It's still not big in the absolute sense. It's just a tenth, five sizes away from a full-sized instrument. But what a difference it's made to Fiona's playing!
The feature she was really looking forward to the most was the case with backpack straps. The day she got it, she strapped it to her back and kept it there for the hour and a half her siblings were having their lessons, while drawing, colouring and playing with blocks.
Another nifty feature is that it fits a red Mini-Kun shoulder rest. Neither her teacher nor I tend to use shoulder rests for little kids, but she had some posture adjustment issues that made us try it, and it's working well. She loves it. Actually the Kun is a little big (it's made to fit 1/8th and 1/4 instruments), but it doesn't fall off so that's okay.
The best feature, the one she's really learned to love, though, is the tone. This violin, unlike her old smaller one, gets a mature clear sound on all four strings. It's worth putting effort into getting rich clear tone, because this instrument does produce if you put the focus and energy in. Fiona has had the violin for about a month now and her tone has improved astronomically.
The new instrument has had a synergistic effect. Fiona's note reading ability has begun to click. She's moving ahead well in the repertoire, having wrapped up the two normally-quite-challenging minuets at the end of Book 2 in the space of a month, and greeting the first pieces in Book 3 with enthusiasm and confidence. The benefits of having three older Suzuki siblings -- the day she delved into Martini Gavotte she played the whole thing with all the right notes and bowings the first time through! And the pre-shifting and pre-vibrato games we're doing are giving her (and me!) the sense that she really is moving forward towards not being a beginner any more. She is practicing with great relish these days, working extremely hard and often persisting at exercises and repetitions beyond what I suggest. Today when her half-hour lesson was wrapping up, she wondered how it could possibly be over already -- there was so much else she'd hoped to do!
At home since diving into note-reading work her practicing has been lasting 45 minutes at a minimum, and not much of it is filler these days. We play few games -- though we still laugh a lot. An older unschooler I know once described learning to play the violin as "hard fun". I think Fiona would agree. Working hard is fun for her. She often wants to take her violin out again later in the day and would, if I had the energy, likely consent to two full practice sessions a day. But I need to remind myself that she just turned five. Even if she's the one doing the leading, I think I need to make an effort to create some balance, to keep things playful, easy-going, fun and imaginative.