Sunday, October 11, 2015

Just some thoughts...

     I love Classical Conversations' Essentials program. This is my fourth year actively being a part of it. I am learning English Grammar and composition like I have never learned it before. My older daughter benefited greatly from her three year journey in Essentials. But... we all have different needs, abilities, and maturity levels.

     My younger daughter is nine; old enough to be in my Essentials class. (I'm the tutor.) But she is not ready for this curriculum as it is written so I have tweaked it to fit her needs. She is extremely intelligent yet quieter and more thoughtful than daughter #1. Because of this, her grammar and writing instruction has taken a slightly different slant.


We read... and read... and then read some more. We identify the parts of speech in what we're reading. We talk about figures of speech, adjectives, adverbs, and personification. We look at punctuation. We discuss whether a verb is intransitive or transitive. And she narrates.

     The narrating is the best part. She retells something she has read from a thoughtfully chosen piece of literature and I type it up just as she says it. As one would expect, this narration consists of one long sentence with endless coordinating conjunctions. After I print it out, she circles all the coordinating conjunctions and decides which ones to remove in order to make shorter, more concise sentences.

      She identifies the verbs, chooses adverbs from the adverb list in the Student Resource Notebook from Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW), and writes them in.

      I retype it and voila, she has her own composition to be proud of. In fact, she's quite surprised that she's actually able to compose a three paragraph essay. But she is able and she has done it. Granted, she didn't write it all out on her own, but she did think it, say it, and it is all her own doing. In our present narration, she is not only adding adverbs, but will include adjectives.

     Since I embrace Charlotte Mason's philosophy of short lessons, we do this a little bit at a time. The whole process takes about three weeks. For a young student, learning to write this way makes sense to me.

     One reason we homeschool is to meet our children's educational needs by adapting various curricula.  The Essentials program has all the information necessary for the student to obtain a solid grip on English Grammar and writing, but its methods can certainly be modified to accommodate each child's individual personality.

She used strong verbs, quality adjectives,
and an adverb (-ly word) to compose
an original cinquain poem.

     So... here are my thoughts. ~ As homeschooling parents, we are the teachers. Don't be afraid to change it up in order to provide the best education possible for your unique child. Be your curriculum's master, not its slave.

     How do you change it up? I'd love to hear your thoughts.




Friday, October 2, 2015

Music Lessons ~ The Harmony of Life

A private practice spot.

True cultivators know that a seed needs plenty of fertilizer, water, and sunshine. If you hold a seed in your hand and yell,"Sprout! Sprout! Sprout!" you are being merciless to the seed. The seed will not sprout unless the conditions are right... Everyone has a sprout of talent. Developing that sprout into a wonderful ability depends on how its cultivated.
Ability Development from Age Zero - Dr. Shinichi Suzuki
One on one with the Maestro: Russell Falstad


    I was raised in what I would consider to be a musical family. Both of my parents sang well and played the piano. We listened to various genres of music. We loved musicals. Countless evenings were enjoyed as we sang, gathered around the piano. (Of course, that was back in the day when people did that sort of thing together.) Attending concerts and plays was always a treat. I took piano lessons and played the clarinet in the Junior High band and my sister became a accomplished pianist and violinist. Yet, I never realized the huge gift my parents gave me, until now.

     Our girls are learning to play the piano and violin. We are blessed to have two wonderful teachers, who not only are fabulous musicians but understand how children learn. Being experts in communicating their knowledge of technique and music fundamentals, they are helping our daughters build masterful skills. The instruction they receive and their daily practice (well, almost daily) affects every aspect of their education.
Our fantastic new piano teacher.

Their music instruction:
~ teaches them to embrace delayed gratification. Quite a bit of time and effort is required before the notes on the page begin to flow together into lovely harmony. It takes stick-to-itness, a quality that seems to be scarce nowadays. Naturally, this spills over to other subjects. We've all learned that it takes determination and patience to develop different skills and guess what? ~ we have the rest of our lives in which to do this.

Deep practice is built on a paradox: struggling in certain targeted ways - operating at the edges of you ability, where you make mistakes - makes you smarter. Or to put it a slightly different way, experiences where you're forced to slow down, make errors, correct them - as you would if you were walking up and ice-covered hill, slipping and stumbling as you go - end up making you swift and graceful without your realizing it.
The Talent Code - Daniel Coyle

~ helps to increase their memory capacity. This is particularly true with M's violin lessons. She learns the music by listening, playing, listening, correcting, listening and playing again.  Although she reads music (thanks to her piano lessons), she knows all of her violin songs by memory. It's incredible.

~ teaches time management. Since I stress
Mrs. Nancy Wood - We love her.
practicing first thing in the morning when they're fresh (and I am too), they get up early in order to get it done along with their school work. We all like to have the afternoon free to pursue art, nature, free reading, or just to play.

If a child feels that she has an open-ended potential, that anything is possible, that the deciding factor is her desire, application, and persistence, then life is a great adventure, not a threatening unknown.
To Learn With Love,  A Companion for Suzuki Parents - William and Constance Starr

~ develops hand-eye coordination. They both seem to have pretty nimble fingers and a nice touch on the piano, while playing the violin demands the body and brain to work together on many different levels.

~ opens their world to different musicians, history, and culture. It's pretty much impossible to play a musical piece without having some curiosity about the composer and his life.

~ requires concentration. In order to improve, they must concentrate on pitch, rhythm, tempo, and sound quality. M participates in a violin group jam session where she learns not only to listen to herself, but to listen to and follow along with others.

If, as a person works at playing the violin well, he develops the talent to overcome any difficult problem by working, then the talent will be born to accomplish even the hardest problems easily. As a person practices the violin, he creates this talent.
Ability Development From Age Zero - Dr. Shinichi Suzuki

The concentration is showing.

     I appreciate all of these areas touched by music lessons, yet I'm looking forward to and hoping that learning to play a musical instrument will also:

~ foster self-expression and relieve stress. I have a personal goal of relearning piano technique precisely to obtain these benefits.

~ promote social skills. As an introvert, M is benefitting from her one on one contact with these intelligent, talented, and caring adults and her contact with her peers during the jam sessions. She is able to communicate in a safe environment with others sharing a common interest.
Heartstrings Academy

~ create a sense of achievement. What a wonderful feeling it is to work hard at something and produce beauty.

~ just be plain old fun!

     My husband and I, like all parents, want to encourage self-efficacy and independence in our children. We want to give them tools necessary to thrive as adults. Long term music instruction is one of the best ways that children can develop thinking, social, and basic life skills. I'm confident that our commitment to music lessons is laying a strong foundation for our children to travel through life on.

Tinkling the ivories.

Music exists for the purpose of growing an admirable heart. 
Ability Development from Age Zero - Dr. Shinichi Suzuki

...and really, isn't that our ultimate desire?