Pin It

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Piano Mom

My friend whose son recently achieved a mark of 86 for his first ever Grade 1 RCM exam, asked me if that was a good mark. She told me the teacher did not comment or congratulate him on it and gave no further feedback. I couldn't tell which of those statements were more strange?

I started off with the typical Asian mom answer, well what happened to the other 14% but she wasn't quite sure if I was joking. Anyway my giggling was giving me away. I really had to lay it on thick.

Me: "First Class Honours is 80% but First Class Honours with Distinction is 90% and up``
Mom: OK
Me: "Well you have to ask yourself if you think it's a good mark."
Mom: "Yah but I don't know."
Me: "Well if your son came back with a mark of 86% for math would you be mad at him or happy?"
Mom: "I don't know"

Wow, harsh mom from China! I was actually starting to get confused if she just wanted me to say that it was a really awesome mark and she should be really proud of him.

Me: "Well I think that's a pretty awesome mark and you should be really proud of him. I'd be pretty happy with my student for getting that mark"

I did have a student who got 86 for his Grade 1 Exam too a few years ago. He's in Grade 5 piano now but he's been too busy playing basketball to be focused enough for that exam.

Fortunately, a recent RCM newsletter, the RCM Music Matters gives a very neutral and well rounded response to that question. I won`t quote it word for word so you can track it down yourself.

The marking criteria for practical piano exams is mapped out in the RCM Syllabus 2008 Edition.

Excellent: First Class Honours with Distinction
Very Good: First Class Honours
80 - 84: A performance that is confident, musically interesting, and generally secure technically
85 - 89: An engaging performance that reflects fine preparation; displays technical ease, characterization, and a sense of spontaneity
90 above: Exceptional performance, demonstrating technical command, mastery, deep awareness of style and character, sophisticated musical shaping, effecting communication skills. And I like this one, an authentic performance spark.

I really like that last one, the spark. That`s exactly what I look for to nurture in each of my students. I have to honest that some have it naturally, some have yet to find it. But one you meet someone or hear someone in concert who has it, it is awesome. I might have been generous to say that 86% was an awesome mark, but it is still something to be proud of.

On the other hand, growing up my mom always expected me to have First Class Honours for all the grades. Only once did a I surpass that basic expectation and got First Class Honours with Distinction for Grade 9. What will I expect of my kids when they officially start piano. What kind of piano mom or soccer mom are you.

Monday, May 28, 2012

This is your Captain speaking

All it takes is a pair of ear defenders (the kids keep calling them headphones, but they're
really ear defenders like the kind for operating heavy machinery), the belly of a robot costume, and the active imagination of a five year old to create the perfect battleship scenario.
After bath time last night, the kids were in pajamas. AJ wore the ear
defenders while constructing something of out Lego. Maggie set up the
control panel of the robot costume like the control station of a
starship command deck and convinced AJ to take a break and sit behind

Maggie: Get ready to launch.
Maggie: I said get ready to launch!
AJ: Orange fire (Maggie presses an orange button with a yellow star)
Maggie: Fire
AJ: Blue fire (Maggie presses the blue one)
Maggie: Setting full throttle (Maggie uses a frying pan as the handle
of a shifter)
AJ: OK I'm done (he goes back to Lego; now Lincoln tries to take some shots too)

Maggie and Lincoln continue with pushing buttons and shouting random
commands. Finally she announces, "I've set the auto pilot. The ship is
flying by itself" She puts her head down on a princess pillow and
pretends to sleep.

So funny. I actually had that on tape except for the auto-pilot part! Where do they
come up with this stuff?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Eat More Meat!

The summer that AJ was born (2008) the Summer Olympics were held in Beijing, China.  The General Mills Cheerios box we bought featured an Olympic hero, Adam van Koeverden on the kayak with his arms up in a victory pose.  Anyway, he was Maggie's hero and she recognized his face and I had to keep that same box for her while refilling it with a new bag of Cheerios for months. For whatever reason, she actually thought he was saying "Eat more meat" and that was the motto we used to convince her to eat more meat. Anyway the box is long gone and I don't think she remembers about Adam anymore, but we still use that motto from time to time on little AJ too.

Sometimes I wonder if they really eat enough meat. Actually it's Maggie I'm more concerned about though I've come to realize that I can't count the calories or the proper food group servings in a 24 hour period; instead I really have to look at a three day average. She only likes fish sticks and occasionally steak. There was a time when Maggie would only eat roast duck and bacon. Then it was hot dogs, Pogo's and chicken nuggets until dad tried to ban (or limit) the processed food. But she'll eat four egg (whites) for breakfast, scrambled or hard boiled. AJ is a meat eater for sure, though there could be a day when he eats three slices of turkey bacon for breakfast, just plain pasta with Parmesan cheese for lunch, and then two mini Angus beef slider burgers for dinner and then not a speck of meat for days. Lincoln on the other hand will eat a very balanced meal from all food groups, on top of nearly 5-8 cups of milk or formula a day. Not sure if this is normal but if he can climb a two-story "rock" climbing wall on the bouncy castle and take the long slide down on his own at 21 months, I am  not worried about him!

I think the secret is to introduce food in a different presentation and at the same time just take it easy and not force them to eat. They like BBQ steak, BBQ pork (Chinese), fish sticks and AJ's favorite is "baked salmon fish".  We have to buy those at Costco. One time we were shopping at the Country Grocer and he saw lean turkey slices and asked if we could have that for dinner. I rolled them into little turkey rolls and he ate half the pack. Turkey is turkey and I think the tryptophan effect is no myth!

They love the Costco chicken but only on the first meal. If they see leftovers the next day, they refuse to eat it. Well I made those into chicken salad sandwich with mayo for my dinner; lo and behold AJ actually wanted to try it and he had it for breakfast too!

I might have to reintroduce Maggie's hero Adam to her again to remind her to eat more meat; her brothers seem to have no problem with that advice.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Help Me Do it By Myself


Months ago, it was a daily struggle to get the little guy out of bed, eat his breakfast, change his clothes, brush his teeth and get out the door. Sometimes a two hour ordeal from start to finish!  There were times when I lost my temper and probably frightened the nanny too. The problem was he wouldn't let anyone else help him. I hadn't quite learned the secret of "Teach Me to Do it By Myself"

It just seemed faster if I could just do it all for him! My alternate approach was to be super nice and super sweet talker. He's a very detail-routine driven guy, something as insignificant as not dipping the toothbrush in the cup of water before applying the toothpaste would make him freak out, and
refuse to brush the teeth, which would make me mad and it was just an ugly ordeal to force it.

And then we finally make it out of the house, and getting into the car seat was another issue. He always wanted to climb up himself and do the straps and attach the chest buckle. Sometimes it would just take too long and I would have to "help". That's another trigger point for another fit, and then we would have to start over from the ground up.  One time I even grabbed him under my armpit and shoved him into the seat with the other hand, all the while screaming something mean at the top of my lungs (yah me) while he's kicking and screaming too... all the while, kids and moms at the school bus stop were trying not to stare but somehow I remained clueless that I was supposed to be the cool and calm adult in this situation. It was not my finest moment.

A Switch on Friday the Thirteenth

I even began to question, why do I bother to do this, drag him to Montessori school every morning and make myself late for work (well it's not late if that becomes the regular time I suppose).  Months of this, I really don't have an explanation of how the transition happened, but all of a sudden it wasn't like that anymore. It made me realize, all along he probably just needed to know what would happen next and he had just figured it out!

That little 3.5 y old slowpoke just suddenly decided on his own that he wants to race me to get dressed every morning; he'll even shut the door to his room and demand that no one peeks. He's always been the one to chose his own clothes, but to put everything on all by himself made me so proud!  I had planned to make a routine picture chart, but  never got around to it, and now he's  already figured it out already, including the socks! Anyway he likes to open the door and jump to
attention and proudly show me his complete outfit. yay! I can't  remember when it was that we  stopped fighting about it after breakfast, just one day out of the blue a few weeks ago.  He'll even
brush his own teeth, preparing his own toothpaste. (Occasionally I  still prefer to brush for him to make sure it's done right, especially at night time.) This has phenomenally changed the prep time to leave the house from half hour after breakfast to less than 7 minutes.

Next he has to be reminded to put his shoes and jacket on and "get ready for inspection". Their dad likes to tell them to say, "Ready for Inspection, Sir" when they are in fact ready to go out the door. It's very cute.

I was looking up the topic of "Get Dressed Children Reward Charts" but I found an interesting article about "Routine Charts".  I like that, I don't exactly feel that every task in the morning routine warrants a sticker because I don't want them to to do something just for the sticker, but rather because it is what he is supposed to do next! I found this from another blog, called so I've reposted it here.

I think it would be good to talk about it and customize it a bit and post it upstairs visible in the bathroom or by the door.

I stumbled upon a Pinterest board with an awesome list that a mom put together, of everything a child should do by himself at age 2 to 18, for survival and enjoyment of life (not academic or athletic).  Take a look!