Friday, April 24, 2015

EEME - Real Electronics for Kids!

EEME review

I shared a picture recently of when my 8 year old son decided to take apart a broken DVD player just to see if he could fix it.  Not only did he fix it, but he did so without any guidance.  I've known for awhile that he is very STEM oriented, so I wanted to find a fun way to help him develop this natural curiosity in a constructive and safe way.  If not, I didn't know what small appliances he might start taking apart next.  I had heard good things about EEME, a hands-on electronics course with video lessons.  I decided to purchase a subscription for Elliott.  Right after my purchase I was contacted by Jack, the founder, about doing a review campaign.  What perfect timing!  I knew this would be a phenomenal product for homeschoolers--especially kids who enjoy engineering and technology--so I am happy to share more about it on the blog!

We've tried the little build-a-robot type kits before.  They are fun, but they are all the same.  They tell you how to put it together, without really explaining why things work the way they do.  EEME was started by a father who wanted his kids to have something fun and educational to really teach electronics, but also to foster curiosity and critical thinking skills.  This sounded like what I wanted for my son.  It is designed to teach the whys and hows of electronics to children ages 7-12.  My kid is very fact oriented, and I knew he would appreciate having real technology presented to him appropriately.

How Does it Work?
Around the first of the month, EEME mails you a kit with all of the necessary materials to build a project.  Project 1, which you'll see here, is a Genius Light.  He would be building a light that turned on when it was dark, and off when it was bright!  I received a shipping notification, but it also included ideas for getting my kid excited about the project and a list of things that other kids say they learned.  This gave me a great idea about what to expect!

When we received our box Elliott was so excited.  It was a small, unassuming brown box, but it included everything we needed for the project.

EEME review

All we had to do was log into the website to access all of the lessons.  It started with an introduction, and then were able to start viewing the videos that would teach us how to build our light and how it worked.  It is actually a series of several videos, but each one is only a few minutes in length.  I loved the bite sized pieces, because it's perfect for young learners and short attention spans, or for taking a short break.  The videos are minimalist - nothing but the parts to the project and the instructor's hands.  No faces, no busy patterns, no background noise, nothing to distract you.

Elliott initially asked for paper instructions, and he wasn't sure about the videos (I do know he is not an auditory learner), but he liked following along once it got started.  Everything is laid out step by step, pieces are named and described, and actions are explained.  The videos give a thorough explanation about the circuit system, the LED light bulb, resisters and breadboards and other things I couldn't have taught myself as part of our homeschool.  To answer that repetitive question of how homeschoolers teach the difficult subjects--outsourcing is a beautiful thing!

EEME review

The videos were sprinkled with multiple choice questions, and opportunities to summarize what you learned from the more informational videos.  Elliott didn't like stopping for the summaries (it meant he had to stop and put his thoughts into words and type them on screen, instead of moving forward with the project) but I really liked this feature.  I think the questions and summaries are a great way to make sure the student is paying attention, and to check their understanding.

EEME review

The instructions said it would take 1.5 - 2.5 hours to complete.  Even with Elliott being on the younger end of the recommended age range for this program, he completed his project in the hour and a half, split in two sessions.  The first night we spent around 45 minutes (though we had a few interruptions from the baby) working on the project.  By we, I really mean that I watched and took notes while he did all of the work.  He was so excited when the light turned on!  It was late when we started, so once his light was working, he was ready for a break.

EEME review

When we resumed, I did a quick review with him to make sure everything was still fresh.  He didn't have many videos left at this point, but he was showed a few more things as far as rearranging wires and resisters and how that would affect the flow of electricity.

EEME review

Finally he added the photo-resister, and turned it into a Genius Light!  He couldn't wait to show it to his little brother, or for Dad to get home and see his project!

EEME review

If you are looking for a unique way to teach electronics to your kids, without having all the background knowledge yourself, I think this is the way to go.  There are a wealth of free videos and information on the website, but the actual projects are a fabulous introduction into electronics and technology.  All of the projects build off of previous months, so I know his knowledge will be growing continuously.  I can't wait for the next project, to watch his excitement, and to know that he is getting a great foundation in the STEM world!

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Parental Selfie

Wordless Wednesday at Life at Rossmont

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Friday, April 17, 2015

ARTistic Pursuits {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

I have very little knowledge of art, and even less talent.  I want to teach it and enjoy it, but I'm always worried about how I am expressing myself to the kids and how well they're understanding what I am trying to convey.  Thankfully we were given the chance to do a review for ARTistic Pursuits, and I was thrilled!  We received Early Elementary K-3, Book 3: Modern Painting and Sculpture to use in our home.

The boys are in Kindergarten and 2nd Grade, so we fit right into the intended age range for this curriculum.  However one of my boys is a very "follow the rules" type child and wants his art to look like whatever we're studying, while the other is a free spirit and has no problem letting his creativity flow.  I have a hard time balancing my involvement and instruction for their two very different artistic personalities, so I was eager to see how this program would guide us together.

What Is ARTistic Pursuits?
ARTistic Pursuits is a full art curriculum (preschool to high school) for homeschoolers that helps teach children art history, art appreciation, and art technique, while allowing them to work with a variety of art materials and develop their observation skills and creativity.  Brenda Ellis has written the curriculum to be age and developmentally appropriate, to help them become visually aware of their world, and to become creative thinkers and workers.

ARTistic Pursuits Review

Modern Painting and Sculpture focuses on more recent works of art and helps children see how art has changed and is different from earlier works.  It is a continuation of the previous Early Elementary K-3 book, but it can also be used independently.  The curriculum is designed to help you study works of art by masters like Degas, Monet and Casset for example, while also covering important movements in art history.  Then it is also allows the student to create 36 unique pieces of art (24 two-dimensional works and 12 three-dimensional sculptures), using a variety of materials and techniques throughout the course.  Teaching art history along side teaching them to create unique and original art is not something I would be comfortable doing on my own, so I was grateful for the opportunity to explore this curriculum!

What Do You Need?
In addition to the book, you will need to purchase specific art supplies for the projects, if you do not already have a well-stocked art cabinet.  You can order a full kit directly through ARTistic Pursuits, or through a recommended discount art supplier online--just click straight through their website and it pulls up everything for you--or you can piece everything together yourself.  There are also household items required (twist ties, balloon, aluminum foil, etc) but everything is relatively easy to acquire.

I didn't need everything required because we already owned some items, but I needed duplicates of other things since I'm working with two students, so I ordered through the art supplier they recommend by editing the list they provide.  It's always fun to receive a box of goodies in the mail, especially fun art supplies!

Using ARTistic Pursuits
Other than assembling the supplies needed for each lesson, this curriculum is open-and-go!  A homeschool mom's dream, right?  Most lessons follow a similar format.  The parent reads a little history (artist, style, etc).  Then there is a picture study of a work of art that reflects the topic, and a few questions that the parent can ask their child to help them hone in on interesting or important details.  It's also noted that parents should feel free to comment, interject and discuss as they see fit. Then the child is given a project!

In Lesson 1 we started learning about Impressionist art, did the guided picture study, and then for the project the boys were instructed to paint pictures of a family member.  I asked them to paint each other.  I even drew with the boys, and let me tell you, we laughed so hard we were crying. They loved it, and we got off to a great start with this curriculum!

This is Elliott telling me about his picture of Emory before he started painting.

Emory (5 yrs old) got Elliott's glasses and even the character on his shirt!

Throughout the lessons, we're taught to really observe and use items around us for inspiration.

The following trees are from Lesson 5.  We had learned how Monet studied light and how it affected colors.  The second portion of the lesson involved examining some of Monet's paintings of the same building in different light.  Although I have little art history instruction, I know it is important to understand the historical context of art, and I'm glad that the picture studies include background information, leading questions and the opportunity to really study the art.  My 5 year old in particular really enjoys the picture studies.  After the initial lesson, we did our own series of paintings.  They suggested an outdoor object in different seasons/weather, and we chose trees like the example, mostly because trees tied perfectly into our art lesson on trees in our core curriculum, and also because it was an easy concept for my 5 year old to understand.

Elliott's Summer, Autumn and Winter Trees

Emory's Summer and Winter Trees

What I love about this program is the variety.  As we learn about the different ways the artists created, we are encouraged to do the same.  It starts out with several lessons of painting, but then we move into oil pastels, sculpting with chenille stems and clay, and so much more.  I've looked ahead to have an idea about what we'll be doing by the end, and it even gets into clay animation and computer art!  My 8 year old was just asking to learn animation, so he's going to be thrilled with this curriculum all the way through!  It really does give us a glimpse into the many ways art was and is used around us today.  At the end there is a note to parents on modern art after 1960, and a reading list to compliment the studies.

It is really a fascinating curriculum.  It offers me, an average parent, the opportunity to open my children up to the world of art.  It's educational, it's interesting, and more importantly, it's fun!  I want my kids to both appreciate and enjoy art, and this program really helps me do just that!

Final Recommendation
Yes!  We were previously blessed to review Elementary Book 1 and Elementary Book 2 and I still recommend ARTistic Pursuits.  It covers art history and picture study, teaches observation and attention to detail, discusses the proper way to use materials, while still encouraging creativity and individuality in personal art.

I would recommend this curriculum not just for homeschool families, but also for families who want to supplement their child's public/private school art instruction.  This is so much more than I was ever taught in school, and yet it is so easy for me to use.  I also think older elementary students with little art instruction would benefit from this book.

If you're interested in finding the right art curriculum for your family, the crew is currently reviewing all 12 books, so check them out to find something to fit your needs!

ARTistic Pursuits Review

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©2011-2015 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.