Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Well, it has been a while since I've updated... there wasn't much happening this summer, and a lot of my stuff is going on the Maple Hill Academy blog....

Echo has started the Suzuki lessons officially now, and is doing well. Delta has just changed violin size, so is learning to adjust to a heavier instrument, as well as changing where his fingers go.

But, here is the cool news....

Delta, along with many of the Book 1 students, has been asked to play here as an "opening act" (so to speak) before the symphony. They have various groups of youth play before each symphony, and the Suzuki program is invited (I believe once a year). So I find this really exciting!

We also get 2 tickets to the symphony afterwards, so he and I will get to watch that. We are considering on whether or not to buy tickets for the whole family.

Had to share!

Monday, July 20, 2009

200 Practices

Wow, Delta and Echo have practiced 200 days in a row now!

A few were pretty inventive (ever have to do a violin practice in a car... with no violins? - we sang fingerings, and named violin/bow parts....)

Most have been good, solid practices.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Ok, I just re-installed our MS Flight Simulator on the computer, and went for a "flight". Wow, that was fun. I sure miss flying - but I don't remember flight simulator being as much fun as it was tonight.

Oh, on the suzuki side - we just had our 200th consecutive day of practice! WooHoo!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Gratuitus Practicing

I never really thought this day would come - and certainly not with him at the age of 5.

I woke up this morning to the sound of...... Delta practicing the violin entirely on his own. I even heard him practice his scale.

Who would have thought?

When I mentioned it this morning, he just said that he wanted to play the violin.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Memories of Learning to Ride a Bike

Ok, I admit it. This is a shameless entry whose topic has been selected soley because I want to win a Balance Bike for one of my kids from However, it is a good topic, so I don't mind.

I am going to admit right now that my memories from childhood are a big fog - So I'm not sure that I totally remember my first bike ride - but here is what I do remember.

I remember that I first learned to ride on a hand-me down bike from my sister that was a little too big for me. I think I was around 6 - I'm not sure. My dad didn't think too much of training wheels (although my sister apparently had had them - I know this from another story. Don't know if my brothers ever had them or not.) So - I remember my dad running behind me a lot. I do remember falling a fair bit - although I did get good enough to manage. I remember having to start by a curb, and having to get close enough to a curb as I stopped.

When I was around 7, my school had a bike event of some sort after school - I think they checked your bikes out, and tested you on being able to manuver on the bike: going straight, going through cones, going on a circle. I think you got some sort of little prize if you did it all well - maybe a bike license plate or something - the main thing I remember was being very embarrassed and dissappointed. I don't remember what the problem was, whether I didn't do well with the steering etc - or maybe I wasn't even allowed to participate at all because the bike was the wrong size. I didn't ride my bike at all for a long time after that.

Another bit that I remember, but I'm not sure exactly if this was before or after the memories above - is not riding a bike when my friends all were. I had a very large trike, so I sometimes rode that with my friends for a while.....

Over-all, with all that, I started to hate bikes.

Around the time I was almost 9, my mom (my parents were seperated by then) bought me a bike that actually fit me. (my sisters was still too big - I'm wondering how huge it must have been?) It was used, and a boy's bike - but with it being the right size, I could ride it well. I was quite a tom-boy, so it being a blue boy's bike didn't bother me, and to me it was much better than my sister's old bike that I had refused to ride for so long. At that point, I remember riding around the neighbourhood a lot, and the freedom that a bike gave me.

Anyway - Delta, who is almost 6 now has a two wheeled bike. It was a used girl's bike that we have painted blue (it was pink). It does have training wheels still, but he does enjoy it. Echo is 3 and has a tricycle that she likes. It has a push handle so I can push it.... although she can pedal it depending where we are. (At a program we go to they have other trikes that she can pedal very well; I'm not sure why she has such a hard time with ours.) Foxtrot, of course, is only 1 - so she doesn't have anything yet.

I hope you enjoyed the memories!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Used Curriculum Sale

Locally there was a Used Curriculum Sale.

For about $8, I found a German program with songs, and a few books that will be used, like "Watership Down", and "The Yearling"

It always feels good when I find some resources I need inexpensively!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Yankee has arrived!

My granddaughter (online name is Yankee) was born this morning around 10:00, weighing 6lbs, 10 oz. Mother and child are doing fine.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Worms and Ants

The whole family got to go to the park for a while today - and there was little tiny canker worms on the picnic table near where we were - the kids watched the worms for a good 30 to 40 minutes.... and tried giving them leaves to eat when their dad told them that was what they ate.

Later in the evening they were in the front yard, and took out the magnifying glasses, and spent a bunch of time watching the ants that we have.

Wish they didn't freak out at flies!

Garage Sale Find!

Well, I lucked out the other day at a Garage Sale!

In a box of books at 10 cents each, I found

"Charlotte's Web"
"The Cricket in Times Square"
"Little House in the Big Woods"

I'm thrilled that I got 4 books on our list for a whole 40 cents!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Provincial Capitals

So, Delta and Echo know the Provincial Capitals..... well, could probably tell you 7 or 8 if asked - maybe would get all 10.... (plus the Capital of Canada)

How do they know them?

Well, we have a song that teaches them in with all our music.... it is on a CD of mixed stuff. I think it is Stompin Tom - but would have to check.....

Words go something like

Here's to Ottawa and the land we love, can anyone here name the capital of......
British Columbia ?! Victoria!

Victoria is a great little town, they never turn the Maple Leaf upside down
Here's to Victoria and the land we love, can anyone here name the capital of......
Alberta ?!


Most of the time, the kids get them all right!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Park Day!

The other day was a beautiful day out! The whole family, (Mike, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Zulu, and I) went for a campfire at a nearby provincial park. Of course, it being the weekend and the first really, really nice day, it was very busy. All our good choices for picnic spots were gone, but we did eventually find one that worked out ok - except it was right beside the campground with a lot of traffic coming in and out. The actual campfire spot was far enough away from the road that we didn't have to worry too much though, as the children are good at following the boundaries.

Because of the traffic, the proximity to the campground, and our unfamiliarity of this specific site we didn't let the children explore out of the clearing, however.

I had bought a few little launch-airplanes from the dollar store, and those, plus a few soccor type balls kept the children pretty happy. We brought an old sleeping bag to put on the ground for Foxtrot so that she could explore without getting too dirty. She did wander off it a bit to experience some nature, but it made a nice base for her.

The children loved their hotdogs - Mike enjoyed his smokies.... and I had one of the meals I prefer on a campfire - a tinfoil dinner. I had 2 hamburger patties, some cut potatoes, and various cut vegetables, with some seasoning and a touch of BBQ sauce. It ended up cooked just right on the fire, and was a luxury.

We were outside for a few hours - although the son was VERY hot, and our site had no shade until the late afternoon. We ran out of water, but we did have enough with the other beverages.

Although it was after 6:30 when we were done, and Zulu had school in the morning - we still decided that the children (Except Foxtrot), and I would have a quick swim at the man-made lake at the park. It was quite cold, but very refreshing after the hot day. The children would have stayed there for hours I'm sure, but I kept it fairly short. It was still almost an hour I think before we were back in the car. We just put shirts back on over the swimsuits, and drove home.

I love "wild" days!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Found a Nest!

It would appear that a little bird nest has fallen out of one of our trees. I'm assuming it is an older nest - there is certainly no sign of any eggs. I noticed what looked like a ball of grass on our yard yesterday. Today, after a longer glance, I had a good look, and I'm sure it is a nest.

Tomorrow, if the weather is good, I'm going to have the kids examine it, and will probably draw it in my nature notebook.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Coming together

It is starting to feel like things are coming together! I have a good idea what I want to cover in most of the subjects, and although I may not know the exact resources for everything, I feel a lot better about it being my families program instead of someone elses.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Stein Suppe

So today I told the kids the story of "Stone Soup" - a folk tale of a soldier who is hungry, makes it to a village where no-one has enough food to share, so he makes Stone Soup.... and everyone ends up contributing some food to make it just a bit better....

Anyway - my son said "So they made Stein Suppe"? (not sure of the spelling....)

It took me a moment to remember that Stein in German is Stone..... and that Suppe is Soup. I haven't been doing a LOT of German with the kids - but apparently some of the words are sinking in!

Monday, June 8, 2009

New Blog!

I am starting a new blog.

This blog will continue to be my day-to-day frustrations, revelations, and just how things are going blog, plus the suzuki info.  Will be a blog with recommendations for homeschooling.  It will be more formal.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Go Tell Aunt Rhody

It is so hard to believe, but Delta has already learned "Song of the Wind" - and at the lesson a couple of weeks ago, he started learning "Go Tell Aunt Rhody".     Definitely none of the songs are polished yet - but it is so much more satisfying to be learning songs - and working on getting the technique better while playing the songs than trying to get the technique perfect before learning the song.

Mrs. J does have him work on an exercise for a week or two that will make learning the song easier...  but pretty much as soon as Delta is taught the first line or so, he starts trying to play more and more of the song.

Also - although not every practice is done totally joyfully, they mostly are!  Delta did get upset about doing the twinkles the other day - I don't remember exactly what he was upset about - but he was playing them all mad, so his technique wasn't good - so I took the violin away and told him that he couldn't play it mad, and that I would do Echo's practice with her.  If he was calmed down after her practice, he could finish his practice - but he wasn't going to play it mad.   It worked - he played the other songs (after Echo was done) happily.

He is also sometimes getting out the violin and playing at other times - when his dad is getting ready for work (his dad works nights), or increasingly when he is supposed to get ready for bed....    I am happy about it, although not when bedtime is already very late!

Also - I have started playing with him most days during practice (except during tonalizations, and the new exercises) - he really enjoys it, and has really made him enjoy doing review songs.  Echo is a bit upset that I can't really play with her as much - but I have to help her a lot more.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

White Black Bear....?

Ok, I've seen it before - but what a good title! Read on....

Well, even though it was raining, I decided that I wanted to take the kids to the zoo for a short trip. We just got a yearly membership (again) and haven't been since last fall. We arrived about an hour before closing, so we just saw a few things.

The zoo's polar bear (who had been the oldest known polar bear in the world) died last winter, so that exhibit was empty - which was a bit of a shame. However, our zoo's White Black Bear was out. Yes - it is a black bear, that is entirely white. (W
ell, in summer it is a creamy colour, but it was pretty white today). I know it is confusing to have a White Black Bear - but it is the easiest thing to call it.... it is an albino black bear. A cou
ple of years ago, there was a report of the white black bear in the wild, when it was a cub. Unfortunately, people started driving to the area hoping to get a glimpse.... and some fed the bears. Enevitably, the mother bear got hit by a truck or a car because they stayed near the highway hoping to be fed. To save the cub's life, they trapped it, and brought it to the zoo.

Our zoo also has an albino Bison (Buffalo).... I don't think there is any history to the white buffalo though.

The kids enjoyed it - they LOVE watching the prairie dogs.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Family Presentations

From a challenge on another Blog  (, we held a Family Homeschooling Presentation.   It was a small affair, with the family, but it was very enjoyable.  Unfortunately, the camera lost the video taken from it, so I have put up some similar pieces....

Delta played "Lightly Row"on the violin.  Echo did "Lift and Land" on the violin, and Echo also sang "I am the Greatest".

I am looking forward to presentations in future years, when there will be more items to present, but I thought it was pretty good for Kindergarten and Preschool!

Echo singing ABC's and "playing" on Guitar

Echo doing "Lift and Land"

Delta playing "Lightly Row"

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Decisions Decisions

So, sometimes I think I am the worst person in the world at trying to make up my mind on stuff.  It didn't used to be that way - but it has been for ages.    I can easily decide between things that, at least in my mind, are easily a good or bad choice.   Even if good and bad would be extreme words to describe the choices.

But, what I have a really hard time deciding is between 2 very good choices.  (or 3....)    

What is really frustrating right now, is that I thought I had made the decision.  Actually, I thought I had made the decision twice already!   And, now I don't know.

As mentioned on here, I have decided that I like the Charlotte Mason homeschooling method.  That is a pretty firm decision. 

So, at first I thought that Ambleside Online looked really good - it was my first intro - but wasn't sure yet.... and so I looked around.  Then I found Milestones Academy, and it looked good - and I decided that that was the way I was going to go.

Then, a few months later, I had a few doubts about Milestones Academy.  Oh, it does really look good - I had some concerns about the potential cost (as money is tight) - and I went into the big debate again in my head, looked around a lot - then decided I would do Ambleside Online.

So, decision made - so I went and gathered up all the free materials I could find, and turned my worrying to how to handle Canadian History.....

And then - from a post on the Milestones Academy Yahoo group, I went and looked at the program again.

So - I'm down again to a nice simple - I don't know!  They both look good!   There are things I like about both.   I did some looking on some other sites as well, like Simply Charlotte Mason.

Eventually, I went and talked to my husband.    After a bunch of talking, he told me that I know what to do - take what I like from both groups, and figure out my own list, using them as a guide.

So, I've bought a planning book from Simply Charlotte Mason that I've been eyeing, to try to figure out exactly what I want.   

Strangely, I do feel a bit better about it (although I see a lot of worrying about all the details....  I'm a typical new homeschooling mom, wanting to find the perfect resources....)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Power of a Sticker

I am always amazed at the power of a sticker.

I try very hard not to use rewards for my children, but there have been a few times that I have found them very useful.   My children love stickers, and I keep them as a rare treat - mainly so that they keep their power.  I have used sticker charts 4 times in the past, and am using a new one the last day or two.  Because they have not been used often, and stickers are used rarely, they are very motivating for my kids.

I used a sticker chart for potty training for both Delta and Echo.   Last year, when I was expecting Foxtrot, and knew that we would need to move Delta into the back of the mini-van, we used a sticker chart for doing up his carseat.  (Delta doesn't weigh very much, so is still in a 5 point harness car seat.)  Delta has also had one for practicing the violin for a while.

Well, now we are training Echo to do her carseat up by herself.  She had succesfully done it a handfull of times, but wouldn't make the effort.  (It was also a lot harder earlier with winter coats....)   Well, yesterday I setup a stickerchart, and she has done herself up everytime since (earning 8 stickers so far) - and I have moved her carseat to the back.   

In a week or so, I will print up a certificate for her that she can do up her carseat - and that will be it!

Gotta love the power of a sticker!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Who is Who

I am the step-mom of 3 adults, and the mom of 3 children.  I am also a grandma, and will become a grandma again in a few days (give or take, of course.)

To keep a level of security and anonymity, I am using code names.... and decided to simply use the international phonetic alphabet.

  • Alpha is my oldest step-son.  He is 25 right now, and lives in another city.
  • Bravo is my oldest step-daughter.  She is almost 24, and lives nearby.  She is the mother of the grandchild, and is the one expecting.
  • Charlie is my other step-daughter.  She just turned 19, and lives with us.

  • Delta is my oldest son.  He is 5 and a half.
  • Echo is my oldest daughter.  She is 3.
  • Foxtrot is my youngest daughter, who just turned 1!

My  Grandchildren:  (starting from the end of the alphabet...)

  • Zulu is my oldest grandson.  He turns 6 in about a month.  (yes, my grandson is older than my oldest children....)
  • Yankee is the expected grandchild, who has been declared to be a girl.  

Hope this helps!

Done with the backposts

Well, I'm done with posting the old stuff.... although I could go and add some pictures to some of the posts.  Not sure if I am going to or not at this point, as I don't know if anyone is reading.

Delta is doing well with his reading - he isn't quite fluent yet, but is doing a lot better - and I think he is reading silently at times when he is looking at books.   I have started using the "Treadwell" reader with him - and he has read to me "The Little Red Hen", and "The Gingerbread Boy" - so I think that finally he could be called a reader!  

Echo is doing pretty good with reading too.  We haven't worked on it all the time - but she can figure out simple sentences.  

Delta is almost finished Seals in swimming - probably by the end of summer.  Echo has completed the first 2 levels of Lil' Dippers, and is part way through the 3rd.

We didn't work on the Piano because of the violin lessons not working well - but Delta is very interested.... so now that the violin is going much better, I may start teaching him the piano again.  

I do at times wonder how I'm going to do everything - all 3 children are at a stage of needing a lot of my time to do things.    I will start posting some of the resources I've been finding....

So let me ask - how do you do it all?

What is with them?

What is with my kids today???  They are whining, fighting, crying, refusing to do anything, etc.  I've about had it.  Even the baby is being cranky.   

It is days like this that I wonder what I'm doing!

More Lightly Row

Well, we have been practicing Lightly Row (along with other stuff) for about 2-3 weeks now - and Delta is practicing it 2x a day now.  He can play it very well, up to speed, usually getting all the notes right.   What is REALLY cool though, is that Delta is picking the song as his "Happy Song" to end the practice session!    

Another thing that is really cool is that we are also doing the "Grasshopper" exercise to get the hopping 3 finger going for "Song of the Wind".  And, Delta is also playing the first "lick" of "Song of the Wind".   (A,1,2,3,E,E,E,E)

It is so satisfying to see him finally progressing with his violin!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Adding Homeschool

I'm adding posts about homeschooling now....   starting with things I had written elsewhere.  I'll be pre-dating it to when I wrote it.

Song of the Wind Exercises

Another lesson with Mrs. J, and Delta is starting the "Hopping 3" exercise with finger 1 down on the E string, that is used in Song of the Wind.    Mrs. J was really pleased with the progress Delta has made on Lightly Row.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Lightly Row!

Well, Delta is now officially learning Lightly Row!  His twinkles still need a lot of work of course, but we have been singing the fingerings for Lightly Row for a week now.    He has been working on his "hopping" 2 finger as well.   Well, at the lesson yesterday, Mrs. J and Delta went through lightly row very slowly, with her telling him the fingers to play.   There are also a couple of phrases that we will be practicing 5 times by itself.

Unfortunately, Delta is sick today....   as about all he will be eating today is crackers or banannas, he will be excused from practice today.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Change in Practice

So, just before changing teachers, I ordered "Step-by-step".  It is a book and CD that help make the practice more productive.   Well, although Delta did pretty good with practice (but they were super short) most of the time - it made a big difference having the book and CD.   I printed the chart off, and listed the things he would need to practice.   I made the main theme for the week being "Happy Practice".   Anything he did happily got a smilie face on the chart.  If he didn't do it happily, he still needed to do it - and would just get a checkmark.   The first day, he got 3 smilies out of about 9 that he could have earned - so I made it a "race" or challenge - could he beat himself tomorrow and get more.  Within a couple of days, he was getting ALL smilies - and a star at the bottom of the chart.   What a difference!    He still sometimes doesn't do things happily, but most of the time he does because he wants the star.

This system has worked well with the new teacher, as her requirements for practice are to do the same things they did in the lesson.  So I write down what the teacher did on the sheets, check the CD for appropriate accompaniment music, and that is what we do.   The CD with the book has the music at various speeds, so we start with the slow speed, and work our way up.

Concert Last Night

So, we had the year end concert last night.   It went quite well.  Delta was set to play with the pre-twinklers because he has only been a twinkler for a few weeks - but he also played the twinkles when it got to them.   

It was a good evening.  Charlie watched Echo while I went with Delta to get his violin tuned.  Foxtrot (the almost 1 year old) was in the snugli, which of course ended up being hard on my back eventually.   I had fun keeping Foxtrot quiet, but had come prepared with a sippi-cup of milk and some Nutrio's.  The other two enjoyed the music, although some was long.  They enjoyed the music best once they got to the songs they listen to a lot.

Delta was one of the students that got a trophy for 100 days of practice in a row.  Echo actually earned one too - I arranged for one to be bought for her, even though she isn't in the program yet.  Delta had his given on stage - Echo got hers afterwards in private.   I am very proud of them.  Actually, we haven't missed a day of practice since January 1st!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Well, it has been over a year since I posted - and there is a very good reason.  Besides being very busy having a new baby (who is almost 1 now), there is the issue of how often can you post that things are not going well?

Delta just didn't work well.  We spent almost a whole year of him refusing to do things for his teacher, having tantrums at practice time, etc.   Actually, we eventually got so that most practices (which were very short) went fairly well, but Delta pretty much balked at lessons whenever his teacher wanted to teach him something new, or wanted him to play with "fingers".   He did learn "The monkey song", and eventually in group learned the fingers for twinkles - but mostly refused to play them even for me.... I think he played the first variation maybe 4 times total.

Eventually, about 6 weeks ago, I decided that a change in teacher would make a difference.  His teacher didn't think so, but had run out of things to try, so we agreed that we would try a single lesson with another teacher.

Well, Delta did the whole lesson happily, and played (fairly well too) 4 of the twinkles, and learned something new.... I think it was doing an exercise with playing with his 3rd finger apart from the others.

So, obviously we have switched teachers.   Delta can play all the twinkles now (well, is still working on "Mommy, and Daddy, and"... and has just started singing the notes for Lightly Row, and is playing the first phrase slowly with me reminding him which notes.

Oh, our practices are longer, and more effective too.   Another post coming on that.

And, I plan to change this blog to include our homeschooling....

[I have since added (and dated the appropriate dates) stuff I had written in other places....]

Friday, April 24, 2009

3rd Lesson with Mrs. J

We just had the 3rd lesson with Mrs. J (who has been his group teacher this whole year....) - and Delta is now playing (slowly) all the twinkles except Var. B ("Down bow and Up bow   and", or "Mommy - and Daddy - and").... and has started work on it.  Although this is probably a mommy's pride here, he CAN play them very well (he doesn't always choose to though....).   Mrs. J is gently correcting his technique, but uses a different method of correction than Miss A did - which seems to be making a difference.   The main thing is that Delta is willing to work with her.   

The overall difference in Delta is amazing.   Along with the changes I made in our practices (which turned out to be great - as the changes ended up matching more with what we needed to do with the new teacher) - he seems a lot happier.   He isn't always happy to do the whole practice - but he knows what is expected, and will do it without the complaining and whining that we had last year, and early this year.   When I practice (a few songs ahead of him), he will often choose to play along on open strings - and astonished me the other day by playing the A major scale with me WITH FINGERS with notes right on....  and I was playing it fast (well, very fast for him - pretty fast for me - Step-by-step CD track 43 or 44....)....   He has a couple of times picked up the violin just to play (and plays one of the twinkles, instead of just "noise").... and one day when I was wasn't feeling well, and was starting the day with a shower, he told me that he would practice while I showered (and although he didn't do everything he is supposed to practice  he did play a few of the things - and hey, it was self-directed.... so I wasn't complaining!)

I am just so thrilled with the difference!   I know that there will be more struggles and hard times at some point - but the last year and a half had been SO hard, and so different from the happy experience that gets painted about doing suzuki that if I wasn't so convinced about it, and so determined, and had a husband who was supportive even though he thought I was crazy.... I would have ended up quiting, I'm sure of it.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Step by Step

I bought the Step by Step books (1A and 1B) with the CD's - and I have to say that I am amazed.

I printed out the practice chart, and figured out what would be appropriate things for review pieces for Delta (who is playing "monkey song", and CAN play twinkle variation A, but strongly resists it, and hasn't been officially taught it from Miss A - but has been taught it in group class - and she said he can practice it...)

Now, I must say that first off it is only day 2 of using the books - so it is probably just the novelty (but if it can bring in a good new habit of happy practice).   Delta's practice has gotten a lot better for these 2 days.  Instead of practice being play the monkey song, and maybe play twinkle, and possibly 1 "review" item....   often (but not always) through coaxing or games.  (some days happy - a lot not).

Anyway, the last 2 days, he has played Var A on E, on A, on E & A, 3 fingers (1/2 of monkey song), on E and 1, on E and 3 fingers on A.  Almost all done happily.  And today he did the "star section" (or bread) of Twinkle.

He loves playing with the CD, and I love that his playing seems to have gotten even better with the CD, and I love that the practice is a lot more business like (no time wasted on picking cards or rolling dice, etc...) - and hope it will help with his problems in his lessons.

And update on teacher situation - we have a trial lesson with my son's group teacher (Mrs. J) later this week.  This week and last week have been spring break, so no lessons.   If the lesson goes good with Mrs. J, we will probably switch.  The one other teacher that has an opening is over an hour away, so I don't think we will try it.   If the trial lesson ends up similar to Miss A's (with Delta not co-operating) , we won't switch.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pick a new teacher

So my son's teacher and I have decided to have him have a trial lesson or two with another teacher, to see if that ends up helping the problems he is having in his lessons.    Thanks for everyones help and advice - it was well appreciated - and I'm going to be reading them over again a couple of times because there was a lot of good info.

So, my son's teacher (who is the head of the suzuki program in our city), has given me 2 teachers names that have room for me to contact.  1 is my son's group teacher, which may be a good choice, except her other job means that we will have to be flexible with scheduling - which I'm not sure is the best situation for my son - but may be offset by him being familiar with her.   I also know that her own son had given her similar problems.

I don't know the other teacher.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Another lesson

Hm - well Delta didn't do anything at all today in class....  I am so frustrated.

Miss A had said that she had done some research, and was going to try some more stuff with him - so would try a few more lessons - but not sure if she feels the same after today.   

She really doesn't think moving to another teacher will help, but still recommends a long break.....   I am just so tired and frustrated on this by now, and I just don't know what to do anymore.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Goals of our practice

Right now, my main goal for practices are:

1) practice everyday - preferably something involving actually playing the violin, although I have done a few where we mainly sang the "twinkle notes" (aaeef#e...), or "twinkle sandwich" (aaee11e), or the one to the boil 'm cabbage that the group class works on....  

2) try to keep things enjoyable. - play one of our games (snakes and ladders, fishing, giving a concert to stuffies, play together, or just play a few things - generally his choice.)  

3) try not to correct very much - and always try to give a specific compliment.  (and compliment first, if making a change.)  I try to explain why the change would make a difference to the sound (if I know why....)

4) when he is going to play something, suggest something to concentrate on.  (let's see if you can keep the bow on the highway..... - hm, this sounds worse than I think it really sounds - may have to listen to myself to see if it is coming off negative sounding.....)

5) If I'm playing with him - let him be the teacher - he loves that.... and I will purposely make a mistake so he can correct me....

6) try to end always positive.

I think this is the main things I'm doing.....  or trying to do.   It is from stuff I've read, suggestions from my husband, and from what I've seen works best for my son.

His practices have gone a LOT better since I've tried to do these things.

I have considered bribing him - especially for the lessons - but I'm worried about setting up that precedent, as we are going to be homeschooling too, and his sister is watching what is going on - I am really trying to avoid it.  But I do have to admit that it is a currency that kids understand.

Answer to a Question

I've been asked for more information.....
[originally an email on a suzuki group]

Ok, I'll see if I can explain it well.   This is mostly in the individual class, although there has been a bit of it the last 2 weeks in group class, and there used to be more in our practices.

On the day that it is individual class, once Delta realizes it is day for violin class, he will get upset and have a little mini-tantrum.  (jump up and down a few times whining.) - when it is time to go, he will say stuff like "I don't want to go to Miss A's", but will get ready.  When we get there, he may or may not try to avoid getting out of the car.   We go into the class, and he is polite to the teacher, says hello and everything, and gets ready.

The class will vary a bit on various factors - stuff like how he is feeling, and a bit on what he is being asked to do.  Usually (unless he is having a bad day over-all) - it starts out pretty good, and he is co-operative.  Very occasionally, he will make it for most of the lesson (30 minutes) before he "acts up" - which I figure on those occasions it is just that he has reached his limits.   But if something happens that he doesn't like, he will sort of shut down.  He might start by saying his legs are tired, or his arm is tired.  Or he might just pretty much lie down on the floor and ignore the teacher - or may start sort-of drawing on the carpet with his fingers ignoring the teacher.   Basically it comes down to ignoring the teacher.   Or if the teacher is trying to fix his technique, he may just continue to do it his way, maybe shaking her hand off of his shoulder or hand or whatever.

Things that he might not like that can cause this - if playing a game such as snakes & ladders with violin things to do on them --- getting a square that he doesn't like  (either it has a snake, or has a violin activity he doesn't like.)  - same type of thing with the fishing game - getting a card he doesn't like.  The teacher trying to get him to do something differently from the way he is doing it.  Being asked to do something he considers "too hard" (mostly playing with doing fingers instead of open E - although he is slowly betting better at that.)

The teacher generally would end up ending the lesson - which I guess worked with other students she has had after a few times.   But my son just seems relieved.  The last few weeks the teacher has been just using the games instead of trying to teach, just trying to make the lessons a happier experience, and then his last lesson, she tried to gently correct technique, but backed off when he showed signs of resistance - and after that lesson is when she said that she still thought a long break was the best option (but that she would talk to his group teacher to see if she had room to take him, as I've indicated I would prefer trying a different teacher instead of a break.)

For his group lesson, he had been participating happily, doing everything for a whole hour class (which was basically playing the violin for the vast majority of the time) until 2 weeks ago.   2 weeks ago a few things happened.   We had gone to observe a class of another student with his indiv. teacher that day (only day with boys about his age, just a bit ahead of him, that wouldn't get distracted by him) - it happened to be his dad's birthday - and the group teacher started "teaching" all the students to play twinkles using the fingers instead of open E.  (It is an early book 1 class with beginners to kids that are a few pieces into book 1 - but most of them are pretty close to my son's level at this point.)   I think the combo of all of those was just too much for my son, and he spent a lot of that class spinning around on the floor, with me holding his violin and bow so he didn't knock it.   Last class was a lot better, but anything they were asked to use fingers, my son sat on the floor.

What my son has been telling me is basically that "I might play it wrong", or "I might make a mistake".   So it appears to me that I have a boy that has the type of perfectionism that paralyzes him.  He doesn't want to do something until he knows he can do it - which makes it hard to teach him anything new.  I have personally experienced that type of perfectionism, and I know how hard it can be.  I am fairly sure that his stomach gets all tied into knots before class. His teacher is aware of this too.   I talk to him, and I've asked him what he thinks will happen if he plays it wrong - but he can't verbalize what he is worried about.... and I've told him that I'm not worried about him doing it wrong, that I just want him to try - and that this is how you learn, etc.    His teacher is very strong on technique, and seems to require a pretty strong technique before advancing - which I think may be making the perfectionistic tendancies of my son worse - and I think originally made him a bit bored because he wanted to play the violin.  (He was on a box violin for about 3 and a half months - then couldn't play on the violin for a couple more months... etc.)

As for the power struggle - I think he is just struggling to get the lesson over, and to get out of having to have lessons with the teacher.  I'm not sure that he would necessarily be able to verbalize that - but he is basically struggling to play the violin the way he wants to.

I realize that his teacher may have a different viewpoint on things.  Because he is so resistant to any correction on technique, she feels that switching teachers won't help, as any teacher would have to do at least some corrections.  All I know is that there is the student-teacher-parent triangle.  I can't change the student, and I can't change the parent except for changing how I do things.....  and he seems to do things better for me than for the teacher.  So what else does that leave me?

My son was one of those kids that wanted to play the violin on his own idea.  When he was 3 (almost 4), we went into a music store, walked by a lot of instruments - he saw a violin and said it was his violin.  I told him it wasn't, and he suggested it was his "present violin".    He loves music, and really loved the violin.   Of course he wouldn't realize the process to learn to play - but he does still have moments when the love of it comes through still.  I don't want that love totally doused.   He loves to play to visitors to our house, or sometimes for his dad.  He isn't always happy to practice, but they have been going a lot better.

Just one up note here - last night during practice, my son chose to play Twinkle var. A - WITH FINGERS - totally on his own choice.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Power Struggle?

I guess I have a few worries about taking a break....  A part of this has had a power-struggle feel... and I don't want Delta to decide that he can get out of something by acting-up.  And he is bright-enough to figure that out.   I feel that a 6 month break is a waste of time.   Also, he has been working hard on practicing every day, so that he can get his 100 practices in 100 days trophy at the spring concert - and that will not happen if we are out of the program.   And his Echo will be starting in September.

I suggested to the teacher her teaching me again, and him watching, and she has said no to that...  and the program here doesn't do joint classes...    

I know that sometimes a break can make a difference, but I really don't think it will - as things didn't improve for long after the summer break - and I don't "buy" that a 5 year old needs to mature more with a program that a 2 or 3 year old can do.

I just don't see Dr. Suzuki having ever said that this child can't do it now, come back in 7 or 8 months.

Not Giving UP

I don't plan to give up, although if I didn't have a strong belief in the benefits of music, and the suzuki program, I probably would by now.   It has been very difficult going, and certainly not the little ideal dream story of suzuki that you hear of.  My sister did suzuki (she was older than me) - but it seems that no one in the family really remembers what the early years were like....   at some point she would cry all through practices, but I believe it was after she left the suzuki program to learn under a teacher that only taught child prodigy's.

Miss A is supposed to be one of the best around, and seems to have very good technique - but I have wondered at times if she is so "strict" with the technique that some of the kids miss out on the fun of it....   I know there is another mom whose boy is in his first year that is starting to wonder if they have the right teacher.    If I KNEW that another teacher would be a better match for my son, then I would feel better about trying a different one....  yet at the same time, I am going to feel bad that we didn't switch teachers earlier (like this summer) if he suddenly blossoms under another teacher.  

I sure hope that we will be able to setup lessons with his group teacher.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Teacher has given up!

Well, the other day was the first day of 2 of trying to do some light correction - and she has given up.   We have one more lesson, but she thinks we should quit until September and start again hoping that he is "more mature".   I have a hard time seeing how a 5 year old could be less mature than a 2 or 3 year old!  She has made me feel like a failure.

She is also the head of the program here.

She doesn't think that another teacher would be any better with him, as he will require some correction with anyone.  And she said basically that if we wanted to try another teacher, that she would only consider placing him with the teachers with a lot of experience.....  And this week, she said that she would only consider his group teacher (so that there would be the familiarity as well) - and that she wasn't sure the group teacher had any room.    I talked very briefly to the group teacher and she generally keeps her studio list small because she is a nurse - so the time of teaching may vary from week to week.   However, I know from talking to her in the past that she has worked with "strong-willed" students before, as her own son was strong-willed - so although the changing time might be a big pain (and hard on my son, who a steady routine would probably be better) - I think it may go better.

I just am so frustrated.  I'm trying hard to be happy and supportive where- ever my son is in the process.... but I feel like either I failed, which makes me feel bad, or our teacher has failed, which makes me very upset because maybe we would have been further on the road if I had switched teachers last year (or over the summer, like I considered - or heck, even last month.....)    

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Have a plan

I've talked to Delta's group teacher (Mrs. J) this morning, and his main teacher (Miss A) this afternoon, and we have a bit of a plan worked out.  

Miss A says that she hasn't experienced a pupil quite like Delta in all her years of teaching - that although she has had students that have done similar things, that he isn't reacting the same with her methods to bring him out of it.  She has admitted that the next few weeks are going to be basically an experiment.  

Delta does love to play the violin, and does often (but not always) have a good practice with me.  But we are stuck in one spot, as Miss A can not teach him anything new.   Basically, Delta doesn't like being corrected at all with technique - and will resist it.  From the bit of talking with him, from what I can get out of him (he doesn't express feelings that well) - he is nervous, and scared of making mistakes - especially with his teacher.    Even in practice with me, I have found that I have to be very careful of how I help him with his technique, and I am working very hard to make sure I always find something good to praise.

I brought up getting a new teacher, but Miss A doesn't think that a new teacher would make a big difference....  he is resistant to correction by me as well as her - and a different  teacher would need to be fixing his technique too.  She said that that is something she has thought out.  However, it may still be a route to take.

So her plan is - the next 2 weeks, she is going to play the games that she uses with him (snakes and ladders, fishing, etc) - and just let him play the violin without her trying to fix any technique or anything.  Just make the lesson fun for him, with no reason for anxiety. She is hoping that this will help break the pattern that his lessons are taking.  The 3rd week, she is going to try to start working with him to improve his technique as gently as possible.  By that point, she feels that she will know if this will end up helping or not.  During that time, we are going to try to observe a couple of lessons with another student.  (She has selected 2 students who are boys near him in age.... and they were both in his group class last year, so he will know them and should be comfortable with them....) - just so that he can see various things - that the other students get corrected with their techniques too, that a class can go well, etc....

If after the 3rd week there isn't any improvement, the week after that is a spring break week.  Her recommendation is at that point to quit until September - but with talking to me on it - at that point we will try a different teacher.  So she (as head of the program here), is going to check which teachers have room.  It is a pretty booked program here, so we will have to see what is available.  She is also hoping to find room for him (if it is found to be necessary) with one of the teachers that has a fair amount of experience.

I honestly think that the poor guy really wants to play the violin so much (he wanted to play violin before I had ever mentioned it as a possibility....) and he wants to do it well - that he puts so much pressure on himself that he gets himself all tied up in knots inside almost paralysing him - so he does dodging tactics until the lesson is over and he can breathe a sigh of relief that the lesson is done.  

Monday, February 16, 2009

The "Practice" Lesson

So we had the "practice"  lesson with the teacher, where she watched me conduct a practice with Delta, who often refuses to do anything in class.  Although it wasn't our smoothest practice, he did do a lot of things, some of which he hasn't done for the teacher in months.   She is going to be calling soon to discuss it more. We had to quit the practice before Delta wanted to because the time was up for the lesson - and the teacher wanted to say a few words - and Delta just went right into the refusal behaviour - refusing to look at her, spinning around, etc.

So - what she said basically is that he has 3 more lessons before the spring break - and that if he isn't showing that he can listen to her and wants to learn, that we should take a break until September.

This really has me upset.  Yes, I can see where she is coming from - but I don't think that that will help at all.  My son is trying for the 100 days of practice in a row award that is given at the end of the year...... so that would be wrecked.  He will be stuck where he is for another 7 months???     To me it is like saying "Every child can learn - oh, except yours......."   I mean, I know that isn't what she is saying, but that is sure what it feels like.    

I'd think maybe it is more an indication that my son needs a different teacher.....  but his teacher is the director of the suzuki program in our city - so I'm not sure that that would even be an option.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Teacher Baffled

Delta is mostly doing practices well recently (but not always) - using a variety approach.  His group lessons seem to go pretty good with him doing what he is supposed to.  But individual lessons are NOT going well, so he isn't getting taught anything new at all, and has been stuck at the same point pretty much all year.   His instructor is supposed to be one of the best ones available (I have heard this from a few sources.)

Anyway, his instructor called, as it was obvious we needed to talk without any listening ears.  She is having us try to do a practice for the lesson next week....  so basically, she is going to sit back and say nothing, and I'm going to try to have Delta do a practice at her place while she observes.  She basically told me on the phone that she is baffled.  Although she has had other students in the past do similar things (refusing to do the lesson, etc) - that the techniques that she uses to get past that just isn't working for my son.  So as the practices are going better most of the time than the lesson, she is hoping to figure out a way to get the lessons moving smoother.  

Hopefully he will co-operate with me during the practice - we had one of our best practices in a long time yesterday, and I'm hoping that the one for the teacher might go as well....    I'm really hoping we can get a breakthrough happening.   That is where we are at.  I am really hoping that we can get him to doing Twinkles before the end of the year, because 2 years of being a pre-twinkler is really hard on us - and it may make it really hard to convince my husband that it is worth the money for next year! 

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Feeling a bit Better

 I have been feeling a bit better.
First, although Delta has been behaving pretty well at group lessons - I wouldn't say he was perfect or anything - he was spinning around for a while the last time...

I wasn't thinking about how much strings can hurt fingers that aren't used to it - although I'm as new to the violin as he is, I have played guitar (although I hadn't recently to getting the violin) - and my fingers are just more used to it.   But I don't think it is his fingers hurting - he says it is his arm or elbow....  and he resists even hovering the fingers over the strings.   Our teacher has asked us to focus more on doing the finger taps this week.
And yes - Delta does have perfectionist tendancies....  the type that causes refusal because of being scared of doing it wrong.  It came up last year as being a part of the problem... and I talked with him about it and that seemed to help.  I think I had read a couple of books to him as well that were on that kind of theme....  and I think that that is a lot of the problem again.  Today in practice we were playing on our Snakes and Ladders board, and he landed on a square requiring fingerings... and was bouncing around not doing it....  and acting scared....  I asked him what he was scared of, and he said he was scared that he would do it wrong.  So that reminded me of that tendancy in him.   I did get him calmed down, that it is ok to make mistakes because that is how we learn - that we just do our best...    So - any hope that this type of perfectionism ever turns into the practice a million times type of perfectionism????  LOL
Echo (just barely 3) has been unofficially doing violin with us since the beginning too - because she insists on a practice after her big brother has one.  Naturally I have been going very very very slowly, but she is doing well up to where I have taught her.  (I know - I'll probably have a teacher upset with me when she starts officially).
It just seems to me that all the official books paint this lovely little picture of the suzuki program - how practice is fun and not drudgery, and maybe for a lot of kids it is.... but it is frustrating when you are trying so hard to make practice happen and be fun when the child is refusing.... etc.   And as much as I try to enjoy the spot where we are, it is hard watching his original classmates all leave him behind and the new beginners catch up.  It is hard needing the 500 repetitions, and not the 50 or the 5......
[email to a suzuki group]

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


At times, I feel like of the other suzuki parents around in our program, that I have had the hardest time and gotten the least results.  I know that it is supposed to be about enjoying the moment, and being gentle and loving - but it gets very frustrating when Delta just refuses to do anything at a lesson, or does a refusal at practice.   All the kids in the group he was in last year are a lot further along.... and the beginners that started in September are pretty much where Delta is now.  I am so frustrated.  Things have actually been improving since about Christmas time - and actually in the group that he is in now, he is mostly behaving better and is playing as well as the couple of kids that are further (except he mostly isn't doing fingers....)
So - just where is he?   Delta still isn't playing Twinkles at all with fingers.  He is playing the 4 note scale (it is called The Monkey Song here....) - but has been doing that since June.    But he fusses and complains anytime he is to use fingers, and sometimes totally refuses.   My dh doesn't say anything in front of Delta, but he is getting upset that Delta isn't playing anything yet - doing suzuki is my idea, and is really hard on our budget.
[was an email to a suzuki group]