“make a real noise and lots of lovely noises” – nels hogaboom, age 5

I keep planning to write more about this:

Since I took my kids out of school they – who were already typically imaginative, happy, active children – have shown a direct and powerful increase in both physical activity, independence, and creative, autonomous adventures.  It’s such a powerful difference and it’s non-stop. Daily I am blown away.

Case in point.  My son is into making musical instruments. No, not playing them – although he loves this as well – but making them.

It’s not enough for him to craft something that resembles the real thing – it has to actually work.  The days we were moving into this house he made the following: an egg carton violin, a stand-up bass (using a yogurt container and a paint stick), a pie tin drum set, a horn (using a small conch shell as the mouthpiece, a plastic water bottle as the body, and a yellow plastic funnel as the bell), and a paper plate shaker (with dried beans inside). Then he made a “pickup truck” out of a large box – complete with separate wheels – that he will now load up and “drive” his gear in.

The truck is currently parked in our bedroom with the musical accoutrement stored because, just like with adult musicians, having a bunch of gear strewn about the house can be annoying.

I should point out that I did not help him with the construction of a single item – although I did point out the location of the masking tape or the glue gun or whatever, when he pestered me enough.

Despite his prolific production of instruments, I didn’t really start noticing how much he loves this sort of thing for a couple days.  I guess because I am a preoccupied parent who’s always busy making bread, or trying to sew something, or obsessing about cleaning the toilet. This morning after breakfast Nels discovered one of his prize strings, a large green rubber band, was missing.  He called his father at work and demanded it be returned (Ralph has a penchant for wearing rubber bands around his wrist).  So Ralph brought the rubber band home – along with a handful of others – and while I sewed away on Phoenix’s linen coat and pants my son found a shoebox, a couple of markers (for the bridge), tape, a quilting ruler, and created a five-string guitar.  The resultant device sounds rather awesome, especially in Nels’ rendition of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man”.

After lunch Nels expressed his desire to visit the music store to, you know, show the guys there his latest creation, and also to shop for a tambourine (a promise I’d made him last night in an attempt to cajole him into sleeping in his own bed).  The store owner was too busy to notice this young child, but an employee and a customer there both complimented Nels’ instrument and compared it to a cigar box guitar, a contraption I’d only had a vague awareness of until today.

When I could get my son away from trying out the cymbals and the shakers and the cowbells, he selected a bright pink tambourine to the tune of $5. But you know – he wasn’t as interested in the ready-made instrument as much as I’d thought he might be. On the drive home he instructed me on ways to make a whistle, and a homemade tambourine of his own.  When Ralph arrived home from work for the day they re-strung Ralph’s guitar and Nels, I suppose, learned still more about his latest hobby.

Who needs television?

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