Get the exclusive (almost) Weekly Digest.

    One Hundred Eight Days

    February 18, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    Today is our one-hundred-eighth day of the school year, and I thought we were overdue for a review. Plus, I am working on a birthday party for a certain soon-to-be six-year-old, so I don’t have time or brain power for a Thoughtful Post.


    Circle Time
    When the year first started, O. was still taking a morning nap. He dropped it by Thanksgiving, and I’ve been learning to handle having so much energy at Circle Time ever since. I love this child. But he is not anything like my other children, meaning that lots of my old tricks don’t work. Actually, I didn’t need as many tricks before this bundle of energy entered our lives and made us laugh more than we ever thought possible.

    Our morning meeting was getting more and more stressful in the month of January. On the one hand, I like my preschoolers at Circle Time because I think it is never too young for them to hear the words of Scripture and learn to sing songs and such. On the other hand, O. decided that Circle Time was a great time to agitate his siblings by pulling hair, throwing things at them, and so on.

    He is determined to be voted Class Clown.

    A week or two ago, I realized that swimming season was creeping up on us, and it was time to try a breakfast Circle Time because in March and April that is what will work best (I think).

    Lo and behold! This is the best thing ever. When I finish my food, I pull out my supplies and start Circle Time while everyone is still eating. This means I needed to move Memory Work to the end sometimes, because recitation doesn’t work very well when everyone has their mouths full. But toddlers trapped in high chairs during Circle Time are an amazing solution. And now that he’s been forced to sit still and really listen, he has learned to sing (in gibberish, but mostly in key) a number of the hymns.

    The word Jesus is very recognizable in those songs.


    So cute.

    Go Outside
    My main solution to other logistical difficulties is still to send people outside. Children are just made to be outside. All the “bad” things they want to do inside are almost totally fine outside. I am willing to do the extra laundry if it means they are free.

    In the mornings after Circle Time, we do chores. Both the girls are being timer trained right now, as they were not making the transition to post-Circle Time chores very well. After chores are completed, everyone but E. is sent outside (he is the one with Real School, remember). Then, I gather my supplies, park myself in my office (which has a view of the swing set), and start calling people in. A. comes in for reading lessons and other preschool activities (if I have them–I don’t always have them). She goes back out and Q. comes in for the same. E. pops in and out, narrating to me as needed. Usually he is ready for a narration after each reading lesson, so it works out well.

    School is still done-by-lunch, which leaves the afternoons free for naps for the littles and music lessons, music practice, and other special projects for the big kids.

    Speaking of Piano Lessons
    So far, I am loving PianoPhonics. It is accomplishing exactly what I hoped, which is to say that E. is learning to read musical notation, understand rhythm, and play nicely. I really appreciate the author’s methodical introduction of different concepts. He is a concert pianist, I believe, so I suppose it is no surprise that he’d know how to teach his instrument well.

    I am so excited that the author is coming out with another set of lessons. And that set of lessons is, according to the website, supposed to end where the Bach Two-Part Inventions begin! It’s perfect, and skips all the twaddle songs that are typically considered a necessary evil to learn to play.

    I am still convinced that around eight or ten is the right age to start this type of learning. A. is very interested, but I told her she’ll have to wait until she’s at least seven. I think one of the great things about it is clipping along at a nice pace, and that would be less likely to happen with a younger child.

    I had planned to have Fridays set aside for lessons, but I have found that homeschool piano has its freedom, too. We are at liberty to have a lesson when he is ready, rather than waiting for the scheduled time. So he practices each excercise in the spirit of Charlotte Mason: until he has attained perfection. Once he can play it perfectly (and do whatever else is necessary, such as counting the rhythm or saying the names of the notes as he plays), we move to the next excercise.

    Educating Mother
    I’m finishing up my sourdough class. I haven’t done every single lesson, but I never intended to. My main goal was to learn to make an awesome loaf of sourdough bread. I’ve done a few other things, and enjoyed them greatly, and now I’m just looking through the lessons to see if there is anything else that we’d actually take to eating.

    One thing that made the cut was pocket bread. Check it out:

    That, my friends, is a gyro, and the pita was homemade! Truly, I am ecstatic. I think this was actually more exciting than mastering the loaf. Pita bread is a favorite with me, but it has always been a great mystery. Thankfully, the class instructor (whose family is from Israel and knows some of the old ways) is a wonderful teacher.
    I am almost to the point where I can teach the children to do this.

    Get the (almost) weekly digest!

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

    Powered by ConvertKit


  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts May 11, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    You will have to let me know what you think about the self-teaching part. I glanced and it and I found it helpful as a teacher to think through the lessons more than what the book alone presents {because I tend to try and assume certain knowledge that isn’t there}, but I still wasn’t sure how someone would feel about it if they had never taken lessons before and/or didn’t know how to read music. Maybe you could review it in time! {hint hint}

  • Reply Mystie May 11, 2011 at 8:17 pm

    Yes, Matt and I got the feeling that a bona fide piano teacher could probably use Alfred’s to teach with the emphases she wanted, but it wasn’t presented in the books themselves. Alfred’s is more of a tool for a teacher, whereas Pianophonics gives more to the teacher and allows the teacher to be more of a guide and encourager, rather than font and source.

    And I am starting to use it with the self-instruction guide, as well. πŸ™‚

    I will give Matt the heads-up about future lessons. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts May 11, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    I’m glad he likes it! That actually reaffirms my opinion of it. I’ve been thinking of making a major suggestion of it for families where one of the parents {or even an older sibling} knows how to play. I know so many folks who think they can’t afford lessons, but the books are inexpensive {the second book is debuting soon} and so far seem to make it very easy to teach music for someone like me who has until now ever taught a day in my life and focused only on playing/performing.

    I finally got a chance to look at an Alfred book, and I agree that the focus wasn’t…well, at least not where I wanted it.

    I will warn you that at least for us, the progress really slowed down around Lesson 4. Personally, I’ve been breaking the lessons up into smaller pieces {making each excercise a separate lesson} so that he still *feels* progress as he goes along.

  • Reply Mystie May 11, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    Matt just started pianophonics with Hans and is very enthusiastic about it. He is very pleased with its focus on reading music, correct fingering, and rhythm. Those were the things he thought were important, but were not being adequately addressed in Alfred’s.

    So, thank you!

  • Reply Mystie February 18, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    Wow, the pita looks amazing! I’ve tried pitas before, but it was hit-or-miss whether they’d poof enough (and whether I made them a good size).

    Thank you for the review! I’m looking at ideas for arranging our next school year, and once again you come through for me. πŸ™‚

    Matt is going to finish Alfred 1 with Hans and then switch to pianophonics. However, we are still struggling to actually accomplish lessons, since it’s Daddy-time needed, not Mommy-time. I’m pretty excited to see it has a self-teaching part for adults, too, though, because I would like to be able to read music, or be able to pluck out a tune at least. I think some piano practice would improve my pitch and ability (currently my lack of ability) to stay on key. πŸ™‚

  • Leave a Reply