Wednesday, March 23, 2011

PTI Make It Monday Challenge

It’s time for a crafty post. It has been a very long time since I participated in any kind of crafty challenge and I’ve missed the fun! This card is part of my Mom’s birthday gift (Shh! I haven’t given it to her yet!) but it also fits the Papertrey Ink Make It Monday challenge perfectly.

This is PaperTrey Ink's 7th Make It Monday: Adding Color to Non-Neutral Cardstock.

This flower is from PTI’s Flower of the Month: Violets stamp set. It may be a Violet stamp, but I really think it looks like a Pansy too. And, since I love Pansies, my card features a Violet turned Pansy. I paper pieced the violet and leaves using two different PTI papers and one paper I had in my stash, but they were just a little too plain, so I following the suggestion in the Make It Monday video – I shaded them a little using my copics.


TOS Review - ARTistic Pursuits

PhotobucketARTistic Pursuits curriculum is written by Brenda Ellis, homeschooling mom and artist. She has written the books to be used independently from 4th grade on. (The K-3 books do require a parent’s help.) At the 4-6 grade, 7-9 grade, and 10-12 grade levels there are two books: Book One is Elements of Art and Composition, Book Two is Color and Composition. I received ARTistic Pursuits, Grades 4-6, Book Two to review. I allowed Maggie free rein of this book for the review period, since she is in the grade range.


I have only one complaint about ARTistic Pursuits, so before I gush on and on about its attributes, I will throw out the one little irritant I found. Maggie and I both had a hard time deciding where a lesson began and ended and what exactly the assignment was. Honestly this wasn’t a big deal once we got familiar with the way the book works – once we got used to the layout, we were fine.

Now that that is out of the way, let me tell you a little about how Book two is laid out. There are 16 units in the book, each divided into 4 lessons.

color wheel

One of Maggie's observation sketches.

Lesson One in each unit introduces art vocabulary. In our book, vocabulary included primary and secondary colors, Point of View, direction and movement. These were very interesting lessons with examples of the vocabulary terms. In addition to learning the vocabulary, the student is encouraged to creatively observe and record something in their world. Maggie found this part to be quite fun. I bought her a sketch book and she spent a lot of time outside watching and sketching birds, and our cat and dog.

color in art

Lesson Two was an Art Appreciation lesson. What that means is there is actually a piece of art pictured on the page with a discussion, related to the current unit, about the art. Here is where I would normally struggle – but Brenda Ellis understands that not all of us can look at art and identify colors or lines or point of view, so she has included what I fondly call a ‘cheat sheet’ for the student. Just below the artwork is a sketch with the colors shaded in, or lines drawn to show movement, or photos of the details. I can see exactly what she is describing in the lesson because of these cheat sheets. Included in this lesson as well is some Art History – with information about an artist or period in art.

how to use watercolor pencils

Maggie loved the Watercolor Pencil techniques!

Lesson Three is a technique lesson. Here is where the student learns the tricks of the trade. ARTistic Pursuits explains how to properly use a brush, or mix colors, or arrange a still life. Each technique lesson has an assignment that uses the technique taught.

final project page

Lesson Four combines all of the other lessons into an assignment as a final project is created to apply each thing learned in the unit.

My favorite thing about this curriculum is its lack of specific directions. There is not a lesson that requires you to draw a shoe or a horse or a flower, instead you are given an assignment and allowed to choose your own subject. I found it fun to see what Maggie chose to draw as compared to my ideas when reading the same assignment. She felt more successful applying the techniques when she was able to follow her own interests.

ARTistic Pursuits books include a list of art supplies needed to complete the program. If you like the convenience of one stop shopping, they have assembled Art Supply Packs for each book and even offer links to two other discount art supply stores that offer supply bundles that correlate with ARTistic Pursuits books. We opted to go to our local store and found all of the recommended art supplies quite easily. We bought the recommended brands and are very pleased with the quality of art supplies.

Each ARTistic Pursuits book can be used as a one year, two year, or even one semester curriculum. They are non-consumable and you can use them with children of multiple ages. Even as an adult I learned a lot from the art appreciation and history topics. The Grade 4-6, Book Two Color and Composition text is available on the ARTistic Pursuits website for $42.95.

Click here to see what other TOS Crew members thought about ARTistic Pursuits. Members reviewed various grade level books.


**Any products reviewed by me as a member of the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family. I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

Monday, March 21, 2011

TOS Review - Brill Kids Little Reader Storybooks - Aesop's Fables Volume 1


In October, I shared my opinion of Brill Kids Little Reader Learning System (Click here for that post). Today's product is a set of storybooks designed to be used in conjunction with the Little Reader Learning System. Brill Kids Little Reader Storybooks have a simple, but oh so effective format to encourage your child to focus on the words as opposed to the pictures in a book.


I received the Aesop's Fables, Volume 1 to review with my children. This set includes 5 softbound books: The Lion and the Mouse, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, The Fox and the Grapes, The Turtle and The Rabbit, and The Fox and The Crow.

When FRitW and I are reading together, I have noticed that he does not pay any attention to the words, but focuses on the pictures. Often there are a few words he can read, but I have to redirect his attention for him to notice the words and read those he knows. These books are designed for this exact circumstance. I guess that means that I am not the only mom who has experienced this problem!

BrillKids Little Reader Storybooks have words on the left hand page and a picture on the right hand page. There is a flap built into the book to cover the picture as the words are read. Then the parent uncovers the picture, turns the page and replaces the flap while the words are read. I love the way this works. Since the book is designed to be used this way, the boys didn't seem to be bothered by the flap like they might be if I just used a piece of paper to cover the pictures in another book.


Although I definitely like the concept of these books, there were a couple of things that bothered me:
  • Some of the stories were modified enough to interfere with the 'lesson' that all Aesop's fables include. For example, in The Boy Who Cried Wolf - the boys cries wolf only once, then the actual wolf comes and nobody helps him.
  • Even with the modifications they included many words beyond the scope of the typical learning to read child. ( a few examples: quite, cunning, realizes)
A particularly impressive part of these books is that you may download and import an electronic version into your Brill Kids Little Reader Program and your children may have the story read to them. The pictures and words match the physical readers, but there is some animation and an arrow points to the word being read. When using the electronic version, you may choose to have the color and font of the text different with each reading. Also, there are 3-4 different voices that rotate through the story and the text is shown alone, then repeated with the illustration visible (in a different voice).

I really like the ability to use the books both physically and on the computer. FRitW and MT  enjoyed the books and asked to read them again and again.

Aesop's Fables, Volume 1 is available for the introductory price of $37.50, normally $50.00. Honestly, I felt that this price was a bit steep for 5 softbound readers, but they are well made, sturdy books, and you are able to use them in conjunction with Little Reader if you have it.

Click here to see what other TOS Homeschool Crew members thought about Brill Kids Aesop's Fables.

**Any products reviewed by me as a member of the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family. I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.