can spend playing games in the 'playground' area. What I did not like: I like technology as much as the next person (maybe even more), but I did not like the idea of my Kindergartner spending so much time on the computer. Some of the games were a bit loud for my taste and some seemed to be 'fluff'--more for the fun than for the learning.

As a primary source for teaching and learning, I would pass on Time4Learning, especially for someone so young, like my daughter. I prefer interaction, discussion, and conversation with her rather than having her stare at a computer screen clicking in answers for everything. I also cringe at the thought of delivering core subjects wrapped up in loud, flashy entertainment. As an occasional treat for fun, yes, Time4Learning has a lot of neat games that my daughter really enjoyed playing. As is the case with any curriculum, every family and every child has their unique needs. Time4Learning does help parents to keep a good record of what the child is doing within its online program and provides extra printable material for continuing learning offline. Children find it fun. And while it's not a great fit for our family, it may be for yours. Check out Time4Learning for yourself. The monthly fee is $19.95 for the first child and $14.95 for each additional child. There is a 14-day money-back guarantee so you can try it out risk free!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Let's Be Scientists

The December module of the Old Schoolhouse Planner features Let's Be Scientists. This 54-page e-book is just right for your budding chemist, astronomer, meteorologist, human anatomist, or just good-old-fashioned curious kid.
--Interested in the weather? Follow one of the included links to learn how to make your own weather station that includes a barometer, hygrometer, rain gauge, weather vane, and compass!
--Want to know more about the solar system? Follow another link to a really cool site where you can watch the planets orbit the sun and see the path of a comet!
--Into recycling household objects to make something new? There's a link to the classic recycled object bird feeder...much appreciated by the neighborhood, feathered friends especially in the wintertime!
--Is chemistry your passion? You'll have a blast making slime (yikes!), crystal snowflakes (cool!), invisible ink (ooooh!), homemade ice cream (yum!), jello that glows (whoa!), and a substance that will change from a solid to a liquid with a squeeze of your hand (no way!).
--Fascinated by the human body? Follow one of the many links to find out interesting facts about your body like: the average adult human has at least 25 feet of intestines!
Also included is a section on 'grossology' (I must admit I don't like that someone has decided to fix this name to this topic), which is apparently the study of 'gross', yet natural things that occur in the human body or with animals, and a section on the five amazing senses God has blessed us with. There are also recipes, quizzes, coloring pages, and word searches. The module wraps up with 25 pages of Biblical copy work from the book of Genesis. How wonderful it is to see God acknowledged as the creator of all the things scientists study: the earth, light, air, the oceans, plants, animals, and human beings! This module is brimming with science fun for only $7.95! Head over to The Old Schoolhouse Store to purchase Let's Be Scientists or to check out a sample!

Trigger Memory Systems

I've been able to view and try out two products from Trigger Memory Systems. Both are worth checking out! See my blog entries on:

1. Times Tales: A fun and easy, mnemonic-based program that really works! My 5-year-old learned the 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 9 upper times tables with ease! Really!

2. Clean 'N' Flip charts: Effective, easy-to-follow charts that walk kids through cleaning house. Simple steps with illustrations makes easy work of a messy room!

Trigger Memory Systems: Clean 'N' Flip

Trigger Memory Systems wants to help you help your kids learn how to help clean house! They have put together three Clean 'N' Flip charts:

1. Zone Cleaning For Kids: Concentrates on the common areas: living room, kitchen, and bathroom. A nicely laminated, easy-to-use system that allows the parent to assign zones (rooms) and tasks. It even allows for specifying different times during a day that the tasks should be completed.

2. Bedroom Cleaning For Kids: Teaches kids how to tackle messes in their own rooms. The kids will begin at the door and work their way around the room sorting, organizing, and putting away items in a highly systematic fashion that is easy to follow...voila, clean bedroom!

3. Laundry For Kids: This is the newest Clean 'N' Flip chart. It takes kids through a parent-customized checklist of simple steps to learn the basics of handling dirty laundry all by themselves.

My final verdict: I really like Zone Cleaning and Bedroom Cleaning. Zone Cleaning is simple and well thought out. I like the lamination which allows for quick assignment and reassignment of rooms and tasks to different members of the family. Bedroom Cleaning is not laminated but does not need to be as the chart is intended to be used by a single person in one room. It could be easily modified if necessary (for example one child does the first three steps and another child can take care of the remaining five). I like both because they, again, have simple steps with simple illustrations and follow an effective, well planned system.

I am not a big fan of the Laundry For Kids chart. It is written with the same easy-to-follow steps and illustrations, but the steps are so general that I don't find it particularly useful. It's almost not the fault of the product though. Every household is going to have a different kind of washer and dryer. A lot of them function radically different. It would be impossible to write a simple chart to correctly use them all. In these days of top load or side load, high efficiency machines, special detergents, liquid fabric softeners, fashion fabrics, etc. each home has to have its own formula for properly sorting, washing, and drying the laundry.

Each Clean 'N' Flip cart is available separately or can be purchased in money-saving sets. Check out Trigger Memory Systems to see page samples and prices.

Trigger Memory Systems: Times Tales

Trigger Memory Systems has a product called Times Tales. This is what their website says about it:

Times Tales is a creative, innovative mnemonic-based program that makes it fun and easy to memorize the upper multiplication facts. Times Tales uses cute, simple stories to provide students with a "memory peg", allowing them to quickly recall otherwise abstract facts.

And this is what it does: Covers the most difficult to memorize times tables: 3x6, 3x7, 3x8, 3x9, 4x6, 4x7, 4x8, 4x9, 6x6, 6x7, 6x8, 6x9, 7x7, 7x8, 7x9, 8x8, 8x9, 9x9

My oldest is in Kindergarten. She has a fabulous memory and a wild imagination. She is currently doing addition and subtraction with sums and differences less than 20. Would this work with her? Could she actually learn her times tables? The product's developers think so. And so the experiment begins...

Day 1: My 5-year-old daughter and I sit down across from each other at the kitchen table. I have looked over the instruction manual about 15 minutes prior to get a feeling for how I'm supposed to conduct this learning session for Part 1 (the 3 and 4 upper times tables). I begin the first step: introducing the number symbols (the little pictures and characters), and we quickly move on to Step 2: reading and discussing the eight stories. Step 3 is where my daughter tells each story back to me, and then we're on to Step 4...the Trigger Memory flashcards. And finally Step 5 is regular flashcards. My daughter is giving me the correct answers to the 3 and 4 upper times tables, and it's been about 25 minutes since we started the session. I am not kidding!! It's been less than 30 minutes after we first sat down, and she can tell me that 4x9=36! She impresses Dad when he comes home from work this evening by going through the flashcards correctly with him.

The next week: I have not talked much about Times Tales since Day 1. I hand her a crossword puzzle. To solve it she has to remember details from the stories. She does well. I give her the practice test...perfect score!

The very next day: I complete Part 1 by finishing Step 6. She completes the final test with another perfect score! It has been just over one week since we first began Times Tales, and she knows her 3 and 4 upper times tables.

We repeated the same process with Part 2--the stories for 6, 7, 8, and 9. We got the same results in the same kind of time...correct answers to flashcards and perfect test scores!

My final verdict: I'm a believer! Times Tales works! No, my Kindergartner does not understand how to do multiplication, but I do believe that since she now knows the correct answers to the more difficult-to-memorize times table facts that multiplication will make more sense to her in less time when we do get around to learning about it. For children that are actually doing multiplication (2nd or 3rd grade?) this would be an excellent help! The stories are fun and easy to remember (just like they said they'd be!), and the program is non-consumable so I can use it with my other children (yay!). Times Tales is available from Trigger Memory Systems for $29.95 and comes with:
  • 2 Part Story Flipchart
  • Trigger Memory & Regular Flashcards (multiplication & division)
  • Roll 'Em Cube Game
  • Easy Instruction Manual
  • Memory Story Discussion Guide
  • Various Tests & Challenges

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Little Man in the Map

Could you and your children find Nebraska quickly and with confidence on an unlabeled map of the United States? How about Ohio? New Hampshire? Alabama? No? Would you like to be able? The Little Man in the Map by Andrew Martonyi is a book created to help you correctly locate all 50 of the United States from memory. The book is written entirely in rhyme and introduces the reader to MIM (the little Man In the Map). MIM is made up of five states head to toe: Minnesota is his hat, Iowa is his face, Missouri is his shirt, Arkansas is his pants, and Louisiana is his boot. The book breaks down the United States into five different regions and MIM acts as a guide, taking the reader through each as well as the District of Columbia.

My final verdict: I can definitely see MIM when I look at a U.S. map--there he stands with a funny hat and one boot. But once the book introduces the individual regions, the picture clues are not always so obvious. The five regions are: Midwestern, South Central, Southeastern, Northeastern, and Western. Midwestern was good--I will always picture Illinois as honking on Iowa's nose, South Central was ok. Southeastern was a bit of a reach with the picture clues for Maryland and Delaware, but it was very helpful with the MAGS acronym to stand for the order of states from Mississippi to South Carolina. Where I had a real problem was the New England states listed in the Northeastern region. The picture clues for Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island were not very helpful...even a bit confusing as I could not really visualize the clues as the 'boots' they were supposed to resemble. On the positive side, I thought the clues for New York and Lake Ontario were excellent. Finally the Western region had both hits and misses. The acronym for the states that make up Four Corners was good as well as the color coding clues for California and Nevada. On the other hand, Washington and Oregon are introduced at the same time and no real differentiation is made between the two with the picture clue.

As a stand alone product, I would say 'no' to The Little Man in the Map. The rhymes are, at many times, too forced and have too much detail to be easily remembered. The picture clues are, also at times, too much of a stretch of the imagination to be helpful. BUT, I would definitely say 'yes' to MIM if he is used as a supplement. Some of the acronyms and picture clues are very helpful and fun and would be excellent at reinforcing rote memory or other forms of learning U.S. geography.

The Little Man in the Map is a nicely hardbound book published by Schoolside Press. Priced at $19.95, copies can be autographed by the author for no additional charge. A large, laminated The Little Man in the Map wall map is also available for purchase as well as FREE coloring pages from the book. If you find you like this book, keep checking the Schoolside Press website. They will be releasing another MIM book to help learn the state capitals. Want to keep up with the book's author? Check out Andrew Martonyi's blog.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Contest winner!

Congratulations, once again, to Jill! She won the latest drawing for a very nice brown and pink homeschool tote from The Old Schoolhouse (with some goodies tucked inside!). Thank you to her and to one of my other faithful visitors, Susanne! I really appreciate your visits, encouraging words, and support!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Salem Ridge Press

Since November 2005 Salem Ridge Press has had the mission of publishing quality children's books of the 1800's and early 1900's. Their book categories include:
  • Historical Fiction (broken down into three subcategories: Church, World, and American History)
  • Adventure
  • Allegory
  • and books for Young Readers

I have now read three books republished by Salem Ridge Press and have absolutely loved each one! Please see my book reviews by clicking on the following individual links:

  • Mary Jane - Her Book : recommended for ages 6-10, but it was perfect for my 5-year-old daughter.
  • The American Twins of the Revolution : recommended for ages 8-adult. My 5-year old enjoyed it but obviously did not fully understand the historical context yet. It is based on a TRUE story! I loved it and was sad when I came to the story's end.
  • Glaucia the Greek Slave : recommended for ages 10-adult. A more challenging fictional read but an excellent book to see the early Christian church at work in ancient Rome and Greece.

Salem Ridge Press offers most of their books in both hard and softcover. These are the types of books that will be favorites to be handed down in the family or to be happily purchased and given as gifts! Take a look, and while you're there sign up for their quarterly e-mail newsletter for a chance to win a free, newly-released book!

Book review: Glaucia the Greek Slave

Read of mighty Rome and learned Greece. Read of the majestic, prolific gods of the times like Apollo, Pallas Athene, Venus, Furtuna, and Neptune. Read of a time of magnificent wealth and distinguished philosophers. And then read of the humble beginnings of a small and despised sect of blasphemers...the Nazarenes.

Emma Leslie's book, Glaucia the Greek Slave, is set in Rome and Greece of approximately 59-64 A.D. Glaucia and Laon are to be sold as slaves in Rome to pay off their dead father's debts. Glaucia becomes the property of a Roman philosopher's family while Laon is desperate to earn the money to redeem his sister from a life of slavery. They both hold a secret about their missing and shamed mother that no one will speak to them of. Meanwhile, the Nazarenes, the name given to early Christians as Jesus was known as "the Nazarene," are spreading their unpopular message of one true, all-powerful God...a God for both the freeman and the slave, the aristocrat and the lowly, the powerful and the weak.

My final verdict: The beautiful reality of God's Living Word is that it speaks today just as it has from before time. Glaucia the Greek Slave was originally published in 1874, but it brings the message of God's redemption through Jesus Christ that is just as relevant now as it was then! The same worship of idols occurs today as described in the book. Though you won't see many images of Lares and Penates or statues of Pan or Pomona in the modern home, you will still see the same self-worship, self-indulgence, and superstition that rule people's hearts. This book, recommended for ages 10-adult, is a great fictional read to better understand the moral and spirtual attitudes of ancient Rome and Greece and to see the early Christian response to it. May we be as bold and courageous in our modern Christian walk! Glaucia the Greek Slave is available in both hard and softcover from Salem Ridge Press. Read the entire first chapter of Glaucia the Greek Slave.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Spears Art Studio K-8

Question: What do you call a homeschool-compatible, comprehensive art curriculum that is taught with a Biblical worldview?
Answer: A rare find!

Diane Spears has put together just such a program called Spears Art Studio K-8 Christian Art Curriculum. It is contained on one CD-ROM on which is a teacher's manual that includes all the necessary information, instruction, and project details to teach children from Kindergarten all the way through grade 8 in the subject of fine arts.
The program comes with an invaluable introduction guide to start with. It answers basic questions like: What is art? and Why does art exist? It goes on to cover the main components of art which include elements of art (such things as line, shape, and color) and principles of design (such things as repetition, contrast, and balance). There are suggestions for how to present the lessons which use different types of materials and different types of media. Steps on how to analyze and critique artwork are also covered. Finally, there is even a researched article (authored by Diane) about the benefits of incorporating fine arts in your child's studies.
The art instruction part of the program is broken down by grade level (K-8). Within each grade level, the program is divided by month (Sept-May). And finally, within each month the instruction is further divided into 4 weekly lessons. A scope and sequence table is provided for each grade level to make quick work of getting an overview of monthly activities. Each weekly lesson begins with a theme objective and theme scripture. New vocabulary is introduced, any necessary teacher preparation is listed, lesson focus is reviewed, and a project material list is provided as well as step-by-step activity instructions. Art history is presented for certain lessons with suggested images (paintings, photographs, drawings) to acquire from other sources (such as the library or the Internet).

My final verdict: This Biblically based art program to teach from home is a delightful find! I can see how this comprehensive curriculum might be a little intimidating at first glance because it is so thorough, but do not be discouraged! After a few days of familiarizing myself with the provided materials I could teach the lessons with confidence. I did find it necessary to print out a lot of the material on the CD-ROM (I prefer to page through paper rather than read from a computer screen) but found it very worth having a hard copy (for those not wishing to put their printer and ink cartridges through the works, Diane has made a B&W, 3-ring bound hard copy available for purchase). Spears Art Studio covers a wide and interesting variety of projects using readily obtained materials: self-portrait, sewing cards, still life, collage, and weaving, and I am thrilled that the author of this program supports the idea of using art in all its forms to honor God.
It is a great course to use to give your children a discerning eye when making or evaluating art. Diane writes, "...high standards in art require three criteria: excellence in the execution of the art principles, excellence in the use of the materials, and excellence in the expression of a morally acceptable idea." I agree and wish for my children to develop all three skills. I believe Spears Art Studio K-8 Art Curriculum to be a worthy component for our family's homeschool, and I am so glad to have it!
For $39.95 (that includes shipping!) it's a tremendous deal as you get all the curriculum you'll need to teach art well into junior high. See an overview of the K-8 art themes listed by week, and be sure to check out the Spears Art Studio website where Diane has posted free art lessons from the K-8 course. Other products are available including a high school art curriculum, a calligraphy course, and a variety of children's literature comprehension guides.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Book review: The American Twins of the Revolution

It is September 1777. General George Washington and his war-weary troops, located just north of Philadelphia, are in desperate need of supplies, food, and money. Unfortunately the British are aware of the Continental Army's plight and are determined to bring them to their demise. Lucy Fitch Perkins' book, The American Twins of the Revolution is based on a TRUE story of danger, hardship, and heroism during the Revolutionary days.

My final verdict: This is a thrilling book! It has spies and soldiers. It has treasure and bribery. It has threats and honor. It has escapes and arson and determination and bravery. The twins, Sally and Roger Priestly, are of the author's creation, but General and Mrs. Priestly are real-life characters. The underlying story is very much true (the author's preface gives a nice explanation) and knowing so makes the account even more wonderful to ponder as you read through it. The cover recommends this book for ages 10-adult, but my 5-year-old daughter and I enjoyed the entire, exciting story together. It was hard to read just one or two chapters at a time, and I was sorry to see it end. Some parts are written in a slave English dialect and take a couple tries at getting the pronunciation and meaning correct, but it is well worth it to really get a genuine feel for the characters and time period in American history. This story touches on both good and bad realities of this fallen world, past and present, and provides opportunity to discuss those topics in both a historical and moral context. Excellent book--I highly recommend it! The American Twins of the Revolution can be purchased from Salem Ridge Press in both hard and softcover. Read the entire first chapter of The American Twins of the Revolution.