Vatican City

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

If it’s August

goldolfo lake

Our Vatican Unit continues – we have been learning about Castel Gondolfo, the summer retreat for popes since 1628.  So, if it is August, it is likely that the Pope Francis is in residence at the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gondolfo.  We learned that the Pope travels the 15 miles (we had NO idea it was so close) between the Vatican and Castel Gondolfo by helicopter.  The palace grounds overlook Lake Albano.  Lake Albano immediately grabbed our attention because the lake is so round, with very little beach area.  It made sense when we read that the overlapping union of two volcanic craters created the lake.

finnish flag

Counting on it – we continue to learn to count to ten in foreign languages – not because counting to ten is such an important skill, but because I want my son to have an awareness that languages change from country to country (in other words, there is more to the world than just us).  We have mastered Spanish, French, German, Japanese, and Vietnamese.  Now we are tackling Finnish – such a fun sounding language: 1, 2, 3: “ooksie, cawksi, colomay” (BTW, that’s the flag of Finland).  Here is what we do every so often:  I call out a number, and my son writes down the number and the language I am speaking.

school busschool busschool bus

Le Fictitious Local Diner starts “The Bus Driver Project” (from our story problems last week) – if it is August, the start of school is just around the corner, and the employees at the diner have been thinking about how difficult it would be to be a school bus driver. The responsibilities are substantial and sometimes the kids (we are looking at you, JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL PEOPLES) can be so rambunctious.  So, the diner decided to honor all local school bus drivers with a free lunch and slice of pie, once a month, during the 9-month school year.  There are 20 bus drivers in the district, lunch runs $8.00, and a slice of pie (pecan, apple crumble, or lemon meringue), $3.00.  When the diner turns in its contributions list to the CPA at the end of the school year, what will be their total “bus driver project” donation?

apple

If it is August, we need “Music for Going Back to School”–  here is what we selected:

  • “Flight of the Bumblebee”  composed by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1899 for his opera, “The Tale of Tsar Saltan”.  This is background music for moms anxiously hustling offspring out the door before the bus leaves.  This video is spectacular – we have the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by the unsurpassable Zubin Mehta, AND watching the violin section is mesmerizing – they all sort of twitch in rhythm, and the fingering is SO fast.

  • “Entry of the Gladiators” – composed in 1897 by Julius Fucik (well, there’s an unfortunate name), who had quite an interest in the Roman Empire.  He did NOT intend for this to be used as a SCREAMER (how can you not love this term?????) (we learned that a “screamer” is an invigorating circus march).  Is this not THE music that should be blaring in elementary school halls on the first day of school?  This video was filmed around 1950, featuring the over-the-top energetic Red Nichols and his Five Pennies.  NOT TO BE MISSED.

  • “Song of the Volga Boatmen” – a traditional Russian folk song (first published in 1866), this is classic “we feel your pain” and “is there more to life than drudgery?” music.  This is the comrade-in-arms music for woebegone students AND teachers dreading that first day back.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

Heavenly

     vatican     swiss guard and pope

The Vatican – our new unit!  We are Catholic, so the Vatican seemed a logical subject of inquiry.  We’re reading from the August 2015 issue of National Geographic and “The Incredible Book of Vatican Facts and Papal Curiosities” by Nino Lo Bello.  Here is what has IMMEDIATELY captured our attention: THE SWISS GUARDS.  Wow.  BEST UNIFORMS EVER.  Here is what we have learned about the Swiss Guards – there are around 100 guards at any one time, with sole responsibility for guarding Vatican City and the Pope. The basic requirements for becoming a guard:  single male Catholic between the ages of 19 – 30, with Swiss citizenship and Swiss military training.  Very, very cool.  And, again, those GREAT uniforms (we learned that it takes about 32 hours to sew up one of these splendid striped ensembles)!

big bang books
Stephen Hawking said it – so far, Stephen Hawking and his daughter, Lucy, have written 3 remarkable novels for youthful minds about (what else) outer space.  We are on book three, “George and the Big Bang”.  Every so often, there is a break in the story for a few pages of facts and theories.  As far as we are concerned, if Stephen Hawking said it, we are getting the most up-to-date information, un-doctored up and un-watered down.  These books are important.  We are augmenting the Hawking novel with “The Moon” by Seymour Simon.  Lovely book, thought provoking photographs.

persdeids meteor shower

Farmer Brown looks to the heavens and thinks about buying a telescope!  From one of our story problems of last week – Farmer Brown was so fascinated viewing the Perseid meteor shower last week that he realized his farm hands might enjoy having a telescope to view the night sky.  He has found a beginner type telescope for $300.  State sales tax is 8.25% and shipping will run $21.00.  How much will Farmer Brown spend if he wishes to purchase 2 telescopes?  If Farmer Brown wants speedier delivery he will pay an additional $15 per item.  What will this bring the total to?

 church singing

Music time – Negro Spirituals.  What sobering and inspiring listening.  But what great songs!  Written by slaves pre-civil war, we learned that spirituals were prayers about the rewards awaiting in heaven and coded encouragement for escaping the chains of forced servitude.  My son and I had a serious talk about the inexcusable wrongness of slavery.

  • “Down by the Riverside” – this timeless spiritual became a signature song for Vietnam War protesters of the 1970’s.  This video clip features Sister Rosetta Tharpe.  What a treasure.

  • “Wade in the Water” – we love this arrangement sung by Oakwood University students.  Refreshing, energetic, outstanding.

  • “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” – I don’t see how anybody could watch this video and not weep (well, my son didn’t weep, but he was captivated) (I wept).  It showcases operatic lyric soprano Kathleen Battle and the Boys Choir of Harlem.  It is just so beautiful.  Also noted: “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” is the anthem of the national rugby union team of England.  That’s weird.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH