Leaders & Innovators

Be like Sarah

A Citizen of the World – 

Among other things, last week found my son and I exploring the depth and breadth of The Royal Society of London and continuing our 2022 quest to match academic and non-academic topics with places-of-origin on the globe.  But something came up that caused us to put aside our stack of books for a bit.  We had the opportunity to cheer for up-to-the-minute SUPERB GLOBAL CITIZENSHIP IN ACTION.  

May I present long time family friend, international educator Sarah LC, who currently resides in Germany.  Here is what she posted a few days ago:

I volunteered to meet Ukrainian refugees at the Berlin Central Train Station today.  Wearing an identifying yellow vest, along with about 30 other people, I met incoming trains of refugees, some of which were carrying as many as 750 people.  I roamed, or I stood still, and people knew they could ask me a question, and I would do my best to help.

– “Are you traveling on to another German city? Stand here, and you will get a ticket “
– “Do you need food? Follow me, here is the area where you can get food and sit for a bit.”
– “You do not have any place to go beyond this? You are here in Berlin and you don’t know anyone, or you don’t have a plan beyond this? Then come here…a bus will take you to an apartment or hotel room here, or in Dresden, or Hamburg…we will put you up.”
– “Are you traveling on to Portugal? Then let me show you where you can get your next train ticket.”
– “Do you need a SIM Card? Here is where you can get one.”
– “You need a COVID test? Follow me.”
And on and on.

Signing up to volunteer was the easiest thing in the world. Read a few few rules, register, and show up. I don’t speak a word of Ukrainian, Russian or Polish. It didn’t matter. We made things work.
I was quite impressed with the ad hoc consortium that set up this spontaneous structure in the midst of the greatest migration of people since WWII.

We think Sarah is a superb citizen of the world.  We want to be like Sarah.  (Of course we located Germany and Ukraine on the map and marked each with a gold dot.)(We are cyber-sending a bouquet of gold dots to Sarah LC.)

That settled, our current studies – 

The Royal Society – two books have caught our attention:  Adrien Tinniswood’s “The Royal Society and the Invention of Modern Science” and Bill Bryson’s masterwork anthology, “Seeing Further – The Story of Science, Discovery, and the Genius of the Royal Society” (which is WAY too intellectual for the likes of us…nonetheless, we are charting key points).  Before this study, here is what we knew about The Royal Society:  nothing.  Now we know – 

  • Founded in 1660, to assist and promote the accumulation of useful (scientific) knowledge
  • Members (“Fellows”) have included:  Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Charles Darwin, and Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (all of whom we have studied).  So far there have been over 8,000 members (women are included in the number).
  • In the official name, “The Royal Society of London”, “London” refers only to the location of the society’s headquarters.  It is not “pro-Britain”, but is rather “pro-scientists of the world” (example:  Benjamin Franklin was a welcomed member even during the Revolutionary War).

Owls –  Currently we are reading about 40 species of owl in Jack Byard’s “Know Your Owls” and marking a dot on the map where each is found (and BTW, there are no owls in Antarctica).  Every species’ particular hoot is notated, so in order to make this a 3-dimensional learning experience I give each hoot a try.  “A” for effort, “B-” for execution.  OK, here are two owl relationships we were not aware of:

  • Owls and Woodpeckers:  many of the smaller owl species set up their nests in trees where gaps have been drilled by woodpeckers
  • Owls and Mice:  owls eat a lot of mice

“Daily Bread – What Kids Eat Around the World”, an original artistic endeavor by Gregg Segal documenting over 50 children from around the world (another opportunity to dot up our map) and what they eat.   A full page, gorgeous photograph of each child, surrounded by food they consume during the course of a week is accompanied by a few enthusiastic and respectful paragraphs, but there is an implied message about each kid’s nutritional intake (the junkier the foods, the chunkier the kids).  BTW, interesting fact in the author’s introduction: a 2015 Cambridge University study ranking diets around the world placed Chad and Sierra Leone at the top of the list for healthiest diets.  Author concludes that these countries have such poor infrastructures that food conglomerates haven’t figured out how to set up shop there.  Maybe Chad and Sierra Leone are luckier than they know.

Make us laugh – After all this heavy duty reading and analyzing we really needed to conclude our evenings with something funny.  Something like the latest book by Liz Pichon,  “Tom Gates – Ten Tremendous Tales”.  Layers of fun with an always amusing ensemble cast (we are not sure who we like reading about most – Tom’s impossible sister, his annoying uncle, his overworked teacher, the out-of-touch principal, the ridiculously upbeat music teacher?).  We are sort of fans of Ms. Pichon.

Story problem from the local diner – (oh, this is such an easy one) Every April 1st, the local diner hosts the premier social event of the season:   Stand-Up Comedy Night!  10 super hilarious members of the community have signed up to tell jokes on a hastily erected stage and tickets have been sold out for months.  The ticket price includes not only the outstanding entertainment, but also a slice of pie and a beverage.  If 150 tickets have been sold and each of the comedian wannabes gets a slice of pie, and each pie serves 8, how may pies should be prepared for the event?

a)  16 pies     b)  20 pies     c)  40 pies     d)  75 pies (answer at bottom of post)

Classical Music:  Fanfares for Global Citizens – We wondered if the type of person (like Sarah) who volunteers to make the world a kinder place, is the type of person who would relish being announced with a fanfare (we sort of think not), but that doesn’t mean that a fanfare is not deserved – 

  • First, we listened to “Call to Post”, a classic fanfare familiar to anyone who has ever seen the Kentucky Derby.  This 34 note fanfare has been used at horse races since the 1860’s and alerts everyone of the next race commencing in a mere 10 minutes –  

  • Handel, “Music for the Royal Fireworks”, movement 4 (La Rejouissance) (1749).  A regal, no funny business, 3 minute piece.  What we hear is essentially 2 robust fanfare themes played over and over –   

  • Gilbert and Sullivan, Iolanthe, “Loudly Let the Trumpet Bray” (1882).  The intent of this piece in the operetta is a satirical jab at the powers that be.  Regardless, it is still great fanfare music, worthy of our inspirational volunteers –

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  b)  20 pies)

Sesquicentennial!

A sesquicentennial celebration!  Jane’s Cool School’s 150th post! 

To mark the occasion,  I scoured the previous 149 posts and came up with a general knowledge  quiz for my son, consisting of 150 questions.  He did quite well, earning an A+.   

Here is a sampling of the questions (answers at bottom of quiz).  Fret ye not, I have selected only 15 of the 150 questions:

General Knowledge Quiz – Express Lane Style

1)  A blue moon is:

a-  a second full moon in a month     
b-  a moon with a blue tinge due to gravitational pull from Venus     
c-  a full moon in Winter     
d-  a sad moon

2)  The first wheels:

a-  chariot wheels     
b-  grain grinding wheels     
c-  wheels of cheese     
d-  potters’ wheels

3)  Which of the following is NOT depicted on the Sistine Chapel ceiling:

a-  Creation     
b-  The Last Supper     
c-  Adam and Eve     
d-  Noah and the Flood

4)  “Alpha”, “Bravo”, “Charlie” are ways of communicating letters in:

a-  NATO phonetic alphabet     
b-  children’s books     
c-  Navajo Code     
d-  Morse Code

5)  The USA enjoys many unspoiled national parks due to the influence of:

a-  the Pope     
b-  John Muir     
c-  Frederic Remington     
d-  Buffalo Bill Cody

6)  What makes the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra different?

a-  no conductor     
b-  15 violinists     
c-  they play from memory, no sheet music allowed     
d-  members are all women

7)  Who does the waggle dance?

a-  people in Australia     
b-  snakes     
c-  bees     
d-  teenagers

8)  Windless weather on the high seas is referred to by sailors as:

a-  flat water     
b-  the Sargasso Sea     
c-  middle sea    
d-  the doldrums

9)  The engineer of the interior structure of the Statue of Liberty:

a-  Gustav Eiffel     
b-  Frank Lloyd Wright     
c-  Thomas Edison     
d-  the Marquis de Lafayette

10)  The Astroid Belt is found:

a-  between Mercury and Venus     
b-  between Mars and Jupiter     
c-  beyond Neptune  
d-  in any fine mens clothing store 

11)  A country build on coral:

a-  Catalina Island     
b-  Australia    
c-  Greenland     
d-  Republic of Maldives

12)  America’s first great public works project:

a-  Hoover Dam     
b-  Golden Gate Bridge     
c-  Erie Canal     
d-  Highway 66

13)  A Jannisary Band:

a-  a large rubber band used to bind logs together     
b-  a military band of the Ottoman Turks    
c-  a decorative headband     
d-  a orchestral group that plays once a year, in January

14)  The only Finnish word in the American language:

a-  sauna     
b-  loofa     
c-  antler     
d-  smorgasbord

15)  The one place on Earth that can only be used for peace and science: 

a-  the Vatican     
b-  the Bikini Atoll     
c-  Antarctica     
d-  The North Pole

Answers:

  1. a- second full moon in a month
  2. d- potters’ wheels
  3. b- The Last Supper
  4. a- NATO phonetic  alphabet
  5. b- John Muir
  6. a- no conductor
  7. c- bees
  8. d- the doldrums
  9. a- Gustav Eiffel
  10. b- between Mars and Jupiter
  11. d- Republic of Maldives
  12. c- Erie Canal
  13. b- military band of the Ottoman Turks
  14. a- sauna
  15. c- Antarctica

Meanwhile, our Stories and Studies sessions continue.  Hoo boy – our current books have provided discussion* topics that I never thought I would be having with my son:

  • oil spills in the ocean (from “The Penguin Lessons” by Tom Michell)
  • inflation in Argentina in the mid 1970’s (from “The Penguin Lessons” by Tom Michel)
  • the currency of Ecuador  (from “Let’s Look at Ecuador” by Mary Boone, and verified by Wikipedia because THIS IS JUST TOO WACKY) – the US Dollar has been the currency of Ecuador since 1990.  I will never understand how this works, so it is a good thing I am not in charge.
  • homelessness insights (from “Almost Home” by Joan Bauer)
  • the gambling addiction (from “Almost Home” by Joan Bauer)

* how do I have a discussion with my nonverbal son?  Usually, I make up a lot of questions and have my son write “yes” or “no” to each inquiry.  He likes being asked.

Classical Music Time – we considered the concept of orchestral adaptation:

My son and I are enchanted with the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet – we have listened to their recording of Luigi Boccherini’s seductive Fandango from his Guitar Quintet (1798) probably 250 times –

Topic of the evening:  could orchestral music be successfully adapted for guitar?  Could the LA Guitar Quartet deliver on pieces the were not written specifically for guitar?  Not only could they deliver, we prefer the adaptations.  We LOVE these adaptations.  YAY Los Angeles Guitar Quartet!

First, we compared John Phillip Sousa’s Black Horse Troop (a decidedly happy march, composed in 1924 for Troop A of the Cleveland National Guard, known for using only black horses) – 

Next, we compared JS Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 6, movement 3 (early 1720’s).  Both performances here are excellent, but the LA Guitar Quartet has a way of making this movement into pure comfort listening – 

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

Let’s Get This Party Started!

This is post #148, ever so close to our 150th post; definitely cause for a party, so my son and I started the festivities by laughing through two favorite story problems from the vault – 

From the Oct 2, 2018 post (Did absence make the heart grow fonder?):  A  Farmer Brown Story Problem –

Poor Farmer Brown, literally, poor Farmer Brown. He is spending so much money replacing items that his cats, Olive and Owl (the hissing sisters), have destroyed. Over the past twelve months, Farmer Brown spent:

– $300: area rug in kitchen (shredded)
– $150: winter coat (clawed to death)
– $100 each: 3 farmhand bed quilts (each mistaken for litter box)
– $200: office blinds (permanently bent from bird watching)
– $100: large ceramic planter (tipped over so many times that it finally cracked)
– $ 78: small ficus tree (casualty of repeatedly tipped over planter)
– $300: neighbor’s yarn stash (don’t ask)

Judging the past year to be typical, how much should Farmer Brown budget per month to replace things Olive and Owl will most likely have their way with in the coming year? 

A). $59      B). $79      C). $99      D). $119  (answer at bottom of post)

From the September 19, 2015 post (Lights! Camera!  Edison!):  A Local Diner Story Problem – 

Art at the Local Diner – The diner is 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”.)

A).  $10     B).  $145     C).  $175     D).  $900 

 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? 

A).  45     B).  580     C).  850     D).  1,000  (answers at bottom of post)

We take a break from story problem frivolity to present a few notes from the current academic focus:  our “Shining Stars of the 1860’s” unit –

Ely S. Parker – “One Real American – The Life of Ely S. Parker”, by Joseph Bruchac.   A larger-than-life man:  Seneca sachem (which we learned is pronounced “say-chem”, meaning chief), Mason, Civil War General (close aide to General Ulysses S. Grant), competent engineer, skilled writer, diplomat, bi-lingual, you name it.  We love this man and we loved this book.

Abraham Lincoln – “Abraham Lincoln – A Life from Beginning to End”, an Hourly History book by Henry Freeman.  Of course, there are so many books written about Lincoln, but this one speaks to my son’s level of comprehension.  Here is something that caught our attention:  before marrying Lincoln, one of Mary Todd’s previous suitors was NONE OTHER THAN Stephan A. Douglas, YES that Stephan A. Douglas of the Lincoln-Douglas debates!!!!  

Matthew Brady –  “Matthew Brady, Historian with a Camera”, by James D. Horan.  This book includes 450 of Matthew Brady branded photographs (many were taken by his trained assistants).  Totally interesting to us:  a Matthew Brady photograph of Lincoln is used for both the $5 bill and the copper penny.

Harriet Tubman –  “Harriet Tubman – A Life from Beginning to End”, another Hourly History book.  Excellent resource.  This caught our attention:  as Harriet Tubman would guide fugitives along the underground railroad, she would change the tempo of the spiritual “Go Down Moses” to indicate whether it was safe to move forward.  Of course, we had to listen to “Go Down Moses” and consider the parallels between the tasks of Moses and Harriet Tubman:

Back to the party!  What is a festive gathering without a prize drawing? 

I have set up a container for my son to draw three surprise classical music suggestions for Saturday night listening.  I did not know this was going to involve a learning curve – my son does not have the grasp of selecting only three items from the container, but we will get there.  Here are last Saturday’s winners –

“The Hen Symphony” – from Haydn’s Symphony No. 83 in G minor, “The Hen”, movement 4, (1785).  We LOVE this super merry movement and have probably listened to it 15 times so far.  We sort of think we can hear a few measures from “Three Blind Mice” stuck right in the middle:

“Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” – from Handel’s Old Testament-based (Book of Kings and Book of Chronicles) oratorio, “Solomon” (1748).  The 18th century “Englishness” of this piece almost makes us smirk, but then we hear those oboe harmonies and all is forgiven:

“Brandenburg Concerto No. 3” in G major, movement 3 –  from Bach’s 1721 assemblage of the 6 concertos.  Hurries along at a fast clip.  Who can’t like this?

As if two story problems and a surprise drawing for music listening were not enough, there is EVEN MORE partying to come in the next two blog posts! 

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers:  D.  $119, B.  $145,  B.  580 songs)

Making the Grade

Straight A’s  for everything in our July book basket – 

A+:  A History of Pictures” – by David Hockney and Martin Gayford.  It is really called “A History of Pictures for Children” and we are perplexed:  this stunner of a book is for EVERYBODY.  It is thought-filled and thought-provoking, tempting us to take a fresh look at cave paintings, Egyptian wall paintings, mirrors, shadows, Disney cartoons, pencil marks, brush strokes, perspective, collage, and the influences of photography, movies, and computers. The 4 page timeline of inventions that pertain to drawing and painting is worth the cost of the book alone.  This book is in line for a re-read.

A+: One Real American, The Life of Ely S. Parker” – by Joseph Bruchac.  A superb book about the Seneca sachem (chief) and Civil War general.  Easy to read, filled with information that was new to us (go ahead, ask us about the Iroquois League, ask us about Red Jacket, ask us about Ely S. Parker), extremely well edited and documented, and a timeline is included at the back of the book.  My son and I are impressed by both Ely S. Parker and author Joseph Bruchac.

A+:  “What Linnaeus Saw” by Karen Magnuson Beil.  In my last post, “Our Hour”, I mentioned that we had read about artist/nature observer Maria Merian, who was cited so very many times by Carl Linnaeus.  So, we HAD to read about Carl Linnaeus (1707 -1778), whose quest was to systemize, classify, and name every animal, plant, and mineral.   The book is a weency bit repetitive, but the author is forgiven – Linnaeus’s path to the goal was neither short nor direct.

A+: Three Keys” – My son got a feel for the term “refugee” in “Home of the Brave” by Katherine Applegate (the finest book we read in 2020).  He is now beginning to understand the plight of the immigrant via Kelly Yang’s book “Three Keys”.  This is about friendship, open mindedness, hard work, and having the confidence to speak out for what is right.  We really liked the prequel, “Front Desk” and we will definitely be reading “Room to Dream” when it comes out in September.  Kelly Yang:  A+!

Other study topics from the July book basket

  • The Everglades   “Everglades National Park” by Grace Hansen.  This book is written for the younger reader, but it does come across with the basic facts and the photos (including a nice photo of President Harry Truman dedicating the park) are large and representative. 
  • Geometry   “Everything You Need to Ace GEOMETRY in One Big Fat Notebook” by Workman Publishing.  Oooooh, I do not like this book because any venture into math that doesn’t involve a story problem leaves me dizzy.  BUT, my son really likes it.  DARN.  So we sally forth learning about congruency, chords, transversals, etc.  With each page, I feel like my head is diving deeper into a swirling fog, so I just read the words aloud and marvel that my son is entranced.  I give myself a C-.  
  • Geography – “Bird’s Eye View – The Natural World” by John Farndon/Paul Boston.  Very pretty book, soothing illustrations, AND we both learned a new word!  We LOVE being smacked in the face with a new word!  We have never come across the word MEANDER used as a noun.  A meander is a bend in a river or a road.  It takes so little to make us gleeful.

The Local Diner plans for August (story problem) –  The diner is installing a pop-up snow-cone hut on the diner’s back deck for the month of August.  It will be manned by a high school summer-time employee, who will work 5 hours a day for $12 an hour.  There will be 3 flavors of snow cones:  cherry, mint, and watermelon, and a commercial snow cone machine has been purchased for $250.  The diner is making the syrups and providing the ice.  So the questions are:

  1. How much will the diner pay a week for a high school snow cone artisan?  
  2. If the diner sells a snow cone for $2.00, how many will have to be sold to recoup the money spent of the snow cone machine?
  3. Will the diner spend more on the snow cone machine or employing the high school worker (for the month of August)? (answers at bottom of post)

Classical music:  A+ Musicians  

It was VIRTUOSO NIGHT last night.  My son made the selections (the writing chaos on the side of the page is my son indicating “Yes” or “No” for each of my suggestions) –

On the flute:  James Galway – We both love James Galway and we both love Tambourin, a short, happy piece for flute composed by Francois-Joseph Gossec in 1794, for his opera, “Le Triomphe de la Republique”.  For some reason, midway through the video there is a blank screen for about 40 seconds, but NO WORRIES, the spritely music continues – 

On the violin:  Itzhak Perlman   We have compared Itzhak Perlman’s performance to other violin virtuosos and no one touches the finesse he puts into this performance of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, the finale (composed in 1844).  BTW, my son and I refer to this as the Cat and Mouse movement – 

On the piano:  Simone Dinnerstein   We consider ourselves members of the Simone Dinnerstein fan club.  Her discs are part of our music line-up as we drive to In-N-Out Burger twice a week. We LOVE her way with a Bach invention – 

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers:  1)  $420,  2)  125 snow cones,  3)  the diner will spend more for the high school worker)

Our Hour

Class is in session for one hour every single night and my son and I LOVE this time together.  We are focused, fascinated, and leaning forward to learn more.  Here is how we divided up our studies and stories hours this past week:

Before Carl Linnaeus, before Charles Darwin, before John James Audubon:  MARIA MERIAN  (1647-1717), artist/nature observer.  We learned all about Merian in the Sibert Medal 2019 book, “The Girl Who Drew Butterflies”  (Joyce Sidman).  Merian’s meticulous work documenting caterpillars/butterflies/host plants was cited 130 times by Carl Linnaeus in his major opus, “Systema Naturae”.  Maria Merian was the first to bring scholarly attention to the caterpillar-to-butterfly connection.  More, of note:

  • We rolled our eyes:  As a female in her native Germany, Maria Merian was forbidden to study at college, and yet her groundbreaking work was criticized because she was a “self-taught amateur”.  
  • We cheered:  Tsar Peter the Great bought 300 of her original watercolors to start Russia’s first art museum.  My son selected one of her works in poster form for his room:

History Time:  

“The World Jesus Knew – A Curious Kid’s Guide to Life in the First Century”, by Marc Olson/illustrated by Jemima Maybank.  A scholarly work, accented with sly humor.  Here is what caught our attention:

  • Palestine was under the rule of the Roman Empire during the time of Jesus.  This was actually a BIG deal – Roman rule infiltrated all aspects of life
  • Because fisherman were in the water so often, they often fished WITH NO CLOTHES ON
  • The Sanhedrin, what was it and how powerful was it?

Learning-about-Careers Time:  

“Vet Academy” (Martin/Keoghan) – My son’s cousin Kelly is a vet (and as far as we are concerned, THE BEST VET), so we thought we should learn more about her world: 

  • My son and I mused over three vet specializations and what each would mean in terms of life-style:  small pets (vet treats animals at local veterinary clinic), farm animals (vet drives all over creation to check on “patients”), or zoo animals (vet essentially lives at the zoo).  
  • Our favorite page of the book was in the zoo animal section:  we learned to distinguish between cheetahs, leopards, and jaguars by examining their spots.  We keep getting smarter.   

Language Arts Time:  

PREMOOSC – YENIDS – HEVETOBEN – TWESARE – YECCLER – PRITOMANEL

After spending really a lot of time putting together months and months of puzzles, I bought a “Jumble Junior”  book.  Perfect.  

Math Time:  

A Farmer Brown Story Problem – Even though Farmer Brown has a perfectly good rooster to awaken his 8 farmhands, he has been under pressure to purchase an alarm clock for each worker.  Farmer Brown is letting them choose between a digital (vocab) clock ($12) or a vintage analog (vocab) clock ($15).  Three fourths of the farmhands want a digital clock, the rest have ordered the analog.  Total shipping will be $10.  Farmer Brown has budgeted $100 for new clocks, will this cover the costs?  (answer at bottom of post)

Reading for Fun Time:  

Three words:  Hank the Cowdog.  Years ago we read through the gigantic series and we are now revisiting our favorites.  Two weeks ago we read, “The Mopwater Files”.  Last week it was “The Disappearance of Drover”, this week, “The Incredible Priceless Corncob”.  Hank time is Texas-sized smile time.

Arts and Crafts Time:

French curve – We were swerving and curving after I found an envelope of plastic French curve templates that had belonged to my father (an engineer).  Why shouldn’t my son know about Ludwig Burmester’s (a German mathematician) French curves?

Music Appreciation Time:  last night we listened to music for CLOCK-WATCHERS: 

– Haydn’s Symphony No. 101 “The Clock” (movement 2, the “tick-tock movement”) composed in 1794.  Performed competently (and adorably) by the Kawartha (Ontario, CA) Youth Orchestra –

–  Zoltan Kodaly’s “Viennese Music Clock” from his Hungarian folk opera “Háry János” (1926).  A spirited performance, complete with dancing clock, by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra –

– LeRoy Anderson’s “Syncopated Clock”.  This piece was composed in 1945, while Anderson was serving in the US Army, as Chief of Scandinavian Desk of Military Intelligence (proving that he could do two things at once).  I sort of think that Leroy  Anderson (a brilliant man with a huge sense of humor) would have approved of this kookie performance by the St. Luke’s Bottle Band (and I totally want one of those feathered green hats).  This ensemble is having WAY TOO MUCH FUN –

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(Unscrambled words:  COMPOSER, DISNEY, BEETHOVEN, SWEATER, RECYCLE, TRAMPOLINE)
(Story Problem answer:  NO)

 

Smitten with Britain

UK quiz

What’s it all mean? 
(What we learned, and I do mean WE.  How did I not know most of this?)

  • UK, the United Kingdom – refers to England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland  
  • Great Britain – is a geographical term, referring to the land mass that includes England, Scotland, and Wales 
  • The British Isles – another geographical term, referring to Great Britain, Ireland, the Isle of Man, and 6,000 teenier islands in the general area 
  • The British Commonwealth – (correctly referred to as “The Commonwealth”) a political association of 54  countries (including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) for which Queen Elizabeth II serves as leader (finally, she is in charge of something!)

Our favorite takeaways from our “Smitten with Britain” unit:  

manx sheep

1)  The Isle of Man –  Located in the Irish Sea, midway between Ireland and Great Britain.  Home of:

  • Manx cats
  • Manx Loaghtan sheep (SHEEP WITH FOUR HORNS)(GET OUT OF TOWN) (immediate Google image search) (we couldn’t stop staring at the 4 horns)
  • the Bee Gees (Bee Gee tunes are favorites in my son’s trampoline-time music lineup)

2)  Trafalgar Square – London  

  • it is all about Admiral Horatio Nelson and an 1805 sea battle.  Discussion provokers:  1)  the lions at the base of Nelson’s Column (the centerpiece of the square) were cast from cannons (vocab) from battleships,  2)  we talked about the process of “casting”,  3)  we spent time lamenting Lord Nelson’s loss of an eye and an arm for the British cause
  • Trafalgar Square boasts London’s smallest police office (the observation post can only fit one person)
  • the square is the site for a ginormous Christmas tree that is sent every year from Norway

Our resources:  

UK books

  • Wikipedia 
  • “The Usborne Book of London”
  • “The Big Book of the UK” (Williams/Lockhart)

Smitten with these British authors:

dog books

James Herriot:  From the consummate British vet and master story-teller, his “Dog Stories” are calming and kind recollections.  Perfect night-time reading.  Our favorite stories so far:  “The Darrowby Show” and “Granville Bennett”.

Tom Gates:  Liz Pichon’s books activate our grin machines.  We are currently rereading the entire Tom Gates series (just finished “Super Good Skills”, now mid-way through “Dog Zombies Rule”).  We cannot get enough of Tom’s sullen sister Delia,  Tom’s bothersome classroom seat-mate, Marcus Meldrew, Tom’s grandparents (“The Fossils”).  We love Tom’s doodles.

scones

Story Problem from the local diner – The diner is caught up in a British frenzy, so for the next month, the diner will serve afternoon tea with scones and tea sandwiches.  The diner needs 5 quarts of raspberry jam per week.  Farmer Brown sells his jam for $8 a quart, but he is going to give the diner a 10% discount.  How much will the diner spend on raspberry jam during the next four weeks?

A.  $16     B.  $40     C.  $144     D.  $160  (answer at bottom of post)

shakespeare

Shakespeare Comedies – we were so taken with The Usborne “Complete Shakespeare” book that augmented our reading of Gary Schmidt’s “The Wednesday Wars” (see “Perfect Pairings”, the post of February 2, 2021), that we read through all of the Shakespeare comedies (we learned that in terms of Shakespeare, “comedy” means happy ending).  An excellent use of our time: 

  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Twelfth Night
  • Love’s Labour’s Lost
  • Much Ado about Nothing
  • As You Like It
  • Two Gentlemen of Verona
  • The Merry Wives of Windsor (maybe this is our favorite)
  • The Winter’s Tale
  • The Taming of the Shrew (on our fave list)
  • Pericles (on our fave list)
  • The Comedy of Errors
  • The Tempest
  • All’s Well that Ends Well

Classical Music Time:  The Siren Call of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” – this play seems to beckon composers:  we listened to three versions of the overture and discussed the very different points of view – 

From 1674, English baroque composer Matthew Locke:  this introduction is very fussy, very baroque, very short (only a minute long) – 

From 1861, English composer Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert/Sullivan): this was Sullivan’s first published work (he was only 19!). My son and I hear themes of loneliness and disappointment, and as the piece gets underway we hear the storm approach, burst, and move on –

From 1925, Finish composer Jean Sibelius: sort of 7 minutes of heavy winds (enough already), but it does paint a picture of the terrible storm that sets everything in motion –

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  C).  $144)

Perfect Pairings

Perfect Pairings from our current studies.  May we suggest:

Pairing No. 1: The Wednesday Wars” and “The Complete Shakespeare

This is our second time reading Gary D. Schmidt’s “The Wednesday Wars”…I had forgotten what a clever, multi-layered work this is.  So far, the teacher in the book has forced “The Merchant of Venice”, “The Tempest”, “MacBeth”, “Romeo and Juliet”, and “Julius Caesar” onto the protagonist.  And he LOVES them.  Well, how can we not want to see what the excitement is about?  We really lucked out with “The Complete Shakespeare” (an Usborne book, Melbourne/Surducan).  This reference provides a two-page spread at the beginning of each play, identifying characters with a brief description and winsome illustration.  We refer to these pages every night before we continue reading each very thorough play synopsis.  First-rate resource for those of us who would be overwhelmed by the prospect of explaining every line of the original Shakespeare. 

Pairing No. 2: “125 Animals that Changed the World” and “Cat Stories”

Graphically, “Animals that Changed the World” is loud, cluttered, and jarring (nonetheless, we DO like opening this book and cheering for the animal-of-the-night).  The perfect foil for this chaos?  The calm, reflective, soothing chapters of James Herriot’s “Cat Stories”.  Purrrrrr.

Pairing No. 3: My son’s toothbrush and Jason Chin’s “Gravity”

I have been responsible for brushing my son’s teeth FOREVER (no cavities folks, no cavities), then OUT OF NOWHERE, last month, my son grabbed the toothbrush I was holding, took the tube of toothpaste, unscrewed it, spread it on the toothbrush, pressed the button to make it vibrate and dipped it under the faucet! And he has been doing this night and day ever since. ONE TINY THING: when he holds the toothbrush under the faucet, he has the bristles facing downward and guess what happens? So we read through Jason Chin’s beautifully illustrated book on gravity to see if that would rectify the situation. It didn’t. Still, the book is lovely.

Perfect Pairings at the Local Diner – Story Problem

To beef up orders during the pandemic, the local diner is having a “Perfect Pairings TO GO” special: Miss Carolyn’s Chicken Pot Pie teamed with the diner’s famous Super Cinnamon Apple Pie. If each pie has a top and bottom crust, how many crusts need to be rolled out every morning if the diner sells 50 “Perfect Pairing” orders daily?

A. 50 pie crusts B. 100 pie crusts C. 200 pie crusts D. 400 pie crusts (answer at bottom of post)

Classical Music Time – Perfect Pairings: The Expected and The Unexpected

Pairing No. 1 – 

The Expected:  Gustav Holst’s “Country Gardens”, from “Morris Dance Tunes, Set 1”, of 1910.  It is such an expected “let’s make nice” melody.  Don’t be taken in by Percy Grainer’s “Country Gardens” (basically the same melody as Holst’s) composed a full 8 years after Holst’s!  The scoundrel!  This tuneful, sweet, repetitive piece gets a shot in the arm in this particular recording,  speeding along at a faster tempo than usually performed – 

The Unexpected:  Gustav Holst’s “Mercury, the Winged Messenger” from “The Planets”, composed in 1916.  Oh boy, do we love this short, unexpected, erratic piece, and apparently the conductor (Susanna Malkki) in this video footage has caught the fever, too –

Pairing No. 2 –

The Expected:  Luigi Boccherini’s “Minuet”, AKA String Quintet in E Major, movement III, composed in 1771.  Syrupy sweet, but a lively play in this performance – 

The Unexpected:  Luigi Boccherini’s “Fandango” from Guitar Quintet No. 4 in D major, composed in 1798, a far cry from the conservative minuet.  This intricate, warm, romantic (I am not going to say “sexy” in front of my son) piece was inspired by Boccherini’s days as a court musician for the Spanish royal family.  This is the recording we have listened to about 200 times.  We like everything from the LA Guitar Quartet – 

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  C).  200 pie crusts)

 

December Template

December Staples –

If it is December we are smiling our way through Mary Nash’s “Mrs. Coverlet’s Magicians”.  What about this book makes us eager to read it for the 15th time?

funny ✓  original plot   champions self-reliance   holiday spirit  ✓

Or we might be enjoying “The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus”, by Julie Lane.  This is our third time through this old fashioned December read. The author has skillfully woven plausible reasons for Santa’s sled, Christmas stockings, Santa’s red suit, etc into the story. 

The best book we’ve read in 2020 – Katherine Applegate’s award-winning “Home of the Brave”:  Kek, a refugee (we discussed differences between immigrant and refugee) from The Sudan (found it on globe, briefly read of its inner turmoil/armed conflict and despaired) has a new home with his aunt and cousin in America.  Every word in this book has been so carefully selected; it is easy to read, calmly poetic, heart-wrenchingly deep, and even funny.  It is about kindness and appreciation.  I was pretty much choked up by the end of every single short chapter.  This is a book that makes us be better people. 

Walruses for the win – We have just finished a unit on pinnipeds (fin footed), using “Scary Creatures:  Pinnipeds” by John Malam as a resource.  We now have the basics on seals, sea lions, and walruses, but seriously, there wasn’t too much that was tremendously interesting except this:

Guess how many clams an adult male walrus can eat at one meal?  6,000.  As in SIX THOUSAND.  How is it that there are any clams left?  My son and I decided that from now on when we see somebody gobbling up way more than their share we are not going to refer to them as a pig or hog, but rather as a walrus.

“American Trailblazers” by Lisa Trusiani – This book presents compelling introductions to 50 Americans who have shaped US history.  Some, my son was familiar with –  Example:  Paul Robeson.  My son loves Robeson’s recording of “Old Man River” from the musical “Showboat”, but we had no idea that Robeson was majorly intellectually gifted with a first-rate education (Rutgers University valedictorian in 1919, Columbia Law School graduate in 1923).

Some were new names to my son – Example:  Alexander Calder.  We learned that Sandy Calder (of the fabulous ultra modern mobiles) came from a line of professional sculptors.  His grandfather, Alexander Milne Calder constructed the bronze statue of William Penn that stands atop the Philadelphia City Hall.  His father,  Alexander Stirling Calder created a sculpture of George Washington that is part of the Washington Square Arch in New York City.  We had to see photos:

Story Problem Time – Jingling all the way at the Local Diner – Somebody, probably the diner cashier, Miss Fran, decided it would add a lot of holiday cheer if 5 large jingle bells were attached to every chair in the diner.  Chairs pushed in, chairs pulled out:  jingle, jingle, jingle.  

  • If there are usually 32 chairs in the diner, but due to the pandemic, 3/4 of the chairs had to be placed into storage, how many chairs would be adorned with bells?
  • If each bell costs 50 cents, how much would it cost to jingle up the chairs remaining in the diner? (answers at bottom of post)

December Listening – Handbell Choirs! What says HOLIDAYS ARE IN THE AIR more than the ting ting tinging of a handbell choir? –

First, a very cute performance of “Up on the Housetop” by the Raleigh Ringers –  

Next, LeRoy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” – a perfect match with a handbell choir (all that jingling), and the usual shenanigans provided by the Raleigh Ringers – 

And finally, “Patapan” – a superb performance by the Hong Kong Youth Handbell Ensemble.  Adorable ending –  

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers:  8 chairs, $20)

 

The Octopus Shocker

He writes!  He illustrates! – For the past few weeks my son and I have become entranced with  Owen Davey books.   Informative, clever, teamed with sophisticated graphics in a perfection of colors.  Our type of book.  We’ve just finished – 

  • “Mad about Monkeys” – We needed to get a better grip on our knowledge of primates (as in the fact that chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, gibbons are NOT types of monkeys) (we had sort of thought they were)(we were wrong).  Also, we now have a passing knowledge of “old world” and “new world” monkeys.  
  • “Obsessive about Octopuses” – 1)  this book is so A+, 2) the correct plural of octopus is octopuses, NOT octopi, 3) we stopped short when we read about the common blanket octopus: the female stretches to 6 feet in length and the male (ARE YOU REALLY READY FOR THIS?) measures in at 1 inch. A live male blanket octopus was sighted for the first time in 2002 (Wikipedia) OH MY GOSH and 4)  THE SHOCKER!!!!!  Most of the 300 species of octopus live ONLY A FEW MONTHS!  I have been asking all my friends how long a typical octopus lives and guesses have ranged from 16 years to 50 years.  Dear dear magical, nimble, problem-solving octopuses –  taken at so young an age.
  • Next on the reading list, “Fanatical about Frogs”.

Deforestation – My son and I read a lot of books about endangered animals, so we know that loss of habitat is a primary cause.  We have come across the term, “deforestation”  many times, so deforestation was on our minds when we read from the excellent “How Ships Work” (a Lonely Planet Kids book) that – 

  • around 2,000 trees were used to build a Spanish galleon in the 1500’s (and we know there was more than one galleon).
  • 6,000 trees were needed to construct British flagship HMS Victory in 1765. 

 Deforestation is not a new trend.

“Everest” by Sangma Francis and Lisk Feng – all topics Everest are covered in this well written, well designed book:  Sherpas, the sacredness of the mountain, climbing clothes, the development of oxygen masks, trash on the mountain, routes to the summit, inspirational climbers AND my son and I are still musing over the fact that Mount Everest grows 1/3 inch a year.

“Little Men”, by Louisa May Alcott – I have read “Little Women” several times and I was eager to share my first reading of “Little Men” with my son.  1)  Jeepers, this is relentlessly moral story.  2) This is a difficult read what with the vernacular of the 1870’s and the loads of characters, some with multiple nicknames. I read aloud one paragraph and then take the same amount of time to untangle what I’ve just read for my son.  Sigh.  We have augmented “Little Men” by reading a short bio of Louisa May Alcott from “American Trailblazers” by Lisa Trusiani.

Time for a change in tone!  Story Problem – Farmer Brown Runs for Town Mayor!  –  Yes, Farmer Brown is running for town mayor and his chances for winning look good!  His campaign manager has all sorts of campaign ideas to get Farmer Brown’s name before the public:

  • 50 big yard signs spread around town, with the slogan, “Farmer Brown can make our town grow!” ($4 for each sign and $25 each for Farmer Brown’s two nephews to place the signs)
  • 1000 campaign buttons (“Farmer Brown can make our town grow!”) for $250
  • A running ad (boldly proclaiming that “Farmer Brown can make our town grow!”) in the local newspaper for $75
  • A banner spanning the width of Main Street boldly proclaiming, “Farmer Brown can make our town grow!” for $75
  • 1,000 grocery sacks at Farmer Brown’s road-side stand with “Farmer Brown can make our town grow!” imprinted for $150

Farmer Brown has budgeted $750 for campaign PR.  Can he afford all the ideas ?  (answer at bottom of post)

Classical Music for Octopuses – we were still thinking about the brief lives of the octopuses.  If the current crop of octopuses is going to enjoy classical music, the pieces had better be short.  May we suggest – 

  • Violin virtuoso Fritz Kreisler’s “Schön Rosmarin” (Beautiful Rosmarin), composed in 1905.  Just under two minutes. We listened for iconic Kreisler embellishments while easily envisioning an octopus swaying with the tides –
  • “Solfeggietto”, by CPE Bach, composed in 1766. One minute sixteen seconds. This fast, frantic piece is certainly the “go to” background music for an octopus needing to escape predators –
  • “The Aquarium” from Carnival of the Animals (1886), by Camille Saint-Saëns.  Two minutes, four seconds. Reflective, yearning, chilling, mysterious; it seems as if the octopus was the muse for this piece –

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  NO!)

American Collage

Our focus, these past few weeks, has been directed toward several aspects of the American experience –

Part of the American Collage “The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects”, by Richard Kurin.  (We began by learning a bit about the Smithsonian Institution’s 19 museums and 9 research centers sites – mostly located in Washington DC).  So far, our favorite objects in the book’s collection:   

Columbus piombo    washington uniform

  • The well known portrait of Christopher Columbus that may not be a representation of the man at all – it was painted in 1519, more than 10 years after his death 
  • George Washington’s ultra elegant uniform (designed by George Washington!) 
  • The Bible that Thomas Jefferson edited for himself (leaving out parts he did not believe in)(discussion provoking)

It is going to take us months to work through this book.  We’re glad.

Part of the American Collage – “The Amish of Lancaster County” by Donald B. Kraybill.  Easy to read, up to date (published in 2019), with lovely, plentiful photographs.  Emphasized:  COMMUNITY and the hard working, self-sufficiency, graceful, modest, and religion-centered values of the Amish.  Of great fascination to us was the Amish education system:

amish school

  • all grades are taught in a one-room school 
  • science is not taught in school (we discussed)
  • there is no school after age 14 (we discussed)
  • teachers are not certified, college educated, or even high school graduates (we discussed)

Part of the American Collage – “The Blue Angels”, by Keillor and Wheeler.  Descriptive writing and heart-stopping photographs showcase the precision daredevil abilities of the Navy pilots demonstration team, thrilling everyone since 1946.  Most exciting chapter:  THE MANEUVERS! “The Delta Breakout”! “Loop Breaks”! “Six Plane Cross”!  “The Fleur-de-Lis”!  I asked my son if he would like to fly in a Blue Angel formation and the answer was a YES.  Count me out.  Also, you can count out any Amish community members from soaring with the  Blue Angels as they are (1) forbidden from joining the military and (2) forbidden from riding in airplanes of any sort.  CHANGE OF TOPIC: the first female Blue Angel joined the team in 2014 (we discussed).

Part of the American Collage – “The Incredible Band of John Philip Sousa”, by Paul Edmund Bierley.  We have never come across a book with its subject so thoroughly documented.  This book catalogs every tour, concert, concert program, musical instrument, and musician of the Sousa Band’s 40 year run.  Take aways, so far –

  • In 1889, Sousa sold the publishing rights to “The Washington Post March” for –  OH DEAR IT HURTS TO EVEN TYPE THIS – $35  
  • Sousa composed over 130 marches.  Most famous: “The Stars and Stripes Forever”, composed in 1896 and declared “Official National March of the USA” by an act of the US Congress in 1987
  • Between 1892 through 1931, the band presented just under 16,000 concerts, zigzagging all over the world.  SIXTEEN THOUSAND.
  • Sousa’s Band was a concert band, marching only eight times during the course of 40 years

Part of the American Collage – “Appleseed, The Life and Legacy of John Chapman”, by Joshua Blair.  We’ve learned:

  • Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman) was a real person (1774 – 1845), not a made up legend (although he did travel barefoot, wearing the darnedest clothes, just like the legends proclaim)
  • how he procured the apple seeds (from cider factories!)
  • how and where he set up apple nurseries and the importance of these nurseries
  • of his ability to trusted by westward moving pioneer settlers as well as native Americans
  • how he utterly embodied the spirit of the Swedenborgian religion; the apple tree planting being his ministry
  • in case you are still reading – I painted the “Johnny Appleseed Song” on our kitchen wall (pictured above) in 2003 to celebrate my father’s 82nd birthday because he loved this sung as grace before dinner

apple pie

“As American as Apple Pie” story problem – Of course, Le Fictitious Local Diner sponsors an apple pie baking contest each July 4th.  Last year 40 people entered the contest and there was a three-way tie for best pie:

  • Dr. Susan’s “Doctored-up Super Cinnamon Apple Pie”
  • Tennis Pro Tom’s “What’s Not To Love-Love Apple Lemon Tart”
  • Miss Maddy’s “I-Want-More Burnt Sugar Apple Extravaganza Pie”  

1)  If each pie used an average of 6 apples, how many apples were used to make up all the pies entered into the contest?

2)  If each pie maker practiced on 3 pies before baking their entry pie, how many apples were used to make up all pies (practice and entry pies)?

3)  If the pie bakers bought their apples from Farmer Brown’s fruit stand, did the stand sell more or less than 1,000 apples for the event? 

4)  If the three winning pies were placed on the diner menu for the month of July, and 10 of each were served over the course of the month, how many apples were used to make the menu pies?   (answers at bottom of post)

Look what we made:  our American experience collage (my son’s first collage)

Part of the American Collage – Classical Music:

Amy Beach’s “Fireflies” from “Four Sketches, opus 15”, 1892.  (Amy Beach is noted as being the first female American composer.)  “Fireflies” may just be our favorite summertime classical music selection.  We have probably listened to it 100 times, each time reminding us of firefly magic during sultry summer nights when we lived in Georgia.  The piece sparkles –

Florence Price’s “Silk Hat and Walking Cane” from her “Dances in the Canebrakes”, 1953.   (Florence Price is noted as being the first female African-American composer.)  This delightful short piece provided an opportunity to chat with my son about this well-structured composition’s thematic set-up:  We listened for themes  A – B – A (developed) – C – and finally back to A –  

Charles Ives’ “Country Band March”, composed in 1903.  This is a true musical collage in which Ives has jaggedly juxtaposed fragments from more than 12 recognizable American marches and folk melodies.  When we listen to this, my son and I pretend we are making our way through a crowded carnival midway with American music blaring at us from all sides – 

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers:  1)  240 apples,  2)  960 apples,  3)  less, 4) 180 apples)