Tag Archives: Charlotte Mason

Music Lessons

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My son got a bee in his bonnet in December about wanting a guitar. Finances have been less than stellar these days, but I promised we’d look into it. We found some mass produced guitars, but I didn’t think he’d be happy with that. I knew there were a few music shops around town and the odds are, we’d find one there, however, we ended up finding one where we least expected it, in a pawn shop. There were actually several to choose from. I had my son handle each one and strum the cords a bit to see if one felt right, kinda like Harry Potter choosing a wand.

The instrument that sounded the best to my ear was this handmade armadillo shell guitar. Well, I don’t know if it actually could be called a guitar. It was a stringed instrument to be sure. It had an honest to goodness armadillo shell and copper wires. It’s called a charango and believe it or not, quite a popular mariachi instrument even though it is most known in music from further south, Bolivia, Peru, and Argentina.My son refused it. He couldn’t see girls flocking around an armadillo player, you see. It gave us a good chuckle, though.

He did find one that he liked and that was that. Now comes the hard part, learning to play. We have a Learn How to Play the Guitar video Learn How To Play Guitar so that was the logical place to start. It was a complete failure. Maybe some can learn an instrument through video instruction, but it just wasn’t happening for my son.

The next logical action was to find a qualified teacher. The music teacher that teaches with me at the elementary school has his own music school, so I approached him first. He said he would be happy to teach my son, however, we ran into a scheduling problem. He taught evenings and weekends during the same hours that I have my private English classes. There wasn’t any way I could run my son to his school and get to my classes on time. Darn it!

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I wasn’t giving up so easily. I did find an old guitar book (The New Guitar Course, Bk 1: Here Is a Modern Guitar Course That Is Easy to Learn and Fun to Play!) among my piano books that showed him the basic finger positions, but he really needed a teacher. I could teach him how to read the music, but not how to play the guitar. Piano is my instrument.

If possible, let the children learn from the first under artists, lovers of their work: it is a serious mistake to let the child lay the foundation of whatever he may do in the future under ill-qualified mechanical teachers, who kindle in him none of the enthusiasm which is the life of art” (Vol. 1, p. 314).–Charlotte Mason

Every day on the way to work, I pass this cute little shop with a piano keyboard painted on the sidewalk in front. That’s where I tried next. The teacher was an elderly chap, a retired (or not so retired) musician.  Anyone with that sort of imagination for just the outside decoration was bound to be a true musical artist!

The registration was high–$400 pesos. Class prices were high–$100 pesos per hour. The book price was high –another $100 pesos. But I went ahead and confirmed my son’s attendance the following Saturday at 10 am.  It was close enough that he could walk from the school I work at so I wouldn’t miss any of my own classes.

Of course, then we had to get a carrying case and pick. I bought a soft carrying case at the mass produced guitar store for $200 pesos. It’d be just the thing to sling over his back on our moto trip to town. I didn’t find any picks though. The teacher also asked that he come with his pencil case, including scissors and glue, a lined notebook and a music notebook. That was no problem gathering together.

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My son came back from his first music class over the moon. He said the teacher told him he was a visual learner (no surprise there) and that he had learned more in one class than most students learn in 2 weeks of classes. He said the teacher shook his hand and was impressed with the quality and design of the guitar that my son had picked, saying that it was the perfect size for the length of his fingers.  (My son has incredibly long fingers.) The teacher had him download n-Track Tuner Pro to his phone so he could tune his guitar.

There was no chiding him to practice either. He went over what he had learned and tuned his guitar every day. He started playing around and picked out a few simple tunes. Money worth spent I think in this case. The second class was just as good, about musical theory and the like. The teacher said that he would be ready to start the book the following week, something that usually took a month of lessons.

I told my son that he could go as long as he liked with the music lessons and quit any time after the 3 month period that I estimated would compensate for the $400 pesos inscription fee.  I don’t think it will be a problem after all!  He loves his classes, comes right in and shows me what he learned as soon as he gets back.

My husband has visions of putting my son on the street corner with a hat to earn a little income on the side. In a pinch, I think he’d be able to earn some tortilla money at least. He would probably earn more with the armadillo guitar, but hey, who can say!

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Learn to Play an Instrument

The Professional Guitar Masterclass

Complete Guitar System – Beginner to Advanced

Shop Official Guitar Tabs

Curso De Guitarra Veloz – Aprende A Tocar Hoy Mismo
Escuela De Musica On-line

Make your own guitar picks out of credit cards, gift cards, plastic lids, and more with the Guitar Pick Punch.

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Lifelong Learning

Welcome to the August 2015 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Life Learners

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have talked about how they continue learning throughout life and inspire their children to do the same.

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Although I graduated nearly 15 years ago, my education is not finished. In fact, I would say that I’ve learned more since finishing formal schooling than I ever did in school. My husband never had the opportunity to attend school for any length of time, so nearly all his knowledge, which is considerable, has been self-taught. The idea of life-long learning is an important concept for our family.

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Business learning

For a time, I ran my own online business selling children’s organic and homemade items. There was so much to learn. Things like product presentation, taxes, establishing a customer base, web design, networking, marketing, and Ebay were not new to me in theory, but in practice…well that’s a whole different story. What I didn’t realize at the time is that the things I learned in the 18 months or so that I ran my hobby business were just a taste of things to come. Like kindergarten to the business world.

I closed my business when we made the move to Mexico, 9 years ago. Since then, we have “failed” at a number of businesses here. Although for the most part, they were not profitable monetarily, we did learn quite a bit in the process and therefore, don’t consider these ventures a waste of time. The businesses we have failed at include a produce truck, taco stand, clothing store, bread baking endeavor, tire repair shop, bricklaying, ranching, farming, gardening, essay writing, and blogging to name a few. Currently, my husband and I have steady employment, part-time employees, part-time owners. I run my own Saturday school and afternoon tutoring sessions but also work for a private elementary school during the week.  My husband maintains our mini-ranch and sharecropping endeavors in the mornings and is the maintenance man for the same school in the afternoons. Being gainfully employed doesn’t mean that we’ve stopped looking for ways to expand our knowledge base. Recently I was asked to write essays for a Business English course. (See Failing at your own business–University courses) Not only did it pay well, but I learned quite a bit about Business English which I have now incorporated into my Saturday classes, teaching interested students how to write memos and other office documents. My husband was also offered a part-time position at a liquor store. He comes home eager to share what he learned about types of alcohol, inventory processes, and delivery systems.

So how does this impact our son?  He told me just the other day that he’s decided he’s not going to work for anyone else but be his own boss.  Entrepreneur in training I’d say. (Making a Living Without a Job, revised edition: Winning Ways for Creating Work That You Love)

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Cultural Learning

Besides learning how to make a living, I’ve had to learn how to navigate a different culture since moving to Mexico. This includes not only learning new vocabulary but also learning how things are done. I know that I’m far from proficient, but I think I’ve made some progress. I accredit my minuscule advancement to my willingness to make a lot of mistakes and ask endless questions. Who would have thought I’d have to relearn how to bury a person (See Mass and Burial–Mexican Style) or how to shop for groceries?  How about learning how to wash clothes in the stream?  Or how to buy land?

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Natural Learning

As a family, we look for opportunities to learn about our natural surroundings on day-trip adventures.  I’ve recently discovered iNaturalist. Now I can upload all those photos of pretty flowers, and someone somewhere will identify them for me. From there, I can research how the local natural world might be useful (See Natural healing) now that my two main sources of Mexican home remedies, my mother-in-law and my husband’s grandmother, have died.  I’ve learned how to make a tea for stomachaches, use aloe to aid in wound healing, dry feverfew and use agave.  I have so much more to learn!

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Cave exploration outside of Cerano, GTO.

Learning in the next generation

Because of our family philosophy, we encourage independent learning of our now 13-year-old son. He wanted to learn how to play soccer, we made sure that became a reality A few months ago, he asked if there were any teachers that I knew that could teach him Portuguese. I asked the Worldschoolers group on FB and was referred to Duolingo. My son has been regularly progressing through the beginning Portuguese course online. He uses it to chat with Brazilian Minecraft players. (See Hey Parents. What Minecraft is doing to your kids is kind of surprising) He thinks he might learn Vulcan after he finishes the Portuguese course.

His most recent interest is in learning how to make Youtube videos. It isn’t an easy thing by any means and one that neither his father nor I can help much with. When an opportunity presented itself for him to make a video of his life (See What is it like to be a kid in your family? ) we purchased an inexpensive mini-camcorder and together made a video that his grandma in the United States is proud of! See it here!

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Our attitude has always been, if you don’t know how to do something, learn! No one is going to do it for you. Skills that my son has learned at our side include bricklaying, cooking, bicycle repair, and gardening.

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However, we fully realize that my son needs more opportunities for learning than we can provide him. With this is mind, he attends the local middle school, where not only does his Spanish continue to improve, but he also is learning quite a bit about carpentry. So far he’s made a clothing rack and lidded box, quite useful items actually.

We continually stress that even if he is soon to finish his formal schooling, there is no limit to the things he could learn. “I don’t know” is not an acceptable answer in our home. Is it in yours?

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • The Financial Advice That Saved My Marriage — Shortly after they got married, Emily at Natural Parents Network and her husband visited a financial planner. Many of the goals and priorities they set back then are now irrelevant, but one has stuck with them through all of the employment changes, out-of-state-moves, and child bearing: allowances.
  • Lifelong Learning — Survivor at Surviving Mexico–Adventures and Disasters writes about how her family’s philosophy of life-long learning has aided them.
  • Inspiring Children to be Lifelong Learners — Donna from Eco-Mothering discusses the reasons behind her family’s educational choices for their daughter, including a wish list for a lifetime of learning.
  • Always Learning — Kellie at Our Mindful Life loves learning, and lately she’s undertaken a special project that her family has been enjoying sharing with her.
  • We’re all unschoolers — Lauren at Hobo Mama embraces the joy in learning for its own sake, and wants to pass that along to her sons as she homeschools.
  • My children, my teachers Stoneageparent shares how becoming a parent has opened doors into learning for her and her family, through home education and forest school.
  • Never Stop Learning — Holly at Leaves of Lavender discusses her belief that some of the most important things she knows now are things she’s learned since finishing “formal” schooling.
  • Learning is a Lifelong Adventure — Learning has changed over time for Life Breath Present, and she is more excited and interested now than ever before.
  • Facebook: The Modern Forum — Dionna at Code Name: Mama explains why Facebook is today’s forum – a place where people from all walks of life can meet to discuss philosophies, debate ideas, and share information.
  • 10 Ways to Learn from Everyday Life (Inspired by my Life in Japan) — Erin at And Now, for Something Completely Different offers tips she learned while living in Japan to help you learn from everyday life.

 

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Some Unconsidered Aspects of Physical Training–Soccer

My husband and I are active but have never considered ourselves athletic. We don’t follow sports on television or attend sporting events. So when our son started showing an interest in soccer, we didn’t take it seriously at first.

Being an only child meant that he was frustrated in his attempts to practice different soccer moves he had seen on youtube. It seemed important to him, so I promised him 15 minutes daily of my time. During those 15 minutes, he would show me how he wanted the ball sent his way, and he would make the concerted effort to block or capture it.

After a few weeks of this, he asked if he could join a soccer team. I told him that if he found a team, he would need to let us know about the costs and training schedule and that we discuss it. Meanwhile, he redoubled his efforts in our “practice.” I happened to go with him and his friend one Saturday to the park, and it changed what I thought about his level of interest in soccer. The boys watched the game and during half-time, used the field while the players rested. Every 30 minutes, they had 5-10 minutes to play. Yes, my son could be on a soccer team if the opportunity presented itself. Any kid that would patiently wait out a game just for a few minutes on the field was serious about playing.

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The object of athletics and gymnastics should be kept steadily to the front; enjoyment is good by the way, but is not the end; the end is the preparation of a body, available from crown to toe, for whatever behest ‘the gods’ may lay upon us.–Charlotte Mason

One of his classmates said that his team had an opening and asked my son could go and talk to the coach. Desperate, he asked if he could go. I said yes with the understanding that we would know exactly where he was at all times and that he would get the information about the cost of uniforms, salary for the coach and times for practice. The coached allowed my son to join the team. There were no fees involved. The uniform and socks could be obtained for under 100 pesos in el mercado (market). So much the better.

Training would be Tuesday and Thursday from 4:30 to 6:30. I rearranged my afternoon class schedule so that I could take him to the field. My husband then would pick him up after he finished work. He gave the coach 2 small photos and a copy of his birth certificate so that a credential (identification) could be made. He used his savings to buy a pair of soccer cleats, and he was all ready to go.

His first game was on a Sunday morning. He was nervous–really, really nervous. He also had a bit of a cold. We did our morning chores (See A Day in the Life) and headed to the playing field. Unfortunately, the team played in Uriangato which is quite a distance from La Yacata. A half-mile from the field, we ran out of gas. My husband went for gas, my son went in the direction of the field, and I waited with the car. Of course, being late didn’t help his overall confidence any.

He played in the second half. He was the newbie and all. He didn’t do very well, but his team won the game, so no real harm was done. I waited to see if he wanted to throw in the towel or give it another go. He opted to head to practice on Tuesday.

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In all matters physical exercise it is obvious to us that––do a thing a hundred times and it becomes easy, do a thing a thousand times and it becomes mechanical, as easy to do as not.–Charlotte Mason

His real dream was to play goalie. He managed to talk the coach into letting him try out for the position. The coach seemed suitably impressed. After a few weeks, he switched uniforms with the present goalie. His self-esteem was sky-high. Then the coach asked if he would be interested in playing with the juvenile (teenage) team that he coached. My son regretfully declined. But the coach asked again, as did several of the big boy players. We agreed he could play with the understanding that he would only be able to go to practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays like he had been doing–no additional training days. He agreed, and two teams practiced together on those days. Even so, the juvenile team played on Saturdays, so it did add another game day to his schedule.

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He knows that to be cleanly, neat, prompt, orderly, is so much towards making a man of him, and man and hero are in his thought synonymous terms.–Charlotte Mason

With two weekend games, he has had to become more responsible for his uniform. We wash on Sunday mornings (See After Ecstasy the Laundry), but that doesn’t allow enough time for his uniform to dry. So he has now developed the habit of washing his uniform himself right after the Saturday game and hanging it out to dry so that it will be clean and presentable for the Sunday game.

It is inconvenient. The practice and playing fields are quite a distance from our home. It is expensive. My son bought 5 soccer balls in as many weeks, the original uniform, two pairs of cleats, two pairs of gloves, shin guards and then shorts for the new team uniform. We just don’t have the money to spare, so my son has purchased all of the items from his savings. It is time-consuming. We had a pretty full schedule already. There are so many things that just have to be done that there isn’t a lot of time for things that we want to do.

Habits of behaviour; habits of deportment, habits of address, tones of voice, etc., all the habits of a gentleman-like bearing and a kind and courteous manner, fall under this head of self-discipline in bodily habits.--Charlotte Mason

Habits of behaviour; habits of deportment, habits of address, tones of voice, etc., all the habits of a gentleman-like bearing and a kind and courteous manner, fall under this head of self-discipline in bodily habits.–Charlotte Mason

I worry about his safety, in particular with the bigger boys. The players are fairly aggressive, and near-fights happen as players are fouled. I worry when the ball hits his face, or a player kicks him. Then I realized that his team’s whole focus is protecting the goal, which is in essence, protecting my son. My worry eased. I worry when I drop him off for practice. The practice field isn’t exactly in the best neighborhood. Then I realized that I won’t always be able to protect him from the world and that he has quite a bit of common sense that could be relied on. (See Independence vs. Safety) I worried less. I worry about the habits he might pick up when I hear the other players call each other “guey.” Then I realized that he has already learned in which situations such informality is permissible. No worries!

Even with these negatives, as I watch my son play, I know that it is the right thing for him to do. His pre-teen awkwardness becomes grace on the field. He is learning to find joy in success and to handle disappointment with style. He is learning how to become one part of a whole. He is learning to find pleasure in his youth and a well-trained body. Most of all, he is learning balance. There is a time and a place for everything, including sports.

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We are Educated by Our Intimacies –Otherwise known as what we did this summer

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Sometimes I worry that my son isn’t getting the education he deserves. We live in a rural area, he attends public school, but the education system is not the best, we don’t have regular access to the internet or public library, etc. But then he surprises me by discovering his passions on his own, and I look for ways to enhance his learning along with those lines, some formal, some informal.

For instance, this summer my son was able to attend both music and art classes as part of a program I was coordinating for a school. While he didn’t learn to play an instrument in the music class, he did learn to listen. Now two months after the class ended, he still mentions how much he enjoyed it. He has me listen to songs the teacher introduced him to in class and talks about their music, meaning, and rhythm.

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In his art class, he learned how to create a chalk pastel and glue drawing, something I never would have thought to teach him. (To see how it’s done–Chalk Pastel and Glue Drawing.)  He also created a crayon batik drawing. Such exciting and fun art techniques!  While I don’t believe he will necessarily become an artist, art is definitely part of a well-rounded education.

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As for informal learning, we had several geological adventures this summer. (See Las Cuevas en Cerano and Picking Capulines) My son found some incredible rock formations. Our little home library didn’t have much in the way of rock and mineral books, so I sent the pictures via email to an old college buddy who happens to be a geologist. He did an incredible write-up, complete with diagrams and highlighted areas, about the pictures.  He sent links to geological studies of our area.  My son was fascinated, also incredibly impressed by my friend’s rock knowledge, and learned something in the process.

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My son also expressed an interest in learning how to cook this summer. He asked if he could make something by himself, which was ok by me. He spent 2 days leafing through cookbooks until he found a dish that he felt he could make and that we could also find the ingredients for in our local market. He chose spaghetti carbonara.  He asked that I supervise, but not help.  I was happy to oblige. We all enjoyed the result!

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Reading has always been an interest of his, however, his new phone, and subsequent game downloads distracted his focus a bit this summer. I had to change my tactics somewhat when I encouraged reading over games. If there were a book I wanted him to read, I would read it through first, and he would see me reading it and ask questions. I would only tell him the bare minimum, piquing his curiosity. When I finished the book, I left it in his room, seemingly by accident. Sure enough, he would pick it up and read it, usually in one long Sunday afternoon out with the goats. Two of books that he especially enjoyed this past summer were Bridge to Terabithia and Hatchet.

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My son also nursed an injured heron back to health. Our little guest stayed until its wing healed and then was on its way. Take about a hands-on experience!

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Then he wanted to plant a flower garden in a little area that we haven’t had much luck in sowing. Again, he didn’t want any help, just the seeds and spent a happy afternoon planting. Unfortunately, the few plants that did sprout were quickly eaten by escaped chickens. Think it’s time to redesign the chicken area!

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He and his young mare Shadow began their joint schooling this summer as well. My husband worked with my son, and the two of them started light training for his horse. While they both are up for it, it’s still a long way to Wordsworth’s
‘proud to curb, and eager to spur on, the galloping steed’; and then, the home-coming:––

First day of first grade!

The first day of first grade!

First day of Secondaria!

The first day of Secondary!

All too soon, the summer ended, and formal schooling began again, this time at what is known here in Mexico as secondaria (secondary). His hours in a structured classroom have increased from 4 to 6 per day. None of us are happy with the current schedule and have looked for alternatives, but have yet to find any that will work for us. Meanwhile, he does enjoy his biology class that is currently learning about the study of genetics (See Goat Genetics) and a woodworking class where so far he has made a complete set of stone-age tools and a doll’s table.

Learning, whether in a formal or informal setting, is essential to growth. It goes without saying that I want my son not just to grow, but to flourish. Sometimes that means creating an atmosphere for learning, and sometimes it means capitalizing on the environment that presents itself. And as Charlotte Mason writes …We know that parents and teachers should know how to make sensible use of a child’s circumstances (atmosphere) to forward his sound education; should train him in the discipline of the habits of the good life; and should nourish his life with ideas, the food upon which personality waxes strong.

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