Get the exclusive (almost) Weekly Digest.

    How to Spend a Summer

    June 15, 2010 by Brandy Vencel

    Last year, I had plans for summer. I even named them: SummerTerm. I don’t even remember most of what I had planned; I don’t have the heart to look back at them. What with Siah in the hospital for the month of June last summer, and then his recovery taking us into the autumn, well, we didn’t get any of those plans accomplished at all.

    This year, I took a more casual approach. I did draw up a calendar for my son yesterday. Part of this wasn’t so much that he needed a calendar, but that I wanted him to practice using one because he’ll be getting weekly calendars beginning First Term to help him stay on track. He is ready to be a little more independent in his studies, but I’ve learned that this means he’ll need a good, solid plan to cling to as he learns to be more self-directed.

    On his calendar, he is mostly free. I wrote in his swimming lessons, and any time commitments I knew about. I mentioned some of the details yesterday. But really, reading a couple articles, doing a page of math and a page of copywork, maybe a craft project–all of that takes less than half an hour. And I don’t really want to step it up since my only goal is to keep him in practice. Well, and progress a tiny bit. (Mason didn’t like the idea of education that didn’t progress.)

    In the mornings, after morning Bible Study, the children are mostly outside, fighting amongst themselves, playing with the sprinklers, collecting frogs, digging in the dirt, kicking balls around, jumping on the trampoline, etc. (Frogs have offered our children literally hours of play so far this year. Thank you, Frogs!) But in the afternoons, when the sun is hot and the littles are napping, I often notice my son wandering around looking for something to do.

    He’s reading, of course. He wants to win the Veritas Press summer reading contest. Plus reading is among his favorite things to do. But he needs to have a more well-rounded summer–especially if I am going to make a habit of being home during naptime.
    So here are a couple of the fun things he’s doing. First, his great grandparents bought him an amazing guitar for his birthday. It arrived today!

    Acoustic Guitar Package Valencia Classical Kit 1/2 Size

    Valencia 1/2 Size Classical Guitar

    It is beautiful! It came with an instructional DVD, so we’ll be checking it out some afternoon in the near future to see what it teaches. I have my own classical guitar, which has been sadly neglected during my years of pregnancy and nursing, so I think I’m ready for some Mother/Son learning time.

    Also, E. has had a deep desire to learn to carve. We, however, aren’t too keen on him leaving knives around (yes, he knows how to use a knife in cooking) while so many of his siblings are still so young (and dangerous!), so we decided to go with soap carving. We got this book:

    Soap Carving: For Children of All Ages (Schiffer Book for Woodcarvers)

    Soap Carving: For Children of All Ages

    This book uses popsicle sticks (of which we have an abundance!) to make the necessary tools. I think this will be a good bridge to whittling and carving wood when everyone is a bit older. Besides, I read some of the information on the author, and he set out to teach woodcarving to children, but found that teaching them on soap first was beneficial because soap is so much softer.

    I have already realized that this means that I am learning to carve soap. I know this, because I also learned how to tie five different knots last term. I think I’m realizing that even as adults, we like to focus on the things we are best at. Educating our children is broadening my horizons, too.

    Maybe I’ll carve a book out of soap.


    I also acquired a stack of piano books from a friend, to allow me to read them over and see what I think. I know enough piano to teach my children, but I am still at a loss concerning what a good piano education really looks like. I am convinced that my last piano teacher was my best piano teacher, but I already had mastered the basics when I came to her.

    How I wish I could ask her how she taught her littlest students!

    Anyhow, I hope that by the time we reach 2011, I’ll be ready to commence piano lessons with my two oldest children. If any of you are aware of how piano is best taught (I’m looking here for a program that focuses on a broad understanding of the nature of music as well as the nature of the piano), please contact me!

    Get the (almost) weekly digest!

    Weekly encouragement, direct to your inbox, (almost) every Saturday.

    Powered by ConvertKit


  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts June 17, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    KM, Growing a baby takes lots of energy from Mommy, no doubt about it!

    If it is any consolation, I am still “working” (and by working I don’t mean that I am doing anything, only that they are not complete and I do spend effort feeling guilty about it) on the baby books for three of my four children!!

    Oh dear. And one of them is five.

    Okay, that is going on the summer projects list.

    Thank you for the piano books ideas, and I also appreciated the email about PianoPhonics…which is totally fascinating, and I just might try it!

  • Reply Kansas Mom June 16, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    Oh, I want to sit in my chair practically all day every day! I’m trying to get a few things done this summer, but they all involve being ready for baby (food in the freezer, baby clothes clean and put … um … somewhere). I am trying to get our homeschooling plans started well so I can pick them up and run with them in the fall. We’ll see how far I get.

    I was also hoping to finish the baby books for First and Second Daughter. Kansas Dad laughed at me when I said I was still working on those.

    The piano books I have are John W. Schaum Piano Course books A through G. I think there’s an H, too, but I think we’ll be unlikely to even finish A next year. In the front, A is recommended for first grade and B for grade 1 1/2. H is listed as “virtuoso.” They have a 1945 copyright and my copies look like they’ve been through a lot. (I’m going to have to keep them up high because I’m pretty sure the kids could absent-mindedly destroy them in about thirty seconds.)

    I just did a quick search online and it looks like the whole series was revised in 1996 and that there’s a pre-A book I don’t have…Hmmm…Now I’m wondering if I should pick that one up.

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts June 15, 2010 at 10:23 pm


    I think having a baby is very ambitious of you. πŸ™‚

    I would love to know the name of the books you’re using, and if your pianist friend has a short list of favorites. Even though I feel fairly capable, I have this gut feeling that the books are going to be huge as far as whether or not we actually have success.

    You are pregnant. You know what I did the last summer I was pregnant? (Wait. Didn’t you do the same thing last time, too?) I moved. I am glad we moved, but my what I really wanted was to become better friends with my couch. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Kansas Mom June 15, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    I have a friend who was practically a concert pianist (if she hadn’t suffered from burn-out). Now she teaches a little piano. She said I could cover the first year at least myself, even though I don’t really know how to play at all. (I can read music and find middle-C.)

    She recommended the older books above new ones in general because they actually cover theory and skills. I have a set my mom bought at a garage sale when I was a kid so we’ll be using those starting this fall. But we’re starting really small — 10 minutes a week. Eventually we’ll be paying for lessons and I’d rather teach him less than teach him poorly. Mostly I want to teach myself to play, but I’ll be happy if I can pretty much memorize a few songs and hymns I like the most.

    Your summer plans are much more ambitious than mine (though I am having a baby, surely that counts as semi-ambitious). Mostly we’re going to try to get outside when I can manage it and read a lot. I had hoped to continue a bit of formal lessons, but I swiftly gave up that idea when the third trimester and the strawberry harvest hit at the same time.

    I think teaching First Son soap carving would be fantastic, though. I’m going to try to make a note of that for Christmas this year, if he’s ready.

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts June 15, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    Alfred’s. I’m totally going to go check my stack and see if it’s in there. I understand why they’d encourage theory from the beginning–I was very resistant to it as a child, but when I took theory in college, I realized how much I’d missed out on by trying to avoid it!

    I do NOT play well, but that is because I’m rusty. I figure this will just be another thing that I’ll have to improve upon to make it happen! I am not against paying for piano lessons, and if I felt like we had the extra money, I’d totally seek out a good teacher. But when it comes down to it, I’d rather spend our money on regular school at this point, and pay for teachers when the children have outgrown me.

    It was YOU who got me to look up soap carving! I knew it was someone. I basically used your description on Amazon to find that book. I flipped through the book last night and it looks great. There are a few others on carving more specific creatures, if Hans decides he’s really interested.

    Sorry about your knot-tying rope. πŸ™ Thankfully, knots can be tied in any rope when the time comes. I must say…the best part about the knot tying is that I think we finally got our shoe tying down! πŸ˜‰

  • Reply Mystie June 15, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    We’re going to attempt at-home piano lessons this year. Matt had 7-9 years of piano lessons growing up and still plays, and both his sisters are amazing piano players (one classical, one jazz). We had been hoping his sister could give piano lessons when the time came, but her family circumstances preclude that, so Matt is going to give it a shot.

    All the piano teachers we know begin with Alfred’s, and said to be sure to use the theory book along with the lesson book. I was happy to follow that advice, since both books are cheap and the lesson book is even non-consumable! πŸ™‚ I’ll make sure and post a review after they get started with it (this summer).

    Hans did a little soap carving in the boys’ club last year. I’ll have to look into getting that book for him, maybe for his upcoming birthday. πŸ™‚ He wasn’t ready for or interested in the knot tying kit — the rope was instead played with free-style (and sent unwittingly through the wash) until it totally unwound and frayed.

  • Leave a Reply