Science Shepherd Life Science ~ A TOS Review from finchnwren

Recently, we were offered the opportunity to review Science Shepherd‘s Science Shepherd Life Science, via the Schoolhouse Review Crew (TOS).  What a complete and full life science curriculum!

Science Shepherd banner 1

What is Science Shepherd?

Science Shepherd is a science curriculum company which was started by a homeschool dad, Dr. Scott Hardin (who has a bachelor’s degree in science and is also a practicing physician), as his children were approaching high school age and he was concerned about what he saw as a lack of exceptional science curricula for older homeschooled students.  This company has produced both biology and life science courses (for older students), plus an introductory science course for younger ones.  Dr. Hardin’s hope was that with these materials, parents who were intimidated about teaching high school science courses would be able to teach them successfully while their children learned the necessary science concepts.

What is the Science Shepherd Life Science course?

The Science Shepherd Life Science is a complete life science course for middle school and junior high school students.  The course includes three components:

  • The Science Shepherd Life Science hardback textbook
  • The Science Shepherd Life Science Test Booklet (softcover)
  • The Science Shepherd Life Science Answer Key & Parent Companion (softcover)

Science Shepherd 3The Science Shepherd Life Science Textbook

This textbook contains 19 chapters which cover key life science topics.  Here’s just a sampling of the rich information covered here:

  • Characteristics and chemistry of life
  • Cells; their membranes, interiors, and reproduction
  • DNA; its structure and function
  • Heredity
  • Evolution and Creation
  • Scientific Classification (from bacteria and viruses to plants and animals)
  • Human Anatomy and Physiology
  • and more!

The pages are glossy with a nice finish, and each page has interesting photos or great diagrams on the material being presented.  The chapters are divided into segments (4.1, 4.2, 4.3, and so on), and scientific terms are in boldface print.  Each chapter begins with a number of questions to be answered and ends with definitions of terms discussed in each one.  In addition, chapters close with a list of study questions which students can answer (although they’ll need to provide their own paper, a spiral notebook, or a binder if they’d like to write the answers).  The book starts with the definition and characteristics of life, and moves into more intricate areas as the chapters progress.

The Science Shepherd Life Science Test Booklet

The Science Shepherd Life Science Test Booklet is designed to be used alongside the life science textbook.  Every few chapters, the textbook will refer the parent and student to take the accompanying test in the test booklet.  There are 9 tests in the booklet, which cover all the chapters in the book.  The test questions are all essay or short answer.  Students can actually write in the booklet, as there are spaces left under each question.

This test booklet is designed to show mastery of the science learned; that the student really understands what he has been studying.  Parents may assign all, or some, of the questions, and they can be answered by the student either orally or in written form.  If students learn and know the definitions at the end of each chapter in the textbook, and can completely answer the study questions there, they ought to be able to successfully complete the questions in the test booklet.


Science Shepherd pic 2The Science Shepherd Life Science Answer Key & Parent Companion

This book might just be one of the more effective teacher’s guide for parents that I’ve ever seen!  It contains a 5-day schedule for each of the 36 weeks it takes to complete the Science Shepherd Life Science textbook, with sections assigned for daily reading.  There are also days scheduled for the students to answer the chapters’ study questions, and take the tests.  So many parents will simply be able to follow this schedule to complete the course in one school year.

Also, it contains an answer key for both the study questions and the tests.  Last but not least, the entire second half of the book walks parents step-by-step through what is covered in each textbook chapter.  It has all the sections covered in each chapter reprinted in this book; but here, it has the answers for each question in addition to the definitions and explanations.  So, parents can use this book alongside their students without having to borrow the textbook from their children.


Science Shepherd pic 1How we used this:

We intended to use this life science course for our main science spine during the review period…which we did.  There is SO much that I love about Science Shepherd.  It is written from the perspective of the truthfulness of God’s Word, and the evolution theory being a complete contrast to Genesis’ account of creation.  So, that perspective informs the science taught from the first chapter all the way through the end.

However, I discovered that it was a much more difficult course than I had anticipated.  It is designed for middle school or junior high school students (which I have; my son Jackson, who used this course, is an 8th grader).  We struggled to find just the right way for him to study it.  We began by using the recommended schedule in the Answer Key & Parent Companion.  But it became apparent that that was too much information, covered too quickly for us.  So we cut down the reading a bit, which helped some, but we still needed to find a way for him to read and absorb the information at the same time.

I finally had the idea to create some worksheets, where Jackson could write in definitions, draw diagrams, and list pertinent information as he was reading.  Jackson also utilized some blank notebooking pages.  (Neither of these is included in the curriculum.)   Bonanza!  This was what we had needed all along.  Suddenly, the scientific material that had sort of swirled around his head became concrete, visual, and understandable.  And an added bonus was that now, he was creating his own study sheets for the tests!

In conclusion:

Science Shepherd Life Science is well-written and well-organized.  We would say that it is a challenging program for middle-schoolers, but that it IS doable by them.  It will require diligent study, but the rewards of that study will be appreciated; and the curriculum really prepares students for more difficult high school science courses later on.

If you’re looking for a rigorous homeschool science curriculum that is Biblically-based for your children, try Science Shepherd.  It is beautifully designed and has great resources for the parent/teacher.  (We just recommend that you somehow find a way for your student to involve writing as he studies.  This will help in both retention and understanding.)

You may purchase both Science Shepherd Life Science and other science courses from Science Shepherd.

Enjoy!  –Wren

Visit Science Shepherd at their social media sites:
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Happy National End of School Day 2016!

Happy National End of School Day 2016

Hi everyone!

Jackson here, and I want to say to you all…HAPPY NATIONAL END OF SCHOOL DAY!!

This semester for me has been filled with accomplishments and good review items courtesy of FlyBy (The League and The Lantern) and TOS Review Crew (Homeschool Copywork and more) and another great EEME project, plus finishing hard work on two piano pieces I was tirelessly working on for nearly the entire semester.

And in more detail of things from the Crew, I really enjoyed The Dragon and the Raven, and Homeschool Copywork has been great as well! The Bible verses listed on them have been so great!

Check out my Mom, Wren’s reviews of those topics here:

Homeschool Copywork

The Dragon and The Raven

Plus, The League and The Lantern is a GREAT and AWESOME kids/teen fiction read! You can read the full post and my comments about it here:

The League and The Lantern

I would also list the EEME project we are working on, but the review has not yet been posted, so please be on the lookout for that!

Check out EEME here:

Electronic Kits for Kids/EEME

What will you do to celebrate this special day? I know I will be going to Sonic to get some 50 Cent Corn Dogs and a nice lemonade and/or limeade to go with them!

This semester has been filled with so many good things and blessings for me, and I just want to say, Happy National End of School Day to you all…I hope everyone on the Crew had great semesters as well!



“Bearing Witness” ~ A Review & Giveaway

I’ve had the opportunity this week to dip into a book with subject matter I don’t usually read about, unless it’s in the New Testament book of Acts.  In the present day, even though this may be hard for many Americans to imagine, Christians do lose their lives for the faith they embrace.

Bearing Witness banner

Bearing Witness: Stories of Martyrdom and Costly Discipleship is a new book from Plough Publishing which shares the stories of those martyred for their Christian faith.  Starting all the way back with Stephen and moving through the centuries up to the present day, editors Charles E. Moore and Timothy Keiderling have written accounts of 36 Christian martyrs (or groups of martyrs) from the following four time periods:

  • Early Christians
  • Radical Reformers
  • Early Modern Witnesses
  • Recent Witnesses

Written from the Protestant perspective, and specifically from the Anabaptist tradition, Bearing Witness recounts the lives and deaths of Christians who were committed to the principles of the “believer’s baptism and …nonresistance” (Bearing Witness, p. xi); “nonviolence and love of enemy even in the most extreme circumstances” (Bearing Witness, p. xii).  We think of the idea of nonresistance most, perhaps, with Martin Luther King, Jr., and the American civil rights movement.  However, Christian nonresistance and sometimes, martyrdom, have occurred over the centuries since the first recorded Christian martyr, Stephen.

Bearing Witness 2

So whom will you meet….and whose stories will you be introduced to?  Well, from the Early Christians section, you’ll meet Polycarp (of Smyrna), Perpetua (Carthage), Andronicus (of Cilicia, or Turkey), Justin Martyr (Rome).  From the Reformation era, Jan Hus; William Tyndale; the Hutters; Dirk Willems.  In the Early Modern Witnesses (from the 1700s on), you’ll meet Ahn Ei Sook; Veronika Lohans; Jacob Hochstetler; Emanuel Swartzendruber.  And in the Recent Witnesses segment, dating from the 1940s on, there are Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand (Romania), Stanimir Katanic (Yugoslavia), Samuel Kakesa (Congo), Sarah Corson (Bolivia), and many more.  All of these suffered tremendously for their faith, or even lost their lives.


Bearing Witness 1

Why do we as Christians need to read this book?  First, it is the recorded historical accounts of those who stood for their Christian faith, regardless of the cost.  Second, to remind ourselves that nonviolence is indeed a method of standing against persecution.  Third?  To be encouraged and to increase our own faith.  And fourth; that we might know what has happened over the centuries in the Church, and what is still happening today across the world.

I personally recommend Bearing Witness for adult readers.  Definitely read it; then you’ll know how much and which portions of the book to share with your own children, depending on their ages and sensitivity.  It is worth your while to read.

FlyBy Promotions and Plough Publishing have generously provided a copy of Bearing Witness for one of our readers.  Just enter in the Giveaway Tools entry form below.  Blessings!



If you’d like to purchase a copy of this book, click on this link: stories-of-martyrdom?s=i-fp

And you can visit Plough Publishing at their social media sites:

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Teaching Exceptional Language through Poetry with IEW ~ A Review

Through the Schoolhouse Review Crew, we’ve received yet another amazing product from Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW).  This time, it’s centered around poetry and memorization–all with the aim of producing speakers, writers and thinkers who use the English language exceptionally.  (Or, one might say, excellently!)

IEW Poetry banner

Institute for Excellence in Writing very generously provided all the resources which make up (plus one!) Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization.  There are so many products which comprise this curriculum.  I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

What is Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization?

How does a student become a great and effective communicator?

Andrew Pudewa believes that for a person to become an excellent communicator, he must have “a large database in his brain of reliably correct and sophisticated language patterns” (Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization Teacher’s Manual, p. 5).  Now what exactly does that mean in real life?  The people at IEW would say that this isn’t accomplished through hours of grammar drilling or filling out worksheets.  Rather, IEW believes that students gain this extensive database through hearing exceptional language spoken aloud.

And where and how can this  happen?

The answer is simple…and it may already be something you do in your own home.  It is just this: reading aloud great books and literature; and memorization of great poetry and speeches, which is where Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization comes in handy!


iew poetry 3

What is included in this curriculum?

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization is composed of both physical products and digital downloads.  Here’s what we received:

  • A physical, spiral-bound Poetry Memorization Teacher’s Manual
  • A 5-CD set recording of all the poems and speeches in the curriculum, in a vinyl CD binder
  • A teaching DVD of Andrew Pudewa’s presentation of Nurturing Competent Communicators
  • Downloadable MP3s of the 5-CD set
  • Downloadable Poetry Memorization Student Book, which can be printed at home
  • Downloadable MP3s of the following lessons:  On Listening; On Reading; On Speaking; On Writing; Ten Thousand Times and Then Begins Understanding; Nurturing Competent Communicators; Mastering Learning

IEW was also kind enough to send reviewers a physical, spiral-bound Poetry Memorization Student Pages, but normally the PDF download only is included in this set.  You may purchase the Student Book separately, by clicking on the book link.

IEW Poetry 2

The Poetry Memorization Student Pages book contains 5 sections of poems (with 20 selections per level).  Poems start at the very simple and pithy, and progress in difficulty over the course of the book.  For example, in Level One, the student will memorize poems like Ogden Nash’s Celery; Hilaire Belloc’s The Vulture; Edward Lear’s There Was An Old Person Whose Habits; and Who Has Seen the Wind? by Christina Rossetti.  Level Two’s poetry includes such selections as How Doth the Little Crocodile by Lewis Carroll; Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade; Some One by Walter de la Mare; and others.  Through Levels 3 and 4, poems become longer, with deeper meanings and insights to express, until finally when the student reaches Level 5 he’s ready for meaningful historical speeches, lofty ideals, and the best that man can offer in the language of words.  Some of the incredible speeches in this level are Henry V’s St. Crispin’s Day Speech (Shakespeare); Elizabeth I’s On the Eve of the Battle with the Spanish Armada; Friends, Romans, Countrymen by William Shakespeare; We Shall Fight on the Beaches by Winston Churchill; and The King’s Speech by King George VI, among many other rich and powerful speeches.

In addition, IEW has included certificates at the end of each level, so that students can be recognized for their completion.  They also recommend holding a presentation where the students can perform all they’ve learned!


IEW Poetry 1

The CD set‘s 5 audio CDs contain every poem and speech in the curriculum, dramatically performed, so that students can hear what the possibilities for performance are, and to aid them in their memorization.  IEW has also included a DVD recording of Andrew Pudewa’s excellent talk, Nurturing Competent Communicators, which will inspire you to pursue the things which will yield excellent results in your child’s education.

The Poetry Memorization Teacher’s Manual includes every poem and speech in the curriculum; meaningful instruction on why memorization and great literature are important; instructions on how to implement this program; and reference materials at the end of the book.  This is a vital part of the program!

The MP3s will equip the homeschool mama or teacher who’s seeking to build fantastic language skills in her students.  They are so inspirational!  In fact, I recommend that you listen to these and watch the DVD before your child begins to memorize his first poem.  They really do provide all that you need to teach this with success!


IEW Poetry 4

How we used this curriculum

I have to admit this to you: I was terribly intimidated by even the idea of Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization.  My son, the student I homeschool, is 14 years old.  So the idea of a) starting a course entailing the daily recitation of up to 20 poems a day (in the  Level One section) while we were already in sort of an overly-full daily schedule, and b) asking my child to memorize what I was sure he would consider “babyish” poetry to begin with, seemed like a certain “fail.”  And honestly, adding that to my (and his) daily work seemed so stressful that I could hardly contemplate it.


Institute for Excellence in Writing knows that homeschool mamas are already women with a lot on their plate.  So they’ve included in this curriculum not only a great program and very clear instructions on how to use it; but perhaps even more vital, they’ve provided what amounts to a training course for teachers/homeschoolers in the DVD, the MP3s, and the Teacher’s Manual.  These are filled with things you’d go to a homeschool conference to hear!  Topics such as:

  • Mastery, and how it’s built in a subject
  • The reason exceptional language use doesn’t just happen in American culture; and how a parent can circumvent that
  • Why the Suzuki music program is so consistently and tremendously successful
  • What memorization accomplishes in the brain
  • What reading aloud can do for your family
  • What is the best way to build vocabulary
  • and more!

One other very special caveat (and really, this was only a note in the sidebar of “How to Teach the Program” in the Teacher’s Manual) was the other thing that helped me to move past the intimidation I felt.  It says, in essence, to let older students select the first poem(s) they work with.  Once they’ve moved through memorization of that and see the benefits and joys of the program, THEN you can start them back at the beginning with the simple poems.  Oh, this made all the difference in the world for us!

So Jackson began with Carl Sandberg’s Fog (in Level Two), then William Blake’s The Tiger (Level Four).  He truly loved Blake’s poem and enjoyed Sandberg’s.  At this point, he prefers to practice and perform them aloud while I am not in the room (the struggle of the only child), but I know the more he memorizes, the more comfortable he’ll be and the more “normal” the whole recitation process will feel.

I have noticed that he is paying attention to, and pointing out when he runs into it, “sophisticated language” (thank you, Mr. Pudewa, for your Nurturing Competent Communicators talk!  Clearly Jackson was listening while I was watching that!).  He already had a good command of excellent English.  However, I love that as he’s working through this, his mind will continue to build those great pathways of language; and help him to think upon beautiful things.


IEW Poetry 5

My recommendations:

Here are some things I wish I had known when I began Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization.  May they encourage and inspire you to jump in!

  1. Don’t be intimidated by this curriculum!  Although there is a LOT in it…you don’t have to do it all in a day.  Plus, there is reason and purpose for every poem and every step of action.
  2. ENJOY this!  The poems do start out silly.  But the further you go, the more beautiful and meaningful the poems and language are.
  3. Remember the desired goals of your homeschooling.  Do you desire your children to be masterful users of the English language?  Do you desire beauty and lofty ideals for them?  This curriculum will definitely move them along in those directions!
  4. And last but not least:  start early!  We got this just in the nick of time—as Jackson is preparing to enter 9th grade in the fall—which actually does give us enough time to complete this entire program.  But you can start as early as preschool or grade school, easily!

You may purchase Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization from Institute for Excellence in Writing.  I recommend it highly–and don’t put this off!  Memorization of these beautiful words will help your children in every area of their lives, whether intellectual, emotional, academic, or even spiritual.  This is worth the time you’ll need to put into it!

 Enjoy! –Wren

IEW’s Social Media Links:

Twitter  @IEW

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization IEW Review
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The ESV Family Devotional Bible ~ A Review & Giveaway

Do you have devotionals you can combine with Bible reading for your family?

ESV Fam Devo Bible banner


We do–in both family worship time and in homeschool.  We love to begin our homeschool days with prayer and Bible reading, whether it’s simply a Bible passage or chapter, or a devotional that closes with Bible reading.  FlyBy Promotions and Crossway Books provided a copy of their new ESV Family Devotional Bible for us to use and review.  And even better, we have a copy for someone to win (see below!).


ESV Devo Bible 1What is the ESV Family Devotional Bible?

This Bible is especially fashioned for parents and children to read and use together.  The ESV  translation enables children to understand, read on their own, or even read this Bible aloud.  It is a hardback Bible, sized perfectly to hold in smaller hands.  The laminated hard cover is comfortable to hold, and is decorated with thumbnail-sized paintings of scenes from Bible events.

In the ESV Family Devotional Bible, you’ll find everything you’d normally expect to find in a Bible; all 66 books which normally make up the Old and New Testaments of the Protestant Bible.  There are two tables of contents at the beginning which list first, the books (and their page numbers) in the order you’ll find them.  The second one lists the books of the Bible in alphabetical order, along with their page numbers.  There are 8 gorgeous maps of Bible places at the end of this Bible from different eras, which also list some main events of each era:  The Lands of the Patriarchs; The Exodus from Egypt; The Lands Assigned to the Tribes of Israel; The Kingdom of Saul, David, and Solomon; The Divided Kingdom of Israel and Judah; The City of Jerusalem, The Land of Israel during the New Testament; and Places Paul Visited.  These are truly excellent resources; they have great design and are so simple to read that children will easily understand them.  Important locations are marked clearly, with notes about events connected to various places.


ESV Devo Bible 2The neatest extra additions to the ESV Family Devotional Bible are the family devotional pages scattered throughout it.  There are 130 devotions in all, which cover key Bible events from creation to the revelation given to the apostle John (and, there is a complete listing of the devotions along with their page numbers at the end of the Bible).  Each devotion contains a vivid painting of the event described and a listing of the Bible verses covered in it.  Then, there are several paragraphs written about those verses, along with questions for the family and a key verse that’s connected with the devotion.  Here are some that you’ll find in this list!

  • God Calls Abram
  • Joseph’s Troubles
  • God Heals Naaman of Leprosy
  • Josiah and the Priest Who Found God’s Word
  • An Angel Visits Joseph
  • Jesus Blesses the Little Children
  • Peter Escapes from Prison
  • and more!


ESV Devo Bible 4How we used this Bible–and our impressions

My son, who’s in the eighth grade, and I used this for our morning Bible times as we began our homeschool day.   First, I’d read the devotion aloud and share the picture with him.  Then, we’d read the key verse.  We actually started in the middle of the Bible, with the story of Hannah, and moved on from there.  (Hannah’s and Samuel’s story is a very special one to our family!)

I have to say that we just loved using ESV Family Devotional Bible, and we will continue to!  The paintings for each devotion are both beautiful and highly descriptive, of what each Bible event could have looked like.  That helped us think more about each event.  The devotions themselves are beautifully written; perfect for family enjoyment and for reading aloud.  We also loved the way that each devotion we read in the Old Testament included a short paragraph at the end that pointed to Jesus.  What great connections!  The key verses gave us something else to think and ponder on, and were very well-chosen for each devotion.  In short, it was perfect for our mornings in our homeschool day.  But it would also be a fantastic addition to family devotional times at bedtime, or during weekly family worship.  It would also be a great Bible for children to use on their own!


ESV Devo Bible 3I also really enjoyed that many of the devotions aren’t the ones we’re very familiar with.  I love that!  There is so much treasure in the Bible, but it’s easy to focus on some of the more well-known events and stories for devotional writers, it seems.  Here, you’ll also see Philip and the Ethiopian, Why We Never Need to Worry, Jesus Heals Ten Lepers, Lydia Trusts in Jesus, Elijah and the Woman Who Trusted God’s Word, and many others we might not usually see in a children’s devotional.  Awesome!

You can visit the social media links for Crossway Books below, for more information.  And now, I have one copy of the ESV Family Devotional Bible to give away to one blessed reader!

***If you have won a giveaway sponsored by FlyBy Promotions/Propeller in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to enter this giveaway.***

Otherwise, enter using the Giveaway Tools form below!




Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Enjoy!  –Wren

New chocolate treat!

We were shopping the other day and since we are both huge Sriracha fans (and my husband is a chocoholic) how could we pass this up?

Siracha chocolate


Premium Dark Chocolate with a kick!Sriracha choc open


His verdict: Good quality chocolate, with a 20% heat factor that lingered after eating, not unpleasantly so!

A fun out of the ordinary treat for your family!


It can be found at:

Homeschool Art with ARTistic Pursuits’ SCULPTURE TECHNIQUE MODEL

This semester, we’ve had another opportunity to use an ARTistic Pursuits Inc. curriculum for our art lessons!

ARTistic Pursuits Model bannerVia the Schoolhouse Review Crew, we received Sculpture Technique Model from ARTistic Pursuits Inc.  to use and review.  With the different ARTistic Pursuits books we’ve used over the years, Jackson and I have been constantly exposed to new art media and projects, many of which were completely unfamiliar to us when we started the various curricula.  This time was no exception!

What is ARTistic Pursuits Inc.?

ARTistic Pursuits Inc. produces art lessons which any homeschooler (whether she thinks she’s artistically inclined or not) can use to teach art to her children.  Their books cover a variety of artists, art techniques, and projects for students from preschool age through high school.  We’ve actually used their books before, and reviewed their Middle School 6-8, Volume 2: Color and Composition and Sculpture Technique: Construct for the Crew.  This time, Jackson was most interested in trying out the Sculpture Technique Model, and we were quite thrilled to be selected to review it!


Sculpture Technique Model 2What is Sculpture Technique Model ?

Sculpture Technique Model is designed to be taught over the course of a year to homeschool students of varying ages, working with a parent.  Students learn and experience the techniques of modeling in art, in the following three units:

  • “Creating Mass with Putty”
  • “Creating Scale with Clay”
  • “Creating Surface with Fiber”

Units first define the subject matter covered in them, and show some real-life examples of that type of art.  Then, author Brenda Ellis describes the materials (the art medium and tools) used as well as necessary safety instructions.  Directions on how to work with the medium are then covered.  Then, the fun begins!  In each unit, numerous project ideas and plans are offered, with materials lists, step-by-step instructions, and photos of various steps and finished projects.  (You do have to purchase materials separately for each of the manuals.)



AP Model 1How we used it

Jackson selected “Unit 3: Creating Surface with Fiber” to work on.  It was completely unlike any art projects we’ve ever done.  And we loved it!

In “Creating Surface with Fiber,” students create a number of different sculptures (both 2D and 3D) with wool roving by “felting.”  Wool roving is wool from a sheep (or alpaca, etc.) that has been “cleaned, carded, dyed, and gathered into long strips (p. 50, Sculpture Technique Model).”  The strips are then either sold in a roll or in a small package (you can see examples of those rolls in the banner at the top  of this post).  The wool roving is ideal for felting, because you’re able to use it to make sheets of felt, or sculptures, with it.


AP Model 2

And what is “felting”?  Felting is simply when you take wool roving (while the wool is still in the long strips) and turn it into felt or felt shapes.  You can do this with sharp barbed needles especially made for felting, which is called “needle felting.”  Or, you can do what’s called “wet felting,” where you use hot soapy water, bubble wrap, and friction to create design and shape with the felt.  We have a needle set for felting, but we stuck with wet felting for now just because neither of us had any experience whatsoever with felting, and I wanted us to gain some good practice and skills with wet felting before we progressed to using tiny sharp objects!  🙂


AP Model 3a

And gain experience we did!  Jackson selected the projects we worked on.  I did the shopping for the materials.  Then, we did the work together to create the various projects.  Each one took about an hour to complete.  We’d leave them out overnight to dry, then the next morning they would be completely dry and ready to display.

We both found the process completely enjoyable!  The wool texture was pleasant to work with.  Because each piece took about an hour of rolling, pressing, and squeezing, Jackson and I took turns (for example, we’d each work on the wool for about 5 minutes at a time, then we’d trade off).  That was great because neither of us got tired of doing it.  It provided time for pleasant conversation, and we really enjoyed working together.  Jackson particularly enjoyed it; he said it was “awesome!”

Each project had very clear step-by-step instructions and photos or drawings, which was so helpful since we’d never done any felting.  The stocking was a bit easier to complete, simply because it was a flat creation and the vase was 3D.  We’ll probably make another vase in the future, just because now we’ve done it once and know a little more experientially about how to make it.

I also appreciated that Brenda Ellis included several color wheels in this unit.  It’s so helpful to know which colors might work well together in a sculpture, and why.


AP Model 5Our conclusions

We definitely recommend Sculpture Technique Model to you!  In fact, I think that of all the ARTistic Pursuits books we’ve used, this one is my favorite.  It introduced us beautifully to the world of fabric sculpture.  And, it has much more in the book (like the units on putty and clay creations) that we still can do!  (Not to mention the extra projects when I’m brave enough to try the needle felting!)

You may purchase Sculpture Technique Model from ARTistic Pursuits Inc..  Definitely take a moment to look at all the other ARTistic Pursuits books available at the company website.  And, you can also learn more of those books which were reviewed by other Schoolhouse Review Crew members by clicking on the banner below!

Enjoy! –Wren

ARTistic Pursuits Inc. Review
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Fabulous Middle School Read ~ “The League and the Lantern” plus giveaway!

Are you constantly on the lookout for wholesome, excellent reading material for your middle-schooler?


The League and the Lantern banner


I certainly am.  Sometimes I feel as though finding great books for my son is like navigating a minefield.  (And not the virtual kind, in a video game!)

So you can imagine how thrilled I was to find The League and the Lantern.  Brian Wells and Flyby Promotions generously provided a signed copy of this book for us to review!  (And keep reading for a book giveaway as well!)  With loads of adventure, interesting characters, and a fascinating plot line, this book is everything we’ve been looking for in a book for middle-schoolers!  (Especially middle-school boys….but I think that girls will also enjoy it!)


The League and the Lantern 3What is The League and the Lantern about?

Aspiring seventh grader Jake Herndon is just about to hit the reset button on his school reputation, as he finally makes the jump to middle school.  Unfortunately, he garnered a not-so-glowing rep after a disaster at a school dance, that seemed to negatively define him for the rest of his classmates.  Now, he has the chance to change that for the positive as he enters University Prep Middle School.  He does actually have some good things going for him.  He’s a wrestling champ, he’s ready to volunteer and help others, and he even has “heterochromia iridum,” or two different colored pupils.

Headed off to a school sleepover at the Museum of Science and Industry, Jake is ready to go.  Until, that is, he falls into a fountain while helping a small child, and drenches himself.  Suddenly, his new start is looking a little shaky….but he presses on, hopeful for the best.  Until the only dry shirt they can find to replace his wet one is….a Hello Kitty shirt.  Things are not looking so good!

As Jake is grouped with other newcomers TJ, Lucy, and others, the students begin a scavenger search for clues around the museum.  But suddenly, their quest is interrupted by a huge explosion followed by darkness, dust and debris.  Suddenly, Jake isn’t sure he’s even going to survive the sleepover, much less seventh grade!

Before Jake’s adventure is over, he’ll encounter secret identities, terrible villains and an evil organization, and connections he’d never have dreamed about…as well as some most excellent new friends!


The League and the Lantern 2How we used this book:

Since my son is in 8th grade, I knew that this would be a book he’d enjoy reading on his own.  So each of us actually read the book on our own.  It is a fantastic reader for middle-schoolers (and late elementary students as well).  However, it also would make a great read-aloud.  There are twists, turns, humor, and excitement as Jake, Lucy, and TJ explore the mystery that burst into their lives quite unexpectedly.

Here’s what my son Jackson had to say about it:

“The League and the Lantern is a great book for littler kids and older ones as well.  The chapters are short and easy to read, though still use some more sophisticated words that littler kids might not understand.  It makes great references to other things and is a good book to read.”

It’s a great story.  Best of all, it’s the first book in a series by Brian Wells…so there will be more Jake adventures to come!

You can also buy your own copy (if you’re not the giveaway winner) at League and Lantern.  Brian Wells has an amazing program there; when one copy is purchased, he gives away a copy to kiddos who can’t afford their own copy!  And when you visit this website, be sure to read his author biography.  It might be the funniest one I’ve ever read.  🙂

Now….the giveaway!

Now you have an opportunity to win a copy of The League and the Lantern for your own family!  Just enter via the Giveaway Tools entry form below.  Giveaway ends 5/18/16.  Best wishes!

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”


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