Monday, July 21, 2014


The girl's music teacher recently told me that many students drop their instrument once they reach high school.  They compared it to sports.  The lower level sports are fun.  They are social activities.  Once they make the high school team, time in the summer is devoted to their sport, practice occurs every day while in season, the competition is fiercer, the coaches may be tougher.  Many kids lose the love of the sport and they stop.
I can somewhat understand this.  After all, how many kids actually go on to play their sport in college?  And after college what options are their for a person who likes to play soccer, or football or basketball?  Yes, there are pick up teams and adult teams but so few adults participate in these after college.  Unlike some sports, music is an art that can be practiced for a lifetime.  I suppose it is natural to phase in and out of musical interests, certain genres of music, intensity of practice and so on but if you have access to your instrument, you can play whether you are 10, 20, 40 or 80, as long as you don’t put that instrument down.  Walking away from an instrument is like walking away from a foreign language.  If you don’t use it, you lose it.
We have having growing pains with music right now.  I signed Grace up at a prestigious music school thinking it would give her access to teachers who have traveled the world playing piano, ensemble groups with other teens, master classes, monthly recitals, and to a network of kids who share her interests.  The reality is that she does not want to dedicate herself to mastering a 40 page piece by Hayden.  Bach, who was once her favorite composer, is not not looking so friendly now that she made the leap to a harder piece of his music.  She shared her feelings.  We had a conference.  We made a plan.  The plan did not work because I cannot force her fingers to play a piece of music she does not want to play.  I can threaten.  I can offer rewards and consequences.  I can set up practice charts.  I can withhold fun activities until the “work” is done.  In doing so, I will drive the love of her instrument out of her.  
I spoke to a musician I highly respect who is working with Grace and he told me that classical music is necessary.  It is the underlying foundation to all music, and its influences are seen in artists from The Beatles to The Piano Guys.  However, he said classical music should not be presented in a way that the student no longer likes it.  
Grace has grown up playing classical music.  We had to beg her to find and incorporate other genres of music into her playlist.  The love is there.  It is just being overshadowed by a strong desire to sit and play The Piano Guys and Doug Hammer.  She wants to explore Jim Brickman and find other artist/composers who make her heart sing.  
She wants to continue to work with the Music Director from church who is teaching her all parts of the Mass as well as beautiful Christian music.  Learning chords is quite different than learning the notes, and learning this in addition to a strict classical regiment was just too much for her.  It overwhelmed her and lessened her desire to tackle hard classical pieces.  Her focus can’t be on three teachers, with three sets of music, three different styles, and three heavy practice-loads.  
So we move on.  We give up the classical lessons that took 4 hours of our day with travel time and we go back to the two primary teachers she has always had.  Her growth in classical may suffer a bit this year, but she will learn chords and she will learn the Mass.  She will perform at Church every month and she will perform in her other teacher’s recitals and visits to assisted living centers.  She will play a classical piece here and there to keep her fingers fresh.  They will be harder pieces, but not 40 page pieces.

Her teacher and I had a lovely conversation about creating opportunities for her pre-teen and teen students to get together and play.  I am very, very excited about the possibilities we discussed and I hope they can come to fruition.  If I can fulfill her need to be around other musical teens, then I feel that I have accomplished my goal.  If she keeps playing and fills my home with music, I will be very happy.  When she plays her church music in the morning and I quietly sing the hymns, I feel like I start every day with God.  And that is what music is all about.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A few extras

A few extra photos that I really like from our trip to NYC but that did not make the Instagram cut!

Friday, July 18, 2014


One of the benefits of homeschooling my girls is that despite their age difference, they both join together for reading.  When I conceived the idea of A Literary Tour of New York, it was for Grace’s 9th grade fall semester, but it also serves as Lilah’s 7th grade fall semester reading.  Harriet the Spy is not going to be found on any high school reading list, but it sparked the idea for this course and we are not discounting it since the themes the book explores pertain to teenagers (bullying, exploring individuality, strong female characters, income disparities, cultural issues, mother/daughter relationships and more).  
To extend our reading we explored the practice of book banning, censorship, and used technology to create an educational brochure about banned children’s books.  We created a hashtag #instabookclubharriet on Instagram and joined together with families across the country who were interested in reading this classic and posting pictures of their activities online.  Several children (Lilah included) spent hours creating elaborate maps of fictional towns and playing town, like Harriet did in the opening of the book.  We loved seeing our friends sharing in the same experience we were having in real time.  In this way Instagram truly can create community.  
We traveled to Manhattan on July 17th as virtual tour guides.  I had an itinerary of where we wanted to go based on research online as to where the address that served as the inspiration for Harriet’s home, her school, the park she played it and where her journal was taken, her friend Janie’s house, and the neighborhood she spied in.  It is all right there in the Yorkville Neighborhood on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.  

Here are my Instagram pictures of our trip:
Grand Central Station at noon.  Not too busy!

The Grand Hyatt Hotel....our favorite stop for organic snacks and clean bathrooms.

Taking the subway uptown to the East 80s.

A movie theater...perhaps similar to the one Harriet visited. 3rd Ave and East 87th St.

Harriet's Brownstone 558 East 87th Street from the park.  

Looking down Harriet's Street towards the park.

The park that Harriet always wrote in and where her journal was taken after school during a game of tag.  This is one of the most beautiful parks I have been to.

I would spend all my time writing here too!

or walking...

or watching the boats go by.  The girls were Instagramming their day too.

Gracie Mansion.  The Mayor's House.

A splash park.

A very cool independent bookstore Logos Bookstore, 1575 York Avenue.

Janie lived somewhere on this street...East 84th.

My research told me to stop here for an egg cream, like the one Harriet enjoys in the book.  Egg creams no longer have a raw egg.  Half and half + seltzer water + vanilla or chocolate syrup and blend.  That's all!  This is a great restaurant.  The pancakes and coffee were worth the trip alone.

Not the best picture but this is our vanilla egg cream.  We ate at the lunch counter.  It was very cool.

The 6:30 train took us home.  We met up with Greg and my mother who both work in midtown.  It was a very good day and the best kick off to our Literary Tour of New York City.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Riding Camp

Life is not perfect.  It has ups and downs.  Not every activity is perfect.  There are always positives and negatives to every situation.  Riding camp was no exception.  

There were positives: the beautiful setting, the calm dynamic of this group of girls, Grace was able to ride bareback and loved it, Lilah discovered that she did not hate yoga. Both girls adored the older teen staff members.  
There were also negatives: not as much riding time as anticipated, not being entirely comfortable with your horse, the extreme heat during the week of camp, the biting insects.

I am proud of my girls for sticking this week out.  They desperately wanted to walk away from this experience.  After a long conversation, Greg and I decided they needed to persevere through it because they were learning something new each day (dressage rather than hunt seat, the anatomy and care and keeping of a horse, yoga).  It may not have been their favorite week ever.  It may not be something they ever do again.  That is okay.  Knowing that you can overcome a difficult experience or situation, class, teacher, boss, is an important life skill.  Walking away is easy.  Sticking it out takes courage, perseverance, confidence, determination, resolve, and adaptability.

This may have “just” been a camp about horses and horseback riding, but the life lessons they learned were far more important.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Mini Golf

We have made the decision that we are comfortable having fewer friends and more freedoms.  This is not an easy decision to make when someone in your family is an extrovert.  Often I have wondered if she would like to have kids around her all day, moving about from class to class, spending time in sports or after school activities...but she assured me that is not what she wants.  She wants time to sleep, to be able to eat a full home cooked meal at noon, to play the piano all day long, to learn with her dogs, to ride her bike, to take classes that interest her, to be sick without worrying about make up work, to not have testing pressure, to take vacations not according to a school schedule and to not have to sit so still.  All valid points.  But so are the points for friends, sports, student council, pep rallies, school sweatshirts, and yearbooks.  
In choosing to homeschool highschool, we accept a small base of friends.  The friends we have are good friends and there is always the possibility of discovering new friendships in the classes and activities we will participate in.  Another homeschooling mother has spent the last year preparing for her daughter to homeschool highschool.  She is actively seeking teens to join in on activities throughout our county.  There have been a few activites that we could not attend for various reasons.  Activities like bowling and tubing on the Farmington River.  We attended our first meet up with 5 other teen girls for mini golf at the beach.  It was wonderful to spend time with girls we have not seen since SoundWaters in the fall and to make a connection with a new friend Grace’s age.  
These activities are going to be vital to maintaining a healthy work/life balance.  Teens need other teens.  As homeschoolers they will each do their own thing with some taking structured classes three days a week, others doing the bulk of the work at home, some attending hybrid schools, others completely unschooling.  Some teens will attend the same classes and for some, these social activities provide the opportunity necessary to see some friends that they would not otherwise see.

We are looking forward to more of these events over the summer and hopefully deepening these budding friendships!
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