Adam McKeown

It’s all about the triangle

We played “Quiz Show” last night – last week’s studies were so jam packed with quirky facts, they seemed to beg for a quiz.

Did my son know about Euskara?
Did he know about blackout curtains during WWII?
Did he know about altitude sickness?
Did he know about Robin Goodfellow?
Did he know about monsoons?
Did he know which were the fastest muscles in the human body?

quiz

Yes, yes, yes!  And the prize for getting a correct answer???  Wait for it – wait for it – wait for it:  for every correct answer my son got to ding a triangle:  1) the fun never stops at our house, and 2) who wouldn’t focus more diligently, knowing that the merry ding of a triangle was only one correct answer away?

Current studies and books – 

basque books

The Basque Country – first of all, the few books available on the Basque Country seem to be  oriented toward the angry plight of Basque citizens and grievances against their host countries (France and Spain) (mostly Spain) (Hey! I get it, but that is not the direction I want to head – I try to keep the “man’s inhumanity to man” themes away from our study table – my son has enough to deal with).  So, that left us with hardly any books from which to choose (and most of them were cookbooks).  Nonetheless, we are happily reading, “A Basque Diary” by Alex Hallatt (my son really likes the casual reflections in this small book) and the cookbook, “The Basque Book” by  Alexandra Raij.  Both are giving us a feel for this 8,000 square mile area of the western Pyrenees.  By default, we are learning a LOT about Basque food and we are so not eating periwinkles (cute tiny snails) no matter how well seasoned.

midsummer books

Another Professor Astro Cat book – We LOVE the Professor Astro Cat books.  Every page teams non-boring information with turbo-charged graphics.  This book, “Professor Astro Cat’s Human Body Odyssey”, is the fourth book we’ve read on human anatomy and our attention has finally been captured.  We read two pages a night and end up with more than enough to mull over for the next day.  Last night we had to be grossed out about DEAD SKIN CELLS floating through the air.  Tonight, nose mucus.  Life is good.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream – we are re-reading an adaptation, “The Young Reader’s Shakespeare – A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by Adam McKeown, for one reason only:  to enhance our enjoyment of Felix Mendelssohn’s ridiculously clever “Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.  We can hear the beating of the fairy wings and Bottom with his donkey head braying, what else can we hear?  This piece was composed in 1826 when Mendelssohn was SEVENTEEN – music scholar George Grove wrote of the overture: “the greatest marvel of early maturity that the world has ever seen in music”.  So there.

An outstanding performance of the overture by Leipzig’s Gewandhausorchester – where Felix Mendelssohn served as director from 1835 through 1847:


Dinner time at Farmer Brown’s (story problem) to summon the farm hands to supper, Farmer Brown needs to purchase a new “Cowboy style” triangle dinner bell.

triangle dinner bell

He can purchase a cheapy at a well known discount warehouse for $20 or he can commission the local blacksmith to create a heavy duty hand-forged iron triangle for $60.  The $60 triangle is what percentage more costly than the $20 model?  A)  30%     B)  150%     C)  200%     D)  300%  (answer at bottom of post)

 

roosterethics

Ethics Corner – OK, right after I yammered on about staying away from themes of man’s inhumanity to man, I am ambushed with a variation (man’s inhumanity to animals):  in the excellent Lonely Planet “The Cities Book” (the 7.5 pound tome we are almost through) we came across COCKFIGHTING while reading about Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.  Well.  First I had to explain what cockfighting was to my son.  Did I try to hide my heartsickness from the explanation?  No.  So, question to my son:  what do we think about cockfighting?  Is this an OK thing?  NO!  Are there any circumstances where this would be an OK thing?  NO!  Thank you.

Our music last night – we were so enthused by the the magic of the triangle during our quiz show that we decided to listen to compositions showcasing this simplest of instruments:

triangle

  •   Beethoven’s “Turkish March”, composed in 1809.  This short piece is played at a very fast clip (we LOVE this pace) by the Spanish Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra.  The sound of the triangle is woven throughout the piece to evoke the sound of exotic Ottoman Janissary Bands (oh my gosh we learned what Janissary Bands were!):

  • Brahms’ “Symphony No. 4 in E minor”, movement 3.  This symphony premiered in 1885.  We have listened to this movement several times, enjoying how it alternates between sounding like a wild west theme and a royal fanfare.  The triangle sparkles throughout the piece:

  • “Theme from The Pink Panther”  written in 1963 by Henry Mancini.  Nothing but the sound of the triangle was good enough to introduce this piece:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
story problem answer:  D) 300%

It’s a date!

date palm     date shakes     lady and tramp     bad date video game

Were we learning about date palms, date shakes, perfect dates, or perfectly awful dates?  Uh, no.

B.C./B.C.E. – A.D./C.E.  My son and I keep running into the acronyms (new vocab word) “BCE” and “CE” during our academic studies.  Last night we decided to find out what the letters mean.  We learned that BCE (“before common era”) and CE (“common era”) refer to time periods that match up exactly with the traditional BC (“Before Christ”) and AD (“Anno Domini”).  In other words, the date 335 BC is the same as the date 335 BCE.  Likewise, the date 1990 AD means the same thing as 1990 CE.  The terms BCE and CE have been in widespread use for the past 20 years, but we learned they have actually been around for over 300 years.  We like to know stuff like this.

More Shakespeare – We have enjoyed reading adaptations of “MacBeth”, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, and “Hamlet”, so we are now reading a retelling of “Romeo and Juliet”, by Adam McKeown.  McKeown does an excellent job of introducing characters and storylines at a pace we can process, and he makes us eager to read the real plays.  I think you can imagine why we aren’t starting off with the plays themselves – we want to be familiar with the basic plots, characters, and motivations before Shakespeare’s spellbinding words mesmerize us.

 thespian masksThe Thespian Masks – How can we read about Shakespeare without understanding the basics of “comedy” and “tragedy”?  I gave my son a list of ridiculous situations and had him decide if each circumstance fell into a comic or tragic category, then I showed him thespian (new vocab word) comedy and tragedy masks, the concept of which originated from the dramas of ancient Greece around 335 BC (or shall we say, 335 BCE).

schooled and destiny novel

Novels – We continue to read, “The Way to Stay in Destiny” by Augusta Scattergood – still really like picking up this book every night.  And this past week, we began a re-read of one of our old favorites, “Schooled” by Gordon Korman (important read, heartwarmer read).

 lamblamblamblamb

Our Farmer Brown Story Problem –  Offspring in the spring!  Farmer Brown’s ranch is home to 20 ewes.  This spring, half gave birth to twins, a fifth gave birth to quadruplets, and the rest had a single lamb each. How many sweet lambs does Farmer Brown have now?

 Ben Frank poster

Last night’s music theme was “Benjamin Franklin in France” – We used the N.C. Wyeth poster on my son’s wall, of a young Benjamin Franklin, as inspiration.  We decided to focus upon the years Ben Franklin served as US Ambassador to France (1776 – 1785).  We know he was well-entertained in France, and this must certainly have included symphonic concerts and opera productions.  It is so likely that he heard these:

  • Mozart – Overture to the Abduction from the Seraglio (1782).  This is the composition that provoked Austrian Emperor Joseph II (maybe a bit short on the musical smarts) to remark that there were “too many notes” in the piece.  My son and I think the brilliant and far more musically inclined Ben Franklin would have loved this overture!

  • Bach – The Coffee Cantata (1735), a way-fun work that pits a father against his strong-willed daughter, fighting over her excessive consumption of coffee.  We think Ben Franklin, a known coffee enthusiast, would have been amused by this mini comic opera.

  • Haydn – Symphony No. 45, “The Farewell Symphony” (1772).  This is a symphony we want to see in person, because a most interesting thing happens in movement 4…entire sections of the orchestra sneak away, a bit at a time.  By the conclusion, only the conductor and the concertmaster are left.  We hope Mr. Franklin didn’t miss this!

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

 

Wordery

Webster_27s_Dictionary_advertisement_-_1888_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_13641

Words, words, words – this past week, new vocabulary words have been emerging willy-nilly.  We have clocked in a fair amount of time defining unfamiliar words, phrases, and concepts.  Thank you Wikipedia and Google Images!  Last night, I presented my son with a vocabulary matching quiz, to see if the words had been explained well enough. (YAY!  Big smiles here. Phew.)

  • From “The Young Reader’s Shakespeare: Hamlet” by Adam McKeown:  coronation, goblet, immortal, liege, parapet, specter, avenge, revenge, and vengeance
  • From “Flora and Ulysses” by Kate DiCamillo:  arch-nemesis, euphemism, treacle, and villain
  • From “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (translation by Katherine Woods):  baobab (a tree…real or imaginary?)
  • From our new novel, “The Way to Stay in Destiny” by Augusta Scattergood (a book BTW that we are LOVING), we had to do a bit of a side study on the illustrious Hank Aaron.
  • From Mozart’s “Overture to The Abduction from the Seraglio”: seraglio

baobab

Editor’s comments: there is such a thing as a baobab tree (it is VERY weird and ridiculously large, and we can see why the little prince worked diligently to make sure this tree didn’t take root on his little planet), and everyone should take a listen to the “Overture to the Abduction from the Seraglio” – five and a half entertaining minutes (we love the rambunctious cymbal smashing)!

“Overture to the Abduction from the Seraglio” – take a listen!

 mules turkey rooster combs

From our Farm Unit – last night we learned quite a bit about mules. During the course of the past few days we’ve learned about turkey breeds, the three reasons to breed goats (milk, meat, fiber), and we’ve learned about draft horses. This book (“Farm Anatomy” by Julia Rothman) is just dynamite.  There is something new and easy to understand every single night.

Best Farmer Brown story problem from the past week: Farmer Brown has been glad it has been raining, because his cows, sheep, and goats drink a LOT of water every day (we learned this from our “Farm Anatomy” book!). If each sheep needs one to four gallons of water daily and he has a herd of 60 sheep, what is the least amount of water they need during the course of a week?

Last night’s music theme: March’s Marches. Last year, during March, my son and I listened to a different march every night. In truth, the concept ran thin about day 18. Even accounting for the wide variety of marches (military, wedding, graduation, coronation, funeral), 31 marches are a lot of marches. Last night, I presented my son with our list from last year and he selected three to listen to:

  • “The Radetzky March”, by Johann Strauss, Sr., composed in 1848. Such an A+ march; we never get tired of hearing this.
  • “March of the Siamese Children”, from “The King and I” by Rogers and Hammerstein (1951): elegant, and we love listening for the low, reverberating gong tones.
  • “The Washington Post March”, written in 1889, by John Philip Sousa.  Interesting aside: it is said that when Sousa was 13, his father signed him up as an apprentice in the United States Marine Corps band, to keep him from joining a circus band (a parent’s gotta do what a parent’s gotta do).   The link below leads to a neat video, starring the US Marine Corps Band and a nice explanation of the piece by the band leader:

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

A Test of Faith

...possibly my worst photo ever.  Sorry!  The subject matter wouldn't cooperate.

…possibly my worst photo ever. Sorry! The subject matter wouldn’t cooperate.

A test of faith – This past week we completed our “Religions of the World” unit, using an Usborne book as a reference.  It was time to test and see what my son had retained.  I set up the iPad for a multiple choice quiz, and presented him with 30 questions regarding Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Sikhism.  Chalk up another A+.  Yay!

Incidental learning: Thermometers – While we were driving around the other day and the car thermometer read 37 degrees, I wondered if my son knew about temperatures.  So that night, we began a small study of temperatures and thermometers. We found a neat website: www.metric-conversions.org, offering loads of interesting facts with brief, understandable explanations.  We learned the difference between Celsius and Fahrenheit and how to convert from one to the other.  We learned that only the Bahamas, Belize, the Cayman Islands, Palau (Palau? We had to find this on the globe), the USA and its territories use the Fahrenheit system.  Consider us informed on the matter.

New academic unit – I am sorry to write that the chemistry unit we began crashed and burned by night number three. Darn book. When I don’t know what the author is talking about on page one, I start to think that this is not a book for us.  After shunning the chemistry book, we tried out a book on “Oceans of the World” and found conflicting sentences in the first paragraph, so we bypassed that resource, too.  This does not mean we are through with these units, it just means we are seeking the right books. (So many, many sub-standard learning materials out there.  How do they even get published?  Sigh.)

Not to be discouraged, we read through a few pages of “A Young Reader’s Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by Adam McKeown.  Excellent!  We are loving this book. We are going slowly so we can keep all the characters straight.

3 books

Novels – Two worthy Newberry award recipients: “Hatchet” and “Flora and Ulysses”

  • Continuing on with “Hatchet”, by Gary Paulsen.  There is nothing original I can say about this important book.  There is a reason it is on so many reading lists.
  • “Flora and Ulysses”, by Kate DiCamillo (everything she writes is so great).  Things we’ve had to investigate while reading this book: CPR, near-death experiences (seeing the “white light”), the words “malfeasance” and “cynic”.  I love books that push us into further learning.

fleur de lis

Our music theme last night focused upon the work of French composers – I provided my son a list of compositions by the French composers that we are familiar with: Bizet, Debussy, Delibes, Gounod, Offenbach, and Saint-Saens.  He selected:

  • “The Infernal Galop”, (the “Can Can”) by Jacques Offenbach, what’s not to like?
  • “Clair de Lune”, by Claude Debussy, the soothing music we needed.
  • “March of the Toreadors”, (from “Carmen”) by Georges Bizet…a rather unusual rendition with bottles and a guy on skates.  Why not?

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH