Monday, December 30, 2013

BookSneeze Review: Peace on Earth - A Christmas Collection by Mary Engelbreit

I recently had the opportunity to review Peace on Earth: A Christmas Collection written by the amazing author and illustrator, Mary Engelbreit, as part for the BookSneeze Blogger program. The hardcover children's illustrated picture book is suitable for children between the ages of 4-8 years old. However, individuals of all ages will enjoy this collection. It is no secret around here that I have an addiction to collecting Christmas books. I am also a huge fan of the author's work! As soon as I saw it offered through the BookSneeze Blogger program, I jumped on the chance to have this keepsake on my shelves.

Book Details
Publisher: Zondervan (ZonderKidz)
Retail Price: $17.99 
Amazon's Current Price $8.99 (Subject to Change Without Notice)
Pages: 40

Book Description 
"Mary Engelbreit rings in the holiday with a Christmas collection that includes many of her favorite classic carols, the story of Jesus' birth, and beloved poems that touch the heart and celebrate the miracle of the season.
I surely wish with all my heart, 
This day of Jesus’ birth, 
That peace and love and happiness 
Soon cover all the earth."

Our Thoughts
     Mary Engelbreit did an outstanding job with this charming collection which contains stories, Christmas carols, quotes, poems, and Bible scripture references. The content captivated the attention and imagination of my family. My six-year-old daughter and I snuggled on the couch many nights before bedtime reading this book completely engaged from the beginning to the end. It was an absolute delight to read aloud! The adorable characters in the book are beautifully illustrated and the detailed images were extremely appealing to the eye. I adore the author's vintage artwork and vibrantly colorful illustrations. There's just something magical about the characters in her books. Every time I read one of her books . . . the characters literally come to life. The snow on the jacketed cover of the book had a three-dimensional textured feel. I wish the author would have sprinkled the texture on several of the pages throughout the book for younger children.
     The lyrics for several of my favorite childhood Christmas carols including "Silent Night," "The First Noel," and "Angels We Have Heard on High" were found in the book making it easy for children to follow along as they sing. "Silent Night" carries a special place in my heart and calmed by baby girl to sleep when she was an infant.
     "Friendly Beasts" was a rhyming, descriptive story written in stanzas that I enjoyed reading aloud for the first time. The strong, spiritual, and charismatic message was one that I am glad my daughter had the opportunity to hear. This story inspired us to write our own poetic pieces about stable animals using the same format.
     There are many other Christian-based stories in this book that will truly help your family celebrate the real meaning and spirit of Christmas. Mary Engelbreit truly embraces the well-loved story about Christ from the book of Luke and Matthew reminding us all of the importance of Jesus' birth. Let me share with you a few other story titles that Alyssa read from this book such as "Another Boy: The Story of the Birth at Bethlehem," "Born in a Stable," and "The Gospel of St. Luke." Cherished poems written by William Blake, Christina Rossetti, Robert Herrick, and Cecil Frances Alexander are also scattered throughout the book illuminating the meaning of Christmas.

I, without a doubt, highly recommend this gorgeous book to everyone! I suggest purchasing several copies in advance to give as Christmas gifts to the children in your life. This book is a wonderful addition to our collection and will most definitely be included in our annual Christmas read aloud traditions. Peace on Earth is destined to become a treasured gem for all. It will inspire both young and old to rejoice in the spirit of Christmas.    


I will post this review on BookSneeze and Amazon. Thank you for reading this review. 
I review for BookSneeze®

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Classical Composers Monthly Review and Giveaway: Great Artists - Collection 1

This post contains affiliate links which help support our family and homeschool. If you click on an affiliate link and purchase, then I earn a small commission. Thank you for helping support our homeschool!

I was given the opportunity to review the newly released Great Artists Collection 1 offered through Classical Composers Monthly with my six-year-old daughter. Have you been on the lookout for more ways to include classic music and art appreciation studies into your day? I am thrilled to share a wonderful tool with you today called Classical Composers Monthly which is a member's only subscription-based program. Classical Composers Monthly was started by a homeschool mom by the name of Erica Johns and her son (Micah). They created a website that consists of a conglomeration of resources divided into several different collections emphasizing either classical music and/or art appreciation. They researched, screened, and complied each list of online materials according to the artist or composer's name.  

I honestly don't have the time to gather resources in order to create a comprehensive art appreciation program. I must admit . . . art tends to take a backseat to the 3 R's. I slack when it comes to time spent on appreciating art and need a resource that is simple to use and will help me introduce Alyssa to popular artists covering a variety of time periods and styles. My daughter asked me if we could do more art this year. She has a strong interest in learning more about famous artists. One day I come across Classical Composers Monthly and notice their blogger partnership program. I contacted the owner in hopes to review one of their collections. It was hard narrowing down which one I wanted, but I was drawn to the one I knew my daughter would enjoy the most - The Great Artists Collection 1!  

A reasonable one-time payment is made for each collection purchased. Each page or link is dedicated to one artist. The Great Artists Collection 1 is a compilation of free Internet resources in one convenient location covering 13 major artists. You are paying for the service and time the mother-son company spent compiling the resources which in the long run saves you a great deal of time. Resources may include biographies, videos, music, audio books, e-books, playlists, crossword puzzles, word searches, online games, printables, learning activities, assignments, and more.

Famous Artists Included in the Great Artists Collection 1
  • Da Vinci
  • Dali
  • Vega
  • Cezanne
  • El Greco
  • Manet
  • Van Gogh
  • Gauguin
  • Matisse
  • Picasso
  • Rembrandt
  • Raphael
  • Delacroix
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How It Works
You will have a password-protected account which gives you lifetime access to the specific collections you purchased. They will be listed under active subscriptions. Links will also be provided for other active resources such as your freebies. Each month subscribers receive an e-mail with additional helpful resources. Be sure to sign-up on the home page so that you can receive your three freebies along with any others in the future. 
A Warning is Provided for One of the Artist

How We Used It
Alyssa and I visited the website approximately 2-3 times per week. We focused on one artist each week with plans to revisit them at a later time. The FREE thematic resources also came in handy each month. I loved the fact that I could vary the amount of time spent on art each day. Art lessons lasted 15-45 minutes a day. We used this resource in conjunction with our core art curricula, notebooking, and our timeline app. I tried to correlate the studies to match what she was learning. I hope to add in more art literature and lapbooking components this year. My daughter would often utilize the website during her free time.

The lesson began with a biography about the artist. I usually read aloud the material and/or summarized certain passages. My daughter would add the artist to her art timeline using an iPad timeline app. We discussed the artists life, masterpieces, and style. Occasionally, I would ask Alyssa to complete a notebooking sheet about the artist to add to her art binder. Then, we viewed several accompanying videos. The online portion of the lesson ended with "play" time meaning she was able to play the games, complete printables, or explore other areas of interest while I gathered any necessary materials for possible art project or activities. Art projects followed her exploratory time and usually concluded the lesson. She expressed a strong desire in studying El Greco and his works of art. She was very fond of his religious art work. The format or structure of the artist pages are the same as the Monet sample.
El Greco Resource Page
The fascinating story behind this art work
captivated my daughter's attention.
Alyssa was excited to view paintings of Jesus
especially since Christmas was around the corner.
Animated Bible Video Watched
Mask Maker was one of her favorite games. 
The freebies were awesome! I played Christmas music and we watched videos together during a recent Christmas unit study. I played Christmas music in the background as she completed art projects. We received freebies related to Thanksgiving, Christmas, Columbus Day, and Veteran's Day. The timely e-mail contained age-appropriate material that helped us celebrate the holidays and supplement our lessons. Thank you Erica and Micah!

What We Liked
  • Time Saver - My time can be better spent teaching my daughter rather than gathering appropriate and meaningful resources. It would have taken me numerous hours to accumulate the resources gathered and included in this collection. 
  • Variety and Selection of Artists - I was impressed with the well-known names of the artists from around the world that were part of this collection. 
  • Activities Included - My favorite features of the program were the biographies and museum videos. My daughter learned about the artists, placed their photo on a timeline, and viewed masterpieces created by the artist. She can truly appreciate many great works of art! 
  • Lifetime Access - This is important to me, because I want to be able to access the materials at any time and study the artists at our own flexible pace.
  • Warnings Provided - The family-owned company notifies you about any content that may possibly be considered inappropriate in any way for young children so that YOU can preview the material for appropriateness before allowing your children to see or hear it. All resources are previously screened by the owners for nudity and/or content. Please understand that classic art can include some nudity. 
  • Freebies and E-mails - E-mail notifications from the company reminded me to use the resources. I would hate to forget that we have access to this wonderful resource. I love receiving the free thematic resources via e-mail!  
  • Plan Time Limited - Art appreciation material is offered therefore there's no planning on my part unless of course I decide to do a related art project in which limited prep time would be required.
  • Simplicity - The website is easy to navigate and use.
  • Multiples Ages - The material available is suitable for ALL age groups from preschool through high school with a moderate amount supervision required. Older students will be able to use the material independently. 
  • One Convenient Location - All resources are available through my member link organized by the name of the artist. Each artist has one page containing several resources to utilize. The types of resources may vary for each artist depending on what is available online. However, everything I need is located in ONE spot eliminating the need to search the website for resources. 
Possible Cons
  • If you are looking for a supplement that can be independently used, please keep in mind that you may need to read the biographies aloud for younger children depending on their reading level. You may also need to preview content containing warnings. 
Possible Vendor Suggestions
  • There aren't many hands-on related art projects offered. I noticed that a website with a variety of art activities was included as a resource, but it wasn't always specific to that particular artist, style, or masterpiece. I suggest adding a few more links to art projects for younger children that focus on the artist style or masterpiece.
  • I would LOVE more interactive timeline activities for each artist if available.
  • Locating FREE notebooking and lapbooking materials online would benefit the members and increase the versatility of the subscription.  
  • The name Classical Composers Monthly doesn't really entail all that you have to offer. It implies that you only offer composer studies and not artist collections. I recommend a company name change that represents all the products your company has available if possible
Each regular collection is the affordable low price of $14.95 for a LIFETIME membership. Yep - that's what I said LIFETIME access! This is well worth the cost especially since you will have lifetime access. This is great time to surprise your children with a practical Christmas present that will bring joy to their homeschool day for years to come. Learn more about Classical Composers Monthly collections here. BUT WAIT . . . I have some wonderful news to share with you before you checkout.

Classical Composers Monthly has generously offered A Learning Journey readers a special code to use during checkout. The coupon code, MERRY, will give you 25% off any regular collection. The code will NOT work on the Classical Conversations Foundations program collection. This code will expire at the end of December. Furthermore, they are also offering a couple of freebies for you to explore.

December "Try Before You Buy" Freebies
Would you like to try a sample before you make a purchase? Classical Composers Monthly provides samples of their Fine Art Pages and gives you access to the Monet and Handel collections when you sign-up on their home page via e-mail. You can view the Claude Monet Freebie by clicking the link provided. Click on the buttons or links below to access more freebies.

Classic Christmas Freebie
This freebie includes music, videos, audio books, and more.
Christmas Classics Freebie

Fine Art Samples
Check out the Van Gogh Fine Arts sample page. I think creating this resource was such a smart idea!
Fine Art Pages button large

I highly recommend this resource and collection to all homeschool families especially those that utilize an eclectic, classical, or Charlotte Mason homeschool approach or method. Many amazing artists are covered in this collection and your children will learn to appreciate a variety of styles and art works too. You can easily extend lessons if desired using your own curricula or materials. The collections are wonderful for busy families of all sizes. I only have one child, but because I know we have lifetime access - I don't have to rush through the material. Lifetime access will also benefit families with multiple children especially those with very young children, because they can reuse the collections when they get older. We will definitely continue using this subscription for years to come!
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Overall Thoughts
The Great Artists Collection 1 saved me a tremendous amount of time and exposed my daughter to a variety of artists. I can't imagine how many hours it would have taken me to gather and review the compilation of art appreciation resources included in this collection. I am impressed with the high quality resources available online and appreciate the convenience of having the planning already done. I hope to purchase a music collection in the near future. I have my eye on the Composer Collection 1, Composers and Artists Collection 3, and of course the Renaissance Artist Collection. The Fine Art Pages look absolutely amazing too! I would definitely hang the pages up in my house for my family to study. What a great way to sneak art in each and every day!

Alyssa definitely remembers facts about certain artists and recognizes several masterpieces that we have recently studied using Classical Composers Monthly. One of the artists that we studied was Vincent Van Gogh. There was a resource link to a related "Starry Night" art project. My daughter thoroughly enjoyed using oil pastels to create her version or replica of the masterpiece.

She has been known to discuss an artist and/or their art works with friends and family. The conversation usually starts after seeing a masterpiece in her environment or it is mentioned because of excitement after a study. We were at the store one day and Alyssa noticed a puzzle on the shelf. The image to piece together was of "The Starry Night" by Vincent Van Gogh. She started chatting with a lady nearby telling her everything she learned about Van Gogh. She encouraged her to buy the puzzle for her daughter. I was certainly thrilled that she learned so much and was full of excitement when discussing the artist information.

Alyssa also created her own activities during her free time. She drew a Venn diagram during her study of Leonardo Da Vinci. She compared two Mona Lisa paintings that she saw online. She drew a picture of Mona Lisa and described it on the side noting the differences between the two paintings. She also said that she wanted to paint Mona Lisa at some point.

I am very grateful to have this art appreciation resource in which lessons are available to me with a click of a button and ready-to-go without additional planning required. I can zip through a quick art lesson on our busy days without a lot of stress. Sometimes it is difficult to fit in a full fledge art lessons from our curricula, but this simplifies everything on chaotic or hectic days.  

Alyssa's Opinion  
"I like how I get to learn about different artists and their paintings. My favorite artists to study were El Greco, Van Gogh, and Leonardo Da Vinci. Sometimes when my mommy is working, I will ask to use Classical Composers Monthly to play games, look at paintings, and watch the videos."

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I received this collection, at no cost to me, in exchange for an honest review on my blog. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed are my own or those of my family. Classical Composers Monthly affiliate links are also included in this post. I am disclosing this information in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions and regulations.

Classical Composers Monthly GIVEAWAY
Erica has graciously offered ONE of my LUCKY readers the chance to win ONE membership collection of their choice. I so wish I could enter this giveaway! You can choose the Great Artists Collection 1 or any other regular collection of your choice if you win. Please enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below. If you don't see the Rafflecopter giveaway below, then please click on the Rafflecopter link. You must be 18 years old to enter. This giveaway is for continental US residents only. Good luck! The prize will be fulfilled by Classical Composers Monthly. The owner of A Learning Journey will not be responsible for prize fulfillment. The giveaway ends on 12/26/13 at midnight central time. I will need an e-mail address in order to contact the winner. The winner will have 48 hours to respond to the e-mail. If I don't hear back from the winner within the designated time period, then a new winner will be randomly chosen.