The American Scene

From the Wanderlust Files

Wanderlust – 
“You don’t even know where I’m going.”
“I don’t care. I’d like to go anywhere.” 
― John Steinbeck, “Travels with Charley:  In Search of America”

Wanderlust –
“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost.” 
― J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Fellowship of the Ring”

Wanderlust – 
“The gene itself, which is identified as DRD4-7R, has been dubbed the “wanderlust gene,” because of its correlation with increased levels of curiosity and restlessness.”
― Dan Scotti, March 2015 edition of Elite Daily

and more Wanderlust – The Lewis and Clark Expedition – My son and I agree that there had to be a heaping helping of DRD4-7R present among the army volunteers assembled for President Thomas Jefferson’s “Corps of Discovery Expedition” (otherwise known as the “Lewis and Clark Expedition”).  We are reading Roland Smith’s “The Captain’s Dog”.  Each chapter begins with an entry from Captain Meriwether Lewis’s journal and the remainder of the chapter is told from the perspective of Lewis’s dog, Seaman.  We happily open this book up every night and use the included map to follow the arduous journey through the Louisiana Purchase territory and Oregon Country.  New vocab/concepts:  court marshal  –  desertion  –  forts  –  fur trappers  –  grizzly bears  –  keelboats  –  parley  –  pirogue  –  portage  –  privates  –  river currents

wanderlust books

and more Wanderlust – All things Hobo – Hello relentless traveler:  lots of DRD4-7R going on here.  My son and I have learned that a hobo is a continually traveling worker, and the traveling is done by means of a “free” ride on a train.  We are halfway into Barbara Hacha’s comprehensive resource, “Mulligan Stew”.  Just ask us about hobo signs, symbols, carved nickels, bindles, and the dangers of riding the rails.  We’ve read through “Tourist Union 63”, an (excellent) ethical code of behavior chartered by 63 hobos in 1889.  We’ve read about the National Hobo Convention, held annually in Britt, Iowa since 1900.  We’ve read about hobo funerals (sidebar: there is actually a marked gravesite in the hobo section of the Britt cemetery to honor “The Unknown Hobo”).  

and other stuff:

reading

Stop the presses – a few weeks back, someone asked me a question that stopped me in my tracks: Could my son read?  Whoa.  I thought so, but how could I have overlooked that?  So I have added something into our STORIES AND STUDIES routine:  a VERY SHORT story with a few follow up questions.  I remain silent, but I do help my son run his index finger under each line of text.  Then he answers the questions.  Is he reading?  YES!!!!! PHEW!!!!!  He has now read about:

  • Grandmother’s job at a potato chip factory
  • Aunt Susan’s blue ribbon for best pie in the state of California!
  • Peppy, Dog Obedience School Drop-out
  • The Shoes in the Ice Block Contest

carter jones book

Current fiction reading – Gary Schmidt’s “Pay attention Carter Jones”.  We pretty much always enjoy a Gary Schmidt book, but this one is a little daunting.  Premise is adorable – a family is bequeathed the services of a British butler.  But (here is the “but”):  the butler is intent upon teaching the family’s son the British game with the most bewildering set of rules and traditions:  CRICKET.  Every night when I pick up the book I think, oh my gosh, what did we learn last night and is my son picking up any of this?  Still, he is not pushing the book away, and if you look beyond the confusing cricket component, the dialog is fun reading.   

and who doesn’t love a Venn Diagram?  Sets, unions, intersections:  what’s not to like?  My son is FOCUSED! 

venn diagram

From our Venn Vault:
Set A – letters of first half of alphabet 
Set B – letters of last half of alphabet 
Intersection – letters that rhyme with “B”

Set A – people who like to wear red clothes
Set B – people who are jolly 
Intersection  Santa Claus

Set A – odd numbers 1-20
Set B – even numbers 1-20 
Intersection  numbers that can be divided by 3

 

marshmallow roast

A Farmer Brown story problem – Farmer Brown and his farm hands have invited just about everyone they know to a Labor Day campfire!  Farmer Brown has purchased loads of s’more fixings:  marshmallows, chocolate bars, and graham crackers, and the hands have prepared roasting skewers for the marshmallows. The ranch has 4 campfire pits, and each can accommodate 8 marshmallow roasters at a time.  It takes 5 minutes of careful tending to warm a marshmallow to a perfect golden brown.  If 60 friends show up to the s’more fest, how long will it take for everyone to roast a marshmallow for their first s’more of the evening? (answer at bottom of post)

Memorial Service Music to honor The Unknown Hobo – 

The Big Rock Candy Mountain – this song about a mythical hobo heaven (complete with “cigarette trees”, oh dear), was first recorded by Harry McClintock in 1928, and has been sung at hobo funerals.   My son and I listened to the original McClintock recording:

Ashokan Farewell – composed in 1982 by American folk musician, Jay Ungar.  From the very first bar, the piece captures the sense of loss, and yet, as each additional instrument joins in, we also feel surrounded by the warmth and camaraderie of more and more friends –

Song of the Riverman, from “The American Scene” – even though this is the song of the riverman, my son and I clearly hear the smooth rhythm of the rails.  Composed by William Grant Still in 1957, the melody conveys strength, wistfulness, loneliness and a bit of danger.  The somberness is so right for this memorial service –

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  10 minutes)

Conversation Circle

220px-Ferris-wheel

Let’s Discuss – Hey! Look at the blog title block.  It says right there that my son is non-verbal. So how can I keep writing that “my son and I are having a talk about….” or “we had a conversation about…”?  Obviously I do all of the talking, but I try to set up every discussion with lots of statements for my son to respond to with short written answers.

Example – this past week we were looking at the very first Ferris Wheel, constructed in 1893 for the “World’s Columbian Exposition” in Chicago.  After we read through the Wikipedia entry and I put forth a few of my own observations, the questions:
– does riding on this Ferris Wheel look fun or scary?
– would it be safe to jump around in the Ferris Wheel compartment?
– should a Ferris Wheel be made out of metal or plastic?
– what would be a fair price for a Ferris Wheel ride?
– how long should a Ferris Wheel ride last?
– would you rather take a ride on a Ferris Wheel or a train?
– what sort of person could design a Ferris Wheel? A scientist? An engineer? A musician?

city book best

Conversation Starter – Oh my gosh, “City Atlas” by Georgia Cherry and Martin Haake has provoked so many conversations.  We focus upon one international city per evening.  We slog through the uninteresting info (every single city has museums aplenty, and they all seem to have some sort of body of water nearby) and then on to the stuff of fun conversations:
Berlin – Gummy Bears!   Moscow – Matryoshka dolls!   Budapest – Paprika!
Chicago – the original Ferris Wheel AND if that wasn’t enough: “Sue”, the world’s largest and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex!

gaudi better
The city that has sparked the most discussion so far has been Barcelona.  We wanted to know more about the intriguing architecture of Barcelona’s Antoni Gaudi…We have now read through two books on Gaudi.  Then we spent time comparing the work of the college-educated Gaudi with the work of uneducated, illiterate Sabato “Simon” Rodia and his audacious Watts Towers in Los Angeles. (Here’s an ultra-cool thing: Rodia is included among the many faces on the cover of the Beatles’ “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band” album cover!) Great conversations!  Thank you “City Atlas”!

Reading for pleasure – We are still laughing through “The Brilliant World of Tom Gates” by Liz Pichon, and we are still loving “Ribblestrop”.  Oh my, what endless imagination has gone into this book by Andy Mulligan.  This story about a English lad who has been sent off to boarding school is a relentless hot-mess of hilarious entertainment.

Bullard book

Perfect for February, Perfect for Anytime – More to discuss!  We are acknowledging Black History Month by learning about the world’s first black fighter pilot.  A short blurb about this man, Eugene Bullard, appeared on my FaceBook wall; I was intrigued, so we found “Eugene Bullard, World’s First BLACK Fighter Pilot”, by Larry Greenly. Before we opened the book, we discussed the challenges of being a pilot, and then the double challenges of being a fighter pilot.  This biography/adventure story is perfect reading for us.

A bit of music to celebrate Black History Month – we listened to some pieces we have liked for quite while that happen to be the work of black composers:

  • “Maple Leaf Rag” by Scott Joplin, composed in 1899; so popular that it provided a steady income for the rest of Mr. Joplin’s life (who passed away 18 years later).

  • “The American Scene – The Southwest: Song of the Riverman”, composed by William Grant Still (“the Dean of African-American composers”), in 1957.  “The American Scene” is a monumental work comprised of 3 sections, with 3 movements in each section. We have been enjoying “The Song of the Riverman” for about 4 years now. This descriptive piece makes us imagine that we are taking a train ride through the old west.

  • “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”, composed by Duke Ellington in 1940, lyrics by Bob Russel added in 1942 (#1 on the R+B charts in 1943).  We listened to two versions – one instrumental version and one sung by Ella Fitzgerald (both, heaven).  And then we found video footage from 1968 featuring Duke Ellington AND Ella Fitzgerald. Nice.

Welcome to the best part of my day!                                                                                                             – Jane BH