Thursday, September 15, 2011


The boys spent most of the day attempting to set a world record for fighting, bickering, and arguing. They spent much of the day in their rooms as I kept sending them there to "break them up." Every time I would let them back out they would start fighting again almost instantly and wind up...back in their rooms. After the fifth time I actually started counting to see how long it would take them to start fighting again. They never made it past five seconds.

I need a drink. I can't have one, I'm on day four of a juice fast. Yes, many of the flavors make me gag.

We took a trip to the library this afternoon for a change of venue. Kal-El read me some Green Light Readers and Me Too picked out a few books about brown bears.

Yesterday we had our first BSF class of the new academic year. I guess the topic of the day wasn't getting along with others. Last year they were in separate classes and I was happy about that because I feel that a break from one another is a good thing. Unfortunately the enrollment at Kal-El's age level is low this year and he is lumped in with Me Too's class. I peeked at them in between small and large group and they were having some kind of circle time. Me Too was scooched-up as close as possible to Kal-El and had his head on his shoulder. I will try to keep that image with me as we fight our way through the rest of the day.

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  1. Oooohhh my girls do that sometimes! It makes for a hard day! I'm so sorry! Hang in there, they'll be best friends again soon!

  2. This happens a lot in my house. They fight like cats and dogs, but they still depend on each other a lot!

    What method are you using for violin? Are you teaching them yourself?

  3. Thanks for the support guys :)


    They are learning with the Suzuki method (lots of Montessori schools offer Suzuki as an extra by the way). They have private lessons with a teacher other than myself and a group class once a week. I have to practice with them every day which is a lot of work. I am a professional musician though so practicing is very lesson-like as well. I'm not a violinist though.

  4. Ack - as a violin teacher and montessori teacher I have never quite been able to see why suzuki is so often offered by montessori schools - the two methods work in opposition. As you are a musician, can I suggest you research the Kodaly method and at least use it to help the boys understand what they are learning - rote learning is no better on the violin than in any other subject. And teach them to read the music now, otherwise they will not be able to sight-read and that would be a shame. It is the basis of playing chamber music and orchestral music and without it they will never pass auditions to get into the best groups. Sorry!

  5. Annicles,

    I'm not worried about it because our program isn't purist and they incorporate some Kodaly. I will be teaching the boys recorder and maybe piano eventually. They will probably also learn a band instrument because we are really a woodwind family. They will DEFINITELY be learning to read music. My private students sightread at every lesson.

    I wonder if you have any advice for me about Me Too. His teacher was frustrated with him this week because he wanted him to bow "A...A" but wanted to correct 27 or so posture points before he did it. Me Too couldn't comply with all of the instructions and kept trying to bow "A...A" before the teacher was ready.

    I eventually pointed out to the teacher that he was giving conflicting instructions and that Me Too was confused. You can't ask him to "bow A A" and then change the task 27 times and still get frustrated with him each time he fulfills the first instruction.

    When I've practiced with him at home this week the one thing I had trouble getting him to do was look at his bow while he played. He keeps looking at me, or his eyes drift to the ceiling. He eventually got a little upset and said he didn't know how to look at the bow. I came up with something that seemed to help a bit but wondered if this is common, if someone had some tips to help him, and if this might not be a sign that he is just too young? I just seem to spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to keep him in position and bow awareness is nonexistent. He is, however, an excellent plucker ;)

  6. To be clear...I supported the teacher in correcting the posture points I just meant the stated goal (bowing A A) was misleading. The real goal was to stand properly, hold the violin high enough, rest his jaw on the chin rest, approach the strings smoothly, etc., etc., THOSE were the goals BEFORE bowing A...A and I thought he should state the goals in order so Me Too could fulfill them. Once I told Me Too that the teacher wanted him to play "A...A" but first the teacher was going to help get him ready and tell him when to "go" he was able to do it successfully. I wouldn't have said anything but the teacher unfortunately thought that Me Too was being snotty or silly and he was really just confused. After it had gone wrong the 10th time or so he thought the teacher was being funny and giggled just a little bit. He has a good teacher, but most of the students in the program start at age seven and I think it has been a while since he had a four yo.

  7. Annicles, more...

    Do you have a book or two on Kodaly that you would recommend? I Googled and it seems like the Chosky is the main read, but it is out of print and $100. My library system has nothing. Before I bought something I wondered what you would recommend.

  8. Hold on! I'll try to answer all the questions!

    For me, one of the biggest weaknesses of the suzuki method is shoving an instrument into the hands of a young child. The violin is a very complicated instrument to learn, more than the cello, for instance. So, I would take a look at how Me Too's fine and gross motor skills are. If he has work to do on any area of the practical life shelves, then he is not yet ready to play the violin. Other areas to consider are how well does he concentrate. You need a consistent 5 minutes before considering any instrument as practice is all about maintaining concentration and perfecting a movement or skill. Again, another area to think about is how well does he hear sounds? If he struggles to hear and identify a middle sound of a CVC word then he will struggle to hear and recreate a tune, even a well known one. My piano teacher never took a child until they had mastered reading because the processing is similar and if they can't read words, they will struggle with reading music.

    I wouldn't ever ask a child to look at the bow - it is a really bad habit to get into and a hard one to break. Stand him in front of a mirror and let him watch himself, perhaps. Small children always start with a wonky bow because the natural movement is to keep the bow are in one position and to move it from the elbow. It feels strange to move from the elbow as well. Try things like "stroking the cat" and "landing the airoplane". Lots of movement onto and off the string is good - bouncing the bow on the string. I teach using the Sheila Nelson book The Essential String Method.

    On balance I would say that Me Too is probably too young and I would not take him to learn an instrument. What I would do is encourage you to enroll him in a pre-instrument class. I usually insist that all children have a year of music lessons before picking up an instrument. In this class they would learn to sing songs with words, sol-fah and with symbols. Pitch and rhythm games are really important and the beginning of reading music, all before starting an instrument. I refuse to take younger than 4 years old for the pre-instrument class, my mother-in-law is happy to take younger if they can concentrate. By the end of the year the group can sing part songs, recognise their songs from the hand signs alone and are really solid in pitch and rhythm. They have fun and it sets them up for starting an instrument, which is also taught in a group with a short individual lesson separately.

    As for where you find information - I am in the UK so I look at the British Kodaly Academy. They have lots of reccommendations. You could try the Organisation of American Kodaly Educators -

    I hope this is useful and not too daunting!