Tag Archives: music lessons

The Year of the Taxi

This fall is our first venture into organized sports. We live in the country, and it takes us about 15 minutes to get to the closest grocery store, or 25 minutes if we’re going to do any other shopping. Because of this, I knew that signing one or more children up for a sports program would require quite a bit of driving. And time. And driving… and driving…and driving…

But my daughter Cassie wanted to take the plunge. She loves meeting new friends, so we signed her up for a volleyball skills session in June. Twice a week, she met with other girls to learn how to play volleyball. I figured it was a good sport to learn, as that’s the game of choice when extended family gets together. Next reunion, she’d be ready.

And she loved it!  So when the teams form and she was placed on the middle school girls’ volleyball team, it was hard to say “no.” As soon as we received the schedule, I marked everything on the calendar — times and places of practices and games. And then I wondered how I was going to juggle it all.

All four of the kids are taking music lessons of some sort now, and my oldest son is also teaching piano to some young friends. That was already four places I had to be. We also have co-op classes twice a week. Then there are the spontaneous get-togethers with friends (especially for my 10th grade son).. Still do-able, except that when the school year started, my husband began part-time work most weeknights, so he’s not available to help run anyone around.

So far (and with extra help!), we’ve made it. We share rides with some friends to/from co-op, which cuts out one trip for me. Some other friends who also have a daughter on the team have been able to give Cassie rides to some of the practices and even a couple of games that were far away.

It does get complicated, though. Monday’s are the trickiest, and I actually have to write it all down so I don’t miss anything. On a typical Monday afternoon, this is the plan:

  • 2:30 pm – Co-op classes end
  • 2:40 pm – Take Cassie and her friend to volleyball practice
  • 3:00 pm – Pick up son John and 3 friends (we carpool with them) from co-op
  • 3:10 pm – Pick up daughter Lillie from friend’s house where she went there to play after her classes were done
  • 3:30 pm – Drop off John at the home where he’s teaching piano lesson
  • 4:00 pm – Drop off John’s 3 friends, pick up son Luke who’s been playing at the friends’ house with their little brother
  • 4:15 pm  – Drop off Lillie and Luke at their grandmom’s house (next door to ours)
  • 4:30 pm – Pick up John
  • 4:45 pm – Pick up Lillie and Luke, take all home
  • 5:00 pm – Leave to pick up Cassie from friend’s home
  • 5:30 pm – Arrive home and start supper

So far, so good, though I almost forgot to pick up Lillie last week. And since we only have about a month to go until volleyball season is over, I can soon take a small break from the taxi service.

But then, John’s wants to try out for basketball….

 

Photo by K Rosseel

Last Week of Summer Break

This week is our last week of summer break. On the 15th, when the schools in our area begin their first day, we’ll start off on our first “official” day too. While I had great intentions on finishing up my lesson plans early in the season, we are now just a week away, and I still have to make those plans. I have almost all of the books we’re going to use — just not the plans to go with them.

But, I reassured myself, that’s okay — I still have this week to pull everything together.But, like many plans, mine is in need of some revisions, as it’s  turning out to be a week busy with activities.

Monday: A few necessary errands in the morning.  In the afternoon, my daughter Cassie will join a homeschool middle school volleyball team for practice, her first team sport since she was  eight years old. After I drop her off, I’ll then take my oldest son John to his first piano lesson — as the teacher! He’ll be working with two young students who haven’t played much before. Maybe I can do some planning in the evening.

Tuesday: Planning in the morning; violin lessons for the girls around noon; community service for John in the afternoon.

Wednesday: Monthly visit to the nursing home in the morning; piano lessons for John and Luke in the afternoon; Lesson planning?

Thursday: Meeting with friends in the morning – afternoon at a state park to swim and picnic; Lesson planning…?

Friday: Last opportunity to use our tickets from the library reading program for a local water park. The park is about an hour away, so we want to make a day of it. Hmmm….lesson planning…

I have to admit, I am not a homeschooling mom who has it all together. As I look at this schedule, I’m really glad to have at least some time on Monday and Tuesday to put our first few weeks of school in writing.

But while homeschooling works well for those who are organized, structured, and totally prepared, it also works well for those of us who aren’t.  Even if I don’t have the whole year planned, I can still mix my teaching style with my children’s learning styles and create an educational atmosphere where they continue to grow. And isn’t that one of the reasons we homeschool in the first place?

 

Photo by mensatic

Music Lessons Again — This Time, It’s Personal

When I first began homeschooling, my husband bought me the book The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jesse Wise. For a few years, I tried to follow many of the recommendations outlined in the book before I realized that’s what they were: recommendations. I then used it more as a springboard as I planned the new school year. One thing I did appreciate, though, was the authors’ view of music study. Every child, they say, should have two years of piano lessons as part of their education. I agreed, thinking this would help build self-discipline, self-esteem, and an understanding and appreciation of music.

This didn’t quite happen with my daughter Lillie, though. As I’ve written before, she’s struggled with the lessons and practicing, not because she couldn’t do it, but because she didn’t want to put forth the effort. In order to have a good practice week, I would have to sit down with her every time she practiced and make sure she did it — as she fussed and whined and told me I didn’t know what I was talking about (I don’t play the piano, but I did study music from middle school through college). I was unsure if I should let her quit or make it stick with it until I saw some positive changes in her attitude. I let her quit at the end of the school year.

Then, this summer, a new opportunity came along. Both of my girls were given the chance to take violin lessons from my sister-in-law who moved nearby. Lillie was very excited — and I was surprised. It would be a year’s commitment, I told her, but she agreed. We started the lessons three weeks ago.

Because they are beginners, I’ve been sitting in on the girls’ lessons and helping them as they practice. The first week of practice went well. When we began the second week of practice, though, Lillie began complaining the chin rest was uncomfortable. She spent much of the practice time fussing about it, but when we went for the next lesson, she didn’t mention it to my sister-in-law at all.

This week of practice has brought out more of Lillie’s woes: the chin rest was still uncomfortable, her fingers couldn’t reach the right strings, she was tired of standing, and on and on. I finally asked her why she didn’t tell her aunt about all these problems; after all, her aunt was the one who would know what to do about them. “It never happens at her house,” Lillie told me.

Exasperated, I finally laid down the law. “No more grumbling in this house,” I told her. “If you have a problem with your violin, you can’t tell me anymore. You have to tell your aunt.” Suddenly, the complaining stopped.

I know Lillie wants to please her aunt; after all, she’s not just a music teacher Lillie sees once a week, but she’s the aunt who lives close by and has a pool in her backyard and invites us over for cookouts and looks through Lillie’s whole collection of silly bands. I’m sure that this time, Lillie will learn a lot more than music notes. 🙂

Photo by earl53

Piano Lessons

keysWhen my oldest son John (now 13) was small, my husband purchased the book The Well-Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer. Although John was just starting his schooling years, I read through the book, and I really liked what I read. Since then, I’ve implemented some of the ideas the authors suggest. One of those ideas was to have every child complete at least two years of piano study.

We’ve done this with several goals in mind. One is that they learn to read music and understand what it means to play an instrument. Research shows that learning music  often helps students do better with math, so that was another benefit. I also wanted them to learn the self-discipline that would be required for practicing.

So far, three of my children have taken piano lessons. Here’s how it’s gone:

John started when he was only five, took a couple of years off, then started again. He does well with it, and though at times he wants to quit, I tell him he’s too far along to quit now. So, he’ll probably be working at it until he graduates.

Cassie took lessons for two years, then wanted to quit. There was a lot of sibling competition going on,  as she often compared herself to her brother who was both older and more experienced. She has since taken up the flute and is doing well with it. She now even wants to add piano back in again.

Lillie was very enthusiastic at first, but her enthusiasm quickly waned as she, too, began comparing herself to John. She has wanted to quit for quite some time, but I told her she had to finish two years. She did, though they were not a good two years of practice — more often that not she would try to get out of playing, and instead of learning self-discipline, she experienced Mom’s discipline. So, I added on one more year, hoping to end her piano career on a higher note (no pun intended).

Then…I talked with my older brother, an accomplished musician. And he gave me more to think about…

Every child, he said, should learn to play the piano. Of all the instruments, it’s the one that people who don’t make music a career tend to continue playing on into adulthood. It’s a skill you can always use, no matter what your occupation. You can play it at church, for holiday gatherings, for family sing-a-longs. You can play as your children dance around the room, or you can play for a friend’s wedding.

Besides, he continued, you never hear anyone say, “I wish I hadn’t learned to play the piano,” but you often hear people say, “I wish I had stuck with it.”

So now, I’m rethinking their piano lessons. Perhaps Lillie will have to continue on with them and keep practicing. And when she complains, I’ll tell her she can blame it on her uncle.

Time with Friends

DSC_9545For the last couple of years, my children have done quite a few extracurricular activities: P.E. class once or twice a week, a literature class once a month, FCA club meeting twice a month, scouts, music lessons, art classes, and holiday parties. We saw the same friends sometimes two or three times a week, and they enjoyed being together. This year, though, that group has gone in many different directions, and we haven’t seen some of those friends since school started back.

I’m not worried about my children’s socialization — they’ve been meeting new people this year as they’ve attended co-op classes. We still have some friends over to our house once a week for art lessons, and that’s a lot of fun. But as the saying goes, old friends are like gold, and I don’t want my children to lose touch with the friends they’ve spent so much time with in the past.

So today, I made the 30-minute trip back to our old P.E. class. The P.E. class was re-arranged this year so younger children play games during the first hour while older students play during the second hour. My oldest, John, was the one who wanted to participate the most, so we went for the second hour.

And it was really good. The girls, Luke, and I went to a friend’s house who lives nearby; her girls and younger sons weren’t doing P.E. that hour, so all of them had a great time playing together inside. Another friend whose older sons were also in PE stopped by with her daughter, and it turned out to be a very relaxing visit. And John had the opportunity to play soccer with friends he hadn’t seen in a while either.

On the way home, I asked them if the trip was worth it. A resounding “YES!” went up from everyone else in the car. We won’t be able to go every week, but when we can, we’ll make the effort to get there. It’s an investment of a little more time and a little more gasoline, but I’m sure it will have a big return as the relationships continue to grow.

Yes, Dad Can!

laundryCN_8203Since I’ve been a stay-at-home mom, most of our household chores have followed the traditional division of labor – I clean the house, fix the meals, and wash the dishes while my husband mows the yard and makes minor repairs around the home. Because he’s busy with work during our school year, most all of the homeschool responsibilities fall on me as well. I bring him in as principal when I need to, but generally, I do all the teaching. 

This past month we’ve had to change all that. I had a project commitment that was due at the end of June, and it was taking all my extra time to finish it up. Fortunately, my husband had some time off – he could take care of the things I couldn’t do. And he did! 

It’s been a good month, with a lot of quality time for Dad and the children. He took them everywhere I would have taken them – to the pool to swim, to the free summer movies, to music lessons, to friends’ homes to play. He listened to them read aloud and made sure the rest of their schoolwork was completed. He also took on one major household chore: the laundry. He washed, dried, and folded the clothes all month, enlisting the kids to help him with the process. He streamlined my system, making it easier and more efficient. 

What my husband learned: it’s fun doing things with the children, and relationships are strengthened when they spend time together. What I learned: Dad can do it!  He can help with school, run errands, and clean the house. He might even come up with better ways of doing things, making the chores easier for me when I take them over again. But now that I know, I might not take them all back. I think I’ll leave the laundry for him. 🙂

Bartering

I’ve read where many homeschoolers barter for goods or services, and I think it’s a great idea. In fact, I’m one of them!

I teach art lessons to children, and I know how costly lessons can be. Three of our children are involved in music lessons, and although the teachers have given us a very good price, the cost can add up over time. So when parents ask me if I’d like to trade, I understand, and I’m happy to oblige. The barter has always benefited both families.

At one time, I had two art students whose family raised goats. Each week, we traded art lessons for fresh organic milk, something I wouldn’t have been able to afford had I purchased it at the farmer’s market. Now I’m trading lessons for homemade organic bread. The mom who bakes it even grinds her own grain. It’s good for my family and tastes delicious, and it’s something that would be too costly for our grocery budget. It’s a wonderful trade!

I’m also trading a class for a class. One of my daughters spends a couple of hours one day a week at a nearby horse farm, where a friend who works there teaches her all about horses. My daughter feeds them, waters them, cleans the stalls, and learns about the different types of saddles, bridles, and bits. She also has opportunities to ride. In exchange, the friend’s son comes over once a week to practice his reading skills with me.

If you’re on a more limited budget and don’t have the funds for classes for your children, you might want to consider bartering, too. You can trade off household or yard help, childcare, sewing services – whatever you can offer. Don’t be afraid to ask – the worst a teacher can say is “no, thanks,” but you might just receive your “yes!”