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.

A mom shares her experience with Chemistry in the Kitchen

homeschool chemistry curriculum review
A mom recently shared her teens’ experiences with Chemistry in the Kitchen. I’m sharing what she wrote here, with her permission! I get a lot of emails that describe this type of transformation of a student’s attitude toward science. These stories highlight what my goal for Guest Hollow curriculum is: to engage students, get them thinking, teach them practical things they will actually use in their lives, and spark an interest in learning by using a creative approach. If you have a story to share how Guest Hollow has changed your school day or your child’s view of a particular subject, please feel free to share in the comments! Your sharing will help other families better decide if Guest Hollow is a fit for them or not! 🙂
 
The excerpt from the email I received:
 
I’ve always been intrigued with a more literature learning style but my boys were reluctant. They say they prefer one textbook for the whole course. What I’ve found is when it comes to science a textbook can be hard because they tend to just give the facts and you memorize. There is no practical application (aside from experiments.) When I chose this course I didn’t know if it would be a good fit. It was so different than anything we’ve done before. They liked that they only had one small book at a time, it didn’t feel so overwhelming. If they didn’t like a book they knew it would be over in a week and they would jump into something new. My oldest who is the pickiest loved all the practical learning. He would often pull me into a discussion about what he read that day. Sometimes it would be comments like, “I’m never eating that again” and sometimes it would be, “What do you think about vaccines, my book says this.” Both teens willing do their science daily – that to me is the biggest blessing because with Biology, I had a wonderful and solid course for them but they fought me all year. We ended up doing just the reading part and the microscope sat in the box unopened. I think this course is perfect for the non-traditional learner because it is more interest-led. My boys have already decided that we will be doing Guest Hollow Physics next year.

Solar Power via the SunJack…

Besides creating homeschool curriculum, I also sometimes write reviews for products. Most of those product reviews are on Amazon. In fact, my current reviewer ranking # is 540 (top 1000 out of anyone / everyone who writes reviews on Amazon )! This translates into getting lots of interesting items for free or a discount in exchange for a review through Amazon sellers. It’s taken me several years to build my reviewer ranking up, but it’s been well worth the time invested.  Recently I was asked to test and review a solar charger that we actually really need/want, but the review needs to be posted on my blog, so here it is. I know a lot of you who are homeschooling are into a more natural lifestyle and the like, so you might find this interesting. Christmas is also coming up (for those of you who are early shoppers, LOL), so if you have a husband into prepping, a science minded kid, or if your family hikes a lot or lives where the power goes out, this is a REALLY great item….a SunJack portable solar charger!

P.S. Some homeschool news is posted at the end of this post. 😉

solar charger

The dog moved when I was taking the picture with my tablet – hence the goofy ghost paws. 😉

I’ve tried some smaller solar power banks, and it turns out that they aren’t very efficient and take days (on average) to fully charge. The SunJack solves the problem with a much more powerful solar cells that are strong enough to not only run my tablet when it’s on, but also charge it to 100% without leaving it in the sun all day. I’m VERY pleased, as this means we can charge both of our phones, tablet, solar lights, and other goodies when we are “off-the-grid” and also when exploring the local area on treks/hikes/camping trips.

The SunJack is NOT cheap, and you might be wondering if it’s worth the steep price tag. If you need the ability to charge USB items (phone, tablets, camping lights, small USB fans, Kindle, etc.), I think it’s worth the investment. Homeschoolers have  the added educational bonus, too, lol. Seriously, this is something Otter would have LOVED to play with. 😉

I did a bit of research about the efficiency of solar cells. The SunJack’s efficiency is rated at 19%. This means that in combination with latitude and the climate, it can convert 19% of the sunlight energy it captures into electrical energy. It seems that there aren’t many solar cells out there that can do much more with a few exceptions, especially at this price point.

The SunJack comes with a 8000mah batter/power bank that has enough power to charge an iPhone 6 Plus about 2.7 times. I kept my Kindle Fire 8 HD tablet plugged to it and turned on for 2 days and I only ran the batter down halfway. Then I hooked the battery up to a Bluetooth speaker and a Kindle Fire 7 and while using those items like a radio. By morning I finally ran the battery down to the point where it was there was only 1 blue indicator light blinking (to indicate the battery was low). The battery / power bank detaches from the SunJack via a USB cord – which is nice that it’s not tethered.

sunjack solar power

It might be worthwhile to purchase a 2nd battery to charge with the 1st one is being used. It took me about 7 hours to fully charge the battery/power bank. When it’s fully charged, the 5 blue indicator lights are solid, when you push the power button. The battery is a terrific feature that you can power up using the sun initially, and then use it to charge items when the sun isn’t shining! You can also plug the battery straight into a USB charger via a wall outlet for convenience sake. The SunJack has a built in voltage regulator so that you can’t overcharge the battery pack.

sunjack solar power

When the sun IS shining, the SunJack works pretty well as an instant charger – just like plugging your gadget(s) into a wall socket! This is its most amazing feature, as far as I’m concerned. I hooked my tablet directly up to the SunJack via a USB cord. I kept it running AND charging at the same time. The SunJack was able to charge it 10% in about 40 minutes. That’s not bad considering that the tablet was ON and the SunJack wasn’t in constant direct sunlight the entire time. It was also the late afternoon heading into the evening. It puts out 5 volts, so it should be able to charge any USB item that has that requirement. I read in the questions and answers that the SunJack can’t charge a laptop (via an official answer by the seller). It worked great for my tablet, though! The official description says it can charge a phone in 90 minutes, and I think that is a pretty correct assessment, as long as you put it in full sun.

As for construction – the SunJack is really well put together. When it’s all folded up, it only takes up about 9 x 7 inches and weighs about 2 pounds. It features a zipper net style pouch where the battery is stored via slipping into a stretchy strap. There are also 2 USB ports and an included plug to plug in either the battery for charging purposes, or an electronic device, if you want to run it directly off the SunJack. One of the USB ports is high power, the other low power. You can plug two items in at one time. The solar panels are covered by a water-resistant material (probably a polyester??). It stays closed and folded up via a Velcro. When you unfold it, it’s 30.75 inches long by 9.25 inches wide (AND 1.75” thick). The solar panels are mono-crystalline and protected by plastic panels. All of the stitching of the case is sturdy and well done. There are 2 carabiners that you can attach to various loops located in different places, so you can hang the SunJack on the back of your pack, a tree, or other object. I used it lying flat on the grass and angled toward the sun on a chair.

sunjack solar charger

I’m really impressed with the SunJack and know it will be the first solar charger we pull out when the power goes out, or when we are backpacking out in a forest far from civilization. 😉 It puts out enough juice to keep our important items running, and I love the freedom of using just the sun to power things up. If you are looking for something for your bugout box, homestead, camping trip, emergency kit, kid’s science project, or hike – the SunJack is pricey, but it actually gets the job done when it comes to charging things up.

Click here to go to the official website, or here to buy a SunJack from Amazon.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a SunJack for free from Sunjack in consideration for a gear review.

HOMESCHOOL & CURRICULUM NEWS:

Keep a lookout for my new, terrific language arts unit about prepositions! I’ll be posting it soon. It will be the first in a series of grammar units for elementary age. It is truly the most fun and hands-on grammar unit I’ve seen (in my biased opinion, lol).  I also plan on starting work on a NON MATH high school physics course sometime this late fall. American history will follow physics! Subscribe to my blog for updates, or keep an eye on my Facebook page!

Share the love!

I plan on putting a testimonials page up on our website. If you have any experiences you’d like to share about using Guest Hollow, please let me know! Here is a comment from an email I received from Trista (who gave me permission to share). She is using our high school anatomy curriculum AND the botany curriculum at the same time with her daughter. She said her daughter is retaining things more than any other program they have tried. When I asked her what she thinks made a difference she said,

” I think it is between the repetition and your way of presenting things in so many different ways. She has a lot of learning problems and sometimes it seems as though we are merely going through the motions of “school”, but not with her Guest Hollow classes. Your classes are great for her. She doesn’t complain about doing them, even looks forward to them and seems to be retaining most of what is presented. The way the classes is set-up she never knows what to expect each day and becomes excited as she completes daily assignments.”

If you’d like to share your story, thoughts, or reviews) about using Guest Hollow curriculum or materials, please email me at: guesthollow@memorableplaces.com. I would love to share what you write on our website! 🙂

Also, for those of you who don’t want to read posts about my garden and vacation pictures and such, lol, you can follow us on our new Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/guesthollow

We can also answer your questions about using Guest Hollow curricula there! Please head on over to like our page!

I nearly wish I had a baby so I could buy these books…

Well, O.K. that’s a huge exaggeration. I’ve had teens and that pretty much cured any baby yearnings I may have had in the past… 😉 But still….these books are so deliciously CUTE! They combine adorableness (perfect for babies & toddlers) with the classics (perfect for literature loving moms & dads).

Cozy Classics

I always worked hard to nurture the love of literature in my children from an early age. I wish this brilliant idea of a baby board book was around when they were in arms. What a perfect way to introduce babies to time-honored stories and characters! Babies won’t have any idea of what is going on, but after cutting their teeth on these board books (perhaps literally, lol) they’ll at least have a foundation of being introduced to some of the greatest stories of all time. How many of us can say we loved Pride and Prejudice before we could read a word? 🙂 Thanks to Cozy Classics, that can be a reality for your nerdy baby (and I say that as a compliment).

Each book features felted figures (cozy!) in a variety of indoor and outdoor settings. The pictures look almost 3-D and remind me of some of the story books I used to have (and adore) as a child.

Each page features one word on the left side of the 2 page spread and felted character or objects on the 2nd that illustrate a part of the classic story. I find the illustrations (photographs actually) to be really original and endearing.

classics for kids

If I had a baby, I would get these books. Even without one, as a collector of children’s books, I’m highly tempted… They are lovely! Who said babies can’t be homeschooled? Start their love of literature with these sweet introductions to the classics!

Here are some pages from the Jane Austin book:

jane austin for babies

Here are some pages from the Moby Dick book:

Moby Dick for babies

I was given free e book versions of these adorable board books in exchange for my honest review.

Want to read more of my book reviews (for adults, teens and children)? Click here!

Song School Greek

A Review / Opinion of Song School Greek
from Classical Academic Press

Song School Greek

Song School Greek is a gentle introduction to Koine Greek designed for children in 1st-3rd grade. It’s main focus is on exposure to conversational Greek, 135 vocabulary words, the Greek alphabet and basic decoding skills.

Even though Otter is out of the target age, I looked over the materials and we decided to do the program together anyway. Song School Greek is an instantly appealing book with a colorful, slick, glossy cover. Inside, there are 222 pages chock-full of lessons with child friendly black-and-white illustrations, activities and songs. There is a cd in a plastic sleeve in the back with 62 songs. Thirty-one of the tracks are sung in traditional Greek and the other thirty-one are in modern Greek. In fact, the entire book has options to learn either the traditional or modern Greek, both clearly marked with syllable-by-syllable pronunciation guides.

The program starts you off learning about the Greek alphabet. The introduction is followed by 30 chapters focusing on such topics as items in the classroom, things at home, color, shapes, Jesus’ birth, eating, animals and more. Most of the vocabulary seems to be centered around words a younger child would be interested in learning and using around the classroom and home environment. Some example words from the various chapters are:

  • write, drink, hide, feed, eat, carry, play, sleep, throw, kick
  • books, pen, papers, scissors, chairs, doors, floor, ball, bed, song
  • the father / the mother / teacher
  • good morning / good night
  • yes / no
  • head, shoulder, knee, feet, mouth, hair, eyes
  • fruit, grape, apple, meat, cheese, fish, bread, milk, water
  • sheep, pig, horse, dog, lion, camel, animals
  • earth, mountain, moon, sun, sea, sky
  • I love you, thank you, I see, Where is __?

Songs are an important component of the program and most of them are set to familiar tunes such as “London Bridge”, “Frère Jacques”, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, “Hush Little Baby”, the Doxology and more. There are also a few chants. While the program can be taught to older kids, I think the songs are going to appeal mostly to younger students. Otter (a 5th grader) thought they were babyish, but didn’t protest since he found them to be a really easy and effective way to get the vocabulary to stick in his head. The songs are sung by both a man and a woman and are pleasant, at least to our ears. There is some acoustical guitar, violin and occasional soft percussion (sounds like a maraca?). Even Bear remarked that they weren’t annoying or grating like most “kiddie” songs. The songs mix English and Greek and are designed to help your kids retain the lessons painlessly. They work too, at least for us! I could see even a preschooler picking up on them and learning a bit of Greek along with an older sibling.

Each chapter is divided into different sections:

  • Words to learn – Words to learn has the chapter’s vocabulary listed along with a pronunciation guide in both traditional and modern Greek and the meaning(s) of each word or words.
  • Chapter song – Pop in the CD and listen to the chapter song(s). You can also read along in the book.
  • Chapter lesson – The lesson section contains some text written to the student. There is also often a small section where the student can practice writing the Greek letters that are being focused on. Sometimes there are pictures to color that help reinforce the lesson. The practice sections contain various activities like matching, circling pictures, writing letters, etc.
  • Practice your Greek – Decode Greek words, practice letter sounds and more.
  • Grow your English – Grow your English teaches your child how Greek words relate to English. An example from chapter 12 is (after learning in the vocabulary section that οφθαλμος means eye): ” The English word “ophthalmologist” comes from the Greek word οφθαλμος. Can you guess what kind of doctor an ophthalmologist is? That’s right, an eye doctor.” These are great little tidbits that will help your child expand his English vocabulary while learning a new language!
  • Chapter fun – Here you can find games, drawing and more gentle, workbook style activities.
  • Show what you know – Usually this section has your child listen to you say a word in Greek and then your child responds with a drawing or other activity. There are also other instructions where a student can demonstrate what he’s learned both orally and in writing.

There are also chapter reviews, diglot stories and small sections sprinkled here and there that introduce very basic English grammar such as articles and proper nouns. While the entire program has a lively, playful feel to it, there is a good amount of learning going on, enough even for my 5th grader (and me, lol).

While I think the student book is set up in such a manner that I think you don’t HAVE to purchase the teacher’s manual, I found it to be a helpful addition. Just a note though: if you don’t have it, you would be missing some specific scripts to say for some sections of the student text. The teacher’s edition comes with its own CD that contains chapter-by-chapter guidance that can be viewed before teaching with plenty of tips and help to make your lessons the most effective.

The CD lessons are “taught” or explained by the “dad” (Chris Perrin) who is also featured in the Latin for Children videos. There is an introduction where he explains the program itself as well as additional videos that help with letter formation tips and more. The CD is designed to help a teacher new to Greek have more confidence and familiarity with each chapter’s topics and items. I personally picked up some good tips from it. I don’t think I will ever forget now that the Greek letter Zeta ζ looks like a person kneeling!

The text of the guide contains all of the student pages with the answers in light gray (in full size!) as well as “teacher’s materials” with suggestions, scripts to say during lessons, and other helps. It also contains things you should say to your student for specific sections that he will respond to in his workbook. I think it’s especially a help if you have to help your student with an answer and are a bit shaky in Greek yourself.

After doing the program just a little bit, Otter was really enthused to continue our Greek studies. He’s looking forward to Greek for Children which is due to be published some time this year. Why study Greek at all though? Here are some reasons that make me think it is a worthwhile subject:

  • Greek is the basis for approximately 20% of English vocabulary.
  • It is the language of the Greek New Testament and the language of many classical works of literature.
  • It helps create mental discipline as you recognize patterns and observe details while learning to think logically.
  • Greek is foundational to areas of learning such as science.
  • Click here to read more reasons!

I think Song School Greek is a great addition to the homeschool market. Now even your youngest students can start learning Greek with this fun, gentle and lively program.

Click here to visit the publisher’s website: Classical Academic Press for other terrific materials for learning Latin, Greek, Spanish, Bible, Logic and more!

Click here for a sample chapter from the student text.
Here is a sample song.
Here is a sample chapter from the teacher’s guide.

You can also visit their AWESOME online website Headventure Land to practice Latin, Spanish and Greek with fun videos, games, stories and downloads!

*Note: All our reviews reflect only our personal opinion(s) of materials. We aren’t experts! We’re just a homeschooling family with 3 kids and ideas of our own about what works and what doesn’t for US.

Book Review: No Thanks, But I’d Love to Dance!

No Thanks, but I'd Like to Dance!

No Thanks, But I’d Love To Dance, Choosing to live smoke free

I recently had the opportunity to look over No Thanks, but I’d Like to Dance, a semi-autobiographical fictional book written by Jackie Reimer. I like it so much that I’m going to include it in Little Otter’s Science – my human anatomy science program for preschoolers through about 2nd grade. I think it’s a great story for little ones to learn about not smoking as well as making good choices. The book has a simple but engaging story line with bright, colorful cartoon-like illustrations.

In the story, Grandma Bee is living with the consequences of choosing to smoke earlier in her life. Grandma has an oxygen tank and explains to her granddaughter Belle how her lungs were damaged from smoking. The consequences of this choice are serious, but nothing is presented in a scary way. Belle wonders why grandma ever took up smoking in the first place and listens in as her grandmother tells her about how she was a young woman at a dance was asked to try a cigarette and agreed to because it looked glamorous and everyone else was doing it. At the end of the conversation Belle exclaims:

“I know what you should have said when he asked you to smoke, Grandma!”

“You do?” asked Grandma Bee.

“YES!” Belle exclaimed. “You should have said, ‘No thanks, but I’d LOVE to dance!!!”

The story then goes on to talk about how Belle grew up and how people would ask her if she would like a cigarette (or other things not healthy for her) and how she would think of Grandma Bee and reply with “No thanks, but I’d LOVE to dance!” It is both sweet and empowering.

I think the way the story is set up encourages a child to rehearse saying no, long before a situation like that may come up. You can practice after reading the book with “No thanks, but I’d like to….” (fill in the blank with your child’s favorite activity).

It’s really hard to find appropriate books for younger children that cover concepts like this. I think that No Thanks, But I’d Love to Dance is a great opportunity to cover this very important message with your little ones. In my opinion, the age group that would get the most out this story is the pre-K through about 2nd grade crowd because of the simple text. I did read it though to my 4th grade son (who enjoyed it) and then followed it up with a BrainPop movie about smoking.

You can visit the author’s website for more information as well as free coloring pages that are perfect for helping to make the story stick. The coloring pages feature illustrations from the book so you can also get a sneak peek at the inside pages of the book from them. wink