Category Archives: School

Music Lessons 101

Our household is a reasonably musical household, by that I mean, we listen to music, experiment with music and have the a house full of instruments (drums, guitars, a piano, assorted wind instruments and percussion) courtesy of my husband’s musical hobbies. So why are we having the children tutored in music?

Music is one of the main ways that Wren, and even Robin, learns and communicates and I have no expertise in this area. As an example: Wren will dance or sing answers to direct questions in preference to just answering in words.  It can be impossible to determine, from her frolics and twirls, what she means when I’ve asked “would you like a drink of milk?”.

Wren has a tune for everything. When she takes in new information, if it has a tune it sticks instantly and she perceives herself an expert in whatever the tune was about. Things she hears in conversation are wedged verbatim into tunes she already knew, or some number she’s just whipped up. She has described people through dance: “his sneakers were like <insert Anna Pavlova here>”.

This led to the decision to explore formal lessons rather than just letting the children experiment on the instruments in our house. We want them to develop skills in making music, a trained ear and a solid theoretical and technical foundation. For that you need lessons.

A few weeks ago Wren listened to a couple of her 6 year old friends playing violin and this sparked a wider interest from both her and us. Her friends had both been learning the violin for about 12 months, one in the Suzuki method and one in a traditional method, who was just switching over to Suzuki.

We decided that  Wren should have lessons from an expert and it should be in something that she won’t be a able to learn by ear from the normal run of our household. We chose the violin because her friends were learning it, it is considered a difficult instrument to learn and will hopefully give her an area of expertise in our household. Wren is getting old enough that we need to start thinking about her formal schooling routine, so we brought forward the plan to get her lessons. We want her to learn to work hard at reproducing the information that she takes in; learning mastery of a skill not just familiarity with the tune.

Robin will also take lessons. He enjoys textures, sensations and mastering the things he is interested in, so having a stringed/bowed instrument and one that is close to his face, we think he will get a lot out of learning the violin.

Choosing a method and a teacher

Because Husband-of-Awesome plays by ear and I suspect Wren could too, I want her playing skills and musical knowledge developed at the same rate, so she will develop a trained ear and have a solid technical and theoretical foundation. On the other hand, Robin has a little of my musicality, so we want for him to get some skills and enjoy conquering a difficult task so that he has the opportunity to find an instrument he truly loves.

The decision to go Suzuki came from my own experience as a child learning the guitar, flute and piano. Because I have no natural ability I play instruments like some people two-finger type; I can get to the end, but there’s no grace, no love. Learning in the traditional method, I didn’t have any of those confidence-building-successes early, so never developed a love of any instrument I tried and desperately hated practicing. For Wren and Robin I want to try something specifically designed for children so that they can have those small successes to spur them on to want to work towards mastery. Suzuki is child-centred and supportive of the parents’ role in their child’s development. It models music learning after the way that first languages are learnt and intends incremental mastery of listening and “speaking” before reading is formally taught.

To begin, I Googled “suzuki music australia” and  found, to my delight, Suzuki Music Australia and followed the link to “find a teacher“. Through this I found a teacher and I asked her “how do we get started when we don’t own a violin and I don’t know anything about obtaining a decent one?”. Her advice was to contact the Sydney String Centre; which incidentally was the same advice my cello-playing brother-in-law gave me when I asked his advice on how to get started.

I’m really hoping that both children will develop a deep and abiding love of the violin, or at least find satisfaction in the learning process. We’ll review at the end of the year and see where their passions lie.

This week is the first week of lessons… stay tuned 😛


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Week in Review Mar1-7

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Art by Robin and Wren

This week was centred around excursions and working them into the weeks schooling.

Music (Creative and Practical Arts) – Following on from last week, this week we went on an excursion to Chatswood to get Robin and Wren fitted for Violins at the Sydney String Centre as next week they begin Suzuki violin lessons.

  • Discussed sizing instruments to people – fractions
  • Listened to the new CDs that support the violin lessons
  • Reviewed Pythagorus and the Ratios –  relationship of length and thickness of strings determines the sound

Going Places (HSIE) – As part of the journey, Robin was tasked with navigating from Chatswood train station to the destination and how to get home again.

  • Printed off a map from Google to work out how to get there
  • Discussed options on how to get there and how we could return (train station or bus stop)
  • Orientation, finding how to orient map to ground
  • Discussed how the different platforms work and how to check the indicator board for where trains stop (or don’t)
  • Discussed how we could do the journey differently next time; 2 trains and a long walk, or 1 train and 1 bus for increased fare and how to work out the trade off

An interesting aside, Robin made the connection between the eTag in the car and how it operated in the same way as the Opal card.

Whilst on our travels we saw the Voyager of the Seas cruise ship  and this led to a discussion on cruise ships and how different ships have different designs depending on their job. We recapped last week’s excursion to the Maritime Museum and what the functions of the vessels they went on were and a documentary on ice breakers (SBS Online) we watched two weeks previous.

Finally we discussed bridges an their functions – Harbour bridge vs. Footway at Darling Harbour. How the ability of the footway to open and the height of the Harbour Bridge enable, or restrict the type of vessel that can go through/under.

Reading – Reading aloud to both Robin and Wren this week as part of the GOING PLACES work we covered:

  • Ernest Shackleton – Polar explorer
  • Frances Drake – pirate and explorer

Excursion–  Picked up photo albums documenting last year’s work and activities.

Maths – We started Doubling! So we did doubling, doubling and more doubling. In addition to this we:

  • went to COSCO  and talked about unit pricing and competition in marketplace
  • Tested maths games

English – We continued with looking at the 8 parts of speech and introduced parts of sentences. and also continued with Gods Great Covenant – Joseph and Pharaoh.

  • Sentence recipe
  • Subject of a sentence
  • Predicate within a sentence

Read aloud – The following was read aloud by Robin:

  • Genesis 40-46 – Joseph and Pharaoh

Creative and Practical Arts – This week was a low impact week, due to all the excursions so we worked on a number of projects

  • Started getting building the “Spooky House diorama” from My First Batteries and Magnets book
  • Printed and coloured in anatomical diagrams of human skeletons
  • As a continuation of the Ernest Shackleton reading we created lots and lots of snowflakes.

Watched – Alice in Wonderland (Disney 1951) including the making of.


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Week in Review Feb22-28

l-3Going Places (HSIE): Maritime Museum – Making the most of our new membership and as an excursion with husband-of-awesome and my brother, we used this as an additional learning opportunity. Both Robin and Wren went on a Destroyer, HMAS Vampire; a patrol boat, the HMAS Advance; and a submarine, the HMAS ONSLOW. Both were fascinated with the inner workings of the ONLSOW. The both revisited the going places exhibit and then spent some time exploring the Nautilus.

Reading: Robin started reading aloud Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone after his older cousin started reading sections to both Robin and Wren when we last visited. His reading was clear and concise, only struggling with names and even so sticking within the boundaries of P.I.C.K and the 2-3 new words a page.

Maths and Science – Monsters Magic Cup  –  This is part of a larger citizen science programme through Natural Math (which we’ve previously used as part of a “Monday” maths with some of the local kids) and was an experiment to check the “approximate number system” within children as a precursor to algebraic calculation. We met Maria, one of the research coordinators who was thrilled at not only our support but in meeting the both Robin and Wren via Google Hangouts; which was a learning experience in of itself trying to get it to work.

Watched: As a follow up from the Maritime Museum visit we watched James Cameron’s documentary – Deep sea challenge – describing his passion for underwater exploration and the journey to build, test and then take his “Deep Sea Challenger” to the  Mariana Trench.

  • Read: 14 Journeys – Piccards and Don Walsh
  • Wrote the 5 W’s (Who, What, When, Where, Why) for both Piccard and Walsh’s journey as well as Cammeron’s.
  • Created a Venn diagram of the two missions
  • Create a sentence and
  • Built a model sub with Lego.

Maths – Continue with grouping in addition, “finding 10s” and The Grapes Of Math.

English – We recently started looking at the 8 parts of speech. This is identifying nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, conjunctions, interjections and prepositions. Why we decided to do this will be the basis of another blog. This week we looked at:

  • Identifying the 8 parts of speech in random sentences;
  • using the Dictionary to identify “tricky” words;
  • in Christina Rosetti’s “Boats” poems; and
  • made some sentences with story cubes.

We also memorised the Boat’s poem.

Read aloud – This week Robin read through number of books

Watched – Fantasia: discussed taking music lessons

Watched – “Tectonics” on ABC iView as a follow-up to a section on plate tectonics in the James Cameron documentary. We then modelled plated movement with play dough

LatinSong School Latin Book 1 – Classroom instructions on singular and plural verbs (-te)

Bible – Continue reading through John

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