Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Violin through the Ages

Well, ok - it isn't exactly through the Ages... through a child's lifetime?

Delta at Violin Lesson - Age 4

(Sorry about the picture quality of some of these - they have been taken with a variety of cameras over the years, and not always the best!  And Blogger converts them so they take less space - which affects the quality too.)

In this video, you can see Delta (and the Saturday Beginner Class) playing the "E String Concerto" in the spring concert.  Delta is the boy on the far right (looking at them) - the one closest to the camera. This was 2008, and so he would be 4 years old, and had been playing the violin for about 8 months (the first 3 on a boxilin).

The next video is during a "Solo Day" in class.  Delta is playing the "E String Concerto" again.  Solos are selected to be a song the child is very familiar with, and not their latest songs.  Delta had just changed teachers a few weeks earlier, and could "Twinkle", but just.  He had now been playing for about a year and a half.  He is 5.

Not quite a year later, and a lot of progress has been seen.  On Solo day, Delta is playing "Long Long Ago". Delta is 6, and playing for 2.5 years.  (Unfortunately, the video gives an error when I try to upload it...)

About 1/2 a year later, I have a video of Delta playing at home.  He is playing Perpetual Motion (it wouldn't be considered solo ready.)   You can see that Delta has a firmly entrenched bad habit - the "Frying Pan" hand.  His left hand is flat supporting the violin, instead of the wrist being straight.  This ends up being a major problem.  (This can cause physical problems, as well as stopping the progress of a violinist.  Delta is 6 in the video, and would have been playing for almost 3 years.

The next year during Solo Day, Delta is playing Etude.  He would now be 7, and playing for 3.5 years. (This video won't load either...)

Another 1/2 year later, we have the Winter Concert, where he is playing Minuet 1.  Delta is the boy next to the piano (whom the director obscures as she rocks back and forth.)  By this time he is 8, and playing for 4 years.  His teacher had by this time decided that he didn't like violin and this was to be the end of violin (as far as she was concerned) for him - but she agreed to continue with him if he continued to practice.  (By this time in lessons he is at the start of Book 2)

Just a few months later.  Delta is leading his class in a Minuet.  This was probably his last class before his teacher decided she would no longer teach him.  He is at this point 8, and been playing for 4.5 years.

At this point, we took a year long break from doing violin.  Delta was "done" as far as he was concerned.  He has recently taken it up again.  I am a little disappointed to see how many songs he has forgotten.  I'm sure he will learn them fairly quickly again though.  We don't have a teacher, and probably won't be able to have one for several months.  The good thing though, is he is enjoying violin again.  And as far as I'm concerned - more important than the number of songs - he is fixing his bad habits.  I just took the following video - and see how straight his wrist is!  He has never consistently played with a straight wrist, and honestly did resist correction.  Now a quick reminder if it starts to flatten, and it is back to straight!  I think he is also being much more careful of finger placement as well.  We shall just have to see how it goes.

It hasn't been an easy trip - and certainly a lot slower than seems to be normal out in the Suzuki community. The thing is,  I love to hear him play, and I hope he will love to play now and in the future.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The many uses of Anki!

Quite a while ago, I posted that I was using a free flashcard program for things like Scriptures and other memory work.  However, it has become a lot more useful as time goes on - and I expect I'll find more uses for it as time goes one.

First off, what is ANKI?  Anki is a Spaced Repetition System flashcard program.  When you are first learning or memorizing something, you need to review it often for it to be remembered.  But as time goes on, you don't need to review as often to continue to remember it.  An SRS program uses the feedback you provide it for each 'card" on how easily you remembered it (or if you forgot it) to determine when you should review it again.  Things you remembered easily won't be reviewed for a longer time.  Things you forgot will be reviewed very soon.  This way you can spend the most time with the cards that need the most review.  It is a much more efficient way to learn and memorize basic information.  (There can be some drawbacks to that... but overall it is working well.)

One thing that is nice that was recently added is the ability to have more than one "profile" for Anki on the computer.  This is very important for us, as I'm using it for each of us.

So - what are we using it for?

Well, first off - we are using it for our Scripture Memory.  I have a list of scriptures we are working on.  The ones we aren't working on yet are "suspended" so they don't get presented.  Once the "new" scripture is learned (and Anki does tell you how many cards are "new", so as we generally only work on one) - I then unsuspend the next one.  Meanwhile, each day, we are given a few to review.  Along the same lines, we use it for other similar things to memorize.  Scouting promises, poetry, etc.

The next possibility - which we AREN'T doing yet - is also fairly obvious.  And that is to learn vocabulary for a foreign language.  This is fairly obvious, as that was what Anki was developed for.  The Lifeprint ASL course does have some sentence flashcards which I will probably add to ANKI.

Next thing we use it for is our All About Spelling.  This is a natural use, as AAS uses flashcards.  By using ANKI, I don't have to drag out the cards, and I don't have to try to keep track of the words for multiple kids (or have several sets of cards.)  I don't have to decide myself if a card is mastered or not.  I've entered all the cards in, and suspend them until we have done the learning portion of the lesson.  I've also entered the extra words (into a separate card "deck") so that we can study these too.  Although we are using pretty much the basic settings for review (and this works quite well for my students) - it might be too much review for some....  the settings can be adjusted.

The Dancing Bears program I'm using to work on improving reading also had some flashcards (similar ones to the phongrams for AAS).  So we have a deck for those.

And then Math is another great place to use it.  A simple use would be to setup the basic operations to memorize.  RightStart Math doesn't recommend rote memorization of the operations through flashcards, so I haven't put them in.  What I've done, however, is enter in the Practice Sheets.  I let ANKI tell me which Practice Sheet should be done by the student. We generally only do 1 a day, and when all the ones we are working on are mastered, I unsuspend a few more.  Basically, if they get any wrong on the practice sheet, it is marked as "Again" (that is, not correct.)  If they seemed to struggle with it, I mark it as "Hard".  If they didn't seem to struggle, but took a while to do it, it is marked as "Good".  If they do it fairly quickly, then it is marked as "Easy".

Something I have just added in very recently is the RightStart Math Games.  I'm going to try out letting ANKI figure out our Math Games.  I'm hoping to do a lot of math games this summer, and hopefully this will give us a good suggestion on the best way to use our game time.

Finally, there is one other thing I've used Anki before in the past.  However, it was an earlier version, and required a plug-in and a lot of tweaking.  I haven't really tried it in the new version yet, as I didn't get it quite how I want it.  I feel that Anki could be used very well for this with a LOT of tweaking with the settings.  And that is for our Suzuki music practice.  In theory, if I could find the right settings, I could have it help us decide which songs to practice each day - so that we focus on the songs that NEED more practice, and just do occasional reviews on the other songs.  But with anything close to the default settings, the songs would quickly move to hardly being practiced at all.  Because the goal with the music practice isn't to memorize the song, but to play it well.  And that takes more practice.

So far, I've been very happy with our use of ANKI.  My kids aren't using it on their own - I use it to tell me what to work on with them.  (So for instance, with the AAS cards, it shows me the word for them to spell.  Yes, in theory, I could have put an audio file on the "side 1" with me saying the word, and then them typing the word in - then check against the answer - but I just use it like the AAS program would have me use the physical cards.

One minor problem I have found is when you add things into ANKI to review that is already well known.  It takes ANKI a bit of time of reviewing things with you before it knows that you know it.  Yes, answering "Easy" moves the time to review further in the future... but you will still be reviewing the card more often than you need for a while.  In theory you can adjust the card manually, but I haven't played with that.  It can be a bit of a problem though when you start using ANKI for a subject partway through a course/program.  So, for instance, starting using ANKI for AAS 10 lessons in....  expect to spend some time reviewing for a bit!  It is minor, but can be a bit annoying.

A couple of more pieces of advice.... Don't go crazy and start reviewing large numbers of new cards all at once.  This is common for people to do once they discover this program, and can cause a large number of review cards due all at once.  A similar problem will occur after a long break.  (We see it a bit after a weekend.... and I'm a bit worried about after summer!)  AND - If you do find that you have a large number of reviews due (say after the summer) - the advice is to decide on a length of time to work on it, set a timer, and stop at that point for the day. Don't reset the deck - that would put you in a worse position!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Canadian Year 2 - another book added

I found a good book for sale at the library a while ago which I think fills my desire to add something about Native Canadians into Year 2 - so I am adding it in now, so that Echo can do it next year.  (I may have Delta listen in on the readings too...)

Most of the year will be based on AO's Year 2

Booklist Change Summary:
  • Remove - This Country of Ours.  (Used the D'Aulaire biographies where there is an option.  TCOO is not used at all)
  • Add - Great Canadian Lives
  • Add - Canadian Minutes from Historica (these are the "Canadian Minute" ads from TV - we watch them online)
  • Add - Native Canadians - Today and Long Ago by Elma Schemenauer
  • Add - The Fishing Summer (authors last name is Jam)
  • Add - [Short Canadian Picture book TBD]
  • Add - Owls in the Family (Fawley Mowatt)
  • Optional in Free Reads - Abraham Lincoln & Brighty of the Grand Canyon 
  • Note - we also don't do Trial and Triumph
  • (Add - Young Folk's History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints by Nephi Anderson) 
Note - I generally tried not to add something without removing something, so as not to overburden the year. For History, that was generally easy, as we were not doing Trial and Triumph, and also removed the US History.   For Literature, I made 2 books optional in the Free Reads - and 2 of the Canadian additions are fairly "light"   I also looked at the number of readings each week, as well as chronology of the history, to determine where to add in the Canadian content.

Weekly Changes 
(I haven't noted the readings by week that you don't read from the AO schedule for the books that were removed.)

GCL= Great Canadian Lives

Week 1
  • Young Folk's History... - Chapter 1
  • GCL - The Mists of Time (summary)
  • The Fishing Summer (entire book)

Week 2
  • GCL - Hoei Shin
Week 3
  • GCL - Brendan the Bold
Week 4
  • GCL - An Igloolik Family
  • Canadian Minute - Inukshuk
Week 5
Week 7
  • GCL - Gudrid

Week 8
  • Native Canadians - Meeting Walter and His Family

Week 9
  • Young Folk's History... - Chapter 3
  • Native Canadians - Walter's School Play

Week 10
  • Native Canadians - Visiting Bev and Aunt Rose
  • Canadian Picture Book [TBD]

Week 11
  • Native Canadians - Making Bannock  [good activity to do]

Week 12
  • Native Canadians - Native Peoples Long Ago (Introduction)

Week 13
  • Native Canadians - Map  [good map to make for the term]
  • Young Folk's History... - Chapter 4

Week 14
  • Native Canadians - Eastern Woodland Hunters
Week 15
  • Native Canadians - Picture Writing
Week 16
  • Native Canadians - Eastern Corn Planters

Week 17
  • Native Canadians - Visiting a Longhouse
  • Young Folk's History... - Chapter 5
Week 18

  • GCL - Dekanawida
  • Canadian Minute - Peacemaker

Week 19
  • Native Canadians - Prairie Bison Hunters

Week 20
  • Native Canadians - The Circle

Week 21
  • Native Canadians - The Bison
  • Young Folk's History... - Chapter 6

Week 22
  • Native Canadians - Western Plateau Peoples

Week 23
  • Native Canadians - A Shaped Poem

Week 24
  • Native Canadians - Building a Mound House

Week 25
  • Native Canadians - Pacific Coast Peoples
  • Young Folk's History... - Chapter 7

Week 26
  • Native Canadians - Clothing of the Pacific Coast Peoples

Week 27
  • Native Canadians - Northern Caribou Hunters
  • Owls in the Family Chapter 1
Week 28
  • Native Canadians - The Caribou
  • Owls in the Family Chapter 2
Week 29
  • Native Canadians - The Inuit
  • Owls in the Family Chapter 3
  • Young Folk's History... - Chapter 8
Week 30
  • Native Canadians - Inuit Boats
  • Owls in the Family Chapter 4
Week 31
  • Native Canadians - Animals of the North
  • Owls in the Family Chapter 5
  • Owls in the Family Chapter 6
Week 32 
  • Owls in the Family Chapter 7
Week 33 
  • GCL - Robert Thorne the Elder
  • Owls in the Family Chapter 8
  • Young Folk's History... - Chapter 9
Week 34
  • Owls in the Family Chapter 9
Week 35
  • Owls in the Family Chapter 10
Week 36
  • Owls in the Family Chapter 11

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Been Busy

New Canadian Cub Badges

Well, I've been pretty busy.  You see I've been made a cub leader again....  and I noticed something right away....  we keep buying badges.   Now, this wouldn't be to terrible of a thing except - well, our group HAS badges.  We had badges from our group, but we also had badges from another group.... and another group. Yet, as no one knows how many badges we have when discussing working on a badge... well, more gets bought.

Ok, this was also made worse because the badges from the different groups are in different boxes... so a leader might check one box and not see any, but not check the other box.

This would be bad enough... but the uniform changed a couple of years ago, and the badges changed.  They were made smaller to fit on the sleeve arm.  So if you have a mix of badges it can cause some problems.  If you have mostly older badges, with a few new ones, it works ok.  But if you have mostly new ones, you are going to want all new ones or they don't "fit" well together.

But if that weren't enough....  The entire Canadian Scouting program is being reviewed and revised.  And this is sounding like a major badge-program overhaul.  The new program is supposed to be starting September 2015 (If I didn't get mixed up....)  So we have 2 more years of our stack of "old" and "new" badges before they are likely not used again.  (Ok, it is possible, I suppose, that some of the badges may be the same...  but they may redesign the shape and everything of the badges...)

And honestly - we have LOTS of some of the badges.

So - this afternoon I took all the badges our group now owns, and the badge boxes.  I reorganized and consolodated the badges into one badge box system - including relabelling the boxes.  Now all of our cyclist badges, for example, are in one spot. (located alphabetically, and labelled.)  I think we have about 50 or 60 of them.  (And about 20 cubs).    My next step will be to count all the badges and record what we have....  (sounds like fun...)