1899

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

Riveting!

levi strauss pants

Our current history unit is riveting – or more precisely, it’s about rivets.  We are reading about the blue jeans empire of Levi Strauss & Company, (“Images of America – Levi Strauss & Co.” by historian Lynn Downey).  We’ve learned that Levi Strauss, of San Francisco, teamed with tailor, Jacob Davis, in 1873 to manufacture an extra-hard-wearing work pant – the key to their immense success was their patented rivets-on-the-corners-of-the-pockets design.  But this unit is giving us an opportunity to learn more than just about the jeans: we’ve talked about why Levi Strauss was said to have haled from Bavaria (not Germany) (actually we learned about this from our previous study on Otto von Bismarck), we’ve learned about the devastating San Francisco earthquake of 1906, we’ve learned what “dry goods” are, we’ve looked at print advertising of the early 1900’s AND we’ve learned about rivets.  Another great study unit!

greetings from India postcard      indiana postcard 2

TRAVEL BARGAIN!  13,000 extra miles for $4.00!  I often purchase our books via the “used book associate sellers” on Amazon. (It is amazing how many books I have purchased for 1 penny, plus shipping.)  I usually look to see where the seller is located so I can gauge how long it might take to receive the book.  Last week I ordered a series of “Tom Gates” books from what I thought was a seller in Indiana.  What a surprise to find out that I ordered the series from a seller in INDIA!!!  Crazily, the shipping cost for 7 books was a mere $4.00 and I received the order within a week.  A+ on all levels!  Before we cracked open the first book, we got out the globe, located both Indiana and India, had a small laugh over the 13,000 mile distance, then we traced the route the books may have taken from India to reach us in Texas.

andes mints after eight mints

A mintylicious story problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – the diner has plans to serve up after-dinner mints with the check at the end of every meal.  The question is, which mints?  The busboys are voting for “Andes Mints” (primarily because one of the busboys is named “Andy”, and wouldn’t that be a riot?).  The waitresses think “After Eight” mints are much classier.  The diner’s accountant told the staff that it is the thought that counts and strongly suggested they purchase the most cost efficient (cheapest) (vocab) mint.  So:
After Eight Mints – each box contains 25 mints.  A package of 6 boxes sells for $22.
Andes Mints – 5 pounds of Andes Mints can be purchased for $34. There are 70 mints in each pound.

A.  How much does a single mint of each type cost (we learned about “rounding up”)?
B.  The diner is going with the least expensive mint.  If  700 hundred dinners are served per week, and each will conclude with a mint, how much will the diner be spending on mints per month? (we are not including tax or shipping costs)(answers at bottom of post)

lute player

“The Lute Player” by Caravaggio, with sheet music by Jacques Arcadelt.  Whoa.

Three Hymns from One – As I have mentioned previously, my son and I listen to music of an ecclesiastical nature on Sunday nights.  This past Sunday night we followed the path of a hymn written in the mid-1500s by Jacques Arcadelt.

First, Arcadelt’s “Ave Maria“.  We are not sure who is singing here, but the acoustics of the Joy Burns Plaza are insanely effective.  A LOT of sound from 4 vocalists:

Next, the finale to Camille Saint-Saens’ “Symphony No. 3 in C minor” (the “Organ Symphony”), composed in 1886. Of this symphony, Saint-Saens wrote “I gave everything to it I was able to give. What I have here accomplished, I will never achieve again.” Doesn’t this make you desperate to have a listen?  Of course, we sort of always like to hear any piece played on a gigantic pipe organ.  We clearly hear Arcadelt’s hymn in this piece:

Finally, we listened to Jean Sibelius’ “Finlandia Hymn”, a small part of his 9-minute “Finlandia” composition.  Again, we hear the influence of Arcadelt’s “Ave Maria”.  “Finlandia” was written in 1899, and words to the hymn portion in 1941.  My son and I are suckers for flashmobs – a train station in Finland is the setting for this wonderful event:

We also wanted to hear the entire “Finlandia” composition.  This recording came from the opening performance of the new music hall in Helsinki, 2011.  The hymn starts about 5 minutes 30 seconds into the piece (alert:  the piece is rather menacing in the beginning – the message is clearly “Don’t Mess with Finland”).  Stirring:

Welcome to the best part of my day.
– Jane BH
Story problem answers:
A. each Andes mint costs approximately 10 cents, each After Eight mint costs approximately 15 cents
B. $272

Conversation Circle

220px-Ferris-wheel

Let’s Discuss – Hey! Look at the blog title block.  It says right there that my son is non-verbal. So how can I keep writing that “my son and I are having a talk about….” or “we had a conversation about…”?  Obviously I do all of the talking, but I try to set up every discussion with lots of statements for my son to respond to with short written answers.

Example – this past week we were looking at the very first Ferris Wheel, constructed in 1893 for the “World’s Columbian Exposition” in Chicago.  After we read through the Wikipedia entry and I put forth a few of my own observations, the questions:
– does riding on this Ferris Wheel look fun or scary?
– would it be safe to jump around in the Ferris Wheel compartment?
– should a Ferris Wheel be made out of metal or plastic?
– what would be a fair price for a Ferris Wheel ride?
– how long should a Ferris Wheel ride last?
– would you rather take a ride on a Ferris Wheel or a train?
– what sort of person could design a Ferris Wheel? A scientist? An engineer? A musician?

city book best

Conversation Starter – Oh my gosh, “City Atlas” by Georgia Cherry and Martin Haake has provoked so many conversations.  We focus upon one international city per evening.  We slog through the uninteresting info (every single city has museums aplenty, and they all seem to have some sort of body of water nearby) and then on to the stuff of fun conversations:
Berlin – Gummy Bears!   Moscow – Matryoshka dolls!   Budapest – Paprika!
Chicago – the original Ferris Wheel AND if that wasn’t enough: “Sue”, the world’s largest and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex!

gaudi better
The city that has sparked the most discussion so far has been Barcelona.  We wanted to know more about the intriguing architecture of Barcelona’s Antoni Gaudi…We have now read through two books on Gaudi.  Then we spent time comparing the work of the college-educated Gaudi with the work of uneducated, illiterate Sabato “Simon” Rodia and his audacious Watts Towers in Los Angeles. (Here’s an ultra-cool thing: Rodia is included among the many faces on the cover of the Beatles’ “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band” album cover!) Great conversations!  Thank you “City Atlas”!

Reading for pleasure – We are still laughing through “The Brilliant World of Tom Gates” by Liz Pichon, and we are still loving “Ribblestrop”.  Oh my, what endless imagination has gone into this book by Andy Mulligan.  This story about a English lad who has been sent off to boarding school is a relentless hot-mess of hilarious entertainment.

Bullard book

Perfect for February, Perfect for Anytime – More to discuss!  We are acknowledging Black History Month by learning about the world’s first black fighter pilot.  A short blurb about this man, Eugene Bullard, appeared on my FaceBook wall; I was intrigued, so we found “Eugene Bullard, World’s First BLACK Fighter Pilot”, by Larry Greenly. Before we opened the book, we discussed the challenges of being a pilot, and then the double challenges of being a fighter pilot.  This biography/adventure story is perfect reading for us.

A bit of music to celebrate Black History Month – we listened to some pieces we have liked for quite while that happen to be the work of black composers:

  • “Maple Leaf Rag” by Scott Joplin, composed in 1899; so popular that it provided a steady income for the rest of Mr. Joplin’s life (who passed away 18 years later).

  • “The American Scene – The Southwest: Song of the Riverman”, composed by William Grant Still (“the Dean of African-American composers”), in 1957.  “The American Scene” is a monumental work comprised of 3 sections, with 3 movements in each section. We have been enjoying “The Song of the Riverman” for about 4 years now. This descriptive piece makes us imagine that we are taking a train ride through the old west.

  • “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”, composed by Duke Ellington in 1940, lyrics by Bob Russel added in 1942 (#1 on the R+B charts in 1943).  We listened to two versions – one instrumental version and one sung by Ella Fitzgerald (both, heaven).  And then we found video footage from 1968 featuring Duke Ellington AND Ella Fitzgerald. Nice.

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

If it’s August

goldolfo lake

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

finnish flag

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

school busschool busschool bus

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

apple

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

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

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

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

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH