Our Twinkling Little Piano Star

Above is Laurel, age 5, twinkling at the piano, sometime in December. “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” is the first song she has learned to play since her “pre-reading” piano lessons began one wonderful week in late October with Miss Amanda.

Miss Amanda actually only taught her the first half of the song. Laurel learned the second half from Linnea’s piano teacher the day before our homeschool Christmas program, at which she performed the song before a live audience. It followed quite nicely after Linnea’s performance of “We Three Kings.” You know, “Star of wonder, star of light, star with royal beauty bright…”

In typical Laurel fashion, she played the entire song with complete confidence and generously added a few extra notes whenever she pleased. It made for quite an entertaining version of the song.

Presentation Day

Last week our homeschool group held its 2nd annual Presentation Day — a wonderful event that allows the students in our group to display some of their hard work and also perform before a live audience. It’s a fantastic way to wrap up the school year, and it’s also good medicine for us moms! When we are all wiped out at the end of the school year, there’s nothing more encouraging and inspiring than seeing the kids put on an incredible program — piano, violin, guitar, skits, poetry, ballet, singing, live science experiments, and even some magic tricks. It’s also really a treat to check out all the amazing projects other homeschoolers have been working on in art, science, history, etc.

Linnea has been studying U.S. history all year — from the Leif Erickson to Thomas Edison, and from Delaware to Hawaii. So she put together a pretty nifty U.S. history display, which included her tri-corn hat, her paper patchwork quilt, her drawing of the Statue of Liberty, her drawing of George Washington, her replica of the Oregon Trail, her replica of Jamestown 1607, and her 93-page U.S. history scrapbook that she labored over diligently all year.   

the Oregon Trail replica

She also had several pieces of artwork on display from her Friday art class with Mrs. Henriksen. The one pictured above is one of my favorites.

During the special program, Linnea played “Pink Polka Dots” on piano, and then she recited the poem “Bed in Summer” by Robert Lewis Stevenson.

Laurel recited “To the First Robin” by Louisa May Alcott. Then, accompanied on guitar by their dad, the girls sang “Three Cheers for the Red, White and Blue.”

They did a fantastic job! I’m so proud of them and all their hard work this year. We all have learned so much and made so many great memories together! I’m enjoying summer, but I’m also looking forward to start fresh again in the fall.

Countdown to 1st Grade & Preschool

Another homeschool year kicks off in just two weeks, so we are counting down the days until 1st grade begins for Linnea and preschool begins for Laurel.

We are using My Father’s World again for American history, geography, Bible, science, some art and music. RightStart Math, First Language Lessons, A Reason for Handwriting, and Spelling Workout round out the course of study. I am feeling more organized this year because (1) we have a dedicated space for homeschooling since we finished our basement last spring and (2) I have put together a homeschool planner, as suggested by www.donnayoung.org. I am most excited about studying American history with Linnea because it was one of my favorite subjects as a high schooler.

Linnea would tell you she is most excited about art class on Fridays with Mrs. Henriksen, piano on Tuesdays with Mrs. Peterson and ballet on Mondays at the PAC. Laurel would say she is most thrilled about dance at the PAC on Thursdays and storytime at the library with Mrs. Golden one Friday a month.

One project I’m personally very jazzed about for the upcoming school year is creating a homeschool yearbook. The photographer/scrapbooker in me LOVES this sort of thing! I got the idea online; here’s the link http://heartofthematteronline.com/6-tips-for-making-a-homeschool-yearbook/

Also, I stumbled across this lively homeschool version of the song “I will survive.” I encourage other homeschooling moms to check it out if you need a laugh or a pep talk as you prepare for the school year!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIOogqa-5GA&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fheartofthematteronline%2Ecom%2Frepartee%2Dyour%2Dyearbook%2Dmoments%2F&feature=player_embedded#t=11

Gracing the Ivories

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On the day Linnea was born, we admired her long, slender fingers and daydreamed of her playing the piano. Someday. It seemed so far away.

When she was about 20 months old, she’d sit at the piano, randomly pecking at the keys and singing the ABC song at the top of her lungs. Someday soon.

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Last Saturday morning Someday arrived in the form of Linnea’s very first piano recital. She’s been taking lessons for four months, and she is already moving those little fingers oh-so gracefully across the ivories!

Her musical debut was “Bunny Jumparoo” by Pat Heldman Johnson. Playing solo from real sheet music is a noteworthy milestone at the ripe old age of 6 and a half. Of course, Linnea had memorized the recital piece, so the music was just there for show.

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Our guests at the grand event were Linnea’s Great-Grandma Martin, Great Aunt Marla and Great Cousin(t) Rachel. What a joy to share the experience with them! And I felt so sentimental about these precious guests because it was Great-Grandma Martin who nearly 60 years ago bought the piano we have now in our home for Linnea’s practice. (Read the piano history here.)

I must confess this is the only complete piano recital I’ve ever attended. Listening to the music each student played was such a treat. They all play piano incredibly well! Mrs. Peterson, Linnea’s piano instructor, is a very lovely, encouraging lady with amazing gifts for teaching music. We are so blessed to know her!

Just for fun: If you play piano well enough to find Middle C position, leave a comment saying how many years you took lessons. Do you remember your first recital piece? I’d love to hear your memories!

Four Lessons from an Old Piano

Linnea on the keys
Linnea on the keys

Linnea, age 6, started piano lessons a few weeks ago, and she is quite excited about learning to play! Of course, her daddy might be slightly more excited about it; he loves the idea of having another musician in the house. And he certainly put some blood, sweat and tears into moving around that 100-year-old piano and restoring it.  Our piano has quite a history; what lessons that old piano can teach!

Lesson #1: Determination and commitment can be rewarding.

My grandparents bought the used piano around 1950 for my uncle. My mother, who was two years younger and a force to be reckoned with, insisted on taking piano years before her mother or the piano teacher thought she was old enough. While my uncle gave up piano rather quickly — he plays ukulele and harmonica instead — Mama took piano until she graduated from high school. It was the centerpiece of many childhood memories, as she fondly spoke of her dear piano teacher and the fancy, frilly dresses my grandma made for her piano recitals.

Lesson #2: Fill your home with pleasant sounds; your children will remember them long after you are gone.

When I was about 5, Daddy moved the piano from my grandparents’ farm to our house. I still remember that day. I was afraid they would drive the truck right into the house!

Growing up I loved listening to Mama play piano. It was the comforting, soothing sound of home. Mama played some hymns for church, but her favorites were John Denver tunes and scores from Broadway musicals like Oklahoma and The Sound of Music. I still see her sitting at the piano whenever I hear one of those familiar tunes.

I always wanted to play piano, too. Mama taught me a few short tunes, but she really was too busy to teach me the theory and fundamentals. Since we lived too far out of town for me to conveniently take lessons from someone else, I just did without lessons. When I got my driver’s license at 16, I finally signed up and drove myself to piano lessons for two years, until I headed off to college. I loved playing piano those two years and still regret that I had to stop!

Lesson #3: Priceless heirlooms can be costly.

After Mama passed away and after I finished college, my dad decided the piano needed to go with me to Minnesota. It’s a heavy, upright piano that probably weighs more than a bus, so it became like another family member as we searched for places to rent. Not many apartments can accommodate an upright piano very easily. We ended up paying extra to rent a townhouse on ground level, just to avoid manuevering the stairs with that piano!

After we moved to our current house, Michael decided to restore the piano’s finish and fix some broken keys. As he worked on it, he realized the working parts inside the piano also needed a lot of attention. That restoration process took years!

Lesson #4: Priceless heirlooms sometimes inspire priceless moments with your children.

Michael finally got the piano into its current, restored condition about a year ago, and now we are all thrilled to hear its tunes fill up our house as Linnea practices Old MacDonald and Mary Had a Little Lamb

What a special way for a little girl to connect with a grandma she’s never met!