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our parenting philosophy

learning all the time

my violin obsession

I present to you - the Christmas stocking contents from Patrick. Well, more or less. It's amazing what a humble piece of paper will produce upon redeeming it at our local music store. It's a rental. Plus lessons. I had my first lesson last Friday, and I can already eek out scales and the ubiquitous Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star (although I prefer calling it Mozart's variations on Ah, Vous Dirai-je, Maman, which has the same tune - it makes me feel so much more, um, sophisticated).

I've always wanted to learn the violin, and I don't buy into the whole "you can't learn an instrument if you're over 12 years old" hogwash that seems to float around under the guise of common knowledge. I think that it's too often forgotten that learning should be a lifelong pursuit, and not just a stage that ends when you turn in your final college essay.

John Holt, the educational philosopher behind the unschooling movement, learned to play the cello in his 40's and became proficient enough both to enjoy himself and to play in community orchestras. (If you haven't read any of his books yet, I highly suggest Instead of Education: Ways to Help People do Things Better and Learning All The Time ). Learning a new skill as an adult has its set of challenges, but it has plentiful advantages, as well. I want to eventually learn to fiddle and be able to participate in family music time in new ways (I already play the guitar, and Patrick is a pianist ... what will baby boy play? I'm thinking that we will set up a percussion basket in our music area as soon as he is able to grasp objects!) Music time is fun, no pressure, and joyous. Gathering together to sing and play is already a cherished cornerstone of our relationship as a couple. In my humble opinion, I think that every family should own a copy of Rise Up Singing: The Group Singing Songbook. Even my Dad, who has always been told that he can't hold a tune in a bucket (although I think he's quite capable - he's a jolly good whistler) enjoyed our sing-along sessions.

Most importantly, I realize how important it is for us, as parents, to model the kind of joyful pursuit of learning that we desire for our own children, be it musical, artistic, scientific, or kinesthetic. We, in turn, can feed off of the child's ebullient curiosity in the world. The quality of our own lives can improve so greatly by being open to the child-like pursuit of knowledge.