Insects

Sesquicentennial!

A sesquicentennial celebration!  Jane’s Cool School’s 150th post! 

To mark the occasion,  I scoured the previous 149 posts and came up with a general knowledge  quiz for my son, consisting of 150 questions.  He did quite well, earning an A+.   

Here is a sampling of the questions (answers at bottom of quiz).  Fret ye not, I have selected only 15 of the 150 questions:

General Knowledge Quiz – Express Lane Style

1)  A blue moon is:

a-  a second full moon in a month     
b-  a moon with a blue tinge due to gravitational pull from Venus     
c-  a full moon in Winter     
d-  a sad moon

2)  The first wheels:

a-  chariot wheels     
b-  grain grinding wheels     
c-  wheels of cheese     
d-  potters’ wheels

3)  Which of the following is NOT depicted on the Sistine Chapel ceiling:

a-  Creation     
b-  The Last Supper     
c-  Adam and Eve     
d-  Noah and the Flood

4)  “Alpha”, “Bravo”, “Charlie” are ways of communicating letters in:

a-  NATO phonetic alphabet     
b-  children’s books     
c-  Navajo Code     
d-  Morse Code

5)  The USA enjoys many unspoiled national parks due to the influence of:

a-  the Pope     
b-  John Muir     
c-  Frederic Remington     
d-  Buffalo Bill Cody

6)  What makes the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra different?

a-  no conductor     
b-  15 violinists     
c-  they play from memory, no sheet music allowed     
d-  members are all women

7)  Who does the waggle dance?

a-  people in Australia     
b-  snakes     
c-  bees     
d-  teenagers

8)  Windless weather on the high seas is referred to by sailors as:

a-  flat water     
b-  the Sargasso Sea     
c-  middle sea    
d-  the doldrums

9)  The engineer of the interior structure of the Statue of Liberty:

a-  Gustav Eiffel     
b-  Frank Lloyd Wright     
c-  Thomas Edison     
d-  the Marquis de Lafayette

10)  The Astroid Belt is found:

a-  between Mercury and Venus     
b-  between Mars and Jupiter     
c-  beyond Neptune  
d-  in any fine mens clothing store 

11)  A country build on coral:

a-  Catalina Island     
b-  Australia    
c-  Greenland     
d-  Republic of Maldives

12)  America’s first great public works project:

a-  Hoover Dam     
b-  Golden Gate Bridge     
c-  Erie Canal     
d-  Highway 66

13)  A Jannisary Band:

a-  a large rubber band used to bind logs together     
b-  a military band of the Ottoman Turks    
c-  a decorative headband     
d-  a orchestral group that plays once a year, in January

14)  The only Finnish word in the American language:

a-  sauna     
b-  loofa     
c-  antler     
d-  smorgasbord

15)  The one place on Earth that can only be used for peace and science: 

a-  the Vatican     
b-  the Bikini Atoll     
c-  Antarctica     
d-  The North Pole

Answers:

  1. a- second full moon in a month
  2. d- potters’ wheels
  3. b- The Last Supper
  4. a- NATO phonetic  alphabet
  5. b- John Muir
  6. a- no conductor
  7. c- bees
  8. d- the doldrums
  9. a- Gustav Eiffel
  10. b- between Mars and Jupiter
  11. d- Republic of Maldives
  12. c- Erie Canal
  13. b- military band of the Ottoman Turks
  14. a- sauna
  15. c- Antarctica

Meanwhile, our Stories and Studies sessions continue.  Hoo boy – our current books have provided discussion* topics that I never thought I would be having with my son:

  • oil spills in the ocean (from “The Penguin Lessons” by Tom Michell)
  • inflation in Argentina in the mid 1970’s (from “The Penguin Lessons” by Tom Michel)
  • the currency of Ecuador  (from “Let’s Look at Ecuador” by Mary Boone, and verified by Wikipedia because THIS IS JUST TOO WACKY) – the US Dollar has been the currency of Ecuador since 1990.  I will never understand how this works, so it is a good thing I am not in charge.
  • homelessness insights (from “Almost Home” by Joan Bauer)
  • the gambling addiction (from “Almost Home” by Joan Bauer)

* how do I have a discussion with my nonverbal son?  Usually, I make up a lot of questions and have my son write “yes” or “no” to each inquiry.  He likes being asked.

Classical Music Time – we considered the concept of orchestral adaptation:

My son and I are enchanted with the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet – we have listened to their recording of Luigi Boccherini’s seductive Fandango from his Guitar Quintet (1798) probably 250 times –

Topic of the evening:  could orchestral music be successfully adapted for guitar?  Could the LA Guitar Quartet deliver on pieces the were not written specifically for guitar?  Not only could they deliver, we prefer the adaptations.  We LOVE these adaptations.  YAY Los Angeles Guitar Quartet!

First, we compared John Phillip Sousa’s Black Horse Troop (a decidedly happy march, composed in 1924 for Troop A of the Cleveland National Guard, known for using only black horses) – 

Next, we compared JS Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 6, movement 3 (early 1720’s).  Both performances here are excellent, but the LA Guitar Quartet has a way of making this movement into pure comfort listening – 

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

Our Hour

Class is in session for one hour every single night and my son and I LOVE this time together.  We are focused, fascinated, and leaning forward to learn more.  Here is how we divided up our studies and stories hours this past week:

Before Carl Linnaeus, before Charles Darwin, before John James Audubon:  MARIA MERIAN  (1647-1717), artist/nature observer.  We learned all about Merian in the Sibert Medal 2019 book, “The Girl Who Drew Butterflies”  (Joyce Sidman).  Merian’s meticulous work documenting caterpillars/butterflies/host plants was cited 130 times by Carl Linnaeus in his major opus, “Systema Naturae”.  Maria Merian was the first to bring scholarly attention to the caterpillar-to-butterfly connection.  More, of note:

  • We rolled our eyes:  As a female in her native Germany, Maria Merian was forbidden to study at college, and yet her groundbreaking work was criticized because she was a “self-taught amateur”.  
  • We cheered:  Tsar Peter the Great bought 300 of her original watercolors to start Russia’s first art museum.  My son selected one of her works in poster form for his room:

History Time:  

“The World Jesus Knew – A Curious Kid’s Guide to Life in the First Century”, by Marc Olson/illustrated by Jemima Maybank.  A scholarly work, accented with sly humor.  Here is what caught our attention:

  • Palestine was under the rule of the Roman Empire during the time of Jesus.  This was actually a BIG deal – Roman rule infiltrated all aspects of life
  • Because fisherman were in the water so often, they often fished WITH NO CLOTHES ON
  • The Sanhedrin, what was it and how powerful was it?

Learning-about-Careers Time:  

“Vet Academy” (Martin/Keoghan) – My son’s cousin Kelly is a vet (and as far as we are concerned, THE BEST VET), so we thought we should learn more about her world: 

  • My son and I mused over three vet specializations and what each would mean in terms of life-style:  small pets (vet treats animals at local veterinary clinic), farm animals (vet drives all over creation to check on “patients”), or zoo animals (vet essentially lives at the zoo).  
  • Our favorite page of the book was in the zoo animal section:  we learned to distinguish between cheetahs, leopards, and jaguars by examining their spots.  We keep getting smarter.   

Language Arts Time:  

PREMOOSC – YENIDS – HEVETOBEN – TWESARE – YECCLER – PRITOMANEL

After spending really a lot of time putting together months and months of puzzles, I bought a “Jumble Junior”  book.  Perfect.  

Math Time:  

A Farmer Brown Story Problem – Even though Farmer Brown has a perfectly good rooster to awaken his 8 farmhands, he has been under pressure to purchase an alarm clock for each worker.  Farmer Brown is letting them choose between a digital (vocab) clock ($12) or a vintage analog (vocab) clock ($15).  Three fourths of the farmhands want a digital clock, the rest have ordered the analog.  Total shipping will be $10.  Farmer Brown has budgeted $100 for new clocks, will this cover the costs?  (answer at bottom of post)

Reading for Fun Time:  

Three words:  Hank the Cowdog.  Years ago we read through the gigantic series and we are now revisiting our favorites.  Two weeks ago we read, “The Mopwater Files”.  Last week it was “The Disappearance of Drover”, this week, “The Incredible Priceless Corncob”.  Hank time is Texas-sized smile time.

Arts and Crafts Time:

French curve – We were swerving and curving after I found an envelope of plastic French curve templates that had belonged to my father (an engineer).  Why shouldn’t my son know about Ludwig Burmester’s (a German mathematician) French curves?

Music Appreciation Time:  last night we listened to music for CLOCK-WATCHERS: 

– Haydn’s Symphony No. 101 “The Clock” (movement 2, the “tick-tock movement”) composed in 1794.  Performed competently (and adorably) by the Kawartha (Ontario, CA) Youth Orchestra –

–  Zoltan Kodaly’s “Viennese Music Clock” from his Hungarian folk opera “Háry János” (1926).  A spirited performance, complete with dancing clock, by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra –

– LeRoy Anderson’s “Syncopated Clock”.  This piece was composed in 1945, while Anderson was serving in the US Army, as Chief of Scandinavian Desk of Military Intelligence (proving that he could do two things at once).  I sort of think that Leroy  Anderson (a brilliant man with a huge sense of humor) would have approved of this kookie performance by the St. Luke’s Bottle Band (and I totally want one of those feathered green hats).  This ensemble is having WAY TOO MUCH FUN –

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(Unscrambled words:  COMPOSER, DISNEY, BEETHOVEN, SWEATER, RECYCLE, TRAMPOLINE)
(Story Problem answer:  NO)

 

Brownie Points

smithsonian left

Brownie points for us!  It was LENGTHY, but we have finished The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects, compiled by Richard Kurin (currently Acting Provost and Under Secretary for Museums and Research at the Smithsonian Institution).  And brownie points for this first-rate endeavor, a superior textbook choice for a full semester of American History.  My son’s favorite chapters:

  • Lewis and Clark’s Pocket Compass – we loved our unit on the Lewis and Clark expedition (see “From the Wanderlust Files”, August 27, 2019), and couldn’t believe we were actually viewing an artifact from the journey.
  • Helen Keller’s Watch – first of all, this is a VERY INTERESTING WATCH. Secondly, here is something that cheered us – totally unrelated to the watch – Helen Keller’s tuition to Radcliffe was arranged by Mark Twain!!!
  • The Tsimshian Totem Pole – an utterly elegant piece of art that became more enchanting after we understood the story this totem pole reveals.
  • Marian Anderson’s Mink Coat – a well balanced account of events that prompted an ice cold outdoor concert (Easter Sunday, 1939) given by American treasure, contralto Marian Anderson.  We have now added Ms. Anderson’s  recording of “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” to our Sunday night listening –
  • The Brownie Camera – the most captivating chapter! We learned about George Eastman and his concept for the Brownie camera (provoking us to read The Brownie Book, Palmer Cox’s mini stories of mini spirits, which inspired Eastman to name his little camera, “The Brownie”) and we were riveted reading the report of the teenage girl, traveling in 1912 aboard the RMS Carpathia, using her Brownie camera to record the rescuing of survivors from the sinking Titanic.

The Photo Ark, by Joel Sartore – a coffee table book with a noble purpose:  to create awareness of extinction possibilities threatening Earth’s current animal kingdom.  Each of the 399 photographs touched our heart.

  • Our favorite chapter – the success stories of species that have been brought back from the brink of extinction.
  • My son’s selection for most beautiful animal photographed in the book –  a three-way tie:  the California Sea Lion, the Pink-Tipped Anemone, and the Bali Mynah.  I would include photos, but the new format options on this blog site have me perplexed.
  • What we learned – most of the monkey-type animals (OK, this is an outrageously incorrect generalization, but this is the easiest way for my son to grasp the idea of the primates-minus-humans group) are in danger of becoming extinct.
  • What we learned – most insects are not in danger of becoming extinct.   (hmmm, drat)
  • What we learned – The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s list of threatened species codes:

EX= Extinct EW= Extinct in the Wild CR= Critically Endangered
EN= Endangered VU= Vulnerable NT= Near Threatened
LC= Least Concern DD= Data Deficient NE= Not Evaluated

Story Problem – Brownies are served! – The local diner is offering adorable after-school snack boxes for $5.  Each box includes 2 of their town-famous peppermint frosted brownies and a small bottle of apple cider.   If there are 500 students in town and every single student purchases a snack box once a week, and each box costs the diner $3, how much will the diner net after a month of after-school treat sales? (answer at bottom of post)

A)  $1,000     B)  $2,500     C)  $4,000     D)  $10,000

Classical Music Listening – we were smiling over the detailed engravings in Palmer Cox’s The Brownie Book, so we put together a program of background music for his merry mischievous brownies – 

  • Badinerie, from JS Bach’s “Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor” (1738). This piece makes us imagine brownies dashing all over the place doing good works for the nice people and tripping things up for the mean people – 
  • Banjoland Buffoonery, by Grant Kirkhope for the 2008 video game, “Banjo-Kazooie:  Nuts & Bolts”.  The brownies are up to no good and having a good laugh at the same time.  You do not want to get on the bad side of the brownies – 
  • The Wild Bears, by Sir Edward Elgar, from his “The Wand of Youth, Suite No. 2” of 1908.  This superb short composition has got everything – speed, originality, hold-your-breath moments, a smashing ending – the brownies are sneaking around and this is easily their theme music –

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers:  Farmer Brown’s question: “Yes”. Diner question: C). $4,000).

A Glimpse and a Glance

What was life like for my son’s grandparents, who were teenagers during the Great Depression and young adults during World War II?  

We got a glimpse of the Great Depression – through Cheryl Mullenbach’s first-rate book “The Great Depression for Kids”:

  • setting the scene for the Great Depression: the roaring twenties
  • Herbert Hoover’s policies and FDR’s “New Deal”
  • and when things could not get any worse: the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s
  • differences between city schools and country schools
  • fun diversions:  roller derbies, the circus, Shirley Temple
  • neighbor helping neighbor, farmer helping farmer  (very heartening)
  • vocabulary and concepts defined:  migrant workers, prohibition, the stock market, banks collapsing, breadlines, striking workers, rationing, silent movies /“talkies”, rural, urban

We got a glimpse of the early days of World War II – through Richard Peck’s YA novel, “On the Wings of Heroes”.  Peck’s short chapters seamlessly combine the realities of a nation at war with a middle school student’s realities:

  • an adored older brother serving in the air force
  • rationing (we did not know that even shoes were rationed)
  • collection drives for the war effort (rubber tires, paper, all types of metal), culminating in the most wonderful town event:  a parade of rusted out jalopies headed for the scrap yard
  • ineffectual teachers vs. dynamite craftier-than-a-fox teachers
  • classroom bullies (who are served their just desserts)
  • the best friend
  • the hilarious next door neighbors

This is a comforting book set during nervous times and a perfect follow up to our study of the Great Depression.

A glimpse at trees and the high seas – 

Trees, a Rooted History” –  Socha and Grajkowski explore 32 tantalizing tree topics and team them with clever, superbly executed illustrations.  Our favorite two-page spreads: prehistoric trees (lots of fern-like leaves), the tallest trees (FYI, the tallest tree in the world:  “Hyperion”, a coast redwood in California), tree houses (why yes, we would like to stay in the treehouse on the grounds of  Amberley Castle in England), and the art of bonsai (who can’t love the sheer art and patience evident in a bonsai tree?).

We concluded our tree unit with a fill-in-the-blank version of the Joyce Kilmer’s poem of 1913, “Trees”.  (This was easy for my son – we have read this poem many times.)

Speaking of trees:  a Farmer Brown story problem – Farmer Brown’s cat, Olive, loves to scamper to the top of the front yard apple tree, but is jittery about the descent.  Smart thinking Farmer Brown has been successful in coaxing Olive down the tree with a fragrant offering of tuna.  If a can of tuna costs $4 and Farmer Brown needs to lure Olive down around 7 times a month, will $400 be enough to cover the cost of Olive’s “rescue tuna” this year?  (answer at bottom of post)

deep sea voyage

Professor Astro Cat’s Deep-Sea Voyage” – YAY! We have the new book by Dr. Dominic Walliman and Ben Newman!  My son and I have loved every book by this team (especially “Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space”).  And once again, THIS IS WHAT A LEARNING EXPERIENCE SHOULD LOOK LIKE IN BOOK FORM.  We are only half way through, but here is what has grasped our attention so far:

  • How low can you go?  My son and I both shivered as we read about depth zones in the ocean.  How it gets darker/colder and darker/colder and darker/colder the lower you go (thank heavens for deep sea vents) .  We found the Mariana Trench (the deepest known place on Earth) on our globe and pondered how anybody found this in the first place.
  • Ocean birds:  We are giving “A+ for Effort Awards” to cormorants, sea birds that can dive to 130 feet below sea level, and Arctic terns, who migrate further than any other animal on Earth (from north pole to south pole).
  • Octopuses have NINE brains: each arm has a brain – after getting over the semi-creepiness of this, we mused over the mechanics of an arm having a brain.
  • Most thought provoking:  those who have viewed fish tanks at any aquarium will have seen schools of fish moving together quickly and almost poetically.  Now that we think about it, we have never seen fish bumping into each other.  WHY?  Because fish have something totally confusing called the LATERAL LINE SYSTEM which enables them to detect vibrations, movement, and pressure from their surroundings.  

manderinefish

  • The utterly elegant manderinefish:  our new favorite fish 

A glance at ants –  If you need to know about ants, may we recommend, “The Life and Times of the Ant”, by Charles Micucci.  It is simply jammed with all sorts of stuff we budding ant scholars did not know previously, like:  

  • an ant scholar is properly known as a myrmecologist (what an RTW – really tough word)
  • a queen ant can live for up to 15 years and can produce 1million eggs annually
  • all worker ants are ladies;  the only job for male ants is fathering ant young ’uns
  • ants rely on the senses of touch, smell, sound, and taste (but not sight)

Concluding thought:   ants have been busy on Earth for around 100 million years.  They are smart, strong and supremely organized.  Homo sapiens have been busy on Earth for less than 1 million years.  Some of us are smart, some are strong, few are supremely organized.  No wonder we cannot get a handle on how to deal with ants in the sugar bowl.

Classical Music Time – we created a soundtrack for busy ants:

  • Moto Perpetuo by Niccolo Paganini,  1835.  We’re imagining ants with teeny iPods, working non-stop to the rhythm of Paganini’s composition.  Do they notice how this four and a half minute piece seems to be managed on a single breath by trumpet virtuoso, Wynton Marsalis?

  • Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, composed in 1748 by George Frideric Handel for his oratorio, “Solomon”.  All hail the Queen of the Ant Colony!  After producing all those eggs, this little lady deserves all the royal pomp that Handel can muster – 

  • Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4, movement 3 – Oh my, it is as if Tchaikovsky was writing about ants marching toward the ultimate prize:  A PICNIC BASKET.  There they go!  March, march, march, up and down little hills on the trail, no time for funny business.  But wait!  About a minute and a half in, AN OBSTACLE in the middle of the path!  A big leaf perhaps?  But take heart, quick thinking ants maneuver around the leaf and by minute 3, they are back on track.  What a grand ending as the picnic basket is reached (even the orchestra’s conductor is jubilant!).  Treasures (maybe a potato chip and cookie crumbs) are hoisted to bring back to the Queen, and the march back to the colony’s nest commences.  (My son LOVED the commentary and welcomed it again in the next night’s music line-up)(success!) –

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  yes)

We’ll take that with a side of music –

bat

Going Batty – A few weeks ago, my son and I retrieved a frog from the backyard pool and lifted it to safety.  A few days ago, we again saw something fluttering madly in the water, and assuming it was another frog, we were stunned to find a little bat in our net!  Now we needed to read about bats (the biggest take-away:  bats eat TONS of insects) (yay bats!) and celebrate our successful life-saving effort by listening to a waltz from Johann Strauss’s operetta of 1874, “Die Fledermaus” (“The Bat”) (which is not about bats, but about amusing revenge plotted by a man who one evening wore a bat costume to a party).  (Not much to look at in this video, but we love the conductor, Mariss Jansons.  Beware the LONG 1 minute 20 second introduction):

Teaser!  A few posts back (May 25, 2018, “It’s All about the Triangle”), I mentioned that my son and I learned about Janissary bands, and it seems unfair to leave it at that, so:  Ottoman Janissary Bands, thought to be the oldest type of military band, date back to the 14th century.  (The Janissary were the elite infantry guarding the sultan’s household.)  My son and I speculated as to the type of musical instruments used in the 1300’s in Turkey – certainly pipes and percussion.  The music pretty much sounds exactly as we imagined.  Stirring. Nobody sleeps when a Janissary band plays:

The Body Beautiful –  We are chock full of interesting information from Professor Astro Cat’s HUMAN BODY ODYSSEY, by Walliman and Newman:

  • we know about the most useful joint in the body (the thumb)
  • we know about the speed of a sneeze (100 MPH!)
  • we know about hiccups!

Last night we read about the lymphatic system; tonight, the endocrine system.  Every few days we toast the healthy body by tapping our toes to the Powers/Fischoff/Keith GIANT hit of 1967, “98.6”:

We keep learning:

thesaurus

The Reference Section – After my son and I talked about the difference between a synonym and a definition, we read through the fabulously illustrated “Roget and His Thesaurus” by Jennifer Bryant/Melissa Sweet, and then compared a few words (book, study, snack) from our Roget’s Thesaurus (“treasure house”) and our dictionary.

hatchet alone

A Reread – This is our third time through “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen, a book found on every  young adult book list, so I don’t need to wax on about the author’s skilled command of great story, poetic pace, and worthy theme (self reliance).  Even the third time through we are leaning forward to hear what happens next.

sand dollar cookie

(Story Problem) Little Picnic Boxes at Le Fictitious Local Diner – To surprise little Miss G and little Miss P, the diner’s favorite mini customers, the chef has added onto the menu a “Mini Mermaid Summer Picnic Box” (teeny tuna sandwiches, sea salt chips, sand dollar cookies, and blue lagoon lemonade).  Priced at $5, the picnic box is such a hit! 

(For my son to compute in his head, no paper)  A local elementary school is purchasing picnic boxes for the final day of summer school.  If there are 85 students enrolled, the school accountant needs to write the diner a check for how much?  (answer at bottom of post)
A.  $225     B.  $325     C.  $425     D.  $525

(For my son to compute in his head, no paper)  Did we mention that the recyclable paper boxes are super cute and are purchased in units of 50?  If the diner projects that they can sell 750 Mini Mermaid Summer Picnic Boxes during the month of August, and they add on the summer school order, how many units need to be ordered?  (answer at bottom of post)
A.  15 units     B.  17 units     C.  20 units     D.  25 units

insect painting

Insects in the Air!   What we were also listening to this past week:

Spring, Movement 1, from Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” (1721).  For about a half a minute, beginning at 35 seconds into the piece, my son and I can hear a chaotic riot of buzzing cicadas, mosquitoes, dragonflies, and bees.  Wow:

Fireflies, from the solo piano work, “Four Sketches” by Amy Beach, composed in 1892.  We love this piece;  when we lived in Georgia, our backyard was alight with fireflies all summer long and Amy Beach has captured the sparkly magic:  

La Cucaracha – well, this is just so sad.  The original words to this traditional Spanish folk song (composer unknown) tell about a cockroach who has lost one of his legs!  Somebody actually wrote a song about this?????  OH DEAR, the poor thing is hobbling about on 5 legs – and yet – the melody is full of upbeat happiness, encouragement and warmth.  Let this be a lesson!

Welcome to the best part of my day!
Jane BH
story problem answers:  C.  $425, and  B.  17 units

The Sweet Life

honeycomb

Sweeter than honey – I think this is our fourth bee study unit – we must be 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)

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