Vivaldi

Hey, Rhododend!

Hey, rhododend!
Courage, little friend.
Ev’rything’ll end rhododandy.

Hurry! It’s lovely up here!

My son and I are experiencing the satisfaction of growing plants from seeds, and I have been humming the GO TO gardener cheerleading tune, “Hurry! It’s Lovely Up Here”, from the 1965 Lane/Lerner Broadway musical, “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever”. 

How this came to be – 

First, back in December, my son started a microscopic volunteer job at the most wonderful local nursery.  Mr. Paul, the manager, as well as every single employee we have encountered, has been accommodating, tolerant, and welcoming.  So, when we arrive for the once-a-week “job”, my son literally bursts from the car and yanks on his garden gloves, revved up to walk through the magic land of plants and get to work.  At completion of the day’s task, we purchase a seed packet (so far:  radishes, sunflowers, thyme, cucumbers, peppers, turnips) for planting that very afternoon. 

Then, we learned so much from Riz Reyes’ “Grow”, a superbly organized book offering a four-page spread for each of 15 different types of plants (plants that my son can understand, like mushrooms, bamboo, maple trees, daffodils), enhanced by the vibrant illustrations of Sara Boccaccini Meadows.  This A+ book has inspired us to plant tomatoes, pumpkins, and carrots from seeds.  (And speaking of “A+”, this book was written by a former high school student of my best college room-mate, (top flight language arts teacher) Miss Jeanette – who has made it into a few of my story problems).  We are already on our second read through. We just love every page of this book AND his Instagram page:  rhrhorticulture.

Finally, a few months ago I paid a visit to the very best kind of new relative (a half-sister!), whose backyard produces such an abundance of fruits/citrus/vegetables that I knew, right then, that I wanted my son to be able to witness the slow motion miracle of all sorts of plant growing cycles.

Change of topic, but still in the backyard –  “Why Don’t Woodpeckers Get Headaches”, by Mike O’Connor, of the “Bird Watchers General Store” in Orleans, Massachusetts.  First of all, this is the work of a skilled and knowledgeable writer and almost more importantly, THIS BOOK IS NON-STOP HILARIOUS.  It is comprised of letters of inquiry to Mr. O’Connor, whose responses make me shriek with laughter, and are filled with information we had never considered (how can we be responsible citizens if we don’t have a birdbath in our back yard?????)(we are SO getting a birdbath).  Learning while we are laughing is THE BEST.

More outdoor stuff – We have just finished “The Northern Lights – Celestial Performances of the Aurora Borealis”, dazzler photos by Daryl Pederson and Calvin Hall and relevant accompanying essay by Ned Rozell – prompting us to discuss the commitment a photographer would need to spend endless nights in the freezing cold environs of the North Pole, just waiting and waiting and waiting to capture aurora phenomena.  (Of course, we learned what causes the aurora:  solar winds jousting with the earth’s electromagnetic field.  Sort of FREAKY STUFF.)  We augmented our study (Wikipedia) by learning that  “aurora borealis” means  “northern lights”.  Is there a similar phenomena by the South Pole?  Yes, the “aurora australis” (australis meaning “south”, not a reference to Australia).  Damn, we know a lot.

Story problem from the nursery – a project my son is currently working on (at his volunteer job) involves moving pavers (that have been stacked on a falling-apart wood palate) to a brand new palate.  Over the course of the past few weeks he has moved:

week 1 – 25 pavers
week 2 – 30 pavers
week 3 – 30 pavers
week 4 – 33 pavers

Question:  If the pavers sell for $3 each, and Farmer Brown needs 50% of the pavers on the new palate to create flooring for his new birdbath sanctuary, how much cash will he need to retrieve from his secret safe (not including tax)?

a)  $60     b)  $177     c)  $300     d)  $354  (answer at bottom of post)

And more outdoor stuff  – We’ve just finished the Gordon Korman YA book, “Unplugged”, which takes place in the great outdoors (a remote camp in Arkansas) and involves a ban on electronics, a vegetable-forward diet, quirky new friends AND a sinister, illegal alligator enterprise. This is the most advanced mystery/adventure book I have tackled with my son.  He liked it!  As per usual with a Gordon Korman work:  excellent book, excellent message.

Classical Music Time: celebrating the growing season –

“Spring”, movement I – from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”, composed around 1720.  About 30 seconds into this spirited performance we can hear jillions of insects buzzing like crazy in the meadow.  We love this part!

“Spring Song” from Mendelssohn’s “Songs without Words”, book 5 (of 8 books), composed around 1844.  My son is familiar with the main theme of this composition because it has been used more than once in cartoons (case in point, Disney’s 1937 “Clock Cleaners” – about 6 minutes into the cartoon) – 

And of course, “Hurry! It’s Lovely Up Here” – Adorably sung in this video clip by Audra McDonald – my fave lines (about the “rhododend”) are stuck right in the middle of the song – 

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(Story problem answer:  b)  $177)

C’mon in!

Here is where we study every night (my son’s bedroom).  Lots to look at.  All wall posters were selected by my son after studying about each scientist, statesman, inventor, artist, or topic – 

      

     

Here is what we have been studying –

“Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera – Their Lives and Ideas” by Carol Sabbeth.  We recently learned that a member of our extended family studied under Diego Rivera!  Say no more!  We immediately found “Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera”, an A+, very readable, well researched book about this independent thinking, irrepressible, never-a-dull-moment love (most of the time) match.  Takeaways:

  • Rivera was inspired by Jose Guadalupe Posada, who printed his etchings on inexpensive paper so he could sell them for pennies, making his art affordable for all.  This prompted Rivera to paint murals – his way of making art accessible for everyone.
  • Full of contradictions:  Rivera LOVED Mexico, was  a committed Communist (he assisted in hiding Leon Trotsky when he fled Russia to Mexico), but he also LOVED the big cities of the USA (spending months and months in San Francisco, Detroit, NYC).  
  • Got into big trouble for painting Vladimir Lenin into his mural in Rockefeller Center.  Got into big trouble for painting “God does not exist” into his mural for the Hotel del Prado in Mexico City.
  • Even though Kahlo and Rivera were extremely popular artists and had a devoted following, they alas, were not skilled money managers, so they had to paint, paint, paint to make ends meet.
  • Does my son like the subject matter, the strength, the rounded warmth, the empathy of Rivera’s art?  YES!  Outlook good for a Diego Rivera poster to be added to my son’s gallery.

And also –

“Earth-Friendly Buildings, Bridges and More”, by Etta Kaner.  Discussion provoking.

“In the Bag – Margaret Knight Wraps it Up”, by Monica Kulling, about the super smarty who, among her 90 inventions and 20 patents, developed a machine in 1870 to make a flat bottomed paper bag (the kind used by grocery stores, and 150 years later, still used by grocery stores).

Here is what we have been reading fiction-wise –

Hope was Here”, by Joan Bauer –  A captivating read that weaves waitressing, small town politics, a cancer diagnosis, self-reliance, and kindness into a book that we think is worth reading more than once.  We loved this book every single night.

All-of-a-Kind Family”, by Sydney Taylor –  We are enjoying 1) the author’s masterful character sketches of the 5 children and 2) comparing the differences between family life today and family life in the early 1900’s.

Farmer Brown Story Problem – C’mon in, have a cookie!  Last December, Farmer Brown sold 1,000 gingerbread man cookies at his roadside stand.  1,000!  Everyone in town just loves them!  He wants to sell even more this December.  His secret recipe requires 2 eggs to make 4 dozen gingerbread men.  How many eggs will Farmer Brown need to make at least 1,001 cookies?  

A).  12 eggs     B).  42 eggs     C).  144 eggs     D).  500 eggs

Is this more, less, or the same amount of eggs needed for 1,000 gingerbread men? (answers at bottom of post)

Sunday night studies?  C’mon in!  On Sunday nights we conclude our learning time with music that is spiritual in nature.  The top 10 pieces we have listened to dozens and dozens and dozens of times:

  • Ave Maria, Jacques Arcadelt, mid 1500’s
  • Gloria in D major, Vivaldi, early 1700’s
  • Go Down Moses, African American spiritual, mid 1800’s 
  • How Great Thou Art, Carl Boberg, 1885
  • Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho, African American spiritual, early 1800’s
  • Let Us Cheer the Weary Traveler, Nathaniel Dett, 1926
  • Sheep May Safely Graze, Bach, 1713 
  • Tender Shepherd (Peter Pan musical), Moose Charlop (my new favorite name), 1954
  • The Dove, Respighi, 1928
  • Turn! Turn! Turn!, Pete Seeger, 1959, popularized in 1965 by The Byrds

And my son’s definite favorite three?

  • Turn! Turn! Turn! – the lyrics come straight from chapter 3 of Ecclesiastes (except for the words, “turn, turn, turn”.).  This song was a favorite staple of the hippie era –

  • How Great Thou Art – set to the music of a Swedish traditional tune.  My son loves this Alan Jackson version –

  • Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho – what a brilliantly conceived arrangement (from the Nathaniel Dett Chorale)!  Thank heavens the song only mentions the walls tumbling down, because after the walls came-a-tumbling down, Jericho found itself in a world of hurt:  lots of mayhem and bloodshed, LOTS.  

BTW, you do NOT want to miss the next blog post (#150!!!!!).  Prepare now for THE GENERAL KNOWLEDGE QUIZ!

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers:  B).  42 eggs.  Farmer Brown will need the same amount of eggs to make 1,001 gingerbread men as he will to make 1,000.)

 

We’ll take that with a side of music –

bat

Going Batty – A few weeks ago, my son and I retrieved a frog from the backyard pool and lifted it to safety.  A few days ago, we again saw something fluttering madly in the water, and assuming it was another frog, we were stunned to find a little bat in our net!  Now we needed to read about bats (the biggest take-away:  bats eat TONS of insects) (yay bats!) and celebrate our successful life-saving effort by listening to a waltz from Johann Strauss’s operetta of 1874, “Die Fledermaus” (“The Bat”) (which is not about bats, but about amusing revenge plotted by a man who one evening wore a bat costume to a party).  (Not much to look at in this video, but we love the conductor, Mariss Jansons.  Beware the LONG 1 minute 20 second introduction):

Teaser!  A few posts back (May 25, 2018, “It’s All about the Triangle”), I mentioned that my son and I learned about Janissary bands, and it seems unfair to leave it at that, so:  Ottoman Janissary Bands, thought to be the oldest type of military band, date back to the 14th century.  (The Janissary were the elite infantry guarding the sultan’s household.)  My son and I speculated as to the type of musical instruments used in the 1300’s in Turkey – certainly pipes and percussion.  The music pretty much sounds exactly as we imagined.  Stirring. Nobody sleeps when a Janissary band plays:

The Body Beautiful –  We are chock full of interesting information from Professor Astro Cat’s HUMAN BODY ODYSSEY, by Walliman and Newman:

  • we know about the most useful joint in the body (the thumb)
  • we know about the speed of a sneeze (100 MPH!)
  • we know about hiccups!

Last night we read about the lymphatic system; tonight, the endocrine system.  Every few days we toast the healthy body by tapping our toes to the Powers/Fischoff/Keith GIANT hit of 1967, “98.6”:

We keep learning:

thesaurus

The Reference Section – After my son and I talked about the difference between a synonym and a definition, we read through the fabulously illustrated “Roget and His Thesaurus” by Jennifer Bryant/Melissa Sweet, and then compared a few words (book, study, snack) from our Roget’s Thesaurus (“treasure house”) and our dictionary.

hatchet alone

A Reread – This is our third time through “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen, a book found on every  young adult book list, so I don’t need to wax on about the author’s skilled command of great story, poetic pace, and worthy theme (self reliance).  Even the third time through we are leaning forward to hear what happens next.

sand dollar cookie

(Story Problem) Little Picnic Boxes at Le Fictitious Local Diner – To surprise little Miss G and little Miss P, the diner’s favorite mini customers, the chef has added onto the menu a “Mini Mermaid Summer Picnic Box” (teeny tuna sandwiches, sea salt chips, sand dollar cookies, and blue lagoon lemonade).  Priced at $5, the picnic box is such a hit! 

(For my son to compute in his head, no paper)  A local elementary school is purchasing picnic boxes for the final day of summer school.  If there are 85 students enrolled, the school accountant needs to write the diner a check for how much?  (answer at bottom of post)
A.  $225     B.  $325     C.  $425     D.  $525

(For my son to compute in his head, no paper)  Did we mention that the recyclable paper boxes are super cute and are purchased in units of 50?  If the diner projects that they can sell 750 Mini Mermaid Summer Picnic Boxes during the month of August, and they add on the summer school order, how many units need to be ordered?  (answer at bottom of post)
A.  15 units     B.  17 units     C.  20 units     D.  25 units

insect painting

Insects in the Air!   What we were also listening to this past week:

Spring, Movement 1, from Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” (1721).  For about a half a minute, beginning at 35 seconds into the piece, my son and I can hear a chaotic riot of buzzing cicadas, mosquitoes, dragonflies, and bees.  Wow:

Fireflies, from the solo piano work, “Four Sketches” by Amy Beach, composed in 1892.  We love this piece;  when we lived in Georgia, our backyard was alight with fireflies all summer long and Amy Beach has captured the sparkly magic:  

La Cucaracha – well, this is just so sad.  The original words to this traditional Spanish folk song (composer unknown) tell about a cockroach who has lost one of his legs!  Somebody actually wrote a song about this?????  OH DEAR, the poor thing is hobbling about on 5 legs – and yet – the melody is full of upbeat happiness, encouragement and warmth.  Let this be a lesson!

Welcome to the best part of my day!
Jane BH
story problem answers:  C.  $425, and  B.  17 units

The Vocabulary of Vocabulary

In our quest to learn something about everything, the overly complicated focus of the past week was part of our “Vocabulary of Vocabulary” unit:

“Vernacular” vs. “Lexicon” – which became a little more understandable when we differentiated between the vernacular and lexicon in our current home state of Texas:

Group – Texans
VERNACULAR examples – y’all, bless your heart (meaning “OMG, how stupid is that?”)
examples from the LEXICON – impordant (the Texan way with “important”), fixin’ (meaning getting ready to do something)

My son learned that vernacular and lexicon are almost-but-not-quite interchangeable; vernacular referring to the unique language/jargon of a particular group and lexicon (almost like a mini-dictionary) referring to the specific words of the language.  (Wow, picky.)

Anyway, using the book, “Pirates Magnified” by David Long and Harry Bloom, we had a blast looking into the vernacular and lexicon specific to sailors and pirates of the 17th and 18th centuries:

Group – Pirates
VERNACULAR examples – aargh, avast ye, barnacle-covered, Davy Jones’ locker
examples from the LEXICON – privateer, cutlass, crow’s nest, swabbies

“Pirates Magnified” also provided conversation provokers –
–  the pirate’s code (the classic case of honor among thieves)
–  lady pirates (these women were SCARY)
–  voted most important discussion instigator:  a significant percentage of sailors on pirate ships were escaped slaves
Good book!

blue plateblue plateblue plate

Story problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – the diner is rife (vocab) with vernacular (slinging hash, mayo, Adam and Eve on a raft, greasy spoon)…How about their “blue plate special”?  For the month of February, the diner’s blue plate special will include a grilled bratwurst smothered in home-made chili, a side of their jalapeño honey corn bread, and a heaping spoonful of the house chunky cinnamon-spiked applesauce.  Each blue plate special is priced at $8 and costs the diner $3.  If the diner sells 100 specials per week, what will be the profit at the end of February?
A. $500      B. $1,000      C. $1,500      D. $2,000 (answer at bottom of post)

pirate whyeth     bach

The rowdy and the refined – my son and I got so embroiled with pirates of the 17th and 18th centuries that it jarred our brains to think something else might have been going on in the world.  So, when pirates and privateers were wreaking havoc on the high seas (and we learned “the high seas” means “open ocean, not within any country’s jurisdiction”) what was going on in the drawing rooms of European palaces?  How about Vivaldi, JS Bach, and Handel?  What a juxtaposition! (vocab)

– Vivaldi (1678-1741) – we listened to Vivaldi’s “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” (1715). We love this quick paced piece and we’re ready to listen to all performances by conductor and harpsichord virtuoso, Trevor Pinnock:

– Bach (1685-1750) – we listened to Bach’s “Invention No. 13 in A minor” (1720).  Triple score here: 1) super short piece, 2) quick paced, 3) Simone Dinnerstein at the piano (heart, heart, heart):

– Handel (1685-1759) – we listened to Handel’s “Alla Hornpipe” from his Water Music (1717), performed by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra (A+++).  What an upright, solidly British sound:

midnight clock

My, my, what a short post – I have no idea why there was so little material to work with for this blog post. Oh, yes I do:  my son has been in this most trying phase where he is not ready for stories and studies until WAY late (think midnight), so I have regretfully trimmed down our nightly study agenda.  Hope this is a short duration type of phase. (If wishes were horses…)

But still, welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
Story problem answer: D. $2,000

Rodent Rage

rat

Almost finished:  We are sorry that we are coming upon the final pages of “Animalium”, by Katie Scott and Jenny Broom. This splendid book is rich in conversation-provoking information and rich in captivating illustrations. This is a book that we have looked forward to opening every single night (even last night, when we had to read about rodents).

Animalium book 2

Speaking of rodents:

– To establish a baseline, we took a little “Is this a rodent?” quiz, then voted upon the cutest. Our faves: chipmunks, chinchillas, hamsters, guinea pigs, voles, and porcupines.  Not our fave: squirrels are on our bad list at the moment (we are unhappily hosting one in our attic, and are attempting to remove him humanely)(but this is not going well, as he is a member of Squirrel Mensa).

– February 1st I gave my son a pre-test on the big doings of February 2nd: Groundhog Day. I was quite surprised by how much information he knew about this “holiday”.  I am not sure we added much to his store of knowledge, but we read through Wikipedia entries on groundhogs and Groundhog Day, and concluded with a small discussion about whether Punxsutawney Phil was a bit plumper than the average groundhog.  We learned that groundhogs are the same thing as woodchucks, which prompted me to recite the “How much wood can a woodchuck chuck” tongue twister. Rodents and poetry on the same night. Winner.

hamster

Farmer Brown’s petting zoo story problem – The first graders from the 4 local elementary schools love visiting Farmer Brown’s petting zoo. This year, Farmer Brown has hired a photographer to snap photos of each first grader with one of his sweet hamsters. The photos sell for $2 each (and everyone purchases one). It costs Farmer Brown 50 cents to process each photo and he pays the photographer $35 for each school visit. There are 40 first grade children in each school. NEW CONCEPTS!: What is Farmer Brown’s GROSS income from the endeavor? What is Farmer Brown’s NET income (after paying the photo processing and the photographer) from the endeavor?

Catherine Great

What a rat! We have begun another “A Wicked History” (we do love this series), this time we are learning about Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia. Right off the bat we find out that she came to power by disposing of her husband, Tsar Peter III. Yikes. What a rat. We want to know more.

snowflakesunshine

Music for Groundhog Day:  Was Punxsutawney Phil going to be greeted by bright sunlight or cloudy skies?  We had the music to mark the occasion:

  • Phil sees his shadow: “Winter”, from Vivaldi’s timeless violin concerto of 1723, “The Four Seasons”. Ugh. We don’t want 6 more weeks of winter!  But we are always happy for a tiny slice of Itzhak Perlman magic:

  • Phil sees his shadow: “Waltz of the Snowflakes” from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet, which premiered in 1892.  We may be weary of the cold weather, but at least Tchaikovsky revives us with a winter that is as pretty as it is capricious (vocab):

  • Phil doesn’t see his shadow: “Symphony No. 6 in F major” (movement 1), composed by Beethoven in 1808. Known also as “The Pastoral Symphony” (familiar to many from Disney’s award winning “Fantasia” of 1940), it is all about the promise of spring.  Leonard Bernstein (always a conductor we want to watch) leads the Vienna Philharmonic in this video:

  • Phil doesn’t see his shadow: “Put on a Happy Face”, composed by Charles Strouse (lyrics by Lee Adams) for the 1960 Broadway production “Bye Bye Birdie”.  Hey, Phil!  Grey skies are gonna clear up!  My son was tapping his toes to this rendition from the mid sixties, featuring The Supremes:

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

Barely Scraping By

green radargreen radargreen radar

I think I can put my finger upon one of the reasons I was barely scraping by (as far as grades go) in high school. SKIMMING. When I had to read something I was not interested in (i.e. textbooks), I SKIMMED.  My eyes were like radar screens, rapidly scanning every page for ANYTHING AT ALL that might prove interesting.  I evidently missed a great deal of information.  Cutting to the present: when I read aloud to my son, I wouldn’t dream of skimming.  And guess what? I am learning all kinds of stuff I probably should have learned during my formative years.   So, silver lining time:  my son learns something new and I learn something new, too.  I am grateful.

Current non-fiction studies: world religions – last night we were reading about Buddhism (“Usborne Book of Religions of the World”: A+), and non-vertebrate marine life – so elegantly photographed (“Spineless” by Susan Middleton: A+).

Current fiction: “Hatchet”, by Gary Paulsen (this is our third time through, and it is still riveting and important).

quill pen

Contemplating the quill pen: My son and I are learning about quill pens – the writing instrument of choice until the mid 1800s – so we thought we would try writing with one.  Holy cow, what a colossal mess! BLOTCH. DRIP. SPLOTCH.  Of course we had the cheapest of the cheap feather pen sets, so this may have been the problem (seriously, this WAS the problem), but it brought us to a new appreciation of documents such as the Declaration of Independence, which were handwritten with a quill pen. What an elegant hand penned the Declaration – not one inkblot or drip.

declaration    blotches

Last night’s story problem from “Le Fictitious Local Diner” – During the cold and flu season, townspeople flock to the diner to purchase quart upon quart of chicken soup to bring home. The diner uses organic chicken, celery, carrots and onions to make their soup and can make a gallon for $12.00. They sell a quart for $8.00. Each year the diner manages to sell 200 quarts of the chicken soup. What is their profit?

Last night’s music theme – “Summertime”.  This past week, the outside temp hovered around 30 degrees.  We needed to think about weather that was at least 50 degrees warmer, so we listened to –

  • “Summer” from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”, composed around 1720. (needs no comment)
  • “Fireflies” from Amy Beach, composed in 1892. This piano piece sparkles. It is one of our favorites.
  • “Summertime” from George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” (1935). We listened to Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong sing – wow. Wow. Wow.
  • “In the Summertime” by Mungo Jerry, obviously not a melody that can compete with the others we listened to, and yet, this could be the consummate summer-vacation song.  Ridiculously rambunctious fun.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH