Saturday, February 28, 1998

Erin's Violin Blog 8

I'm wondering where we went so wrong last fall. I didn't appreciate how hard it would be to get a home routine established, and I guess I just wasn't committed to it: in the back of my head I kept thinking, "well, she's still only three-and-a-half..." And I think I questioned my own motivation behind starting her so young. Did I want her to be some SuperKid? And part of me still believed that I could magically get her all fired up and wanting to do it desperately. Maybe some kids are like that: I think it's more likely in families where there hasn't always been a violin around, where there's that novelty effect of something brand-new and hitherto out of reach. For whatever reason, with Erin it wasn't like that.

But she's increasingly motivated now that we're practising every day and she sees her progress. She is the initiator of our practice sessions as often as not these past couple of weeks, and although we do not practice for long or terribly efficiently, I am delighted and relieved that we now have a happy routine.

I have begun using a number of gimmicks. She gets $1 a week for practising and making her bed every day. It goes into her piggy bank, and I don't think she has any idea what it's for, but it seems to make her happy. We practice in my basement teaching room, rather than in the "living" part of the house, so she feels special and grown up like my older students.

I am blessed with a camcorder, and we have started videotaping her practising each Sunday, as a sort of "lesson". We mail the tape to grandma on Mondays and will probably get some feedback, but the most important thing is that it gives us a weekly goal. We use stickers sometimes, and even KinderSurprises (one KS for every ten twinkles). Yes, we are doing Twinkles all the way through, now. Labouriously slowly, but she seems to have the concentration to get all the way through. So we are keeping track. Thirty five and counting.

I am really glad that I finally pushed ahead with this violin thing again. We are learning lots about each other, she is gaining confidence and maturity. Oddly enough, she has decided that she should also practice reading and math every day. The other day we had to do sums in the bathroom while getting ready for bed because we'd forgotten to do them earlier! So it seems she is learning a lot about what learning is all about.

Wednesday, February 04, 1998

Erin's Violin Blog 7

We are developing quite a routine the past week or two! We are finally, for about the first time ever, managing to practise more than once or twice a week. We have had a dismal fall and winter on the violin, but are, I think, finally hitting our stride. We are working through lots of autonomy issues. Her growing maturity has meant that we are able to talk about our problems, and this has made a difference. I am amazed by how well she understands her own feelings, even when she needs some help verbalizing them . And we are working out ways of helping her to communicate her feelings to me, rather than just shutting down, which is her natural inclination. It is incredibly hard work for me, but I think we are beginning to make some progress. We are doing nothing more with the instrument than what we were doing last summer: technique-wise we have stepped way back, but this is definitely the right direction to be going for now.

She is desperately in need of a peer group, though. Last week we heard her grandma interviewed on national radio after Dr. Suzuki's death. A young student had accompanied her to the studio and played a stellar version of Boccherini's Minuet at the end of Book 2. You would not believe how turned on Erin was by hearing Chloe's voice and violin on the radio. We taped the interview and Erin has wanted to hear it several times since.

The other day we were faithfully practising together on open strings. She was bowing, and I was using my finger on her finger-board to make the F-sharp after an open A and an open E rhythm. Suddenly she decided she could do that, and up went the hand and she took over. So we are back to using fingers! I didn't ask her to try it at all. She just decided it was time. I'm glad the initiative was hers. She is very pleased, and now wants to start working with the other fingers again.