Tuesday, November 27, 2007


The title of my blog describes our life perfectly. We are hardly ever home and I guess you could call us "carschoolers" more than homeschoolers. It is almost Christmas time and even though we have had more interruptions and busyness than any other year... our school year is going pretty good.

I started the year off with a plan in every subject...just a broad outline, more than a plan, of things I wanted to accomplish this year. We are actually doing a fairly good job of sticking to the outline. I feel more organized with the outlines and thus am able to give the boys work to do on those days when I am running like crazy or even let Daddy accomplish some of the items with the kids.

Math are going well for everyone...

Haley is midway through the 2nd grade Saxon book we started mid-September. She was moving at breakneck speed until we found some new information for her like money and adding double digits and now is going more lesson by lesson more for the practice than because she is having difficulty. Besides, I am not all that keen on having to move to the next level every 4-5 months. Also, it is not about speeding through so much with her than it is about being solid on the concepts and branching out in more depth where she feels the need or has an interest.

Dylan is working in Saxon 76. He has had a little hiccup and re-did a number of chapters. He is always seems to know what he is doing in the lesson but when given a test, not even for a grade but just to see what he needs more help on, he freezes up. I want him to have a good solid foundation before moving on and he is already so far ahead of where he needs to be that I felt slowing down would be a good idea.

Newt is in Geometry. He does great on most of it but having a little trouble putting it all together for the proofs. He just started doing proofs in the last chapter so I think he just needs more practice in thinking that way. I am going to have him work on Logic to see if it helps.

Language Arts is moving right along for everyone. I finally have a program that is working for Dylan. Since he hates to read, a program with stories to read and questions/activities to follow is his best bet. Newt is reading and writing a lot on his own. He has been working on his own novel. Haley is just reading tons and started First Language Lessons. She loves to read and write.

I am most pleased with our progress in Science and History. The kids have been doing CyberEd for science along with DVDs from The Teaching Company for both which are a little dry like college lectures but filled with good information. We also have lots of supplementary books and activity books for both subjects. My outlines have been great for not missing any information or leaving out any books. Our trip to Wyoming planned for this summer will be perfect for the science we are studying.

All the kids and Daddy have been plugging through Rosetta Stone Spanish each at their own pace. The lessons are long so the older, the more they wade through. I had the writing portion turned off for Haley and although she was angry with me because she says it is her favorite part, it is working better for her (the accents and tildas were impossible for her to remember).

Everyone is making great progress in music. They are now playing together here and there which is really neat.

Suzuki parenting...

There has been an ongoing discussion on the Suzuki chat group about getting started with violin practice with resistant small children. A fellow chatter, Suzuki mother, and teacher, Miranda explained the four-fold way to be successful...

"1. Show up. If you're teaching your own, that means something a little different than cheerfully going to lessons. It means including your child in your community of students. It means making the time each day for practicing to happen. It doesn't mean anything about your child doing anything at all. It just creates the possibility and helps nurture the interest. You just keep creating that nurturing environment. Time works magic.

2. Pay attention to what is good, true and beautiful. One way of putting this into practice is to make it a habit of reflecting on every single practice session with the question "what is one thing that worked well here today?" Become conscious of those things -- you may have to dig deep to find them at first -- and do what you can to allow them to grow. At first the "good, true and beautiful" might just be your child's strong will, or boundless energy ... something in the "mixed blessing" category. But if you can become more aware of it as a potentially positive force, and look for ways to enjoy it and turn it to advantage, you'll gradually get more and more stuff that is true and beautiful. Eventually you'll find more complex stuff that's working well, things like "when I let her choose a legato piece to play after each left hand exercise, she remains happy and focused, and her tone stays good."

3. Speak the truth in love. For me this means relating verbally to my child in ways that are less about instruction and control and more in the style of positive yet honest observations and facilitations ... always spoken in an unaffected, genuine, loving tone. So rather than saying "please try to keep your eyes on your bow" I'd say "Your sound is much more beautiful when you watch and keep your bow on the highway." I would stay clear of praise and positive judgements designed to manipulate my child, because that stuff doesn't feel "true" to me. Encouragement rather than praise. Encouragement rather than criticism, nagging or instruction.4. Do not become attached to outcome. Oh my, this is the toughest one for parents who are also teachers. We know what children are capable of in an optimal environment. We think we've got a pretty rich environment happening for our own child, so we expect pretty impressive results. We may not have shallow expectations like "Perpetual Motion by age 5" but we have many less tangible ones. We expect our child will become focused, will be motivated and will get some goal-oriented work accomplished, learning at a brisk pace that is right for her. If you figure out how to really let go of your attachment to these outcomes, you'll be three kids further ahead of the game than I am. I am only just beginning to get this down with my fourth child ... and perhaps only because she's making it easy by having a natural affinity for the sorts of outcomes I'm trying to let go of."

I absolutely love this. Even though I have never really spelled it out before, reading it, I found that this is exactly how I go about things...well nearly every day. (I am sure we all have grouchy days once in awhile.) This way of thinking has helped me to be creative and come up with different ways of doing things...games to play, choices to give my little violinist, etc... My personal goal is to think like this everyday.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Last night, due to a vacation and the holidays, Haley had a violin group class, we went to dinner, then she had her individual lesson. She was a bit tired by 6:30pm and wasn't really into going to lessons.

Miss Gerry was very tough on her and wanted her to play Minuet 1 perfectly because she knew Haley could do a better job than what she was doing. Gerry set up a game for her with two cups turned upside-down and treats underneath and Haley would get a prize if she played it perfectly. (One part she kept missing was my fault because I did not know she was supposed to circle and up-bow to start it and since she had practiced it so much, her little arm just didn't remember to do that.) Anyway, she finally played it still missing one up-bow and received her prize.

Afterward, Gerry told me that she is being hard on Haley with technique because she is sooo talented and now is the time to perfect the technique. She handed Haley a small book filled with pictures and stories about violinists who were in a competition in Germany (her daughter competed there as a young teen). The youngest girl was 9yo and Gerry told Haley that she played songs "every bit as difficult as the ones Robin played." Then she told me that if Haley wants to be a violinist, she has the potential to do the same thing as a 9yo.

Gerry has many times made mention that Haley is gifted or talented but this is the first time she has made mention of just how talented she believes she is. I had been feeling bad for Haley because we had listened to the lesson before hers and the little girl, a few years older than Haley, is at about the same song in the repertoire but stumbles through many of the songs. I was upset that Gerry was so hard on Haley but not so hard on the other little girl. When she said that to me, I understood why.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Oops! She did it again...

I just don't know about this little girl of mine. Once a month she has a Fridays at Four concert at a retirement home with her Suzuki instructor and her students.

The week before every concert, her teacher picks something for her to play that she didn't play quite so well at her lessons. (actually she rarely plays her best for her Suzuki teacher- the room's too distracting or lessons are just not at a great time or whatever, so, usually what she plays not so well, she is playing pretty well at home during practice). This week it was the doubles on Etude. She has been playing Etude since before she was supposed to but for the past two weeks had been playing it by pressing too hard on her strings, which are beginning to sound false anyway (I am hoping she will outgrow the violin before I have to get it restrung), making a really scratchy sound. Try as I might I could not get her to let up on the pressure. Maybe trying to play it so fast made her play too hard or whatever.

So, for her concert, Miss Gerry decided that she should play Mississippi Mississippi Twinkle (twinkles doubled), Perpetual Motion doubles and Etude doubles. This was a bit stressful for me because she has always disliked Perpetual Motion so hates to practice it- therefore it doesn't get the time it should in the replaying of songs. Plus, I only had 2 days to get her ready for her concert (lessons were on Tuesday).

I took out the MIDI accompaniment I have for Suzuki where I can slow the piano down a bit and let her practice all the songs with it. She played each piece at least 5-6 times a day. Sometimes it was smooth and beautiful, other times is was scratchy or she forgot parts or played too fast. I felt a little stressed again going to the concert but didn't let it show to her. We talked about what she needed to think about (pre-planning works wonders for this child). She likes to tell me what she needs to do rather than me telling her.

So the little imp gets up there and plays through all of those pieces sounding just like the recordings on her CD, smooth with beautiful intonation and finishes with a flourish of her bow and a bow to the audience. It amazes me how she excels under pressure. I think I am always so worried because I know that I would not do well under pressure unless everything was polished and perfected and even then might mess it up due to stress.

Miss Gerry was pleased as well and told the audience that next month she would be playing the Minuets. (I think she forgot that next month is Christmas so they'll be doing carols but it was nice to hear Haley did so well.)

I really need to learn to trust my tiny wonder. I have to remember that she is Haley, not me.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Busy Day but I am proud of all three kids....

Today was very busy for us. Haley had her first Play-In with Next Generation Kids in Philadelphia. It is a group of 7-17 year olds (flutists, fiddlists, and harpists) who get together for two hours once a month to learn new fiddle tunes then play together the songs they know. Haley was able to play over half of the songs with the group. She had a really good time and did very well. One father, a musician by trade, pointed out that she has a wonderful ear and good sense of rhythem.

Here are some pictures...(hint- she's the teeny one)..

Dylan took his Hunter's Education Course and got a 99% on the test. He is very excited to go out hunting with Poppop, Daddy, and Newt for Youth Hunting Day on Saturday.

Newt had wrestling practice and there were a couple new faces practicing with the team. He had a great practice and during live wrestling hit a few really good moves. I can't wait until he starts tournaments this year.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Scottish-Irish Festival

This weekend we took an overnight trip to the Poconos in PA for an Irish music festival. We drove up on Friday afternoon, checked into the hotel, then found an Irish Pub called Seamsa's in Stroudsburg. It was a really cool old building, like walking into a movie set. We had a table on the second floor right next to a window and outside it started snowing. Haley heard the Irish fiddle music and started dancing next to the table while waiting for the meal. We ordered authenic Irish food like Corned Beef and Cabbage and Guiness Beef Stew. The food was delicious and I learned that though I hated boiled cabbage as a child, it is actually pretty good. After dinner we went back to the hotel and the kids swam in the pool for awhile then we went to bed.

Saturday, we went to Bushkill PA for the festival. There were many vendors selling Irish and Scottish wares and music and dancers. We listened to a band called Needfire (a Celtic rock band) from Dallas, watched a pipe band with bagpipes and drums, Ceili dancers, and another family band from Canada. Both bands had a fiddler and Haley loved them enough to ask for CDs of both. The boys really liked Needfire.

The band from Canada was playing acoustically in a smaller room with a dancefloor in front of them. They said anyone could come dance to their music and Haley was the only one to take them up on it. She danced for the entire 45 minutes they played and people watching were watching her as much as the band, taking her picture, and videotaping her. Even the photographer for the festival took her picture. People afterward commented on her energy and lack of self consciousness. (She bowed after each song.) She got that CD autographed by the whole band.

The boys had fun walking around in their kilts. They talked to an elderly gentleman about his kilt and the other pieces of his attire. They even got to fence with reel fencing equipment which was right up their alley.

On the way home, Haley started getting antsy and about 10 minutes from home, asked how much longer. I said, "About 10 minutes." She asked how many she would have to count to so I told her "to 60-10 times." She then proceeded to count the entire 10 minutes.

When we got home tonight, Haley googled the Celtic rock band and found their website completely on their own and added it to her favorites. She is such a funny kid.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Payment in full...

I am awful about having money with me and paying for things that are weekly. I generally carry no money with me and prefer to pay by the month or, preferably, by the year so I don't forget.

Today after another wonderful fiddle lesson, we said our goodbyes and walked out the door. It wasn't until I was buckling Haley into the carseat that I realized I hadn't paid the instructor. I ran back inside and apologized. Her instructor laughed and pointed to a cartoon on her wall saying that she always feels like the teacher in the cartoon after a lesson with Haley.

It was a For Better or Worse cartoon with the child having a great piano lesson then handing a check to the teacher who is saying something along the lines of feeling like the lesson had been payment enough.