Sensitive ears…

My 8 year old is a bit quirky, yes. One of her quirks is that she finds certain words funny just from their sounds.

I used to read the Dr Seuss’s ABC Book to her when she was about 3. Whenever we got to the part which read “Zizzer zazzer zuzz”, she always giggled for ages after. She said she just found the sound of those words ticklish. About 2 years ago, she found the word “conjunctivitis” funny-sounding.  And now a few months ago, I heard her saying “Northumberland” for fun on quite a few separate incidents on a few different days. Well she said it like this… “North-UMMMM-ber-landdddddd”.

Hahaha! Cracked me up.

I’d be interested to know if anyone else reading this has such a thing like her’s. I’m bemused.

I think she’s always been sensitive to sound. She used to, when she was little, just tell me she doesn’t like someone based on how their voice sounded. She was very sensitive to harsh, fierce sounds – she didn’t like it.

She was born a seemingly happy baby. My memory of the first moment I looked at her face after she was born was she smiled at me. I still don’t know today if that was a true smile as everywhere I looked, baby books and websites say babies usually start smiling at 6 weeks old. She looked at me with wide-open eyes and smiled. Ever since, she’s always been the “happy” one in our family. When she smiled, it totally lights up the place. She smiled and it looked like pure joy.

She liked Adele’s “Chasing Pavements” when she was 4… She would go all still and quiet (if she wasn’t before) and sit there listening intently whenever that song played.  That was when I knew she had a taste for melancholic dark music.

I started teaching her to play some basic piano tunes when she was 4 because she was tinkering around the piano a lot. I never took it any further as I was forced to learn piano as a child and I wanted to wait for my child to request music lessons from me (therefore showing real interest, not something I force upon her). She said about 2 years ago she wanted to learn violin, which was about a few months after she watched her first few Studio Ghibli films and fell in love with the soundtracks. I think the music soundtracks inspired her perhaps. They are very dark, beautiful orchestral pieces and featured piano and violin. Sad, dark, emotive music… they all appeal to her.

I started her on violin lessons in November 2014. I found a Suzuki violin teacher for her, Gisella, a friendly and patient Portuguese lady. I was interested and wanted to see what Suzuki lessons were like. I just wanted something different from the “classical” music lessons I took as a child which bored me. We then eventually had to leave that town because my husband got a new job in another town. We had our last lesson in June 2015 and then we had a hiatus. She just doesn’t practice very often – maybe once a week or just before the lesson. I felt this was an indication that she didn’t have the dedication necessary to do well in a musical instrument. By the way I wasn’t a star pupil myself when I was learning piano, but having gone all the way to grade 7 and having had so many lessons over many years myself, I know what is involved in learning an instrument. I felt that £15 a lesson was very expensive for what amounted to simply plodding along to music lessons and not practicing in the meantime. She could get the same amount of musical exposure by just being left to tinker on our home piano in her free time. In addition we were living in the sticks and had to drive quite far just to go to the nearest teacher’s home, and the teacher was not a Suzuki teacher.

Then we moved and I realised this place had ensembles she could join so she could play in a group (how fun!) as well as many violin teachers to choose from. Not a single Suzuki teacher within 5 miles of us still, and I started to give up a little on looking for another one. She said she missed violin lessons, but I told her she has to promise me she would try to practice daily (or when she is really busy, once every 2 days) or else I won’t be continuing lessons as they are very expensive. She agreed.

I tried her out with a local teacher and she got along with the teacher well and wanted to continue lessons, so here we are. She also enjoys the youth ensemble. She is very good at playing by ear. In fact the Suzuki method was very suitable for her. But she’s now okay with her current teacher anyway, who doesn’t teach the Suzuki method. She still learns a lot. She doesn’t really prefer reading music, but then again, she was never really very fond of reading books to herself either (but she loves it when I read to her interesting books). She has good auditory memory and prefers memorising her songs and playing everything without looking at the book. I work with her on her sightreading as that would be her weak spot in ABRSM music exams, and so far it’s working well. I personally am not a fan of reading music either – it has been for me, much better, to memorise an entire song by memory and play it out that way. I play better and find it easier to add more feeling.

She does quite a bit of music. Now she wants piano lessons in addition to the violin lessons, so I’ve booked a trial lesson in 2 days’ time and we shall see how it goes. We are a family of music lovers and players. Even if my kids didn’t do lessons, me and my husband would be playing music somehow. My eldest is a bit of a late starter but it’s okay. Everyone develops at their own pace. When she was my younger daughter’s age, she would never ask for music lessons. But now, she is relishing her drumming lessons, and will be partaking in the piano lesson trial as well to see how it goes.

Music lessons and their related expenses probably account for about 50% of what we spend on our children in our home education. Believe me, I have thought about this long and hard before deciding to let my children have these lessons they wanted. After all, most good musicians never end up earning enough to pay for the bills, and it is a long road to becoming a good musician. It takes years of practice and dedication. But music is food for the soul, and it certainly helped me a lot through my life. It was my solace, my peace and my joy. And I see that spark in my children that reminds me of myself when I was younger. That love of music – it lives on. And I felt well, happiness cannot be measured in monetary terms. If their acquisition of musical ability will continue to help them throughout their years, bringing them joy and peace when they play and listen, then it would be one of the best things I’ve ever done for them, regardless of how financially taxing it was on me to supply them these lessons and instruments and having to prepare them for the exams, bring them to lessons, ensembles, and perhaps future band practice… And because we home educate, it is actually possible for my children to do all of this and with joy, because school life is so hectic and I can’t imagine them being able to devote as much attention or energy to their music learning during weekdays if they were already tired after a full day at school.

Incidentally, I tried Googling up something about my younger daughter’s sensitive hearing and the “tickly words” thing with her… “Synaesthesia” came up.

Another funny thing about her… She told me the other day she that she “Hearts” scales. Oh so now I know why she always plays scales and arpeggios during her own violin practice. Complete opposite to me. I hated scales with a passion. She also likes playing classical music that has lots of scales, arpeggios, repeating notes going up and down… that sort of thing. When she was doing Suzuki violin Book 1 2 years ago, her favourite Twinkle version was the one with lots of repeating notes.

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