Saturday, April 22, 2017

Grace and Nathan’s Marvelous Medicine

We’ve been working our way through more Roald Dahl chapter books these past few months, including ‘The Witches’, ‘James and the Giant Peach’ and ‘George’s Marvelous Medicine’… and having a blast I must say.


This weekend as we were midway through ‘George’s Marvelous Medicine’, we had a little intermission to bring the book to life by concocting up our own version of the marvelous medicine.

Materials and equipment
Food colouring
Containers, cups, bowls
Assortment of kitchen utensils (spoons, whisks, pipettes, syringes)


Nathan and Grace spent close to an hour mixing, pouring, stirring the coloured waters together to make their ‘medicine’ mixture. And then came the magic bit--I set out some bicarbonate soda and vinegar and instructed the children how to mix them into their medicine to create a marvelous fizzy effect.


Afterwards the insisted on bottling up a sample of their marvelous to keep.  But it was purely for research purposes. I would definitely NOT want to venture a taste of this weird concoction. You never know what effects marvelous medicines can have on you. Better not to risk it.


Instead for a special treat, I set out a few sweet ingredients for the children to concoct their own sweet ‘medicine’. As it was an impromptu idea, I had to raid my fridge and pantry for whatever sweet liquids I could find: grape juice, rose cordial and lemon-lime cordial.


[If had time to put more preparation and planning into this activity, I would set out various freshly squeezed or blended fruit juices for the children to mix together their own healthy ‘medicine’].

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, check out the previous ‘bringing books to life’ activity we did based on Roald Dahl’s ‘The BFG’ and ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Bar by Bar

I just had to take a bit of time to record my feeling of immense pride at this moment.

For this little guy.


This week at school, the music teacher had planned a ‘Performance Week’ where each child was free to prepare a song or dance or play a musical instrument in class. “To give them an opportunity to perform in front of an encouraging audience”, as she put it.

And Nathan apparently took the spotlight that day.

I spoke to the music teacher afterwards to get the lowdown…

“He did very well! He was the little superstar of that day!” she told me.

“Oh, I’m sure every child performing was a little superstar in their own right”, I said modestly.

“True, true… but I have to say, he was definitely a cut above the rest. Most kids at this age just go up and play something they made up on the spot just for fun. But I can see that Nathan put a lot of effort and preparation into his performance”, she assured me.

Nathan’s proud recount of the experience with a beaming face…

“I played really well! Everyone clapped. So many people put up their hands to tell me that they liked my playing. They all asked me to play the song again**. So I did! And the teacher said ‘Well Done, Nathan!’

We had both been working together really hard on piano this term. So this was definitely a proud moment for both of us. Though I never in my life imagined I’d find myself in the piano teacher’s seat, with my own child as the student.

People always warn us against being our own child’s tutor.

“You cannot be your own child’s tutor… it’s emotionally impossible!”

“Somehow you can stand stupidity in other children, but never in your own child”

“They will make you vomit blood I tell you… VOMIT BLOOD!!!”

The last remark was from my own dad when he at one time made an attempt at tutoring me in math. [Almost] every session would end in tears for one reason or another.

Hubs and I have had many philosophical ‘discussions’ on the subject of extra-curricular classes and activities for our children. Should we send them to learn piano, violin, or to sports, ballet or maybe art class? I was inclined towards just letting them be and not inflict the same torture I had received when I was a child.

“Let them pick it up when they are older if they are keen on it” I said.

“But how will they know if they like it unless they are exposed to it?” hubs countered.

We went back and forth on the subject at length. In the end I agreed to have a go at introducing Nathan to a few basics on the piano and see how things progress from there. We decided not to send him to formal piano lessons. One--because it costs a fair bit of money. Two--I didn’t want the bother of having to become one of those chauffer mums (at least not so soon). And three--I might as well put the expensive piano lessons I had received as a child to good use.

The two main resources I used were Mr Hoffman’s YouTube channel and this book. Both resources I would highly recommend (btw this is not a paid post). Especially the Mr Hoffman YouTube videos which are great for just dipping your toes in the water to see if you or your child show any early inclination to the instrument or to music in general.

The lessons kicked off very well at first. Smooth sailing. Then they petered out a bit when the hurdles began to surface. Deciphering notes and musical symbols. Getting that pinkie finger on the left hand to work right. Increasing the tempo of songs. And just generally exercising and coordinating those ten little fingers to build up all those new neuron connections in the brain.

“I can’t do this! My fingers don’t want to work properly! It’s TOO HARD!” cue tears and slamming of piano keys.

It took every ounce of moral fiber within me not to bark at him to buck up and get over himself.

“Nathan. I promise you that you will be able to play this song”

“No! I can never, EVER do it! It’s too hard!”

“You will. Maybe not today. But you will be able to play every note in this song. I promise you.

“But how? I can’t get anything right. My fingers keep getting mixed up.”

“This is how you do it. Bar by bar. One bar at a time.”

That’s how it’s done. Bar by bar. That’s how you do piano. And that’s how you do life.

Anyway, at this point hubs decided it was appropriate to dangle a small carrot* to get over this hump.

I was not keen on the idea initially.

After all shouldn’t the object of doing something be for it’s own sake?

But hubs assured me that it was a tried and tested method for generations.

I admit that it definitely helped to keep things moving along.

Then once we were past the hump, Nathan discovered to his surprise that he was actually enjoying it for it’s own sake after all.

And that’s how it’s done.

Bar by bar.

With a little carrot every now and then to keep things moving along.


[*P.S. A snapshot of some of the prized carrots waiting in the wings in the carrot vault…]IMG_20170407_122746_912[*P.P.S. It should be noted that the carrots have been dangled before the prospective recipient however no carrots have been officially awarded as yet. Carrot awards are subject to final assessment and review by the keeper of the carrot vault.]

[**P.P.P.S. For those who are interested to know, the song Nathan chose to play was ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’. Initially I had suggested that he play a slightly more complex song which showed off a bit more technique. However Nathan insisted on his choice. “It’s much better to play a song that everyone knows, mummy--then they can enjoy listening to my playing”. And it turns out the little PR man was right.]