Maurice Ravel

Did absence make the heart grow fonder?

Good heavens!  Over six weeks since last I reported in.  Did ya miss me?  My goal is to write and post every other week, but my son and I have been slogging through months of disruptive routines – our stories and studies times have been cut short and I have so much less to write about.  Not happy about this, but there you have it.

odyssey ithaka

The Odyssey – we are coming to the end of Gillian Cross’s superb retelling of Homer’s ancient adventure poem.  As we bid farewell to this book we will discuss C.P. Cavafy’s poem, “Ithaca” and its Odyssey references.  Next up: “The Iliad” (which, if I had been a more aware scholar, we should have read first.  Darn.).

citrus

We are Citrus Savvy – it seems like we always have a book in the nightly line-up about sailors, pirates, the sea and such, and one cannot read about sailors, pirates, the sea and such without reading about the SCOURGE OF SCURVY and the importance of citrus.  So, after reading through the Wikipedia entry on citrus, we got out the pastels.

cat paw and dollar

There is always time for a  story problem   Poor Farmer Brown.  Literally, poor Farmer Brown.  He is spending so much money replacing items that his cats, Olive and Owl (the hissing sisters), have destroyed.  Over the past twelve months, Farmer Brown spent:

– $300:  area rug in kitchen (shredded)
– $150:  winter coat (clawed to death)
– $100 each:  3 farmhand bed quilts (each mistaken for litter box)
– $200:  office blinds (permanently bent from bird watching)
– $100:  large ceramic planter (tipped over so many times that it finally cracked)
– $  78:  small ficus tree (casualty of repeatedly tipped over planter)
– $300:  neighbor’s yarn stash (don’t ask)

Judging the past year to be typical,  how much should Farmer Brown budget per month to replace things Olive and Owl will most likely have their way with in the coming year?  

A).  $59     B).  $79     C).  $99     D).  $119

classical music

Classical Music:  How I am able to act like I know what I am talking about –

  • ClassicFM.com – a hip website that makes you feel like you are sitting at the cool kids’ table at lunch.  The graphics, clever topics, quizzes, surveys, contests, video links – all VERY COOL.  
  • The Great Courses – (college level courses offered on DVD, etc, through thegreatcourses.com) so far, I have taken 17 of 26 music history courses taught by the organized, captivating, and hilarious Dr. Robert Greenberg.  These classes have had enormous influence on the classical music experience I share with my son.
  • Exploring Music with Bill McGlaughlin  – an hour-long radio show broadcast 5 times a week, full of entertaining anecdotes from decades of Mr. McGlaughlin’s music profession memories.  If my son and I are in the drive-thru lane of “In-N-Out” at 7pm we are tuned to “Exploring Music”.
  • Wikipedia – in terms of the 300+ classical music entries I have come across, this resource offers dependable and comprehensive information.  A+.
  • The Secret Lives of the Great Composers”, by Elizabeth Lunday – this is the first book that made me aware that the very finest composers are quirky individuals.  Jarringly quirky.
  • The Really Terrible Orchestra (Edinburgh, Scotland) – I cannot get enough of this ragtag group of enthusiastic musician wannabes who find themselves blatantly unqualified to play with any recognized orchestra.  Just thinking about their performance of “Entry of the Gladiators” makes me collapse in laughter:

  • Mozart in the Jungle, both book and Amazon series are eye-opening and entertaining.  A few pieces that I have shared with my son, after hearing them in various episodes:

– Mozart’s “Oboe Concerto in C major”, movement III (rondo) – composed in 1777.  This is such a proper, almost fussy, piece but it moves right along and my son and I love it:

– José Pablo Moncayo’s “Huapango” – this Mexican folk dance was composed for orchestra in 1941 (which is why we listen to this piece played by orchestra, not by a mariachi band)(even though we LOVE mariachi bands).  Absolutely full of the flavors of Mexico:

– Maurice Ravel’s “Daphnis and Chloe”, suite 2, dawn – composed in 1912 for a ballet based upon the ancient Greek romance between goatherd Daphnis and shepherdess Chloe.  So much to listen for in this 6 minute piece, but when dawn actually breaks we hear nothing but GENIUS!

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  D).  $119.)

It’s All Fun!

roy-whaam

Giant Cartoon Art – We are currently reading through “Whaam! The Art & Life of Roy Lichtenstein” by Susan Goldman Rubin.  This book is filled with examples of his pop art of the 1960’s that both shocked (“this is art?????”) and rocked a generation.  Each of Lichtenstein’s paintings was inspired by published comic book drawings of others, and I like that the author addressed the issue of copyright. My son likes looking at photographs of Lichtenstein’s art on display, with people standing near the paintings, so he can get an idea of exactly how large the paintings are.

bill-polka-dots

Buffalo Bill and his Wild West Show – Hot off the press! Candace Fleming’s “Presenting Buffalo Bill – The Man who Invented the Wild West” was just published in 2016.  We are only a few nights into this book and we are loving every minute.  Oh my! Buffalo Bill – what a man with BIG vision and what a risk (vocab) taker!  This book is part of our Native North American unit – we are impressed with the author’s excellent research and sensitivity regarding Lakota tribe members who were part of the Wild West Show (and this has provoked a short side study of the Lakota tribe).

Game ON – the other night, my son grabbed a pen, and I knew he wanted to communicate something – so I supported his wrist and here is what he wrote, “I want to play hangman.”!!!!  Really?  Well, OK!  We have been playing hangman about 2 times a week for a month or two, but I had no idea he was liking this spelling game.  I am relieved that his handwriting has improved to the point that I can read it.  Huge communication progress!

50 Days of Fun!  I am stretching the definition of “fun”, but this is sort of diverting:  we have started playing, “WHERE IS THAT?”.  I place a blank map of the USA on the desk and I ask my son to ink a dot in the middle of a particular state.  After he finds the correct state, we (hand-over-hand) color it in. Could this be a gateway activity – first the USA, then maybe the countries of South America?  Then WHO KNOWS???

And if that weren’t enough – I have added a new resource tab (look on title block) – “The Bookshelf”.  This is where I will keep a running list of the books that have worked particularly well for my son and me.

box-lunch

Box Lunches at Le Fictitious Local Diner –  Everyone knows that box lunches (vocab concept) are by definition FUN!  And here is a twist: the Local Diner’s box lunches are vegetarian, and include a bottle of kombucha that comes with it’s own teeny paper parasol.  FUN!  The lunches are apparently delicious, and the response has been enthusiastic:  during the first week 30 boxes were sold on Monday, 20 on Tuesday, 40 on Wednesday, 10 on Thursday, 40 on Friday, and 20 on Saturday!  Each box sells for $9.  If it costs the diner $4 to put the box together (including the box and the napkins, etc), what was the diner’s profit for the first week?
A. $800    B. $160    C. $1,440    D. $60 (answer at bottom of post)

Music – It was time to learn more about the SNARE DRUM – Yay percussion instruments!

snare-drum

First, we needed to see how the snare drum was constructed.  We learned that a band of narrow wires stretched across the bottom of the drum gives it that muffled rattly sound. We listened for the snare drum in:

Blue Tango, composed by LeRoy Anderson in 1951, and was ranked by Billboard as the number one song of 1952!  Sassy.

Scotland the Brave – this pipe and drum corps classic is considered to be one of three unofficial national anthems of Scotland.  BTW, in Scotland, the snare drum is called a side drum.  BTW, we are the sort of people that really like the music of bagpipes.  This footage is just so great:

Bolero, composed by Maurice Ravel, as a one-movement orchestral piece for ballet, in 1929.  From everything we have read – and can readily believe – playing the snare drum in this piece is a musician’s nightmare.  Seventeen-plus minutes of the same rhythm over and over and over and over.  But what a fine, fine performance by the Vienna Philharmonic, conducted so carefully by Gustavo Dudamel:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(Story problem answer: A. $800)

Curses and Cheers

cedar-brance

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).

jim-thorpe-olympic-poster

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.

work-gloves

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)

tom-gates-yes-no

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!

orpheus

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)

Working for Peanuts

carver stamp

We begin our botany unit:  “George Washington Carver – Ingenious Inventor”, another “Graphic Library” book, this one by Olson/Tucke.  (These books are pretty fun, formatted comic-book style, including a surprising amount of interesting information.  Not bad, not bad at all).  Anyway, George Washington Carver, FATHER OF THE PEANUT INDUSTRY, has won our hearts:  he was focused, deep thinking, moral (vocab), inventive, industrious, and profoundly generous.  But back to the botany angle: Carver ended up with three patents for peanut oil utilization (hardly representative of his many many many inventions and contributions).  We spent a few minutes wondering what Carver’s scientific response would have been to the present day widespread peanut allergy crisis.  We also decided that we wanted to know more about other botanists (vocab), so books on Gregor Mendel and Luther Burbank have been ordered.

soda sharing

Story problem time – the SUMMERTIME SWEETHEART SODA SPECIAL at Le Fictitious Local Diner:  Hoping to entice the after-movie date crowd, the diner has run a midnight ice-cream soda special (a large-sized soda with two straws and a side of fries) every Friday and Saturday, since June 1st.  Well! This has been so popular that the diner went through two boxes of straws (1000 straws to the box) in June alone!  If the special is priced at $5.00, how much did the diner gross on the special in June?  If the cost per serving works out to $2.00, how much did the diner net from this special in June?  Extraneous question: if a box of 1,000 straws costs $17, what is the price per straw (round up)? (answers at bottom of post)

gabby book

New fiction reading:  We are intrigued by  “Gabby Duran and the Unsittables” by Elise Allen and Daryle Conners.  This book is original and refreshing, with new concepts and vocabulary all over the place.  The introductory adventure involves a movie production (so new words: set, line, soundstage, props);  subsequent adventures involve INTERGALACTICS.  Adding to this, protagonist Gabby Duran, is a high schooler intent on being an orchestra soloist with her French Horn (and consider us admonished via the internet; we’ve learned that this instrument is properly referred to as the HORN, not the French Horn).  So, do you expect us to let it go at that?  Our choice for classical music listening last night focused upon compositions that showcased the HORN.  We wanted to appreciate the deep, comfortable, warm echo-y sound of Gabby’s horn.

Our inspiration for classical music listening last night – Gabby Duran’s French Horn:

– George Frederick Handel’s Water Music, Movement 2, from Water Music Suite No. 2, composed in 1717 to humor King George I, who desired music for a concert on the River Thames.  My son and I love this jaunty full-of-energy fanfare:

– Gustav Holst’s Venus, from The Planets, composed in 1916.  “Venus, the Bringer of Peace”, begins with a horn solo, and the horn provides the backbone for this L O N G dreamy movement (just a teeny touch boring compared to the rest of the planets in the suite) (but very restful, if you need to fall asleep) (and sort of sad, too) (OK! Not our favorite, but still a good “front and center” for the horn):

– Maurice Ravel’s Pavane for a Dead Princess, first written for piano in 1899, then orchestrated by Ravel in 1910.  This is a slow processional dance, with the horn taking center stage for the introduction. An excellent choice for anyone seeking background music for a good hard cry:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers: $5,000, $3,000, 2 cents per straw)