The Italian

1809: What Went So Right

1809:  Brilliant Work, Moms! 

lincoln    darwin    mendelssohn    poe

Abraham Lincoln, born February 12, 1809
Charles Darwin, born February 12, 1809
Felix Mendelssohn, born February 3, 1809
Edgar Allan Poe, born January 19, 1809

We are currently studying:
Louis Braille, born January 4, 1809

braille bio

My son and I decided to learn about Louis Braille (1809 – 1852) and we struck gold with the extraordinarily well researched book, “Louis Braille – A Touch of Genius”, by C. Michael Mellor.  Almost scrapbook in style and continually captivating: 

  • photographs, vintage illustrations, postage stamps, transcribed letters, sidebars of historical significance, examples of reading systems for the visually impaired
  • Louis Braille’s family and the tragic mishap that left him blind at age 3
  • comprehensive information about the Institute for the Blind in Paris, France – the only school for the blind in all of Europe at the time – where Louis was enrolled at age 10  
    • innovations/controversies of each headmaster 
    • school curriculum – education, job training, and music.  We learned that in addition to being an outstanding student, Louis was a prize winning cello player and also earned a side income by playing the organ   
  • Louis Braille’s contributions:
    • the raised 6-dot cell code (at age 15)(!!!) that is now, worldwide, called “braille”
    • a device that allowed for written communication between the visually impaired and the sighted (the first dot-matrix printer) 
    • a raised dot system for reading music 

Louis Braille passed away at age 43 of tuberculosis.  We finished the book heartened and heartbroken.

More talk about Louis Braille – When I texted superb educator, Jill R.A., that my son and I were in the midst of a study unit on Louis Braille, she texted back:

Oh! I love that! Louis Braille is a hero of mine so I tell everybody about him!  My title is Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI).  I am an itinerant (good vocab word) teacher which means I travel to wherever blind and visually impaired students are, which may be at home, day care, or schools.  Some TVI’s teach in a classroom at a blind school,  but I see students that attend public schools and are attending general ed classes.  I also work with students from birth up to age 21. I generally consult with teachers and help them understand how to best teach the student who is visually Impaired.  However,  I have braille students who I meet with at least 3 times a week for braille lessons. I even have a few babies who will be braille readers and I meet with them and their parents for pre-braille activities to get their little fingers ready and sensitive to feel the dots.  We will play in rice and beans and pick out different things.   We also start “looking” at books really early so that they know to feel for the dots. It’s a fantastic job!”

Look at the variety of braille learning tools that  Jill R.A. sent to augment our unit (I told you she was superb):

braille tools

Poe Poems – my son and I explored two lengthy poems by 1809 birthday boy, Edgar Allan Poe:  his  happiness-to-misery blueprint in “The Bells” (1849) and the tortured loneliness pervasive in “The Raven” (1845).  So gorgeously composed, each word so fastidiously selected, but YIKES.

beatnik style

Poetry Night at Le Fictitious Local Diner – The diner recently hosted a 1950’s “Beatnik” style poetry reading night.  Patrons were encouraged to  dress beatnik style (cool, man, cool) and arrive ready to recite a poem.  There were prizes for the best and worst outfits, best and worst poems, and best and worst poem delivery.  Well!  The diner was overwhelmed by the turn out!  150 people showed up and 80% were in costume, and 20% were brave enough to recite a poem.

1- How many patrons arrived in costume?
a).  16     b).  80     c).  100     d).  120

2- How many patrons recited a poem?
a).  20     b).  30     c).  50     d).  75

3- What percentage of the entire attending crowd received a prize?
a).  4%     b).  6%     c).  20%     d).  50%

4- Should poetry night be an annual event at the diner? (answers at bottom of post)

Mendelssohn Music – we celebrated another 1809 birthday boy (this one with a brighter point of view than Poe) by listening to three of our favorite pieces by Felix Mendelssohn – 

  • Overture to Midsummer Night’s Dream, composed 1826.  So very clever.  An excellent performance by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra (where Mendelssohn served as a very beloved Music Director from 1835 – 1847):

  • Symphony No. 4 (“The Italian”), movement 1, composed in 1833.  Happy, breezy.  A glossy smooth performance under the baton of Metropolitan Orchestra (Sydney, Australia) conductor, Sarah-Grace Williams:

  • Violin Concerto in E minor, finale, composed 1844.  This is the movement that my son and I call “the cat and mouse movement”….lots of brisk “advance/retreat”.  This is an old recording, but we are mesmerized by the precision that Itzhak Perlman brings to this performance:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers:  1) d.  120,  2) b. 30,  3)  a. 4%,  4)  Yes, of course!)

This Week: One Sculptor, One Scoundrel

michelangelo     Francis-drake

 Yay!                         Icky

Interesting Coincidence – a few posts back (“Two Different Worlds”, July 12, 2015) we mused that the two people we were studying (Rasputin and Albert Einstein) lived at approximately the same time, within a thousand miles of each other, but followed such different paths.  It has happened again!  We just concluded surveys of Michelangelo (1474 – 1564) and Sir Francis Drake (1540-1596), again living at about the same time, within a thousand miles of each other, but following two such different paths.  Michelangelo – devoted to the perfection of his sculpture, painting, architecture.  Drake – devoted to the accumulation of wealth via the only means he was clearly proficient at: brutal thievery.

It is too revolting to speak of Drake; our energy is better spent waxing enthusiastically about Michelangelo.  The book we read, “Michelangelo” by Diane Stanley is A++++.  Among simply loads of other things, we learned a lot about the Sistine Chapel:

Sistine-Chapel full

  • It was named for Pope Sixtus IV (get it? Sistine – Sixtus?), and the ceiling was commissioned by Pope Julius II, who just happened to be the nephew of Pope Sixtus IV. Hmmm.
  • In case you haven’t studied the ceiling, there are 9 major panels illustrating three themes:  the creation of heaven and earth, Adam and Eve, and Noah and the flood.  It took Michelangelo 4 years to paint this masterwork.
  • The 60 foot-high scaffolding (vocab!) upon which Michelangelo stood (yes, STOOD.  He did not paint lying down) stretched under only one half of the ceiling area.  Michelangelo painted the Noah’s Ark panels first. When he finished these panels, and the scaffolding was moved to the other end of the chapel, Michelangelo decided that it was difficult to decipher all the activity on the ceiling, so he painted much larger figures on the creation and Adam and Eve side!  I swear, live and learn.

Other stuff we’ve worked on this past week:

  • Reading comprehension – I wrote up a few paragraphs about my daughter and her job, and had my son read through it – I did not read it out loud – then my son took a multiple choice quiz about what he had read.  Did well.  Important activity.
  • Roman Numeral review. A+
  • We continue to enjoy the novel, “Greetings from Nowhere” by Barbara O’Connor.

michelangelo book

  • We were so impressed with Diane Stanley’s “Michelangelo”, that we selected another of her books, “Charles Dickens, The Man Who Had Great Expectations” to anchor our new study unit. So far, EXCELLENT!  My son is quite taken with this book.  We have learned what “shorthand” is and we are now motivated to give “The Pickwick Papers” a try.

Granny Smith Apple -Photographed on Hasselblad H3-22mb Camera

Our Farmer Brown Story Problem – Farmer Brown supplies apples to Le Fictitious Local Diner for their famous apple pies.  He sells the diner a box of 100 Granny Smith apples for $8.00.  The diner uses 6 apples for each pie. How many boxes will the diner need each month if they make 10 pies every week?  How much will the diner be billed for the apples every month?

Music to remind us of Michelangelo’s Rome

  • “The Pines of Rome”, movement 1, composed in 1924 by Ottorino Respighi.  Characteristic of Respighi’s work, this piece SPARKLES. (This movement has a quirky ending – beware!)

  • Allegretto from “Palladio for String Orchestra”, composed in 1995 by Karl Jenkins to honor the Roman architect Andrea Palladio, a contemporary of Michelangelo’s. (BTW, this music was used in a De Beers Diamond advertising campaign in the 1990s.)  Gorgeous church used in this video.

  • Mendelssohn’s “Symphony No. 4 in A major” (“The Italian”), movement 4, composed in 1883. We LOVE this entire symphony, and we’ve probably listened to this movement 30 times.  It moves right along.  This video?  OUTSTANDING performance.

Welcome to the best part of my day!  And Happy Birthday HKH!

– Jane BH