Beyond the Stick Figure: Homeschool Art Program Review

{This post contains affiliate links. I may receive compensation for purchases you make through my links. More info Here. I also received several lessons for free in exchange for an honest review.}

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When I was a child, there was nothing I wanted more than to be an artist. As I grew into an older teen, that desire remained solidly intact but I lacked the understanding and guidance to make that happen. I never got the chance to go to art school but I never lost the deep urge to create. So…

I got married and had a bunch of beautiful babies who are growing into amazing people. And I have expressed my creative inclinations through my motherhood and interactions with the world. I have no regrets, but there is one thing I wish that I could have brought with me into my vocation…

I wish that I had been given a broader technical knowledge of art so that my hands would be free to produce something beautiful when my heart was overflowing with the desire to express it.

I’ve gone through several art programs in my homeschool over the last 17 years of homeschooling but none have really captured me. It’s always felt too much like “school” to me and I’ve been wary of dampening the delight of the children in their creative abilities. Not all of my older children had an interest in art but I do regret that I wasn’t able to open more doors of expression for them.

When I had the opportunity to review Beyond the Stick Figure, I was torn. I didn’t want to expend energy and time on another stuffy program that we didn’t want to finish. But after watching an introductory video, I was hooked. The instructor, Sally Stanfield, is an artist and homeschooling mother. And some of her first words to homeschooling moms convinced me this program was for me. She said (I’m paraphrasing):

Don’t squash their delight. Let them discover without pressure. Allow them to make their own mistakes and to learn the medium through experience, not henpecking.

Ah, I thought. She knows me. I’m a lover of art and embracing the wrong answer. Let’s do this…

(Scroll all the way down for my 10% discount code!)

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The premise of this program is that all children are artists. It’s not something that some people are born with and others aren’t. Just as we are taught to read, we can be taught the foundational skills of art. And just like the emerging reader will someday be able to read the works of Shakespeare, the crayon scribbling toddler can also develop the ability to create something beautiful through art.

For a Christian, this give another avenue of expressing the truth built into creation by our creative God. We, who were made in His image and likeness, can learn to more fully express that joy.


Beyond the Stick Figure is a program that can be used by almost every person in the family. We are currently using it with four students ages 6, 8, 12, and 15. And occasionally, the 3-year old will join us and contribute his own masterpieces! Everyone participates in the same lessons but brings his or her own degree of experience and fine motor maturity. There’s no reason why an adult cannot also enjoy the process.

Please note: This is also the perfect program for a non-homeschooling family because it isn’t cumbersome. It doesn’t add a burden to an already full schedule but makes itself available to a ANY child interested in pursuing a greater knowledge of art.

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I’m convinced that the best way to teach a child is to spend a brief amount of time instructing and then GET OUT OF THE WAY! lol Sally does a wonderful job of keeping the lessons only a few minutes long so that the student can spend the majority of the time practicing. There is no greater art teacher than the experience of manipulating the medium over and over…allowing the brain to connect with the hand…and enjoying the experience. A more advanced art student will perhaps need more rigorous training (to which they willingly submit) but for young ones, the majority of their experience should be a pleasure.


By the time most homeschool moms fit in all the basic courses we want for our children, art class can feel like a burden. Beyond the Stick Figure takes that load off. The price includes lifetime access and can be used by children independently or all together. The time required is minimal. And it can be done at your pace. You don’t have to be an art expert to run this class and you don’t have to grade papers.


As I said, once you have purchased the course, you can use it for all of your students as often as you like. There is no limit to the number of times a student can go back and watch the lessons and practice the skills and techniques.


The purchase is one time for all time and all children. From the comfort of your own home (yes, I know you don’t need another lesson to drive to!) with the option of allowing the kids to post their work to the online community. This program can work for multiple years, especially since a maturing student can repeat the lessons but with the ability to layer experience an their own innovation. Click the link HERE to go to the Beyond the Stick figure website for more information. And don’t forget to use my discount code for 10% off! ARTFORYOU19

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The supply list is one of my favorite aspects of this program! It is extremely simple. It is also focused on good quality materials which make the experience so satisfying for the children. For those moms hesitant to give professional art materials to young children, I will give you an example of how supplies can make or break the experience for a reluctant artist:

Did you ever gone to a restaurant and as a kid where they give cheap crayons to color the menu? You pull out the beautiful green crayon and start to color the dinosaur and… oh… it’s mostly a light, waxy, inconsistent smudge of color. You thought you were good at coloring until you tried that crayon! You know what you can do with a Crayola and although it’s just a restaurant placemat, it’s still disappointing and annoying.

That’s the difference. When your child has a real art marker in their hand and the heavy pigment first bleeds onto that paper… they will be delighted. You can certainly use whatever materials you like (you’re the teacher!) but I do recommend using her list. We use her list all the way down to our 6-year old but the 3-year old gets Crayola markers. :)

The supply list:

  • Quality alcohol ink markers like Prismacolor (set of 12). A typical price is around $20. A great price is anything under $20. Using coupons at a local supply store like Joann Fabrics can be a great way to save.

  • Quality art pad like Strathmore for lessons and filing art. This does double duty as a work space and a portfolio.

  • Copy paper. We use the same paper we buy for our printer.

We also purchased a flat plastic bin for each child at the Target dollar section to hold their supplies and a washi tape for identifying their markers. She does teach the kids how to care for their materials and one suggestion is to use tape to identify markers with multiple students. Smart lady! We thought the colorful washi tape would be an easy way to do that.

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Our bins neatly fit the kids’ materials. Most of the children have the set of 12 Prismacolor markers but the older two girls received a larger set of 24 last Christmas with a nice carrying case (above). That purchase was made well before we discovered this course (because I already believed in giving the kids good supplies) so we were extra excited to be able to use them with this course. Be savvy and SHOP THE SALES!! Even on Amazon, a search will reveal different prices by multiple sellers. Right now, I see one seller selling a 12-count for $17 and another for $25. Before Christmas last year, we found the 24-count with case on sale for 50% off at a small online art store.

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He’s 100% happy with his $1 Crayola markers.

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Sally cautions not to criticize or force the child’s learning to satisfy our motherly pride or desire to control. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that approach and also that reminder. This process is not about me and what I look like. It is to benefit and bless our children and our first order of business is to honor their need for home to be a safe and inspiring place to learn.

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Every one of my students looks forward to doing this program and enjoys the new lessons… and I do as well. Sometimes the most critical ingredient to the long-term success of a homeschool program is really whether or not mom likes it! I’m a fan. And I think we’ve finally found a program that fuels the joy of creating instead of trying to compartmentalize it.


Visit the Beyond the Stick Figure website, select your program, and use the 10% discount code: ARTFORYOU19

Enjoy! And may your school year (and life) be richly blessed with the creative love of Jesus Christ!

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Fitness Meets Faith in a Catholic Alternative to Yoga {SoulCore Review}


There is so much in life that draws us away from our primary purpose. When I find a resource in any category that draws me straight to mine, I cling to it. As a Catholic, that primary purpose is always Jesus Christ... and if a thing doesn't draw me closer to Him, it probably doesn't belong in my life. 

This is where the meeting of the secular and the sacred often causes confusion... because it isn't always clear cut. Excellent homeschooling materials (for example) don't always have to explicitly mention the name of Our Lord in order to help a person develop in His service. But boy, when you stumble upon a really excellent and thoroughly Catholic resource... it's a lot like winning the lottery.

I have always been committed to fitness in my life (body, mind, soul) and yet the last few years have demanded that I focus intensely on what it is that I need to do to be well. Healing from chronic illness and immune dysfunction can be a long road and I’ve chosen to share much of the journey publicly.

I want to introduce you to a challenging and beautiful Catholic fitness series called SoulCore. It's not yoga but it uses some of the same principles of movement that people find so effective... "a combination of core-strengthening exercises and isometric exercises, stretching and overall strengthening of the entire body." The biggest difference is...

Jesus Christ. 

Overt, joyful, focused, prayerful, physical and mental movement toward the Savior of the World.  The SoulCore project is consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. That's really the core of who we are. Beautiful. 

The exercises are set to a full rosary so it's a really fruitful way to spend time when you have little to spare. It is a full workout and a full slow rosary. But there are additional benefits to that method: 

1. The prayers are the counting method. You move and pray. As a Catholic, I know the Hail Mary so well that it's like breathing. In this workout, I find myself easily entering into that prayer... sometimes less focused if I'm struggling with an exercise (but I know the prayer well enough to keep it on my lips) and sometimes more focused as my body and soul are both oriented toward work and heaven. Ora et labora indeed.

2. This is not just work and prayer but work as prayer. Our bodies are designed to serve the Lord. And the real gift with taking care of them with right purpose is that the care becomes a service to Him as well. It is not just a way to strengthen us for vocation but is actually a part of our vocation. SoulCore draws the mind to this reality directly.

As I said before, the exercises can be challenging even for those who are accustomed to working out. But they are also easy to adapt; lighter weights (or no weights), fewer reps, knee push ups. When I’m pregnant, my belly forces me to make some of those modifications, but the workout is still wholly accessible to me. 

So is this just “Catholic Yoga” with all the elements of yoga just wearing a Catholic label? I don’t think so. There are many similar movements to yoga but frankly, there are only so many ways that the body moves! The way the creators combine the movements, organize them, and combine them with the Rosary creates a unique workout that is wholly Christ-centered and sufficiently disrupts yoga connections and sequencing. I also recognize elements of many common fitness movements (like pilates) which have no connection to yoga.

Multiple formats for the workouts are currently available. There are DVD’s for sale as well as digital downloads. And then there’s a wonderful Online Studio which gives subscribers access to a library of workouts at the touch of a button. These include prenatal workouts, chair workouts, and many workouts related to the Mysteries of the Rosary. The website is full of inspirational material, accessories, local class info, and the inspiring story of the mission of the founders.

For those interested in learning more about why I no longer practice yoga, here is a brief overview of my experience and my Catholic Perspective:

How Generalism and Skill Stacking Can Free Your Homeschool from the Tyranny of Perfection

{This post contains affiliate links. I may receive compensation for purchases you make. More info Here.} 

When I began my homeschooling journey as mom/teacher almost 2 decades ago, I had grand plans in mind. My head was filled with visions of dominated spelling bees and prima ballerinas. Because with all that time and ability to focus, why not just become the most amazing human beings possible?

To be fair, what I wanted more than anything was holy, happy, healthy children, and our early years were filled with lots of non-focused play and time with family. I believed that children should have a loving and gentle childhood and didn’t do any formal extracurriculars during those precious early years.

But about the time that my oldest turned 7, we started to get the itch to get him involved with something. That seemed like what we were supposed to do and we chose swimming lessons since water safety is important to us. Several years (and a few more kids) later, we were at the pool 5-7 days a week (sometimes 40 plus total hours if there was a tournament) and traveling to compete. He was winning championship races alongside his younger sister who was at one point ranked #1 in the country in her age group. We had fallen into the trap of specialized excellence; a trap not because excellence is bad, but because we were sacrificing everything else (including some of the most important things) in order to narrowly focus on one goal.

The hard truth is… there isn’t as much at the top as you always think there will be, there will always be someone better, and the losses can often overpower the victory in the long run.

So we replayed that scenario multiple times with multiple kids in multiple ways; burning the candle at both ends and blowing through resources so that they might achieve their goals. And then…

We quit. Cold turkey. Because the price wasn’t worth it.

When I recently picked up the book “How to be Better at (Almost) Everything,” I knew within the first couple chapters that this book was going to resonate with me. The author’s ideas about “generalism” and “skill stacking” as habits of the most successful people not only made sense objectively, but were something that I have observed in the lives of my own children and what I think we were inadvertently living.

Because the kids weren’t spending all of their time on one specialized skill, they were free to develop in other areas of their life. It made them happier, healthier, and better equipped to tackle the later challenges in life. Instead of being exceptionally good at just one or two things, they developed a high level of proficiency in many things.

Author, Pat Flynn, would call that a version of “generalism” and “skill stacking.” I wish that I would have had this book to years ago in order to concretely identify the good of our choices instead of harboring an incorrect notion that we were just directionless. That feeling of “we should be doing something special and amazing at all times” can overpower a homeschool parent’s sense of reason… and this book provides some much needed perspective.

I think many homeschoolers instinctively apply Flynn’s principles and that is really the genius of homeschooling; that we have the time to become excellent at certain specialties while still becoming well rounded. But I also think that deliberately applying his principles can help restore some peace of mind and sanity to homeschool parents thinking they are obligated to mold their child into the next Michael Phelps.

In Flynn’s book, he breaks down generalism and “the principles behind getting better at things” as follows:

  1. Skill Stacking > Specialization

  2. Short-Term Specialization

  3. The Rule of 80 Percent

  4. Integration > Isolation

  5. Repetition and Resistance

Just going over that list after reading the book reminds me that we are doing okay by bucking the specialization trend. In fact, we are doing great.

Before I go further, I want to be clear that this is not a homeschooling book and I don’t know if it has occurred to Flynn that it could be. It’s a book for anyone who wants to be better at anything. It’s for those who have health specific goals or business goals… it applies to everything. That makes it perfectly suited to the homeschooler since the homeschooler really is about embracing general excellence in personal education and formation.

This is not about how to be mediocre at everything, but about how to be great at a lot of things!

Flynn writes:

“Simply put, it is better to be better (than most people, at most things) than to be the best at any one thing. Skills in combination are more powerful than individual skills by themselves, even if they aren’t fully developed.”

I know this through my own life experience but it is tougher as parents. When we pulled our wildly talented kids out of swimming, people thought we were nuts; they were angry that we were ruining their chances at scholarships and “throwing away” their talent. Since then, we’ve quit a number of things for similar reasons to the reasons we stepped away from competitive swimming. We had to… because our kids natural abilities inevitably put them on the hyperdrive track of success in many things they tried. And the culture of youth activities is often, frankly, insane and unhealthy.

I confess that it sometimes felt like we were stacking failures. Perhaps if I had been able to read a book like this years ago, I would have been consoled. I would have seen that my children were actually collecting successes, not abandoning them. They were practicing short term specialization, not failing at excellence. And I would have seen more clearly that their hodge podge of experience was not a mess… but an adventure in skill stacking.

As I read through the book, I was excited to make these positive associations with what have been some difficult choices. And I am also excited going forward to apply the principles in a more deliberate way; with less hand-wringing over what we might be missing out on by not being specialized in one thing.

One thing I loved about this book was that although it is written in a funny and casual style, the heart of the message is intelligent and deep. And as the book progresses, there is an almost palpable energy felt from the author that builds toward the end — youthful in the healthiest way — as if he’s just bursting to tell the reader about the discoveries he has made about the most important things in life and love and eternity.

Although the book is written for a broad audience (including the 18K followers he has on his YouTube fitness channel!), I wasn’t surprised to find out later that it was written during his conversion to Catholicism. His joy of philosophy and references to St. Thomas Aquinas… those were tip-offs… but I guess the undercurrent of joy was the real telltale sign.

One of the best parts of the book is his discussion on the Freedom of Excellence where he turns the subject of self-discipline from “you can’t have the doughnut” into LOOK WHAT YOU CAN HAVE! He injects youth and delight into a subject most people ignore as the killjoy of life.

He also really hammers home in a fun way a fundamental principle of my healing journey: It’s the little choices which make the difference over the long haul. And the short term sacrifice produces the most incredible dividends. If we can’t be the best in the world at one thing, we can still be the very best version of who God made us to be. That journey doesn’t have to be dull. And it doesn’t have to look at all like the world expects it to look.

**One final note for all the homeschooling moms like me who love to pass all their self-improvement books on to their kids: Flynn does include a quote at the beginning of chapter 2 which includes an F-bomb… and a couple other references which are not young kid friendly. So if you’re kids are precocious enough to read self-improvement books at a young age (mine have been), then take note.