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.