Books We Are Using This Year
  • The Story of the World: Ancient Times (Vol. 1)
    The Story of the World: Ancient Times (Vol. 1)
    by Jeff West,S. Wise Bauer,Jeff (ILT) West, Susan Wise Bauer
  • Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: A Science Curriculum for K-2
    Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: A Science Curriculum for K-2
    by Bernard J Nebel PhD
  • Math-U-See Epsilon Student Kit (Complete Kit)
    Math-U-See Epsilon Student Kit (Complete Kit)
    by Steven P. Demme
  • First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 4 Instructor Guide (First Language Lessons) By Jessie Wise, Sara Buffington
    First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 4 Instructor Guide (First Language Lessons) By Jessie Wise, Sara Buffington
    by -Author-
  • SPELLING WORKOUT LEVEL E PUPIL EDITION
    SPELLING WORKOUT LEVEL E PUPIL EDITION
    by MODERN CURRICULUM PRESS
  • Drawing With Children: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too
    Drawing With Children: A Creative Method for Adult Beginners, Too
    by Mona Brookes
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Entries in piano (4)

Thursday
Feb102011

Player. Piano.

He's three pages from finishing the second book. I cannot measure in words the progress that he's made over the past almost year, so I guess we'll have to take another video soon.

Monday
Dec202010

The second recital

Or actually the third. Two weeks ago Calvin attended a piano party with the older students of his teacher, Mrs. Faber. The difference between a piano party and a piano recital is the parents, or lack thereof; the piano party was a chance for students to play in a more relaxed setting without the pressure of performing for adults. I was lucky enough to be invited to attend, though, because Calvin was the youngest student by several years. Turns out he didn't need me at all and he had a great time.

So if we don't count the piano party as a recital, then this past weekend, when he played with Jon's students, was Calvin's second official recital performance. All of Jon's students did very well and improvement was noticeable all around. Comparing Calvin's playing in this recital to his playing last June is pretty amazing. Six months ago he was performing mostly with the one finger pick and was just moving into both hands on. This time around he clearly has both hands on the keys in proper playing fashion, is readng musing on the grand staff, and is playing some chorded piano. It's a joy to watch him grow and learn, and even more so because he enjoys it himself. There is a video, but with all teh Christmas goings on we're more than a bit behind in editing and posting, so look for that to be added to this post a bit later.

Thursday
Oct142010

Piano

Being unschoolers at heart the idea of having a lesson based learning program is not top on our list of things to do, so I was a little sceptical back in March when Jon's bosses wanted to have Calvin on board for the piloting of their still in development preschool piano program. The program included weekly private lessons as well as weekly group lessons. It was of utmost importance to me that Calvin not feel pressured but self motivated to play the piano, and how can we assure that when we're carting him to lessons twice a week at night quite four years old?

We put our concerns aside, however, agreeing to the proposal, and at the same time started taking some measures at home to help it along. It's Rousseau who advocated that the teacher (in a one on one context) should learn, or at least pretend to learn, each subject along with the student. I can't get entirely on board with that—not only is it just not feasible all the time, I don't believe in lying to him to achieve an effect—but there are times when the genral principle makes sense to me, and since I really don't know anything about playing the piano I decided to take it up as a hobby right along with my son. It can be a little daunting to pick up a completely new subject at an older age, especially when sharing the learning process with someone so much younger, someone who most certainly will show you up, but we've had fun "arguing" over who gets to practice now.


My years of musical training are the only thing saving me right now from utter embarrassment. Well, that and the well written adult lesson books Jon brought home for me. I'm making progress and enjoying the evolution of a skill I have long coveted, but it is nothing compared to the leaps and bounds Calvin has made over the past months. In March he knew what the piano was and seemed to show an ability to keep a beat. By June he could play a multitude of his lesson songs from memory with one finger, keeping a steady beat and singing right along with them. By August he'd learned the names of all the keys on the piano and could play using all ten of his fingers, reading note names from a book. Now in October he is he reading music on the grand staff and playing two handed piano and is quite the accomplished sight reader—Im sure a video will be coming soon.


So how does this fit into our unschooling "method"? A common misconception is that unschooling is synonymous with unlearning, or that it means completely avoiding the process of learning by specific method. In fact, some unschoolers might agree with you, but for the most part unschooling just means letting the learner lead the way and fitting the process to the student instead of the other way around. Calvin has shown a remarkable interest in learning the piano. He enjoys practicing and doing the workbook exercises, and he is always hungry for more. In fact, while the original method is spread over a several month period, Calvin showed such eagerness to learn that he swept through it in half the time, something we did not slow down or discourage. That meant that he moved into the next book much sooner than expected, graduated into the next book just as ridiculously fast, and is now on his fourth. Since he is mastering the skills before he moves on we are remaining true to our student instead of to the lesson plan. That has meant being a little inventive along the way, but thankfully his teacher, Jon's boss, has been very flexible in working with him (and just as eager to teach him as he has been to learn from her, which makes the pairing work). It is his eagerness and his work that has made this a success, and that is what unschooling is all about.

Monday
Jun282010

Piano lessons

Being unschoolers at heart the idea of having a lesson based learning program is not top on our list of things to do, so I was a little skeptical back in March when Jon's bosses wanted to have Calvin on board for the piloting of their still in development preschool piano program. The program included weekly private lessons as well as weekly group lessons. It was of utmost importance to me that Calvin not feel pressured but self motivated to play the piano, but how could we avoid pressure when we're carting him to lessons twice a week at not quite four years old? We opted to give it a try, though, and it turns out that there was little about which to be concerned; not only was the teacher very relaxed about the process, but Calvin was so incredibly motivated that he finished the spring classes well ahead of the actual class and is now already moving into the next lesson book.

I think the greatest moment of the whole experience so far is still the afternoon when I was making lunch, just a few weeks into the class, when I heard coming from our piano in the other room the sound of little hands plunking out a new song, working their way through it until they could play it smoothly all the way through—no guidance, not even any suggestion, necessary, just a pure intrinsic desire to learn and accomplish. His beam of pride and joy at a job well done during his first piano recital today, however, does rank a close second.

When this method is finally released it is going to be a wonderful program for early music education, but I don't suppose I can credit the method entirely with his interest. My guess is that watching and hearing his dad play so beautifully through all these years has had something to do with it, and in true Rousseau fashion I started learning at the same time as Calvin, just to give him a completely different view of an adult "playing" the piano. As an aside, I am using the Piano Adventures Adult beginner method and am finding that to be a wonderful learning experience as well.