Insects

The Sweet Life

honeycomb

Sweeter than honey – I think this is our fourth bee study unit – we must so close to earning some sort of bee scholarship certificate – but who could resist the utterly giant, INYOURFACE “Bees – A Honeyed History” by Piotr Socha – AND – the book is even better than I anticipated.  We’re only half way through, but we’ve learned more than we knew previously about

swarming – bees and bears – bees and Napoleon – the waggle dance (!!!)
honey as a preservative – St. Ambrose (patron saint of bees) – pollination

Tonight: how to construct a beehive!  Clever graphics compliment the broad spectrum of bee topics addressed.  We just love this book. There is no other choice but to give it an A+.

bee book

“Wonder” IS wonderful – If you walk into any major book store you cannot miss R.J. Palacio’s prominently displayed book, “Wonder”.  The hype is not overdone.  This is a deeply thought-provoking read, with short chapters that grab your heart.  The author tackles several different points of view with authentic insight.  What a story.  What a privilege to work through this book with my son. (We know the “Wonder” movie is premiering this month.  Alas, our movie theater experiences have not been too positive, so thank heavens we have the book.)

AfricaCountriesMap

Africa Calls – We have the most interesting and inspirational friend (yes, you, SLC) who serves as a school director in Guinea, Africa.  Lucky, lucky school.  (Sidebar – if I lived anywhere near and had school-age children, they would be enrolled in that school SO FAST).

But to the point:
Here is what my son and I know about Guinea: NOTHING.
Here is what we know about Africa: VERY LITTLE.
– the atrocities of the Congo Free State (late 1800’s) under the shameful King Leopold II of Belgium
– a bit about ancient Egypt
– Dr. Livingston’s travels and his meeting up with Henry Morton Stanley on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in 1871

Shouldn’t we know a LOT more about Africa?

  • We are starting with another “Lonely Planet – Not for Parents” book, this one, “Africa – Everything you wanted to know”.  Already we’ve discussed the ridiculously huge Sahara Desert (and compared it to the size of the Amazon rain forest), wildebeest migration patterns, cannibals (!), African colonization, insects as snacks (we are so not eating bugs as snacks), cheetahs, and the very first heart transplant.
  • We have compared a currant African country map with an African country map from 60 years ago.
  • We have just begun reading “I Will Always Write Back” (this title makes me burst into tears), by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda with Liz Welch.  This is a story about pen pals (vocab), one in Pennsylvania and one is Zimbabwe, who began their correspondence in 1997.

We now know where Guinea and Zimbabwe are.  Let the Africa unit begin!

donuts

Sweet Students for Sweet Seniors (a Local Diner story problem) The local junior high is hosting a “Design your own Donut” breakfast at Le Fictitious Local Diner, to raise funds for a Thanksgiving party they are planning for the senior citizens center.  It will cost the diner $750 to serve 1,000 donuts with 15 topping choices. Once costs are met, the diner will give all remaining money taken in to the school.  If a “donut and topping experience” will be priced at $3, and all donuts are sold, how much money will the junior high have raised for their Senior Citizen Center Thanksgiving party?
A)  $750    B) $1,000    C) $2,250    D) $3,000

If everyone purchases two donuts each, and half of these people order up a cup of hot chocolate (priced at $2) to enhance the sugar high, how much money will the diner gross from hot chocolate sales?
A)  $200    B) $500    C) $750    D) $2,000

Gli_uccelli_score_respighi

Suite Music – I wanted to solidify in my son’s mind the concept of an orchestral suite and how it differs from a symphony or concerto.  If you are like my son’s grandmother, The Peach, and you have no idea what a suite is, we like to compare a suite to a book of short stories by a single author – each story stands alone, yet the entire collection resonates with the author’s style.  What composer better to turn to than Ottorino Respighi – really such a suite master:

“Pines of Rome” – “The Birds” – “The Fountains of Rome”
“Church Windows” – “Brazilian Impressions” – “Ancient Airs and Dances”

My son and I happen to like “The Cuckoo” from his “The Birds” suite (composed in 1928), so instead of listening to one movement from several suites, I decided we should listen to 3 of the 5 movements from this one work – so we could hear how each movement is complete in itself, yet all three have the Respighi touch (a very clean sound, exquisite attention to his subject matter).

“The Dove”, movement 2 from Respighi’s “The Birds”.  We listened for the cooing of the dove and the magical ending.  The music starts after about a minute-long introduction from the conductor:

“The Hen”, movement 3.  Nailed it:

“The Cuckoo”, movement 5 (We like to count the “cuckoo” sounds – SO many crammed into this 4 minute piece.)  Such a sparkling performance by the youth orchestra from the Bachmann-Mehta School of Music in Tel Aviv (and yet check out the bored stiff audience – how could this happen?):

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

(story problem answers:  C) $2,250;  B) $500)

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Bee Plus!

bees

Let’s pretend that you need to brush up on your knowledge of bees. May we suggest, “The Life and Times of the Honeybee” by Charles Micucci?  This sort of looks like a little kids book, but every single page intrigues with surprising information – my son and I were amazed to learn that a colony of 10,000 to 60,000 bees includes only 100 male bees (the drones)…Those worker bees flitting about in gardens? The bees that sting you? The bees that make the honey?  ALL female.  So my son and I worked the ratios – if there are 100 males and 10,000 in the colony, the ratio of male to female is 1:100.  If there are 100 males and 60,000 in the colony, the ratio is 1:600. (This ratio reminded me of the Jan and Dean hit of 1963, “Surf City” – which starts out “Two Girls for Every Boy” – so I forced my son to view a video of Jan and Dean on The Steve Allen Show. I don’t think I can get him to watch this again.)

But back to “The Life and Times of the Honeybee” – we give this bee book an A!

microscope book

Blood, blood, and more blood (gross overstatement) – Just last night we were reading through “The Usborne Complete Book of the Microscope”, learning the difference between optical (vocab) and electron (vocab) microscopes.  Well!  This morning at a doctor’s appointment, we saw a sample of my son’s blood through the mechanism of an electron microscope!  Perfect timing!  The computer screen view was fascinating – from a pinprick of of blood on the glass slide, the jillions of red blood cells were so easy to see.  Fabulous technology.

The Hand Thump of Appreciation – Sometimes when I read to my son and I think he is dozing off, I consider stopping for the night – and then the HAND THUMP OF APPRECIATION happens. Just as I am about to shut the book, my son’s hand comes crashing down on the page of the book, inferring VEHEMENTLY, “this is cool. KEEP READING”.  This happened last night – we were reading the multi-award winning “Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library” by Chris Grabenstein (a group of 12 lucky kids win the opportunity to spend the night in eccentric Mr. Lemoncello’s brand new city library).  Apparently my son is really enjoying the book!  YES.  Happy day.

bee-keeper-with-smoker

Story Problem Alert! Farmer Brown raises bees!  Of course he does.  This past week Farmer Brown purchased new beekeeper outfits for two of his ranch hands.  A complete suit costs $109.  One of the ranch workers needs the 4XL size, which runs and additional $25.  Farmer Brown decided to buy an additional veiled helmet for just in case. The helmet costs $24 and the veil $20. How much will Farmer Brown spend on the new protective wear? (We are not adding in tax or shipping.) (Answer A at bottom of post).  If Farmer Brown sells a pint of honey for $5, how many pint jars will he need to sell to pay for the new beekeeper outfits? (Answer B at bottom of post)

bee on daisy

A soundtrack for worker bees – Our picks:

  • Moto Perpetuo” composed by violin virtuoso, Niccolo Paganini, in 1835.  This is an exhausting piece to play and reminds us of the field bee’s exhausting day – about 10 journeys a day to collect nectar and pollen, with each trip lasting about an hour.

  • The Pizzicato”, from Leo Delibes’ ballet “Sylvia” (1876).  We learned that the bee’s most important contribution is not the honey, but the service of pollination.  We can easily envision a bee delicately darting from flower to flower, pollinating away to the rhythm of this piece.

  • And of course, Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee”, written for his opera “Tsar Saltan” in 1899.  Well, this is perhaps too obvious a choice, but it is a tiny jewel of a masterpiece, and it belongs here.  We like this performance by the London Cello Orchestra, boasting the largest number of cellos that we have ever seen together.

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
A.  $287
B.  58 jars

Garden Par-tay

  cicadas on leaf

Cicadas Party – Every summer, it gets really loud in our backyard garden.  It sounds like a golf course sprinkler system going full blast, but it isn’t that, it is the CICADAS!  Last night my son and I did a mini-study of Cicadas.  We learned that cicadas sing their song during the hottest part of the day; we learned that the males make all the noise; we learned that people actually eat these insects (deep fried or stir fried) (gag).  We watched this well filmed video of a male cicada making his rattling noise (7 out of 10 on the repulsive scale).  In truth, my son wasn’t terribly interested; I sort of had to force him to watch this…good thing the video only lasts a minute:

Vocabulary update – two items:

First, I went through the list of vocabulary words we have accumulated over the past year (see “The Wordery” in menu area) and selected 15 words.  I presented the list as a quiz with multiple-choice options.  Happy report: 100% correct!  So pleased with my son’s vocabulary retention.

Second, our Rasputin and Einstein books and our current novel (“Surviving the Applewhites”) have presented us with more unfamiliar words and concepts: crude, dynasty, fasting, heir, hemophilia, icons, monarchy, stage mothers, Swiss neutrality, recluse, and thesis.

plums

The Farmer Brown story problem – Farmer Brown is going to be on local TV, showing everyone how to make his grandmother’s prize-winning Damson plum jam!  After the demonstration, he is going to give everyone in the audience (3 girl scout troops), a pint sized jar of the jam.  There are 16 girls in each troop.  If Farmer Brown’s recipe makes 2 quarts of jam, how many times will he need to multiply the recipe?  Farmer Brown does NOT want to disappoint the girl scouts.

ship

Our music theme from last night was inspired by “The Clipper Ship, Flying Cloud”, printed by Currier & Ives in 1852. A few years back, my son and I did a study on American illustrators, and we both loved learning about the firm of Currier & Ives (Currier, the accomplished lithographer and Ives, the finance brains…the selling pitch was, “the Grand Central Depot for Cheap and Popular Prints”).  When we finished our study, my son picked out “The Clipper Ship, Flying Cloud” as a poster to put up on his wall.

Music to accompany “The Clipper Ship, Flying Cloud”:

  • “Sea Songs” by Ralph Vaughan Williams, composed in 1923.  This is a 4 minute march bringing together 3 British sea songs. This video clip shows the Houston Youth Orchestra from two years ago.  Exceptionally well done for a youth orchestra.

  • “Overture to HMS Pinafore” by Gilbert and Sullivan, from their very popular comic opera, which premiered in 1871.  Jaunty!

  • “Over the Waves” by Juventino Rosas.  We often get this piece confused with “The Skater’s Waltz”, and guess what? The Skater’s Waltz (by Emile Waldeufel) was written in 1882 and “Over the Waves” was written in 1888.  (Perhaps another story for another time.)  ANYWAY,  take a look at this video!  The composition is played with surprising delicacy by the intimidating looking Central Military Band of the Russian Ministry of Defense.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH