Wednesday, October 04, 2006

How cursive saved the piano

Yesterday Sunburst hauled out her McGuffey Reader* and wanted to play "school." Basically what that entails is her setting up a makeshift desk space on the end table and reading a lesson to me. She starts by pronouncing the new vocabulary words and then reads through the lesson. Sometimes she does only one, sometimes several lessons, in one sitting. It's her call.

This is unschooling in action. Buying and using these books were entirely her idea. She taught herself to read using these books and is determined to work her way through the entire set, knowing full well that it will take a long time. She's near the end of the third book now (Second Reader.) These books are from the 1800's and she equates them with Mary and Laura Ingalls-- hence they are her passion.

The lessons in these books are mostly done in a serif typeface, similar to Times Roman font. But some of the lessons, here and there, are written in script. These script lessons are meant to be copied out on your slate board to practice your handwriting. We haven't been doing that at all. Instead, Sunburst has wanted me to copy them over in print so that she could read them. She tried copying my print, but it proved to be too tedious at the time, and she was happy enough just to read them rather than write. Her reading skills have far exceeded her capacity for copywork.

Yesterday was different though. She wanted to do some slate work. She wanted to copy something out. Certainly not the whole lesson though... this need coupled with two letters she recently received from friends in Texas with curious cursive signatures seemed to lead us down an obvious path. So I showed her her name in cursive. I so remember longing to write in cursive at seven or eight. I would fill page after page with loops upon loops, pretending that I too could write in this mysterious language.

One name quickly led to another... herself, her sister, Mom, Dad, and three of her friends. She was giddy and completely satisfied with this and practiced them over and over and over.

This morning she headed straight over to the piano and starting plinking out songs... something she hasn't done in a while. She lost her fervor for the piano and I let it sit while we focused instead on the pentatonic flute for the last three weeks. But today she plinked out three new melodies, and we wrote them down. Then we pulled out her piano books and looked through them trying to remember where she left off after that hairy sticker business. I marked a few pages for her to try, and suggested that when she had played them to her satisfaction she could initial them. And if she liked she could do it in cursive.

She upped the ante and chose to write her first name in cursive on each page she mastered, and started going back through the entire book signing her name on each page she had played... even surpassing what I had earmarked for her to do. It was like watching a fire reignite. She was thrilled with this new prospect of putting her name down in such beautiful letters. And even more so, thrilled with the idea of taking on the piano again.

After this she picked up her Reader and noticed that she could actually read most of the script lesson easily. Just by practicing a few names the day before she could now read cursive!

*You can view other examples of McGuffey Reader lessons here.

1 comment:

  1. You know this really inspires me not to push - I'm a pusher - and let things flow. I really like reading how the "lesson" led to the cursive led to the piano led to the reading. I'm going to try and remember that as we launch into our language arts block - which, if I remember from our OM days, can get completely tediouos if we try to push, push, push through.


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