Tuesday, April 29, 2014

An Open-and-Go Art Curriculum We're Thoroughly Enjoying {A Review}

  • Easy-peasy, open-and-go picture study?  Check!
  •  Gentle art theory?  Check!
  • Full body engagement?  Check!
  • Creative (yet easy-to-facilitate) projects?  Check! 
  • Meaningful exploration of varying art media?  Check!
  • Quality time spent together creating works of art?  Check!

I was happy to be offered a chance to review ARTistic Pursuits Early Elementary K-3, Book 1: Introduction to the Visual Arts with my children in exchange for an honest review since I had heard that the curriculum provides an easy-to-use, parent-friendly and well-loved comprehensive art program.  Since receiving the Kindergarten through third grade book, I can attest that the curriculum is just what it is reputed to be -- easy, enjoyable and engaging.

What is ARTistic Pursuits?

Our living room table at the end of our first experience with ARTistic Pursuits, Lesson 1: Artists Compose
ARTistic Pursuits is a preschool-12th grade art curriculum that gently introduces children to various aspects of art, thereby developing observation skills and free artistic expression.  At each level, this homeschool art curriculum encourages children to draw, paint, sculpt and otherwise create art in response to personal observations and gentle lessons about:
  • the elements of art and composition
  • art history
  • art media
  • and techniques.

ARTistic Pursuits Review

The Early Elementary K-3, Book 1: Introduction to the Visual Arts book that my children and I reviewed includes 36 complete lessons on what artists do, what they see and where we can find art.  Within these lessons, children explore clay, drawing, painting, paper art and more.

Nina would not take her eyes off her second exploration when I asked her to hold up her first ARTistic Pursuits project, a project where she chose to frame the seedlings growing on our front windowsill against a background of the windowsill, a light post and an evergreen bush.

In the What Artists Do section, children enjoy 14 lessons that encourage them to:

  • observe, imagine and compose.
  • use watercolor crayons, pastels and pencils.
  • study examples of landscape, people and still life works of art.

Nina outside observing and taking notes in preparation for her Lesson 2: Artists Imagine art creation.

In the What Artists See section, children engage in seven lessons that:

  • explore the elements of art, such as color, form, line and shape.
  • collage, create paper works, draw and mix colors, creating art works that stem from their own interests.
  • exercise skills including the handling of scissors, gluing, folding paper forms, using drawing materials and using a brush.

Luke loves drawing with pencils and is beginning to explore the use of watercolor pencils thanks to ARTistic Pursuits. 

In the Where We Find Art section, children spend 15 lessons exploring art media further while learning about ancient people and art.  In doing so, students:

  • learn about cathedrals, cave paintings, pyramids and more.
  • use chalk pastels, clay, oil pastels, paper work, etc.
  • explore book binding, clay modeling, mosaic techniques, mural and paper art.

Jack loved creating mosaics on Holy Saturday in response to Lesson 32: Art in Churches.

All 36 lessons in the book are organized in the same user-friendly way:

  • First, parents (or children) read the lesson.
  • Then, all participate in short observation activities or discussions about art works by masters.
  • Finally, everyone creates original works of art about subjects of personal choosing.

Jack asks Luke to help him shape part of his elephant sculpture as a part of Lesson 30: Art in Streets.

The "teaching" portion of each lesson packs pointed teaching into five to ten minute discussions (which, of course, can stretch depending on student interest in the topics.)  The "project" portion of the lessons is designed to take 30-60 minutes (but in our family's experience can take much less or more depending on student interest, too!) 

"YOU did that?" My husband was surprised by what his less-than-artistic wife created alongside the children during our first ARTistic Pursuits lesson.  It may not be a great work, but it is impressive for me and my skills.

Early Elementary K-3, Book 1: Introduction to the Visual Arts is currently priced at $47.95 and is geared towards children ages 5 and up.  To use it, you will need to acquire materials such as:

  • an ebony pencil
  • a vinyl eraser
  • a small set of soft pastels
  • a small set of oil pastels
  • 10-15 water color crayons (or pencils, if you have a crayon-despising chil like I do)
  • a #8 round watercolor brush
  • a watercolor paper pad
  • assorted colors of heavy weight cosntrution apper, inccluding black
  • assorted colors of tissue paper
  • scissors
  • 4-5 lbs. of gray self-hardening clay
These supplies can be purchased as a package from ARTistic Pursuits or pieced together on your own.

ARTistic Pursuits Review

You can view sample pages of the book we have been enjoying and its table of contents at the ARTistic Pursuits website, where you will also find information and samples about all 12 books currently included in the ARTistic Pursuits curriculum.  

Our Experience and Opinion

We have completed six of the ARTistic Pursuits lessons so far, each one of them in a different way, but all of them with joy, attention and learning.

We explored Lesson 1: Artists Compose together at our front living room table, delighting in the ease of the Picture Study as well as in creating our own works of art with watercolor pencils since my oldest hates crayons.

I love that our three-year-old joins intently in our lessons even though the lessons are aimed at ages 5+.

Lesson 2 was used as a "reset activity" one evening when over-stimulated kids needed a fun, focused activity to focus them.  I simply took out our ARTistic Pursuits book and began reading the lesson to myself aloud.

Nine delighted in observing real things outside to spark her imagination.  (And I delighted in the calm and focus that overtook her!)

Luke observed toys and books inside during his reset time while Nina and I forayed outside.  (Jack was sleeping.)  Then, we used out collective "real life inspirations" to imagine and create.

Lesson 2: Artists Imagine calls for watercolor crayons, but my children wanted to use markers.  Not only did I "yes" that, but I "yessed" Luke's desire to use Lego guys in the art work.  he was quite amused with my imagined piece.

We skipped ahead to Lesson 32:  Art in Churches on Holy Saturday, enjoying creating mosaics on a blanket on the front lawn.

Luke and Nina preferred doing the cutting while Jack focused on the gluing during our Holy Saturday team mosaic of Jesus' tomb.

Another day, Lesson 30:Art in the Streets provided a wonderful "reset" opportunity when the children started squabbling outside.  I simply brought our book out with a container of clay and began reading the lesson.  All three children immediately gathered, discussed the master art work and then got to work creating their  own sculptures.

Unkind hands become happy, calm, focused and sculpting hands when invited to join in an ARTistic Pursuits lesson.

Lesson 3:  Artists Look found us inspecting our front garden blooming with spring before drawing with pencils on blankets in the yard.

Luke got seriously up close looking at sprouts and bugs in the mulch before creating his art work!

We found the Communication Exercise as enjoyable as the picture study and project in Lesson 4: Artists Communicate, which we did around the kitchen table.

Before diving into the project with Lesson 4, we used white boards and markers for a guessing game where we quick-sketched action words to try to communicate ideas with one another.  It was so much fun!

Each of the six lessons we have completed so far have proved nothing but positive experiences for the children and me.  We have enjoyed exercising observation, creativity and skills through them and, I, in particular, have loved how flexible the lessons are.  they can be done almost anywhere (once you have the supplies on hand), spontaneously when the kids need a "reset" or planned, when it is a learning time.  We most certainly will continue with Early Elementary K-3, Book 1: Introduction to the Visual Arts lessons until we have completed (and likely revisited!) them all.

Watercolor Pencils add new dimension to Luke's imaginative drawings.
I would not hesitate to recommend this homeschool art curriculum to anyone who would like an easy, comprehensive art program.  We love that it:

  • makes picture study so easy with works of great masters and prompt questions included right in its pages.

  • provides short, pointed and practical lessons in art history, technique, etc.

  • encourages true observation and expressions through the use of varied art media and techniques  (no cookie-cutter crafts here!)

  •  engages all of us, sometimes, as we have experienced, working to reset a challenging moment into a creative, focused and pleasant one.

Granted, at $47.95 for the book itself and more for the supplies, it can seem like a hefty investment for penny-pinching homeschool families.  However, since the book is non-consumable, it will last through multiple years of use (and children!) and we found that between what we already had at home and things I was able to pick up with coupons at craft stores, the cost of supplies was not so bad.  We honestly consider the curriculum and supplies an investment not only in art study, but in our kids and family overall.  We all enjoy spending quality time together getting creative with ARTistic Pursuits.

Learn More

If you'd like to learn more about ARTistic Pursuits?

ARTistic Pursuits Review

ARTistic Pursuits Review
ARTistic Pursuits Review

Click to read Crew Reviews 
I'd love to hear about some of your favorite art experiences?
  Crew Disclaimer

Monday, April 28, 2014

19 Catholic Family Resources for $19 (10 Days Only!)

We've got a little sickness going on here, so this will be quite brief.  I just wanted to share about a great bundle deal going on at Upside Down Homeschooling.   We own several of the resources included in the deal, use and enjoy them, so I am happy to share this opportunity and would appreciate anyone who wishes to take advantage of it doing so through our affiliate link.  (If you choose to do this, you'll still get the same great deal price and our family will earn a few dollars.)

The bundle includes these resources for kids:


... and these for grown ups.


More details can be found at Upside Down Homeschooling.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A Belated Happy Easter Wish (and Lots of Snapshots of Our Weekend!)

Boys will be boys.  I finally got someone to take a family photo, but the boy had been playing basketball, so their shirts were untucked. 

Good thing that the Easter season does not end on Easter Sunday, since I am just getting to wishing everyone here a most joyous Easter.

Sorry to be late in doing so.

The end of Holy Week was full for us and I felt prompted NOT to get online as much so I could concentrate on faith, family and home with greater attention.

So, here I am, a week after Easter Sunday, finally wishing everyone a blessed Easter season and taking a look back at some highlights from Good Friday through Easter Sunday.

Good Friday

Heading into Good Friday, I was sleepless, but oh so blessed.  In the middle of the night, I walked into the kids' room to find all three of my children cuddled up, sound asleep, with their heads all tucked together.  By the time I grabbed the camera to memorialize the sweet morning went, both Nina and Luke had moved their heads.  I snapped away anyway.  My children's closeness and sweet slumber is something I never tire or remembering.

Happy "good morning" greetings never cease to make me smile, too.  Since I finally fell asleep next to my kiddoes in the wee hours of Good Friday morning, and happened to have the camera right next to me, I caught this one in the morning when Nina woke me.

Of course, most of Good Friday was spent with quiet and services.   We worked a bit more on our Holy Week art and the children and I attended Living Stations, as presented by the Teens at our church, and, later, the Good Friday services.  

It was the first year that I braved both stations and services alone with my busy children who have always been challenging at Mass and, well, we survived.  Nina was prayerful; Jack fell asleep during services; and the picture of Luke, who had been his usual challenging himself throughout the service, kneeling to venerate the cross with such piety will long be etched in my mind and heart.  

Praise be for moments like that that affirm Luke "gets it" even when too often still his words and behaviors demonstrate otherwise.

Holy Saturday

I had every intention of braving the Easter Vigil Mass with the kids, too, but, in the end, realized it would have been anything but a faith-filled, reverent experience for those around us if I did.  By late afternoon/early evening, my children were happy, but oh-so-tired.  Tired kids and Mass never fly well here...  So, in deference to those who might have been near us in the pews, I decided Good Friday and Easter morning services would be enough for us for this year since Daddy could not be with us for any of the services but  Sunday morning.

So, why were the kids so happy, yet tired?  It could have had something to do with...

Egging!  The children each picked one family they wanted to egg this year and then got busy filling eggs to do so.
Luke worked hard picking Bible verses and making scripture scrolls to leave with the eggs this year -- his idea.  Then, we were off.

One family we egged was home, home, home every time we went to egg them, so we actually egged them on Easter Monday.  Another family was out so we did quick egging there, after which Nina led us in prayer for the family.  So sweet!

Then, we drove to a nearby town where some homeschool friends live.  We figured they'd either be out for the beautiful day or in their backyard playing, so we would be able to secretly egg in front.  However, one of the children peeped over the back fence just as we pulled up.  So, we told them we were just driving in the area and wanted to swing by to say "hi".  Then, when the kids of the family asked my kids to play, I quietly went to the front yard to "egg".  As we were leaving, my children acted surprised about the printable "You've Been Egged" note that one of the children found on their front door and helped the kids find the eggs.  The oldest child figured out that it was us who had egged them, so the secret was out as the fun was shared.
Later, Nina and Luke snipped up paper and Jack worked intently on creating a mosaic of the tomb where Jesus' body was placed.  

While I prepped Easter egg dying and did some other things, the kids watched versions of The Easter Story online to reinforce the true meaning of Easter, as well as Here Comes Peter Cottontail and Berenstain Bears just for fun.

This year, oil pastels and dyed hot water brought out the kids' artistry.

Jack was awfully excited about leaving salad greens, carrots and more for the bunny.

Nina thought we should leave water and utensils, too.  I persuaded her that the utensils were unnecessary, so she put them back and then she and her brothers decided to hide eggs for the bunny and to leave a note.  How cute!

Then it was time for prayers, bed and, in my case, trying to outlast Luke, who had great anxiety about not being able to sleep, which only made him stay awake longer, crying as I comforted and prayed for him.  Poor thing!

Easter Sunday!

Considering that Luke was actually awake with anxiety through the wee hours of Easter morning and, while I was comforting him, Nina and Jack woke, too, I thought the children would sleep in on Easter.


Excited to celebrate that Jesus has risen and to see if the bunny came, the kids woke quite early.  Since Daddy had had to work an overnight into Easter morning, though, I told the kids they could not go do their traditional Easter morning egg hunt, though.  They had to wait until Daddy got home.  

The children were surprisingly good about this!

They were super good about not stepping one toe into the living room when they asked if they could just go see if the bunny had come.

In celebration of the kids having listened to the request not to step into the living room, I said they could go in to each select one of the lollipops the Easter Bunny had left them in their Pray, Fast, Give jars, whereupon they noticed that the bunny had written back to them.

Luke read the notes to Nina and Jack.

Then, I told the kids they could each take ONE treat from their baskets before going back to their room.  Excitedly, they all chose window markers or crayons and dashed back to try them out on their windows.

The kids thought it was great fun to have free reign doing window art.  However, they were disappointed that Daddy's car was nowhere in sight out the window.

I quelled the kids by letting them watch the Beginner Bible Easter Story on Youtube.

Finally, Daddy got home and the kids dashed to the living room to greet him and begin their annual Easter morning egg hunt.  Jack counted the eggs he found.

Nina was excited to fund money AND candy in the eggs this year (and Mommy was moved when Luke led Nina and Jack in putting some of their "egg money" into their "give" rice bowls for the church!)

Then it was onto a super simple to prepare breakfast that the kids had pre-requested:  our dyed eggs, raspberries and syrup, GFCF donuts, chocolate milk and ice cream.  (I said simple, not healthy!)

After breakfast, before Mass, we tried taking a self-timer family shot...

More than once, with little success.

Or with some success, but weird fuzziness.

I'd like to say Mass was beautiful.  It was, of course, in some ways, but, in other ways, not so much.  

Early on during Mass, despite the joy of the day, I looked up at the crucifix and found myself unexpectedly overcome with silent tears -- or both sadness and joy -- as I thought about the trying Lent so many I know (myself included) had experienced, the gratitude I have for my own family and the awesome promise of eternal life in Heaven that Jesus offered us.

Later, one of Mike and my children also burst into tears.  Not-so-silent tears!   We had gotten to Mass just on time and, therefore had had to sit in the choir loft.  During the homily, our pastor asked all of the children at Mass to make paper airplanes with messages about love, faith, Jesus, etc.  However, the papers for doing so had not been pre-stocked in the choir loft...  Thus, the tears and the remaining challenges of Mass with our kids...  Ahhh... Exhale and offer it up.

After a figuratively and literally long Easter Mass, we went home to make, um, rice.  Yes, rice.  For Easter.  That is what my children requested.  Rice, cold cuts, edamame and broccoli.  Why not?  We made our own quick version of an empty tomb with these ingredients to bring to our family Easter along with a fruit salad and some other not-so-traditional fare.

And it was at our family Easter celebration that we enjoyed games inside and out, good food, loving company and, of course...

... more eggs!

Eggs happily hunted for, collected and cracked open.

Eggs that included bucks!

After hours of feasting and sharing prayers, conversation, family time and fun, we headed home.  Two of the three children passed out on the way home.  Only this one stayed that way when transferring into the house.

And so it was most of Easter day here was as filled with gladness as I prayed it would be.  Much of that which wasn't (which is not detailed here on purpose) will be forgotten as we each continue to simply choose to remember that we are loved by one another and by our Lord.

You are, too.

May the love of Easter strengthen you!  Wishing you every blessing!

PS  I'd also like to recommend this bundle to families.  We already own some of the resources in it, use them, enjoy them, and, thus, are affiliates to the bundle:



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