Saturday, February 07, 2004

Questionable Musical Motivation

On Monday, during our Nelson piano trip, we made our first visit to "Changes", a recycling depot that is manufacturer-funded. We'd just heard about it. It will take back packaging from almost any of the store-brand products at our grocery store, plus a pile more. I'm hoping the kids will take an interest in reducing our garbage output. We do pretty well already, but environmental awareness is something I want to encourage in the kids. I'm hoping this will be a big gardening summer for us too. Maybe Fiona will be past the dirt-eating stage; we'll see.

On Tuesday the phone rang and it was our regular Tuesday supper guests (musical friends who stay over between violin lessons and orchestra rehearsal) to say they wouldn't be staying for supper. The girl who is Erin's close friend got on the phone and asked me to "tell Erin that I got to skip Grade 2 piano and go right into Grade 3. Maybe I'll catch up to her some day. Is she in Grade 5 still? Oh, and what's she on in violin? Is she in Book 7 yet? No? Oh, good. I'm trying to get into Book 5 by the end of June."

Sigh.... This child is unschooled, but has such an interest in these "leveled milestones". Now, she's been in Erin's shadow on violin, piano and academics since they met. So I guess a certain amount of this is understandable. But it's still tough for me to know how to react to.

I told Erin that her friend was really excited about being promoted right past Grade 2 piano. I didn't mention any of the rest of it. But Erin volunteered that the friend had told her she was planning to "catch up" to her. And then (another sigh) Erin started asking how long it would take her to move up to the next Grade in piano, and the next level in violin. It was like a fire was lit. She's decided she wants to teach herself ahead in both piano and violin. She started working like a demon.

I was feeling horribly ambivalent about the motivation for her sudden spurt in interest. But as the week has worn on, things have transformed a little. She's discovered a couple of pieces of challenging new violin and piano repertoire that she really loves, and I think she's enjoying mastering them. She's also getting more and more interested in the idea of surprising her teachers with her hard work. I think the idea of "staying ahead of J." is slipping into the back seat. At least I hope so. (final sigh....)

Erin did an amazing violin solo from Suzuki Book 3 at group class this week. Sophie and Noah were the two eager volunteers for playing solos at the next class in 2 weeks' time. I'm so happy that they are turning into keen performers just like Erin. I think it's great when kids can share their music without anxiety. Erin was given the go-ahead to start Suzuki Book 7 at her violin lesson this week and has been working hard.

The kids have been painting a fair bit lately. They now do a good job of getting out and (more to the point) cleaning up the watercolours, so they're getting them out whenever they have some time. Erin's finally kind of figured out some basic techniques and is using them to advantage. She's done a couple of really striking paintings. Sophie seems on the verge of beginning to do more than simply play with the paints on the paper. She did a neat beach painting where the sky had "wind in it". Noah's still life in acrylics from art class is quite stunning. I'm really impressed with how the art teacher is working with them. I hope Sophie will be able to start some sort of art class with her next fall. (Noah's the youngest in the class by at least a year, so I'm hoping the teacher will start a new class for younger kids.) I bought three sheets of colourful tag-board (bristol board) this week and made some simple art portfolios for their larger-format artwork (up to 14x18). They're pretty pleased with them, and they each cost less than a dollar.

Erin and I spent some time looking at internet resources today. We discovered a really excellent Harry Potter fan-fiction site called FictionAlley. It includes peer-editing and peer-review and has a terrific sense of community from the look of it. But you need to be over 12 to use it. We're looking for other options. Erin writes so well, but doesn't want to share her writing at home. We both feel she'd benefit from some feedback and inspiration, and an internet community would be a terrific possibility. We also looked at BoxerMath which I suggested might be worth subscribing to for a while after she finishes Singapore Primary Math (probably before the fall). I'd really rather steer her clear of Singapore's linear, leveled workbook approach for a while. I like it, but she's still so young, and the NEM series (the high school stuff) is really challenging. I want her to relax with math for a while. She's worked through so much in the past year. A BoxerMath subscription wouldn't be cheap, but it would let her graze on math for a while, following her interests, rather than relentlessly heading towards Calculus.

I've talked so much about Erin this week. I should post an update about Noah's math. He's capably mastered the regrouping algorithms in addition and subtraction after a switch to Singapore a month or so ago. He's losing some of his initial enthusiasm for the program. I think he's only doing it about once or twice a week, but he keeps plugging away slowly. Sophie has finished up Miquon Orange and is enjoying the first part of the Red book. I'm sure she'll hit a bit of a wall before too long, but I've been saying that since the beginning of Orange and it hasn't happened yet, so I may be wrong.

Today we went cross-country skiing. It was fun, even though the skiing wasn't great (it warmed up and got sticky). We went with another homeschooling family and a couple of tag-along and very fun adults.

Noah has recently been reading aloud from picture books and other short stories with comical commentary interspersed to amuse his sisters. It's great to hear him reading aloud so confidently and unaffectedly. Sophie seems to be reading more and more; she isn't choosing to read aloud much yet, but she's finishing short picture books easily for her own pleasure.

Tonight the kids are watching "The Lion King" on network TV, a rare treat. They're making lots of fun of the advertisers' marketing ploys, which is great to see. Their dad goads them on a bit. Call it "developing healthy media skepticism and critical thinking skills." They seldom watch regular TV and I'm glad to see that they see through the shallow consumerism. They had a good laugh over the "Kid Cuisine" TV dinners. "Bet mommy will buy us lots of those! They sure look sooooo nutritious and I bet they don't cost very much either!"

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