Confessions of a Homeschooler World’s Greatest Artists Review

This year and last year we have been learning about artists using Confessions of a Homeschooler World’s Greatest Artists. We took it slow last year and are going much faster through the artists this year in order to finish them all by the end of this school year. Usually music and art kind of get ignored in our house, but this curriculum is making it easy for us to remember to do it.

Over the course of the two years we will have learned about the following artists: Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, Jackson Pollock, Claude Monet, Henri Matisse, Georgia O’Keeffe, Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci (we just finished this one), Norman Rockwell, Rembrandt, Paul Cezanne, Andy Warhol, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Paul Gauguin, and Edgar Degas. The digital downloads were cheap ($5.50 for each of the two volumes), but then I had to get the books about the artists (I got most of them used which saved on costs considerably; they might be available for free at your public library) and also print several very colorful pages for the lapbooks. The total cost for two years of artist study for three boys was about $100.

Learning about each artist begins with reading the book about that artist from the Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists series by Mike Venezia. Because we are going through the artists faster than the included lesson plan calls for this year, we read the entire book in one sitting.

Several times over the course of studying the artists, we look at and talk about one of the artist’s works. This time we focused on The Last Supper and instead of using the picture in the book like we normally do, for this one we looked at and discussed the cross stitch of The Last Supper I made.

Then the boys use a medium similar to one the artist worked with and create their own work, two for each artist studied, based (usually very, very loosely) on the artist’s work. This time, and really most of the time, the boys used tempera paint. While studying Michelangelo, they carved soap.


We create minibooks of the artist’s main works to add to the lapbooks. We cut out the pages and pictures for the minibooks, glue the pictures on the appropriate work’s page, and write what medium was used for each piece (we get that information from the book about the artist). Then we staple the minibook together and glue it in the lapbook.

We make trading cards for each artist. We cut out the card, fold it in half, and glue it so it stays folded. On the back, we fill in specific information about the artist (movement, style/technique, medium used, famous works, and which of the artist’s works is their personal favorite). We get this information from the book about the artist. Then we add the trading card to a folder in the lapbook. We’ve got quite a collection of artist trading cards in there now.

We do a puzzle of one of the artist’s famous works. The puzzles are all squares (3 columns and 4 rows) and much harder than you might think. Cameron and Fritz always race putting theirs together. Once we’ve assembled the puzzles (or tried our hardest and failed – sometimes they are just impossible!), we make a pocket and glue it on the flap next to the minibook in the lapbook. The puzzle pieces go inside the pocket.

I really like Confessions of a Homeschooler World’s Greatest Artists and highly recommend it for people struggling to find an art curriculum that is interesting and easy to implement. It is not perfect. I would very much like to have a suggested schedule or two. Answers for the minibooks and trading cards would be useful as would a picture showing the completed layout of the lapbook. Printing the required pages for the lapbooks takes quite a lot of printer ink which is really a positive and a negative. It means the cost of printing is not low, but it also means the pages are very beautiful and full color. Minor complaints, but drawbacks nonetheless.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

(Note: I was not compensated in any way for this review. I bought everything required to use this curriculum myself.)

First Quarter Wrap-up

It seems crazy, but the first quarter of the 2015-16 school year is over. That’s nine whole weeks completed. It just doesn’t seem like that much time has passed since not back to school day, but it has so here’s where we are at the end of this quarter.

We learned some modern history in Africa, Japan, China, Korea, and western Europe. We learned a little about Reconstruction. We learned a bunch of Latin words. We’re taking Latin very slow to make sure the vocabulary is well committed to memory. We learned about Georgia O’Keeffe, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci. We learned about Isaac Newton and his three laws of motion, about states of matter, and simple machines. We learned about Handel, Mozart, and Beethoven.

Cameron read Kidnapped and Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, The Man Without a Country by Edward E. Hale, several poems, and he’s currently reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. He’s reviewed nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and more grammar concepts. He’s practiced both one and two level outlining. He has completed 9 lessons of Algebra I. He has written several short papers and practiced taking notes. He’s learned some basic logic, how to write several letters in cursive, and has completed four lessons of vocabulary.

Fritz has read Homer Price, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and is almost done reading The Moffatts. He has completed 8 lessons of Math-U-See Delta (division). He’s done lots of dictation and narration. He’s learning how to diagram more complicated sentences. He’s learned lots of new vocabulary words and how to write in cursive.

Adrian has progressed in learning to read to the point he can read Magic Tree House books. He’s completed 8 lessons of Math-U-See Beta (multi-digit addition and subtraction). He’s about halfway through the second Explode the Code book. He’s learning how to properly spell four letter words. He’s learned about nouns, verbs, pronouns, and adjectives. He’s learning to write letters in cursive. He has started narrating stories and learned how to properly complete copywork assignments.

As for grades, I only assign percentage grades in a few subjects. Mostly, they get pass/fail or just a letter grade based on how well they participate and understand what they are learning.
History – A
Science – A
Art – Pass
Music – Pass
PE – Pass (I should hope so since today he got first in sparring at the ATA Fall Nationals!)
Religion – Pass
Math – B (80%)
English – B (83%)
Logic – B (80%)
Latin – A (98%)

History – A
Science – A
Art – Pass
Music – Pass
PE – Pass
Religion – Pass
Math – A (96%)
English – A (92%)
Latin – A (98%)

History – A
Science – A
English – A
Art – Pass
Music – Pass
PE – Pass
Latin – Pass
Religion – Pass
Math – A (98%)

Homeschooling has Benefits

The other day Cameron told me he has come up with a nicely rehearsed answer to the question he is getting more and more often: Why do you like being homeschooled? There are three or four quick things on his list like he gets to work at his own pace and if he finishes early he gets to do whatever he wants for the rest of the day. Kids who are in public school, especially, are usually a bit jealous when they hear that.

Because of homeschooling, Ani and Cameron get to attend instructor training each week, training with several high-degree black belts. Because of homeschooling, Ani gets to start working with her beloved little Tigers about 45 minutes before the local public high schools let out for the day. Because of homeschooling, Cameron gets to earn a few extra dollars each week doing a regular dog-sitting job. Because of homeschooling, Ani and Cameron get to spend next week in Florida at ATA Fall Nationals competing, testing, and training. Because of homeschooling, we get time to spend together as a family in spite of our crazy taekwondo schedule.

Yes, homeschooling has so many benefits. I don’t blame the kids who feel a little jealous when they hear Cameron’s answer.

Even More Science Experiments

We spent a week reading a book about Isaac Newton. Then we got back to doing several experiments a week. Here’s what we did over the last two weeks.

We made an Inertia Zoom Ball. We cut the tops off two 1-liter soda bottles and taped them together. Then we threaded two 12′ long strings through the two-headed bottle. We attached cut up 6-pack rings for handles. With the Zoom Ball at one end, the person at that end spread their hands apart to make the Ball rush to the other end. We took turns letting the Ball zoom back and forth. This demonstrated Newton’s First Law of Motion.

A video:

We made a fan using a K’Nex kit.

We stacked a coin pyramid of a quarter, nickel, penny, and dime on a strip of paper. We positioned the paper to be half hanging off the table. Then we took turns quickly pulling the paper out from under the coins. The paper came out from under the coins and the coin pyramid stayed where it was.

We stacked 20 nickels and tried flicking a quarter at the bottom nickel. The bottom one was supposed to fly out from under the stack, but it didn’t quite work that way. Our nickel stack collapsed instead.

We put an index card on top of an olive jar and placed a nickel on top of that. Then we quickly pulled the index card out so the nickel fell straight down into the jar.

We made a launcher out of a pencil and a rubber band. It made the paper airplane fly pretty far distances.

We made a window that rolls up and down using a K’Nex Gears Kit.

We demonstrated Newton’s Second Law of Motion by rolling a ball into a second ball.

We made a Ping Pong Popper using two toilet paper tubes, paper clips, a rubber band, and plastic wrap. By pulling back and quickly pressing forward with one of the tubes we made a ping ball inside fly out the other end.

So Proud of This Boy!

Adrian has been completely off gluten for a few weeks now and he’s feeling so much better. Last night we had a carnival at church for the younger kids put on by the older kids. After the children went around to 10 different carnival games, they got to get a decorated cookie.

Adrian went to the cookie table and then came over to me and asked which cookie was gluten free. I had totally forgotten he couldn’t have a regular cookie anymore! I quickly rounded up some gluten free candies and put them on a plate for him and he was perfectly satisfied.

He didn’t get upset about not being able to have a cookie. In fact, he said he didn’t want one if it had gluten because he didn’t want his tummy to hurt again. I am so proud of him for remembering what he can’t eat and being so responsible at only 7 years old to turn down something he knows is yummy and that all the other kids are eating in front of him.

Spelling You See Review

I’ve never been totally happy with any spelling curriculum we’ve tried. We’ve done Calvert, Sequential Spelling, Spelling Power, Spelling Workout, making up my own thing, Spelling City, and a few others. This year we decided to try Spelling You See and, with 6 weeks done, I am very happy with it.

Spelling You See isn’t like a typical spelling program. There are no word lists to memorize (and promptly forget). Instead, it combines copywork and dictation with looking for groups of letters that often appear together in words. These groups are marked with various colors (for example, vowel chunks – like ee, ow, and ui – get marked in yellow and consonant chunks – like ll, th, and ch – get marked in blue).

To determine which level to place the boys, I gave them the placement assessments provided on the Spelling You See website. Adrian placed into level B. Fritz placed into level E. Cameron placed into level D. They currently go through level G. It is nice that they don’t have grade level designations since Cameron placed at what would surely be a much lower number than his grade level. Near the end of last school year we used the provided sample week at the levels they placed into. That week definitely made me think this was the spelling curriculum for us and that the levels they placed into were the right ones.

The Student Packs for levels B and above include two workbooks (first 18 lessons and second 18 lessons) and a pack of erasable colored pencils. The pencils are very specific colors that will be needed throughout the year. Level B also comes with a laminated printed letter forming guide page.

There are 5 two-page spreads for each week. Weeks we do school four days instead of five, we just skip the last page (E) those weeks. The first half of level B is different from the higher levels, so first I’ll explain how halfway through B and later works and then I’ll explain how the first half of B works.

Each day the kids start out hunting for and marking those letter chunks in their specified color. Whenever a new color is added, they only look for that type of chunk for a couple weeks. Then they add that color to all the other colors they have already learned. By the end of the books their passages are very colorful! The passage they mark is the same every day for a week.

Once they think they have found all of the chunks they are looking for that day, they give it to me and I mark it to show which ones they missed. It’s not a big deal if they miss a few. They look it over after I mark it and see where they could improve. For example, in week 5 Fritz was having a lot of trouble missing th’s. We focused very hard on that chunk. In week 6, he did much better finding those. Missed chunks is just another opportunity to learn to find where those chunks will appear in words.

By the end of the week they are much more accurate in finding and marking the chunks. I find that the ones they repeatedly miss are the ones that don’t come up very often, such as gh.

Once the chunk hunting and marking is finished, they do either copywork or dictation. Copywork is assigned on pages A-C and dictation is assigned on pages D and E. The copywork/dictation comes from the passage they are marking that week. The whole lesson only takes 15 or 20 minutes max.

Now, the first half of B is quite different. Each day there is a nursery rhyme and something to do related to that rhyme. Sometimes we find rhyming words, sometimes capitalized words, sometimes punctuation. Adrian usually wants me to sing the rhyme with several times every day. Then there is a line or two of copywork. Writing is still very difficult for Adrian and he does copywork in Writing With Ease so I help him with the spelling copywork as needed.

For the first 6 lessons, the second page of the daily two-page spread has several letters to copy and then space to write 6 dictated words. Whether or not the words are spelling correctly the first time is not the point. At this point he’s just working on figuring out how to “take apart” a word into sounds to write the words properly. Starting with lesson 7, there are no letters to copy and the number of dictated words doubles. The teacher’s manual provides the words to dictate.

The instructor’s handbooks are necessary and very useful. I use them daily. They all start with background information that is interesting to read. They start with the philosophy, the five developmental stage of spelling, and the curriculum sequence and placement guidelines. Next is getting started with the specific level purchased. Then is lesson-by-lesson instructions. In higher levels several of the lessons have general instructions together plus a weekly activity guide and detailed information about chunking. Then they move on to frequently asked questions followed by a resource section. The resource section includes the passages used in each lesson (lists of words for the kid to write divided by lesson and by types of words for the first half of level B) and a full-color answer key (this is invaluable for checking their accuracy in chunking). At the back is a glossary, bibliography, and, for the higher levels, index.

The real test for any spelling curriculum is whether the kid’s spelling improves or not in their regular writing. Because of Cameron’s learning disability, his spelling may never improve a whole lot (though he is very good at hunting for the letter groups which really surprised me and he is properly remembering those chunks in his regular writing so improvement is happening!). I have noticed that Fritz and Adrian both are spelling better in non-spelling assignment work after just these last 6 weeks. Adrian is getting good at taking 3-4 letter words apart and figuring out what letter each sound is. Considering Fritz’s spelling has not improved with any other program, I’m going to considerate Spelling You See a huge win.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

(Note: I was not compensated in any way for this review. I bought the books myself.)