Saturday, March 25, 2017

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Strong Learning ~ A Review

Bessie's Pillow published by Strong Learning, Inc. is a book worth reading. The book is based on the true story of Bessie Markman Dreizen, a young Jewish immigrant, escaping the horrific persecution of Jews in Lithuania and her search for a better life in America.

The book is divided into 3 main sections:
Prologue: New Rocelle 1950
Part One: Leaving Home 1906-1908
Part Two: New Rochelle 1908-1925
Part Three: Going On 1925-1936
Afterword & Bessie's America

I love reading and am drawn to historical books of any kind.  Bessie's Pillow was one of those books that once I started I reading I could not put down. My 14 year old daughter devours books of any kind. We both really enjoyed this book. Bessie's Pillow is more than just a story of coming to America, it is a story about strength, resilience, and courage. The author does an amazing job at making the reader feel as if you are experiencing what is transpiring throughout the book. From horror, to sadness, defeat, and determination you will be transported back in time and come away wishing you could meet this amazing woman, Bessie. Before leaving Lithuania in 1906 at the tender age of 18, Bessie (Boshka) gets a tap on her shoulder. An acquaintance, Chana Dreizen, asks Bessie to deliver a feather pillow embroidered with flowers to her son in America. The pillow has a Yiddish phrase: May this pillow bring you peace. After reading further on into the book this phrase begins to carry significant meaning. 

Bessie's first encounter with family in America doesn't go so well. She finally settles in with Miriam and Lou, relatives who embrace her fully. Not wanting to be a burden, Bessie soon seeks employment. Her first real friend in American dies. Bessie's first job is in a factory where she is confronted with the horrors and deplorable conditions of factories. Eventually she finds more suitable employment and goes on to find Nathan, the son of Chana. The series of events begin to unfold into a beautiful love story. With love also comes tragedy. Tragedy then turns back to joy. I would so love to share more about this book but sharing more would take away from your experience as you read, Bessie's Pillow. 

teacher's resource page is available to further explore topics such as:

  • Immigration
  • Progressive Era
  • Statue of Liberty
  • Emma Lazarus
  • Immigrant Stories
  • Ellis Island
  • Relevant News of the Era
At the end of the book the Afterword includes photographs from Bessie's life. Also includes is a section entitled, Bessie's America which enrichment and historical facts.

My 14 year old said, "Once I started reading I could not put the book down. Not only was it a great story but I learned so much about history during this time period. Great book."

I enjoyed this book immensely and would highly recommend this book as a required read. I would suggest this book for middle school and above. The book would be a wonderful addition to your child's history education. My daughter is now interested in making her own embroidered pillow similar to the one in the book.

"I will not be locked up in such a room again, I will not be treated with
disrespect no matter how little money I have, I will not be a slave!"

About Bessie's Pillow

  • Title: Bessie's Pillow - A Young Immigrant's Journey (Based on a true story)
  • Author: Linda Bress Silbert
  • Publisher: Strong Learning. Inc
  • ISBN: 978-0-89544-201-7
  • Copyright: 2014 
  • Pages: 290
To read more reviews click here.

Social Media

Twitter:  @BessiesPillow


Monday, March 20, 2017

Creating A Masterpiece ~ A Review

My children have been working through and enjoying the Monthly Plan from Creating a Masterpiece. Creating a Masterpiece is an online art program that teaches students technique that result in quality works of art. The program teaches various mediums of art using step-by-step instructions. Depending on maturity level, children as young as 4-5 can work through the Beginner and Level One lessons.

There are several plans that you can purchase.

This art program provides lessons in:
  • Acrylic Painting 
  • Soft Pastels
  • Oil Pastels
  • Sculpture
  • Watercolor
  • Block Printing
  • Ink
  • Silk Dyeing
  • Pencil
  • Bombay Ink
  • Conte' Crayon
  • Portraiture
  • Colored Pencil
  • Copper Tooling
  • Charcoal
  • Glass Mosaic
  • Watercolor Pencils
  • Gouache
  • Balsa Carving 
The program is broken down into levels of difficulty from Beginner through Level 5. There is also a section devoted to Art in History. Students can work through the levels or choose an art medium to study. Each project is broken down into short video lessons.

How we used Creating A Masterpiece 

I used this with my kiddos ranging in ages from 8 to 17. My younger kiddos liked that they could pause the video in order to work at their own pace. My oldest daughter, who is an artist, was able to skip through the lessons and create the projects at a quicker pace. Some of my kiddos have great attention spans and were able to work through a project in one sitting. My younger kiddos sometimes took up to, two weeks to complete a project. Overall, I was very happy that none of my kiddos got frustrated. They were all pleasantly surprised that they could CREATE!!!

There were a couple of things about the program that my children did not like. First, they all felt like Sharon talked down to them. They said that it was like she was talking to kindergarteners. Most of my kiddos also commented that Sharon went way too fast. This was an easy fix because they could just pause the video. A couple of my kiddos felt like there was too much extra fluff that was not necessary and they just wished that she would focus on the project. Again, this was easy to remedy because they could skip through the videos.

Each lesson is set up to help the student succeed. Lessons begin with an introduction to the project. A supply list is included for each project and a link to Dick Blick that includes what is needed for each project. Lesson Highlights, Downloads, and Helpful Hints are included to give the student extra support. The student can also download a High Resolution Image of the project. I do not think that I have ever come across another online art program that makes learning and executing art so easy!

My 14 year old said, "I never thought I was good at art but after completing the Tropical Rainbow Fish I realized I really am pretty good at art. I look forward to spending many more hours working on other projects on the Creating A Masterpiece site."

My 17 year old said, "I love every medium of art. I am not really good at creating original works of art. I was able to recreate many of the artwork pieces on this website without much effort. Some are a bit more challenging and I look forward to tackling them soon."

My 10 year old said, "I really am not that good at art but I really like art. These lessons have helped me learn how to create art pieces. Maybe with practice I will continue to improve." 

My 8 year old said, "I love art. I didn't want to try a lot of the projects because they looked so hard. I tried a couple of them and even though it didn't look much like the original it was still really fun." 

I could continue to talk about Creating A Masterpiece but I think that the results speak for itself. Without further ado, let me present to you my kiddos art!

Lesson in Watercolor: Floral Medley

Conte' Crayon: White Stallion 

Charcoal Shading: Stork

Colored Pencil: Tropical Clown Fish

Mixed Media: Candlelight

Acrylic: Caribbean Lighthouse

Wood Burning: Noble Lion

Soft Pastel: Baby Bluebird

Ink and Watercolor Pencils: Iguana 

This work is in progress.....

Here is a collage of Sharon Hofer's original artwork. 
These are a few of the projects my kiddos created.

*disclaimer - the above pictures in the collage are from the 
Creating A Masterpiece website.
Overall Thoughts

I really liked Creating A Masterpiece. I would highly recommend this online art program to others. Thank you Sharon Hofer for bringing art to EVERYONE! I will continue to use this art program for my kiddos. Go and check it out!

"Art is not what you see, but what you make others see." 
~ Edgar Degas ~

To read more reviews click here.

Social Media

Confetti Eggs