Wednesday, May 31, 2017

ArtAchieve Entire Level III (Online Art Class Review)

Last summer you may recall that I reviewed Level II of ArtAchieve. This spring we were given the opportunity to review another level, so I chose to go up to Entire Level III. This level is intended for students aged 9 and up, so my youngest is on the very earliest edge recommended for these lessons.

The third level includes the following lessons/supplies:

  • The Hawaiin Frog - oil pastels
  • The African Crowned Crane - fine tipped black magic marker, acrylics and paint pens
  • The Chinese Horse: Drawing the Horse's Head - red paper, fine tipped black magic marker, gold paint pen (optional), charcoal white pencil
  • The Face from The Gambia - drawing pencils
  • The Pacific Northwest Totem Pole - fine tipped black magic marker
  • The Eastern European Firebird- colored markers, colored pencils
  • The Wood Carving from Kenya - fine tipped black magic marker, paint pens
  • Kadinsky and Color Mixing - pencil, acrylic paint
  • The Nine-Banded Armadillo - fine tipped black magic marker, shoe polish, glue, tacky glue
  • The Russian Matryoshka - pencil, acrylic paint
  • The Canada Goose - fine tipped black magic marker, watercolors, oil pastels
  • DaVinci's Clock - cardboard, black acrylic paint, oil pastels
  • Let's Make a Movie - (No power point version of this lesson) 
I gave him his pick of projects to try out and he chose to try The Chinese Horse project first. I tend to use the powerpoint versions of the lessons over the video versions, as this allows my son to go through the instruction at his own pace, advancing to each slide as he is ready to go. He most often accesses them on the iPad, but we do use the computer as well.

Here are pictures of his progress with this project, from the "Drawing Warm-up" (a staple of the Art Achieve Program) to the completed drawing.

The next project he wanted to tackle was The Hawaiian Frog, using oil pastels. Having enjoyed his time with the chalk pastels earlier this year, this was another version that he was interested in.

He once again went through the warmups and slides more or less on his own.

I reminded him to adjust the pressure on the pastels (Just like with the chalk pastels) so that he was drawing more lightly than his initial stokes, allowing the paper to come through a bit.

Just for the fun of it, I decided to do this one also~
My quick attempt for fun
Sample Screenshot of Powerpoint Slide for this lesson

I mentioned briefly in my first review that Art Achieve offers cross-curricular connections including social studies, science, and language arts ~ as an example, here is what is included for this particular lesson:

(Note: The "history" reading selection for advanced readers links to James Michener's Hawaii ~ definitely advanced reading! ) Because we've already studied frogs we didn't take full advantage of these go-alongs, but it is nice to know they are included. I will also mention that this information is found on the Lesson Description Page for each project as shown above, on the public side of the website. Somewhat counter-intuitive for me once logged in, as I would prefer to have all the information for the lesson located in one place.

I will add the same note here that I included in my first review: the videos and instructions in the powerpoints recommend some "Focusing" exercises, not speaking, and playing music while doing the projects. We found those to be take-it-or-leave-it recommendations, based on personality. :)

Once again, we have enjoyed the final product of these lessons, and expect that anyone who tries them will meet with similar success.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Memoria Press Iliad & Odyssey Complete Set (A Review)

We've appreciated the opportunity to use and review a number of classical curricula over my time on the TOS Homeschool Review Crew. This time Memoria Press  has generously sent the Iliad & Odyssey Complete Set (grades 7-12) for us to review. Other members received First Form Greek Complete Set for grades 7-12 and another group of crewmates were sent both 200 Questions About American History and The Story of The Thirteen Colonies & The Great Republic for grades 5-8. Be sure to click the link at the end of my review to head their reviews.

While Homer's epics were among the primary works typically studied in Ancient Greece and Rome, they have become somewhat less common in today's society. In fact, I am fairly certain that if you were to question the average adult on the street, they will most likely be familiar with the titles, but not really have any idea what they are about. This was somewhat true for myself, in that I had never read the Illiad, although I had a reasonable recollection of the Odyssey. It turns out that my familiarity is somewhat backwards in that the Odyssey relies upon the foundation of the Illiad in order to be fully understood and appreciated. Because this was pointed out, I decided that my sixteen year old would start with The Illiad, which is indeed an epic tome of 447 pages (The Odyssey on the other hand, is only 358 pages of text… :) )

There are a number of components to this set~ the texts, the student guides, the teacher guides and the comprehensive sets of instructional DVD's for each title.

The texts have a very "soft, smooth" feel to the cover that makes them lovely to hold and read. That may not be a big deal to some, but I appreciate a book with a good hand. Samuel Butler's translations, which are used for the text, are interesting in that he chose to translate both works from their poetic form into prose. This makes them more accessible to today's readers, and at an earlier age than the typical college .

The student and teacher guides are typical of  Memoria Press ~ very straightforward, no fancy bells and whistles, just the facts with blank lines to write them in.

The DVD's are the highlight of this set in my opinion, as they offer the opportunity to have a classical scholar come lecture in the comfort of your own home. Without Sean Brooks' instruction I would find it very difficult myself to pull out the background information (both literary and cultural) that is interesting as well as helpful in understanding these ancient works.

When I first received the set I handed the book and student guide to my son and asked him to get started, and we would check out the DVD's later as we had time. I didn't realize that the best order would be to watch the DVD introduction to the entire book first, then read the text, watch the DVD lecture for that section, and then work through the student guide. Now you know, so don't make the same mistake... you can thank me later. ;) OH, and of course, *you* will want to look the teacher guide over before you begin the whole thing, but I'm sure you already knew that, just figured I'd make sure my suggestions were complete for the entire set. ;)
Screen shots of the samples (not including text) found on the Memoria Press website along with the corresponding page from my son's student guide. Note that thee Teacher Guide includes the (answered)student guide on the right portion of the paper with background information and helps surrounding.  

Sean Brooks is a delight to watch (from my parental/educator perspective) because he so clearly loves his topic and really wants to pull his audience into his great enjoyment of this Ancient Literature and its fusion of myth and history and treatment of the human condition. My son appreciates the way Sean explains things and makes the cultural and historical context of the Greeks more accessible while clarifying some of the characters and events of the story.

While I am appreciating the study of The Illiad, I checked out the DVD Introduction and first lesson for The Odyssey, and am looking forward to sharing the adventure of that epic with my son next. More of the same good information, and I think he will continue to be surprised at all the phrases he will find that continue to be a part of our culture today (like Achilles' Heel). It seems that Homer and Shakespeare may collectively be responsible for the greatest portion of literary allusions used even today.

If you visit the product page listed below you will find links to sample pages from each of the books and guides as well as sample videos, so that you can get a feel for the program yourself. If you are looking for quality Classical Education with a Christian Perspective, I suspect that you will be very pleased with what Memoria Press has to offer. 

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Lamplighter Publishing, The Secret Bridge (A Literary Review)

I have been familiar with Mark Hamby and Lamplighter Publishing  for a number of years, since I first heard him as a gripping keynote speaker at our state homeschool convention, so I was delighted to be chosen to review their newest title, The Secret Bridge by Amy Le Feuvre (originally published in 1899).

If you aren't familiar with Lamplighter Publishing, let me tell you just a little bit about them. The purpose of the company is to republish rare books from the 17th, 18th, and 19th century, with an eye to encouraging and building up people of Godly character. The books chosen for publication either illustrate characters who exhibit high moral standards, or are more cautionary tales of those who make wrong choices and suffer the consequences. The idea being that good stories will instill in their hearers/readers (whether children or adults) the desire to model their characters after the good characters of the heros/heroines of the stories.

Now~ a little bit about the physical qualities of Lamplighter Books. They are all beautifully bound, a this one is no exception! The cover catches your eye immediately, with its gilded title and embossed illustration.  I mentioned the "hand" of a book in a recent review, and the hand of this book is delightful, with a lovely smooth feel. Everyone who has seen it has been drawn to it immediately. The photo above really does not do it justice, and I'm sure mine won't either, but here are a few more shots, to try to give you an idea of the shine, detail, and texture: 

Finally~ because you can't judge a book by its cover, even if the cover is simply amazing, I will tell you a bit about the story itself. :)

Some of my favorite books were written by 19th Century authors, so I was immediately comfortable with the language and syntax of Amy Le Feuvre. Her main characters, Godfrey and Bridget come to life on the page immediately.

We learn that Bridget is the orphan of an English expat, who has returned to England to throw herself on the mercy of her uncle. She discovers that her uncle has passed away before her arrival, and she is left alone, with no money, family or friends (barring a friend made on her voyage home, one Godfrey Bullingham). Although she tries to find gainful employment and make it on her own, Godfrey steps in to save her from sure destitution.

Bridget and Godfrey strike up a correspondence when he is called to duty with the British Navy. I must note once again the care with which this volume was crafted~ with different fonts for each hand writing a letter. I love that attention to detail!

At the beginning of the story, neither Bridget nor Godfrey are close to God, but soon Bridget is brought into contact with a delightful character, Mr. Jocelyn. Although not exactly  a member of the clergy, he is certainly a minister of The Truth. He urges Bridget to "Acquaint thyself with Him" and gives her little Scriptural clues, rungs on a ladder to climb if you will, in her search for Truth.

One of the quotes that I mulled over for awhile comes when Bridget is speaking with Mr. Jocelyn as they walk in the same direction. He is a great naturalist, and enjoys explaining bits and pieces of his discoveries, interspersed with the words of The Creator. At the end of the walk, Bridget thanks Mr. Jocelyn:
"Thank you for what you have told me. You have interested me in more natural history this afternoon than I could ever have thought possible, and your other words--"
"They're not mine," he said abruptly, "and they're too costly to be treated lightly. The less said about them the better. Man's words will sometimes destroy their beauty, like the rough fingers of a schoolboy on a butterfly's wing. Thought is the only hand fit to touch them -- thought and prayer." (P114)
In today's world, where so many think they have the corner on what God means, and write multiple books explaining their view of God's truth, it might behoove us to take Mr. Jocelyn's advice, and simply go back to the original, the Word of God.

I won't tell you any more of the story, but will note that there is plenty of gentle mystery to keep the reader's interest while exploring the themes of faith, trust, and loyalty. This is the sort of literature that is truly a breath of fresh air when so much around us today is gritty and saturated with the pollution of the prevalent worldview.

Lamplighter Books would make excellent heirloom quality gifts for the reader in your life, and there are titles suitable for ages 6-11, 9-14, and 12-adult. They offer a book club and a number of different collections. There are even comprehension quizzes that can be purchased to go with each book if you so desire.
Lamplighter Publishing... Building Christlike Character, One Story At A Time.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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Thursday, May 25, 2017

CompuScholar, Inc. Web Design Course Review

Four years ago I was given the opportunity to review a high school computer programming curriculum (My review of Teen Coder Java Series) produced by Homeschool Programming. They are expanding their horizons to include public and private schools as well as homeschoolers, and are rebranding their company as CompuScholar, Inc.  (Hey! How do you like that? So many companies retool what they're doing to include homeschoolers. I love the fact that a company that started out focusing on homeschoolers is expanding into the public/private market!) In the course of that rebranding, they have given the Homeschool Review Crew the opportunity to review their programs again, including their newest offering Digital Savvy, as well as Java Programming, and  Web Design, which is what my 16-year old was chosen to review.

Web Design is a two Semester course with no prior computer class prerequisites. One thing that I greatly appreciate about this program is that it is useful for both MAC and Windows operating systems ~ so often there seem to be directions for only one or the other. Twenty-eight chapters are divided into thirty-four weekly lessons. Each chapter includes programming labs which my son found to be straightforward and relatively easy to complete.  The complete course syllabus can be found on the website.

The lessons start out with the very basics of web design and chapter one moves fairly slowly. My son said that one of his main impressions is that someone who knew nothing about computers or web design would be able to use this program very easily. However, I am happy to inform you that even my more experienced son was learning things that he hadn't learned before. From chapters 2 and on it advances at a more rapid pace, while still explaining things clearly.

The student dashboard is made up of icons that lead the student through the program. Here you can see the flow at the end of the first chapter~ Each lesson has a video, lesson text and a quiz (here you see Lesson Three) accessed by clicking on the icons. The next section is the lab activity, and the chapter concludes with a multiple choice exam.
Note: many lab activities (including this one) have an "Activity File" icon, which means that there are files that the student will need to download to their computer in order to complete the activity.

This screen shot shows the lesson video that pops up in the right-hand corner of the screen when that icon is selected. My son wasn't able to ever open it full screen on his computer, but that didn't end up being an issue for him.

This next screen shot is from the lesson text that my son accessed after watching the video. He found it very useful to skim the text to make sure that he didn't miss any points made during the video lesson.
This is an example of part of one of the lesson quizzes: 

Now, there are also some helps for those of us administering the course, assuming that we aren't all computer science whizzes...
This is what the teacher dashboard looks like, open to the first chapter.

The program grades everything but the Lesson Activities, but don't worry, they have help for us there. The Professional Development Tab opens up a slew of videos that walk the instructor/administrator/mom/dad through the entire process, with FAQs common to all the courses:

As well as specific tutorials for each one~ here is a screenshot of the training available for the Web Design Course: 

When you click on one of the video icons the instructional video will open and walk you through each specific step.

And remember I mentioned help grading the student activities? Here is a bit on one of the included rubrics, just to give you an idea of how it works (This is a screenshot taken from one of those very helpful "professional development" videos, not the actual rubric):

However, I should also mention that if administering the course and grading activities sends a shudder up your spine, you can also subscribe to a teacher led course (smile) at an additional cost.

Based on our experience with Web Design, I would sum it up by saying it is a very clear program that should produce successful results regardless of student or "administrator" experience.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: CompuScholar, Inc.
  • Product: Web Design 
  • Ages: Grades 6-12
  • Price: 
    • Self Study $15/month or $120/year
    • Teacher Led $35/month or $300/year
    • (Sibling discounts may apply)
Visit CompuScholar, Inc. on their social media sites on Facebook and Twitter
and their sister site Homeschool Programming also on Facebook and Twitter

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