Handwriting

Whale Fall and other Water Wonders

whale

Whale Fall* is one of the concepts we are learning about from Stephen and Anthony Palumbi’s book, “The Extreme Life of the Sea” (professor of marine science at Stanford University, Stephen Palumbi is an undisputed expert).  So far, we have also learned about William Beebe (the first man to descend a half mile into the sea in a ridiculously tiny air-tight sphere), bioluminescence (vocab, AND maybe our most beautiful word of 2017), the challenges of tidal pool living, mangrove forest ecosystems – every topic draws us in.  It is a privilege to study from this book.

*Whale Fall – because you want to know – describes the creation of a deep sea ecosystem, put into place when a whale dies and sinks to the bottom of the sea.  Once my son and I got beyond the grimness, we marveled at the genius of this circle-of-life system. BTW, whale fall has been going on for about 33 million years (and yet, surprise surprise, this is the first I have heard about it. Once again, when I study with my son, we both win.).

nessy photo

On the lighter side – we are reading “The Loch Ness Monster (Behind the Legend)”, by Erin Peabody.  This well-organized book presents and intelligently refutes the many Nessie legends and hoaxes (HOAXES:  we remembered when we read about the crop circle hoaxes) (who ARE these people who have time to perpetuate hoaxes?).  But back to the book:  yes, we look forward to reading from this every evening.

cursive

The Cursive Suggestion – I enjoyed a thought provoking conversation with a friend who is finishing up certification requirements for dyslexia therapy.  She said current studies indicate that for some, cursive handwriting is FAR easier than plain printing (loads of documented reasons).  Well, this caught my attention – when I am helping my son write, it is difficult to tell when he has finished one letter and is ready to start another.  Cursive writing might be a solution.  Say no more, we are on it.

hot thermometer

Cooling down at Le Fictitious Local Diner – What with the weather being so hot, the diner’s August marketing strategy is to give every lunch patron a paper fan (with diner take-out menu imprinted) as they leave.  The diner can purchase 250 wood handled fans for $120.  The diner averages 1,000 lunch customers a month.  How many sets of fans should be ordered?  How much will the diner spend on 1000 fans?

Last year, the August promotion (sun visors with diner logo) generated an extra $1,500 in take-out orders.  If this year’s promotion brings in a like amount of business, will the fans be a good use of advertising dollars? (story problem answers at bottom of post)

Looking for a Classical Music Controversy?  Might we suggest trying to differentiate between Rounds, Canons, and Fugues?  Apparently, this is a touchy subject among musicologists.  My son and I know what a round is, so we dug deeper – is a canon a round?  “Yes” by some authorities, “Yes, but…” by others. But OH MY GOSH, when it came to trying to understand the difference between a canon and a fugue – we had no idea that a discussion of these music forms was chock full of confusion and heated controversy.  People, is this necessary????  The comment we are going with:  “Compare a Bach fugue to the Pachelbel Canon and you will instantly recognize the gulf between these two forms.”  OK (I think).

– We listened to Johann Pachelbel’s Pachelbel Canon in D.  Composed around 1700, but sort of overlooked until Jean-Francois Pilliard recorded the piece in 1968.  Then, WHOA, how do you spell ubiquitous (vocab)?  Poor Pachelbel! If only he could have lived to collect the royalties:

– Then we listened to J.S. Bach’s fab Fugue in G Minor, (referred to as “The Little Fugue”) composed around 1705 – so almost about the same time as Pachelbel’s Canon, but SO much more complex.  Originally written for organ, we listened to a performance by the Canadian Brass.  I think listening to each brass instrument makes it easier to hear each melody line of the fugue. This is a short piece (yay) and the Canadian Brass are always engaging:

– Finally, for fun, we listed to Fugue for Tinhorns, the opening number of the 1950’s musical, “Guys and Dolls” (music/lyrics by Frank Loesser).  Ever so many musicologists are quick to point out that this IS NOT a fugue, it is either a round or a canon.  OK, people take your fight outside.  This piece is adorable!

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers: 4 sets, $480, yes!)
PS  There might be a giant time gap until my next post:  family member getting married in 4 weeks!

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Foxtrot – Uniform – November!

Heh!  This week my son and I are having F-U-N with the “The International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet” also known as the “NATO Phonetic Alphabet”.  We listed letters that could be confused over radio waves or telephone (B, C, D, E, G, P, T, V, Z – or how about F and S?) and understood how the phonetic alphabet could be a life-saver.  I have been presenting my son with short words like “Delta-Alpha-Delta” and “Sierra-Mike-India-Lima-Echo” and he is deciphering.  Fully engaged, BTW.  We are also continuing with our hangman games; both sneaky ways to work in handwriting practice.

Every Paragraph Fascinates – Wow. We are loving our book stack this week:

mounted police books

  • We have just finished the absolutely inspiring “Royal Canadian Mounted Police”, by Richard L. Neuberger. True story after true story electrifying us with whatsoever things that are upright, brave, dependable, reasonable, and heroic.  As was written about the RCMP in a Montana newspaper in 1877, “…what a comfort to the law abiding citizen.”  We concluded this study with a quiz to reinforce what we had been reading about.

RCMP quiz larger

  • “Maphead”, by Ken Jennings – A+A+A+!  This book is so well organized, the research and personal observations are first rate, and the author certainly takes us places we have never thought to go – like the Library of Congress map collection and the map sale at the Royal Geographic Society.  Last night we read about some unscrupulous (vocab) map dealers who replenished their stock by cutting maps out of library books! (We followed this reading with a discussion of the 10 Commandments).
  • Fiction – “Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen”, by Donna Gephart – we finished this book last night.  Excellent from start to finish – the author writes about a young teen’s determination to get onto Kids Week on Jeopardy, deal with divorce in the family, and come to terms with the estranged father’s gambling issues.
  • Fiction – We have started, “The Not Just Anybody Family”, by Betsy Byars, and OH MY this book is a riot! This book hooked us from page 1.

wedding banquet

Story Problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – The diner is gussying up their back deck (that overlooks a duck pond), so it can be used for summertime banquets, like graduation parties and wedding rehearsal dinners.  They are adding a sound system ($1,000), 3 long tables (at $200 each),  20 strands of lights (at $20 per strand), and 10 potted small trees (at $50 per tree).
– If the diner has budgeted $3,000 for the renovation, is this enough money?
– If the diner makes a profit of approximately $500 with each banquet and has already booked 15 parties for the summer, will it recoup (vocab) the money spent on renovations?
(answers at bottom of post)

100 clouds

Wait for it – Wait for it – Wait for it – the next post will be my 100th post! Instead of a round up of what my son and I have been learning, this post will be a bit more personal than usual, in a Q&A format.

It’s Cliburn Piano Competition season in Fort Worth!  My husband and I attended a quarter finals session last night, so I was inspired to share some of our Van Cliburn recordings with my son when I got home.

cliburn time mag

– from the May 19, 1958 issue –

 We listened to:

  • “Winter Wind”, otherwise unmemorably known as “Etude in A minor”, composed by Frederic Chopin in 1836. Played by Van Cliburn, this piece sends chills down our spines:

  • “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini”, composed by Sergei Rachmaninoff in 1934.  I first heard this in the 1980’s movie, “Somewhere in Time” and was so enraptured with the music that I spent a LOT of time, pre-internet, trying to figure out what it was, who wrote it, and where I could get it. (BTW, there are 24 variations of this theme in the composition, Variation 18 – from minute 15:40 to 18:30 – is so utterly romantic):

  • Tchaikovsky’s “Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat major”.  This is one of the final pieces that Van Cliburn played to win the 1958 International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow!  The opening notes of movement 1 are so recognizable and so powerful.  This video was filmed when Cliburn made return visit to Moscow, in 1960:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers: yes and yes)

Holy Zucchetto!

zucchetto child     zucchetto flying     zucchetto green sweawter

We know what a zucchetto is!  My son is loving our Vatican unit!  So much to learn and so much of it very cool:

  • the Vatican’s mosaic school has the largest supply of mosaic stones in the world.  Vatican Vocab: mosaic
  • we can now recognize a cardinal by his vestments (something will be scarlet).  Vatican Vocab: vestments
  • enforcing a dress code for Vatican visitors is a chronic problem (People! People! People!  Dress modestly and stop giving the Vatican a hard time!).
  • the Vatican library is THE authority on old book and manuscript restoration.  Vatican Vocab: manuscript, restoration
  • and finally: zucchetto (a skull cap, as in the headwear of the pope).  I hope you can infer by the photos we’ve selected (showing Pope Francis and his zucchetto) that we are enchanted by this personable pope.

Great unit! We are taking a look at the art of the Vatican next.

pencil grip

Handwriting update – In mid June (in post “That’s Gotta Hurt”), my son was introduced to the “Pencil Grip Writing Claw”.  He is so comfortable with it now!  When it is handwriting time, I place the pencil between his thumb and index finger and HE fits his fingers into the rubberized claw. THIS IS PROGRESS!

herbs

Herbs and Spices – My son had no clue, so last night we learned a bit about herbs (leaves) and spices (stems, bark, seeds, buds). We learned that pepper is a spice, but salt is a mineral (not an herb and not a spice).  I had my son sniff tarragon, basil, cinnamon, and cloves (Heh! The clove aroma took him by surprise).  This was not his favorite activity, but he sure got the idea.

Farmer Brown story problem – During autumn months, Farmer Brown makes apple cider mulling spices. He mixes cinnamon sticks, cloves, with dried orange peel and packages the mixture in cellophane tied with twine. A single package sells for $5.00, and Farmer Brown sells a box of a dozen packages for $50. He has sold 20 boxes to various local shops, and so far he has sold 85 single packages at his roadside apple cider stand. If it costs Farmer Brown $2 for each package’s spice mixture and $1 for each package’s cellophane, twine tie, and label, what is Farmer Brown’s profit so far?

“Background Music for the Vatican”!   We pretended that the Vatican phoned us to ask for music recommendations that would enhance the architecture and the magnificent art.  We considered only music composed by Catholics.  All three suggestions are short and beautifully filmed.

  • “Gregorian Chants” – unaccompanied sacred songs, slow and reflective, developed by monks during the 9th century.  The collections of chants are named to honor the memory of Pope Gregory.  This should calm the Vatican crowds down:

  • “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” – composed by Antonio Vivaldi around 1715.  Vivaldi, noted for being one of the greatest of Baroque composers, was a Catholic priest.  This “Gloria” is a breath of fresh air – energetic, precise, and uplifting:

  • “Locus Iste” – meaning “This Place”; really meaning “This place was made by God”, is often used for church dedications.  This particular sacred motet (a multi-part choral work), was composed by Anton Bruckner (sort of an over-the-top devout Catholic) in 1869.  As typical of Bruckner’s work, “Locus Iste” is a religious experience, top-heavy with soaring, lush harmonies:

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

That’s Gotta Hurt

pike manpike manpike manpike man

The Macedonian Pike – my son and I are now studying Alexander the Great, who spent his short life (for thousands upon thousands of people, a life not short enough) as a most capable warmonger.  Home base was Macedonia (perched right atop Greece) (found it on the globe), where his Macedonian soldiers were totally whipped into shape and marched with 15-foot tall pikes.  YIKES (there is a sharp metal knife at the end of each pole).  LOADS of warmonger vocabulary words: phalanx, chariot, catapult, mercenary, infantry, cavalry.

alexander the great

Shakespeare this past week – we finished up the comedy, “Much Ado about Nothing” and we have just started the history, “Julius Caesar”.

peck novels

Reading for fun – to balance the war and intrigue study, we need novels that make us laugh.  We LOVED “A Long Way from Chicago” by Richard Peck. LOVED IT.  Every single chapter had an hilarious twist that had us marveling. This book WILL be re-read.  We are following “A Long Way from Chicago” with its sequel, “A Year Down Yonder”.  So far, it is a lot of fun (and it is a Newbery Award Winner), but for us,  probably isn’t in line for a re-read.  But maybe it will be!  Hope springs eternal.

pencil grip

We write – My daughter directed us toward “The Pencil Grip Writing Claw”, and I found a pack of six on Amazon – can’t remember the price, but very cheap.  My son has been practicing writing with this for the past week, and is getting comfortable using this little rubbery appliance on his fingertips.  It truly makes one grasp a writing utensil correctly.

Our Farmer Brown Story Problem of the week – Farmer Brown has 15 field hands who needed new summer hats to keep the blazing sun off their faces.  He purchased a dozen straw cowboy hats for $360 and a dozen canvas “outback” style hats for $300.  Ten of the field hands wanted cowboy hats and the others chose outback hats. Farmer Brown donated the remaining hats to a local farming extension office because they are always so short on funds. How much was his donation worth?

One of the music themes from last week: “Melodies from Exotic Lands” –

  • “Scheherazade” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, movement I, composed in 1888.  Based upon “The Arabian Nights”, SO elegant.

  • Overture from “Abduction from the Seraglio” by Mozart, composed in 1782.  Two words:  Turkish harem!  What’s not to like, and in this short overture we CANNOT get enough of the smashing symbols.

  • “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” by Handel, composed in 1748, as part of his oratorio, “Solomon”.   We sort of chuckle every time we hear it, because the music seems more evocative of an arrival at Kensington Palace in the 18th century than the Queen of Sheba’s arrival in Jerusalem during Old Testament times.

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

Farm Fresh

farm book   cupolas

We have a new “IT” book: “Farm Anatomy” by Julia Rothman, published in 2011. Many, many aspects of farm life are competently presented with brief text and skillful illustrations.  As per usual, we are studying only two pages at a time.   The past few nights we’ve learned about crop rotation, windbreaks, and barn design.  This book is a jewel!

We continue with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”:  Last night we read about Titania awakening (under a spell) and falling immediately and deeply in love with Nick Bottom (who at this point was sporting the donkey head).  LOVE THIS.  Meanwhile, a troop of actors is rehearsing their version of Ovid’s “Pyramus and Thisbe” for the Duke’s wedding, so we took a side trip to Wikipedia to see what “Pyramus and Thisbe” was really all about.  What a pleasure to slowly savor this complicated masterpiece.

 red pastel

We take time for art: we have been getting messy with pastels! We are using Prismacolor’s Nupastels.  Good for working on finger-motor control, fun to see what happens when one color crosses on top of another color.

Last night’s Farmer Brown Story Problem: “Farmers’ Friendly Mercantile”, the huge farm supply store in town, is having a 40%-Off-Everything-Sale AND Farmer Brown has a “15% off!” coupon for the FFM tucked in his wallet, so now is the perfect time to purchase heavy winter coats for his 8 farm hands.  If each jacket originally sells for $120, how much will Farmer Brown pay for the 8 coats (assuming both discounts will be honored), before tax is added?

chickens

Our music theme last night was “Melodies from the Chicken Coop”! We listened to:

  • Haydn’s Symphony No. 83 (1785), dubbed “The Hen” – many of Haydn’s symphonies ended up with nicknames usually due to some VERY SMALL rhythmic or melodic reference. In this case, “hen sounds” are found about a minute and a half into the first movement.  BTW, this performance by Camerata Bern (a Bern, Switzerland chamber orchestra that does not use a conductor) is outstanding.

  • “The Hen”, from “The Birds” (1928), a suite for small orchestra by Ottorino Respighi.  This short piece is wonderfully successful at transposing the sounds of chicken squawks and that jerky back-and-forth movement of the hen’s heads into music.  (Well, that was a long awkward sentence, but you get the idea?)

  • “Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little”, from “The Music Man” (1957) by Meredith Willson.  This song is a hen party set to music – the gossiping town ladies sound like clucking hens and the bobbing feathers on their large hats accentuate the impression.

  • “Chicken Reel” was originally composed by Joseph M. Daly in 1910. In 1946, LeRoy Anderson arranged “Chicken Reel” for full orchestra, and did he ever gild the lily! Hysterical perfection. Watch out! The inmates are running the asylum!

 Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH