Book Review – Drawing School

Drawing School book review

I’m a sucker for art books. When I was homeschooling, I had quite a few on the shelves for my kids like Mark Kistler’s Draw Squad and various Klutz Art books, among others. I have always felt that basic art and drawing skills are important to teach!

I recently had the chance to review Drawing School. (Thank you Quarto Group and Edelweiss!) This book is ADORABLE and stuffed full of over 300 things to draw with very clear and easy-to-follow drawing instructions. The 272 pages are organized into categories of items that will appeal to both boys and girls. The categories are:

  • Pets
  • Sports Stuff
  • Let’s Celebrate
  • On the Farm
  • At the Beach
  • Under the Sea
  • At the Zoo
  • In the Garden
  • At the Circus
  • At the Show (with things like guitars, instruments, a movie star, etc.)
  • In a Fairy Tale
  • Around the House
  • At School
  • Around Town
  • Around the World
  • Beyond Our World (planets, an astronaut, etc.)
  • In the Past (dinosaurs)

The book starts out with a small section on supplies and basic drawing instruction, like learning how to see shapes and different types of lines.

Each section features a number of specific items that belong in the category. The items are shown being drawn in full color with manageable steps like the following screenshot of a cat’s head:

At the end of each section, there is a full color, 2-page spread that shows many of the section’s drawings in a scene like this:

Homeschoolers will like the Around the World section with instructions on how to draw things like an Egyptian pharaoh:

This book is not just for kids. I got it for myself, lol…because the drawings are so cute and perfect for handmade cards and notes.

I LOVE this book. I love the happy, colorful drawings, as well as the simple drawing instructions. If you have a student who loves drawing, Drawing School would make an excellent Christmas present, or a perfect addition to a low-key art program.

Beowulf’s Grammar is Ready!

Beowulf's Grammar Curriculum

Beowulf’s Grammar is ready to go!! We are having a 2-day sale on the Beowulf’s Grammar Bundle (both the workbook and the teacher’s manual). Get both for an amazing $30! After 2 days the sale price is going up to $35, and then, after a week, the combo will be full price ($40 – a 10% bundle discount). Get it now at this amazing deal!

Purchase the bundle here:
http://guesthollow.com/…/beowulfs-grammar-bundle-save-over…/

Want more info on Beowulf’s Grammar? Check it out at:
http://www.guesthollow.com/homescho…/…/beowulfs_grammar.html

Say good-bye to your boring grammar curriculum! Beowulf’s Grammar makes learning grammar FUN!

Homeschool Grammar Curriculum

 

Book Review – Nyxia

I haven’t taken any time to review books in a long time, but recently came across a Y.A. (young adult) sci-fi book that looked so promising, I had to grab the ARC copy. I’m SO glad I did, because Nyxia by Scott Reintgen is one of the best YA sci-fi books I’ve read in a long time. It features a host of multi-cultural characters (which is unusual!), unexpected twists, great pacing, and some unique sci-fi elements that were a joy to read for the geeky girl inside me. 😉 I devoured it in 2 days and am chomping at the bit to get the other 2 books in the series (which are, as yet, unpublished)! It reminds me of a mix of Hunger Games, The Maze, and maybe a smattering of Red Rising – and yet it’s quite original.

Here’s the book’s description, and then I’ll add my comments:

Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.

Forever.

Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden—a planet that Babel has kept hidden—where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.

But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.

There’s a bit of mystery swirling throughout the entire book. The author only hints at bits and pieces about the Babel Corporation – letting you know there is something more going on, but not unraveling what that something is. It’s clear Babel is the most powerful corporation on Earth, and it’s clear they aren’t upfront with their recruits. That’s about all that’s clear! They aren’t telling them something about the mysterious and most valuable material ever found – Nyxia, or the circumstances surrounding their trip to Eden. Babel is lying about… something. Babel is hiding…something, not only from the recruits, but from those left behind on Earth. That thread winds itself through the novel, leaving tantalizing clues, but never giving any concrete answers.

There is also something about Nyxia itself that is almost frightening. From it, Babel has achieved unheard of technological advances. It’s a material that can be manipulated into almost anything, and yet you wonder, is the material itself doing the manipulating?

Then, there is the mystery surrounding the Adamaites, the native inhabitants of Eden who are more technologically advanced and powerful then we are. There is something that has gone wrong with the Adamites and it seems they are unable to reproduce. The youngest Adamite is in his 50’s and for some reason it appears that there are no more females. They treasure and adore children…which is why these 10 teens are hurtling through space on their way to Eden. Only children will be allowed on the planet to mine Nyxia and a competition ensues. Out of the 10 recruits, only 8 will be chosen.

The children chosen are from poverty stricken backgrounds, all of them with a huge and desperate needs. Babel exploits those needs in what becomes a brutal competition.  The losing 2 will get a small amount of money, but the winners will get everything beyond their wildest dreams, not only for themselves, but for their families. For Emmett it means saving his mother from the cancer that’s killing her. If he loses the competition, he could very well lose her. This isn’t just about being rich (and famous), it’s about life and death.  That makes some interesting moral situations that don’t always have an easy answer. The desperation all of the recruits face is also something that makes it easier for them to ignore the undercurrent that something isn’t quite right.

I loved the character development throughout the book as these teens are stretched to their limits – both physically and sometimes morally. The adults in the book are also multi-layered. No one is purely black or white as far as good and evil and the struggles the characters go through are thought-provoking. I loved the honest approach to these struggles. It wasn’t always clear what a character would do in different situations, and the author didn’t shy away from allowing even Emmett to have flaws that he had to work and sometimes fight through. You grow to love him and other characters and you also can’t help but hate some as well, and yet nothing is ever totally set in stone in that regard. Even the hated characters have their reasons for being the way they are and because of the depth of the character development and the complexity of the situations, it’s not always totally clear who you want to win, or who you want to lose…

As a parent, I can say that this books is quite CLEAN and promotes morality – but in an honest and non-preachy way. The characters have their struggles, but it’s refreshing to see some take the higher path, even if it could turn out to be a sacrifice. Emmett’s background is also positive. He comes from a rough neighborhood, but he’s stayed away from drugs and other negative lifestyle choices. He loves and honors his parents, and their relationship is touching. There is a little bit of “boy likes girl” with a scene of holding hands and a non-descriptive kiss. The way it’s handled is pretty wholesome and doesn’t seem contrived or out of place, nor is it “obsessive.”

Another thing I noticed is that there are multiple minor religious references. At first I wasn’t sure if they were underhanded digs toward Christians, but over time figured out that the author is coming from a Christian background and drops little tidbits here and there that aren’t proselytizing, but appear as the main character struggles to understand things or in reference to Babel. They won’t offend a secular reader, and they are refreshing to a Christian reader. I get tired of YA books with anti-Christian agendas. This isn’t one of them.

There is a LOT of violence in this book,

***spoiler alert***

including a death that was a bit unexpected (think: a Game of Thrones killing that gets rid of a character you LIKE).

***end of spoiler alert***

The violence is probably at the level of Hunger Games. I recall only one incident of very minor cursing (the word hell).

The “about the author” note states: Scott Reintgen has spent his career as a teacher of English and creative writing in diverse urban communities in North Carolina. The hardest lesson he learned was that inspiration isn’t equally accessible for everyone. So he set out to write a novel for the front-row sleepers and back-row dreamers of his classrooms. He hopes that his former students see themselves, vibrant and on the page, in characters like Emmett.

I think he’s done a tremendous job in creating a page-turning novel that does exactly what he was trying to do. It’s very difficult to find any worthwhile sci-fi that is accessible to teens (and adults who like YA novels!!). Nyxia does a terrific job not only as a sci-fi novel, but also as something that tackles tough issues and brings to life a multitude of cultures in a fresh and exciting way. If you have a teen who loves sci-fi or you want to encourage a student to dip his/her feet into that genre, Nyxia definitely fills a YA sci-fi void! I can’t wait for the next two books to come out!!

Grammar Sneak Peek!

Here are some screenshots of pages from my up-and-coming grammar curriculum for grades 2-6. During the 20+ years of teaching my children, I never found a grammar curriculum they or I loved. Everything was so borrrrrring and difficult to retain. Beowulf the Fox Terrier is going to change all of that….

If you’ve been looking for a new grammar curriculum, you’ll want to see this!

I’m working hard to get Beowulf’s Grammar finished by August or September of this year in time for the new school year!

Chemistry in the Kitchen Review!

Lisa used Chemistry in the Kitchen with her two boys this past year and wrote a terrific review of their experience. Take a look at her post here:
 

Wildflowers

It seems like every day there is a new wildflower popping up around here. There are so many that some areas look like they were planted on purpose because they are THICK with a variety of flowers! God is a great gardener. 😉

I don’t have time to work on a Charlotte Mason style / artist / sketchbook / nature journal right now, so I catalogue what I find via pictures and pop them into a Microsoft Word document with info.  Hopefully someday I’ll have more time to whip out the watercolors and make a physical journal. At least for now I’m learning the names of everything as well as the common uses, or if something’s edible, etc. I really enjoy taking at least a little time to observe and learn about nature! It really recharges my “batteries,” especially when I’ve been working on the computer for hours everyday (making an awesome grammar curriculum / workbook for you all)! P.S. Don’t judge the grammar in my post, lol…This is the casual Jenn, not the working Jenn. 😉

We don’t have the $$ to buy one of those fancy closeup lenses for my Nikon, but my husband managed to score a little screw-on lens (that goes over another lens) that seems to do a pretty good job. I took it out for the first time the other day and it beat trying to take pictures with my tablet. Here are a few pictures I took of things that are on my property for my “plant catalogue / guide.”

We have two types of wild roses (Nootka and Woodsii). They are everywhere! There are a few huge thickets with lovely blossoms, as well as tons of bushes in random places. I can’t believe how fast they grow. We’ve had bushes pop up on bare ground that are nearly 2 feet tall already. I love both colors:

We have yarrow growing everywhere. It has pretty, feathery leaves and clusters of white flowers:

This is cinquefoil (Potentilla). I love the lemony-yellow petals.

Lupine is everywhere right now. We have a small bit on our property, with new plants popping up all the time. They grow in clusters and sometimes you see fields full!

I was so thrilled to find thimble berries growing in a section of our property! They make these huge white flowers and giant leaves that look like huge maple leaves. I can’t wait to eat the delicious berries later in the season!

I think this is orange hawkweed. It really stands out!

These Mariposa lilies are all over. They are so delicate looking and totally at home in the forest:

We have a small bit of hairy vetch. It’s everywhere else in abundance. I love seeing huge clusters of it along the roads. Vetch is in the pea family and is a nitrogen fixer. It’s good for the soil!

I believe this is narrow-leaf collomia from the phlox family:

We have wild honeysuckle!!! This is stuff people PAY for to put in their yards and it grows wild in mine, lol.

We also have rosy pussytoes (or cat’s paw). I think it’s such a unique and lovely flower that looks like a little bouquet:

This is a blue damselfly. They are pretty common and flit around here and there, along with dragonflies and an abundance of butterflies. They add a little extra splash of mobile color. 😉

I love having so many wildflowers and pretty things growing on our property! I love that the rain waters them and they look beautiful without a lick of work. 😉 I can’t wait to see what emerges next week and the week after that! It’s like a non-stop show around here!

Salt A World History is on sale today!

If you ever plan on using Chemistry in the Kitchen, one of the books is on sale today (Kindle version) for 1.99!

http://amzn.to/2sYpSzm

Happy homeschooling!

Guest Hollow News

If you are using Chemistry in the Kitchen, you may wish to join the 2017-2018 Chemistry in the Kitchen User’s Group. This group GH is open to all Guest Hollow Chemistry in the Kitchen users and students. This group was started by Jessica L. and is designed for students to interact, teachers to share thoughtful ways to engage their teens and much more!

Check it out if you are already using Chemistry in the Kitchen this summer, or plan on using starting it up this fall!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/184565455402947/

If you’ve purchased Chemistry in the Kitchen, Physics, Knowledge of Nature, High School Anatomy, or Biology, you can now access a free printable books & resources list for your curriculum to help you with your planning / shopping.

The printable book lists are available as a download via your store account (just log in and grab them):

http://guesthollow.com/store/my-account/

You can also find them on the ONLINE schedule homepage(s) in both Microsoft Word format (so you can highlight / cross things out, etc.) and PDF format (just print and mark things up the old fashioned way with a pencil, lol).

The only exception to this is the Biology curriculum book list. The printable book list is available to those who have purchased a schedule and is only accessible via the store account downloads. It’s an added benefit / bonus for those who’ve purchased a printable schedule for this FREE curriculum. Everyone else can still see the books and resources via the website page.

Here’s a small screenshot of what the books and resources lists look like:

The rest of the curriculum schedules will also have book lists. They will be added as they are completed.

I’d like to give a HUGE thank you to Heather Garson for creating these and sending them to me, so that I have more time to work on curriculum.

In other news, grammar is coming right along. My proofreaders are going over the pages I’ve already created, and I’m working on finishing up the rest, as well as the built in review pages and teacher’s guide. I’ll post updates here and on my FB page!

Spring in the forest

We had a very long winter, here, as well as a slow spring. But, finally! Spring is here in full force with new wildflowers popping up every day and tons of forest eye candy. I thought I’d share a few pictures!

The hummingbirds here are crazy. They flock around our feeders 5-6 at a time. Sometimes, in the evenings, there will be NINE floating and buzzing around, fighting for a bit of sugar water, and they actually SHARE a feeder. I posted a video on my Guest Hollow FB page of them landing on my hands. Click the linked text, if you want to take a look. They are practically tame, and I’ve never seen hummingbirds act like this where we lived before.

My husband took a picture of this calliope hummingbird – the smallest bird in the United States:

Picture © Charles Guest

They are like little jewels and always darting everywhere. I have a feeder hanging right out the window where I do all of my Guest Hollow work, so I can see them and their aerial acrobatics all day. It always sounds like subtle, tiny chainsaws right outside my window.

It’s a very physical existence here, with tons of outside work, but we manage to squeeze in time to learn more about the forest. Even though I’m no longer homeschooling, I still love to learn. 😉 One of the things I’ve been learning is how to identify the local plants, and other botany related topics. I’m learning permaculture principles, as well, and how to apply them to the “food forest” / garden / orchard we are working on creating.

We were really fortunate to get to tour our new friends’ homestead and see permaculture principles put in action. Monica and Sean of The Prepared Homestead invited us to join one of the tours they put on for one of the classes they teach (they also give tours to groups & individual families). We learned more in that hour tour than hours and hours of reading! It was wonderful to actually see firsthand how a permaculture oriented homestead works, and to walk through their amazing gardens & food forest.

They are now opening up a new bed-and-breakfast in their home: Huckleberry Mountain Homestead & Breakfast. I was privileged to see the beautiful rooms they put together. If you are ever looking for a unique bed-and-breakfast experience, I highly recommend them. They are friendly, kind, and knowledgeable folks!

So, anyway, we are constantly learning about something new. My husband remarked to me the other day that he has NEVER been interested in identifying bird calls, until now, lol. We are constantly surrounded by bird song, and it’s fun to know who’s doing the singing. 😉

He’s less enthusiastic about learning to identify all of the flowers, lol, but he puts up with my constant chatter and pointing out the many new things I know. He encourages my love for this type of learning and supports all of my efforts in that area.

Here’s a picture of some fairy slippers (orchids) growing wild in the forest:

Picture © Charles Guest

A close up:

Picture © Charles Guest

We are chickens when it comes to eating wild mushrooms, but I’ve at least seen my first morel!

Picture © Charles Guest

I love all of the wildflowers that grow in the forest, like this trillium:

Picture © Charles Guest

Even though many of the smaller seasonal snow-melt creeks are starting to disappear, the rivers are full and wild and beautiful:

Picture © Charles Guest

The biggest treat, though, is that we got to see the northern lights!!! I’ve always wanted to see them!!

Picture © Charles Guest

Picture © Charles Guest

Picture © Charles Guest

Picture © Charles Guest

At first there was just this odd subtle tinged green glow in the sky, but there was not a moon out, and it was midnight, and we don’t live near any big cities. My husband looked at his aurora notification app and there was a higher than usual chance of seeing them….but there was just this odd glow and nothing spectacular. He brought out his camera and started capturing it via long exposures. We were able to confirm via the pictures that it was indeed the northern lights.  We were out there a long time, and then around 1:00 a.m. or 1:30 a.m. there was this distinct glowing band that formed. It was not long after that that the magic happened, and we saw what you’d consider the typical aurora (at least a mini version) where they shimmer and undulate across the sky. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. There were a few bursts of red and sometimes a long streak would flash up in the sky. It was almost like it couldn’t be real, lol…like someone was playing with special effects in a movie.

I love our new home, and I love all of the new things I’m experiencing and learning. I’ll post soon about the hugelkultur bed we’re building!

The Biggest Homeschool Sale of the Year!

Today is the first day of the Build Your Own Bundle sale! There are only 8 days left, and then the bundles will no longer be available. The bundles are offered at a HUGE savings. For example, you can build a bundle by picking 5 items that normally would cost about $129 and pay only $39. I have 4 items featured in the sale AND I’m offering a 15% off coupon in the Bundle of Bonuses book every BYOB customer receives for free. Check out the sale before it’s gone! This is truly a great deal! If I was still homeschooling, I’d be purchasing a bunch of stuff from this sale, lol.