Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Master Kitz by Kidzaw.com - A New TOS Review!!!

Over the years I have tried to stretch myself so that I could make sure that art was a part of our homeschool life, especially for my artist loving daughter. So when I had the opportunity to review a new homeschool art product I jumped at the chance. Master Kitz The Starry Night is one of many choices offered by Kidzaw.com and it happens to be one of my favorite van Gogh paintings. I knew that even if none of my kids wanted to try out the kit that I would love too ... then I'd have my own van Gogh!


I had never heard of Master Kitz or Kidzaw.com, but I am not going to forget them.  Each kit comes in a sturdy artist's tool kit packed with everything you need to create a masterpiece. Each project helps you or your student learn, create and then share their individualized masterpiece recreation.

The one we received was Master Kitz The Starry Night we opened the tool box (which had a magnetic closure to help keep the items safely inside) to reveal all that it came with:
A 12-step detailed instruction sheet which also includes a mini van Gogh unit study, star mask stickers, 3 acrylic paint colors, 5 oil pastels, a sponge roller, and a custom van Gogh roller. It also came with 2 large sheets (16" x 20") thick art paper and a specific composition stencil to help create the 'drawing' part of Vincent van Gogh's painting.

Since we have been in a temporary place it was a little difficult to find a good location to do the painting, but we found our washable tablecloth and decided to use the front porch table area to use as our art space. Also I needed to find a flat surface where we could roll out the paper and stencil, roll it the other way and then put something hard on it to rest flat and the table on the porch was our only choice for that.  We also didn't have all of our regular supplies (like masking/painter's tape to hold down the paper) so we improvised a little. Since Audrie was going to do the majority of the painting, I told her I'd help to hold the paper so it wouldn't shift while she was rolling.  The entire 12-step process was very easy for her to read and complete the steps on her own, but I stayed with her and helped a little.

Before we got started we read the van Gogh info sheet. It had lots of information about his family, childhood, and his life before painting. He was even a missionary before he started painting! And he was encouraged by his brother Theo to pursue his art passion. After learning solely about Vincent and you open the pamphlet up to a two-page spread all about his different style of painting and how it came about. Little blurbs, cute drawings, and small actuall replicas of famous paintings fill these pages giving your student/artist great information and a little bit of art history along with the mechanics of creating art.
Next we opened up the pamphlet to reveal the instructions (or inspirations as they call them.)  There are 12 simple steps along with a bigger picture of The Starry Night so that your artist has something to go by if they want to make it more similar to the original.

First we laid out all of the supplies and realized we didn't have tape. So I would hold the paper down when needed.

Next you put your paint on the plate and roll with the special van Gogh roller. It was so cool! It created the swirly bits which instantly people recognize as the quintescential marker of a van Gogh.

After the first color, she then went back to add on the white on top.

Then we had to let the paint dry. Since it was cold in the porch it took a little longer to dry. And since we are in temporary housing we couldn't seem to find the hair dryer to help the drying process go quicker.

Once it was dry we could put on the stencil. If we hadn't waited until it dried the stencil could have smeared the paint and made it more muffled and not speckled. I was able to find a little bit of gift wrap tape so we taped in small areas around the stencil so it wouldn't move while she was painting over it again - this time with the black paint. It was very dramatic!

And this time we used the sponge roller and not the special roller. This filled in the 'composition' of the painting (the stuff that van Gogh drew.) We had a discussion about this that he did it all by hand while adding pieces and parts buillding his composition with layers, but for a kit created for kids and adults that it was easier to use a stencil.

Once she was done painting the stencil we carefully took it off and revealed a beautiful masterpiece. BUT it wasn't done yet! While we waited for this step of paint to dry we went in to clean up a little bit.

I don't think I read the directions correctly about what type of material the stencil was made from (Cypress). It felt like vinyl, so I went to wash off the acrylic paint so that we could use the stencil again for another painting (my son was eager to make his masterpiece as well). However, after running it under water, I noticed that the paper was getting wet and you could tell. Whoops! See this shouldn't happen if it was vinyl.
Whoops! My bad!
Apparantly it just had a plastic like coating and paper in the middle. The bottom right of the instructions tell you to wash off the rollers with soap and water and to let the stencil dry flat. My bad! But it has seemed to recover enough to be used again. I think it would be better if the stencil was made from a more resuable material like vinyl or thin plastic.

The next step was to pull off the star masks. These are also meant to be reusable and I didn't wash these, but they did stick a little too well to the paper, even though they were low tack. You can see that when we were taking them off the paper got stuck to the sticker part, which might also make it challenging for us to make a second masterpiece. They also took my daughter a really long time to peel off and she opted to let me help so that there would be less ripping. It might have been the temperature of the porch or she might have pushed on them too hard and they adhered more then they should have, but we were able to get them off and I think we will be able to use them at least one more time.

Once the painting was completely dry, my daughter was then able to individualize the painting. She got out the 5 oil pastels (2 yellows, and 1 of orange, blue, and white) and started 'creating' the stars and adding details to the composition. She even asked me to help her, which I gladly did!


Once she was happy with the results we stopped. I think it is beautiful, don't you? I had so much fun watching her create the painting and spending time with her talking about the process and about what we had read.

I will definitely be doing a 2nd one with my son as soon as we move into our new rental house (a BIG answer to prayer!) where we will have way more space and all of our supplies (like tape). There are certainly plenty of leftover of all the supplies and even when the paint runs out the stencil and rollers can be used again and again (if you do NOT WASH the stencil).

After we were done we went to the kidzaw.com site and checked out all the other Master Kitz available - there are about 10 others and we want them all!! I think I've even added Water Lillies and Sunflowers to my list and huuby says one of his favorites is The Great Wave. Since I have my favorite, The Starry Night, his will probably the next one we get!  There are also mini demonstration videos you can watch. These kits are great ways to add art to our homeschool and all have fun.

I encourage you to check out all the rest of the Crew reviews by clicking the link below. I know I will be since they will all have different end results of their OWN masterpiece! You can also find Kidzaw.com on Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube.

Master Kitz The Starry Night {Kidzaw.com Reviews}




Friday, November 2, 2018

Balancing Diapers and Deadlines ~~ A New TOS Review!!

Do you ever feel under the gun and you just have no idea how everything is going to get done? Whether it be multiple aged children, stay at home jobs, balancing having just one car for your getting older children, what you need the most is scheduling. Since I have just started another DM job I knew that having work at home mom productivity tips would help kick start my organzation  ESPECIALLY after moving 700+ miles from SC to IN and living in a temporary housing situation. Balancing Diapers and Deadlines from Lisa Tanner Writing was the exact answer to prayer that I needed and I was privileged to be a part of the Crew reviewing it. And what's even better is that Lisa is a Crew member too!!

I knew that this would be the impetus to help me get back on track balancing my blog, homeschooling, a new business, a new ministry, as well as navigating myself around in a new town. And it has been just that. This online, self-paced, non-video course has been so helpful. There is a welcome/introduction, six main units, and then some closing thoughts.
Within the six main units they are broken down into bite-sized chunks (lessons). Each lesson is a 5-10 minute read and at the end you are given an Action Step for you to work on. If the lessons are things you already do then you can skip through, but if not you may take some time to ponder Lisa's ideas and even cater them to your individual needs and desires for YOUR home.  Once you have completed a lesson you can mark it complete. I loved this so I knew where I have actually done the steps and where I was just browsing to see what came in the future.
That is what is so neat about this online course. It has the spark you need to delve into exploriong how you want your day to go, or how you will meal plan, or even how to grow your business with kids of all ages! Lisa has nine beautiful children of her own so she's kind of seems like an expert when it comes to balancing food, chores, and business.

I know that in the last 6-8 weeks our life has been in a state of emergency or in a holding pattern. Part way through the course Lisa encourages you to check in with her during the section on "Making a Plan of the Day". I was honest with her and told her a little of our situation, which in short has been on a 'triage' plan of sorts, especially with my son. Between us being here and the kids in SC for the first few weeks, travelling back and forth every weekend for a few weeks, then all being here and them missing all of what they've known their whole lives, to another 14 hour drive two weekends in a row and a week without dad, life has just been crazy and my son has taken the longest to get used to a new routine. But Lisa gave me some great tips and ideas to do while we are in this transition that seem to be working. I knew most of what she suggested, but it was a relief to 'hear' someone actually tell me that this is what I should be doing. Sometimes us moms just need someone to bounce ideas off of, someone who can relate whole-heartedly to our situation.
A snippet of our email convo.
Since this was a review, I did skip ahead and skim through the whole program. But because I really wanted to put effort into the course and make small adjustments I have not "checked" off all the lessons. One that I am super interested in is the Family Writing Time in the Growing Your Business section. It has strategies to help gain 2.5 hours more time to work on your business. I really want to skip ahead and work on that, which I might, but not until we move into our NEW permanent housing rental. (We just signed the lease this morning - prayer answered! Now to move everything from storage and our temporary housing into the propery BEFORE the middle of the month and the holidays around the corner!)

Also in some units she has added on attachments of other resources. These may be links to other blog posts she has written as well as downloads - like her 5 year meal plan (I know amazing, right!!), ways to engage your littles and middles while you are working. These have been really very helpful. I'm also really looking forward to delving into and implementing some of the tips and ideas from intergrating my kids into my business. Some of the ideas like taking pictures I do, but not regularly enough. I also love the idea of giving them some more helpful tasks like adding affiliate links to posts in my blog. I know my two teens can certainly help with that!
Writing out the Plan of the Day
Another item we've just started to implement was Kid Days. Lisa talks about them fully and details them better then I'm going to share with you here, but essentially each of your children get a day of the week (or more if you have less kids) where they are in charge of the meals for the day - so they plan breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But they also have other responsibilities that go along with "being in charge" of meals. If you have a meal plan they can help in the plannin process ahead of time on your planning days. Since I had mentioned it to my husband one morning, my son was like "YEAH, I want to do tomorrow" and then scheduled his sisters for other days in the week. He then (since breakfast was completed) made lunch for all of them and planned and helped with dinner.

We haven't had too long to implement these Kid Days, but they have seemed to work in the last few weeks. As soon as their day is complete they have started to plan for the next week. They have even said since there are 3 of them that they could have 2 days, but my eldest says then that doesn't give mom and dad time to make our "really great dinners". I think we may tweak the kid days a little, but it seems to have helped the stress of 'what are we eating for lunch/snack/dinner' out of some of my days.
All in all, this time management for busy moms course has been a real breath of fresh air for me. It's helped me to really evaluate our schedule - both for home and school, our meal plans, my new TEA business, and to think about ways to get more time so we can be more efficient with what we do and have more available to work on the ministry we came to Indiana to help birth.
My new business
I really think there is something for every mom (not JUST homeschool moms) in Lisa Tanner Writing's Balancing Diapers and Deadlines online course. Don't let the title throw you off.  I'd encourage you to check it out for yourself. You won't be disappointed. I know there is SOMETHING in there that will help refocus or revoluntionize your home! And don't just trust me - go read some of the other Crew reviews by clicking the link below!
Balancing Diapers and Deadlines {Lisa Tanner Writing Reviews}


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

St. Bartholomew's Eve ~~ A New TOS Review!!

Since we have discovered audio books they have been a favorite staple of our homeschool. So when we had the opportunity to add another Christian audio drama by Heirloom Audio we were excited to receive the 2-CD set of St. Bartholomew's Eve to review.

Since we've been travelling back and forth between SC and IN this was a God-send! Driving 10 to 13 hours can be very hard and tedious so audio books and radio theater are a great way to pass the time instead of spending upteen hours watching mindless videos and burning through data. From the get-go the G.A. Henty story captured the ears and imaginations of my listeners (age 9 through 45) as we travelled down the interstate.

The story is narrated by George, who many might recognize as Brian Blessed from Star Wars among other well known movies, telling two boys the brave story of the French Hugenots and the massacre that ensued on St. Bartholomew's Eve in August of 1572. This is a true historical drama that comes to life in your car or living room as you listen and hear horses clomping, swords clashing, and crickets chirping as the story progresses. It revolves around Philip Fletcher who has come to his cousin Francois's home in France, to join forces in the war against the Catholic oppression of the Protestant faith. This war is really all about freedom of religion at a time just 50 or so years after Martin Luther's revolutionary thinking that God's Word was and is for everyone, not just the learned or clergy. The French Hugenots were in tough times and Philip felt called to come and join arms to help protect their right to worship God.

While listening you can fell the fear and agst as  they train and learn to fight as young men. By the end of the story you can see their growth and maturity through the battles they have waged to stand up for the King of Kings versus the King of France. This is part of our own Christian heritage and we are commanded in the Bible to teach our children their history so that they can wear it around their own necks. I love that this story put so much emphasis on quoting Scriptures and singing a familiar hymn - A Mighty Fortress is our God - which led to a brilliant tactic to help protect and bolster their own fortress at one point.

Along the way Philip and Pierre (another soldier defending his faith) meet Argento, a younger boy who helps them find out who are the leaders of the persecutors of the Hugenots so they can be targeted. After some wear and tear battles Argento and his family is pinpointed to retailiate against. Phillip did tell Argento where to go if ever this happened, but at this point in the story we all thought the happenings were bleak. I won't go into more details, but being as this is based on the true events of the bloody massacre be prepared for a not so happy ending for all the characters you begin to love from the first few minutes of listening.

A few days after listening to the just over 2 hours of this exoloding audio drama, my son decided to create a battle scene to represent some of the battle he heard in the story.

Also while listening another time, my daughter decided to draw this sword and dagger that might have been being used by Philip or Francois in their battles.


My eldest discussed with me a little that she remembered of this division and persecution between Catholics and the Protestants after she heard mention of Catherine de Medici and also the De Guise family when they were talking about the uniting of two families to hopefully unite these two religious sects.  It was a great conversation. This is what I truly love about listening to these Christian radio theater adventures ... they spark creativity and injunity in my children and bring the history alive.

We were blessed with a physical CD which costs about $30 plus S&H. You could also get these as digital downloades for about $20. We have LOVED the other stories we have had the privilege to listen and enjoy are Captain Baley's Heir and Wulf the Saxon. My son has asked if In Freedom's Cause or With Lee in Virginia next we can get next. I think I'll add it to the Christmas list!

I definitely think that St. Bartholomew's Eve would be a great one to add to your homeschool collection. It would be especially great to go alongside your history lessons during the time of the Reformation. It also clearly shows that we should obey GOD no matter what. That was a great lesson for our children that coincides with our reasons to move 700 miles away from all friends and family - to obey God and trust Him. I urge you to read the other Crew members who also had the opportunity to review this. And you can connect with Heirloom Audio on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Instagram and continue to "Live the Adventure".

St. Bartholomew's Eve {Heirloom Audio Reviews}

Friday, October 12, 2018

Brinkman Adventures Season 6 ~~ A New TOS Review!!

A few years ago I stumbled upon a homeschooling lightbulb. It came in the form of audio dramas. Do you know what those are? They are times where you all as a family can connect, listen, and imagine what is happening while listening to amazing stories. Then this lightbulb of audio dramas got even better when we were introduced to real life missionary stories from the Brinkman Adventures last year. This year we've been able to have the opportunity to listen to the digital version of these adventures called Season 6: Underground Rising and it has been a thrill listening.
This season is is six episodes, about 25 minutes a piece, is just shy of 3 hours of listening. In season 6 there are two 2 part episodes, and then two individual episodes. They are short enough to fit in while eating a meal together or right before bedtime. Here's a list of the episode titles:

  • Dutch Underground, Part 1
  • Dutch Underground, Part 2
  • Twice Born Fly
  • I Wonder Why
  • Free Burma Rangers, Part 1
  • Free Burma Rangers, Part 2

You can also listen to brief snippets of the adventures, but let me warn you they will hook you and then you will want to buy them! But now is a great time to purchase because they have generously offered giving my readers a coupon code for 10% off!! The code is FALL10 and is good on all their products, but just until October 31, 2018, so hurry go now take a listen and purchase them. I'll wait.

Okay, now that you are back, let's talk about these adventurous missionary stories. Our family can really relate now that we have very close friends who have been missionaries for the past 4 years. They live on a remote island off the coast of Madagascar and have had many of their own stories to share when they come back to the states on home assignment. It has been a wonderful experience for our children and our family as a whole to realize that our friends are not alone. There are MANY missionaries out there, spreading the Gospel, but also sacrificing so much along the journey. That is what I was pondering while we listened to Dutch Underground, parts 1 & 2. The dramatized story takes the real life situations of Reng and Lynn VanKesteren during World War II as part of the Dutch resistance. This episode is broken up into two parts, as I mentioned, and at the end of the first it was a definite cliffhanger. My kids could not wait so we listened to them in one sitting. Without telling you everything, this one story has it all -- love, war, honor, valor, suspense and intrigue.
Listening to a story while back in SC with family.
Then later when we went to the website to learn more we found out that Lynn, Omie, and her husband had 10 children and 60 grandchildren! We also learned that she loved making them milk buckles and it filled her heart with "gezellig". That feeling you get when you are surrounded by those you love and your heart is fullest. There is more to the story then the hour of listening. Once you go to the website you can get extras on their "Real Stories" page, including more details of the real life people, pictures, links, maps, intervies, and even videos like the one we watched on making homemade oliebols which my children so want me to make. We would have made them in connection with the listening, but we've been travelling (as I've mentioned) between IN and SC and we aren't staying in a place that is fully ours ... but they are on the list to do SOON! What are oliebols? Little desert fried dough balls, but they saved Reng and Lynn from almost complete disaster!

The third episode was a story from the life of Jack Brinkman, but is spurred on from an incident that Charlie has when he swallows a fly! Yes a fly! My kids all gasped and then laughed (so much we had to pause the story for a bit). My eldest daughter really loved the ending of Jack's story. It was all about his time in prison, including a prison break, and  well, I don't want to spoil the ending for you, but she said it reminded her of how when you become a Christian and a Jesus follower that you are changed forever.

In the episode called I Wonder Why? we are following Sam and Huck, children missionaries, as her family go to an orphange in India after selling 90% of their belongings. We see the struggles of the children through sickness, loss of friends and possesions, rashes from bugs, and other issues, as they wonder why their family was chosen by God to go. And it is all to show them LOVE. This story really hit home and ties in with our missionary friends who have done this same thing ... sold all their possessions, sacrifice many things including electricity and running water, to bring the LOVE of God to the people on the remote island. My children could so relate to this story and brought an eye opening to our own call to SW Indiana and reaching the lost who are there.

The last 2 episodes focus on Dave Eubanks and his life as a soldier and then later a missionary with his wife Karen as they found a relief organization for the people of Burma. My son really enjoyed these two audio dramas the most. What little boy wouldn't want to listen to stories of becoming a Green Beret or a Captain in the Army, and listen as they all jump out of an airplane! What an exciting adventure!

I emplore you to take a listen to the episode snippets and find you some to infuse into your own family culture. These audio dramas have been a fantastic way to focus more on how we are all missionaries where we are and that we are called to LOVE His people. The Real Stories section of the website is by far my favorite where we can delve into mini unit lessons and explore, talk, and wonder in all that we had encountered by listening.

So what are you waiting for? Go straight to Brinkman Adventures and purchase your own copy of Season 6: Underground Rising! And take a few minutes to read other Crew reviews by clicking the link below. You can also find them on Facebook. Oh, and don't forget 10% off with code FALL10 by the 31st!!!
Brinkman Adventures Season 6 Reviews


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