Tuesday, December 30, 2008

After Christmas....

My musicians in their Christmas best.

Do you have any ideas how long it took to get a
photo with everyone and the dog looking?
Well, we put our Christmas decorations and gifts away a bit earlier than usual this year. My Christmas gifts are arriving today....new furniture (hurray!)!! All last week, I prayed that Haley wouldn't get sick because she had so many different performances.
So, she waited to catch a cold on Saturday. She was a bit hoarse yesterday but feeling a little better, so I am not sure whether she is getting better or whether it was the calm before an infection. For a child who was soooo sick during the first 3 years of her life, the last 3 have been not that bad with only a few stomach viruses and colds. So, I am knocking wood that she stays on that course and works her way through this one.
It will be nice to have a few days this week without anything scheduled in the evenings and I am looking forward to nothing at all to do on the 1st or on Saturday.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Learning Withdrawal???

For the past week and a half I have, for the most part, given the kids off of school due to a very busy week prior to Christmas and this week, trying to dig out from under the Christmas mess and reorganize to start the new year fresh since the kids are moving on to new books in many subjects. Newt has been doing SAT test prep, Dylan has been continuing his reading, and we have done some catching up on science and history with all the kids. Our usual schedule of subjects has been on hold though.

Now tonight, at 9pm, my Haley comes up to sit in the chair with me carrying a pile of workbook including math, reading, and vocabulary. "I want to do schoolwork!"

She is working her way through a math lesson as I am typing. She really is a motivated kid. This is the second time in the last week and a half she has taken is upon herself to do schoolwork. She is my child for whom "child-led learning" works like a charm.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tupperware containers...

Haley is a whole to parts learner. She learns an entire piece of music (actually entire CDs worth of music) on her own because she has a great ear and an amazing musical memory then she goes to Suzuki lessons with the next piece for her teacher to fix her bowings, change fingerings, add in dynamics and encourage more advanced musicality with bow control/tone/vibrato, etc...

Because Haley is talented, she knows what she wants to do with a piece of music (how it should sound) and will compromise certain things to get there like change her wrist position or fingering or bow any old way. This week her teacher told her that for kids who are not like Haley, it is easy to have a perfect wrist or proper bowings because they learn the piece one part at a time and are told how it should all be done.

Many times her teacher has told us that she feels like she is trying to fit Haley into a Tupperware container that is too small by slowing her down and making her fix technical issues.

Haley wants and is perfectly capable of playing each song but plays them at a much higher level once she has fixed all the technical problems. Luckily she doesn't seem to mind the changes or slowing down too much. She seems to easily incorporate the new things she is taught about a song so within a week or two each song is learned well enough to move on to the next only needed a week or two more practice to polish it up to performance level.

I appreciate her teacher's dedication to perfection. I see so many video clips on youtube or watch other children at Suzuki events playing the same songs as Haley but without the bow control/distribution, dynamics, and musicality. I often wonder whether these kids are taught properly and that is just the best they can play (the most they can get out of it) or whether their teacher didn't know to teach a more advanced way of playing the piece.

Anyway, I am just so glad we found this teacher and that her personality and Haley's work so well together. She made a comment once after we heard her daughter playing a very advanced piece that someday Haley will play that piece but that she will need a violin teacher to teach it to her (Haley's teacher teaches advanced viola). It made me wonder at what level/age that would happen but I didn't ask...don't think I really want to think about that just yet.

Consuming music...

Since the middle of October, Haley has learned about 20 new fiddle pieces (a few rather advanced). Some she learned at lessons, a couple at Next Gen Kids Sundays, and a few on her own. She taught herself about 20 Christmas songs and also finished up the last two songs in Suzuki Book 2, put on a Book 2 recital, and learned a little more than half of Book 3!

She is just consuming music at an amazing speed. All the while she has polished many of those songs in order to perform them at various Christmas concerts and performances. It is just amazing! I cannot believe how quickly she is moving at this point. Practice time during each day has been closer to 3 hours. She practices her Suzuki materials (scales/arpeggios, review pieces, and current pieces) for about 1-1.5 hours depending. She practices fiddle for about 45 min then practices with her brothers for performances for another 30-45 min. Even with all that practicing, she still picks up her violin to learn music on her own and/or sits at the piano and doodles for an hour at a time.

This weekend, while making cookies at Grammy's, she sat at the piano with music spread all around her picking out a two-handed version of Little Drummer Boy. The melody was rather easy once she figured out what key to start in and heard where the B flats needed to go with her ear and the left hand was rather repetitive but it was still impressive for a child who's never had a piano lesson.

Christmas musical...

This year, since we have given up taekwondo, the kids had time to participate in the church Christmas musical. Dylan was asked to play the part of a wise man and at first he declined but I could tell he really wanted to do it so I pressed him into it a bit. (He is at that age...not quite little boy but not quite teen where there is a fine line between cool and uncool.) The play is usually put on by the 3rd-6th graders but they asked Haley to play the part of "little child" so she had two quite long speaking parts and a solo (that just happened to be the same solo Newt sang when he was close to her age...they recycle plays every 6-7 years).

We attended practices every Monday and Wednesday night...not an easy task with our busy schedules but we managed. They kids learned it quickly...Haley knew everyone's parts after listening to the CD 2-3 times so was a great help to the director and other performers. LOL

I helped put together the costumes and trace/paint the scenery which ended up being more fun than I had anticipated.

Saturday morning they had a dress rehearsal and it was a little questionable as to how the play would go down because many of the children forgot their lines and many others were a bit wound up by the fun of costumes. But Sunday night they all did very well and the play went off without a hitch! Dylan sang and admitted he was glad he had done the play and that he'd really like to do it again next year. Haley took over the one small mic they had placed just for her rather than moving another up and down and she sang her little heart out in her most animated way which was absolutely adorable in her little angel costume. Her solo brought tears to many eyes. She has an amazing voice!

It was a fun night and I'm glad we were able to do it!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

What a busy week...

This week has probably been our most busy musical week ever. Haley had lessons (fiddle then violin) during the day on Monday (a usual occurrence) followed by church musical practice for she and Dyl in the evening.

Tuesday all three kids played at the cafe on the request of the owner who was hosting a Christmas party for family and customers. They had a buffet dinner and cake. The little place was full of people so that there was hardly any walking room. My kids played Christmas music and a few favorite Celtic tunes. They received a lot in tips but decided to use the money to purchase Christmas gifts on the wish list of kids in a needy family. They were able to nearly fill the wishes for both kids (a 9yo girl and 11yo boy). The kids were so sad that almost everything on the list was something they take for granted that they will have like warm hat and gloves, warm pajamas, sweatpants, etc... They were also able to buy the little girl some play makeup and jewelry which Haley thought were necessities and had fun buying.

Wednesday night we were back at church musical practice. While the kids practiced, all of us mothers painted the scenery which was very fun. We ended up being there until 9:30pm trying to get it finished. We succeeded!

Thursday the kids wanted to do Open Mic Night at the coffeehouse. There weren't many performers so they were able to do a Christmas set and a Celtic set. They played a song with the woman hosting the night. Later she asked if Haley would be interested in playing violin to one of her songs when she records in January. The boys also performed La Bamba with a bass guitarist... Newt sang it! LOL

Friday was the busiest day of all. Haley had a concert with her violin teacher and a (very) few of her students at the retirement home they perform for once a month. There were only 3 violin students (Haley, a 15yo viola student, and a 4yo who only recently started lessons), 4 piano students (the accompanist's students), her teacher's 17yo dd (who Haley adores and idolizes), and the teacher. Haley played her newest Book 3 songs...Martini's Gavotte and Bach's Minuet in C. She played a violin duet of What Child Is This with her teacher's dd playing harmony then also played Jingle Bells and Hark the Herald into the Christmas Eve Reel. After everyone else played they ended the program with a Christmas medly played by all the big people and Haley. (I didn't even know Haley could play a few of the songs but she seemed to be doing just fine.)
After the concert, we rushed home to stuff in some dinner then head to Frank's studio. He had asked the kids to perform during his student's recital. They played in the middle of the program....6 songs (some Christmas and a few Celtic favorites). It was an amazing performance. There were a lot of people there and they all clapped along to the fast Celtic tunes. The clapping only increased Haley's concentration and showmanship. She was tapping and moving to the music, glancing back to smile at her brothers, and grinning to the crowd. The kids were playing the best I have ever heard them play together and it brought tears to my eyes watching those 3 amazing kids then remembering that they were...mine! At the end, they received a standing ovation from the crowd!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Snowball effect...

This month is a very busy month for us. The kids have many opportunities to perform, Haley has concerts to attend, plus Dyl and Haley are in the Christmas musical for church so have practices and rehearsals, etc... It seems that every week something is added to our calendar and I am astounded at how everything seems to snowball especially with the kids and their music.

It wasn't that long ago, April or May, when we saw a sign at the music store for the little local talent competition. Haley read it and insisted I sign her up. Dylan learned one of her songs so I thought it would be nice and a good motivator for him to play with her. That little competition started the kids' interest in playing music together and soon Newt wanted to get in on the performances as well.

In June, I just happened to take Haley and Dyl into the coffeehouse for some icecream while waiting for Newt's drum lesson to finish. I had no idea there was a stage in there until Dylan walked into the back and started talking to two men who were sitting at a table, one of whom happened to be the owner. Dylan had Haley's violin because it was too hot to leave it in the car and Haley had dropped her icecream so I handed the violin to Dylan while I cleaned it up. The owner asked about the violin and wanted to hear Haley play. From that little encounter came the offer to play at Open Mic Nights then more recently an invitation to play Christmas music for during the town's parade night followed by another invitation to play closer to Christmas since they had learned so many songs.

Haley had given her Book 1 concert at our church the end of March last year and our pastor's wife heard her play. At the end of the school year, she asked if Haley would like to do a concert for her school. Haley loves to perform anywhere, anytime so that was a no brainer. Because of that performance, Haley was also asked to perform at the Fall Festival for church. Since the boys had been playing with her at the coffeehouse, I asked if they could perform as well. They would have been so mad if I hadn't.

Playing at Louisa's Cafe led to meeting Frank which led to being asked to play at another fall festival the next town over. He recently asked them to play with his students in a couple weeks and would like to record them. I haven't called him to discuss that because I am not sure how I feel about it though the kids are all gung-ho. That fall festival also resulted in being asked to play on the local radio station. It took me a few months to call the woman who had given me her card but I did and everything is scheduled for after the holidays.

Everything has seemed to be an accident or as a result of something else. I haven't really gotten used to the idea and don't know exactly how I feel about it all or where it is all going. Since it seems to have a momentum of its own and the kids are enjoying it, I will just go along with it all and make choices as they come. Music is something I know very little about so I am trying to get used to parenting talented kids. Hopefully I won't make any huge mistakes as we go along.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Pondering questions...

Someone on a board I frequent was asking how we know if our children are working to their full potential? How we know they are as gifted as we think they are?

Here's my reply (I almost have to laugh at how calm I am about it all now that I have had a few years to adjust to Haley because just a few years ago, I agonized over the same issues.)....

I used to agonize over the same questions, especially when music professionals started suggesting that I take my almost 4yo dd to a music teacher who lived 5 hours away. I was thinking if she isn't that talented really, then I didn't need to use up so many family resources (time, money, etc...) to nurture her talent but if she was and I didn't nurture her, would I be able to live with that. I found another option but it was a tough few months until we found the option we could live with. For those few months, I agonized over whether or not making certain choices would limit her potential and had a real need to know what her potential was...something no one could possibly know since we don't have any crystal balls.

I have calmed down a lot since then and now have come to see that knowing how gifted my children are doesn't change what I am doing for them schoolwise (though I still don't know whether or not I would pour so much money into her music if she wasn't who she is). I teach each to their ability level...keeping them challenged but not frustrated. I would introduce them to the same things regardless of whether their IQ was 80 or 160 and just teach them as much as they could handle.

I had dd tested but not her older brothers but it was to help me get a handle on where her instructional level was since she was not a sequential learner. Knowing IQ level (potential) didn't help me at all but knowing where she was achievement-wise did give me a starting point and we experimented from there to find something that challenged her. I know where it becomes instructional (that "low simmer" another poster suggested) when she doesn't immediately know it. I tend to ramp things up slowly with her because she tends to be a perfectionist and it is easier not to frustrate her. I have found that providing her lots of options then following her lead has worked wonderfully. She still isn't a sequential learner and is all over the place level-wise but I have become more comfortable with it.

I have worked with children for 15 years...am a physical therapist for an early intervention program. I have learned through that work to never underestimate kids and what they might be capable of doing. I have worked with kids who doctors told parents at birth would never walk and talk who have ended up being ahead of age peers by their second birthday. I treat every child moving toward the next step, whatever that next step might be for them. I am always challenging them to do just slightly more than they thought they could do.

No one lives up to their "full potential." Scientists say that we all use only a minute percentage of our brain's capability. Time restrictions and resource limitations will always cause us to make choices. My goal for my kids is that they have the ability/option to go in whatever direction they chose when they are old enough and mature enough to make that decision. Learning isn't a race to me. They will be able to learn throughout adulthood. As long as they know how to learn and where to find answers, they will do well in whatever field they decide to pursue. In the meantime, I will simply challenge them everyday to do a little more than they thought they could do.

Christmas "Concert"

About 3 weeks ago, the owner of the coffeehouse where the kids often play "Open Mic" night asked if they would like to come in and play some Christmas music before and after the city's Christmas parade.

They didn't know any Christmas music at the time but were excited by the opportunity, so we said they could and they set to work learning some songs. They watched youtube videos and listened to CDs then came up with a songs they'd like to learn. For Haley, it was easy to pick out the melodies once she heard the songs. Newt just had to come up with a beat to a few of the faster songs which he did the last couple days before their show. Dylan did a combo of learning from watching others play on youtube, to coming up with chords on his own by listening to Haley play. I wasn't sure they would be able to put together enough music but they did and they sounded great together.

It wasn't a day when people were coming in to hear music, most simply dropped in to use the bathroom or get a cup of cocoa to warm up but many stopped in their tracks to watch the kids and a small number hung around to see them again after the parade. A few took pictures or video and one guy called someone on his cell then held it up so they could listen to them. The owner asked if they would like to come back to play again before Christmas. They played about 10 Christmas songs together then mixed in some Celtic music to make their "set" a little longer. The Celtic fiddle music was a bigger hit than the Christmas but it is Christmas time. Great job kids!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Happy Birthday to Newt...

Friday night the boys, Daddy, and Poppop spent a feezing night at the hunting camp so they could rise early and head into the woods for Youth Hunting Day on Saturday. Newt happened to be the lucky one, and rightly so being the oldest and with his birthday on Sunday. He bagged his first deer.

It was not a particularly large deer. He said it looked bigger when he was in the stand. It was a buck and he took a good shot so they didn't have to track it. Yesterday, for his birthday, he got to butcher it and they got a good bit of meat from it.

Speaking of birthdays, my Newt is now officially a teenager. It seems like only yesterday I held that little preemie in my arms, worried that he wouldn't nurse. Now he is growing into a young man. I am very proud of the young man he is becoming. Happy Birthday Newt!!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Graduation Concert...

Today, Haley did her Suzuki Book 2 Graduation Recital at our church for a few friends and family. She performed beautifully with a clear, rich tone and demonstrated her love of playing. At the end of the classical pieces, she invited her brother, Dylan, on the stage to accompany her with his guitar in a few fiddle pieces. They both did a great job. Now, we can look forward to learning Book 3.

As a result of the concert, she was invited for a few other playing opportunities. The mother of a neighbor who attended is going to ask her pastor if Haley could perform for their church and our pastor and his wife asked if the kids would like to play some Christmas music for the church's Christmas program.

Gone Fishin'

On Wednesday last week Poppop took Daddy and the boys fishing on the bay. It was a perfect day with water as smooth as glass and a slight chill in the air. The collected a boutiful harvest. The first picture is Newt holding his Dad's huge striper.
This photo is Dylan with his two blue fish (32 and 30 inches). Needless to say, we had a wonderful fish dinner on Thursday night cooked by Daddy and we have enough fish in the freezer to have fish all winter.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Norm...

As I am sitting here typing out this post, my little one is putting in CD after CD of music and playing along. She has listened to and played with her Patrick Street CD, and worked on bits and pieces of various other songs we have including Vivaldi's Spring, spending extra time to listen over and over to the part that sounds like chirping birds and trying to get it just right.

Now she is working her way through Suzuki Book 4 piece by piece. I have to smile because she started trying to play Suzuki Book 4 songs back when I bought it for her. She was about 4 months shy of 5 years old and playing in the beginning half of Suzuki Book 1. At that time she would get the first notes and a few others here and there in the song. Now she has nearly every note only missing a few here and there when she tries to shift further than 3rd position or the song moves too quickly. She occassionally stops to listen to a section then works it out on the repeat. It is amazing how much of all those songs she has figured out for herself. They sound almost completely right though I am sure her bowings are not correct and some of the fast sections need work.

This has become the norm in our house. Evenings spent trying to watch TV but at the same time listening to Haley doing what she does with her violin whether it is to her CDs or to youtube videos. I could never tire of watching that look of sheer determination and focus on her adorable face.

She and I had a "Girls' Day" today and spent most of it playing violin. Since her Book 2 recital is scheduled for this weekend, for the past 2 weeks we have broken practice into 3 segments and split them throughout the day...Book 3/scales/theory/shifting work, Book 2 recital practice, and fiddling. She has about an hour of focus at a time (with a break occassionally) so splitting it into 3 segments has increased her focused practice time. Someone on a Suzuki chat I frequent mentioned that kids have no concept of time...maybe that is to my advantage when trying to get so much done.

Almost perfect handstand...

A couple months ago, I signed Haley up for classes at The Little Gym. Her friend from the boy's wrestling practice goes there, it fit into our schedule, and Suzuki group class was not going to work this year (no one playing at Haley's level) so I thought it would give her a chance to be around other little girls.
She loves it! The classes are fun with lots of obstacle courses and a little gymnastic skill learning in a completely relaxed environment. She gets to pal around with her friend, Taylor, which is an added bonus.
Nearly every night, well when she is not playing violin, she practices handstands and cartwheels. When she first started a couple months ago, she had a cartwheel that looked like a little monkey with bent legs going to the sides of her body but now she gets both legs straight up over her head and lands on her feet. Her initial attempts at a handstand looked like mule kicks but look at this beauty (one set of toes is even trying to point) and she can hold this for about 5 seconds!
It is neat to see her knowledge of the need for practice transferring from violin to other aspects of her life!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Suzuki Day...

Here is a picture of Haley enjoying the morning play-in at the Suzuki workshop on Saturday. Due to height restrictions, she had to stand in the front row with the pre-Twinklers and Twinklers. LOL
She didn't seem to mind as she played away. I think they are playing Twinkles in this picture.
The day was full of music. A play-in, group class, repertoire class, music theory class, and a wonderful class on music and art from the Middle Ages to the Classical Period (supposed to go to Modern times but not enough time for the class so it was shortened unfortunately).
Haley played her violin all day, played it all the way home (a 1.5 hour ride), then watched youtube clips for 2 hours that night playing along. She taught herself two Christmas tunes and played a lot of the Suzuki songs she wants to know. I would think a day of violin would wear her out but those Suzuki workshops just seem to energize her more.
Sunday she did a masterclass then went the the Next Generation Kids session. So we had a really busy violin weekend and she loved every minute of it.

Friday, October 31, 2008

A little insight as to how much she loves that violin...

The other night as we were getting ready for bed, I was thinking how tired I was and how early I had to get up in the morning for work when I remembered that Sunday was the end of Daylight Savings Time. Thinking only of an extra hour of sleep, I turned to Haley and said, "We get an extra hour on Sunday."

With a big grin spreading across her face, she enthusiastically replies, "Great! I want to play all of Book 2 so I am ready for my concert in a couple weeks. Then I want to do more scales and arpeggios and work on my shifting!"

I don't think we have the same ideas in mind for the best use of an extra hour.

I am not the only one to notice, however. At Suzuki lessons the other day, her teacher tells us she had a dream the other night and Haley was in it. She said in the dream she, Haley, and some other people were in a room hiding from someone. She was trying to keep everyone quiet so they wouldn't be found but Haley insisted upon practicing her violin. She said she kept trying to tell her to be quiet but she just kept practicing and practicing! How funny is that??!!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Happy Birthday Dylan!!

I can't believe my Dylan is 11 years old already!! We had a good day with he and I going out shopping together for cake (my oven is broken) and stuff to cook dinner. Dylan always wants to have time alone with me on his birthday. He gets so little time alone with me because all his activities involve other kids so they all come with me.

We enjoyed our alone time then came home to help Daddy finish dinner. Dylan got a pick up for his acoustic guitar from Grammy and Poppop, a giftcard from Uncle Heath and family, and a foot pedal for his electric guitar from us. Grammy and Poppop came for dinner and a delicious ice cream cake from Cold Stone Creamery (chocolate chip cookie dough, yum!!!) He had fun trying out his new toys.

Playing with great fiddlers...

My little one gets so many opportunities! Last night we attended a concert given by fiddler/banjo player John Carty accompanied by guitarist Donal Clancy. John Carty's style is different than Kevin Burke's. Where Kevin Burke plays in a slinky, slurring style, John Carty plays very quickly and cleanly. We enjoyed it and appreciated hearing a different style of playing.

After the concert Haley got to play "The Little Fair Caravans" with him then played a few other tunes alone for him. It was a fun night!

Beginning to read...

Though Haley has been playing violin for 3 years, she just began to show interest in learning to read music. We began a very simple music reading program (http://sharmusic.com/itemdy00.asp?T1=SB181&Cat=) a few weeks ago. We had started it a few times in the past but she was not ready and quickly lost interest. Knowing how she started reading books on her own as soon as she was interested, I never pushed it. I don't think she found a need to read music that she can learn so easily by ear. This start was different, she learned it more quickly and asked to do it frequently.

She has learned all the notes on her A and E strings already and she has written out Twinkle on her own. Yesterday, I found a little violin book that had a song with piano accompaniment and the notes were all in 1st position on the A and E strings so I copied it for her and set it on her music stand while I played from the book. We played out first duet together with her reading the music!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Violin Concert...otherwise entitled "How Does She Do That?"

Haley has been learning Suzuki songs at a rather quick pace. After the summer with no lessons, she had one song she had never had a lesson on (but which I had videotaped her teacher playing so she could learn the bowings to) and three more to learn. She has had 5 lessons so far this year and has learned all of those songs. At her lessons on Monday this week, she worked on polishing up the Boccherini Minuet and playing it with the accompaniment and Minuet in G by Beethoven, both of which she was to play at a concert on Friday. At the end of lessons, her teacher asked her to quickly play the last piece (they went out of order for those of you who know Suzuki repertoire), Gavotte from "Mignon", which I had videotaped her teacher playing the week before. After she finished playing it, her teacher said that she could call her and play it over the phone for her on Thursday night and if it was easy for her to play it in order (something we had not worked on much), then she could perform it as well in the concert on Friday.

Haley worked really hard on all 3 pieces for the concert in the 3 days in between. She practiced them with accompaniment and without, polished up the spots where the bowing or fingerings were giving her trouble and learned the order of the last song. She played the Mignon over the phone and made a mistake at the end because she stopped to itch her nose then messed up the bowings and the endings of the last part but I assured her teacher that if she thought it sounded good, she had been playing it fine for the last 2 days. Here is video of her performance on Friday. I don't know how she performs better in front of a group of people than she does when practicing!

The Boccherini Minuet is not complete because my tape ran out but you can get an idea of all the parts. Her teacher said she sounded like she had completed 6 weeks of practice in 4 days! There are still a couple little improvements we can make before she does her Book 2 concert but I am so proud of how she performed on Friday.

Today, Haley and her brothers performed at a Fall Festival in the next town over. It was so cold they shivered through the performance but they did a great job considering how cold it was! Maybe we should save outdoor performances for summer!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Playing at the festival...

Every year our church hosts a Fall Festival for the community in which they have music, food, bouncy slide, games, petting zoo, pony rides, massages, face painting, etc... all free for the public.
This year they asked the kids to perform. They kids learned a number of songs together (20 minutes of Celtic tunes) and practiced nearly every night for a month to get it all together. It was hard to tell how they would sound in the basement because the drums were always too loud for the guitar and the fiddle. So, I was a bit anxious about the big day.
I shouldn't have been. They played beautifully together. Haley's new, big violin sounded great. There was a really nice sound system and the guy working it did a great job of mixing them so they sounded even better. They drew a large crowd and got a lot of applause.
Haley stood up there and announced the songs even making little jokes when her song list blew away in the breeze. She was so at home in front of the crowd. It always seems like the bigger the crowd, the better she plays. She moved around and smiled while playing. She was really having a grand time!
Newt did a great job modulating his drum sound so, unless Haley moved out from under the upper mic, she was easy to hear. He also made up the drum beats to go along with the songs...something he is getting good at.
Dylan was wonderful as well. He had the most material to learn, about 6 songs from youtube videos I sent to him in throughout the first couple weeks of the month. He learned quickly and did an excellant job playing.
I am so proud of my kids!!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

A big day for my fiddler/violinist...

Yesterday morning, Haley and I went to the city to purchase her new violin. Her teacher agreed with her choice but wanted us to get a better quality bow so that is what we did. Haley loves the sound of her new instrument!

Last evening was a Kevin Burke and Cal Scott concert. Haley woke up so excited because of it yesterday morning and she went to bed last night as happy and content as if it had been Christmas. She had the time of her life!!!

Kevin and Cal were there when we walked in and their faces lit up when the saw Haley. She went over, said, "Hi." and gave them pictures she had drawn yesterday (a fiddle for Kevin and a guitar for Cal). They had the chairs arranged in a semicircle around the performers so Haley picked the very front center seat. My parents and I sat behind her. The entire time they played, she was noticing Kevin's finger shape, bow arm, moving her feet in rhythm, and turning to smile to me and mouth "This one's my favorite." Toward the end of the first set, they played Lighthouse Keeper's Waltz. Kevin dedicated it "to Haley" and Cal mentioned "It is performed beautifully on youtube by another artist" while smiling at her.

When I took her to the bathroom during the break, she was beaming, "I hoped they would dedicate it to me and they did!!!" We bought a couple CDs and got them autographed. She talked to them both discussing this and that. Told Cal she had learned his song "Paris Nights." He said, "Pretty soon you'll know my whole repertoire!"

I told him she plays along to the CD whenever we're in the car. Two older men were standing nearby and one asked if she played fiddle. The other said, "She sure does and if you are lucky you'll get to hear her after the concert. She played after the last one."

They played the second set which included a lovely waltz Cal had written for his grandmother...Haley was singing it all the way home and played the first bit when we got home.

Anyway, after the concert, we got up to leave and say bye to Kathy. She said to Haley, "Why don't you ask Kevin to play a few tunes with you?" She was a little shy so Kathy went to him and asked. He immediately took his fiddle out of the case and said, "Why, sure!!"

They played together for a good 20 minutes. Cal joined in halfway through the first song and played with them. They played quite a few tunes including The Lighthouse Keeper's Waltz, Paris Nights, and the ones she had learned off the Patrick Street CD (Kevin's old band) plus a few others.

There were quite a few people still hanging around while they played...about 15-18. I could hear them all behind us asking Kathy how old she was and other questions.While they were playing Paris Nights, which Kathy didn't know she knew, I heard her saying "Wow, I've never heard her play that one before." After they played the Patrick Street songs, Kevin told her she must play those for John Carty...his fellow fiddler on the CD who will be here October 23. He told her to tell him that she learned it from Kevin (he learned it from John) and to tell him he (John) plays it wrong.

When they were finished playing my parents and I were talking to Cal...he loves Haley. My mom told him that they had made her night and last time she went around for weeks telling everyone she got to play with them. He turned to Haley and told her "After we played together last time, I told all my family and friends that I got to play with Haley and they all watched us and thought that was really neat."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Decisions, decisions...

Tuesday we drove into the city to visit the violin maker. Haley has outgrown her 1/10th and is now ready for a 1/8 size instrument.

Generally, when we get a new violin, he gives us two to chose from and we take them to her teacher to help us decide then return the one we don't want. Tuesday we showed up and there were four violins sitting on the counter. My first response was "Are those all for me?"

So, we take them all home. I tune them all up then start handing them one by one to Haley to play on a bit. I didn't look at which was which because I wanted to be completely unbiased and see if I heard a difference. The violins ranged in price from $500 to $700.

Haley played each (all in tune without needing any time for adjustment to the larger size BTW)and kept returning to one particular one...a beautiful deep dark reddish brown instrument with a deeper, richer sound than the others. Of course, it was the most expensive one.

She has been practicing on it this week. We'll have to see which one her teacher says is best.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Daily practice carryover...

There are so many benefits to the study of music. Researchers say it yields better math scores, increased attention and concentration, and improves a child's self confidence, not to mention give the person an outlet for stress and personal enjoyment.

Wednesday I took Haley to Little Gym for a trial class. We homeschool so I like for her to be around other little girls and thought this watered down gymnastics class would be just perfect (especially since she left her Suzuki group in the dust and it will no longer work out for her) since it fits our busy schedule and she has a little friend taking the class. She went to the first class. Loved it! I knew she would since it is fun, fun, fun and she has a best friend there.

So, Thursday we practice her violin, which we do daily almost without fail, and afterward she announces that now she must practice gymnastics and proceeds to practice handstands for a good 20-30 min. Wednesday at class she was unable to get both feet up and together with toes pointed...there were legs flying everywhere! She has practiced those handstands for the past two days and now holds her legs up beautifully for a good couple seconds straight with toes pointed.

This great carryover of the concept of daily practice may be the best benefit to music study I have noticed so far. How many kids realize that to learn to do something you have to practice then are able to put that knowledge to work with determination and drive? This is so neat!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fun Fiddling Weekend...

We had an amazing weekend. Haley loved the fiddle workshops at the festival on Saturday. She was the only fiddler in attendance without grey hair! Well, besides me but I wasn't a fiddler. LOL

In the first workshop it was Haley and 3 grown men. I could tell by their faces when they came in that they were thinking "Oh great a little kid" but they quickly changed their minds to "Oh great a little kid and she learns and plays much better than I do." They were not people who had been playing prior to adulthood and didn't learn easily by ear. All of them were asking where they could get the music for the tunes they learned. The instructor was a well-known fiddler in the Baltimore area who had obviously never seen a child play before because he couldn't stop commenting on the size of her fiddle.

He taught them 2 songs, one Haley loved and the other at the end (1.75 hour class) he rushed through and she didn't fall in love with it. He talked way too much for Haley and the class was really long for someone her age but she hung in there and learned it all. At the end, he made the comment "In three years she'll be better than me and teaching me how to play."

The second workshop instructor was much more animated and spoke in a way that kept Haley's attention much better. (The class was also only 45 min which helped as well.) There were about 12 adults in that class plus Haley and many of them had been playing for longer than Haley has been alive. Again, Haley was the quickest study and the instructor made comments to the others on how beautifully she bowed, how she did her ornaments both on upbows and downbows to practice, and her tone (which was also better than the adults).

Haley absolutely loved the song he taught because it had a "little sad kitty" sounding backslide and she had never done one before. She played and played with that sound. Haley even added ornamentation to the song as she learned it that the teacher hadn't thought of but he said he would be playing it that way from then on and taking credit for it. As the class ended, he said, looking pointedly at Haley,"Unless one of you in here is a genius you will probably not be able to go home and play this without a lot of work." Afterward he thanked me for bringing her because he said he enjoyed having her.

Sunday was the Young Musicians session, first of the year. There were a lot of new faces and we took along the twins who we had met up with at camp in NH. Haley had a lot of fun and so did the twins so they will be coming back. I am glad they liked it because their mom was saying that they weren't viewing playing as fun anymore so I suggested they try fiddling and especially with the group because it is fun. They did really well.

They had to split the group amung the three adults because it was so large and there were about 6 little girls (8 and up) who were Suzuki kids so the twins went with that group and Haley got put into a group with tin whistlers because she already knew the beginner songs. Haley learned a new song there but found it challenging because it was being taught on a tin whistle. Haley later told her fiddle teacher, "It was hard to understand the song hearing it from the whistle."

I had never thought of her learning the songs by understanding them but I understood what she meant. The whistle sounds higher than violin and the notes sound more frantic when they play them...I don't enjoy hearing the tin whistle by itself but it is okay with a large group of fiddles. I was having a hard time differentiating the A and B parts from the whistle but later when it was played with a fiddle I could pick them out easily. Isn't that weird?

On the way to the workshop Saturday, I stuck in a CD we hadn't listened to in awhile (Patrick Street...a band Kevin Burke played in a few years ago). The very first song was the one Haley had been taught in her last lesson on Monday but Patrick Street played it with another new tune she'd never heard (as they do in Celtic music linking tunes together). Haley asked for her fiddle at once and said she'd learn the second tune to surprise her teacher on Monday. She succeeded plus remembered 2 of 3 songs from the workshops even though I hadn't played them for her to listen to because we were busy on Sunday and the song from Sunday. I couldn't believe she remembered 4 new songs this weekend.

In her lesson Monday, her teacher quickly reviewed the last song from the first fiddle workshop and said that Haley would have to play the tunes from the CD for Kevin Burke when he visits. LOL

My kid is so excited that Kevin Burke will be here in 2 weeks. He is to her what Hannah Montana is to other 6yo girls. I think that's so funny.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Do you know how much I hate to move?

I don't hate the idea of moving or the excitement of change. I hate the actual process of doing it...the packing, cleaning, planning, wondering how to move certain objects.

Yes, we will be moving. I don't know when exactly. It all depends on when our home sells. It is going on the market in the next couple weeks so it could be quickly or could take forever. Who knows in this market? My parents have offered us their house because they are ready to downsize...Dad's retired, Mom will be next year, and they want to travel (lots of grandbabies across the country) and we need a home in a better school district because my boys want to go to high school.

I never expected this development in our lives. I mean, what a gift they are giving us....well, we are paying for the house but still. We were just beginning to house hunt and get ideas of what was available. My parent's house is the perfect option. I know how it was built and maintained, it has a pool and a bit of land, it's across the street from the school, and our family has spent time there making memories so it will make it easier to leave our home where my kids were raised. It will be strange to live there. I think of it as their house so will have to redecorate to make it more ours. But it will all work out eventually.

What a great week we are having!

Monday, fiddle was cancelled so we had the entire day with nowhere to go. We got so much accomplished with school, music practices, and around the house. It is amazing what a little free time will allow a person.

Tuesday, I awoke, not to a quiet house (the usual) or even to kids fighting (as often). I awoke to find two boys sitting quietly on the playroom floor giving each other their spelling lists and beginning their math!!!! (Note the tone of shock and surprise!!) Newt had gotten a hand-me-down bike from the neighbor down the street and they wanted to take a ride before it stormed but even with an alterior motive, it was a wonderful start to another great school day.

The kids were supposed to play at the coffeehouse in the afternoon but no one signed up but them...it is a new venture for the music school so may take awhile to get going. So, I told them to just stick the kids on for next week and see if they get a better response. No need to move a drum set over there for just them.

Dylan did well with his tutoring today. He says the tutor makes it fun...a good response for him. Both boys had a good wrestling practice, Haley played with her little friend (a sister of another wrestler) and we got milkshakes on the ride home.

Now I am spoiled and ready for another great day!!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

First lesson of the year...

Haley was sooooo excited to be going to lessons today. She talked about it all day and couldn't wait. She played violin along to her CDs the whole way there and when we arrived, was beside herself with joy.

When informed that a child from group wanted to quit, she thought it was the craziest notion she had ever heard. "Who would want to not play violin???? That's just astounding!!" were her exact words.

Her teacher told us Haley was a hit at camp.

Her lesson went well. She sounded her way through 4 scales she hadn't been taught yet, then played a couple pieces and her teacher made small suggestions for improvements. After that, her teacher asked her which of the remaining Book 2 pieces she'd like to learn first (only 3 left). My child, of course, chose the last one in the book. I could have seen that coming. I taped her teacher playing it because we have found that to be the easiest way for Haley to learn proper bowings (she already plays the songs doing any old bowing she thinks sounds good). They worked on a couple spots where her teacher wanted her to use a slightly different fingering (because she already has a good ear and good dexterity so can do it easily the other way, she needs to exercise her fingers a different way for later songs).

We are looking forward to an exciting violin year.

School plans...curriculum.

Here are our plans for the school year, after many adjustments. The activity schedule is still in limbo as Haley's group Suzuki may not work out. One child as of now, quit violin and another is having surgery that will leave her out for 3 months. So, that leaves Haley and a little girl who is a book behind her and that's not exactly a group. I was so happy to have group and individual lessons on the same day to keep from doing more driving than needed. Oh, well!


Newt- Currently working through Thinkwell College Algebra (a computer based curriculum) then will start Saxon Alg 2.
Dylan- Saxon 87...alg is next on his horizon.
Haley-Midway through Saxon 3.

Language Arts:

Newt- Lightning Literature, Vocabulary, Spelling Power, writing assignments
Dylan- Wordly Wise, Spelling Power, tutor for reading and comprehension skills (both of us trying hard to get him to like reading), writing assignments
Haley- Spelling Power, reading and writing, Laura Ingalls Wilder unit study


Boys- High school chemistry with Thinkwell
All kids- RS4K Level 1 and 2 Chemistry, Elements, and various experiment books


Boys- World History the Human Odyssey, Teaching Co. DVD Italian Renaissance, History Portfolio Renaissance, various readings from other sources
Haley- Kingfisher History, Usbourne History, Story of the World 1, History Portfolio (Ancients), various readings from other sources

Rosetta Stone


Everyone has their music lessons and daily practices alone and together.
Artist of the month and musician of the month reports
"Cave Paintings to Picasso"
Usbourne Book of Art
CDs on various classical musicians


Analogies workbook
Snibbles--thinking skills

Thursday, September 04, 2008

I think maybe things might be slowing down...or at least settling into a routine.

It has been almost a full month since I last blogged (is that a word in the dictionary yet?). In that time Haley and I attended the most wonderful Suzuki Institute at Ogontz in the mountains of northern New Hampshire. We spent what Haley termed "a baker's week" together (8 days instead of 7...if you don't get it, don't ask LOL).

To fully understand how much of a difference this camp made to my violinist, you would have to know that she was travelling through Suzuki Book 2 at the speed of light when summer began and lessons ended toward the end of June. While we were travelling, she practiced nearly everyday but as the time progressed she began to get bored with the same material and there were only a few days here and there when her heart was really in her playing. She didn't ask to play in the van very often while travelling and I could see that she was just losing the momentum she had attained.

Camp restored that momentum and awakened an even more mature love of playing in Haley. She had so much fun at camp. She made friends, hated to miss any programming at all even chose concerts over swimming, and began to really listen to herself play. When we returned home everyone could see the difference and her love of playing has returned. She plays in the car, practices with me, practices by herself (especially the ones she calls "the songs I don't know yet"), and is really looking forward to restarting lessons tomorrow.
On another note, Dylan has started practicing wrestling again. Newt's coach told him he was too young to sit and watch so has agreed to allow him to practice with the team. Dyl is excited, I don't know if it is because of the wrestling or the new shoes and headgear but time will tell.
School is back full swing and our activity schedule is set now. I will type in our learning plan soon.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Hectic Life

Life has been a little on the hectic side since returning from vacation a couple weeks ago. I have been getting lesson plans/outlines together for the upcoming year in science and history, cleaning up from our vacation, getting kids to activities, visiting with Aunt Stacy and the twin cousins, and packing for Haley's Suzuki Institute.

Haley and I leave tomorrow for a Suzuki Institute in New Hampshire. We are looking forward to a week together concentrating on violin and music in general. During our trip west, Haley practiced regularly but didn't have time to listen to her favorite tunes too often or play around whenever she wanted with her instrument. The past two weeks at home, she has practiced more and really loved playing whenever she wants. I am hoping the Institute will help recapture the momentum she had when lessons stopped for summer since lessons will restart a couple weeks after we get home.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


It has been awhile since I last wrote. We were away the entire month of July for a long road trip west to Colorado and Wyoming. It was an awesome trip. We had just the right amount of schedule mixed with enough flexibility to allow us to enjoy whatever we found once we got to certain places. We located some real gems on the road including some great historic places, delicious family restaurants, and activities.

I can't possibly cover an entire month of fun or even put into words the beauty of everything we saw. Some highlights were white water rafting in Buena Vista, CO; indoor rock climbing in Jackson, WY; our horseback riding/chow wagon trip to a cowboy cookout in Yellowstone; all the amazing animals in Yellowstone; a Lakota Indian pottery factory where the kids got to paint and etch their own pottery plus see how the Indians do it; the Laura Ingalls Wilder homestead in De Smet, SD; and the Opera House in Leadville, CO.

Haley got to see her violin teacher in Jackson and had a mini lesson plus spent a bit of time exploring stores in the town then went swimming. She entertained campers all over the western US during the trip and was even invited to play concerts at a couple campgrounds.

Well, we are back now and have over 600 pictures to go through...plus my other computer crashed (yuck!). I will be finalizing our school schedule for fall so we can begin in full swing again once Haley and I return from Suzuki camp in a couple weeks. This is the first year my kids have had anything resembling a "real, normal" summer though they have done some math and kept journals while away.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Counting down and some Haleyisms...

Haley is a kid who loves to count down. She counts down to her birthday, to Christmas, to vacation (hey, I wonder where she got that from?). Anyway, she will start her countdowns some 100+ days out and never forget to ask or tell me some time during the day "How many days?" It has become a running joke in the family over whether or not the day you are currently in or the day of the actual event should be counted. I tend to not count either...you get a lower number and seems like less waiting.

Now we are 2 days out from our Western adventure/vacation (1 if you ask me). Hooray!! Everything is packed and waiting to go into the car.

Here are a few recent Haleyisms. I used to keep track of these in my journal because when she was little we had so many...

"shuckle"- getting the husk off an ear of corn.
"perbert"- a man who marries a woman half his age (we were watching a movie and she noticed this phenomenon.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Another wonderful article...


I love this article since it focuses on those things the tests can't tell you about abilities and intelligence!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Article on giftedness...

This article came on a couple lists I frequent and I thought it was interesting though I didn't agree with it, per se....

I had a few problems with this article...I think there are some differences between prodigious abilities in sports and those in music or academics. Great adult athletes were not always the greatest child athletes. Their bodies may not have matured as quickly as others, they may not have had a drive as child athletes, and many child athletes burn out due to adult pressures and expectations (okay maybe there are some similarities there). Some music abilities such as identification of pitch need to be obtained with early training. An adult beginning music study may or may not ever develop perfect pitch.

I, personally, don't think that accomodating gifted students/kids is about creating prodigies or Nobel prize winners or the next Mozart. When my kids read at 3-4 yo, I didn't automatically think that I was going to create the next Nobel prize winner and when Haley began to show advanced musical ability, my goal was not to create the next Mozart. My main goal has always been to give my kids what they need and teach them where they are so that they can develop to be their best, love learning, and become happy, fulfilled adults.

I also think there is a much broader definition of success than those in this article would accept. They considered the people with over 150 IQ as not having obtained success because they didn't become Noble prizewinners or make huge contributions to some field of study. Many of them did get advanced degrees and go on to work in the field of their chosing. By the standards considered in the article, I am a failure. I "only" work part-time and chose to put my efforts into homeschooling and mothering my kids. I am happy with my life and am raising 3 great kids. To me, that is success.

I agree that a precocious child may not grow into a successful adult. There are so many other factors such as internal motivation, hard work, and a bit of luck that often factor in more than innate ability. I do think that those who absorb information faster and understand more complex concepts at a younger age need a faster pace in academics. I think the problem comes when adult expectations put pressure on those young minds. My kids may never be Nobel prize winners or world class athletes or play at Carnegie Hall but they will have spent their young years learning at the pace that suited their individual needs, be equipped with all the tools they need to pursue whatever goals become their dreams, and will have parents behind them who will support them no matter what they determine to be their "success."

The author of the article compares gifted issues to sports issues. I think his comparison is wrong. I know of no school district who cuts back on their football budget and team try-outs for fear that some kids will be disappointed and not make it to a pro career. Unfortunately, when it comes to giftedness in academics or music, many schools around the country are cutting budgets (or have no funding to cut) and neglecting gifted kids.

So, how do I think we protect our kids from pressure, disappointment, or burnout...

We allow each child to work with and expand whatever gifts they have whether they be academic, musical, athletic, leadership, etc... We teach them at the pace they work best no matter what they are learning. We, as parents, need to be careful not to mistake our goals for our child for their goals/needs putting unnecessary pressures on them and we should also be careful in how we phrase our comments to our children...do we tell them they performed well because they worked hard or do we tell them they did well because they are more gifted than the next child. Kids have no control over their inborn ability level but they can control the amount of effort they put into their activities which may help them to deal with disappointments in a more resilient way.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Homeschooling Survey Questions...

A member of one of the lists I frequent is trying to do a survey on homeschooling families so I thought I would participate by answering her questions...

Why do you homeschool? I homeschool for a variety of reasons now. Initially, I began homeschooling for lack of a better option for my bright, then 4yo. He was too young to go into public school K but was already reading novels intended for much older children. The preschool he had attended (which went to 8th grade) offered to take him early to K but the cost was exorbitant and they hadn't done anything to allow him to work to his potential in preschool so I couldn't see spending a ton of money, giving them his best learning times (mornings), and still have to afterschool him for any new learning to occur. Now, I homeschool because it works for my kids, it fits our lifestyle, and I love doing it. I want them to be excited and love learning rather than being forced to fit their learning into someone else's ideas of what they should know and when.

What technique or curriculum do you use? I loosely follow the Well Trained Mind as far as history and science rotations and including the same subjects. My boys are older and are classically educated more than my youngest who I do with a more child-led approach. We use Saxon for math, Rosetta Stone for Spanish, Lightning Literature (oldest), World History:The Human Odyssey plus History Portfolio, and frequently use Teaching Company DVDs. I use a variety of other resources but I'm not going to list them all (may have listed them here and there in my blog).

Do your kids work above or below grade level (or both!)? All 3 kids work above grade level anywhere from 2-5 years accelerated depending on subject.

What is your educational level? I have a master's degree in physical therapy

Do you feel this has an effect on your teaching (both limits and abilities)? I think my job (working with under 3yo children) affects my teaching in that I am good at being flexible, making changes, teaching each child where they are without having preconceived notions of what they should learn and how quickly. Someone once told me that you get the kids you were supposed to have...which gives us the intelligence to research, read about, and understand issues we aren't familiar with. Do I think that someone with less intelligence or less education can do a good job homeschooling their own children? The answer is yes.

What does your daily schedule look like? We don't have a daily schedule, per se because every day is different. The boys generally finish all schoolwork by noon-1pm with afternoons left for music practice or lessons, reading, and free time. My dd does schoolwork for an hour or two in the mornings. Mondays are her music days with fiddle then violin lessons so she does school in the car. Everyone does school 4 days a week from Sept-June and 3 days a week June-August with a decreased workload. Fridays are cleaning, catch up on unfinished schoolwork, or follow your own interests day.

Are your kids always polite and ready to learn? (*snicker*) My kids are polite in public but not always in the safety of their own home. LOL Are they always ready to learn? No.

Do the kids (or you!) get frustrated? Yes, there are those days when things don't go as planned for whatever reason. There are days when I can't be everywhere at once and everyone needs help making them frustrated with me and me with them. Luckily there are less of these days than the good days.

How has this affected your parenting? Homeschooling has made me a very involved parent. I know my kids. I know what they know. I know what they have difficulty with. I know their friends. I also know them well enough to know when I don't have to be involved in their lives... when they are able to handle a certain experience on their own (when I can be more hands-off). We are a close family. I love spending time with my kids.

How much free time do they have? They have most afternoons free and generally weekends with practices intermingled and during wrestling season less free weekend time because of the tournament schedule.

What do they do during their free time? They play outside: ride bikes, play on the swingset, fish or canoe on the pond. Pursue their hobbies (next question). Play video games or go on computer.

What hobbies do they have? Oldest: wrestling, fishing, drums, tying flies, judo Middle: judo, guitar, tying flies, woodworking Youngest: violin, fiddle, soccer

What difficulties and challenges do you have with homeschooling? Funds often limit the resources I am able to obtain. There are so many great things out there I would like...lab equipment, DVD lectures, etc... Finding them friends to play with is sometimes a problem...we haven't really found a homeschooling group that we fit in with in our area.

What makes homeschooling enjoyable? Spending time with my kids and seeing them learn and grow knowing that I played a large part in it. Also, knowing that I am doing everything I can do to help them grow into happy, mature adults.

How do you get involved in the community? We do a neighborhood clean-up on our pond (just our family but benefits the community). They play together (their own Celtic band) at a couple small locations. Dd plays violin monthly for residents at a retirement home.

When do you have opportunities to interact with public or privately schooled children? The kids interact with other kids at sports practices and games, in the neighborhood while playing with friends, and at Sunday school. My dd played a private concert at a small public school for K through 6th graders and answered questions from them about her playing and music. She also has a Suzuki group every week and plays with a Celtic group monthly.

Would you like more of these opportunties? I would like more opportunities maybe them being allowed to take a class or two in the public school as they get older or be involved in school based extra curricular activities.

How can they be created? I know some school districts allow homeschoolers to participate in school activities...mine does not though I have asked. Maybe state-wide laws could make it an available option since we pay school taxes like everyone else even though we chose to not avail ourselves of the service.

What is your least favorite homeschool stereotype? :-) I dislike most stereotypes. The differences in homeschooling families and homeschoolers are as numerous as the number of families doing it. I guess my least favorite is that homeschoolers are unsocialized (lacking in social skills). My own kids are proof that this is false. They are all outgoing and can hold up their end of a conversation with anyone no matter what age. They tend to take leadership roles in play and sports. My brother and his wife are considering homeschooling their future children (first one due in November) as a result of spending time with mine and seeing how well it is working for us.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Homemade Guitar...

Dylan and Daddy worked all day yesterday making a home-made electric guitar in a depression era style. They used a cigar box, some wood, a $5 pick-up, some strings, and knobs to adjust/tune them. In total the cost was about $25.
Now, Dylan is my child who never enjoys reading or doing school but yesterday he had to plan, measure, budget, read instructions, and read the history of this type of guitar. Because it was interesting to him, he remembered everything he read and taught it to his siblings and I.
They got the idea off youtube. He spent the evening looking at video of people playing theirs and making up his own music, even asking Haley to join in with her violin doing some improv. It sounds really neat in a blues sort of way. He plays it with a thumb pick to strum and a small piece of pipe on the finger that is hitting the non-existent frets. It's really cool and provided a great day of unschool-like learning for my most reluctant learner.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

What a week!!!

This has been an amazing week for my musicians. On Wednesday, Newt had a double drum lesson so I had a half hour to kill with Haley and Dylan before Dyl's guitar lesson. We walked a few storefronts down and found a small deli which also has a stage and has live music in the evenings.
We went in and I bought them some ice cream cones. Haley licked hers and the entire top flopped onto the floor! As I was cleaning it up, Dylan proceeded to walk to the back where two men were sitting talking and began discussing the sound equipment and asking about their music nights, etc...
It turns out they were the owners of the place. They asked what he was carrying (Haley's violin because it was too hot to leave it in the car) then wanted to hear her play. She played them a couple tunes and they gave her a new icecream cone and asked the kids to come back and play on Thursday night during "Open Mic Night."
Thursday, Haley gave a concert at a small elementary school (55 students in K through 6th grade). She played a few classical pieces, they asked her questions for awhile, then she played a number of fiddle tunes. She was so mature announcing her songs and answering the questions. She must have been a little nervous because she forgot how to start a couple songs. The amazing thing was that it didn't slow her for more than a second. She quickly recovered and played a different piece in it's place. The kids really enjoyed the event..many walked out telling their teachers they were going to ask their parents for violin lessons. Haley was so charged up by it all. She loved every minute of it!!! On the way home, she said she can't wait to do another event like that. They gave her a card one of the students had made to thank her and also a gift card to Toys R Us. She will also be in a local paper which she is so excited about.
Thursday evening we took the kids over to the deli/coffeehouse for "Open Mic Night." They were the first act after the MC played a few pieces on guitar. Everyone watching was astounded at how at ease they were in front of the crowd and how easy Haley made fiddling look.
When they had finished and packed up, we stayed to watch a few of the other acts. As the next act finished, the owner of the place walked in with his parents. He had invited them to come specifically to see Haley and the boys play. He asked them to play again. This time there was a bigger crowd. They did such a great job. After they finished he told me they are welcome to come any time. He would even give them their own night where only they would play, bring in press if we wanted, or even host an event to benefit a charity of their choice if we want.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


We are now coming to a close on what would be a regular school-year for most. We school year round so we don't have definite breaks and most of our coursework simply keeps going but we will be starting our next rotations for history and science within the next month...taking some time for vacation (during which we are doing an American Indian unit study, nature and regular journalling, and Primary Challenge Math for the younger two just to keep from taking so many books on vacation since we have to pack light).

Anyway, here are our curriculum choices for the next "school year."

1. Math

Newt- Algebra II using Saxon Aglebra II, Teaching Company DVDs for high school Algebra II, and Thinkwell College Algebra online (we are working up to doing an actual college course next year).

Dylan- starting Saxon 87 in 2 weeks (Algebra is on the horizon for him in another 10 months or so)

Haley- finishing up the last half of Saxon 3

2. Language Arts

Newt- Lightning Literature 8th grade (has been working on it for last 3-4 months so will continue), Spelling Power, and vocabulary program

Dylan- Readings of interest...undecided on an actual lit. program, Writing Power, Spelling Power, and will begin a vocabulary program (possibly Wordly Wise).

Haley- Reading whatever interests her, Spelling Power, Writing Power, possibly Wordly Wise once I decide on a level

3. History

Boys (Renaissance to about 1800)- Renaissance History Portfolio, World History: The Human Odyssey, World Literature, and various workbooks and activity guides

Haley (Ancient Times)- History Portfolio, Story of the World 1 and Activity Book, Mythology and other readings of the times, World Literature, Usbourne, Kingfisher, and various workbooks and activity books

4. Science (Chemistry)- each child's use of these materials will depend on their level...

How to Teach Science to Your Child, The Elements: Ingredients of the Universe, Conceptual Chemistry by Suchocki plus Lab Manual, A Guide to the Elements by Stwertka, and various experiments

5. Languages- Rosetta Stone Spanish and may do some work in Latin but undecided.

6. Music- continue lessons and practice of various instruments. Listen to music appreciation CDs and read biographies of various composers.

7. Art- Cave Paintings to Picasso by Sayre, The Usbourne Book of Art, and Drawing with Children.

I think that may be it for now unless I come up with something else really interesting.

My guitarist...

Dylan has really taken off with his guitar lessons recently. He originally started at 6yo but wanted to learn electric guitar and his hands were a bit small for the one we bought plus his teacher wasn't really teaching him anything (he was young and always late for Dyl's lessons as well) so we stopped his lessons for awhile.

He started lessons back up about a year ago with an amazing teacher who has figured Dylan out and teaches him bits of songs he is interested to make him see the importance of learning the "not so exciting" parts of music playing. It has worked and though he has had a few weeks when we have had to push him to study/practice those things that aren't so exciting like note reading and chords, Dylan has now progressed to the point where he is starting to figure out songs on his own by hearing them.

This has enables him to play while Haley fiddles, play along with his brother's drumming, and just pick up cool pieces of songs he likes to "show off" with. He has also been creating some of his own music...which really sounds good btw.

Most recently, Dylan has been expressing an interest in playing Praise music like the band at church. I purchased him a DVD of lessons on a few songs that arrived yesterday. Dyl immediately plugged it in and started at it. Within a few minutes he had learned two and he played them while we sang along. He practiced the songs all night and by 10:30 pm had learned all but the last song on the DVD (7 songs in all) though he said he would need to keep practicing them to get really good (Is this my Dylan talking????)

I am so proud of him for finding something he enjoys putting his time into!!!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Giftedness...explained and reconsidered

I just spoke with Dr. Deborah Ruf. It was a great experience. She is so easy to talk to and so much of what she said made perfect sense in ways I had not thought to consider before. Not only does she look at IQ and achievement but also personality types (yours, your husbands, and child's) and thoroughly explains how all those variables interact. She explained my husband and I perfectly just be knowing our personalities. Also, she explained the parts of Haley's personality that were strong vs. those that were more borderline and it explained her perfectly, too. I now have so much more reading to do so that I can understand my boys as well.

The gist of what she said was that she agreed with me that Haley's original IQ test was way too low based on her developmental milestones, all the information I gave her about what Haley is doing now plus looking at the achievement portion of the assessment she had with the original IQ test. She said she errs on the low side (so no one is ever dissappointed) but would say Haley is a 2-3 in the Levels of Giftedness. After my reading I would've guessed a 3 so we were pretty much in sinc with that. She said a very motivated child can be at a much higher level than their IQ indicates but she still felt Haley's original IQ score was not a good indicator of her actual potential.

Haley's personality is an IFSJ (introverted, feeler, sensor, judging) so she is going to be a people pleaser who is very excellent with facts/details/memorization but not so great at looking at the big picture (though that was not as strong with her as her sensing areas). She was borderline between introverted and extroverted as well. Haley will need to feel appreciated for who she is rather than what she does (otherwise will have more difficulty with perfectionism). She would be the type of kid who would be a teacher's pet in school but learn to underperform or not perform to her potential to fit in and have difficulty finding a true peer (soul mate) in a school that is age-grouped rather than ability grouped.

She suggested giving Haley a chance with her singing or letting her try acting to meet her needs for performance. She said it would also give me a way to help her find mentors and others to help educate her.

Some books she recommended highly which you may find helpful are "Motherstyles: Using Personality Type" by James Webb and "What Could He Be Thinking" by Michael Gurian.

I have a lot to process and a lot of reading to do. I need to learn to let go of being perfect as a homeschooling mommy. My need to be orderly or to not miss anything is not really necessary in that learning is a lifelong process. She said a child like Haley could easily finish grade school 4 years ahead of schedule (which I already see since she is not in 1st grade yet but finishing up 3rd grade math and reading at an even higher level). She will get anything she has missed from me on her own. Dr. Ruf also said it is not important that she be great at everything. It is okay to be just proficient at things that don't interest her. She said unit studies would be a good way to teach Haley to look at the "big picture" and bring out that side of her.

If I really want the kids to be self actualized learners and fulfilled adults then they have to be able to find and follow their passions and learn to deal with success and failure. I already know that but it is difficult for someone with my personality type.

Dr. Ruf suggested in the future having her test Haley to get a more accurate IQ number. My first question was "Is that really necessary?" She said it would be helpful to know the score to aid with knowing which college would be better placement (she said all colleges have a different average IQ score), seek jobs that would be more fulfilling, and keep expectations more in line with her abilities. I really don't have any plans to do this any time soon (read next 2-3 years) since I feel like I now have a pretty good idea but I may consider it later. (The cost and travel are prohibitive at this point. Though I wish I could have had Dr. Ruf assess her in the first place since I probably spent too much on the first assessment that didn't really answer any of my questions.)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Late but fun night...

Yesterday afternoon, Haley was reading the newspaper while waiting for her lunch (yes, I know, most almost 6yos don't spend time reading the newspaper, LOL) and she came upon an advertisement that caught her eye for a Celtic music concert about an hour away from us. She was beside herself with excitement and though it wasn't in my plans, it was relatively inexpensive and a good opportunity, so we went.

What a delightful evening it was!! Again, Haley was the youngest person there....I think I was pretty close to the 2nd youngest in the room full of about 60-80 people. She was an utter delight. The band was called Road to the Isles and consisted of a bagpiper, fiddle, guitarist/singer/tinwhistler, and dancers (one Irish and one Highland). The location had no stage and we could not see the dancers' feet nor much else from where we were sitting so Haley moved out to the outer aisle and sat on a low windowsill talking to the people nearby and others who joined her. She made many "friends" and sat completely engaged in the show. She also talked with the soundman for the band who was stationed right near where she was sitting. After the show he told me how "blessed" I was to have such an amazing little girl. She was so excited when they played the two songs she knew (The Atholl Highlander and The Rights of Man). After the show she went right up to the dancers and talked to them awhile before asking for the autographs then went to each of the bandmembers and got theirs as well. We also met an elderly couple who knew Haley's fiddle teacher and played in the group she will join this Thursday evening. (It is a small world.)

We didn't get home until almost 11:30pm. I don't know many almost 6 year olds who would be good for that long and interested in music that long that late at night. She is an amazing little girl.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Good day...

This morning started with a bang...literally. It was a really windy and stormy day. We awoke to a loud crash and a crunch as the top of a tree fell from the neighbor's property onto Ritch's car and scraped my van. The damage to the vehicles wasn't fatal, just a couple more dents on the hoopty and barely a scratch on my van. Luckily Ritch was home for the day so he was there to cut down the huge branch and take care of phone calls to neighbors and insurance companies.

Haley had a wonderful fiddle lesson today. She remembered the song she learned at Next Generation Kids yesterday. I am glad she did because I didn't. (The boys accompanied her to Next Gen Kids yesterday...Dyl with his guitar and Newt with his bodhran. They had a really good time learning new songs and playing with the group.) She had learned the last two parts of the song The Jig of Slurs her teacher had started with her last week. Then she and her teacher played 4 jigs in a row working on jig bowing (1---2,3, 1---2,3). Haley picked it up and concentrated hard on playing toward the tip of her bow which is difficult for her because she usually wants to play very expressively using all the bow she has. It was a really good lesson. Her teacher invited her to play with the grown-ups at their Seisun sessions on Thursday nights. (Not something we'll do every week because it is so late but might be fun once in awhile.)

Tonight we had nowhere to go. Since quitting taekwondo, we have had a few of those here and there. The kids and I worked on creating a poster of the periodic table. I was so proud of the way they worked together and cooperated on it. We didn't quite finish but once we do I will post a picture. We can't wait to start chemistry!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Doing the Bees...

Last month Daddy and Poppop attended a course on Bee Keeping. A select few of the attendees (only up to Poppop) received $300 to get started. He bought his hive, got it ready, and Saturday picked up his bees.

They had to stay in the box for 24 hours, flying in and out, getting used to their new "home." Plus the weather was cloudy and "not good bee weather" because too many stay in the hive when it is cloudy rather than fly out looking for pollen to collect.

Yesterday, the weather was better and the boys assisted in moving the bees to their brand new hive. Many came out to see what was happening but no one got stung. Haley, Grammy, and I stood only a short distance away without any extra protection. They moved the 5 frames of bees to the new hive which had 5 new frames inside, added another level of thick sugar water to make sure they have enough to eat until they find pollen, and put on the top. The bees seemed to like their new home and soon were happy moving in and out.

Probably no honey for us this year but next year "yum!"

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Fiddling for the lunch crowd...

Today, after her soccer game, Haley requested cheese fries at Louisa's Cafe. Of course Daddy took her fiddle along though waited for her playing to be requested before bringing it in. She played for the lunch crowd while Newt accompanied on bodhran. They made $15 and got free ice cream. Louisa called her music teacher friend who rushed over to see the spectacle. He told Daddy that he is putting together a talent show with local talent and though Haley's skills are way beyond "local talent level," he would love for her to participate. He said he has performed and taught music for many years but never has he seen anything like her before.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Paid to play...LOL

Yesterday morning Daddy took Dyl to the junk yard with his loot to cash in. They then took Daddy's portion to pay for breakfast at their frequent hang out...Louisa's Cafe which is just a few blocks away in the next town over. It is a very small establishment that serves only breakfast and lunch to a pretty much regular crowd of retired gentlemen, police officers, and construction workers.

Anyway, while they were there, Daddy and Louisa got to talking about the kids and he mentioned how Haley has been doing with her fiddle/violin (being the proud parent he is). Louisa asked if he would bring her by because she'd love to hear a 5yo on fiddle. So when they finished breakfast, they went home, gathered up Haley with her fiddle, Dyl's guitar, and Newt with the bodhran and took them back to play.

They were a huge hit. The men loved them. Louisa asked them to come play again and took their number so she could call them when she has a crowd. One man said he'd been around the whole world twice and seen many things without being too impressed but this was something he would never forget. He gave the kids each $5 and insisted they take it when they all refused. Another man bought them a "round of drinks." (Soft drinks of course)

So, my kids have had their first "paid" gig, well, kind of.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

What a day!!!

Haley on the Shore stage fiddling with the grown ups and a few of the teens who stayed.
The entire group who played on the Shore Stage for the Irish Seisen. (I know I spelled that wrong.)

Haley and Alexander on the Pinelands Stage with Next Generation Kids.

Next Generation Kids on the Pinelands Stage.
We were away from home from 8:15am until midnight!

The NJ Folk Festival was great though a little cold and I was not prepared for it. The weather station said 69 deg. but didn't mention the wind chill. Haley ended up playing in her dress, sweater, and my Mom's sweatshirt. LOL

For the Next Generation Kids session, she and Alexander (9yo boy) were the only non-teenagers and only one other teen was a fiddler. The best mic was on Haley so her fiddle was possibly the loudest. I can't tell you how many people commented about her and how many pictures/videos were taken of her. I told Ritch we should copyright her face and charge for them to build up her college fund. LOL

She also played at the adult session. Alexander had left so she was the only child. There were even more people watching and taking pictures at that one. A few older fiddlers from other groups playing watched and said they were amazed. One older man walked from one side of the stage to the other and stood right next to where Haley was playing to see if she was really playing or not. A couple songs she did not know, she picked up during the session by listening to them the first time and playing with the group the second and third. I honestly don't know how she does it. Ritch and I were sitting there whispering to each other..."she's trying to get it...she almost has it, oops...there she goes!" as she took off playing the song.

She did nap inbetween during the ride home. She was soooo wound up for the contest. She and Dyl did a great job! After she played everytime we walked down the hall to go to the bathroom people stopped us to tell us how amazing she played and that she should win. One woman came up to me urgently telling me to look into the Curtis Institute in Philly because my daughter is a prodigy and should apply if she continues with her music. I guess it is a music school, I don't know. Another woman asked where she took lessons and when she started because her 2.5yo loves music. I didn't tell her not to expect the same results... kids like Haley are rare.

They didn't win though...the professional jazz band won as I thought they would and a singer took 2nd (there were 18 of 27 acts of singers so I suspected a singer would have to place). I thought a number of other singers were more talented than the one who won especially these two younger girls who could have been in musicals but oh, well. Haley was crying on the way home but more out of exhaustion than anything else. She fell asleep instantly upon hitting her head on the pillow.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Dylan loves to do manual labor. If Daddy or Poppop need help with work or around the house, they ask Dylan to help. He quietly and patiently stays nearby and waits until someone has something for him to do then happily assists. He asks questions to learn everything he can about all the equipment and how to do everything.

Last week he helped our neighbors clean up their yard a couple days and yesterday Bud gave him a small saw for cutting and sanding wood. What a great gift for Dylan. He has been so busy cutting and sanding small wooden figures. He is so careful and explains what he is doing. He has made something for everyone and today, figured out how to make a jigsaw puzzle out of one of his creations.

His Daddy bought him a "real mower." He wants to start a mowing business and has even made up business cards. He spent hours mowing our yard. The thing is so hard to push but he keeps on trying. It is amazing how hard he works when it is something that interests him.

Our cover is blown...

Today we had a really good Suzuki lesson. Haley was practicing fiddle in the car all the way there and we were running late because of traffic so she walked to the door carrying her violin. The little boy from group was walking out having just finished his lesson and his dad seemed amazed that Haley would be playing in the car (she does all the time which is one advantage to playing a very small violin). Gerry made a joke about how much quicker she would be if everyone showed up with their violins ready to go. Haley went to the bathroom and Gerry mentioned how she has noticed Haley has been practicing a lot and really loves her violin right now.

While Gerry was teaching her a technical point on one song she said it was a precurser to the first song of Book 3 then asked Haley, "You don't know Book 3, do you?" Haley started playing the first song. Gerry laughed at her and said, "Well, I hope you're not playing Book 4." Haley said, "Like this song..." and proceeded to play the last song of Book 4. Gerry seemed really shocked and she likened it to the day she accidentally gave her son her daughter's math test (who was 2 years ahead in math) and he aced it. She said she knew he was smart but suddenly it was like a different level had been reached.

I didn't tell her that Haley has been working on playing those songs for a year. She was too shocked and I didn't want to add to it. I had been trying to keep her from knowing because I don't want her to think I am trying to teach them to Haley ahead of schedule because I am not. I just let her listen to them now and then for a change of music. She laughingly told Haley not to practice Books 3 and 4 and I smiled and said, "What do you think she is playing when she is in the car?" That's usually why she plays in the car...she is listening to a CD in the car then asks me to get her violin for her...not easy to do while driving.