Tagged with " Music"

No Limits, Please!

In our adult roles as parents, carers, teachers and educators it is inevitable that a large part of our responsibility encompasses placing limits on our children. As responsible adults, it falls on us to limit the amount of television they watch or the number of sweets and chocolates they can have in a day. Perhaps we think about how we can limit negative behaviour and encourage positive behaviour instead. These types of limits are necessary for the good of the child. However, not all limits are positive and sometimes they seem unnecessary and may often be detrimental.

I first became aware of these potentially detrimental (often unnecessary) limits when Georgia started at nursery school. It all started when I learnt more about the phonics system that is in use here in the UK to teach reading.

Georgia spends a lot of time with books and surrounded by books (a confession here: My main weakness is shopping for neither clothes nor shoes but books!). We first started looking at alphabet books and learning letters by their letter names and their relevant phonetical sounds. So from about 2, she knew that an ‘A’ (letter name) sounded ‘ah’ (phonetical sound) and so on.

Later on when she started at nursery school, she came home referring to letters, bizzarely, only by their phonetical sounds. This was when I did a bit more digging around on the Web and found out that children here are not taught letter names for fear that they would get confused!

So 4-6 year olds are ONLY taught the phonetical sounds of each letter without being told their letter names (I don’t know why they bother to teach the ABC song then really). At some point in their primary school life, probably at about 7 or 8 years of age, these children who up until then have only referred to letters by their phonetical sounds are then taught the letter names.

What baffles me completely is why there exists the assumption that children would find it confusing to learn letter names along-side letter sounds? My personal opinion and experience tells me that such limits are very unnecessary and often only serve to tell the children that they are inferior and incapable, while the fact is, if these limits are removed they are actually very capable of much greater achievements.

How would you know something is difficult, if you didn’t know that it was hard in the first place? In my book, children do not have enough experience to know whether things are easy or hard, they may have a preference, likes and dislikes, but with no prior experience, the perception of something difficult is often a ‘borrowed’ concept.

I observed a similar ‘self-limiting’ experience recently with music instruction.

Georgia’s school participates in a fantastic scheme called The Infants’ Strings Project. Through this project, all children at Reception (4-5 year olds) are taught to play the violin and some are offered the cello.

We too have a quarter sized cello at home and Georgia and I have been ‘playing’ with it for the past year and a half now. As I found it quite difficult to get hold of cello instruction books suitable for 3.5 year olds, I decided to design a very simple set of notes based on a music staff with some visually appealing images.

So we had notes for C, G, D and A (the open strings on the cello) printed on a staff with the bass clef and the music count. I also incorporated different note values. Because it did not occur to me that it might be difficult for Georgia, and I carried on teaching her based on ‘normal’ music notes. I found that it took only a couple of tries before she actually recognised and remembered the notes. In short, she could actually read music.

We have recently started formal music lessons with a lovely teacher who also participates in the Infant Strings Project and I found out from her that the children are only taught to recognise coloured notes (a colour denotes a note) without a staff and without note values.

This seemed to be yet another case of telling the children what they cannot do without actually letting them try to reach their potential.

Would you believe then, with no limits attached – the deaf can hear and the blind can see?

Take the case of (Think and Grow Rich, 1937) Napoleon Hill’s son, Blair, born without ears and on further examination, apparently had no possibility of hearing, and yet with unmistakable belief and no limits he was eventually able to gain most if not all of his hearing (with a hearing aid).

If this is not convincing enough, hear Caroline Casey for yourself….and remember – No Limits!

Conversations with Georgia: On Lent

This morning, at 5 am, (!)  Georgia squeezed in next to me. As I willed her back to sleep, her little voice pipes out:

Lent, Easter

G: Mum, when’s Easter?
(I can see her thinking chocolate, easter eggs, holiday!)
Me: It will be soon, but do you know, now is the time called Lent?
G: (huffily) I know that already.
Me: And do you know what Lent is about? (pause…but no response comes) It’s about giving up things.
G (without skipping a beat!) : Ok! I can give up work and Cello practise!

Obviously I explained to her that Lent was about giving up things you really like or love, and her reasoning was,
G: (adamantly) But I do really like writing!

May 16, 2009 - Uncategorized    No Comments

A Cello on Approval!

We had quite a day out today – — decided to have dim sum for lunch – hadn’t had it for ages and we went to Bristol which is across the Severn Bridge (30-40 mins drive) not that far but it does cost 5.40 to cross the bridge – we used to go to Bristol really often when we were both working as we had the bridge tag which was paid monthly so the weekend crossing didn’t really add to the cost – but lately it’s counting pennies 😀

So anyway – fab news is — i figured while we were there, we’d try to get to the (Bristol Violins) violin/cello shop for Georgia to be sized up for a cello – and woo hoo they actually had an 1/8th cello in.

And initially the man said that she looked a bit small but she was quite a natual with it.
It was rather pricey – nearly £300 so we weren’t really looking at buying it – but asked about options cause they do a rental scheme too.
But the guy, Neil, I think his name was, he was not too sure about how well she was sized up and recommended that we come in to meet the professional cellist — so we’ve an appointment on June 6th to see Juliet the cellist.

And we were just going to leave without the cello – and Georgie was really keen on going home with one. And they had a fabulous suggestion – they allowed us to have the cello on approval – which means basically we got it on loan and cost all of £3! for insurance!

We got home pretty late and Georgia immediately wanted to play it – so we set it up and sat her down on her chair and I was very surprised – she’s actually quite good a producing sounds! – She doesn’t bow very well – as in the bow does run up and down where it shouldn’t but other than that – she seems very natural at it – which is quite amazing.
So anyway – we’re heading back to Bristol on the 6th of June to have more advice and perhaps find out more about possible teachers who will take her on at this stage.

I had a little play around and i’m glad i still remember bits from my uni days … so i think we’ll be playing a little every day and see how it goes!