The Fabulous New Kwik Stix Thin Stix ~ My Review

The Pencil Grip, Inc. produces some of my most favorite art supplies, which we have adored using in our home.  Recently, they sent me their newest version to review: the Kwik Stix Thin Stix 12 pk.  I’m so excited to share our thoughts and art results with you!

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What are Kwik Stix, anyway?

If these amazing art media are new to you, you really will want to know all about them!  Kwik Stix are solid tempera paint sticks which can be used in any situation that the artist would normally use regular paint.  The paint sticks roll up and down (sort of like a glue stick, but with paint instead of glue!) and have a cap which helps keep the paint moist when not in use.  They are safe to use for children from ages 3 and up.

Best of all, you get all the benefits of paint without the mess!  You don’t need paintbrushes, water, painting smocks, or all the other equipment you’d normally need for a paint adventure.  All you need are the Thin Stix and something to paint on!  In our home, we’ve used everything from art journals, to canvas, to stock card, to regular paper, and more.  (Read on to learn about our newest discovery!)

The 12-pk we received contains the following colors:  white, yellow, orange, red, pink, lime green, green, light blue, blue, purple, brown, and black.  Unlike the regular-sized Kwik Stix, which are shorter and chubbier (which enables little hands to hold them well plus provides a nice thick line when painting), the Thin Stix are longer and thinner, measuring at 5 1/2″ long with a 1/2 wide paint tip.  They apply paint that’s both rich and vivid, which a variety of surfaces take well.  The Thin Stix glide smoothly across the page and are just a pleasure to use.

You can read about our experience with the regular-sized Kwik Stix in Metalix and Neon, which we tried and loved last fall.  We used them as we did an art study of Pop Art and two of Vincent Van Gogh’s master works, and they were just incredible!

 

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 Kwik Stix’ Thin Stix are wonderful for:

  • Art Journals

Since we’d used our Kwik Stix beautifully for artist study when we reviewed the Neon and Metalix versions in the fall, I wanted to try the Thin Stix for different types of projects.  This time, my son and I used them in our art journals, which have a thick, creamy, textured feel to the pages:

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You can see some of that texture in the tulips picture above, which took the Thin Stix paint quite well.  The paint dried quickly (Kwik Stix’ paint sticks are designed to dry in about 90 seconds), so there was no ending up with paint on my hand from working in a small surface.  I was also able to layer additional color over the tulips to add a bit of shadow and shading; you can see the orange I applied on the left side of both the red tulips and the yellow ones.  This was a free-hand project; we just decided what we wanted to draw and went to town.  Fun!

  • Coloring books

I’m sure you’re familiar with the whole coloring-books-for-grownups movement that’s been so popular lately.  I have a couple of those, and my newest one seemed that it would be perfect for my new Thin Stix!  Because coloring books have more lines that you’ve got to work within, I imagined that these Kwik Stix, which have a narrower tip, could work well within those margins.  I was pleased with the outcome!

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  • Art lettering

Recently, I’ve been venturing into the world of creative lettering.  I started with some calligraphy in the fall and, last week, tried a new font that starts with a big penciled letter with space inside.  After you have your outlined letters, you take a fine felt-tip marker and doodle inside the spaces.  Then, the doodles become the letters.

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I thought I’d add some paint and color to my recent word doodle BRAVE.  I used the Thin Stix to make the colors pop.  Actually, this is a photocopy on card stock of my original doodle.  The Thin Stix didn’t smear the copy at all, just slid right over it!

 

  • and even Bible journaling!

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It occurred to me when we received the Thin Stix that they might work well for Bible journaling.  One challenge with Bible journaling is finding art media that doesn’t bleed through the thin Bible pages to make the other side unreadable.  I’ve wanted to use paint for awhile in this journaling but have limited myself to colored pencils and felt-tipped markers, just because of the thin pages.  I not only loved the way the Kwik Stix brightened up my drawing, I was astonished at how little they showed up on the preceding page!  (You can see the back side in the photo below on the right.)

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Really, your own imagination and the sky are the limit!

 

ks-thin-stix-pic-3A few more thoughts…

My son, who’s a 9th grader, really liked the new Thin Stix a lot.  He says that they are more accurate, and he likes them even more than our original ones.  (No doubt due to the thinner tips!)

So…who would enjoy these fabulous new Kwik Stix Thin Stix 12 pk?

  • Parents with little ones
  • Homeschoolers
  • Art teachers
  • Bible journal aficionados
  • Any kids, from toddlers all the way up to high schoolers!
  • Basically, anyone who loves working with quality art tools

We love them.  Honestly, every time we have gotten a new set of Kwik Stix paint sticks, we have fallen more in love with the company.  I regularly make art on my own, and I teach art at our local homeschool coop.  But I also like sitting down with my son to create, whether we’re working on an artist study project or just sitting down to play with creating.  It’s a high value for me, because it gives the two of us time for great side conversations.  I also find that creating art is healing, encouraging, uplifting.  Just the process of it builds something in your soul, I believe.  So having our amazing Kwik Stix products, especially our newest Kwik Stix Thin Stix 12 pk, makes creating art so easy and so mess-free.  Plus, in addition to all these great reasons to create, you also end up with beautiful artwork that it’s a pleasure to display!

We happily recommend all the Kwik Stix art media, and especially their newest Kwik Stix Thin Stix 12 pk!

 

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Where can you purchase Kwik Stix Thin Stix?

Kwik Stix Thin Stix at Amazon
Other Kwik Stix products by The Pencil Grip, Inc. at Amazon
The Pencil Grip, Inc.
Kwik Stix on Pinterest
The Pencil Grip, Inc. on Facebook

Enjoy!  –Wren

Disclosure:  From time to time, finchnwren may receive a free product or service in exchange for our honest opinions expressed in our blog.  We are not required to write a positive or glowing review, nor are we additionally compensated for these reviews.  We share our own opinions, and our family’s opinion, of these products.  We’re disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

The Critical Thinking Co.’s Sentence Diagramming Curriculum ~ Our Review

Recently, Jackson and I had the opportunity to brush up on our grammar when we were selected to review Sentence Diagramming: Beginning from The Critical Thinking Co.™ for the Homeschool Review Crew.  Let me share with you about our experiences!

Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}

What is sentence diagramming?

The first time I ever saw it, I was reading one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books, in which Laura is participating in an end-of-the-year student presentation.  I remember being absolutely astonished at her sentence diagramming!  It certainly was nothing I was ever taught in school.  However, sentence diagramming is apparently making a comeback.  It’s a thorough and complete method of teaching the parts of speech.

Students draw a horizontal line, with a vertical line intersecting it.  Then, they rewrite a sentence, placing every word in a spot that is designated for the part of speech it is with various lines angling off as they indicate whether a word is an adjective, adverb, subject, predicate, etc.  A student would find this useful in examination and learning of grammar, because it very clearly shows exactly what each word in a sentence is.  Below, you can see an example of sentence diagramming with the famous sentence, “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.”

 

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 What is The Critical Thinking Co.’s Sentence Diagramming: Beginning?

It is a softcover consumable book (8 1/2″ x 11″) that contains everything you need for teaching sentence diagramming for grades 3-12.  Because it is a consumable product, you would need one book for each student you’re teaching, since all the student’s work will be done and written in the Sentence Diagramming: Beginning book itself.  Students do a variety of work in this book, from correcting errors in diagramming, to writing and diagramming sentences themselves, to labeling sentences given in the text.  The book contains 12 several-page-long lessons, as well as an end-of-the-book review section and an answer key.  This book covers these topics in its lessons:

  • Simple Subject and Main Verb
  • Direct Object
  • Adjectives
  • Adverbs Modifying Verbs
  • Predicate Adjectives
  • Predicate Nouns
  • Prepositional Phrases (both adjectival and adverbial)
  • Compound Subjects
  • Compound Predicates
  • Compound Direct Objects
  • Compound Predicate Adjectives and Nouns

Students begin, naturally, with the simplest diagrammed sentences in chapter 1; those with just a noun (subject) and a verb (predicate).  Helping verbs and proper nouns are mentioned there.  The course progresses quickly from there, with brief explanations of the part of speech at the top of each chapter, an example, and then exercises for the student to complete.  Generally, each chapter contains several segments of explanation which explain more difficult sentences as the student goes along.  You can see by the list above the the most difficult parts of grammar are in the last third of the book.

 

diagramming-2How we used it:

For this review, we utilized Sentence Diagramming: Beginning as our grammar spine.  We did a few pages at a time, generally covering more than one chapter in a week’s time.  At this rate, we’ll be able to complete it over the course of one semester.

Jackson and I would sit together, go through the explanation and examples on each chapter’s section, then he would do the work in that section.  I’d review his work then and correct any errors (or not, if there weren’t any), then we’d progress to the next section in the chapter.  This worked well for us.  I can see that as we approach and enter the last third of the book we’ll probably divide the chapters into several days’ work, stretching it out more for deeper understanding of more difficult types of diagramming.  We’re able to progress at our current speed simply because Jackson has quite a few years of grammar study under his belt already.

 

diagramming-3Our thoughts and recommendations:

For us, Sentence Diagramming: Beginning has been an excellent review of important grammar topics.  As I mentioned, he has studied grammar for years in his various language arts programs, so much of the general knowledge on the parts of speech is familiar to him.  However, diagramming sentences was not.  I really value that skill for him, for a variety of reasons.  First, because it’s presented in a very different format (placing each word in its own segment that identifies its part of speech), it really makes the student think about what the words actually are.  Second, it’s a great activity that I believe will stimulate better learning as it works with parts of the brain that maybe normally aren’t accessed in language arts study; sort of like working a puzzle.  Third, it’s a process that will engage both visual and kinesthetic learning styles and skills.  In short, it’s a great activity for deeper thinking and learning!

Parents will note that this curriculum is designed for students in grades 3-12.  Younger students probably won’t (and shouldn’t) progress at the speed we did.  However, since this was a grammar review plus a new activity for Jackson, an older student, we were able to move faster than perhaps the average younger student would.  In any case, it has been a fantastic activity and one that I know we’ll continue and benefit from.

 

Where can you purchase Sentence Diagramming: Beginning?

The The Critical Thinking Co.™ website has Sentence Diagramming: Beginning available as well as many other excellent physical, digital, and software resources.  In fact, other Crew members reviewed quite a variety of these great educational products!  Here’s just a short listing of some that my Crewmates reviewed, with their links.  (You can also click on the banner below to read more about their experiences with the The Critical Thinking Co.™ products.)  Just follow those links to check them out:

Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}

You can also visit The Critical Thinking Co.™ at their social media sites:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Critical-Thinking-Co/46128092293
Google+: https://plus.google.com/114500823774999703181
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/source/criticalthinking.com/

Enjoy!  –Wren

 

Language Arts {The Critical Thinking Co.™}Crew Disclaimer

An Awesome Freebie for You ~ From My Favorite Online Storyteller, STAR TOASTER!

Our readers know how much our family has adored Star Toaster.  And now, this incredible company is going to make it possible—entirely free!–for you to come to love them too!

 

star-toaster-free-bannerWhat is Orphs of the Woodlands?

Last fall, we received this app, which features the incredible adventure story of a squirrel.  (Our Orphs of the Woodlands tells all about it, and you can see how we adored it by clicking on the link!) Star Toaster, which produced this app, weaves lessons on science, nature, cooking, good character, language arts, and more into the captivating story of this animal on a quest to solve a mystery while caring for tiny orphaned animals.  The whole experience is just incredible for kids AND parents!

And now….as a back-to-school gift from Star Toaster….

You can receive it free from the App Store!

free-orphs-bannerJust click on this link:  Free Orphs of the Woodlands App which will take you to the download page at the App Store and you can get it free.  It’s suited for both iPhone and iPad.

And just so you know, I don’t work for Star Toaster or anything.  I just adore them, their company and its values and messages.  And this story is too good to miss, so go and download it today!

Enjoy!  –Wren

 

“Getting Started With French” ~ A Review

Are you thinking of studying a foreign language in your homeschool?  If so, I have a wonderful resource for you–Armfield Academic PressGetting Started With French!  We received a copy of this book to review via the Homeschool Review Crew.

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What is Getting Started With French?

Getting Started With French, authored by William E. Linney and Brandon Simpson, is a beginning language learning textbook especially written for homeschooled students.  In fact, its subtitle is “Beginning French for Homeschoolers and Self-Taught Students of Any Age.”  It’s ideal for homeschoolers or those who are learning French for the very first time for many reasons.  It’s extremely affordable ($21.95 at Amazon); it is incredibly easy to use even if the user is unfamiliar with French; it’s divided into clear, simple lessons; and it has an audio component.

Getting Started With French is composed of a softcover book and accompanying free audio downloads from Getting Started With French.  The book contains lessons 1 through 172; an answer key in the back for the lessons’ exercises; a pronunciation guide; a glossary; and an index.  The audio downloads can be retrieved two ways; either by downloading zip files to your computer or by simply accessing each lesson’s pronunciation file via the website.

The lessons start very simply; with new French words and their correct pronunciation, and then each subsequent lesson builds on the ones before it.  The audio files use a native French speaker from Paris to pronounce each word or phrase for the student.  So first, the student reads the lesson in the book and learns a little about new vocabulary or pronunciation rules in French.  Then, he can listen to the audio file and practice his own pronunciation.  Last, he’ll (usually) do written work.

The authors also include fun Expressions Françaises (French expressions) here and there; familiar French phrases that even English speakers would know, along with the stories behind those phrases.  They are fun pieces of trivia especially created for French students.

 

 

getting-started-french-picture-1How I used it

My son is preparing to resume studies of another foreign language and was concerned about learning two very different languages at once.  So this time, I was the person who got to use the curriculum!  I’ve always enjoyed French (whether it’s the food, the fashions, the country’s beautiful architecture, or the language itself), but it has been years and years since I studied it in high school and college.  I really looked forward to picking it up again.

To begin, I selected a composition notebook to use for the written portion of each lesson.  I downloaded the audio zip files from the Downloads tab of Getting Started With French (there are both pronunciation files and author commentary for each lesson; this is like having a French teacher right in your own homeschool) to our PC.  However, because our PC sits in one area of our dining room I often work elsewhere with audio or video files using my Kindle Fire, just because I can be anywhere in the home (or away, if there’s wi-fi) to do it.  So I simply used the audio files straight from the website almost all of the time as I studied.  This worked perfectly.  I followed the lessons as they are presented in the book; first, I’d read the first few paragraphs, then I’d listen to and repeat aloud the audio vocabulary, then I’d write the exercises from the book in my composition notebook.

The lessons are very simple and easy, yet profound at the same time.  Who could have imagined that with only a softcover textbook and audio files, a French class focusing on grammar, pronunciation rules, vocabulary AND correct voicing of the French language could be achieved?  And yet that’s exactly what Getting Started With French has done.  The authors recommend that a student study one lesson per day, rather than clumping together many lessons at once.  There might be the temptation to do that just because the lessons are on the shorter side.  However, true learning will occur much more effectively and smoothly if students learn just a little at a time and learn it well.  Then, each following lesson will build on the ones before.

 

getting-started-french-picture-2My impressions

Personally, I found Getting Started With French incredibly enjoyable.  I loved using it!  It was truly wonderful to get back into French language study, and even though I have a busy day nearly every day of my life, I was able to fit in study times with no trouble.  (And because of the audio access via my Kindle, I could do it in any room of the house!)  I did remember a good portion of French vocabulary and grammar rules, but what I appreciated most was the fact that the audio files modeled for me the correct pronunciation.  Since my college years, I spent several years studying and speaking (well, attempting to speak) Russian and, as you can imagine, the pronunciation and even the placement inside the mouth of voicing different vowels, vowel combinations, or vowels with consonants was dramatically different.  And yes, every single student benefits from hearing words spoken by native speakers.  But in my case, I found that I had to retrain my palate (so to speak) from Russian pronunciation to French.  Thanks to the audio files, this was easily accomplished (although honestly, it’s still a work in progress as I haven’t completed the entire course yet!).

One thing that a person can find challenging when learning a foreign language is putting grammar together with vocabulary.  Why would a French speaker say or write  “l’orange” instead of “la orange,” for example?  What does the cédille do to the French pronunciation rule of a “C,” or “ç” in a word?  All these questions, and many more, are explained little by little to students.  I really appreciate the way the authors don’t separate grammar lessons from everything else (which I think makes language-learning very challenging), but place them in context by weaving them into lessons where the students are also working on pronunciation and building a vocabulary.

I would definitely recommend Getting Started With French for any student (child or adult) who’d like to begin to learn this beautiful language…and also for any homeschool parent!  Even if there is no French experience or ability whatsoever in the home, authors Linney and Simpson have created lessons which are incredibly easy for both the teacher and the student to apprehend, and just as important, to truly progress with.  Getting Started With French provides a fantastic foundation for further language study by its excellent pronunciation, conversation, translation, and vocabulary/grammar lessons.

 

getting-started-french-picture-1Other resources from Armfield Academic Press

Armfield Academic Press also has other fantastic introductory language learning books available; Getting Started With Spanish and Getting Started With Latin.  They’re also planning to publish Getting Started With Russian soon.  Although I’m really enjoying studying French again, I must admit that there are foundations that I missed when I studied Russian the first time.  I was actually living in Russia and studying Russian at a university there with a native Russian speaker; and she was fantastic.  However, because it was more of an immersion experience, I missed some basic yet crucial grammar and pronunciation information (like how exactly to form my mouth around “ы” or managing the dipthong “лю.”)  I feel completely confident, based on using Getting Started With French, that Mr. Linney will be more than capable of unlocking the secrets of the Russian language to me….at last!  (When Getting Started With Russian is published, that is!)

Finally….

If you’re or your child are interested in studying French, do check out Armfield Academic PressGetting Started With French.  It is affordable, understandable, and so user-friendly.  I truly loved it, and am looking forward to more from Armfield Academic Press!

You can visit Armfield Academic Press‘ Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ArmfieldAcademicPress/.

Enjoy! –Wren

Introducing Getting Started with French {Armfield Academic Press}

Crew Disclaimer

The Only Pencil Sharpener You’ll Ever Need ~ Review of the Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener

Yes, it’s really true: I believe that the Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener is the only one you’ll ever need, whether you’re looking for one to use in your homeschool or your classroom!  Classroom Friendly Supplies very kindly sent me and Jackson a Cool Blue Classroom Friendly Sharpener to use and review in our homeschool.  I can only say, “Where has this sharpener been all my life??”

 

ClassroomFS Sharpener banner

Why we needed the Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener:

We don’t use pencils for every single thing we do in homeschool.  But we DO use them for math, for journaling, for art, for nature drawing, and for handwriting.  I personally use one for lesson planning.  And as many people do, we prefer a nice sharp point on our pencils for writing or drawing.  However, that became a point of frustration over the years.  We have used a battery-operated electric sharpener….that died.  We have found manual sharpeners that really worked well….until they didn’t when the sharpener’s blade dulled.  Then we’d end up with pencil lead that would *almost* be perfectly sharp.  The, the nice tip would break off in the sharpener and we’d have nothing but a pencil that needed sharpening again.

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This was so frustrating for both me and my son.  Finally in desperation, I switched to a mechanical pencil.  But that didn’t take care of the problem for Jackson, or for me when I wanted to journal or create art using colored pencils.  Then we just ended up with a bunch of nubs.

cfs-sharpener-pic-3The Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener

So, you can imagine how thrilled I was to receive this sharpener to use.  As you can see, we received the Cool Blue sharpener, although It’s available in a variety of colors (blue, green, purple, red, pink, black).  It’s made of metal, with a few plastic pieces.  It also comes with a clamp for affixing the sharpener to a countertop or bookcase, but it’s stable enough without the clamp, and we never needed to use it.  It’s very sturdy and has a good weight, but it’s not overly heavy.

It doesn’t work exactly like the pencil sharpeners you might remember from your own elementary classroom.  However, it’s actually quite simple to use and operate for both children and adults.  You can see a video or directions on how to use the Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener at the company website.  But I’ll describe them for you here as well!

First:  Pull the silver portion straight out into a locking position.

CFS Sharpener Pic 4

Second:  Push the two black square knobs together and insert pencil fully into the sharpener.  Release the knobs.

CFS Sharpener pic 5

Third:  Hold the top of the sharpener lightly but firmly and turn the handle clockwise.  In just a few turns, the pencil will be sharpened.

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Fourth:  Pinch the two knobs together to release the pencil.

 

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Finally:  Ta-da!  A gorgeously-sharpened pencil!

How we used it

I mentioned above how many ways we use pencils in our homeschool.  So, Jackson used the Classroom Friendly Sharpener for his pencil school needs.  You can see his hand in the pictures above in my step-by-step directions.

 

CFS Sharpener pic 8I also teach an art class in our homeschool coop.  For an upcoming project, we’ll be using watercolor pencils.  I have a large supply of those, but about half of them were worn down to nubs from use over time.  I wanted my students to have sharpened pencils to work with, but I didn’t want to take the pencils to class unsharpened.  The pencils needed to be ready to go!  So I used our Classroom Friendly Sharpener, and in about 5 minutes, sharpened this huge bunch.

 

CFS Sharpener pic 10I probably could have sharpened them a bit more quickly, but twice I had to fix a tiny issue.  With two of my pencils, a small amount of lead broke off inside the sharpener’s blades.  However, the Classroom Friendly Supplies website has a Help Portal which has instructions for fixing small issues.  By watching their video and reading some instructions, I was able to take the sharpener apart, find the broken lead, and get it out using a toothpick.  Voila!  The issue was addressed and the sharpener was back to work!

I should tell you that I sharpened 23 watercolor pencils in a row before that happened.  🙂

 

CFS Sharpener pic 9Our thoughts

I LOVE this sharpener.  It is so easy to use, it sharpens pencils quite incredibly, and problems are easy to troubleshoot and fix.  It is attractive and I don’t mind having it out in our homeschool study area.  I also really appreciate not having to hunt down the tiny manual sharpeners that we’ve been using!

One does have to apply pressure while turning the handle and sharpening, but it’s not an inordinate amount.  As I said, I sharpened pencils for 5 minutes and only at the end did my arm start to tire.

The Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener met a definite need in our homeschool….and removed a consistent source of frustration.  I love knowing that sharpening broken or dull pencils will never be a problem for us again, either in our home studies or for my art class.  I recommend it wholeheartedly to you!

 

CFS Sharpener pic 11How to purchase

You may purchase the Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener at Classroom Friendly Supplies.  I’d love for you to visit their website or their social media sites to see more about the only sharpener you’ll ever need!

Enjoy!  –Wren

Visit Classroom Friendly Supplies at:

www.classroomfriendlysupplies.com
info@classroomfriendlysupplies.com

Classroom Friendly Supplies on Facebook
Classroom Friendly Supplies on Pinterest
Classroom Friendly Supplies on Twitter @QuietSharpeners

Disclosure:  From time to time, finchnwren may receive a free product or service in exchange for our honest opinions expressed in our blog.  We are not required to write a positive or glowing review, nor are we additionally compensated for these reviews.  We share our own opinions, and our family’s opinion, of these products.  We’re disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

 

 

New Star Toaster App ~ A TOS Review

Last year, Jackson and I were blessed to review Star Toaster‘s wonderful Orphs of the Woodlands for the Schoolhouse Review Crew.  This year, Star Toaster has brought families and students a brand-new interactive chapter book, Orphs of the Woodlands at Tangletree for both iPad and iPod (and it’s available in the iTunes store).

 

Orphs App bannerWhat is Star Toaster?

Star Toaster creates wondrous learning experiences for families and for children, whether those children learn in a homeschool, a private school, or a public school.  The company desires to enable kids to discover the joys of reading with an incredible, Narnia-esque-type tale in their first online experience, which we reviewed last year.  Orphs of the Woodlands tells the tale of a squirrel (which the reading child personalizes and names) who experiences incredible adventures.  Woven throughout the story are lessons (which seem more like games) on vocabulary, science, art, math, and more.  It’s presented as an online reading experience, and as the child reads a chapter, he then has the opportunity to engage in the learning activities.

We absolutely adored our experience with Star Toaster last year, and when I discovered that they had produced another neat learning experience for children, I was definitely intrigued!

orphs sample_zpssicmp4ngWhat is Orphs of the Woodlands at Tangletree?

Star Toaster’s newest, Orphs of the Woodlands at Tangletree, is an interactive chapter book which can be purchased from the iTunes store and used on both iPads, iPods, and iPod Touch, requiring iOS 8.0 or later. It tells the continuing story of Abba, the flying squirrel, whose home and family have been swept away in an enormous flood.  He alone of his family is left to pick up the pieces.  As he searches for survivors, he finds not only two good friends of his (one of whom is a hedgehog and one of my favorite characters) but a small group of animal babies who seem to be orphaned.  The 122-page interactive online book is set up in chapters.  The student reads a chapter, then is directed to accomplish learning tasks which, when completed, provide food, clothing, and supplies for the animal babies, who are called “orphs.”  Orphs of the Woodlands at Tangletree is designed for children aged 9-11, although older children will also enjoy reading Abba’s story and completing the tasks.  (Especially if they’ve already met the squirrel in the original Orphs of the Woodlands; honestly, we’ve been waiting for the newest book on his adventures since we finished the original book last spring!)

Orphs Goals 2 AppThe book is comprised of chapters and learning activities, which provide information about science, nature, nutrition, character, math and art, as well as tasks about that information.  The tasks are aptly designed for the 9-11 age group.  The student reads a chapter, then is directed to complete activities so that he can buy the orphs’ necessary supplies.  Each question is assigned a certain number of “goldstars,” the currency of the Woodlands, and the child answers questions until the goal is reached and he can buy the blueberry bushes, or laundry, or whatever the needed supply is.

As updates in the game are produced, they’ll be provided for those who’ve purchased the app, which is priced at a very reasonable $1.99.  Additionally, more than one user in a family can complete the activities in the app; apparently, an unlimited number of players, but most definitely up to 12!

 

Our experiences

Our son is just a little bit above the age group at age 14 (and he is working on other things this summer), so I personally used the app.  I’m so happy I did (even though clearly I am above the stated audience age!).  I used the app on our iPad 2.  For the most part, it worked perfectly well.  There were a couple of times that the screen locked up and I couldn’t progress, or that I was bounced out of the book to the home page, but restarting the iPad enabled me to continue with the book and/or educational game every time.

Those were very minor problems, however.  The chapter book reads easily and scrolls through well.  There are icons for the various activities within the game, and it’s very easily navigable overall.  As an adult, I read through the entire book and completed the educational activities in a couple of hours, but a child’s experience would of course be different.  I’d imagine that a child might complete a chapter or two and the corresponding tasks in a day (although I have heard about kids blowing through the book in a day because they loved the story so much!).

The story itself is very appealing.  Flying Squirrel Abba investigates mysteries, learns how to care for babies, discovers the difference between a friend and a foe, all while trying to find out more about his father who’s seemingly disappeared.  Despite his missing father, the story is very cheerful, the characters are fun, and the adventures keep the child engaged and excited….and turning the pages!

 

star-toaster-logoFinal thoughts, and how to buy

I am a huge Star Toaster fan.  I love the company’s values and the wholesome and pure storylines they’ve created.  Not only would I trust them with my child’s heart as he read their stories, I loved the learning activities they place in the book.  I found that this new interactive chapter book was a sweet and enjoyable experience, and one that I’d happily recommend to families for their elementary-aged students.

You may purchase  Star Toaster ‘s Orphs of the Woodlands at Tangletree  via the iTunes store, for $1.99.  (Just click on the highlighted link.)  I highly recommend it, for a wonderful and joyful learning experience!

Enjoy!  –Wren

You may visit Star Toaster at their social media links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/startoaster4kids
Twitter: https://twitter.com/StarToaster

Orphs of the Woodlands at Tanglegate ReviewCrew Disclaimer

Patriotic Penmanship from Laurelwood Books ~ A TOS Review

We’ve been introduced recently to a unique company, Laurelwood Books, which produces and sells some beautiful materials for homeschoolers.  Through the Schoolhouse Review Crew, we received their cursive handwriting program, Patriotic Penmanship, to use and review.  In particular, we used their Patriotic Penmanship High School: Grades 9-12 book.

Patriotic Penmanship banner

What is Laurelwood Books?

Laurelwood Books is a company which provides, as their tagline reads, “homeschooling books, help and advice.”  In their shop, you can find everything from curricula of all sorts (science, math, language arts and more), to excellent books, CDs, DVDs, and other material interesting to the homeschooler!  These range from time-honored classics to newer publications.  (I have to tell you that one of their current specials pictured on their website is a Nancy Drew novel that I owned as a grade schooler, years ago!)  Crew reviewers received one of a great variety of curricula to review, including Latin readers and workbooks, penmanship books, and books for state study.

 

Patriotic Pen 1Patriotic Penmanship, our review item

Author Mary Ellen Tedrow of Laurelwood Books has created a penmanship curriculum with books for every grade level from 1st grade through 12th.  The series is entitled Patriotic Penmanship, and it’s composed of books featuring noble and inspirational quotes about America, faith, and life for students’ handwriting practice.  The softcover books (which are consumable, for one student’s use) teach manuscript printing in grades 1 and 2.  Grades 3-6 (which also have one book per grade) continue student work in cursive.  The last two books in the series are one book each for Junior High (grades 7-8) and High School (grades 9-12), both continuing cursive work.

We received the Patriotic Penmanship High School: Grades 9-12 book.  It is an 8 1/2″ x 11″ softcover book with a laminated cover.  The inside pages are white (and smooth), and since it’s a consumable cursive handwriting book all the work is done in this.  You will need one book for each child.  (No other materials are required.)  Mary Ellen’s instructions for the parent are short and sweet:  each week, start by reading the entire quote to your child.  Then, assign to him the amount of work that he can capably complete each day.  Her lovely reminder to give grace to your children as they write, allowing them some creativity, is really appreciated in our house!

PatPen 2There are 30 lessons total in the Patriotic Penmanship High School: Grades 9-12 book, plus a couple of pages of alphabet practice at the beginning.  This makes it perfect to use for one year’s work in handwriting/penmanship.  Each week’s lesson begins with a quote; each one is either from a historical figure from America’s (or world) history, a Scripture passage, or from influential Christian men and women.  You’ll find wonderful words which encourage, inspire, and uplift, from sources like:

  • the Declaration of Independence
  • Wernher von Braun
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • and more!

These beautiful words from Scripture, from poetry, and from landmark speeches will be not only excellent for penmanship practice, but for the heart and mind of the student as well.

After you read the quote to the student, he’ll begin the Tracing and Writing Practice.  Each quote has two lines on which handwriting is practiced: first, a line where the words are printed in dotted format, where the student traces over them.  Following that is a blank line where he’ll rewrite the words he just traced.  When he has completed this section, he’ll move on to the Full Quote, designed so that the entire quote is written on the blank lines given.  Then that’s the end of that week’s lesson!

 

PatPen 3How we used this:

Since we’re working on this during the summer, which is more of a “homeschooling lite” time for us, we didn’t complete 5 days in a row of penmanship work (as directed in the note to teachers), but more of a 3-day schedule.  Otherwise, we basically followed the plan set out by the author.  Jackson, who just completed 8th grade, started with the alphabet practice.  Then, we moved on to other quotes in the book.  He’d generally complete about 3 lines of a quote per lesson, which works out to six lines of handwriting, since the quotes start with tracing and follow that with the freehand writing.

I LOVE the quotes that Mary Ellen has used in this book.  They are truly words that will lift the spirits of anyone who reads them.  I like her encouragement to assign to your children just what they’re capable of completing in a day.  However, it did take us a bit of time to get used to this new format.  Jackson hasn’t done tracing in his handwriting practice in quite awhile, and I think this can overwhelm a student IF you don’t follow Mary Ellen’s recommendation, since at the beginning of each lesson the quotes are first traced, then rewritten on a new line.  I think it just looked like a lot to him at first.  But he did ease into the new format.

When I applied for this review, I wasn’t really sure if I should have asked for the Junior High book or the High School one.  Since my son officially starts 9th grade in the fall, I decided to ask for the High School book.  And the first thing we noticed when we opened the book was that the lines (which are the standard handwriting lines, with a top and bottom unbroken line, and a midpoint dotted line) were really small!  The pages he worked on during middle school were quite a bit larger and had much more space for writing.  However, I do think that this was a change we’d eventually have made in the fall anyway, so it wasn’t a bad thing; just something new for us.

Our recommendations:

I haven’t really seen a lot of handwriting/penmanship books for high school students.  However, I had already planned for Jackson to continue to work on this subject, even if it was solely from using copywork pages.  I really do believe that handwriting practice accomplishes important work in students’ brains.  Plus, even if our culture continues to become more tech-focused and most people communicate electronically, there is still importance and blessing that can be communicated via the handwritten word.  Don’t you still love getting a handwritten note from a friend or family member?

Patriotic Penmanship High School: Grades 9-12 book offers homeschoolers an uplifting and quality way to practice their handwriting as they are being exposed to beautiful words.  Wouldn’t this also be a fantastic adjunct to an American history study?  I can recommend this curriculum for any mother who’s seeking a handwriting program for her high school homeschool students.  It’s a concise and lovely way for students to work on their penmanship!

You can visit Laurelwood Books to purchase Patriotic Penmanship.  You can also click the banner below, to read more about other curricula my fellow Crewmates reviewed!

Enjoy!  –Wren

You can visit Laurelwood Books at these social media spots:

Their website, Laurelwood Books
Or via email, at marylnw7@gmail.com

 

 

Latin and Penmanship {Laurelwood Books Review}Crew Disclaimer