December

December Template

December Staples –

If it is December we are smiling our way through Mary Nash’s “Mrs. Coverlet’s Magicians”.  What about this book makes us eager to read it for the 15th time?

funny ✓  original plot   champions self-reliance   holiday spirit  ✓

Or we might be enjoying “The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus”, by Julie Lane.  This is our third time through this old fashioned December read. The author has skillfully woven plausible reasons for Santa’s sled, Christmas stockings, Santa’s red suit, etc into the story. 

The best book we’ve read in 2020 – Katherine Applegate’s award-winning “Home of the Brave”:  Kek, a refugee (we discussed differences between immigrant and refugee) from The Sudan (found it on globe, briefly read of its inner turmoil/armed conflict and despaired) has a new home with his aunt and cousin in America.  Every word in this book has been so carefully selected; it is easy to read, calmly poetic, heart-wrenchingly deep, and even funny.  It is about kindness and appreciation.  I was pretty much choked up by the end of every single short chapter.  This is a book that makes us be better people. 

Walruses for the win – We have just finished a unit on pinnipeds (fin footed), using “Scary Creatures:  Pinnipeds” by John Malam as a resource.  We now have the basics on seals, sea lions, and walruses, but seriously, there wasn’t too much that was tremendously interesting except this:

Guess how many clams an adult male walrus can eat at one meal?  6,000.  As in SIX THOUSAND.  How is it that there are any clams left?  My son and I decided that from now on when we see somebody gobbling up way more than their share we are not going to refer to them as a pig or hog, but rather as a walrus.

“American Trailblazers” by Lisa Trusiani – This book presents compelling introductions to 50 Americans who have shaped US history.  Some, my son was familiar with –  Example:  Paul Robeson.  My son loves Robeson’s recording of “Old Man River” from the musical “Showboat”, but we had no idea that Robeson was majorly intellectually gifted with a first-rate education (Rutgers University valedictorian in 1919, Columbia Law School graduate in 1923).

Some were new names to my son – Example:  Alexander Calder.  We learned that Sandy Calder (of the fabulous ultra modern mobiles) came from a line of professional sculptors.  His grandfather, Alexander Milne Calder constructed the bronze statue of William Penn that stands atop the Philadelphia City Hall.  His father,  Alexander Stirling Calder created a sculpture of George Washington that is part of the Washington Square Arch in New York City.  We had to see photos:

Story Problem Time – Jingling all the way at the Local Diner – Somebody, probably the diner cashier, Miss Fran, decided it would add a lot of holiday cheer if 5 large jingle bells were attached to every chair in the diner.  Chairs pushed in, chairs pulled out:  jingle, jingle, jingle.  

  • If there are usually 32 chairs in the diner, but due to the pandemic, 3/4 of the chairs had to be placed into storage, how many chairs would be adorned with bells?
  • If each bell costs 50 cents, how much would it cost to jingle up the chairs remaining in the diner? (answers at bottom of post)

December Listening – Handbell Choirs! What says HOLIDAYS ARE IN THE AIR more than the ting ting tinging of a handbell choir? –

First, a very cute performance of “Up on the Housetop” by the Raleigh Ringers –  

Next, LeRoy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” – a perfect match with a handbell choir (all that jingling), and the usual shenanigans provided by the Raleigh Ringers – 

And finally, “Patapan” – a superb performance by the Hong Kong Youth Handbell Ensemble.  Adorable ending –  

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers:  8 chairs, $20)

 

Answers for Everything

8 ball white

Are we having fun yet?  Signs point to yes.  My son received a Magic 8-Ball for his birthday and he seems fascinated by the idea of receiving answers (to goofy questions) from the black ball.  Well, CHEERS!  I am always looking for opportunities to expand my son’s game/toy experiences.  The first hurdle (and it is a HUGE hurdle) is to find a toy that intrigues him.  Did we hit the jackpot with the Magic 8-Ball?  You may rely on it!  GREAT GIFT!

Non-Fiction – we are continuing to learn from the books “Maps” (yay), “Human Body”(yay), and “Genghis Kahn” (battle/skirmish/double-cross/repeat) (will this book never end?).

rules of road book

Fiction – we are enjoying “Rules of the Road” (winner of the L.A. Times Book Prize) by Joan Bauer.  This appealing book skillfully balances difficult concepts (alcoholism, Alzheimer’s) with the inherent hilarity of the shoe business and a new drivers license. I knew we were going to like this book, because years ago I read and loved “Hope was Here” (HKH are you reading this????), also by Joan Bauer.

pies in oven

Le Fictitious Local Diner’s story problem!  The diner is sponsoring a community “pie bake” and has set aside one afternoon in November for anyone (meaning high school students who need more volunteer hours for their graduation requirement) to come assemble pumpkin, apple, and pecan pies.  The diner will bake the pies and deliver them to the senior citizen center for their Thanksgiving dinner.  The diner’s plan is to make 20 pies of each type.  Here are the cost breakdowns:

pie tins: $0.50 each, pie crusts: $0.25 each, apple filling: $3.00 each, pumpkin filling: $3.00 each, pecan filling: $6.00 each. The diner’s tax lady needs the total costs for the 60 pies.

cowboy painting

Last night’s music program took its inspiration from a poster on my son’s wall:  Frederic Remington’s gorgeous, touching, lonely, “The Fall of the Cowboy”, painted in 1895.   This painting is on display at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, so we are lucky to have seen it “in person” several times.

  • First, to set the mood, we listened to George Winston’s gorgeous, touching, lonely piano solo, “Thanksgiving”, from his “December” album, released in 1982.

  • My son and I decided that after a long, cold day, the cowboys would want to head off to the local barn dance.  We like this video of two fiddle players expertly playing Aaron Copland’s “Hoe-Down” from his ballet, Rodeo (which premiered in 1942).

  • And finally, a little comfort music for the weary cowboys:  John Denver’s “Back Home Again”, released in 1974.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH