Realistic Cave Paintings: An Ancient History Art Project

Eli and I have just begun our ancient history studies for the year – and I’m very glad to report that I might have another history lover on my hands!

Realistic Cave Paintings: An Ancient History Art Project

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Oh, how I have missed Story of the World.  It’s just such a well-rounded program.  The living text, narration questions, maps, timeline cards and great book suggestions make this eclectic Charlotte Mason homeschooler happy.

I mentioned in this post that we would be going through the curriculum at our own pace and may or may not linger over the hands-on activities.  My little guy isn’t about time fillers, so any hands-on activity we do has to have real purpose.  I found a hands-on activity last week that not only had real purpose, but kept my sweet boy interested for more than an hour!

In one of my favorite art history books for kids, I remembered a realistic cave painting project that I knew would count as a meaningful addition to our day.

Ancient History Art Project: Cave Paintings

Realistic Cave Paintings: An Ancient History Art Project

Fire.  Dirt.  Smashing berries.  Smearing things.  Yeah, you can understand why an 8-year-old boy would find this project interesting.  When I said it’s realistic, I really meant it!

While it takes a bit of time and effort to gather the supplies, I promise you won’t regret it.  Even better, you can count the gathering of supplies as nature study for the day, too! We deviated just a bit from the suggested materials, but the results were very much the same as illustrated in My Art Book from DK Publishing.

We gathered:

  • a concrete block
  • charcoal and ash from a recent fire in our backyard
  • soil
  • blueberries from the freezer (because all the wild berries were long gone)
  • sticks for stirring
  • a bit of water
  • a bit of fat in the form of Crisco

Realistic Cave Paintings: An Ancient History Art Project

  1. Adding a little water to a bowl of berries, Eli used a stick to smash it all together to create a natural dye for painting.

Realistic Cave Paintings: An Ancient History Art Project

2. Stirring a little water into the ashes created the perfect paint.

Realistic Cave Paintings: An Ancient History Art Project

3. Stirring a little fat (Crisco) into the dirt created another type of paint.

Realistic Cave Paintings: An Ancient History Art Project

4. The charcoal pieces from the leftover fire became the drawing tool. 

Realistic Cave Paintings: An Ancient History Art Project

5. Eli mostly used his fingers to paint his pictures.

And that’s it.  A little gathering of supplies.  A little mixing of paints and dyes.  A little drawing.  A little painting.  And you have a FUN and very cool finished project.

Realistic Cave Paintings: An Ancient History Art Project

I LOVE that the entire project was illustrated step-by-step with clear directions for my son to follow on his own.  We’re working on more learning independence this year and the lesson was perfect for him!

Realistic Cave Paintings: An Ancient History Art Project

The use of the realistic materials is what makes this project such a powerful experience.  After reading about the importance of archaeologists in understanding the lives of ancient people and learning that cave dwellers painted pictures that depicted their daily lives, doing such a realistic project really helped Eli “get” the importance of both the artwork and the archaeologists.

I can’t wait to share more from our ancient history studies with you this year.  If you have a “knock it out of the park” type of project you would suggest during our study, please share it in the comments!

Watch for more art history projects from My Art Book as we do artist study through the year, too!

Charlotte Mason Homeschooling Back to School Giveaway

Let’s celebrate the new school year with a fun Charlotte Mason giveway!

Two winners of SIX Charlotte Mason Homeschooling Books!  Aug. 17-23, 2015

Two winners will receive e-copies of SIX of my most popular sellers!

1.  Charlotte Mason Homeschooling in 18 Easy Lessons – Whether you’re a seasoned Charlotte Mason homeschooler who needs to breathe a bit of fresh air into the schedule, or you’re completely new to the Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling, you’ll find treasures inside this easy-to-implement guide.

2.  Loving Living Math – What is living math?  Why consider living math?  How do you implement living math lessons?  Where do you find living math ideas?  What about the math textbook?  All these questions and more are clearly answered in this how-to guide.

3.  Living Literature Grammar Packets – Forget boring, monotonous grammar worksheets!  Your 3rd-5th grader can gain all sorts of grammar (and spelling and writing) instruction using living literature as the source of the lessons.

4.  100+ Creative Nature Walks – This grab and go nature study resource will keep your walks anything but bland with hundreds of creative ideas for meaningful (and fun) learning opportunities.  It’s the most easily accessible nature study resource I’ve written.

5.  NaturExplorers’ Butterflies Flutter By – The NaturExplorers series (written for more than 20 nature topics!) is your one-stop science resource!  Enjoy creative nature walks, nature-based experiments, hands-on projects, research projects, living literature, poetry, art, music, Bible lessons, and more.  Butterflies Flutter By is popular during the late spring through early fall months.

6.  NaturExplorers’ Everchanging Erosion – The title of this unique study gives the first impression that it would be boring.  Who wants to learn about erosion?  I think you’ll be amazed, though, at the amount of learning and interest that are generated in the end.  Everchanging Erosion is appropriate any time of the year.

Enter below to win!  I will announce the winners Monday, August 24th.

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My giveaway isn’t the only one!  Enter to win any or all of the 34 giveaways from the bloggers of iHomeschool Network!

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10 Reasons I’m Thankful for Homeschooling

With each new school year that rolls around, I always seem find a renewed energy and vision for homeschooling.  Rather than wait until Thanksgiving or when the blahs of winter kick in (when it seems to make sense to write a post about why I’m thankful for homeschooling), I thought I’d harness this joyful beginning-of-the-school-year energy to list all those reasons now.

Most days are good, others are not - but in every day, I am thankful for homeschooling

You’ve heard most of these reasons before, but it never hurts to be reminded!  I’m pinning this article to my homeschool encouragement board so I remember to read it this February – when it never seems to fail that homeschooling doesn’t seem nearly as fresh or fun!

Why I’m Thankful for Homeschooling

1. I have the time and freedom to disciple my children.  There is nothing more important than passing on my Christian faith and homeschooling is a wonderful, beautiful opportunity to do this.

These two articles share a bit about my Christian training methods.

How to study God's Word vibrantly as a homeschool subject Our family has found several great books to prompt Bible study and discussion!
2. I really know my children (their habits, their preferences, their learning styles) – and get to know my children (their hearts, their hopes, their fears.)  The relationship I have with them because of homeschooling is something I wouldn’t trade for the world.  Not every day is perfect or joyful, but every day spent with them is precious.

3. My children can pursue their passions. Each one of them have unique interests and talents that, quite frankly, would likely be pushed aside (or at least not pursued in depth) if they followed the typical daily school schedule.  Because of the nature of homeschooling, regular lessons are mostly finished by early afternoon, leaving lots of time to throw into passions.

This article demonstrates how to fit passion learning into your schedule.

My little horse lover is all grown up and preparing for college level equine studies. This post shares how I supported her passion through homeschooling over the years.

4. I can teach to their learning styles.  I have three children and each of them respond best to a different style of learning.  One is all about literature and can soak up loads and loads of information through books.  Another takes in information best when it’s presented in ways he can experience it – hands-on, through movement, visually, etc.  And, the other (at least right now) seems to learn best via technology.  While I don’t teach every single thing in ways that meet their needs perfectly – because I think it’s important to stretch them – I have the time and freedom to design an education specifically for them.  No cookie cutters here!

Math is one of the subjects in which ALL my children have benefited from some modifications to meet their learning styles.

Living Math Resource Page

5. We can get outside for school.  I remember my days in the public school classroom when the sun was shining and the weather was perfect and I was stuck inside.  I wanted so badly to just take all those precious children outside to do school lessons because they wanted to enjoy the weather as much as me.  It wasn’t practical then, but it is now!  We’ve been known to do lessons on the hammock, on the porch swing, in a tree fort, under a tree and by the pond.  We can take a break from a bad day by taking a walk.  The fresh air, sunshine and exercise of outdoor learning is SO good for all of us!

Nature study is such a special (and important) way to learn outdoors!

A Round-up of Ideas from the author of NaturExplorers

6. I can teach courses that may or may not be taught in other situations.  When I was in 8th grade, I took a 6-week elective logic class and loved it!  That was the one and only time I studied logic in school.  Now that I realize how important formal and informal logic instruction is, I find it sad that most children will never study it in any depth.  But…as a homeschool mom, I get to add wonderful, rich subjects like this!

Here’s an intro to our logic lessons in K-12.

Logic in the Homeschool - Cindy West's favorite resources for various age levels

7. We can learn as a family.  When my oldest two (3 years apart in age) were in elementary and middle school, almost all our science and history studies were done together.  We also spent hours and hours together reading (and listening to) living literature.  Still today, with kids who are much farther apart in age, we study the Bible together each day, play learning games together, take field trips together and serve others together.  Learning in our house is a family affair in many ways.

Unit studies are great for multi-age family learning.

Planning a Unit Study

8. Higher order thinking is easy to incorporate in homeschooling.  I sometimes teach professional development workshops for public school teachers in Kentucky.  Our state is currently working on new educational standards and I had the opportunity to hear about these new standards at the last event I attended.  The discussion focused heavily on a “new idea” of inquiry-based learning – where students will be encouraged to ask questions, find answers and present those answers in unique modes that demonstrate depth of understanding.  That’s exactly what’s been going on in our homeschool for years and years through project-based learning!  It was so good to know that cutting-edge philosophies in the mainstream have been encouraged in our home from the very beginning.

What is project-based learning?  You’ll love it!

Project-Based Learning How-To

9. We can read lots of living literature.  You know I love books.  My kids love books.  Even the one who prefers not to read himself still loves listening to books.  Homeschooling has given us time to read.  Lots of time to read.  And it’s been wonderful!

Find our favorite books by subject  on this page.


10. I can watch them grow.  Time is fleeting and my children are changing every time I blink.  I’m incredibly grateful to have the privilege of watching them grow up, change, flourish.  Thankful beyond measure.  (Even on the bad days.)

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Planning Homeschool Bible Time

We homeschool for many reasons, but one of them is more important than all of the others combined.  It’s our desire to pass on a bold Christian faith that finds our children seeking God with all their hearts and sharing Him with others from here to eternity.

While I know it’s God who does the work in my children (Phil. 1:6), I also know He called us to teach my them about Him and His ways (Prov. 22:6.)  My husband and I don’t pretend for one minute to have all the answers to training little or big soldiers for God’s army.  We have tried, though, to be pretty consistent with a plan of action and that’s what I’d like to share with you today.

How to study God's Word vibrantly as a homeschool subject

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The best situation for Bible study would be to have my husband lead it each and every day.  He works hard for us, though, and the majority of the school week Bible time falls on me.  I take that honor seriously and love this time spent with my children best of all!

During the summer, we mostly just read from the Bible around the breakfast table and have lively discussions.  When the school year rolls around, I get more serious and lay out school-like plans for Bible time.  Every year finds us doing something different, but the general format is pretty much the same.

Planning Homeschool Bible Time

Step 1: Pray

This one is simple.  I try to always pray about what we study.  Sometimes topics are more obvious than others – like when we’ve been dealing with a character issue or current events occur that make us run straight into the Word.  Even when I don’t have a clear answer about what to study, our time is never void of goodness no matter where we dive into the Word!

Step 2: Plan Bible Studies

While I never hesitate to take a break from “the plan” when situations arise (like current events, for example), I do try to lay out a general plan of study for the school year.

During the elementary years, I like to read through a really good chronological children’s version of the Bible at least once.  (It usually takes us two school years to read all the way through.) After that’s been accomplished, I alternate between various types of studies.  You might find us using a fill-in-the-answers type of book like Proverbs People or completing a lapbook on Exodus.  We might go through an entire survey of the Old Testament using God’s Great Covenant or review the entire New Testament with a Grapevine study.  Especially when there are character issues, I will use For Instruction in Righteousness to guide me in teaching a topic.

Sometimes, we replace Bible study with books that teach us about the Word.  Some that come to mind are Secrets of the Vine for Kids, The Prayer of Jabez for Kids, The Seven C’s of Creation and Discovering Jesus in Genesis.  Rarely do I use devotionals with my children.  I just don’t feel like most devotionals encourage anything more than a quick read and superficial prayer.

During the middle and high school years, I like to make sure we read through most of the books of the Bible together at least once.  (Many of the New Testament books will be studied two, three or more times.)  I don’t necessarily read the books through in order. Often, we’ll just read and discuss, using study resources when necessary.  One of my favorite resources to glean understanding through books of the Bible is the Picture Smart Bible – it’s so much more than just coloring pages!

At times, we use guided studies like God’s Not Dead, Christianity, Cults and the Bible, Daniel: Standing Strong in a Hostile World or Experiencing God: Student Edition, among others.  I will often borrow these materials from our church to save money.

A newer resource to me is Right Now Media.  Our church subscribes to this Christian video streaming service and all the church members get free access.  There are several video-based teen studies and I plan to begin dropping some of these into our schedule this year.  Caleb will be so motivated by this mode of learning!

Step 3: Plan Memory Work

This is the area in which I’m the biggest failure.  However, I’ve made an attempt every year even if that attempt seems to dwindle by Christmas time and time again.  The plan every. single. year. has been to commit a new verse to memory each week and practice that verse together during our morning meeting time.  I’m not sure why this has been such a struggle, but I do have a new plan in place which I pray we can stick with…

The Scripture Memory System as outlined by my friends at Simply Charlotte Mason is brilliant.

Step 4: Plan Character Studies

Most of the time, character studies happen alongside Bible study.  Sometimes, they happen in place of Bible study.  All the time, they are meant to encourage understanding of real-life Bible application.  (I’ve included sample schedules below to demonstrate how I use character studies concurrently with Bible study.)

I’ve written before about all the resources I’ve used in the past for character studies.  You won’t want to miss this giant list of goodies!

Our family has found several great books to prompt Bible study and discussion!

In the elementary years, we often read (or listen to) a good character study book after lunch.  I usually take off from “regular” Bible study on Friday mornings to read a picture book that offers a good opportunity to discuss Christian character.

In the middle & high school years, my kids are often assigned character building books to read on their own.  Sometimes in place of independent reading, we’ll read (or listen to) a good book together in the afternoons.  Some of the more recent books include Not a Fan, Crazy Love, Do Hard Things and Before You Meet Your Prince Charming.

Step 5: Plan Service Opportunities

Teaching my children to serve others is very important to me.  We try to do a service project at least monthly when possible.  I keep a running list of contact information for places that allow our entire family to serve together.  We’ve found so much pleasure in these moments!


The Schedule

When people read a big ol’ post like this one and see all the wonderful resources I’m using, they often assume we do school all day every day in order to fit it all in.  No way!  Know this…there are SIX years in elementary and SIX years in middle/high school.  Savor your time together and never rush through resources.  You’ll get through enough of them.  The point is to help your children learn more about God and learn to draw closer to Him – not to use as many great materials as you can.  And, remember, the Bible is the only resource you REALLY need.

Sample Week for My Elementary Son:

Monday: One chapter in our children’s Bible with a peek into Victor’s Journey Through the Bible for reference in the AM | Watch a Torchlighter’s missionary DVD after lunch | (Listen along with big kid’s audio book in the car – see below.)

Tuesday: One chapter in our children’s Bible in the AM | Mom reads two chapters in Charlie’s Choice after lunch

Wednesday: One chapter in our children’s Bible in the AM | Mom reads two chapters in Charlie’s Choice after lunch

Thursday:  Read through a few verses as mentioned in For Instruction in Righteousness and discuss (due to a character issue that arose yesterday) in the AM | Mom reads a chapter from Missionaries and the Millers after lunch

Friday:  Read The Squire and the Scroll and discuss how it relates to the Word in the AM | Play a Bible quiz game after lunch |  (Listen along with the big kid’s audio book in the car – see below.)

Sample Week for High School:

Monday: One chapter of James in the AM | Listen to The Hiding Place in the car in the afternoon

Tuesday: One chapter of James in the AM | Read aloud a chapter of Before You Meet Your Prince Charming in the afternoon

Wednesday: One chapter of James in the AM | Read aloud a chapter of Before You Meet Your Prince Charming in the afternoon

Thursday: One chapter of James in the AM | Read aloud a chapter of Before You Meet Your Prince Charming in the afternoon

Friday: Watch a short sermon clip based on a current event and discuss in the AM | Listen to The Hiding Place in the car in the afternoon

It may very well drive some of you crazy to have so many studies/books going on at one time.  That’s perfectly understandable.  We don’t always have this much going on!  I just wanted to give an example of how you could manage two or three things concurrently.  Many times, we’re just reading the Bible in the morning until we finish an entire book, then we take a little time off from the Bible to read a meaningful book together.

Now that you have a peek into my very full and very busy planning mind, does it make you want to run or stick around?  I hope you’ll stick around.

Homeschool Curriculum 2015-2016

As much as I’m going to miss my sweet girl as she heads off to college this year, I have to admit it’s kind of nice only planning curriculum for two kiddos this year.

My boys are in 10th and 3rd grades.  Yeah, we pretty much won’t be able to do any multi-age homeschooling.  It’s okay, though, because the 10th grader will do most of his schooling without my help.  That leaves plenty of time to focus on my littlest man during the school day.

Homeschool Curriculum Choices 2015-2016

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10th Grade Homeschool Curriculum

Caleb won’t be completely on his own.  We’ll still meet together as a family at the breakfast table for Bible study and I’ll be very involved in his writing instruction.  Before school starts, we’ll map out each semester and set weekly goals for each subject.  A weekly meeting together will ensure he’s sticking to the schedule and comprehending all the subject matter.

Bible/Character Study (1/2 credit)

For the most part, we’ll just read the Bible together and discuss.  I will be assigning a few books (devotions/character/church history) but I’m still praying about which ones to use.  I’ll keep you posted.

Math (1 credit)

We’re going to stray from Saxon this year and give Teaching Textbooks a shot.


English II (1 credit)

I know it seems a bit crazy to use so many materials in one school year, but (in my typical fashion) we are only using bits and pieces of each of these this year.  Writing is a must.  Analyzing & reading living literature is a must.  I think diagramming sentences will give him a great grammar review.  And, it’s important to me that we continue building his vocabulary.  Thus, bits and pieces of several things.  Because we won’t get through everything this year, you may see some of these on next year’s curriculum list, too.


Science (1 credit)

Apologia’s biology it is!  I really appreciate the thorough teaching and Creation worldview in this curriculum.


World Governments & Current Events (1 credit)

I found the world governments book with supplemental CD by chance and really think it’s going to be a great first semester prerequisite to our second semester current events study.  I’ll likely write an entire post on our current events course because it will use a variety of resources.


World Geography (1 credit)

Yes, I know these workbooks say 6-8th grades.  They fit the bill, though, because they cover eastern and western geography and include political geography, population comparisons, physical geography, latitude and longitude, climate, major cities, agriculture, natural resources and more.  Workbook pages make the course hands-off for me, but the assignments within the pages aren’t a piece of cake – even for a 10th grader.  I may supplement the workbooks with a project each semester.


Logic & Critical Thinking(1 credit)

We didn’t quite make it all the way through our logic materials last year, so you’re seeing a book or two on this list from last year.  He’ll work through these one by one until he gets through them all.  I have a feeling he’ll finish these pretty quickly, which is why I have some project ideas stirring in the back of my mind to take him through the entire year.


Foreign Language – Latin (1/2 credit)

Caleb wanted to switch from Spanish to another language this year.  We’re starting with a beginning Latin program to see how he likes it.

3rd Grade Homeschool Curriculum

I love teaching 3rd grade!


Eli and I will continue reading through The Child’s Story Bible this year and take breaks here and there to supplement with other books to be determined.  I plan to write an entire post on how I pull together Bible and character study soon.

Brain Games

Each morning after Bible is a time we call brain training.  The purpose is three-fold: to warm up Eli’s brain before we jump into book work; to train memory, processing speed, attention, and logical thinking; and to “get in” some of the extras that don’t need to be done every single day.  This time is very game-like and only takes 10-15 minutes total.  You’ll be able to see a list of everything in my brain training arsenal soon!


As with my other two kiddos when they were in 3rd grade, I’m happy to stick with Horizons Math and supplemental living math lessons with Eli.

Language Arts

Now that Eli is a decent little reader, we will begin to add in various short lessons in many language arts disciplines.  Of course, I’ll expect daily practice in reading, too.


As I mentioned in this post about stretching our history cycles, we will be using Story of the World: Ancient Times with some great living literature this year for history.  (Many of our narrations will come from these lessons.)


NaturExplorers studies will fill in most of our science time.  We’ll complete a human body unit study (and maybe another one or two) during the winter, too.  I already have a great human body spine book that I’m really excited to use!

NaturExplorers - a great way to study science!

And that wraps up the bulk of our 2015-2016 homeschooling curriculum choices.  I can’t wait to share some of the nitty-gritty details from each subject as the year goes on!

I’m so looking forward to this coming school year!  I hope you are, too!

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