Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Workboxes - Pt. 2

Two books featured prominently in the kids' workboxes over the last week or so.

DD (8) throughly enjoyed Christmas around the World, by Mary D. Lankford. In the first section of the book, the traditions of twelve different countries are highlighted, with each country receiving a two-page spread. The countries covered are Australia, Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico, The Philippines, Sweden, and the United States (Alaska). The second part of the book features crafts from window stars to pinecone pine trees (to be attempted this week--wish us luck!). A glossary of terms from advent to yule, a pronunciation guide, a list of Christmas superstitions (e.g., wearing new shoes on Christmas Dy will bring bad luck), a bibliography, and an index fill out the remainder of the book.

I gave an unabridged copy of A Christmas Carol--Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, by Charles Dickens, and gorgeously illustrated by P.J. Lynch, to DS (11) to read over the course of last week, and it made its way out of the workbox up to the top bunk in the boys' room, which is always a good sign. When the book was finished, DS read a short biographical sketch about Dickens from abcteach and answered some reading comprehension questions to go along with it. Now I'm searching to see if there is a "real" biography of Dickens out there that is both engaging to and appropriate for an almost-twelve-year-old. Two I'm looking at are Tales for Hard Times, by David R. Collins, and Dickens (The Great Writers), by Nicola Barber.

A couple of read-alouds this week: The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, by Frank L. Baum (oh, the rich language in this one!), and How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, by Dr. Seuss, to prove to DD (8) that the Grinch is not as scary as Jim Carrey's creepy interpretation in the live action movie, which she has never seen except in commercials. But she did get completely freaked when the Grinch slithered his way across the screen in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade one year, and that was it--no more Grinch for her. I'm hoping that the read-aloud combined with the gentler animated version from 1965 will get her past her prejudice, as the story is one of my all-time holiday favorites.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Not 'Twas the Night. . .

. . . but pretty intriguing, at least as I've listened so far. An original, specially commissioned dramatic narrative series, Tim Slover's Christmas Chronicles is available at Classical 89. The story tells "a true and complete history of Santa Claus."

Monday, December 14, 2009

Music Monday - Favorite Holiday Music No. 14

From his 2008 CD What a Night!, here is Harry Connick, Jr. singing "Please Come Home for Christmas" on the Today show. The song starts about a minute and half into the video. Matt and Harry have a little banter with each other first.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

King Winter has arrived. . .

. . . for real this time. Happy, happy kids here.

Workbox Wednesday, Christmas edition, Pt. 1

The children were nestled, all snug in their beds,
While Mom ran around, going out of her head. . .

A familiar scene to many homeschooling parents, and workbox users in particular, I'm sure. ☺

Tonight my mission was to get Christmas copywork up and running, and, by tinsel, now I can rest . . . for the moment.

For this round of copywork, I gathered quotations and parts of poems, Christmas carols, and prose to use for DS (12 in January) and DD (8). While I pulled largely from the internet, I did check sources when I could, and included authors and publication dates as available. The font size is larger than the Thanksgiving copywork I posted for some reason--Microsoft Word tells me both documents use the same size and font, but I beg to differ. Anyway, if anyone would like to use these secular Christmas selections, please do so, and let me know if you have any problems downloading them.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Music Monday - Favorite Holiday Music No. 13

It's that time of year again. The Christmas issue of BBC Music Magazine arrived today, and I've been enjoying taking a look at "Choirs at Christmas," the cover article, plus I can't wait to delve into "Bleak Midwinters," which views how composers create music that brings frosty weather to life.

But until I get a chance to sit down with a cup of tea and the magazine in a clean, well-lit place (that happens to be quiet, too, my first requirement), I'll have to rely on recent experiences to share some new favorite holiday music.

Just yesterday I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing several friends sing in a local "Christmas chorus" concert. The program featured French carols, and, besides Noël Nouvelet, a favorite I wrote about last year, one of songs the group sang was The Basque Carol, or Gabriel's Message. One reason my ears perked up when this song started was that it is also on Sting's new CD, If on a Winter's Night. While the traditional arrangement that the chorus sang is lovely in and of itself, what Sting has done with the song makes it sound both more introspective than the usual hymn-like form the song takes and also reflective of what is probably the melody's origin: 12th or 13th century chant.

An interesting compare-and-contrast exercise is listening, in succession, to Sting's 2009 version of the carol, and his 1989 version, on the multi-artist CD, A Very Special Christmas.

While both have their merits (nostalgia being foremost when I listen to the one from two decades ago), I have a decided preference for the later one.

Another new favorite from Sting's 2009 CD is the second track, There is No Rose of Such Virtue, which, like Gabriel's Message, also has its roots in the Middles Ages, though this song likely began in a royal court rather than a monastery. Beginning with a quiet open fifth drone, Sting uses his newly-outed baritone voice to sing an entire verse virtually unaccompanied. And then the world beat kicks in and it becomes a whole new, gorgeously presented song. Even after listening to it a few dozen times, I still feel a little zing when the song transitions.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Workbox Wednesday, Thanksgiving edition

Thanksgiving has been the workbox theme around here since last week, and here a few samples.

Copywork slips with Thanksgiving quotes can be found in this cornucopia basket, which was my grandmother's.

I chose to give different quotes to each of my older two kids, so I stamped each slip with either a leaf or an apple and made sure they knew whose was whose. The writing paper is from abcteach.

DD (8) has some alone time with her grandmother tomorrow so I'm leaving this hinged puppet project in her last workbox; from History Pockets: Life in Plymouth Colony.

Thanksgiving-themed verbal analogies from Enchanted Learning. DS (11) is getting the Thanksgiving version of a "grammar potpourri" worksheet from that same site in one of tomorrow's boxes.

Word problems having to do with Thanksgiving from abcteach are keeping both kids' math skills sharp while we take a little break from Right Start Math. We'll hop right back into the curricula as soon as December 1st rolls around.

Schlessinger Media DVDs are great--we were lucky enough to get this one (Early Settlers) and one about Plimouth Plantation via interlibrary loan to watch this week. Wish this company would start streaming videos, and soon!

A few of the many Thanksgiving books that have made their way into the boxes in the past week or so.
Squanto's Journey, by Joseph Bruchac

The First Thanksgiving, by Jean Craighead George

The New Americans (part of The American Story series), by Betsy and Giulio Maestro

I'll post more as time allows.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thanksgiving copywork

Here is my first attempt at using Scribd to post a pdf. Let me know if it works! Below is a list of mostly secular Thanksgiving quotations that my kids are using for copywork as we get close to Thanksgiving. I printed them out, cut them into individual slips, and put them in a basket for the kids to choose from each day.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Thanksgiving, by Amelia A. Barr (1831-1919)


by Amelia A. Barr

"Have you cut the wheat in the blowing fields,

The barley, the oats, and the rye,

The golden corn and the pearly rice?

For the winter days are nigh."

"We have reaped them all from shore to shore,

And the grain is safe on the threshing floor."

"Have you gathered the berries from the vine,

And the fruit from the orchard trees?

The dew and the scent from the roses and thyme,

In the hive of the honeybees?"

"The peach and the plum and the apple are ours,

And the honeycomb from the scented flowers."

"The wealth of the snowy cotton field

And the gift of the sugar cane,

The savory herb and the nourishing root—

There has nothing been given in vain."

"We have gathered the harvest from shore to shore,

And the measure is full and brimming o'er."

"Then lift up the head with a song!

And lift up the hand with a gift!

To the ancient Giver of all

The spirit in gratitude lift!

For the joy and the promise of spring,

For the hay and the clover sweet,

The barley, the rye, and the oats,

The rice, and the corn, and the wheat,

The cotton, and sugar, and fruit,

The flowers and the fine honeycomb,

The country so fair and so free,

The blessings and glory of home."

I was reminded of this poem by Living Books Curriculum's Holiday Helper: Thanksgiving, which is this week's free download from CurrClick. Victorian romance author Amelia Barr is best known for "Remember the Alamo" (1888).

Monday, November 02, 2009

So my husband walks into a Starbucks. . .

. . . and what does he see but a brand new Sting cd.

Sting. With a beard. Singing one of my favorite Christmas carols ever, along with a host of other songs to bring cheer on a winter's night. My day just got a whole lot better.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Music Monday - Halloween Music No. 6

The following music is probably more appropriate for Hallowmas rather than its eve, but it is so gorgeous I can't resist sharing it:

A recording of this March from the Funeral Music for Queen Mary as recorded by Harry Christophers and the Sixteen, plus the Symphony of Harmony and Invention can be found here. The entire recording is filled with the music of Purcell and is titled Love's Goddess Sure Was Blind from the title of a birthday ode to the same queen.

Called "England's most gifted and important composer of the Baroque period" by my undergraduate history of music professor (in the hallowed days of yore), British composer, singer, and organist Henry Purcell was born and lived and died in 17th century London. His best known work is the opera Dido and Aeneas (1689), from which this aria, sung by Emma Kirkby, comes. Just listen to the opening line descend into the Underworld:

Normally I use excerpts from Amazon, but this particular YouTube video has the vocal line scrolling in front of me while I'm listening--I'm in music-geek heaven. ☺ Not to mention that the CD of Kirkby singing Dido and Aeneas is no longer being released, though it is available via iTunes in the form of four very long tracks. But here is a recent recording of German-born coloratura soprano Simone Kermes, who treats Purcell's lament with a sensibility similar to Kirkby's, though their voices are quite different, on a CD also featuring Dimitris Tiliakos, Deborah York, Music Aeterna, and the New Siberian Singers under the direction of Teodor Currentzis.

More information about Purcell can be found here and here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Music Monday - Halloween Music No. 5

The son of a merchant and a piano teacher, Edvard Grieg was born in Norway on June 15, 1843. While his earliest extant composition was written when he was about fifteen years old, he wasn't published as a composer until 1863. He lived in Denmark for much of his adult life, yet remained loyal to Norwegian music, using traditional folk music from that country as a basis for his compositional style, though his music seldom contains actual folk tunes. The first Scandinavian composer to win world renown, Grieg composed twelve works for orchestra, including two suites of selections from incidental music he had written for Peer Gynt, a play by Ibsen (1875). He also wrote some chamber music (some violin sonatas, a cello sonata, and a string quartet), more than one hundred art songs, and about seventy short works for piano.

One of those short works for piano is perfect for Halloween. The mischievous-sounding "March of the Trolls," from Lyric Pieces, Book 5, Op. 54, is played here by Leif Ove Andsnes. The CD also contains Grieg's Piano Concerto in A Minor.

Another spooky selection from this composer is "In the Hall of the Mountain King," from Peer Gynt. In Ibsen's play, Peer Gynt falls in love with the daughter of the King of Trolls, and travels to the king's royal hall in the mountain. An unhappy band of trolls greets Peer, and a frenzied dance ensues, calling for the death of the hero. The story has a temporarily happy ending, though, as Peer agrees to become an honorary troll in order to win his love. This selection from Peer Gynt Suite No.1 (which also contains the well-known "Morning") is played by The Berlin Philharmonic on a CD that also contains Peer Gynt Suite No. 2 and the Holberg Suite, Op. 4 (subtitled, "Suite in the Olden Style," and it's a favorite of mine), as well as some selections from Sibelius, Grieg's fellow Scandinavian.

Edvard Grieg is the featured composer on this month's Classics for Kids.

My other Halloween Music posts (Nos. 1-4 from 2008) can be found here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like. . .

. . . snow on the pumpkin!

The kids are ecstatic. I'm just happy we don't have to go anywhere, little tiny bit that is coming down right now. Any excuse to stay home.

Due to the spate of cold weather we've had, the mittens and hats and scarves came out of the attic a few days ago, but where are the snow boots? There are some soggy feet in the house this morning.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Workbox Wednesday, Columbus Day edition

They're not all related to Columbus Day, but here are some highlights from last week's workboxes:

Kumon Let's Cut Paper pages

Melissa & Doug World Map Floor Puzzle

Three ships coloring page

Asterix the Gladiator (soon to be followed by others in the series)

The Discovery of the Americas tells more than just the story of Columbus (authors: Betsy and Giulio Maestro)

Draw Write Now, Volume 2

Latin worksheet and flash cards

What serves for logic these days: Mind Benders from Critical Thinking Press

Workboxes are still making our days run pretty darn smoothly, though the almost-five-year-old has lost a bit of interest, unless there's play-dough or Playmobil in his boxes. But he did come running when he heard Jim Weiss reading Story of the World this afternoon (Rome finally fell today, YEAH!), and his conversations are still full of words like "illustration" and "adjective," so I think we're okay.

Friday, October 09, 2009

GBWBT wrap-up

So I only managed one (count it, one) post for the Great Books Week Blog Tour until today. Here's a compressed version of the three I missed--

The cover I remember.

Tuesday: When I was a child, my favorite book was A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle because it was my first introduction to the science fiction/fantasy genre, and I still remember the feeling of being transported along with Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace to Camazotz. The story also told me that it's okay to be smart, and that I might even end up with a basketball player for a boyfriend.

Wednesday: I’d write my autobiography, but I don’t need to, because my story has already been told in Winnie-the-Pooh, by A.A. Milne. Getting stuck, being chased by bees, meeting a Heffalump--yep, been there, done that.

Thursday: I hated … when I had to read it in high school, but when I read it on my own later, I loved it because…

Now, see, this is where it gets sticky. I didn't have to read a single great book in high school. Why, you ask? Because the particular school I went to used Bob Jones University textbooks with watered down versions of parts of stories. I know, I know--believe me, I know. I took some elective literature classes as an undergraduate to make up for this fact, plus I did some reading on my own as a teenager.

There were some books I had to read either for those elective literature classes or general education classes that I decidedly did not care for--As I Lay Dying (Faulkner) comes to mind, as does a collection of Flannery O'Connor short stories. But I haven't yet gone back and read them again to see if I might have changed my mind. Maybe someday. Or not.

And today's entry--

Friday: When I want to give someone a special gift, I give them a book I think they'll enjoy or use because there's no one book I think everyone will love. Except for Goodnight, Moon and Sylvia Long's Hush Little Baby (standard new baby gifts), I don't think I've ever given the same book twice.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Romulus and the Capture of the Sabine Women

I've not had time to put together any more Great Books posts, but will hopefully do a wrap-up edition in a couple of days.

In the meantime, tomorrow's Latin lesson from The Big Book of Lively Latin (volume one), includes the story of the Romans' taking of the Sabine women (a decidedly non-graphic version of the tale, which is appropriate for my eight-year-old), and I just can't resist showing my kids this clip from a favorite musical, found on Turner Classic Movies. Couldn't find a YouTube clip of the actual movie footage, but this re-enactment was really quite well done.

Did you know Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was a television show for a short while in 1982? It starred MacGyver's Richard Dean Anderson as Adam and a young River Phoenix as Guthrie. I have vague memories of watching it as a child.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Great Books Week Blog Tour (GBWBT) begins

Catch it here and join in on the fun! Hosted by the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors. Great Books Week began Sunday, October 4th. Thanks to Dewey's Treehouse for spreading the word.

Each day a different topic is addressed by participating bloggers. Here's hoping some of my favorite authors are participating!

My Monday entry:

If I were stranded alone on a deserted island with only seven books to read over the next few years, I would like to have…

1. The Collector's Library Omnibus Edition of Jane Austen's Complete Illustrated Novels, including Emma, Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, and Mansfield Park. Lest you say I am cheating, let me tell you that this 880 page tome would save my sanity on a lonely island. Though I've read and re-read each tale, some of them countless times, I just don't think I would be able to go for years without multiple trips to Jane's world.

2. The Complete Pelican Shakespeare. I've not read everything the Bard has written, and enforced alone time would be the perfect time to make a stab at reading it all. What can I say? I was the child who, when forced to choose between books at the bookstore, picked the one with the most pages. This particular anthology has 1808.

3. Asimov's Guide to Shakespeare. To help tease out the meaning of the above opus. 1536 pages. Thanks for the recommendation, Becky.

4. Three Hundred and Sixty-Five Starry Nights: an Introduction to Astronomy for Every Night of the Year, by Chet Raymo. Besides the fact that I've fallen in love with Raymo's lyrical writing style, there would never be a better time to learn about the night sky. Only 225 pages, though. Hmm. . .

5. The Universe and Beyond, by Terence Dickinson. An introductory astronomy book by an author I've read and enjoyed before that reportedly does its job well. Plus it has lots of pretty pictures. 180 pages.

6. Asimov's New Guide to Science. The story of science and scientists from Galileo to Einstein. 896 pages.

7. The SAS Survival Handbook, by John "Lofty" Wiseman. Subtitled "How to Survive in the Wild, in Any Climate, on Land or at Sea." 576 pages. No sense bringing the first six if I can't live long enough to read them.

If survival was somehow insured and I didn't need the safety of choice #7, I'd pick an omnibus edition of Charles Dickens, like this one, as I have yet to read many of the author's works.

Oh dear, now I realize (after looking at the time and noting that I have "miles to go before I sleep") that I don't have any poetry here. I don't know which one I'd take out, but something would have to go so that The Norton Anthology of Poetry could slide in there. 1424 pages. ☺

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Field Trip: Dinosaur Footprints, Holyoke, MA

Well, it was a bit of a haul for a short visit, but, since none of us had ever seen fossil footprints up close and personal, the trip to Dinosaur Footprints was worth it. Four different species of two-legged carnivorous dinosaurs left traces in the sloping slab of sandstone in the Connecticut River Valley of western Massachusetts.

A very smart friend of mine told me to bring water to pour in the footprints so they could be seen more easily, and it made an amazing difference! These footprints were on a hill, so they dribbled a bit, but you get the general effect.

The Connecticut River

If we'd waited a couple of weeks the foliage would have been spectacular! I was surprised how green everything still was in early October. There is supposedly a "River Walk" we could have taken (we looked for it earlier, but are not sure where it was as it wasn't marked), but one of the kids took an unplanned swim right after this last photo was taken, and was too uncomfortable for us to do anything but head home. We'll go back if we're back in the area in the near future.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

More Gershwin

This composer's birthday is a great excuse to post part of another, even more wonderful film in which his music is featured:

Visit the official Gershwin site for more music, and take a look at what I've had to say about this composer in the past if you have a minute or three. Happy Gershwin Day!

Happy Birthday, George Gershwin

From Funny Face (1957)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Workbox Wednesday, Pt. 2

More highlights from this week:

The book is A Pocket Dictionary of Greek and Roman Gods and Goddesses, by Richard Woff. The idea was for O (11) to thumb through, pick a couple of favorites, read & write about them and then draw a picture of them as he sees them. Everything but the drawing happened. Sigh. Kid has major issues when it comes to artistic confidence.

Geography flash cards by region and a worksheet to reinforce the information learned.

A consistent favorite: an audiobook of Rosemary Sutcliff's Eagle of the Ninth.

E (8) loved reading about the contrast between light and dark in Looking at Pictures, by Joy Richardson. Revised edition due out October 1st, though already in stock at Amazon. We currently have it checked out of the library, but will be buying our own copy.

Review of telling time to the quarter hour with Time & Money.
Interesting experiment--I'd never asked E to do anything like this. I think she'll like it better the second time, now that she knows what she's aiming to do. It was surprisingly difficult for her to draw a mirror image of the pictures shown.

Workbox Wednesday, Pt. 1

Week three with workboxes is going pretty well, though I am still up way too late at night (or early in the morning). We've tweaked a bit here and there to get some more group time, and I split up the older two on a couple of subjects with which E (8) was getting frustrated working at her older brother's level, which basically means I am sitting down with someone (or several someones) at all points of the day. Good thing I enjoy my job.

Here are some highlights from this week:

corn meal, a small cookie sheet, and a chart of patterns to make

M (4) loved this activity. I did not like the clean-up, though, so I'm thinking it will make a good on-the-deck activity until it gets too cold. Maybe then we'll try something that doesn't resemble beach sand quite so much.

Clip the clothespins to the tongue depressors craft sticks. Each stick has a number and the corresponding number of spots to clip (except nine--that one was an oops as a result of late night workbox-filling).

Someone in the workboxes yahoo group gave me this idea, so I made up a card (it's laminated now--have I mentioned how much I ♥ my laminator?), and showed M. what I meant. The result is below.

More after I've slept a little and had a lot of caffeine.