Saturday, November 22, 2003


Tuesday night was orchestra. Erin is playing very well now in the first violin section. It took her a while to feel comfortable there (she was a 2nd violin last year, a 3rd the year before) but now she's got confidence and is playing nicely. Wednesday was violin lessons. I mentioned the difficulty I've been having getting Erin started on her practising, and her occasional categorical refusal to practice. My mom (her teacher) asked her what the trouble was and Erin said "It takes too long." So my mom, bless her, made up a little schedule for this week's practising that has every minute mapped out, and is so completely bare-bones that it only totals 20 minutes of practising (Erin's been expected to do ~an hour a day for the past 2 years, at least on "good days"). She drew 6 circles at the bottom of the schedule and said "Fill one of these in every day you practice. But only do 20 minutes! And come back with all circles filled."

So since Wednesday, Erin has done two twenty-minute practicings a day. She's quite delighted at the idea of surprising her grandma with the extra work. Hurrah! Something is working on the practising front this week!

It snowed here this week, and the snow has stayed on the ground. The kids have been outside for long hours every day, sledding, throwing snowballs, playing games. Perhaps the added light and activity have helped make Erin a more agreeable member of the family.

We've been teaching Fiona to say "cat". She now says "gha!" or "kha!" with considerable delight when she sees our cat (or, I confess, our dog). She knows it's a crowd-pleaser. She says "Kha!" and then looks for a sibling or parent with a big grin on her face, waiting for the smiles and squeals of approval. Our little performing seal. Way fun!

Art class this week was paper maché. We've done lots of that at home, so it was less exciting than usual, but Erin was pleased with how much faster she was getting her layers on than the less experienced kids.

Erin read "The Two Towers" and "The Return of the King" (2nd and 3rd books of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy) in less than 24 hours. She slept about 6 hours, had a violin lesson but otherwise read almost straight through. Then she wanted to watch LOTR1 on video again... twice. So more screen-time than usual this week, but with all the outdoor play that seemed okay. We've agreed we'll buy LOTR2 on DVD while we're in the city in a week and watch it on Chuck's new DVD-equipped laptop. Erin also wrote a neat opening paragraph for a novel. I can't remember every word exactly, but it was more or less this:

My name is Esel Isingdorot and I am the last of my kind, the race from which all others are descended. Father used to tell me I had the courage and strength of the dwarves, the beauty and spirit of the elves, the wisdom of the wizards, the caution and speed of the horses, the humour of the hobbits and, when provoked to anger, even the firey temper of Sauron himself. And well it may be so.

I laughed at the temper bit. Yup, that's Erin . The nice thing was that she hand-wrote this in a spiral notebook. Her handwriting is finally getting to the stage where it doesn't derail her creativity. She did some dedicated work on handwriting a year or so ago which I guess gave her enough of a foundation for further gradual improvement. (Her printing was extremely primitive before that, especially for a kid who had all sorts of strong literacy and fine-motor skills.)

Noah asked about starting Singapore Math. He found Erin's old 2B workbook and loved the pictorial stuff. He's been struggling a bit with Miquon at the Red Book level. We went through a Singapore placement test. I was expecting him to place somewhere around 1B since Miquon hadn't touched on a lot of the stuff in the placement test, but he got almost every questions and is easily at a 2A level. Not only that but he loved the way the problems were presented and really grasped them easily. So I wonder if Miquon, much as I love its manipulative-based "fuzzy math" approach, isn't the right program for him. He never wanted to use the rods, and I think sometimes Miquon's efforts to make the computation simpler (through manipulatives or patterns or arrays) stymied him; they were like clutter in the way to him. He seems keen on bookwork lately... sits down with a music theory book all on his own every day ... and is asking for Singapore 2A so I think I'll order it for him this week.

Erin's making envelopes out of recycled orchestral scores. Together we made a trace-around template (discarded X-ray films from the hospital are great for this!). She's cutting, scoring, folding and gluing. We found a recipe for licky-sticky paste on the internet. It uses white glue, vinegar and oil of peppermint. I thought "eww... licking white glue?" but when we mixed it up it smelled (and tasted!) just like the real thing. So she's using it. Our white glue is non-toxic, after all. These will be a Christmas gift for her grandma. She's made a dozen or so. The pages we're using are from nicely yellowed 50- to 70-year-old orchestra parts, the last page in each part, which is blank on one side. The music is printed on the inside of the envelope; the outside is blank for the address and stamp. They look really nice.

Sophie's done some really hard work on violin with me this week, practising getting the double-up-bows in "O Come Little Children" working consistently, as well as the bow division and finger independence. She's doing so well! She's taught herself the upcoming few pieces by ear. It surprised me when Erin did this, at about the same stage. But now I've watched all three kids suddenly "click" with the by-ear learning on violin, and it's no surprise. Still it's fun to see it happen. She feels confident and happy about what she can do.

I dyed some wool that I'd drop-spun earlier this month... my first foray into both ventures. It turned out fine and I didn't accidentally cause it to felt up. I'll try to knit Fiona some mittens and maybe a hat for Christmas. I'm not so great at finishing knitting projects, but this one is small enough to be achievable I hope.

Tomorrow is a regional Suzuki violin group class out of town. It will be interesting to see whether Sophie and Noah are interested in participating. They've both become comfortable in our home group classes only relatively recently.

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