Thursday, June 4, 2020

ARTistic Pursuits High School art program -- my REVIEW

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

I'll be the first to admit that I am not very art-y. I love art, I appreciate art, I do like creating art, but I am not really one for great historical art appreciation and I feel that I am greatly lacking in traditional art skill expressions (like drawing, painting, etc). Second to that, my children are in high school, and with art not "required" for our high school curricula (we DO include music, don't get crazy on me!), it tends to fall a bit back burner when compared to science and math. I have had the opportunity to review and use in our homeschool programs a few art curricula lately, and this latest one, ARTistic Pursuits High School 9-12 Book One, The Elements of Art and Composition really appeals to us. It is a spiral bound book from Artistic Pursuits Inc. that students can work through, with the schedule of one lesson (broken into two one-hour lessons for high schoolers) per week.

The lessons include technique and discussions of different elements of art and how they make a more effective piece of art or more clear communication of what the artist wishes to communicate. There are historical/fine arts type examples and explanations of different techniques, how they fit into art-historical contexts, different artists who use/used different styles, and more. Each lesson gives the student an assignment to allow them to practice one of the skills or techniques which is being taught in the lesson. There are quotes which enhance the student's art experiences. It's quite easy to read and interesting! Often there is a "student gallery" example of a student's art work which goes along with the lesson.

The student gallery is nice, as it is great to see
what other students have drawn, a
nd makes the creating of the student's own art
a little less intimidating! :) 

The lessons are written very clearly and the illustrations enhance the narrative.

Okay, so I already told you up top that we like this art program :) I'm going to give you some reasons for that statement! My 15 year old daughter was the student to use this program in our family. The very first thing that stood out to her was that she was treated as a high schooler. Many art programs begin by addressing the student as if they have never taken an art course before, or even never held a pencil before! Now, we are not artists here, but that does tend to annoy a bit :) So this program was a hit from the start!

The student is making drawings all along, using the different techniques which are taught in each lesson. We really liked the focus on the light and dark lines and using those to draw different parts of a picture. The students had opportunities to draw things from around the house as well as to illustrate things.
obviously...scissors :) 

Illustration of the "St. George and the Dragon" story

There are great tips and quotes and little information bits throughout each lesson, from seemingly-obvious reminders like don't let your pencils fall, it will break the graphite; to detailed objectives, such as this one in the texture chapter, "Objectives: to understand firsthand how experiencing an object allows the artist to know it in deeper, non-visual ways. The student should notice details beyond what was formerly noticed."

The photo on the left is the one she used
to create this awesome drawing!

Okay, so I've been saving for last my daughter's most proud accomplishment thus far. There are several lessons which have the student draw a face. I'm guessing that you have said before, as she said also, "I just can't draw faces!" Well...she followed along and drew a picture of her great-grandfather from a picture--and later that day she showed it to her dad, without telling him who it is, and asked him who he thought it looked like, and he said, right away, "That's my grandpa!" So that was pretty gratifying for her and encouraging her to do more art with this great high school art program book from Artistic Pursuits. They actually have many other art courses, not just this high school one, and there are other reviews from different levels of the course linked to the graphic below. I'd recommend you click on the graphic and check out some other reviews of this course and think about using it in your homeschool for next year!

Art Through The Ages & Art for Children {Artistic Pursuits Inc. Reviews}

Salad twist -- Tzatziki easy recipe

Yummmm my new thing is eating salad but instead of salad dressing  putting tzatziki on it! I'm not sure if it's any healthier but is definitely delicious!!!!!  My homemade tzatziki is probably not like any authentic stuff or anything,  maybe I should just call it tzatziki inspired :) Here's my recipe...chop up a cucumber pretty finely in the food processor and then drain out the liquid pretty good; add a cup or cup and a half of plain Greek yogurt,  add a lot of minced garlic (like 2 Tbsp? ), and a little salt and pepper. Blend it so it's not quite smooth. And that's it!!!! So delicious.

Thursday, May 21, 2020 and 19 gifts!! Good deal for this month!

Are you thinking about getting a membership to ? Do you even know what it is? Check it out--it's a collection of a huge amount of classes for homeschooling families to use--plus a lot of extras, such as RightNow video, Brittanica, and more! You can see some of my past reviews for this site if you click on these links: (2017, 2018, 2018b, 2019, 2020). We have used this resource in many different ways in middle school and high school years, mostly for electives, though there are vastly more courses than we have utilized!

Right now there is a special running called 19 Gifts which will allow new members to not only purchase their annual subscription but also to receive nineteen additional gifts (all 19!) You can see the details by checking out . Quite a value!

Looking through the free gifts, there are several that are of interest to our family! First of all, the pocket chess set :) This past year my family learned how to play chess and my 15 year old is quite good at it--she beats me most times and I learned to play years and years ago. A small portable chess set would definitely be used by her (and the rest of us, I suspect).

I also am very interested to check out the note-taking course by Sharon Watson (Writing with Sharon Watson: Teach Your Child to Take Notes eBook). My kids could definitely use some work in the notetaking arena, and I find it hard to know how to give tips on that, as notetaking feels like a personal style thing for me. I think that this eBook will help them develop their personal note taking skills. 

There's also an interactive Bible study game on 1 Timothy that I'm sure my daughters and son and I would like to try out as well.

Okay, so basically there are bunches of great freebies that you will get if you sign up for a new ultimate annual membership! Head over to to check it out! :) This is good until June 1, so don't put it off! :)

A little logarithm tip

Are you teaching about logarithms today (or maybe learning about them)? I want to share with you a little tip that helps me with understanding logarithm problems and hopefully it will help you as well!

So basically a logarithm is kind of a reverse exponent, right? 

If you begin a logarithm lesson or problem by writing the following equation down, it will help you remember what is what:

Okay, so what does this mean for us? Well, log base 10 of 100 equals 2. We know that 10^2=100, so this will help us remember our pattern.

Let's try a problem using this pattern! Say you are solving for x and the equation is log x = 4 (remember that when there's no little number subscript below the log, the base is 10). Follow the pattern for an easy solution!

Okay, so how about natural log? The same! Just remember that natural log is a special way of saying log base e rather than a number. Go ahead and change it if it helps you to not get confused :) 

So given the problem ln x = .0144, you can just switch it to log base 3 and follow the pattern for a quick solution! :) 

There's my math tip for the day! Give it a try when you're teaching or working with logarithms and it should help you find the solution with less confusion.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

First Form Latin complete set by Memoria Press -- my REVIEW

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

When I hear the name Memoria Press, I automatically equate that with high-quality, easy to use curriculum for homeschoolers. I have reviewed several of their products before and I have purchased even more of their products personally for our homeschool--enough so that my kids are definitely fans of Memoria. The most recent product that I have the opportunity to tell you about is First Form Latin Complete Set, a rigorous Latin curriculum which (spoiler alert!) I would recommend if you want to teach Latin in your homeschool or co-op. 

Boom. Done. Recommended.

Haha, just teasing, of course I will tell you about the product and why it is that I recommend it! :) 

Are you a homeschooling family who values learning Latin? If so, this product is a really nice curriculum to use with your student or students. It can very easily be used with a group of students.

I was VERY intimidated to get this product for review, firstly because I do not know Latin (beyond what I know for scientific names of things in biological contexts) and secondly because I had heard about the conjugations and that seemed crazy difficult to me :) 

When I first got my set of the First Form Latin books and resources (DVDs, CDs, and flashcards) I opened the teacher's guide right up and began reading--and became even more intimidated!! :) The guide lays out how a lesson and a week of Latin ought to look. This included things such as recitation, review, Latin sayings, the actual "lesson", workbook pages, vocabulary, grammar, etc. I thought, how can I ever do this if I don't even know Latin? 

Well, I started right in and got going in the student text and the workbook. Hmmm, it started to seem a little more do-able to me. I worked through the workbook exercises for lesson one and noticed that it actually started to make sense to me. But how could I teach it, being so inexperienced myself? I remembered the CD and popped it into my computer to see what that was all about and it is the pronunciations of the words in the lesson! Excellent! That's a great help and can be listened to over and over (reading plus listening makes the learning easier). 

And THEN I had my moment of inspiration!!! :) Well, it probably was an obvious thing that I should have begun with, but there are instructional DVDs! :) Hmmm, well, let's check those out!

Ahhhhh!!! :) (cue the angels singing Hallelujah!) The DVDs are an actual teacher teaching the Latin class! From the first part of the lesson (hello students, hello teacher -- in Latin) through the lesson (explaining about each of the sections that the lesson covers--the grammar, the conjugations, the new vocabulary words, how they are used, etc.), the reviews at the beginning of the lesson, everything! :) There are also the drill lessons, for practicing the translations of Latin to English and English to Latin! Hooray!! 

The teacher goes through the drill selections with the student, translating between English and Latin.

And the teacher is so upbeat and calming and kind-sounding!

Memoria fans will recognize the setup of having a student text as well as a workbook. The student text introduces the material to the student, with two facing pages per lesson (and some review lessons as well).

The student workbook is spiral bound (which makes it so much easier to write in!) and is filled with all kinds of exercises for the student to do to help in their learning/retention of the material. 

It might seem like a lot of writing work, but the course is set up to complete one lesson per week, so there's definitely plenty of, by writing the material, the student will learn so much more thoroughly as they experience the information not only verbally or audibly, but also through writing it.  That is one of the things I really love about this approach to learning Latin--the way that it incorporates all sorts of learning styles and methods into a student learning the Latin language. 

There is even a set of already-made flashcards for the student to practice vocabulary, phrases, and more. 

Oh, there is a phrase per lesson that the student learns, as well, which is pretty cool. It is so easy to learn phrases that you hear over and over again...and it will expand the student's vocabulary without them even noticing (for instance, how many of us non-Latin knowing folks know what Veni, vidi, vici means, even if we don't know Latin?!) :) The drill/memorization/repetition of the different forms of the words is super helpful as well--I didn't know if it would be annoying :) But it is actually really helpful! The first set you learn helps you to remember all of the endings that you need for the other base verbs!

Grammar is covered, which will help a student with English grammar as well. A little bit of geography and history are thrown in, as well as some Latin roots of English words. This is a very thorough curriculum, so easy to use for the parent/teacher. 

I definitely recommend this curriculum to homeschooling parents who would like their students to learn Latin. If you are intimidated by the thought of teaching a classical language that you do not know, the First Form Latin Complete Set is the curriculum for you! It hits all of the learning styles and will reinforce with review and drill. It is well-written and the DVD lessons are well-made. It is not babyish at all, yet not too advanced to use with a younger audience. I think it would be great for families with multiple students to use concurrently. The tests/quizzes and instructional lessons are also downloadable, which adds to the ease of use.  

If you would like to read more reviews of this product by other homeschooling parents, please click on the link below! There are a few other products that reviewers will tell you about as well, including the sets for Prima Latina, Latina Christiana, Second Form Latin, Third Form Latin, and Fourth Form Latin. Click the link below and you will be able to read all about them!

Prima to Fourth Form Latin Complete Sets {Memoria Press Reviews}

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

No-Nonsense Algebra -- my REVIEW

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

Okay, so let me begin this review by saying that I LOVE algebra :). You can basically make sense of the world using algebra. I understand that this is an unpopular view, but's amazingly powerful.  Anyhow, I had the opportunity to review a math program through Math Essentials called No-Nonsense Algebra. My kids are beyond basic algebra by this point, but I do tutor in algebra and have seen a wide variety of algebra curricula and definitely have opinions on them!

The No-Nonsense Algebra program consists of both a physical book/workbook and video lessons which are available online.  The book is non-intimidating in its size and font size and has 10 chapters and 95 lessons. The lessons are grouped into thematic chapters (like polynomials, rational expressions, etc.) and there are video lessons that teach the student the information in almost every lesson.  

Each lesson has a small review section of problems, and at the end of each chapter there is a review of the concepts in the chapter which includes problem types from each of the lessons in the chapter. There are also little helpful insets interspersed between chapters (I especially liked the one entitled, "What about the problems I get wrong?" which encourages students to be careful and figure out how to look for mistakes--and then how to learn the material better if the topic was not fully understood.)

Each lesson is two pages -- introduction to the topic, helpful hints for solving that type of problem, and examples.

I really appreciate this note about examples that the author put into the introduction:

I agree that it is so important to write down the problem and physically work through it guided by the example explanation -- then jumping into the actual problems is much more familiar. 

There are around twenty problems per lesson, which is pretty short. Lessons focus on one skill with a few review questions at the end. I think that the book is written with the thought that the student will work the problems in the book, but I would recommend doing the problems on other paper, because although there is room to work the problems on the book page, often the student needs extra space to work the problem (at least in the way that I teach it--writing out every step as you go). 

The video lessons that go along with each of the lessons (most of them) are available online and they are great explanations of the concepts that are covered in each lesson. The lecturer uses a board as well to write out the problems as he talks through them. It is very helpful for the student to view in addition to reading the introduction to the lesson in the book.

I feel like the range of topics that are covered are appropriate for a first-level algebra course. I do prefer a bit more review and the one thing that I did not really like was that word problems are not covered until the end of the book, in the last chapter. Doing algebra for math's sake is good enough for some students, but other students like to see the application of the concepts right away...and I do believe that using the concepts in a word problem type setting throughout the course makes it more natural to be able to translate word problems into math equations.

The answers to the problems are in the back of the book, so you can check your answers.

I like this book, this teaching style. It's clear, clean, concise, and the videos enhance the learning process. I think that a parent who does not feel strong in algebra could utilize this well to teach their students algebra. I believe I will use this book with one of my tutoring students and will recommend it to others as a starting algebra book. I do think that the postponement of word problems is not really doing any favors, and would recommend adding them in throughout the course. But all in all, this is a quality math instruction course.

If you'd like to read other people's thoughts on this book, please check them out here.  This same company ( Math Essentials)  has several other products that our group is reviewing. Last year I reviewed one of them ( Math Refresher for Adults) . If you click on the graphic below, you can read other folks' reviews on the No-Nonsense Algebra as well as the Math Refresher for Adults and Mastering Essential Math Skills Book 2 Middle Grades/High School. 

No-Nonsense Algebra, Math Refresher for Adults &  Mastering Essential Math Skills Book 2 Middle Grades/High School {Math Essentials Reviews}

Beyond the Stick Figure Art School (online) -- my REVIEW

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

Online courses are very helpful, especially if you live in a rural area, have limited transportation, would like the option of many many courses, and multiple other reasons. We had the opportunity to try out an online art program called Beyond the Stick Figure Art School  which on its website is promoted as an art program which can be used by an entire family (ages 5-95). My 15 year old daughter worked with this course, which I will tell you about! :)

The Beyond the Stick Figure Art School is an online purchase, meaning that when you purchase it, it is available for use by your family for all time. The topics covered include drawing courses (three different levels) as well as pen and ink drawing lessons, watercolor lessons, acrylic lessons, and 3-D design lessons.

The lessons are in a video format, with the lesson on a video and worksheets for the student
to download and utilize. The student listens and follows along with the instructor. The course is intended to be very independent (does not need a lot of direct parent support) for the student to complete. The lessons are in a row, meaning that the student must complete the first lesson in order to go on to the next lesson. The teacher is very clear about what supplies are needed and which types in particular she would like the students to purchase and use. 

The lessons begin with very basic things like drawing lines, curves, circles, and more. They progress into different manifestations of these lines, with students practicing these multiple times. 

Students also color in shapes/patterns with markers, along with the teacher and then finish by themselves. 

The seemingly random shapes that the students practice drawing and coloring will come together to form a completed picture, sort of like if you were to take a picture and draw a grid over it and then draw a blank grid and then copy it section by section. 

After the drawing section, there are courses on pen and ink drawings--learning techniques and then tracing a picture, transferring it onto art paper, then drawing on it using the traced lines and enhancing it with watercolor. The watercolor lessons go beyond the watercolor used in the pen and ink and allow the student to learn to use watercolor more thoroughly.

There are also sections in acrylic painting and 3D art, but we did not get to those.
The lessons have a rubric which allows the student to self-reflect and gauge their participation and progress (which is a neat thing). thoughts. I did not care for this art course, nor did my daughter. It was very basic and quite tedious. For a 15-year old to spend lesson after lesson drawing curves or tracing shapes and then coloring in with markers was not what we were looking for in an art course. The videos are very clear, but very slow and the videos are made in a way that you cannot increase the speed to watch at an accelerated pace...and the sound quality was very quiet (we tried on different devices and could not get the sound loud enough -- though if you are using it with headphones it is fine.) A student may not skip ahead, even to see what is coming next, unless they click the "mark as complete" button -- which for sticklers like me is an issue (marking something as complete when I haven't actually completed it-- yup, I'm weird that way!), so this made it difficult to even try out some of the later sections of the course ((to clarify -- we DID use this skip method, even though it felt wrong to me haha)) so we were able to go beyond where my daughter balked at drawing yet another abstract shape and coloring it again and again and again to see what was further on in the course. 

Perhaps a younger student would like this more. It is definitely easy to use, the expectations within each lesson are very clear, and there are a lot of lessons! The self-reflection rubric is also a really neat tool to incorporate into the curriculum at different places.  However, I really cannot in clear conscience recommend this course. 

There are many people who DID like this course, and to be fair, you really should check out their reviews! I am quick to tell you that I am often not on the same "wavelength" as other homeschoolers...and you may like to read these reviews in addition to mine. Please click on the graphic below to read more reviews on this Beyond the Stick Figure Art School

Beyond the Stick Figure Complete Drawing Course {Beyond the Stick Figure Art School}