As far as I’m concerned I don’t need a single present under the tree or even a piece of coal in my stocking. While both are appreciated, my soul is set on a few other goodies. Not necessarily things to be wrapped, but much-needed gifts. Join us as we review several blessings we’d love to receive this Christmas.
As we move through the remainder of this Christmas holiday, I pray the Lord would grant my requests. I pray I would use understanding to better minister to those around me and that He helps me to reflect His glory. May I not allow my past to define what I am, but instead move forward in confidence as an example of what God’s goodness can do in a willing heart.
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
~ Philippians 4:11-13
We’d love to know… If the Lord told you He was going to bestow one gift upon you this season, what would you ask for?
In all the hustle and bustle of the holiday rush, my kids can occasionally reach a point where they start to misbehave and become belligerent. Sometimes, they can pick a very inopportune moment to voice their rebellion. While my first instinct is to become embarrassed and upset, I am trying to become better about thinking before reacting to their outbursts. Usually our kids are very well-behaved and obedient. If they are agitated, perhaps there is a reason.
While I am sure the list of reasons for my kids’ misbehavior could be endless, I believe it really boils down to a few basic things:
They are tired. With all the Christmas activities, sometimes the kids have skimped on the amount of sleep they are getting.
They are hungry. Excited and anxious to keep busy, my children will often refrain from eating.
They are too busy. Amidst all the fun, kids need downtime, too. Too much fun can be overwhelming.
They are not being given enough attention. The holidays can be a time of rush for mom and pop; buying presents, mailing cards, baking, and the like. Being neglected can often lead my children to act out in hopes of receiving attention.
They are not being trained. In all the hustle and bustle of the season, mom and pop can become lazy in their attempts to maintain discipline.
Most of these problems have very simple solutions; it is only a matter of me taking the time to do the right thing.
I need to make sure we all get enough sleep. My kids are not going to willing fall into bed (at least not generally). I am responsible for setting bedtime and sticking to it.
I need to make sure they are eating well. It doesn’t matter how much fun they are having, I need to make my children sit down and eat a healthy meal. I should also monitor how much junk food they are taking in, especially during this time of year!
I need to avoid over-booking our schedule. While there are many events that appeal, trying to add everything will only tire us all out!
I need to make sure that I am listening to my children and not putting outside responsibilities before them.
I need to stop using grace as an excuse for laziness. My children are not going to train and discipline themselves; I need to remain consistent.
If I fail to fulfill my responsibilities as their parent, I am only making life harder on all of us. Christmas will only be less enjoyable and my family will lose sight of the true meaning of the season. Maintaining a well-balanced routine will help us get the most of the holiday and keep mommy from dying of embarrassment.
“…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law…”
We’d love to know… How do you help your children maintain balance during the Christmas season?
Every Saturday, the children and I head over to my mother-in-law’s house for a visit. When possible, I drop off three of my children (who excitedly run into the house and announce they are ready for fun and food), then the fourth child and I head on out for a date. When on our dates, I usually allow my children to decide what they would like to do. Sometimes we go for a walk or visit antique stores. At other times, we have gone for fancy tea parties or ice cream. It doesn’t matter where we go, what matters is that we are spending time together.
I think one of the greatest joys of our “dates” is getting to know who my children are. I am often surprised by their observations and questions about life. I have learned so much about their dreams, their fears, and their struggles. We often share how we’re each doing in life, how we could be praying for one another, and what the Lord has been teaching us through His Word. Here I can focus on just one child for that limited space of time, assuring them they matter and are remembered.
I pray that the Lord would use these days to strengthen our relationships and unify our family. That He would use these times to teach me about my children and how I can better minister to their needs. I pray my children will look back on these days fondly, remembering all the little things that really meant nothing and yet everything.
“Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.” ~ Ephesians 5:19
We’d love to know… How do you “date” your children?
I love me a good picture book. Okay; let’s be honest. We love pretty much all books. But a great picture book? One which pulls you in visually and offers a ton of learning opportunities… You know we’ve just got to share it!
This past week our family was given an opportunity to preview Chapter Two is Missingwritten by Josh Lieb and illustrated by Kevin Cornell, and we can’t say enough about it’s goodness. Once we finally stopped staring at the charming illustrations and murmuring over the lovely hardback book, the learning potential of this read began to take shape. Friends, this clever read is true learning inspiration.
“Chapter Two is Missing is a hilarious picture book mystery starring a hopelessly lost narrator, an unqualified detective, and a very sneaky janitor, who are all surprised to discover that second chapter of the very book of which they are a part is–gasp–missing!”
Penguin Random House
A great picture book has the ability to offer a multitude of learning possibilities, and Chapter Two is Missing certainly hits the mark. Thinking along the lines of Five In ARow, there are a wide variety of activities from which we could easily create a unit study.
Art & Illustration
Chapter Two is Missing is a picture book. Why not start our learning adventure with an exploration of art and illustration? Readers will quickly note the book’s illustrations use very little color. Can they create a picture book with only a few colors? Which colors would they use, and does the choice in color convey a mood or feeling which helps tell the story? We might also take a moment to explore negative space and clever page layout.
Grammer & Spelling
Chapter Two… does a clever job of exploring the importance of grammar and punctuation. Was reading certain portions of the book a challenge for our students? What did they think of these sections? This is a fun opportunity to show our learners the importance of these areas of study.
Science & History
In Chapter Two…, Milo seeks helps from Detective McGarrigan in discovering the whereabouts of the missing chapter, and there is so much potential here. We refuse to give away details of the story, but we can tell you there are many adventures to be explored. The history of detectives would be a great place to start. How long has this been a career option, and what does it take to be a detective? Finger print activities would be a fantastic science concept to cover, along with the possibility of exploring mirrors, reflections, and the anatomy of eyes. (Sorry, you’ll have to read the story to find out why!)
Near the end of our read, Milo makes an observation, “Go look… If a giant blue diamond isn’t there, you’ll know that Milo succeeded…” Is his reasoning valid, or is there something wrong with his logic? Can you identify his fallacy? We could easily use this as a springboard for launching a conversation on everyday fallacies and how we can learn to spot them.
Everything has a place and a purpose. Some things need to be cleaned up, while others serve a purpose in remaining available. Milo learns this first hand, and so can our kids. Is there such a thing as being too much of a minimalist and what areas of our home could possibly be better organized?
Aside from these areas of more formal study, Chapter Two is Missing offers a ton of fun learning adventures. Inside the book readers will find a phone number for Detective McGarrigan. Trust us when we say you’ll want to give the number a call. It’s hilarious! What type of message would our children leave on their own machines, if they had the ability? This might be a perfect time to write down their thoughts and even test it out for a day to hear people’s reactions. There is also an email address for the detective. What happens when they email her and/or Tweet her?
Honestly, we could go on. But I think you get the picture. – No pun intended. – Chapter Two is Missing is a fantastic book, and one which has the potential to launch a learning adventure you won’t want to miss. We would highly recommend this book for all beginning readers, young learners, and anyone who just loves a great picture book. It’s a gem!
If you’d like to learn more about Chapter Two is Missing, please visit them at the Penguin Random House website! To read additional reviews and explore the potential of this read, please visit the blog tour:
You’d love to wake to the sound of little birdies chirping and happy faces embracing a beautiful day, followed by a lovely session of reading and a day of fun learning. Instead… Well, let’s just say you didn’t.
Not every homeschool day is going to start off on a sing-song note. For whatever reason – lack of sleep, overstimulation, stressful life circumstances, or more – your day has not only not started off on the right track, it has completely flown off the tracks and is lying in a heap of rubble. You could lament your situation, giving it up for dead. Or, you could take a deep breath and relaunch.
Start with Prayer – As always, pray! Ask the Lord to prevent harmful emotions from coming to the surface, ruining your opportunity to minister to the kids. Ask for patience, kindness, and wisdom.
Go Back to Bed – Being homeschoolers, you have this freedom; embrace it! Sometimes the kids just need a little more sleep. Sometimes you need a little more sleep. If the day calls for it, consider taking naps or sending everyone back to bed for much-needed rest.
Try, Try Again – Don’t be afraid to restart your morning after taking a needed break. Give it the ‘ol college try!
This Calls For Something New – Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.” If, day after day, you are having trouble getting the morning off to a good start, it might be time to try a different approach. Try a new routine, something different for breakfast, or a change in curriculum. Thus we need to…
Reassess – What’s working, what isn’t? Just because you started with this routine doesn’t mean you have to stick with it. Don’t be afraid to wipe the slate clean and completely start over. Continue to pray over your day, asking the Lord to give you wisdom in how to proceed. Allow Him to direct your learning and your routine.
Just Keep Swimming – Let’s face it, some days are just going to be hard. That doesn’t mean you have to give up or give in. Sometimes you need to keep pushing through so your children learn diligence, long-suffering, patience, and dedication. Sometimes your children just need to learn your will is stronger than theirs and they will get through this no matter how long it takes.
During this past year, the Lord has been teaching much wisdom in this area. So often I tend to think a hard start equals a bad day. The Lord is slowly teaching me this is not so.Through prayer, dedication, and a flexible routine we are able to turn our day around and see the beauty hidden beneath the chaos.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
We’d love to know… When you’re having a rough morning, what helps turn it around?
Like most of you, we’re constantly on the lookout for new resources which will add to our learning experience and encourage family adventures. We’ll be honest, when first given an opportunity to explore Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks we weren’t sure how these would fit into our routine. Would our big kids benefit from this? Oh, my friends; you have no idea! After one short month, our family can’t stop saying enough about this amazingly fun, educational resource.
Brain Blox is a family-owned company whose mission is to help families draw closer to one another and be purposeful in their time together. Every item available at Brain Blox Nation seeks to help them accomplish these goals. Available now, Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks develop children’s understanding of mathematic and engineering principles, develops problem solving skills, improves spatial awareness, and more.
Always up for a new adventure, our family gladly accepted an opportunity to review Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks. Our box included 200 natural wooden building planks, a lovely red canvas drawstring backpack, and a Brain Blox Building Ideas pamphlet. In addition to our Natural Wooden Building Planks, we found we had access to the Brain Blox website, including a menu of “Free Stuff”. We were pleased to find a multitude of resources available: •Let’s Build! Idea Cards – A digital set of building cards, organized by level of difficulty. •Brain Blox World eBook – A visual display of building project ideas. •IQ Brain Puzzles! – A digital set of thirteen challenges, incorporating spatial learning. •Build Idea Videos – Links to engaging YouTube clips sharing fun building projects. •Build Ideas Booklet – A quick list of building ideas which correspond to video clips. •Brain Blox University – Lesson plans enhancing spatial awareness and offering more fun •Conscious Kids Journal – A set of colorful journal pages including exercises in Affirmation, Weekly Kindness, Generosity, and more!
Once our box arrived we immediately began to explore. We were impressed with the wooden building planks. Brain Blox are 100% all-natural and earth friendly; chemical free and safe for kids. Made of premium New Zealand Pine, each plank is cut smoothly and perfect for little hands. They feel good in the hand, with no rough edges. The drawstring backpack is made of sturdy material; a cheerful color. And while the wooden building planks alone lend themselves to a world of possibility, the Brain Blox website has no end of amazing resources to encourage learning.
I was curious to test the building planks on my big kids, wondering what they might create first. Leaving the Brain Blox package out on our learning table, I gave no instructions, but left them to explore on their own. After a quick look at the included Brain Blox Ideas pamphlet, they decided to tackle the helix project first. It took several tries, but they finally got it. They quickly began to understand this might be more of a challenge than anticipated; creating a structure with the given height they desired. Throughout the following weeks, we took out the Brain Blox when visiting with friends and their littles. It soon became a favorite, even amongst the dads! The men found great fun in building tall structures, encouraging the little kids to then topple their buildings; cheering them on.
To enhance my children’s learning, I chose to incorporate many of the IQ Puzzles into our routine. At the start of our day I would set out the puzzle, allowing the kids to approach the challenge at their discretion. The first few proved very simple for them; taking only a few moments. This was encouraging for me, knowing they could solve them quickly. Later puzzles took several minutes and occasional group effort, but proved equally fun. On days we did not work on IQ Puzzles we focused attention on Let’s Build! cards. Given more simple structures, our kids were challenged with enhancing the original design; making it their own.
I would have liked to make use of Brain Blox University and the Conscious Kids’ Journal pages, but found these more suited to a younger audience. They are certainly lovely options, and perhaps might use them in the future while teaching classes. We did, however, make sure to spend time viewing the Brain Blox YouTube channel. The videos are amazing fun; engaging and clever! The videos are well-made and a joy to watch. Playlists include: “Get Inspired”, six separate projects including a pirate ship and more; “Build Ideas”, eight projects including everything from airplanes and a castle gage to a fishing dock and the Parthenon; and “Brain Teasers”, four challenges using Brain Blox to help enhance spatial awareness!
Thus far, we’ve enjoyed everything about our time exploring Brain Blox. Using the wooden planks has been great fun, and a learning bonus! They have quickly become a favorite amongst our little friends who enjoy visiting and hold a great deal of potential for future projects. One of our favorite Brain Blox project ideas has been the Build Ideas Character challenge, an art opportunity which involves painting our planks to look like any character we enjoy. It has been especially fun to view the many ways Brain Blox has chosen to paint their own planks, many of which are seen in their YouTube videos! The only thing addition we would like to see to Brain Blox? While we love that their IQ Brain Puzzles and Build Ideas! cards are in digital format, it would be nice if these were also available for purchase; preferably on good card stock and laminated. We like the idea of being able to pull these out to use without having to use the internet. While we could print them ourselves, we confess, sometimes it’s just easier to purchase. It would be nice to have that option.
The suggested age range for Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks is 4-104, and we honestly believe that stands true. These wooden planks hold a world of possibility and may be enjoyed by all. We can’t wait to share these with new homeschooling families we often have the privilege of hosting and using them in future coop classes, in addition to keeping them an active part of our learning day. Both as a learning tool and family fun, Brain Blox are a wonderful addition to the household. We highly recommend taking advantage of this learning resource and would encourage making them a part of any learning routine.
Major mom confession. I do not know how to play chess. I know, total failure, right? For years I kept telling myself that if I only had a cheat sheet to tell me which pieces moved where, perhaps I could learn. Then we discovered Fun Family Chess by Brain Blox. Excuses aside, it was time this mama learned the fine art of the game.
Brain Blox is a family-owned company whose mission is to help families draw closer to one another and be purposeful in their time together. Every item available at Brain Blox Nation seeks to help them accomplish these goals. Available now, Fun Family Chess encourages families to stop thinking of chess as too complicated and instead embrace this epic game.
Ready to finally learn this incredible game, our family was offered one Fun Family Chess set. Fun Family Chess includes a folding wooden chess board, thirty-two wooden chess pieces in pouches, a full-color chess book, two reference cards, and a chess cube. In addition to the game itself, we were encouraged to take advantage of the multitude of free resources available on the Brain Blox website and given a free two month Gold Membership at the ChessKid website, a family safe website where kids can learn and play chess online. Once our box arrived, we immediately began to explore. We were pleased to discover the game board and pieces are well made and beautifully designed. The included reference cards are printed on heavy card stock, durable and beautifully designed. I would definitely be using these while learning the game. Our Fun Family Chess book shared everything from how to set up the chess board to tips on better game play. After familiarizing ourselves with the set, we took time to peruse the Brain Blox website; learning more about the free resources available and how they might better help mom learn how to play.
As everyone in my family already knows how to play chess, it was my turn to put aside any reservations I might have and learn the art of strategy. I immediately jumped on the Brain Blox YouTube channel and began their tutorials. My first video taught me how to set up the chess board; noting the chess board is bordered by images of game pieces to help beginners. The second and third videos explained how to play Fun Family Chess, a game which incorporates the rolling of a chess cube to determine which piece will be moved. Using the reference cards, I would then determine how that piece should be moved and learn to strategize. This would help me become familiar with each of the pieces on the board and practice moving around the playing field. Simple, straightforward, and easy to learn; without the rules of standard chess. My fourth video shared how to play a standard game of chess.
I spent several days playing Fun Family Chess, and have since proceeded to playing Standard Chess. I have not set myself up on a schedule of play, but do my best to incorporate this into my routine as often as possible, with the goal of playing several times per week. Each game can take anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour, depending on my ability to strategize and focus on the game. I have also taken a moment or two to try the ChessKid website but, as the purpose of my learning is to spend more time with family, found being on a website useful for personal practice when no-one else is available. I didn’t want to miss out on anything, so I was sure to take a few minutes to explore “Free Stuff” on the Brain Blox website. I was pleased to find a free Conscious Kids Journal; a set of colorful printables designed to build character in our children. Journal pages include exercises in Affirmation, Weekly Kindness, Generosity, and more! I imagine these would be lovely to incorporate into a weekly routine with littles.
Thus far, I have truly enjoyed Fun Family Chess. The set itself is well-made and lovely. I found the chess book to be a helpful resource to have on hand, and appreciated that Brain Blox included this with our set instead of assuming we would prefer to learn online, all while reminding us that video tutorials are available for those in need. Fun Family Chess game play was very fun. As a beginner, it took the stress out of choosing which piece to move and instead allowed me to focus on learning the pieces, as well as strategy. Using the resource book, I enjoyed learning about Standard Chess. I was able to acquaint myself with terms such as “Check”, “Checkmate”, “Stalemate”, “Pawn Promotion”, and more! Viewing the YouTube tutorials was amazing fun. Each video was entertaining and simple to follow. Their videos are very well made and a joy to watch. Being OCD, the only observation I might make regarding Fun Family Chess, is that I wish the board and the pieces were not different colors. Silly, but true. The wooden board is black and white; the pieces brown and white. I am sorely tempted to paint my brown pieces black. But that is still up for debate. Other than my ridiculous need for things to match, I love everything about Fun Family Chess!
It’s true. I didn’t know how to play the game. But, thanks to Fun Family Chess, that has all changed. Now if I could only manage to strategize a tad better… Oh, well. I’m sure it will come with time, right?
When my kids were really little, they required more hands-on assistance. I would stand at their side while they used scissors. I anxiously held out my arms as they tried the monkey bars or learned to ride a bike. As they’ve gotten older, I’ve come to learn my kids need a chance to be independent. Space to make mistakes, room to grow, and the ability to see for themselves they really can do this.
I am an organizational freak. I organize everything from my sock drawer, to the knives in the kitchen, to the cleaning supplies in the garage. Everything has a spot, a plan, and a purpose. Thus, allowing my children freedom of such areas can often kill my nerves. What if they don’t put things back properly? What if they bungle the whole lot and it takes me ages to put it back together again?
I also tend to be a worrier. Can you tell? What if my kids get skinned knees; scraped up elbows; cut themselves; or worse? I obviously need be right by their side to ensure they aren’t going to kill themselves or burn down our house in the process of their experimentation.
How are these things at all related? If I am not willing to set aside my worry and my desire to have everything just so, my children will never learn to do things for themselves. In order for our children to learn independence, I must relinquish some control. I must be willing for things to become messy so my children will learn to clean and organize better. I must be willing for them to have the occasional bump or bruise so they can learn to ride that skateboard. One of the hardest challenges of parenting is understanding when it’s okay to let go and when you still need to hold on. My children must learn to do things for themselves, by themselves, without mommy standing over their shoulder. And, they want to. It isn’t they which are holding back, but I!
It starts with baby steps, giving them smaller projects. When they prove faithful in the little, we give them more. At some point, they are able to clean without my having to check their work. I can depend on them to organize as well as I do. Sometimes even better. Through trial and error, our children cook without my worrying about them being burned or cutting themselves needlessly. They are able to work on artistic endeavors without ruining the flooring or leaving messes for me to clean up.
In order for them to be ready for adulthood, their responsibilities and their independence must increase and my hand-holding must decrease. Does this mean we are never around? Of course not! We will always be here for our children. But, instead of doing things for them, we offer guidance and counsel. We wait for them to seek out wisdom, instead of interjecting at the earliest possible moment. We grow out of our initial jobs and gain new ones.
Am I there yet? Truthfully, no. I still hover, peeking around corners so my kids don’t see me, waiting to rush in and save them from disaster. But I am getting better. I am learning to let them try new things, gain new experiences, and branch out. I am also learning God has this under control. He loves my children more than I ever could; He will protect them, provide for them, and help them. My job is temporary, His is forever.
“All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children.” Isaiah 54:13
We’d love to know… What is one thing your child has done, on their own, which at first caused fear, but brought about independence and growth?
As I ready my children for school, I stand at my kitchen counter packing wholesome lunches all set to be tucked away into their boxes and carted off to school. Along with their balanced meal, I lovingly slip in a note of love which promises of homemade cookies and cold milk upon their return. –– WAIT!… Scratch that… How could I forget? I don’t send my kids off to school. I don’t pack them lunches in cute little boxes. I don’t give them milk and cookies when they come back because they never leave. I don’t send them little love notes in their lunch pails; there are no lunch pails.
When shopping for back-to-school supplies, I happened upon a set of adorable lunch note cards for parents. What a cute idea, I thought! In reality, I have no use for them. We homeschool, so I don’t pack meals for our kids. I don’t box a lunch for my guy; he works at home. I make our lunch at the stove and then we sit down to eat as a family But the idea behind the love notes was touching. Surely there must be a way for me to use them. Then an idea struck! Part of dating someone is writing love letters, right? So if I was “dating my children“, surely I would need to write them “love letters”. These little notes would indeed come in handy. Now I needed to find creative ways to deliver my letters of love. Perhaps when we are on a field trip, I could attach them to their juice boxes or water bottles. I could tuck it into the front cover of their current read. I could stick them to the chairs at the kitchen table between breakfast and the beginning of our day. There are so many possibilities, I could go on forever.
Whether it is a stack of silly little notes or a handmade card, I need to remember my family appreciates these demonstrations of love. To them, it is anything but little. I constantly am trying to find ways to show my heart and express my feelings. As homeschoolers, I have to be a tad more creative. I am learning to take advantage of an opportunity when I see it. I can’t use a lunchbox, but I can use other things. The key is remembering and doing, no matter how little or how silly.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” ~ Proverbs 22:6
We’d love to know… Do you write your children letters of love? What creative ways to do you find to deliver them?
Is art history a portion of your homeschooling routine? I’ll be honest, until recently, I never gave it much thought. I can just imagine the collective gasp, but hear me out. I never taught ‘Art History’ as a school subject because… well… we LIVE art. Literally. My husband is an artist by profession. Our children have been encouraged in this area since birth. Our home library is overflowing with reference books, art studies, and reproductions by favorite masters. We visit galleries on a regular basis. It’s just a way of life.
However, the teacher in me was intrigued. Perhaps we had missed something, maybe our kids would benefit from a more formal art education study. Always up for another learning adventure, we determined to take a closer look at what HiGASFY Art History Video Series has to offer. What we discovered was a world of fun!
Have IGot AStory For You!
HiGASFY Art History Video Series is a subscription based video series which takes viewers on an art history adventure discovering four artistic eras: Renaissance, Baroque, Impressionist, and Post-Impressionist Periods. In each of the four series, our host, Miss Beth, along with her friend GASFY, an animated green drop of paint, introduces three artists of the era and the paths their lives took in making them the greatest masters of their time. Through storytelling and engaging conversation Miss Beth shares key pieces of art created by each, as we get a closer look at their work. Each of the four series includes twelve YouTube videos for viewing, each approximately twenty minutes in length; a lesson plan; flash cards; and a “Name that Artist” Power Point assessment.
Ready to embark on a new adventure, our family was given a three-month subscription to the entirety of the HiGASFY Art History Video Series, along with access to all curriculum bundles. For our purposes we chose to begin with The Renaissance, which was afterwards followed by Baroque and the Impressionist Period; in that order. To ensure we would be using the curriculum in a manner which best fit our family’s needs, I spent time reviewing the Renaissance bundle and what was included. The Renaissance introduced us to three artists: Leonardo da Vinci, Michaelangelo, and Raphael. In addition to the twelve videos in the series, more educational opportunities awaited us.
Within each curriculum bundle, we received access to sixteen corresponding lesson plans. Lessons Plans offered the ability to explore learning adventures in Study Objectives, Hands-On Activities, Critical Thinking, Vocabulary, Geography, and Group Activities. Some suggested activities included resources listed on the HiGASFY Pinterest boards; including hands-on creations and art projects. Lesson Plans had scheduled breaks throughout allowing for opportunities in personal sketching, catchup on projects, and group activities.
HiGASFY Flash Cards were available for download via the website. Each set of flashcards reflected major pieces of artwork discussed in the chosen video series. The flashcards are intended to be double sided; with full-color illustrations portrayed on the front, the artists’ names and titles of the pieces listed on the back. Ideally, the flashcards might be printed on cardstock and laminated; allowing for extended use and creating a more professional look to the cards. However, these could easily be adapted by printing each page singly; placing them in plastic page protectors, back to back. Either method would work well.
The “Name that Artist” assessment was a Power Point presentation; a review of the same pieces of art included in the flash cards. The assessment is full-color, with no sound. Should printing full-color flash cards be an issue, or for those preferring an interactive learning experience, the assessment might be an alternative to using the flash cards.
Our family determined the best place to begin was with The Renaissance, given that it was the oldest era available for study. We would then work our way forward in time. After looking over the lesson plans for this bundle, we chose to focus our attention on the video series itself and the critical thinking portions of each section. As our students are mainly in high school, this would best meet our family’s needs. Over the course of the month, we viewed one video per day. The exception was the first two videos in the series, which we watched in one sitting. While progressing through each video, brief pauses in viewing were taken to discuss critical thinking questions and embark on short geography lessons. At the end of the series, an assessment using the “Name that Arist” presentation helped us wrap up our lessons. Following this routine, we were able to complete The Renaissance within a two week period of time. We followed this series up, as planned, with Baroque and then the Impressionist period. We applied the same routine to each of the series.
HiGASFY proved to be a fun adventure in learning! Miss Beth was engaging and clearly has a passion for art. GASFY was a cute addition to each video lesson, asking questions one would expect from a typical young person learning art history for the first time. The art lessons themselves were thorough and never boring. We enjoyed being introduced to many pieces of art; Miss Beth pointing out various aspects of each painting one might miss if viewed too quickly. As particular pieces of art corresponded to Bible stories, we appreciated Miss Beth taking a few moments to review the Bible passages before moving forward. All artwork consisting of nude figures were carefully manipulated so parents need not be concerned with inappropriate material. Miss Beth introduced art styles such as Chiaroscuro and Etching. Students learn art concepts including landscapes, portraits, and still life. She did a fanatic job of continually reviewing lessons learned throughout each series. We learned a great deal about each of the chosen artists. – Who knew they could be so temperamental? – We found we preferred Michelangelo to other Renaissance artists. In regard to Impressionists, Monet’s earlier work was appreciated more highly than later projects, especially his caricatures. We loved Monet’s garden and all the work he put into it. We really liked Pissarro’s works; they have a great mood. When studying Degas, we preferred his sculpts to his paintings; Little Dancer is incredible. Mr. van Gogh? He was… an unusual man.
While we did not choose to make use of every aspect of the lesson plans, we did research each option thoroughly. While viewing the helpful HiGASFY Pinterest projects, we noted listings are not titled according to lesson plans and we look forward to this organization perhaps being put into place in the future. All other aspects of the bundles flowed beautifully. The lesson plans are very well organized and include a great deal of learning opportunities. We should note we did have issues with accessing lesson plans on our iPads. Apple devices have issues with Flash files, and thus all lesson plans needed to be viewed on my desktop or via printing. Not a major issue, but something to consider all the same.
For the purpose of our review, and because of our family’s current needs, we progressed through HiGASFY at a much quicker speed than I would honestly recommend. There is truly a wealth of information and possibility available using this curriculum. Ideally, I would recommend using one curriculum bundle per quarter of the learning year; covering all four eras over the course of a single year. You could easily stretch each course to a sixteen week study, using one lesson plan per week. Whichever best meets your students’ needs.
All-in-all, HiGASFY has been a fascinating aspect of our routine. I feel like we’ve learned a great deal. As we write this review, we are currently in the middle of the Post-Impressionist series and loving every moment. We will be sorry to finish the last of the series, but hope there might be more to come! And… we can always start over and slow down!