Monday, June 25, 2012

Music in the House


 Music in the House


     Here is an idea I considered when my children were small. In proportion to how much music, literature, poetry and art make up a lifestyle they will seem less like school. They will be part of living "the educational life." This was one of my aims in teaching within a home setting. After all, music is music. It really isn't a school subject. It is fine to make it a school subject. But let's remember, too, that literature is literature, poetry is poetry and art is art.

"Christian homes should not be places where nothing but a bit of sentimental or romantic music is heard, but places where there is the greatest variety of good music, so that the natural talent may find the necessary spark to set it on fire." Edith Schaeffer

     I reference Edith Schaeffer's Hidden Art of Homemaking because to her, music is part of homemaking. I like this idea. Do you find it interesting, too? Her music chapter is early in the book. In it she encourages the family to listen to good music in the home, to play it together on their musical instruments, to make a joyful noise to the Lord together, and also to invite friends to play on their instruments with hospitality.

Six Pieces of One Composer
     A rule of thumb for putting students in touch with the music of the great classical composers is this: Choose at least six of a composer's pieces. Repeated listening of one composer a semester is recommended. In this way children will get to know a composer, become familiar with his style and recognize his signature sound. This rule of thumb leaves room for adaptations outside a classroom. Casual listening in the car while commuting thirty minutes to town was an adaptation of ours while living in Oregon, Maryland, and then Maine. Music was also heard at the kitchen table while children drew, while folding clothes, doing dishes, or resting on the sofa with a head cold to "feel better" - or simply welcomed as a "down-time" activity on Sunday.


     Dad was frequently at the helm in introducing music in the house. One of his hobbies is listening to a large variety, old and new. He occasionally plays old record albums and holds the opinion that music sounds best on vinyl. Contemporary Christian music was Dad's choice in the car to and from church. Mom might read a hymn story during the week and teach the words of some favorites.

     Along with music appreciation, when each of our children reached the age of twelve he or she was offered private lessons on a musical instrument. They each took hold of the opportunity. Daily practice and all their years of prior listening helped blossom talent – just as Edith Schaeffer claims. It plucks this mother's heartstrings (a pun, because I cannot play an instrument) that although our adult children, Sophia, Yolanda and Nigel, attend different churches they each take part in Sunday worship on violin, cello, and piano.
 An Interview
     Today's post is an interview with our married daughters. Sophia is married to Andrew. 



     Yolanda is wife to Daniel.


     You are invited to visit their websites linked below. Let's talk to Yolanda. Being that she is the second child and literary plays "second fiddle" we'll talk to her first just to shuffle the order of things. 

     Yolanda, what are your earliest memories of music in the house?

     I listened to lots of classical-style music when I was little. One early memory comes to mind when I was feeling sad. Our hamster died. I hid inside the curtains. Dad had on a favorite album of his called "Secret Garden" by Rolf Lovland and I remember listening to it from my hiding spot and sympathizing with the beautiful sadness of the violin and piano. It is a favorite of mine still today and I can see how the sad melodies in that album have influenced some of the instrumentals I've written.
     Another memory I have is a cassette tape of classical guitar music. I don't know how often I played that tape while I did my math, but I'm convinced it helped me to concentrate.

     What are your early thoughts of the cello?

     We had a recording of "Beauty and the Beast" that I listened to frequently as a little girl. There is one part in particular where a cello plays a solo line above the orchestra in sad lament. I remember thinking it was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever heard. When I was 12, Mom asked me if I would like to learn the cello. I said yes. All I knew was that it was different than my big sister's violin (so it would be my own) and that I liked the sound. Little did I know how very thankful I would be years later for my mother's suggestion.


     Does this instrument require lots of practice?

     Yes. For the first few years my upper back hurt when I practiced longer than a half hour. Dad took me to the chiropractor. The doctor told me I had a knot in my upper right shoulder blade area. He said it was similar to the knot a golfer gets because both cellists and golfers work one side of their bodies more than the other. Although my back doesn't bother me much anymore, my fingers get sore after about two or three hours of performing, but the joy I receive and try to give to others is definitely worth it.

     How did you like growing up playing music with your big sister?

     I loved being able to grow up playing music with Sophia. I remember the first time we played a duet together in church. I was nervous. But since we chose a simple hymn it went well, which gave me confidence. Recently, Sophia and I performed for a wedding at Franklin and Marshal College in a pretty old chapel with rich acoustics. The sound of our instruments together was lovely. We can quarrel - just a little - when we rehearse, but when we perform our music has a special harmony and flow. I guess it's all part of being sisters.

Playing for an outdoor wedding 

     Has listening to music influenced your playing?

     For Christmas one year Dad bought me a set of Jacqueline DuPre's best cello recordings. She had a romantic influence in her interpretations that has had a decided influenced in my own style.

     Did you like your cello teacher back in Maine?

     I really enjoyed lessons with my cello teacher Mr. Myers. He inspired me to keep learning, enjoyed conversation and taught me many of the favorite cello pieces I play today. What I looked forward to the most in our lessons were the duets we played together. I try and emulate many of the same traits when I teach - including the duets. When Daniel and I drove from our home in Pennsylvania up to Maine on a short holiday, we bumped into Mr. Myers in a café near Bar Harbor. Here is a photograph of us enjoying the very pleasant surprise.


     I gave all my children, at once, a penalty for an "attitude," back when you were in your early teens. I've forgotten the offense (you were mostly good children) but I do remember I was upset when I decreed, "No music in this house for a week."

     Grounded from music? Oooh.....that was not the penalty we wanted to receive. How the week dragged on. But I think the next day you said the only music we were allowed was the music we created ourselves. We didn't have much choice but to get out the instruments.

     What kind of music do you listen to now that you are mistress of your own?
home?

     I enjoy a wide variety. Dan and I put on Glen Miller's band from the 1940s while we cook Italian for dinner. I listen to Steven Curtis Chapman while I drive. His "Beauty Will Rise" is uplifting. A country song, every now and then, and a good Moody Blues tune are also enjoyed. On Youtube, I watch The Piano Guys - contemporary favorites arranged for piano and cello. Soundtracks are frequent choice. Howard Shore's score to "The Lord of the Rings," and Patrick Doyle's score to "Sense and Sensibility" are often heard around in our house.


     My last question is, what music projects are in the works?

     My journey with music has brought me to composition. Although I only write in a small way, each melody that stays with me represents another step in this journey.

     Being a Tolkien fan I enjoy the beauty of the Professor's writing and poetry. One day, reading through the poem, "The Horse and the Rider" I took my guitar and wrote a simple melody to fit the words. I try to capture the essence of Tolkien's words in a way that blesses the listener.

     
Sophia, how did you get started?

     As long as I can remember I've wanted to play the violin. I will never forget the day Mom handed me a slip of paper with a telephone number on it. "This is the number of a violin teacher," she said. "If you truly want lessons you will call her." I had never called anyone other than friends or family before and my hands shook as I punched in the number. This proved to her how much I truly wanted to play. 







     You started later than most of the other students who attended the group class yet seemed unperturbed at this.

     I still chuckle when I picture myself towering above the students in the group class - probably the only time I have ever "towered" in my life, he,he. I don't remember feeling perturbed at being the oldest. Perhaps this was because I was the oldest child in our family and often the oldest in my group of friends. I was not jealous of the young violinists who were ahead of me in the Suzuki books. Rather, I was inspired.
     Many Suzuki students begin lessons at age 4 or 5. Although I was 12 I do not believe this set me back. Now, being a Suzuki teacher myself and looking through a teacher's eyes, I've seen that what takes a 4 year-old a year to learn can be covered in a couple of weeks at age 12.

Sophia "towering" in the middle, 1994 "Old Fashioned Day"

     You had attended only few live concerts. What did you think of them?

     When we attend the Rockport Opera House in Maine it was fantastic to see and hear real musicians play in person. Hearing Vivaldi's "Four Season" by the Portland Symphony was a treat. While most of the Opera House visits were treasured I do recall one particular occasion I did not enjoy. A quartet upbraided our ears with a modern atonal composition that included startling yelps and barking sounds out of the mouths of the musicians.

     Does classical music help you keep pop music in perspective?

     While I do enjoy the occasional current pop tune the lyrics are more often raunchy than not. For my boys classical music or the Christian radio is a more edifying option. I like to play Bach after breakfast. Four-year-old William and I dance around the living room while baby Joseph waves his sticky hands to the rhythm from the safety of his high chair. Yesterday William laid his head on my shoulder as we swayed to a sonata. It will remain a treasured memory. It is rare that he stays still long enough anymore.

     What music did you grow up hearing?

     Mother taught us about the classical composers and Christian hymns while also enjoying John Denver. Father was known for the Moody Blues, Bread, Enya, Andrew Lloyd Weber, The Beatles, George Gershwin, Riders in the Sky, The Three Tenors, Silly Wizard, (Celtic), movie scores, and many others. I had a well-rounded exposure. 
     Just yesterday a friend wanted to know what was the first CD I owned. How could I forget "Mad About Violin," a Christmas gift from Dad?

     Ministering with your violin has been a special Christian part of your life since you were a teen. What gave you the idea to start the singing group "By the Power of His Love" in the church in Maine?

     Mom got me started almost as soon I could play my first song, using my violin to minister. It began with playing "Ash Grove" for nursing homes, my knees shaking and hands sweating. I don't remember how I began playing for church but I still play to this day. Playing for others has helped develop my skill for improvisation and playing with other instruments. 

The group is being silly holding all the wrong instruments. Our girls are on the far left.

     Our little church in Maine had a sweet group of home-educated young people with varying talents. After church service the young ladies often gathered around the piano. While Pastor's son played we would sing. We were eventually overheard by the grown-ups and asked to sing a special song for church. We enjoyed making music together so much that we formed a small group. We traveldc to other churches in the area and farther away as word-of-mouth spread. Pastor drove us in the van as far as Canada. We ministered with a set of praise songs, with instrumentals and personal testimonies. My fondest memory of these concerts is when I saw a young man being accompanied out of the sanctuary during a song. We were later told he had given his life to Christ that night.
     Before leaving Maine our group would meet together in a recording studio built in an unlikely spot – an old chicken barn – where we made a CD – a souvenir.

     In Maine you taught 30 students. Where you live now it's a different story isn't it?

     Teaching 30 students in rural Maine was a wonderful experience. I was one of two teachers in a 70-mile radius. Here in crowded Baltimore, Maryland when I was first married, I tried for a job at a music store near our one bedroom apartment. I was turned away for my lack of a music degree. My years of experience made little difference. Through a family connection on my husband's side, I found a teaching position at a music school. The owner was a divorce lawyer who had hated the job so much that he quit and started a music school. He said I was just what he was looking for. In his opinion a teaching degree does not necessarily make a good teacher. Of course I respect and admire those who have worked hard for one. 


     With two little boys keeping me on my toes I've taken on only a few students that come to the house. I look forward to teaching more and playing for more weddings with my sister as the boys grow up. This is the beauty of playing an instrument. You can use it in various ways throughout your life in whatever stage of the journey you walk. Mom, thank you for making me practice!
All the photographs of strings are taken by Sophia.



     Yolanda and Sophia, thank-you for doing the interview for my blog friends. It sets me walking down memory lane. I enjoyed being your mommy when you were my little girls. It's been rewarding to watch your journey through a beautiful girlhood into womanhood.

"Happy Birthday, Sophia." 
(She turns 30 today. When she was a 2-year-old I became interested in home education. My, the years do fly.)


Thanks for visiting, 
Karen Andreola 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Sweet Fragrance


 Sweet Fragrance

     The Lady-of-the-House has added more pink to the garden this year without her left hand knowing what her right hand was doing. She likes pink unconsciously.





     Raspberry colored bamboo pots hold an odd collection of growing things. Do you see the tiny leafed herb? It is miniature basil.  When the Lady-of-the-House spotted it at a nursery she thought is so cute she did an impulse-buy.



     Although this funny bonsai-like basil is as deliciously fragrant as the regular basil she keeps near the kitchen door, she could only bring herself to pinch a few of its leaves so far for culinary use. She more frequently robs the regular basil for seasoning pasta, soup or herbed yeast rolls along with thyme and crushed fennel seed.

     
   

     Behind the miniature basil is a strawberry scented geranium. The little flowers are interesting combination of pinks while the leaves offer an aroma of strawberry shortcake.



     Most of her lavender plants over-wintered. Some did not. The bumblebees and dragonflies visit this little patch of potent blooms. Lavender is the traditional ingredient so appreciated in the soap and sachets of the Lady-of-the-House.



     She and the Man-of-the-House are also reminded of other smells while they sit outside on the back patio. Living in a neighborhood of small working farms that use organic fertilizer supplied in abundance by black and white cows, periodically puts a much heavier scent in the air. The Man-of-the-House is usually first to notice the direction of the breeze when the fields are being “dressed” and notifies the Lady-of-the-House.



     She is prepared, however, with the fragrant herbs that dot the borders of the patio. She snips off a leaf of this and that and keeps them in a shirt pocket while she stitches in a lawn chair. She hands a leaf or two to the Man-of-the-House.


      During their conversations the Lady-of-the-House can often be heard to say one of the following:

“I think so, too.”  (Her most common phrase.)
“I couldn’t agree with you more.”
That’s true.”
“I couldn’t have said it better.”
“You’re right, there.”
“I understand, Darling.”
“Yes, precisely.”
“How could anyone think otherwise?”
“That’s the most sensible thing I’ve heard in a long time.”
“That’s for sure.”
“I believe it.”
“You can say that again.”
“That sounds right.”


     She doesn’t always know exactly what the Man-of-the-House is talking about, especially when it comes to the science fiction he reads, the customer complaints he finds posted about the inadequacies of a product he thought he was getting ready to purchase on-line, an article he found remarkable via facebook, or the strange techno-talk comprised of computer-vocabulary he and his son use. 

     But if it sounds favorable she will smile and show she is listening by adding the sweet fragrance of a positive, friendly remark. Sometimes Man-of-the-House will touch upon something that specifically resonates with her, some injustice that upsets her, news of how children are being mistreated, etc. Then she shows more feeling within her reply.



     Other times she simply, in good conscience, cannot agree. She may say one of the following:

“I’m of a different opinion.”
“How can you say that?”
“Darling, that can’t possibly be true.”
“I wish I could believe you.”
“Isn't that an exaggeration?”
“Seemingly so, but I beg to differ.”
“We don’t see eye to eye, that’s all.”

     This ushers in a lively discussion. The Man-of-the-House plays the polite salesman with his ideas. A little banter and debate adds interest to the day.

     It was a different story when they were newly wed. The Man-of-the-House played the salesman more emphatically. He was an energetic young man then and worked as a traveling sales representative with a wide territory. He was, and still is, a natural salesman. On his sales’ calls he was always a polite and congenial conversationalist, genuinely caring about meeting a mutual benefit in the exchange, never about meeting a hard-and-fast quota impressed upon him by his higher-ups.

The pink bags of lavender fit inside a partially lined pouch.

     At home, somehow, when it came to ideas in conversation, he was peeved if his young wife disagreed with him. And she was troubled if he disagreed with her. The fact that disagreements were rare made the occurrence seem all the more uncomfortable and out-of-place. The young Lady-of-House didn’t wish to be a wife who patronized  - agreeing with her husband just to avoid conflict. Any and all conflict to this sensitive-plant of a girl (married at age 19) made her feel sick. But for the sake of truth the boat would just have to rock and they would have to steady themselves with kindness. “Always be kind and true” is the motto. . . . no matter what. 

     Perhaps she was being unreasonable but often a disagreement would require that she say, “I still don’t agree” several times even as the salesman tried to overcome her objections. He finally took her word for it. As time went on this married couple got more used to one another. A subtle disagreement was absorbed with less fuss. Today a discussion* doesn’t rock the boat the same way it once did.



     It is a sweet fragrance when friends agree. But on the rare moments when they do differ, they can always differ with Christian kindness – that is . . . if they don’t take themselves too seriously.    

*Not to be confused with wifely submission.




     Thanks for stopping by.


     I hope the Lady-of-the-House put a smile in your day with her flowers, cross stitched-on-linen sachets and a jovial, handy hint on the marriage relationship.  

Karen Andreola 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Rosy-cheeked and Resourceful (an article on play)


Rosy-cheeked and Resourceful 
(an article on play)

Whenever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.  Closing lines of Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne

     A pleasing feature of home education is that the transition from Kindergarten to that of the higher grades can be a gradual one. Definite lessons for the first grader require his attention. These lessons are formal and do not resemble play but because seatwork is completed in far less time than the conventional classroom, more time is available for other developmental activities . . .and play.

New York,  New York

     Play is a wellspring of refreshing water that bubbles up and flows through the activities of the child. Play produces joy, freedom, satisfaction, repose, and peace. The spontaneous impulse of a child to explore comes from his wellspring of curiosity.


Photograph by Nat Farbman

     The most intelligent creatures in the animal kingdom do the most play. In fact, it may seem to us that they spend an inordinate amount of time playing. Consider the otter, the dolphin, puppies and kittens and how much of their time is spent in play.

     In the autobiographical book, Ring of Bright Waters, naturalist Gavin Maxwell says of his pet, “Otters that have been reared by human beings demand human company, much affection, and constant co-operative play; without these things they quickly become unhappy, and for the most part they are tiresome in direct ration to their discontent.” *1 Does this sound like any children you know?  

     Before Mr. Maxwell moved with his otter Mij to Camusfearna, on the seaside of Scotland, Mij was confided to a London studio apartment. “When he was loose in the studio, he would play for hours at a time with what soon became an established selection of toys, ping-pong balls, marbles, India-rubber fruit, and a terrapin shell that I had brought back from his native marshes.” *2  I’ve read as far as chapter eight but I know (from seeing the 1960s film) that soon Mij revels in the expansive freedom of the seaside.  
Manhattan, New York

     In the late 20th century, wherever our family moved, the neighborhoods were strangely quiet. I remember feeling it a pity that my children were missing something that had been a happy part of my childhood. My children didn’t notice anything missing. They happily played together. 







     But I couldn’t help it. There were days when I would import children into our backyard – usually children of a home teaching friend. 

     Today, in the 21st century neighborhoods are quieter than ever. But a little networking is all it takes to plan an occasional hour or so of neighborhood-ish play.

     A couple generations ago neighborhoods were safe. And they were noisy. Rollicking children yelled at the top of their lungs, “Ready or not here I come” and sought those who hid or ran at top speed to tag their playmates. The branches of trees had children in them. Wagons, wheel barrows and make sift go-carts had children in them. Kick-the-can added to the noise of the street. My mother joined in. 


Photograph by George Marks


     Metal roller skates rattled over the cracks of the sidewalk. My mother gave me a pair. The shinny metal skates triggered a memory of hers. She told me how her Victorian born and bred grandmother was adamant that Joanie didn’t roller skate on Sunday afternoons. “It isn’t proper,” she said, “when people are sitting in their front parlors [eight feet from the sidewalk] trying to relax.”


     Dolls were pushed in baby carriages. Girls doted over their dolls.

     My father told me that the boys on his block (1930-40s) would huddle together to thumb marbles with intense interest in the outcome. He was one of them. My mother became skilled at jacks.


     In my own childhood, if a car was turning the corner, the first child to spy it would alert the others in the street with, “Car, car, c-a-r, stick your head in a jelly jar.” I was a baby-boomer born in the heavily populated state of New Jersey, twenty miles from Manhattan, during the glorious - perhaps last remaining - days of neighborhood play.

     Hopscotch was played on the street methodically day after day. We girls took the game seriously. I became quite good at balancing for my rock and avoiding any stepping on a chalk line. 

     What I wasn’t good at were the games “Red Light, Green Light, and “Mother May I?” played by boys and girls together after supper. I humbly obeyed the oft-voiced commands of “go back” by my betters. Only when we swatted our first mosquito did we break up and go inside.  

Photograph by Ralph Morse

     Attention deficit was at an all-time low in the days of neighborhood play. Play develops the brain and prepares children for more complicated thinking. It is why I made, “Ready, Set, Go” a chapter in my book, A Charlotte Mason Companion, as well as a chapter on playing with sand. Do my critics who say the book is full of “fluff” hold the point-of-view that legitimate brain development is only what takes place at a desk? Maybe they just don’t understand. Maybe play, and all its benefits, is a forgotten phenomenon.

My grandsons in the sandbox

     Childhood is precious. Yet, it is disappearing. Mothers who are attracted to the Victorian writings of Miss Charlotte Mason, I suspect are the same mothers who seek to preserve it. Miss Mason did. In the synopsis of her educational theory she says, first and foremost, that children are born persons. Turn a few pages of Home Education and we are set among detailed chapters on how to educate the whole “person.” 
     In our modern media-saturated society children are sucked into themes and images of the adult world before they are ready. Many home teachers acknowledge the usefulness of screens but are aware of the dangers of overuse, too. They seek, for their children, the innocence and creative intelligence that a more old-fashioned definition of the term “childhood” provides. In our electronic age an old-fashioned childhood may seem prolonged or backward. Couldn’t it be that the reverse is true; that childhoods today are cut short?

     I learned from Charlotte Mason that, although she had a high regard for the right sort of books, and the discipline of daily lessons, education doesn’t begin and end with books. Neither does childhood and play end with Kindergarten. In Home Education first published in 1886 she tells us:

That play, vigorous, healthful play, is, in its turn fully as important as lessons as regards both bodily health and brainpower.
That the knowledge most valuable to the child is that which he gets with his own eyes and ears and fingers (under direction) in the open air.
That the claims of the schoolroom should not be allowed to encroach on the child’s right to long hours daily for exercise and investigation.” *3

     Take a leap forward in time. In Dr. Jane Healy’s book, Endangered Minds, published 1990, is the chapter “Why Can’t They Pay Attention?” Here she makes a parallel between the dramatic decline in neighborhood play (75% less than the early 1900s) and a child’s inability to pay attention to more abstract types of learning.


Photograph by H. Armstrong Roberts

   
     Dr. Healy says that the kind of play “that involves children of different ages, basically unsupervised by adults,” enables a child “to gain visual and auditory attention, and body coordination.” 

     Through play children initiate their own noise and are set in motion by their own “sense of internal rhythms” (jump rope, tag, hopscotch, swings). 
     
     What is taking the place of  “the child initiative” is a bombardment from without of external rhythms and the dominant beats of hard rock music and flashy video in which the children remain passive both mentally and physically.*4

     Playful children are alert, rosy cheeked and resourceful. Isn’t this the same playpower–brainpower parallel Miss Mason spoke of more than one hundred years prior when she wrote, 

“The resourcefulness which will enable a family of children to invent their own games and occupations through the length of a summer’s day is worth more in after life than a good deal of knowledge about cubes and hexagons.” *5

     Play is for all ages. It is for the teacher and mother, too. It colors and compliments Mother Culture beautifully. Those who partake of even a morsel find it invigorating.

Your Opinions are Welcome,
Karen Andreola
 
End Notes
1. Gavin Maxwell, Ring of Bright Water, Longmans, pg 99
2. Ibid, pg 102
3.  Charlotte Mason, Home Education, republished by Charlotte Mason R & S Co.,1989 (I lost track of the pages because  I started writing this two years ago and recently found the rough draft on my laptop.)
4.  Jane M. Healy, Ph.D. Endangered Minds, Simon & Schuster, 1990, pgs 171-172.
5. Home Education, pg 192