Take Time for Art: History+Art Projects for Homeschool Families

One of the very best ways to help our kids get excited about history and remember what they’ve learned is by making meaningful connections.  Take Time for Art does an awesome job of doing just that, by bringing together audio, video, visuals, and really cool art projects into one fabulous program that makes history study so exciting and accessible!

About a year ago I got to meet Take Time for Art founder Penny Mayes, and I was so excited to hear about the way she has combined art and history into a program that I know other homeschool families will love.

My teenage sons and I got to work through the Ancient Greece program at Take Time for Art.  (They also offer Ancient Egypt and Ancient Rome)  In this program we got to watch 15 different well-done streaming videos that taught us about various aspects of Ancient Greece, such as the ancient Minoans, the Mycenean civilization, the dark ages, Athens, the Hellenistic period, and several forms of art such as metal tooling, fresco paintings,  pottery, wartime clothing, and more.  Each section of history is followed by an art project that’s inspired by that era.  The video walks you through each step of the process of creating the art, and the convenient art supplies pack contained all the materials we needed in order to complete the projects.  (except for a few basic items that you would be sure to have on hand)

For the Ancient Greece program we got to make the following projects:


  • a color wheel (which is referred back to in later projects–a great starting point for understanding the relationships between colors!)

  • a watercolor fresco painting of an octopus 

  • a metal tooling landscape project  (the other option was to make a Mask of Agamemnon, which was also super cool.  But we fell in love with these textures and all selected the landscape project.  They are so pretty in person!)



  • a Greek warrior helmet (we had the option to make it with or without a crest and other adornments.  It is really cool, and yes, you can even wear your finished helmet!)

  • a terra cotta tile art project that I really enjoyed!  I have never worked with terra cotta tiles, and I liked the surface and the way the marker color sinks into the surface.  We could have chosen a horse image for the tile as well.  Bonus fun was that we were able to heat this in our oven for 30 minutes, which makes the artwork on it longer-lasting!

 

One of the things I really like about this program is the variety of projects available.  Within this one program we got to learn a lot of history while also trying out several completely different types of art that we would not have thought up on our own.  Even better, within each project there are choices, sometimes an either-or option, sometimes an easier/more difficult option.  I love it that this gives the kids options and allows them to choose the thing they are most excited about.  This is also great because the program will work for the typical homeschool family that has many different ages of children represented in their family.  Middle elementary kids could certainly do these projects with some assistance, but there is definitely enough challenge for high schoolers and parents to participate as well!  I personally enjoyed doing some of the projects myself, and got to learn about art materials that I had never worked with before.

The other thing I love about this is that the projects are guided.  Sure, total creativity is exciting and cool, but not everybody’s mind works like that.  Participating in a guided art activity gives us the opportunity to work with materials and techniques that we may not be familiar with, and offers a jumping off point for future creative endeavors.  I am solidly in the camp of believing that BOTH guided art experiences AND free time to create art are valuable.  (for parents and kids alike!)

These are not fluff projects.  Each one is meaty, involved, takes several hours to complete (some are done over the course of more than one day), and produces a very nice piece of finished work for you to enjoy.  Your kids will be proud of their art work!

 

Budget-conscious moms may be tempted to wonder if they really need a separate art supply pack for each child.  You will definitely want to get one per person.  Sure, there are a couple items included that could possibly be shared between kids, but for the most part each person will need all the supplies provided, and it will be less confusing and complicated when everybody has all the materials they need.  I really appreciated how organized the art supplies kit was, how carefully the bendable items were packaged and protected, and that having all of it together made it possible for us to actually do these projects.  If I had needed to track down all the materials from the store, or worry about dividing them up between several children, that would probably have been enough of a barrier to make me not get it done.  Take Time for Art has made it about a simple as possible to watch the streaming videos and complete the projects!  Perfect for busy homeschool families.

I can see Take Time for Art being a wonderful addition to your more formal studies about the coordinating time period.  I think it would work well as a once-a-week or twice a month supplement and reinforcement where you would watch one of the history videos, and then work on the next art project.  Your kids will love the change of pace, plus they’ll have some really cool finished projects to display in their bedrooms or in your home that will also help them recall the time period and historical information related to the piece.

 

Click here to visit Take Time for Art and check out their programs!

 



Letters from Afar

Imagine how excited your children would be to receive a beautiful, hand-illustrated letter from a far-away land each month!  This is what the wonderful program at Letters from Afar offers, and it is perfect for homeschool families.  My kids and I have been subscribers to this engaging program for about a year, and each time one of these cool envelopes shows up in our mailbox, we get excited to see what’s inside.  I’m so happy to have the opportunity today to tell you about it, thanks to our sponsor, Letters from Afar!

Each Letter from Afar arrives in an air mail envelope adorned with cool vintage stamps, so the excitement is immediate when you see it!  The letters are written on parchment-type paper, and are penned by Isabelle, a world traveler.  Each personally hand-written message tells about her recent explorations in exotic destinations like Morocco, Thailand, or Germany, and Isabelle shares about the sights, sounds, unique experiences, and history of the place.  Also included is some really terrific watercolor illustrations that typically include a map of the area or some scenes from the place.  It’s like getting a peek inside Isabelle’s travel/nature journal.  Really cool, and it’s inspiring for those of us that want to create journals of our own adventures, too.

Letters from Afar is one of those wonderful opportunities to infuse a spark of joy and excitement into your home while also offering a natural jumping off point for digging deeper and learning about something that you are now curious about.  Just imagine–the mail arrives and one of the kids brings it in.  There’s a Letter from Afar!  Your children gather round and you read the letter together, taking time to examine the illustrations and ooh and aah at the interesting things mentioned and shown.  The kids run to the globe to try to locate the place they just read about, and that naturally leads to a mention of what continent it’s on, what bodies of water are nearby, what else is near, and how far is it from where we are?  You never know which places will get the kids interested in learning more about the geography, culture, religions, politics, animals, or ways of life in other places.  The possibilities for learning are limitless!

Plus, I love it that these letters are keepsakes that can go right into a Letters from Afar notebook so your children can continue to revisit the places and people of lands far away, and draw connections between the places you’re learning about in history, geography, and literature and the letters you’ve received.

Priced at a modest $6 a month, this is a learning treat that is easy on the wallet and offers a lot of possibilities!  Click here to visit them and learn more.



UGears: Fun STEM models for your family!

I’m pretty sure that it’s a commonality among homeschool moms that when we’re shopping for Christmas, birthdays, and other gift giving times, we love to find items that are both fun AND educational! (Can I get a witness?!) Well, I hit the jackpot when I found out about UGears last Christmas, and boy-oh-boy, I’m so excited to tell you about this company and the cool stuff they’ve got.

Originally from the Ukraine, UGears specializes in creating mechanical model kits.  So, think of something like model airplanes or a ship in a bottle, except way cooler, because there are working parts and things that go!

UGears are made from quality wooden materials and go together without any glue.  Clear step-by-step instructions walk you through the assembly process.  One part puzzle, one part engineering marvel, each UGears model offers the fun and challenge of creating a moving item that is fun to play with and makes an interesting decorative piece as well.  These 3D models are really interesting to put together because you get to see the inner workings of the piece, often including gears, pendulums, and other machinery parts.

UGears offers a wide range of models, ranging from items simple enough for younger kids on up to items that would be challenging for adults, or perfect for dad to put together with the kids!

We have several UGears pieces in our home now, so I wanted to share with you our experience with them.


UGears U-Fidget Tribiks
This is one of the sets that I purchased for Christmas last year.  There are four different miniature models that are fun for holding in your hand and spinning around a bit.  They were pretty easy for my 14 year old son to put together in a short amount of time.  They are a good starter project for kids (recommended age is 14+ but my son and I both think younger kids could make these) and make a cool little display on a shelf.  They don’t do a whole lot, but it is fun to see the gears move and work together.

UGears Dynamometer

This is the other model that I got for my son for Christmas.  I selected this because it looked interesting but not too difficult for assembly.  (It is rated Easy and is recommended for ages 14+) The Dynamometer uses the same principle as a pneumatic engine, and includes a lot of gears and the mechanical junction known as a Geneva drive.  Pretty neat!


UGears U-9 Grand Prix Car
We were excited to get the Grand Prix Car from UGears recently, and my son (now 15 years old) had fun putting together this more complex model.  The inner assembly of this car is really interesting, with a 16 valve V8 engine and fan, a transmission that can switch between gears, and many more fascinating features!  The wheels are rubberized to give it extra grip as it rolls along, too.  It’s a beautiful and eye-catching piece to have on display, and after spending nearly 10 hours assembling it, it is something my son enjoys and feels a sense of pride and accomplishment about.

All of our models have been fairly sturdy, but of course they are not meant for rough play.  While they all do “go,” the ones we have are not self-propelled.  You can definitely enjoy and appreciate the movement of the working parts, and the nicely-designed finished product to have on display.

To us, the assembly process has been a really fun experience.  If your kids can follow Lego instructions, they can work with UGears, while gaining valuable perspective on the way gears and other mechanical pieces can work together to make things do what they do.  To end up with an attractive keepsake at the end makes it even better!  I think UGears would be wonderful for homeschool families because it’s one of those fun-while-learning items that you can provide for your children as a true delight-directed educational opportunity.  I also think the more complex models would make great gifts for dads that would enjoy working with the kids on a project like this in the evenings or weekends.

Overall, I highly recommend UGears as a wonderful option for educational fun and gift-giving!

Here’s a great video showing off some other great UGears products:

 

This review and giveaway have been sponsored by UGears.  Opinions expressed in the review are my own.



Learn Hebrew in your Homeschool!

Today I am really excited to tell you about a cool opportunity for you! My friend Ana Willis from They Call Me Blessed recently found out that many of her readers were interested in teaching their kids Hebrew, which Ana happens to know quite well! She has lived in Israel, two of her children were born in Jerusalem, she has studied Hebrew and has degrees in theology, Biblical studies, Jewish studies, and more.

Well, we have a golden opportunity, because Ana decided to offer a class series for homeschoolers that want to learn beginning Hebrew! The course will cover things like

  • the Hebrew alphabet
  • numbers
  • colors
  • shapes
  • basic vocabulary
  • Hebrew songs
  • Bible verses in Hebrew

This is a wonderful and unique opportunity for homeschool families, and it’ll work for all ages, anytime you want to watch, at one price for the whole family. Live classes via video will be offered, but you can always watch replays if you can’t be there at specific class times.

If you’d like to check it out, you can see the simple registration form and instructions here.  As a special bonus to those that register for this class through my referral link, I’m offering a fun Bonus Gift!  Register by April 15, 2018 by clicking here, and I’ll be giving you our Books of Moses Fine Art Pages collection for FREE.  This whopping 44-piece collection of art coordinates with stories in Genesis, Exodus, and Numbers, and offers a valuable and intriguing look into how artists throughout history depicted creation, the flood, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, the Tower of Babel, the life of Abraham, and much more!  This collection normally sells for $14.95, but will be my gift to you.  Simply shoot me an email after you register for the Hebrew class, and I’ll hook you up.  🙂  Erica@EnrichmentStudies.com



Make Your Homeschool Graduation Really Special

One of the things I’ve loved about being a part of a homeschool support group is that my kids have had opportunities to take part in regular school experiences like competitive sports teams, proms, groups classes, yearbooks, clubs, and graduations.  Last year our third child, Jacob, graduated, and it was our first experience with a homeschool graduation ceremony.  I was so impressed at how lovely and meaningful it was!  All of the graduating seniors were decked out in cap, gown, and tassels, and received diplomas, and I loved that it was in no way a second-rate experience for them!

With three remaining high schoolers to graduate from our homeschool, I was delighted when Homeschool Diploma wanted to send me some of their products to review!  I noticed during our senior year, many parents in our group did not know where or how to find graduation supplies for their homeschooled senior, and I ended up kind of cobbling together items helter-skelter, so I know this is a common need.  Being able to see the large assortment of options, and experience the quality of the products available at Homeschool Diploma has been impressive, and I am so excited to share about this with you!

Homeschool Diploma offers all the supplies and products you need for your seniors, from the actual diplomas and diploma covers, to caps and gowns, announcements and Thank You cards, gifts, and even class rings!  If you’ll have a graduate within the next four years, you will definitely want to get in on this.

The first item I got to check out was a beautiful customized diploma.  Since I don’t have a graduating senior this year, I made one up for a friend of ours, and it really turned out lovely.  You can choose from really nice standard, simple diplomas for as little as $29.99, or choose from many different options to create a more personalized keepsake that reflects your homeschool and student.

The one we got has the graduate’s name and school name on the front cover, a beautiful engraved seal, a Bible verse, and a diploma cover tassel.

It’s wonderful quality and I love how it offers parents the opportunity to convey their joy and accomplishment in graduating their child in ways that reflect their own style and personality.

In addition to the diploma, we also opted to get an extra, archive copy of the diploma.  This is great so that your graduate can take their actual diploma with them, but mom and dad can keep a spare copy for their records in case it’s ever needed.  It’s high-quality and enclosed in a clear, archive envelope to protect it.

We were also able to get a cap, gown, and tassel set, which is a must-have for any graduation ceremony.  Homeschool Diploma offers two fabric types (matte or shiny) and a wide variety of colors.  Gowns are sized by height, so it’s quick and easy to choose one that’s right for you.  Plus sizes are also available.  I was really pleased to see that the quality of the gown is quite nice.  The fabric has a soft, comfortable feel and a nice weight and drape, and the zipper works smoothly and feels like it is good quality.  The cap is also well-made and sturdy.

I especially liked the charm on the tassel, which is a good weight and definitely feels like a quality keepsake, and not some cheaply made trinket.  Certainly you could save and reuse these caps and gowns for future graduates in your family.

The final item I was able to check out was the personalized notecards.  We opted for a navy blue card with Matthew’s name in gold on the front.  The paper used for these notecards is a nice weight and quality.  These cards are perfect for post-graduation thank you notes, as well as an ongoing stash of personalized stationery as your student goes on to further education,  job interviews, and so on.  Since the cards are completely navy blue, you will want to get a white gel roll pen to use with them, and thoughtfully, Homeschool Diploma offers one for a nominal fee.

All-in-all, my impression of everything that I got to experience from Homeschool Diploma was care and quality.  Each item is something I would be so pleased to use with my own graduates, knowing that every item is well-made and high-quality and reflective of our excitement at having reached this milestone with our child!



The Good and the Beautiful: Creative Writing Notebook and Nature Notebook Review

Any Christian homeschoolers that spend time on social media have surely heard of The Good and the Beautiful by now. This relative newcomer to the homeschool curriculum scene has been quickly accepted as a favorite by many, and is known for their integration of fine arts into their materials, which I know is a special interest for Enrichment Studies readers, so I’m always eager to check out their materials and see what might be of interest to my peeps.  When The Good and the Beautiful asked me to review their Creative Writing Notebook and their Nature Notebook, it was an easy yes from me!  They have generously sponsored this review.

 

 

 

Creative Writing Notebook

The beautiful Creative Writing notebook does a terrific job of leading children through various aspects of creative writing in a way that is engaging and interesting. Designed for students in grades 4-12, my own high schoolers have been using this on all the days when I didn’t have something else planned for their writing. Even without my involvement, my students can easily move forward onto the next writing activity and they have enjoyed it.

This 89-page spiral notebook includes five sections:

  • Descriptive Writing Practice
  • Writing Exercises
  • Story Starters
  • Poetry
  • Full Stories

I like how simply and effectively the student is guided on how to develop and improve their writing. The subtlety of it makes it feel less like school work, and more like a guided writing journal, which I think is wonderful for so many kids. I have reluctant writers and dyslexic kids, so this is an area we have struggled in. I’m happy to say that with the Creative Writing Notebook, I’ve seen each of my remaining high schoolers improve in their writing skills AND enjoy it! Pretty awesome!

Enrichment Studies families and others that value the integration of the arts into other subjects will appreciate that writing poetry and the process to get you there is included in this book. There are also several works of art included in this book that are used as jumping off points for observation, description, writing poems, and other aspects of writing development.

This is one of my favorite things that we’ve been using this school year, and I feel you really can’t go wrong with it for any child that is ready and able to do some writing. The fact that it’s presented so simply and in a non-intimidating way is a plus, and it doesn’t run on a lot of Mom Power, which I know we can all appreciate. It’s very affordable, at just $14.99, and will work with all learning styles.

One final note: The Good and the Beautiful is a non-denominational Christian program, but I found that the Creative Writing Notebook does not add in religious or spiritual messages. With the possible exception of the first page, it stays focused on writing skills alone, which makes this a great option for all families, including those that prefer to share spiritual beliefs with their children on their own, rather than with educational materials. As always, The Good and the Beautiful materials are wholesome with no objectionable or inappropriate content. It is well-done and stays on topic in an appropriate and professional way.

Nature Notebook

Nature Study is a popular buzzword in homeschool communities, and Charlotte Mason circles in particular. Whether you are already spending time in nature study, or if (like me) you kind of don’t understand where to start or what to do, you will love the Nature Notebook from The Good and the Beautiful.

This 117-page spiral bound nature notebook makes it fun and easy to get into nature study!  Sections are divided by the four seasons (plus one Any Time section) and there are clear activities suggested for you to do, such as leaf collection or drawing, scavenger hunts done on a nature walk, description prompts (seamlessly pulling writing skills into the process), drawing and observation prompts, tie-ins with poetry and illustration, collection ideas (Seeds, rocks, flowers, leaves, etc.), and much more.

True Confession:  I have always loved the idea of getting the kids out in nature, but honestly never understood what purposeful thing we were supposed to “do” aside from just take a walk and see things that we might talk about, etc.  Having these suggested activities is a terrific way to get started and get over that hump of not really knowing what to do. The fact that you can jump around from one activity prompt to another is handy for families since it flexes with your needs and wishes.  You can easily let the children pick what they’d like to do for your outing, and there is plenty that the kids can do as self-led nature study right in your own back yard!  I also appreciate that there are plenty of things in the Nature Notebook that you can do indoors.  Whether you have weather or personal needs that keep you inside, you can definitely keep going and let nature study be a part of your everyday school life.

Any age child can use this notebook, and you could use a fresh Nature Notebook year after year, since the observations you make and collections you form, etc. will be fresh and different.  I also appreciate that you don’t have to finish this in one year.  If you aren’t avid nature walkers, if you’re having a baby and not able to get out much this year, or simply had nature study fall of your radar for awhile, each child can still enjoy and treasure their Nature Notebook over several years and get so much out of it!

One aspect of the Nature Notebook that I found myself questioning was that there are some nature “scrapbooking” type activities suggestions that I am not sure how they would practically work.  For example, gluing leaves onto pages seem like they would make it hard for the book to close, the leaves would eventually dry and get crushed and make a mess, etc.  The bark rubbing activity seems like it has great potential to get the book pages ripped and would be awkward to accomplish with the page still attached to the book.  I love the inclusion of these activities, but I think I would copy those particular pages on my home scanner/printer and provide a fresh stand-alone page for the kids to do those activities on instead.  A 9×12 plastic storage box might be a perfect spot to store your Nature Notebook, plus all collections, nature treasures, and three-dimensional projects where they are more protected and can be enjoyed again and again.

Like the Creative Writing Notebook, the Nature Notebook doesn’t directly include any religious elements, so this is an item that will work for all families and all ages.  The Nature Notebook sells for just $12.

Get The Good and the Beautiful annual reading list for FREE!

Each year The Good and the Beautiful publishes a popular reading list, and subscribers to their newsletter can get it for FREE!  They also sometimes give away freebies, so this is a great way to make sure you don’t miss a thing. You can subscribe on their home page by clicking here. 

You can read my other review of The Good and the Beautiful here:



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