South America

The Last Dog’s Tail

dog tail

– Our final post for 2017 –

Ben best of blog 2017

– Here is what my son and I learned a LOT about in 2017 –
Africa – bees – Buffalo Bill – Canada – Cixi – crime science – grammar – Greek mythology – Jim Thorpe – maps – Native North Americans – Roy Lichtenstein – Royal Canadian Mounted Police – salients – South America – the Loch Ness Monster – the NATO phonetic alphabet – whale fall

My son’s favorite topic?  WHALE FALL, from the July 21st post, “Whale Fall and other Water Wonders

– Our most memorable story problem themes for 2017 –
an outdoor deck renovation – box lunches – Canadian geese – cider – doilies at the diner – donating books – donuts – frying pans – live music at the diner – macaroni – nail polish – painting Farmer Brown’s roadside stand – radishes – the diner’s summer give-away – work gloves

My son’s favorite story problem?  FARMER BROWN AND THE CANADIAN GEESE, from the April 24th post, “Looking North

– Our coolest music themes for 2017 –
circus classics – Dvorak’s birthday – minuets – music for the Narcisse Snake Pits – rootin’ tootin’ music – suite music – the Brandenburg Concertos – the crescendo – the fugue and canon controversy – the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra – the saxophone – the snare drum – the tango

My son’s favorite music theme?  MUSIC FOR THE NARCISSE SNAKE PITS, from the April 24th post, “Looking North”.  I have to agree, the music selections for the Narcisse Snake Pits, are hilarious.  A definite favorite theme for me.

christmas tree

So that brings us to December (so difficult to post a blog when one is a mom in charge of Christmas) – our engineering unit!

engineering books

Seriously, I can’t believe that we are loving three books ABOUT ENGINEERING!  But, now it is sort of like, if we cannot be an engineer (thanx to our DNA), at least we can be thrilled and inspired by the awesome achievements of engineers.

– “The Erie Canal” – oh my gosh, this resource by Martha E. Kendall is SUPERB.
– “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” – authors William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer have captivated our hearts.
– “Engineered! Engineering Design at Work” – by Shannon Hunt and James Gulliver Hancock – we’ve just started this. So far, “YAY!”.

grimms book

And a classical music theme focus for December – Fairy Tales:

– “The Sleeping Beauty Waltz”, from The Sleeping Beauty Ballet (1889) by Tchaikovsky, played by the Russian State Symphony Orchestra, featuring the largest bass drum I have ever seen.  Just a perfect performance.

-“Cinderella’s Waltz”, from the Cinderella Ballet (1944) by Sergei Prokofiev – with a darkness and edge so typical of Prokofiev.  The Dutch National Ballet brings a superbly choreographed performance, full of bounce and humor (bounce and humor marrying well with the Prokofiev music?  YES!).

– “The Children’s Prayer” (or Evening Prayer), from the Hansel and Gretel opera (1892), by Engelbert Humperdinck (not the pop star from the 1970’s).  Very soothing, somber, hopeful.  Beautifully played by Leipzig’s very famous Gewandhausorchester, conducted by a very thoughtful, if not super confident, Bobby McFerrin.  Interesting note:  the idea AND libretto (vocab) for this opera came from the composer’s sister, Adelheid Wette. YOU GO GIRL!

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
P.S. Most of my blog writing has been done at my local Starbucks, where they start preparing my “grande peppermint hot chocolate made with soy no whip” as I walk through their door.  Thank you Starbucks!  Au revoir Starbucks!  Beginning in just a few days (January 2018) I get to work in a real office.  It is teeny, but it has a window and I am très excited!

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What We Want

We want a GRAND SLAM – Go Dodgers World Series 2017!

Dodgers

We always want THE GRAND SLAM (our version) setting the scene:  I am reading to my son, finishing a chapter and am starting to close the book, and out of nowhere his hand comes slamming down on the page, clearly communicating DO NOT EVEN THINK OF CLOSING THIS GREAT BOOK.  KEEP READING.  It happened again last night.

Animal orchestra

Last night we started reading “The Great Animal Orchestra – Finding the Origins of Music in the World’s Wild Places” by musician/naturalist Dr. Bernie Krause.  When we begin a new book, we read only a few paragraphs to get a sense of what awaits us, but I was so pleasantly surprised with this book – the writing, bright and observant – that I was half way through the 8-page prologue before deciding to close the book for the evening.  This was met with a decided difference of opinion from my son – his hand came crashing down onto the page.  It was the GRAND SLAM once again.  YES.

crusoe 3

We didn’t want to cheat on Robinson Crusoe – I hate to admit this, but we just finished an abridged version (A REALLY ABRIDGED VERSION) of Daniel Dafoe’s classic.  We read through the first chapter of the original, and there was so much explaining necessary at the end of every paragraph, I could see that it would take us forever to plow through the book.  But we still wanted to know about the story inspired by pirate Alexander Selkirk, who lived alone on Juan Fernandez Island (off the coast of Chile) for 4 years, so we found a cartoony version “Robinson Crusoe (Graphic Revolve: Common Core Editions)”, which gave us the basics.  I think we are still hungry to read the real story, but ALAS, I cannot face the work of explaining Dafoe’s work just yet.

cousin tree

We wanted to see where we fit in – COUSIN CITY!  Cousin Caitlin is getting married soon!  Did my son understand the concept of cousin (vocab)?  Did he know where she fit into the family tree?  Did he know where HE fit into the family tree?  Out came the big drawing paper and the pastels and we worked together to create a cousin-centric family tree.

paint 3

(Story Problem) Farmer Brown wants to gussy up his roadside stand – Farmer Brown has plans to paint the inside of his roadside produce stand, as soon as his roadside-stand cashiers (vocab) decide on the color.  So far, 4 quarts of sample paints have been tried out to no one’s satisfaction.  If each quart of sample paint costs $6, and there are plans to try out 3 more colors, but – OH NO – they end up purchasing 5 more samples after the 3, how much will have been spent on sample paint?  A)  $30    B)  $42    C)  $60    D)  $72

After a color is finally agreed upon (YAY), 6 gallons (at $30 each) will be required to complete the paint job.  How much will have been spent on the gallons and sample quarts?  A) $180     B) $252     C) $72     D) $600  (story problem answers at bottom of post)

tango poster

We want to be Tango-ologists – My son and I concluded our South America unit this past week, absolutely loving our guide book: “Not for Parents South America – Lonely Planet Kids”.  This past week we read about:
– the importance of the coffee industry to the Brazil economy
– Columbian emeralds
– the navy of land-locked Bolivia
– AND WE READ ABOUT THE TANGO OF ARGENTINA.  We had no idea how much we were going to love the tango music!  Our toes have been tapping non-stop.

  • “Por una Cabeza” – this true Argentine tango, composed in 1935 by Alfredo Le Pera and Carlos Gardel, tells the story of a man comparing his horse race gambling addiction with his attraction to women.  Whoa.  The music: anguished, gorgeous, yearning – the perfect selection for the tango scenes in “The Scent of a Woman” (1992) and “Easy Virtue” (2008) (shown here):

  • “Hernando’s Hideaway” – if I had more friends that were more musically aware, and I asked them to hum a tango, this is the one they would probably come up with – it is from the 1954 musical, “The Pajama Game”. (The Pajama Game centers around labor troubles at a pajama manufacturing plant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa…Hernando’s Hideway is the local dive bar).  Great fun, a most aggressive tango with no pretensions toward subtleties:

  • “Blue Tango” – Leroy Anderson’s contribution to the tango genre, composed in 1951. My son and I have been tapping our toes to “Blue Tango” for a few years. Every time we listen to this we feel sorry for the snare drum player (mind numbing repetition).  Interesting: in searching for a “Blue Tango” video footage I think I came across more terrible filmed versions of this than of any other music I have researched:

  • MORE????? “Doc Martin Theme Song” – my son has heard this melody so often, as I have watched every episode of this favorite British TV series.  The theme was composed by Colin Towns in 2004, and is indeed a tango.  What a metaphor for the on again-off again relationship between the doctor and of the citizens of Portwenn:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
Jane BH
(story problem answers: part 1 -D)  $72 and part 2-B) $252)

The “C” Side

– we were finding the letter “C” all over the place last week –

CANDY – “Turtle in Paradise”, our third Jennifer L. Holm book, is giving my son a glimpse of life in the Florida Keys during the great depression (concept vocab).  No money.  No money at all.  What to do?  With the current emphasis on “Girl Power”, it is almost refreshing to see what a troop of young boys did to earn – well, not money, but CANDY – they banded together to form an exclusive club that tended to BABIES!  Babies????  This group of street-wise boys knew how to calm screaming babies and expertly change (cloth and safety pin) diapers – they even had a secret formula for soothing diaper rash.  AND it was considered an HONOR to be asked to be in the Diaper Gang.  There is so much more to the story than this amusing side theme.  Holm’s books make us glad to be immersed into her world.

lonely planet plus books

CIXI – We’ve recently finished “Cixi – Evil Empress of China?”, another excellent study from the “A Wicked History” series.  Cixi, oh my word – her multitudinous (vocab) self-centered ways provided the final nail in the coffin for the the end of the Qing dynasty (example – all public officials were expected to “donate” – GET THIS – 25% of their annual income to honor her 60th birthday!) (we stopped for a math problem).  While Cixi rebuilt her summer palace, China’s military budget was depleted – leaving the country vulnerable to outside forces.  At the end, my son and I were not completely certain she was EVIL (although there was that “poisoning her enemies” speculation).  OK, she was evil… but evil or not, she certainly was not the right person for the job – she was not interested in being  the leader that China needed.  This book provoked many side conversations.

CHILE – My son and I are in the middle of our South America unit – a DK book about the Amazon rain forest served as an introduction. We are now reading our first Lonely Planet book: “Not-For-Parents:  South America – Everything You Ever Wanted to Know”.  We’ve read about the fancy lady wrestlers of Bolivia, Panama hats (a product of  Ecuador – but used to be shipped to Europe from the Panama canal area. We looked at a map to figure out why these hats were being shipped from Panama), (it is sort of therapeutic to spend a bit of time focusing on hats), the driest place on earth (the Atacama Desert in Chile), and Alexander Selkirk who jumped ship and spent over 4 years on an island off the coast of Chile (inspiring Daniel Dafoe’s story “Robinson Crusoe”).  OF COURSE we have ordered a copy of Robinson Crusoe (duh).

cinnamon sticks

CIDER – Story Problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – The diner is gearing up for their booth at the town’s “Autumn Daze Festival”.  The diner will be selling cups of hot cider, each garnished with a cinnamon stick. The facts:

– each gallon of fresh-pressed apple cider will cost the diner $5
– the diner will purchase 50 gallons of cider
– there are 15 servings of cider per gallon
– the diner will purchase cinnamon sticks at a cost of $15 for 100 sticks
– each bio-degradable (vocab) cup will cost the diner 10 cents

1)  If the diner sells out of cider, how many cups will they have sold?
2)  How much will the diner have spent for cider, cinnamon, and cups?
3)  If the diner sells each cup for $2, what will be the profit? (answers at bottom of post)

 

bach concerto

(Bach’s actual handwriting – Concerto No. 5)

You say “Concertos”, I say “Concerti” – All of a sudden, I felt my son needed to be exposed to the full scope of JS Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos.  We had listened to No. 3 several times, but was that enough?  My son already knew the definition of a concerto (for those like my mom, “The Peach”, who have no idea: a concerto is an orchestral work, usually consisting of 3 movements, showcasing ONE particular instrument) (OK, sometimes more than one, but no need to confuse The Peach).  Here is what my son learned:

  •  “concertos” or “concerti” are both acceptable terms for the plural of “concerto”.
  •  the Brandenburg Concertos each showcase SEVERAL instruments. This type of set-up is referred to as a “Concerto Grosso”.  Very popular in Baroque times.
  •  HEART-BREAKING:  in 1721, Bach sent the set of 6 concertos to the Margrave of Brandenburg, as sort of a job application…there is no record of the Margrave acknowledging the music.  FOR SHAME.  The music was simply archived in his library, forgotten, and FINALLY found 128 years later (1849).  Felix Mendelssohn, then conductor of Leipzig’s Gewandhaus Orchestra, understood the significance of the discovery and brought the Brandenburg Concertos to world wide attention.  OMG, thank heavens.
  •  these concertos are DIFFICULT to perform.  Jeanette Sorrel, from the Cleveland Baroque Orchestra writes, “The featured solo instruments(s) in each piece requires a level of playing that is literally athletic”.

We listened to all six concertos over and over.  These three selections are so noteworthy:

Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, movement 3 – this is the concerto that puts the spotlight on the trumpet soloist.  Due to the abundance of high notes and the speedy tempo, this is regarded as perhaps the most difficult music to play in the classical trumpet repertoire (vocab):

Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, movement 3 – our fave:

Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, movement 1 – this concerto exhibits the skill of the harpsichordist, in this case, the great, great, great Karl Richter.  I do not see how anyone can watch this man play this piece without thinking THIS IS INSANELY RIDICULOUS.  The solo part is simply exhausting:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers: 1) 750 cups, 2) $445, 3) $1, 055)

Miners and Minors

miners     little boys

Homonyms, homographs, and homophones:  the craziness of the English language!  Miners and Minors.  Wail, Wale, and Whale.  Watch (look) and Watch (timepiece).  Bark (dog talk) and Bark (on the tree).  Homonyms are the life of the party at our language arts gatherings.  My son and I had a great time going through a long list of these words last night, and it all started with “miners”.

gold rush books

The 49ers were miners:  a few nights ago we completed our second book about the California Gold Rush of 1849.  We are still thinking about –

  • how would we have traveled to California from the east coast;  all choices were dreadful.  Would we have taken a ship around the tip of South America (hideous seasickness/horrible food)?  Would we have taken a ship, disembarked (vocab) in Panama, hiked the 60 miles through the jungle (bugs and disease) and hoped we were able to find a ship to take us the rest of the way?  Would we have traveled over land in a covered wagon (we learned that the most dangerous part of covered wagon travel was the CROSSING OF RIVERS.  We would not have guessed that.)?
  • PAY DIRT – this is what happy prospector’s called finding gold dust in their pan of dirt.
  • those who profited the most for the gold rush: the store owners who sold supplies to the miners, Levi Strauss and his jeans, the Wells and Fargo mail delivery service, and women who cooked, washed, and mended the miners’ clothing.

hangtown fry

Hangtown Fry on the menu at Le Fictitious Local Diner (story problem) One of the diner’s cook’s kids was studying about the California Gold Rush, so the cook put a traditional 49er feast on the menu: Hangtown Fry, which he decided to serve with a side of sourdough bread.  Hangtown Fry is an omelette (vocab) made of eggs, oysters, and bacon.  The meal has been so popular that the chef has had to bake 10 loaves of sourdough every day.  If one loaf provides 12 slices of bread, and each Hangtown Fry order comes with 2 slices of bread, how many orders does the diner sell in a week? (answer at bottom of post)

Rounding out our homonym theme, in music:  After learning about the gold rush MINERS, we listened to three classical compositions in MINOR keys (in this case, each in the key of B minor).  We talked about the difference in sound between a major and minor key, we talked about why each of the chosen pieces needed to be written in a minor key, and then we sat back and enjoyed:

  • The Hebrides Overture, composed by Felix Mendelssohn in 1830 –  the minor key essential for evoking the mystery and might of nature.  Wonderfully conducted by the etherial Nathalie Stutzman in this video:

  • In the Hall of the Mountain King, from the incidental music Edvard Grieg composed in 1876 for Henrik Ibsen’s play, Peer Gynt.  Furtive (vocab), stealthy (vocab), secretive and aggressive – brought to us only by the minor key.  Excellent presentation:

  • Ride of the Valkyries, from Richard Wagner’s opera, The Valkyrie, which premiered in 1870.  The minor key brands the women warriors as fierce and relentless in their duties.  This piece performed by the Berlin Philharmonic is masterfully and energetically conducted by a young Daniel Barenboim. Oh my, the tempo is FANTASTIC:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
Jane BH
(story problem answer: 420 orders)