Art

Mid-March Roundup

They glide through the air with the greatest of ease – We are reading “Catching Air”, a book focused on GLIDING ANIMALS (non-bird animals that seemingly fly from tree to tree).  This is our third book by Sneed B. Collard III, whose writings on lizards and bird beaks (for heavens sakes) have made us enthusiastic observers.   As usual, the material he presents in “Catching Air” makes us feel super scholarly:

  • we now know that large eyes on animals are suggestive of a nocturnal nature
  • we now know the difference between flying, gliding, and parachuting animals
  • we now know what a patagium (vocab) is and we know how to pronounce it
  • we discussed the difference between a carnivore, herbivore, and omnivore
  • we are now among those who know where the largest, second largest, and third largest islands in the world are (the largest, of course, is Greenland – where there are no gliding animals, but there are gliding animals aplenty in Papua New Guinea, the second largest island and Borneo, third largest island) 
  • last night we read about the creepiest creepiest creepiest thing:  the air gliding snakes of Borneo     

Editing Triumph:  Hans Christian Anderson – I wanted my son to understand references that originated from Anderson’s writings, like “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and “The Ugly Duckling”, so we read from a most elegant edition of his fairy tales, compiled by Noel Daniel (published in 2013).  This book is thoughtfully organized and filled with sumptuous surprises.  There is a lot of gold ink, short informative sidebars, and each fairy tale is teamed up with its own illustrator  (the likes of Maurice Sendak and Arthur Rackham).  THIS is the edition that anybody interested in Hans Christian Anderson should own. 

Quick Notes –

  • Hokusai:  After finishing “The Old Man Mad about Drawing” (Francois Place), learning more about Katsushika Hokusai, woodcut print master of the late 1700’s, I presented my son with 4 Hokusai poster possibilities for his room.  He selected the classic, “The Great Wave”.  Even in poster form, it is more spectacular than I had imagined.
  • Marsupials:  First of all, “marsupial” is a fun word to say.  Marsupial, marsupial, marsupial.  We finished a unit on marsupials – those mammals that nurture their newborns in mom’s front pocket – except for those marsupials whose mom’s don’t have a front pocket (which our book should have expanded upon)(editing disappointment)(sigh).
  • Compass directions:  I did a compass check with my son.  Did he know north, south, east, and west?  YES.
  • Hank the Cow Dog:  It has been years since we have read through the John R. Erickson series.  This is the ridiculousness we need to conclude each day.  We pretty much love Hank.

Complaint Department:  My son and I are studying architectural landmarks.  I am not mentioning our resource because this book could have been so much better.  I would not be giving this editor a raise anytime soon:

  • Our book provides only vague references to each landmark’s location, as if the exact whereabouts were a secret.  Seriously?  No nearby city mention?  No COUNTRY mention?  How can there not be a little map accompanying each entry?   
  • Whereas all entries are interesting, are they all really landmarks?  Are the Roman Baths of England a landmark?  Are the the buried terra-cotta army figures in China a landmark?
  • Often the book waxes on about a particular object of fascination (fabulous mosaics, a special stone, etc) associated with a particular landmark, and then does not include a photo of the object.  AAAAACK.

Nevertheless, we do have our favorite landmarks:

  • First place honors go to the hundred foot tall Christ the Redeemer of Rio de Janeiro.  Monumental simplicity.  Of interest:  funding ran low during construction, so the Vatican stepped in to assist.  Nice.
  • Second place, measuring in at 185 feet (on one side) is the relentless engineering fiasco and utterly charming Leaning Tower of Pisa.  

Story problem – a landmark at Farmer Brown’s roadside produce stand!  In the hopes of making his produce stand a tour-bus destination, Farmer Brown has commissioned a sculptor to create a 10 foot high bronze ear of corn, to be positioned near the stand.  That should get everyone’s attention!  The “artwork” will be true to actual corn proportions.  If there are 50 kernels of corn in a typical row on a corncob, each kernel must be approximately how wide in the sculpture?  (answer at bottom of post)

A)  2.5 inches     B)  5 inches     C)  7.5 inches     D)  2.5 feet

Classical Music Time – earlier in this month (MARCH), a local radio station hosted a “vote for your favorite march” opportunity.  We listen to marches every Friday night throughout the year, so my son definitely knew the three he was voting for:

  • Marche Militaire No. 1 in D major, composed as a piano four-hands piece by  Franz Schubert and first published in 1826.   Perhaps best described as a ballroom march, Marche Militaire is also effectively used in the cute-as-anything Disney cartoon of 1932, “Santa’s Workshop” (my son LOVES this cartoon – frankly, I love this cartoon).  Note:  the extremely competent pianists in this clip do take quite a bit of time to get started:

  • March of the Prague Student Legion, by Bedrich Smetana, composed in 1848.  This is a march that fills you with nationalistic pride, makes you throw your shoulders back and stand up straight.  We love the snappy pace of this particular recording.  As an added listening bonus, tucked into the middle of the march, my son and I listen for a few bars of “The Farmer in the Dell”:

  • The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s theme),  John Williams’ genius nod to aggression and menace.  In this film clip, John Williams conducts the LA Philharmonic Orchestra (complete with Jedi and Mr. Vader):

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  A)  2.5”)

In a Happy Place

flags nordic

If you’re happy and you know it (you must be living in one of the Nordic countries) We wanted to learn a bit about Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Iceland when we read through the 2019 survey which ranked these Nordic countries the happiest in the world.  (FYI:  the USA placed 19th out of 156 – not too shabby)

We are using multiple resources, our globe is out, and here’s what has caught our attention: 

  • there are 30 active volcanos on Iceland
  • the only Finnish word in the American language is “sauna”
  • male AND female reindeer have antlers, and their wonky antlers are NOT symmetrical (vocab)
  • we know where to find 5 versions of the Nordic cross (all 5 countries use the Nordic cross on their national flag)
  • the Danish alphabet has three letters not found in the English alphabet
  • in 2019, the Helsinki, Finland public library was awarded Best Public Library in the World!

For those working toward a PhD in Herpetology – “Lizards” by Sneed B. Collard III is probably not the book.  For the rest of us, it IS the book:  organized, written in a casual voice, funny, funny, funny and filled with opinions, pretty good photos, and easy to grasp facts.  I tested my son on his lizard info comprehension by having him take THE LIZ QUIZ.  (A+, of course)(yay!)

Story Problems! 

From Le Fictitious Local Diner –  January is not only CHICKEN POT PIE MONTH at the diner, it is FREE IN-TOWN DELIVERY FOR CHICKEN POT PIES MONTH. Sales are skyrocketing.  Typically, the diner sells 50 pot pies a week.  But during free-delivery month, the diner has been selling 150 weekly.  Each pot pie costs $3 to produce and sells for $8.  How much more per week does the diner PROFIT in chicken pot pies during the free delivery month?
A)  $150     B)  $300     C)  $500     D)  $800  (answer at bottom of post)

From Farmer Brown’s ranch – Every January, Farmer Brown provides each of his 5 farm hands with 2 new pair of fleece lined jeans (at $50 each, including tax) and a heavy-duty waterproof jacket (at $90 each, including tax).  Was Farmer Brown able to spend less than $1,000 for the purchases this year? (answer at bottom of post)

Zigzagging from our solar system to  woodcut prints to Claude Debussy –

planetarium

– It started with “Planetarium”, Raman Prinja’s dazzling book of planets, galaxies, dark matter, etc.  My son and I have read through several excellent outer space books, so we are on the lookout for anything new:  “Planetarium” did not disappoint –   we have now been introduced to THE OORT CLOUD.  But the real story for us:  the imaginative and superbly crafted woodcut print illustrations by Chris Wormell.

– We are now in WOODCUT PRINT APPRECIATION mode:  we are re-reading “The Old Man Mad about Drawing”, about the great Japanese woodcut print master, Hokusai.  We are also working through “Making Woodblock Prints” by Chesterman and Nelson, to understand the skills and tools involved.

– THEN, while listening to the radio show, “Exploring Music with Bill McLaughlin” we learned that Claude Debussy was so intrigued by woodcut prints that he requested that Hokusai’s famed “The Great Wave” be used on the cover of his La Mer sheet music.

Our classical music selections – the focus had to be on Claude Debussy.  As polished and deeply moving as the music is, we do not often select Debussy pieces for our nightly STUDIES AND STORIES conclusion as we are usually looking for something jollier.  However, three pieces that we are familiar with (and like) – 

  • Jeux de Vagues – movement 2 from Debussy’s 1905 orchestral composition, La Mer.  My son and I envision being plopped in the middle of an ocean where the music has no beginning nor end.  That is what we hear in this intuitive piece:

  • Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun – this 10+ minute symphonic poem, composed in 1894, is considered to be the beginning of modern music.  Here is what we think:  that flute player, who opens the piece is under ENORMOUS pressure:

  • Clair de Lune – the beloved movement 3 from Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque (for piano), of 1905.  

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers:  Diner – C.  $500, Farmer Brown – Yes)

Salient?

state-map

Salients and Peninsulas – We are a fifth of the way through our “Where is That?” states-in-the-USA activity, and my son is learning more than just the location of the states.  Two nights ago we learned about salients – and SURPRISE, we have lived in three of nine salient states:  Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, West Virginia, Connecticut, Idaho, Nebraska, Maryland, and Alaska.  We learned that SALIENT is the correct geographical term for a PANHANDLE (side learning excursion – I had to show my son a real pan handle).  We learned that a panhandle is surrounded by land, and a peninsula (where Big Peaches – star grandmother – lives) is surrounded by water.  We also considered the customary definition of salient (meaning “most important”, “most noticeable”) (vocab).  And my son also learned that panhandling (vocab) has nothing to do with pans or geography.

pans

Story Problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – speaking of panhandles, the diner management team decided it is time to replace all frying pans.  The chefs are delighted!  8 small-sized skillets are to be ordered at a cost of $25 each, and 8 larger fry pans are to be ordered at a cost of $75 each.  How much will the diner spend for shipping (if shipping is 15% of the total order)?
A. $25      B. $80      C. $120      D. $200 (answer at bottom of post)

History is coming alive – Yay! Candace Fleming’s “Presenting Buffalo Bill – The Man who Invented the Wild West” has us on the edge of our seats.  We are currently reading about Will Cody’s pre-teen years in the Kansas territory, where his family was caught in the territory’s “slavery/no slavery” struggle (a shameful blot on the pages of American history – teams of pro-slavery thugs from Missouri terrorized homesteaders who did not want Kansas to be a slavery state).  As Will’s father was an object of death threats from the pro-slavery faction, and was often out of state, in hiding, a very young Will Cody had to provide the primary financial support for his large family.   Working for a shipping company that delivered goods to military posts in Colorado and Utah, Will had his full share of wild west adventures (stampedes, shoot-outs, starvation).  What’s going to happen next???

better-tokyo-sculpture           better-blue-brushtstroke

Roy Lichtenstein – two take-aways from Susan Goldman Rubin’s excellent book, “Whaam! The Art and Life of Roy Lichtenstein”:

1)  What is a win-win situation?  How about when a corporation commissions (vocab) artwork that will be accessible to the general public?  We love Lichtenstein’s sculpture, “Tokyo Brushstroke II” commissioned by an architectural firm in Japan, and the crazy-gigantic-five-stories high mural, “Blue Brushstroke” commissioned by The Equitable Life Assurance Society in Manhattan.  The win-win?
– thousands and thousands and thousands of people get to enjoy the artwork
– excellent PR (vocab) for the corporation
– the artist gets paid!
2)  We are never too old to try something new:  Roy Lichtenstein learned to play the saxophone in his mid 60’s! OF COURSE, we were enthusiastic about devoting an evening to a sampling of saxophone sounds:

  • Harlem Nocturne, composed by Earle Hagen and Dick Rogers in 1939, played to perfection by the Duke Ellington Orchestra. The saxophone brings the sultry:

  • The Pink Panther Theme, composed by Henri Mancini in 1963.  This is OLD footage, with Henry Mancini conducting.  The saxophone brings the relentlessly sneaky:

  • The Prologue to West Side Story, composed by Leonard Bernstein for the 1957 Broadway production. The saxophone doesn’t take center stage in this piece, but does set the tone for a collage of NYC sounds and rhythms:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  C. $120)

It’s All Fun!

roy-whaam

Giant Cartoon Art – We are currently reading through “Whaam! The Art & Life of Roy Lichtenstein” by Susan Goldman Rubin.  This book is filled with examples of his pop art of the 1960’s that both shocked (“this is art?????”) and rocked a generation.  Each of Lichtenstein’s paintings was inspired by published comic book drawings of others, and I like that the author addressed the issue of copyright. My son likes looking at photographs of Lichtenstein’s art on display, with people standing near the paintings, so he can get an idea of exactly how large the paintings are.

bill-polka-dots

Buffalo Bill and his Wild West Show – Hot off the press! Candace Fleming’s “Presenting Buffalo Bill – The Man who Invented the Wild West” was just published in 2016.  We are only a few nights into this book and we are loving every minute.  Oh my! Buffalo Bill – what a man with BIG vision and what a risk (vocab) taker!  This book is part of our Native North American unit – we are impressed with the author’s excellent research and sensitivity regarding Lakota tribe members who were part of the Wild West Show (and this has provoked a short side study of the Lakota tribe).

Game ON – the other night, my son grabbed a pen, and I knew he wanted to communicate something – so I supported his wrist and here is what he wrote, “I want to play hangman.”!!!!  Really?  Well, OK!  We have been playing hangman about 2 times a week for a month or two, but I had no idea he was liking this spelling game.  I am relieved that his handwriting has improved to the point that I can read it.  Huge communication progress!

50 Days of Fun!  I am stretching the definition of “fun”, but this is sort of diverting:  we have started playing, “WHERE IS THAT?”.  I place a blank map of the USA on the desk and I ask my son to ink a dot in the middle of a particular state.  After he finds the correct state, we (hand-over-hand) color it in. Could this be a gateway activity – first the USA, then maybe the countries of South America?  Then WHO KNOWS???

And if that weren’t enough – I have added a new resource tab (look on title block) – “The Bookshelf”.  This is where I will keep a running list of the books that have worked particularly well for my son and me.

box-lunch

Box Lunches at Le Fictitious Local Diner –  Everyone knows that box lunches (vocab concept) are by definition FUN!  And here is a twist: the Local Diner’s box lunches are vegetarian, and include a bottle of kombucha that comes with it’s own teeny paper parasol.  FUN!  The lunches are apparently delicious, and the response has been enthusiastic:  during the first week 30 boxes were sold on Monday, 20 on Tuesday, 40 on Wednesday, 10 on Thursday, 40 on Friday, and 20 on Saturday!  Each box sells for $9.  If it costs the diner $4 to put the box together (including the box and the napkins, etc), what was the diner’s profit for the first week?
A. $800    B. $160    C. $1,440    D. $60 (answer at bottom of post)

Music – It was time to learn more about the SNARE DRUM – Yay percussion instruments!

snare-drum

First, we needed to see how the snare drum was constructed.  We learned that a band of narrow wires stretched across the bottom of the drum gives it that muffled rattly sound. We listened for the snare drum in:

Blue Tango, composed by LeRoy Anderson in 1951, and was ranked by Billboard as the number one song of 1952!  Sassy.

Scotland the Brave – this pipe and drum corps classic is considered to be one of three unofficial national anthems of Scotland.  BTW, in Scotland, the snare drum is called a side drum.  BTW, we are the sort of people that really like the music of bagpipes.  This footage is just so great:

Bolero, composed by Maurice Ravel, as a one-movement orchestral piece for ballet, in 1929.  From everything we have read – and can readily believe – playing the snare drum in this piece is a musician’s nightmare.  Seventeen-plus minutes of the same rhythm over and over and over and over.  But what a fine, fine performance by the Vienna Philharmonic, conducted so carefully by Gustavo Dudamel:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(Story problem answer: A. $800)

Club Gustav

eiffel-tower

And so it begins:  a few nights ago, my son and I started reading, “The Eiffel Tower – Gustave Eiffel’s Spectacular Idea” by Cooper/Bock.  Hmmm; the book’s facts differ slightly (actually markedly) from what the Wikipedia entry has to say about the tower and who’s idea it was.   Regardless, I knew we would be interested in the construction of the Eiffel Tower – all of those triangles – and the fact is, Gustave Eiffel was a brilliant, innovative, experienced architect and engineer.  We also looked at some of his bridges, and his structural plan for supporting the inside of the Statue of Liberty.

Meanwhile, it occurred to me that we had never listened to anything by Gustav Mahler, so I started listening to a LOT of Mahler (a LOT because each and every piece is SO long), selecting compositions to share with my son.  And all of a sudden, I thought: we have two “Gustavs” already, why not have this week be all about spotlighting noteworthy “Gustavs”?  So we added:

gustave-the-croc kiss-klimt planets

  • the art work of Gustav Klimt – we admired 12 of his landscapes (via a large calendar).  We couldn’t stop looking at “Forest of Birch Trees” and “Island in the Attersee” (both 1902).  We also spent time looking at every detail of his most well known painting, the shimmering richly patterned, gold-leafed “The Kiss” (1907).
  • a review of the music of Gustav Holst, a composer we are familiar with.  We listened to a few movements from “The Planets”, his Morris Dance Tunes, and the march from his “First Suite in E flat for Military Band” (we like listening for the monarch reviewing the troops).
  • then, HOLY CATS, a short study of Gustave the Crocodile of Burundi (we located teeny Burundi on the globe).  Oh, this is so sad: according to Wikipedia, “The World Happiness Report 2016 Update ranked Burundi as the world’s least happy nation”.  Well, I am sure Gustave is not helping.  So far, this 60 year old, 25 foot-long, bullet-proof baddest croc of them all, has killed 300 people.  He is THE WORST.  He is INFAMOUS (vocab word of the night).

Our music theme last night: what else? Gustav, Gustav, Gustave and Gustavo –

mahler dudamel holst

Mahler, Dudamel, and Holst

  • we listened to Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 in C minor, movement III, composed about 1890.  There are a lot of moods and themes in this 10 minute movement – lush harmonies, frenetic rhythms, the lure of the exotic melody, and do we hear birdsong?  Conducted by the sizzling Gustavo Dudamel:

  • we can hear Gustav Holst’s messenger god flitting willy-nilly all over the universe.  We have probably listened to the “Mercury” movement  from The Planets (composed in 1916) about 45 times.  It just doesn’t get old.

  • and for Gustave the Crocodile we listened to, “Never Smile at a Crocodile” from Disney’s 1953 movie “Peter Pan”.  Music by Frank Churchill, words by Jack Lawrence.  What’s not to like?

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH

Good Books, Bad Books

Sorry to be on a rant in mid-December, but REALLY!  How do poorly edited books manage to get published?   Case in point: my son and I were reading a coffee table-style book about birds of North America.  The introduction was rather good:  we learned that birds with long legs have long necks; we learned that a grouping of bird eggs in a nest is called a clutch.  And then the book fell apart.  A chapter entitled, “Swifts and Hummingbirds” contained NOT ONE MENTION, NOT ONE PHOTOGRAPH of a swift.  And you would think that an author making an effort to explain the simple word, “clutch”, would make sure the reader understood more difficult terms, such as “arboreal” and “terrestrial”.  But no.  In an angry huff, we have bid adieu to that sham of a book.

animal kingdom

Happier reading: we are now reading “Animal Kingdom” by Nicholas Blechman and Simon Rogers…same outstanding graphic format as “Human Body”, which we read a few weeks ago.  Currently, we are mid-chapter, learning about senses; last night reading about animal eyes (largest eye: giant squid…eyes covered by skin, rendering them blind: mole rats (GROSS)), tonight reading about animal ears, and the variety of listening abilities. So interestingly presented, we are back to being happy learners.

Even happier reading:

books final

  • we have finished “Rules of the Road” by Joan Bauer. EXCELLENT story: well written, complex plot, skilled characterizations, and topped off with all sorts of life lessons.
  • and if it is December, we return once again to a super favorite, “Mrs. Coverlet’s Magicians” by Mary Nash. This book was a Children’s Book Club offering in 1962.  I LOVED it then, and I LOVE it every year for a re-read. We are reading the very same copy that my dad read to my sister and me, but the book is still available on Amazon and the plot is a DELIGHT.

Our music project last night – selecting music to enhance another poster in my son’s room, “Checkered House” by Grandma Moses, painted in 1943. (The poster was purchased after we completed a unit on Grandma Moses a few years ago.)

Grandma Moses Check

  • “Over the River and through the Wood”, a poem by Lydia Maria Child originally entitled, “The New-England Boy’s Song about Thanksgiving Day” (but it still works for all of the December holidays), published in 1844.  Alas, the composer is unknown. Darling video footage taken from an elementary school winter concert.

  • “Sleigh Ride”, composed by Leroy Anderson during the heat wave of 1946! Mr. Anderson was VERY smart (a Harvard man!) and VERY funny. A perfect performance by the President’s Marine Corps Chamber Orchestra.

  • “The Friendly Beasts”, also known as “Carol of the Animals”, words by Robert Davis, penned in the 1920’s, set to French music from the 12th century.  Not too much to look at in this video, but the song is sung by Peter, Paul, and Mary, and it is wonderful!

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

Answers for Everything

8 ball white

Are we having fun yet?  Signs point to yes.  My son received a Magic 8-Ball for his birthday and he seems fascinated by the idea of receiving answers (to goofy questions) from the black ball.  Well, CHEERS!  I am always looking for opportunities to expand my son’s game/toy experiences.  The first hurdle (and it is a HUGE hurdle) is to find a toy that intrigues him.  Did we hit the jackpot with the Magic 8-Ball?  You may rely on it!  GREAT GIFT!

Non-Fiction – we are continuing to learn from the books “Maps” (yay), “Human Body”(yay), and “Genghis Kahn” (battle/skirmish/double-cross/repeat) (will this book never end?).

rules of road book

Fiction – we are enjoying “Rules of the Road” (winner of the L.A. Times Book Prize) by Joan Bauer.  This appealing book skillfully balances difficult concepts (alcoholism, Alzheimer’s) with the inherent hilarity of the shoe business and a new drivers license. I knew we were going to like this book, because years ago I read and loved “Hope was Here” (HKH are you reading this????), also by Joan Bauer.

pies in oven

Le Fictitious Local Diner’s story problem!  The diner is sponsoring a community “pie bake” and has set aside one afternoon in November for anyone (meaning high school students who need more volunteer hours for their graduation requirement) to come assemble pumpkin, apple, and pecan pies.  The diner will bake the pies and deliver them to the senior citizen center for their Thanksgiving dinner.  The diner’s plan is to make 20 pies of each type.  Here are the cost breakdowns:

pie tins: $0.50 each, pie crusts: $0.25 each, apple filling: $3.00 each, pumpkin filling: $3.00 each, pecan filling: $6.00 each. The diner’s tax lady needs the total costs for the 60 pies.

cowboy painting

Last night’s music program took its inspiration from a poster on my son’s wall:  Frederic Remington’s gorgeous, touching, lonely, “The Fall of the Cowboy”, painted in 1895.   This painting is on display at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, so we are lucky to have seen it “in person” several times.

  • First, to set the mood, we listened to George Winston’s gorgeous, touching, lonely piano solo, “Thanksgiving”, from his “December” album, released in 1982.

  • My son and I decided that after a long, cold day, the cowboys would want to head off to the local barn dance.  We like this video of two fiddle players expertly playing Aaron Copland’s “Hoe-Down” from his ballet, Rodeo (which premiered in 1942).

  • And finally, a little comfort music for the weary cowboys:  John Denver’s “Back Home Again”, released in 1974.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

Lights! Camera! Edison!

Edison

Creativity AND Business Skills – We just completed a unit on Thomas Edison and his brainy brilliance that brought the world incandescent light bulbs, phonographs, movie cameras, etc.  The DK Readers book we read is entitled, “Thomas Edison: The Great Inventor”, but the underlying message is “Inventor? Yes, but this man ALSO possessed extraordinary business skills that were more than a match for his relentless inventing”.  Wow.  My son and I had as many conversations about Edison’s unerring business sense as we did about his creations.

drake better

Good books about bad people – so far we have learned about Napoleon, King George III, Rasputin, and Alexander the Great via the outstanding Scholastic “A Wicked History” series.  The books are well researched and written to our level of comprehension, meaning NOT juvenile, but not mind-numbingly erudite.  The only negative: the photos are always so small, in grey tones/very hard to decipher.  We are currently learning about a really awful person (from a really awful family chock full of bullies, thugs and thieves), Sir Francis Drake.  I had NO idea he was so reprehensible.  AWFUL.

Greetings book

“Greetings from Nowhere” – our new novel, by Barbara O’Connor is an original, entertaining book, just the type we look for (young adult themes my son can understand without the awkward “coming of age” element), with lots of concepts for us to discuss: motel, kitchenette, adoption, and for heavens sakes, last night we had to Google Image CHARM BRACELETS.

hands

Art at the Vatican – to prepare ourselves for a Vatican art survey, we are reading “Michelangelo” by Diane Stanley. Excellent resource.

Dogs playing poker

Art at Le Fictitious Local Diner – this story problem revolves around the diner gussying up the place with selected pieces of what some might call art. Of course, they are installing the classic “A Friend in Need” (the rest of us know it as “Dogs Playing Poker”) by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge, purchased for $45.  A portrait of Elvis on black velvet has also been purchased for $90.  Posters of Batman, Superman, and Marilyn Monroe round out the collection, the lot acquired at a garage sale for $10.  How much has the diner spent on “artwork”? (Heh, heh, the answer is not “zero”.)  Money to purchase the exciting wall decor came from the diner’s tabletop jukeboxes.  At 25 cents per song, how many songs had to be played before the art could be purchased?

Inventions for Inventions: our classical music theme last night – we celebrated the inventions of Thomas Edison by listening to a few inventions by Johann Sebastian Bach.  First, we needed to understand what a Bach invention is.  For this, we viewed a superb 7-minute video starring killer pianist Simone Dinnerstein.  This video is a jewel!  Just watch her flying fingers!

Bach’s 15 inventions were composed as keyboard exercises in 1723.  We listened to:

  • Invention No. 8 in F major”, played by Simone Dinnerstein.  Seriously, we love her!  We want to know where to get our SD Fan Club badges.

  • Invention No. 13 in A minor”, played by little mighty mite, Annie Zhou, an 8 year old, competing in the Canadian Music Competition a few years back.  Watch her attack this piece.

  • Invention No. 6 in E major” played by a banjo and double bass.  We watched this for comic relief, but were so pleasantly surprised by the high quality of the performance! Kudos!

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

Well Played!

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Wishing Wells – Did my son know what a wishing well was? No!  So we opened up the iPad to see what Wikipedia and Google Images had to say and show us (seriously there isn’t much to know; if you know what a wishing well is, then you pretty much know everything there is to know about the concept).  But wait!  We thought this was noteworthy: during the course of the year, Disney properties accumulate around $18,000 in coins from their various wishing wells and fountains.  That is a LOT of wishes!  The money is donated to charity. Nice.  (And now my son knows exactly what to do the next time he encounters a wishing well.)

fish pastels

We’re still drawing – we decided that Monday nights should be “official drawing with pastels nights”, and we are still being inspired by the “20 ways to Draw a Jellyfish” book. Basically, my son selects the color, I hold the pastel and then he grasps my wrist and guides my hand.  The activity has my son’s full focus, it feels quite therapeutic, and we are getting a bit of hand-eye coordination going on.  Drawing the sea-life inspired us to listen to the very short “The Aquarium” by Camille Saint-Saens (composed in 1886) (and BTW, used during the prologue of the “Beauty and the Beast” movie).

Farmer Brown’s story problem – Back to wishing wells! Did you know that there is a wishing well on Farmer Brown’s ranch? Inspired by the Disney corporation, once a year Farmer Brown cleans out of the bottom of the well and donates all of the coins to the local elementary school music program, to help purchase instruments.  This year, Farmer Brown recovered 185 quarters, 100 dimes, 220 nickels, and 236 pennies.  How much was Farmer Brown able to give to the school?  If the cost of a decent recorder instrument is $8.00, how many recorders can the school purchase with Farmer Brown’s gracious donation?

recorder horizontal

What’s a recorder?  My son didn’t know.  So we learned that the slender wooden instrument (sort of like a VERY simplified clarinet) (sort of), was quite popular during the Renaissance. (No present day Renaissance faire aiming for authenticity should be without wandering musicians playing recorders.) AND here comes an interesting related factoid: when King Henry VIII died in 1547, seventy-three recorders were found among his possessions. He was obviously quite a collector of many things (we briefly discussed his many wives).  But back to the recorder – it is now an instrument of choice for children’s musical programs (probably due to the fact that a recorder of adequate quality can be made of plastic, so is economically feasible).

Music of the recorder – this music is so much better than we were expecting!!!  We want to try to play a recorder – we’ve already ordered one from Amazon.

  • Sopranino Recorder Concerto in C major, movement 1 – composed by Antonio Vivaldi in 1728. Lively!

  • Ode to Joy, from the final movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (1824) – Apparently “Ode to Joy” is a basic learning melody for the recorder, so we found a video that showcases a group of very serious young potential musicians.

  • Greensleeves – this old, old English folk tune was even mentioned in Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor” (1602), giving documented proof that this is indeed music of the Renaissance.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

Jams and Jellyfish

jams

Preserves – I know a whole slew of people that don’t know the difference between a conserve, a jam, a marmalade, and a jelly…So I assumed correctly that my son (who limits himself to a regimented diet that has never included any sort of preserves), might not know the difference either.  We read through some luscious sounding definitions, took a little matching quiz, and attempted a taste test at our late-night snack time.  You would think that we had a little momentum going, and after all, what’s not to like about apricot jam and grape jelly?  Yet, surprise, surprise – another classic food-trial fail.  He wouldn’t try a bite.  Don’t worry, I am not discouraged in the least.  Sometimes (maybe once out of every 85 tries) something like this works!  We are a patient people.  A patient people, now with a fully-stocked preserves pantry.

Jellyfish book    jellyfish

Drawing Jellyfish – Have you seen this book, “20 Ways to Draw a Jellyfish” by Trina Dalziel?  Way fun!  So here is what we have been doing: drawing a lot of jellyfish, or “sea jellies”, or just “jellies” (all the same thing).  Such a satisfying drawing activity – first the “oral arms” (squiggly and completely gross), then the big bubble on top, and then the wiry tentacles.  Drawing jellyfish provoked us to learn something about them:  1) there are jellyfish in every ocean on earth, 2) there are jellyfish at every level of the ocean, 3) there are jellyfish of every size.  Fossils reveal that jellyfish have been around for between 500 and 700 million years, making them the oldest multi-organ residents of planet Earth.  Great use of our STORIES AND STUDIES time.

othello book

Othello Update – Well, we can’t all have the same opinion.  Those following the blog know that this play has been difficult for me to read through, due to Shakespeare’s perfectly crafted villain, Iago.  However, my son is apparently riveted: twice now, as I have been about to close the book for the night, my son’s hand has come slapping down onto the page, in essence saying, “KEEP READING”.  Wow.  He likes it!  He is paying attention!  He is communicating effectively!  I love it!

Story Problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – Exciting doings at the diner! The bathrooms are being remodeled, and the designer is driving the contractor crazy. The designer is very picky about the tile that is being installed, accepting only 2 out of every 6 tiles shown. There are 12 tiles in each box. How many boxes will the designer paw through before finding 80 tiles that win approval?

piccolo, flute, clarinet

     – The Piccolo: the tag-along kid sister to the Clarinet and Flute –

Music Theme:  Shrill Thrills! – Last night we showcased the piccolo!  The shrieking, sky-high, clean-out-your-ears-through-next-week, teeny tiny piccolo!  The selections we chose would be so lacking and so unfinished if it were not for the piccolo.

  • Tchaikovsky’s “Chinese Dance” from “The Nutcracker Ballet”, premiered in 1892.  We enjoyed this darling segment danced by the Royal Ballet (somewhere in Russia – I can’t decipher the descriptive Cyrillic script) (I can only do so much).

  • Respighi’s “Triton Fountain in the Morning” from his symphonic poem, “Fountains of Rome”, which premiered in 1917.  This sparkling, spritely movement opens with piercing exuberance, courtesy of the piccolo.  Sorry, the video footage is not all that one would wish (but the music is A+).

  • John Philip Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever”, composed Christmas Day 1896, and declared “National March of the United States of America” by act of the U.S. Congress in 1987 (wow, 91 years later; talk about a slow process).  This excellent video stars the US Army Field Band, and as is traditional, the piccolo section stands for the most stirring passage.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH