The Old Schoolhouse® Product & Curriculum Reviews

With so many products available we often need a little help in making our curriculum choices. The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine family understands because we are in the same boat! Do you need more information on a product before you buy? With over 5,500 products listed in 52 easy-to-use categories, much of the information you need to know is only a click away! Let our reviewer-families help yours.
Do you want to get the word out about your product or service to the homeschool community? Email Jenny Higgins and share a little about what you´d like showcased, and we can help with that!

Joseph: The Canada Goose Review by Karen Waide

A Children’s Story & Art Book in One
(Over 45 Beginning Art Lessons)
Barry Stebbing
How Great Thou Art Publications
1-800-982-DRAW (3729)
P.O. Box 48
McFarlan, NC 28102

This year we have been “traveling” around the world in the comfort of our home with our core curriculum. One of our “stops” was in Canada, where we stayed for several weeks. While there, one of our topics was Canadian Geese, so I was quite excited when I was given the opportunity to review Joseph: The Canada Goose – A Children’s Story & Art Book in One with the children as a way to extend and wrap up our lessons.

Joseph: The Canada Goose by Barry Stebbing, is available from How Great Thou Art Publications. According to the cover, it is appropriate for children ages 4-8. I actually used it with my just-turned-ten-year-old daughter as well, and she is enjoying it just as much as her siblings are. My other children are five, six, and eight, so I have the full range of ages in my house. (My five year old was four when we started.) I was thrilled that permission is given for the book to be reproduced for “in home use,” so each child could create their own book.

As mentioned, this book contains both a story about Mr. Elmer and his goose friends, plus art lesson pages. The main goose in the story is named Joseph, and he is based on a real goose living on the author’s pond. Also included are blank “My Sketchbook” pages in the back for additional artwork. You will need to provide colored pencils and a black drawing pen in order to complete the lessons. And if you are using this with multiple children, you will need to be able to make copies of the pages if you do not want to buy each child their own book.

The 104-page, softcover, spiral-bound book begins with a welcome letter from Mr. Stebbing. This is followed by a “Student Art Gallery” which is two pages of artwork by homeschool students. The story of Joseph the Canada Goose is then 42 pages long. Each page is illustrated by either Mr. Stebbing, or with artwork from students. I think it is very creative that the author occasionally makes it appear that these children’s drawings are drawings made by Mr. Elmer. Each page is meant to be read as one lesson, and is usually 1-2 paragraphs long, in large font. Sometimes the illustrations in the story are what that day’s lesson is based off of, sometimes they are based off of a part of the story, other times the lesson is more random. You will find the Art Lesson number along with its page number at the bottom of each story page. The last page before the Art Book section is also a Student Art Gallery page.

In the story, which is sometimes told as a narrative by the author, and sometimes told through Mr. Elmer’s letters to his deceased wife, Mr. Elmer is lonely. One day he sees some geese flying overhead and prays they would come to his pond. Eventually some geese do arrive at his pond and he tries to make friends with them. At first they didn’t stay, but eventually some did. The townspeople called them, “Elmer Thatcher’s Geese.” Then when it was time for them to migrate, one stayed behind because he had a problem with one of his wings. Mr. Elmer named him Joseph, after Joseph from the book of Genesis in the Bible. They became great friends, and Mr. Elmer cared for him, and spent time drawing both Joseph and things around his farm in the art journal his grandson sent him. More flocks came back the next fall, but they didn’t really want anything to do with Joseph. Mr. Elmer did enjoy feeding them and drawing them as well. The children enjoyed finding out what happened to Joseph as the story progressed. I really don’t want to share the ending, but it was definitely a happy ending.

The second half of the book (pages 50-90) is the Art Book, starting with its own title page: Joseph the Canada Goose: My Art Book. The first coloring the children did was coloring the lettering on this page.  The lessons start our really simple, with children needing to complete various parts of the illustrations. For example, in the first lesson, the students need to complete a hammer and a nail by drawing straight lines, and then complete a saw by drawing zigzag lines. The next page has the children look at illustrations of a bucket of corn, suspenders, and Mr. Elmer’s hat on the top of the page. Then they are to draw them onto the picture of Mr. Elmer. They are then challenged to draw a chicken on the page. There are lessons on blending colors together, drawing images with step-by-step instructions, completing pictures, and using different strokes to color in pictures. There are also opportunities to practice neat handwriting (not the children’s favorite lessons), and draw pictures freehand. Children will learn different concepts such as background, middle ground, foreground, silhouette, and still life. Just like in the story book section, students’ drawings are used to illustrate the pages, and give examples for the children to draw inspiration from.

Most days we did one lesson, though occasionally we would complete two or three at a time. As we do not have art time every day, we have not yet completed the book. However, we plan to finish it soon. Each day that we had art lessons, I would read the page(s) from the story book section. I photocopied the lesson page(s) and we gathered around the dining room table to complete the lesson(s). Sometimes this meant I was simply telling them how to complete the page, other times I was actually demonstrating on the whiteboard easel. I believe the older girls could actually complete most of these lessons independently; however, I do enjoy having the time teaching them art together. Younger children will definitely need instruction as the lessons do have instructions that need to be read and followed. My youngest also needed help on the pages where there was writing to complete.

I admit, I do wish a few of the lessons had more specific instructions regarding how to draw the pictures. As one who is not great with art myself, I found it hard to explain to my younger ones how to complete a couple of different assignments, specifically the flying geese and the gaggle of geese. It seemed a bit weird that most of the lessons gave such specific directions, while a few were more vague.  That said, the majority of the book was easy to follow, and those few lessons do not change my feelings about how great this book is for the children.

I enjoyed seeing the individuality of each of the children’s work. Because we were able to photocopy the lesson pages, we can revisit the lessons in the future. I think it will be neat to be able to see how their skills will have advanced. I think this is a nifty way of presenting art lessons, as a part of a story. It makes us feel as if we are taking part in writing the book, and keeps the children interested in the story.

You can purchase Joseph: The Canada Goose – A Children’s Story & Art Book in One for $14.95 from the How Great Thou Art website. They also have a special discounted bundle if you need to purchase the colored pencils and black drawing pen.

- Product review by Karen Waide, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, April, 2017