The Art of Music

Recently my son performed for an audience, and a conversation with his piano instructor and I had a conversation about teaching piano. We had a philosophical agreement about how to teach in terms of what music to use. Sadly, my sons previous instructors lacked this fundamental knowledge and lost our sons.

We in many respects forced our sons to take piano lessons. A cheap, old pian was purchased for its last purpose in life and that was to work with my sons in terms of music. The one key near middle C never worked correctly. Even after a tuning the piano was rather off-key and didn’t sound the best, but that didn’t matter as the goal was to work with my sons.

Early on our sons struggled with practicing, and our cajoling and threatening work not very effective. My oldest even developed a method of fooling us by playing something and stating it was what he was supposed to play. For his mother and me, we were not familiar with what the early instructors were giving him, and he was playing what he wanted and rather badly at it. Instructor number two was better than the first instructor but was old-fashioned. If she could have whacked my sons knuckles with a stick, she would have.

Instructor number two was better than the first instructor but was old-fashioned. If she could have whacked my sons knuckles with a stick, she would have. She had taught her six or seven children the piano and also was teaching other students when my sons arrived as new students. The oldest had experience while my youngest was new. Her harsh method of teaching did little to inspire my sons as they tolerated her and did little practicing. She scolded my wife for their not practicing, but since we were unfamiliar with the songs she selected, it was difficult for us to help. We did provide suggestions of songs she could teach them.

This is where she mainly failed. She taught my sons religious songs. Now I do like some religious songs like on Eagle’s Wings but for the most part, the religious songs were dull and not exciting. My sons liked the Caisson SongImperial Death March, the Phantom of the Opera theme song. Of the religious songs my sons liked, they were too complicated, so out of their reach. The instructor was unable to move beyond dull religious songs and accept other music. Occasionally she would cave in and allow my oldest to play The Caisson Song or my youngest to play a patriotic song. The concerts she gave at her tiny church was finally given new life with these songs and not the constant versions of religious songs. I am not criticizing religious songs but consider how dull it is to listen to three versions of a song from simplest to simple to moderately advanced. Ten students with two to three songs and nearly half are duplicated. The instructor was killing any love of music my sons could have, and my sons were driving her up a wall as they resisted her strong arm tactics. She finally “retired” from teaching, and we sought out another instructor.

This instructor is old fashioned as well and a hard critic, but she understood something. As an instructor, you can’t be stuck on what you like. You need to go beyond and allow the student to guide the instructor. She and I agreed that a person will play if it is music they enjoy; therefore you can’t force them to play music they don’t like.  My sons told her what music they like, and she was willing to work with them. Finally! The youngest had Scott Joplin even after she stated his hands were too small. By darn, he proved everyone he could play it. The Phantom of the Opera, the theme song to The Lord of the RingsThe EntertainerThe Pirates of the Caribbean theme song, and plenty of other songs. She introduced some that they liked and they introduced others to her. Their love of music increased as did their practice. My youngest son’s passion and feeling of music came out in such a wonderful way. This led us to investing in a new piano and without encouragement, our son wanted us to find a way to continue his lessons as he began his dual enrollment at the local college for his junior year.

Now my son has done a short performance in front of an audience and his proud instructor. With our cajoling and the instructor’s willingness to allow my son to dictate his interests, our sons have developed musical skills with my youngest displaying a gift of feeling the music. He is talented, but I’m not delusional to believe he can be some great concert pianist, nor is that my goal. My wife’s and my goal was to introduce our sons to music, enjoy music, and enjoy playing music for themselves. We have achieved this. As my sons get older, I want them to continue playing and enjoying music.

When we introduce our children to something new, we need to be prepared to be introduced to their interpretations and viewpoints as well in order for it to thrive. As much as I beg my youngest to play Maple Leaf Rag and the Entertainer, I also understand he’s moved beyond this and is journeying on his path and not mine. I am allowed to maintain the hope that he’ll spend an afternoon entertaining me with Joplin.

Categories: Education, Music, Uncategorized Tags: ,

Socialization Through Social Media

February 24, 2017 Leave a comment

I’ve discussed social media in various forms in the past, but this was based on a short timeline. After almost ten years of allowing and monitoring my sons on social media sites and Xbox, I have arrived at a conclusion that has defied my original thoughts. On our way home, my soon to be former-educator and I talked about how social media, particularly Xbox, has affected our children and their socializing skills.

Socialization continues to be the biggest concern with skeptics of homeschooling. Knowing a few college professors whose wives homeschool, they constantly worry about their child’s social skills. We have been contacted on a number of occasions about how well-adjusted our sons are. We live in a rural area with little opportunity to have a strong connection with homeschool groups without placing much energy and effort into it. One homeschool group required us to be a member of their church otherwise, they would shun us even though we were included for a short time. Very Christian of them, don’t you think? Those belonging to our religious faith were an hour away. Our options were limited. We had a long drive to a group, sports, scouting, and other clubs that my sons would enjoy.

All of these options have pros and cons. Scouting wasn’t for one son while sports didn’t work the for the other. The long distance homeschool group worked on a partial scale, but the distance became prohibitive. There were local friends, though not numerous enough and this required a lot of work as well. When you are not going to the same school, the relationship begins to whither. The public school begins to distort the friendships as the negatives of public school bring out the worst in our youth. I do not especially blame the school system for it has more to do with parents, teachers, and our society’s belief that our youth are capable of thinking and acting like adults. Our public schools are hurting our children simply for the fact it is a conduit for the new societal laziness in giving our youth too much responsibility in decisions and sensitivities. This is worth another post with studies showing my point. This is where social media steps in.

Social media is like any other tool or option. It is only as good as you allow it to be. As a parent, if you do not monitor, social media becomes evil while if you over-monitor you become the issue. It is a balancing act. I hate Facebook, but I joined in order to monitor my children. Yes, I have twitter and a few other accounts that I hardly if ever use. Why? I am a parent, and it is my job to regulate and censor if need be. This is no different than me being visible at their scouting and sports functions. I do not let other people raise my children. Another aspect is the strict adherence to respect for other people that are expected of my sons whether online or in person. They understand that people are special and treating them with kindness goes a long way to helping that individual.

The biggest mode of media is Xbox, Minecraft, Runescape, Instagram, and Tumblr. The gentlemen use smartphones, computers, and the Xbox as the pathway. It is by my family law that I have free access to all of their work. This method may not be perfect for items can be deleted before I view, but it does send a message to my sons that I am involved and do care. Being an active parent is the biggest part of social media success. I have rules of no pictures on Facebook or personal information, though I can’t stop others from providing or fully stop my sons should they choose to do so. How has the social media worked?

You do get bullying, but this is found more prevalently in public schools and in the streets. There is no change. What I have discovered are the international relationships that have been developed from friends in Canada, Mexico, Australia, Sweden, and other countries to even the national friendships. Friendships wane as they become incompatible, and older friendships have been the most beneficial, though I closely monitor that. The older friends, when properly selected, have protected my sons in situations of language, sex, and other inappropriate situations. This new style of relationships is alien to me as I grew up with the face to face relationship. The relationships between groups of friends are monitored and more democratic than what I saw on the sports field or scouting. Adults have less control over the social media youth, which allows them to grow. Xbox, Minecraft, and Runescape have been one of the largest positives in my family in terms of socialization. Through Minecraft, my oldest learned the failures of socialism and how it evolves into totalitarianism (again, another topic). My youngest finds joy in helping new people as does my oldest.

Downsides come from those with issues such as the young girl whose parents do not care about her, and now she exhibits suicidal thoughts or the parents that do not monitor their child’s activities. I see that and read it. I’m known as a stalker in the family because I research these potentially influencing people. Who are they? What is their intent? My sons, now older, are too inexperienced in life and wisdom to always make the correct decision, so that is where I, a parent, come in. It is my job to counsel them on mitigating the negative influences. There are those out there to corrupt our youth, and they will provide pornographic links often time specializing in homosexuality. How do I know? I am a parent and I monitor as well as educate my children.

My sons have developed some long term friendships with people from different countries. They have not met, but they sing, talk, discuss personal issues, and help each other solves problems without ever being face to face. The make fun of each other, pick on each other, care for each other, and are there for each other. Socialization has been a key component of being online, but what makes it successful is my allowing it to grow. I accepted the negatives and work to mitigate them, but I won’t limit my sons to access the world simply for the fact I don’t understand. One thing that surprises many parents is that I have no time requirement for my children. I have let them play ten hours and have asked them to stop after two. What I notice is they are never sneaking when the privilege is lost unlike many of my friends that have strict time limits. We have rules, but these are rules within a standard family construct and does not target online activities. Online socialization does not work under an hour. Sometimes it takes hours.

As a means of socialization, the internet through social media is very useful. I continue to encourage face to face relationships but do not shy away from electronic relationships. When a child states that social media has kept him sane, then there must be something good. I do not know what the studies will show in the future about our online interactions, even though there are early studies out showing some concern. I do know that a healthy dose of face to face and online relationships are very healthy for socialization skills. Our children NEED both. If there are two takeaways for homeschooling parents or any parents, it is these: Be a parent and monitor your child’s activities and do not stifle their social media exploration. You fail as a parent when you place unreasonable constraints or do not monitor your children.

 

2016 Election Learning

November 11, 2016 Leave a comment

As I have grown older, I have begun to appreciate politics more than when I was younger. Maturity and wisdom are now replacing the inexperience of youth and the ignorance of youth. Disappointment in my political selections is nothing more than the recognition that nothing changes and does the joy of my political selections. I understand now that the government changes with the slow pace of societal changes. It is the process that I find most fascinating.

With all of the disappointment, crying, celebrating, and overall in your face nature, few Americans understand why our government was set up the way it is. How can I explain to that young latina who believes the solution is to fight and have deaths on “both sides” in order to have her way is not how America was set up? (Yes, there is an actual video of her stating this.) I simply can’t do this. I am even more disappointed, but not surprised, at our entertainers. What I can do is explain the process to my sons, though they should know.

As I watched the electoral votes Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, I could not help see the flaws in the electoral college. If you looked at the electoral college map, you could spot urban areas with ease. What had begun as a way to not marginalize smaller, lower populated states is now marginalizing populations within states. In reality, the origination of this method of voting can be found within chains of slavery. This does not mean that marginalizing groups or states isn’t an issue. The true goal of the electoral college was to protect the slavery interests of the South, since the North’s population was larger than the South’s (excluding slaves) and could have pushed through suffrage. The South could not have any of this, and did its best to “even” everything.

Is the electoral college bad? Should it be replaced by the popular vote? I would argue no and each account with the first needing a qualifier. The electoral college needs modified. As I looked at the red on the map, many of the states really didn’t matter. Does Alaska, Montana, North or South Dakota really matter when competing with California, New York Texas, and Florida? They do not. If we look in more detail at the state of New York, does it matter if you live in any area other than New York City, Albany or Buffalo to name a few? The population of New York City alone represent 42.4% of the state but does not represent the interests of the entire state. This issue can be found in all states for this is an urban versus rural issue. Does all of silly ol’ California want to leave the United States? No. Actually only the unhappy people whose candidate lost.

If we go to a popular vote, why should those in lower populated states bother voting? Their voice means nothing and the Republic portion of America goes away while the true Democracy version of America grows. Why should anyone care about Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Alaska, Vermont, New Hampshire, Delaware, Maine, Hawaii, and even you D.C.? In many respects, this idea born of slavery ideals is an important method to involve everyone in the election process.

It may be time to update the electoral college by breaking out each state’s electors say Pennsylvania’s 20 electors, so regions may be able to cast their vote towards a more representative candidate. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh could cast their allotted votes while more rural regions in the state can select the candidate that they believe represents them. This better aligns the country and keeps with the idea of a republic. Less populated states have value and are more included in the elective process. Their vote actually does matter than the myth propagated now.

How does this election help us learn? It provides parents the ability to educate their youth about the electoral college and why it was designed. This election provides the opportunity to explain to our youth why we need to accept the results especially when it was not what we wanted. We do not need the latina or any of the 2016 election protesters who didn’t get their way to be citing violence. The electoral college was an good idea created on poor principles. What appears to be a poor idea in this year’s election is in reality a better option than the popular vote. Our nation needs the electoral college more now than ever as we are a diverse and widespread country. The goals and ideals of New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and good ‘ol Philadelphia do not necessarily agree with the rural goals and ideals of Utah, Wyoming, the rural areas of Pennsylvania and New York, or even Alaska. We need to give these regions a fair voice and together we can continue grow.

What Hollywood and the Media Missed

November 9, 2016 Leave a comment

I can recall my thoughts over a year ago as I said, “Don’t worry. Let Trump go, he’ll soon burn out, and we can get to the real candidates.” As he won the candidacy, I thought, “Damn! The Democrats have it, but…” I knew right there that Hillary Clinton was a defeatist selection.

As a white male, I know why I detest Hillary. She is a liar and corrupt. This is no different than any other “qualified” politician. They are all poison, and Hillary was the representation of it. The “Clinton Machine” was another reason. Just as people didn’t want another Bush, Clinton was a dynasty not wanted. There is no sexism here and very little around America. There were better women to select such as Mazie Hirono (I doubt she would win because of her heritage), Kirsten Gillibrand, and Patty Murray to name some of the female Democrats. These women had a better chance than Hillary.

Consider this, if any of the previous mentioned women were running for President, the large numbers of anti-Hillary people would not have come out; therefore PA, MI, FL, and even NC come to the Democratic Party. These women were not as hated as Hillary even though they may be seen as part of the establishment like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Jeb Bush. At most, sexism may have been a truer issue than in Hillary’s case. Indeed, I would prefer these women to “break through the glass ceiling” than Hillary who I see as tainted. Hillary was bitten by the infected zombie, and Americans could smell it.

Our entertainers have always been out of touch with their fans and the public in general. These people throw money around and talk of buying homes in foreign countries to live in because of Trump. How can the rest of Americans do this? The day after the election, we see the entertainers continuing with the venom while the American public is getting on with their life. While the entertainers wish to not unite and heal, the American public want to unite and heal. How is it that we even listen to these venomous and hateful people? We just need to recognize these people are not important and ignore their opinions.

The news media expected Hillary to win. They ignored the discontent in America. We can see today the bitterness with some in CNN as they take a negative approach towards Trump. They projected more of a negative image of Trump and in some cases rightly so. Hillary appeared to have a protectionist bubble surround her as members of the news media struggled to hide their support for Hillary. The most damaging was Donna Brazile and her emails. Today, we see the emphasis on Trumps lack of governing when they forget that President Obama had never governed. Inexperience does not mean anything. Time and again the news media misconstrues Trump’s statements of what he’s going to do. The public understood his statements. Does anyone really thinks he knew more than the generals? No, not even Trump. He was reactionary and a major mistake was to target these statements.

In the end, the public was ignored. How does the CNN political analyst miss the Sanders movement until he wins Michigan? She’s a political analyst? Heck, I understood what was going on early on and from both sides. It may have took me longer with Trump, but I soon understood the dissatisfaction. Our entertainers think a flash of cash and a few witty comments makes the country run. Sorry, but Americans do not have money to throw away and your wit gets old. To the entertainers, why do you continue with your hatred when America is ready to unite? Do you wish to continue to divide this country? Quit blaming everyone else for Hillary’s defeat. She alone must own up to her defeat and not find a scapegoat in order to deceive herself.

I don’t support Donald Trump, but I need him to succeed whether I like him or not. Donald Trump is the newly elected President and like President Obama has some very important decisions to make. His cabinet selection will dictate the success of his administration. The smarter they are the better he will guide America. The next hopeful step is the removal of the corruption in our government. If we can remove it, our lives get better as the money no longer flows to the corrupted politicians, but that is for another discussion.

Riding a Bike

November 3, 2016 Leave a comment

When our second son began to take college courses this fall, we were a little apprehensive about this. He is actually a very bright young man, and this, naturally, was not our concern. Compared to his older brother, we considered our youngest to be the most likely to fail. His older brother has the perseverance that the younger one does not. Failure could destroy the confidence of our youngest and  his anxiety about the upcoming classes had us concerned.

You see, when our first son began taking classes, we were prepared to let him go but continue to monitor from a safe distance. Well, we discovered how that went. His grades would suffer below what we thought he was capable of. Okay, I’m considered less realistic when I expect all A’s. When I actively engaged our son and became a part of his college life, the grades improved. I was Moses during the fight. As long as my arms were up, my son did well, but when I lowered them his grades suffered. God made a poor selection in me. I am the least worthy and capable of this type of task, but I was the only one left in the bullpen, I guess. The reality was that our oldest son was immature and not ready for a full-time schedule let alone two or three courses. His first two years as an official college student was one of weeping and gnashing of teeth. No longer could I be the direct influence upon my son. Though he did well, he also struggled. His junior year has been his wake up year as maturity takes hold.

Our oldest son’s experience weighed us down with our youngest, and the anxiety our youngest had was not helping. Another factor was how my oldest relayed to his brother his study habits. He NEVER read any of his books! All that money we spent on those books! The oldest is an audio learner and does well when the professors actually can teach. He struggles when they can’t and must rely on Youtube for supplemental learning or directly talk to the professor. Our youngest is a different type of learner. He is not as curious as his older brother and does rely on audio learning. His distaste for reading worried us as well, for this was one of the main ways he needed in order to learn.

We are in our third month of the semester, and my youngest son is actually doing great. The first two months were spent by my wife and me supporting our youngest son. He was given leeway on his chores and other tasks. Once he got his firm footing, he was off and running, and unlike his brother, I am not as attached to his college coursework. This doesn’t mean I won’t be a part of it. For the next two years, I will be a support person for my son and maybe even the first two years of his official college life.

As homeschooling parents, my wife and I have recognized that our sons learn differently and require different needs. This is true with all youths. For our sons to succeed on their own, we need to be like the parent teaching their child to ride a bike. We hover around the child as they wobble on the bike and let them go once they achieve the balance needed to ride a bike. This is something I think all parents need to recognize. Our children or young adults need our parental assistance even when we or they think they are on their own. I no longer follow my older son’s coursework. He is riding on his own. My youngest is beginning to learn to ride. My wife and I will surround him until he, too, masters the balance needed for life. We are the first lines of defense against failure.

Sanitized History

October 11, 2016 Leave a comment

I have noticed that many homeschoolers have talked about using traditional history book whether they are textbooks or book written years ago. They do not like or approve of the history being pushed to the American public today. There are claims made about modern history stating it is incorrect or wrongly portrays events. This new history demonizes America and fosters a hatred towards certain groups. Are past history books better than the current history being taught?

I recall in my youth learning history through the bland textbooks the schools provided. I also recall the history books in the ill-funded libraries. What made these books and history in general so dull was the simple fact these histories were sanitized. As a youth, President Kennedy was pure and perfect. George Washington’s biggest flaw was the folklore of chopping down a cherry tree. When slavery was presented with Washington, he became a kind and gentle soul who emancipated his slaves, after his death. Much of this history has been called patriotic history. How valid is this history?

Sorry to say homeschoolers that past history books are horrible. These books present an unrealistic past that glosses over the horrors of man, and in some cases outright lies about the past. What African slave was truly happy that they were a slave under the dominion of a kind master? Sorry, but there are plenty of books out there describing the misery these slaves endured. The perception of blacks being slow and unintelligent was a purposeful propaganda begun in the late 19th century to keep down the black population. Even our treatment of the Indians has been sanitized. We allow disease to wipe these people out, and portray most if not all of the horrendous treatment of colonial people to Indians. These past histories perpetuates myths and lies.

A second reason why past history books are flawed is the simple fact they are outdated. History is full of discoveries. I recall growing up while being taught the Norsemen visiting North America was a myth. How wrong we are. We now understand how the Danes migrated to Britain. Through discoveries, we are able to correct history that we got wrong. New discoveries of hidden facts alter the history we know. We have learned much about Jamestown in the last twenty years that any book or article before, say 1990, is likely to be wrong. Archaeology done on battlefields have change how the victors and losers portrayed what happened. The past may be static, but history is ever changing.

Are modern histories correct? The old history books portray a biased viewpoint based on the period. At the end of the 19th and early 20th century, historians would represent Indians in negative terms such as calling them savages. There was a view of white superiority based on how Europe conquered that looked down upon the Chinese, Japanese, and other cultures. These attitude permeate many of these books. If the old possessed this bias then it stands to be that modern history has the same types of attitudes. Yes, modern history is as flawed as ever and grossly over-represents the negatives of people like Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and other characters of history. Like their past, modern historians make the characters of history one-dimensional and bland. Slave owners become the cartoonish, evil character we see in movies like Die Hard or the Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. Columbus is portrayed so one-dimensionally in history, now, that he becomes a mythical evil creature like Jason, Alien, or other unrealistic monsters. The minorities or down trodden become one-dimensional as well as their sufferings they must overcome makes them the comical heroes that, again, we see in bad movies, or they are tragic characters that we are forced to relate to as their humanity is taken away for the effect desired more so than their being.

Sanitization works two ways. One method makes history pure and wholesome while the other side makes history evil and corrupt. Today’s history does have a tendency to portray the worst in people and nations in order to try to balance a mythical problem. Today’s history must accept that people can be good and bad. It cannot focus on one element in order point out what was missed. It must be even keeled.

Modern history is the best option with a very healthy dose of skepticism. When history begins to describe the attributes of the character in a one-dimensional way, then allow skepticism to take over. Humans are flawed characters where they can do acts of bravery, kindness, sympathy, and empathy while often portraying the worst that can be imagined. History is at its best when we do not trim a section we do not like or do not focus on one aspect. If history is too good to be true or too terrible, then doubt its validity.

Paint.Net

September 27, 2016 1 comment

As the family winds down the homeschooling lifestyle, there is one program that I continue to be thankful for, and this is Paint.Net (http://Getpaint.net). 2004 was the initial release which coincides the time we began homeschooling. Actually, I think we started schooling a year before this program came out.

Paint.net is a free download that allows you to alter images or create images. There are add-ins to improve the capability of the program, and once you play with it for a while, it becomes a great program to use. At one time, you used to be able to download the code, in C# I believe. For what I used it for, the program was great for homeschooling.

Porfolios were a must where we live, and our family constructed as nice of portfolios as we could. We took pride in educating our sons, and the portfolios were are a part of that pride. I altered images or fixed imperfect images and created artwork to apply to the portfolios. As you can see, the portfolio was the main purpose of this program, though occasionally I used Paint.net on photos that I took. I never really did much graphical artwork with the program, but it could work with it.

If you are looking for a cheap graphics editor, then this program may be worth a shot. Having this program can’t hurt, since it is free. If you don’t like it, you can easily remove it.

Categories: Homeschool, Software Tags: ,