Fiona has that gene, the one that instinctively attracts her to young children. How tragic that she’s the one of my children with no younger siblings. However, she makes up for it when she’s out and about: she gravitates to young kids, and they gravitate to her. She’s done a little bit of mother’s helpful type babysitting (supervising kids while their mother is busy doing something else in the vicinity), and she’s been asking for opportunities to volunteer with the preschool set for a while.
This week in our community there is an introductory music program called Music Explorers for children 3-6. It’s like a music-focused kindergarten, in the true kinder garten sense: a warm, developmentally appropriate place for play and exploration and creativity with time outdoors in the garden and beyond. Fiona offered to come in for a show and tell with her violin, and the instructors were thrilled. They also suggested that she might be interested in coming earlier in the week to enjoy a walk led by a bird call expert, and to provide an extra pair of eyes and hands to help with supervision of the children on the walk. She thought that sounded lovely.
One of the instructors hasn’t been well, so Fiona’s small contribution to the week has ended up being much larger. Along with an older teen friend she’s now attending the whole program as a helper, and the presence of these two older girls is enabling the secondary teacher to manage as the sole teacher for a portion of the morning. They move furniture, prepare snacks, put away equipment, interact with the children, help with the group singing and rhythm activities and help with supervision.
Today was the day for show & tell on the violin. Fiona talked a bit about her violin learning, and about how the violin works, and then played “Sing a Song of Sixpence,” which the kids had been singing each day, for them to sing along. She played a duet with a cellist friend. And then she managed a long line of eager kids as they each took a turn of their own with a tenth-sized violin she had brought along for the purpose.
She and I had talked in advance about how to manage this. We knew she would only have a minute or so with each child to avoid the others getting frustrated with waiting their turn, so I suggested not worrying about bow-holds at all and simply allowing them to grab the frog of the bow any which-way. Instead she should focus on good violin position, keeping the instrument safe, and then let them make a few open string sounds.
And she did brilliantly! She set up their posture nicely, and they co-operated so well with her. She also managed the line well, keeping each child’s turn to just the right length and reminding those waiting that their turns were coming very soon. They were thrilled to be able to hold and scrub a bit on a real violin, and they loved that it was another kid who was showing them. I don’t think an experienced Suzuki teacher could have done any better with one-minute mini-lessons for a pile of young children.