Sunday, July 31, 2011

Free Bookmarks!

bookmarks 001Well, okay, you COULD just cut up an old cereal box and have yourself a nice set of free bookmarks – well, for free!  But wouldn’t you rather your children were LEARNING from and enjoying their bookmarks?

This is the first set of a series of very basic “popular sayings” available for free download (I believe you have to register) from HomeschoolBits.

This first set contains such sayings as “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” and “Two heads are better than one.”

My kids LOVE these expressions!  We have been using these bookmarks since the beginning of last school year, and just stick them into every chapter book we have on the go.  I didn’t have cardstock, so I initially printed them on regular paper and glued them to cereal boxes. 

You could also glue together two layers of cardstock for a really sturdy bookmark… or just cut them out as-is for bookmarks that may not last the ages, but are super-quick and easy.

Elemental Science: Gearing Up, Cutting Up

Before I get started…if you’re looking for something simple for science, I just discovered this free PDF resource from the International Council of Associations for Science Education (ICASE) which is packed with 60 pages of simple, fun-looking experiments demonstrating a wide variety of principles.

coversSo over Shabbos (lots of time to myself), I found myself longing for the simplicity of Living Learning Science, our previous literature-based science “curriculum.”  I don’t think anybody else uses it, and even I didn’t do everything it suggested, but it was nice as a reading guide, and very easy to follow and stick with. 

(There ARE other Living Learning Books:  Earth Science & Astronomy and Chemistry.  But they’re for slightly older kids, and I think a bit out of our grasp right now.)

I realized one thing I liked very much last year was having everything in one binder.  Elemental Science gives you everything in about four sections of two different books:  lesson plans, narration pages, experiment pages, weekly quizzes. 

For supreme simplicity, I wanted EVERYTHING IN ONE PLACE.  So I resolved to create an “Elemental Science all-in-one binder.”

Today, I hobbled out to Staples only to find (doh!) we were an hour early.  They open at 11.  So I took the kiddies to a park nearby, which they loved and I gritted my teeth and experimented with various uncomfortable positions to stick my leg out into.  (Resting sideways on a park bench was best.)

Finally, the store was open!  We hobbled around gathering the binder and a few other supplies, and then I came home and begged YM to take the kiddies outside into the wading pool.

I sliced the pages out of the spines four at a time and stuck them all in the binder.

As much as possible, I kept all the materials together by week – ie Week 1 lesson plan, quiz, narration (no experiment).  The narration, quiz and experiment pages are double-sided, so they’re not all with the exact lesson, but they’re close enough.

The other thing I did is flip over the lesson plan pages.  The author of Elemental Science has essentially provided two sets of lesson plans in one book:  one for two-day-a-week science and one for five-day-a-week science.  You cover the same material, it’s just organized differently.  And in the original book, the five-day-a-week lesson plans face up.  So I flipped them over, because science is two days a week in our world… if we even have enough time for that.

 science 002 

Lesson plan page & lesson plan w/matching quiz (some of the quizzes are pretty dopey, but might be fun):

science 003 science 004 

Back of a lesson plan page with an experiment page; narration page with lesson plan:

science 005 science 006 
Everything that couldn’t be grouped neatly by week, I stuck in the back behind one of several dividers I made out of the extra covers (one front, two back):

science 008

So now we’re ready! 

Oh, except drat of all drats, I seem to have double-ordered each of the main experiment books to go along with this program:  Janice VanCleave’s Science Around the World and Biology for Every Kid.  If anybody needs an extra, let me know (remove the X’s) and I’ll give you a VERY reasonable rate!

image image

p.s.  If you’re using Elemental Science, they’ve just added a forum, which I think is a TON more flexible than Yahoo groups (I intensely dislike Yahoo groups – where else do you have to post in PLAIN TEXT these days???).  If you have an opinion, vote here.

Gumby Hat!!!

science 012When you can’t find his kippah before lunchtime and can’t get up off your lazy… oh, sorry… broken foot to go get a REAL one.

Supreme Chillul Hashem, or “Knowing White from Wong”

imageOy, vey! 

You wouldn’t believe the email I got yesterday from a person purporting to be a rabbi… and not just any rabbi:  a rabbi in a major Jewish community who claims to be responsible for conversions, divorces, and other important spiritual matters there. 

A rabbi who is apparently entirely uneducated and wishes to stay that way – while hopefully avoiding contact with anyone of any other race or religious persuasion.

If you only have a couple of minutes, skip to the MAROON-HIGHLIGHTED sections of the final email down below.  Read them knowing they were sent from this rabbi’s email address.  I think you’ll be as shocked as I was.

For those who are curious and have a few minutes, here’s the background:

A couple of weeks ago, I found this sample conversion test online (I have re-uploaded it to 4shared so you can see it without any identifying information).  I thought it would be handy for the woman I’m studying with, a prospective convert.  (we’ve found a few others, including this one, which have been very helpful!)

But then I started looking through the questions and, while some of them are useful, some are just awful.  And the whole thing is EXTREMELY poorly written. 

I was surprised, because I also noticed that this thing is put out by a bais din (religious court) in a major Jewish centre, from a person who seems to be a respected rabbis (there are pictures of him on the site with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, etc).  So when I came across a statement that was completely wrong, I felt I ought to contact them.

The exchanges quickly degenerated into the kind of verbal mud-slinging I honestly believed most rabbis were incapable of… but see for yourself:

My initial email:

I'm teaching a giyores here in Toronto, and I encouraged her to seek out
online conversion exams as a way to gauge her own progress.  We have found quite a few excellent resources for her online.
However, I have found that the one on your site - included with the
conversion application - is really not very helpful and in some cases, is
rather misleading.  Here's the address of that application and "test" (link removed, but here’s the
For instance, your test contains information like:  "A Jew without Torah and
observance is not a Jew," which is simply not true.  It IS true that this is
an unfortunate situation, and it's clearly not halachically preferable, but
the halacha is that a Jewish mother makes a person a Jew whether they do
anything with it or not.
It also says "There are many beliefs different than all."  This sentence, as
far as I can tell, is meaningless, while another "question," later on, asks
"Are you sure you want to convert" (with no question mark).  Later, another
question mentions "Pirke Avot. Ethics. Advice of our Father, desires,
kindness, forgiveness," as if that's what Pirkei Avos is about - when those
themes are only a few among many in that sefer.
Out of all the helpful sites we have found online, your test stands out as
almost a chillul Hashem in its disorganization, poor spelling and
punctuation, and incomprehensibility (and in some cases, irrelevance).
I wanted to let you know because a) your site is VERY easy to find online
for anyone seeking information about conversion, and b) it's not necessarily
very helpful for anyone converting outside your auspices - or even, perhaps, for those converting with you.
Perhaps the document should be revised, or taken down until it has been
edited substantially.
Just my thoughts, and I appreciate your listening.
Good Shabbos!

I thought this was fairly moderate, if a little strongly worded.  Why?  I honestly believe poor English IS a chillul Hashem, especially for people new to Judaism.

Anyway, here’s the quick reply I got.  The email address bore the name of the rabbi responsible for the bais din.  I have not changed the capitalization, but have added colour for emphasis (you’ll see why I need it later):


Well, I couldn’t leave it at that.  This is a hot button because, although my last name is now my husband’s (he converted before our marriage), I grew up with a “non-Jewish last name” (to two born-Jewish parents) and I’ve ALWAYS gotten that comment.  So have my born-Jewish children.  So here’s what I wrote back:

My second email:

Yes it is.  We also have people in our shul named Smith, Hwang (and Wong - actually, my aunt married a Chinese man and HER last name is Wong, too), Paquette and Ranganathan.  Nobody should feel ashamed of their (Jewish) last name.  :-)

Good Shabbos!

(slightly incorrect:  my aunt’s last name was never legally changed, but my cousin, their born-Jewish daughter’s last name is Wong)

Thinking I was done, I just about shut down the computer… but there was one more reply, at 7:15 pm, so it must have been urgent to tell me this before Shabbos. 

This time, his comments were interspersed into my original email.  It was almost completely unintelligible, so I have taken the liberty of colour-coding it.  Everything in MAROON CAPS is his reply (he typed it in all-caps):

However, I have found that the one on your site - included with the conversion application - is really not very WHEN YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT WE MEAN helpful and in some cases, is rather misleading. MAYBE YOU STILL NEED A COURSE IN CONVERSION SO YOU CAN UNDERSTAND A LITTLE MORE Here's the address of that application and "test":

For instance, your test contains information like:  "A Jew without Torah and observance is not a Jew," which is simply not true.  WHEN A DEFINE A JEW WE REFER TO AN OBSERVANT JEW ONLY ALL OTHERS THE TORAH AND TALMU GIVE THEM THE SAME LAW AS A GENTILE FOR MANY LAWS It IS true that this is an unfortunate situation, and it's clearly not halachically preferable, but the halacha is that a Jewish mother GIVES BIRTH , A WOMAN DOES NOT MAKE A CHILD , HASHEM DOES makes a person a Jew whether they do anything with it or not.TRUE
It also says "There are many beliefs different than all THE ABOVE MENTIONED HERE PROGRESSIVE RECONSTRUCTIONISTS ZULUS BUDIZM MAKUMBA ETC ETC ETC GAY AND LESB CONGREGATIONS ."  This sentence, as far as I can tell, BECAUSE YOU DON'T KNOW OTHER RELIGIONS is meaningless, while another "question," later on, asks "Are you sure you want to convert" (with no question mark)OH.  DID YOU EVER SEE A QUESTION MARK IN TORAH OR MISHNA OR ZOHAR OR ANY PUNCTUATION Later, another question mentions "Pirke Avot. Ethics. Advice of our Father, desires, kindness, forgiveness," MISSING ETC ETC as if that's what Pirkei Avos is about - when those themes are only a few among many in that sefer.
Out of all the helpful sites we have found online, your test stands out as almost a chillul Hashem THE BIGGEST CHILLUL HASHEM IS THAT AS A SO CALLED TEACHER YOU SHOW NO RESPECT AT ALL , AND SAY YOUR THOUGHTS WITHOUT POSITIVE AND HELPFUL SUGGESTIONS AND POLITE REMARKS in its disorganization, poor spelling and punctuation, and incomprehensibility (and in some cases, irrelevance).NO ONE GRADUATED HARVARD THAT IS WHY WE DON'T CLAIM WE TEACH ENGLISH.
I wanted to let you know THANK YOU because a) your site is VERY easy to find online for anyone seeking information about conversion, and b)WE DON'T ENCOURAGE CONVERSIONS ONLY GENUINE CASES THAT ARE READY BEFORE THEY READ OUR DISCOURAGING WEBSITE it's not necessarily very helpful for anyone converting outside your auspices - or even, perhaps, for those converting with you.
Perhaps the document should be revised, or taken down until it has been edited substantially.
appreciate your listening. I Y/D
Good Shabbos!

(Can anyone tell me what IY/D stands for???  Is he wishing death upon me and my descendents or anything similarly horrid?)

For once, both my kids think I am entirely justified in my shock and horror.  I HOPE SHE LEARNED WHITE FROM WONG ???  This is a person meeting with the public?  This is somebody others turn to with their business or personal relationships on the line?  Better hope they’re white, I guess.

I did send one final email this evening… because really, truly, I would like to believe that none of what I have thought about this person all Shabbos is true:

I would like to know, respectfully, if I am communicating with Rabbi ___ personally.  It seems surprising to me that one who has had such an esteemed career, including contact with gedolim, and one who moderates a bais din responsible for the life status of (presumably) many geirim and giyoros tzedek should conduct himself with such coarseness. 

Because I am always dan l'kaf zechus, I would prefer to think that someone else from the office is using his email address without his knowledge.  Perhaps he should be informed.

A gutte voch,

If you are in a major U.S. Jewish community, planning to convert, and concerned that this is one of the three men you’ll wind up sitting in front of, please email me with your location ( – remove the X’s)… I will let you know whether you have reason to be concerned.

Is anyone else as horrified as I am?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Six-Word Saturday: 29 Tammuz, 5771

Why the weird dates? Click here to find out! 

Another reason to LOVE Rainbow Resources!

Like almost everyone in the world of homeschooling, they are very Christian in their focus, which might seem like it doesn’t help us as Jewish homeschoolers… but actually, they often include helpful information in their descriptions to help people decide exactly how image religious a particular resource is (like whether or not science materials include a Creation or Evolution perspective) – or, if it’s secular, what kind of moral standards it reflects, which I do appreciate.  Plus, they are nothing but super-helpful if you have questions or problems with your order, and they’re happy to have people review their products (and even offer a prize for the top few rewards each month).

But none of that is new.  What’s topping off the love tonight is this:

catalog 001their 1400-page catalog (which they gamely delivered free with my last order), which, on top of the coffee table, is providing just the right amount of padding for my poor casted leg. 

Not too hard… not too soft.   Perfect!

It’s a fabulous read, as well!  They have all the information on their website, but when was the last time you read a website cover to cover???

Friday, July 29, 2011

Shabbos Food!

Oy, vey… I have been overwhelmed with happiness today as food poured in from neighbours and friends through shul.  Well, okay, when I was lying semi-clad in bed, covered in children with no way to get up, I was not overwhelmed with happiness to hear a strange man tromping around in the kitchen shouting “Hello?  Hello?  It’s Yerachmiel!” 

It wasn’t MY Yerachmiel, it was someone from shul dropping off a cake.  I told him I wasn’t coming out and he was fine with that.

Since then, there have been about a dozen people in and out with salads, meats, everything.  What an amazing community we live in!  (even though it has meant explaining my injury seventeen times so people don’t think I just FELL off the bike like a moron).


Egg Rolls-        Ted
* Challah-        homemade
Salmon-         Z
Veg Soup-     D
Meat-         Mommy!
Spare Chicken-    P
Lokshin kugel-    H (the rabbi’s wife!)
Vegetable kugel-     B
Cooked vegetable-     P
Salad-         T
Chocolate Cake-         G
Apple Cake-    G (left over from last night)


Out – at neighbours’ – yay!!!

(bringing challah)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Them’s My Kids!

I have no idea why I love these soccer pictures so much…

tedstuff 315 tedstuff 318

YM took Naomi to the park because GZ was still sleeping… and ended up volunteering to help the big kids’ team.  He is a natural mentor; kids love him.  And his absolute favourite activity in elementary school was soccer.  Perfect! 

Must… homeschool… kids

tedstuff 293Here I am on my crutches, hobbling to and fro with this 30-lb cast on my foot… the Homeschooling Supermama!!!

Parsha Poem: Masei / מַסְעֵי

בְּמִדְבַּר / Bamidbar / Numbers 33:1-36:13: Read ithear it; colour it.

Printable PDF version here.  Bonus:  “Hearing the Message”, a one-page poster summarizing the theme of each of the 5 books of the Torah (connects with the poem).  PDF downloads here:  Ashkenaz, Sefard.


No parsha narrative overview this week. 
Copywork and parsha activities available at this page – updated weekly.

image If any one of YOU should kill any one of THEM
They might come after you, so listen to Hashem
Set up six refuge cities, three and three in all,
And if you did not mean it, that’s where you’ll come to call.

But accidents do happen, the Torah will admit,
If that’s what really came to pass, the law will soon acquit.
The Torah says his life should be protected, so he flees,
Runs away as fast as you can ask for “justice, please!”

The way to the cities was risky – he had to flee so fast,
No stopping to ask directions or he’d wind up in a cast;
For the family of the dead man might take it in their hands,
Deliver justice, so they thought, in forsaken, hilly lands.

So the Torah says prepare the roads, making signs so clear,
With posts set up to show the way – “Refuge City here!”
But lest you think the Torah says to save a murderer,
Wise judges listened to his tale to see which ones concur.

If the folks involved were first and foremost enemies,
The murderer was taken in – policemen shouting “Freeze!”
But otherwise, he stays there safe for many, many years,
Until we hope he has at last no reason for his fears.

Inside the Refuge City, the killer will remain,
Living there and working far off from his home domain.
Until the Kohein Gadol dies, perhaps in his old age,
And then at last, the killer leaves and turns another page.

It could take years, so many years, until the Kohein dies, image
While the killer lives there, just hoping for his demise
So what our rabbis said to do so none can wish him ill
Is send a Jewish mother – a Bubby who brings goodwill.

But not just any mother:  the Kohen Gadol’s own,
To visit all the killers, with bagels and produce home-grown.
“Oy, vey,” they’d say, “we love her so, and wouldn’t want her sad,”
And so they’d hold off wishing him a fortune that was bad.

Though it might not seem fair to the men waiting there
The Refuge City reminds us all we always must take care,
Even if they’re not murderers, just accidentally nicked,
Not everything is an accident, and sometimes you can predict.

Stay far away from danger, guard your neshama so well,
These are the messages deep within this parsha, we can tell;
Safety comes first, avoid bad folks; always do steer clear,
Trouble WILL come and knock at your door, so remember:  don’t volunteer!

חָזָק חָזָק וְנִתְחַזֵּק!

May learning Torah make us strong!

The Artist in Me

agologo From the department of “Don’t Ask Your Child to Do Something You Won’t Do” comes my latest escapade:  sketching a copy of work of art.

We suddenly, mysteriously became members of the Art Gallery of Ontario a couple of months ago:  my mother handed me an envelope with the Costco membership we impulse-bought at Canada Blooms, a parking ticket, and… “I joined the Art Gallery and your family is included.” 

This incidental thing must have been well over $100.

I kind of stuck the card in my wallet and forgot about it… but when I noticed yesterday that they lend FREE WHEELCHAIRS, suddenly, it was the deal of the century.  Yes!  I may be broken like the Hummel figurine that I am, but I can ride for free at Ted’s capable hands.

Adult admission alone is $20, which partly explains why we hadn’t been in about a decade.  The other reason is that the kids hated it, so we never went back.

Today, we left THOSE kids at home (I always extend an invitation, and sometimes, rarely, they accept) and took the littles “only for an hour.”  Now, when I go somewhere for an hour, I rarely mean it, but today, Ted lucked into the Parking Spot of the Decade – right in front, right on Dundas, but it was only available until 3:30, at which point, like Cinderella, it turned into a no-parking zone.

We took a quick jaunt through a temporary exhibition of Abstract Expressionists, which includes whole rooms of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.  One could spend an afternoon just in there, but really, I wanted to get to the Europeans and portraits, because that’s what we’ve been studying.  The kids mostly thought the abstract stuff was bizarre, if sometimes intriguing.

image In the European galleries, I searched for names I’d heard of (a few Monets, copies of Rodin, an ugly Degas ballerina – and I love Degas!) and a VERY minor Van Gogh.  Toronto really must be a hick town, art-wise.  Must visit Washington DC again before I leave the continent.

I asked Naomi to choose a painting or sculpture to sketch.  She chose Portrait of a Young Girl with Carnations by Jan Albertsz. Rotius.  (you can see it below alongside her own version)

(aside:  What kind of name is Albertsz.?  Is the period there because it’s abbreviated???  Wikipedia says he was born Albert Jansz. Rootgies, but apparently, he moved the period at some point.  Perhaps it’s just decorative.)

Normally, I’d doze off in my (FREE!) wheelchair or wander around while she sketched, but I figure kids draw regardless of whether they think they have talent, right?  Not because they’re necessarily going to be great artists… just for the experience and joy of it.

suzy lake photoBut why shouldn’t I have experiences, too?  Why can’t I be an artist?

So I pulled out my trusty Bic pen and set about copying the portrait next to Naomi’s – a photograph by local artist Suzy Lake called “Re-Reading Recovery #3.”

As it turns out, I like this picture very much.  It certainly captures my own frequent state of mind these days.

And then there’s MY interpretation: cheops 006

Hmm… apparently, I’m not very talented.  Still, I am not entirely displeased.  This homeschooling thing certainly is educating one of us.  And I really do hope, bad art and all, that I can be a role model for them of (gag) lifelong learning.

As for Naomi, she got so engrossed in her sketch that she didn’t finish, so I printed the picture for her when we got home, and I’ll post it here when it’s done.

Friday, edited to add:  It’s done!  She took the oil pastels and went to town with this thing…

imagepainting 002 

She was very proud of all the detail she managed to cram into her copy of the painting.  So am I!

p.s.  I managed to  hobble back to our car one minute before it turned into a pumpkin, and/or got tagged and/or towed away.  Phew!

How are you nurturing the secret artist within yourself while you homeschool???

Review: Famous Figures of Ancient Times, aka Pharaohs at Play!

cheops 002cheops 003image

Gavriel Zev is having altogether too much fun with these cut-out jointed historical paper dolls!  I bought this book, Famous Figures of Ancient Times, at Rainbow a while ago – couldn’t resist, even though they’re a bit beyond Naomi Rivka’s skill level.  And I still don’t have the right size hole punch and brads (1/8” – mine’s the standard loose-leaf size), so the limbs turn out a bit floppy.

Which turns out to be just right for Gavriel Zev’s ideas about how Pharaohs should play with each other.  After he completely ignored about an hour of history reading and activities, he swooped in to claim the first two paper dolls. 

The book comes with two of each character – one in black-and-white outline form and one in full-colour, ready-to-cut form.  They’re printed on sturdy paper which is perforated down the side for easy removel.  You do have to cut them out yourself, though, then punch the holes and insert the (right sized) brads to make the joints. 

The figures are VERY easy to figure out… Naomi could probably do it on her own, except for some of the fiddly cutting.

cheops 007We put together both Narmers a few weeks ago.  Elisheva used her imagination to fill in the black and white one with purple and other bizarre colours, so he looks more like “Pride Parade Narmer”.  I made her colour his crown properly, though.

Today, I made Cheops (just the pre-coloured version)… and Narmer at last has a playmate in all of his glorious afterlife misadventures:  climbing on the sofa, going to the cottage (we’re renting a cottage in a couple of weeks and Gavriel Zev has heard the word, but has no idea what it means), and cunningly hiding his arms behind his back.

I’m pretty impressed with the book, though it’s being used most irreverently here.  It is jam-packed with historical figures, including Julius Caesar and King David.  And boy, I just can’t wait ‘till Cheops and Narmer get to play with Jesus.  And wouldn’t you love to be there for Jesus vs King David – “Whose Religion Reigns Supreme???”  Maybe Hannibal could come in and stomp them with his elephant to just put an end to all the silliness. 


Bizarrely, Gavriel Zev seems to have assumed that Cheops is some kind of plural – and in the second video you can see (and hear, if you listen VERY carefully) that he is planning to have him join all the other Cheops at the library where they will show off their no-armedness.  Fun with  history!!!

For $15, Famous Figures of Ancient Times is expensive as a minor supplement to a history curriculum, but the figures are sturdy and really do help the kids remember the personalities of each character better than “2-D” pictures.  (though it’s helpful to point out repeatedly that we don’t really know what any of these folks looked like and these are guesses based on old paintings, clothing styles, etc)

imageWe also managed to cover the next section of Story of the World (Chapter 4:  Old Kingdom of Egypt, Pyramids).  And we did three easy activities out of History Pockets, Ancient Civilizations:  a Nile River crocodile mini-book, folding a paper pyramid, and the “Words to Know” vocabulary section.  Oh, and the “Postcard from Ancient Egypt.”  imageNaomi just wrote nonsense on it, but I was fine with that, because we’d already done our real narration on the SOTW narration paper I made.  (download blank SOTW narration paper here)

Between all of this and our ongoing Story of the World lapbook project, I think we’re going to get a lot of history covered in a very meaningful way over the coming year…

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Books, on Bookshelves!

When I woke up Sunday morning, my goal – and my planned excitement for the day – was this:  replace the broken, leaning-over, falling-down Ikea bookshelf with a slightly bigger, sturdier Ikea bookshelf purchased second-hand through Craigslist.

I arranged for Ted to go on Sunday morning to pick up the shelf and then I pulled all the books off the crumbling old shelf.  There were books in stacks everywhere!

leg 002 leg 003

Then, I went out tutoring, and came home with a broken foot, unable to CARRY a book let alone re-shelve our entire children’s collection. 

Ted put the books on the shelves, but a goal is a goal, so on Sunday night, I sat down on a folding chair in front of the shelves and tried to introduce a bit more order.  I’m thrilled with the result:

 artworks 018 artworks 021

We may not have a school ROOM, but we sure do have school BOOKS.  I’d like to get coloured dots and organize them a bit more – ie one colour for science, another for history, another for atlases and geography, Judaica, etc.  But for now, I am just so happy that there is enough room for them all… with even a bit of space for more.  (gasp!) 

image Good thing, actually, because the first two of our four Anna Hibiscus books arrived today (from England!).  We finished the first story tonight, and I certainly enjoyed it… very different from our lives here, and from what we English-speaking North Americans usually think of when we think of Africa.

Meet the Masters Project: Mary Cassatt Hats

artworks 013Like I said, I may not be able to sit through a math lesson yet, and we can’t do our composer stuff because of the Three Weeks, but we’re still slogging enjoyably through our artist studies.  Our current artist, using Meet the Masters, is Mary Cassatt. 

To be honest, I’d never heard of her before starting this unit, and neither had my mother.  She is a VERY big deal in the U.S., but I suspect that here, with the liberal arts’ intense Canadiana focus, when it comes to “token woman artists” we learn about Emily Carr, whose life kind of overlapped Cassatt’s, instead. 

(and thinking about her made me wonder if I shouldn’t tack on a Group of Seven unit following our pre-made “Meet the Masters” units)

Anyway, Cassatt – and hats.

We watched the Meet the Masters slideshow and did one “warm-up” exercise (from the unit’s printable PDF) a few weeks ago.  I also got a few library books (and one DVD) to go along with this artist unit:

Today – broken printer and all, so I couldn’t even print the instructions – we tackled the “major” project:  big floppy colourful hats, Mary-Cassatt-style.

The project starts by introducing the new medium:  chalk pastels.  Naomi didn’t like them; she was hoping they would be super-bright like the oil pastels, but she got a bit into it after a while. 

We used two kinds of strokes, broad and skinny, to create a plaid “fabric”.  This concept was introduced in the warm-up exercise, but it’s been a while since we did it.

artworks 001  artworks 004 

Then, we drew a hat shape – to fit silhouettes we traced onto a different colour of construction paper – on the back of the “fabric” and cut it out.  I showed Naomi that because the hat was on the REVERSE, she could redo her lines if she made a mistake.  Me, too:  this was mine, and I didn’t like my original red line, so I made a new brim in orange; that’s what I cut out.

artworks 005 artworks 006 

Two hats:  mine, and hers!

artworks 007 artworks 008 

We drew some finishing touches on the hats (hat bands, flowers), then glued the silhouettes onto paper backgrounds and added the hats, being careful not to smudge the chalk.

artworks 009 artworks 010 

That’s where the official project leaves off, but I decided we couldn’t just waste all that spare “fabric” and Naomi Rivka agreed!  I made a choker-type necklace with some of mine, and then SHE wanted to make a necklace… and wowed me by cutting out seven little beads to go around the neck.  So I one-upped my necklace by adding a silhouette pendant – wearing a matching floppy hat, of course.  (it turned out looking more like a fish… sigh)


artworks 011She also added a shirt and some “stick-person” arms that kind of alter the effect – see top picture.  But I think, overall, she enjoyed this project immensely.  Like the Van Gogh project, it did exactly what Meet the Masters claims to do:  stretched both of us in terms of technical ability, use of a new medium, and understanding of the artist and her world.