Nobel Prize

780 Pairs of Saddle Shoes

Did ya miss me?  The past week my husband was visiting relatives and I was mired in single parenthood and there was no brainpower left to reflect upon what my son and I were learning together.

But, finally, a few free hours –

Saddle Shoes: One of the books we are reading mentioned somebody polishing up their saddle shoes.  I don’t believe my son has come into contact with anyone sporting saddle shoes, so we had to Google image said 50’s footwear. There are 39 pages of photos of saddle shoes.  Not a lot of variation, folks.  39 pages?

 saddle shoes 1 photos saddle shoes 2 saddle shoes 3

We finished an outstanding Nobel Prize unit: Thanks to a well-written book, “The Nobel Prize”, by Michael Worek, we are conversant with the prize categories (medicine, physics, chemistry, literature, peace, and economics), the basic set-up of the prize system, and we read about some of the more notable Laureates. The book ends with a chronological listing of the prizes. So, GREAT BIRTHDAY CARD IDEA!!! Along with the usual felicitations, why not include the list of the Nobel Prize Laureates from the year that the birthday honoree was born?

nobel book

Novel update: We decided that the two novels we were reading (“Under the Egg” and “The Absolute Value of Mike”) were too complex to be read at the same time. We decided to take a break from both books. My son chose an old favorite, “While Mrs. Coverlet was Away” as our current novel. When we conclude this book, we will return to either the Egg or the Mike book, but one at a time.

Our Farmer Brown Story Problem: Last night found Farmer Brown packing up crates of oranges to sell to sea captains interested in the prevention of scurvy.  We talked about Farmer Brown’s price per crate ($3.00), how many oranges were in each container (100), the subsequent cost of each orange, and how much a sea captain could make if he sold individual oranges for a quarter.

Our Classical Music theme was “All in the (ridiculously gifted) Family”:

  • The father, Johann Strauss, senior: “Radetzky March”: a glorious march, easily confused with the work of John Philip Sousa.
  • The brother, Josef Strauss: “Feuerfest Polka”:  we LOVE this piece and we refer to it as the “Blacksmith Polka” because it is accented with what sounds like a hammer hitting an anvil. This just has to be the inspiration for “Heigh-Ho” from Disney’s “Snow White”.
  • The Waltz King, Johann Strauss, junior: The Thunder and Lightning Polka”: take a gander at “Unter Donner und Blitz Polka” (“The Thunder and Lightning Polka”).  The conductor, Carlos Kleiber, is having way too much fun with this piece.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

Late Bloomer!

From our Nobel Prize unit:  An inspiration for those of us who cling to the hope that if all else fails, we might at least achieve the status of “late bloomer”!  In 2007, the Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences went to ninety year old (yes 90!) Leonid Hurwicz, (“commanding intellect, humble soul”)!  YAY LH!  A quick trip over to Wikipedia told us that Professor Hurwicz passed on in 2008.  So, the award came just in the nick of time, because we learned that Nobel Prizes are not awarded posthumously. (new vocab word!)

leonid h

– A young Leonid Hurwicz –

Novels: we finished “Zen and the Art of Faking It”, by Jordan Sonnenblick. Good story, believable characters, reasonable predicaments. We continued to read “Under the Egg” and we just started “The Absolute Value of Mike”. Interesting coincidence: “Under the Egg” has a teen-aged daughter living with her academically-absorbed flaky mother. “The Absolute Value of Mike” has a teen-aged son living with his academically-absorbed flaky father.

Our Explorer Unit:  As a youth did you hesitate before you talked about Austria or Australia in hopes that you would remark upon the right country? Hey! Either I zoned out during my formative years, or the textbooks were so hideously pitiful, but I only found out last night that there is an actual connection between the words “Austria” and “Australia”.  In case you had the same sorry textbook, here is the deal:  AUSTRALIA was named (in 1606, by sea captain Pedro de Quiros) in honor of the Archduke of AUSTRIA. When one of us learns, we all learn.

Roman Numeral Review: We have been over Roman numerals before, but it is time for a slow, in-depth review. Our goal is to be able to read the Roman numeral copyrighted dates included with the end credits of movies.

Le Fictitious Local Diner Story Problem: Last night’s story problem was all about the quarters collected in the tabletop jukeboxes at the diner. We converted the quarters into dollars, figured the average amount collected in each jukebox, and calculated the total dollars collected annually.

red bus

A Classic Plays Classical: The red double-decker buses in London play classical music (all British composers) through their sound system!

  • Jupiter, from “The Planets”, by Gustav Holst (Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity – you can hear sort of an instrumental Santa Claus “ho, ho, ho” throughout this piece.)
  • Pomp and Circumstance, by Sir Edward Elgar (Elgar was a big fan of the new-fangled concept of recording music, so it is possible to download music with Elgar speaking and then conducting. So great!)
  • Fantasia on Greensleeves, by Ralph Vaughan Williams (soothing and beautiful, included in many orchestral Christmas albums)
  • Overture to H.M.S. Pinafore, by Sir Arthur Sullivan (jaunty and fabulous)

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH



A new study unit:  The Nobel Prize. Intriguing even before we begin.  Here is what we’ve learned so far:  Alfred Nobel was a gifted scientist and brilliant businessman;  though his vast fortune was based upon his invention of dynamite (ka-boom!), he was also the holder of 354 other patents. We have learned that Nobel Prize recipients are not called “Winners”, because they are not in a contest. The recipients are called “Laureates” (the word springing from the ancient Greek’s laurel wreath of honor). Perfection on so many levels.

New words to become acquainted with: “Patent” (from the Nobel Prize unit) and “Scurvy” (from our explorers unit).   Find me a student who isn’t curious about scurvy.  Seriously, we were all over the gruesome Google images so fast.

Farmer Brown Story Problem: Crop failure! Farmer Brown has 4 acres devoted to growing eggplant. It costs Farmer Brown $300 per acre to plant and water, and $200 per acre to harvest. How much money will Farmer Brown lose if shopkeepers won’t buy because nobody wants to eat eggplant ever again? (Heh, heh, eggplant makes me gag. This goes way back to a harrowing childhood experience, when a certain mother tried to pass off  “Mrs. Paul’s Fried Eggplant Sticks” as french fries.)


A fourth of the fifth:  Classical Music – what about the longer pieces? A few posts back, I mentioned that we broke into classical music by listening shorter compositions. When we felt ready to listen to larger works, here is what we did (not that it takes a high IQ to figure this one out) – taking Beethoven’s 5th Symphony for example: we listened to one movement a night (Beethoven’s 5th Symphony is comprised of 4 movements,  thus it took us 4 nights to hear the entire symphony).

The whole darn fifth: There is a reason Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C Minor is so well known. It is stunning. Pop quiz: how long do you think Beethoven’s 5th Symphony lasts?  One hour?  Two hours?  Is this the reason you haven’t sat yourself down and had a listen? Well, awesome news everybody!  It lasts only half an hour!  Find a speedy conductor and the whole thing can be enjoyed in 28 minutes. Let’s do the math:

  • Movement 1 – around 7 minutes (the classic, “fate knocking on the door”)
  • Movement 2 – around 8 minutes (the heartbreaker)
  • Movement 3 – around 5 minutes (the A++++ movement – alternately furtive and then fearless)
  • Movement 4 – around 8 minutes (the grand triumph)

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH