Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The Starry Night

* This post may contain affiliate links. 

My kiddos love creating art, whether they're drawing a picture, knitting a scarf, or molding a dish. We're all excited anytime we get a review that is art-related. They enjoy the process of creating masterpieces, while I appreciate the skills they are learning.  Sometimes the projects are open-ended and allow the child to freely create. This time though, sent us one of their Master Kitz to follow.

These kits are based on pieces of art from famous painters. They contain everything your child (or even you!) needs to recreate the painting. Though the kits make it simple to make a duplicate of the original, there are many opportunities to add a personal touch. In fact, I now own two versions of the 
Master Kitz The Starry Night that are even better than van Gogh's. is an art company that is committed to teaching and training kids in art. Along with a focus on master painters, the materials concentrate on art history and techniques. Add in hands-on learning and messy fun, and you have an engaging tool for a strong art foundation for kids.

The Starry Night kit includes the following materials:

  • A sturdy, re-usable art tool box with magnetic closures
  • 3 acrylic paints (child friendly)
  • 5 oil pastels (child friendly)
  • 1 van Gogh roller specially designed to replicate van Gogh’s active stroke
  • 1 re-usable Starry Night cyprus stencil
  • 1 standard paint roller
  • 2 pieces deluxe art paper
  • 1 low tack “mesmerizing stars” sticker sheet
  • Fun, easy-to-understand van Gogh learning materials
  • Easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions

The instructions, or inspiration sheet, are easy-to-follow. Each step is numbered and includes a picture with a brief set of directions. The 12 steps cover everything from covering the workspace with newspaper to adding the final colored details.

Because all of the materials arrive in a small box, the papers and stencil are rolled to fit. You need to roll them in the opposite direction to flatten then out before starting your creation. After that, you're ready to add the star stickers and two colors of paint. Next, you remove the stickers, add the stencil,  and apply another coat of paint. Once you remove the stencil, you take a little break to allow the paint to dry. Finally, you use the oil pastels to color in the stars and add details to the rest of the painting. Feel free to admire your masterpiece and show it off to your friends! 

My 3-year-old begged for days to use the painting kit. The first free moment we had, we covered the kitchen table and got to work. As you can see from the pictures above, he did the majority of the project on his own, receiving a little assistance from his older sister for things like taping the paper and squirting the paint. I think those smiles are a good testimony to his feeling about the the kit!

My 10-year-old is the artsiest one in the family. You can find her daily working on one of her many crafts. After helping her little brother paint his picture, she got right to work creating her own Starry Night. To say that she loved it is an understatement. Before she had even completed her work, she told me she wanted to do it again. Within the next few days, she told me at least a dozen times that she wanted another one of the Master Kitz and even chose her favorite from the list.

The mini booklet that is included opens up completely to display the instructions while the other pages are filled with art history. The cover shows a self-portrait of van Gogh and gives a short biography of his life. The inside pages portray a timeline of his paintings, explaining how his style changed over the years and different situations that influenced his work.

My girl and I were in the thrift store a few days after the kids used this kit. As we were browsing through the frames and mirror section, she pointed and said, "Hey, that's van Gogh's Sunflowers." I looked up and sure enough, hanging on the wall was a giant replica of the famous painting. She was able to recognize it from our study. This kit is more than just painting your own version of The Starry Night; it is a thorough overview of Vincent van Gogh and his life's work.

Our family loved the Master Kitz The Starry Night! The materials were easy enough for my little one to use and detailed enough to interest my older one. We have repackaged the remaining supplies into the box to make more masterpieces with the other kids. The kit is a great way to learn about a master artist, art techniques, and art history while putting those skills to practice in your own painting.

We can't wait to see what we'll learn in our next Master Kitz from

You can connect with on the following social media sites:

You can check out more art projects by homeschoolers by reading the reviews of this kit on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

* Some of the links in the content above are affiliate links. If you click on a link and purchase an item, I may receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I recommend products or services that I have used personally and all the text and opinions are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 225.

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Friday, November 2, 2018

Things That Make Me Smile 7/27/18

Jake (12 1/2), Alyssa (10), Zac (8 1/2), Tyler (6), Nicholas (3 1/2)

Happy Friday! This week, the family had good reports at the dentist, the kids enjoyed playing in the rain, Nicholas accidentally gave me a pretty impressive black eye, and the little ones helped me bake peanut butter chocolate chip muffins. What made you Smile this week?

1. Alyssa: "My favorite thing after reading is going to the library to get more books."

2. Nicholas, stalling bedtime, coming back for a third hug: "I could hug you forever!"

3. Zac: "I really want to be an explorer when I grow up, but there are 2 reasons why I don't want to. One, because it can be very dangerous, and I might get really hurt. Two, because I would travel all over the place and be gone all the time, and I wouldn't see you a lot. Other than that though, I really want to be an explorer and find a snow leopard.

4. Nicholas, while driving, seeing a wedding party getting pictures taken: "Look! Pwincesses! I see pwincesses!"

5. Some of the artwork Tyler drew one day.

6. Zac: "I can’t wait until tomorrow! One, it’s Sunday so we get to go to church. Two, I get to do more devotions! I already did two and then read today’s again to Tyler."

7. Alyssa: "Mom, you need to keep having babies until you get another baby girl."

8. Me, in the van: "Why are you taking off your sock: "
Nicholas: "Because I found it on my foot."

9. Me: "You’re going to run out of undies in your drawer. Why do you change your undies all the time?"
Nicholas, because I do a lot of online shopping: "Because mailboxes always bring me more undies."

10. Zac, about Luke 11:43: "Mom, I just found some of my favorite words in the Bible! I love this story."

11. Me: "We need to wash your hands."
Nicholas: "Can I just wash them on my pants?"

In case you missed it, I posted a bonus list earlier this week to work on catching up with my Smiles! Click the link for more laughs.   

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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Things That Make Me Smile 7/20/18

Jake (12 1/2), Alyssa (10), Zac (8 1/2), Tyler (6), Nicholas (3 1/2)

It's a bonus list this week as I'm working to catch up on late Smiles!

This week, we got some painting done both inside and out in our back porch, Alyssa made a loaf of golden white bread, and we had game schooling day. We also went geocaching and picnicking at a new park. At our first cache, Zac was standing on a decaying log that apparently had a wasp nest inside. The wasps defended their home by attacking our family. There was a total of 16 stings for 5 of us with Zac receiving 7 of them. We abandoned our adventure and limped back to the van, stopped for slurpees, and spent the evening playing UNO together instead. It was a scary situation for the kids, but they were brave and had good attitudes afterwards. 

1. Zac, sincerely, after the wasp incident: "This was my first time getting stung, and I think it may have been too big of a first experience."

2. Jake: "Sadly, Dad doesn't think any of the wasps were radioactive, so I'm not going to wake up in the morning with super wasp powers."


4. Zac got up in the night because of the pain in his finger from one of his stings. We put a paste on his finger, read information about wasp stings, and ate some chocolate chip cookies that I had made earlier that day.
Zac, in the morning: "I think it was your cookies that made my finger feel better, Mom."

5. Nicholas, about his food, pointing to the microwave: "I want to freeze it like Zachy did."

6. Jake, teasing: "It's a free country! I shouldn't have to do that."
Me: "There's the door. Bye."
Jake: "Wait, what?"
Me: "Well, if it's a free country and you don't want to do what I say, you're free to leave."
Jake: "But, it's your job to take care of me."
Me: "And it's your job to obey."
Jake, still teasing: "But it's my job to explain to you why I shouldn't have to do it."
Me: "And it's my job to explain to you why you're wrong."


8. Me: "You look like Daddy."
Nicholas: "Daddy look like bald."

9. Nicholas: "Jakey, what are you doing?"
Jake: "Shining my shoes."
Nicholas: "I want you shine my foots." {gets his shoes and starts rubbing them with his blanket}

10. Nicholas: "You are a crazy boy."
Me: "No, you are a crazy boy."
Nicholas, reprimanding: "Mama, are you arguing?"

What made you Smile this week?

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Friday, October 26, 2018

Things That Make Me Smile 7/13/18

Jake (12 1/2), Alyssa (10), Zac (8 1/2), Tyler (6), Nicholas (3 1/2)

Happy Friday! This week, Alyssa was away at junior camp with our church. The boys filled their days with bubble blowing, slip-n-slide splashing, birthday party going, and extra rambunctious-crazy-wrestling-bouncing-boy-fun.

1. Nicholas, eating a plum: "I call dis a yum ball!"

2. Alyssa, first thing after waking up the day she left for camp, since Leighton was at work: "I miss Dad already."


4. Nicholas, after Alyssa left for junior camp: "Mom, we need Lyssa! There are tigers at the camp!"

5. Tyler: "Mommy, I love you."
Me: "I love you, Ty-Ty."
Tyler: "I don't know how many times I say I love you to you."
Me: "Neither do I, but I like it."
Tyler: "I say it all the time, because I like you."

6. Zac's note for Nicholas.

7. Leighton designed and built a new table and benches for our kitchen. It fits our space so much better. I love it for many reasons, but most of all because he made it for me. I wrote a silly poem about our old one. Even though I am glad it's gone, I appreciated having it all those years.

8. Tyler: "What is that?"
Me: "Spinach noodles."
Nicholas, shocked: "No, those are carbs!"
Me: "It's ok. Just Daddy and I are not eating a lot of carbs right now."
Nicholas: "Oh. Can I have some carbs, please?"

9. I quickly spread Babybel cheese on crackers and broke some of them.
Nicholas, frustrated, pointing: "Mom, why did you do that? And that and that and that?"
Me, sarcastically: "I'm sorry I didn't spread that up to your standards."
Nicholas, agreeing: "I'm sorry too."

What made you Smile this week?

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Friday, October 19, 2018

Things That Make Me Smile 7/6/18

Jake (12 1/2), Alyssa (10), Zac (8 1/2), Tyler (6), Nicholas (3 1/2)

Happy Friday! This week we spent a lot of time enjoying the outdoors--roasting marshmallows over the fire, geocaching at the park, picnics on the grass, and playing in the yard. What made you Smile?

1. Nicholas and I were cuddling on the couch and practicing animal sounds.
Me: "Hmm, what next?"
Nicholas: "A pwincess!"
Me: "Ooh, good one. What does a princess say?"
Nicholas: "I love you, Dad."

2. Leighton and I spent the day alone canoeing to celebrate our 15th anniversary.

3. Nicholas, singing: "Dear, Jesus, I love you. Dear, Jesus, I love you. Dear, Jesus, I love you!"

4. Nicholas, lying across my legs: "Can you give me a back assage?"

5. Nicholas, eating a marshmallow: "So squishy! It looks like a trampoline."

6. The kids set up a free lemonade stand on the 4th of July to celebrate Independence Day with our neighbors. Because it was incredibly hot outside, many people stopped for a cool drink and were very generous with their donations. It was a memorable lesson in benevolence, kindness, and doing good.

7. Zac's chant to attract attention for the lemonade stand. 

8. Nicholas was in a daze after he woke up.   
Me: "What's wrong?"
Nicholas: "I am afleepy again."

What made you Smile this week?

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

St. Bartholomew's Eve

Heirloom Audio produces some of the best audio dramas we have ever heard and reviewed. Our schooling is literature-based, so we're often reading quality writings together that teach life lessons and new vocabulary. We are drawn to living books that bring the stories to life and teach valuable lessons. Instead of sitting and writing facts in a workbook, we choose to learn history through these stories. For those times though when I can't sit and read to the kiddos, we like to utilize audio books and incorporate them into our schooling and daily life.

This time, we traveled to France in St. Bartholomew's Eve.  

Heirloom Audio has converted multiple historical adventure novels by G.A. Henty into theater-quality audio dramas. Our main curriculum lists many Henty books in the reading list, because they are known for their deep history, rich literature, and exciting plots. So far, my kiddos aren't drawn to the novels themselves, but they are truly captivated by these adaptations. If you close your eyes, you feel as if you're there in the story. The powerful music, the talented actors, the realistic sound effects--they all make the story come to life. You hear pistols firing, horse hooves clomping, swords clanking, money jingling, crickets chirping, and arrows whizzing through the air and you feel as if you are there as one of the characters of the story. The narrator, Brian Blessed, has a rich, powerful voice that makes the drama exciting to listen to. We were immediately pulled into the plot.

As is typical with the other Heirloom Audio dramas, this one also begins with Mr. George introducing the story to a couple of boys. It begins in 1567 as the Huguenots were being persecuted. It follows the life of a young Philip as he left the safety of England for the danger of France to help "break the bonds of Tyranny, to achieve our God-given right to worship Him according to our beliefs." Through many battles, he helped the Huguenots attack and capture their enemies. He made sure to pray to God before his battles and prayed specifically that he and the others would don each piece of the armor of God. He protected the prince in the heat of battle, captured leaders and officials in Toulouse, nearly died, and was dubbed a knight. He used his wisdom from God to set up a signal system that gave them an extra two hours to prepare for impending danger, to create an unconventional plan that involved cows to drive an enemy army away, and to remove Xs from doors to protect fellow Believers. It was not all victory, though. They felt that all hope was lost while trapped in a castle and sang a moving hymn and later were in Paris when a massacre was in progress. He and those close to him experience death, loss, and suffered from "wound no one could see." Through it all, he continued with his duty to protect others and "fought for not only his own rights, but the rights of those for generations to come." Along with the non-stop action and exciting adventures, there are plenty of morals and Biblical truths taught along the way. 

While you can learn much simply by listening to the story, you can take your study deeper by joining the Live the Adventure Club. As a member, you'll have access to bonus content about St. Bartholomew's Eve along with many more features. There is a community forum, daily motivational quotes and stories, hundreds of articles about parenting and historical learning, a collection of rare textbooks from the 1700-1800s, and hundreds of fun activities. By signing up now, you can even get this audio drama for free (just pay shipping and handling)! The Live the Adventure Club makes history exciting.

St. Bartholomew's Eve provides 2 1/2 hours worth of historical learning. The production is ideal for ages 6+, but even my little ones enjoy listening. There are some elements that are more difficult for the young ones to understand, but this is an ideal way to introduce them to new topics. It's never to early to enjoy quality literature. We are thankful to add this story to our collection and await the next exciting adventure from Heirloom Audio

You can connect with Heirloom Audio on the following social media sites:

You can read more reviews of this audio drama on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Underground Rising

We review all sorts of resources and manipulatives for school. I believe in having many options to keep my little ones learning. But our foundation, the basis of our education is literature. Whether it's fun picture books or engaging fiction or historical biographies, you can be sure there is a fair amount being read in our home every day. While I do believe in the importance of the written word, there are times when it is not feasible to sit down and read a novel. It's times like these that we love to turn on an audio book.

Brinkman Adventures has combined two of our favorite things--audio books and missionary stories--to make a truly entertaining and educational production. My kids fell in love with these stories a few years ago and have listened to dozens of the episodes. They were thrilled to receive the  digital version of Season 6: Underground Rising to add to our collection.

The Brinkman Adventures is an audio drama series and radio show. It's not like a typical audio book that we utilize often as it is not converted from a book, but the episodes weave true missionary stories into the family's adventures to make it a hybrid of sorts. The series was born from a vision to "inspire future missionaries." By combining realistic sound effects, original music, and exciting dialogue, the stories are "movies for the ears." Though the Brinkmans are a fictional family, they are based on and voiced by Ian and Amy Bultman and their 10 children. The drama follows the family across the globe as they hear stories of hiding from the Gestapo in the hole in the floor, eating paper with secret messages, escaping from jail, meeting a prince, experiencing a near-death situation, witnessing a divine healing,  being attacked by a tiger, and the retreating of hundreds of soldiers. They witness to many, see hearts changed, experience heartache, and experience joy.  

You'll find these episodes in season 6:
  • Episode 55: Dutch Underground Part 1
  • Episode 56: Dutch Underground Part 2
  • Episode 57: Twice Born Fly
  • Episode 58: I Wonder Why?
  • Episode 59: Free Burma Rangers Part 1
  • Episode 60: Free Burma Rangers Part 2

You can take the learning to a deeper level passed simply listening to the series. There is an entire section on their site that is filled with the stories behind the stories. You can learn more about metamorphosis, how rove beetles cause rashes, what happens during an allergic reaction, ranger training, and even learn much family history and translate foreign words. There is also a ton more information about the real events and how the writers used things in their own lives for inspiration. There are many pictures and videos that enhance the learning, as well. I, personally, have spent much time soaking up these missionary stories.  

We've listened to this audio while doing chores and for downtime in the house. Each episode is 25 minutes, so they're perfect for squeezing in some audio time. My kids laughed at the silly antics of a monkey and when Charlie swallowed the fly. These amazing accounts are entertaining, for sure, but what makes them even more inspiring is that they are based on modern-day missionary heroes.

The Brinkman Adventures has been a big hit with the whole family. I appreciate that the kids are entertained with wholesome stories, but even more than that, I love that they're learning that there are still true heroes around the globe and that God is still using regular people to change the hearts of a sinful world.

You can connect with the Brinkman Adventures on Facebook and listen to samples of each episode on their website. 

You can read more reviews of these adventures on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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