Today Fiona learned to ride a bike and to read music. Well, almost, anyway.
Yesterday she wanted help learning to ride a two-wheeler, so I took her around the driveway circle for a while on the tiny little 12"-wheeled bike that has been the learning bike of at least six kids now. Last fall she'd insisted on having a pink bike, so I had taken it apart and spray-painted and varathaned it black and pink. But she wasn't really interested in learning to ride last fall. This spring, though -- different story. She's been talking about learning to ride a two-wheeler, and Noah and Sophie's bicycling over the past few days of nice weather got her stoked. Yesterday I got the feeling that I wasn't going to be hunched over holding her up all summer ... some sense of balance seemed to be coming. And then today it started to fall into place. She still can't get herself started, but if I support her so that she can get both feet on the pedals, she can then get all the way around the driveway circle, slopes and bumps and rocks and all, on her own. "I'm really great at bike-riding!" she said.
Sophie said "Well, I guess you'll be a late shoelace-tyer, Fiona," recalling our "study" of friends and acquaintances last year which demonstrated a clear negative correlation between age of shoelace-tying and age of two-wheeler-riding. (Noah wins the negative correlation award in our family with a bicycle age of 3 and a shoelace age of 9.) That may be, but I wouldn't count on Fiona not bucking that trend too. Perhaps we'll keep her in velcro shoes and slip-ons until age 8 so as not to wreck our study results.
Then tonight while practicing, we once again broke up her on-instrument work with a couple of games with the music theory manipulatives I have, and one thing led to another, and she wanted to try reading pitch. We'd tried it a couple of months ago and she'd clearly not been developmentally ready. But she was insistent we try again, and so I made a large staff on the whiteboard the size for fridge-magnet note-heads.
I introduced her to the "second space" for A and had her practice placing a magnet there. She's so much fun to work with. I could get her to repeat the task over and over by saying "Oh yeah? Well, I bet you can't get this magnet on A!" And then "Surely this magnet will be trickier." And time after time she'd giggle and prove me wrong.
After she could do that easily, I showed her how we make notes go up a scale on the staff (space - line - space - line) and she practiced making scales. Not so easy, but she got it. Then we went back to positioning A's but started associating them with sound and playing the violin. She would place three in a row and I'd sing them and play them. She'd place four in a row and I'd do the same. Then she wanted a turn being the singer & player. Easy peasy -- she'd watched me and evaluated my accuracy a dozen times already. Then I introduced her to B and she practiced placing B's on the staff. I'd ask for "3 B's" or "4 A's" and she'd place them, then I'd play them. We went back and forth, trading jobs. She could do this too.
I've never ever introduced pitch notation in increments this tiny or to a child so young, but she was really really enjoying it. Each step was so very small, but she didn't tire of the repetition, because she was feeling successful.
Then we started mixing the A's and B's. By the end of our first pitch reading session, she was sight-singing and sight-reading various and sundry combinations of B's and A's in any order flawlessly. And she was so pleased! "I'm really great at sight-reading!" she said.
It was a twenty-minute diversion. Practicing ended up taking almost an hour. But gosh, she was flying high. Suddenly this notational system which has surrounded her since birth began to convey meaning. She marked "music theory games" off on her practice task list not with the usual black tickmark, but with a huge green blob, "to show how proud I am."