Somewhere between my son’s annual science fair last year and his most recent monthly book report, I have turned into that kind of parent. You know, the kind who becomes so attached to designing and building the paper-mâché volcano that their child’s involvement becomes quite beside the point?
It started out innocently enough: my idea was for Brooks to write a song about “Scaredy-Cat Catcher,” a chapter book we had been reading together. Yes, it was my idea, but in my defense, I only presented it because my son’s idea was to repeat a project we had done the last time (which had been my husband’s idea).
On the plus side, Brooks was very involved with many aspects of this perhaps overly-ambitious project. We read the book together twice over a period of a few weeks and outlined the basic storyline. And then Brooks came up with the chorus on his own: he simply started to improvise and I picked out one of his catchier melodic phrases that rhymed.
It was when we got into writing the lyrics that I thought I might be losing him: the first clue was when he asked me if he could be excused “to go do something fun.” He was pretty surprised to hear that we already were having fun. I managed to keep him engaged a little longer choosing rhymes, but I knew time was not on my side.
Although I didn’t even try to get Brooks to participate in writing the piano score or notating the music into an iPad app so we could print it (Notion), he did follow an aggressive practice schedule for singing and playing the song so that we could make the video.
Here’s what I loved about this project: it paired my son’s reading comprehension challenges with his love of music, a refreshingly non-verbal pursuit that is one of his true strengths (sadly, to all children’s detriment, the DOE continues to skimp on arts programs).
Did I get too involved in this project? I didn’t think so, until the day after Brooks presented it when I found myself brooding that Mr. Neil didn’t email to congratulate me on a job well done. Perhaps that’s the red flag?
Cars don’t run without spark plugs. Boats need to be pushed off the dock. Children sometimes need a little more “encouragement” than you’re comfortable with, but maybe the real educational takeaway of this exercise wasn’t the writing of the song at all, but the learning and performing it. And the fact that you created it together is what gives it value and sparks him to learn it and do a good job performing it. (After all, it’s not just any song…’it’s our song!’). I think that the true lessons we learn in life aren’t always the most obvious ones. It’s not the homework, it’s everything that happens ‘around’ the homework. Nice piece, Marni. (PS: Love the shirt…)
This is quite a piece. No wonder you were looking for a pat on the back 😉
Great to see “Brooks” perform it so well, too! I will share with Ellis.
Yes, there’s a fine line between inspiring and an all out collaboration. Especially for those of us that enjoy an art project. It’s important for them to know that what ever level they can do is great enough. But sense of accomplishment for a large endeavor like this one is also very valuable to him – even if Mom helped a lot. Bravo!
Bennet and Lisa: Thank you both for your lovely comments–hope Ellis enjoys the video and please tell him hi from all of us!
I believe that imitation is the first step in the process of learning. Some kids don’t need the help, but many (my fifth grader included) cannot concentrate until they see Dad or Mom show them. My rule with my son is that I give him one freebie, then he’s on his own. Of course, I break the rule if he’s really struggling, but only to lead him partially through. The goal is to get him comfortable using his all his skills in complex sequences. Don’t we all believe such help is fully justified?
Hi! I love reading your blog, so I’ve tagged it for the Liebster Blog Award which helps link blogs together. I’ve written more about it here:
Keep on blogging! 😀
Many thanks for the recognition–I will try to follow up soon.
How wonderful. It’s encouragement, Marni, and his performance is fabulous. That he certainly did on his own. I have to laugh..i waited several days for a response to Ben’s project on Scotland – I was so proud of “our” work!
Debbie: Here’s hoping your Scotland project gets properly recognized. : )
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