Friday, November 28, 2003

Piano takeover

Recently our home has been taken over by the piano. It has crept up on me but it's quite astonishing, and is perhaps the most persuasive argument for a monolith of a real, acoustic piano rather than a more portable digital one. It's always there, en route between the bathroom and the computer, between the toys and the kitchen, between the dining room and the bedroom. It's always on. It has an inviting two-person bench, good lighting and the warmth of the woodstove radiating from across the room. You can't miss it, and it wants to be played.

My guess would be that it gets played at least once an hour by someone in our household. Noah probably sits down and tinkles away on it at least four or five times a day. He's there for a couple of minutes playing through a new piece he's working on or running through an old one, or dabbling away at improvisation or sight-reading for ten or fifteen minutes. Sophie is often right there, or taking turns with him, trying out melodies, imitating what she's heard the other kids do. Erin is there at least two or three times a day, often for long stretches of playing through old pieces or sightreading through supplementary stuff. Then there's the daily practising.

It's a delightful state of affairs. I feel so lucky. We have a lot of violin music around here too, and sometimes the violin catches a bit of momentum from piano, but piano is definitely a different kettle of fish. It's relaxing and sociable and inviting by its physical presence in the living room, and maybe because I'm not a pianist, the kids are free to have a greater sense of "ownership" over the piano than they do over their violin studies.

Sophie and Noah participated in the regional Suzuki Group Class last weekend. Noah was the more reluctant of the two, but he was fine once he got going. They were the two littlest kids there and held their own very well indeed. The event was mostly for the benefit of a group of 11-18-year-old violin students who will be participating in a youth exchange program to Ottawa, Canada, this spring. They've been meeting to rehearse for a couple of months already. This class was their chance to include, and also show off a little to, the younger students who aren't doing the exchange trip. Because Erin hasn't been involved in the (competitive) music festival or the youth orchestra in Nelson (she does our community orchestra in New Denver instead), she'd had little to no contact with these "older, more advanced" students. It was nice for her to have a chance to play her more advanced repertoire in a group. In our local group classes we focus on the Book 1-3 repertoire because we have so few students beyond that level. Anyway, there was a lot of ogling and pointing at all my kids, but Erin especially, because she's considerably more advanced than many of the teens who thought they were the "senior students" in the region. And she's so petite. Fortunately she was having fun during the snacktime afterwards with some of the younger kids she knew, and seemed pretty oblivious to the attention. I hate hearing "yeah, well, they homeschool, so that's why" muttered defensively by other parents and students. Honestly... yes, she practices more than she would if she went to school. But on the other hand, we chose to unschool in large part so that our kids could delve deeply into things (like music) that inspire them. And just because she has more time to do more work doesn't negate the fact that she actually does more work. It's not an "unfair advantage"... anyone else is free to homeschool for the same advantages. (Sorry about that little rant.)

It's snowed a fair bit here this week. There's been lots of outdoor play and lots of great discussions. Olives aren't a good choice for a snowman's eyes, because their salinity melts the snow. Who would have thought that a snow day would lead to "science lab"? Well, I'm sure it comes as no surprise to those of you reading this board. We have about 15 cm of nice fluffy stuff on the ground, with more falling today. We've starting packing snow and levelling a surface for our annual outdoor skating rink. If the weather is cold enough after the weekend, we might start flooding then.

Today we're heading to "the city" (Kelowna) for a whirlwind weekend. We'll be there Friday and Saturday, returning Sunday. Chuck is doing a medical conference part of the time we're there. The main reason we're going is to do a holiday-stockpiling bulk grocery shopping, get to a big bookstore (where Cornelia Funke's novels are at the top of my list) and to hang out at a nice motel where the kids can swim in a pool for 8 hours a day! Chuck will have the vehicle Friday and part of Saturday, which is just fine since I don't relish packing the kids around department stores and malls by myself. I hate shopping anyway.

Our current readalouds are "Eragon" (finally almost finished! and it's great!) by Chris Paolini, "The Golden Goblet", set in ancient Egypt, and "Winnie the Pooh" (which we last read in its entirety when Sophie was too little to remember much of it). Bedtime has been slipping later and later as the kids demand more and more reading. We have to start sooner in the evening! I'm falling to sleep by the time we get to the second chapter in the third book!

Noah has become a "read in bed reader". So I guess he's quietly crossed the threshold into "independent reading for pleasure". He still prefers stuff with pictures but is comfortable with smaller and smaller fonts and more words per page as the weeks roll by. He's feeling really good about his skills.

Must go pick Erin and Noah up from art class and head across the mountains to the big city!

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