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Heady Times

 

The Moai of Easter Island – of course we wanted to learn about the carved heads (moai) of Easter Island (AKA Rapa Nui).  Steadfast, benevolent, thoughtful in demeanor, some sporting jolly red hats, and of course, all preposterously large:  what’s not to love?  First, we found Easter Island on our globe – a remote tiny piece of land (a mere 64 square miles)(we discussed what 64 square miles would mean) in the Pacific Ocean (and FYI, a territory of Chile).  Then we read through James Grant-Peterkin’s “A Companion to Easter Island” to learn about the the 900 moai that honor ancestors, guard the island, and perhaps mark areas near fresh water.  We learned that – 

  • the island was formed by three volcanos and the moai were carved 500 to 800 years ago from solidified volcanic ash
  • the method of transporting the cumbersome and weighty moai from quarry to specifically chosen places around the island remains a mystery 
  • Easter Island was officially declared a “World Heritage Site” (protected by international treaties) by the United Nations in 1995
  • there are concerns by the scientific community that the island’s iconic statues nearest the shore line might sink into the ocean due to climate changes (storms, rising water levels)   

opera books

The Lewis and Clark Expedition – our final thoughts after finishing “The Captain’s Dog” by Roland Smith:   the endeavor was significantly more lengthly and challenging than anticipated, and SOMEHOW it succeeded.  One word:  LEADERSHIP.  We discussed the extraordinary skills possessed by Captains Lewis and Clark in keeping their assembly of 31 healthy, fed, and motivated for the two and a half year trek – diplomacy, bartering, first aid competence, hunting, managing difficult personalities (Charbonneau, for one), map charting, journal keeping, river navigation, quick decision making.  President Jefferson chose well.  This venture could have gone so wrong.

read by himself

More read-to-himself stories – In the last post I mentioned that I had started my son on a few “read-to-himself” short stories about family members.  This activity kept his focus, so this past week he read and answered a few questions about:
– Holly’s San Francisco Cats
– How Mom and Dad Met
– When Ben Stopped Traffic

More and more learning –

  • how does one get to be my age (dirt) and still not know the exact relationship between an ounce and a gram?  So we BOTH learned that there are around 28 grams to 1 ounce.  We breezed through a pretty good little kids book, “How Do You Measure Weight” by Thomas K. and Heather Adamson.
  • we also reviewed basic time conventions:  the 12-hour a.m./p.m. clock and the 24-hour military clock.  (Vocab:  Ante, Post, Meridiem)

opera house

We’re learning about opera! – every night we are reading one act from the 15 selected operas in “Sing Me a Story – The Metropolitan Opera’s Book of Opera Stories for Children” by Jane Rosenberg.  And one act per night is plenty:  the number of characters, disguises and deceptions worked into a single act is bewildering.  This book does a commendable job of explaining each opera while keeping our interest (and it is a perfect resource for anyone, not just children).  So far, we have read through Aida – Ahmal and the Night Visitors – The Barber of Seville – La Boheme – Carmen.

juke box

Story Problem:  Opera music at Le Fictitious Local Diner – During the fall months, the local diner is hosting Italian Night every Friday.  Three Italian cuisine specials are offered AND Chef George (opera aficionado) replaces every single jukebox selection with music from Verdi, Rossini, and Puccini.  This is quite a project, as each table’s jukebox can offer up to 100 song titles.  But we digress:

(1)  Dinner is served at the diner from 5 until 11, and each aria (vocab) lasts an average of 4 minutes.  If a typical patron is in the diner for 45 minutes, how many opera selections will said diner probably hear? 
a)  11 songs     b)  24 songs     c)  45 songs     d)  90 songs

(2)  How many aria’s will be played from the start to conclusion of dinner service?
a)  11 arias     b)  24 arias     c)  45 arias     d)  90 arias
(answers at bottom of post)

music collage

Our classical music for the week – we had no choice:  we had to sample music from the operas we were reading about – 

  • Aida – we learned that Verdi was commissioned to compose SOMETHING to commemorate the opening of the Suez Canal.  Aida premiered in 1871 (the canal opened in 1869).  Here we watch the “Triumphal March” and WHAT A PRODUCTION.  The first half has soldiers marching across the stage and there are so many of them that my son and I paused to wonder if there were really only a handful of soldier/actors that marched across the stage and then ran full speed across the backstage to reappear as more solders.  Anyway, a very authoritative, majestic march:

  • Barber of Seville – Rossini’s popular opera, which premiered in 1816, and we listened to one of the most popular songs in the entire opera repertoire, “Largo al factotum”.  Lots of fun:

  • La Boheme – Puccini’s heartbreaker opera, premiering in 1896.  We listened to “Musetta’s Waltz”, after I explained to my son the term, “flirtatious”.   That Musetta!  A consummate flirt:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(Story problem answers:  (1) a)  11 songs and (2) d)  90 arias)
P.S.  We’re still here.  I am hating the time gap since my last post (a series of holy disaster disruptions in our agenda), but we are still here, and we are still exploring new topics and reading stories every night.

Working for Peanuts

carver stamp

We begin our botany unit:  “George Washington Carver – Ingenious Inventor”, another “Graphic Library” book, this one by Olson/Tucke.  (These books are pretty fun, formatted comic-book style, including a surprising amount of interesting information.  Not bad, not bad at all).  Anyway, George Washington Carver, FATHER OF THE PEANUT INDUSTRY, has won our hearts:  he was focused, deep thinking, moral (vocab), inventive, industrious, and profoundly generous.  But back to the botany angle: Carver ended up with three patents for peanut oil utilization (hardly representative of his many many many inventions and contributions).  We spent a few minutes wondering what Carver’s scientific response would have been to the present day widespread peanut allergy crisis.  We also decided that we wanted to know more about other botanists (vocab), so books on Gregor Mendel and Luther Burbank have been ordered.

soda sharing

Story problem time – the SUMMERTIME SWEETHEART SODA SPECIAL at Le Fictitious Local Diner:  Hoping to entice the after-movie date crowd, the diner has run a midnight ice-cream soda special (a large-sized soda with two straws and a side of fries) every Friday and Saturday, since June 1st.  Well! This has been so popular that the diner went through two boxes of straws (1000 straws to the box) in June alone!  If the special is priced at $5.00, how much did the diner gross on the special in June?  If the cost per serving works out to $2.00, how much did the diner net from this special in June?  Extraneous question: if a box of 1,000 straws costs $17, what is the price per straw (round up)? (answers at bottom of post)

gabby book

New fiction reading:  We are intrigued by  “Gabby Duran and the Unsittables” by Elise Allen and Daryle Conners.  This book is original and refreshing, with new concepts and vocabulary all over the place.  The introductory adventure involves a movie production (so new words: set, line, soundstage, props);  subsequent adventures involve INTERGALACTICS.  Adding to this, protagonist Gabby Duran, is a high schooler intent on being an orchestra soloist with her French Horn (and consider us admonished via the internet; we’ve learned that this instrument is properly referred to as the HORN, not the French Horn).  So, do you expect us to let it go at that?  Our choice for classical music listening last night focused upon compositions that showcased the HORN.  We wanted to appreciate the deep, comfortable, warm echo-y sound of Gabby’s horn.

Our inspiration for classical music listening last night – Gabby Duran’s French Horn:

– George Frederick Handel’s Water Music, Movement 2, from Water Music Suite No. 2, composed in 1717 to humor King George I, who desired music for a concert on the River Thames.  My son and I love this jaunty full-of-energy fanfare:

– Gustav Holst’s Venus, from The Planets, composed in 1916.  “Venus, the Bringer of Peace”, begins with a horn solo, and the horn provides the backbone for this L O N G dreamy movement (just a teeny touch boring compared to the rest of the planets in the suite) (but very restful, if you need to fall asleep) (and sort of sad, too) (OK! Not our favorite, but still a good “front and center” for the horn):

– Maurice Ravel’s Pavane for a Dead Princess, first written for piano in 1899, then orchestrated by Ravel in 1910.  This is a slow processional dance, with the horn taking center stage for the introduction. An excellent choice for anyone seeking background music for a good hard cry:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers: $5,000, $3,000, 2 cents per straw)

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

The Business of March

March Madness – John Philip Sousa is referred to as “the March King”…but is he OUR King of Marches?  We set up a bracket chart, just like college b’ball’s March Madness brackets, pitting four famous Sousa marches against four well loved marches by other composers.  We listen to marches every Friday night all year long, so my son has heard these marches MANY MANY MANY times, but to make this official, we are listening to one match-up each night, after which my son determines the favorite. Thus (so far):

march chart bright

(We’ll let you know.)

shamrocks

Shamrocks Rock (one of our story problems from last week) – Farmer Brown sells the cutest pots of shamrocks during the first two weeks of March.  He sells a box of 10 tiny pots for $25.  So far, 2 car dealerships have ordered 3 boxes each, 6 restaurants have ordered 2 boxes each, and 2 local businesses have ordered 10 boxes each.  How much will Farmer Brown gross on these sales?  If Farmer Brown pays 50 cents for each clay pot, what will he net on the sales, after he has paid for the clay pots?

French Foreign Legion

March of 1831 – We learned that The French Foreign Legion was founded in March of 1831.  The French Foreign Legion????  What provoked us to seek information about the French Foreign Legion?  Well, first of all, we want to know about EVERYTHING, and secondly, we are reading about Georgia-born Eugene Bullard (first black fighter pilot), who at the age of 19 found himself in Paris on the eve of WWI, so he joined the French Foreign Legion.  Well.  We needed to know exactly what the French Foreign Legion was about. Did you know that if you are fighting for the FFL and you are injured, you may apply immediately for French citizenship (you are considered “French by spilled blood”)?  Très intéressant. (vocab concept)

irish dance

Our Music – Getting in the mood for St. Patrick’s Day:
“Toora Loora Loora” – an Irish-American lullaby written in 1913 by James Royce Shannon. Extremely popular from the get-go, it was #1 on the music charts that year.  We like this rendition by “The Irish Tenors” because we like EVERYTHING by the Irish Tenors:

“The Irish Washerwoman” – a traditional Irish jig, arranged for the Boston Pops by LeRoy Anderson in 1947.  We found a video clip of Anderson’s “Washerwoman” played by the Rocky Mountain Wind Symphony. Nicely done!

“Danny Boy” – this sweet, sweet, tear-jerker ballad written by Frederic Weatherly in 1910, to the tune of “Londonderry Air”, is the unofficial signature song of Irish Americans and Irish Canadians.  Alert:  Somebody might want to know that “The Fabulous Danny Boy Album” features 12 excellent renditions of this song.  That is kind of a lot of a good thing.

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

Good Books, Bad Books

Sorry to be on a rant in mid-December, but REALLY!  How do poorly edited books manage to get published?   Case in point: my son and I were reading a coffee table-style book about birds of North America.  The introduction was rather good:  we learned that birds with long legs have long necks; we learned that a grouping of bird eggs in a nest is called a clutch.  And then the book fell apart.  A chapter entitled, “Swifts and Hummingbirds” contained NOT ONE MENTION, NOT ONE PHOTOGRAPH of a swift.  And you would think that an author making an effort to explain the simple word, “clutch”, would make sure the reader understood more difficult terms, such as “arboreal” and “terrestrial”.  But no.  In an angry huff, we have bid adieu to that sham of a book.

animal kingdom

Happier reading: we are now reading “Animal Kingdom” by Nicholas Blechman and Simon Rogers…same outstanding graphic format as “Human Body”, which we read a few weeks ago.  Currently, we are mid-chapter, learning about senses; last night reading about animal eyes (largest eye: giant squid…eyes covered by skin, rendering them blind: mole rats (GROSS)), tonight reading about animal ears, and the variety of listening abilities. So interestingly presented, we are back to being happy learners.

Even happier reading:

books final

  • we have finished “Rules of the Road” by Joan Bauer. EXCELLENT story: well written, complex plot, skilled characterizations, and topped off with all sorts of life lessons.
  • and if it is December, we return once again to a super favorite, “Mrs. Coverlet’s Magicians” by Mary Nash. This book was a Children’s Book Club offering in 1962.  I LOVED it then, and I LOVE it every year for a re-read. We are reading the very same copy that my dad read to my sister and me, but the book is still available on Amazon and the plot is a DELIGHT.

Our music project last night – selecting music to enhance another poster in my son’s room, “Checkered House” by Grandma Moses, painted in 1943. (The poster was purchased after we completed a unit on Grandma Moses a few years ago.)

Grandma Moses Check

  • “Over the River and through the Wood”, a poem by Lydia Maria Child originally entitled, “The New-England Boy’s Song about Thanksgiving Day” (but it still works for all of the December holidays), published in 1844.  Alas, the composer is unknown. Darling video footage taken from an elementary school winter concert.

  • “Sleigh Ride”, composed by Leroy Anderson during the heat wave of 1946! Mr. Anderson was VERY smart (a Harvard man!) and VERY funny. A perfect performance by the President’s Marine Corps Chamber Orchestra.

  • “The Friendly Beasts”, also known as “Carol of the Animals”, words by Robert Davis, penned in the 1920’s, set to French music from the 12th century.  Not too much to look at in this video, but the song is sung by Peter, Paul, and Mary, and it is wonderful!

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

Back in the Saddle Again

geneautry

Annnnnnnd, we’re back!  Since our last post, we have read about Princess Kaiulani of Hawaii (so refined, educated, and loyal to her people) and Genghis Khan of Mongolia (so unrefined, so uneducated, so loyal to himself. In his defense, the living was pretty uncertain on the Mongolian steppe (vocab) in the 13th century.  We get the impression that there was no lack of unrefined, uneducated, and untrustworthy yurt (vocab) dwellers.  My son and I are SO glad we didn’t live then and there.  So glad.)

marley door knocker

Current fiction – we loved learning about Charles Dickens last month, so we decided to tackle “A Christmas Carol”.  So far, the book’s conversational style is a delight, although I need to interpret countless phrases and concepts on every page: door knocker, counting-house, Bedlam, workhouses, melancholy, tavern.  This is not a problem!  Bring it, Mr. Dickens.

Current non-fiction

human body book

Reading only one page a night from Peter Grundy’s captivating book, “HUMAN BODY” gives us plenty of thought-provoking information. Example: on the page about the sense of smell, we learned that a human has 15 million olfactory receptors (vocab), most dogs have 1,000 million olfactory receptors, BUT a bloodhound has – GET THIS – 4,000 million olfactory receptors.  So this led to a little discussion about why bloodhounds are the dog of choice for finding lost people, followed by a discussion about how people get lost.  Graphics? Genius.

france map     map book     escargot2

We are also reading through “MAPS”, by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski.  What a joy this gigantic book is.  Again, one page a night is plenty.  As we begin each new country, we find it on our globe, then we treat ourselves to the jillions of darling hand-drawn illustrations.  Last night we spent time with the page on France and ended up discussing whether or not we would consider eating escargots.

jackolantern

Our story problem: Farmer Brown’s Halloween – Farmer Brown is giving glow-in-the-dark bracelets for Halloween instead of candy. He can purchase 300 bracelets for $24. How much will each bracelet cost?

glow in dark bracelets

If he gives the first 50 trick-or-treaters one bracelet each, but gives the next 100 children 2 bracelets each (because he really doesn’t want to end up with a bunch of bracelets at the end of the evening), how many bracelets should he give to the final group of 10 trick-or-treaters (so he doesn’t end up with any bracelets)?

Scary Music for Halloween

  • “Dance Macabre”, by Camille Saint-Saens, composed in 1874.  The clock strikes midnight on Halloween, calling the dead to arise and dance until dawn.  This splendid video showcases a most skilled youth orchestra from Poland.  Well worth the view to watch for the marimba, xylophone, vibraphone, and orchestral bells – instruments of perfection for evoking the sounds of rattling skeleton bones.

  • “Mars”, from “The Planets”, composed by Gustav Holst in 1914.  This is the poster child for menacing music.  We love this particular video – it is a simulation of a rover landing on Mars.  We’ve probably watched this 10 times.

  • “Masquerade”, movement 1 (the waltz), from a suite written by Aram Khachaturian in 1941.  This video is a full-blown production number, dark and decadent, just like the music.  For some reason, it is a bit out of focus, but this only adds to the Halloween creepiness.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH