Julia Rothman

Things that go bump in the night

beebee raccoons

Our Easter Evening Event:  As our family gathered to reflect upon a lovely Easter day, tranquility was interrupted by sudden bumps and scraping sounds coming from the attic. A quick look revealed a mama raccoon tending sweet, sweet “kits” amid the attic insulation.  This propelled my son and me to begin a mini-study on raccoons.  We found out that they are native to North America, they are “omnivores”, and they are “nocturnal” (that is why we didn’t hear them moving around during the day).  A happy ending to the day:  new vocab words for my son, and mama and babies are now enjoying their new home in a safe wooded area of the local golf course.

We thought the phrase, “things that go bump in the night” perfectly described our Easter Evening Event.  We learned that the words come from an old Scottish prayer –

“From ghoulies and ghosties

And long-legged beasties

And things that go bump in the night,

Good Lord, deliver us!”

Zigzag Learning (where we let one topic lead us to another at lightning speed): Julia Rothman’s excellent book, “Nature Anatomy” started the learning chain this time. We were looking at her illustrations of butterflies, and we took particular notice of a “swallowtail” butterfly. My son needed to know why swallowtail butterflies were called swallowtail butterflies.

 swallowtail     swallows white background     capistrano swallows     swallowtail tux

  • So first, we looked at several photos of swallows. We saw how the birds’ pointy, forked feather tails could easily have inspired the animal naming committee to call butterflies with the tiny drip on the hindwings, “swallowtails”.
  • Then, we decided to read about the swallows of the San Juan Capistrano Mission (with a short-side trip to learn a bit about the California mission system). We found out that the swallows spend the winter in Argentina and the summer in southern California.
  • So now, we had to locate Argentina on the globe, and think about the iron-strong muscles in the birds’ wings, that allow them to fly the 6,000 miles.
  • Finally, we had to see how the swallows have had their way in fashion: we looked at men’s clothing from the Victorian era – the formal tailcoat, with “cutaway”, “swallowtail” or “morning coat” options.

That’s a lot of learning from one little butterfly.

Our music theme for last night – “Cuckoo for Music”. We considered the two-note cuckoo motif and then listened to three neat compositions:

  • “Organ Concerto No. 13 (The Cuckoo and the Nightingale)”, movement 2, by Handel (1740).  About one minute twenty seconds into the movement you can definitely make out the cuckoo motif.  This piece really moves right along. Classic Handel.  Fabulous pipe organ in this video!

  • “Symphony 6 (The Pastoral)”, movement 2, by Beethoven (1808). This is a long movement (around 13 minutes of happy, relaxing gorgeousness) (and this video clip has Leonard Bernstein conducting and one should NEVER miss an opportunity to watch Bernstein conduct).  The bird sounds aren’t evident until the final minute, but so worth the wait (or one could be the type of person that fast-forwards to the final minute) (your secret is safe with us, because maybe we have felt compelled to fast-forward upon occasion).

  • “The Birds”, movement 5 (The Cuckoo), by Respighi (1928). Here is what we like to do: count the number of times we hear the cuckoo motif. Try somewhere around 70 times, in the short span of 4 minutes.  This is an absolute jewel of a piece.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

Sap Happy

First,  a bit of “Old Business” – Yay!  I paid a visit to the Genius Bar at the Apple Store and my “blocked plug-ins” are now unblocked.  I have added two YouTube links to the previous post (“Wordery”).

new root cellar     new maple tap

From our farm unit: we have finished the terrific “Farm Anatomy” book (authored by Julia Rothman). From the final pages, we learned about root cellars and the making of maple syrup.

  • Root Cellars – I told my son about the root cellar at his great-grandparents’ Montana cabin. It was a chilly underground pantry with dirt floors and dirt walls that efficiently stored corn, green apples, and cabbage that my grandfather grew on his small farm. Then I reminded my son of the modified root cellar we had in our Idaho house (many years ago). This amounted to a narrow basement closet that had a dirt floor.  Whoopie.
  • Maple Syrup – We read about the process of making maple syrup.  After we discussed the deliciousness of maple syrup, here is what we thought about: (1) what kind of person, way back when, decided to taste sap coming out of a tree and then (2)  envisioned that with a bit of doctoring up, the sap would be just the thing to enhance pancakes?  We want to know this type of person.

 new syrup jarnew syrup jarnew syrup jarnew syrup jar

Our Farmer Brown story problem: who knew, that on top of everything else, Farmer Brown makes his own maple syrup?  We learned from “Farm Anatomy” that it takes nine gallons of sap to make one pint of syrup.  So, we looked at a gallon-sized container and a pint-sized container.  Question of the evening:  if Farmer Brown’s tapping buckets accumulate 450 gallons of sap, how many pints of maple syrup will he end up with?  If he saves 10 pints to give as gifts, and 10 pints for his own pancake consumption, how much money will he earn if he sells the remaining pints for $8.00 each?

 new pancake stack

Our “Le Fictitious Local Diner” story problem: On an average, the diner sells 300 pancake breakfasts each week (the photo above is, of course, the “teen-age boy in-your-dreams pancake plate”).  Each REGULAR order (3 pancakes) comes with a small pitcher containing ¼ pint of maple syrup.  How many pints of maple syrup does the diner go through each week?  If the purchase price for a pint is $5, how much will this cost the diner?  If syrup is purchased by the gallon ($25), how much will this cost the diner?

Our music theme last night:  DUETS!  (and the following 3 are so A+++!)

  • “The Flower Duet” from Lakme (1882), by Leo Delibes. This utterly beautiful and soothing duet deservedly ends up on every single “famous opera duet” list (raise your hand if you knew there existed such lists).  This enchanting melody has been used as background music for British Airways commercials.

  • Si Fino All’ore Estreme” from the opera, “Norma” (1831) by Vincenzo Bellini.  The recorded version we enjoy, by Marilyn Horne and Joan Sutherland, is high-energy perfection.  (I couldn’t find a good Horne/Sutherland link, but the music in this video is superb.)

  • Finally, who cannot LOVE, “People Will Say We’re In Love”, from “Oklahoma” (1943), by Rogers and Hammerstein?

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

Wordery

Webster_27s_Dictionary_advertisement_-_1888_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_13641

Words, words, words – this past week, new vocabulary words have been emerging willy-nilly.  We have clocked in a fair amount of time defining unfamiliar words, phrases, and concepts.  Thank you Wikipedia and Google Images!  Last night, I presented my son with a vocabulary matching quiz, to see if the words had been explained well enough. (YAY!  Big smiles here. Phew.)

  • From “The Young Reader’s Shakespeare: Hamlet” by Adam McKeown:  coronation, goblet, immortal, liege, parapet, specter, avenge, revenge, and vengeance
  • From “Flora and Ulysses” by Kate DiCamillo:  arch-nemesis, euphemism, treacle, and villain
  • From “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (translation by Katherine Woods):  baobab (a tree…real or imaginary?)
  • From our new novel, “The Way to Stay in Destiny” by Augusta Scattergood (a book BTW that we are LOVING), we had to do a bit of a side study on the illustrious Hank Aaron.
  • From Mozart’s “Overture to The Abduction from the Seraglio”: seraglio

baobab

Editor’s comments: there is such a thing as a baobab tree (it is VERY weird and ridiculously large, and we can see why the little prince worked diligently to make sure this tree didn’t take root on his little planet), and everyone should take a listen to the “Overture to the Abduction from the Seraglio” – five and a half entertaining minutes (we love the rambunctious cymbal smashing)!

“Overture to the Abduction from the Seraglio” – take a listen!

 mules turkey rooster combs

From our Farm Unit – last night we learned quite a bit about mules. During the course of the past few days we’ve learned about turkey breeds, the three reasons to breed goats (milk, meat, fiber), and we’ve learned about draft horses. This book (“Farm Anatomy” by Julia Rothman) is just dynamite.  There is something new and easy to understand every single night.

Best Farmer Brown story problem from the past week: Farmer Brown has been glad it has been raining, because his cows, sheep, and goats drink a LOT of water every day (we learned this from our “Farm Anatomy” book!). If each sheep needs one to four gallons of water daily and he has a herd of 60 sheep, what is the least amount of water they need during the course of a week?

Last night’s music theme: March’s Marches. Last year, during March, my son and I listened to a different march every night. In truth, the concept ran thin about day 18. Even accounting for the wide variety of marches (military, wedding, graduation, coronation, funeral), 31 marches are a lot of marches. Last night, I presented my son with our list from last year and he selected three to listen to:

  • “The Radetzky March”, by Johann Strauss, Sr., composed in 1848. Such an A+ march; we never get tired of hearing this.
  • “March of the Siamese Children”, from “The King and I” by Rogers and Hammerstein (1951): elegant, and we love listening for the low, reverberating gong tones.
  • “The Washington Post March”, written in 1889, by John Philip Sousa.  Interesting aside: it is said that when Sousa was 13, his father signed him up as an apprentice in the United States Marine Corps band, to keep him from joining a circus band (a parent’s gotta do what a parent’s gotta do).   The link below leads to a neat video, starring the US Marine Corps Band and a nice explanation of the piece by the band leader:

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

Farm Fresh

farm book   cupolas

We have a new “IT” book: “Farm Anatomy” by Julia Rothman, published in 2011. Many, many aspects of farm life are competently presented with brief text and skillful illustrations.  As per usual, we are studying only two pages at a time.   The past few nights we’ve learned about crop rotation, windbreaks, and barn design.  This book is a jewel!

We continue with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”:  Last night we read about Titania awakening (under a spell) and falling immediately and deeply in love with Nick Bottom (who at this point was sporting the donkey head).  LOVE THIS.  Meanwhile, a troop of actors is rehearsing their version of Ovid’s “Pyramus and Thisbe” for the Duke’s wedding, so we took a side trip to Wikipedia to see what “Pyramus and Thisbe” was really all about.  What a pleasure to slowly savor this complicated masterpiece.

 red pastel

We take time for art: we have been getting messy with pastels! We are using Prismacolor’s Nupastels.  Good for working on finger-motor control, fun to see what happens when one color crosses on top of another color.

Last night’s Farmer Brown Story Problem: “Farmers’ Friendly Mercantile”, the huge farm supply store in town, is having a 40%-Off-Everything-Sale AND Farmer Brown has a “15% off!” coupon for the FFM tucked in his wallet, so now is the perfect time to purchase heavy winter coats for his 8 farm hands.  If each jacket originally sells for $120, how much will Farmer Brown pay for the 8 coats (assuming both discounts will be honored), before tax is added?

chickens

Our music theme last night was “Melodies from the Chicken Coop”! We listened to:

  • Haydn’s Symphony No. 83 (1785), dubbed “The Hen” – many of Haydn’s symphonies ended up with nicknames usually due to some VERY SMALL rhythmic or melodic reference. In this case, “hen sounds” are found about a minute and a half into the first movement.  BTW, this performance by Camerata Bern (a Bern, Switzerland chamber orchestra that does not use a conductor) is outstanding.

  • “The Hen”, from “The Birds” (1928), a suite for small orchestra by Ottorino Respighi.  This short piece is wonderfully successful at transposing the sounds of chicken squawks and that jerky back-and-forth movement of the hen’s heads into music.  (Well, that was a long awkward sentence, but you get the idea?)

  • “Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little”, from “The Music Man” (1957) by Meredith Willson.  This song is a hen party set to music – the gossiping town ladies sound like clucking hens and the bobbing feathers on their large hats accentuate the impression.

  • “Chicken Reel” was originally composed by Joseph M. Daly in 1910. In 1946, LeRoy Anderson arranged “Chicken Reel” for full orchestra, and did he ever gild the lily! Hysterical perfection. Watch out! The inmates are running the asylum!

 Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH