Monday, March 25, 2013

2013-2014 School Planning

Here is my annual plan for the upcoming school year for the kids.  I’m so late with my planning and preparations this year…gotta get my ordering, copying, binding, and scheduling underway ASAP!  We will be starting our new school year on June 17th, and I’m terrified of screwing Hayden’s first year of high school!

HAYDEN, Ages 13-14, Grade 9

HISTORY/GEOGRAPHY * Sonlight History 220
* Switched on Schoolhouse:  Virginia History
* Star-Spangled States Book & Workbook
BIBLE * Sonlight Doctrinal Studies 210
MATH * Saxon:  Algebra I (with integrated Geometry) with Saxon
   Teacher DVD’s
LANGUAGE ARTS * Sonlight Classic Literature 230
* Essentials in Writing:  Grade 9
* Wordly Wise 3000:  Book 10 Online
* Analogies 2
* Tell Me More:  Spanish Level 1
SCIENCE * Sonlight Science 250 (Apologia Biology w/Sonlight Ultra
   Microscope and Specimens for Dissection)
MUSIC * Adventus:  MusIQ HomeSchool
OTHER * Beginning Microsoft Small BASIC Programming


HAYLEE, ages 8-9, Grade 4

* McGraw-Hill: Our Country’s Regions 4
BIBLE * Sonlight Bible E
MATH * Saxon:  Math 6/5
LANGUAGE ARTS * McGraw-Hill:  Language Arts 4
* Wordly Wise 3000:  Book 5 Online
* A Reason for Handwriting E
* Houghton Mifflin:  Spelling & Vocabulary 5
* Spanish (TBD…maybe Spanish for You)
SCIENCE * Sonlight Science E
* McGraw-Hill:  Science 4
HEALTH * McGraw-Hill:  Health 4
MUSIC * The New Nine-Note Recorder Method
* Adventus:  MusIQ HomeSchool
ART * Abeka Art A
* ARTistic Pursuits:  Early Elementary Book One


HOLDEN, Ages 5-6, Grade K

BIBLE * Sonlight Bible A
MATH * Saxon:  Math 1
LANGUAGE ARTS * Saxon:  Phonics 1
* Sonlight Grade 1 Readers
* McGraw-Hill:  Language Arts K
* A Reason for Handwriting A
* Explode the Code:  Books 1-3
* Houghton Mifflin:  Spelling & Vocabulary 1
SCIENCE * Sonlight Science A
HEALTH * Harcourt Health & Fitness K
MUSIC * Silver Burdett:  Music K
ART * Abeka:  Art Projects K


That’s my plan so far!  I’m getting ready to make my big Sonlight order on April 1st when the new catalog goes live.  This will be our most expensive Sonlight order ever.  That’s because Hayden’s Biology program is so expensive.  We’ll be ordering the Sonlight Ultra Microscope and the specimens for dissection since he has to have 3 science labs for graduation in VA.  The microscope alone is over $200, but at least I’ll be able to use it for all three kids over time.  I’m tempted to spring for the digital eyepiece, as well.  It would be cool for all of us to be able to view the slides at one time on the computer screen.  I’ll have to discuss that with Steve and see if it’s worth the extra money.

I’ve dropped the extra science and social studies supplements for Hayden for 9th grade.  I decided he should have plenty of time to focus on doing his core subjects very well.  I am considering adding in some extra grammar practice for him.  He still doesn’t write that well, and I think the extra practice would help him as he works on developing his writing skills this year.  I will probably add the McGraw-Hill Language Arts workbook for 9th grade.  I can’t print it for free online, and he can just use that.  There is some integrated grammar in Essentials in Writing, but I think he needs more practice than just that.

I’ll edit this post as necessary, but I think I’m really close to having this plan finalized.  Yay!  If I get time, I’ll also try to come back and add hyperlinks to the products on the list.  Wish us luck!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

REVIEW: MusIQ HomeSchool by Adventus



My family was recently blessed with the wonderful opportunity to review the MusIQ HomeSchool program by Adventus.



Adventus is a multi-level music and piano education program you can use at home, and MusIQ HomeSchool was designed specifically for homeschoolers with levels to accommodate ages 4-18!

Here’s a quick summary of the levels in this program:

  • Children’s Music Journey 1, the recommended starting point for ages 4-6
  • Children’s Music Journey 2, the recommended starting point for ages 7-9
  • Children’s Music Journey 3, the last of the beginner levels
  • Piano Suite Premier, the recommended starting point for ages 10 and up and begun in year 1 of the multi-level program
  • Ear Training Coach 1 & 2, to be completed in year 2 after PSP is completed
  • Ear Training Coach 3 & 4, to be completed in year 3
  • MusIQ Challenger Game, to be completed in year 4

The use of a MIDI keyboard is required to use MusIQ HomeSchool.  If you don’t already own one, you can purchase the recommended M-Audio KeyRig 49 directly from Adventus for $114.95. 

What do I need at my desk?This 7-year program for homeschools incorporates 20+ levels of instruction for beginner to advanced intermediate piano students.  You can buy each program outright, but if you have children of multiple levels, your most affordable option is to do a monthly subscription of $10.95/month.  This requires an internet connection.  It also entitles you to a discount on the purchase of the recommended keyboard.  Lesson plans are not included with the monthly subscription option, but each year of lesson plans can be purchased separately for $29.95 in the Early Curriculum Store.

If, however, you wish to purchase the software outright, you can get Children’s Music Journey 1-3 in a bundle for $309.95.  Or purchase just a single year…CMJ 1, 2, OR 3…for $89.95 each.  In a special BONUS OFFER, you can purchase CMJ 1-3 plus the KeyRig 49 MIDI keyboard for just $279.80.

The multi-level program begins with Piano Suite Premier.  You can purchase Year 1 as outlined above for $109.95, Year 2 for $59.95, Year 3 for $59.95, Year 4 for $69.95, each with lesson plans included for that single year. 

Or you can purchase the Complete MusIQ School Bundle (CMJ 1-3, Beginner Level 1 Lesson Plans, PSP, Ear Training Coach 1-4, Level 1 Lesson Plans, and the KeyRig 49 keyboard) for $489.95.

There are a number of purchasing combinations available on the website, so if you are interested in purchasing this program, take some time to explore the various package offers to determine which one best suits your needs.



I received the subscription access to all 7 levels of this program along with the lesson plans to examine for this review.  I have 3 children ages 5, 8, and 13.  All of them tried out the program at their own level, but I focused mainly on my daughter, age 8, for the duration of the review period because she has the most interest in music.  So I’ll mainly be discussing her experiences with the program.

Based solely on the recommended age, Haylee would have begun using Children’s DSCF0310Music Journey 2 right from the start.  But after looking at the lessons and discussing her background with a helpful representative at Adventus, we determined that she’d probably benefit most by starting with CMJ 1 and going at her own pace.  This is because she has had no formal music or piano instruction prior to this experience. 

Now that we’ve been using the program for a few weeks, I can see that CMJ 1 really was the best starting point for her.  It gives her exposure to 25 weekly lessons taught by Beethoven, Bach, Joplin, Mendelssohn, and Villa-Lobos.  She has been able to learn how to read music and find the appropriate keys on the keyboard.  She also had an opportunity to practice regularly in Miss Melody’s Practice Room and try out composing her own music and experimenting with different beats in the Improv Room.

I was really impressed with the lesson plans that were provided.  It gives you, the homeschool teacher, a detailed play-by-play of where to direct your child within the areas of the software program, what to discuss to measure understanding, and which worksheets to have the child complete.  It also recommends when to supplement the learning with your own classical music collection to expand the lessons.  I happen to own an extensive collection of classical music, which is my favorite genre of music, so it was especially fun for me to be able to pick out appropriate selections to share with my daughter that tied in with her lessons.  I noticed that Haylee began to recognize pieces on the classical radio station that she had heard in her MusIQ School lessons.  I was thrilled about that!

A typical “session” included:

  • a brief review discussion of what we’d covered recently
  • some time spent using the CMJ software lessons (usually 1 or 2 lessons per session)
  • some practical application in the software’s Practice Room
  • some fun time playing the software’s games (which are unlocked gradually as the student progresses through the lessons)
  • a brief discussion of the music history covered in the lesson (sometimes augmented by an information sheet on the composer)
  • occasionally some time spent practicing rhythm
  • a few minutes of play in the Improv Room in the software, and sometimes the Library
  • the concluding time spent reviewing the lesson with the Practice Sheet and doing the assigned worksheet(s)

DSCF0311We kept to the recommended pace of weekly sessions, but I can definitely see Haylee’s interest is in doing more than one session per week.  Since she is older than the recommended age for starting with CMJ 1, she can freely go at her own pace without risk of getting ahead of herself.  I plan to let her continue doing just that.  Using the program has been a real motivator for her!  She begs to work with it, and she wants to complete her other school work in a timely manner when the promise of extra practice time hangs in the balance! 

We used the recommended keyboard with the program and had no problems with the initial setup.  It was very simple and got us up and running pretty quickly.  It’s very easy to use and connects to my laptop computer with the included USB cord.  I loved that the notes were labeled above the keys to help her effectively learn the keys.

Haylee really enjoyed the animated composers who taught her the lessons.  I think this approach is just right for kids.  When Beethoven brought out his giant earpiece to help him hear, she began DSCF0312to laugh, and it immediately got her interested in learning more about this funny composer.  She learned memorable facts about the composers and the types of music they wrote, how many beats the notes represented, and the proper hand and finger positioning for playing the piano.  I loved the enthusiasm this program generated in her!  And being a worksheet-kind-of-girl, she enjoyed doing those, too.  I had a sense that this program was all-encompassing, covering so many aspects of music instruction in one convenient package.  I could definitely see us continuing to use such a wonderful product.  It has already brought her so many hours of happiness while learning at the same time!

Now I just want to touch base briefly on the limited experience the rest of us had in using the product.  I personally spent many hours in Piano Suite Premier for my own enjoyment.  I did not use the lesson plans for my own use, but strictly practiced using the software’s lessons and practice areas.  I was astounded at the sheer number of pieces available for me to practice playing!  I’m totally addicted!  I never had formal music instruction, but my family owned an organ when I was growing up, and I taught myself to play.  So I’m greatly looking forward to using Piano Suite to hone my skills and correct my bad habits so I can learn to play properly!

My 5-year old son briefly used CMJ 1.  He really enjoyed it, too.  He needed me nearby to help him navigate his way through the program, unlike his sister who could make her way through it independently, but he really had fun, and he asked to play again several times.  His sister, though, dominated use of the keyboard, so he hasn’t gotten his turn as often as he would have liked! 

My 13-year old son also used Piano Suite Premier, but having had no formal music instruction, he felt a little discouraged at his lack of understanding.  It just seemed to move a bit too quickly for him.  After this experience and some discussion with a kind representative at Adventus (they’re very nice and so helpful!), we determined he’d be better served by backing up and starting in CMJ 2 at an accelerated pace, continuing through CMJ 3, and finally coming back to Piano Suite Premier when he has gained a stronger overall knowledge and skills base.  We’re all set to sort of “start over” with him now, and I’m busy printing up the materials for CMJ 2 so he can begin again.  I have a strong suspicion that he will find it to be a lot of fun, and it will certainly help build his confidence before coming back to PSP.

So as you can see, if you have kids of different ages and skill levels, you can really benefit by taking advantage of the monthly subscription so you can have access to all the levels at one time with the freedom to regroup and start in a new place when necessary and already have the levels you need in order to do that.  If you really want to purchase the program on CD-ROM, then you might find it beneficial to at least do the monthly subscription for the first month so you can figure out what levels are right for your kids before making your final purchase.  But however you decide to do it, you also have the benefit of a 30-day guarantee.  Just do it!  You won’t regret bringing this kind of fun learning into your homeschool!

Check out what other Crew members thought of this program by clicking the banner below.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

REVIEW: Essentials in Writing for Grade 9 by Essentials in Writing

I had an opportunity to review the Essentials in Writing – Grade 9 program from Essentials in Writing with my 13-year old son, Hayden.  He is just about to begin 9th grade, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to see if this writing program would be a good fit for him.



Essentials in Writing offers a whole series of writing course DVD’s and .pdf files of student workbooks for grades 1 through 12.  In addition, they will soon offer two additional high school writing elective courses in creative and technical writing.

The goal of these courses, taught in video format on the DVD’s by former middle school teacher, Matthew Stephens, is to instill a sense of confidence in your students’ writing abilities and to help them enjoy studying language arts.

Each course includes both grammar and writing components and is considered a complete language arts program.  Each type of writing is broken down and taught in smaller chunks to help the student grasp each style of writing in smaller components and subsequently put them together to complete the assignments.  Mr. Stephens even gives the students writing samples so they can see the concepts applied in a completed work.

Take a look at a sample lesson to get a feel for it.  You can also examine the syllabus to get an idea of what’s covered and how it’s laid out.

When you order this program, you will receive a DVD containing the lesson videos and a CD-ROM containing .pdf files of the printable worksheets for $40.  In the near future, they’ll be transitioning away from the CD-ROM to a digital link you’ll receive with your order that will allow you to print the worksheets.  There is also an option to purchase a hard copy of the workbook for an additional $20 in case you don’t want to print it yourself, but the contents are identical.



The grade 9 program has four segments:

    • Sentences
    • Paragraphs
    • Essays
      • Personal Essay
      • Persuasive Essay
      • Expository Essay
      • Compare and Contrast Essay
    • Research Paper

It also has a resource section at the end of the printable student workbook with handy graphic and paragraph organizers.

The parent letter that comes with the program lays out your choice of two recommended schedules for completing the course.  The program is not meant to be completed on a continuous schedule.  Instead, there are opportunities for breaks to be inserted between sections and between essays. 

During the review period, I had Hayden try out a sampling of lessons from the Sentences, Paragraphs, and Essays sections to get a good feel for how the program was laid out and what the different types of lessons were like.

My husband and I sat and watched some of the video lessons from the DVD with Hayden.  Hayden and I thought it was great to have the visual benefit of the video lessons, seeing each step and concept explained, but we all felt it was a little bit dry in its presentation.  The teacher is very soft-spoken, and we had to turn up the volume a lot to follow it.  Hayden found it made the most sense for him to follow along with the written lessons while watching the videos.  He felt the lessons were very doable for him, and he seemed to have a greater level of confidence in completing the assignments than I’ve seen before. 

In keeping with the high school level of the course, the assignments were not worksheets where the student simply identifies parts of speech and the like on pre-written sentences.  Instead, the student writes out his own sentences that demonstrate the concepts.  This demonstrates a greater level of understanding and also provides additional grammar and writing practice for the student.  I wasn’t sure how Hayden would react to that, but he seemed to do just fine with it.

The essay lessDSCF0283ons include a selection of writing prompts from which the student can choose to help him focus on a topic for his essay.  Then there are graphic organizers that take the student through the steps in the writing process.

Hayden found the graphic organizers helpful in getting his thoughts down on paper and putting them in a meaningful order.  He definitely needs this kind of guidance before starting to write a paragraph or essay.  Each lesson also provides him with a sample of a properly written paragraph or essay for comparison.  Then at the end of each essay type, there is a checklist for him to use to help him check his overall grammar, structure, and format.  In addition, there is a scoring guide for the teacher to use to help in the process of assigning a grade.

Overall, I thought the course was well thought-out.  I know that using this step-by-step process will help Hayden to develop better writing habits, and in time, getting his thoughts on paper in a cohesive way will become second nature to him.  We plan to continue using this course for 9th grade, and I’m anxious to see how his writing improves over the course of the year.

Take a look at what other Crew members had to say about the various levels of this program by clicking the banner below.


Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse 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. All opinions expressed are mine or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC Regulations.

Friday, March 15, 2013

State Studies – My Thoughts

I’m preparing to do an introduction to VA state history with my daughter, Haylee, for 4th grade starting in June.  I’m keeping in mind that while my oldest son, Hayden, is starting 9th grade at that time, he will also need to work in a more in-depth VA state history course at some point during his high school years.  Thus, my search for appropriate state studies has begun!

When Hayden was in 4th grade, I just had him read an old public school texbook called Silver Burdett VA History & Geography.  We read a daily selection and just verbally discussed any questions at the end of the chapter.  Good enough for an introduction, but not great for making the information stick.

Knowing that Haylee is less of an avid reader than Hayden was at this age but also more of a creative kid, I know she would benefit from something with hands-on activities.  Those interactive elements will really help cement the reading for her. 

One day this week, I received an email through the Homeschool Giveaways site that advertised the State History from a Christian Perspective studies from A Helping Hand.  I have to say it caught my attention!  I checked out the site but couldn’t make a decision right then.  I asked around but only found one personal friend who had already bought it, but she hadn’t actually started using it yet.  She wasn’t overly impressed with the content…her comment was something to the effect that there wasn’t any information there you wouldn’t find in a regular textbook on the subject.  Still, though, I liked the interactive elements for Haylee, and that’s what I was really after.  I loved how it’s designed to be used in conjunction with the Abeka My State Notebook to create a keepsake scrapbook of your state.  It just so happens that I already have a older but brand new copy of the My State Notebook in my bin of “school extras” that I’ve accumulated over the years, so that’s one less portion I’d have to purchase to use this program. 

I printed out the 6-page downloadable description of the program and showed it to Steve when he came in from work.  We both liked how we could use it for a group study for both Hayden and Haylee at the same time since it’s designed for grades 3-12.  The study includes optional in-depth assignments to enrich the learning for older students.  After looking at it and showing it to the kids, we all decided we’d give this a try.

I tried to watch the video on the website, but it wouldn’t load for me for some reason.  It may have something to do with my AdBlocker program.  In any case, I placed my order, being sure to “like” their page on Facebook and mention it in the comments on my order for 1/2 price shipping (when placed within 24 hours).  If you watch the video and tell in your order comments what the suggestion is in the video, you get another 1/2 price shipping offer, which combined, gives you free shipping, saving you $6.  I commented on my order about not being able to watch the video, and Joy Dean, the author of the program, gave me other links to watch the video and offered me the discount anyway.  That was so nice! 

After watc50 States Under God Coverhing the video this morning, I have to say I was wholly impressed with the way she combined her individual state study with her Fifty States Under God and Geography of the Fifty States studies to make a complete 1- or 2-year study.  When put all together, it looks like a truly wonderful program!  And she even includes an all-in-one schedule that allows you to study each state in the order it joined the union, inserting your individual state study when you get to it, and also studying the geography of each state all along the way.  How cool is that?  If you have time to watch the video (about 20 minutes), I highly recommend it. It really explains nicely each element of the program and how they can all work together. 

Now all told, this gets a bit costly.  It’s like this:

  • Individual State History
    • Master Lesson Plan Book – $11.95
    • Student Booklet (1 per student grades 3-12) – $14.95
    • My State Notebook (1 per student in grades 3-8, not needed for grades 9-12) – $9.45
  • Fifty States Under God – $33.95
  • Geography of the Fifty States – $26.95

In addition, the site offers activity books for the little ones ages 3 through grade 2 if you want to include your littles in the group study:

When you consider, though, that you can include all of your children in the studies for your cost, it’s not so bad.  I can only imagine that they will get so much more out of it by correlating the 3 topics together and seeing how it all fits in history, all the while incorporating the hands-on, interactive elements for learning fun!

So my final thoughts are that I’m seriously considering purchasing the whole shebang and seeing if we can make this work.  You can speed this up or spread it out as much as you’d like, and I like that flexibility.  After all, that’s one of the benefits of homeschooling, right?  So my initial thoughts are that I may not even “schedule” this into our master schedule for the school year, but go into it with the intention of covering 1 state per week over a period of 50 school weeks.  I think that’s entirely doable. 

If you have any thoughts or suggestions, please leave them in the comments while I mull this over some more!  Smile

Monday, March 11, 2013

REVIEW: TouchMath First Grade Homeschool by Touch Math

My 5 year old son, Holden, and I recently reviewed TouchMath First Grade Homeschool by TouchMath.



TouchMath Homeschool Programs are a multisensory math series offered for grades PK - 2nd grade.  Each grade level includes hundreds of downloadable black and white activity sheets that meet Common Core State Standards.  This program also includes a downloadable instructor’s guide for each grade level that includes lesson plans, life applications, and testing materials.  (Your download is intended for single-home use.)

The cost of the downloadable product by grade level is:

Grade Level:



PK $59.95 1 unit
K, 1st, or 2nd $199.95 4 units

These programs teach math concepts using a unique concept of “touch points” on digits that allow students to associate quantities with numbers.

There are additional manipulatives for each grade level that can aid in learning the concepts using hands-on experiences that complement the programs.  The items they offer to complement the First Grade program are:

FlipCards – $19/set

TouchMath Tutor First Grade Software – $99

Math Fans – $239

3-D Numerals – $79

TouchPoint Posters – $43

TouchNumerals – $99

DeskTop TouchLines – $19

Student Number Cards – $24

I received the FlipCards (12 sets), TouchMathTutor Software, TouchNumerals, and Student Number Cards to use alongside the complete First Grade Program. Those items are considered essential “extras” to aid in the overall multisensory learning experience, but they are not required.



The recommended usage for this program is to work with your child for 2 to 2.5 times their age in number of minutes per day.  Using that formula, I assigned 12.5 minutes per day for my 5 year old.  The idea is that you should set a timer and continue working through the lessons and worksheets until the timer goes off, and when it does, you stop wherever they are at that point and pick up there again the next day.  You should work on it 4-5 days per week.DSCF0277

When Holden initially saw the worksheets, he was a little bit panicked at the amount of work before him.  But once I explained to him that we would set the timer and just stop when it went off, he smiled said, “oh, okay!”  We did just that.  I think that was an appropriate amount of time for him.  He didn’t get too overwhelmed overall. 

His only issue was the amount of writing involved.  He does a lot of other writing in his schoolwork already, and he just about had a meltdown complaining about his hand being tired when he had to write in so many numbers.  So once I realized that was going to be a roadblock for him and inhibit our progress, I switched to just letting him dictate the answers to me, and I wrote them on the worksheets for him.  I felt comfortable doing that because I know that he can read the digits and understaDSCF0278nds what numbers they represent, so it was just a matter of lightening up the amount of writing for him.  Doing it that way, we got back on track and made steady progress. 

I thought the lessons and worksheets in Unit 1A did a great job of helping him learn to count effectively from 1 to 120, and it had him practice filling in missing numbers by discussing what comes both before and after a given number.  Holden did great with it!


At the end of Module 1A, the lesson plan suggested that we stop and review counting 1-120 by using the first set of FlipCards.  These were large and very sturdy cards that I can tell will have a lot of uses.  I had him count aloud, and I turned over the cards as he said the next number.  Then I used them to help him remember how to count by 5’s and 10’s.  These cards will definitely come in handy as he covers skip counting in the future.

We are just bDSCF0279eginning to use Module 2A of the program at this point.  Module 2A covers teaching the child the touch points for each digit.  I went ahead and installed the TouchMath Tutor First Grade Software, and he began to work with that.  The first activity there lets him practice marking the touch points on the numbers.  To assist him with that since we are just starting Unit 2A, I gave him the TouchPoint Poster to sit beside the computer so he could see where the touch points belong on each digit.  The program had him drag and drop the points onto each digit where they belonged.  He did great with that, too.

Module 3A of the program will get into addition and subtraction within 5.  I like how it uses pictoral groups to help the child understand the quantities so they can visually understand what the digits and the functions represent.  I’m looking forward to getting to that point with Holden, because I think this is when the practical application of the touch points will come into play.

So far, Holden has really enjoyed this program!  The 12.5 minutes per day have been a veryDSCF0282 reasonable commitment.  I like the way the lesson plans are laid out very simply.  They are easy to use and tell me exactly what activities and worksheets to do in order to complete each lesson.  While the manipulatives are wonderfully engaging supplements, I realize that not everyone could afford them.  If you can, though, I highly recommend them. 

While the cost of the program, too, is rather steep compared to others I’ve tried in the past, you must also consider that since you receive this program as a download, it can be used for additional students within your family without any additional cost…you can just print additional sets of worksheets as needed.  So if you’re just starting out with homeschooling and have a number of young children, you can effectively divide that cost amongst all of your kids who will eventually use each level of the program.

Keep in mind, too, that you’re not forced to buy a whole grade level of the program.  Instead, you can pick and choose specific units (for $59.95 per unit) that cover a set of topics you might need extra help to work through.  So if you’re using another program, find yourself with a weakness in a specific area, but like the approach this program uses, consider getting a specific unit you might need in order to improve in a particular skill set.

Overall, I think this is a really unique and thorough math program, and it’s very easy to implement and use successfully. 

Check out what other Crew members had to say about this and other products from TouchMath by clicking the banner below.


Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse 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. All opinions expressed are mine or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC Regulations.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

REVIEW: Early Elementary Book One: An Introduction to the Visual Arts by ARTistic Pursuits

Haylee and I were so excited to have the chance to review the Early Elementary K-3 Book One:  An Introduction to the Visual Arts by ARTistic Pursuits.



The ARTIstic Pursuits program includes a whole series of newly revised, comprehensive art instruction books for students in Preschool-12th grade. 

The approach of the program is a gentle introduction to various aspects of art so that children can express themselves freely and are not held to rigid standards that force them to draw like an adult, for instance.  It takes children through exposure to the elements of art and composition, art history, media, and techniques.

The Preschool through 3rd grade books include 36 lessons each, and books for all grades from 4th through 12th include 68 lessons.

PRICE:  $47.95



For grades K-3, ARTistic Pursuits offers a series of 3 books where each one focuses on a different genre. Book One, which we used for this review, provides an introduction to visual arts and includes 4 groupings of activities involving drawing, painting, paper art, and clay.

Each lesson consists of 2-3 pages:

    • a simple one-page topical discussion and an exploratory exercise to get kids exploring and thinking creatively
    • a one-page focused discussion on a classic work of art that gets the child observing more closely and noticing elements in the composition
    • a one-page project page that gives a simple art assignment, gives tips, and shows a sample of a completed assignment from an early elementary student

I was pleased that there was a materials list provided in the front of the book that detailed all of the supplies we needed for completing all 36 projects in the book.  That made it super easy for me to take that list to the art supply store and get everything I needed in one trip, which was exactly what I did.  I wanted to keep the materials organized and together in one place, so I also got a small plastic storage tub with a handle on top that held everything inside.  This made it easy for us to store and to pull out our “kit” whenever we were ready to complete a lesson.

It was so very simple for me to sit down together with Haylee and go over the introductory page for the lesson, discuss the master work of art using the discussion questions provided, and then set her to work on her very own art project!  She was so excited to go over a concept, observe it in a master work, and then get to try it out on her own right away! 

I absolutely loved how the project assignments allowed and even encouraged her to express herDSCF0172 own creativity while exploring the various mediums.  She had never before used “real” art supplies beyond the typical Crayola-type children’s basic crafting materials.  She was very excited to try out things like sketching pencils and watercolor crayons (her favorite).  The lessons did a great job of planting seeds for ideas for her artwork and teaching her techniques for using the materials, but then allowing her own imagination to take over.  The clear message I received was that there is no right or wrong way to create art…it comes from inside each person and is an expression of themselves.  No wonder Haylee enjoyed this program so much!

Truly, Haylee was inspired by this book.  I saw her repeatedly motivated to complete her other schoolwork in a timely manner just so she could have time to spend on ARTistic Pursuits!  She couldn’t wait for the opportunity to get to the next assignment, and she showed so much joy with each and every one.

While I initially thought it was a bit expensive for just an art book, I now realize it’s so much more valuable than that.  It’s non-consumable, so you can use it with each of your children without having to buy additional copies down the road.  It’s undoubtedly a no-frustration program for both parent and child.  And it exposes children to a variety of mediums and pieces of classic artwork.

We enjoyed it so much that I’d like to continue using it with Haylee, because she has a real passion and talent for art, and I feel this program will help cultivate her interest and skill in this area.  But since she is at the end of 3rd grade and this is her first exposure to real art instruction, I was unsure how to proceed through the program from here.  I contacted ARTistic Pursuits for advice, and they were so helpful!  I asked permission to share their response in case it may help others who are just starting this program sort of mid-stream with their children, and they said I could share it here:

“When selecting which book to use within the ARTistic Pursuits art curriculum we generally suggest that you start at the child's grade level, however there other considerations to keep in mind that are also valid. Your child's comfort level is very important for continued success in the fine arts. There is no reason to jump ahead of their skill level and discourage a child. The biggest jump is from the K-3 level to the 4-5 books. Since your daughter is enjoying the first book at the K-3 level I would encourage you to go on to the other two books at that level. You can certainly do art twice a week rather than the suggested one. You are right in that way she will experience a larger variety of materials and processes, which are a great start to learning about art. There will be plenty of time to focus on drawing skills in the other levels. Parents also choose to use the lower levels for older children when they want to do one art class for all of there children and some are beyond grade three. Families report that this has worked well for them. Also if a family wants to focus on art history in a chronological way, the K-3 series does just that. Since our curriculum has students work on assignments at their own skill levels and is not a copy-what-you-see-on-the-page type of curriculum, there is a lot of flexibility that can occur when selecting which book to use.”

Brenda Ellis, President, Owner
Artistic Pursuits Inc.

I would certainly recommend this program to others, and I have a feeling it has found its way permanently into our school curriculum!




Here are some samples of
Haylee’s work with the program
during the review period, which
included 3 watercolors and 1 sketch.

Check out what other Crew members had to say about this and other products from ARTistic Pursuits by clicking the banner below.


Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse 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. All opinions expressed are mine or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC Regulations.

New Educational Apps for iPad – FREE through 03/11/13!!!

Check out some of these great new apps for iPad from Lakeshore Learning.  These will be FREE through 03-11-13 only, so don’t delay in checking these out!

  1. Language Adventures Quiz Game Show for grades 4-6

    iPhone Screenshot 1

  2. Math Quiz Game Show for grades 1-3

    iPhone Screenshot 1

  3. Math Quiz Game Show for grades 4-6

    iPhone Screenshot 1

  4. Phonics Tic-Tac-Toe Reading Game for ages 6-8 

iPhone Screenshot 1


So check out these super-cool new iPad apps from Lakeshore Learning while they’re still FREE.  Remember you can download them to your account for free right now, then delete them from your device if you don’t have an immediate need for certain grade levels, yet the apps will still be available to you in your iTunes account so you can load them to your device again later when you actually need them.  Don’t miss this opportunity!