Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Cello Lessons

Earlier this year, N. began taking cello lessons from a friend of ours.  Given N.'s love of playing and writing music, Tim had been encouraging him to take up another instrument in addition to piano.  Why cello?  N. didn't want to play a wind or brass instrument, so Tim suggested cello because we already had my cello and N. liked it.  It turned out he isn't quite big enough for a full-sized cello, so we had to rent a 3/4-sized cello, but this means I can use mine to practice with him, which is quite fun.  On the day pictured here, April 1, N. suggested we practice outside in the gorgeous spring twilight, so we sat on our front walk and serenaded the tulips and cherry blossoms.  It was lovely!

If N. was to take up a second instrument, it needed to remain a low-pressure and low time-commitment project.  N. currently practices two hours a day on piano, sings in a chorus that rehearses two hours a week, and takes a weekly music theory lesson which has its attendant homework (plus weekly ballet class).  Enough!  He has to have free time too!  We explained our goals to the cello teacher, and she understood.  N. practices cello a minimum of 10 minutes a day, after supper (while he practices piano mid-day when he is at peak energy).  Sometimes he ends up playing longer as he gets interested in playing around on the instrument.

I started cello lessons in 6th grade at age 11, so just a year older than N. is now.  I've enjoyed comparing N.'s initial experience of the instrument with my own.  Piano and music theory have given him such a thorough understanding of the structure of music that he picked up right away how the cello is organized -- how the strings, positions, and intervals relate to each other.  At first he was frustrated with how hard it is to make a clean sound on a string instrument, but he's persisted and I think appreciates his slowly developing skill.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday French Lesson

I was very excited last week to read these sentences that N. wrote in his French workbook.  Real sentences!  "I want to go to Paris.  I'm going to visit the Eiffel Tower and eat in a French restaurant, ride the Metro, visit the Louvre, go to Parc au Buttes-Chaumont, and eat a croissant and a baguette."

I wish we had time to work on French together more than once a week, because N. enjoys and is easily learning what he's studying now and I know he would easily make quicker progress if we could do more lessons.  Maybe in summer.  Meanwhile, I'm very happy with the foundation he's building now.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Our Little Free Library

N. received a Little Free Library from his grandparents for Christmas.  We mounted it in our front yard in January and we've had so much fun rummaging our shelves to stock and restock it.  We've also made trips to the local used book store to find favorite titles when we don't want to give away our precious personal copies.  We regularly check to see what's been taken and what new titles appear overnight.  Neighborhood parents of young children have told us their kids love walking over to check out the selection regularly.  Both N. and I are really enjoying spreading our love of books throughout our neighborhood.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


N. received several months of a Tinker Crate subscription for Christmas from his grandparents and he's really enjoyed it.  He especially liked last month's kit, which was all about hydraulics.  He experimented with various configurations of the syringes and tubing.  I've been impressed with the construction of the kits: they begin with a basic project, and then suggest several modifications to make the kit more open-ended.  The projects are structured to encourage tinkering, not merely following directions.
Building an automatic drawing machine
Making slime
Though we have quite a few educational science/engineering kits, such as SnapCircuits, and Lego Crazy Action Contraptions, along with chemistry and physics sets, the Tinker Crates have been more successful with N. for both learning and play.  Partly I think this is because they arrive in the mail and get his attention, unlike a box that sits on a shelf for months (or years!).  I've talked before about the learning power of the fortuitous moment; when something piques our curiosity, we are primed to learn more. 

Building hydraulic systems