Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Artistic Pursuits TOS Review

Artistic Pursuits

Art Curriculum and Instruction Books for Preschool through High School
$42.95 per book

Art supplies for each book are also available in kit
Prices vary per kit

One of the subjects or activities which is often pushed to the side in our homeschool endeavors is art.My children enjoy it, but it just seems that it is the easiest subject to move off the schedule when we face a time crunch.Thus my children were thrilled when we had the opportunity to review a volume of Artistic Pursuits art curriculum.

We had the opportunity to use and review the Grade K-3 Book 3 Modern Painting and Sculpture.This volume focuses on Impressionist Artists, several other modern art movements and three dimensional art techniques. There are 32 two to three page lessons. Among the impressionists artists you'll find studies of Monet, Pissarro,Cassatt, Gauguin, Seurat, and Van Gogh.Modern art topics include cubism, Expressionism, and Abstract art as well as artists such as Calder and Mondrian. There are several lessons about current forms of artistic expression such as land art, sculpture and computer art.

Lessons in Artistic Pursuits contain one or two pages presenting an artist and talking about their style of art.One or more of the works is featured in full color and discussed.The artists are discussed in their historical and cultural contexts. Following this discussion there are several questions directed to the student which are designed to help them think about the picture they are seeing. The next page is a project for the student to do.All of these are hands on creative works.There are painting projects, sculpture projects, paper crafts, as well as other media such as soap.The painting projects teach various styles and techniques. Sculpture projects use materials such as pipe cleaners, foil, or clay.Several projects combine multiple materials.

While the majority of the book is written to the student, the parent or teacher will also find useful articles about teaching art and history and contemporary art.

Rounding out the book is an extensive bibliography and book/multimedia resource list.You will also find book suggestions throughout the main text.

Our experience with Artistic Pursuits

I am totally impressed with this Art curriculum. I love having all the information in one reference book.I could share information about the artist and then just flip the page and be ready for my children to create a piece of art.This way they can have art appreciation and a hands on experience with one coordinated resource. Also nice about Artistic Pursuits is the spiral binding and clear plastic cover.This allows the book to open and lay flat as well as protect the paper cover.

In addition to the books being written directly to the student in a conversational tone, another big plus for me was the ease of teacher preparation. All I needed to do was read through the 2-3 pages and gather the art supplies. I was able to read the text in no more than 10 minutes and gather all needed supplies in just a few minutes more than it took me to read. The gathering time would have been shortened if I could keep all our art supplies in one place.

Speaking of supplies, there is a fairly hefty list needed to complete all the projects in the book. While most of them are not expensive by themselves, if purchasing them all at the same time they could add up. However, you probably have some of them at home already.While you could just read the text of the book, the child would be missing out on a lot of the fun without the opportunity to make their own masterpieces.

Artistic Pursuits also encourages students to think about art in new ways, not just something hanging on a wall or sitting on a pedestal in a cold museum.Throughout the lessons the student is challenged to see things they encounter daily as art as well as the reality that not everyone likes every piece of art they encounter. While the child is taught to appreciate art and view it from different perspectives, they are also reminded in several lessons that art in a museum is not something they are allowed to touch.

The projects in the book are well thought out and very appropriate for the artist or concept taught.The majority of them could be used as gifts from the young artist to loved ones. As with any art endeavor the quality of the finished project depends on the skill of the artist as well as time and thought put into the project, but the ideas are high quality.

I also appreciate the mix of 2D and 3D artists and projects in the book. This helps teach or reinforce the idea that art is not just flat or drawing and painting.

My 7 year old son is thrilled with the book. He said his favorite part was all the ideas for things to make. While he is within the age range for this book he found the questions asking about things in the paintings to be easy and boring. He is looking forward to learning about more artists and trying his hand at more projects. The pictures featured here are some of his work from the books lessons.

My 10 year old daughter also used the book. While the text was way below her level I think she enjoyed hearing the art history and making the projects as well.I will feature her projects in a separate post as her age and abilities are beyond what would be expected of a student in the target age range.I had her do additional reading about the artists to round out the curriculum for her level.

One problem I experienced was not being able to find many of the resources sited at my library, even though they are a large suburban system.

After using this level of Artistic Pursuits I would not hesitate to purchase additional volumes of Artistic Pursuits if finances were not an issue.

Other TOS Crew members had the opportunity to review other volumes and levels of the Artistic Pursuits program.You can see what they had to say at the Crew Blog.


Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book to enable me to write this review. I have not been compensated in any other manner and all opinions expressed here are totally my own.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Lapbook Sale at In The Hands of a Child

My family has come to really enjoy making lapbooks in the course of their studies.  I have designed a couple of them myself, but over time we have also used predesigned kits.  Some of these sets we've used are from In The Hands of a Child.  Now they have a great deal coming up later this week.  As many businesses offer deals to their customers on Black Friday, In the Hands of a Child is doing the same thing.

On Friday you can shop HOAC's Black Friday sale and receive discounts of up to 45% off  HOAC products.

Then on Saturday, which has been named Smalled Business Saturday you can receive a fabulous discount on their Super Memberships.  

But that is not all, on Monday, Cyber Monday, they are also giving a discount on all in stock non-HOAC merchandise which they carry.

I love the Project Packs from In the Hands of a Child.  I really can't tell you how many of them my children have completed or want to do.  They have project packs available on many, many topics that it would be hard not to find something which a child  (or Mom) is interested in. 

A lapbook project would even be a great break activity for non homeschooled children.  HOAC has many holiday and seasonally themed project packs to would fit the bill. Many of them are so fun its hard to believe you are learning at the same time.  Also there are not many supplies needed either.  Just a printer, paper, scissors, glue, pencils or pens, and a couple file folders or similar weight paper. If you want to get fancy you can use colored paper or crayons as well.

If this sounds remotely intriguing, head over to In the Hands of a Child and check out all the awesome topics and products they have available.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Time Timer TOS Review


Time Timer LLC

  • Time Timer is a portable timer with a opaque cover which can also be flipped back and used as a stand.
  • To set, all you do is move the plastic dome from its position at 0 to the time desired and its ready to countdown time.  The time which you have it set for will be covered in red. The red disappears as the time countdowns.
  • Time Timer has the option of a sound at the end of the set time.
  • Time Timer uses the high contrast contrast colors of black, white, and red.
Time Timer comes in several sizes

3 inch Timer    $30.00
8 inch Timer   $35.00
12 inch Timer  $40.00

Time Timer is also available as an app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch
Time Timer is also available as a Wrist Timer, computer software, and a puzzle

My thoughts
  • It is 3 inches square but takes so little room on my desk.  It is lightweight and easy to move from room to room or desk to table. 
  • It is also very easy to use.  Setting the timer can be done with one hand.
  • The face of Time Timer is very easy to read.  Because of the high contrast I can easily see how much time is left from across the room.  My children could also see at a glance how much time they had left when taking time tests.
  • I like being able to set the tone to tell me when the time was up, but it only goes off once and is not very loud.  If I wasn't listening closely for the sound it was easy to miss.  On the other hand it was nice to be able to set a timer and not have to run and shut it off when the time was up. 
  • It was very nice the children could see how much time they had left for math drills. It also gave them perspective as to how long 5 or 10 minutes is.  It helped to make the abstract concrete.

PhotobucketI did not think about using Time Timer while my children practiced piano, but that would be an excellent use.  I could set the timer for them and then have them be responsible for using all the time they see for practicing their assigned pieces.

Learn what other TOS Crew members had to saw about Time Timer at the Crew Blog.

Disclaimer: I received a free Time Timer to use and write this review.  I have not been compensated in any other way and all opinions expressed here are solely my own.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Homeschool Mothers Journal Weekly Review 11/11

                                                       The Homeschool Mother's Journal

In my life this week…
Not just this week, but the last few, I just haven't felt like blogging.  I have done several reviews which were due, but just didn't feel like doing any other posting.  Not like I have kept any regular schedule anyway..

It seems like I have hit a winter slump and its not winter yet.  Need to do something to break the routine and add some excitement to life.

In our homeschool this week…
We have just kept plugging along.  We've paid a little more attention to art as we are reviewing an art program right now.  Both of the kiddos have enjoyed this.

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…
Nothing different. Piano and the library.

Questions/thoughts I have…
I am thinking about focusing on just a couple things next week. I want to make some Ancient Egypt projects and go some geography study. (According to what I have seen it is geography week). I suppose I could drop most of the other things except for math and spelling.
Still trying to figure out exactly what I am going to do.

I’m cooking…
The only thing semi interesting was a pot of chilli the other night.

I’m grateful for…
My husband and children.

Thanks to Sue at the Homeschool Chick for hosting HSMJ.

Math Mammoth TOS Review


As part of the TOS Crew I recently had the opportunity to use and review Math Mammoth Grade 3 Complete Mathematics Curriculum(Light Blue Series).

A complete years worth of material comes in two books or downloads. ($34.00)These are labelled Grade level and A or B. There are also answer keys, tests, and reviews available. These are available in download format as either a complete year or just part of a grade. Part A or B for any grade level is available as a download($17.50). The curriculum is also available as printed books from several sources. This page at the Math Mammoth website explains the purchasing options for the 3rd grade level. These sets of 2 books per grade level are available for grades 1-6.

Math Mammoth is built on the principle of having a student master the topic before moving on. Thus few topics are presented over the course of a year, but done in a way which incorporates multiple visual models and encourages understanding of the concept behind the operation and focuses on mental math.

In addition to the complete curriculum, several combinations of supplemental math materials are also available form Math Mammoth. These materials are available either by grade or topic, suitable for grades 1-12.

Placements tests are available on the Math Mammoth website. There is also a question and answer following the placement tests which is very helpful. The supplemental materials could be useful in helping a child master one or two concepts in a level before moving on to the next grade level. Maria also invites parents/teachers to email her with test results if they are having difficulty determining which would be the appropriate level  for their child. When I needed assistance in determining which level would be best for my child I received a very prompt reply from Maria. I was very pleased with the response and reasoning for the particular placement. Maria is the author of the Math Mammoth curriculum and a homeschooling Mom.

Maria also offers multiple free samples of her products and a math teaching newsletter on her website. She also maintains a YouTube channel with teaching videos covering a variety of topics.

My Thoughts about Math Mammoth

The Math Mammoth website has a very detailed description of what is covered at each grade level in the complete curriculum. After reading through the description for several grade levels I easily determined at which level I needed to place my son. He had just about completed the second grade level of another series, but it is often hard to know if it is appropriate to move up to the next level when switching to a new program. After using the program I can confidently say that he is in the right place; he is challenged, yet not frustrated.

I used the Third Grade Complete Curriculum Math program mainly with my 7 year old son, but also some of the material with my 10 year old who has struggled with learning multiplication facts.

He said he would like color pictures on the pages, but has also commented that he likes to be able to pronounce the names of people and items which are used in story problems. These comments are in response to another program which we had been using which is not originally American.

My daughter has really liked the Math Mammoth multiplication exercises. I have given her one page of multiplication exercises per day in addition to her normal Math program. She has said that she is learning the facts because it teaches her in different ways. In some of the lessons I have not made her fill in the times chart, but I really think that doing so has been a huge factor in helping her get the facts into her head. As she has worked through these pages and we have drilled the facts from the sheets, I have seen her speed increasing. This tells me she really is learning them.

I really like this math program.The concepts are presented in a clear manner with lots of opportunities for practice, yet not too many which bog down the student who understands what is being taught. There is variety in the way the problems are presented, which not only prevents boredom, but helps the brain work in different ways. This variety also makes sure the student truly understands or masters the material.

I also like the flexibility inherent in the plan. While the 'teacher support materials' give suggestions as to how much should be completed in a day to complete a course in an entire year, the pages themselves are flexible enough to allow for taking a break as needed by the student.

Maria is also very generous in her copying policies.She allows the teacher/purchaser to make enough copies for their entire family. This would be especially great for larger families as they begin their homeschool math journey as they would only need to purchase one math curriculum for all the children in the family rather than a new book for each child.

Crew members had the opportunity to review different products from the Math Mammoth line, so make sure to see what other members of the TOS Crew had to say about the products they used at the Crew Blog.


Disclaimer: I received a free download of this product to use in order to allow me to write this review.I have not been compensated in any other manner and all opinions expressed her are totally my own.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Keyboard Town Pals TOS Review


Keyboard Town Pals


$35.00  CD-ROM program
$30.00 WEB Based program
Bundle prices available for both web and CD programs. Supplemental materials also available.

Available in English, Spanish, and French

For students age 6 to 12 and those with learning differences

Keyboard Town Pals is a online program for elementary age students to learn typing skills and to type in one hour. The Keyboard Town Pals program is comprised of 8 lessons which build on each other.

The lessons are taught in front of a cut out of a town where the buildings are arranged in the shape of a keyboard. Each building is a home for letter character you would find on the corresponding key. Living in the buildings is a puppet character whose name begins with that letter. Each character has its own house, except when fingers move to other keys in the middle of the keyboard, then these two characters share a house.

Keyboard Town Pals

Each row of the keyboard is named.The row where fingers rest is called Home Street.The row above is "uptown", the row below is "downtown".

Letters are taught in columns one finger at a time, moving up and down the keyboard to access the letters above and below the home row.Each finger has a separate lesson. All of the lessons follow the similar format where the letter is introduced and discussed by the puppet character and then an outline hand shows where these keys are on a picture of a keyboard.The student then practices typing these letters several times watching 'helper hand' typing the proper key. At this time the user is told which letters to type and if they need to go up or down from the home row. After this the user is given dictation of which letter to type while seeing a picture of the sun shining. In all of these steps the student is guided by 'Sunny'.

In addition to typing the letters they are also instructed to type simple words. What is typed shows up just below the 'instruction' screen so that the user is encouraged to watch what happens on the screen rather than where their fingers are.

In addition to the lessons,there is also supplemental material available under the heading 'virtual journal'. Here each lesson has an additional sheet which can be printed and the instructor can do with the child apart from Keyboard Town Pals. The virtual journal also gives the student the opportunity to email the Keyboard Town Pals character of their choice.

The Keyboard Town Pals website has a video describing the philosophy and methodology used in the program. Demos of the program are also featured on the site.

A brief assessment requiring the student to type the alphabet forwards and then backwards is also available.

Keyboard Town Pals does not use speed drills during the instruction and mistakes are not counted as well. Keyboard Town Pals offers a low pressure method of teaching keyboarding skills.

My thoughts about Keyboard Town Pals

Both of my children used the program. Neither of them was overly thrilled with it, but they did use it. My 7 year old did quite well and refreshed his typing skills. Keyboard Town Pals was the first typing instruction my 10 year old had. She was able to go through the lessons easily. She picked up some new skills, but did not spend a whole lot of time practicing, so I am not sure what she will take away from her experience with Keyboard Town Pals. I think my children would have been more interested in the program if they were younger.

Often the characters use words to help the user recognize the letters. When moving uptown from "K" to "I" the word "eyeglasses"is used. While this fits with the K character and is the appropriate sound for the word it is not proper for the spelling. Just as important as typing is being able to spell correctly when typing and if a child is lead to believe eyeglasses starts with "I" they may have difficulty with spelling this as well as other words with the same sound.

I reviewed the Web Based program and had difficulty receiving the necessary information to access Keyboard Town Pals.  The people at Keyboard Town Pals were very friendly and helpful, spending additional time and effort to help me access the program.

I like having the material available in the virtual journal. By printing out the page for each lesson I was able to give my children some practice in a different voice and manner than they were used to from the program.

I also like the low key approach presented in Keyboard Town Pals.  Timed tests add an element of pressure which increases anxiety and often causes the student to not do their best.  Here there is no pressure to complete as assignment in a specified amount of time which allows the student to use and practice at their own pace.

An additional benefit to Keyboard Town Pals is having the delete button disabled.  This eliminated the temptation to go back and fix mistakes instead of focusing on improving.

Learn what other members of the TOS Crew experienced while trying Keyboard Town Pals at the Crew Blog.


I received a free subscription to enable me to write this review.  I have not been compensated in any other manner. All opinions expressed here are solely my own.