Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Are you a planner?

When I was in high school, I had a math teacher who's appearance was quite unkempt. A mop of curly black hair which never seemed to be combed and a long mustache hanging over his top lip. And his shirts were always clean but noticeably never ironed.  I suppose this the main reason so many students used to complain when they found out he was to be teaching us .. for four consecutive years in my case.

Yet this teacher was clever and used to come up with the most interesting conversations in class. He'd prompt us to ask the 'what if.. ' questions on all sorts of topics, whether current affairs, morals, or something he'd read recently. He'd write up a 'thought of the day' on the board and ask us to think about it.

I did used to think about those things. To this day I can still envisage a quote he put up on the board one morning early in the school year:

At the time I had no idea that the quote was from Benjamin Franklin.  I just knew it was a truth. It meant the big things and the little things. It meant knowing what I wanted to achieve, which can be a vast mass of possibilities, and all the landmarks along the way. It also meant the mundane, regular plodding through rather than just jumping to the first goalpost.

So, that night was when I first started planning out my time.  I didn't think about the big end-goal because all I wanted then (I think I was only 14 years old) was to get good grades in school.  So, with my regular school diary, I went to my timetable page and did the 'Catherine' thing of colour-coding in all of my subjects.  Then I made up a homework timetable too.  I figured that if I had just done that subject at school that day, I'd spend 15 minutes reviewing my notes and doing some of my assigned homework. If I didn't have a particular subject that day but was having it tomorrow, I'd allot a little time for that too and make sure any assignments due were completed.  Of course, there was leniency in the timeframe as I started using this method, because there were many times when I'd managed to complete my homework and didn't need to have it scheduled more than a few days.

It all looked good on paper, and I showed my teacher what I'd done when I next saw him for my math lesson. He seemed suitably impressed. But I hadn't put the plan into action yet. That was the next step.  

Since it was the start of a new school year, one of the first assignments we were given in Biology was to read a HUGE chapter on classification.  I didn't want to do it. The book reading was dry. However, you know when you make a promise to yourself and you really want to see if you can do this 'thing' you've started?  Well, that meant I had to commit, so I set myself up and started reading.  I remember constantly looking at the clock (no such thing as a digital timer, just my regular alarm clock on my desk).  One page, two pages, three pages ... are those 15 minutes up yet? No, four pages.  Okay, done! Write a quick summary and leave it.   Move on to a new subject; and so it went.  I ended up finishing reading that chapter over 3 days and I remember feeling so glad I didn't leave it and try to struggle through it all in one sitting the day before my next class.

Once this habit started taking hold, the routine became quite enjoyable.  School finished and I'd ride my bike home.  Secondary school finished earlier for me than the Primary school, so I'd be home before my younger siblings.  Then first thing, as soon as I'd come into the house, I'd sit to practice the piano.  This was my 'down time' because it was something I enjoyed so much.  It was also best done first thing, because it was quiet and after that everyone else wanted their turn to practice too.   Time for a break, chat with the family or do something outside, then I'd start my homework routine from 4:30pm.

I'm so glad I started this habit as it got me through high school and into my adult life. To this day I still have a planner to map out my days and weeks. 

But what does this have to do with music teaching?  Well, students are trying to learn a new skill.  New skills develop with patterns of behaviour.  And as a teacher, I need to a roadmap of how a student should be building up their skills: introducing a concept, reinforcing it, using it to create something else.  There is a sequence to learning (which I'll elaborate on in future posts), and we want to build achievements to motivate further learning.

I encourage my students to make AT LEAST a 10 minute block of time when they will do some concentrated practice on the piano.  Make it part of a routine by pairing it with another already formed habit. For example, once you've had dinner, practice for 10 minutes before watching TV.  Starting this routine will not be easy, but once you've been at it for a while, you should notice some significant successes, which is only motivation to keep going.

So I encourage you to remember Benjamin Franklin's words above and share this quote around a little.  There may be a few ears ready to listen and think about it, and who knows where that may lead?

(Thank you Mr Charles for your inspiration).


Friday, September 24, 2021

Music Teaching

There's nothing like learning to adapt VERY quickly in adversity, is there?  With the onset of COVID-19 and the lockdown restrictions enforced in March 2020, it was time to learn how to manage more technology than I had thought I'd ever need to master.

Yes, I'm still here! Music and teaching are still my passions. I'm so grateful that in today's challenging times, many of my students have continued online piano lessons. They have certainly given me much encouragement, for which I'm truly grateful.

If you've followed along with my past entries, you know that I was very much homeschool focused. My children are now both in their 20s, and while we're still sharing a lot of natural learning whilst we're in the same house, the time is just around the corner when they'll be leaving the nest.  My older posts will always be here as a reminder of those younger years when our lives were a different type of busy.

Those years where I haven't been posting here in blogging land ... well, I've been over on Facebook! So have a peruse over there if you are curious. 

What can you expect to see changing as I get this blog going again? Well, I will be sharing ideas I use in my teaching still. If you are a homeschooling parent or music teacher, these may be ideas you can use.  Included here will also be resources I find very useful, whether the learning is happening online or not.  

Over time I will update the sidebar to reflect more music focused resources. These will include some affiliate links to help me with the running of this blog.

So, until next time, have a safe week everyone!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Who's horsing around?

One of Mariposa's main interests has really taken off since late last year: equine studies.  

We've had the privilege of meeting a horse breeder who lives not too far away. As often as can be organised (usually a couple of times a week) Mariposa heads out there to help feed the horses and exercise them in preparation for endurance races.

She's also been in training to compete as a rider, until she went and fell off, breaking her coccyx just after Christmas! Not fun at all!  But she's all healed up now and slowly starting back into the routine.

Today is another day helping out with feeding.

and a well deserved hot drink on such a cold morning!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

10 years ...

Well, hello again!
After 3 years of silence, I wonder who's still 'following' this blog in the hope I'll start writing again?  If you are out there, please do say hello!  I am back and will be sharing more on our family updates, with education, hobbies and other things.

It's been on the cards that Victorian homeschoolers will be reviewed by the Department of Education for some time, and we received notice that letters would be sent out to a selection of families this month.  Then, as anticipated, in the post arrived our letter .. we're one from the first group of families being reviewed!

As a means of providing evidence, as well as the pleasure of sharing how our homeschooling journey has been going, I'm firing up this blog again.  This will be exciting for me, because I know how much we've achieved in the last 3 years since I posted. So, I'll be taking this one step at a time with updates.

I'm nominating Mariposa for this review.  She is now 16 years of age.  16!!  And will be turning 17 in August.  When Maestro was this age he had already mapped out what he was wanting to do for his career and enrolled early in a tertiary course (but more about him later).  I've found it fascinating that Mariposa went through the same stages of refining her interests and following her passions at this age.

So, stay tuned. I'll be preparing to write up details over the next months.

If you're also a homeschooling family who has received a letter advising you about a Homeschooling Review, don't panic!  There's lots of information available.  Check out this post from HEN. HEN has also organised workshops for parents to attend; if you're interested please check their EVENTS page to see if one is being held near you.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Spiced blood plum jam

My singing teacher has been inspiring me to get into the kitchen.  The last couple of weeks have started with at least 10 minutes talking about our latest cooking experiments, hers involving chutneys and jams.  She graciously shared a jar of her Nelly Melba jam (peach and raspberry), so it's only fair that I return her jar refilled with something from my garden and kitchen.

I thought I'd try altering my basic plum jam recipe, using the blood plums from our tree, but adding some of our apples and spices.  Here's what I did:

600g blood plums, cleaned, stoned and chopped
400g apples (I used 3 granny smith and a golden delicious), peeled, cored and chopped
800g white sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cardamon
juice of one orange

Prepare jars and lids by sterilising in boiling water in large saucepan, then transfer to warm oven to dry and stay warm.

Slowly warm the fruit in a large saucepan with the sugar, stirring with wooden spoon until sugar is dissolved.
Add spices and orange juice.  Stir gently and allow to come to boil.  Check for setting point by dropping a spoonful onto a cool plate. When jam is cool, you should be able to draw your finger through the jam without it being too liquid .. the line your finger made should remain.  When setting point is reached, bottle into warm jam jars with a small ladle, then seal with lid immediately.

I printed off some labels from Pinterest, found HERE.

I'm quite happy with the flavour of this 'experiment', and it has a really nice consistency also.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Mapping the Roman empire

This is for me .. because I need some blank maps to use for our study on the Roman empire and I like to make lists of things all in one place where possible.

Here are some online maps I found to print off or use with Mariposa when we're online together:
Ancient Rome blank maps
Provinces of Rome .. includes a dynamic map above, showing expansion of Roman empire over time
Empire map .. Similar to above, but with less detail
Pelagios' map .. zoom in to see more detail
More resources on Ancient Rome .. maps, worksheets and video clips
David Rumsey's map of the ancient city of Rome .. Rome 1830, showing major buildings and cultural features.

The Sabine women were sobbin', sobbin', sobbin ...

If you had anything to do with my family during my late teens, you'd know how much Mum loved the film "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers". Watching the video could be rated a compulsory activity for any visitor, which means that I've lost count of how many times I've seen it too.
There's a song the brothers sing in that musical called "The Sabine Women", based on the account of the Romans capturing the Sabine women to be their wives as a clever plot thought up by Romulus. 
Mariposa has been reading up on the history of the Roman empire with "The Story of the of Romans" by Guerber and this account was recently part of her reading. After reading her written narration, I now have that song in my head (.. and it will probably be there for the rest of the day!!)

Friday, February 6, 2015

First week back 2015

The end of our first week back to our homeschooling routine has drawn to a close.

There was a lot of anticipation in the air when we began early Monday morning, with Maestro making his way, solo, into the city for his first day doing his radio course at RTI (Melbourne).  He returned home that evening happy, although a little weary from travel.  The lectures are just as he'd hoped, with their first minor assessment on interviewing done on Tuesday.  So long as he's learning and enjoying a challenge, we're happy for him.  He's already been looking ahead and preparing his notes for next week.

Our routine at home has been somewhat relaxed, especially on the days when Maestro is away studying at his course.  Mariposa and I have enjoyed sitting and discussing, and getting out to do some gardening.  Our plan is to work on the books mostly in the mornings, finishing by 2pm at the latest.  Except for Wednesday, that's been working well so far.

And what are we using for curriculum?  Well, Mariposa is now 13.  We've completed Sonlight through to Eastern Hemisphere, so if we follow that schedule we'd be doing World History again. But there's a twist ... I'm following ideas from Ambleside Online also.  Ambleside Online offer a curriculum outline for free, with books carefully selected to follow the methods of Charlotte Mason.  Where possible, books are available to view online for free.  I'm attracted to what's on offer here because of Mariposa's creative style of learning. The quantity of books are fewer, lessons shorter but still extending thought with the application of constant review, and subjects such as handwriting, grammar and writing composition are still kept in context rather than isolated for their own sake.

So, we're beginning ancient world history, using the final term of AO6 as our reading guide.  This means we have as our spine this term Augustus Caesar's World by Foster (also as per Sonlight 6) and Story of the Romans by Guerber.

Using notebooks for copywork and narrations through all the subjects isn't completely new to us, but now we'll being doing this daily.  We've started off by copying out a couple of poems and a few lines of Shakespeare, then narrations about our history and science readings.  A new nature journal is also taking shape as little treasures are brought back home after a walk around the neighbourhood.

There are some other elements I haven't formally introduced to our routine yet, such as a composer study.  I do have Mendelssohn in mind, especially as we've begun looking at Midsummer Night's Dream. My library will come to my aid in finding more information on him over the next week, I hope, as I've found my written material on him here is limited.

My goal for next week is to have sampled together a better outline of what our week looks like and then make up a better schedule which I can share.  At the moment, it's printed lists from Ambleside Online and pencilled notes I'm taking as we go.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Redecorating progress

Mariposa's been very busy, and I'm so proud of her efforts.  I know it's probably a little surprising that we're letting our 13 yr old daughter take charge of decorating her room.  Children could choose anything at that age, right?  Well, she had to present her plans to us for approval first. We haven't just let her jump in and "do what she wants".  Let me tell you how it all came about.

Her legs have been growing and she needed a new bed.  It was either going to be a king single or double. As I'm want to do, I scrounge ebay and op-shops for bargains over the course of several weeks or months (we'd done the same for Maestro a couple of years back).  Then, bingo!, someone was selling a double ensemble for $100.  It only needed a new top mattress, which we could happily deal with.  The ensemble is pine, and showing wear with scratches and some chipped board inside the drawers .. but totally fixable.  So, in August last year, we had the start of Mariposa's new-look bedroom.

She selected a colour accent (lavender) we said she could use for one feature wall, and took the paint swatches she'd selected with us to buy the bedding. Sheet sets were easy to find. Bedspread covers .. that took a bit longer because she wanted to stick to her butterfly theme as well as colour scheme.  You can see here what she decided to save up for:

A jigsaw puzzle also now completed, waiting to be framed. She was patiently working on this for a few weeks, waiting for the time when we'd unleash her on the paint.    There was a piece missing, so I made one with some card and watercolour pencils.  Can you spot it? (hint .. left side of a tree trunk)

Last week, she slowly took on the job of sanding the bedhead and side tables, then painting them up. An antique white in semi gloss works well, complimenting the lavender and not being too white to clash with the other cream walls.  She chose to replace the drawer handles for these cute antique looking ring pulls (with some help from Papa because of the new screws not being the right length).

She still has the dresser to work on, which will probably take another week.  I quite like her maturing taste and willingness to work on some restoration and decorating skills.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Encouragement into a new year - Charlotte Mason Companion

How are you finding your motivation to start another year of homeschooling your children?  Having time to catch up with family during holidays, or giving the home some renovation attention, is time well spent and a refreshing change from the regular routine. I still needed to have something to ponder during the day, so I decided to pull some books off the shelf and begin reviewing again.

A new habit I'm establishing is my morning reading time.  The house is quiet; my mind is just coming into gear. Quietly I go into the kitchen to brew a cup of tea, then I sit and read for up to 30 minutes. After that, Papa is ready to enjoy breakfast with me before heading to work and I start the daily routine with the children.  I'm really amazed at how the whole tone of my day has picked up again since starting this. That little bit of 'brain exercise' first thing has helped the conversation time flow from the outset.

So, what am I reading?  I have two books on the go at the moment: Devotions from Genesis and Charlotte Mason Companion. The latter I have read a couple of times before, but I wanted to review it again as I know my children's learning greatly benefits from this gentle style of teaching, indeed, of parenting.

Karen has truly embraced a warm style of writing, sharing encouraging words with gentleness and wisdom. Through her work, here, she's teaching me about her application of motherhood.

During my first reading of this book, I remember feeling very humbled. Here was another layer of learning I needed to take on. My children were young and there were times of boundary pushing, along with questioning and curiosity. While I knew this was coming, experiencing this was quite another matter, because a parent isn't always as well prepared with HOW one will exchange words and attitudes until confronted with the issue. There were wonderful days, and some not-so-wonderful ones also.  We were all learning and I found the early chapters in this book very encouraging.  Now, as I'm reading through this book yet again, I'm remembering the little conversations I had with my younger children and finding I'm fascinated at how much we've all grown individually.

Still, there are other lessons which weren't taken quite so to heart earlier on. Sometimes they are of interest, but not so valid to the current situation that I didn't ponder on those words quite so much.  Here's an example for you. Mariposa has been diligently working very hard at her spelling. Her issue with reading (mild dyslexia) meant we needed to take the reading requirements down into shorter time periods.  Now at age 13, Mariposa has improved remarkably, but I found myself always worrying about her spelling.  Here's what I found in chapter 22 "The Servant Spelling":

Mother reminded herself, however, "Spelling is just a servant to higher and more important matters, so I dare not worry over it, only tailor it more to my student's specific needs." 
... If your students, age twelve and up, struggle with spelling, they are not alone.  This can be the age when teachers' faces flush to look upon a rough draft full of spelling errors.  They may think, "Surely he should be able to spell by now." The truth is that many students still have a way to go.  Spelling ability follows reading ability. For some it may follow at a greater distance, but it does follow.

Sigh of relief! It will follow.

I'm a little over half way through this book now, with notebook now nearby at the same time to jot down ideas as they come to mind. The next few weeks will start seeing our plans emerging for another adventurous year of learning.

Until next time,