Schooled

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)

Rootin’ Tootin’

 

Required Reading – We are nearly through “Presenting Buffalo Bill – The Man Who Invented the Wild West” (Candace Fleming).  Wow.  This should be adjunct reading for any history course that covers the late 19th century.

Quirky take-aways from this outstandingly researched book:

– William Cody did not like Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer…and after “Custer’s Last Stand” at Little Big Horn, Cody hired Sitting Bull (inspirational leader of the victorious Lakota, Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho) to be part of his Wild West show.
– While the US Government sought to “Americanize” American Indians (passing laws forbidding traditional clothes, housing, religious practices, etc.), the Wild West show was partially responsible for keeping these customs alive – Buffalo Bill’s insistence upon authenticity meant his Pawnee, Cheyenne, and Lakota performers could wear their traditional clothing, speak their language, live in traditional dwellings, etc.
– When the Wild West performed in London, Queen Victoria broke a 26 year seclusion (lamenting the death of her husband, Prince Albert) to attend the show (and LOVED it).
– We are still marveling at William Cody’s energy and leadership skills:  managing 200+ performers (among which he was the central star OF COURSE), scores of horses, buffalo, elk, Texas steers, donkeys, deer, bears, full size wagons, a log cabin, a stagecoach, gigantic sets (vocab) and a brass band…not to mention food, accommodations, and travel arrangements.  We’re exhausted.
– William Cody was not a perfect person; he certainly had a handful of glaring deficits. But DARN IT, my son and I are fans!

canada

Map Happy – Our “find each USA state and color it in” map is complete.  My son looked forward to this activity every night; we would find the state in question, talk about its shape (Louisiana looks like a capital “L”, the Michigan “mitten”, etc.), and then ink in the state together.  We’ve now started on the Canadian map. Vivien Bowers’ most enjoyable book, “Wow Canada!” is providing background info as we color in each province and territory.

Funny, thought provoking, excellent read for us – we are in the midst of a fifth reading of our favorite Gordon Korman book, “Schooled”.  Such an original theme – a very centered, capable kid who has been raised in a defunct hippie commune is forced to matriculate into a public school.  A+.

doily

Fancy, Fancy, Fancy! Story Problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – diner management has decided that a paper doily (vocab) under the condiments (vocab) on each table is a must.  There are 10 tables and 5 booths at the diner. Each table will get a fresh doily before both lunch and dinner services.  Will a case of 1,000 doilies be enough for one month?  If each case costs $7.00, how much should the diner budget for doilies for a year? (answers at bottom of post)

Rootin’ Tootin’ Music – we found rambunctious, fast paced, toe tappin’, hootin’ and hollerin’ music to help us imagine Buffalo Bill’s mightily successful Wild West extravaganza:

“Hoedown” from Aaron Copland’s “Rodeo” ballet, which premiered in 1942.  I think we feel intellectually elevated every time we listen to anything by Aaron Copland:

– The theme from the long-running TV show (1959-1973) “Bonanza”, orchestrated and arranged by David Rose and Billy May.  Voted by the Western Writers of America as one of the Top 100 Western Songs of All Time.  Is it THAT difficult to be in the top 100???  Why not TOP 10?  No matter – we love it:

– The theme from the 1960 American Western movie, “The Magnificent Seven”, composed by Elmer Bernstein.  We learned that Elmer Bernstein was NOT related to Leonard Bernstein (but they were friends), that he composed for loads and loads of movies, his scores were nominated for 14 Oscars (winning in 1967 for “Thoroughly Modern Millie”)…Back to “The Magnificent Seven” –  this classic was nominated for an academy award in 1961, but lost to “Exodus” (score composed by Ernest Gold).  Tough break.  BTW, this is a simply outstanding recording of the theme (but why the pineapple photo at the very beginning?):

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers: yes, and $84)

The Cliffs Notes Version

A neat friend of mine named Mary, teaches special ed. (Lucky class.  Lucky school.  Luckier than they know.)  She follows this blog, and she asked for some ideas about setting up a learning-at-home program, should any parents of her autism students express interest.  So, I am going to pretend that I have been hired by the CliffsNotes people to pare down my basic teaching philosophies:

cliffs notes

  • teach anything YOU (the parent) want to learn*
  • read stories and poems that YOU should have read during your childhood*
  • listen to music that YOU have been wanting to hear*

(I find that when I brim with enthusiasm over a particular topic or book, my son catches the spirit and he brims with enthusiasm, too.  I have an eager learner on my hands!)

  • teach FAST!  One or two pages is often PLENTY, then move on to a totally different topic
  • be on the lookout for unfamiliar words, then STOP RIGHT THEN AND THERE and look the word up
  • give lots of quizzes to check on YOUR ability to convey facts (and hopefully to give a lot of pretend “A+”s)

That’s it.  That’s my CliffsNotes version.

For the practicalities, one might read my first two posts ( July 2014), “In Which We Introduce Ourselves” and “In Which We Explain Our “Stories and Studies” Nightly Agenda”.  These can be found in “About”, on the blog title menu strip.

4 books May 15

Here is what we’ve been doing this past week:

  • Othello – we continue reading through the plots of Shakespeare’s plays…we are in the middle of “Othello” and we have had it up to here with that deceitful rat, Iago.
  • To make up for the dreadfulness of Iago, we are reading a biography on the splendid John Muir.  What a good guy.
  • We continue to read “Schooled” by Gordon Kormon.  Probably our 4th time through this novel.  We love it.
  • We are about a third of the way through “A Long Way from Chicago”, by Richard Peck.  OH MY GOSH, this book is marvelous! (Two kids spend a week every summer with their “law-unto-herself” grandmother).  This book is a keeper!

root beer float

A story problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – the diner is sponsoring “Barbershop Quartet Night” and plans to serve up root beer floats for the occasion.  Tickets for this not-to-be-missed event will sell for $10, and will include a float.  If each root beer float costs the diner $1.50 to make, and $200 is being spent on decorations, the speaker system, and prizes, how much profit will the diner realize if 200 tickets are sold?

Our music program last night:  barbershop quartets to enhance the story problem – 

  • “Sincere”, from Meredith Wilson’s “The Music Man” (1957).  Sung in the 1962 movie version by the peerless Buffalo Bills.

  • “Mr. Sandman”, written by Pat Ballard in 1954. A barbershop quartet standard, performed by the Dapper Dans at Disneyland, using Deagan Organ Chimes (very interesting instrument!).

  • And finally, for fun, and to support the endeavors of youth, we watched “The Barbershop Quartet, a How-To Guide”.  The kids are just great (and their ill fitting costumes and hats are still making us laugh).

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

 

Peace, Love, and Tambourines

   peace symbol tiedye       peace symbol daisy       peace symbol

Can ya dig it?  One of our current novels, “Schooled”, by Gordon Korman, references the hippie lifestyle and communes, so we took a look at iconic items of this outrageously creative movement; the fashions, hairstyles, crafts (macramé/tie-dying). My son poured over the photos, completely fascinated by the psychedelic colors, flower head wreathes, fringed leather vests, granny glasses, macramé belts and plant hangers.  EVERYTHING.

News from the vocabulary front – I have added a new tab (“The Wordery”) to the menu bar under the blog title…we are now keeping a running list of vocabulary words that we find from our study units or novels.

A new academic unit – Napoleon!  And I think we have the perfect starter reference.  This little book is well organized and clearly written.  It is helping us to understand the complexities and career of this unique (I am not sure this is a strong enough word) man.

napoleon 2

Book care – we had a bit of a conversation about bookmarks (greeting cards from the grandmothers make great bookmarks) vs. dog-earing. We saw how dog-earing weakens the paper, and decided it was a mean thing to do to books.

Exponents – My son has been familiar with the concept of square roots for several years, so now we are going the other way – exponents. We began with 5 to the power of 10. We multiplied and multiplied and multiplied.  I have found a jazzy math app that gives quizzes about exponents. I think it is really neat, but it is enjoying only moderate enthusiasm from my son.  Further update in next post.

 tambourine

Let’s talk tambourines – the “must-have” accessory for 60’s and 70’s band groupies:  here’s a fact – a tambourine is a great gift idea.  Who doesn’t dream of sequestering oneself in an empty house and jangling a tambourine for five minutes straight?  How can this not be therapeutic?  But back to the gift idea – tambourines are not particularly expensive, and if you have little nieces and nephews, this is the birthday gift they want (and their parents don’t want them to have).  You’re welcome.

Tambourines showcased in music – here is what we listened to:

  • “Mr. Tambourine Man”, our nod to the hippie era continues.  This was written by Bob Dylan in 1965 and popularized by both Mr. Dylan and “The Byrds”.  Semi-interesting: in the Bob Dylan version there is no trace of a tambourine sound.  See for yourself:

  • “Tarantella”, originally written as a piano piece by Gioachino Rossini (1835) and orchestrated by Ottorino Respighi (1919).  MARVELOUS.  I couldn’t find a film clip that shows the tambourine being played, but you can definitely hear it.

  • “The Russian Dance” or “Trepak” from Tchaikovsky’s ballet, The Nutcracker (1892).  A power packed minute, thanks to the tambourine.

  • And lastly, one of our top 10 – probably top 5 – favorites, “The Wild Bears”, from Sir Edward Elgar’s suite, “The Wand of Youth” (1908).  This piece was OH MY! composed while Elgar worked in an insane asylum. Hmmm, interesting.  This particular video is perfect – we love this conductor (Mariss Jansons) and the video footage gives the tambourine the attention it deserves.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

It’s a date!

date palm     date shakes     lady and tramp     bad date video game

Were we learning about date palms, date shakes, perfect dates, or perfectly awful dates?  Uh, no.

B.C./B.C.E. – A.D./C.E.  My son and I keep running into the acronyms (new vocab word) “BCE” and “CE” during our academic studies.  Last night we decided to find out what the letters mean.  We learned that BCE (“before common era”) and CE (“common era”) refer to time periods that match up exactly with the traditional BC (“Before Christ”) and AD (“Anno Domini”).  In other words, the date 335 BC is the same as the date 335 BCE.  Likewise, the date 1990 AD means the same thing as 1990 CE.  The terms BCE and CE have been in widespread use for the past 20 years, but we learned they have actually been around for over 300 years.  We like to know stuff like this.

More Shakespeare – We have enjoyed reading adaptations of “MacBeth”, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, and “Hamlet”, so we are now reading a retelling of “Romeo and Juliet”, by Adam McKeown.  McKeown does an excellent job of introducing characters and storylines at a pace we can process, and he makes us eager to read the real plays.  I think you can imagine why we aren’t starting off with the plays themselves – we want to be familiar with the basic plots, characters, and motivations before Shakespeare’s spellbinding words mesmerize us.

 thespian masksThe Thespian Masks – How can we read about Shakespeare without understanding the basics of “comedy” and “tragedy”?  I gave my son a list of ridiculous situations and had him decide if each circumstance fell into a comic or tragic category, then I showed him thespian (new vocab word) comedy and tragedy masks, the concept of which originated from the dramas of ancient Greece around 335 BC (or shall we say, 335 BCE).

schooled and destiny novel

Novels – We continue to read, “The Way to Stay in Destiny” by Augusta Scattergood – still really like picking up this book every night.  And this past week, we began a re-read of one of our old favorites, “Schooled” by Gordon Korman (important read, heartwarmer read).

 lamblamblamblamb

Our Farmer Brown Story Problem –  Offspring in the spring!  Farmer Brown’s ranch is home to 20 ewes.  This spring, half gave birth to twins, a fifth gave birth to quadruplets, and the rest had a single lamb each. How many sweet lambs does Farmer Brown have now?

 Ben Frank poster

Last night’s music theme was “Benjamin Franklin in France” – We used the N.C. Wyeth poster on my son’s wall, of a young Benjamin Franklin, as inspiration.  We decided to focus upon the years Ben Franklin served as US Ambassador to France (1776 – 1785).  We know he was well-entertained in France, and this must certainly have included symphonic concerts and opera productions.  It is so likely that he heard these:

  • Mozart – Overture to the Abduction from the Seraglio (1782).  This is the composition that provoked Austrian Emperor Joseph II (maybe a bit short on the musical smarts) to remark that there were “too many notes” in the piece.  My son and I think the brilliant and far more musically inclined Ben Franklin would have loved this overture!

  • Bach – The Coffee Cantata (1735), a way-fun work that pits a father against his strong-willed daughter, fighting over her excessive consumption of coffee.  We think Ben Franklin, a known coffee enthusiast, would have been amused by this mini comic opera.

  • Haydn – Symphony No. 45, “The Farewell Symphony” (1772).  This is a symphony we want to see in person, because a most interesting thing happens in movement 4…entire sections of the orchestra sneak away, a bit at a time.  By the conclusion, only the conductor and the concertmaster are left.  We hope Mr. Franklin didn’t miss this!

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH