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Guess what I did this morning?

February 18th, 2009 by Joyce

I tuned a lap harp.  I used the keyboard to get me through the first octave, and did the second octave largely on my own.  People, two years ago I would have had not only not been able to finish, but I would have had to flee downstairs, dizzy and feeling like my death was imminent.

Now I just feel like I’ve got spider webs in my ears and need a nap.  Huge improvement. 

I think I’ll go take a wink and think of my sonic success.

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Hostess for the angels

February 15th, 2009 by Joyce · 2 Comments

midnight, 14 February

While I write this entry Grandma sleeps finally peacefully at a hospice facility just a short distance from my high school in San Antonio.  Earlier today I watched her breathing and thought of family bunco games on New Year’s Eve (lots of laughing and screaming) and magical punches in old-fashioned punch bowls with ice or orange slices floating at the top.  I remember tables of food and Friday night dinners to celebrate birthdays or the weekend or nothing at all.  I remember the dress she wore when I got married, and how everyone later told me she was the star of the party.  And I remember last Easter, or maybe it was the year before, talking to her on the phone and listening to her tell me in between giggles that the Easter Bunny was outside the window to surprise her great-grandchildren and (now grown) grandchildren.  There was no Easter Bunny, but I liked the idea, anyway, and was glad to think that she could have a moment of such beautiful imaginations, full of joy and surprise. 


Grandma passed away early Saturday morning.  I hope she is already hostess for the angels, smiling and serving a Valentine punch, looking for the bunco dice, and maybe planning for that Easter Bunny visit. 

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Small Talk

February 11th, 2009 by Joyce

A post from Matt, about his trip to HANC with C&D on Saturday:

At the natural playground at the Houston Arboretum, Carmen was crossing a rope bridge when another little girl game by.  Carmen patiently explained how the bridge worked, but the little girl (with lots of help from her father) had trouble getting across.

Carmen started chatting up the dad:

Carmen:  She’s still a little bit little, isn’t she.
Dad:  Yes, she is.
Carmen:  How old is she?
Dad:  She’s four years old.  How old are you?
Carmen:  I’m four too.  Before she was four years old, was she three years old?
Dad:  Yes she was.  Before she was four, she was three.

Is the art of small talk any more complex than this?

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How to build your own musical instruments

February 7th, 2009 by Joyce

(A post from Matt)

How to make a double bass (would also work for a guitar or other stringed instrument – just adjust the materials)

One (1) strong piece of string
One (1) big sister.

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1) Bring a piece of string and a big sister into the bedroom.  Evacuate any parents from said room for a good 20 minutes, since this will take some work and you don’t need any interruptions.

2) Convince the big sister that she is, in fact, a horse, and that she needs a string tied around her waist so that any nearby cowboys could hold on.  This is easier than it looks  Since you don’t (yet!) know how to tie a knot, she’ll have to tie this herself. 

3) Convince the big sister that she now needs to be hitched to the bedpost.  Now, at this point, you’ve probably gotten distracted playing cowboy, and you only have a few minutes left.  You either need to learn how to tie a knot yourself – and fast! – or you need to convince the big sister to do it herself.  No need to take the hard route here.  When you talk to her, make sure that she makes it a good, square knot so that it doesn’t come untied too easily. 

4) Wait a few minutes.  The big sister will now realize that she is, in fact, stuck, and will try to get away.  This is an important step.  As she pulls, the string will get quite taut.  She may also make some noises to attract attention.  Concentrate and work fast through the next step to minimize this risk!

5) Start plucking the string.  If you do this in a coordinated way, your music may sound good enough that the big sister stops crying and you can get a few minutes to enjoy your newfound creation before being interrupted by those pesky parents.

How to make a violin
Sure, a violin can make music, but it’s best function is as a prop.  Any performer can dance around on stage, but a performer holding and playing a violin while dancing is that much more impressive.  To this end, it really doesn’t matter if your violin can make music or not – it’s the physical form that matters.

A good solid board book, maybe 10″ square, makes a decent instrument.  For a bow, any long, thin wooden block will do. 

1)  Tuck the book under your chin.  Make sure your fingers are where the frets would be.

2)  Hold your block as a bow.  Scrape against the edge of the book.

How to make a drum

Some buildings are made of brick, or concrete, or cinder blocks.  These are quite dull, musically speaking.  Modern home construction is nothing more than a bit of chalk between some pieces of cardboard held up by wood so flimsy that it can be sold for $2 a piece.  This is what you’re aiming for.  An interior wall, such as a bathroom, is nice and hollow inside.

As a small child, you sometimes need some help after you use the toilet.  If help is too far away, it’s nice to be able to attract attention.  Simply bang on the wall in a rhythmic way and you’re there.    A nice, loud song, like “I’m <bang> all <bang> done <bang> <bang> <bang> ” (repeats) works, too.

(Addendum from Mommy:  Effective drums are also made of the dining room table, particularly during dinner.  Also available during dinner are plates, cups, and glasses, all played beautifully with the best drumstick:  a stainless steel spoon.  Mommy insists that dinner is not the best occasion to make music, but C&D are skeptical of this.)

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February 4th, 2009 by Joyce

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I have been projecting. That is to say, I have been busy working on a project. The past few months I have been building Montessori albums (like teachers’ guides) and a master chart (like a detailed table of contents) for C&D’s 3-6 curriculum.

Each item on the chart is planned to address the areas to which C&D are sensitive at this point of their development.  This week my albums and chart were organized enough for us to enjoy longer regular work periods than previously.  We dug more deeply into math, especially the decimal system, and practiced writing with our sandpaper letters, a small tray of sand, and our fingers or a pointed stick.  We used the spatula to smooth the sand over to begin again.

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We worked with a new material, three-part cards of the various types of nuts available in the winter.  These nomenclature cards were a hit because buying, sorting, cracking, and eating nuts are one of C&D’s favorite activities. 

nuts 013

nuts 016

nuts 010

We practiced finding opposites

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and in the evenings took extra time for Shiller’s Cuisenaire rods, since math has been so much fun.

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While there are prepackaged curricula sold all over town and the Internet, C&D deserve better.  We all do.

Not like this is going to be easy, though.  It’s hard to prepare as much as I should and want, stealing stretches of time here and there.  Especially after a busy day full of good work, it’s easy to neglect to journal C&D’s development and progress for want of  energy and concentration.  Montessori materials can be expensive or time-intensive to create, and not always easily replaced by other materials.  Some of my homemade materials have already not stood the test of time–cutting the sandpaper letters gave me a hand cramp for days in the fall, yet the letters are already ungluing.  Recognizing I was short on time and maybe just a little (or a lot) over my head, last month my mom took home and cut most of my first stack of cards and moveable alphabet letters.  Two weeks later, I have a second stack of cards to laminate and cut.

Despite the challenges, it’s all been good already.  We are excited about where this road will take us, and what we’ll see on the way.

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