You Are an Artist Chalk Pastels: A Little Review

Last week I shared a bit about the woodworking my boys are doing for their homeschool art this year. This week, I want to share about what my youngest Rose is doing. (In case you were wondering, my oldest daughter is planning to use Oak Meadow’s photography program for her art course this year, but with one thing and another she hasn’t quite started it yet).

Okay, on to the pastels! Rose (9) specifically requested to work with pastels this year and I was fortunate enough to stumble across an absolutely wonderful resource ~ Hodgepodge’s You Are An Artist. This site offers video art tutorials and art e-books. I chose to go with the e-books both for my budget and my sometimes spotty internet connection. Both of us have been so thrilled with this resource! So far, Rose has completed A Seasonal Start in Fall Chalk Pastels and has been working through Chalk Pastels Art At the Beach. Tomorrow she will begin A Simple Start in Christmas Chalk Pastels and she is very excited to get started creating some fun holiday art!

What’s included ~ When you order a chalk pastels e-book you receive a link to download your e-book, which you can either print out or use right from your device.  I save all of our e-books to a folder set aside specifically for our homeschool downloads so they are easy to find later. I print out each e-book, because pastels are messy and I think it’s easier to work from a printed page.  I print out just the cover and the project pages. To save ink, I don’t print the introductory material about how to work with pastels, though I definitely recommend reading through these, especially if you are new to working with pastels. There is a lot of good information in there.

What you’ll need ~ To use the chalk pastel e-books you’ll need pastel paper, pastels, and baby wipes. I order pastel paper from Amazon; it’s much cheaper than at the craft store.  For pastels, Rose uses the Prismacolor brand, which we have been happy with. FYI, if you are new to pastels, they will break and look all messy like ours do ~ but they still work just fine! Using baby wipes for clean-up is a trick I learned from the e-books and boy does it work well! I just bought a tub of inexpensive baby wipes and keep them right with our supplies. They clean up both hands and any lingering dust on the table easily.

How to do it ~ Rose usually does her pastels on Friday morning. I have her spread some newspaper over her work-surface before she begins. I keep all of her supplies together in a basket so she can  grab it and cart it out to the kitchen table. For reference, Rose is 9, and she can do these projects entirely on her own. The directions are written to the artist and have a lovely, chatty style that she really responds to and understands. There are plenty of illustrations as well, making it easy to follow along. I spray each finished pastel work lightly with hairspray to keep the pastels from smudging. After it’s dry Rose either hangs it up in her room – she has quite the gallery – or gives it away to a lucky recipient.

You Are An Artist Chalk Pastels are a huge hit in our homeschool this year! If you want to try it out,  there are free sample lessons at the website.

Fourth Grade Homeschool History Memory Work

I shared last month about how we are doing poetry in our homeschool this year. One important piece of our poetry study is our poem memory work ~ basically I just ask the kids to memorize a handful of poems over the course of our school year. This is something they have pretty universally loved doing. Rose especially enjoys memorizing things, so this year I took a cue from The Well-Trained Mind and asked her to do some history memory work each day as well. She is using BookShark’s American History 1, so her memory work is also American history focused.

First of all, she is currently working on memorizing Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, using thiswonderful picture book copy! She just reads the book to herself each day and she’s nearly got it. She loves the challenge.

Once that’s complete, it’s on to the states and their capitals, through song! We used the Geography Songs kit last year and she loved it, so I think she’ll enjoy this resource as well. The kit doesn’t seem to be available through Amazon, but Rainbow Resource carries it.
States and Capitals Songs Kit w/ CD | Main photo (Cover)
Next up will be memorizing the presidents in order with a fun set of flashcards (tip ~ the company Christian Book carries the most up-to-date set).
I keep the process of memorization pretty simple. I let her choose what to work on next and then I just make a note in her planner to “read the Gettysburg Address” (or whatever it is) each day. She usually works on her history memory work four days a week, for about 10 minutes each day. When she’s done, we’ll move onto the next thing.

And that’s how we’re doing history memory work in our homeschool this year!

A Review of Prima Latina

 I have tried (and mostly failed!) to include Latin in our homeschool in the past. We have tried both Lively Latin and Latin for Children, neither of which “stuck”. This year three of my kiddos are using Latin programs from Memoria Press in our homeschool…. and I am happy to report that Latin is going very well so far! Today I’m going to share some thoughts on Prima Latina, which I am using with my fourth grader.  In a future post I will share about First Form Latin, which I am using with my boys.

For Prima Latina, I purchased the whole kit and caboodle: the complete set as sold by Memoria Press. I also purchased the lesson plans from Memoria Press for a few extra dollars. You don’t necessarily need the complete set, but I appreciate and use each one of these items. Having them all makes teaching Latin much easier for me, which is key.

Here’s what I purchased for Prima Latina:

1. A schedule – I purchased the Prima Latina schedule, which lays out a day-by-day plan for completing the program in 32 weeks. This is not strictly necessary, but I love checking boxes and it helps me stay on track. The schedule prompts me to do things like review previous lessons and tells me which exercises to have Rose complete each day.

Prima Latina complete set

 2. The Prima Latina DVD –  I love our Prima Latina DVD day! We start each new lesson with “our” Latin teacher, right in our living room.  It has been so nice to have someone else introduce the lesson and go over the vocab, while I just sit and listen with my cup of tea!

Watching our Latin DVD
3. The teacher’s manual and student workbook – The Prima Latina Teacher’s manual and student workbook are really the heart of the course. The teacher’s manual lays out everything that you are to teach and I love the format – it’s so clean and simple. It makes teaching Latin feel doable and not overwhelming. The workbook contains the important parts of the lesson for the student to look at, such as the new vocabulary words and sayings for that week. It’s spiral-bound, which makes it super easy to work in. 
Teacher’s Manual
Working in the student workbook

4. Prima Latina CD – You could do without this if you had the DVD’s (and vice versa). I personally like having both to add some variety to our lessons. It’s nice to hear someone else pronounce things! We listen to the CD once a week, usually on day three of our lessons, to review pronunciation. 

5Flashcards – The flashcards are sold as a set combined with flashcards for Latina Christiana. I use these on the last day of our lesson, just as a different way to review our vocab. 

Here’s how we do Prima Latina in a typical week:

Monday (or Day 1) – We watch the DVD lesson. We also very briefly review previous lessons (although often Leigh Lowe includes a review in her DVD lesson).  Rose does her vocabulary drill sheet – this is a reproducible part of the workbook designed to be done three times a week. She simply writes out each vocabulary word and it’s meaning.

Tuesday (or Day 2) – We review the lesson material (less than five minutes) and focus on the derivatives included in our vocab list – what they mean, and what Latin word they come from. Then, Rose does the next section of vocabulary drill on her sheet.

Wednesday (or Day 3) – We review the lesson by listening to the CD and Rose does the first page of exercises in her workbook.

Thursday (or Day 4) – We review the lesson and Rose does the second page of exercises in her workbook.

Friday (or Day 5) – We go over all of the vocabulary we have learned so far using the flashcards and Rose does the final section on her vocabulary drill sheet.

Now, we hardly ever follow this exact schedule to the day, because much as I’d like to hit Latin every day, it just doesn’t always happen. So, for example, tomorrow is Monday but we are actually going to be doing “Wednesday” work. I would estimate that we spend about 15-20 minutes a day on Prima Latina.

Prima Latina is a Christian curriculum and we are a secular homeschool family, but I still greatly prefer this program to others we have tried because it is so user-friendly. It is not “preachy” at all, it just includes some religious words in the vocab from time to time. We are also asked to learn a Latin prayer each week, and I do this with Rose because I think the language is beautiful and it’s an easy way for us to practice speaking in Latin. You could skip the prayers and still have a full program, but we find it fun and challenging to learn them.

So those are just a few of my thoughts on Prima Latina ~ I think it makes a very doable introduction to Latin and my only regret is that I didn’t try it with my older kids!

Math with Picture Books

For several years now I have been determined to gather a collection of math picture books and use them to add interest to our math studies. I have failed to accomplish this each year, but this year I actually did it! I’m going to share our reading list in a minute, but first I’ll tell you how we’re using math picture books in our homeschool.

 We read a picture book each week.

 That’s it. Everyone reads a math picture book each week, from the 14 year old down to my 9 year old (my 16 year old is trying to finish up Algebra 2 while doing Geometry, so she’s excused).   Some will be overly simple for my older kids, or go over the head of my younger one.  Others may give a little food for thought, or explain a concept in a way that finally makes something click.

Our Math Picture Book List

1. Perimeter, Area, and Volume: A Monster Book

2. Shape Up! Fun with Triangles and Other Polygons

3. Multiplying Menace

4. Multiplying Menace Divides

5. Full House: An Invitation to Fractions

6. What’s Your Angle, Pythagoras?

7. Actual Size

 8. The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Early Mathematics

9. Mummy Math

10. Apple Fractions

11. The Adventures of Penrose the Mathematical Cat

12. Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci

13. A Remainder of One

14. On Beyond a Million

15. Math Potatoes

16. Spaghetti and Meatballs for All

17. Mystery Math: A First Book of Algebra

18. Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi

19. Math Curse

20. One Grain of Rice

21. Sir Cumference and the Sword in the Cone

22. Cut Down to Size at High Noon

23. If You Made a Million

24. The King’s Chessboard

25. How Big is a Foot?

So far, this is a great success! I have my youngest choose a book for me to  read aloud to her each week. That way I get to experience them all too. Math with picture books is one of my very favorite things about our new homeschool year.

Till next time!

Rowing The Finest Horse in Town {FIAR}

Horses are a big thing around our house. Both girls take riding lessons and older sister Grace is very involved at the barn. We spend tons of time driving back and forth to the barn and many weekends at horse shows.  So it was fun for Rose and I to have a Five in a Row book with a horse theme.

The Finest Horse in Town is a selection from FIAR Volume 3.

Here’s what we did!

*Social Studies*
  • This story takes place in Maine, which just happens to be my very favorite state. We are heading there for vacation in a few weeks and I am greatly looking forward to it. We found Maine on the map. 
  • We talked about what “turn of the century” means, because that’s when this book takes place. 
  • This book offered a good opportunity to talk about dishonesty, since one of the characters steals the finest horse in town. We talked about how that man was treated after he was found out. So often, being dishonest comes with a built-in consequence! Especially in stories:). 
  • The main characters in the story give gifts to other characters who help them throughout the story. We played a little memory game to see if she could remember what was given to whom.
*Language Arts*
  • The manual suggested using the opening of the book “Long before my mother was born, her aunts owned a store…” to introduce the concept of reminiscing, so we did just that!
  • We talked about how this book is really three stories in one…the author comes up with three different explanations for who may have cared for Prince. It’s an interesting and fun technique, and we spent just a few minutes discussing it. 
  • We talked about the medium used ~ watercolor ~ and spent some time looking through the illustrations to notice the many details pointed out in the manual. There were so many things ~ such as the story opening and closing with a watch face illustration ~ that I am not sure I would have picked up on my own. This is exactly what I love about FIAR!
  • We talked about how overlapping objects, like the bowl of candy in the general store, are drawn. We arranged fruit in a bowl to see the effect first-hand. You can only see partial outlines of some of the fruit. 

  • She tried the technique out for herself, with watercolors.


  • We reviewed how many years are in a century and did the simple counting by hundreds activity suggested in the manual.
  • We reviewed the two’s time tables.
  • We discussed why it is important for a shopkeeper to be able to tell time. Rose sometimes struggles with this skill, so it was nice to have a way to introduce the concept of its importance so gently. 
  • We touched briefly on how to care for horses, always a popular topic. 

  • And we briefly discussed ice houses and how important ice was in the “old days” and what a luxury it was. I also shared the information from the manual with her about why leaves change color in the fall. 
And that was it for this row! The last rows of our year tend to be pretty light as we are trying to finish things up. I’ll have our row of Truman’s Aunt Farm up soon, we just need to bake an ant cake to finish that off. 

Rowing Paul Revere’s Ride {FIAR}

I have three long overdue Five in a Row “rows” to share in the upcoming weeks, starting with Paul Revere’s Ride. This poem has such a wonderful cadence to it – it is just sheer fun to read aloud, yes even several days in a row! And I love this picture book version with it’s lovely illustrations. It really brought the whole story to life for us. 

I grew up in New England and my kids are growing up in New England, so reading about early American history is always pretty exciting for us. By a happy accident we rowed this book right around the anniversary of Paul Revere’s ride!

Listen my children and you shall hear/Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.

Here’s what we did!

*Social Studies*

  • We talked about when the ride of Paul Revere took place and I had her add the date ~ April 18, 1775 ~ to her timeline book.
  • We found Boston on the map, and I reminded her of a previous row that took place there.
  • We talked about the signal used to alert Paul Revere and the other riders to the movements of the British troops “one if by land, two if by sea”….referring to the number of lanterns that would be lit in the Old North Church tower. 

*Language Arts*
  • As suggested in the manual, I asked Rose if she knew why the Somerset was in italics; she remembered from a previous row that that is how you deal with ship names in text. 
  • I read her the information on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow from the manual, and we read The Village Blacksmith, another of his poems.
  • There was a long vocab list in the manual ~ lots of new and interesting words in this poem…like “spectral”, “grenadiers”, and “impetuous”.  I briefly went over them with her.
  • Our manual pointed out that much of this story revolves around light. Using the suggestions found in that section, we examined the illustrations for all sources of light.
  • The manual also includes an interesting section on colonial architecture. I shared a bit of that information with her, and we looked for examples in the illustrations. 
  • We examined the scene where the British ship is reflected in the water. We talked about how the artist portrayed that reflection and another, quite different, reflection later in the book.


  • We put our math caps on and figured out  how old Longfelllow was when he wrote this poem -it’s pretty amazing!

  • We talked about what causes fog and why it tends to form over rivers, as it does in this story.

*More fun*

  • Rose watched a Liberty Kids episode about Paul Revere’s Ride. And later, I bought the whole series for us to watch together over the summer. 
My next FIAR post will feature our row of The Finest Horse in Town. Thanks for visiting!

Rowing When I Was Young in the Mountains {FIAR}

Rose and I have finished all of the Five in a Row books I wanted to cover with her from volume two (you can see all of our rows to date here).  I chose to skip several titles from this volume for various reasons, usually (but not always) because the book was out of print and/or not available to buy.  We will not be rowing Wee Gillis; They Were Strong and Good; Babar; Down Down the Mountain; Mr. Gumpy’s Motor Car; Gramma’s Walk; or Follow the Drinking Gourd.

Now, I am a ‘finisher’ so it pains me not to do every single book, but Rose is at the upper age range for FIAR right now and that factors into my decision, too.  We will just focus on covering the titles I want to do from volume three, rather than worrying about chasing down every last book. I have about six more books I want to do from volume three, which we have already begun.

Okay, on to our row of When I was Young in the Mountains!

Here’s what we did!

*Social Studies*

  • We discussed the setting for this book ~ Appalachia~ and I showed Rose the general area on the map.
  • This story features a traveling photographer. We talked about what that meant and why people needed them then and not so much  now. And I tried very hard not to cringe at this picture of the kids with a giant dead snake around their necks, because I don’t want to pass my totally unreasonable fear of snakes to Rose!
  • We looked for old-fashioned details in the illustrations…such as the outhouse behind Grandma’s house and the water pump the children use. 

    *Language Arts*
    • I asked Rose to identify the repeating phrase that runs though the book…hint it’s the title! We talked about how this choice really helps tie the whole story together.
    • We discussed the theme of the book – which the manual tells us is contentment: being happy with just having enough. The lives of the children portrayed in this story are certainly a great deal simpler than our own lives!

    • In the illustration with the water pump below, the artist chose to illustrate the sky with just a little bit of color. We discussed that technique, which we agreed was a pretty awesome and simple way to get your point across. 

    • One illustration shows Grandma pouring milk from a pitcher and we talked about how the artist drew the milk – the stream of milk is curved. I had her pour some water from a pitcher to a mug to see the effect for herself. 
    • Using the notes in the manual to start us off, we discussed some of the illustrations in greater depth. We talked about how the artist chose to portray the faces of the characters very simply, and how a limited palette of colors is used throughout. There is a wonderful double-page illustration of the general store, and we made a giant list of all of the items we could see for sale at the store. We also took some time to admire the simplicity of the dedication page and how it really sums up the simple essence of this story. 

    • Because there is a scale featured in the general store illustration, we did a quick review of pounds and ounces. Then, I had her choose several items to weigh. She chose her owl from our row of Owl Moon

    • There was a suggestion to make up math problems using the scenario of the children filling buckets at the well. So I asked if they each filled a pail, how many trips would they need to take to get six buckets, and similar problems. She also made a bar graph showing the types of animals in the story and how many times they show up in the illustrations. 

    I figured it would be snakes, since they seemed to be everywhere, but actually chickens won!


    • I read Rose the information about snakes from the manual and then she made a snake egg. The idea is to soak an egg in vinegar for a few days until the shell dissolves. But two days later I was checking it and somehow managed to break the shell ~ experiment fail!

    • As suggested in the manual, we used the illustration of the family’s dinner to discuss the four food groups. Then, we fixed the cornbread recipe from the FIAR cookbook and had it with pinto beans for lunch. 

    And that wraps up our row of When I Was Young in the Mountains! Stay tuned for our first FIAR volume three selection!