Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Meeting the Masters: The Evolution of Mondrian

As much as I am enjoying Meet the Masters, I found today’s unit on Mondrian to be somewhat lacking. 

It explains very nicely about his use of colour and balance, and I guess they can’t say EVERYTHING, but it only gives a brief mention of the fact that his style changed from the beginning to the end of his career. 

There were no samples shown of his early art, so I started poking around to find out what it looked like… and was blown away by how much his style changed. 

This is a theme we explored a little with Mary Cassatt, whose paintings started out in the stiff, formal portrait style that was popular when she studied art, and began to take on a more natural, contemporary, almost photographic style.  So I thought it would be helpful for the kids to see how Mondrian’s work ALSO changed, in a nice, light slideshow form.

You can also download the slideshow as a PowerPoint Presentation here, or a printable / on-screen PDF from my General Studies printables page here (scroll down or search for “Artists”).

Enjoy!  Scroll down for more Mondrian resources after the slideshow.

More Mondrian Resources (I’ll add more later – must go fold laundry right this minute!!!):


PROBLEM SOLVED – I hope.  Please let me know if it’s still redirecting you.  And please, avoid letting AuthorStream access your Blogger account.  Now I’m scared it will happen again, because I put in my password… :-o

My apologies if you are redirected to a SPAM site, like

I am working overtime to fix the problem.

Note that this problem originated when I tried to share a video through a powerpoint sharing site called AuthorStream.  So there you go.  I haven’t provided a link… nobody should deal with this company, as the problem began about one second later.  Blah.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

RonyPony Reviews: Homeschool Buyers Co-op

image Looking for a new and fun way to spend those hard-saved and tightly-allocated homeschooling bucks???  I thought so!

I don’t even remember when I joined the Homeschool Buyers Coop, a name which bugs me for a couple of reasons.

[Please disregard the bombastic criticism which follows, as I have been duly and delightfully slapped down – see the Comments section - by no lesser experts than the folks at grammarlogues, a name which only slightly disturbs me because, as a proper noun, it ought to start with a capital letter.  Yet as a childishly graphic image and whimsical logo, it kind of works.  And they are to be wholeheartedly praised for saying their software requires “fewer than eight minutes a day” instead of “LESS THAN” or any other inferior wording.]

Is it a “co-op”?  Then it needs a hyphen (“Homeschool Buyers Co-op”) [doh – they USE a hyphen throughout their site; like I said, never mind me].  But if it’s a co-op, who participates?  Homeschool buyers?  Then it needs an apostrophe, because it belongs to them (“Homeschool Buyers’ Co-op”).  Unless there’s only one buyer:  “Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op.”

So I’m almost certain the name has something wrong with it.  (I’m sure my sister Abigail, who received a more expensive education than I did, could figure out exactly what if she wasn’t leaving the country in the next few weeks.)

[skip that bit and continue here]

On the other hand, there’s absolutely NOTHING wrong with “71,460 homeschool families helping each other,” as the site’s tagline reads!  (the number may be even higher by the time you click over to have a peek)  So I’ll just refer to it as HSBC to avoid any potential consternation in myself and my readers.

I first signed up – as with so many other things - because it was free, and there were a couple of eBook perks for joining.  But while I was there, I couldn’t help notice that the discount prices on mainstream, high-quality programs that I could (and some, I actually did) use with my kids.

The idea is to win homeschool parents at least some of the “buy-in-bulk” savings that schools and teachers take for granted. 

Deals are often introduced at a low introductory discount rate, say 25% off, and the discounts ratchet up to higher percentages at various purchase levels.  Like it’ll go to 40% off once 50 people buy in.  Or 50% once 100 people buy in.

If you want to hold out, you can commit to buy when the discount reaches a certain percentage (like 50%); I believe those who purchase sooner are refunded once it hits the higher discount level.  Discounts range from 10-70%.

image A few things I’ve bought (or gotten free) through HSBC so far include:

  • Meet the Masters, our art program
  •, a membership that allows access to many, MANY of the great resources published by Evan-Moor, including Literature Pockets and History Pimage ockets (that deal ended already – sorry!).
  • Microsoft DreamSpark, a program that lets kids access full versions of Microsoft developer sofware, like VisualStudio and SQL Server absolutely FREE.

image I’m toying with the idea of a 1-year subscription to Reading Eggs, a program I’ve heard great things about from other parents. 

Of course, the decision is easier because it would be FREE, thanks to “SmartPoints,” which you collect for activity on the site and elsewhere.  So you can save up and actually purchase some of the deals (not all) at an even better (free!) price.

Other great features of the site:

  • Free printable Homeschool ID cards (a little cheesy, but why not?)
  • Earn SmartPoints just by buying from one of many vendors (including WalMart)
  • Database of free curriculum (mostly downloads / printables and online resources)
  • Free educational contests & scholarships database – they hosted a summer reading program this year with real prizes for kids
  • Educational field trips database that includes Ontario – yay!
  • Local discounts database for parent-educators  (hmm; haven’t seen this one yet)
  • Dell discount program  (2-12% - cool!  We need a new laptop)
  • Free Classifieds Page for members to buy/sell used curriculum and resources
  • Membership is free and confidential

This is one of my top favourite homeschool sites and I really recommend checking it out (if it had a forum, it would be absolutely perfect) – and not just because I’m receiving 300 SmartPoints towards my Reading Eggs purchase for this review!

As with anything where you can “spend money to save money,” I can definitely see how this site could wind up being a money pit – sucking up big bucks on curriculum you don’t need – especially fancy online versions of things.

Some of the deals may seem a little weird:  for the TeacherFileBox subscription, I think I had to pay HSBC $1 on my credit card for the right to access the page where I paid Evan-Moor the rest of the special discounted price.  But although it may seem sketchy, it really does work, and there are thousands of homeschool parents out there who will tell you the same.

SPEAKING of saving money on online subscriptions and fancy homeschool frills and whistles, Discovery Education streaming videos, which aren’t normally available here in Canada, along with BrainPop and a few other online resources, are available from this site  (based in the US) for $59 – a 1-year subscription - that works in Canada.  Here’s the thread with a bit more information.

(if you’re in the US, there are various Discovery Education Streaming Video and BrianPop deals available through HSBC)

image Finally, as my thanks for reading this entire review, if you absolutely don’t feel like spending any money, here’s a weirdly addictive science game that will help you or your kids memorize the bones of the body:  Whack-a-Bone, from Anatomy Arcade!!!!

If you do visit the site, make sure you use one of the links in this review (like this link!).  I get cool kickbacks (more SmartPoints) if readers join, and even more if you click through, then buy something.  However, they absolutely didn’t sway the content of my review, which is why I so happily and freely critiqued the (poorly punctuated) name of the site.

Cut n’ Pasted Standard Review Text:

The Homeschool Buyer Co-op is a free homeschooling organization for both new and veteran homeschoolers. Co-op membership is free and confidential, and entitles homeschooling families to discounts from hundreds of educational suppliers. The Co-op also sponsors "Group Buys" for curriculum packages that can save homerschooling families lots of money. On the site you'll find lots of free information, such as databases of free curriculum, field trips, and educational contests and scholarships. Click here for more information.

How do YOU save money on homeschool curriculum?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Science Memory Work: Poems for Elemental Science (Plants, Animals)

Legal disclaimer:  I am not the owner or publisher or Elemental Science, and have no affiliation with anyone who is.  I’m just an ordinary parent looking forward to using this curriculum with my kids.

As I have mentioned a few times, I like Elemental Science in general and think it will be a very do-able curriculum for this year – I’m looking forward to diving into it.

I initially found it lacking in a few areas, one of which is the poems that are provided to help kids memorize characteristics of various living things (plants, mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and human body systems).

A while ago, I created a one-page printout with two original poems to help memorize plant characteristics (parts of a plant; parts of a flower).  Now that we’re starting the animals section, I have created SIX original four-line poems detailing the major identifying characteristics of each of the major types of vertebrate.

In case you’re curious, I used the Denver Zoo website – among others - to help me figure out which were important characteristics to include.  You may enjoy looking those pages over with your kids, as there are lots of examples of each type of animal.

Unlike the poems that come with Elemental Science, I have used bold type to indicate which are the concepts parents should emphasize.  For example, in Elemental Science, one line says “sometimes [birds] like to sing,” however, this is not an actual characteristic, and many birds do not sing.  Feathers, not even mentioned in the Elemental Science poem, are considered a defining characteristic (ie it’s not a bird without them), so I have included these in bold print.

So I believe these poems are both scientifically and (sort of) poetically sound.  I’d love your feedback – email or comment – if you use these with your kids!

  • Download this and many other printables from my General Studies downloads page, here.
  • For Limudei Kodesh (Jewish Studies) downloads and printables, including weekly Parsha / Torah study copywork, click here.

Animal Camouflage Science

camo 006 After we did the “Newspaper Camouflage” experiment from Science Around the World, I gave Naomi Rivka a piece of newpaper to design her own “creatures,” one made of newspaper and one made of white paper, so we could find out which would be more vulnerable to predators. 

Can you spot all three critters?

  camo 007 camo 008

I can’t quite make out their shapes, but she was rather proud of how well they blend in with the backdrop.  And it’s pretty obvious which one I’d eat if he wasn’t so darned cute.

School Week… School Year

A few new “Daily Program” additions I’m trying out as we enter what will hopefully be our first real week of school.

We may not stick with all of them through the school year, but I thought they’d be valuable, and they are included in my TeacherFileBox subscription:  Daily 6-Trait Writing, Daily Science, Daily Word Problems and A Word A Day.

image image image image

I’m not married to any of these, so I’ll just see which Naomi likes, if any, and go from there.  If I had to pick which one was the most important, I’d say the 6-trait writing (I don’t know what the traits are). 

Although Charlotte Mason doesn’t really encourage “creative” writing at this stage (narration is sufficient to ensure that they’re articulate and voicing their own thoughts), I think it’s fun to explore and pick apart the mechanics of good, vivid writing.  The exercises are low-key and only require a sentence or two of actual writing.

imageAlso new this week, the next artist in our Meet the Masters curriculum:  Piet Mondrian.  I know nothing about him or his life, and generally dislike modern art.  But we just saw an exhibit of modern art a few weeks ago, which will give us a framework, and there’s lots of background in the slideshow itself and online.  Should be educational and fun.

imageHere’s one I’m weirdly NOT looking forward to… starting Elemental Science.  However, now that I have a nice organized binder to do it with, it should go just fine. 

I AM looking forward to the readings.  But for some reason, I’m just baffled and overwhelmed about the experiments, even though for the most part, they seem very, very basic.  And I’m looking forward to building a science vocabulary (either in the form of index cards or in a notebook) so Naomi can see her own progress throughout the year.

We will also continue plugging away with the following:

MATH (5x/week):

  • JUMP Math 1.2 (almost done!)
  • First Time Analogies (occasionally, with math, for fun:  I call this her SK “SAT prep”)

ENGLISH (3x/week):


HEBREW / Jewish Studies (4x/week and more):

  • Kriyah v’Od, Book 2
  • L’shon HaTorah, Book 1
  • Bright Beginnings Chumash Workbook (Lech Lecha)
  • (I may add Migdalor Lech Lecha – but maybe not; it seems very advanced)
  • Tefillah Lapbook & ongoing Tefillah
  • Yom Tov Lapbooks, Readings, etc
  • Weekly Parsha Copywork (as created by ME)

SCIENCE (2x/week):

  • Elemental Science (as mentioned)

FINE ARTS (2x/week):

  • Draw Write Now, Book 1, then Book 8
  • Meet the Masters (as mentioned)
  • 3-month Composer Studies roughly following the Ambleside Schedule

image imageimage image image image image image image image image image image

Sure LOOKS like it’s going to be busy around here! 

imageAs for preschool, I’m finding lots of material at the TeacherFileBox site to keep Gavriel Zev busy.  His passion this week is CUTTING.  Cutting anything, any size, shape, whatever.  He’s getting better and better, but has lost all interest in anything else, even his beloved same/different. 

We’re just about to start the FINAL nursery rhyme from our 12-rhyme unit, Literature Pockets:  Nursery Rhymes, which I bought in ebook form and just print off as I need.  image

I was starting to feel sad about finishing it, but then I discovered that Evan-Moor has ANOTHER Nursery Rhyme unit-study-in-a-box book called Learning With Nursery Rhymes, which I can download and print from TeacherFileBox.

Alternatively, timagehere’s also this e-book of Literature Pockets:  Folktales and Fairy Tales, which I can ALSO download for nothing, and I was thinking might be fun to do, co-op style, once a week with a couple of friends.  They’re a little more advanced than the nursery rhymes, but not much more so.  I guess we’ll see if they are interested.

I think we’re ALL really enjoying these super-light literature units:  Naomi can do the activities nicely, at her level, while Gavriel Zev can do the activities more quickly (except the cutting, which he LOVES, as I said!) and enjoys memorizing the poems and showing off as he recites them.

The only thing I don’t like about all these “pockets” resources (we’re also doing the History Pockets:  Ancient Civilizations along with our SOTW history) is that the pockets themselves are quite large (12 x 12) and, fully assembled, the pockets stack up thickly to make a JUMBO book that I have no idea where to store.

I guess that should be the biggest of my worries as we plow headlong into yet another amazing year at home…

Friday, August 26, 2011

Awesome Parsha Graphic – Re’ay!

Or Re’eh, or however you spell it…hungry shochet here’s Naomi’s interpretation of the laws of shechita (kosher slaughter).

I REALLY like how the cow is smiling cheerfully under the knife.  And the shochet (with Princess Leia buns on the sides of his head) is not at all put off his dinner by the thought of the bloodbath to come.  “Yam Im Hangry” indeed!!!

I’m spending a sedentary day by the computer, but here’s a bit more inspiration for you from this week’s parsha…

  • Parsha Poem for Parshas Re’ay
  • Dvar Torah from Parshas Re’ay last year.

And, of course, this week’s funky Godcast – with a song for Re’eh!

Parshat Re'eh from

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Two Projects for Elul – Carnival & NEW Rosh Hashanah Lapbook!


Yup, I’m resurrecting the Carnival of Jewish Homeschooling, and I hope you-all will come along for the ride.  Here’s some information and links to past carnivals.

Or, just round up your best blog posts about teaching your kids – whether or not you homeschool full-time! – and submit them here.

So what else is NU around here???


A brand-new Rosh Hashanah Lapbook is on its way, with VERY special original graphics (unlike the one at left) created especially by Ted (my super-talented husband).

This will be a “paid” lapbook (like the ones I made for Tefillah and Pesach) meaning you PayPal me whatever you think is reasonable, and I send you print-quality PDFs along with basic instructions.  You provide the content:  ie, find books to read and discuss the topics with your children in any way that fits your family’s beliefs and observances.

Components I’m including in this fabulous lapbook!

  1. Months of the Jewish Year
  2. When is Rosh Hashanah?
  3. Rosh Hashanah… in the Torah
  4. Names of Rosh Hashanah
  5. Honey Comes From Bees
  6. Round Challahs for Rosh Hashanah
  7. A Shofar is a Ram’s Horn
  8. Rosh Hashanah Recipe Cards (including my honey cake recipe)
  9. Greeting Card Template, Sample Greetings & Envelope
  10. Tashlich – Crumbs in the River
  11. What’s in My Machzor
  12. Scales:  The Book of Life
  13. Symbolic Foods on the Table
  14. Akeidas Yitzchak (The Binding of Isaac)
  15. Sounds of the Shofar
  16. Unesaneh Tokef: Teshuvah, Tefillah, Tzedakah (Repentence, Prayer, Charity)
  17. Forgiving Our Friends

If there’s anything you’d like to see included, ask me now… or else stay tuned.  It should be available by about the middle of next week, in plenty of time to let you work on it before Rosh Hashanah!

To see previous lapbook projects that we’ve done or that I’ve created, click here.

Yay, to a busy, fun month of back-to-homeschool!!!  (though it’s true; we haven’t exactly been AWAY…)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Free Fun Early Reading Materials (phonics & sight)

image Just came across this site, and I thought I’d share it:  Primarily Reading, by retired teacher Gloria Lapin.

As a FREE alternative to Bob Books and other primary readers, I like the fact that the site offers both phonics-based and (Dolch) sight word-based easy readers available for download in both PDF and my new favourite, ePub format for your eReader!!!  (like my Kobo)

No waiting for books to arrive, just download and go…. and it’s FREE.  There are a few super-cheap ebooks for sale on the site as well, as well as links to other items for sale.

These look like a perfect easy read for Naomi Rivka – as well, possibly, as a decent beginning-read for Gavriel Zev.  The site also has games, activities and suggestions for beginning readers.

imageIf you’re looking for something a little more comprehensive (beginner to advanced), and still free, you could also try Progressive Phonics – but those materials aren’t available in ePub yet; only PDF for the time being.  

(You must register to download from the site, but registration is free, and I don’t think they sell anything at the Progressive Phonics site.)

imageFinally, to turn this into a REALLY comprehensive round-up, it’s worth mentioning Starfall, if you don’t know about it already.  They have free printable PDF versions of their online   books, but don’t seem to be moving towards eBook versions to save on paper anytime soon. 

We have only used the beginner Starfall levels so far, but they do advance quite far, into “comic books,” though they are online-only at this point.  In addition to reading (like Progressive Phonics), Starfall also offers a free printable handwriting program

There’s also a Starfall Store if you want to purchase “real” versions of the books and materials.  Last time I went on the site, I discovered a brand-new “More Starfall” section offering math and other kindergarten-type resources, however, most of these are for paid members only.

I plan to continue using Starfall this year for occasional online fun n’ games for both kids, while hopefully making some use of the Primarily Reading resources now that I have discovered they’re out there.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Weekly Parsha Copywork

I don’t usually post when I put it up, but since I’ve missed a few weeks, and have a few new readers, I thought I’d mention that I try to post copywork on Sunday or Monday to match the weekly parsha. 

Unlike what seems like most places in the US, school here starts after the Labour Day weekend (except for years like 2010, when the yamim tovim came super-early).  Our official “not going back to school” beach party is on Tuesday, September 6th.

Still – we didn’t take the summer off, just eased off a bit to accomodate other activities, and this week, we’re ramping our way back up to a full curriculum.

For this week’s parsha, Re’ay, I chose a very short excerpt (“do not cook a kid in its cmother’s milk”) along with a list of a few other types of animals found in this week’s parsha. 


  • Download this and MANY other parsha/holiday resources from my Limudei Kodesh (Jewish Studies) page, here.
  • For general-studies downloads and printables, including bilingual Hebrew-English science resources, click here.

Naomi’s “anti-school” story

cottage life 098Here’s a story Naomi write at the cottage.  Ted created the cheerful illustration below to go along with it.  I was thrilled to see this and another story she spontaneously wrote while we were up there.  But I was totally surprised, given her occasional protestations and fantasizations about school, by the anti-school tone of the thing.

I have corrected spelling and punctuation so it doesn’t give you a headache:

“THE SCHOOL:  The Trouble” (by Naomi Rivka, age 6.5).

Once upon a time there was a girl.  She lived close to school, so one day she went to school.  She did not like it so she went home and she said “I do not like school.”

cottage life 099“Go to school.” [presumably, her mother says this]

“But it is bad, like I told you.  I do not want to go.”

“You have to go.  You are late.”

“No, I want to stay with you.”

“No, you can’t,” the mother interrupted.  [incharaptid]  “No.”

The mother pushed [push’t] her out the door.

(the end)

(As a Charlotte Mason fan, I don’t approve of his copying her misspelling of the word “Trouble” (chrabel); Charlotte Mason believed that the more times kids see their own bad spelling, the more it is reinforced)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cottage highlights

Back and exhausted!  Here are a few pictorial highlights:

  • Arriving!  Everybody marvels at the irony that a cottage is supposed to be smaller and less luxurious than your regular home.  This is a mansion compared to where we usually live, with TWO floors (up AND down!) and TWO nice, clean bathrooms!
  • cottage life 015

  • YM found both a frog and a (garter) snake in the first 5 minutes… and then no other wildlife in the ten days thereafter.

cottage life 005 cottage life 011 

  • Ahh… Shabbos.  “It’s time to order a honey glazed ham!!!”  The magnet was on the fridge, but I thought it looked better with the candles.  (mine aren’t lit yet; I was busy taking pictures)

 cottage life 027 

  • It just wouldn’t be a vacation without Rainbow Monkey… and Aunt Sara to sweep up after him!

cottage life 036 cottage life 040 

  • Schlep half an hour to the gorgeous, sunny beach and marvel cuz we have it all to ourselves… oh, wait, what does that sign say?  “Warning:  Unsafe for bathing.”

cottage life 044

  • Handy free WiFi hotspot.

 cottage life 067 

  • Boys being boys…

cottage life 076 

  • When she wasn’t showing off her mad swim skills, Naomi wove and sewed a coin purse with this Loop n’ Loom weaving kit my mother surprised her with.

cottage life 078

  • Fishing with Abba:  worms and all… (I stayed inside – ew!)

 cottage life 084 

  • Thursday night:  staying up late making “cottage challah” from scratch.

cottage life 090cottage life 103

  • Not pictured:  the walk the kids took with Abigail yesterday afternoon (Shabbos).  I think they left around 2-ish and came home around 7-ish.  They walked all the way to town, normally about a 15-minute drive, but maybe a 2-hour Shabbos walk in lousy sandals (Elisheva) and ballerina flats (Elisheva’s friend).  In town, apparently they fantasized about ice cream, which they couldn’t have, and then walked home, arriving minutes before a terrible primeval thunder-and-lightning rainstorm. 
  • Lastly, and kind of irrelevantly… Okay, here’s a weird one.  Coke cans this summer have a gimmick my mother says they’ve borrowed from beer:  a Coke-bottle shaped logo with the words “Summer Ready When Red.”  However… when chilled in the fridge, freezer, glacier, Antarctica, wherever, the logo never gets any darker than THIS smeary pink shade.  Definitely the same stuff they use to make the double lines on pregnancy tests:  so faint it leaves you peering for hours, buzzing with questions.  “Could it be?  Is it summer-ready?  Can I drink it yet???”

 cottage life 096 

Well, I for one am “summer ready”!  What?  It’s August 22nd?  Summer’s almost OVER?


As my sister Sara always says (she can be as tedious as me when she tries), “there’s more summer in September than in June.”

We almost didn’t make it back – too much STUFF.  We drove up last Friday, eight people, in two cars.   (us, plus my mother and Sara) 

Both cars last week were stuffed to the rafters.  Then, my mother drove home on Monday and came up this Friday with three people:  Abigail, Elisheva and Elisheva’s friend, making it NINE people this weekend.  And the car was quite full this week, too.  But then we had to get it all home today – nearly three carloads’ worth - in one trip.  With only Ted apparently possessing the wits, energy and intact legs to actually pack the stuff up inside the house and load it cleverly in every available millilitre of space in and around the car (ie bunjy-strapped to our rackless roof).

Despite crashing rain torrents and whiny kids, we made it back.  It’s nice to be home; I doubt I could have survived any more relaxation with the family…