Art

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)

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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!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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