Jim Thorpe

The Last Dog’s Tail

dog tail

– Our final post for 2017 –

Ben best of blog 2017

– Here is what my son and I learned a LOT about in 2017 –
Africa – bees – Buffalo Bill – Canada – Cixi – crime science – grammar – Greek mythology – Jim Thorpe – maps – Native North Americans – Roy Lichtenstein – Royal Canadian Mounted Police – salients – South America – the Loch Ness Monster – the NATO phonetic alphabet – whale fall

My son’s favorite topic?  WHALE FALL, from the July 21st post, “Whale Fall and other Water Wonders

– Our most memorable story problem themes for 2017 –
an outdoor deck renovation – box lunches – Canadian geese – cider – doilies at the diner – donating books – donuts – frying pans – live music at the diner – macaroni – nail polish – painting Farmer Brown’s roadside stand – radishes – the diner’s summer give-away – work gloves

My son’s favorite story problem?  FARMER BROWN AND THE CANADIAN GEESE, from the April 24th post, “Looking North

– Our coolest music themes for 2017 –
circus classics – Dvorak’s birthday – minuets – music for the Narcisse Snake Pits – rootin’ tootin’ music – suite music – the Brandenburg Concertos – the crescendo – the fugue and canon controversy – the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra – the saxophone – the snare drum – the tango

My son’s favorite music theme?  MUSIC FOR THE NARCISSE SNAKE PITS, from the April 24th post, “Looking North”.  I have to agree, the music selections for the Narcisse Snake Pits, are hilarious.  A definite favorite theme for me.

christmas tree

So that brings us to December (so difficult to post a blog when one is a mom in charge of Christmas) – our engineering unit!

engineering books

Seriously, I can’t believe that we are loving three books ABOUT ENGINEERING!  But, now it is sort of like, if we cannot be an engineer (thanx to our DNA), at least we can be thrilled and inspired by the awesome achievements of engineers.

– “The Erie Canal” – oh my gosh, this resource by Martha E. Kendall is SUPERB.
– “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” – authors William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer have captivated our hearts.
– “Engineered! Engineering Design at Work” – by Shannon Hunt and James Gulliver Hancock – we’ve just started this. So far, “YAY!”.

grimms book

And a classical music theme focus for December – Fairy Tales:

– “The Sleeping Beauty Waltz”, from The Sleeping Beauty Ballet (1889) by Tchaikovsky, played by the Russian State Symphony Orchestra, featuring the largest bass drum I have ever seen.  Just a perfect performance.

-“Cinderella’s Waltz”, from the Cinderella Ballet (1944) by Sergei Prokofiev – with a darkness and edge so typical of Prokofiev.  The Dutch National Ballet brings a superbly choreographed performance, full of bounce and humor (bounce and humor marrying well with the Prokofiev music?  YES!).

– “The Children’s Prayer” (or Evening Prayer), from the Hansel and Gretel opera (1892), by Engelbert Humperdinck (not the pop star from the 1970’s).  Very soothing, somber, hopeful.  Beautifully played by Leipzig’s very famous Gewandhausorchester, conducted by a very thoughtful, if not super confident, Bobby McFerrin.  Interesting note:  the idea AND libretto (vocab) for this opera came from the composer’s sister, Adelheid Wette. YOU GO GIRL!

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
P.S. Most of my blog writing has been done at my local Starbucks, where they start preparing my “grande peppermint hot chocolate made with soy no whip” as I walk through their door.  Thank you Starbucks!  Au revoir Starbucks!  Beginning in just a few days (January 2018) I get to work in a real office.  It is teeny, but it has a window and I am très excited!


Curses and Cheers


Curses!  January is Texas Cedar Pollen season.  I am sneezing all over the place, much to my son’s displeasure.  He really hates it when anybody sneezes.  Last night we began our STORIES AND STUDIES hour by learning about Juniperus ashei, the super hardy drought-resistant scourge that produces the dreaded pollen (so the culprit is a juniper NOT a cedar) (classic).  AND we read about why people sneeze and why sometimes people sneeze three times in a row (mildly interesting at best, but there is the grossness factor, so that is something).


And so begins our Native American unit –  my son and I are more aware citizens for having read “Jim Thorpe – Original All American” by Joseph Bruchac.  We ended up overwhelmed by Mr. Thorpe’s athleticism and versatility – what a regret that there were no movie cameras used to record this best of the best in football, baseball and track.  This book is as much about Jim Thorpe as it is about Pop Warner, his (law-unto-himself) coach at the Carlyle Indian Industrial School.  YES, THE Pop Warner.  The author presents in an organized, well-researched, and dignified manner the unnecessary debacle that was the Olympic scandal involving Jim Thorpe’s supposed “non-amateur” status.  The author also gives us something else to puzzle over:  as Jim Thorpe represented the USA in the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, bringing home gold in both pentathlon and decathlon, he was not considered to be an American citizen!  It wasn’t until 12 years later, with the passing of the Indian Citizenship Act in 1924, that Native Americans were considered citizens.
If there were ever a “Native American History MONTH”, instead of the embarrassingly paltry “Native American Heritage DAY” (so passed by congressional legislation in 2009) (get this, it is on “Black Friday”) (FOR SHAME) this book belongs on the required reading list.


Well!  After getting all heated up we needed to cool down with a Farmer Brown story problem – “Warm Hands for Farm Hands”– a “compute-this-without-paper-and-pencil” question:
Every January, Farmer Brown purchases new winter work gloves for the 8 farm hands.  He purchases two pair for each man – one pair of extreme-weather gloves at a cost of $35 each and one pair of warm gloves that offer touch screen capability (so they can use their cell phones without taking their gloves off), at a cost of $20 each.  If the cost includes tax, what is the total Farmer will spend to reglove his workers?
A) $280    B) $800    C) $160    D) $440 (answer at bottom of post)


We can’t get enough of Tom Gates!  My son received two more “Tom Gates” books (a series of consistently captivating books from the UK) for Christmas and we were so happy to start reading “Tom Gates – Yes! No (Maybe)” because Tom Gates IS A RIOT.  Here is the type of thing that has us laughing: 1) his grandmother’s latest terrible food offering: wood flavored “crisps”, 2) his neighbor’s dad was formerly in a rock band called, “PLASTIC CUP”.   Tom Gates books manage to be so funny while developing realistic, complicated predicaments that avoid “man’s inhumanity to man” and “coming of age” themes.  They are perfect for my son, and I just love getting to be the person who gets to read them out loud.  Cheers to author Liz Pichon!


Cheers for the completely awesome Orpheus Chamber Orchestra!  My son and I wanted to learn about the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra (formed in 1972, based in New York City, comprised of outstanding musical professionals – university professors/members of upper echelon symphonic orchestras) because this outstanding 30-member orchestra uses NO conductor –  they listen closely to each other, and decisions are made by democratic process.  Apparently they make this formula work because in 2007, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra won a worldwide award for  “Most Democratic Workplace”.  We wanted to watch and listen!

About Orpheus – a three minute introduction, well done:

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra plays from Rossini’s “La Cambiale de Matrimonio” (The Marriage Contract), Giocchiono Rossini’s first opera – composed in 1810, when he was 18!  About a minute and a half into this performance you can see the whole orchestra – playing away sans (vocab) a conductor – the overall look is a bit disorienting, but inspiring:

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra playing Maurice Ravel’sLe Tombeau de Couperin” (composed in 1919) – played at a very fast clip, just the way we like it:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer: D: $440)