Thursday, December 18, 2008

Review: Crayola Art Studio

From their website: Core Learning Ltd. is an educational publisher of software, books, multi-curricular projects and on-line learning applications. Based in Toronto , Canada and Philadelphia , USA , its curriculum content is designed to address national and major state and provincial curriculum standards applicable to the North American K-12 education market.

We were blessed to receive a copy of Crayola Art Studio, as well as demo CD's of Core Learning's other great products for review.

Crayola Art Studio is an incredibly fun and entertaining digital art program. Similar to Microsoft Paint, but much more "child-friendly", this program is one that can literally keep your kids busy on the computer for *hours*, in a good way. (Trust me...ahem.) 

With Crayola Art Studio, children can create their own drawings using an assortment of 12 highly realistic tools, or make/print personalized projects such as slumber party invites to homemade greeting cards. The Digital Activity Guide walks users through a variety of drawing techniques that enable little artists to take their artwork up to the next level.

The digitized paints--acrylic, tempera, watercolor and oil (my personal favorite!)--all look and "move" like the real thing. There are markers, crayons, colored me, if it can be found in a "Crayola" box, you'll find it here as well!

A few personal "pros":

I was impressed at how easy the program was to use, even for an "art class reject" like me. :o) Even though I made a mess (purposely, of course) with the virtual paint and crayons, I really got a kick out of the "import photo" option. This interesting feature made it so easy to spice up a picture or two. Ahh...such fun.

And honestly, nothing says "Love" quite like a curly moustache across my sister's face, or a strategically placed dinosaur head. (Snicker, snicker)

My children were all thrilled the program, and found it to be much more fun to play with than "Paint". (Could have something to do with the word "Crayola" splashed across it, but I digress.)

My oldest said she felt that the design features were similar to Photoshop in the way that it had "several buttons" to work with. While I haven't used Photoshop extensively, she did have a good point. There are a plethora of options and customizations to work with, some of which I feel would really overwhelm younger children. But those above the age of 10 or so, would probably have the patience and mental fortitude to at least try them out.

Sample screenshot; not an actual drawing done by my children.
Still there are others, like my younger two, who simply won't care to utilize all the customizations and will probably avoid them. They're the ones that are strictly in it for the doodling!:o)

I could only think of two potential "cons" with this product. One is the fact that this isn't technically an "art class on CD". This may turn a few parents off, especially if they're of the "it's just another computer game, and we don't need another computer game" persuasion.

The other "con" is along the same vein, and it's that some parents may not want to buy something so similar to Paint, even though it did seem more fun to use and has the name "Crayola" emblazoned across it.

However with that said, I feel that this program would make a great supplement to any basic art curriculum, as well as provide a creative outlet for pent-up, rainy day energy! :o)

If you'd like to see for yourself how fun Crayola Art Studio can be, you can download a FREE 3-Day demo of it by clicking here.

Crayola Art Studio can be ordered directly from Core for only $24.95, in your choice of Windows download or physical CD.

Core offers additional snazzy programs for your homeschool enrichment needs. From math and language arts, to health and art/creativity, there's a product for nearly every family.

We received demos in all the above listed programs and were impressed by most of them. The Health Series for Kids Vol. 1 "Explore Your Body" was particularly interesting for us, as we'd made paper bodies (complete with guts!) last year.

The lessons however, were very short and sweet (perhaps because it was a demo version?) but my youngest felt that was plenty. (And for her, it probably was.) However my oldest kind of scratched her head and asked, "Is that it?"

The math demos showcased some interesting programs that I may invest in later. My son's a big-time budding mathematician, (don't know where he gets that from!) so the more math, the better!

The Math Course 1 Series covers fractions, decimals, geometric shapes and basic measurement. The lessons are broken down in bite sized pieces, that allow the student work at their own pace. There are a lot of good visuals and explanations associated with each lesson, making it a great choice for visual and auditory learners.

Their Calculation Skills Series is an elementary math activities program that covers basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division for both beginning and advanced students. Lessons are heavy on drills, of which are timed (much to my children's delight). This course appealed to my children more so than the first Math program, as they enjoy timed drills and felt more comfortable with the content. (Which means they didn't like to be challenged...ahem.)

Core Learning's Language Arts and Grammar programs were really nice. They were easy to follow, made a smooth transition from one concept to the next, and didn't overwhelm my children whatsoever. The content, while much of it being what they already knew, was presented in a very clear and concise manner. Although the recommended grade level for this program is 2-4, I think some of it could be used with more advanced 1st graders or struggling 5th and 6th graders.

English Grammar 1 covers basic topics such as sentence structure, parts of speech, punctuation and dictionary skills. Again, straightforward lessons that build on one another and allow the student to progress at their own speed. No fluff, just clear solid teaching.

I'm not usually one who leans toward standards based materials, but I felt that Core Learning's programs provided a solid foundation in all the crucial areas.

To learn more about Core Learning or any of their programs, please visit their website.

We give Core Learning 1.5 thumbs up. :o)

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