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Sonlight 200 Electives Review by Melanie Reynolds

ARTistic Pursuits High School 9-12 Book One, by Brenda Ellis
Money Matters for Teens Workbook, by Larry Burkett and Todd Temple
Sonlight Curriculum
(800) 903-1675
8042 South Grant Way
Littleton, CO 80122

Sonlight Curriculum is a company known for its excellent curricula, based on fantastic literature, interesting history, exceptional sciences, and solid mathematics. Did you know that Sonlight also makes many electives available for homeschooling families? Sonlight 200 Electives, designed for students in grades 9-12, is a great addition to teen students’ high school years, combining fine arts study (in drawing) and a user-friendly financial management course. Sonlight 200 Electives can be purchased from Sonlight Curriculum for $62.94 and includes Money Matters for Teens Workbook (in a consumable 8 ½” x 11” softcover book form) and Brenda Ellis’ ARTistic Pursuits High School 9-12 Book One (in an 8 ½” x 11” comb-bound softcover format). Additional art supplies must be purchased for use with the ARTistic Pursuits curriculum; these may be obtained from Sonlight Curriculum, the ARTistic Pursuits company, or other local or online suppliers.

Financial management is an important skill for teens (ages 15-18) to understand as they complete high school and prepare for their next stages in life. Money Matters for Teens Workbook is adapted by Lightwave Publishing from the late Larry Burkett’s financial principles and books, co-written by Todd Temple. In seventeen chapters, students are introduced to the world of personal finance. Each chapter (written in large, readable font) contains pages of teaching, tips for wise decision-making, humorous illustrations, charts, definitions of financial terms, activities, and a brief chapter review. Since the book is consumable, parents will need one copy for each student. Students learn about banking (checking and savings accounts), managing money, budgeting (as both a teen and an adult), loans, credit cards, borrowing, giving, investing, spending (including large purchases like cars and college educations), and working (because all that money has to come from somewhere!). There are also forms included in the back of the workbook on resume writing, income and expenditures, and other helpful pages. Biblical financial guidelines are the foundation for this book.

Because Money Matters for Teens Workbook contains seventeen chapters, it is an easy way to add to a semester’s work as an elective. It would be a great addition to a life skills course as well. While we used it at home, I could see how it could be adapted easily, and well, to a larger homeschool coop setting. (In that context, each student would simply need his or her own workbook.) For the purposes of this review, my son studied this four times per week, simply so that we could cover more chapters before I wrote about our experiences. But it would be very workable to cover one chapter weekly. The parent could either assign reading to the students or read the sections together with them, then assign teens the work in the activities sections (which could be anything from recording expenses, keeping a savings or checking register, setting up budgets, or learning about marketing and its influence on spending). In our home, my son read several chapters weekly and completed the activities on his own. Discussion was added later to review what was learned in each chapter; and on unfamiliar financial topics. 

I found Money Matters for Teens Workbook to be an exceptional help for teaching sound financial principles to my 16-year-old son. While we have taught him over the years the basics about saving, tithing, and spending, there is so much more to living wisely in the area of finances than that. Principles, ideas, and good money management habits were taught clearly in this book. Most of the time, my son understood what he was reading and working on, although some topics (like credit cards, loans, adult budgeting) were things he’d had no personal experience with. So those took more study for him. However, even though he’s not buying a car yet, he is getting the foundational principles of how he can do it. I think this can be related to something like learning a foreign language. You have to learn the vocabulary and the way the grammar works first; then you can actually use the language. With Money Matters for Teens Workbook, teens have the opportunity to learn the language of wise financial management. As they put these ideas into practice, they’ll gain more and more experience and understanding. And, this workbook was a great way to integrate financial teaching into homeschool. It was just so helpful, user-friendly, and clear. 

Brenda Ellis’ ARTistic Pursuits High School 9-12 Book One is another excellent art curriculum from the ARTistic Pursuits company. The comb-bound softcover book is comprised of sixteen units (92 pages). This introduces students to drawing with pencils and charcoals, and the curriculum can be completed in 36 weeks’ time (with students participating in two classes per week at about one hour per class). In addition, Ellis includes a credits information page which details what students should complete in the course to gain fine arts credits for high school transcripts.

Each unit contains four portions:

  • Building a Visual Vocabulary, where students are introduced to a particular topic via illustrations and text. Observations are made by students, who create art by drawing real-life objects.
  • Art Appreciation and Art History, when students learn about art masters’ drawings and paintings and the historical and artistic eras in which they were created.
  • Techniques, where students utilize art media to apply what they’ve just learned as they draw a unique creation of their own.
  • Application, when students apply all they’ve learned in the unit to make an end project for that unit.

ARTistic Pursuits High School 9-12 Book One uses this plan to teach high school students about drawing. Students will need to purchase some art media (such as a drawing pencil set, drawing pads, vine charcoal sticks, vinyl and kneaded erasers, chamois leather) which will be utilized throughout the course. The course can be studied independently or with a parent.

For the purposes of review, my son completed 3-4 portions of the units each week. He generally did the first two portions (the Visual Vocabulary and Art Appreciation) on his own. He really enjoyed studying the paintings and drawings by great masters of the past and unlocking the secrets of each one’s art. We each had a drawing pad, and in the creation portions of the units we both worked on our own art. (I chose to do the units in this way because I have an only child. Oftentimes, we’ve found that art done side-by-side to be very enriching and rewarding.)

Although we’ve had a lot of art experience during our years of homeschooling, I think that our weakest art skill is drawing. I was extremely excited to discover that ARTistic Pursuits actually offered a drawing course for high school students. We found the additional art supplies easy to locate at a local arts and crafts store; they were also relatively inexpensive, which was a bonus. I believe that the curriculum is taught really well. It’s organized cleanly and students are really able to build ideas and skills little by little. Brenda Ellis also encourages students to be nonjudgmental about their own art as they work through the book; helping them to understand that they are building a set of skills, step by step.

As someone who’s taught art and art history (but avoided teaching drawing) on and off for years, I really enjoyed and felt we benefited by Ellis’ teaching. She utilizes fascinating art from different art history eras. She also introduces students to art pencils of varying degrees of softness and hardness, which produce dramatically different lines and shading. Theoretically, parents who have little experience in drawing as well as more artistically experienced ones should find this curriculum both useful and rewarding. However, that said, I did find (especially in the beginning units), the course proceeded more quickly than our skills did. We just found it hard to progress easily, for example, from drawing lines or cross-hatching (basic yet important drawing skills) to drawing an animal with those skills. Perhaps we needed a deeper understanding of anatomy for that. And with those challenges, there were times that my son (who’s pretty artistic and creative, but unskilled in fine art drawing) felt discouraged about his work and progress. Even with that, though, we found the course taught most concepts effectively. I think for us, the main thing to keep in mind was that we were building a skill set that eventually could be used in many areas of our lives, whether it was for personal enjoyment or for building a body of work. I also felt it was important to take our time with the lessons, and not rush through because we found a new concept daunting to attempt. Time, lack of judgment, and enjoying the process made a great difference in those moments.

Parents of homeschoolers who’ve used ARTistic Pursuits before will be familiar with Brenda Ellis’ style, breadth and depth of artistic knowledge, and ability to communicate those effectively to students. If you are looking for a credit-level fine arts class for your high school student, I definitely recommend Ellis’ ARTistic Pursuits High School 9-12 Book One. Not only will students build artistic skill; they’ll also be challenged by a course that will require an investment of time and attention. And that, I believe, is a fantastic outcome for an art course!

-Product review by Melanie Reynolds, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine LLC, September, 2018