Book Reviews, homeschool

Tattoo a Banana (book review)

Tattoo a Banana? Say what? Don’t you recognized the famous David on the banana on the cover. Phil Hansen’s premise is that anyone can be an artist with anything. Even me, and I can’t draw a stick figure. Turns out I don’t have to with this fun how-to book that includes templates and directions for original, creative, outlandish works of art.

Fun, fun, fun! Our only problem was deciding which project to tackle first!

Disclaimer: The publisher sent me this book totally for free, but the opinions expressed are my own.


ARTistic Pursuits

ARTistic Pursuits is for you if your children (or you) want to incorporate art into your homeschool day, but you don’t have time for preparations. ARTistic Pursuits is for you if you want your children to learn art theory along with drawing and color theory. ARTistic Pursuits is for you if you don’t want to make trips to the library to see color reproductions of master artwork. And, ARTistic Pursuits is for you if you want your kids to love art. Did I cover everyone? Every homeschool needs a grade-appropriate level of ARTistic Pursuits to round out its academics.
We test drove the book for Grades 4–6 Book Two, Color and Composition. Drawing books abound, but curriculum that thoroughly teaches color theory with real-life projects and American art are much harder to find. My favorite feature was the full-color reproductions of real art included right in the text. The author uses American art to illustrate each principle of color and composition per unit. She then points out the specific technique—no guessing. A short biography of the artist is included as well. My fifth grade daughter’s favorite feature was the use of fun items (stuffed animals and action figures) to compose still-life settings.
Each ARTistic Pursuits book is non-consumable and covers several grade levels, which makes it very affordable at $42.95 each (plus s/h). The art supplies recommended can be found easily at discount supply stores. The author gives a suggested schedule, but of course, you are free to adapt it to your family’s needs. Happy coloring!

Piano for Preschoolers

From the time I learned how to walk, every time I walked by the piano I would give a few of the keys a little plink. I never pounded or banged on the keys (right, Mom?). I begged and begged my parents to let my play it until my dad finally gave in and started me on a beginning piano book. I’ve been playing, performing, and teaching the piano for more than thirty years now.
That’s fine for people who have a little music background and a piano in the living room. If you have neither and can’t afford a live teacher and a real piano, but your little ones are begging to make music, KinderBach has the solution for you.
KinderBach Learning Center offers online piano lessons for young children through Web video, printable activity pages, interactive games, and unique piano karaoke songbook participation. KinderBach is preschool piano lessons, music for young children at their level of understanding. KinderBach presents music using the piano keyboard (or a small, cheap keyboard) as the base instrument to maximize the beneficial effects on the growth and development of young kids. Children love the engaging teacher, and cute characters make learning easy. Parents love how easy it is for their children to learn music theory as well as how to play the piano (or keyboard).
With KinderBach, you can choose the learning path that is best for you. KinderBach offers online sessions, DVD lessons, or curriculum for early childhood classes. They offer a 30-day money back guarantee just in case you’ve got a budding Picasso instead of a blossoming Mozart.

Core Learning = Your Ticket for the Technology Boat!

Core Learning products (CD-ROM programs) make computer learning fun for all ages! The technology boat is cruising quickly through exciting destinations. Don’t miss the boat!

“Core Learning’s mission is to provide effective learning solutions for the development of fundamental knowledge and skills. Its primary focus of skill development is in areas that both support higher order thinking, but also proved important life skills. Products address key elementary and middle school curriculum areas in math, English language arts, health, art, and technology. Core Learning also publishes software to help develop critical thinking skills and maintain mental processing capabilities in young and mature adults.” Core Learning has been the recipient of many awards.

Do your kids love to play on the computer? Do your kids love to create beautiful art projects? Now they can do both with Core Learning’s brand new Crayola Art Studio! It is VERY easy to use and the tools produce realistic images. My kids (ages 10 and 13) continually clamor to use it. The Crayola Art Studio sells for only $24.95. The Corefx super-duper program allows you to draw, paint, animate, and edit photos on three different levels. It sells for $59.95. The new Creativity Express software sells for only $30 and is a COMPLETE visual arts curriculum for grades K to 8. It meets national standards and can be used by multiple students year after year. What a deal! You can download a FREE three-day trial of the Crayola Art Studio here:

The Health Series includes a program for kids and a program for families. Both are family-friendly, interactive, have cute, engaging, animated guides through the body, and cover a variety of topics appropriate for each age group. The Family Health Series offers five volumes: The Body, Illnesses & Injury, Staying Healthy, Becoming an Adult, and Emotional Health. It is $150 for the set of five topics on one CD-ROM, or get an individual title for $39.95. The Kids Health Series (for ages 7–10) offers two volumes: Explore Your Body, and Explore Your Health. It is $39.95 for both topics on one CD-ROM, or $29.95 for a single topic.

The Math and Language Arts series are extensive. Check out their offerings at The math series offers printed workbooks, textbooks, and help guides in addition to the computer programs. These courses are geared towards kids in grades 3 to 8, but may also be used for advanced younger students or remedial older students. The Language Arts series are geared for grades 2 to 6 and are comprehensive introductions and references to English grammar and writing skills. The lessons in all the series are engaging and interactive. Assessments enable exact placement; test results can be printed, and the lessons meet national standards. The CDs run about $49.95 each—a bargain price for a complete curriculum!


Amazing Art Curricula

Spears Art Studio K-8 Christian Art Curriculum and High School Art Survey CDs

Are you looking for a COMPLETE, COMPREHENSIVE, CHRISTIAN, CLASSICAL art curriculum that will last your child(ren) all the way from kindergarten through eighth grade or that will fulfill a complete fine arts credit for your high schooler? Then look no further than the Spears Art Studio curricula!

The Spears Art Studio K-8 Christian Art Curriculum Teacher’s Manual has a main theme (including seasonal and holiday themes) for each of the thirty-six school weeks, with one or more activities for each of the nine grade levels based on that main theme. Each lesson addresses art elements, art principles, design elements, scripture integration, art history, and more on an age-appropriate level. The CD-Rom ($39.95) has full-color illustrations in PDF, while the paper copy is in black and white. You can get both the hard copy and the CD-Rom for $134.95 (including shipping). The lessons are completely divided by grade level, then subdivided into months and weeks. It is possible to teach multiple children at the same time and for the curriculum to be used year after year (without repeating projects or lessons). When I first looked at it, I was quite overwhelmed. I consider myself fairly art challenged and I don’t place a high emphasis on art in our homeschool. Yes, I can see some of you cringing! In order to do justice to this thorough art study, I would need way more time (and space on my walls) than I’m willing to allot to art for my fifth grader right now. We have had fun with some of the projects, though. For those of you looking for a comprehensive, Christ-centered art curriculum, take a good look at the Spears Art Studio. If you’re teaching art in a homeschool co-op, you will LOVE it! Look at what’s included: • 269 art activities (many new and revised)

• 137 patterns and posters • 498 instructional pages • wow!

The Spears Art Studio High School Art Survey, A Study from a Christian World View© supports the rhetoric stage of the classical education model. The black-and-white hard copy in a 3-ring binder $69.95, and the full-color CD-Rom is $29.95. The combo deal (one hard copy, one CD-Rom) is only $84.95 (save $14.99). All of these prices include shipping. Each student should have access to hard copy pages printed from the manual or CD-Rom, because it is addressed to the student. In other words, my daughter will learn art in spite of me and without me! And she is excited about this curriculum. By following the whole program, including the art history study (warning: weekly trips to the library may be needed) and projects, my high schooler can earn a whole fine arts credit. There are seven major themes (art elements and design principles), thirty-six lessons, and seventy-five art activities, plus thirty-six sketchbook assignments including • art elements – line, shape, space, color, texture, form• principles of design – repetition/pattern, proportion, contrast/value, emphasis/focal point, balance/symmetry/asymmetry, unity, variety, harmony, movement/force/rhythm• perception skills – edges, spaces, relationships, light/shadow, gestalt• drawing• painting• sculpture• fiber• printmaking• graphic design• art history connections• contemporary art connections• Scripture connections• 144 visual memory exercises• unit tests and answer keys• helps: tips and subs, how to evaluate artwork• analyzed for National Visual Art Standards• 162 pages• 177 black and white illustrations• 52 color illustrations

Need more incentives to check out the Spears Art Studio Web site and curricula? How ‘bout these: free sample lessons online, send in a photo of your students’ artwork for them to display on their Web site, how to teach drawing article (for the drawing impaired).

SPECIAL: Buy one K-8 CD and one high school CD, and receive the Beginning Calligraphy Workbook CD for FREE($14.95 value)! This great deal is only $69.90, including shipping.

The Tutor Review

How do I make sure my children are getting a well-rounded education? Where can I find all the extras that were once standards in a complete education without cluttering my bookshelf and depleting my wallet? The answer to these questions and many more is The Tutor.

The Tutor promises to be a tool to provide “a richer and fuller education experience for [your] children.” It focuses on art, music, geography, classic literature, elocution and more. Every quarterly issue is packed with a wide variety of subjects in each category. Some sections concentrate on one theme (like ants in the Nature section of Volume 1), while other segments have different topics.

But, you may wonder, how many trips to the library will I need to make in order to find the music resources and art prints recommended in The Tutor? None! Your purchase of The Tutor includes two CDs containing all of the referenced music (full-length pieces, not just samples) and six full-color art prints on nice paper by the featured artist.

The Tutor is not dated and not a rigid curriculum. A plethora of information (nearly 200 pages) makes it useful for as long as you wish, although four issues are published each year. Spiral bound books with sticky-finger-proof covers will last for years to come and all age groups will find something useful.

What’s not to like? Nothing. So far we’ve dabbled in the art, music and literature sections and are really looking forward to diving in deeper into other topics. The only thing that would make The Tutor more user friendly is the addition of a more detailed index for easier referencing.

How can you get The Tutor? Check out The Home Educator Tutor Web site. Each issue of The Tutor costs $24.95 (plus s/h). If you prefer to download it, the cost is $15 and includes the art prints, but not the music. The music is available to purchase for downloading separately, though. The bottom line is that The Tutor is worth every penny, just like your children’s education.