28 May 2012

A dramatic night

"Brush your teeth Jo."

"Ok ma," said Jo as she walked out of my dark room.

 Five minutes later Jo crept back into my bed. I checked if she'd brushed her teeth by touching her lips. They were moist but strangely sticky. I took a sniff  and went "Ewwww! Jo that was saliva!"

 "How did you know it wasn't toothpaste ma? The smell?" She asked in between giggles.
 "Yes, and go brush your teeth! N.O.W!"   And off she went.

Jo appeared shortly later with a ring of toothpaste around her mouth. "Better now ma?"
 "Jo!!!"  I jokingly yelled. The lil imp grinned, scampered off again, cleaned up then snuggled back in my bed.
 "May I stay just a moment ma? Just a moment? pleeease??"

 Just then hubby came in and said rather sternly "Jo, off to bed now! Off now!"

I knew it was gonna happen this night... Jo burst into tears..heart wrenching tears. She was somehow affected by a movie we'd just watched, Courageous, where a father starts to realise the importance of his role only after the death of his daughter in a freak accident.

As she continued crying, I said "Ok Jo, mama will go with you, just tonight, I'll sleep in your bed for a while."

So there I was then,  tucked in my girls' bed, Nel on my left, Jo on the right. Nel had been reading, a daily bedtime habit. We switched the lights off, and  Jo clinging on to my hands began crying again. "Do you know how much I love you ma? Do you really know how much I love you? Do you know how I really really really love you ma? More than anything else in the world."

As she continued sobbing, Nel decided she'd like to talk to me  and began talking about all the things that happened that day. Being mum gives me the ability to split my head in two, one to listen to my sobbing child, and the other to listen to my calm child. On a usual day, I would've shouted "Stop!! Talk one at a time." But not tonight...tonight it was a time to listen.

Thinking back, I used to read so many parenting books before Nel was born, and even after she was born. When Jo came along, I shelved all those books and quit reading, for each child was so different. Nel is calm, yet sometimes nervous and shy, and sometimes so very stubborn. Jo is bold and dramatic, and often clowning around with endless chatter.

I love these bits about them so much, yet sometimes these characteristics drive me nuts, such as the times  when I needed Jo to stop clowning around and be serious,(she nearly got kicked out of ballet last month, and that embarrassed me so much), and when I needed her to mince her words, but she chose to be straightforward and offended an adult friend of mine.

Or when I needed Nel to be more excited instead of being so calm coz there were datelines, or when I needed Nel to be more bold like other children were, or for her to comply instead of being  stubborn.

Yet, as I lay in bed between my 2 girls that night, I was thankful for Nel's calmness, and touched by Jo's emotional words.

A few moments later, hubby walked in, (to the joy of the girls), and tucked himself in. He fell asleep in less than 5 minutes, something I've always been envious off coz I take forever to fall asleep. So there were four of us in the bed now.

Jo's crying reduced to sobs, and she finally took two huge breaths, the sort that sounds like a cross between hiccups and choking for breath after you're done crying, and with that, she fell asleep.
10 minutes later Nel got up, tip-toed to the door, shut it tight, pulled up the blanky on her daddy and tucked herself in at the edge of the bed so we'd all have more space to sleep. That's my thoughtful Nel.

What a dramatic day it'd been, yet a rare day where emotions were poured out and love reassured. I thanked God and whispered "Thank you God, for my wonderful husband and my beautiful children. Amen."

Is solace anywhere more comforting than in the arms of a sister.  ~Alice Walker
Sometimes when you pick up your child you can feel the map of your own bones beneath your hands, or smell the scent of your skin in the nape of his neck. This is the most extraordinary thing about motherhood - finding a piece of yourself separate and apart that all the same you could not live without. ~Jodi Picoult

@poundthegarlic.blogspot.com 2012 

21 May 2012

Releasing Terrapins and Turtle Hatchlings-Kemaman

Last year, we went for two awesome Turtle related trips.
1) The first was a trip where we helped to measure and tag terrapins (read post here).
 2) The second was a field trip to Terengganu (turtle alley and museum) and Kemaman (turtle watching, where we saw 3 turtles lay their eggs that night.) (read post here).

These trips were unforgettable, and my children begged several times to go back. So when we found out that Turtle Conservation Centre, Malaysia(TCS)  was going to release about 200 river terrapin hatchlings into the Kemaman River, we decided on a return trip. It was a beautiful trip, just like the previous ones.

We first met up with Pelf Nyok, co-founder of TCS at the Cherating Turtle Sanctuary, where she was giving an educational tour about turtles. We then headed towards the terrapin conservation site.

Terrapin hatchery. Because terrapins do not lay as many eggs as turtles,  conservation efforts are very important to ensure the survival of river terrapins.

These terrapins are so fortunate, coz with the help of TCS, they are able to survive. This little fella in the middle was checking us out, and I think, excitedly waiting for release back into its natural habitat.

Nel had two hatchlings in her hands. She was holding them up for other tourists to see.

See the little white bit protruding near the nose? That's the egg tooth which is used to break through the egg shell when hatching.

A picture of Pelf who conducts the tour group on turtles and terrapins. She talked about her research work on terrapins, and provided lots of interesting information. This was followed by yummy food, lovingly cooked by Wazir's family.

Later they transported the terrapin hatchlings to the Kemaman River. A large group of local people came to join this event, and it was really like a happy celebration! Well, I just found out it was in conjunction with   World Turtle Day! :)

The local children have got their hatchlings and are ready to let them go. :) Jo and Nel have got theirs too.

While waiting, children dug a little pool and put their hatchlings there first. There's no better way for a child to learn about conservation then to come face to face with the creatures that need protection. I know, coz I see how passionately my children talk about conservation to their cousins. :)

Everyone got into a row, ready to release the hatchlings.

Nel's hatchling's first taste of freedom....it moved towards the river by instinct

Poked it's head into the water

Circled a little in the slightly murky water...

and then went under....weeeee..... :)

Most hatchlings poked their head up after a while for a short breath, before they were swept away by the current of the flowing river.

 This is Wazir who looks after the terrapin hatchery 

 At night, we met up with Pelf and the group at Teluk Mak Nik, where Pelf talked about turtles, providing us with lots of interesting information. For instance, how many fathers does it take to help produce the 100 eggs? Well...to find out, join one of Pelf's trips. :)  :)

 Turtle Hatchlings were provided by Pak Su who is a well known tour guide for turtle watching.
Jo released this hatchling, just 2 hours old.  Here it's finding its way to the ocean, guided by the light. Hope it makes its way safely in that wide ocean. Be safe baby hatchling. :)

 We watched the turtle lay her eggs. (For videos, please click on my other post)

This is the mama turtle we watched last night. She is so beautiful. When you go turtle watching, respect the privacy of the turtle. Too many people used flash photography. Please, refrain from using flash at the turtle. You wouldn't want flash in your face either, especially when your eyes have grown accustomed to the dark night.

Well....if you're interested in joining one of Pelf's tour, you can sign up HERE . We certainly learnt a lot from the trip. You can also help their conservation project by liking their facebook page TCS Facebook,  or purchase a copy of the book Little Turtle Messenger (a book my children love) and do help spread the word around so that people are aware of the need for conservation. Yeah, help save the turtles and terrapins. :)

Read further about the World Turtle Celebration Day (Written by Pelf)  on TCS's webpage here.

@poundthegarlic.blogspot.com 2012

17 May 2012

Blue Whales

My girls love animals. I guess, most kids do? Well, they asked now to study about whales, especially the Blue Whale and so we did. We first discussed general facts such as

- A whale is a Mammal, and reviewed what a mammal is.
-Differences in features between baleen whales and toothed whales (for instance did you know that baleen whales have 2 nostrils, and toothed whales only one?)

-Food for whales
-Other discussion based on questions brought up by children such as, why do people kill whales?
-How do whales move
-basic anatomy

Then, we went on to study the Blue Whale specifically. First we looked at the chart below.

To  help the girls really imagine the size of the blue whale, we took out some yarn and measured 100 feet long! We tied one end to our gate and the girls pulled that string passed the porch, into the house, pass the living room.....you get the picture. They were AMAZED at how long the blue whale actually is!

We stood beneath some parts of the yarn and pretended and imagined. "Wow....I'm looking up and I see it's eye.....and it's tail is soooo soooo far away!! I'm so tiny!!!" said Nel.
"Oh my goodness....it is soo huge and long it can fit one zillion people mum!!!" said Jo.

Then we shortened that yarn a little and pretended we were standing next to a Brachiosaurus, and then a T-Rex! We imagined the outline of the creatures as if they were in front of us. You could see the sense of awe on the girl's faces as they imagined the size of these creatures, just based on our stretched yarn.

We also listened to the sound of the Blue Whale, coz we found out that it is the loudest creature on earth! 
pic from Enchanted Learning

AT the same time, kids frequently looked at a whale poster given by Uncle PA and discussed things they observed. (Thanks uncle PA for this!)

Then we went on to discuss BLUBBER.

We discussed why blubber was useful to a whale. For Jo's sake, we branched off temporarily and discussed "Insulation."  And then we went on to discuss buoyancy.

While doing buoyancy, we reviewed objects that float. (By the way, found a post on my old blog about a floating experiment that Nel did a loooong time ago.)

The girls threw stuff into a bucket of water, and Jo wondered why the larger objects floated and the smaller ones mostly sank.

So, we discussed buoyant force and gravity, and displacement,   not in depth, but enough for Jo to understand. From displacement we went on to discuss how density is calculated. We followed the following  when doing a simple experiment on how to calculate density of fruits and vegetables. They enjoyed doing it.  :)

Finally after all that, the girls asked "Now can we get back to the whale again?" :D     I know, we started with whales but travelled so far.

Back to Blubber but still about buoyancy, we did the following:-

 We threw the small tomatoes into water, and of course, they sank.

 Then we sliced a tomato and Nel stuffed it with margarine (blubber.)

Walla...the think floated. And that confirmed how blubber increases buoyancy.


Then we went on to do the famous blubber experiment to see how it keeps  whales warm.

The girls stuck their hands into very cold iced water, and didn't last a minute! Then we added margarine (blubber) into the plastic bag, another layer of plastic to seal it in, and the girls put their hands in again. Of course, the "blubber" kept their hands nice and warm.
So, just in half a day, we covered stuff from basic facts about whales to buoyancy, insulation and density. We added drama and imagination, and it was a fun class. :)  Finally, we watched a few videos of whales breaching, tail lobbing, spy hopping and fin slapping.

Wow...just as I'm about to end this post, Jo's just came up to me with some quick sketches she's just done, here they are.

@poundthegarlic.blogspot.com 2012


14 May 2012

Anya, a refugee Child

Imagine with me for a while. Imagine that the country is in chaos, and almost everyday, soldiers come knocking on your door at unpredictable hours of the night, demanding this and that, sometimes taking your possessions, sometimes hitting your family members. You live in fear, and because you love your daughter, (we'll call her Anya), you decide she has to go.
So in the middle of the night, you hug Anya, you hug her tight, because you don't know if you'll ever meet again. You whisper "Go my daughter, go to a better place. Your aunty will meet you in your new country. Here's some money, somebody will meet you in the forest. Be brave, and I'll miss you, I love ou, but you must go." Then reluctantly you push your daughter out of the door. You watch her disappear into the forest in the middle of the night as your heart breaks. She turns around for one last look, and that is the last time you'll see her. You pray hard, that Anya's journey will be easy.

Anya manages to meet the people who will take her across the border. She spends 11 days running through the forest at night, sleeping in the day. To cut a long story short, she's caught at the border and thrown into prison for several months. She's weary and hungry and everyday she cries in her dreams "Mother...mother..I miss you." You have no news of her, but you dream of her everyday.

One day, the prison releases Anya and she finds her way to a secret meeting point where she and others are stuffed into a little dingy boat. It's so cramp they have to lean on each other. For days they travel that way, weary and beaten by the scorching sun. During the journey, she thinks "Mother...I'm far from home...I don't know where I am...mother, I will survive for you, because of you."

They finally reach land, where she's immediately squashed into a tiny car. Because she's young, only 10 years old, she's put in the leg space of the front passenger seat. They squash someone else on her, and she travels that way for 11 hours. The journey is unbearable and she feels like she's going to die of suffocation. But she remains strong...because of you.

Months have passed, and you have no news of Anya, your daughter. You wonder about her, you wonder if she's made it safely, kidnapped or shot dead from trying to escape the country.

  Hundreds and hundreds of miles away, Anya finally arrives at her aunt's place, where she shares a tiny apartment with 21 other people. Again...to cut a long story short, months later, her aunt who promised to take her to America, leaves for America, but abandons Anya who's left behind to fend for herself. Having no money, no family, she has no choice but to find work. Her journey will continue that way for many more years...alone, without you her mother by her side, without anyone, until the UN approves her application and sends her to a new country.

Working with Start has allowed me to come into contact with many refugee children. Just last week, shopping in KL, a young teen ran, grabbed my hand and said "Teacher,teacher..." She hugged me and my children and said "I cannot stand it here anymore..not one day longer. I want to go." Her boss watched her closely, and reluctantly we parted ways.

And just today...while grocery shopping...another young girl came, grabbed my hand and said "Teacher Teacher...." barely 30 seconds later, her boss approached me and interrupted. She was quite nice, and I'm thankful, this refugee child has found a good boss. Still, I saw in her eyes, the longing to go....

Oh how their childhood has been robbed from them.....
At class run by volunteers, children are fed lunch. Without this, some children have plain rice with salt, or look for shrubs by the road side to eat. (Fortunately, they know which are edible.)
I wrote this post because I was so affected by my chance meeting with these children, twice in just this month. If you ever come across workers in restaurants/factories who seem young, they're most likely refugee children. Please be kind to them. In this country, they are not protected, no education/health rights. Pray that they'll get to go quickly, and pray that this country will recognize the status of a refugee so that they will not need to live in constant fear, or be antagonized by certain organizations.

@poundthegarlic.blogspot.com 2012


13 May 2012

A Dragonfly on my Kedondong Tree

Happy Mother's Day. Jo sent me on a treasure hunt last night with little notes hidden in various places leading me up to her pink card which says "Happy Mother's Day, I Love you." Nel wants to buy me a scarf but nobody's taken her to the mall yet. haha...

Other than that I had to be up by 5:30am  today (torturous!) coz I was on music duty at church.

Anyway, after a simple lunch, I headed home incredibly tired. But lo and behold, sitting high up on my kedondong tree was a dragonfly. It's common  to find butterflies and birds here in my little garden, but never a dragonfly before. And it's also rare to find a dragonfly so high up in a tree, hogging the whole branch and refusing to budge from there.

I had to grab my camera, and here are some shots of the lil fella. I couldn't get equally high as him, although I did try stacking a little chair precariously on a bigger chair. Well, I didn't fall and here are pictures of him.

.So this is the little fella who decided to pop by to wish me Happy Mother's Day today.


It looks a little dark here coz I was taking him against the sun. See how high up he was, I wonder why he was sun bathing like that? Or was he trying to see how much of the world he could conquer?

This was when I tried stacking chairs to get closer to the dragonfly. (Hubby thinks this pic is too bright..but silly me didn't save original copy, coz I tend to delete stuff too quickly)

Well the lil critter saw me closing in and buzzed off for a while before coming back..

Afraid that he'd disappear for good, I moved the chair in front of the branch, stood on my dangerous contraption, stretched my hand high up to get this random shot.

Well...it didn't bother him, so I let him remain where he was..happy that he'd allowed me so much time to take snaps of him.

Ah well....so I'll end here. Anyway....that was nice, just being able to capture pictures of this fella here. When I finally downloaded the pictures into my computer, I had at least 30 shots of him. Jo exclaimed "My goodness mum! So many pictures just of the dragonfly?" I know, I don't even have that many of my children.

Happy Weekend all.

@poundthegarlic.blogspot.com 2012


11 May 2012

My Mother

Last year I wrote a post about my Dad,  and thought it would be nice to write something about my mum this year.

My mum...it' hard to put her in a box, because she neither fits in a square peg nor a round hole. She's quite an eccentric person, unpredictable, a Go-getter, a Miss-do-it-all. She can be fickled one moment, yet stubborn the next. Plans with my mum often change randomly just like the unpredictable weather in Chicago. That's her. She's got a temper that explodes like dynamite but cools down faster than a sizzling bottle of coke.

My mum lives by the motto, nothing is impossible. If it can be done, I can do it; if it's broken, I can fix it!  So when growing up, mum cut my hair, mum sewed my clothes, mum cooked all the food for me and dozens of guests who visited us every weekend, everyday!!

Mum fixed all the broken light bulbs in the house, mum did the gardening, mum sewed the curtains...and a 1000 other things.

When the washing machine, sewing machine or any machine broke down, you'd hear a tinkering and tankering and Walla! Mum would have it fixed. When the pipe under the sink or outside burst,  mum would get her tools...more tankering, and Walla, fixed!!! :D    You're beginning to understand my mum?  She moved heavy furniture around by herself, and a whole load of DIY.

Not only that, she worked several jobs to ensure that I had a chance to learn music, and to help save up enough to help me buy a piano. Mum also had numerous hobbies! She did flower arrangement for weddings and used to win competitions in arrangement. She baked cakes to sell, she made jewellery, she sewed all sorts of things, she used to conduct cooking workshops, and she worked as a teacher at a primary school.  (She also had to spend lotsa time taming 2 monkeys at home ie. me and my brother.)

She's also an avid traveller. She loves the beauty of European countries, but has spent more time than most, travelling to the poorest slums in India, Bangladesh, Cambodia etc, bringing help to the poor, and of course feeding them with food for that is very important to her. Step into her house, and she always has food to serve!

Really, describing my mum would take a life time, because I cannot summarize her into a line.

Today, she's a volunteer, teaching English to village kids once a week, teaching English to refugees on another day, and baby sitting my girls twice a week. When my girls are at her house, she teaches them Malay, and recently has begun teaching them sewing! Just this week Nel is learning how to sew a skirt.

What tickled me and prompted me to write this post today was because  Nel said
"Mum, do you know what Ahma (grandma) told me yesterday? She asked, What do you want to learn Nel? Chinese? Malay? Sewing? Cooking? Electricity? You name it, I can teach you. No point going to tuition classes and wasting your money. I fix everything in this house. Want me to teach you about electricity? I can do that next."   I had to laugh when I heard that.

A Cake mum baked for my 5th birthday, and a dress and necklace mum made for me.
Yup....that's my mum.  (P.S My dad is terrific too, but this is a post bout mum  :).  As for me,  I'm very much like my dad, phlegmatic, easy going. So I'm thankful for a mum who kicked some butt or else I wouldn't be who I am today.

 Thank you mum for enriching my life with your creativity. 
Happy Mother's Day to you mum, I love you. 
To all mothers, You're one in a million. Mothers rule the world with their courage, love and determination to have the best for their children. Without them, we'd be nowhere.

@poundthegarlic.blogspot.com 2012


7 May 2012

Connecting with a child

I got into class as usual, with an urgent objective in mind, to train and prepare my primary kids for Start's upcoming concert in July.

Often as teachers (and even parents) we get over busy ensuring that homework is done, objectives met, duties and activities carried out as planned, schedules, schedules and datelines.

At StART, though I know, building the self esteem of the underprivileged child is the most important goal, I sometimes forget. Well, today I didn't, because the children didn't let me.

After a brief warm up and review of materials learnt in past weeks, I told the children, "Today, you're all going to sing for me one by one, coz I need to know if you've learnt your lyrics and song well."

They panicked! The children started walking around the room, singing on top of their voices, peeking at the lyrics occasionally and then closing their eyes again to memorize. Finally I called them back and said "Never mind, if you don't get it all right today, I just want to know where you are. Now, all line up in front of me, I need to see you face to face."

The brave children went first, belting out the songs, creating their own words when they forgot the original ones. Some sang in tune, some out of tune, some without tune and rhythm, some perfectly. But as each child sang, I kept my mouth close, except to smile and look in their eyes. I felt today, that I needed to connect with these children, and they wanted to connect with me.

Then came the shyest child, the one who always hides at the back and hardly talks to me. She sang, barely audibly. I  listened to her own version of the learnt song, and found myself smiling genuinely because I wanted to encourage her. And because she needed to get lyric cues from me, she was forced to look at me.

As she looked at me mouthing the lyrics with a heartfelt smile, she automatically reacted from within. So she started smiling as she sang. That was contagious, coz I felt myself reacting with a bigger smile as something warmed my heart! :) And that was contagious to her  too, coz before we knew it, she had the biggest smile plastered on her face and we both ended up giggling.

Never mind, that she and some still haven't yet nailed the song. What's important is that today, we established connection, we connected with each other.  I didn't start out planning for this to happen, but it happened, and it taught me an important lesson. How each child yearns to be connected with a trusted, loving adult, and how a simple short exercise together can help establish that much needed bond/connection.

~~Now if you're a busy teacher, or a parent, why don't you try what what I learnt today with your child.

-Stand  or sit so you're the same height as your child.
-Hold her arms, and sing a love/silly song to her. Then ask her to sing a love/silly song back to you.
-As your child sings, listen not to the song, but to that sweet quality of her voice.
-Look not at her eyes, but beyond them to see her precious little being.
-Feel that love from within and smile.
-I'm pretty sure, your child will smile back in return, and before you know it, you'll be giggling, and perhaps, even tearing a little if you've not connected for a while.
Remember to let your child know she's important to you. :)

In our hectic schedule, it helps to set bonding time, where conversation goes beyond "have you done your homework?". Put aside expectation, goals, and routine, assure your child that you're there, that she matters, that she's loved, that she's precious.

4 May 2012

Photo Collage- Lines and Curves

Just a brief summary of today..today we did chapter 2 from Teaching Emotional Intelligence, and learnt about body language and feelings. Activities were mainly in the form of discussion and lots of mime. :)

Nel's been collecting boxes and making all sorts of things with the boxes. She's asked for more boxes. Will post pictures once she's finished. She's finished her 12th Nancy Drew book now and looking for more.

Jo's been working on her opera.  She's written the synopsis and divided her opera into 3 scenes. We improvised some lines today and created the story as we went along, all in the form of recitative and arias! :) (No speaking was allowed!) Nel's been helping her design the backdrop.

As for Friday Art, we continued from last week's class on  lines and curves with a photography exercise. The girls had to go round the house and take pictures of lines and curves, and then make a collage out of it. I did the same. We also reviewed the colour wheel in painting and painted our own colour wheel today.
Anyway....here's our collage work for today. All based on lines and curves only.

1) This is stuff I did to show the girls.
My first collage which I also used to review  symmetry with them.

This was my second piece of work based on lines and curves.

2) This piece of collage below is Nel's Work. She took her own pictures, and then I allowed her to edit them using Digital Photo Pro. At this point I stepped out of the room, coz I knew that if I stayed in I would be tempted to give ideas and critique too much. So, she did this thing entirely on her own, the editing and the collage. Again, it's all based on lines and curves.


3) The work below is Jo's work. She too edited everything on her own, and as you can see, she's made everything pink and purple!!! I helped her move objects on the page according to her directions. I present, her collage.  :)

Yup that pretty much sums up today.

Jo: Mum, are you one of those parents who help children colour their homework?
Me: What do you think?
Jo: Ummm...I think no.
Me: You guessed right.
Jo: ahhh...(sighing) I knew it.

While I was  trying to steal a sip of coffee (doctor's orders no coffee for me).
Nel: Mum! Are you trying to take coffee again?? One more sip and you might die! Stop drinking coffee mum!

Who's the mother now??

2 May 2012

Learning about Opera (Music Appreciation)

A few months ago while browsing through a CD shop, I came across Das Rheingold, an opera by Richard Wagner. I decided to purchase it just to add to my pathetic collection of music, and also to watch since I don't get to go to concerts very much nowadays. The  version sold at the shop was one directed by Otto Schenk, and this review very much sums it up,  "

Traditional staging of Das Rheingold 

Otto Schenk's version of Das Rheingold may appeal to fresh Wagnerians who just want to try and understand what is happening. For advanced opera goers, this DVD probably will cause a loooong yawn. Nothing is very exciting on this DVD. The singers are OK, James Levine is faster than could be feared, the costumes and set pieces unimaginative."

Here's an excerpt from the Vcd.

This is an opera that lasts about two and a half hours, without intermission and entirely in German. With all this, I predicted that my children would not last through the show and would probably walk off by the first quarter.

To cut a long story short, there were yawns among some of us, but Jo surprised me. She sat down, watched the entire thing TWICE in a day. Then she watched it again the next day. And  now she's watched it 4 times. Just today, I was so tickled when from downstairs I heard cheers of encore and applause coming from my little one upstairs after watching the Rheingold again. I thought to myself, "This is Ridiculous! To watch this opera so many times through and still clap like that!"

You know golden moments, where a child is inspired to learn? This was one of it.  I decided to use her current fascination as an opportunity to do some music appreciation with her. So today, we sat down and discussed stuff like the definition of Opera, Libretto, Leitmotif, Scenes, Recitative, Aria and also we also learnt a little bit about Richard Wagner.

While discussing motifs from Das Rheingold, we used this site Synopsis with musical excerpts, where we listened to just some of the more distinct motifs, and discussed how music can represent characters, how music can carry different moods and colours, and how it is important in opera.

We also discussed the plot, scenes and characters. When giving her a quiz (while I peeked through the translation of the libretto), I was surprised by her knowledge. She knew the story better than me, was able to describe the scenes and characters quite accurately.

Having discussed the Rheingold, we searched online for interesting opera sites. WE found this very interesting interactive site that has an activity to help children learn more about opera.

 This interactive game is so wonderful in that, it has great music and singing. It also has teaching notes to help children understand the role of music in opera, and to help focus listening. There are also buttons to click to help decide on costumes, props, choreography, lighting, movement etc. 
Here Jo had to decorate the witch's cottage, and then drag the knob to determine how fast the witch should pop up.
She really enjoyed the activity a lot and also in doing so, learnt more about what goes on in directing an opera. (Go ahead, click on link, and let your child enjoy it!)

The web also provides follow up activities for children such as the cut out below, which can be used for creating ones own puppet show.

As I write, Jo's busy cutting and sticking it together. We will be making a puppet version of an opera tomorrow!

We also printed the following, (just an excerpt here) and discussed questions.

and we also explored additional links on the site such as  Forms of Music .

I can see this lesson going in many directions, from staging her own puppet opera tomorrow, to writing librettos, to possibly composing motives, learning more about Wager, Romanticism, the orchestra, history, Germany and of course, other operas.

Jo's remarks at the end of it all, "I loved the quiz about Das Rheingold, and I love making my own opera. Let's learn more tomorrow mum!"

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