Religion

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)

 

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)

New Year, New Books

2019

(Christmas gift – thank you Jimmy)  On the basis of a single book, “Women in Science”, my son and I welcome to our academic library ANY book book written by Rachel Ignotofsky.  WOW.  Ms. Ignotofsky certainly meets her goal of creating educational works of art;  this  dazzling book is intelligently organized and jammed with the kind of information we want to know about.  So far, we have been enticed into learning about the contributions of women astronomers, chemists, mathematicians, entomologists, paleontologists, engineers, electricians, geneticists, and geologists.  This book is such a keeper.

timeline book

(Christmas gift – thank you Aunt Janet)  The Smithsonian “Timelines of Everything” book offers up approximately 150 timelines, each commanding a giant two-page spread.  The focus of each timeline is narrow and we always find something worth discussing further.  For instance:

  • agriculture – we spent some time musing over the fact that sheep were raised for milk and food beginning around 7,000 BCE, but wool was not woven into into fabric until 4,000 BCE (Whoa. A 3,000 year time gap).
  • the wheel – the first wheels were potters’ wheels (we did not guess this – and we do know all about potters’ wheels from our study of ceramic artist George E. Ohr).  
  • the written word – we marveled over the Rosetta Stone.
  • games – we now know that when we play tic-tac-toe we are playing one of mankind’s oldest games (first century BCE) (seriously, the 3 Wise Men could have known how to play tic-tac-toe).
  • religions – I had no idea that this would lead to a discussion of REINCARNATION.  But, duh, OF COURSE.  If one hasn’t heard of reincarnation one would want to spend a bit of time grasping the concept.

styx malone

Fiction Fun – “The Season of Styx Malone”, by Kekla Magoon. Styx is full throttle coolness and confidence.  Do we trust him?  We just don’t know.  This keeps us leaning forward as we read chapter after chapter.  Please don’t disappoint us Styx!

running dog

A super short, super easy Farmer Brown story problem – Often people visiting the ranch bring their dogs, so Farmer Brown’s farmhands have fenced in two dog runs for visiting canines.  Which dog run will give the animals more square footage:  the 6’x25’ run or the 5’x30’ run?  (answer at bottom of post)

conductor match

Classical Quiz – I wanted to check to see if my son was retaining info about the great musicians we have been listening to, so he matched up virtuosos with their instrument.  A few conductors were tossed into the mix to make things tricky.  FYI:  my son scored 100%.

music notes

That sounds familiar –  It is no secret that composers often borrow musical ideas from other composers.  (Usually they give credit, sometimes they get into BIG trouble).  Anyway,  I happen to like tracing routes of melodies through the centuries, so my lucky son gets to enjoy listening to my melody match-ups.  Quick examples:

  • Jacque Arcadelt’s Ave Maria melody of the mid 1500’s can be found in both Camille Saint-Saens’ 1886 Organ Symphony and the Finlandia Hymn from Jean Sibelius’ 1899 symphonic poem, Finlandia.
  • Luigi Denza’s Finiculi Funicula (1880) is front and center in Richard Strauss’s  Aus Italian (1886) and in Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Neapolitan Song (1907).
  • Brahms’ Symphony 3, movement 3 (1883) provides the melody line for  Carlos Santana’s Love of My Life (1999).

And this leads us to Bach and Rock – 

lute

Last week we listened to Bourrée in E minor from JS Bach’s Lute Suite No. 1, composed around 1710.  Nice, short, memorable melody (and my son learned that a guitar may be substituted for a lute).  A jewel of a performance by Kevin Low – and check out the loose  guitar strings:  

Then we listened to rock-group-from-the-60’s/70’s Jethro Tull’s recording of “Bouree”.  Such a lively interpretation of the Bach suite movement, but it is clear that lead musician, Ian Anderson, had not much experience playing the flute.  We read a few interviews and found out that Anderson was a self-taught flutist, admitting that he had no idea what he was doing.  So we say BRAVO to his CAN DO attitude.  

We concluded by listening to a 2005 recording of Ian Anderson playing the same piece, “Bouree”, with orchestral support.  Anderson did well with the 35 year practice period!  YAY. 

Also, we learned that the real Jethro Tull (inspiration for the rock group’s name) was a noted British agriculture pioneer (1674-1741).

jethro tull

Welcome to the best part of my day!
-Jane BH
(Story problem answer:  both dog run designs have the same square footage – 150 square feet)

Sunday School

gutenberg stamp

The Good Book – Last week my son and I read through Graphic Library’s “Johann Gutenberg and the Printing Press”.  Excellent!  Just enough information about Bibles and print reproduction methods of the 1400s.  My son was engaged with every single comic-book-style page, so I am looking at other topics covered by Graphic Library.

New information for us:
– we learned that before 1455 (pre-Gutenberg’s printing press), monks who worked on Bibles had to use sunlight to illuminate their work stations; candles were not used in the manuscript shop because of the fire threat
– we learned that the path from the idea of movable type to the actual printing of a Bible was a LONG path:  more than 25 years of continual work – the letters, the ink, the press, the relentless search for financial backing
– we learned that Gutenberg stored his metal letters in cases. The capital letters in the “UPPER CASE” and the smaller letters in the “LOWER CASE”.  Thus, the terms!
– 200 Gutenberg Bibles were printed and 48 remain (we talked about the current $$$ value, oh my gosh)

gutenberg patents

Also studying“Popular Patents – America’s first Inventions from the Airplane to the Zipper” by Travis Brown.  This book is so well researched and so interesting, including patent number details (we sort of skip all of that), and chronological order of “what came before what” in regards to each patented invention.  So far we have read about barbed wire and the bottle cap, and we are coming to realize that:  1)  the type of person that invents, does so over and over and over – the inventors we’ve read about hold MANY patents, and 2), as we learned this from our study of Thomas Edison, successful inventors protect their ideas with a patent.  Poor Gutenberg, how he could have used patent protection.

Story Problems for Sun Days – It is so hot this summer at Farmer Brown’s:

fan

Farmer Brown’s cool farm hands: Farmer Brown knows that a cool farm hand is a productive farm hand, so he is installing 6 new fans in the farm hands’ bunkhouse.  He is planning to purchase 4 traditional type large fans for $48 each and 2 state-of-the-art Dyson pedestal fans for $450 each. Farmer Brown’s accountant says this is certainly a business expense and needs to know the total spent.  Without calculating on paper or with calculator, what is most likely the total of the 6 fans?
A: $4,800      B: $948      C: $1,092      D: $2,000    (answer at bottom of post)

corn maze

Farmer Brown’s corn maze:  Farmer Brown decided to join the corn maze craze.  His angle: the state’s smallest maze (for those that freak out at the thought of becoming lost amid the acreage of a typical corn maze)!  Farmer Brown’s maze is going to be 15 feet by 15 feet.  At the end of the maze, Farmer Brown will serve up complimentary corn on the cob.  The attraction will be open July and August.  If an entrance fee of $3 is charged, and on an average 200 people go through the maze each month, and Farmer Brown spends 50 cents for each ear of corn/butter/salt and pepper, how much money will Farmer Brown net by the end of August? (answer at bottom of post)

angel with harp

Music for a Sunday night – Sunday nights are church-type music nights for us, so what better than the sound of a harp to put us in mind of angels?  The three ultra-soothing pieces we listened to last Sunday night were all composed in the 1700s.

First, George Frederick Handel’s “Harp Concerto in B flat Major”, movement 1, written in 1736. This movement is beautifully presented by an orchestra in Istanbul, Turkey (sorry, I couldn’t decipher any more information, it was effort enough to figure out the city) (harpists’ ruffled dresses = adorable):

Second, “Harp Concerto in A Major”, movement 3, composed in the late 1700s (best we could do in terms of a date) by (here comes awesome name of the month):  Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf.  Such a FUN name to say.  Every single time.  This particular video features a VERY young and most talented harpist:

Finally, Mozart’s “Concerto for Flute and Harp”, movement 2, composed in 1778.  This is such a gorgeous yearning melody, presented by a most accomplished student orchestra in Russia and featuring another very young harpist:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
Jane BH
(story problem answer – Farmer Brown’s cool farm hands – C: $1,092)
(story problem answer – Farmer Brown’s corn maze – $1,000)

Riveting!

levi strauss pants

Our current history unit is riveting – or more precisely, it’s about rivets.  We are reading about the blue jeans empire of Levi Strauss & Company, (“Images of America – Levi Strauss & Co.” by historian Lynn Downey).  We’ve learned that Levi Strauss, of San Francisco, teamed with tailor, Jacob Davis, in 1873 to manufacture an extra-hard-wearing work pant – the key to their immense success was their patented rivets-on-the-corners-of-the-pockets design.  But this unit is giving us an opportunity to learn more than just about the jeans: we’ve talked about why Levi Strauss was said to have haled from Bavaria (not Germany) (actually we learned about this from our previous study on Otto von Bismarck), we’ve learned about the devastating San Francisco earthquake of 1906, we’ve learned what “dry goods” are, we’ve looked at print advertising of the early 1900’s AND we’ve learned about rivets.  Another great study unit!

greetings from India postcard      indiana postcard 2

TRAVEL BARGAIN!  13,000 extra miles for $4.00!  I often purchase our books via the “used book associate sellers” on Amazon. (It is amazing how many books I have purchased for 1 penny, plus shipping.)  I usually look to see where the seller is located so I can gauge how long it might take to receive the book.  Last week I ordered a series of “Tom Gates” books from what I thought was a seller in Indiana.  What a surprise to find out that I ordered the series from a seller in INDIA!!!  Crazily, the shipping cost for 7 books was a mere $4.00 and I received the order within a week.  A+ on all levels!  Before we cracked open the first book, we got out the globe, located both Indiana and India, had a small laugh over the 13,000 mile distance, then we traced the route the books may have taken from India to reach us in Texas.

andes mints after eight mints

A mintylicious story problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – the diner has plans to serve up after-dinner mints with the check at the end of every meal.  The question is, which mints?  The busboys are voting for “Andes Mints” (primarily because one of the busboys is named “Andy”, and wouldn’t that be a riot?).  The waitresses think “After Eight” mints are much classier.  The diner’s accountant told the staff that it is the thought that counts and strongly suggested they purchase the most cost efficient (cheapest) (vocab) mint.  So:
After Eight Mints – each box contains 25 mints.  A package of 6 boxes sells for $22.
Andes Mints – 5 pounds of Andes Mints can be purchased for $34. There are 70 mints in each pound.

A.  How much does a single mint of each type cost (we learned about “rounding up”)?
B.  The diner is going with the least expensive mint.  If  700 hundred dinners are served per week, and each will conclude with a mint, how much will the diner be spending on mints per month? (we are not including tax or shipping costs)(answers at bottom of post)

lute player

“The Lute Player” by Caravaggio, with sheet music by Jacques Arcadelt.  Whoa.

Three Hymns from One – As I have mentioned previously, my son and I listen to music of an ecclesiastical nature on Sunday nights.  This past Sunday night we followed the path of a hymn written in the mid-1500s by Jacques Arcadelt.

First, Arcadelt’s “Ave Maria“.  We are not sure who is singing here, but the acoustics of the Joy Burns Plaza are insanely effective.  A LOT of sound from 4 vocalists:

Next, the finale to Camille Saint-Saens’ “Symphony No. 3 in C minor” (the “Organ Symphony”), composed in 1886. Of this symphony, Saint-Saens wrote “I gave everything to it I was able to give. What I have here accomplished, I will never achieve again.” Doesn’t this make you desperate to have a listen?  Of course, we sort of always like to hear any piece played on a gigantic pipe organ.  We clearly hear Arcadelt’s hymn in this piece:

Finally, we listened to Jean Sibelius’ “Finlandia Hymn”, a small part of his 9-minute “Finlandia” composition.  Again, we hear the influence of Arcadelt’s “Ave Maria”.  “Finlandia” was written in 1899, and words to the hymn portion in 1941.  My son and I are suckers for flashmobs – a train station in Finland is the setting for this wonderful event:

We also wanted to hear the entire “Finlandia” composition.  This recording came from the opening performance of the new music hall in Helsinki, 2011.  The hymn starts about 5 minutes 30 seconds into the piece (alert:  the piece is rather menacing in the beginning – the message is clearly “Don’t Mess with Finland”).  Stirring:

Welcome to the best part of my day.
– Jane BH
Story problem answers:
A. each Andes mint costs approximately 10 cents, each After Eight mint costs approximately 15 cents
B. $272

Having a Dickens of a Time

Dickens quote

Achievement!  Last night we finished the original version of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. Due to the centuries-old language and phrasing, it was certainly the most difficult book I have ever read out loud. However, the story is well crafted and it was easy to review each previous night’s reading…in only six chapters, the penurious, mean spirited Ebenezer Scrooge is transformed into a grateful, generous soul who would claim, “I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year.”  Of course, my son had to endure my weeping at the end of the story.  SORRY.  We concluded by comparing the spiritual journeys of Dickens’ Scrooge and Seuss’s Grinch.

plum pudding

Holiday Story Problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – the chefs at the diner, inspired by Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” decided to add the classic British dessert, PLUM PUDDING, onto their December menu. HOWEVER, when they read through the recipe and were overwhelmed with the list of ingredients they decided to order a plum pudding from Harrods in London and sell raffle tickets for it. If a plum pudding costs £30  (and a pound is currently worth $1.50), how much will the festive dessert cost Le Fictitious Local Diner?  If the diner sells 150 tickets for $5 each, will they cover the cost of a plum pudding? How many more puddings could be purchased with the collected raffle ticket money? (Assuming, probably incorrectly, that shipping was included in the £30)?

carolers two

Last night’s music theme – we listened to traditional English Christmas carols that Charles Dickens would have been familiar with:

  • “The Holly and the Ivy”.  An old, old carol (mention of the title is found in an essay written in 1823), so beautifully performed by a British boys choir.

  • “Fantasia on Greensleeves”, by Ralph Vaughan Williams.  Vaughan Williams’ dreamy composition was based upon a ballad from the 16th century.  In 1865, William Chatterton Dix penned the lyrics, “What Child is This?” to be sung to the Greensleeves melody.  The good news is that Dickens had five Christmas seasons to enjoy this carol before passing away in 1870.  The bummer is that he missed Vaughan Williams’ effort, as the Fantasia was not composed until 1934.

  • “The Wassail Song” – first we discussed the concept of wassailing (sort of a British Christmas version of trick-or-treating).  Then we found out that there are two carols (we love both) that are often referred to as “The Wassail Song”, so to clarify:
    • “Here We Come A-Wassailing” – composed in 1850, author unknown.  This high-energy video is brimming with Christmas cheer, and the sound is EXCELLENT.

    • “Wassail! Wassail! All Over the Town” – also known as “The Gloucestershire Wassail”, believed to date back to the Middle Ages.  Oh boy!  We found a troop of choristers singing this wassail song in YE OLDE ENGLISH costume.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH 

A Ghost by any Other Name

marley ghost

A Christmas Carol – oh, how we would have liked to listen to Charles Dickens read aloud from his “A Christmas Carol”.  To hear the delicious phrasing verbalized as he would have envisioned.  The wording is difficult, so I am often repeating sentences to get the rhythm and meaning – but so worth the extra time; we are loving the book’s message.  We are midway through, currently reading about Scrooge’s encounter with the “Ghost of Christmas Present” (a bit of a talk about the difference between “Christmas Present” and “Christmas presents”).  And we are making a running list of the many ways Dickens can say the word, “ghost”.  So far:  spirit, specter, apparition, supernatural medium, shadow, and phantom.


joan of arc

A new academic unit – we are learning about Joan of Arc, via another outstanding book by Diane Stanley.  To set the stage, Stanley has written a clear description of the Hundred Years’ War that took place between England and France (the war began in 1337, 75 years before Joan of Arc was born).  We are learning that Joan was complex young lady – pious, brave, charismatic, single-minded (let’s just say it: pushy).  As I am reading this to my son, I cannot help but wonder what today’s world would have thought about Joan of Arc (the voices? the visions?).

trophy

NTC Champion!  We held the “Name the Continent” finals last night!  Our globe is practically a permanent resident in the STORIES AND STUDIES CENTER (my son’s bed); whatever we are reading, if a country is mentioned, we find it on the globe.  So, last night, I made up a long list of countries and had my son match each country with its continent.  A+! What can I say?  He knows where everything is.  He’s the NTC Champ!

brussels sproutssweet potatoesgreen beans

Farmer Brown’s Thanksgiving food prep story problem – Farmer Brown has grown all of the vegetables that he is bringing to the family Thanksgiving gathering.  He is bringing his famous steamed Brussels sprouts sautéed in browned butter, his famous green beans with bacon and onion, and his famous sticky sweet potato casserole with candied lemon slices.  It takes Farmer Brown 45 minutes to prepare the sprouts for steaming, 1 hour and 15 minutes to trim the green beans, 25 minutes to prepare the bacon and onion, and 15 minutes to prepare the sweet potatoes for each casserole (for which there are 4).  The good news is that he has two assistants who work just as quickly as he does.  How long will it take the three of them to get the vegetables prepped?
france

Listening to Music – after a brief and sober discussion about the recent unthinkable evilness in Paris, we paid tribute to French heritage by listening to three reflective pieces written by French composers:

  • “The Swan” from “Carnival of the Animals” by Camille Saint-Saens. This was composed in 1887 for piano and cello. It is a soulful, pensive piece. This video showcases Yo-Yo Ma, so we are listening to the best.

  • The “Carillon” from “L’Arlesienne”, by Georges Bizet, composed in 1872. About one minute into the piece, the flute section takes over, and this is the part that tugs at our hearts – the sorrow, the regret, the wistfulness.  It is all there in the music.

  • “La Vie En Rose”, certainly the iconic Parisian melody, written and popularized by chanteuse (prettiest word of the month) Edith Piaf in 1945. Louis Armstrong made a well-loved recording of this, but we wanted to listen to the original voice (this is OLD film footage).

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

This Week: One Sculptor, One Scoundrel

michelangelo     Francis-drake

 Yay!                         Icky

Interesting Coincidence – a few posts back (“Two Different Worlds”, July 12, 2015) we mused that the two people we were studying (Rasputin and Albert Einstein) lived at approximately the same time, within a thousand miles of each other, but followed such different paths.  It has happened again!  We just concluded surveys of Michelangelo (1474 – 1564) and Sir Francis Drake (1540-1596), again living at about the same time, within a thousand miles of each other, but following two such different paths.  Michelangelo – devoted to the perfection of his sculpture, painting, architecture.  Drake – devoted to the accumulation of wealth via the only means he was clearly proficient at: brutal thievery.

It is too revolting to speak of Drake; our energy is better spent waxing enthusiastically about Michelangelo.  The book we read, “Michelangelo” by Diane Stanley is A++++.  Among simply loads of other things, we learned a lot about the Sistine Chapel:

Sistine-Chapel full

  • It was named for Pope Sixtus IV (get it? Sistine – Sixtus?), and the ceiling was commissioned by Pope Julius II, who just happened to be the nephew of Pope Sixtus IV. Hmmm.
  • In case you haven’t studied the ceiling, there are 9 major panels illustrating three themes:  the creation of heaven and earth, Adam and Eve, and Noah and the flood.  It took Michelangelo 4 years to paint this masterwork.
  • The 60 foot-high scaffolding (vocab!) upon which Michelangelo stood (yes, STOOD.  He did not paint lying down) stretched under only one half of the ceiling area.  Michelangelo painted the Noah’s Ark panels first. When he finished these panels, and the scaffolding was moved to the other end of the chapel, Michelangelo decided that it was difficult to decipher all the activity on the ceiling, so he painted much larger figures on the creation and Adam and Eve side!  I swear, live and learn.

Other stuff we’ve worked on this past week:

  • Reading comprehension – I wrote up a few paragraphs about my daughter and her job, and had my son read through it – I did not read it out loud – then my son took a multiple choice quiz about what he had read.  Did well.  Important activity.
  • Roman Numeral review. A+
  • We continue to enjoy the novel, “Greetings from Nowhere” by Barbara O’Connor.

michelangelo book

  • We were so impressed with Diane Stanley’s “Michelangelo”, that we selected another of her books, “Charles Dickens, The Man Who Had Great Expectations” to anchor our new study unit. So far, EXCELLENT!  My son is quite taken with this book.  We have learned what “shorthand” is and we are now motivated to give “The Pickwick Papers” a try.

Granny Smith Apple -Photographed on Hasselblad H3-22mb Camera

Our Farmer Brown Story Problem – Farmer Brown supplies apples to Le Fictitious Local Diner for their famous apple pies.  He sells the diner a box of 100 Granny Smith apples for $8.00.  The diner uses 6 apples for each pie. How many boxes will the diner need each month if they make 10 pies every week?  How much will the diner be billed for the apples every month?

Music to remind us of Michelangelo’s Rome

  • “The Pines of Rome”, movement 1, composed in 1924 by Ottorino Respighi.  Characteristic of Respighi’s work, this piece SPARKLES. (This movement has a quirky ending – beware!)

  • Allegretto from “Palladio for String Orchestra”, composed in 1995 by Karl Jenkins to honor the Roman architect Andrea Palladio, a contemporary of Michelangelo’s. (BTW, this music was used in a De Beers Diamond advertising campaign in the 1990s.)  Gorgeous church used in this video.

  • Mendelssohn’s “Symphony No. 4 in A major” (“The Italian”), movement 4, composed in 1883. We LOVE this entire symphony, and we’ve probably listened to this movement 30 times.  It moves right along.  This video?  OUTSTANDING performance.

Welcome to the best part of my day!  And Happy Birthday HKH!

– Jane BH

 

Lights! Camera! Edison!

Edison

Creativity AND Business Skills – We just completed a unit on Thomas Edison and his brainy brilliance that brought the world incandescent light bulbs, phonographs, movie cameras, etc.  The DK Readers book we read is entitled, “Thomas Edison: The Great Inventor”, but the underlying message is “Inventor? Yes, but this man ALSO possessed extraordinary business skills that were more than a match for his relentless inventing”.  Wow.  My son and I had as many conversations about Edison’s unerring business sense as we did about his creations.

drake better

Good books about bad people – so far we have learned about Napoleon, King George III, Rasputin, and Alexander the Great via the outstanding Scholastic “A Wicked History” series.  The books are well researched and written to our level of comprehension, meaning NOT juvenile, but not mind-numbingly erudite.  The only negative: the photos are always so small, in grey tones/very hard to decipher.  We are currently learning about a really awful person (from a really awful family chock full of bullies, thugs and thieves), Sir Francis Drake.  I had NO idea he was so reprehensible.  AWFUL.

Greetings book

“Greetings from Nowhere” – our new novel, by Barbara O’Connor is an original, entertaining book, just the type we look for (young adult themes my son can understand without the awkward “coming of age” element), with lots of concepts for us to discuss: motel, kitchenette, adoption, and for heavens sakes, last night we had to Google Image CHARM BRACELETS.

hands

Art at the Vatican – to prepare ourselves for a Vatican art survey, we are reading “Michelangelo” by Diane Stanley. Excellent resource.

Dogs playing poker

Art at Le Fictitious Local Diner – this story problem revolves around the diner gussying up the place with selected pieces of what some might call art. Of course, they are installing the classic “A Friend in Need” (the rest of us know it as “Dogs Playing Poker”) by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge, purchased for $45.  A portrait of Elvis on black velvet has also been purchased for $90.  Posters of Batman, Superman, and Marilyn Monroe round out the collection, the lot acquired at a garage sale for $10.  How much has the diner spent on “artwork”? (Heh, heh, the answer is not “zero”.)  Money to purchase the exciting wall decor came from the diner’s tabletop jukeboxes.  At 25 cents per song, how many songs had to be played before the art could be purchased?

Inventions for Inventions: our classical music theme last night – we celebrated the inventions of Thomas Edison by listening to a few inventions by Johann Sebastian Bach.  First, we needed to understand what a Bach invention is.  For this, we viewed a superb 7-minute video starring killer pianist Simone Dinnerstein.  This video is a jewel!  Just watch her flying fingers!

Bach’s 15 inventions were composed as keyboard exercises in 1723.  We listened to:

  • Invention No. 8 in F major”, played by Simone Dinnerstein.  Seriously, we love her!  We want to know where to get our SD Fan Club badges.

  • Invention No. 13 in A minor”, played by little mighty mite, Annie Zhou, an 8 year old, competing in the Canadian Music Competition a few years back.  Watch her attack this piece.

  • Invention No. 6 in E major” played by a banjo and double bass.  We watched this for comic relief, but were so pleasantly surprised by the high quality of the performance! Kudos!

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

Holy Zucchetto!

zucchetto child     zucchetto flying     zucchetto green sweawter

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

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

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

pencil grip

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

herbs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH