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 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.