Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Homeschool Review Crew Review: Creating a Masterpiece

Recently, my son and I had the opportunity to review the monthly plan of online art instructions from Creating a Masterpiece. I made the mistake of signing up for this review without first talking to my son. I looked through the product samples online and was intrigued by what I saw. Sadly, my son, who has diagnoses of ADHD and high-functioning Autism, wasn't on the same page. As is typical for children on the Autism Spectrum, he ONLY wants to learn about things HE DEEMS important. He enjoys art but he wants to draw WHAT HE wants the WAY HE wants. He doesn't want to follow step by step instructions. He doesn't see a need to learn from the masters. Sigh!  😞  I truly did NOT see this reaction coming. Typically, I choose the curriculum and he works on the lessons with prompting and redirecting. He isn't an independent learner as he doesn't see learning as a priority and gets off-track easily.

I knew my son's projects, in all likelihood, would not look like the sample products, like the one pictured above. He tries his best and that is ALL I require. I want him to try new things and to give life his best effort. Art simply is not one of his gifts. I get that. While I think some children are gifted in art and have a natural talent, like the girl pictured above, my son has had years of Occupational Therapy to help improve his fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and spatial reasoning. However, practice does improve skills. If I could just get him past his resistance to actually work on the lessons, it would be a win for everyone, especially if I could maintain my sanity in the process. I was determined.

Did I mention I was determined? 😃 Creating a Masterpiece has a Beginner's Level followed by Levels 1 through 5 as well as a special Art in History Level. The Beginner's Level is the easiest. These lessons can be completed in an hour if your child is a focused and thorough worker. Levels 1 through 5 take anywhere from three to seven lessons to complete with each lesson taking approximately an hour each. Each lesson starts by going over the supplies needed for that specific project. Parents may want to watch this portion prior to the day they decide to start a project to ensure they have the needed supply or your child might be disappointed if they can't start or complete a project because you don't have the correct items. Most of the products used are those specifically designated for art classes and projects and not home crafts. The likelihood that you'll have extra supplies around the house that you can grab and use in these projects is very slim.

I'd say it took my son two hours to complete his project. Yes, I was successful in getting him to complete a subject. More to follow on that. However, we had to take breaks during our project when he would become frustrated or our project would NOT have been completed. The project he agreed to work on was broken down into four video lessons. This was a huge plus for two reasons. First, we could use these short clips and then take our breaks. In addition, we could rewind when he wasn't clear on the directions and pause when he was working so the video didn't continue without him. That would have frustrated him otherwise.

We looked over the Beginner Level projects together. I already had one in mind but knew I needed his agreement. One of the projects is to create a turtle out of clay. My son loves Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As I have mentioned before, it truly helps with children who have a diagnosis of Autism if you can relate an undesired task to something they enjoy. My son agreed that he could make his own Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. SUCCESS! Yes, this would require some adaptation to the curriculum but this isn't the first time I've adjusted curriculum and Creating a Masterpiece made it a breeze. During the video sessions, she encouraged the children to use their creativity and imagination to make the project their own creation.

Another adaptation came when we got to the supply portion. The project called for Quick Dry Earthen Clay. Water is needed to smooth the clay and adhere the pieces and this makes the pieces feel slimy. Now, children with a diagnosis of Autism often have sensory processing issues. Feeling slimy clay would turn my son off to completing this project faster than a light switch pitches a room into darkness. Instead, we used Crayola's Model Magic. This allowed my son to mold his project himself although he wasn't overly thrilled with the smell. He followed the video directions making his own modifications to his creation until he was pleased with it.

Here is his project: in stages of work in progress through completion.

Perseverance Pays Off!!

I am THRILLED with the outcome for several reasons. He is happy with his product. He COMPLETED something he had previously been UNWILLING to do! There were NO meltdowns once he started the project! The curriculum made it easy to modify the project and the materials (at least for this specific project). My son earned some self-confidence by completing this project. My son worked on Occupational therapy skills: fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and spatial reasoning. He also learned problem solving skills when the clay became thin and would get a hole. He learned that his attitude impacts how the project will go. He is learning skills that will transpose over into everyday life. For example, we won't necessarily always excel at every task placed before us but when we give it our best effort we can be pleased that we at least made an attempt.

You can learn more about Creating a Masterpiece by visiting their Facebook page.

Please take a moment to stop by the Homeschool Review Crew website and peruse the other member sites to not only read about their experiences with Creating a Masterpiece but to see the art masterpieces their children have created. In fact, I strongly urge you to check out some of the other reviews so you can get a broader perspective on Creating a Masterpiece, how the curriculum worked for other families, how other children were able to be creative with the video sessions, and what the other parents perspective were.

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