Notes on the Smart Start program at the Royal Conservatory of Music

http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/sachac/~3/SFWfpOdUE4k/

http://sachachua.com/blog/?p=29029

We’ve been attending the Smart Start 12-24month classes at the Royal Conservatory of Music, which I chose because I like how the conservatory actively does research in the neuroscience of early music education. (More on that later.)

The 45-minute sessions are generally structured like this: free play, bouncing and tickling rhymes, walk/stop/run songs, instruments, listening to a short performance by the teacher, songs with scarves or puppets, and a goodbye song. Compared with the free circle times we’ve been going to at our neighbourhood drop-in centres, the music classes:

  • have small, consistent classes with a narrow age range and the same teacher: This is one of the benefits of a registered program. A- seems to warm up faster in a small group with familiar faces, and she’s gotten to the point of feeling comfortable walking around with me during the movement section. A narrow age range also makes it easier for the teacher to pick developmentally appropriate activities.
  • are longer: Circle time is generally fifteen minutes long, compared to about 35 minutes of music time (excluding the 10-minute free play to help the kids settle into the side).
  • repeat songs more within each session: We might sing the same song more than five times in class, while circle time usually does the same song once or twice before moving on. (The drop-ins might do a song  three times, if it’s a popular song with varying lyrics like See the Sleeping Bunnies.)
  • have more planned variety over time: Because it’s a registered program, sessions can build on previous ones to cover topics systematically. Repetition within sessions and across sessions allows the introduction of uncommon songs.
  • expose kids to good instruments: Small classes and good funding mean that every kid can try the same instrument, and they can go through different instruments over time.
  • expose kids to professional performances: The kids can watch the teacher perform on various instruments at a level much higher than I can do at home or that I’ve heard at circle time. There’s a baby grand piano in the room, and the teacher plays that and other instruments as well.
  • lead into other classes: There’s a clear path for life-long learning.

It’s awesome watching A- learn. She’s beginning to anticipate the phrases in the bouncing rhymes, although she’s still pretty blasé about tickling rhymes. She walks around with me during the segment where everyone walks around in a circle. She picks up the pace a little when the tempo shifts. She sways and bounces to rhythms. She imitates how we play jingle bells, drums, rhythm sticks, and shakers. She sits down and stands up at the appropriate times in Ring Around the Rosies.

I’m learning a lot, too. I’ve picked up a couple of new folk songs and rhymes. It’s a good opportunity to observe and learn a little about the ideas behind early music education, and it’s great to be able to ask questions. The textbook that the teacher recommended (Move, Sing, Listen, Play) will help me reinforce the ideas when we’re at home. I like the classes, and I’ve signed up for more next month and the fall term.

I’m not here to push A- to be some kind of musical prodigy. I’d like us to have fun with music – to nurture our musicality. I’d like her to grow up knowing that music isn’t just something you listen to, but something that you can enjoy creating. Not just something you play, but something you can play with. Since the best way of doing that would be for her to “catch” that kind of enjoyment from me, I’m happy to take advantage of group classes where kids need to be accompanied by grown-ups. At this age, the classes are probably more for us anyway. Independent classes start at three years old, so I may as well make the most of our shared music education opportunities.

We learned a bit about the ideas behind the Smart Start program when we went to the conservatory’s open house last weekend. Dr. Sean Hutchins (a neuroscientist, the RCM director of research) talked about how the Smart Start program focuses on developing attention, memory, perception, and cognitive flexibility, and shared some results from their neuroscience lab that showed significant improvements in musical ability and related areas such as literacy and numeracy. I asked him how his research influenced how he helped his kids with their music education. He told me about the value of starting early, and how music and movement are inextricably linked for young kids. I also asked him if the lab had developed any observation tools that parents could use to keep track of their kids’ musical development over time, outside the lab. (I’m a data geek, after all!) The lab has a short questionnaire for parents, but he didn’t have an inventory or scale that I might be able to use to document A-‘s growth. Ah well, I’ll just have to read textbooks on music education and take qualitative notes. The RCM Science blog and Resources page might be good starting points for more information. He also recommended Dr. Laurel Trainor’s work, as she does a lot of research with infants and toddlers.

Anyway, the drop-ins are great for adding more music and socialisation to everyday life, so we’ll keep going to those ones too. Music classes seem to be a good use of our resources. I’m glad we get to do both!

2017-06-26 Emacs news

http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/sachac/~3/8bi2MYESNT8/

http://sachachua.com/blog/?p=29028

Links from reddit.com/r/emacs, /r/orgmode, /r/spacemacs, Hacker News, planet.emacsen.org, YouTube, the changes to the Emacs NEWS file, and emacs-devel.

Past Emacs News round-ups

Weekly review: Week ending June 23, 2017

http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/sachac/~3/1du61p254kA/

http://sachachua.com/blog/?p=29025

It was a good week for arts and crafts. One afternoon, I set up painting stations for both me and A- outside. She decided that she wanted to paint with my small paintbrush instead of her large one, painted her piece of paper, and then added finishing touches to mine. I also turned her loose with crayons and a pad of paper, and I made playdough for her to cut and roll.

In music class, A- imitated how we used rhythm sticks and jingle bells. She walked around with me during the parts that involved walking, and stood up and sat down during the appropriate parts in Ring Around the Rosies. I picked up the textbook that the teacher recommended as an intro to early music education (Move, Sing, Listen, Play). It has lots of activities for preschoolers, but there are also a number of activities I can do with a toddler. I learned more about speech games, chants, improvisation, and rhythm. I asked the teacher a few follow-up questions at the session on Thursday. Answers so far: background music is not recommended because kids can’t focus on it and it teaches kids to shut off their ears; even if A- is mostly just exposed to my singing voice, that’s fine; concerts require a longer attention span, but the ROM open house might be a good opportunity to share more performances with her.

We checked out the Creating Together drop-in centre in Parkdale. The circle time there is high-energy and fast-paced, so it’ll probably be nice for A- when she’s a bit older. I prefer our neighbourhood centres for now.

To follow up on Nilda’s suggestions from last week, I borrowed a shape puzzle from the JFRC. The one with basic shapes is a good starting point because A- can fit the shapes in a variety of ways, instead of having to rotate each shape to just the right orientation. A- can complete that puzzle with a little help, so maybe I’ll let her practise with that a little more and get the next step up.

Nilda and I did a parent-focused activity about emotional refueling. Sleep, eat, take care of my personal routines, spend time with W-, journal, put together Emacs News, code, play, go for a walk… Life is pretty good, actually. I only feel really stretched when I stay up too late and A- wakes up unexpectedly early. Since I stay up in order to enjoy a bit of personal time for journaling, writing, and coding, it’s probably an acceptable trade-off.

A- has been working on sleeping more independently, anyway. There were a couple of times that she stayed sleeping when I took her out of the carrier, and she sometimes tosses and turns a bit by herself before going to bed instead of just falling asleep while nursing.

We had a video chat with Lolo and one with Lola. Lots of pointing to body parts, singing songs and using gestures, and pointing to the person on the phone. Yay! It felt like proper interaction. Looking forward to more long-distance grandparent-grandchild bonding.

W- entertained A- while I was at the dentist. My experiment of going more often for shorter periods of time seems to be working out well, although I might want to switch back to using the electric toothbrush so that I can clean my teeth more thoroughly.

After the dentist appointment, W- decided to take the rest of the day off and join us for a field trip to the Royal Ontario Museum. A- was a little sleepy, but she still enjoyed climbing up stairs, sitting on benches, and pointing at various animal specimens. (Some of which I labeled incorrectly, whoops! gotta pay more attention and not mix things up.)

I managed to dust off my development setup for Quantified Awesome, and I’m slowly getting back into the groove of coding for myself (and occasionally helping out other people). Thanks to Will Monroe for the nudge! It will probably take me a few weeks or more to wrap my mind around the multiple timelines feature I want to build, but it’s nice to have a development environment again where I can try things out without worrying about breaking my main install badly. I’m so glad that past Sacha wrote all these tests. As for consulting – I ran the revised script to extract data, and that worked out fine.

A- and I harvested some of the radishes from the garden. There were only a few round radish roots, but that’s okay. We cooked the radish greens and had them along with the white cut chicken. It was fun watching A- pull up radishes and be curious about the roots and leaves. Low actual yield, but the garden’s already worth it.

W-‘s been finalizing the plans for the porch. I read up on various approaches so that I could help think through stuff. He extended the concrete pad for the stairs, which took a bit more work but which was the Right Thing to Do. He also swapped out our kitchen sink drain for one that was easier to empty. Kaizen!

Blog posts

Sketches

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (10.0h – 5%)
    • Earn (0.5h – 4% of Business)
    • Build (9.5h – 95% of Business)
      • ☑ Set up dev environment on my laptop
      • ☑ Define menu as JSON and have it fleshed out
      • ☑ Status
      • ☑ Record – get last activity
      • ☑ Adjust – start X minutes from start of last activity
      • ☑ Help Will with Quantified Awesome
  • Relationships (0.1h – 0%)
  • Discretionary – Productive (6.2h – 3%)
    • Drawing (3.6h)
  • Discretionary – Play (0.6h – 0%)
  • Personal routines (19.1h – 11%)
  • Unpaid work (15.1h – 8%)
  • A- (Childcare) (70.4h – 41% of total)
  • Sleep (46.5h – 27% – average of 6.6 per day)

2017-06-19 Emacs news

Weekly review: Week ending June 16, 2017

http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/sachac/~3/hrsmLPJHIK4/

http://sachachua.com/blog/?p=29021

This week’s warm and sunny weather prompted us to play with water outside. W- dangled A- over the sprinkler, and she stretched her legs out towards the spray. She also had fun pouring water from one measuring cup to the other. We went to the sensory play day at the JFRC, where she played with water, pasta, and Cheerios for a bit before wandering off to the main room for some more paper-dot scooping. She played with play dough for the first time, too, squishing it in her fist and even imitating how I cut it with a wooden knife. She played with sand at the OEYC as well, scooping it up and pouring it into the sand wheels.

She crawled through a small tunnel set up at the OEYC. She’s getting more comfortable with exploring, yay! She warmed up enough in music class to shake the bells to various songs, walk around, and stand up or sit down at roughly the right places in “Ring around the roses”. At home, she put the jingly cat toys in the egg carton and shook it, smiling widely, and she took turns giving it to J- and Y-. (But not me – I got “gaaah!” and a smile.)

We followed up on Nilda’s suggestion to let A- try painting with a brush. A- took to that and to the paint dabber right away, dipping the brush in the tempera and swiping it across the paper. I mailed the first batch of her paintings to my parents and sister in the Philippines, so they can get in on the fridge-art action.

She’s definitely keen to imitate us: ripping lettuce for salad, washing and drying spinach for pancakes, trying to wear our shoes, asking for a kiss by making smooching sounds.

I’ve been working on getting more vegetables into our daily routines. The sale on bell peppers got us into the habit of accompanying breakfast with sliced peppers. A- likes feeding us while occasionally snatching the food away, and that’s encouraged her to try peppers from time to time too. I’ve been mixing spinach into scrambled eggs, snacking on silken tofu, and generally expanding our repertoire. Eating better little by little!

I dusted off the source code for Quantified Awesome. I’ve been working on getting a development environment up and running again, since coding can become casual fun if I have a safe place to try things out without worrying about messing up my main system. As for consulting, I’ve been working on improving the organization and maintainability of our data extract script, and that will probably pay off later on.

For next week, Nilda suggested focusing on counting, and letting A- practise fine motor skills with stickers and puzzles. I’ve got a dentist appointment on Friday, so we’ll see how that goes too.

Blog posts

Sketches

Focus areas and time review

  • Business (7.0h – 4%)
    • Earn (0.9h – 12% of Business)
    • Build (6.1h – 87% of Business)
      • ☑ Get tests to run again
      • ☑ Figure out how to run the system
      • ☑ Deal with package changes
      • ☑ Don’t log ActionController::RoutingError
      • ☑ bundle update
  • Relationships (0.4h – 0%)
  • Discretionary – Productive (6.7h – 4%)
    • Drawing (4.3h)
    • Emacs (0.9h)
    • Writing (0.3h)
  • Discretionary – Play (2.8h – 1%)
  • Personal routines (21.7h – 12%)
  • Unpaid work (77.3h – 45%)
    • Childcare (67.8h – 40% of total)
  • Sleep (52.1h – 31% – average of 7.4 per day)