Friday, November 14, 2003

School math

Wednesday was violin lessons. I was so wrapped up in the fun of bookbinding that I lost track of time and we almost forgot to go! I'm hand-making some hardcover picture-books for Christmas and was having a delightful time seeing my first one take shape before my eyes. I also made some little "jelly-bean books" for the kids. These are about the size of a teabag packet and have 32 tiny pages and a decorative fold-and-tuck softcover. They're bound with hemp or embroidery floss, decorated with beads or baubles on the binding string. I'm using leftover scraps of decorative cardstock from my scrapbooking. I made one each for the kids and suggested that they keep them in their violin cases for lesson stickers.

Their violin teacher, who happens to be my mom, knows how I feel about rewards and incentives, but she's had this ritual of giving the kids a little sticker at the end of every lesson. Because it's not contingent on anything except showing up, and even watchers/listeners can have stickers if they want, I'm okay with this. It's a nice way to keep track of how many lessons they've had, to make the weekly work a bit more tangible. But we always lose the stickers, so now they each have a tiny booklet to stick them into.

Violin lessons went well. Sophie had her second lesson ever, and it was a hard-working 20 minutes or more! Noah had a fairly ordinary lesson, and did some hard repetition work on some of the sixteenth notes in his new piece ("Hunters' Chorus"). Erin had a good lesson where I think she felt some tangible progress had been made and was being recognized. That's great, because she and I had actually worked together on some of her assignments this week, and her being interested in my help was a real departure. She's planning to record the Handel F-major Sonata No. 3 in its entirety (four movements, slow-fast-slow-fast) for our annual Christmas CD in early December. It's well in hand and she's doing serious polishing work on another piece.

Noah has mastered the playing of the new left-hand pattern in his composition, so he's planning to play the "enhanced version" at the Canadian music workshop tomorrow. He's worked hard at it. Another piano task he's worked really hard at this week is doing a simple invention the way his teacher asked. An invention is like a conversation between two people where they're both talking at the same time saying kind of the same things but at different times. His teacher wants him to be able to play one "voice" while singing the other, and then switch. It's *exceedingly* difficult to do. Noah was in tears a couple of times, not so much over it being too hard, but because he hates to sing and so couldn't even bring himself to try. Finally we hit on a solution. He whistles the singing part. It's coming.

Art class was a big hit this week. Erin and Noah got to cut lino blocks with real lino blades. The lino blocks were actually "Safety-Kut" blocks, softer and easier to work with. They printed on paper, cardstock and fabric, using small square stamps, and creating repeating patterns. When they came home they expressed enthusiasm for the idea of doing more at home. Erin spent some time designing decorative monogram rubber stamps she could carve as Christmas gifts. We haven't had time to do any of this, but we will next week.

Noah recounted a conversation he had with a rather condescending older girl at art class. Upon finding he was homeschooled, she asked him if he knew his colours and numbers. (Noah's newly 7, though he looks a bit younger... like maybe a young 6, so I suppose this question wasn't quite as "out there" as it might seem.) He answered yes. She asked him his favourite number ("nineteen, because it's a pretty big prime; prime numbers are my favourite") and his favourite colour ("green, because I really like Greek mythology, and it's the colour of the Greeks in 'Age of Mythology'" and then proceeded to quiz him on simple addition questions. When she lost interest and couldn't fool him with the typical "two thousand plus three thousand" stuff, she lost interest in further questions. So he asked her what 8 - 20 was. She said "you mean 20 - 8?" And he explained no, 8 - 20, and that it was negative 12. I think that shut her up for good. She said she only liked "school math, and that's not school math." Okay. Noah recounted all this as just an interesting social diversion. He's so easy-going and tough to ruffle. It's refreshing. He's also, I'm coming to realize, just a delight in a classroom. He's eager but polite, compliant and patient. He speaks up appropriately, offers up ideas and suggestions where appropriate. He smiles a lot, uses his manners, initiates friendly conversations, offers to help clean up. He's just full of social graces and picks up social cues naturally. It makes me wonder where we went so wrong with Erin. Many of these things are a significant challenge for her.

Noah, who a year or so ago, would matter of factly talk about his expectation that he would "probably go to school when [he is] older" has almost zero interest in school at this point. Today we were packing and sorting dried fruit and nuts for a music fundraising project. We spent most of the day at our friends' place. They are two teens and two schoolteachers and of course weren't home until about 4 or 5. Noah spent the day anxiously awaiting their arrival home. He commented on what a pain it must be to have to get up and right away go to school, and be there so long every day. The fruit and nut sorting was fun. We had a small work party. The kids helped label, weigh, carry and sort. They now have a pretty good sense of what constitutes 2 lb. and 5 lb. and 25 lb. and they know their nuts!

Tonight we watched two episodes of "Blue Planet", the excellent BBC documentary about marine life. We deserved the break because of all our fruit-and-nut work, and this kids had all done their practising first thing in the morning. Erin read a very clever short story an adult friend had sent her, written about a woman writer with a non-functioning key on her computer keyboard, a missing vowel, the one "attached to the hungry self", who decides to try to write around the letter. The whole story is written without the letter 'i'. Very clever!

Tomorrow is an extra "town day" because of the music workshop Erin and Noah are attending.

No comments:

Post a Comment

This blog is moving to archive-only status. Please consider posting comments instead at the active version of the blog at

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.