Tom Gates

Shout outs!

megaphone    megaphone   megaphone

If you are part of an autism family, may I share two fave resources?

1) One Stop Autism-Info Shopping –  Guess what happens if you “like” Autism Society San Diego on your FaceBook page?  You stay on top of the latest trends and breakthroughs:  

legal – medical – behavioral – educational – therapeutic – employment – advocacy

Really, you name it; this hip group misses NOTHING.  On top of that, “likers” are treated to stories of personal triumphs (our hearts soar), and inspired by the many ASSD sponsored activities (weekend family camps – gym night – sensory friendly movies).  This is a forward moving,  assertive group with a very public presence in the community.  San Diego kids on the spectrum and their families are lucky to have such powerful support.  The San Diego Autism Society:  A+ on every level. 

ampersand

2) Dr. Amy Yasko: so smart, so kind – My son follows the autism protocol of brilliant researcher, Dr. Amy Yasko.  (My son’s local doctor described Dr. Yasko’s work as being “the Cadillac of Autism Protocols”.  Whoa.)  When anybody asks me about her, the first words out of my mouth are, “she’s SO smart and she’s SO kind”.  But see for yourself:  dramyyasko.com – lots of free videos of her lectures:  you will see how smart she is, you will see how kind she is.  Supported by an astonishing intellect and impressive resume, Dr. Amy is able to clearly explain the most ridiculously complex systems and processes to the likes of me (and apparently thousand of other parents – great parent chat room at www.ch3nutrigenomics.com) (and that is indeed a “3” in the middle of that web address).  And her sincere empathy for the plight of families with an autism child?  It helps.  Really, we love Dr. Amy Yasko.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled STORIES AND STUDIES review:

From our nightly story problem collection – I am still laughing over this:  somebody recently wrote that distance from the earth to the sun is exactly the length of 8 CVS receipts – this led to a story problem:

From the purchasing office at Le Fictitious Local Diner – If the typical length of a local diner receipt is 2 feet (what with all the diner coupons attached), and there are approximately 100 receipts printed out daily, and a paper roll of receipt paper is 230 feet in length, how many rolls does the diner need to purchase per month (assuming a 30 day month)?  (answers at bottom of post)

  1. 17 rolls     B.  27 rolls     C.  37 rolls     D.  47 rolls

If each roll costs $2, how much should the diner budget for receipt paper per month?

  1. $24     B.  $34     C.  $44     D.  $54

war book

Reading for fun – we are revisiting all of our Tom Gates books (author L. Pichon), currently reading book 2, “Excellent Excuses (and other good stuff)”.  Tom Gates makes me laugh every single night;  I love his favorite rock band, “Dude 3”, I love his sullen sister, Delia, I love the way Tom’s dad tries to avoid his pompous uncle.  My son loves Tom’s doodles (vocab) and luckily, Tom is a chronic doodler.  We both enjoy trading Tom’s UK words and expressions for American counterparts (biscuits/cookies, jumper/sweater, that sort of thing).  Every page is entertaining and so worth a second read through.

Reading for our heart “The War that Saved My Life”, a 2016 Newberry Honor Book, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.  We look forward to opening this book every night.  The overriding theme focuses on children who were evacuated (vocab) from London during World War II, but cleverly balanced intertwining themes (horses/air fields/special needs/friendship) make this book difficult to stop reading every night.  Excellent discussion provoker.

Our Classical Music Choices – inspired by the UK locale of our two fiction books, we listened to the work of iconic British countryside composer, Ralph Vaughan Williams:

ralph vaughan williams stamp

  • “The Lark Ascending”, composed in 1914 for piano and violin, scored for orchestra in 1920. This well loved piece keeps placing #1 year after year in the Classical FM website Hall of Fame competition.  It is a bit lengthy (16 minutes or so), but it is original, soothing, hopeful and puts the solo violinist (in this case, virtuoso Hilary Hahn) to the test (Ms. Hahn delivers!):

  • “Sea Songs”, composed in 1923, Vaughan Williams seamlessly combined three sea shanties in a four minute jaunty piece (which appears to have been performed, recorded, and uploaded onto YouTube by more college orchestras than any other composition). The seemingly irresistible “Sea Songs” also reappears as movement II of Vaughan Williams’ “English Folk Song Suite”.  We’ve selected a performance by the Wheaton College Symphonic Band, expertly led by honors conductor, Elizabeth Barrett:

  • “English Folk Song Suite”, also written in 1923.  We listened to movement III, a spritely march, “Folk Songs from Somerset” (and sort of interesting:  repeated throughout the piece, my son and I can hear the first line of “The 12 Days of Christmas”).  A simply outstanding performance by a local Texas MIDDLE SCHOOL (!).  We are VERY impressed:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
 – Jane BH
Story problem answers:  B.  27 rolls,  D.  $54

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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)

Curses and Cheers

cedar-brance

Curses!  January is Texas Cedar Pollen season.  I am sneezing all over the place, much to my son’s displeasure.  He really hates it when anybody sneezes.  Last night we began our STORIES AND STUDIES hour by learning about Juniperus ashei, the super hardy drought-resistant scourge that produces the dreaded pollen (so the culprit is a juniper NOT a cedar) (classic).  AND we read about why people sneeze and why sometimes people sneeze three times in a row (mildly interesting at best, but there is the grossness factor, so that is something).

jim-thorpe-olympic-poster

And so begins our Native American unit –  my son and I are more aware citizens for having read “Jim Thorpe – Original All American” by Joseph Bruchac.  We ended up overwhelmed by Mr. Thorpe’s athleticism and versatility – what a regret that there were no movie cameras used to record this best of the best in football, baseball and track.  This book is as much about Jim Thorpe as it is about Pop Warner, his (law-unto-himself) coach at the Carlyle Indian Industrial School.  YES, THE Pop Warner.  The author presents in an organized, well-researched, and dignified manner the unnecessary debacle that was the Olympic scandal involving Jim Thorpe’s supposed “non-amateur” status.  The author also gives us something else to puzzle over:  as Jim Thorpe represented the USA in the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, bringing home gold in both pentathlon and decathlon, he was not considered to be an American citizen!  It wasn’t until 12 years later, with the passing of the Indian Citizenship Act in 1924, that Native Americans were considered citizens.
If there were ever a “Native American History MONTH”, instead of the embarrassingly paltry “Native American Heritage DAY” (so passed by congressional legislation in 2009) (get this, it is on “Black Friday”) (FOR SHAME) this book belongs on the required reading list.

work-gloves

Well!  After getting all heated up we needed to cool down with a Farmer Brown story problem – “Warm Hands for Farm Hands”– a “compute-this-without-paper-and-pencil” question:
Every January, Farmer Brown purchases new winter work gloves for the 8 farm hands.  He purchases two pair for each man – one pair of extreme-weather gloves at a cost of $35 each and one pair of warm gloves that offer touch screen capability (so they can use their cell phones without taking their gloves off), at a cost of $20 each.  If the cost includes tax, what is the total Farmer will spend to reglove his workers?
A) $280    B) $800    C) $160    D) $440 (answer at bottom of post)

tom-gates-yes-no

We can’t get enough of Tom Gates!  My son received two more “Tom Gates” books (a series of consistently captivating books from the UK) for Christmas and we were so happy to start reading “Tom Gates – Yes! No (Maybe)” because Tom Gates IS A RIOT.  Here is the type of thing that has us laughing: 1) his grandmother’s latest terrible food offering: wood flavored “crisps”, 2) his neighbor’s dad was formerly in a rock band called, “PLASTIC CUP”.   Tom Gates books manage to be so funny while developing realistic, complicated predicaments that avoid “man’s inhumanity to man” and “coming of age” themes.  They are perfect for my son, and I just love getting to be the person who gets to read them out loud.  Cheers to author Liz Pichon!

orpheus

Cheers for the completely awesome Orpheus Chamber Orchestra!  My son and I wanted to learn about the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra (formed in 1972, based in New York City, comprised of outstanding musical professionals – university professors/members of upper echelon symphonic orchestras) because this outstanding 30-member orchestra uses NO conductor –  they listen closely to each other, and decisions are made by democratic process.  Apparently they make this formula work because in 2007, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra won a worldwide award for  “Most Democratic Workplace”.  We wanted to watch and listen!

About Orpheus – a three minute introduction, well done:

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra plays from Rossini’s “La Cambiale de Matrimonio” (The Marriage Contract), Giocchiono Rossini’s first opera – composed in 1810, when he was 18!  About a minute and a half into this performance you can see the whole orchestra – playing away sans (vocab) a conductor – the overall look is a bit disorienting, but inspiring:

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra playing Maurice Ravel’sLe Tombeau de Couperin” (composed in 1919) – played at a very fast clip, just the way we like it:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer: D: $440)

Le Menu du Jour

~Oh, what a tantalizing offering~

Appetizers –
May we suggest – une petite matching quiz to review things we’ve been learning about lately?

Followed by – a bit of drawing with pastels, focusing on TEXTURE

matching-quiz

Zen perhaps – a game of hangman:  last night’s word was “vowel” – my son has just learned the difference between vowels and consonants (my bad for not explaining this YEARS ago).  Now that he recognizes the prevalence of vowels in all words, the time spent playing our hangman games has significantly decreased.

For le final appetizer delicacy – a story problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner:
The diner’s back room is being decorated with crepe paper streamers for a homecoming banquet, and it is going to involve THE PYTHAGOREAN THEOREM! (FYI, my son understands square roots, but to cut WAY down on time, we used the iPad for this calculation).

green-crepe-paper-left-sideblue-crepe-paper-roll

The room measures 15 by 20 feet and the party planners want to criss cross royal blue and bright green (school colors) crepe paper streamers from the ceiling corners.  Streamers are to be taped and artistically twisted together from one corner of the room, diagonally, to the other side of the room.  OMGOSH, right before their eyes, a HYPOTENUSE!
1) how far is it from one corner to another (diagonally across the room)?

2) how many feet of streamer are needed to stretch from one corner diagonally across the room to the other corner, if 1.5 times the hypotenuse are needed to achieve an esthetically pleasing twist?

3) if both colors will be used from corners to corners, making sort of an “X” in the middle of the room, how many feet will be needed of each color? (answers at bottom of post)

astro-cat-1

Le Main Course –
A favorite book author team, Dr. Dominic Walliman and Ben Newman, who put together “Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space”, have a new A+++ book out (YAY!):  “Professor Astro Cat’s Atomic Adventure” – another case of we-cannot-wait-to-open-it-every-night.  So far, we have learned about gravity (we threw a whole bunch of things up in the air and watched the inevitable happen), the scientific method (brother Jim is a molecular biologist, so we are taking a personal interest in the scientific method), the periodic table (organizational perfection), protons and electrons (the speed of those elections mesmerizes us).  We are spellbound by Professor Astor Cat’s topics – well chosen, well explained; and graphics – SPLENDID.  This book should be on everyone’s Christmas list.

For side dishes – our current fiction novel: “Gabby Duran and Troll Patrol”. YES.  And a reading from our current Tom Gates book (“Tom Gates Extra Special Treats – not”). YES.

To cleanse zee palate – a poem:  tonight’s selection, “Keep a Goin’” by Frank L. Stanton, a journalist for the Atlanta Constitution newspaper and Poet Laureate of Georgia, appointed in 1925.  This poem has been stuck in my head for decades (when my sister was in the 4th grade, she chose to memorize this poem, and in the process, said it aloud so many times that everyone in the family to this day can recite it).  Thank heavens it is fun, uplifting, grateful.  Good for everybody.

And finally, le dessert tray – three elegant morsels from Frederic Chopin:

strawberries

“Grande Valse Brilliante”, a waltz composed by Chopin in 1834 and used in the ballet “Les Sylphides”, which premiered in 1909.  Everybody who has taken ballet lessons has tour jete’d across the dance studio (hypotenuse style!) to this absolutely charming waltz:

“Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor”, AKA “The Funeral March” to ALL kids (“pray for the dead and the dead will pray for you”), was composed in 1839.  A perfectly creepy recording from 1910:

“The Minute Waltz”, more properly known as Chopin’s “Waltz in D-flat major”, composed in 1847.  A bit of false advertising, as this piece actually lasts just over 2 minutes:

Bon appetit!
Welcome to the best part of my day!
Jane Heiserman
(Story problem answers:  25 feet,  37.5 feet,  75 feet)

We the People

Here is what is going on with us the people at the STORIES AND STUDIES CENTER (my son’s bed, every night, 10:30 pm):

constitution photo

The Preamble to the Constitution – our hearts are touched by the perfectly worded preamble, so I am having my son memorize it.  For the past two weeks, every night after we read through the preamble, my son writes the missing words in a fill-in-the-blanks preamble.  And every night, more words are missing – so we are doing the successive approximation thing.  Interesting thought – what if schools alternated the Pledge of Allegiance with the Preamble every morning?  Another thought – what if every proposed law was required to read as clearly and straightforward as the preamble?

sharks book

Building a House – we’ve read through “How to Build a House” by Gail Gibbons.  Yes, this is a little kids book, but seriously, it is so well organized, every contractor should hand one of these to each of his clients, so they can get the basic idea of what comes before what.  This book provoked a yucky side study – my son wanted to know more about a house’s septic system.  Ick.

Sharks! – from the excellent Usborne book series.  Here is what has caught our eye so far – the eyes of the hammerhead shark. CRAZY. Also, so sad: baby sharks are left by their moms after they are born.  So, apparently they raise themselves.  No wonder they have such bad manners.

Reading for fun – We are laughing our way through #4 of the Tom Gates series, “Tom Gates – Genius Ideas (mostly)”, by Liz Pichon.  We LOVE this series!  Every single page is hilarious.  What a treat at the end of each day.  Love it, love it, love it.

guestcheck

Tips from Le Fictitious Local Diner – not exactly a story problem: We pretended that a waiter from Le Fictitious Local Diner gave my son a list of table order totals and asked him to figure out bare minimum tips (15%) and happy customer tips (20%). We talked about how waiters are paid and how much they depend upon their tips.  We talked about the difference between good and poor service.  We talked about whether it was the waiter’s fault if the food was substandard (of course this would never happen at Le Fictitious Local Diner – the food is always first rate at the diner).

string quartet sketch

EEEEEW, string quartets – I kept putting this off: listening to string quartets with my son.  Of course, I want to my son to know about this classical music genre, but alas, I am not a fan of the string quartet.  I have tried out dozens upon dozens of string quartets in the past few years, and all I hear is either spiders dancing across a hot pan or some poor soul gasping for breath.  But the time has come – I found 3 string quartets that changed my EEEEEWs to AHHHHHs, and I was enthusiastic about  sharing these with my son.

  • First, because we knew that Franz Josef Haydn (1732 – 1809) is considered to be the “Father of the String Quartet”, I thought we should listen to the first movement of his very first string quartet “String Quartet in B flat Major” (“La Chasse”).  This is the first of 68 (!!!) quartets Haydn composed between 1762 and 1803.

  • Next, we listened to “String Quartet No. 2 in D Major”, composed by Alexander Borodin in 1881.  We listened to movement 3 (“Nocturne”) over and over.  This is the deeply romantic melody used in the (1953 American musical) “Kismet” song, “And This is My Beloved”, for which he was posthumously awarded the 1954 Tony Award. (Good show Alexander! Good show Tony Award selection committee!  Good show Kismet people!)

  • And lastly, we listened to a wonderful contemporary musical ensemble, “The Vitamin String Quartet” (I am still laughing at the name). This group is known for applying their classical skills to renditions of modern and rock songs. We loved listening to their version of John Williams’ “Cantina Band” from Star Wars.

There now, that wasn’t so bad after all!

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

Tick, Tick, Tick

stopwatch

There has been a rather large time gap since my last post – I was doing the single-parenting thing last week (subsequently couldn’t summon up energy to write) while my husband visited his sweet mom in CA.  But he is back, so I am back.  Here is what my son and I have been learning about –

tick tick books

  • Bison!  Our primary take-away from this mini-mini-study was acknowledging that what we have in the United States are bison NOT buffalo (such a bummer for the “Home on the Range” song).  We would like to know more about bison – regrettably, our book, though chock full of excellent photographs, was not chock full of information.  I will be on the lookout for a more fact filled resource.

bison 2     water buffalo

– Bison to the left, Buffalo to the right –

  • Otto von Bismarck:  very strong personality, probably responsible for unifying Germany during the latter half of 19th century (so that is good), but still, he was a diabolical strategist with a very difficult personality.  Our von Bismarck book was from the “Wicked History” series, and it did not disappoint.  Well researched, well written, well edited.  Excellent reading.
  • Shoe Business!  We are reading our first business book, “Start Something that Matters” by Blake Mycoskie, of the inspiring TOMS (“tomorrow’s shoes”) win-win movement.  We think Mr. Mycoskie has it so right!  To enhance this learning unit, I brought my TOMS shoes to the “Stories and Studies Center” (my son’s large bed) (who wouldn’t want a stack of well worn shoes on their bed?).

TOMS

  • The History of Music in Fifty Instruments“, by Philip Wilkinson:  a good conversation starter book.  We are picking and choosing what we are reading (some stuff is just too mind numbingly technical), but this book is well worth wading through because we have learned about THE UGLIEST MUSICAL INSTRUMENT EVER – the serpent. OH, IT IS SO CREEPY. Take a look and take a listen:

(note to daughter, HKH:  I am just so hoping that we won’t be booking this type of music for your wedding reception.)

New topic – 

Tom Gates books

Here’s what’s fun: the Tom Gates books, written by Liz Pichon; we are in the middle of book 2 (“Tom Gates – Excellent Excuses”). The series is sort of a British take on Jeff Kinney’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” (which we also really like) and has got us matching British words with their  American counterpart:  mate=friend, biscuit=cookie, crisps=potato chips,  dodgy=not good, rubbish=the worst.  Tom doodles all over the place, despises his sister, calls his grandparents “the Fossils”, and worships the rock band, “Dude3” (every time I read the band name I laugh).  We like opening this book every night.

Beginning to think about the upcoming summer Olympics – 

rio logo new

Story problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – the local junior high school is seeking to bolster funds for their foreign language department so the diner has been coerced (vocab) into sponsoring a raffle (vocab), with the first prize being two first-class round-trip (concept) plane tickets to the summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro!  If each plane ticket costs $1,500, and if the diner is hoping to contribute $2,000 to the foreign language department, how many $5 raffle tickets will need to be sold? (answer “A” at bottom of post).

Oh my gosh, there’s more to this story problem: what if the airline can be persuaded to reduce the cost of the plane tickets by 20%, and what if the diner decides to try to up their contribution to $5,000. How many tickets need to be sold now? (answer”B” at bottom of post)

Classical music selections from last night – thinking about Brazil – we decided to cap off a discussion of the upcoming Olympics by listening to “The Little Train of Caipira”, written in 1930 by premiere Brazilian composer, Heitor Villa-Lobos.  My son and I have listened to this delicious 5 minute gem about 75 times.  Yeah, we like this piece.

First we listened to the recording we have on our iPod, from the Heidi Grant Murphy/Aureole “Sueño De Amor” (dreams of love) album.  Soothing, flavorful, filled with yearning:

Then, an OUTSTANDING visual and auditory collage –  music students in Brazil putting together “The Little Train of Caipira”.  Did I say OUTSTANDING?  I think I meant DOUBLE OUTSTANDING.  Such a tribute to Villa-Lobos:

Then, what fun – from the fabulous Los Angeles Guitar Quartet , their version of “I Wanna Be Like You” (from “The Jungle Book”), orchestrated in the manner of Heitor Villa-Lobos:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(Story Problem A: 1,000)
(Story Problem B: 1,480)