Saturday, November 15, 2003


Erin's been wanting me to practice with her on violin the last couple of nights. She's feeling really mired down in her violin study, and it's really affecting her motivation. Last spring she discovered she could sight-read and play all of Suzuki Book 6, even though she was only technically "studying" the first couple of pieces at that stage. With her grandpa's death and her grandma's travels, she only had a handful of lessons between April and October. She continued to bash through all that Book 6 repertoire but without guidance, without thought. So now, six months later, she's still working on the same 8 or 10 pieces. They're challenging, but she's tired of them because she's been playing them forever. She wants something new. But they're not up to snuff - she hasn't really mastered them with the kind of control and musicality she needs.

So anyway, I told her the other night that her grandma (a.k.a. her teacher) would feed her appetite for new pieces, but only if she was willing to eat what was on her plate first. It's now cold and unappealing, but it really has to be eaten before dessert... it's healthy stuff. I offered to help her organize her practising and make it a little more efficient so that she can more easily get that sense of progress through her meal. And she agreed! She really wanted my help! We've had two practices together. I've tried to be very gentle. Today she balked just once, we took a break and came back and worked together well again.

Her piano teacher is making noises about moving her up a 'grade level' by next month. (She uses the Royal Conservatory of Canada's graded syllabus.) Erin is pleased about that. She really loves these benchmarky things. I'm sure glad she's not in school. It's just full of them. I think she'd lose touch with her own reasons for doing anything.

Sophie decided to join group class this week. She's five now, I guess she figured what the heck. She took the plunge. She played everything she knew (up to O Come Little Children, for any of you Suzuki violin types) even though I'd suggested just trying some Twinkles. She'd never played in a group before and I thought she should step in gently. But there was no holding her back. She smiled, she played, she raised her hand, she offered ideas. She loved it. Wow! Noah played a lovely solo at group class (Musette by Bach). Erin was disappointed she didn't get to play any Book 6 repertoire. But with a group class that covers ages 5-48, from O Come Little Children to intermediate concertos, it's tough to fit something in for everyone every week.

Sophie is writing and really making connections. Today she wanted to write "shaky" on some sort of list of toys or things she wants to buy. Don't ask me what it's about; I have no idea. She wrote


Noah said "that's shake. If you put a Y on the end, it'll be shaky." So she added a 'y'.


Then she wrote


Translation: "Machine, bubblegum, sleeping bag." What I like is how she took what Noah suggested about adding a Y to an E to make the long-E sound and used it in "SLEYPEYNBAG". Isn't that neat?

Noah is working on a more challenging left hand accompaniment for his composition "Achilles' Death." He has it all worked out, but because he's a beginning pianist he's finding the playing a bit of a challenge. So he's practising like crazy, playing through it six or eight times a day, because he wants to play it at the Canadian Composers Workshop he'll be attending on Saturday. He is, as his teacher rightly pointed out, a Canadian Composer. He'll also be performing a piece by Canadian composer David Duke. Erin's doing a Jig by Violet Archer. It's from "Habitant Sketches." She read a bit of Canadian history after being prodded a bit by her teacher to find out some background information on the composition. Habitants were essentially feudal serfs in New France in the 1600's. I had long forgotten this fact.

Every Tuesday David and Jaya come for supper. They're a father-daughter team, and they come for violin activities from way out of town. They have a lesson before supper and group class alternating week by week with orchestra afterwards. We enjoy visiting with them. Jaya is unschooled as well, a smidge younger than Erin and everything that Erin isn't (extraverted, socially gifted, extremely verbal, vivacious, non-academic). They get along great! David wanted me to scan some photos for him. They're photos of his sand sculpture. Sand and snow are new for him. He's a self-taught sculptor who has taken up sand sculpture in the past year. He's applying for jobs and needs an electronic portfolio he can send out by e-mail. The kids spent a long time looking at his photos, including some amazing snow sculpture, and asked to come and watch the next time he's doing a big snow project in our area. (For photos of his sand work, you can go here: and click on Photo Gallery Doubles and Solo.) Erin played lots of piano while David and Jaya were here. I think she did this to show off, but she just matter-of-factly sits down and starts playing in the background and doesn't demand attention, so I guess that's fine.

Time to go read stories!

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