Ken Jennings

Meanwhile…

city book

Around the world in perhaps 150 days – my son and I are working our way through Lonely Planet’s “The Cities Book” (thoughtful Christmas gift from sister –  Lonely Planet books are so A+).  There is a two page spread for each of the 200 cities showcased , and we are managing one or two destinations per evening.  Ten categories define each city, but alas, most are of little interest to my son, so here is how we are using this book:
1- we find the city on the globe.  I am dismayed to report that there are several cities of significant population that I have previously never heard of, like Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (5 million) or Lahore, Pakistan (almost 9 million).  For shame!  So I learn along with my son and I just keep appreciating the opportunity.

globe

2- we find out how old the city is.  (eye-opener)
3- we read about the location’s “weaknesses” (beastly hot/spotty electricity/toxic smog levels)(always worth a side conversation).
4- we read about the city’s exports.  If the city produces enough of something to supply the city residents and the product is good enough to export, like coffee, oil, silks, and Siamese cats (!!!), we want to know about it.
And lastly, I should mention this book is quite large and weighs a lot.  I let my son guess how much it weighed.  He guessed 10 pounds, my husband guessed 2 pounds, I guessed 40 pounds (and ta-da! the book weighed in at 7.5 pounds on the cooking scale).  “The Cities Book” can be our new go-to device for pressing flowers or flattening out a curled document.

president book

Meanwhile, back in the USA – we are pretty much loving every page of Ken Jennings’ “Junior Genius Guide to U.S. Presidents”.  Frankly, we are planning on reading everything this super clever author publishes (we have read “Maphead” and his “Junior Genius Guide to Greek Mythology”).  We like to know quirky info like:
– James K. Polk accomplished all of his campaign goals in his first term!  Commendable, but at what cost?  (He quit after one term and died three months later.)  Jennings suggests that Polk’s time was spent “working, not having fun, working more”.  (It would be so interesting to get a glimpse of the family dynamics of his childhood.) (It looks like mirth and relaxation were not encouraged.)
– James Garfield came from the most economically deprived upbringing. He was 19 before he ever heard a piano!  He was 23 before he tasted a banana!
– Woodrow Wilson was the only president (so far) to earn a PhD.

herbs

Meanwhile, back at the ranch – Farmer Brown has all the seed catalogs out, anticipating planting a large herb garden once the winter frosts have passed.  He wants to purchase 40 heirloom seed packets at $4 per packet from the “It’s About Thyme” company and 25 seed packets at $5 each from the “To Bee or Not To Bee Heirloom Seed Company”.  If Farmer Brown budgeted $250 for his herb garden, will he have enough money buy all the seed packets? (answer at bottom of post)

NY Phil

Well, listen to this!   I have recently enlisted the assistance of personal trainer “Brute” (not his real name – smirk).  Brute promised that I could work out to my choice of music.  Yay!  So I said, “classical” and was met with the most puzzled expression.  (Seriously?)  To make it simple, I said I would be happy to listen to any recordings by the New York Philharmonic, to which Brute responded, “Hmmm, I have never heard of that band.”. (Seriously?) AAAAAAACK.  See? This is what happens when school systems are forced to cut funding from the music curriculum.  My son selected three pieces that he decided even a new classical music listener could love, and I found a recording of each by the New York Philharmonic:

  • “Mars”, from “The Planets” by Gustav Holst, composed around 1916.  The standard by which all scary aggressive music must be judged:

  • “The Radetzky March” , composed by Johann Strauss, Sr, in 1848, commissioned to commemorate Field Marshal Joseph Radetzky von Radetz’s victory at the Battle of Custoza (Oh yeah, the Battle of Custoza)(?????).  This is just the dandiest of marches, maybe THE BEST MARCH EVER:

  • “Masquerade”, a waltz composed  in 1941 by Aram Khachaturian (as incidental music for a play of the same name).  Delicious, dark, depraved.  Yikes, it is all here:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer: NO)

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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 good, good, good day

Good!  Blog posting is back!  The STORIES AND STUDIES classroom is always in full swing every night, but there has been no time to post since “Whale Fall and other Water Wonders” – all extraneous brain power has been directed toward our mid-August family wedding.  The glam couple was surrounded by the best of aunts, uncles, cousins, Godparents, grandmothers, parents, siblings, sorority sisters and fraternity brothers, and it was a good, good, good day.

New Biertuempfels

But I digress. Back to STORIES AND STUDIES –

Dealing with the bad guys – My son and I are glued to “Crime Science – how investigators use science to track down the bad guys” by Vivien Bowers.  Who wouldn’t want to know about such things as COUNTERFEITING?  My son was ultra-focused while we read about eight ways to determine if a dollar bill is counterfeit (vocab).  We examined our own crisp bills as we read through the list.  And then we learned about FORGERY (vocab)!  Last night, fingerprinting.  Oh, we do like this type of book – new vocab (like victim, suspect, evidence) and conversation provokers on every single page.

crime book etc

Those Greek Gods:  SO good! SO bad! – my son and I loved Ken Jennings’ book, “Maphead”, so we welcomed “Ken Jennings Junior Genius Guide to Greek Mythology”.  We have sampled other books on Greek mythology, but the information did not stick – I think the Jennings book may be a winner for us.  It is cleverly assembled like a school composition book: instead of chapters, the book is divided into classroom periods, and the illustrations? student doodles.  Last night we started through the “Greek Gods Trading Cards” section, learning the super-strengths, talents, skills AND trickery, treachery, deviousness and go-sit-in-the-corner badness of Zeus, Hera, and Poseidon (tonight:  Hades, Demeter, Hestia, and Aphrodite are on deck).

Such a good book – may we again recommend “The Extreme Life of the Sea” by Palumbi and Palumbi.  Wow.  The final summation gave us so much to think about – “In the long run, the oceans do not need saving – PEOPLE need saving.”.  The point: over the course of a thousand years, the oceans will adapt and take care of themselves, but people will suffer significantly if the oceans aren’t thoughtfully tended NOW.  This book has been placed in our Sunday night reference section (selected readings to make us think about being grateful and caring citizens of the world).

nail polish

Story problem of the week: Farmer Brown’s daughter gets married!  Farmer Brown is letting the bride and her bridesmaids use a sweet cottage on his property to get ready for the wedding ceremony.  The bride has 6 bridesmaids and one maid of honor.  If all young women are getting a manicure (vocab) and pedicure (vocab) the morning of the wedding, how many nails will be polished?   A) 60    B) 80    C) 120    D) 160
If one bottle of polish will adequately paint 50 nails, how many bottles of nail polish should be available?  OH FOR HEAVENS SAKES!  LET COMMON SENSE PREVAIL!  They don’t have all day – each young woman needs her own bottle!   A) 1 bottle    B) 4 bottles    C) 8 bottles    D) 12 bottles (story problem answers at bottom of post)

lovebirds

Our music listening last night – thinking about sister’s wedding –

  • The Prince of Denmark’s March” composed by Jeremiah Clarke around 1700. This classic wedding ceremony processional (vocab), is often referred to as “Trumpet Voluntary” and in the past, was incorrectly attributed to popular baroque composer Henry Purcell.  Jeremiah Clarke was the church organist for St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, so this piece was written for keyboard, but my son and I love this recording by trumpet virtuoso Wynton Marsalis:

  • Wedding Day at Troldhaugen” by Edvard Grieg, composed in1896, to celebrate his 25th wedding anniversary with his beloved wife, Nina.  (Troldhaugen, meaning “troll hill”, was the name of their home.)  We love this dear piece – two lively country dance sections bookend a somber, reflective, heartbreaking passage:

  • Wedding March from A Midsummer Night’s Dream” written by Felix Mendelssohn in 1842, to accompany Shakespeare’s play. Certainly the grandest of wedding recessionals (vocab), first performed at a real wedding in 1847:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers:  D) 160,   C) 8 bottles)

We are too cool for school!

Our support system is 2 COOL 4 SCHOOL!

(They are trying to come across as cool, but are having difficulty holding back the grins.)

It is time to acknowledge our extreme support system (a great dad, a great sister, a great brother, a great grandmother AKA “The Peach”, and a great treasured family friend), AND to celebrate my 100th post on this blog site!  To mark the occasion, I am going to pretend that one of my skeptical relatives (certainly NOT one of the above) is grilling me about “Jane’s Cool School”:

1) Do you really do this study thing EVERY night? Yes!
     –  If my son didn’t like what we are doing, he would firmly escort me out of the room, and that would be the end of that.
     –  My son’s daytime regimented agenda keeps him content and occupied, but offers no intellectual growth.  I am not sure I could be okay with this.  I want him to have an opportunity for intellectual growth EVERY DAY.

2) Have you and your son read every book, listened to every piece of music, and worked through every story problem that has been posted in the blog?  YES!

3) The story problems are a riot. Where do you get them?  You are too kind.  I create them myself – usually based upon something I am currently dealing with at home.

4) You seem to flit from topic to topic. How can your son master anything this way?  Good question!  I am not going for mastery, I am going for awareness.

5) You don’t spend much time writing about your son’s autism, treatment, or behaviors.  Good observation!  It is a good thing that there are many websites and blogs dedicated to autism behaviors, treatment, and research.  I write about what we are doing to make a happy experience out of trying circumstances.

6) What has been the biggest surprise revealed in your nightly study time?   It has been surprising – nay, alarming – to see that ever so much of what I learned in school is incorrect, incomplete, or WAY out-of-date (for starters, think solar system).  

7) Do you think that parents of special needs children should run a program like yours?  Only if they love it – otherwise it would be difficult to keep this up night after night.

8) Regarding fiction selections, I notice that you avoid “coming of age” books. Why?  A lot of “coming of age” issues involve themes of “man’s inhumanity toward man”.  I think my son has enough to deal with without finding out that there is a significant percentage of people who are mean.

9) Do you like reading out loud? I LOVE IT!  It is not so much the act of reading out loud that I like, it is the joy of sharing a learning experience together. 

10) How long does it take you to write a blog post from start to finish?  Three afternoons, at a minimum.

11) Do you get feedback? Yes!  The story problems and the classical music selections get the most reaction.  ALSO, I have heard from a few authors of books that I have written about – HUGE THRILL!

12) So, why are you doing this blog?  This blog is a scrapbook for my son; something to document our study time together.  Every so often I look over the list of topics we’ve tackled, and it cheers me to acknowledge I am doing something worthy with my time.

13) What are you and your son are learning from this week?
          – “The Extreme Life of the Sea” by Stephen R. Palumbi (A+)
          – “Maphead” by Ken Jennings (A+)
          – “The Not Just Anybody Family” by Betsy Byars (A+)
          – we have been listening to recordings of harpsichord virtuoso, Trevor Pinnock (A+)

Well, here we are – my son and I – 2 Cool 4 School!

     

Welcome to the best part of my day! Happy 100th Posting from “Jane’s Cool School”!
– Jane BH

Foxtrot – Uniform – November!

Heh!  This week my son and I are having F-U-N with the “The International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet” also known as the “NATO Phonetic Alphabet”.  We listed letters that could be confused over radio waves or telephone (B, C, D, E, G, P, T, V, Z – or how about F and S?) and understood how the phonetic alphabet could be a life-saver.  I have been presenting my son with short words like “Delta-Alpha-Delta” and “Sierra-Mike-India-Lima-Echo” and he is deciphering.  Fully engaged, BTW.  We are also continuing with our hangman games; both sneaky ways to work in handwriting practice.

Every Paragraph Fascinates – Wow. We are loving our book stack this week:

mounted police books

  • We have just finished the absolutely inspiring “Royal Canadian Mounted Police”, by Richard L. Neuberger. True story after true story electrifying us with whatsoever things that are upright, brave, dependable, reasonable, and heroic.  As was written about the RCMP in a Montana newspaper in 1877, “…what a comfort to the law abiding citizen.”  We concluded this study with a quiz to reinforce what we had been reading about.

RCMP quiz larger

  • “Maphead”, by Ken Jennings – A+A+A+!  This book is so well organized, the research and personal observations are first rate, and the author certainly takes us places we have never thought to go – like the Library of Congress map collection and the map sale at the Royal Geographic Society.  Last night we read about some unscrupulous (vocab) map dealers who replenished their stock by cutting maps out of library books! (We followed this reading with a discussion of the 10 Commandments).
  • Fiction – “Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen”, by Donna Gephart – we finished this book last night.  Excellent from start to finish – the author writes about a young teen’s determination to get onto Kids Week on Jeopardy, deal with divorce in the family, and come to terms with the estranged father’s gambling issues.
  • Fiction – We have started, “The Not Just Anybody Family”, by Betsy Byars, and OH MY this book is a riot! This book hooked us from page 1.

wedding banquet

Story Problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – The diner is gussying up their back deck (that overlooks a duck pond), so it can be used for summertime banquets, like graduation parties and wedding rehearsal dinners.  They are adding a sound system ($1,000), 3 long tables (at $200 each),  20 strands of lights (at $20 per strand), and 10 potted small trees (at $50 per tree).
– If the diner has budgeted $3,000 for the renovation, is this enough money?
– If the diner makes a profit of approximately $500 with each banquet and has already booked 15 parties for the summer, will it recoup (vocab) the money spent on renovations?
(answers at bottom of post)

100 clouds

Wait for it – Wait for it – Wait for it – the next post will be my 100th post! Instead of a round up of what my son and I have been learning, this post will be a bit more personal than usual, in a Q&A format.

It’s Cliburn Piano Competition season in Fort Worth!  My husband and I attended a quarter finals session last night, so I was inspired to share some of our Van Cliburn recordings with my son when I got home.

cliburn time mag

– from the May 19, 1958 issue –

 We listened to:

  • “Winter Wind”, otherwise unmemorably known as “Etude in A minor”, composed by Frederic Chopin in 1836. Played by Van Cliburn, this piece sends chills down our spines:

  • “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini”, composed by Sergei Rachmaninoff in 1934.  I first heard this in the 1980’s movie, “Somewhere in Time” and was so enraptured with the music that I spent a LOT of time, pre-internet, trying to figure out what it was, who wrote it, and where I could get it. (BTW, there are 24 variations of this theme in the composition, Variation 18 – from minute 15:40 to 18:30 – is so utterly romantic):

  • Tchaikovsky’s “Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat major”.  This is one of the final pieces that Van Cliburn played to win the 1958 International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow!  The opening notes of movement 1 are so recognizable and so powerful.  This video was filmed when Cliburn made return visit to Moscow, in 1960:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers: yes and yes)

Dial “M” for –

Dial “M” for the Mounties – My son and I have been augmenting our study of Canada by learning about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  We are going back and forth between Richard L. Neuberger’s book of 1953, “Royal Canadian Mounted Police” and the current RCMP website.  There have been so many HR-type changes since 1953 (personnel numbers, duties, salaries, women in service, etc.) but the Mounties still stand for “Upholding the Right”.  We are fans.
– We cannot ignore the obvious: my son and I love the spiffy scarlet jacketed outfits of the RCMP.  These certainly set the standard for completely awesome uniforms, claiming second only to the dashing apparel worn by Vatican Swiss Guards.

– Author Neuberger was an American who encountered, and was tremendously impressed by, the RCMP while working on the Alaska Highway with the US Army Engineers in the 1940s.  Speaking of the Alaska Highway – what a monumental feat!  We  had to break away from reading about the Mounties to read about the construction and trace the route of this 1,700 mile highway.

Two Entries from the Coincidences Files –

maphead books

1) We purchased “Olivia Bean – Trivia Queen”, a teen novel by Donna Gephart, because we are always looking for fiction that emphasizes brain power vs. “coming of age” themes.  We purchased “Maphead”, a geography biography by Ken Jennings, to further our knowledge of longitude and latitude.  We were surprised to discover a common bond:  JEOPARDY!  While Olivia dreams of being part of Kids Week on Jeopardy (and even mentions her hero:  Ken Jennings!), “Maphead” author Ken Jennings has the distinction of being the Jeopardy contestant with the longest winning streak! (74 games, total earnings over $3,000,000!)
BTW, we are enjoying both books, but how in the world did we end up reading “Olivia Bean” and “Maphead” at the same time? Serendipity (vocab)! We toasted the coincidence (vocab) by listening to the Jeopardy theme song:

2) What could the great big Northwest Territories (519,000 square miles) in Canada have in common with the teeny city of Idaho Falls, Idaho (22 square miles) (where our family lived from 1995 through 1999)?  Both have the same population (around 41,000 people)! Gee, we thought Idaho Falls was pretty spacious; we really cannot imagine the elbow room (vocab) of 519,000 square miles.  After we considered this coincidence we calculated the percentage of area that Idaho Falls would take up in the Northwest Territories.  Guess?
A. .004%    B. 1%    C. 10%    D. 40% (answer at bottom of post)

bad music

Dial “M” for Music at Le Fictitious Local Diner – Friday nights at the diner are now live music nights!  Four local bands have signed up to perform: Farmer Brown’s “Amazing Fiddle Assembly”, “The Loco Ladies’ Flute and Lute Society”, the junior high’s “Fusion of Confusion”, and the local doctors’ jazz band, “Musical Emergency”.
– The diner is pleading with other talented musicians to sign up, but if no other groups join in, and these four take turns performing, how many times will each band get to perform over the course of a year?
A. 4 times    B. 12 times    C. 13 times    D. 52 times
– Each band is to receive $50 per night for playing; how much will the diner spend during the course of a year on live music?
A. $50    B. $1,000    C. $1,300    D. $2,600
– If the diner realizes that live music is driving customers away, and they stop the program after six weeks, how much will they have spent for music?
A. $150    B. $300    C. $450    D. $600 (answers at bottom of post)

Dial “M” for Minuet – 

len dancing

Oh my gosh!  Isn’t this Len from “Dancing with the Stars”, in full minuet regalia???

What a happy coincidence that Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and Paderewski each composed a short melody entitled, “Minuet in G”!   We reviewed the concept of a minuet: a slow, stately dance in waltz rhythm; the rage of 17th and 18th century France.  We hadn’t listened to these for years, and we like them all:

Mozart, “Minuet in G”, mid 1700’s – one of Mozart’s first published works,  written when he was about six years old!  Whoa:

Bach, “Minuet in G”, 1725 – Well, wouldn’t you just know it. Even though we would like to think that Bach composed this piece, scholars give credit to one Christian Petzold.  Christian!!!!  Where ever you are, you done good – this is a piece my son and I have listened to several times – we love it!  Note about the video:  kudos to the very patient conductor who was charged with leading what looks like thousands of sullen teenagers:

Beethoven, “Minuet in G”, 1796 – Originally written for orchestra, the score was lost, but the piano version remains.  This is the piece that was used by Professor Harold Hill (of “The Music Man”) for his “think system”:

Paderewski, “Minuet in G”, 1887 – My, my, Paderewski had his finger in many pies – in addition to being an accomplished musician, he was active in Polish politics, even serving as the second prime minster to the Republic of Poland (his term seems a bit short – he served from January 1919 to November 1919).  We are loving this film clip: Paderewski playing himself, playing his Minuet in G, in the (not classic) movie, “Moonlight Sonata” (1937):

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
Math problem answers:
(Idaho Falls: A. .004% the size of Canada’s Northwest Territories)
(Diner math: opportunities – C. 13; live music cost – D. $2,600; music for 6 weeks – B. $300)

Looking North

Our Canadian Unit: the 49th parallel propels us into action – While reading about Canadian provinces, and we came across this:  British Colombia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba border the United States along the 49th parallel north. WHAT???????? It was like our alarm clock clanged!  It was obviously time to learn about parallels, longitude, latitude and the like.  So, two books to the rescue:  we’re reading through the scholarly and quite fascinating “Longitude” by Dava Sobel, and “Maphead” by Ken Jennings is on deck.  BTW, “Wow Canada!” by Vivien Bowers is proving to be an excellent resource.

olivia 3

Fiction Fun – We were sorry to finish two entertaining books this past week: our 10th Tom Gates book, “Top of the Class (nearly)” by the utterly imaginative Liz Pichon (gosh we love those Tom Gates books) and a revisit read of Gordon Korman’s insightful “Schooled” (important read).  We’ve just begun “Olivia Bean Trivia Queen”, written by Donna Gephart, a new author for us. So far: YAY!

Reporting in on our Buffalo Bill unit:
– We have just finished “Presenting Buffalo Bill” –  We’ve impressed ourselves by absorbing the material of Candace Fleming’s long, brilliantly researched book.  We probably learned EVERYTHING about this over-the-top man,  a LOT about the myth of the “wild west”, and a BIT about some unsettling American government policies of the late 18th century.
– A side note:  Buffalo Bill fits the profile –  My son and I have studied many “larger than life” individuals whose impact has been significant.  To a person, the greater the achievement, the more glaring the personal deficit(s) (vocab).  William Cody fits the profile.  Poor Bill – literally POOR BILL – had no concept of money management.  Although this is a comparatively benign (vocab) deficit, how could his friends and family not shudder in horror as he plunged unthinkable quantities of money into one ill-advised investment after another.  Oh Bill!

canadian geese

Farmer Brown and the Canadian Geese story problem – Farmer Brown loves the honking sound of Canadian Geese as they fly over his ranch, migrating south for the winter or back north for the summer.  He was interested to read that a town in Kansas counted 1,800 geese as year-round residents, their number increasing to 18,000 every winter.  A percentage increase of what?  A. 10%      B. 100%      C. 1,000%  (answer at bottom of post)

Back to our Canada studies:  WE DID NOT SEE THIS COMING – Here we are knee deep into our unit on the Canadian provinces, learning about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Calgary Stampede, the Canadian Shield, poutine, puffins, prairie dogs – lovely, lovely, lovely and then, WHOA: smack in the middle of Canada, in the province of Manitoba: THE NARCISSE SNAKE DENS.  SNAKE DENS!!!!  We had to drop everything, find out more and look at GROSS WRIGGLING PHOTOS.  OK, here is the deal: every spring and fall, thousands and thousands of red-sided garter snakes congregate for a three week mating frenzy.

narcisse snake dens

Last night’s music:  A HISSY FIT – we pretended that the director of the Narcisse Snake Dens phoned and pleaded with us to plan a program of background music for the slithering sweethearts:

snakes

  • “Dance of the Seven Veils” from Richard Strauss’ one act opera, “Salome”, which premiered in 1905 (but was banned in London until 1907 for being WAY too steamy) (my son doesn’t need to know this).  This piece masterfully scores the out of control fever of the snake pits (thank you timpani) with the sinuous gliding of the snakes over and under each other (thank you snake charmy oboes).  This performance by the Philharmonic Orchestra of Santiago, conducted by Paolo Bortolameolli is SUPERB. TONS of energy:

  • “Blue Tango” by Leroy Anderson, composed in 1951.  We just laugh and laugh through this whole piece.  This is the go-to sassy music for a garter snake meet and greet:

  • We anthropomorphized (vocab) the snakes and imagined two snakes eyeing each other from opposite sides of the crowded and heaving den – and their hearts connect (we are laughing so hard) to “Some Enchanted Evening” from Rogers and Hammerstein’s 1949 “South Pacific” production:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer: C. 1,000% increase)