Fiddles, Math, and Training Up a Child

A few months ago I started taking fiddle lessons. Wow! I sound really BAD. It’s like cats are fighting in the living room when I practice. LOL.

Now, how could this possibly help our homeschooling effort?

I’ve been sharing a series based on the familiar “Train up a child” text of Proverbs 22:6. Recently it struck me that we usually focus our attentions on the child when we think about training up a child. Makes sense, right? We focus on what he or she should be learning. That’s definitely the larger part of the equation, but an additional part is the example that we the parents are setting for them. Values? Yes. Morals? Yes. But, I’m thinking more about the “schoolish” part where you take in new information, memorize material, learn skills, etc. Are you keeping your own brain growing by learning new information, ideas, or skills? Does your child witness this?

Honestly, when I took up fiddle lessons, there was no higher thought involved about how it could benefit my child. I simply wanted to learn the instrument. The payoff is there for both of us, though.

As are most of us, I am pressed for time. There was a flurry of activity at first with my violin, but then for at least a month it ended up sitting in its case all week — until I panicked and pulled it out right before my lesson. Hence…the cats fighting in the living room. Hmmm.

Something I learned: Not practicing doesn’t work.
Something my son learned: Not practicing doesn’t work.

I decided that the level of screechy playing I was producing wasn’t enough to satisfy me, so I evaluated what it was exactly that kept me from practicing. It’s ridiculous how simple it was. It was the out-of-sight-out-of-mind principle at work, teamed with the tedium of locating my instrument (we’re building on to our house, so this is an actual feat), opening the case and getting it out, tuning it up, and finally sitting down to play. I thought about it awhile, and considered options. My solution was to locate a safe spot in the house — my enclosed computer station — and leave the violin there, at the ready at all times. It worked! I’m up to three or four practice sessions a week, which is pretty decent for an inherent slacker.

Something I learned: Don’t give up. Use your brain to study situations and find creative solutions that work.
Something my son learned: Don’t give up. Use your brain to study situations and find creative solutions that work.

You get the idea.

The past week has been one of much struggle for my son and math. There’s a new concept for which he’s not remembering the steps. “I hate math. It’s my nemesis!” he declared two days ago. I don’t want him to have the idea that an entire subject is not for him, and I do want him to get the idea that devoting more time to something difficult helps, as does brainstorming for creative ideas.

Fortunately, we don’t live in a McMansion; therefore, our lives are fairly intertwined. I’m aware of my son’s activities, and he’s aware of mine. Thus, my fiddle-playing mission, which he has personally witnessed, became the perfect object lesson. We discussed his current difficulties, and I noted that being “bad” at one part of math doesn’t mean the whole subject is bad. I reminded him of some of the similarities with my violin issues, and what I’d come up with to help myself. That got him thinking.

Solutions arose. He admitted that more practice would probably help a lot. We also came up with a creative, step-by-step reminder system that he could use while working that type of math problem. The next day he completed the dreaded lesson with only a moderate amount of parental assistance.

Today, before starting into math, he asked me if he could repeat the last lesson once — on his own, without any help from me — to solidify the new process in his mind. Success! Yay!

I celebrated his achievement by picking up my violin and practicing for 20 minutes.

Moms and dads, what have you learned lately?

“Teach a child to choose the right path, and when he is older, he will remain upon it,” Proverbs 22:6 TLB.


Sheila came to homeschooling after reading a gift by a friend, "Better Late Than Early," by Raymond Moore. Before that, she’d never have considered doing something so “weird”! Convinced of the merits, though, her family merged into a lifestyle of relaxed, eclectic, and hopefully joyful homeschooling, via Psalm 16:11 ESV: "You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” She’s also a freelance editor, taekwondo instructor, and backslidden musician, and is awed to live in the beauty of Montana — after a lifetime of city-dwelling — with husband and son.


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