See the Light Art Sale Ending Tonight!

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See the Light is my FAVORITE packaged curriculum, and that’s why I look for it every time I’m planning future lessons.  Right now it’s on SALE!

See the Light is a DVD art curriculum taught by real artists.  There are different styles of art available, such as drawing, chalk pastels, or creative lettering, and you can purchase these materials in different ways.  Some DVDs have collections of one type of instruction, like all drawing lessons, while others include lessons with a variety of art styles around a common theme – like Christmas or Easter.

See the LIght On Sale Now!

A few years ago we worked our way through the ‘Art Class’ DVDs, which contain drawing lessons from Master Artist Pat Knepley.  I loved watching my kids gain confidence in their artwork.  Their entire approach to art changed, as well, as they went from whining, “I can’t draw that!” when I suggested an art project to picking up their pencils confidently and eagerly.  The difference in their artwork is amazing, even though they were both in mid-elementary school at the time.  This bird – the one above?  My daughter sat and sketched that one day for fun – and she’s still sketching years later.  She even created a coloring book entry for the North Carolina State Fair this year and won first place!

The art projects are great for learning about specific types of art, artists, and art history.  Each one features a particular work by a famous artist and then, in a series of lessons, teaches you how to create your own version.  I love that one series of lessons incorporates multiple subjects and leaves you with a beautiful piece of art.

See the Light has been bringing out a new line of unit studies, too, and one is now available about Van Gogh.  We haven’t used this one yet, but we’ll be trying it out after Christmas. 

See the Light doesn’t hold sales often, so if you’ve been wanting to try out their products, this is the perfect time!  Hop over and check out their selection now – and remember to use BLACKCYBER for 20% off and free shipping!

Learning Leatherwork with Tandy Leather

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Education can be found everywhere, and I love finding new avenues to learn – that’s why I was so excited to take the kids to Tandy Leather in Raleigh for a leatherworking lesson.


Little did I know just how kind and generous the store manager, Aubrin Rhem, would turn out to be.


Rhem gave the kids large pieces of scrap leather to practice with, and the first step was to dampen the leather.  We took it outside and used spray bottles with water to prep it.


Rhem taught everyone how to put their leather on stone slabs so that the metal stamps could leave clear, distinct impressions when pounded with mallets. 


Then the students practiced for a long time, learning how much pressure to use and at what angle to get good marks.


After stamping and staining their leather bracelets, Rhem gave the kids a tour of his shop.


They were amazed at the variety of leather available.


The same was true for this python skin!  Everyone loved touching it and seeing just how long it was.

After the stain dried, Rhem sealed the leather with sealant and the bracelets dried in the sun again.   

All told, we spent several hours at Tandy Leather, and I had no idea how much we would learn in that time.  My kids came home, chattering about all of the new things they wanted to make with leather next.  They were using new terms that they had learned that day and bouncing with excitement.

Aubrin Rhem was extremely kind and patient with our students, and Tandy Leather places a high emphasis on leatherwork education.  If there’s a Tandy Leather near you, check out their class schedule.  Working with leather is a relaxing, fun, and practical hobby.

Want to know more?  Check out these leather resources:


When Art & Nature Journals Collide

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With sickness lingering and the grumpies encroaching, we all wanted something fun to do.  Since school was called off only because of nasty germs and not because we’d planned a break, I wanted something that would be fun enough to satisfy but studious enough to be considered school.  I still wanted that break, albeit later.  With sunny skies beckoning outside, I wanted to make good use of those, and so our science journals were calling my name – but then everyone would scatter.

While we enjoy doing those science journals, I anticipated complaints from those still feeling yucky about having to measure and detail anything specific.

Since I’d been wanting an art day for quite some time, this seemed the perfect time to break out the paint, but … springtime blooms screamed for study.

I decided to combine the two.

Science Journals

Instead of working on our traditional nature journals, I sent the kids out to find a pretty bloom.  My Big Helper came back with a beautiful dogwood blossom, and My Little Man found a tiny indigo flower with five petals.  They cheered when I pulled out canvases and paints.

We settled onto the deck with art supplies all around us, and with a good story going in the CD player, they got to work.  They painted and we listened and everyone worked for several hours.

Friends came to visit and we stopped to play.  In the end, tiredness won out and we resumed painting later.

But the kids were super excited to keep going by that point.


Both kids continued to paint additional pictures after the first assignment, and both of them were careful to examine their flowers in detail and add those into their work.

I think we’ll be doing more collision-style art in the future.

Do you do nature journals?  I’d love to  hear about your style!

We typically use a simple notebook we decorated just for this purpose, but our canvas work this day was especially fun.  Here are some other things we incorporate to mix up our science work:


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A Little R & R

NEW See the Light Art Special

Christmas Special - 10% off all SEE THE LIGHT products + FREE SHIPPING in U.S.A. - Offer Expires 12-15-2015

We LOVE See the Light products, and so I’m super excited to share this with you.  See the Light is running a special now – all the way through mid-December!  For this limited time only, STL is giving you 10% off all products + free shipping in the USA with the code CHRISTMAS.

STL specials rarely encompass all of their products, which makes this really exciting.  I’m going to be combing the pages, deciding which products we need to add to our collection.

See the Light products are clearly explained.  They provide multiple types of art instruction and levels of difficulty for a range of ages and abilities.  One of my favorite aspects is the Christian lessons.  Pat Knepley, master artist, provides a clear and concise devotional related to each Art Class lesson, and many of the other projects feature Christian scenes or stories.  I love the way that this company combines faith and art.

If you’re in the market for art instruction, give See the Light a try. 

Book Club: “Mystery of Biltmore House”

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Book club took an interesting turn this month – a really BIG turn.  A Biltmore-sized turn.

We read

The story is about a group of kids trying to solve a crime inside the famous Biltmore mansion.  Several other locations around Asheville were also mentioned in the book, making this a great way to learn about the mountain region of North Carolina.

We started out by summarizing the story and discussing the characters’ actions, and there was a lot to talk about!  Since gargoyles were described in detail by the author, we talked about the history of these stone carvings – about how true gargoyles have water shooting out of their mouths, and about how other statues are called grotesques

Of course, after all of that talk about ugly, scary statues, we had to make our own.

Book Club:  "The Mystery of Biltmore House" @ A Nest in the Rocks

I made a few batches of salt dough and gave each kid a ball of it.  Some asked for drinking straws so that they could make them spit water.


Book Club:  "The Mystery of Biltmore House" @ A Nest in the Rocks

The kids got really into their sculpting.

Book Club:  "The Mystery of Biltmore House" @ A Nest in the Rocks

Didn’t they come out well?

Book Club:  "The Mystery of Biltmore House" @ A Nest in the Rocks

Next the kids split into their book club teams – boys versus girls – to go on a nature scavenger hunt.  They searched for all of the plants mentioned in the book, as well as some local wildflowers.  My Big Helper was happy to find tulip poplars …

Book Club:  "The Mystery of Biltmore House" @ A Nest in the Rocks

and all of the kids searched hard to find more plants than the other group.  Each one was able to find several plants that were new to them!

Book Club:  "The Mystery of Biltmore House" @ A Nest in the Rocks

Finally, we talked about the wide variety of rooms that can be found in Biltmore House and about some of the ways that it was ahead of its time technologically.  Then the kids paired up to design their own dream homes.  Some of them tried to make simple, large houses.  The duo above, though, got all into it.  They drew a house on wheels with a pool, vending machines that spit out their favorite foods, and staircases to the moon and the sun.  They got really creative!

Making Holiday Cards with Illuminated Lettering

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We make a lot of cards around here.  Seriously – a lot.  We send them out for most major holidays and even the ones that aren’t really major but are fun, like St. Patrick’s Day. 

I use these card-making projects to teach art, and so we try not to make cards the same way too often, but to use new techniques, skills, and materials to create cards for our family.

This year, though, I’ve been really stumped for St. Patrick’s Day, and it hasn’t helped that our calendar is slam-packed full.  I knew I had to get really creative, and suddenly as the kids were discussing about whether to dress up as monks for an upcoming Medieval event I knew I had it – illuminated lettering.

We had talked about this a little bit already, but read up on the Book of Kells, the most famous illuminated manuscript.  Then we watched this video about the Medieval alphabet and this one about making illuminated letters.  This site also contains a printable with examples of an entire alphabet illuminated different ways, which was super helpful for the kids.

Then we headed out to the kitchen table to make our own.  We used regular printer paper folded hamburger style, and the kids turned their papers whichever way they wanted.  We talked about boxing your first letter in versus leaving it plain, and about gold leafing and more affordable options (like metallic Sharpies).

Then they got busy.

Making Holiday Cards with Illuminated Letters @ A Nest in the Rocks

This is my Big Helper’s creation.  She chose to make a box around the first letter, to make vines growing around it with small purple flowers, and then use ‘gold leaf.’ 

Making Holiday Cards with Illuminated Letters @ A Nest in the Rocks

This is my Little Man’s card.  It’s hard to see, but the big, pointy, dark thing on the left is the ‘H’ for ‘Happy St. Patrick’s Day.”  He worked for a long time with this and then filled his card with color.

This was a fun activity.  We learned about the history of printing and art during Medieval times, all while making gifts for our far-away family.  We also realized just how long this must have taken – because the kids worked for at least an hour on that one letter!

Have you tried your hand at illuminating letters?

Interested in learning more?  Check out these fun resources

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This is How We Roll

NEW See the Light Monthly Newsletter

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We love art, and See the Light is our very favorite art instruction company!  They provide lessons on DVD for students of all ages and skill levels, and each lesson is taught by an art master.  These quality lessons are fun and educational, and I’ve really seen my kids’ art skills and interest level increase from using these DVDs.

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So that’s why I’m excited to share some of See the Light‘s newest endeavors with you – a monthly newsletter full of great art information!  The best part is that early subscribers receive access to the new Watercolor Buttefly lesson FREE.  This will soon be released on DVD as part of a new Adventures in Art series, but if you sign up now, you can see it at no cost. 

To see Watercolor Butterflies for free, sign up for the newsletter here.   As always, your information is safe and secure – and please tell them that Amy at A Nest in the Rocks sent you!

Book Club, Boys’ Edition: “The 100 Year-Old Secret” by Tracy Barrett

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This month our boys’ book club read the same one as the girls:  The 100 Year-Old Secret” by Tracy Barrett.  That doesn’t mean that this club meeting was a duplicate of the other, though.

Book Club, Boys' Edition: "The 100 Year-Old Secret" @ A Nest in the Rocks


In fact, this is about as close as we’ve ever come to doing the same thing, and yet the way that we did it was quite different.

We started out by discussing the book – by summarizing it and comparing the characters’ actions to how we thought we might handle the situation.

Then I sent the boys outside to find things in nature with texture – that were dead.

They totally loved that assignment.

Book Club, Boys' Edition: "The 100 Year-Old Secret" @ A Nest in the Rocks

The boys couldn’t focus on their texture assignment until they darted off some energy, and they did that speedily – all over my yard.  They ran everywhere.  I’m sure that nobody would ever have guessed that it had rained for several days prior!

Eventually they got back to it, and then they found all sorts of things – dried grasses, sweet gum balls, dead leaves, stems, sticks, etc., and happily carried them into my house.


There I added to their collections with dried pasta and string.  We gave them plates of glue and wide picture frames and told them to create textured, sculpted, artistic frames like the one that the famous painting was hung in in Barrett’s story.  They got really into it.

As they finished, I took their frames outside and spray-painted them metallic gold.  The boys loved that paint – and the fact that it turned my grass gold, too.

Then we talked about facial proportion – about how the tops of your eyes line up with the tops of your ears, etc., and I sent them off to make portraits of each other.  The boys did surprisingly well – they got really into it and did some great work.  I was very impressed!  They drew with pencils and shaded and sketched for quite a while.

When they were finished, they snacked on ‘biscuits,’ English-style, before dashing back outside.

The boys moved at the speed of light, but they had some great thoughts about this story, and I couldn’t believe how detailed and careful their artwork was.  They really took their time and put some effort into it.  Maybe one of their portraits will be in a fancy frame someday!

What are your kids reading now?

Xena and Xander Holmes have just discovered they’re related to Sherlock Holmes and have inherited his unsolved casebook! The siblings set out to solve the cases their famous ancestor couldn’t, starting with the mystery of a prized painting that vanished more than a hundred years ago. Can two smart twenty-first-century kids succeed where Sherlock Holmes could not?

Modern technology meets the classic detective story in this terrific new mystery series that will intrigue young sleuths everywhere!


Bible Journaling with Kids: Going Deeper

 Bible Journaling with Kids: Going Deeper @ A Nest in the Rocks Going Deeper

Last week we talked about Getting Started with Bible Journaling with Kids.  If this is something you’re considering, you may want to go back and read that post.

But looking forward, after you have some supplies in place, what do you do?

I think this can go one of two ways.

First, you could let your child go it alone.  Let him/her see you reading and studying your Bible and branching out artistically from that time, but don’t do anything else.  Let your example lead.

That has worked for us in multiple things, including creating a desire to read the Bible originally.  Both of my kids wanted their own Bibles to read at young ages because they saw me reading mine.

If you have especially young children, this free rein approach could be great for encouraging art exploration and Bible expression.

If your child is old enough to learn how to study the Bible independently, however, a specific, joint journaling time could have the added benefit of teaching ways to study scripture. 

There are great curriculums out there for this, as well as neat methods like SOAP and such; but here are some simple ideas that you can do with ordinary stuff to dig into scripture deeper – and enhance that Bible journaling experience:

  • Journal a story or series.  Not sure what to study?  Use stories of Bible heroes or major Biblical events, like the creation story or the story of the Israelite Exodus from Egypt.  Plan to journal only a few verses at a time, and use some of the following ideas to take your journaling experience deeper.
  • Use a dictionary.  Look up the definitions of words that seem important or that are standing out to you.  Be sure to ask your child which word(s) that is for him/her.  Discuss these words together.  Put the definition of the word into the verse for clarification.
  • Map it.  Most Bibles have historical maps in the back.  Trace traveling routes on the maps.  Figure out the distances traveled, length of time on the road, and maybe even research climate conditions.  Would this have been a winter journal or a summer one?  Hot or cold?  Was it a safe one?
  • Read the footnotes.  Study Bibles have all sorts of information at the bottom of the page.  Read the notes out loud to your kids.  Talk about what that additional information means.  Often it can help put the scripture into the appropriate cultural and historical context.
  • Use the concordance.  If your Bible has additional verses listed, look’em up.  I recently had a great conversation with a group of kids about the ‘underwear of truth’ while we were learning about the ‘belt of truth’ discussed in Ephesians 6.  You never know where it will lead you!
  • Use all your senses.  Think about what it must have felt, looked, tasted, smelled, or sounded like.  Remember that this was before running water, flush toilets, deodorant, or vaccinations!  It might seem silly, but I’m betting that life had an earthier quality to it than most of us Americans can imagine, and thinking in those terms might help us see the scene more vividly.
  • Ask questions.  Many Bible stories have elements that seem outlandish to me.  Why was a plague of frogs thought to be so bad?  Was Eve surprised when the serpent started talking?  What would I have said if some angel popped out of nowhere and told me I was going to have a miracle baby?  What would I have done if….?  Encourage your child to ask questions,  because their natural curiosity is in there churning them up.  Then take them a step further:  what can I do about it NOW?  How can I help people shocked by disease?  What can I do for that new mother at church?  The Bible isn’t a dusty book whose only inspirational actions are past; it’s now.  Allow those questions to spark discussions and journal pages about how to react to scripture and real life situations now – and then go and do.

Bible journaling is a fun and creative practice, but in the end it’s not about the art – it’s about the Bible and the One who inspired it. 

What are your favorite ways to interact with scripture with your kids?

Book Club, Girls’ Edition: “The 100-Year-Old Secret”

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I love book club days, and this group of girls is always fun.  This month was no exception as we delved into Edison’s Gold""“>Edison’s Gold, which we had a blast working with last summer, but while that book focused heavily on the exciting aspects of history and science, this one centered around art and relationships.

Book Club Plans @ A Nest in the Rocks

There is lots of meat for discussion with this book.  What is theft?  Who owns art?  Can missing art be recovered after a long period of time?  To what lengths is it okay to go to find stolen goods?

After hashing out the answers to those questions, we headed into the kitchen to make a British treat.  The book does take place in London, after all, and Zena and Zander often mention their confusion at the differences between American and British food names.  We chose to make cinnamon scones, and the girls worked together to prepare the dough and get them oven ready.

Book Club Plans @ A Nest in the Rocks

While they were baking, we moved on to our next project.  Knowing that picture frames were, at some points in history, nearly as much of a work of art as the painting or drawing they contained, we decided to build our own gilded frames, like the ones holding the infamous “Girl with the Purple Hat.”  I pre-cut large cardboard frames, leaving wide edges so they could hold lots of texture.  I put ditalini, spaghetti noodles, and old yarn on the table, as well as dishes of Elmer’s glue.  The kids dipped these objects into the glue and then positioned them on the frames in patterns to create different textures.  When they were finished, I spray-painted them to achieve a solid color frame with a ‘carved’ look.

Book Club Plans @ A Nest in the Rocks

When their frames were gilded, the girls moved onto portrait work.  We talked about proportion and scale in faces and body figures, and then the girls chose a friend to paint.  We set up easels with big paper and palettes of paint, and after sketching out their people with some light-colored chalk, they set to work.

After creating some super colorful portraits, we headed back into the kitchen to eat our scones.  They were a hit – just like this book.

What are your kids reading now?