French

High Five!

dwarf-planets-121120b-02

FIVE?  Last night we were reading from “Information Graphics – Space”, and my son and I were startled to learn that there are 5 dwarf planets in our solar system.  FIVE????  Of course, we knew about Pluto, but 4 others?  Joining Pluto: Ceres (actually an asteroid, but so large that in 2006 it was designated a “dwarf planet”), Eris, Haumea, and Makemake.  We learned more about these cuties via a Wikipedia search.  And we want this poster!

Bullard book

Required Reading:  We have finished reading “Eugene Bullard, World’s First Black Fighter Pilot” by Larry Greenly, and it deserves another shout out.  Really! What this man (1895 – 1961) couldn’t do well.  He wasn’t just the first black fighter pilot (WWI), he was a prize-winning boxer, an excellent drummer, a night club owner, a spy for the French Underground…he spoke excellent French (once serving as an interpreter for Louis Armstrong when he toured France) and passable German.  Eugene Bullard was an American with a CAN DO attitude – who started from nothing and did everything. (This book also casts a wonderfully positive light on France.  Quite refreshing.)  This should be required reading, or at least an alternative choice for high schoolers struggling through “All Quiet on the Western Front”.   A definite HIGH FIVE in the inspirational/motivational reading catagory.

To honor those who served in THE GREAT WAR, we read “In Flanders Field” by John McCrae, twice. (and I wept) (couldn’t help it) (just think what my kids have had to put up with).

poppies

On the lighter side: Last week we started playing HANGMAN.  I am always looking for “normal” interactive games, and I think we have a hit with hangman.  It was fun, and my son quickly figured out the words I had chosen (rabbit, waffle, dentist, cattle); words selected because one comes upon some of their key letters rapidly, if one is simply selecting letters alphabetically (you do know how to play hangman, right?).  We’re playing again tonight.

Mid-Terms: Last Night my son took a multiple choice “mid-term” quiz and scored 100%!  (I had typed up questions that touched on topics we have covered since January – e.e. cummings, Punxsutawney Phil, the doldrums, Catherine the Great, rodents, the French Foreign Legion, and Cleopatra.)  Best of all, he demonstrated an understanding of how to take a multiple choice test – he no longer needs prompting to select the letter that goes with the correct answer. Yay!  We are making progress!

airplane

Farmer Brown story problem:  Farmer Brown had to travel out of state to attend a lecture on hay, and he traveled on a plane with recently refitted coach seats.  The seats were luxurious and really comfortable for everyone under 5’6” tall.  A large man himself, Farmer Brown noticed that 3/5 of the passengers were well over 5’6” tall.  If there are 180 seats in coach, how many people were desperate to reach their destination, de-sardine their bodies and stretch their legs? (answer under signature at end of this post)

empire state building               burj khalifa

High in the Sky:  we have just finished a study on enormously tall structures, and discussed whether we would be happy finding ourselves at the top of said tall buildings.  My top height is the Empire State Building.  My son indicated that he would be OK going to the top of that frighteningly half-mile-high Burj Khalifa in Dubai (which also boasts the world’s fastest elevator) (NOT A PLUS in my book).  Kudos to those who will go where my genetics cannot.

Beethoven

A High Five to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, who recently hosted a FREE performance for kids with autism.  The auditorium was filled!  Music Director Jaap van Zweden conducted Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in C Minor – what a PERFECT choice –  short, grand, majestic, deep (but uncomplicated) and polished from beginning to end.  What a gift.  My son and I decided that we needed to listen to Beethoven’s Fifth again.  For added interest, I selected a different conductor for each of the movements.

Beethoven’s Fifth – movement 1, Leonard Bernstein conducting the Vienna Philharmonic (so, in other words, awesome):

Beethoven’s Fifth – movement 2, Jose Luis Gutierrez conducting the Carlos Chavez Youth Orchestra (good job for a youth orchestra, but excellent job for such a youthful conductor, I swear he looks 18):

Beethoven’s Fifth – movement 3 and 4 (difficult to find these filmed separately because the 4th movement commences without a pause from the conclusion of movement 3), this features conductor Paavo Jarvi conducting the Deutch Kammerphilharmonie Bremen:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(Farmer Brown story problem answer: 108)

Going Nowhere Fast

Last week I replaced my 2009 laptop (and really, it was the oldest and slowest thing in the Apple store that day) and I have apparently entered glitch city.  We’ll just see how this post progresses. (*&#$$%!!*)

doldrums

Going Nowhere Fast – our science concept of the week: THE DOLDRUMS.  We located these “no wind” areas on our globe, and imagined being stuck in a sailboat for weeks, praying for any sort of breeze.  We also learned the colloquial (vocab) meaning of “the doldrums”.

Switcheroo – My son and I took a hard look at the books we were reading for pleasure and we didn’t like what we saw: books that were were taking way too long to get to the plot.  We decided to bail, and try some new books. We are pretty happy with our new choices (both about boys going to school in Great Britain):

ribblestrop

    – “Ribblestrop”, by Andy Mulligan.  So far we find this book to be quite imaginative, humorous AND it moves right along.  We like it!
     – “The Brilliant World of Tom Gates”, by L. Pichon. Presented as if written by a chronic doodler, this is fun to read (along the lines of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”) and fun to look at.

Catherine the Great – of the “A Wicked History” series IS great! (Every book we have read in this series has our full attention – so well organized, well written, with a wealth of very interesting information. “Wicked History” books so trump traditional text books.)  But back to Catherine – hey, she had her good points (like being insistent about bringing Russia up to modern scientific standards) and she had her bad points (she was the classic power-hungry politician), and she really did have to depose her husband.  He was just awful for Russia.  This is good reading!

french snail

Story Problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – To bring attention to new French items on the menu (French Toast, French Fries with Béarnaise Sauce (vocab concept), and French Onion Soup), the diner is sponsoring an “Escargot (vocab) Race”.  The race track will be set up on a card table and the winning snail will have to travel 5 inches from start to the finish line.  Anyone showing up will be given a complimentary beret (vocab), and those showing up with a snail are automatically entered in the race which is sure to be a white-knuckler. First prize is a $50 diner gift certificate.  If 60 people show up and each beret costs $3, how much will the diner spend on berets? If two-thirds of the people that show up pay $5 for a cup of onion soup, how much will the diner gross from the soup sales? How much will the diner net, after the cost of the berets and the first prize certificate are deducted?

ranking

Order! Order! – My son is learning how to rank things, like “which composer lived first”, or “which state did we live in first, second, third, fourth, and fifth”…I would like my son to be able to rank preferences  (“which food do you like the best, next best, next best, worst”, “which color should we paint your room: first choice, second choice, third choice”). This is not the first time we have worked on ranking, but we are having a bit more success this go around. Yay!

doldrums map

Music for the Doldrums – maritime music that could move us out of the doldrums:
     – “Sea Songs”, composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1923, fully orchestrated in 1942.  This is an invigorating 4-minute arrangement of 3 British sea songs:

     – “We Sail the Ocean Blue”, from “H.M.S. Pinafore” by Gilbert and Sullivan (1878).  This jaunty (vocab) (a LOT of Gilbert and Sullivan music can be described as “jaunty”) (but we like “jaunty”) video is adorable:

     – “Sailing By”, composed by Ronald Binge in 1963, this is the music that is broadcast by BBC Radio before the shipping reports.  It is a most relaxing slow waltz and could prove helpful for lowering the blood pressure of those who have hit the high anxiety level while stuck in the doldrums.

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