Violin Concerto in E Minor

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!)

Flying into 2016

home posterpigeon face left

Look homeward – hey!  This captured our attention a few nights ago: scientists think that the bit of iron present in the beaks of homing pigeons might serve as a compass, allowing these totally cool birds to fly straight home from recorded distances of up to 1,100 miles.  Well! How interesting is this?  We checked this morsel of information (from “Animal Kingdom” – a neat infographic book by Blechman and Rogers) with the Homing Pigeons entry in Wikipedia, where we learned that pigeons might also be guided by odors and low frequency sounds. We are such fans of homing pigeons (seriously, everything about these sweet birds is so A+ on our interest scale) – we first learned about them last March (mentioned in the blog entry, Flying, Farming, and Felix).

cummings book

A new poetry unit – we are learning about poet, e.e. cummings (1894-1962).  We have read so many biographies about people with harrowing childhoods, it comes as a relief to read about somebody from a thoroughly delightful and supportive family.  For heaven’s sakes, the family vacation home was named “Joy Farm” (happy all the way with this family)!  First-rate book:  “enormous SMALLNESS”, by Matthew Burgess, charmingly illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo.

dog biscuitdog biscuitdog biscuit

Story problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – the diner is ringing in 2016 by gifting all dog-owning customers with organic dog biscuits!  The diner is baking up 20 dozen dog biscuits every Monday for the month of January.  Leftover biscuits from each week will be given to the town’s pet shelter.  If 15% of the batch is left over each week, how many biscuits will be delivered to the shelter by the end of the month?

wave goodbye

(ooooh! UCLA colors!)

Music – we bid farewell to 2015 by viewing our favorite videos from the many we had watched this past year:

  • Mendelssohn’s “Violin Concerto in E minor”, movement 3, showcasing the beyond great Itzhak Perlman.  We call this the “cat and mouse” movement (we hear “advance/retreat, advance/retreat” and imagine a cat crouching outside a small opening in the wall, toying with a mouse on the other side of the wall who is anxious to make his escape and hunt for cheese).  This is an old recording, but the violin performance CANNOT get better than this.

  • Bach’s “Invention No. 8”, 44 seconds of pure pleasure, played by the astounding Simone Dinnerstein. Watching Ms. Dinnerstein’s fingers fly over the keys is mesmerizing; we have watched this over and over.

  • Camille Saint-Saens’ fabulously fun “Danse Macabre”, played by a Polish youth orchestra. I am sorry that we cannot decipher exactly which Polish youth orchestra, but this performance is jaw-dropping perfection.  In fact, it is so outstanding that I forced my mother (“The Peach”)(a most reluctant classical enthusiast) to watch.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

Insert Clever Title Here

Greetings.  I couldn’t think of a snappy title to lure any and all into this posting.  Well, you are here!  Welcome!  Here is our update from last night:

STORIES AND STUDIES

India: We have completed our unit on early 20th century India. We finished the novel, “All My Noble Dreams and Then What Happens” by Gloria Whelan – a captivating read with interesting historical information and a wonderful point of view. I do think there is a disconnect between the story and the title, but nobody is asking me. We finished our unit on Mohandas Gandhi (maybe one of our best units ever). I am so impressed with the DK Eyewitness book on Gandhi: OUTSTANDING research and well organized. I am still trying to find a poster of Gandhi that I like…am thinking about having a print shop make up a poster sized copy of the DK book cover. Hope this is legal.

gandhi

Explorers: Last night we read about Hernando Cortes, and we learned the difference between an explorer and a conqueror. Suffice it to say, we won’t be searching high and low for a poster of this MEAN man.

Le Fictitious Local Café story problem:  The 3 cooks and 4 waitresses at “Le Fictitious Local Café” need new aprons. Aprons for the cooks cost $8 each, and each cook needs 3 (so there will always be a clean one to put on). The waitresses all want aprons with cute rickrack stitched on, and these are available for $15 each. Each waitress needs 2 aprons. How much will the owner of the café need to shell out to provide aprons for his staff?

Classical Music: It was VIRTUOSO NIGHT again, starring violinist Itzhak Perlman!

  • Humoresque, by Antonin Dvorak. Until you’ve heard this piece conducted by Seiji Ozawa, featuring Perlman on violin and Yo-Yo Ma on cello, you have not heard the potential of this composition.  BTW, a “humoresque” was a genre of music in the 1800s that suggested a fanciful, sweet mood.
  • Out of Africa, the title music, by John Barry, composed in 1985. Itzhak Perlman’s solos break your heart.
  • Violin Concerto in E Minor, movement 3, by Felix Mendelssohn.  This video (linked below – my FIRST youtube link BTW!) is not the crispest, but who cares?  We LOVE it!  Perlman knows this piece backwards and forwards and upside down. We have watched this at least 10 times.  It is the perfect background music for a cat stalking a mouse.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH