Nature

Hey, Rhododend!

Hey, rhododend!
Courage, little friend.
Ev’rything’ll end rhododandy.

Hurry! It’s lovely up here!

My son and I are experiencing the satisfaction of growing plants from seeds, and I have been humming the GO TO gardener cheerleading tune, “Hurry! It’s Lovely Up Here”, from the 1965 Lane/Lerner Broadway musical, “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever”. 

How this came to be – 

First, back in December, my son started a microscopic volunteer job at the most wonderful local nursery.  Mr. Paul, the manager, as well as every single employee we have encountered, has been accommodating, tolerant, and welcoming.  So, when we arrive for the once-a-week “job”, my son literally bursts from the car and yanks on his garden gloves, revved up to walk through the magic land of plants and get to work.  At completion of the day’s task, we purchase a seed packet (so far:  radishes, sunflowers, thyme, cucumbers, peppers, turnips) for planting that very afternoon. 

Then, we learned so much from Riz Reyes’ “Grow”, a superbly organized book offering a four-page spread for each of 15 different types of plants (plants that my son can understand, like mushrooms, bamboo, maple trees, daffodils), enhanced by the vibrant illustrations of Sara Boccaccini Meadows.  This A+ book has inspired us to plant tomatoes, pumpkins, and carrots from seeds.  (And speaking of “A+”, this book was written by a former high school student of my best college room-mate, (top flight language arts teacher) Miss Jeanette – who has made it into a few of my story problems).  We are already on our second read through. We just love every page of this book AND his Instagram page:  rhrhorticulture.

Finally, a few months ago I paid a visit to the very best kind of new relative (a half-sister!), whose backyard produces such an abundance of fruits/citrus/vegetables that I knew, right then, that I wanted my son to be able to witness the slow motion miracle of all sorts of plant growing cycles.

Change of topic, but still in the backyard –  “Why Don’t Woodpeckers Get Headaches”, by Mike O’Connor, of the “Bird Watchers General Store” in Orleans, Massachusetts.  First of all, this is the work of a skilled and knowledgeable writer and almost more importantly, THIS BOOK IS NON-STOP HILARIOUS.  It is comprised of letters of inquiry to Mr. O’Connor, whose responses make me shriek with laughter, and are filled with information we had never considered (how can we be responsible citizens if we don’t have a birdbath in our back yard?????)(we are SO getting a birdbath).  Learning while we are laughing is THE BEST.

More outdoor stuff – We have just finished “The Northern Lights – Celestial Performances of the Aurora Borealis”, dazzler photos by Daryl Pederson and Calvin Hall and relevant accompanying essay by Ned Rozell – prompting us to discuss the commitment a photographer would need to spend endless nights in the freezing cold environs of the North Pole, just waiting and waiting and waiting to capture aurora phenomena.  (Of course, we learned what causes the aurora:  solar winds jousting with the earth’s electromagnetic field.  Sort of FREAKY STUFF.)  We augmented our study (Wikipedia) by learning that  “aurora borealis” means  “northern lights”.  Is there a similar phenomena by the South Pole?  Yes, the “aurora australis” (australis meaning “south”, not a reference to Australia).  Damn, we know a lot.

Story problem from the nursery – a project my son is currently working on (at his volunteer job) involves moving pavers (that have been stacked on a falling-apart wood palate) to a brand new palate.  Over the course of the past few weeks he has moved:

week 1 – 25 pavers
week 2 – 30 pavers
week 3 – 30 pavers
week 4 – 33 pavers

Question:  If the pavers sell for $3 each, and Farmer Brown needs 50% of the pavers on the new palate to create flooring for his new birdbath sanctuary, how much cash will he need to retrieve from his secret safe (not including tax)?

a)  $60     b)  $177     c)  $300     d)  $354  (answer at bottom of post)

And more outdoor stuff  – We’ve just finished the Gordon Korman YA book, “Unplugged”, which takes place in the great outdoors (a remote camp in Arkansas) and involves a ban on electronics, a vegetable-forward diet, quirky new friends AND a sinister, illegal alligator enterprise. This is the most advanced mystery/adventure book I have tackled with my son.  He liked it!  As per usual with a Gordon Korman work:  excellent book, excellent message.

Classical Music Time: celebrating the growing season –

“Spring”, movement I – from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”, composed around 1720.  About 30 seconds into this spirited performance we can hear jillions of insects buzzing like crazy in the meadow.  We love this part!

“Spring Song” from Mendelssohn’s “Songs without Words”, book 5 (of 8 books), composed around 1844.  My son is familiar with the main theme of this composition because it has been used more than once in cartoons (case in point, Disney’s 1937 “Clock Cleaners” – about 6 minutes into the cartoon) – 

And of course, “Hurry! It’s Lovely Up Here” – Adorably sung in this video clip by Audra McDonald – my fave lines (about the “rhododend”) are stuck right in the middle of the song – 

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(Story problem answer:  b)  $177)

Making the Grade

Straight A’s  for everything in our July book basket – 

A+:  A History of Pictures” – by David Hockney and Martin Gayford.  It is really called “A History of Pictures for Children” and we are perplexed:  this stunner of a book is for EVERYBODY.  It is thought-filled and thought-provoking, tempting us to take a fresh look at cave paintings, Egyptian wall paintings, mirrors, shadows, Disney cartoons, pencil marks, brush strokes, perspective, collage, and the influences of photography, movies, and computers. The 4 page timeline of inventions that pertain to drawing and painting is worth the cost of the book alone.  This book is in line for a re-read.

A+: One Real American, The Life of Ely S. Parker” – by Joseph Bruchac.  A superb book about the Seneca sachem (chief) and Civil War general.  Easy to read, filled with information that was new to us (go ahead, ask us about the Iroquois League, ask us about Red Jacket, ask us about Ely S. Parker), extremely well edited and documented, and a timeline is included at the back of the book.  My son and I are impressed by both Ely S. Parker and author Joseph Bruchac.

A+:  “What Linnaeus Saw” by Karen Magnuson Beil.  In my last post, “Our Hour”, I mentioned that we had read about artist/nature observer Maria Merian, who was cited so very many times by Carl Linnaeus.  So, we HAD to read about Carl Linnaeus (1707 -1778), whose quest was to systemize, classify, and name every animal, plant, and mineral.   The book is a weency bit repetitive, but the author is forgiven – Linnaeus’s path to the goal was neither short nor direct.

A+: Three Keys” – My son got a feel for the term “refugee” in “Home of the Brave” by Katherine Applegate (the finest book we read in 2020).  He is now beginning to understand the plight of the immigrant via Kelly Yang’s book “Three Keys”.  This is about friendship, open mindedness, hard work, and having the confidence to speak out for what is right.  We really liked the prequel, “Front Desk” and we will definitely be reading “Room to Dream” when it comes out in September.  Kelly Yang:  A+!

Other study topics from the July book basket

  • The Everglades   “Everglades National Park” by Grace Hansen.  This book is written for the younger reader, but it does come across with the basic facts and the photos (including a nice photo of President Harry Truman dedicating the park) are large and representative. 
  • Geometry   “Everything You Need to Ace GEOMETRY in One Big Fat Notebook” by Workman Publishing.  Oooooh, I do not like this book because any venture into math that doesn’t involve a story problem leaves me dizzy.  BUT, my son really likes it.  DARN.  So we sally forth learning about congruency, chords, transversals, etc.  With each page, I feel like my head is diving deeper into a swirling fog, so I just read the words aloud and marvel that my son is entranced.  I give myself a C-.  
  • Geography – “Bird’s Eye View – The Natural World” by John Farndon/Paul Boston.  Very pretty book, soothing illustrations, AND we both learned a new word!  We LOVE being smacked in the face with a new word!  We have never come across the word MEANDER used as a noun.  A meander is a bend in a river or a road.  It takes so little to make us gleeful.

The Local Diner plans for August (story problem) –  The diner is installing a pop-up snow-cone hut on the diner’s back deck for the month of August.  It will be manned by a high school summer-time employee, who will work 5 hours a day for $12 an hour.  There will be 3 flavors of snow cones:  cherry, mint, and watermelon, and a commercial snow cone machine has been purchased for $250.  The diner is making the syrups and providing the ice.  So the questions are:

  1. How much will the diner pay a week for a high school snow cone artisan?  
  2. If the diner sells a snow cone for $2.00, how many will have to be sold to recoup the money spent of the snow cone machine?
  3. Will the diner spend more on the snow cone machine or employing the high school worker (for the month of August)? (answers at bottom of post)

Classical music:  A+ Musicians  

It was VIRTUOSO NIGHT last night.  My son made the selections (the writing chaos on the side of the page is my son indicating “Yes” or “No” for each of my suggestions) –

On the flute:  James Galway – We both love James Galway and we both love Tambourin, a short, happy piece for flute composed by Francois-Joseph Gossec in 1794, for his opera, “Le Triomphe de la Republique”.  For some reason, midway through the video there is a blank screen for about 40 seconds, but NO WORRIES, the spritely music continues – 

On the violin:  Itzhak Perlman   We have compared Itzhak Perlman’s performance to other violin virtuosos and no one touches the finesse he puts into this performance of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, the finale (composed in 1844).  BTW, my son and I refer to this as the Cat and Mouse movement – 

On the piano:  Simone Dinnerstein   We consider ourselves members of the Simone Dinnerstein fan club.  Her discs are part of our music line-up as we drive to In-N-Out Burger twice a week. We LOVE her way with a Bach invention – 

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers:  1)  $420,  2)  125 snow cones,  3)  the diner will spend more for the high school worker)

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)

 

Mid-March Roundup

They glide through the air with the greatest of ease – We are reading “Catching Air”, a book focused on GLIDING ANIMALS (non-bird animals that seemingly fly from tree to tree).  This is our third book by Sneed B. Collard III, whose writings on lizards and bird beaks (for heavens sakes) have made us enthusiastic observers.   As usual, the material he presents in “Catching Air” makes us feel super scholarly:

  • we now know that large eyes on animals are suggestive of a nocturnal nature
  • we now know the difference between flying, gliding, and parachuting animals
  • we now know what a patagium (vocab) is and we know how to pronounce it
  • we discussed the difference between a carnivore, herbivore, and omnivore
  • we are now among those who know where the largest, second largest, and third largest islands in the world are (the largest, of course, is Greenland – where there are no gliding animals, but there are gliding animals aplenty in Papua New Guinea, the second largest island and Borneo, third largest island) 
  • last night we read about the creepiest creepiest creepiest thing:  the air gliding snakes of Borneo     

Editing Triumph:  Hans Christian Anderson – I wanted my son to understand references that originated from Anderson’s writings, like “The Emperor’s New Clothes” and “The Ugly Duckling”, so we read from a most elegant edition of his fairy tales, compiled by Noel Daniel (published in 2013).  This book is thoughtfully organized and filled with sumptuous surprises.  There is a lot of gold ink, short informative sidebars, and each fairy tale is teamed up with its own illustrator  (the likes of Maurice Sendak and Arthur Rackham).  THIS is the edition that anybody interested in Hans Christian Anderson should own. 

Quick Notes –

  • Hokusai:  After finishing “The Old Man Mad about Drawing” (Francois Place), learning more about Katsushika Hokusai, woodcut print master of the late 1700’s, I presented my son with 4 Hokusai poster possibilities for his room.  He selected the classic, “The Great Wave”.  Even in poster form, it is more spectacular than I had imagined.
  • Marsupials:  First of all, “marsupial” is a fun word to say.  Marsupial, marsupial, marsupial.  We finished a unit on marsupials – those mammals that nurture their newborns in mom’s front pocket – except for those marsupials whose mom’s don’t have a front pocket (which our book should have expanded upon)(editing disappointment)(sigh).
  • Compass directions:  I did a compass check with my son.  Did he know north, south, east, and west?  YES.
  • Hank the Cow Dog:  It has been years since we have read through the John R. Erickson series.  This is the ridiculousness we need to conclude each day.  We pretty much love Hank.

Complaint Department:  My son and I are studying architectural landmarks.  I am not mentioning our resource because this book could have been so much better.  I would not be giving this editor a raise anytime soon:

  • Our book provides only vague references to each landmark’s location, as if the exact whereabouts were a secret.  Seriously?  No nearby city mention?  No COUNTRY mention?  How can there not be a little map accompanying each entry?   
  • Whereas all entries are interesting, are they all really landmarks?  Are the Roman Baths of England a landmark?  Are the the buried terra-cotta army figures in China a landmark?
  • Often the book waxes on about a particular object of fascination (fabulous mosaics, a special stone, etc) associated with a particular landmark, and then does not include a photo of the object.  AAAAACK.

Nevertheless, we do have our favorite landmarks:

  • First place honors go to the hundred foot tall Christ the Redeemer of Rio de Janeiro.  Monumental simplicity.  Of interest:  funding ran low during construction, so the Vatican stepped in to assist.  Nice.
  • Second place, measuring in at 185 feet (on one side) is the relentless engineering fiasco and utterly charming Leaning Tower of Pisa.  

Story problem – a landmark at Farmer Brown’s roadside produce stand!  In the hopes of making his produce stand a tour-bus destination, Farmer Brown has commissioned a sculptor to create a 10 foot high bronze ear of corn, to be positioned near the stand.  That should get everyone’s attention!  The “artwork” will be true to actual corn proportions.  If there are 50 kernels of corn in a typical row on a corncob, each kernel must be approximately how wide in the sculpture?  (answer at bottom of post)

A)  2.5 inches     B)  5 inches     C)  7.5 inches     D)  2.5 feet

Classical Music Time – earlier in this month (MARCH), a local radio station hosted a “vote for your favorite march” opportunity.  We listen to marches every Friday night throughout the year, so my son definitely knew the three he was voting for:

  • Marche Militaire No. 1 in D major, composed as a piano four-hands piece by  Franz Schubert and first published in 1826.   Perhaps best described as a ballroom march, Marche Militaire is also effectively used in the cute-as-anything Disney cartoon of 1932, “Santa’s Workshop” (my son LOVES this cartoon – frankly, I love this cartoon).  Note:  the extremely competent pianists in this clip do take quite a bit of time to get started:

  • March of the Prague Student Legion, by Bedrich Smetana, composed in 1848.  This is a march that fills you with nationalistic pride, makes you throw your shoulders back and stand up straight.  We love the snappy pace of this particular recording.  As an added listening bonus, tucked into the middle of the march, my son and I listen for a few bars of “The Farmer in the Dell”:

  • The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s theme),  John Williams’ genius nod to aggression and menace.  In this film clip, John Williams conducts the LA Philharmonic Orchestra (complete with Jedi and Mr. Vader):

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  A)  2.5”)

Not on my watch

Last Tuesday, I was lunching at a neighborhood cafe and felt a magnetic pull to eavesdrop on the two teenagers a few tables down who had obviously cut class.  The theme of their distressing conversation was “I hate school”.  Oh my.  Who or what stomped the life out of their learning adventure?  

grandma watch

Not on my watch.  Every single night it is my pleasure to make sure that the learning adventure for my son (AND myself) is set on FULL BLAST.  One goal is to read something so startling that we stop, reread, and marvel.  A few items that had us marveling this past week:

national parks better

  • From “The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth”, by Rachel Ignotofsky:
    • the one place on earth, that by 1959 international treaty, can only be used for peace and science (with all discoveries shared freely).  Nice.  (Antarctica)
    • while many ecosystems are under threat from unsustainable farming techniques, deforestation, and global warming, the Mongolian Steppe has quite another problem:  GOATS.  One of Mongolia’s successful exports is the fiber from cashmere goats,  so there are a LOT of goats grazing with a vengeance, munching roots as well as the grass,  destroying entire landscapes.
    • the Gouldian finch of the Australian savanna.  Crazy GORGEOUS (see photo below in the music listening section).
  • From the Lonely Planet Kids book, “America’s National Parks”:
    • which state, after California and Alaska, boasts the greatest number of national parks?  (Utah).  We never would have guessed that.
    • there are national parks that exist primarily underwater:  American Samoa National Park, Biscayne National Park, Channel Islands National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, Kenai Fjords National Park, and Everglades National Park.

tide pool 3 tries

More interesting information on the horizon  We have just started the terribly elegant little “Pacific Coast Tide Pools” by Marni Fylling.  So far we have become knowledgeable about low tides, high tides, the splash zone, the challenges of being permanently attached to a rock, and the toxic beauty of sea anemones.  Sponges are on deck.

trivia sign

Story problem:  Trivia Night at Le Fictitious Local Diner – Tuesday nights are slow at the diner, so the new manager, Miss Jeanette, is hosting “Tuesday Twilight Trivia” to bring in more customers.  Admission is the purchase of the “Tuesday Twilight Trivia Dinner Special” for $7.50.  If the first Tuesday there were 20 players and the second Tuesday there were 40 players, by what percentage did the the attendance rise?  
A)   20%      B)  40%       C)    50%     D)  100%

If the diner awards a cash prize of $25 to each evening’s winner, how much did the diner gross on night number two?
A)  $150     B)  $275     C)  $400     D)  $1,000
(answers at bottom of post)

finches

Music to celebrate that ridiculous-yet-gorgeous Gouldian finch –

  • Vivaldi’s “Flute Concerto in D major” (known as “The Goldfinch”), movement 3, published in 1728.  Yay, James Galway –

  • “Dawn” from Ravel’s ballet, “Daphnis and Chloe”, which premiered in 1912.  A superb, compact performance by the Berlin Phil, complete with chorus.  We put our full attention to listening for the subtle birdsong theme that runs in the background throughout the piece –

and finally:

tie dyed hippie    finch singular

  • “Green Tambourine” by the Lemon Pipers.  The psychedelic colorwork that is the Gouldian finch simply begged for a vintage song from the psychedelic 1960’s.  How can we not smile when we listen to this?  GREAT rhythm.  Peace out –

(for more ’60’s vibe:  the April 29, 2015 post, “Peace, Love, and Tambourines”)

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers:  D)  100%  and  B)  $275)

A good, good, good day

Good!  Blog posting is back!  The STORIES AND STUDIES classroom is always in full swing every night, but there has been no time to post since “Whale Fall and other Water Wonders” – all extraneous brain power has been directed toward our mid-August family wedding.  The glam couple was surrounded by the best of aunts, uncles, cousins, Godparents, grandmothers, parents, siblings, sorority sisters and fraternity brothers, and it was a good, good, good day.

New Biertuempfels

But I digress. Back to STORIES AND STUDIES –

Dealing with the bad guys – My son and I are glued to “Crime Science – how investigators use science to track down the bad guys” by Vivien Bowers.  Who wouldn’t want to know about such things as COUNTERFEITING?  My son was ultra-focused while we read about eight ways to determine if a dollar bill is counterfeit (vocab).  We examined our own crisp bills as we read through the list.  And then we learned about FORGERY (vocab)!  Last night, fingerprinting.  Oh, we do like this type of book – new vocab (like victim, suspect, evidence) and conversation provokers on every single page.

crime book etc

Those Greek Gods:  SO good! SO bad! – my son and I loved Ken Jennings’ book, “Maphead”, so we welcomed “Ken Jennings Junior Genius Guide to Greek Mythology”.  We have sampled other books on Greek mythology, but the information did not stick – I think the Jennings book may be a winner for us.  It is cleverly assembled like a school composition book: instead of chapters, the book is divided into classroom periods, and the illustrations? student doodles.  Last night we started through the “Greek Gods Trading Cards” section, learning the super-strengths, talents, skills AND trickery, treachery, deviousness and go-sit-in-the-corner badness of Zeus, Hera, and Poseidon (tonight:  Hades, Demeter, Hestia, and Aphrodite are on deck).

Such a good book – may we again recommend “The Extreme Life of the Sea” by Palumbi and Palumbi.  Wow.  The final summation gave us so much to think about – “In the long run, the oceans do not need saving – PEOPLE need saving.”.  The point: over the course of a thousand years, the oceans will adapt and take care of themselves, but people will suffer significantly if the oceans aren’t thoughtfully tended NOW.  This book has been placed in our Sunday night reference section (selected readings to make us think about being grateful and caring citizens of the world).

nail polish

Story problem of the week: Farmer Brown’s daughter gets married!  Farmer Brown is letting the bride and her bridesmaids use a sweet cottage on his property to get ready for the wedding ceremony.  The bride has 6 bridesmaids and one maid of honor.  If all young women are getting a manicure (vocab) and pedicure (vocab) the morning of the wedding, how many nails will be polished?   A) 60    B) 80    C) 120    D) 160
If one bottle of polish will adequately paint 50 nails, how many bottles of nail polish should be available?  OH FOR HEAVENS SAKES!  LET COMMON SENSE PREVAIL!  They don’t have all day – each young woman needs her own bottle!   A) 1 bottle    B) 4 bottles    C) 8 bottles    D) 12 bottles (story problem answers at bottom of post)

lovebirds

Our music listening last night – thinking about sister’s wedding –

  • The Prince of Denmark’s March” composed by Jeremiah Clarke around 1700. This classic wedding ceremony processional (vocab), is often referred to as “Trumpet Voluntary” and in the past, was incorrectly attributed to popular baroque composer Henry Purcell.  Jeremiah Clarke was the church organist for St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, so this piece was written for keyboard, but my son and I love this recording by trumpet virtuoso Wynton Marsalis:

  • Wedding Day at Troldhaugen” by Edvard Grieg, composed in1896, to celebrate his 25th wedding anniversary with his beloved wife, Nina.  (Troldhaugen, meaning “troll hill”, was the name of their home.)  We love this dear piece – two lively country dance sections bookend a somber, reflective, heartbreaking passage:

  • Wedding March from A Midsummer Night’s Dream” written by Felix Mendelssohn in 1842, to accompany Shakespeare’s play. Certainly the grandest of wedding recessionals (vocab), first performed at a real wedding in 1847:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers:  D) 160,   C) 8 bottles)

Whale Fall and other Water Wonders

whale

Whale Fall* is one of the concepts we are learning about from Stephen and Anthony Palumbi’s book, “The Extreme Life of the Sea” (professor of marine science at Stanford University, Stephen Palumbi is an undisputed expert).  So far, we have also learned about William Beebe (the first man to descend a half mile into the sea in a ridiculously tiny air-tight sphere), bioluminescence (vocab, AND maybe our most beautiful word of 2017), the challenges of tidal pool living, mangrove forest ecosystems – every topic draws us in.  It is a privilege to study from this book.

*Whale Fall – because you want to know – describes the creation of a deep sea ecosystem, put into place when a whale dies and sinks to the bottom of the sea.  Once my son and I got beyond the grimness, we marveled at the genius of this circle-of-life system. BTW, whale fall has been going on for about 33 million years (and yet, surprise surprise, this is the first I have heard about it. Once again, when I study with my son, we both win.).

nessy photo

On the lighter side – we are reading “The Loch Ness Monster (Behind the Legend)”, by Erin Peabody.  This well-organized book presents and intelligently refutes the many Nessie legends and hoaxes (HOAXES:  we remembered when we read about the crop circle hoaxes) (who ARE these people who have time to perpetuate hoaxes?).  But back to the book:  yes, we look forward to reading from this every evening.

cursive

The Cursive Suggestion – I enjoyed a thought provoking conversation with a friend who is finishing up certification requirements for dyslexia therapy.  She said current studies indicate that for some, cursive handwriting is FAR easier than plain printing (loads of documented reasons).  Well, this caught my attention – when I am helping my son write, it is difficult to tell when he has finished one letter and is ready to start another.  Cursive writing might be a solution.  Say no more, we are on it.

hot thermometer

Cooling down at Le Fictitious Local Diner – What with the weather being so hot, the diner’s August marketing strategy is to give every lunch patron a paper fan (with diner take-out menu imprinted) as they leave.  The diner can purchase 250 wood handled fans for $120.  The diner averages 1,000 lunch customers a month.  How many sets of fans should be ordered?  How much will the diner spend on 1000 fans?

Last year, the August promotion (sun visors with diner logo) generated an extra $1,500 in take-out orders.  If this year’s promotion brings in a like amount of business, will the fans be a good use of advertising dollars? (story problem answers at bottom of post)

Looking for a Classical Music Controversy?  Might we suggest trying to differentiate between Rounds, Canons, and Fugues?  Apparently, this is a touchy subject among musicologists.  My son and I know what a round is, so we dug deeper – is a canon a round?  “Yes” by some authorities, “Yes, but…” by others. But OH MY GOSH, when it came to trying to understand the difference between a canon and a fugue – we had no idea that a discussion of these music forms was chock full of confusion and heated controversy.  People, is this necessary????  The comment we are going with:  “Compare a Bach fugue to the Pachelbel Canon and you will instantly recognize the gulf between these two forms.”  OK (I think).

– We listened to Johann Pachelbel’s Pachelbel Canon in D.  Composed around 1700, but sort of overlooked until Jean-Francois Pilliard recorded the piece in 1968.  Then, WHOA, how do you spell ubiquitous (vocab)?  Poor Pachelbel! If only he could have lived to collect the royalties:

– Then we listened to J.S. Bach’s fab Fugue in G Minor, (referred to as “The Little Fugue”) composed around 1705 – so almost about the same time as Pachelbel’s Canon, but SO much more complex.  Originally written for organ, we listened to a performance by the Canadian Brass.  I think listening to each brass instrument makes it easier to hear each melody line of the fugue. This is a short piece (yay) and the Canadian Brass are always engaging:

– Finally, for fun, we listed to Fugue for Tinhorns, the opening number of the 1950’s musical, “Guys and Dolls” (music/lyrics by Frank Loesser).  Ever so many musicologists are quick to point out that this IS NOT a fugue, it is either a round or a canon.  OK, people take your fight outside.  This piece is adorable!

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers: 4 sets, $480, yes!)
PS  There might be a giant time gap until my next post:  family member getting married in 4 weeks!

Old Business

blue-barrow-map

An old name is a new name – How did this bit of news pass us by?  My son and I just learned that the citizens of Barrow, Alaska voted this past October to change the city’s name back to its ancient traditional name, Utqiagvik!  (Doesn’t everybody know that we love knowing stuff like this?)  The town has been called Utqiagvik – meaning “place for gathering wild roots” – for the past 1,500 years but has been officially “Barrow” since 1825.  Apparently, the governor of Alaska has until mid-December to rule on the name change.  Will the governor want to mess with the decision of the people in America’s northern-most city?  We are standing by!

Animals of yesteryear – our current course of study:  “Lost Animals – Extinction and the Photographic Record”, by Errol Fuller.  Fuller’s research is thorough and each chapter follows a particular species from it’s heyday to its regrettable demise (mostly there are a LOT of bird species that are no longer with us) (and we really wish color photography had been around before the pink headed duck of the Ganges River became extinct).  Last night we read about the thylacine – a species that was in existence when my son’s grandparents were children.  The stories captivate, stay with us, and I think make us more aware and maybe worried for the distant future of every healthy animal we see.

betsy

Well, here is an OLDIE – we are enjoying “Understood Betsy” written by Dorothy Canfield Fisher 1917.  This classic shows up on many recommended reading lists, and I was finally persuaded to give it a try after reading a mini-bio of Ms. Fisher on the always informative “Focus on Fraternity” blog (franbecque.com).  Happy surprise!  This book presents a wealth of information about how things were 100 years ago, there is a dash of adventure, and a pervasive advocacy of self sufficiency which should put this book on a required reading list for parents and teachers.

cloth-napkins

Story problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – The diner is bringing back an old tradition for the month of December: cloth napkins.  They are going to see if it is more economical to rent cloth napkins or to purchase napkins and have them laundered by a service.  The diner goes through 200 napkins daily.  Cloth napkins rental price:  200 napkins for $25.  The laundry service charges $10 to wash and press 200 napkins, but the diner would have to purchase two days worth of napkins first (at a cost of $3 per unit).  If the diner decides to use cloth napkins for December, should they rent or own/pay for a laundry service?  What is the least they can spend for this festive endeavor? (answers at bottom of post)

The music theme this past week:  PARODIES (vocab) – When I was in 5th grade, my friend Pam received the best-record-album-ever at her birthday party: Allan Sherman’s “My Son the Nut”.  I absolutely collapsed in laughter just looking at the album cover (Mr. Sherman, up to his neck in assorted nuts); I did not believe that anything could be more screamingly hilarious (hey folks, this was the early 1960’s – simpler expectations).  On top of a great album cover, THE CLEVER PARODIES!   What fun, some 45 years later, to share this listening experience with my son.

my-son-the-nut

This past week, we matched up a few songs from “My Son the Nut” with the classical compositions from which they were inspired:

“Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah”:  the lyrics were written to a theme from Amilcare Ponchielli’s “Dance of the Hours” (1876).  “Dance of the Hours” was also used in Disney’s “Fantasia” of 1940.

“Hungarian Goulash No. 5”:  the lyrics were written to Brahms’ “Hungarian Dance No. 5” (1869). Gustavo Dudamel conducts in this video – and you know how I feel about Mr. Dudamel.  MERCY.

“Here’s to the Crabgrass”:  the lyrics were written to Percy Grainger’s “Country Gardens” (1918).  This performance by the Hastings College Wind Ensemble really scoots along.

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(Story problem answers: the diner should definitely rent the napkins, renting will run $775. Purchasing napkins and paying a laundry service will cost almost twice as much.)

Quandary

Here is the quandary (vocab):  I do not like reading to my son about man’s inhumanity to man; he has enough to deal with without trying to grasp the perplexing notion of cruelty.  HOWEVER, the “Wicked History” series books are so well written, organized, researched, and crazy fascinating – we can’t stay away.

leopold-book-cover

We just finished the book on BAD BAD King Leopold II of Belgium (1835-1909); and he was indefensibly bad – Hitler and Stalin BAD.  There were passages in the book describing atrocities under his leadership of the “Congo Free State” (his PERSONAL colony) so barbaric, that while reading aloud to my son, I had to skip over paragraph after paragraph.
On the plus side:
– we learned a LOT about what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo and came away fascinated
– we added to our hero list:  George Washington Williams (a journalist), Edmund Morel (a most alert shipping clerk) and Roger Casement (a British consul). These men brought the brutal policies of Congo Free State administrators to world wide attention and censure (vocab)
– AND Leopold II died with just about everyone (well, maybe everyone) despising him. (ridiculously small consolation)

amazon-pic himalayan-pic

from “The Wonder Garden” book by Williams and Broom – stunning

The subject matter gets a LOT happier, but DRAT:  we just hate it when a good book ends. We loved EVERY page of “The Wonder Garden” by Kristjana S. Williams and Jenny Broom; luscious illustrations accompanied by solidly interesting facts.  This startlingly beautiful book showcases animals of five distinct habitats around the world. We were familiar with the Amazon Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef, but we really hadn’t read anything about the Black Forest, the Chihuahuan Dessert or the Himalayan Mountains.  This delicious book is SO on our “read-it-again list”.

Last night my son took a simple matching location-to-fact quiz and then we paired up one piece of music with each habitat.

habitat-quiz

Music to remind us of five living wonders of our world:
– The Amazon Rain Forest – hosting around 1,500 species of birds, Camille Saint-Saens’ “The Aviary” (from his “Carnival of the Animals”, 1886) was an obvious selection.  The music is prefaced by an Ogden Nash poem read by Roger Moore.  Elegant:

– The Great Barrier Reef – again, from Saint-Saens’ “Carnival of the Animals”:  “The Aquarium”. Gloriously haunting music provides a backdrop for the world’s largest living structure (however, as beautiful as this linked video is, “The Aquarium” takes up only the first 2.5 minutes; the carnival’s donkey and the cuckoo movements follow, for some unknown reason):

– The Black Forest – the habitat for not only the world’s largest owls, but also the setting for several fairy tales from the brothers Grimm.  My son and I listened to “Evening Prayer” from the opera “Hansel and Gretel”, composed by Englebert Humperdinck in 1893.  We twiddled our fingers during the three minute LONG introduction; however once we got to the meat of the composition we enjoyed possibly the most comforting lullaby ever:

SIDEBAR:  another Englebert Humperdinck??? we followed Humperdinck’s “Evening Prayer” with a short discussion of British pop star (of the ’60’s and ’70’s) Englebert Humperdinck (but really Arnold George Dorsey) (obviously NO relation to the composer of the late 1800’s).  My UCLA college room-mate, J’nette, warbled a mocking version of  Humperdinck’s giant hit “Release Me” throughout our undergrad years, so I made my unappreciative son endure a trip down memory lane:

– The Chihuahuan Desert – Well, first of all, we had no idea where the Chihuahuan Desert was (southern parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and northern parts of Mexico) and we are practically living in it!  We felt the second movement (the “Largo” movement) of Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” evoked the loneliness, uncertainty, and the grandeur of this habitat:

– and finally, The Himalayan Mountains – we paired “the rooftop of the world” with  “Approaching the Summit” composed by genius genius genius John Williams for the 1997 movie “Seven Years in Tibet”.  We could hear how this music captures themes – majestic and mysterious – from both sides of the Himalayan Mountains (India and China):

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(The story problems from this week seemed painfully frivolous after reading about the human suffering provoked by King Leopold II.  I just couldn’t post any of them.)

Ranch Report

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Ranch Report – this past week I spent two remarkably interesting days at the most wonderful gigantic cattle ranch smack in the middle of Texas (thanx to LynxAC: hostess/friend extraordinaire).  I brought back photos and observations to share with my son:
–  first of all, the calves are so so cute.
–  the responsibilities of running a ranch are endless – purchasing, transporting, weighing, feeding, watering, and branding the cattle, keeping animals healthy, keeping the calves with their moms – it just doesn’t end.  Good thing the scenery is so spectacular.
–  the speed limit in mid-Texas is 75 MPH.  Not that any self-respecting ranch truck is going that slowly. “Thundering down the road” sort of says it.
–  there are no bushes growing around ranch buildings, because shrubbery provides places for snakes to hang out.  We never stepped outside before scouting for snakes.
–  internet connections are not to be counted on…like there is any time for internet meandering.
–  this visit gave us a new appreciation of everything Farmer Brown (of the Farmer Brown story problems) does to maintain his farm.
–  YES! The stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of the Lone Star State.

math shark

When the cat’s away – when I am gone, my husband takes over the studies and stories hour.  He and my son concentrate on math activities and this past week they enjoyed measured success using a “Math Shark”, which can ask questions about decimals, fractions, and percentages, as well as basic computations.

Cleopatra

But now that I am back – topics that are keeping us captivated:
–  Eugene Bullard (Larry Greenly’s book: A+)
–  Cleopatra (Diane Stanley/Peter Vennema’s book: A+)
–  Animal eyes and vision (“Eye to Eye” by Steve Jenkins) (too early to give it a grade, but so far, we are learning a lot!)
–  book concepts: the preface and the epilogue. (vocab)
–  new science concept “breaking the sound barrier”.

Story Problem Answers!  Finally!  Thanx to a request from attentive reader FDB, answers to story problems will be posted at the bottom of each post, underneath my signature. Starting today!

lantern

Speaking of Farmer Brown – a story problem from this past week: For an upcoming evening gathering, Farmer Brown is going to light his long driveway with lanterns. If he places a lantern on both sides of the drive every 20 feet, and his driveway is a quarter of a mile long, how many lanterns will he need?  If each lantern costs $8.00 (including tax and shipping), how much will Farmer Brown be spending? (Don’t forget!  The answer is at the bottom of this posting!)

March Madness follow-up (see our previous post, “The Business of March”) – my son’s final two march favorites were:
–  “Colonel Bogey March”, composed in 1914 by Lieutenant F.J. Ricketts
–  “The Imperial March” (Darth Vader’s theme), composed in 1980 by John Williams for “Star Wars, Episode V”
with the winning nod given to “The Imperial March”.  Great footage:  John Williams conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, complete with appearance by Darth Vader:

stars at night

Background music for star gazing in the Lone Star State  

–  “Mercury” from Gustav Holst’s suite, “The Planets”, composed in 1916.  Mercury, the messenger god, flits all over the place and the music flits all over the place.  This is probably one of our top twenty favorite pieces.  It is just so different.

–  “Clair de Lune” from Claude Debussy’s “Suite Bergamasque”, published in 1905.  This clip features the great pianist Claudio Arrau, who was 88 when this was recorded!

Now here is something fun!

–  “The Star Trek Theme” straight from the late ’60’s TV show.  Composed by Alexander Courage, the minute-long theme was originally titled, “Where No Man has Gone Before”. Deliciously eerie.

–  Then we listened to a fully orchestrated version (“Star Trek in Concert”) performed by the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra in 2013.  Gorgeous!  We wonder if composer Alexander Courage ever dreamed that his short quirky piece would be performed by such an esteemed orchestra.  Whoa.

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
Story Problem answers:  132 and $1,056.00