Music School…

Here’s another aspect of the Swiss education system we are in which i like – Music School. i’m not sure if this holds true for every local school here but i believe most, if not all, do provide the kids with an opportunity to learn a musical instrument. i like it that they feel strongly enough about providing a well-rounded education to make sure that if a child wants to play, the child will have a chance to do so.

Currently Tobias has what is called Grundmusikschule (Basic Music School) one morning a week. This is provided for within the regular school timetable. They learn about different instruments and different types of music.

The same people who provide the above basic class also provide private lessons (only 2 instruments have group classes) with an opportunity to play in an ensemble when the child is ready. Now while this is outside of normal school hours, it is not charged at the exorbitant prices which i have seen private music schools here charge. It is made to be affordable. The school also works with the music school to provide a morning where the children from 1st grade and 2nd grade can watch a demonstration and learn about each instrument offered, as well as try it out for a bit.

So we (parents are invited to come along too) went to Music Introduction Morning a couple of Wednesdays ago. It was a great experience. In about 2 hours or so, we saw and tried out about 11 instruments and the kids had a great time! (i had good fun too and learnt a fair bit at the same time.) The individual teachers were great about explaining how each instrument works and helping the children to try them out.

Here’s a picture summary of our music morning:

Here are the brass/wind instruments – Left: trying out the clarinet. Middle: blowing the trumpet. Right: the teacher had them try to make a sound with an instrument constructed out of PVC pipe and a funnel. It was hilarious! This was to show them how the wind moves through the instrument to create a sound/note.
Left: look at that big recorder he is holding in his right (your left) hand! i know the instrument as a recorder but it is called a “block-flute” here. i never knew that there were such big ones! Right Top: trying out the flute. Right Bottom: hitting away at the drums.
Left: trying out the cello. i personally like this instrument a lot. The cello teacher is a very humourous guy. Right: getting shown how to hold the violin. This teacher is very different from the cello teacher – he is quiet and gentle but he plays a mean fiddle! i also love the sound of the violin a lot.
Above: trying out classical guitar. It was new for me to see the guitar held so upright – not the usual way my hubby holds his. Below: seeing how the keys in the grand piano works. In Swiss-German, they call a grand piano a “Flugi” which means wings – that really tickled me! She even made a joke about how it might fly if we put 2 together.

Now some of you know that my hubby plays the guitar (all sorts) and sometimes the drums and he will try his hand at almost any instrument. He’s gifted that way (Proud!). So of course my son wants to be like his daddy (Did you know his first word was guitar?!) And some of you know that Tobias had wanted to learn the guitar very much and has been trying to learn for the past 9 months or so (see post here). But he has not made much progress. One, he finds it so painful, he doesn’t want to practice. Two, Daddy travels so much, it was hard to keep the lessons a regular thing.

So… what do you think he picked to learn?

Well, he was interested in quite a few instruments but could not decide which one. So we went to visit the different classes. The Music School had 2 weeks of open house where you could just pop by and watch a lesson. We visited the following lessons: drums, violin, french horn, classical guitar, electric guitar and saxophone.

So now, do you have an idea what he picked?

He quite quickly decided not the French Horn. Then not the drums as his beloved Uncle had told him it is not so good for his ears. So we were down to 4 instruments. He still could not decide. We had to hand in the registration pretty soon at that point. i decided he needed to see each instrument in action. Off to YouTube we went. (Isn’t the internet great that way?) We spent a fair number of hours over the last weekend watching YouTube videos of all 4 instruments.

Sadly, he decided not the guitars. Well, only i was sad. Daddy was fairly nonchalant about it and would be happy as long as Son picked an instrument he was really interested in. Now it was down to the saxophone or the violin.

Come on now, give it a guess – which one?

He chose… the… VIOLIN!

i was a little surprised. i thought he would go for the saxophone. He was leaning that way for a while. But in the end this was the video which sealed the decision for him. He has been watching her channel a little everyday since ;). My brother thought it was funny (in a good way) that she seems to be a Cos-playing violinist :p

So there you have it – Tobias is looking forward (so eager is he to start, he wants his violin now!) to violin lessons come August. i’m keeping my fingers cross that he will love it and keep at it. Every teacher we visited have said the same thing to him, “Practice. Practice. Practice!”  i hope he remembers that.


PS: there are aspects of the Swiss education system which i do not like… but to think about them is just so… sigh! i rather look at the positive side than complain about the negative because complaining isn’t going to get me anywhere and my life isn’t going to get any better by giving you a verbal diarrhea of what bugs me. So let’s just stick to the silver lining, shall we? 😉

Honour Your Mother Day…

Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful women who work tirelessly to provide a safe, loving, supportive environment for their children. This day highlights the 24/7, 365 days a year, no pay, no holiday work which many women gladly do so that they can see smiles on their kids’ faces. This day is about thanking The Woman who kissed all those cuts and bruises, who sat up nights when you were sick, who cried with pride when you graduated from school (even from primary/grade school), who will continue to be there for you for as many years as you will let her and even more.

To my MUMMY – words can not express what gratitude i feel towards you, for everything you have done for me, for being the mother i have always needed, for being MY mummy! Thank you from the depths of my heart.

My wonderful boy and the lovely gifts he made for me on Mother’s Day 2012.

This year my little boy had a lovely little parcel for me. Everything in it he made himself, at school. i’m so very happy and proud! Can you see what effort he put in?

He decorated the paper-bag with lots of green grass and flowers. Inside are lots of little paper hearts with drawings and little handwritten notes, such as “I Love Mummy.”, “For Mummy” (in German and English). There was some chocolate hearts. But my favourite thing are those test-tube bottles you see at the front of the picture. They are filled with different flavoured salts – one for salads, one for meats, one with Italian herbs. The kids actually got to pound the herbs and mix the salts themselves. Then they were packed into the test-tubes. My personal handmade spices by my son 😀

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mummies of the world.


Our 1st Standortgespräch…

… which translated (German to English) means Assessment Meeting.

Yesterday we had our 1st parent/teacher meeting (i believe this is the more commonly used term) with Tobias, looking at his last few months in 1st Grade.

i was quite nervous before the meeting. i worried about being able to understand what the teacher said and being about to express myself correctly and in appropriate words. My German is conversational but in certain topics my vocabulary is still very limited; i sometimes feel like a seven year-old trying to explain the finer points of an internal combustion engine with the language skills of a three-year old.

Thank God it went well. He is doing good at school and able to do the work well. He is restless a lot and a little slow in completing his work. But his teacher is very understanding, saying that it is all expected given his previous diagnosis (ADHD). She pointed out that his behaviour is still acceptable as he is not disturbing the class greatly and he is quite proficient with his schoolwork.

She was very surprised that he is able to keep his place and the classroom in good order, very uncharacteristic of a ADHD boy. At this point, i wished i could have to words to say, “This is one of the reasons i do not think my son has ADHD. He is just inattentive at times and is very energetic, with a brain which keeps going.” But i didn’t; i didn’t think i have the right words without sounding rude and i also didn’t think i had the words to keep the discussion going in that direction. So instead i said, ‘Oh yes, i’m very strict about how his things are kept at home. It helps him to find things easily and be less frustrated.’ But this is just me, bemoaning my poor German language skills.

Back to what the teacher said. He is great with Math and she was pleasantly surprised at how good his German is, coming from a non-German speaking family. She showed us how he was able to look at a picture and construct a proper sentence about it. Thank God he has his father’s language skills. His weak point she feels is his handwriting and that he dislikes drawing and colouring; generally things which require patience and fine motor skills. So that’s something we have to work on.

His social skills (they are big on social skills here) are on par. However, he did have a couple of incidents where he was closed to slashing out. But she was there to help him control himself. Still it is not a big issue.

The Evaluation Flower Bouquet Tobias built.
I forgot to take a photo so i recreated the flower bouquet, using Freehand. There were a few more flowers - i just did not show it here.

The one thing which most impressed me about the whole meeting, besides how understanding his 1st Grade teacher is, is the very first thing she got Tobias to do when we started the meeting.

She had green slips of paper which represented different aspects of school, e.g. I can do plus sums, I take part in class activity, I play well with my friends, I know my alphabets etc… She took each slip, read it to Tobias and asked him to decide how he thought he has done in those aspects. If he thought that he did real well, then he would put a fully opened flower on that green stalk. If he thought only some of the time or not so good, then he would put on a half-opened flower. If he thought he had not done well at all, then he would pick a closed bud. So bit by bit he built his flower bouquet. Tobias had only 3 half-opened flowers, the rest were fully opened. *proud*

i think this sort of self-evaluation is so great! And starting so early in their school years is fantastic! It will build into him a habit of looking at himself and knowing how to evaluate himself and how to move on from there. i whispered to my husband as he was doing this exercise with her, “How come we never got such evaluations when we were in school?” When i was in school, all the evaluation was one-sided, coming from the teacher and the teacher’s point of view only. i think if students from my class had been given such opportunities, it would show a very different picture and would even give the teachers a better view of where their students truly stand and any potential family problems or social problems would be spotted early on.

Looking forward to the rest of the school year now 😀