The Last Dog’s Tail

dog tail

– Our final post for 2017 –

Ben best of blog 2017

– Here is what my son and I learned a LOT about in 2017 –
Africa – bees – Buffalo Bill – Canada – Cixi – crime science – grammar – Greek mythology – Jim Thorpe – maps – Native North Americans – Roy Lichtenstein – Royal Canadian Mounted Police – salients – South America – the Loch Ness Monster – the NATO phonetic alphabet – whale fall

My son’s favorite topic?  WHALE FALL, from the July 21st post, “Whale Fall and other Water Wonders

– Our most memorable story problem themes for 2017 –
an outdoor deck renovation – box lunches – Canadian geese – cider – doilies at the diner – donating books – donuts – frying pans – live music at the diner – macaroni – nail polish – painting Farmer Brown’s roadside stand – radishes – the diner’s summer give-away – work gloves

My son’s favorite story problem?  FARMER BROWN AND THE CANADIAN GEESE, from the April 24th post, “Looking North

– Our coolest music themes for 2017 –
circus classics – Dvorak’s birthday – minuets – music for the Narcisse Snake Pits – rootin’ tootin’ music – suite music – the Brandenburg Concertos – the crescendo – the fugue and canon controversy – the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra – the saxophone – the snare drum – the tango

My son’s favorite music theme?  MUSIC FOR THE NARCISSE SNAKE PITS, from the April 24th post, “Looking North”.  I have to agree, the music selections for the Narcisse Snake Pits, are hilarious.  A definite favorite theme for me.

christmas tree

So that brings us to December (so difficult to post a blog when one is a mom in charge of Christmas) – our engineering unit!

engineering books

Seriously, I can’t believe that we are loving three books ABOUT ENGINEERING!  But, now it is sort of like, if we cannot be an engineer (thanx to our DNA), at least we can be thrilled and inspired by the awesome achievements of engineers.

– “The Erie Canal” – oh my gosh, this resource by Martha E. Kendall is SUPERB.
– “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” – authors William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer have captivated our hearts.
– “Engineered! Engineering Design at Work” – by Shannon Hunt and James Gulliver Hancock – we’ve just started this. So far, “YAY!”.

grimms book

And a classical music theme focus for December – Fairy Tales:

– “The Sleeping Beauty Waltz”, from The Sleeping Beauty Ballet (1889) by Tchaikovsky, played by the Russian State Symphony Orchestra, featuring the largest bass drum I have ever seen.  Just a perfect performance.

-“Cinderella’s Waltz”, from the Cinderella Ballet (1944) by Sergei Prokofiev – with a darkness and edge so typical of Prokofiev.  The Dutch National Ballet brings a superbly choreographed performance, full of bounce and humor (bounce and humor marrying well with the Prokofiev music?  YES!).

– “The Children’s Prayer” (or Evening Prayer), from the Hansel and Gretel opera (1892), by Engelbert Humperdinck (not the pop star from the 1970’s).  Very soothing, somber, hopeful.  Beautifully played by Leipzig’s very famous Gewandhausorchester, conducted by a very thoughtful, if not super confident, Bobby McFerrin.  Interesting note:  the idea AND libretto (vocab) for this opera came from the composer’s sister, Adelheid Wette. YOU GO GIRL!

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
P.S. Most of my blog writing has been done at my local Starbucks, where they start preparing my “grande peppermint hot chocolate made with soy no whip” as I walk through their door.  Thank you Starbucks!  Au revoir Starbucks!  Beginning in just a few days (January 2018) I get to work in a real office.  It is teeny, but it has a window and I am très excited!


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)

A Little Night Music

piano and moon

Question 1:  If my son and I spend 15 minutes every night listening to classical music, how many hours of listening will we have stacked up over the course of a year? (answer at bottom of post)

Question 2:  If we average 3 pieces per evening, how many compositions will we have listened to over the course of a year? (answer at bottom of post)

I have been thinking it would be helpful to have a tab on title-block that would take us to a page where our music themes were listed.  So, OMGosh this has taken forever to assemble (and only includes music I have blogged about since July, 2014), but VOILA!  This post is now tabbed on title-block as “Our Music Themes“.

(This is merely a listing; to read a few short lines of information about each composition and find links to youtube videos of said compositions,  click on the links.)

Music Themes – Post Titles

Art set to music:  Checkered House, by Grandma Moses – from “Good Books, Bad Books

  • Over the River and Through the Wood – Lydia Maria Child
  • Sleigh Ride – Leroy Anderson
  • Carol of the Animals – Robert Davis

Art set to music:  Pirate Chief, by Howard Pyle – from “Fly By

  • The Maid of Amsterdam – traditional sea chanty
  • Overture to The Flying Dutchman – Wagner
  • Pirates of the Caribbean Suite – Klaus Badelt

Art set to music:  The Clipper Ship, by Currier and Ives – from “Garden Par-tay

  • Sea Songs – Ralph Vaughan Williams
  • Overture to H.M.S. Pinafore – Gilbert and Sullivan
  • Over the Waves – Juventino Rosas

Art set to music:  The Fall of the Cowboy, by Remington – from “Answers for Everything

  • Thanksgiving – George Winston
  • Hoedown – Aaron Copland
  • Back Home Again – John Denver

Back to School – from “If it’s August

  • Flight of the Bumblebee – Rimsky-Korsakov
  • Entry of the Gladiators – Julius Fucik
  • Song of the Volga Boatmen – traditional

Barbershop Quartetsfrom “The Cliffs Notes Version

  • Sincere – Meredith Willson
  • Mr. Sandman – Pat Ballard

Benjamin Franklin in France – from “It’s a Date!

  • Overture to The Abduction from the Seraglio – Mozart
  • The Coffee Cantata – JS Bach
  • Symphony No. 45 in F-sharp minor (Farewell Symphony) – Haydn

Black History Month Selections – from “Conversation Circle”

  • Maple Leaf Rag – Scott Joplin
  • The American Scene: The Southwest – William Grant Still
  • Don’t Get Around Much Anymore – Duke Ellington

Blue Days – from “Something Blue

  • Blue Skies – Irving Berlin
  • Blue Tango – Leroy Anderson
  • The Blue Danube Waltz – Strauss

Blue Moon Tunes – from “Second Time Around”

  • Moonlight Serenade – Glenn Miller
  • Rhapsody in Blue – George Gershwin
  • Clair de Lune – Debussy

Brazil, thinking about – from “Tick, Tick, Tick

  • exploring “The Little Train of Caipira” – Heitor Villa-Lobos

The Cambrian Explosion – from “In Which We Learn about the Cambrian Explosion

  • Simple Gifts – Joseph Brackett
  • Polka Dots and Moonbeams – Van Heusen/Burke
  • 1812 Overture – Tchaikovsky

Chicken Coop Melodies – from “Farm Fresh

  • Symphony No. 83 in G minor (The Hen) – Haydn
  • The Hen – Respighi
  • Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little – Meredith Willson
  • Chicken Reel – Joseph M. Daly/Leroy Anderson

Classical Broadway – from “Desperately Seeking Ganesha

  • Rosemary – Frank Loesser
  • Piano Concerto in A minor – Edvard Grieg
  • Baby Face – Akst/Davis
  • Hallelujah Chorus – Handel
  • Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina – Rice/Weber
  • Violin Concerto in D minor – Brahms

Cuckoo for Music – from “Things that go Bump in the Night

  • Organ Concerto No. 13 in F major (The Cuckoo and the Hen) – Handel
  • Symphony No. 6 in F major (The Pastoral) – Beethoven
  • The Cuckoo – Respighi

Dealer’s Choice (my son selects 3 from a list of 10) – from “Starry Eyed

  • The William Tell Overture – Rossini
  • The Cuckoo – Respighi
  • Mambo – Leonard Bernstein

Dental Procedures, music for – from “Messenger Service

  • Symphony No. 6 in F major (The Pastoral) – Beethoven
  • The Barcarolle – Jacques Offenbach
  • The Moldau – Bedrich Smetana

The Doldrums – from “Going Nowhere Fast

  • Sea Songs – Ralph Vaughan Williams
  • We Sail the Ocean Blue – Gilbert and Sullivan
  • Sailing By – Ronald Binge

Duets! – from “Sap Happy

  • The Flower Duet – Leo Delibes
  • Si Fino All’ore Estreme – Bellini
  • People Will Say We’re in Love – Rogers and Hammerstein

Einstein and his Violin – from “Brainiac

  • Violin Serenade No. 6 – Mozart
  • Violin Serenade No. 13 (Eine Kleine Machtmusik) – Mozart
  • Violin Sonata No. 26 in B-flat major – Mozart

Exotic Lands – from “That’s Gotta Hurt

  • Scheherazade – Rimsky-Korsakov
  • Overture to Abduction fro the Seraglio – Mozart
  • Arrival of the Queen of Sheba – Handel

Fanfare for the Water Bear – from “A Fanfare for the Water Bear

  • Water Music – Handel
  • The Aquarium – Saint-Saens
  • The Wild Bears – Sir Edward Elgar

Franz Schubert Night – from “Dr. Livingstone, I Presume?”

  • Serenade – Schubert
  • Ave Maria – Schubert
  • March Militaire – Schubert

French Composers – from “A Test of Faith

  • The Infernal Galop (The Can-Can) – Jacques Offenbach
  • Clair de Lune – Debussy
  • March of the Toreadors – Bizet

The French Horn – from “Working for Peanuts

  • Water Music – Handel
  • Venus – Gustav Holst
  • Pavane for a Dead Princess – Maurice Ravel

Fun Music Only – from “Inventors Invent

  • Dance of the Hours – Amilcare Ponchielli
  • Chicken Reel – Leroy Anderson
  • The Pink Panther – Henry Mancini

Good Shepherd – from “The Rattlesnake Sermon

  • Sheep May Safely Graze – JS Bach
  • He Shall Feed His Flock Like a Shepherd – Handel
  • Tender Shepherd – Charlap/Leigh

Groundhog Day – from “Rodent Rage

  • Winter – Vivaldi
  • Waltz of the Snowflakes – Tchaikovsky
  • Symphony No. 6 in F major – Beethoven
  • Put on a Happy Face – Strouse/Adams

Halloween, scary music for – from “Back in the Saddle Again

  • Dance Macabre – Saint-Saens
  • Mars – Gustav Holst
  • Masquerade – Khachaturian

Harp Music of the Angels – from “Sunday School

  • Harp Concerto in B-flat major – Handel
  • Harp Concerto in A major – Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf
  • Concerto for Flut and Harp – Mozart

The Hungarian March, 3 Ways – from “Travelogue

  • Hungarian March – Berlioz
  • Hungarian Rhapsody No. 15 – Liszt
  • Hungarian Dance No. 19 – Brahms

Hymns: three from one – from “Riveting

  • Ave Maria – Jacques Arcadelt
  • Symphony No. 3 in C minor (Organ Symphony) – Saint-Saens
  • Finlandia Hymn – Sibelius

Inventions for Inventions – from “Lights! Camera! Edison!

  • Invention No. 6 in E major – JS Bach
  • Invention No. 8 in F major – JS Bach
  • Invention No. 13 in A minor – JS Bach

London Busses – from “Late Bloomer

  • Jupiter – Gustav Holst
  • Pomp and Circumstance – Elgar
  • Fantasia on Greensleeves – Ralph Vaughan Williams
  • Overture to H.M.S. Pinafore – Gilbert and Sullivan

March Madness – from “Ranch Report

  • Colonel Bogey March – Lieutenant F.J. Ricketts
  • The Imperial March – John Williams

March’s Marches – from “Wordery

  • The Redetzky March – Johann Strauss, senior
  • March of the Siamese Children – Richard Rogers
  • The Washington Post March – John Philip Sousa

Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream – from “Flying, Farming, and Felix

  • Overture to Midsummer Night’s Dream – Mendelssohn
  • The Wedding March – Mendelssohn

Michelangelo’s Rome – from “One Sculptor, One Scoundrel

  • The Pines of Rome – Respighi
  • Palladio for String Orchestra – Karl Jenkins
  • Symphony No. 4 in A major (The Italian) – Mendelssohn

Minor Key Music – from “Miners and Minors

  • The Hebrides Overture – Mendelssohn
  • In the Hall of the Mountain King – Edvard Grieg
  • Ride of the Valkyries – Wagner

Minuet in G to the Power of 3 – from “Hendecasyllable

  • Minuet in G – Mozart
  • Minuet in G – Beethoven
  • Minuet in G – JS Bach

Mount Vesuvius – from “Mounting Interest

  • Funiculi Funicular – Luigi Denza
  • Aus Italien – Richard Strauss
  • Neapolitan Song – Rimsky-Korsakov

Music to Soothe – from “Music to Soothe

  • Mass in D minor, motet – Anton Bruchner
  • Sheep May Safely Graze – JS Bach
  • Simple Gifts – Joseph Brackett

Negro Spirituals – from “Heavenly

  • Down by the Riverside – traditional
  • Wade in the Water – traditional
  • Swing Low, Sweet Chariot – traditional

Nocturnes – from “Zootique

  • Nocturne No. 2 – Chopin
  • Nocturne No. 3 – Liszt
  • Harlem Nocturne – Earl Hagen

The Oboe – from “Music Mechanics

  • Arrival of the Queen of Sheba – Handel
  • Swan Lake, final scene – Tchaikovsky
  • Le Tombeau de Couperin – Ravel

Overtures – from “Takes a Lickin’ and Keeps on Tickin‘”

  • Overture from H.M.S. Pinafore – Gilbert and Sullivan
  • Overture from Midsummer Night’s Dream – Mendelssohn
  • Overture from The Marriage of Figaro – Mozart

Paris Tribute – from “A Ghost by any other Name

  • The Swan – Saint-Saens
  • Carillon – Bizet
  • La Vie en Rose – Edith Piaf

Pizzicato! – from “The Price is Wrong

  • Divertissement: Pizzicati – Leo Delibes
  • Symphony 4 in F minor – Tchaikovsky
  • Anitra’s Dance – Edvard Grieg

The Presidents’ Music – from “The Liberace Instigation

  • classical pieces composed during each administration

The Recorder – from “Well Played

  • Sopranino Recorder Concerto in C major – Vivaldi
  • Ode to Joy – Beethoven
  • Greensleeves – traditional

The Sad Song Scale – from “Two Different Worlds

  • Symphony No. 3 in F major – Brahms
  • What’ll I Do? – Irving Berlin
  • Serenade – Schubert

Saint Patrick’s Day – from “The Business of March

  • Toora Loora Looral – James Royce Shannon
  • The Irish Washerwoman – traditional/Leroy Anderson
  • Danny Boy – Frederic Weatherly

Shrill Thrills! (the piccolo) – from “Jams and Jellyfish

  • Chinese Dance (Nutcracker) – Tchaikovsky
  • Triton Fountain in the Morning – Respighi
  • Stars and Stripes Forever – Sousa

Strauss Family, the splendidly gifted – from “780 Pairs of Saddle Shoes

  • Radetzky March – Johann Strauss, senior
  • Feuerfest Polka – Joseph Strauss
  • Thunder and Lightning Polka – Johann Strauss, junior

String Quartets – from “We the People

  • String Quartet in B-flat major (La Chasse) – Haydn
  • String Quartet No. 2 in D major – Borodin
  • Cantina Band (performed as a string quartet) – John Williams

Summertime – from “Barely Scraping By

  • Summer – Vivaldi
  • Fireflies – Amy Beach
  • Summertime – George and Ira Gershwin
  • In the Summertime – Mungo Jerry

Sunday Night Music – from “How We Write

  • How Great Thou Art – Carl Gustav Boberg
  • Turn! Turn! Turn! – Pete Seeger/Book of Ecclesiastes
  • Let us Cheer the Weary Traveler – Nathaniel Dett

Surprise Endings – from “Bringing Handwriting up to Scratch

  • The Wild Bears – Sir Edward Elgar
  • The Moldau – Bedrich Smetana
  • The Imperial March – John Williams

Tambourines! – from “Peace, Love, and Tambourines

  • Mr. Tambourine Man – Bob Dylan
  • Tarantella – Rossini/Respighi
  • Russian Dance (Nutcracker) – Tchaikovsky

Tea Time – from “Textbooks – if we ruled the world

  • Tea for Two – Youmans and Caesar
  • Tea for Two (Tahiti Trot) – Shostakovich
  • Tea for Two – Art Tatum

Things in the Sky – from “Snakes and Pirates

  • Fireflies – Amy Beach
  • Clair de Lune – Debussy
  • Mercury – Gustav Holst

The Timpani – from “One Thing Leads to Another

  • Dance of the Seven Veils – Richard Strauss
  • Thus Spoke Zarathustra – Richard Strauss
  • Pirates of the Caribbean Suite – Klaus Badelt

Trains – from “Posting about Posters

  • The Little Train of Caipira – Heitor Villa-Lobos
  • The Steam Engine – Patrick Doyle
  • Take the A Train – Duke Ellington

Tribute: music for a beloved grandfather – from “Imagine That

  • Fight for California – McCoy/Fitch
  • The Army Song – Sousa/Arberg
  • Ashokan Farewell – Jay Ungar

The Vatican, background music for – from “Holy Zucchetto

  • Gregorian Chants – traditional
  • Gloria in Excelsis Deo – Vivaldi
  • Locus Iste – Bruchner

Virtuoso Night: Stanley Drucker – from “Affordable Housing Forever

  • Clarinet Sonata No. 1 in F minor – Brahms
  • Appalachian Spring – Aaron Copland
  • Rhapsody in Blue – George Gershwin

Virtuoso Night: Sir James Galway – from “Thousands and Thousands

  • Concerto for Flute and Harp – Mozart
  • I Saw Three Ships – traditional
  • Flight of the Bumblebee – Rimsky-Korsakov

Virtuoso Night: Wynton Marsalis – from “Novel Ideas

  • Concerto in E-flat major for Trumpet – Haydn
  • Moto Perpetuo – Paganini
  • The Prince of Denmark March (Trumpet Voluntary) – Jeremiah Clark

Virtuoso Night: Itzhak Perlman – from “Insert Clever Title Here

  • Humoresque – Dvorak
  • Out of Africa, title music – John Barry
  • Violin Concerto in E minor – Mendelssohn

Waltzing with Tchaikovsky – from “Case in Point: Ibn Battuta

  • Serenade for Strings – Tchaikovsky
  • Swan Lake Waltz, Act II – Tchaikovsky
  • Eugene Onegin, Polonaise – Tchaikovsky

Wistfulness – from “Finish the Poem

  • Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture, love theme – Tchaikovsky
  • Ashokan Farewell – Jay Ungar
  • What’ll I Do – Irving Berlin

Worker Bees, a soundtrack for – from “Bee Plus!”

  • Moto Perpetuo – Paganini
  • The Pizzicato – Leo Delibes
  • Flight of the Bumblebee – Rimsky-Korsakov


Welcome to the best part of my night!
– Jane BH
(answer 1:  91+ hours)
(answer 2:  1,095 pieces of music)

The Liberace Instigation


This post is not about the man, Liberace, but about a GLARING ERROR he made before treating the TV audience to his take on the classic Strauss “Beautiful Blue Danube Waltz”.  See for yourself:

You saw the problem, right?

Of course, I am referring to the introductory comment: “…I would like to take you back…many hundreds of years ago to that wonderful, romantic night when Johann Strauss first introduced the waltz…”.  Here is the GLARING ERROR:  Johann Strauss II premiered “The Beautiful Blue Danube Waltz” in 1867, just 86 years (NOT many hundreds of years) prior to Liberace’s 1953 TV show.

I sort of want my son to have a more accurate sense of when important musical compositions were written, so I have put together a simple chart of classical pieces that he is familiar with, and paired them with US Presidential administrations. This will give us both a bit of a sense of what was going on in the world when each piece was written, and remind us that many great compositions are not as old as we think (or Liberace thought)(seriously, I suspect a lot of people think classical music was written 500 years ago, in a galaxy far, far away).

The chart works this way:

USA Presidential Administration – 1 orchestral piece composed or premiered during that time period

George Washington  –  Haydn’s “Symphony No. 94” (Surprise Symphony), 1791
John Adams  –  Beethoven’s “Piano Sonata No. 14” (Moonlight Sonata), 1801
Thomas Jefferson  –  Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 5”, 1808
James Madison  –  Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville”, 1816
James Monroe  –  Schubert’s “Marche Militaire”, 1822
John Quincy Adams  –  Rossini’s “William Tell Overture”, 1829
Andrew Jackson  –  Mendelssohn’s “Hebrides Overture”, 1830
Martin Van Buren  –  Chopin’s “Piano Sonata No. 2” (The Funeral March), 1837
William Henry Harrison  –  Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman”, 1841
John Tyler  –  Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March”, 1842
James Polk  –  Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2”, 1847
Zachery Taylor  –  Schumann’s “Symphony No. 3” (The Rhenish), 1850
Millard Fillmore  –  Verdi’s “Rigoletto”, 1851
Franklin Pierce  –  Foster’s “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair”, 1854
James Buchanan  –  Offenbach’s “Orpheus in the Underworld” (the Can-Can!), 1858
Abraham Lincoln  –  Howe’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, 1862
Andrew Johnson –  Strauss II’s “Beautiful Blue Danube Waltz”, 1867
Ulysses S. Grant  –  Grieg’s “Peer Gynt Suite”, 1876
Rutherford B. Hayes  –  Gilbert & Sullivan’s “HMS Pinafore”, 1878
James Garfield  –  Bruch’s “Scottish Fantasy”, 1881
Chester A. Arthur  –  Waldteufel’s “The Skater’s Waltz”, 1882
Grover Cleveland  –  Saint-Saens’ “Carnival of the Animals”, 1886
Benjamin Harrison  –  Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker”, 1892
Grover Cleveland  –  Dukas’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, 1897
William McKinley  –  Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee”, 1900
Teddy Roosevelt  –  Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance, No. 1”, 1901
William H. Taft  –  Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”, 1913
Woodrow Wilson  –  Holst’s “The Planets”, 1916
Warren G. Harding  –  Berlin’s “What’ll I Do”, 1923
Calvin Coolidge  –  Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”, 1924
Herbert Hoover  –  Grofe’s “Grand Canyon Suite”, 1931
Franklin D. Roosevelt  –  Copland’s “Appalachian Spring”, 1944
Harry S Truman  –  Anderson’s “The Typewriter”, 1950
Dwight Eisenhower – Bernstein’s “West Side Story”, 1957
John F. Kennedy  –  Mancini’s “The Pink Panther Theme”, 1963
Lyndon Johnson  –  The Beatles’ “Yesterday”, 1965
Richard Nixon  –  Weissberg/Mandell’s “Dueling Banjos”, 1973
Gerald Ford  –  Williams’ “Theme from Jaws”, 1975
Jimmy Carter  –  Williams’ “The Imperial March” (Darth Vader’s Theme), 1980
Ronald Reagan  –  Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera”, 1986
George H.W. Bush  –  George Winston’s “Hummingbird”, 1991
Bill Clinton  –  Doyle’s “Steam Engine” (from “Sense and Sensibility”), 1995
George W. Bush  –  Kirkhope’s “Viva Piñata Soundtrack”, 2006
Barack Obama  –  Williams’ “The Adventures of Tintin”, 2011

(and yes!  My son is quite familiar with all of the above pieces.)

jacques c      otto

BTW, this week we have been ALSO learning about Jacques Cousteau and Otto Von Bismarck.

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

Rodent Rage


Almost finished:  We are sorry that we are coming upon the final pages of “Animalium”, by Katie Scott and Jenny Broom. This splendid book is rich in conversation-provoking information and rich in captivating illustrations. This is a book that we have looked forward to opening every single night (even last night, when we had to read about rodents).

Animalium book 2

Speaking of rodents:

– To establish a baseline, we took a little “Is this a rodent?” quiz, then voted upon the cutest. Our faves: chipmunks, chinchillas, hamsters, guinea pigs, voles, and porcupines.  Not our fave: squirrels are on our bad list at the moment (we are unhappily hosting one in our attic, and are attempting to remove him humanely)(but this is not going well, as he is a member of Squirrel Mensa).

– February 1st I gave my son a pre-test on the big doings of February 2nd: Groundhog Day. I was quite surprised by how much information he knew about this “holiday”.  I am not sure we added much to his store of knowledge, but we read through Wikipedia entries on groundhogs and Groundhog Day, and concluded with a small discussion about whether Punxsutawney Phil was a bit plumper than the average groundhog.  We learned that groundhogs are the same thing as woodchucks, which prompted me to recite the “How much wood can a woodchuck chuck” tongue twister. Rodents and poetry on the same night. Winner.


Farmer Brown’s petting zoo story problem – The first graders from the 4 local elementary schools love visiting Farmer Brown’s petting zoo. This year, Farmer Brown has hired a photographer to snap photos of each first grader with one of his sweet hamsters. The photos sell for $2 each (and everyone purchases one). It costs Farmer Brown 50 cents to process each photo and he pays the photographer $35 for each school visit. There are 40 first grade children in each school. NEW CONCEPTS!: What is Farmer Brown’s GROSS income from the endeavor? What is Farmer Brown’s NET income (after paying the photo processing and the photographer) from the endeavor?

Catherine Great

What a rat! We have begun another “A Wicked History” (we do love this series), this time we are learning about Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia. Right off the bat we find out that she came to power by disposing of her husband, Tsar Peter III. Yikes. What a rat. We want to know more.


Music for Groundhog Day:  Was Punxsutawney Phil going to be greeted by bright sunlight or cloudy skies?  We had the music to mark the occasion:

  • Phil sees his shadow: “Winter”, from Vivaldi’s timeless violin concerto of 1723, “The Four Seasons”. Ugh. We don’t want 6 more weeks of winter!  But we are always happy for a tiny slice of Itzhak Perlman magic:

  • Phil sees his shadow: “Waltz of the Snowflakes” from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet, which premiered in 1892.  We may be weary of the cold weather, but at least Tchaikovsky revives us with a winter that is as pretty as it is capricious (vocab):

  • Phil doesn’t see his shadow: “Symphony No. 6 in F major” (movement 1), composed by Beethoven in 1808. Known also as “The Pastoral Symphony” (familiar to many from Disney’s award winning “Fantasia” of 1940), it is all about the promise of spring.  Leonard Bernstein (always a conductor we want to watch) leads the Vienna Philharmonic in this video:

  • Phil doesn’t see his shadow: “Put on a Happy Face”, composed by Charles Strouse (lyrics by Lee Adams) for the 1960 Broadway production “Bye Bye Birdie”.  Hey, Phil!  Grey skies are gonna clear up!  My son was tapping his toes to this rendition from the mid sixties, featuring The Supremes:

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

Jams and Jellyfish


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

Peace, Love, and Tambourines

   peace symbol tiedye       peace symbol daisy       peace symbol

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

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

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

napoleon 2

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH