Month: April 2015

Peace, Love, and Tambourines

   peace symbol tiedye       peace symbol daisy       peace symbol

Can ya dig it?  One of our current novels, “Schooled”, by Gordon Korman, references the hippie lifestyle and communes, so we took a look at iconic items of this outrageously creative movement; the fashions, hairstyles, crafts (macramé/tie-dying). My son poured over the photos, completely fascinated by the psychedelic colors, flower head wreathes, fringed leather vests, granny glasses, macramé belts and plant hangers.  EVERYTHING.

News from the vocabulary front – I have added a new tab (“The Wordery”) to the menu bar under the blog title…we are now keeping a running list of vocabulary words that we find from our study units or novels.

A new academic unit – Napoleon!  And I think we have the perfect starter reference.  This little book is well organized and clearly written.  It is helping us to understand the complexities and career of this unique (I am not sure this is a strong enough word) man.

napoleon 2

Book care – we had a bit of a conversation about bookmarks (greeting cards from the grandmothers make great bookmarks) vs. dog-earing. We saw how dog-earing weakens the paper, and decided it was a mean thing to do to books.

Exponents – My son has been familiar with the concept of square roots for several years, so now we are going the other way – exponents. We began with 5 to the power of 10. We multiplied and multiplied and multiplied.  I have found a jazzy math app that gives quizzes about exponents. I think it is really neat, but it is enjoying only moderate enthusiasm from my son.  Further update in next post.

 tambourine

Let’s talk tambourines – the “must-have” accessory for 60’s and 70’s band groupies:  here’s a fact – a tambourine is a great gift idea.  Who doesn’t dream of sequestering oneself in an empty house and jangling a tambourine for five minutes straight?  How can this not be therapeutic?  But back to the gift idea – tambourines are not particularly expensive, and if you have little nieces and nephews, this is the birthday gift they want (and their parents don’t want them to have).  You’re welcome.

Tambourines showcased in music – here is what we listened to:

  • “Mr. Tambourine Man”, our nod to the hippie era continues.  This was written by Bob Dylan in 1965 and popularized by both Mr. Dylan and “The Byrds”.  Semi-interesting: in the Bob Dylan version there is no trace of a tambourine sound.  See for yourself:

  • “Tarantella”, originally written as a piano piece by Gioachino Rossini (1835) and orchestrated by Ottorino Respighi (1919).  MARVELOUS.  I couldn’t find a film clip that shows the tambourine being played, but you can definitely hear it.

  • “The Russian Dance” or “Trepak” from Tchaikovsky’s ballet, The Nutcracker (1892).  A power packed minute, thanks to the tambourine.

  • And lastly, one of our top 10 – probably top 5 – favorites, “The Wild Bears”, from Sir Edward Elgar’s suite, “The Wand of Youth” (1908).  This piece was OH MY! composed while Elgar worked in an insane asylum. Hmmm, interesting.  This particular video is perfect – we love this conductor (Mariss Jansons) and the video footage gives the tambourine the attention it deserves.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

It’s a date!

date palm     date shakes     lady and tramp     bad date video game

Were we learning about date palms, date shakes, perfect dates, or perfectly awful dates?  Uh, no.

B.C./B.C.E. – A.D./C.E.  My son and I keep running into the acronyms (new vocab word) “BCE” and “CE” during our academic studies.  Last night we decided to find out what the letters mean.  We learned that BCE (“before common era”) and CE (“common era”) refer to time periods that match up exactly with the traditional BC (“Before Christ”) and AD (“Anno Domini”).  In other words, the date 335 BC is the same as the date 335 BCE.  Likewise, the date 1990 AD means the same thing as 1990 CE.  The terms BCE and CE have been in widespread use for the past 20 years, but we learned they have actually been around for over 300 years.  We like to know stuff like this.

More Shakespeare – We have enjoyed reading adaptations of “MacBeth”, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, and “Hamlet”, so we are now reading a retelling of “Romeo and Juliet”, by Adam McKeown.  McKeown does an excellent job of introducing characters and storylines at a pace we can process, and he makes us eager to read the real plays.  I think you can imagine why we aren’t starting off with the plays themselves – we want to be familiar with the basic plots, characters, and motivations before Shakespeare’s spellbinding words mesmerize us.

 thespian masksThe Thespian Masks – How can we read about Shakespeare without understanding the basics of “comedy” and “tragedy”?  I gave my son a list of ridiculous situations and had him decide if each circumstance fell into a comic or tragic category, then I showed him thespian (new vocab word) comedy and tragedy masks, the concept of which originated from the dramas of ancient Greece around 335 BC (or shall we say, 335 BCE).

schooled and destiny novel

Novels – We continue to read, “The Way to Stay in Destiny” by Augusta Scattergood – still really like picking up this book every night.  And this past week, we began a re-read of one of our old favorites, “Schooled” by Gordon Korman (important read, heartwarmer read).

 lamblamblamblamb

Our Farmer Brown Story Problem –  Offspring in the spring!  Farmer Brown’s ranch is home to 20 ewes.  This spring, half gave birth to twins, a fifth gave birth to quadruplets, and the rest had a single lamb each. How many sweet lambs does Farmer Brown have now?

 Ben Frank poster

Last night’s music theme was “Benjamin Franklin in France” – We used the N.C. Wyeth poster on my son’s wall, of a young Benjamin Franklin, as inspiration.  We decided to focus upon the years Ben Franklin served as US Ambassador to France (1776 – 1785).  We know he was well-entertained in France, and this must certainly have included symphonic concerts and opera productions.  It is so likely that he heard these:

  • Mozart – Overture to the Abduction from the Seraglio (1782).  This is the composition that provoked Austrian Emperor Joseph II (maybe a bit short on the musical smarts) to remark that there were “too many notes” in the piece.  My son and I think the brilliant and far more musically inclined Ben Franklin would have loved this overture!

  • Bach – The Coffee Cantata (1735), a way-fun work that pits a father against his strong-willed daughter, fighting over her excessive consumption of coffee.  We think Ben Franklin, a known coffee enthusiast, would have been amused by this mini comic opera.

  • Haydn – Symphony No. 45, “The Farewell Symphony” (1772).  This is a symphony we want to see in person, because a most interesting thing happens in movement 4…entire sections of the orchestra sneak away, a bit at a time.  By the conclusion, only the conductor and the concertmaster are left.  We hope Mr. Franklin didn’t miss this!

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

 

Things that go bump in the night

beebee raccoons

Our Easter Evening Event:  As our family gathered to reflect upon a lovely Easter day, tranquility was interrupted by sudden bumps and scraping sounds coming from the attic. A quick look revealed a mama raccoon tending sweet, sweet “kits” amid the attic insulation.  This propelled my son and me to begin a mini-study on raccoons.  We found out that they are native to North America, they are “omnivores”, and they are “nocturnal” (that is why we didn’t hear them moving around during the day).  A happy ending to the day:  new vocab words for my son, and mama and babies are now enjoying their new home in a safe wooded area of the local golf course.

We thought the phrase, “things that go bump in the night” perfectly described our Easter Evening Event.  We learned that the words come from an old Scottish prayer –

“From ghoulies and ghosties

And long-legged beasties

And things that go bump in the night,

Good Lord, deliver us!”

Zigzag Learning (where we let one topic lead us to another at lightning speed): Julia Rothman’s excellent book, “Nature Anatomy” started the learning chain this time. We were looking at her illustrations of butterflies, and we took particular notice of a “swallowtail” butterfly. My son needed to know why swallowtail butterflies were called swallowtail butterflies.

 swallowtail     swallows white background     capistrano swallows     swallowtail tux

  • So first, we looked at several photos of swallows. We saw how the birds’ pointy, forked feather tails could easily have inspired the animal naming committee to call butterflies with the tiny drip on the hindwings, “swallowtails”.
  • Then, we decided to read about the swallows of the San Juan Capistrano Mission (with a short-side trip to learn a bit about the California mission system). We found out that the swallows spend the winter in Argentina and the summer in southern California.
  • So now, we had to locate Argentina on the globe, and think about the iron-strong muscles in the birds’ wings, that allow them to fly the 6,000 miles.
  • Finally, we had to see how the swallows have had their way in fashion: we looked at men’s clothing from the Victorian era – the formal tailcoat, with “cutaway”, “swallowtail” or “morning coat” options.

That’s a lot of learning from one little butterfly.

Our music theme for last night – “Cuckoo for Music”. We considered the two-note cuckoo motif and then listened to three neat compositions:

  • “Organ Concerto No. 13 (The Cuckoo and the Nightingale)”, movement 2, by Handel (1740).  About one minute twenty seconds into the movement you can definitely make out the cuckoo motif.  This piece really moves right along. Classic Handel.  Fabulous pipe organ in this video!

  • “Symphony 6 (The Pastoral)”, movement 2, by Beethoven (1808). This is a long movement (around 13 minutes of happy, relaxing gorgeousness) (and this video clip has Leonard Bernstein conducting and one should NEVER miss an opportunity to watch Bernstein conduct).  The bird sounds aren’t evident until the final minute, but so worth the wait (or one could be the type of person that fast-forwards to the final minute) (your secret is safe with us, because maybe we have felt compelled to fast-forward upon occasion).

  • “The Birds”, movement 5 (The Cuckoo), by Respighi (1928). Here is what we like to do: count the number of times we hear the cuckoo motif. Try somewhere around 70 times, in the short span of 4 minutes.  This is an absolute jewel of a piece.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH