Antonio Vivaldi

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)

Rodent Rage

rat

Almost finished:  We are sorry that we are coming upon the final pages of “Animalium”, by Katie Scott and Jenny Broom. This splendid book is rich in conversation-provoking information and rich in captivating illustrations. This is a book that we have looked forward to opening every single night (even last night, when we had to read about rodents).

Animalium book 2

Speaking of rodents:

– To establish a baseline, we took a little “Is this a rodent?” quiz, then voted upon the cutest. Our faves: chipmunks, chinchillas, hamsters, guinea pigs, voles, and porcupines.  Not our fave: squirrels are on our bad list at the moment (we are unhappily hosting one in our attic, and are attempting to remove him humanely)(but this is not going well, as he is a member of Squirrel Mensa).

– February 1st I gave my son a pre-test on the big doings of February 2nd: Groundhog Day. I was quite surprised by how much information he knew about this “holiday”.  I am not sure we added much to his store of knowledge, but we read through Wikipedia entries on groundhogs and Groundhog Day, and concluded with a small discussion about whether Punxsutawney Phil was a bit plumper than the average groundhog.  We learned that groundhogs are the same thing as woodchucks, which prompted me to recite the “How much wood can a woodchuck chuck” tongue twister. Rodents and poetry on the same night. Winner.

hamster

Farmer Brown’s petting zoo story problem – The first graders from the 4 local elementary schools love visiting Farmer Brown’s petting zoo. This year, Farmer Brown has hired a photographer to snap photos of each first grader with one of his sweet hamsters. The photos sell for $2 each (and everyone purchases one). It costs Farmer Brown 50 cents to process each photo and he pays the photographer $35 for each school visit. There are 40 first grade children in each school. NEW CONCEPTS!: What is Farmer Brown’s GROSS income from the endeavor? What is Farmer Brown’s NET income (after paying the photo processing and the photographer) from the endeavor?

Catherine Great

What a rat! We have begun another “A Wicked History” (we do love this series), this time we are learning about Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia. Right off the bat we find out that she came to power by disposing of her husband, Tsar Peter III. Yikes. What a rat. We want to know more.

snowflakesunshine

Music for Groundhog Day:  Was Punxsutawney Phil going to be greeted by bright sunlight or cloudy skies?  We had the music to mark the occasion:

  • Phil sees his shadow: “Winter”, from Vivaldi’s timeless violin concerto of 1723, “The Four Seasons”. Ugh. We don’t want 6 more weeks of winter!  But we are always happy for a tiny slice of Itzhak Perlman magic:

  • Phil sees his shadow: “Waltz of the Snowflakes” from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet, which premiered in 1892.  We may be weary of the cold weather, but at least Tchaikovsky revives us with a winter that is as pretty as it is capricious (vocab):

  • Phil doesn’t see his shadow: “Symphony No. 6 in F major” (movement 1), composed by Beethoven in 1808. Known also as “The Pastoral Symphony” (familiar to many from Disney’s award winning “Fantasia” of 1940), it is all about the promise of spring.  Leonard Bernstein (always a conductor we want to watch) leads the Vienna Philharmonic in this video:

  • Phil doesn’t see his shadow: “Put on a Happy Face”, composed by Charles Strouse (lyrics by Lee Adams) for the 1960 Broadway production “Bye Bye Birdie”.  Hey, Phil!  Grey skies are gonna clear up!  My son was tapping his toes to this rendition from the mid sixties, featuring The Supremes:

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

Holy Zucchetto!

zucchetto child     zucchetto flying     zucchetto green sweawter

We know what a zucchetto is!  My son is loving our Vatican unit!  So much to learn and so much of it very cool:

  • the Vatican’s mosaic school has the largest supply of mosaic stones in the world.  Vatican Vocab: mosaic
  • we can now recognize a cardinal by his vestments (something will be scarlet).  Vatican Vocab: vestments
  • enforcing a dress code for Vatican visitors is a chronic problem (People! People! People!  Dress modestly and stop giving the Vatican a hard time!).
  • the Vatican library is THE authority on old book and manuscript restoration.  Vatican Vocab: manuscript, restoration
  • and finally: zucchetto (a skull cap, as in the headwear of the pope).  I hope you can infer by the photos we’ve selected (showing Pope Francis and his zucchetto) that we are enchanted by this personable pope.

Great unit! We are taking a look at the art of the Vatican next.

pencil grip

Handwriting update – In mid June (in post “That’s Gotta Hurt”), my son was introduced to the “Pencil Grip Writing Claw”.  He is so comfortable with it now!  When it is handwriting time, I place the pencil between his thumb and index finger and HE fits his fingers into the rubberized claw. THIS IS PROGRESS!

herbs

Herbs and Spices – My son had no clue, so last night we learned a bit about herbs (leaves) and spices (stems, bark, seeds, buds). We learned that pepper is a spice, but salt is a mineral (not an herb and not a spice).  I had my son sniff tarragon, basil, cinnamon, and cloves (Heh! The clove aroma took him by surprise).  This was not his favorite activity, but he sure got the idea.

Farmer Brown story problem – During autumn months, Farmer Brown makes apple cider mulling spices. He mixes cinnamon sticks, cloves, with dried orange peel and packages the mixture in cellophane tied with twine. A single package sells for $5.00, and Farmer Brown sells a box of a dozen packages for $50. He has sold 20 boxes to various local shops, and so far he has sold 85 single packages at his roadside apple cider stand. If it costs Farmer Brown $2 for each package’s spice mixture and $1 for each package’s cellophane, twine tie, and label, what is Farmer Brown’s profit so far?

“Background Music for the Vatican”!   We pretended that the Vatican phoned us to ask for music recommendations that would enhance the architecture and the magnificent art.  We considered only music composed by Catholics.  All three suggestions are short and beautifully filmed.

  • “Gregorian Chants” – unaccompanied sacred songs, slow and reflective, developed by monks during the 9th century.  The collections of chants are named to honor the memory of Pope Gregory.  This should calm the Vatican crowds down:

  • “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” – composed by Antonio Vivaldi around 1715.  Vivaldi, noted for being one of the greatest of Baroque composers, was a Catholic priest.  This “Gloria” is a breath of fresh air – energetic, precise, and uplifting:

  • “Locus Iste” – meaning “This Place”; really meaning “This place was made by God”, is often used for church dedications.  This particular sacred motet (a multi-part choral work), was composed by Anton Bruckner (sort of an over-the-top devout Catholic) in 1869.  As typical of Bruckner’s work, “Locus Iste” is a religious experience, top-heavy with soaring, lush harmonies:

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

Well Played!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wishing Wells – Did my son know what a wishing well was? No!  So we opened up the iPad to see what Wikipedia and Google Images had to say and show us (seriously there isn’t much to know; if you know what a wishing well is, then you pretty much know everything there is to know about the concept).  But wait!  We thought this was noteworthy: during the course of the year, Disney properties accumulate around $18,000 in coins from their various wishing wells and fountains.  That is a LOT of wishes!  The money is donated to charity. Nice.  (And now my son knows exactly what to do the next time he encounters a wishing well.)

fish pastels

We’re still drawing – we decided that Monday nights should be “official drawing with pastels nights”, and we are still being inspired by the “20 ways to Draw a Jellyfish” book. Basically, my son selects the color, I hold the pastel and then he grasps my wrist and guides my hand.  The activity has my son’s full focus, it feels quite therapeutic, and we are getting a bit of hand-eye coordination going on.  Drawing the sea-life inspired us to listen to the very short “The Aquarium” by Camille Saint-Saens (composed in 1886) (and BTW, used during the prologue of the “Beauty and the Beast” movie).

Farmer Brown’s story problem – Back to wishing wells! Did you know that there is a wishing well on Farmer Brown’s ranch? Inspired by the Disney corporation, once a year Farmer Brown cleans out of the bottom of the well and donates all of the coins to the local elementary school music program, to help purchase instruments.  This year, Farmer Brown recovered 185 quarters, 100 dimes, 220 nickels, and 236 pennies.  How much was Farmer Brown able to give to the school?  If the cost of a decent recorder instrument is $8.00, how many recorders can the school purchase with Farmer Brown’s gracious donation?

recorder horizontal

What’s a recorder?  My son didn’t know.  So we learned that the slender wooden instrument (sort of like a VERY simplified clarinet) (sort of), was quite popular during the Renaissance. (No present day Renaissance faire aiming for authenticity should be without wandering musicians playing recorders.) AND here comes an interesting related factoid: when King Henry VIII died in 1547, seventy-three recorders were found among his possessions. He was obviously quite a collector of many things (we briefly discussed his many wives).  But back to the recorder – it is now an instrument of choice for children’s musical programs (probably due to the fact that a recorder of adequate quality can be made of plastic, so is economically feasible).

Music of the recorder – this music is so much better than we were expecting!!!  We want to try to play a recorder – we’ve already ordered one from Amazon.

  • Sopranino Recorder Concerto in C major, movement 1 – composed by Antonio Vivaldi in 1728. Lively!

  • Ode to Joy, from the final movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (1824) – Apparently “Ode to Joy” is a basic learning melody for the recorder, so we found a video that showcases a group of very serious young potential musicians.

  • Greensleeves – this old, old English folk tune was even mentioned in Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor” (1602), giving documented proof that this is indeed music of the Renaissance.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH