Musical Intelligence

Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences captivates me. During my work on my CBA portfolio I was thrilled to have the opportunity to research and write a paper on this fascinating theory.  Had this theory been around when I was a child I imagine people would have said that I excelled in musical and naturalistic intelligences – but they would have been wrong.

Music in particular is very difficult for me.  I thoroughly enjoyed many years of piano lessons and hours of daily practice.  I sang in youth group and church choirs.  I played the flute in the school band and as a duet with my mother at the piano.  I played the piano to accompany a good friend – who was a phenomenal singer – as she competed in numerous talent competitions.  I distinctly remember receiving many positive comments and praise for my musical accomplishments but, I have a confession….I do not really comprehend musical concepts.

I have absolutely no sense of rhythm.  I cannot dance or even clap along with the beat. In a group – I’m the one looking around and trying desperately to coordinate my actions to the movements of everyone else.  I can read music and with much practice I can usually play what is written but if it isn’t written on the paper I cannot make it up.

No, I am definitely not musically inclined but, I love music.  Music, and nature fuel my true intelligence – intrapersonal intelligence – self reflection and understanding of my own strengths, weaknesses and emotions.  It is through solitary exploration of music and nature that I can begin to understand me and where I fit in the world.  My likes and dislikes and how I truly feel.

It is not the ‘performance’ of music that I enjoy it is the practice – the hours of private perseverance it takes to learn something that initially makes little sense to me.  Like nature, music instils a sense of awe and wonder that drives my desire to learn.  Performing for an audience is stressful, overwhelming – the emphasis is on playing a piece ‘correctly’ as it is written – the way others expect it to be.  Only when I am alone, practicing, do I truly ‘play’ and enjoy music.

I am inspired and amazed by others who can create or modify a piece of music with seemingly little effort.  My son is one of those people.  He uses printed music but doesn’t rely on it the way I do.  He took guitar lessons for three years and has taught himself to play the ukulele and piano too.  Handed a mandolin and a chord book he was able to play a simple song in only a few minutes.  Knowing that I have grown tired of the materialism of Christmas he decided to play a song for me instead of buying me a gift this year.  He chose to learn “The Gift”; a Garth Brooks song he knew was one of my favourites.  It was a song that he was not familiar with and had no sheet music for but he listened to a recorded version of the song until he had learned the basic melody and then he added bits and pieces to create his own arrangement.  It was beautiful.

I’m not sure if his musical abilities are a result of any special musical intelligence.  As a young child he showed no more musical interest or aptitude than any other child I knew.  However, I do believe that his musical skills flourished as a result of his intrinsic motivation to learn and the methods that were used to teach him.  He was not taught through drills and lessons that focus on right and wrong – play it the way it is written or you’ll fail the test.  But rather, have fun, make it up as you go along, try something different, experiment….play with it.

There is always music in my childcare home.  There are many instruments available for the children to use.  Sometimes there is a CD played quietly in the background – the genre varies greatly.  The children sing, dance and create music freely throughout the day. Some days are really loud and others may not describe it as music.  Sometimes there are impromptu jam sessions and the children try really hard to collaborate and cooperate.  We’ve had a few child initiated episodes of ‘Daycare Idol’ but our musical goals are always the same — be creative and have fun.  Our music is as individual as we are.

Mystery of Time

Christmas is almost here and everyone is busy finalizing the details of their Holiday celebrations.    I don’t take any vacation time during this time – my childcare home is only closed for the three holidays (Christmas Day, Boxing Day & New Year’s Day).  Although some parents work in schools or offices that close for all or part of the holiday season others don’t and therefore still require childcare.

Each day at pick-up time parents are informing me which days their children will be absent from childcare to attend family events.  As I tally up the expected attendance I realize that this year may be a particularly quiet one with as few as two children here most days.  I realized that there may even be some days with no children at all prompting my husband to make a comment about what I would do with my extra time.

Extra time?  There is no such thing as extra time.  I realized long ago that time must be carefully constructed and arranged to accommodate the tasks and activities that need to be scheduled.  Every new event requires careful manipulation of time to create a slot to insert the activity.  If at some point a period of time is not needed for the prescribed activity it will simply disappear if another activity is not there to hold the space.

I believe that blank time slots actually implode and they sometimes create vacuums that suck up nearby time as well.  Let me give an example.  I used to do Wii Fit every morning for up to 30 minutes.  Some days, when I needed more time to prepare for another activity, I would borrow some of this 30 minute slot and only do Wii Fit for 10 or 15 minutes instead.  Then, one day I didn’t do any Wii Fit exercises and I didn’t fill the slot with anything else.  Guess what – Wii Fit time is gone!  It has been incinerated or simply evaporated but I cannot find it anywhere!

This has happened to other things as well.  Their time slots have been lost and so these tasks and activities just float around waiting for ‘extra time’ that does not exist.

So, as much as I’d like to envision a period full of extra time I know that it is simply a fantasy – something that will never happen — like the items on the ‘to do’ list who’s time I borrowed to write this blog entry.

Twisty Things

A few weeks ago I was browsing at one of my favourite stores – Princess Auto – which carries a unique selection of surplus items.  I don’t go there with anything particular in mind but rather I go to explore – to find interesting items that I can add as loose parts in the play room.

Certainly ‘surplus’ items could be construed as unpopular or ostracized but really it depends on how you look at them.  I tend to peruse the aisles and examine the items that look interesting, unusual, or distinctive.  I try to imagine what the children would do if they found this particular item.  I don’t read the packages until after I have played with the item that way my investigation isn’t influenced by someone else’s interpretation of what the item is intended to be.

On my latest trip to explore I found these ‘twisty things’ – honestly I don’t remember what they were actually called but they were essentially foam wrapped wire meant to be use to gather cords and other loose items on a worksite.  They came in various colors and sizes but I chose the smallest ones because there were four in the package and brown because it’s an earth tone and that’s always my preference.

So, what have the children been doing with these new items?  Well, they’ve been used as drum sticks, magic wands, batons, and of course various weapons which are acceptable as long as they are not used to hurt others.  They’ve been used as leashes, headbands, jewellery and other accessories during dramatic play activities.

I most enjoyed the creativity displayed when the twisty things were used as tools; extended drill bits in both the power and the hand drill, clamps, and interestingly, handles to gather together other loose parts (the manufacturers intended use).

The children have tried to build with them, weaving several of them together to make furniture such as a table, chair or bed – we would need many more twisty things for this to be a successful activity.  Likewise, forming letters has also been popular but there are not enough to complete many words.

As with any loose parts in the hands of children these items are as limitless as their imaginations.

New Recipes — Good & Bad

As part of the process to revamp our menu I have been trying out some new menu items.  Some items, such as the Tomato Beef Stew we tried yesterday, have been completely rejected by many of the children and will not be included in the new menu.  My family however loved it and was pleased that there were leftovers.

Last week I was more successful.  While searching for new ideas for new menu items I found a recipe for Corn Dogs and thought that might be interesting to try.  However, after reading through the recipe I thought it sounded like it would be an awful lot of work and there has to be an easier way to make corn dogs for my group.

So, I found a corn bread recipe for my bread maker…

  • 1 ¼ cup of water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp shortening
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tsp yeast

Measure ingredients into baking pan in the order recommended by the manufacturer.  Place pan in oven chamber and select sweet cycle – I chose the dough cycle because I didn’t want to make a loaf of corn bread.

Then, I split the corn bread dough into two parts – the dough was a very moist so I had to add a fair amount of extra flour to handle it.  I spread one part of the dough into the bottom of a greased 9 x 13 pan and then covered it with wieners – split in half lengthwise. I added a few dollops of ketchup and mustard and then spread the remaining corn bread dough on top.  I baked it in a 400 degree F oven for 25 minutes and everyone ate it.   I called it ‘Corn Dog Bake’ for lack of any creative inspiration when it comes to naming things and served it with coleslaw and milk.

Next time I will do some things differently;

  • Add a little more flour to the bread machine recipe
  • Put the condiments under the wieners instead of on top – placing wieners on the slippery sauce isn’t difficult but spreading cornbread dough on condiments is.

I might try experimenting with some other meat instead of wieners – maybe cooked ground beef mixed with creamed corn.  Bacon might be good too – everything tastes better with bacon 😉

Snow Play

We have a lot of snow.  It is still early in the winter but we had such a warm fall followed by several heavy snowfalls so the snow built up quite quickly.  It has been a big adjustment for some but the children and I are enjoying our outdoor play time.

As I watch the children play I keep busy by ‘sculpting’ the yard – clearing snow from the walkways and creating low and high spots in the play areas.  I try to enhance their play activities by moving more snow to the areas where they like to climb and dig and moving snow away from areas that could become cozy shelters for imaginary animals or hiding spots for a game of hide and seek.  My plan also involves some indirect guidance — if I don’t want the children to play in an area I don’t pile snow there.  Children gravitate to snow hills – no amount of ‘stay away from the parking lot/intersection’ commands are going to be effective if that is where the snow plough operator put all the best snow.

As I had hoped (but didn’t tell the children to) they have begun using chunks of snow to build up the area around the tepee.

I’ve added snow around our garden hill to increase its size and moved snow away from the entrance and exit of the tunnel.  This creates a great place for rolling and burrowing.

The children have been busy digging in the deep snow on the deck.  They’ve worked together to create a narrow hole that reaches all the way to the ground.  They take turns looking in the hole and experimenting with sound by have one child yell into the hole while the others try to understand the muffled message.

Outside in the snow the children rarely complain about being bored or cold.  My chubby indoor cats however have abandoned their perch on the windowsill in favour of the spot in front of the heat vent.