Thursday, June 28, 2018

The Master and His Apprentices (An Art History Curriculum Review)

Having an interest in Art myself, and Eldest currently being an Art Education major in college, I would have loved to have had a resource like The Master and His Apprentices: Art History from a Christian Perspective for her to have used before she entered college. Because she had never taken formal art classes, when her classes in Visual Literacy and Methods and Theories of Art History rolled around having the solid background offered by The Master and His Apprentices would have been handy. Side note: she instantly recognized the piece used for the cover, as it had been included in a lecture about Beauty and Quality, and was used as an example of the Sublime, while it was a work with which I was not acquainted.

Because I personally have historically appreciated more art from the 1700's and beyond, I found The Master and His Apprentices to be very informative, as the bulk of the material covers Art from the Ancients through the Baroque Era, around the 17th Century, with only one chapter addressing art from the 1600's and beyond. While I was already familiar with some artists, I really enjoyed learning more through Gina Ferguson's text. It is well written, in a conversational style that fairly easily captures the reader's interest. It is NOT dry or dull and is intended for a high school student to be able to complete in a more or less self-directed manner, although it is also appropriate for classroom instruction. 

We reviewed the Digital version of the textbook and teacher guide, which have been formatted to be conveniently and economically available for printing by the home user (Following the copyright license guidelines printed in the front of the book), but the text is generally intended to be viewed on a screen, which can be really nice if you want to zoom in for more detail on the work being discussed. From a practical point of view, while the print is a little small when viewed on a kindle fire (for my older eyes~ my daughter had no problems with it at all), it was easier than zooming and scrolling side to side or up and down on my 13-inch computer screen. 

The Master and His Apprentices is definitely written from a Christian World View, and the Introduction and first chapter make that eminently obvious. After all, who is clearly the Master Artist, but God, Himself? He created the originals of all of the things that artists (His apprentices) attempt to copy in their endeavors ~ light, water, color, clouds, vapor, trees, mountains, flowers... you get the point. Gina uses observations from science, history, archaeology, Scripture, and even math to highlight the greatest works of art and draw our attention to them before she delves into the works of the "apprentices."

My daughter appreciated the organization of the text, which is set up in chronological order, with the artists being highlighted individually within their period. She also loved the fact that there were timelines laying out the placement of major works of art with concurrent major Biblical and World events. 

The main periods covered: 

  • Creation
  • Ancient Cultures
    • Ancient Near East
    • Egyptian
    • Aegean
  • Classical Antiquity
    • Early Greek
    • Etruscan
    • Roman
  • Middle Ages
    • Early Christian and Byzantine
    • Medieval and Islamic
    • Romanesque
    • Gothic
  • Renaissance
    • Proto-Renaissance
    • Early Italian Renaissance
    • High Italian Renaissance
    • Northern Renaissance
  • Baroque Era and Beyond
    • Baroque
    • Rococo to Today
    • Global Highlights
The Appendix is also rich in information including:
  • Six essays relating to Art, Christianity, and Biblical history
  • A complete timeline of all the works mentioned in the book, along with major Biblical/World events
  • A page of terms used to describe art
  • Pieces By Location, which is a nifty little "art travel guide" for the pieces mentioned in the book~ if you are traveling and want to see a piece you read about in person, this list will help you accomplish that! 
If using this for a high school curriculum(Art History/Art Appreciation), the Teacher Guide offers a very complete syllabus/time schedule, discussion questions for each chapter, and quarterly quizzes (that are somewhat cumulative in nature~ the first quiz has about 34 questions, the fourth and final quiz has over 60 questions).

Your student will learn to recognize famous works, the style, medium, and technique used along with information about the artists (when known). With the visuals of the artwork, there is an added hook to help them remember their Biblical and World History events. 

In reading through some chapters fully, and skimming through others again, I was very

pleased with the style of writing, the information imparted, and the overall layout of the book. This is a solid art history text that avoids graphics that many parents may find objectionable while still covering a majority of the major works, how they fit with history and theology.  The screenshot snippet that you can see on the right is a good illustration of some of the history and theology included that takes place during the discussion of particular works of art. 
I greatly appreciate also that it doesn't include any secular humanist ideologies or "subjective expository" so frequently found in secular art history resources. 

If you would like to get a feel for the content and set-up of the pages in the book, Gina has provided a number of sample pages that are much better quality than anything I could provide here, so please do go check them out! 

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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Thursday, June 21, 2018

A Review of Persuasive Writing and Classical Rhetoric: Practicing theHabits of Great Writers

Writing is one of the more difficult subjects to tackle, in some respects because it is both subjective and objective, so I always appreciate the chance to check out a new curriculum. This Spring Silverdale Press LLC offered a few of their products to the TOS Review Crew, including a number of Unit Studies for grades K-12 as well as Persuasive Writing & Classical Rhetoric: Practicing the Habits of Great Writers for high school students. We were selected to review the Writing Course.

The material, which is a full 36-week course is offered as a digital download, and comes with four parts:
  • Rhetoric Lesson Book: each Lesson is written directly to the student (Not requiring a parent/teacher for learning), with an overview of the week, a schedule, interesting, instructive text, ending with a "Profile in Rhetoric" featuring some of the greatest writers. 
  • Rhetoric Reader: includes excerpts from the authors featured in the "Profile in Rhetoric" for the lesson. 
  • Rhetoric Workbook: Also written towards the student (obviously), with four parts:
    • Review questions from the lesson 
    • Review questions from the Reader 
    • A Writing Exercise that relates to the lesson
    • A Writing Prompt for a 500-word essay each week, again relating to the lesson.
  • Rhetoric Answer Book: Answers to the review questions from the workbook. 
The authors directly suggest that the students use the workbook to "correct" their own papers, but that it is very important for the parent/teachers to discuss and give feedback on the writing exercises and the weekly essay. A rubric has been included in the front of the answer book to assist with this, and to help the students see what is expected in their writing. 

This is very much a "Classical Education" approach to Rhetoric, based upon three main habits the authors focus on, Writing, Reading, and Thinking on a regular basis.

After two introductory lessons, the students focus on three stages of Classical rhetoric, with 14 lessons covering "Invention" including The Subject, Stasis Theory, The Claim, Inartistic Appeals, Logical Appeals (Deductive and Inductive), Emotional Appeals, and Ethical Appeals. This is followed by 7 lessons in "Arrangement" which include The Introduction, Statement of Facts, Confirmation, Refutation, and Conclusion. The final stage is "Style" and there are 7 lessons here as well, that speak to Correctness in Words and Sentences and also Punctuation, Clarity in Character and Actions, Zapping Clutter, Ornamentation and Propriety. The final 5 lessons discuss "real world" writing including knowing the audience, what real writers today do, pitching your work, and dealing with rejection.

This is a very complete course of instruction, broken down into step-by-step details, which should allow your student to become a successful writer.

The Author Profiles in the Lessons, and the works in the Reader cover a wide variety of people including Patrick Henry and Alexander Hamilton, William Wilberforce and John F. Kennedy, Dorothy Sayers and Jane Austin, Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill, and E.B. White and Augustine, among others. Your student will be introduced to some of the facts of their history, as well as some of the things they were known for in their writing. I found this to be an interesting aspect of this curriculum, and appreciate the personalization of the lesson being taught.

A portion of the lesson book pdf layout.
You can see where the profiles are, with photos of the featured writer, as well as other illustrations.
From a purely aesthetic point of view, the lesson book and reader are set up very well with color illustrations, bold text, bullet points and spacing that make it easy to see the organization of the text/lesson. My son appreciated accessing the text electronically, rather than having one more set of books to keep track of (Which is a little bit of an issue when you live in a "reviewing" homeschool...).

He also thought that the lessons were a very reasonable length, and felt that the daily writing (whether answering questions, doing the exercises, or the longer essay) worked well as a way to improve his skills. The "Great Writers Write" point at the beginning of the book appears to have stuck.

The Workbook was not set up in a way that worked well with my son, however, again from a purely aesthetic point of view (not speaking to the content here at all). As is often the case with workbooks, the lines for the answers often leave too much space, or not enough. I personally would prefer to have the workbook be a streamlined set of questions, that wouldn't take as much ink and paper to print, (Or viewing them on the screen with the questions from each section on a single page) with answers written in a spiral or composition book, but that is purely my opinion.

You can download a sample from the product page linked below.
Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Homeschool Review Crew and see what others had to say about this as well as the Unit Studies mentioned at the beginning of the reivew. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.
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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

ARTistic Pursuits Art Instruction Books with DVD and Blu-Ray(GradesK-3~ Review)

I have been a fan of ARTistic Pursuits Inc. for quite some time, both reviewing and purchasing seperately, various titles for use. Although I no longer have a K-3rd grader, which is the target age for their new series, ARTistic Pursuits Art Instruction Books with DVD and Blu-Ray, I requested the title Art of the Middle Ages to review, so that I could compare/contrast with their previous books, and give an educated opinion if anyone in my local support group (or online) asked.

The entire series (Which replaces the three 2013 editions) :

  • K-3 Vol.1 ART FOR CHILDREN, Building a Visual Vocabulary
One of the major differences with this book is that it includes video instruction via DVD or Blue Ray. (Side note~ your mileage may vary, but our smart TV did NOT like the disc that was sent, but thankfully my computer DVD drive behaved itself, so we were able to view them. I usually prefer physical DVD's, but as my technology is aging, I am beginning to see the value in streaming/download options, which might be something for ARTistic Pursuits to consider.)

Lessons in this book. (Projects in Parenthesis)

  • Paper Loom Weave (Mat, and Paper Crown, which is one of the projects we did, pictured above)
  • People on the Move ~ Brooch in the Shape of a Bird (Paper Woven Beast)
  • Art in Monasteries ~ Medieval Illumination ~ (Initial Page)
  • Art in Basilicas ~ Byzantine Mosaics (Construction Paper Mosaic)
  • Art to Instruct ~ 
    • Gothic Panel Painting (Tissue Paper Panel Drawing~ This is one I want to try at some point, because it's really pretty!) 
    • Saint Francis with Scenes from his Life (Panel Relief)
  • Art in Churches~ Romanesque Altarpiece (Paper Collage)
  • Stitching
  • Art on Fabric~ Medieval Textiles 
    • (Burlap drawn and stiched panel)
    • Straw Loom Weave
  • Art in Castles ~ Medieval Tapestry (Outdoor Picture using weaving and stitching)
  • Book Binding
  • Art in the Bestiary ~ English Bestiary (Bestiary Picture)
  • Low-Relief ~
    • (Coat of Arms/Shield)
    • Art on Book Covers ~ Treasure Binding (Treasure Bound Book~ The other project we did ~ Very involved, but cool ~ Pictured Below)
  • The Icon ~ Eastern Orthodox Iconography
    • Raised PIcture
  • Art in Windows ~ Gothic Glass (Contruction Paper Stained Glass Window)
  • Art on Buildings ~ Gothic Architecture (Make a chipboard/cardboard statue)

Here are some Pros and Cons that I noticed with this dual delivery of instruction: 
  • Pros: 
    • The video portion is directed to the children. It makes for a nice change of pace. 
    • Sometimes it is very helpful to see a technique in action. 
    • Step-by-step instructions, followed by a quick recap.
    • Nice to have the ability to page through and choose projects. 
  • Cons: 
    • Because the instruction is included in the videos, it was left out of the book. I personally would love to see the basic parts of the instruction from the videos included as stills in the book. This would also be helpful if you have technical difficulties. 
    • If you have anyone with auditory issues, they might find some of the background music a little distracting (The first video on weaving I turned way down so that we could just barely hear Brenda Ellis' voice giving instruction). 
    • A little confusion in that the videos and the books appear to be written to the students, but K-3 are mostly too young to do this entirely on their own, so it's very much a "do-alongside-Mom" sort of instruction. 
I'll link you to my previous reviews, so that you can see how the 2013 series is set up. The first was from 2009, when I was very new to reviewing, AND I didn't have easy access to digital photography, so it is a strictly text review (Sorry!) of Grade K-3 Book 2: Stories of Artists and Their Art, and Junior High Book 1: The Elements of Art and Composition Featuring World Art.
In 2014 I reviewed a title for older students, Sculpture Technique: Model and
In 2015 I reviewed K-3 Book 3: Modern Painting and Sculpture, which is the most relevant review for contrasting/comparing with this title (and I have pictures!)

One of the other things I appreciate about Artistic Pursuits is the fact that they also offer bundled supplies that go with each volume, available for purchase~ you can find those on the webpages listed below.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
Visit Brenda Ellis and ARTistic Pursuits on Facebook and Twitter

Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Homeschool Review Crew and see what others had to say about this and other K-3 Titles that were reviewed. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Nuggets of Gold (New music by Chris August, and Jonny Diaz ~ Could June get any better? Keep reading...)

Ay-yi-yi! I wanted to post this earlier!!!

Chris August has a new album out, and New Release Today is offering one of his songs for free download till the 14th. Go download "Worry" from the album "Seasons."
You're welcome. ☺

(And in case you want to listen before you download... )

Probably my favorite song on the album is "Moonlight"~ this is sooooo gorgeous!
The musicality and intricacy is fantastic!

As always, Chris August delivers...  ☺

As I mentioned in my title, Jonny Diaz has new music~ an EP "Sweetness and Sorrow"

He says this is the song that resonates with him the most... 
(Listen all the way through... ☺)

Oh, and Steven Curtis has a new song out also!! WOOT!!!

I missed sharing For King and Country's new song that released in May...

This is a fun, rather retro (MTV-style?) music video~ 
We always have the option to


And if you prefer a less stylized/concept video, and want their live "energy," here is a unique single shot video from a concert in Florida...

One more thing to keep an eye out for...
Unspoken has a new single coming out on Friday! I don't have a link or any further information, but you know it will be good! 
And Francesca Battistelli has a new song coming out on Friday as well... 

So, I hope this gives you some things to listen to, and some new music to pick up, starting with that free Chris August tune.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Memoria Press (Classical Composition I: Fable Set) A Review

When Memoria Press offered us a selection of products to review, I chose to introduce my Youngest to their Classical Composition I: Fable Set. This set includes the Student Book, the Teacher Guide, and Instructional DVD. I appreciate that both the instructional DVD and the Teacher Guide are included, as this opens up options for student work location. Not always tied to electronics (Instructional DVD) to do the work, because the Teacher Guide includes the instructions required, which means that lessons can be taken outside, to the park, or in the car. However, it is also very nice to have the option to have someone other than Mom or Dad "teach" the lesson, particularly if one isn't as familiar with walking through an outline with their kids.

OK, so now that I've given you a little hint to the content, let me tell you how the lessons are set up. As is typical with Memoria Press, each lesson looks pretty much the same, and they basically drill the concept over and over until it becomes natural.

  • Fable ~ The specific fable for the lesson is printed at the beginning of each lesson
  • Three Plot Components (If applicable) of Recognition, Reversal, and Suffering
  • Variations Part 1 ~ Student comes up with synonyms for 3 or 4 words in a given sentence and then rewrites the sentence three different ways. 
  • Narration (Not in the Student Book, but definitely a component of the lesson, and one of my favorite parts! :) )
  • Outline ~ Summarize fable in outline form. This is a very useful skill to work on, so I appreciate that it shows up in each lesson. The Teacher Guide includes suggested outlines, so you can work from that directly, but the walk-through on the DVD is also valuable. 
  • Paraphrases ~ Generally two paraphrases per fable. The first generally adds in specific Figures of Description (using the Latin names for each one*), and the second is usually written "by reduction" in the briefest form possible without any descriptors.
    • *The Appendix includes 18 Figures of Description with examples for each. These words may or may not be familiar to you, depending on your experience with Classical Education. Here are a few: Anemographia, Dendrographia, Dialogismus, Effictio, Prosopographia, Sermocinatio... These are things that I certainly didn't learn in my public school education. ;) 
  • Variations Part 2 ~ Same thing as Part 1, but with different words/sentences
  • Appendix~ I mentioned the Figures of Description above. The Student Book also includes an "Introduction to the Progymnasmata" by James A Selby, that might be interesting for an older student to read. 

The Teacher Guide begins with teaching guidelines and an advanced rubric for grading purposes. The rest of the book has identical pages to the student book, with instructions specific to each lesson, including vocabulary words, and a more general grading rubric geared to that lesson.

If Classical Education is your style, Memoria Press definitely offers materials that will challenge your child, with ample opportunity to practice the skills that they are being taught.

One minor point that I will mention here~ if you have a student for whom handwriting still isn't smooth and natural, the lines and spacing of the Student book may be a little short. On his best days, his handwriting isn't fabulous, but the more college ruled spacing definitely contributed to a bit of a defeatist attitude. When I suggested that he write his outline on a piece of wide-ruled notebook paper (and do it in cursive), the readability improved drastically. Still not fantastic, but better.

Memoria Press offers sample pages of the Student Book and Teacher Guide as well as a "General Sequence and Outcomes of Program" to download on the product page linked below.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
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Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Homeschool Review Crew and see what others had to say about this and the other products that were offered for review: Products from the New American Cursive Penmanship series, the Traditional Logic Series, and the Classical Composition Series, of which Fables is the first part.

As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.

New American Cursive & Traditional Logic {Memoria Press Reviews}

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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Critical Thinking Co.™ (A Whodunnit Forensic Mystery review)

Generally speaking, I have always enjoyed using materials* from The Critical Thinking Co.™, and I was looking forward to using Something Fishy at Lake Iwannafisha with my Youngest (almost 11) who loves to play cops and robbers/ FBI types of games with his cousins and other family/friends. The description on the website sounded like it might be just up his alley: "Students work individually or in small teams as police detectives to solve this fun and engaging crime mystery. Students begin by learning about different types of forensic evidence such as fingerprints, ballistics, handwriting, and more.

Unfortunately, in our case the "and more" was something of an issue for my family... fingerprints, ballistics, and handwriting are all fairly innocuous sounding and something that my detective-loving kid would enjoy. However, the description on their webpage doesn't really do a good job of describing the actual book, and it was not at all what I expected. I think I was hoping for a little more advanced "Encyclopedia Brown" type of kid-friendly (burglary and theft?) thing in typical Critical Thinking format, not CSI-style (identifying dead bodies and determining time of death) type of thing that makes us ALL rather queasy~ not really something appropriate for 5th-9th grade, in my honest opinion... and my 17-year-old has no interest either... We truly aren't a CSI -type of family, and there was no mention on the website of the actual type of crime that would be investigated in this book.

That being said, if your family appreciates that sort of crime/drama investigation and conversation, then this book might be a perfect fit for you. It really does show how every clue is intertwined with the others and that each area of an investigation is important. There are forensic evidence lessons in Anthropology, Arson, Ballistics, Counterfeit Money, Death Investigation (Entomology/Autopsy), Document and Handwriting Analysis, and Fingerprints. The lessons in Ballistics, Counterfeit Money, Document and Handwriting analysis and Fingerprints are pieces that I was able to read through without getting nauseous (Yeah, EMT/Doctor/Police material I most definitely am not!), and found them quite interesting, but I wasn't able to do much with them, because of how intertwined they were with the rest of the investigation.

By the way, unlike other Critical Thinking Co.™  titles, this book is NOT one to just hand to your kids and let them go. The first 20 pages are intended only for the instructor and contain background information on the suspects, witnesses and missing persons, as well as summaries of police and forensic reports, witness statements, forensic lab reports, timeline of events, and a general overview of the crimes committed. There are also step-by-step instructions and a checklist for handouts (which are numerous), and answer keys for investigation notes and final reports on the cases being investigated.
Copies of all of the handouts may be made directly from the book or printed from a file that is accessed through a link in the book.

*Previous Reviews for 
The Critical Thinking Co.™ products:
2010 Balance Benders (Grades 2-6)
2012 Crypto Mindbenders (Grades 3-12+)
2015 Practical Critical Thinking (Grades 9-12)
2016 Sentence Diagramming (Grades 3-12+)
I have purchased and used many other books from them. This has been my only disappointment with this company, and only because it wasn't a good fit for our particular family~ which could have been avoided by a better description on the website.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 

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BONUS: to help your budget along a little more, The Critical Thinking Co.™ is offering a deal to my readers:
Free Shipping + 15% Off Any Size Order!
Use Coupon Code: TOSCREW18
Expires 12/31/2018

Critical Thinking, Understanding Math & Vocabulary {The Critical Thinking Co.™ Reviews}

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