ArtAchieve – A Review for Every Artist

When you look around my house, you will naturally see books, books, and more books. You will also find sketch books, drawing pencils, watercolors, and more all throughout the house. One of my daughters hopes to one day illustrate children’s books so I am always on the look out for books, tutorials, and other resources to help her. ArtAchieve has allowed us to use and review their Entire Level 1 online art course and Lydia has been the primary student. I’d love to share her experience with you.

Art Lessons for Children ArtAchieve Review
ArtAchieve has five levels of art instruction available online. They do increase in difficulty and skill as you progress through the levels. We chose to go with Level 1 because the lessons were fun, we had all supplies readily available, and I could invite younger ones to join us at times. You can select any of the lessons at any level and learn more details about what that lesson will present to your student. Not only are supplies listed but also the approximate time the lesson will take to complete.


Another great aspect to the ArtAchieve lessons is that you can choose to dig deeper into the subject matter. In Level 1, Lesson 3,for example, is The Hungarian Insects. If you wanted to explore the subject a bit more, you are given links to resources that help you learn about the history and geography of Hungary. A list of picture books by Eric Carle on insects is suggested and a great way to showcase great art work. Science and writing suggestions are given as well. While we didn’t utilize all these cross-curricula resources, it is nice to have that option.

ArtAchieve has FREE lessons available. The lessons on Simple Lines and Shading are beneficial no matter which level of ArtAchieve you begin with.

How did Lydia use ArtAchieve Level 1?

Initially, I had two of my daughters using Level 1 of ArtAchieve: Lydia, 12 and Hannah, 10. Hannah completed a few lessons if she found the picture interesting but Lydia was my devoted student who I really had in mind for this course. Lydia used this independently and most often worked on her art in the afternoons. She would look over the lessons to see what supplies she needed, find a quiet spot, and create a masterpiece. She usually completes one lesson a week. She has looked over the other levels and is eager to give them all a try.

I really liked using this course. Well, I didn’t really enjoy the lesson on shading but it is an important skill to have. This would work really well for younger children as well because it is easy to understand. What you are doing is explained really well. The warm ups that you do are helpful and good practice. It was fun. Sometimes the videos were a repetitive in the beginning. And I didn’t like the words on the screen being read at the same time. I can read faster and like reading it for myself. Lydia – 12

There were a couple of afternoons that some of my younger ones (8 and 6) wanted to create a masterpiece of their own. They would wait for Lydia to finish and then copy her work. With a bit of guidance and encouragement, I think they could work through Level 1 quite well.

Final Thoughts

Overall, we were quite pleased with ArtAchieve Level 1.  The video instruction gives clear, easy to understand explanations. I loved hearing the instructor comment on how no two creations are going to look the same. This is your art. In a house with all of the children constantly drawing, sketching, and creating, we can easily find ourselves comparing our creations a bit harshly.

I appreciated the Warm Up activities for the lessons. I think they are really helpful for the student to get a feel for the lines, curves, and angles that will be used in the art work for the day. Very simple but very helpful.

Crew Members were able to review Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 of ArtAchieve. So take a moment and see what others are saying about Art Achieve and the various levels of art instruction.


Art Lessons for Children ArtAchieve Review
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The Glass Castle – A Book Review

We are a family that enjoys a wide range of literature. Whether it is a picture book or a classic novel, we have stacks, shelves, and bags of books in just about every room. When Shiloh Run Press gave us the opportunity to read and review The Glass Castle by Trisha White Priebe and Jerry B. Jenkins, we were happy to add it to our list of current reads.

The Glass Castle is recommended for ages 10-14 and is classified under “action and adventure”. I had initially thought that I would have my 10 year old and 12 year old daughters read this independently. But who doesn’t enjoy a bit of adventure around the lunch table, right? So I chose to read this aloud during our lunches each day with it serving as my “younger people” read aloud. This meant that my main listeners were 12 and under. Just by nature of our home, the teens were often listening in as they joined us during lunch.

You can go to The Glass Castle website  to read the official book synopsis and even read Chapter 1 to get a feel for the story. However, for a more personal approach, I asked a few of my children to write their own version of a book synopsis. Here are a few book teasers for you:

“Avery, a girl who just turned thirteen, is kidnapped and taken to a castle. A castle that her dead mother told her stories about. Avery has lots of questions that she will uncover with or without anybody’s help. Avery figures out the king knows nothing about the kids who are running HIS castle.” Hannah – 10

“Thirteen year old Avery gets kidnapped along with her younger brother, Henry. She finds herself with a bunch of other thirteen year olds. All of them have to work as servants for the queen, trying to please her every wish. Avery’s only concern is her brother, Henry, who she has not seen or heard of since she got taken to the castle.”

Lydia – 12

“Avery was told tales of the Glass Castle by her mother when she was younger. She never thought she’d actually see it or enter it. When Avery and her young brother, Henry, are kidnapped, the Glass Castle is where Avery finds herself. Henry is missing and nobody will let Avery leave to find him. She is kept in the castle to work just like all the thirteen year olds. Avery is thrust into mystery trying to discover why she is there, where the king’s heir is, what the future queen is trying to do, where her brother is, and why is her missing mother somehow a part of the castle’s secrets?” Rebekah – 17

Our Thoughts on The Glass Castle

After reading the book synopsis, we were all ready for an exciting adventure as Avery and her friends discovered the secrets of the castle and fought for their freedom. Unfortunately, just a few chapters in, I realized that the pace of the book was moving a bit slowly. For us there wasn’t much action and adventure. The majority of the book is Avery making it clear that she wants out of the castle, making decisions with disregard for the effect they will have on the other children, and her growing feelings for a boy, Tuck.

“It was slowish and they were too young for romance. The only reason for me to finish reading it is because I started it. I like to know what happened.” Hannah – 10

We were a bit thrown off by the emphasis of romance in this book. Not only is there feelings between Avery and Tuck but another young man, Edward, makes it clear to Avery that half of the thirteen year old boys would love to be with Avery. Is any of the content inappropriate? No. But is it necessary? I think it actually pulled away from the potential to focus more on the “action and adventure” and would have been more suited to the targeted age range.

“I thought it was going too slow for me. The romance didn’t need to be there. All the kids were scared or happy to be at the castle. None tried to escape or fight back. They all accepted the fact they were prisoners. I did like the plot idea: kids kidnapped by an evil queen trying to get power.” Lydia – 12

The Glass Castle is the first of a series about Avery. Even with a series, you expect to end each book with a sense of completion and a hint of expectation. We finished The Glass Castle and felt dissatisfied with the ending. Other than Avery deciding to stay in the castle, there was no sense of completion to the story.

I do agree with my daughter, Lydia, that the plot idea was excellent. I think the story needed to focus more on the children actually attempting to change their fate instead of being so passive. More depth to the characters, not just Avery, would have helped to build some connections in the story as well.

Who Would Enjoy The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle is written in a manner that makes it appealing to children who perhaps are not strong readers or are not fond of reading. The chapters are short so it can be read in manageable chunks. For a child on the upper end of the targeted age range (14), the romantic aspect might be engaging. If you are compiling a list of easy, light reads for the summer, this could be a good addition to that list.

For parents who prefer to steer away from books containing magic, fantasy, violence, etc,  The Glass Castle is a “safe” read for them. About half way through the book, Avery begins to attend chapel (led by a fellow thirteen year old) and there are some references to God and scripture is quoted.

Other Crew Members also read and reviewed The Glass Castle. Take a moment to read a few reviews and see what other are saying about Avery and her time in the glass castle. Don’t forget you can read Chapter 1 online!

The Glass Castle {Shiloh Run Press Review}
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Building Essential Skills – A Review

One of my goals in homeschooling is to encourage my children to love learning; not just for a few years but for a lifetime. A key to that love of learning is having strong foundational skills in the basics. Learning is much more enjoyable when you don’t have to struggle to understand what you are reading, right? There are so many ways to teach, reinforce, and review these essential learning skills. One resource we are currently using and reviewing is the Complete Home Learning Suite from Essential Skills Advantage.

What is the Complete Home Learning Suite?

From Kindergarten to Grade 6, this Learning Suite provides learning activities in six subject areas:

  • Math (K-6)
  • Reading (K-6)
  • Spelling (1-6)
  • Language/Grammar (3-6)
  • Geography (3-5)
  • Science (K-3)

In each subject area of learning there are a wide variety of learning activities depending on the grade level of your student.

Why the Complete Home Learning Suite Works for Us

1 – As a mom of nine children ranging from high school down to toddler, time is a precious commodity. Keeping track of where everyone is and how they are doing in various subjects and learning areas can be challenging at times. ESA has made tracking my students progress so simple and easy. I can very quickly pull up the reports for my various students and see what they have been working on and how they are doing. A quick glance at the overview report usually is all I need but I can get a more detailed look if needed.

2 – Flexibility is a must and the Learning Suite gives that ability to us. My child may need Grade 2 Math but can read at a Grade 4 level. Not a problem. Your child is not locked into one learning level or grade but can flow from grade to grade depending on the subject and skill level of your child. This also works well if you notice your child needs to bump down a grade for a bit of review of math facts or a bit of phonics review.

3 – Students can work at their own pace without pressure. The learning activities are not timed with Essential Skills. If working on math facts is going a bit slow one day, it is not a timed activity so the student does not have to rush to finish. If a passage needs to be re-read more than once, the student can take all the time they need.

4 – There are no on-screen distractions. This is a huge plus for me as a mom. I strongly dislike online resources that have a “song and dance” mentality to motivate children to complete the tasks. I have no desire to monitor gold coins, games, and other “motivators”. There are no ads or links that could lead my children away from the ESA site and onto other areas of the internet.

5 – You can reap the benefits of this resource with just a little time each day. I am a firm believer that young children need to be outside playing in dirt instead of glued to a screen. About four days a week, the three children who are using ESA rotate using my computer to complete their learning time. The times can range anywhere from 10 minutes to 20+minutes depending on the child, the day, and the activity they are working on. In as little as 10 minutes a day, much can be accomplished. The program naturally moves the child from one activity to the next.

My Children’s Thoughts

During the past several weeks, I have had three children actively using ESA’s program: Hannah (10), Sarah (8), and Samuel (6).  Here is what they have to say about the Learning Suite.

“It is fun and I enjoy doing it. My favorite part is grammar.  I really like grammar and comprehension.” Hannah – 10

Hannah is solid on her reading and math skills so for her Essential Skills was just a fun extra. She has spent most of her time with grammar, spelling, and reading comprehension. She dabbled a bit with map skills and had a good challenge there!

“I like reading. It helps me learn more words so that I can understand better. The word searches are my favorite.” Sarah – 8

While Sarah can read well, she is not confident in her reading. So the reading activities have been a great boost for her in that regard. She also is required to spend about 10 minutes working with math as well. It might not be her favorite but she will survive.

“I like it. I wish I could do Hannah’s math. I’ll say one more thing. Reading is hard.” Sam – 6

Like Sarah, Sam has mostly focused on reading and math. While he may say reading is hard, he is doing really well. Since he is finishing up Kindergarten, he alternates days between math and reading instead of doing both in the same day.

Final Thoughts

Overall, we have enjoyed using The Complete Learning Suite from Essential Skills Advantage. It works well as a supplement to our learning and helps build confidence and mastery of skills in a short amount of time each day. Customer service is excellent and they are quick to respond to any questions or issues you may have.

No matter the method that you use in your homeschool, the Learning Suite can be a fun way to reinforce skills. If your children attend public/private school, the Learning Suite can be a quick, easy way to keep their skills sharp over the summer break.

Essential Skills Advantage Review
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