France

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%

JUMBLE!

jumble 2

Jumble! – we have been playing our own version of the popular-since-1954 newspaper word game, “Jumble”.  I mix up the letters of a word, and my son unscrambles the letters. My son LOVES this challenge!  As opposed to this:  I thought my son might be interested in watching a plant grow from seed, so a few nights ago I brought up a packet of radish seeds to the STORIES AND STUDIES CENTER and was met with (in Victorian terms) “the cut direct”.  Well, bummer.  But at least I can tell when my son is engaged and when he is not.  And whether he likes it or not, we are going to be serving up home grown radishes in a few short weeks.

radish

Farmer Brown grows radishes (story problem) – (oh my, this one is so easy) It is rather late in the growing season, but Farmer Brown is laying in another crop of radishes – Le Fictitious Local Diner will buy all that he has to sell, and the radishes grow so fast.  If Farmer Brown plants 1,000 radish seeds and is able to harvest 800 radishes, what percentage of the seeds transformed into an edible (vocab) vegetable?  If rabbits ate half of the unharvested radishes, how many did they consume?  If the local diner garnishes every salad with two sliced-up radishes, how many radishes do they need for a PTA luncheon of 150 attendees and a bowling league dinner of 20 team members? (answers at bottom of post)

Cixi

“Cixi – Evil Empress of China?” – we are half-way through yet another book from the “A Wicked History” series.  These books NEVER disappoint.  So: China in the 1800s – we thought the book would be about inner-court intrigues or friction between royalty and peasants.  But no.  So far, the lead story is about the most preposterous foreign invasions. China had a centuries-long tradition of NOT welcoming foreign trade, so GET THIS – during the 1800s, Britain and France (I am sorry to say), using vastly superior military might, forced China to trade.  How upside-down is this?  My son and I seem to have this small discussion every night: does a country with any sense at all go to war to force a clearly reluctant other country to engage in COMMERCE?  Suffice it to say, we open this book every night hoping we will start to understand, and in the meantime learn more about Empress Cixi.  We are sort of hoping that her evilness doesn’t disappoint…tonight is promising – we will be reading a short essay that appears to infer that Cixi poisoned her enemies. Yikes!

greek quiz

Greek Mythology a la Ken Jennings – The fact is this: my son and I are still loving “Ken Jennings Junior Genius Guide to Greek Mythology”.  The fact is this:  the Greek mythology family tree is hilariously confusing.  There is a dizzying quantity gods, goddesses, muses, nymphs, and super-strength mortals.  Just to make sure my son had a grasp of the basics, I gave him two quizzes – one that matched Greek gods with Roman gods and a multiple choice quiz that covered mythology vocabulary.  I also gave the quizzes to my husband. They both did so well!  (And if you are looking closely at the photo above – my son selected correctly – researchers now say that Pandora had a JAR, not a BOX!)

“Penny from Heaven” – we’ve just finished this fun fiction read by Jennifer L. Holm.  As we found from another of her books, “The 14th Goldfish”, Holm excels in characterizing family dynamics – in this case we ended up wanting to be a part of the protagonist’s father’s extended Italian family.  For us, this was a captivating book with a handful of serious discussion topics.  Tonight we start on another Holm novel, “Turtle in Paradise”.

cake with sparkler

Bohemian Birthday – Classical music listening – Last Friday (September 8th) was the birthdate of composer Antonin Dvorak. So, after finding his birth country on our globe (Bohemia – now the Czech Republic), and a few basic arithmetic questions (Dvorak was born in 1841, how old would he be if he were still alive to celebrate this birthday?  Dvorak died in 1904, how long did he live?), we enjoyed three favorite recordings.

Sidebar notes –
1) For no particular reason at all, we selected Dvorak recordings conducted by international treasure Seiji Ozawa. (Not to be jerky, but it is hard not to take notice of Mr. Ozawa’s hair.)
2) Two of our selected compositions were recorded by the acclaimed Vienna Philharmonic – and if the music were just not SO great, we would have been preoccupied by trying to find women musicians in the orchestra.

Slavonic Dance No. 1 – composed in 1878, under full encouragement of Johannes Brahms.  We think if we were musicians we would like playing this sweetly rambunctious folk dance, and we would definitely like to be somewhere in the orchestra hall if only to gaze upon Ozawa’s CRAZY cartoon-style coiffure.  Nonetheless, superbly conducted:

Humoresque – It has been written that Dvorak’s “Humoresque” (referring to the seventh of his eight “Humoresques”, composed in 1894) is probably the most famous small piano work ever written (after Beethoven’s “Fur Elise”).  We first listened to this as it was written (for piano), and our thought was, “yeah, yeah, yeah – this sounds familiar – sort of boring”.  THEN we listened to to a recording of Seiji Ozawa conducting the Boston Orchestra, showcasing Itzhak Perlman and Yo Yo Ma: GAME CHANGER.  Who knew “Humoresque” was a heartbreaker???  This is proof of the power of a conductor’s vision:

“The Largo Movement” from Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World Symphony”, movement 2) – composed in 1892. Majestic loneliness. Ozawa’s hair under control:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers: 80%, 100 radishes, 340 radishes)

A Ghost by any Other Name

marley ghost

A Christmas Carol – oh, how we would have liked to listen to Charles Dickens read aloud from his “A Christmas Carol”.  To hear the delicious phrasing verbalized as he would have envisioned.  The wording is difficult, so I am often repeating sentences to get the rhythm and meaning – but so worth the extra time; we are loving the book’s message.  We are midway through, currently reading about Scrooge’s encounter with the “Ghost of Christmas Present” (a bit of a talk about the difference between “Christmas Present” and “Christmas presents”).  And we are making a running list of the many ways Dickens can say the word, “ghost”.  So far:  spirit, specter, apparition, supernatural medium, shadow, and phantom.


joan of arc

A new academic unit – we are learning about Joan of Arc, via another outstanding book by Diane Stanley.  To set the stage, Stanley has written a clear description of the Hundred Years’ War that took place between England and France (the war began in 1337, 75 years before Joan of Arc was born).  We are learning that Joan was complex young lady – pious, brave, charismatic, single-minded (let’s just say it: pushy).  As I am reading this to my son, I cannot help but wonder what today’s world would have thought about Joan of Arc (the voices? the visions?).

trophy

NTC Champion!  We held the “Name the Continent” finals last night!  Our globe is practically a permanent resident in the STORIES AND STUDIES CENTER (my son’s bed); whatever we are reading, if a country is mentioned, we find it on the globe.  So, last night, I made up a long list of countries and had my son match each country with its continent.  A+! What can I say?  He knows where everything is.  He’s the NTC Champ!

brussels sproutssweet potatoesgreen beans

Farmer Brown’s Thanksgiving food prep story problem – Farmer Brown has grown all of the vegetables that he is bringing to the family Thanksgiving gathering.  He is bringing his famous steamed Brussels sprouts sautéed in browned butter, his famous green beans with bacon and onion, and his famous sticky sweet potato casserole with candied lemon slices.  It takes Farmer Brown 45 minutes to prepare the sprouts for steaming, 1 hour and 15 minutes to trim the green beans, 25 minutes to prepare the bacon and onion, and 15 minutes to prepare the sweet potatoes for each casserole (for which there are 4).  The good news is that he has two assistants who work just as quickly as he does.  How long will it take the three of them to get the vegetables prepped?
france

Listening to Music – after a brief and sober discussion about the recent unthinkable evilness in Paris, we paid tribute to French heritage by listening to three reflective pieces written by French composers:

  • “The Swan” from “Carnival of the Animals” by Camille Saint-Saens. This was composed in 1887 for piano and cello. It is a soulful, pensive piece. This video showcases Yo-Yo Ma, so we are listening to the best.

  • The “Carillon” from “L’Arlesienne”, by Georges Bizet, composed in 1872. About one minute into the piece, the flute section takes over, and this is the part that tugs at our hearts – the sorrow, the regret, the wistfulness.  It is all there in the music.

  • “La Vie En Rose”, certainly the iconic Parisian melody, written and popularized by chanteuse (prettiest word of the month) Edith Piaf in 1945. Louis Armstrong made a well-loved recording of this, but we wanted to listen to the original voice (this is OLD film footage).

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

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