Friday, May 31, 2013

See The Light

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 I received a copy of “Repeated Sweets” for review, an Art project DVD from See The Light.  Pat Knepley is the Master Artist for See the Light Art Class series and See the Light Art Projects DVD series.

The Fundamentals are taught in the Art Class DVD series.  The series includes 9 DVDs which is a year’s worth’s of art lessons covering basic to advanced skills.    The whole boxed set can be purchased for $99.99 or each DVD can be purchased separately for $14.99.  The DVDs cover the following:

Volume 1 – The Basics
Volume 2 – Shape & Space
Volume 3 – Value & Color
Volume 4 – Color Blending Techniques
Volume 5 – Proportions for Composition
Volume 6 – Texture & Form
Volume 7 – Perspective for the Landscape
Volume 8 – Balance & Foreshortening
Volume 9 – The Portrait

Art Projects is considered the next level after Art Class and is a year’s worth of art lessons based on the work of 9 famous artists.  The entire boxed set can be purchased for $99.99 or each individual DVD can be purchased separately for $14.99.  The DVDs cover the following:

  1. Tiffany Window - Draw a window in the style of Louis Comfort Tiffany
  2. Repeated Sweets – Draw a watercolor painting in the style of American pop artist Wayne Thiebaud
  3. Paper Jungle – Create a paper collage in the style of French artist Henri Rousseau
  4. Pointillism Fruit – Create a fruit still life in the style of Georges Seurate
  5. Poppy Collage – Create an abstract flower in the style of American artist Georgia O’Keeffe
  6. Dreams of Joseph – Art History focus on the style of Marc Chagall
  7. Horsing Around – Works of art in the style of Edgas Degas
  8. Peaceful Seas – Art History focus on the style of Winslow Homer
  9. Sunflowers – Create an oil pastel in the style of Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh
  10. Cartooning – Classical Cartooning

You will need to purchase some common art supplies which can be found at your local arts & crafts store.  The supplies needed to complete each project is listed at the website.  Some of the supplies needed include plain white paper, pastel and watercolor paper, poster board, watercolors, oil pastels, pencils, kneaded eraser, and scissors.

All the Art project DVDs run about 1.5 – 2 hours but students should allow 3-4 hours to complete projects.  The projects are geared to students over age 10.

Pumpkin (Grade 8) and NuNu (Grade 6) used Repeated Sweets for this review.  They popped in the video and followed the instructions given by Master Artist Pat Knepley to complete their project. purchased cupcakes for inspiration but it really wasn’t needed.  The sweets were all set up in the DVD lesson for the kids to see.  However, my cupcakes made for a nice treat at the end of Day 1. 
The DVD included everything they needed to complete their project.  Pumpkin described the lesson as fun and she looked forward to each lesson. 

Repeated Sweets includes 4 lessons all under 30 minutes each.  Working on one lesson per week, the project will be completed in a month.  It took my kids 4 consecutive days to finish the work.  They wanted to keep working until they finished the project.  At that rate we would finish a year’s worth of lessons in 10 weeks!

My 8th grade daughter asked me to purchase another project.  They all really enjoyed Repeated Sweets.

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Box Day is always worthy of a blog entry.  Why is Box Day so exciting?  I think its because it physically represents graduating to a new academic year.  New books, new supplies, fresh paper and pencils, etc.  All things become new again.  Hope is in the air for a great new year.

Every year starts out this way.  Unfortunately once the holidays come around focus shifts and by the new year you are trying to play catch up.  The spring weather sets in beckoning you to the out of doors and low and behold its May.  Such is the school cycle but we I am excited nonetheless.
I tried to get my rising 9th grader excited about the box but she just didn't understand my excitement.  I was able to get her help to verify everything in the box but after that she checked out.  I asked my rising 11th grader if she wanted to see all the new books and she answered "sure mom."  She completed MFW WHL so she is familiar with some of the books even though a few were redesigned.  Her replies were "oh I remember this," and "I really enjoyed that."  Perhaps when box day rolls around next year my current rising 9th grader will be a little bit more excited.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Spanish For You

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I had the privilege of reviewing the Spanish for You! program developed by Debbie Annet.  There are currently two packages available to learn Spanish language centered around a particular theme - Fiestas (parties) and Estaciones (seasons).  I received a physical copy of the Fiestas program.    The text covers the five hispanic celebrations of La fiesta de Cumpleanos (The Birthday Party), El Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), Carnaval (Carnival),  Semana santa (Holy Week in Spain), and La feria de abril (April Fair).

I was working with a physical copy of the book but also received downloadable files that included lesson plans, audio files, and pdf worksheets used as an overview for the lessons.  The lesson plans are slightly modified for grade levels 3-4, 5-6, and 7-8.  The lesson guide is set up for 24-30 weeks of work depending on grade level and is set up for 4 days of work each week.  The author suggests doing the lessons in order because each lesson builds upon itself.  The reference section introduces students to the Spanish alphabet including a pronunciation guide, common words and phrases, commands, colors and numbers.  These activities are optional.   There are reinforcement suggestions for learning the new vocabulary that is included in each lesson.  Finally, the author provides some background information on each celebration that students will study in the lessons.

You can purchase the curriculum for grades 3-8 for either themed package for $64.95.
If you want to purchase individual grades levels for grades 3-4, 5-6, 7-8, they are $39.95 each.
A 4 week trial theme package - Viajes (travels) is available for grades 5-8 for $9.99.
A 6 week trial theme package - Viajes (travels) is available for grades 3-4 for $12.99.
These two packages are ebooks but will shortly become full packages (24 weeks for grades 5-8 and 30 weeks for grades 3-4) in June 2013.

Lesson plan packages are available for the Fiestas program for each grade level ($12.95 - $14.95).
Other lesson plans and other thematic packages are being developed.

Each lesson in the Fiestas package explores the celebration by introducing the student to twelve vocabulary words related to the theme, four verbs, and grammar.  I am a huge fan of curriculum that is laid out in a logical format.  It helps the teacher and student follow a predictable plan for appropriating difficult material.  The information wasn’t too much to grasp at one time and my students walked away with usable information from the very first lesson.  The author includes a lesson guide to help you know what to do each week. 

All of my children have some Spanish language knowledge and all except my high school student sporadically work on these Spanish language skills.  I was ecstatic to have a curriculum that brought us all to the table to work on these skills together.  I started by testing the kids on the common words and phrases listed in the reference section.  We use many of these phrases in our everyday language so they did well on my quiz but a few of the phrases were new to us.  I gave them a few days to study the list.  I used the phrases during conversation as we went about our day.  I used the pdf worksheet a few days later as a final “test” on this list. 

After this, we moved on to Lesson 1.  Each kid was given 12 index cards to write down the new vocabulary in Spanish. I wrote them on a personal dry erase board giving them a chance to guess what the word meant before telling them the English translation to write on the back of the card along with a small picture to remind them of the word’s meaning.  They guessed many correctly.  Of course they knew each word was related to a birthday party as that was the lesson’s theme and many of the words sound like their English counterpart. 

Next I introduced the four verbs, two of which they already knew.  This made it easy to immediately practice the verbs with the new vocabulary right away.  Finally, we listened to the audio file repeating the words after the speaker.  The next few days I consciously used the words in our daily conversation as a reinforcement tool and I gave them time to review the flashcards.  Our around the table lesson time included filling out the pdf worksheet on vocabulary and introducing the grammar lessons for conjugating the four verbs they learned.  We verbally practiced these new conjugated verbs with the vocabulary we’d learned.  Because of these daily around the table lessons my girls got interested in looking at Spanish language programs trying to figure out the bits and pieces from the vocabulary they knew.  I’ll say that is a great result of using this program as a family.

As another practice tool I wrote all the verbs they’d learned to date and placed them on the back of their bedroom door.  Next to the verbs I put the verb endings for first, second, and third person to help them remember how to properly conjugate.  They seem to have the most difficulty with remembering who is being spoken to based on the ending being used. 

We really enjoy working in this curriculum together.  The only difficulty I found was knowing which pdf worksheet to use after we finished a lesson and which audio files went with the lesson I was using.  Perhaps listing the files with page numbers would help.  The author has reorganized the files by grade level and lesson number so this difficulty shouldn’t be a problem for a purchaser of this program now. 

At the time of this review we are still working through the lessons and will complete them to the end.  My husband was born in Panama and lived there many years in his childhood.  My in-laws are fluent Spanish speakers so my kids have a personal interest in learning the language.  I believe Spanish For You! is laying a solid foundation for high school level Spanish study in the future.  For my high schooler, it is a great overview and builds upon the skills she’s learned in another Spanish language program.

One final suggestion I have for making this program even better is to offer a bundle to purchase all the themed packages together for a discounted price. 

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

The weather was great for the day.  I woke up to a early morning phone call from a friend whose young kids read me a poem and sang me a song.  That was so very special.

Eggo Waffles for breakfast (not very fancy but good) then hubby and I took a long walk to Walmart and Aldi which ended with me collapsing on the couch for a short nap.  We had Chinese take out for dinner last night so we had leftovers for lunch today.  I indulged a guilty pleasure by visiting Maggie Moos for an ice cream sundae for dinner and purchased some things from Michael's then headed home for the night.

It was a good day.

Yesterday was my youngest daughter's birthday.  She is a big 12. 
Then we visited with family to celebrate Mother's Day with my grandmother, her three children (including my mom), 5 of her 6 grandchildren, and 4 great grandchildren.  We usually get to do this once or twice a year.  My grandmother is confined to a nursing home so it is nice to get the whole family together with her.

It is back to work tomorrow.  Co-op has finished but Princess has a redo on a Geometry test and a final to complete.  Her Art instructor will be out of town indefinitely so she will have to finish her final drawing on her own. We are already in summer mode (in our minds) so we have got to stay focused.  I will be doing my end of the year testing next Thursday and Friday and after that I'm going to need a miracle to keep working as we still have a lot of stuff to do.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Papa's Pearls

 Diane Flynn Keith, author of Papa’s Pearls: A Father's Gift of Love To His Children and Grandchildren, is the middle daughter of Jan & Carol Fynn of San Francisco, California.  She grew up with one older sister and a younger brother. Diane and her siblings share the nuggets of truth given to them by her Papa over the course of his life.  Papa’s wisdom not only helped to develop his own children but went on to affect the lives of his grandchildren and great grandchildren.

I love this little morsel of a book.  It made me spring into action and laugh out loud. 
What a wonderful tribute to a beloved family patriarch.  It made me think of my own husband and father-n-law.  They are strong men who work hard for their families and pass down valuable truths to be given to the next generation.

On a deeper level this book made me think of the tremendous value intact family structures have on the success of children.  As a society we face so many ills that we shake our heads at.  Many look to the government, the schools, and everywhere else to solve these problems.  I dare to believe if one committed mom and one committed dad get together to bring up their children like Mr. & Mrs. Carol Flynn, what a difference could be made in the world in which we live.Mrs. Keith didn’t speak much about every sibling or family member’s position in life to date.  However, it was easy to read between the lines and glean just how successful the Flynn clan has become.  

Even though this book is about Papa, it has encouraged me to be a better a mom.  Papa appreciated the support of his wife in his many business endeavors.  Her example jumped off the page and into my own experience with my entrepreneurial husband.  It also caused me to reflect on the role my husband plays in rearing our children.  I am careful to show him my gratitude for all he does as a provider and a present father in the home. 

Like Papa, I’ve watched my husband teach my girls the value of money.  They earn their allowances and are required to save 50% of their earnings.   My husband insists they use debit cards after one child lost some cash.  As a result, they carefully consider how they spend.  I often see them track their expenditures on-line and they have learned to negotiate with vendors while on vacation, skills that will no doubt benefit them in life. Extended family and friends often comment on their responsibility.  I often defer to him to help resolve conflicts between the girls.  He so easily sees two sides of the situation and helps them negotiate their differences.  Just like Papa he is such an integral part of their development and their future success. 

This book is a good read for anyone wanting some encouragement or direction in their parenting.  It is also a good graduation gift for students preparing to enter into life.  It teaches some poignant lessons on work ethics, commitment, money management to include saving and investments, relationships, faith, and family.  You can purchase an autographed copy of  Papa's Pearls: A Father's Gift of Love To His Children and Grandchildren here for $21.97.  Or you can purchase a copy from

My laugh out loud moments in the book included reading these excerpts:
Papa's Pearls 
“I pray because I want God to know I’m around, so when He starts passing things out - I get some.”

“When you do what no else wants to, you can charge whatever you want.  Just tell yourself you like it and that it smells like money.”  He said this as he walked through calf high sewer water.

Papa’s debt collection method, “Give me my money, you *** of * *****!”

I was most encouraged by the following:

“The best time to take action on something that will help you accomplish a goal is always now.  Strike while the iron is hot.  Delay in implementation can cause you to miss opportunities.”

“A positive outlook improves every facet of life.  People who have positive attitudes are winners in good times, and survivors in hard times.  You are what you think.  Tell yourself you like it.”

“Life is too short.  Relax. Take a little time off.”

The Epilogue made me cry but I am a sap.  The pictures at made me cry too!  What an enjoyable book.  

 Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Week in Review

In a word?  Busy, Busy, Busy.....ok that was three words.  We greeted out of town guests on Friday then left for a 3.5 drive to attend a nephew's college graduation early Saturday morning; entertained friends for a barbecue on Sunday; more visiting with out of town guests on Monday; and tackled the load of laundry on Tuesday all while nursing a feverish, coughing 2 year old all 4 days.  I'm tired but was all worth it. We rarely spend good quality time with friends.  It is a welcome treat.

My kids jokingly say I never give them vacations, snow days, or time off.  My thought is there are always occasions where we have to take time off because of life's happenings so there is no need to schedule it.   There are 6 weeks or less before the official start of summer.  Even with no scheduled time off (other than Thanksgiving and Christmas) the year still seems to get away from me.  There are still papers that need to be written, books to finish, and pages of math problems waiting to be solved.  I never intended to be a year round schooler but it just may end up being that way.

I've taken away the electronic gadgets so that my girls can stay focused with the end of year in full sight.  I just pray they've done enough to be ready for the next level.  It starts all over again in August.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Home School in the Woods

I had the privilege of receiving for review the Home School in the Woods Hands-On History Activity Pak for Composers.  I’d been looking at this product in the past to do with my 6th grade daughter who has been taking piano lessons for 2.5 years.  Since it’s considered an “extra,” purchasing this product always took second fiddle to the core curriculum I had to get.  To say I was ecstatic to review this is an understatement.

I received the downloaded version of this product which retails for $18.95.
There is a CD available for purchase which retails for $19.95.
Directions are included to complete the projects and to finally assemble them in an attractive Lapbook. 
You will need to have card stock in several colors, Velcro, file folders, colored pencils, scissors, and a printer to print out all the projects.

I enjoyed working on the 6 projects with my 6th grade student.  I was actually more excited than she to get started.  She wanted to immediately start the lapbook assembly not realizing the projects had to be completed first.  The projects include the following activities:

  • Periods of music
  • Keyboard vocabulary – matching vocabulary with their definitions in a clever pattern.
  • Pieces with a purpose – putting together iconic pieces that were heavily influenced by classical music
  • Composers timeline – placing the composer in their place in history (Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Modern times, etc.)
  • Music appreciation – completing  background sheets on the composers while appreciating an audio of their music.
We printed the project we needed for the day and only worked on one project at a time.  It was plenty to do with cutting, coloring and organizing.  I did the cutting so that my daughter could read the cut-outs and place them where they belonged.  My computer had trouble printing on card stock so we used copy paper for every printout.  It still made for an attractive end product.

I really didn’t want to treat this activity as a school lesson but rather an activity we did together as mother and daughter where we happened to learn a few things along the way.  I asked her what she learned most from doing these projects to which her reply was “knowing where all the instruments belong on the orchestra stage.”  

Home School in the Woods has other Hands On History Activity Paks with themes like Artists, The Old Testament and The New Testament.  They also have beautiful timeline products, map sets, Time Travelers Activity Studies, and other studies to keep your history studies fun and hands-on.  Their products are recommended for 3-8th grade.  However, I would use some of their products as a fun activity with my high schooler to reinforce concepts she is learning in her history studies.  

We enjoyed working with this product and we completed all of the projects. 

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew


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