Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Learning in the Flow

Noah was using the text-to-speech synthesizer on one of our old programs (DK Children’s Encyclopedia) this morning, practising spelling that could be properly pronounced by the computer. He discovered the use of periods in creating sentence breaks. He wrote: "Age of Mythology is a game of heros and montsters. You build reinforsments. You create beasts." He had help with ‘build’ and ‘create’ and ‘beasts’. It was a useful exercise for him from the standpoint of reading and spelling. He also got some practice at putting thoughts and explanations into writing.

Erin asked for a chance to "do school". By this she means a game and a schedule whereby she and I outline a bunch of semi-structured activities (a lot of them bookwork) for her to do through the day. She asked for some "research questions" as one of the activities. This was a new idea for us. I put together the following list:

What is a "pixel"?
Who was born first, Brahms or Beethoven?
What's the capitol of El Salvador?
What do iguanas eat?
What is "6!" (6-factorial)?
Where does the word "tesselate" come from?
Who said "we have nothing to fear but fear itself"?
Who wrote "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea"?
What does chlorphyll do?
Who was Marie Curie and what did she do that was so important?
Where is the magnetic north pole located?
What is a "bearded dragon"?
Who was Guy Fawkes?
Where does the word "bonfire" come from?
What is the origin of Hallowe'en?
What is a menorah?
Draw an isoceles triangle:
She got about 6 of these in half an hour or so and is saving the others for another day (or two, or three). She quite enjoyed it.

Noah was right into group class this evening. It was the second group of the year. Last spring he started participating, after a long period of saying he wasn’t quite ready. Boy, is he ever ready now! Other parents were pulling me aside to ask if he was always this "attentive and full if joy" or always "such a model student". He had lots of grins and laughs, lots of ideas to contribute, tried hard at everything and obviously loved the class.

Erin spent some time writing today (on the computer). She says she’s got farther with this latest story than she ever has with a story before. I didn’t press her on details. She’s intensely protective of her writers’ privacy.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Nelson Day

Nelson day. Sophie was right into gymnastics today... only hung back for a couple of minutes right at the start. I’ve never had a kid so young who partipicated so eagerly. Maybe we’re getting incrementally less introverted kids as we keep at this racket. She’s the youngest kid by a good 6 months and the smallest by far, but is doing great at skills and following directions.

Erin and Noah are doing well in gymnastics too. Noah is feeling strong and capable. He’s the youngest in his (7-to-10yo) class and is definitely in the more able half. His listening skills (and Erin’s too) are exemplary. Erin was actually keen to do some math problems during Sophie’s gymnastics class. She’s feeling quite comfortable with the current work and she always does math willingly when it’s interesting but relatively easy.

Grocery shopping. I left the older two to eat in the minivan and join us in the store when they were done. Just before that we dropped off a friend at her house after gymnastics. She’s older than Erin, and I laughed when I realized it was less than 2 blocks that she’d have had to walk, in a safe little Canadian town. Why don’t people give their kids this kind of responsibility? I had fun shopping. We weren’t in a rush, and I bought a few special little things for the kids for Hallowe’en. Bought them another Garfield book of comics. Noah reads them repeatedly for reading practice and pleasure, so they’re worthwhile. Erin devours them.

At piano lessons, Noah got a lot of positive feedback about his latest composition "Achilles’ Death". His teacher was really impressed and that was clear to him. He was very pleased. Composition seems to be the area Noah has chosen to be comfortable with recognition, much as Erin is with performing.

I had to work tonight. Because Erin agreed to drop Youth Choir this year, I had time to cook and eat supper after getting back from Nelson and before heading out to Nakusp (in the opposite direction). The kids watched the second half of a miniseries on the Halifax explosion of 1917. We have a short historical fiction book about it, which I hope the kids will be interested in hearing aloud soon, but we’ve got so many novels on the go right now it’ll be a while.

No violin practising today. Sometimes a surprise holiday is a good thing. I announced at supper that I thought it was a good day for a break. The kids agreed.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Life is Music

Music composition is in high gear around here. Noah has two or three pieces on the go and Erin the same. They noodle around on the piano until they have something they think is worth keeping and then they play it for me to transcribe on the computer in Finale format. They’ve each got notebooks of compositions printed off to save and share. Noah is planning on hosting a "living room recital" for composers and their fans. Since all of his pieces are under about 30 seconds in length, I thought it might be kind of short, so I suggested I could write arrangements for small violin/viola ensemble to try out. He’s keen on this idea. We’ve done "dessert recitals" in the past and have a cluster of friends both young and old who are familiar with the format and would probably enjoy coming. We do potluck snacks and social time afterwards. We're tentatively planning this for November 16th or thereabouts.

Violin and piano practising have been easier lately all around. Both Erin and Noah have settled into the weekly lesson routine now. It was a bit of a shocker to be having lessons once a week on both instruments for the first time in six months. Both kids felt the expectations going up and balked a bit. But they love their lessons and are now comfortable with the routine again. Erin is now having her lessons and practising violin completely independently now. She played the most amazingly musical, careful, clean, stirring rendition of "Humoresque" last week at her lesson. I thought it was her grandma/teacher playing at times, it was that beautiful. She continues to struggle with the diligent attention to detail necessary in the heap of Book 6 repertoire she’s taught herself. But hopefully it will come. She just needs to slow down her tempi, but finds it impossible to exercise that self-discipline. Noah’s violin work is trudging along. Last week he was polishing up "Gossec Gavotte". This week he’s learned "Musette" and is doing a great job. He continues to really balk at any situation where he feels he’s being tested. Score-keeping and note-name quizzes make him very uncomfortable at his piano lessons. He’s asked me to tell his teacher this.

Last week Sophie played her violin for her grandma and prospective violin teacher (the same person) at the family lesson time for the first time ever. She played Twinkle Theme and Lightly Row and felt quite pleased with herself.

Life isn’t all music, though it sometimes seems like it. Erin and Noah are doing an art class and working with patterns. They’re making some connections with mathematical patterns which is neat to see. Yesterday I made some stamps using a lino cutting kit and safe-T-cut blocks and used them to make wrapping paper out of a roll of kraft paper. I’d hoped to entice Erin and Noah into some pattern-making of their own. Noah noticed "that’s like what we’re doing in art class" but that was the extent of the interest. I finished the wrapping paper on my own.

Hallowe’en is next week. Noah’s "Grim Reaper" costume is done. He was inspired in this choice by his grandpa’s death last summer. We’ve talked a lot about whether the GR is evil or not. I think this is Noah’s way of working out whether death is bad, evil, fearsome. We talked about "fate" and the GR as the messenger of fate, not a murderer. He seemed happy with that explanation. He was quite intrigued by a "Far Side" cartoon I pointed out to him last week too. "Unbeknownst to him, Herb has a brush with death." Herb has just bumped into the Grim Reaper in a crowd on a city street and yelled over his shoulder "hey buddy, watch yer elbow, willya?"

Erin is planning to be Medusa. I’m cutting and sewing snakes out of a discarded sweater. Sophie will be Dobby, the house elf from Harry Potter. Her mask is mostly done (paper maché) and the costume will be simple (bright socks and a ragged pillowcase over some dark clothing).

This afternoon the kids have been out working on their tipi in the woods. I have no idea how or what they’re doing. At one point I helped them measure off a 3 metre stick and suggested they needed to find a bunch of others and cut them to length. They have a saw, a hammer, nails, goggles and ear pro. They tell me they now have three sticks that are standing up supporting themselves, without any rope or nails. They used the fork in one stick to hold another and then used the fork created by those two to hold the third. Erecting it must have taken some good teamwork! The days are getting shorter and the snowline is drawing lower, and they’ll not get much more done before winter settles in, but they’re planning this for spring mostly. They’ve had great fun trying on their snowsuits in the past few days.

Erin has latched right onto the "Royal Diaries" scholastic series. She read one or two a year ago but didn’t get smitten then. Now she’s reading and re-reading the ones she owns or has borrowed. She’s been on-line and dumped about 20 of them into my "wish list" at Amazon.com . I haven’t read any of them, but I understand they’re pretty decent historical fiction. I was impressed that Erin has been researching the series offerings, comparing authors, checking publication dates, and deciding which ones she’d like first. She explained to me that Katherine Lasky is the writer she likes the best, and that hers especially are the sort of book that is worth reading repeatedly.

It’s Sophie’s 5th birthday in a couple of weeks. Noah said he might give her one of his art class projects. Erin hasn’t thought of anything yet. I’ll be investigating bookbinding as part of a Christmas gift project, so I’ll see if she’d like to make a little personalized easy reader for Sophie (who is sounding out the simplest of phonetic words these days), using the new colour printer. It’s been hard to lead her into new interests in the past year or two, though... she wants ownership over her hobbies, and if I’m interested that seems to interfere with her ownership.

Saturday, October 25, 2003


An introduction. We are a family of six living in the rural southeastern interior of BC, Canada. We have a dog, a cat, some laying hens, a vegetable garden, some fruit trees and a million-dollar view of unspoiled mountain wilderness.

Chuck is a local small-town GP. He's also a DIY guy who enjoys mucking around in his shop, building furniture and looking after the property.

I'm Miranda, a violinist, violist, Suzuki violin teacher and occasional small-town GP.

Erin (who will be 10 early in 2004) is bright, stubborn, introverted and intellectual. She reads and writes at a very high level and has for years. She's also a talented violinist and pianist.

Noah (recently turned 7) is sensitive, creative and easy-going. Though somewhat less achievement-oriented than his older sister, he has an incisive mind and excels at seeing things from multiple perspectives. He's a rapidly progressing violinist and pianist and a passionate composer.

Sophie (who will be 5 soon) is cheerful and full of imaginative energy. She's recently taken to the violin like a fish to water. She is showing some of the same intellectual precocity as her older sister, but thankfully without much of the "spiritedness".

Fiona is 9 months. She's already doing everything she can to keep up with her siblings. The older kids have amazing relationships with her.

The kids have never been to school and have no interest in it. We enjoy the support of most of our extended family and of a fairly non-judgmental local community.