Pirates

Ancient History

Are we Ancient Egypt experts yet?   My son and I are mid-way through another Ken Jennings’ Junior Genius book – this one on “ANCIENT EGYPT”.  Of course, we’ve learned A LOT about pyramids, the Nile River, the 2,000+ gods of ancient Egypt (each with an animal head), sacred bees, bugs, hippos, cats,  but last night was THE BEST:  

BECAUSE WE READ ABOUT EMBALMING RITUALS!!! (which we learned were rather like spa days for the deceased).  Pages and pages of unappetizing-yet-can’t-look-away information about removing organs, packing corpses with salt, and wrapping, wrapping, wrapping.  As a surprise bonus, we learned how to make mummy snacks using a tube of dough and hotdogs (awful/awesome/still laughing).

ALSO:  we now know we do not want to encounter THE EYE OF RA in any dark alleyway.  

Ken Jennings’ books never disappoint.

3,000 years old and still spellbinding – Yay Homer! – The Iliad and The Odyssey are the oldest surviving examples of Greek literature and WE are sitting at the edge of our seats enthralled with stories that have enthralled how many generations before us? (generations – discussion topic)   We’ve finished The Odyssey and we’ve started The Iliad.  Last night was just excellent reading:   a fierce battle between Ajax, representing the Greeks, and Hector, representing the Trojans, resulting in a draw (vocab).  The retelling of these stories by Gillian Cross is superb; the complex, really weird illustrations by Neil Packer are perfection.

It was time for another GENERAL KNOWLEDGE QUIZ (based on ANYTHING we have studied in the past)   My son is enthusiastic and focused whenever I present a quiz – I think he likes chance to reveal his super sharp memory:   

Autumn at the Diner story problem – for the months of October and November, the diner is offering dense, spicy gingerbread cake topped with a thick lemon sauce and whipped cream.  The cake can be ordered by the individual square for $4 – OR – an entire cake may be purchased (for taking home) for $15.  For each month, diner management is projecting to sell 500 squares and 80 cakes.  If the cake is so delicious and in such demand that the sales are double the projections, how much money will the diner have grossed on gingerbread cake sales for the two months?  (answer at bottom of post)

The ancient call to the sea – I have no idea why our nightly book stack always seems to include something that transports us to the high seas.  Must be in the DNA.  Crazy.  This week it is Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.  We are a few chapters into our abridged version of Moby-Dick – we’ve met Ishmael and Queequeg, and we are liking the pace of the book.  I did compare the abridged version with the Melville’s original, which is way, way, way too wordy for my son.

Controversy on the high seas –  

We foolishly thought all sailor type songs came under the umbrella of “sea shanties”.  WELL.  Whoever wrote the Wikipedia entry on Sea Shanties was firm and unwavering:  

  • A shanty is a work song, to establish rhythm for group tasks that involve HEAVING or HAULING (vocab:  not so much the hauling part, but definitely the heaving part).  
  • A sea song is for the general entertainment of sailors after work is done.  GOT THAT?

Now we had to decide if the following were shanties or sea songs:

Jack’s the Lad” aka “The Sailors’ Hornpipe” – the classic SEA SONG – my son knows it from the Disney cartoon staring Goofy as sailor.  It is documented that Captain Cook ordered his sailors to dance the hornpipe to keep fit:

Heave Away” – obviously a SHANTY, said to be sung by Indian Ocean whalers of the 1840s.  We became familiar with “Heave Away” from the current Broadway show, “Come From Away”.  If ever there were a song that makes you want to sing along, this is it:

The Maid of Amsterdam” aka “A’Roving” – a SEA SONG, said to have been sung as early as 1630.  When I attended UCLA in the mid 1970’s, this song was an enthusiastic staple of the Men’s Glee:

Blow the Man Down” – a well known SHANTY from the 1860’s, used to set the rhythm for hauling:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  $12,800)

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The Vocabulary of Vocabulary

In our quest to learn something about everything, the overly complicated focus of the past week was part of our “Vocabulary of Vocabulary” unit:

“Vernacular” vs. “Lexicon” – which became a little more understandable when we differentiated between the vernacular and lexicon in our current home state of Texas:

Group – Texans
VERNACULAR examples – y’all, bless your heart (meaning “OMG, how stupid is that?”)
examples from the LEXICON – impordant (the Texan way with “important”), fixin’ (meaning getting ready to do something)

My son learned that vernacular and lexicon are almost-but-not-quite interchangeable; vernacular referring to the unique language/jargon of a particular group and lexicon (almost like a mini-dictionary) referring to the specific words of the language.  (Wow, picky.)

Anyway, using the book, “Pirates Magnified” by David Long and Harry Bloom, we had a blast looking into the vernacular and lexicon specific to sailors and pirates of the 17th and 18th centuries:

Group – Pirates
VERNACULAR examples – aargh, avast ye, barnacle-covered, Davy Jones’ locker
examples from the LEXICON – privateer, cutlass, crow’s nest, swabbies

“Pirates Magnified” also provided conversation provokers –
–  the pirate’s code (the classic case of honor among thieves)
–  lady pirates (these women were SCARY)
–  voted most important discussion instigator:  a significant percentage of sailors on pirate ships were escaped slaves
Good book!

blue plateblue plateblue plate

Story problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – the diner is rife (vocab) with vernacular (slinging hash, mayo, Adam and Eve on a raft, greasy spoon)…How about their “blue plate special”?  For the month of February, the diner’s blue plate special will include a grilled bratwurst smothered in home-made chili, a side of their jalapeño honey corn bread, and a heaping spoonful of the house chunky cinnamon-spiked applesauce.  Each blue plate special is priced at $8 and costs the diner $3.  If the diner sells 100 specials per week, what will be the profit at the end of February?
A. $500      B. $1,000      C. $1,500      D. $2,000 (answer at bottom of post)

pirate whyeth     bach

The rowdy and the refined – my son and I got so embroiled with pirates of the 17th and 18th centuries that it jarred our brains to think something else might have been going on in the world.  So, when pirates and privateers were wreaking havoc on the high seas (and we learned “the high seas” means “open ocean, not within any country’s jurisdiction”) what was going on in the drawing rooms of European palaces?  How about Vivaldi, JS Bach, and Handel?  What a juxtaposition! (vocab)

– Vivaldi (1678-1741) – we listened to Vivaldi’s “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” (1715). We love this quick paced piece and we’re ready to listen to all performances by conductor and harpsichord virtuoso, Trevor Pinnock:

– Bach (1685-1750) – we listened to Bach’s “Invention No. 13 in A minor” (1720).  Triple score here: 1) super short piece, 2) quick paced, 3) Simone Dinnerstein at the piano (heart, heart, heart):

– Handel (1685-1759) – we listened to Handel’s “Alla Hornpipe” from his Water Music (1717), performed by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra (A+++).  What an upright, solidly British sound:

midnight clock

My, my, what a short post – I have no idea why there was so little material to work with for this blog post. Oh, yes I do:  my son has been in this most trying phase where he is not ready for stories and studies until WAY late (think midnight), so I have regretfully trimmed down our nightly study agenda.  Hope this is a short duration type of phase. (If wishes were horses…)

But still, welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
Story problem answer: D. $2,000

Fly By

hawk

Well, look who came visiting.  This gorgeous hawk swooped down yesterday and perched on our fence for some 20 minutes. So, of course we had to read about hawks last night. Most interesting fact:  the people of ancient Egypt believed the hawk (Horus) to be a guardian of the pharaoh, and therefore was considered sacred.

horus_3

Check out the cool hawk headwear!

We continue to read: “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”.  As of last night, Dorothy and crew had just entered the territory of the Wicked Witch of the West.  So entertaining, and like all books that become movies, so different from the movie.

We continue our study of cats:  we are reading from another DK Eyewitness book, “CATS”, and it is another well done effort.  Maybe too well done?  If there is one thing our book stresses (seriously, page after page), it is how much cats are interested in spreading their scent around. (Like I want to keep reading about THAT) (but I act like it is no big deal/part of nature’s plan/circle of life, etc.) (even though it is gross).

Because it is January: we talked about New Year’s Resolutions, so our Farmer Brown Story Problem revolved around such resolutions. Here comes a semi-troublesome division problem – there are 15 adults in Farmer Brown’s extended family and they have each made a New Year’s Resolution for the past 10 years. If only one person kept one resolution one year, what percentage of the total efforts were successful?

pirate

(from our STORIES AND STUDIES CENTER wall)

Our Music Theme: Putting an illustration to music – “Pirate Chief”.   This is the first time we’ve tried this: I had my son select one of the posters on his wall, then we put together a music program that would bring the artwork to life. He chose the kicking-butt-and-taking-names “Pirate Chief” by Howard Pyle (Howard Pyle was not only a most important American illustrator, he was also an influential teacher/mentor of the likes of N.C. Wyeth).  Hey!  This was fun!  I think we will set another poster to music in a few weeks.

  • “The Maid of Amsterdam” (sometimes known as “A-Roving”), a lusty sea chantey, just the type of thing that pirates, or anyone with access to a bottle of rum, would want to sing.
  • Overture to “The Flying Dutchman”, by Richard Wagner. This is a fave for children’s orchestras.  The story of the opera (cursed man on a ghost ship) is intriguing, the music is motivating, and every instrument gets a crucial part to play
  • “Pirates of the Caribbean Suite”, by Klaus Badelt.  This is consummate sea storms-and-skullduggery pirate music.  The video footage of a performance in Vienna has an added bonus – composer Klaus Badelt is seated in the audience.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

Novel Ideas

Today’s topic:  finding the perfect novel to read aloud to my son – what I am seeking (yay!) and what I am avoiding (yikes!).

books

Yay: we like advanced vocabulary and young adult protagonists.  Yikes: the typical young adult “coming of age” novel is not appropriate for my son. Yikes, yikes, yikes:  themes of alcoholism, drug use, rash behavior, abuse, incest, death, disconnected parenting, suicide, sex, and people being outright mean to one another.  I preview loads of books so we don’t have to head down these dark roads.

Also, because I am the one reading aloud, I have some say in the book genre.  I have tried ’em, but I usually don’t care for sci-fi, fantasy, stories with recurring villains, or time travel.  Here is what I am looking for:  humor, adventure, mystery, self-reliance, team efforts, friendship. I am looking for the good read with storylines complex enough to warrant rereading.

We probably read 50 novels annually. Here are the books we cannot get enough of, so they get reread about once a year:

  • Hatchet – Gary Paulsen
  • Cheaper By The Dozen – Frank B. Gilbreth
  • Schooled – Gordon Korman
  • Surviving the Applewhites – Stephanie S. Tolan
  • While Mrs. Coverlet Was Away – Mary Nash
  • Mrs. Coverlet’s Magicians – Mary Nash
  • The Wednesday Wars – Gary D. Schmidt

Here is what we worked on last night:

My son was presented with a long list of locations; his job was to divide them into city, state, or country categories. We finished the amphibian unit (yay!) and we started the lizard unit (yay!). We finished the pirate book (which was a disappointment to the end, although we did learn one teeny fact: Black Bart was the most successful pirate ever) (but we don’t know why) (sigh). Our Farmer Brown story problem dealt with the purchase of new water troughs for the pigs.  Oink.

Classical music theme: it was VIRTUOSO NIGHT showcasing trumpeter Wynton Marsalis.

  • Franz Joseph Haydn’s “Concerto in E-flat Major for Trumpet, movement 3”.  Aw, such a lackluster title for such a lively, commanding piece.
  • Niccolo Paganini’s “Moto Perpetuo” (perpetual motion).  The goal for the listener is to determine where the trumpeter is taking a breath in this piece, which is essentially a four-and-a-half-minute endurance-test.  And note:  this performance is a small testament to the skills of Mr. Marsalis.
  • Jeremiah Clarke’s “Prince of Denmark’s March”.  Often referred to as “Trumpet Voluntary”, Clarke’s composition is used for many a glorious wedding processional.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

 

Music to Soothe

Studies weren’t the best last night.

The Snake Unit – I am trying to be enthusiastic about our snakes study, as I want my son to learn about nature with an open-mindedness I may not feel. Of course, my son is finding all of the revolting facts fascinating, but I wish I didn’t have to read about rodents and little birds meeting their maker via le snake du jour. Shedding skin, venom, billions of babies. Ewwwwww. I know, I know, CIRCLE OF LIFE. Last night we read about bull snakes (called bull snakes because of the bull-like grunt they make) (lovely) and corn snakes (called so because they have been found in corn fields) (note to self: wear boots in corn fields). Tonight it is going to be some sort of snake that has its stripes running length-wise instead of ring-wise, which is yet again, so gross.

And then,

The Pirate Unit – I am starting to question the scholarship of our pirate-facts book author. Last night’s focus, “The Gang Plank”, should have been AWESOME. Who doesn’t yearn for every chilling detail about THE GANG PLANK?  But ever so regrettably, the only information our author provided was that she was unsure whether gang planks actually existed. WELL REALLY. How about somebody get to the bottom of this before somebody dangles such a  tantalizing chapter title before the reader?

We needed soothing music to conclude our evening. Our Sunday night music agenda calls for ecclesiastical music. We chose the most peaceful church music to erase the distress caused by general snake grossness and the gang plank disappointment.

  • A motet by Anton Bruckner. Honestly, the title is so long, and it is in Latin and I have no idea what they are singing, but it is in 8-part harmony and it is gorgeous and it easily earns a 10 on the soothing scale. (I can think of a lot of people who have no idea what a “motet” is – seriously, that would be everybody I know (except Ed I. and Bob E.  They know.).  So:  a motet is a choral piece with several parts – meaning sopranos, altos, tenors, baritones, bases – singing in lush harmony.  The motet was a significant musical genre of the Renaissance).
  • By Johann Sebastian Bach, “Sheep May Safely Graze”. Comfort music.
  • Joseph Brackett’s Shaker song, “Simple Gifts”. We listened to YoYo Ma’s thoughtful rendition.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

Snakes and Pirates!

It is always a great night when we start a new academic unit.  Anticipation!  Two nights ago we finished a study of rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks (not nearly as interesting as one might have hoped.  Not interesting at all.  Seriously, the book we read should be up for some sort of “lack of enthralling facts” award.)  So, last night we began a unit on pirates (real pirate info, not romanticized, party-theme pirates).  MUCH more riveting.  And if that weren’t enough, we began a unit on snakes.  GROSS.

We are in the middle of two novels.  One takes place in India in the early 1920’s (“All My Noble Dreams and Then What Happens”).  The other takes place in contemporary times (“Zen and the Art of Faking It”).  I would give both a solid B+ so far.

Our Farmer Brown story problem involved harvesting mangos for the dried mango market.  I have this mini-addiction thing going with dried mangos, and they were on my mind when I was writing up the story problem.

Music selections for last night: our theme was “Things in the Sky”, so we listened to:

  • Amy Beach’s “Fireflies” (did you know Ms. Beach was America’s first major female symphony composer?  “Fireflies” is a sparkling piano piece that we listen to often, A+++++)
  • Claude Debussy’s “Clair du Lune”.  Like I need to say anything about this.
  • Gustav Holst’s “Mercury”, the shortest piece in “The Planets”.  Crazy fun as winged Mercury flits all over the place.

 Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH