Sunday, May 27, 2007

Views on self motivation...

There has been a lot of discussion in my gifted group recently about self motivation/determination and it's impact on a child's giftedness. Almost every book I have read on giftedness talks about task commitment/self motivation as an important factor in a child's success. I don't remember any of them discussing whether it is inborn or learned or how you develop it.

I have been reading a book called "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success" by Gardner. In this book, the author feels that a person's can have one of two mindsets: either a fixed mindset where they feel that intelligent/creativity, etc... are inborn traits or a growth mindset where they believe that a person's intellect or other traits are constantly changing based on how hard the person works. In this view a person with a fixed mindset would be less likely to take on challenging tasks because they either believe a smart person should not have to work hard or that a failure would prove they are not as smart as others believe them to be. A person with a growth mindset would view gladly accept a challenge and view failure as a learning experience.

I believe there is some merit to these views but don't believe they tell the whole story on why a person is or is not motivated. There are so many factors that work together to make a person who they become. I am sure some part of a person's motivation must have to be inborn or personality based. I am also sure that a person's experiences will lead them to be more or less motivated.

I have three different children. I would probably say that in certain instances Newt is very self motivated but not always highly so. He will work hard on things that interest him but also need a push at times when a lot of effort is required. Dylan is motivated if it has to do with physical labor or creating something but is very unmotivated to keep his room clean or do school work, especially reading. He has become more motivated to practice his guitar and do his math as he has matured. Haley is the most highly self motivated of all my children. She will work hard to overcome any challenge. She works hard to do her schoolwork without being asked, practice violin, keeps her stuff organized, etc... How many not quite 5 year olds would work independently to master things like she does without any input from anyone else to motivate her? It is amazing to me to watch her and see what she comes up with.

Besides birth order each of these children has had the same basic upbringing. I spoiled them all though Haley may be the most spoiled just because of circumstances (she is so much younger than the boys and my last/ the boys entertain and play with each other a lot so I play with her/ etc....) I try to praise effort rather than their personal traits for all of them. Their personalities must play a role in it. I do believe that they can learn to be self motivated by being brought up to set goals and reach those goals and by being parented in a growth mindset sort of way. I think maturity and developing their own interests will also them to become more motivated.

Some of it must be heredity. I am very goal oriented and have been as long as I can remember but I don't know if I was that way at 4 or younger. Maybe it was the way I was brought up. Who knows for sure? Some people grow up in incredibly awful conditions, end up being very self motivated, and succeed.

Great weekend...

Yesterday was a great day. The weather was wonderful. I cleaned my whole house including getting to some things like windows, sunroom, etc... that I have been meaning to get to. I always feel better when my house is clean. The kids helped a lot with the cleaning then the boys played with Haley outside for most of the day- playing in the sprinkler and on the playset.

Later the boys took a canoe ride and when they returned and were putting away their life jackets, they found a small water turtle laying her eggs. We all stood and watched her lay 6 eggs then cover them up . It is amazing watching what a clumsy turtle is able to do with just her hind legs. We are going to place a net cage over the nest so we can see the babies when they hatch and keep predators off the nest.

Today we had church then picked strawberries at Grammy and Poppop's house. Later Newt has wrestling practice then we will have a nice family night. Tomorrow we will spend the day with Grammy and Poppop before heading to the church Memorial Day picnic.


Before her practice I always give Haley time to "play" with her violin and she practices those songs she is figuring out for herself and fiddles around with it (little play on words there) learning new songs, finding pieces that sound like a song and making up songs, and figuring out different ways to move her bow (like up, up, up or down, down, down instead of up and down). Yesterday, she played during that time and figured out that there are many more notes on her violin than the ones she has been allowed to play so far. She figured out that Concerto in A by Vivaldi has higher notes further down on the E string- she found those and I heard her practicing the passage she figured out over and over until she could make her fingers hit those new notes.

Last night, she listened to her Celtic fiddling DVD and figured out the second part of the polka she started to learn. Later she was fiddling around and she discovered, almost accidentally, that she could play more than one note per bowing and she started playing Gavotte in G minor (I forget by whom) from the 3rd Suzuki CD. I was sitting right next to her watching TV while she played with her violin and I don't even know how she did it. Suddenly she was just playing with long bowings and all the notes in that bowing. She must have played her violin, including her practice time, more than 3 hours yesterday.

I wonder if this is normal for Suzuki trained kids. All this experimentation and the drive to master new techniques. I am trying to have her listen more to non-Suzuki pieces (why I bought the fiddling DVD) so she will work to learn those rather than the Suzuki pieces because I want her to be taught those and not learn improper techniques but the Suzuki songs are the ones she knows right now because she listens to them and hears the "big girls" playing them. They are the songs she loves so they are the ones she wants to play.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Showing off...

Today at violin lessons, Haley's teacher asked her which performance she liked best at the concert. She answered that she liked Maggie's performance Concerto in A minor by Vivaldi even though the poor girl erred a couple times (she had come into the concert late from a dance recital). It is one of Haley's favorite songs from Book 4. She started playing it for her teacher and her teacher told her that's what her daughter used to do. (Her daughter is a wonderfully accomplished player who has won numerous awards.)

Then she and her teacher were playing a duet of Allegro with her teacher playing it with added notes so it sounded very fancy. As soon as they were finished, Haley began to play exactly what her teacher had just played. Gerry just laughed at her and patted her on the head.

Not to be outdone, Dylan taught himself parts of a number of his favorite guitar pieces. I think Haley's skills are rubbing off on him which is nice because he sees her being praised and is practicing more himself so he can receive the same praise.

Monday, May 21, 2007

No way!

Friday night, while we were at the Celtic music concert, Haley was so impressed with the fiddler that when she saw a DVD on how to play Irish tunes, she begged me to buy it. The saleslady told her she would have to wait a few years because it was for grown ups but Haley was so adamant (and a little spoiled) that I bought it for her anyway.

Today I popped in the DVD for her while I checked my email and about 10 minutes later she comes into the room proudly playing the first part of a polka.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Big Concert...

What a busy weekend we've had. Friday night Haley had her Fridays @4 concert at the retirement home then we went straight to an Celtic music concert featuring Kevin Burke on fiddle. The concert was wonderful. Kevin is amazing on the fiddle.

Saturday was dance in the morning for Haley then a taekwondo/Gumdo demonstration at a local fair for everyone. The kids did a great demo and had fun at the fair.

Today was Haley's big end of the year violin concert. She did a great job with her songs in D major (May Song, Long Long Ago, and Allegro). She loves to perform and it shows in her playing. Haley met her substitute summer teacher. She loved Robin's performance of Paganini. Haley says the devil in "Devil Went Down to Georgia" played better than Johnny because he sounded more like Paganini.

One of the students and her mother from Haley's old violin school was at the concert to watch. She was the mother who questioned Gerry repeatedly about Haley and what she was playing when she interviewed Gerry for her daughter to take lessons under. Gerry said it was very weird the way she seemed more interested in what Haley was doing than in her own daughter's lessons. They ended up not taking lessons with Gerry because her daughter didn't want to do the review to polish up her technique.

Newt took his hunter education course this morning. He did a great job. Poppop said he had his hand up for every question. Then he and Poppop went sporting clay shooting. Newt said it was his best day ever. He is still talking about all the fun he is having. Dylan went to work with Daddy today. He worked really hard and the best part for him was not having to go to the violin concert.
It has been a very busy weekend but in a good way. Next weekend is the holiday so we don't have anything at all to attend.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Sponge...

Yesterday Haley informed me that she no longer wanted to do "baby math." Her Singpore math has colorful cartoon pictures and that is the problem. Luckily I have Saxon 1 left over from her brothers so I started her on lesson 37 and let her go to it. She was much happier with the more "grownup" look of the program but still kept telling me how easy it was for her.

This child is exhausting! Once she decides on something, she does it whether it is reading, playing music, riding her bike, or math. All I can do is provide what she asks for and let her soak it all up. She will practice and practice to perfect something and the look of joy that crosses her face when she has mastered her goal just tells me that she finds all the hard work well worth it. I am simply along for the ride.

On Sunday, when she was showing her Poppop how she can ride her bike, he said, "Well, what are you going to learn to do next?" Without missing a beat, she replied, "Pop a wheelie!"

Last night we went to the library. I think my sponge has more fun there than a toy store. I have to limit the number of books she can take out and she begs the entire time to take more (not like she does not have shelves and shelves of her own books but she's read most if not all of those). Last night she chose three children's story books, a book on Ancient China, a book on Saints (?), two on Ancient Greece, a book about the rodeo. and a book of children's plays. She will be very well read by the time she is, like, six.

"I'm ready to do my hard math, Mommy!" I am being summoned.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Happy Mother's Day!

This morning I was greeted with breakfast in bed. No, way better than you all are thinking! (See, I taught my boys, well at least Dylan, how to cook just so my breakfasts in bed would be worth staying in bed for. Just kidding, he really loves to cook!)

So, this morning I received a broccoli and cheese omelet with a side of celery spears. Okay, I don't know how they fit into breakfast but it was good. While I was waiting, Haley thought I needed a piece of bread with a spot of barbeque pork on it. The appetizer, I guess. Then I was gifted with hyacinths from my bush, a "jewel" in Haley's prettiest small box, and three lovely cards with poetry and loving remarks in them. Does it get any better than that?

Then I was permitted to take Newt to wrestling practice, was serenaded with Haley's personal violin concertos including "Bird on the Feeder," "Butterfly in the Tree," and "I Love My Mommy," and visited with my own Mommy. Mother's Day doesn't get any better than that!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Summer schedule...

Yes, I am one of those mean moms who have their child do school all summer long. We do slow down a bit for the summer with fewer subjects and days (usually 3 days a week). Now that the weather is nice and we have finished their current math books, a year of spelling lessons, and history and science are winding down, it seems like a great time to begin a summer schedule.

Everyone will be starting their new math books.
Newt- Gelfand's Algebra (as a review/more thinking involved summer supplement to Algebra
1) one day week and Basic Geometry by Birkhoff and Beatley two-three days a week.
Dylan- Saxon 76 (started last week)
Haley- Saxon 1 (I am not sure about this one. She started it a year ago then I switched to
Singapore for more practice and more colorful pages because she was so young. We will
try starting where we left off before and work from there, maybe skipping a bit if the
review is too much.)

Writing assignment weekly with drafts and revisions before final drafts. Reading daily. Journals daily (every other day nature/writing journal). Vocabulary lessons to take the place of spelling for the summer. We will work on their spelling and grammar through their writing assignments.

We are finishing up with the Greeks and have the Romans to get through before fall. I like to include mythology with history as we go along so it takes awhile to get through some of these eras.

Finish up our unit on plant science. This has worked nicely with planting herbs and some vegetable plants in pots around the yard.

Languages: Spanish/Japanese

I am planning to teach Haley music reading this summer because she will have a few weeks without violin lessons due to our vacation and her teacher's vacation so I need to keep giving her something new to learn.

I think that's it.

Tiny dancer...

Is this just the cutest picture or what?
Dance pictures today. I took my own outside. Does anyone know how hard it is to get silky baby-fine blond hair to stay in a bun?
This is the result of three handfulls of hair gel and a ton of hairspray. Then I am yelling, "Don't touch your hair! Don't lean back on your hair!"
I also have to hear..."this outfit is itchy!"....until I put a tanktop underneath it. I sure hope her teacher doesn't have a problem with that or else it may be an early end to her dance career!

My baby's growing up...

Okay. As if I am not having a little bit of a hard time with Haley turning 5 in a month, last night she decided that she was ready to ride her bike without training wheels. This is the same child who was scared to death on her bike and yelled, "Whoa, whoa!" as it rocked back and forth from training wheel to training wheel only a couple months ago.

Dylan took the training wheels off her bike then took her out on the grass and taught her to ride. He is such a sweet big brother. He patiently helped her get started every time then told her how wonderful she was and talked her into trying on the road. They were so excited to show Newt and I when we got home from wrestling practice.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Can't it be spring all year round?

We have had great school days the past 2 weeks. We started a unit on plant science and have spent time every day on nature walks, collecting and diagramming plants that correspond to our lessons.

The kids have all been really motivated to do their work. Dylan started his next math book, Saxon 76, and Newt will start his new math books, geometry and algebra 2, next week (though I haven't really figured out how to work that one yet since it is two different books but we'll just wing it for awhile and see what happens).

We have had violin practice outside, played a lot outside, and also gotten the yard cleaned up a bit. Now we have time on the weekends to actually relax a bit with wrestling season finished.

Wonderful teacher....

Haley's violin teacher is simply wonderful. I had sent her an email telling her about Haley's latest experiments on violin and asking if it was okay to let her go with it. She didn't email me back but when we got to lessons yesterday, she said, "Haley, I have a surprise for you."

She let Haley play her entire lesson in D (every song) and helped her to get the tunnels and quick movements that had eluded her when trying it on her own. Haley was so enthusiastic about her lesson and her teacher even told her she can play 3 songs in D for her concert in 2 weeks to "surprise everyone."

Her teacher said that she usually has her students go back and learn every song in D after Haley's next piece "Perpetual Motion" but that Haley was just switching the order on her own which was okay. She said as long as her technique is good, then let her play with it. "She is learning to play violin to play it. It would be like teaching her to read then telling her she can only read the same 5 books over and over."

I am so impressed with her teacher's ability to go with Haley's flow. Haley tends to try to play jokes and improvise a bit and her teacher lets her at certain times to keep her love of playing alive.

I didn't tell her teacher that once Haley learns to play more than one note per bow stroke, she may have all of Books 2-4 down. She does a pretty good job at playing those songs along with the CDs now but just can't figure out how to do the fast sections without moving her bow really quickly up and down. We'll save that one for another lesson in the very distant future.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Funny violin practice...

Today Haley was determined to play all of the songs she knows in the key of D instead of A. She got most of them on the first try. Others she worked at once or twice to get perfect. After she was finished, she was ready to do her "real" violin practice. She practiced almost 2 hours today counting her experimenting time.

It was lovely sitting out in the beautiful weather under a tree, watching her play. She gets so into her music some days and it is really wonderful. I love the way she experiments with her violin like this or playing ear tunes, or picking out the melody of pieces she has heard on a CD or at a concert, or playing a song like Lightly Row in doubles. She is so enthusiastic about learning to play.

She did tell me today that she preferred the songs in D because it sounded deeper. Maybe she will end up on viola, who knows.

Ramblings on giftedness...

Yesterday, as I was typing my introductory thread to a new person on a gifted message board I started- this child can do this and that one can do that, I started thinking. I have been thinking and thinking about it all night and just need to get it off my chest.

Here I am typing in things they can do, academic things,and none of those things even come close to why I think they might be gifted. Sure, those things work as a baseline and give others something to compare them to but they don't come close to measuring the real thing. What I mean is...some profoundly gifted children may start talking in complete sentences at 1 while others may not even start talking until 3 or 4 (like Einstein), some gifted children may start reading at 2 while others may not until 6...Do you get where I am going? Sure, those early, wonderful, amazing, eye-opening achievements may let us know to start looking at whether or not they are gifted but they don't really give us all that much information.

I have been reading book after book after book on giftedness and learning theory, etc. I know I have been searching for answers but until last night I couldn't really put into words exactly what I have been searching for. What I really am trying to know is exactly what is this giftedness and how can I use what my children were given to help them live the most fulfilling life they can lead? How do I know what they were put on this earth to do or if I can't know then how do I help them achieve what they were put on this earth to do without knowing?

Pretty lofty goals, huh?!?

I have been reading the whole nature vs. nuture argument and depending on which book or study I read, each leans a different way. One book states that the child is born with the potential while another says that they can be lead in the direction to develop higher potential. In a book by Shinichi Suzuki (the violin guy), he talks about this school class he developed where he took a group of preschool children and taught them to memorize haiku (and many other things) and even though the children were not selected for their ability but randomly, after the program all had IQs above 150. Pretty amazing stuff, right. But if that were the case then why haven't people picked up on that and done it more broadly to make every child have this high IQ.

And then really, what is IQ?

Most of you know that I am a physical therapist and I work with kids under 3. I do developmental assessments. When Haley was 3, the State of NJ started using this new test for every child. Well, when I received my kit I took it home and tested her (the test is for kids up to age 6) to get an idea of the items and how the scoring works, etc... She tested at a 6 year level in everything except gross motor (which ended up being 4.5 yrs) and in many cases hit the ceiling on the test. I think social-emotional skills were the only other area she didn't hit the ceiling and that was because many items dealt with being in large groups like in a school setting and she never was.

Anyway, nothing in the test tested anything but what she could do. I think the real thing that makes her gifted is the way she looks at the world. How do you test that? How do you quantify that? I don't think there is really a way. I mean, how many children who are barely over 2 years old ask questions about God and how he can see everything in the world? How many are so fascinated by death yet afraid of it at the same time? How many kids can look at a person and be able to catch every detail of their mannerisms and behavior so they can do an impersonation that hits so close you can guess who they are doing and you say, "Yeah, they do do that"? How many constantly make connections about everything, notice everything, and remember everything, even the most minute detail of their existence?

Then you have all of that information and what do you do with it? How do you help them to be who they are supposed to be instead of some depressed wreck of a person who becomes so out of touch with the world they can't function?

Many of the books I read say that most of the geniuses of the world who make the biggest contributions to society had some horrible event or stress in their lives like someone close to them die or alcoholism or abuse. Who wants any of that for their child? There is so much information out there to teach them and so many possible ways to do it. How do you choose which way is the best and what should they really know?

I am a person who likes to have all the answers and often times, even in this area, I can come up with something that is good enough or maybe better put, the best I can do. With my boys, it was a little easier. I just give them the most information they can handle and teach them whatever they ask to learn plus the information and skills I think they need to do well in college. With my oldest, I provide him the best wrestling coaches I can afford and take him to as many practices as I can. The boys seem to learn linearly and they easily learn whatever I teach them.

With Haley it is becoming a little harder. She seems to grasp entire concepts without seeming to have been taught. She picked up letter sounds from a DVD before she was 18 months old then learned to blend them. I gave her a few lessons on the blending and she seemed to stop working on it for awhile. Then out of the blue she can read anything and everything, even utilizing phonics rules she was never specifically taught.

Also, if she was really put on this earth to play violin, I don't know what it takes to do that and have to rely on other people to help me more. This is a completely different realm and a very expensive realm at that. I started her in violin just to make her better at math and give her a skill she could use to relieve stress. The cost of lessons was one thing but now we are going to a more expensive teacher and foregoing the big family vacation out west so she can attend an institute with wonderful teachers. It doesn't matter to me one way or another whether violin is her calling or just is a direction she will go that will help her and teach her life lessons for other adventures but I want to give her everything I can just in case that is what she ends up wanting to do.

It is a huge responsibility to make these decisions and I have to make them, clearly keeping in mind that I cannot become so involved that I start to make her do violin because we have made such and such decision. It has to continue to be fun for her and something she wants to do.

Okay, I think I have rambled on enough and gotten some of this out of my system. There are so many hard questions. I think it is hard being a parent no matter whether your child is gifted or not. I think it is just an extra burden/gift when they are. Maybe more of a responsibility than a burden. I feel a huge responsibility and many times I am just fine with the decisions I make and other times I find myself second guessing everything. I guess in the end, no amount of reading is going to tell me exactly what I want to know because no one really knows but I will keep reading and looking for pieces to the puzzle.

It is like the parents who ask me when their child will take those first steps. I can teach the parent to give them all the skills necessary to be able to walk- balance, strength, coordination, trunk control, etc... but it is really then all up to the child whether or not they have the courage and determination to take those first steps. Some children, who I think will never be able to walk do, while others who I think should be walking, don't.

I don't know why I expect to know more about my own kids because it is the same thing. I can give them all the skills but in the end what they do with their lives is their own choice.