Amazing Music

We had a wonderful weekend, filled with good music. First my heart was filled with beauty as we drove over mountain passes on Saturday afternoon on our way to southern Colorado to celebrate with a friend as she performed in concert the music from her new CD. (Here is a press release about the concert.) (You can listen to music clips from her first CD here.) Then, on Sunday we visited the small church our friends attend and enjoyed worship music similar to the churches we attended for years before coming out here.mountain pass

Alison was a homeschooling buddy of mine in Ohio when our kids were young. We started a homeschool co-op together and organized a group of families to do hands-on Ohio History. Alison’s family was very involved in leadership at the church we both attended. Over the years, we drifted apart. Our family moved to a different church and eventually to a different part of the state.

I reconnected with Alison on Facebook during the past year. I discovered that she and her husband now live in Southern Colorado—practically neighbors in western terms! And I found out that (among other things—she is an amazingly talented woman) she now writes and performs songs. The concert this weekend was celebrating the release of her second CD.singer alison

Alison is an awesome singer…and her songs connect with me on many levels. Most of them tell a story—or at least are based on a story. One of the benefits of hearing her in concert is that she gave us the story behind each song. This made for a wonderful evening of entertainment…but there is more…western singer

Alison was backed by an amazing group of talented musicians. If only I could have taken photos of the collection of instruments behind each man… In addition to the improv musical riffs in the middle of songs, it was enjoyable to watch how much fun each musician was having. If only I could have taken video of the toe-tapping, head bobbing, and body-dancing of these men jamming to the tunes…band

In addition to Alison’s own music, each musician shared one of his own songs, backed up by this talented group. Jakob, Randy and I were scrambling to write down the musician’s names and the pieces they shared. We hope to find some of this music on-line… Have you ever seen a proud, proud mother? Take a look at Alison’s face when her singer-songwriter daughter Emily took a turn as lead singer. (And we can’t wait til Emily someday releases her own CD with her own band—she was even more amazing than Alison!!)proud mama

Finally, as if all of this soaking in and filling up with evocative music wasn’t enough, I got a treat beyond most treats for me: Alison has cello tracks on her CD, and the cellist played in her backup group on Saturday night. Some of you know I’ve played cello since I was in 4th grade (although I haven’t played much recently). Ahhh…my heart sings when I hear good cello music and these tracks were live! I could watch the cellist, see him moving with the music, smiling in joy as he and the other musicians handed off the riffs, doing improv together. Yep, that’s what I said…a cellist doing improv. I didn’t know such a thing existed…but now I’m hungry to try it for myself.cello improv

I’ve played with the idea of playing “fiddle tunes” on my cello…but they really aren’t conducive to the larger instrument size. But improv? IMPROV?? I just might, maybe, be able to do that…

I chatted with the cellist (Mark Dudrow) after the concert. And he gave me a CD of him and a buddy doing cello duets/improv together. And he mentioned that he gives lessons. And now I really, really want to take some of those lessons. (Here’s one you-tube video clip of some of his improv although the cello duets are even more awesome!)cellist mark dudrow

I really don’t know how I can afford the gas money…or the lesson money…or even the time. But my friend Alison says I can stay overnight with her “when” I come up for lessons. And Mark says he is very flexible about lesson times. And even the idea of this makes my heart sing. And I might be able to get some tips via email to get me started. And maybe I could play along to both CDs for practice…and…and…and…

Guess it’s one more thing to add to my “dream list.” I’ve been playing with art for the past few months. Time to add some musical playing as well!

Teacher’s Pet…projects!

If you have known me for long, you have already figured out that I love to teach. When I learn something, pretty soon it comes spewing out again, being passed on for the interest or help of others. Like any teacher, my favorite projects are those that lead to an “aha” moment for students.

In the past few weeks, I have had great fun with a variety of teaching opportunities—in school and out:

marvelous messy artistI did an art history/project with the local school’s 1st grade class some time before Thanksgiving. This week, I got to do another project with them. We made marvelous, messy, colorful art in the style of Monet. (Read more about it HERE.) I was pleased that the students remembered the name and nickname of our previous artist—Henri Matisse, the “wild beast” (so named because he loved to use wild colors and shapes—kind of like ME!) I was pleased that the students worked hard to draw realistic mesa shapes…and then played with the chalk pastels, experimenting with how to mix and smear them. I was pleased that they want me to come back again and do more art with them. And best of all, I was pleased that a few of them who are usually serious and tentative, had big SMILES on their faces by the time we finished.

I pushed and prodded students in my two after-school tutoring groups to participate in NaNoWriMo this year (an on-line program challenging people to write a novel in a month—with a published book given for free to each student who reaches their writing goal during the month). I was sad to discover that reachable word-count goals were so low because writing is quite a challenge for most of these students. On the other hand, almost 10 of them persevered, adding sentence to sentence, slowly progressing, gradually reaching their goals. Even though it is hard work, they haven’t given up and are willingly doing rewrites and editing. Each of them wants to have a printed book in their hands, one written entirely by them! One of my students has discovered a strong talent for description and for coming up with a cliff-hanging plot. Another was reluctant to participate, but is now the most excited to finish up and order her book. All of them have gained confidence by attempting the previously unimaginable. YAY for NaNoWriMo!

I have gotten to know another student in the past few weeks. Although an upper grade student, he still struggles with math and reading. He tends to hunch over, trying to avoid being called on in class or being spoken to in the hallways. He was one of the students who had not yet chosen a science fair topic when I was subbing for his class. At first, he said little. Eventually, he muttered that he had an idea… When I took him seriously, he got more animated. We had a good discussion about what it would take to turn his idea into a full-fledged project. And he has carried through. I helped him do the experiment this week. And he willingly sat with me for over an hour to painstakingly write out his conclusions for the report. He still hides behind his long hair if asked about other things—but he happily talks about what he did and what he learned when the topic is this project. Wow! What a privilege to help a struggling student find something of interest in the academic world. Now, if only he does well in the science fair judging this week…

Anna sewingAnd the fun of teaching and seeing the “aha” moment in students has not been limited to the local school setting. Anna has started learning to sew. Before we left on our trip back east, she made a wall-hanging to hold her many Junior Ranger badges. Randy just laughed to hear me—“Wait! STOP! Go slower! Pay attention!” He says it sounded like I was teaching her to drive. Now THAT’s a scary thought! She enjoyed it enough that we gave her a homemade doll-quilt kit for Christmas. So far, she has pieced the many squares into strips. By the end of that step she was actually doing everything completely on her own, with me sitting beside her (supposedly) reading a book. My, you should have seen the proud smile on her face! One of these days we will get back to the project and she will finish the job.

Jakob is not left out of the joy of learning new things. For a number of school years, I have tried to interest him in reading non-fiction books. Nope…he dallied, delayed, whined, and wiggled out of it. Oh, he would read the specific things I assigned and demanded that he finish, but, by golly, he was determined to not enjoy it. And then…and then…he overheard me telling Randy all about the fascinating things I had learned from a book about human brain development related to type of culture (agricultural versus hunter/gathering). And somehow it captured Jakob’s interest. He “stole” the book from me before I could finish it, and read it from cover to cover. Suddenly he is enjoying many of the laymen’s science books I bring home. YAY! Another “aha” moment which opens the world wider for a “student” of mine…

Hmmm…I wonder what I will learn next. And I wonder which teaching opportunity will bloom into more “aha” moments for students. I can’t WAIT to find out!

Flying…or Grounded?

Fly by the seat of one’s pants: 1. to pilot a plane by feel and instinct rather than by instruments 2. to proceed or work by feel or instinct without formal guidelines or experience.

I use this phrase a lot. This is my favored way of moving through life. Make an extensive list, then chuck out the list and “fly by the seat of my pants.” I like the freedom in this. I enjoy the creativity it allows. I thrive on the possibilities in front of me when I live this way.

I love to "FLY"...

Unfortunately, this method of living makes it hard to stick tightly to schedules and routines. Just ask my kids who were all homeschooled. We were NOT a family who were all sitting at our desks by 8:30 am, ready to proceed from subject to subject on regular intervals indicated by a bell.

Eventually, most things on my lists are covered, finished, checked-off. All the “basics” get done along with a million other serendipitous things as well.

I used to beat myself up for not sticking to a schedule. Occasionally I vowed to change. I would buy a day-planner, fill it in, and compulsively stick to the plans…for a few days or a week at most. Then it was back to spontaneous living once again…sigh…

Eventually, I realized there is nothing wrong with this style of living. After all, I DO get everything done that needs to get done. I usually find a decent balance between responsibilities and fun. I don’t get bent out of shape when the unexpected happens—whether good (a friend stops by) or bad (pipes break and we have no water for a few days).

I realized last night that this is a significant reason why I enjoy homeschooling so much. When we educate our children on our own, we are not tied to a school schedule. We are free to follow whatever opportunities appear.

Nettie is currently working as a wild-mustang-taming intern at “Mustang Camp.” There is an unexpectedly large batch of newly caught wild-horses coming in and the owners are short-handed. Jakob will be headed back into the canyon to stay for a few days as another “hired-hand.” He will be hand-feeding a few of the newcomers, getting them comfortable with being near humans. This is time consuming, but not difficult work.

I can't "fly" to Mustang Camp...I've been grounded

I so much wish that I could go back to Mustang Camp for the month. I enjoy being around horses. I know I would be good at the taming and training. I could even take horse-crazy Anna back with me. What an awesome experience it would be!

But…Anna is now in school. Yes, it is going well for her. Yes, it was a good decision to enroll her this year. Yes, it gives me more freedom to work on other projects during school hours. BUT…I can’t fly by the seat of my pants for now. I can’t just move her and I back to Mustang Camp to follow this opportunity. We have a school schedule to follow instead. She is learning to live with regularity and consistency…but we have lost room for much spontaneity, at least for now.

So I will make more lists. And I will go where opportunities lead me. But creativity and spontaneity will have to happen within the confines of an external school-day schedule this year. Right now I’m mourning the limits on freedom…

I’m not currently “flying.” I’ve been “grounded” for now.