July

I have been keeping a secret for months, and now I’m happy that I can tell you. But first let me keep you in suspense a little longer and tell you about July….

Most significant: It’s hot, and it’s humid, and I’m melting, so please send ice cream. 🙂

Also, we have just got back from a long trip, so we’re taking it easy this week. I had a lot of unpacking, laundry, sorting, cleaning and whatnot to do. Soon I need to turn my attention back to all those homeschooling things that I put away before we left. I still need to finish the progress reports and figure out what we’re going to do during the summer months for lessons and then what to add to that in September for our new year….I have most of that figured out, but I need to check my notes and order some curriculum. We also need to do our annual check-ups at the dentist and doctor and all that.

I feel like I’m always sorting, organizing, cleaning, pondering, planning and making appointments. That’s the life of a homeschool mom, I guess. But I’m very relieved that the major events for our summer are over, and I can use the rest of this season for all that administrative stuff as well as playing and enjoying our garden. We finally added a few new plants to our front garden beds this week.  Hopefully they can withstand the heat.

Edgewater Park on Lake Erie

Okay, let me tell you our secret. It was months in the making, but then it came and went so quickly. My twelve-year-old son was a participant in the 2019 Summer Sonata Program at the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM). This was a 7-day intensive piano program held in late June. I’m not going to write too much about it, but I will say that it was an amazing week that challenged him, and he loved it. He was finally around other kids who are like him. That is, kids who are talented and work hard at music and love it too. He also got to take classes in Eurhythmics, theory, piano literature, form and composition as well as have one-on-one lessons, duet coaching and master classes. I was so proud of him. It consisted of some very long days, but he kept smiling all the way through it, so that told me all I needed to know.

The week ended with a recital in CIM’s beautiful Mixon Hall when all twenty-two participants performed, and this performance was open to the public. Here’s a photo of him during that recital. It was a wonderful place to perform and learn, and I’m so glad he got to experience this.

Mixon Hall
The twelve-year-old’s recital performance in CIM’s beautiful Mixon Hall.
Another view of Mixon Hall when we first stepped into it. Stunning, isn’t it?

When he was accepted into the program, we had to work our “vacation” around it, if you can call it that. My husband was working remotely while we were in Cleveland and he also took our son to and from CIM everyday. We all supported him in the evenings when he had homework too. But we also enjoyed our one-on-one time with our nine-year-old, and as you might guess, we spent most of our free time birdwatching. And, yes, we put a few more birds on our life lists! That was exciting.

Purple martins nesting at Edgewater Park.

This trip ended up being the “ultimate homeschooling” adventure since we used it as a way to foster the interests of our two boys, which is a major component in project-based homeschooling. For the twelve-year-old, he was going every day to CIM for an intensive music program. For the nine-year-old, we concentrated on birding, visiting the wonderful museums that Cleveland has to offer, and after the music program was over, we extended our trip a few days so that we could go to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York. Oh my gosh! What a fantastic place. I will write a separate post about it so that I can include more information about it for you. If you are into birds, you really need to know about this place.

Lake Erie

I should mention that we loved Cleveland. It doesn’t have the best reputation, but we thought it was a beautiful city with a lot to offer. The area around CIM, which is called University Circle, was beautiful with a lot of green spaces. Across the street from CIM was the Cleveland Botanical Garden, and also within walking distance was the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the Cleveland Art Museum. We visited all of those.

Driving from University Circle to Lake Erie was a treat as we passed multiple mini-international gardens, creating a green belt all the way down Martin Luther King Drive. If we ever go back to Cleveland, we want to walk down that street and see all the gardens at a leisurely pace.

Taken at the Cleveland Botanical Garden. The first photo in this post was also taken at the garden.
Cleveland Art Museum. There was also a contemporary art museum, which I was sad to miss.

There were also other places to visit, but, unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to do everything. But we rented an awesome place through Airbnb — if you ever need to go to Cleveland, ask me about it. I was grateful to have this relaxing space to come home to everyday, and I was glad that the twelve-year-old had a place that felt like home to rest in every evening.

So those are the exciting summer activities that I mentioned in my last post, but they turned out even better than I ever imagined. Stay tuned for more photos from the Cornell Lab in Ithaca, New York.

Please tell me about your summer adventures.

Three Years of Piano

This is my third year writing about my son’s main interest—classical piano. In fact, I think we can stop calling it a project now. This is his chosen vocation, which, yes, I believe a child his age can have because I’ve seen it over and over again in my husband, myself, and in the biographies of people I admire.

My son may have many vocations over what I hope will be a long life, but being a musician is definitely one of them.

There’s not much more I can add to what I have already written except to say that he’s still working hard and making good progress. My husband and I continue to provide him with the time and tools he needs, and we all enjoy attending classical concerts at the nearby university. He has been entering local and state-wide competitions and doing very well in them.

We decided to take the plunge and create a YouTube channel for him. He is excited about it and hopes he’ll get a lot of subscribers. You can follow his progress over the coming years, if you care to. I feel some trepidation about putting him out there into the world, but I also know that sometimes you have to take risks in life. I hope you will check it out and subscribe.

I will write about important piano events in my monthly updates, but this will be my last project-based post because as I mentioned above, this has gone beyond a homeschool project. Many thanks to everyone who has supported my son’s endeavor.

Our 4th Grade Piano Adventures

At the end of May, my 10-year-old marked a full two years of taking piano lessons. In less than two years, he advanced to playing late intermediate/early advanced repertoire. This is quite remarkable, and for me, it finally sunk in just how remarkable this is over the past year. Of course, my husband recognized it right away, and I give him full credit for his swift and fierce support!

My son has some natural talent, and I think it’s safe to say that becoming a classical pianist has become a serious goal for him. But I can’t underscore enough how hard he works at this goal. It’s been inspiring to watch, and my husband and I are so proud of him. Not only does he practice a lot, he loves listening to classical music and learning about composers. His knowledge about music, music history, and modern pianists is remarkable in itself. And we don’t have to make him do any of this or fuss at him to practice. Not at all! My husband is always right there with him, encouraging him and sometimes advising him (he’s not a musician; he just loves doing research), but if my son didn’t want to do this, none of this would be happening.

I’m calling this post our “piano adventures” because it’s been an adventure for all of us. My husband and I have learned so much about classical music right along with our son, and we love it! Just like with all my sons’ interests, I have loved getting a real education and exploring and discovering things that I didn’t know about before. Not only do I love listening to classical music now, I love learning about the world of classical music and how pianists learn and grow. On this adventure we’ve also met various teachers and learned how they work too. This year we found a new teacher for our 10-year-old, and our younger son began lessons in October with another teacher. The 7-year-old is not as passionate about playing the piano as his older brother, but so far, he likes it. He is certainly benefitting from having such a talented older brother and everything we’ve learned about on this journey.

During this past year, our 10-year-old entered his first competition, which was the state competition. He placed in the top ten, which for two years of piano lessons, is wonderful (in my biased opinion).

But my son has a long and challenging journey ahead of him. There are many talented, young pianists out there, and he’ll have to work very hard, if he wants to compete. If he continues to want to pursue this goal, we’ll give him all the support that we can. If not, that’s okay too. I have no idea what to expect, but I hope it continues to be a positive experience for him.

If you have a child who wants to pursue classical music, please e-mail me! It would be great to meet other families who are on a similar journey.