Posts Tagged ‘Music’

Note: This is the second of a two part blog. You can find part one here.

Do start “strewing“.

I love this term. It was coined by a home schooling, or rather an un-schooling mom, as a way to identify her method of creating a rich environment for her children. Look around your home. What is there that is interesting for a child to pick up, look at, explore? Look at your children. What things are they currently interested in? What things might they potentially be interested in? What things might you put in each child’s path that might grab their attention and give them something to do or to think about? Perhaps a book from the library on how to play chess? Maybe some drawing materials and blank paper? What if you set up a small easel in the corner with some watercolors close at hand? You get the idea. Find these kinds of books and materials and just “strew” them (or strategically place them) on the end table, on the sofa…wherever your child might “stumble across it”. Casually place an interesting looking puzzle on the kitchen table after breakfast has been cleared. Better yet, start working on the puzzle and see who joins you. Purchase an inexpensive set of horseshoes, badminton, or croquet and make it available to your children. Start “strewing” and then sit back and watch…or join in! It’s really quite fun!

Do limit screen time.

Now that you’ve created a rich environment for your children, the last thing you want is for them to fall back on the old standby and spend hours with their faces glued to a screen. I know how that is. Whenever a screen is turned on in our home, there is some sort of magnetic force which automatically pulls all children within a hundred yards….sssfffffttttt…can you hear the sucking noise? Yep, there they are all with their faces glued to the screen. It doesn’t matter whose turn it is on the computer, they all have their faces glued to it. In a way, this is not all bad, at least with that many faces watching, it is less likely that the one on the computer will get into too much trouble…but still, not the best choice for too long. So we limit screen time. No TV or movies at all during the day, half an hour at the computer per child for games. If they are writing or using the computer as a tool instead of as a toy, they get more time.

Do have some read-aloud time as a family.

Do read to your children regularly. Choose great living books which are above their “level”; that is, choose books that they would consider hard to read. Read something they love. Read something YOU love…I refuse to read aloud a book that I hate. Choose something that may spark an interest or inspire them. After I read Little Britches to my children, one son spent the next weeks reading everything he could get his hands on by the author, Ralph Moody. Read about heroes…real heroes. Read classics like Where the Red Fern Grows and The Yearling or Laddie…A Little Princess, Heidi. (I’ve got to get the good books section of this blog fleshed out!) You get the idea. There are so many wonderful books to choose from. Share the magic with your children! At the dinner table each day, talk about what you have been reading. Discuss the characters. Is there someone in your life who is like a character in the book you are reading? What do you like or dislike about the characters? What do you learn from them? Which ones do you want to be like?

Do encourage lots of Summer reading.

Along with reading to your children, encourage them to read for themselves. Summer is the perfect time for hanging out in the hammock with a good book, or sitting in the backyard tree with a good book. Good books are appropriate nearly everywhere. Make a trip to the local library a regular part of your week. Let the children choose freely. Also choose for them some things you would like to encourage (for “strewing” once you get home). Get them involved with the Summer Reading Program if your library has one…or have a (not TOO structured) family Summer reading program. Keep a list on the refrigerator of suggested books. Keep another list of books your family has read and let everyone add to the list as they finish books. See how many books your family collectively reads over the Summer. I used to occasionally read just the first few chapters of a great book to my children and then leave it for them to pick up on their own if they chose.

Plan spontaneous fun.

Yeah, you read that right. I said plan for spontaneity. While you are at the grocery store, pick up some bubbles that you can bring out on an afternoon which needs a little livening up (or find a recipe online). Pick up some drawing materials or watercolors and stash them away to bring out at an opportune time. Keep your eyes peeled for interesting things which have the potential of livening up the day. This is a little like the concept of strewing, except that you keep these things tucked away and pull them out as a spontaneous surprise for your children to enjoy.

Do use music to set the tone in your home.

Once you’ve eliminated the screens and noise that comes with them from your home, you may want to sometimes replace that with music. Use music to set the mood in your home. If you want a peaceful atmosphere, play music which is conducive to that. If you want a more lively and upbeat atmosphere, then put on some music. We use lively music in our home whenever I am trying to encourage everyone to get the house tidied up. It gets everyone moving.

I love using music in my home. Often, the children do not even really notice it…and then I will hear them humming along. And while you are at it, maybe Summer is the time to get out that old guitar and dust it off, or buy an inexpensive ukulele and learn with your children how to play some simple chords.

Do set the example for them.

Children need models in their lives. If you don’t like the activities that they are choosing, perhaps you might look at how you spend your own time. Do your children regularly see you trying new things? Learning something new? Reading great literature? Spending time doing something you are passionate about? Do you share with them what you are learning and your excitement over the things you are passionate about? Maybe Summer is a great time for you to discover…or rediscover…your own interests and passions as well.

Enjoy your children.

Last but certainly not least, enjoy your children. Remember why you brought them into the world and into your family in the first place. Give them a hug as they walk by. Tousle their hair as you walk by them.  Get physical in playful ways that show them you love them and that you are glad that they are home with you. Children grow up so quickly. The hours that you get to spend with them are really quite short comparatively. Cherish each age and stage that they pass through. Look into their eyes and really see the wonderful person that is there. Treat them as the wonderful beings that they are. Don’t try to prod, poke, or manipulate them into being someone else, just love them for who they are right now. Help them to discover their own interests and passions. And then get excited about those things with them. Love never fails. Love is probably the most empowering thing in a child’s…or any person’s life. Just love them…just enjoy each moment with them.

End Note: …and if you find that these ideas work for you and you find that you really do enjoy having your children at home and by your side after all, you might consider home education this fall…just sayin’.


Read Full Post »

My 17 yr. old daughter wrote this essay as an assignment for an independent study course she is taking. I loved her message so much that I have asked for her permission to share it on my blog. Oh how great is the importance of desire in learning!

The Colors of Learning

Personal Narrative Paper

by Lydia 

I did not like reading as a child. It was a chore. My mother taught me to read and I grudgingly learned. I remember sitting at the table impatiently waiting for my reading lesson to be over so I could go outside and play. On our weekly trips to the library, my mom would try to show me all the exciting and wonderful worlds waiting for me in the books there. My sister knew about books. She would spend hours reading, leaving me with no one to play with. No matter how I begged or pestered her I couldn’t get her to leave her book. I grew to resent books; they were nothing but trouble. I was tired of being bothered by my mother and sister about how wonderful reading was and I was fed up with constantly being told how they were quite confident that one day (when I had grown up a little) I would see that they were right and I was wrong. I was not going to let that happen; I determined that I would never be caught reading a “chapter book.” Everyone would simply have to learn to accept me the way I was. They would see that I was just different from everyone else. I was going to show them that I could get along just fine without reading. And then… disaster struck.

Our home has always been filled with books and one day I happened to pick one up. It was a chapter book but it had beautiful, full page illustrations. I was looking at the pictures when I happened to read a couple sentences. I was interested and I read a couple more. Suddenly, to my horror I found myself reading. I snuck into the bathroom, locked the door, and guiltily read the whole book. After that I wanted to read, although I wasn’t quite sure how I could go about it without admitting to my mother that she had been right. I saw what I had been missing and since that day I have found countless hours of joy through reading. It was not until I had a sincere desire to read, a desire that came from me, that I began to actually benefit from reading.

Whereas my experience with reading was a sudden discovery, my experience with music was quite different. I always enjoyed music. I played the violin and I loved it. The reason I loved it was not because other people were impressed when I played or because it pleased someone else. I genuinely enjoyed music. It was beautiful and magical. I would spend hours practicing, working hard. I longed to feel my fingers fly effortlessly across the strings and to hear the music the way I envisioned it. I wanted to make music so badly it almost hurt. I didn’t always enjoy practicing, but I did because I had a vision of what I could have if I put in the effort. As I continue to work and progress I learn to appreciate the music even more and my desire to continue and my passion for the music grows.

I’ve never been alone in my education. Learning often begins by seeing the vision of others. My interest in drawing began with tracing paper. I discovered that if I put a piece of tracing paper on top of a picture and traced the lines, I could copy it with satisfying results. I collected dozens of pictures which I would then copy, carefully tracing the lines. At the time, I felt a little guilty for stealing those artists’s work. But now, I look back and realize what I learned from them. The reason I wanted to copy the pictures was because they were so beautiful. I wanted to be able to create that kind of work but I couldn’t at the time, I didn’t have the skills. So I borrowed other people’s work. I borrowed their vision and imagination and I learned from them the feeling of seeing an image come together on a piece of paper. After a while I was no longer satisfied with copying lines and I was able to move on to create artwork of my own. Experiences like these have led me to think of education as an adventure with many different things to discover and explore.

Louis L’amour is one person who has been an example to me of passionate learning; he once wrote “All education is self-education. A teacher is only a guide, to point the way, and no school, no matter how excellent, can give you an education. What you receive is like the outlines in a child’s coloring book. You must fill in the colors yourself.”

Without colors, what’s the point of a coloring book? The information is nothing without the meaning behind it. There are so many things to learn and there is so much understanding to be gained. I have found that when I am motivated by the expectations of others I lose the opportunity to experience the beauty of what I’m learning. I learned how to read but I never appreciated it until I understood the purpose of books.

Once I began to catch the vision of why people write books, I saw the ideas and imagination of someone else and the new and fascinating worlds that a book contained. After I discovered this, I had a meaningful reason to read.  I began to see the value in the things I was studying and I began to get a glimpse of the purpose behind the information.

I have learned that in order to succeed, I need a sincere desire to learn and a curiosity for life and learning. I’ve heard it said that education is not just filling your mind; it’s learning how to think; and I would add that it is learning how to see. There are so many things to discover if I can just let go of my pride or self consciousness and learn to discern what is worthwhile. As a girl I discovered the worlds, the ideas, and the beauty that can be found in a book. Reading was no longer a dry old chore but an exciting adventure. As I continue to search, new things continue to open their doors to me. I begin to see the music hidden in a bunch of dots and lines, the vision behind the brush strokes of a painter and, as I discovered as a child hiding in a bathroom, the pictures and stories behind the words of a good book.

Read Full Post »

As I look back over the years of teaching my children, I think that what amazes me the most is how many good things…how much of the best learning…happened by accident. Or at least it happened inadvertently on my part. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve spent hours and hours planning and thinking about and TRYING to be a good teacher for my children…TRYING to do all the right things! In fact, I’ve devoted most of my adult life to the study of children and learning and teaching…which makes me wonder even more that so much of the best learning in our home happened without my planning or under my ever watchful eye. So many of what turned out to be the right things in the learning environment of our home are things that I can’t take credit for consciously planning or doing knowingly and with a purpose. They just…sort of…happened!


Here’s an example. My children all love music. They all play instruments (4 of the 5 play violin, and 2 of the 5 are serious about the piano…two more currently dabble at the piano) and they all practice willingly…and most often without any suggestion from me that they should practice. When this comes up in conversation with some parents, I get amazed looks from them. “You mean you never have to make them practice?”  “They do it willingly and on their own?” “They want to practice and often practice for hours?” Sometimes, I don’t think some of them even believe that what I am telling them is true.

In looking back, I think it all began with my own excitement over my first violin. But let me give you some background first. These were the early days of our homeschooling years, and I was still very structured with our day and with my teaching. I scheduled out each minute and what was to be done in which subjects…and usually in which order. Math was usually first…because they didn’t really love it and we needed to get it out of the way. I think that Math was also given first priority at that time out of my own insecurities. You see, Math progress is measurable…at least it is if you are using a canned curriculum. I could point to the pages of work that had been finished, the test scores, the fact that they were ahead of grade level, and show to all who doubted (or to myself really) that homeschooling was okay…that my children were okay…that I was okay. Music, on the other hand, was fun…it came last on the schedule, after all the “real” work was done. I frequently found myself saying to my children, “We can do piano after your schoolwork is done.” I think that this inadvertently gave music an elevated desirability status in our home…and math a less elevated status. This is what my actions taught them…but not what my words were saying. Judge for yourself which was the most effective lesson for them.


Okay, so here I was with my little crew of homeschoolers…and pre-schoolers…and a baby. AND I had just received my first violin. Yep, I was an adult beginner. Well, I held myself to the same standards as my children. I couldn’t very well practice on “school time”. That would be irresponsible, wouldn’t it. So I had to sneak my practicing in. I had to squeeze it in in-between home-schooling, and laundry, and diaper changing, and nursing the baby, and meal preparation, and…well, you get the picture. The time that I found to squeeze in this little bit of heaven for myself was while the children ate lunch. I’d get their lunch ready, wolf down my own, and then while they ate, I would practice. I used the Suzuki cassettes and played along to them. It was SUCH fun, and I had the most encouraging audience any mom could ask for! They would dance in their seats while they ate. They used to request their favorites! I can still hear my oldest son and third child…about 5 years old at the time…pleading “Mommy, play the one that goes DA-da, DA-da, Da-da-da-da-Da-da.” (Song #8 from the first Suzuki book…Allegro.) Well, looking back, I think that this scenario was not only good for this mom’s ego, (I didn’t have to be very good at all to please my little crew!) but for my children as well. Seeing and sharing in my excitement and love of music, they developed a love of and excitement for music all their own. It was only natural that they would see music as fun and as its own reward…not as drudgery and something that they had to do before they could go and play.


Oh the fun memories…Song of the Wind, O Come, Little Children, Go Tell Aunt Rhody, Allegro, The Happy Farmer…all those lovely songs from the first Suzuki book that we shared together as I taught myself the beginnings of the violin…and inadvertently taught my children the beginnings of a life long love of music! I’m so glad that I have those precious memories of sharing those fun tunes and times with my children. Somehow they mean so much more and stand out in happy relief against the dreary math lessons of the same time frame.

So…I wonder what would have happened if I had “made” them practice their instruments and then let them see me sneaking in time to study math for myself…?

Read Full Post »