Welcome to my Kindermusik space...

A place to refresh your love of music, your wonder in children, and your peace in parenting well.

Friday, March 1

Taking Kindermusik class home with you

It's a busy morning and family's are packing up and heading out the door to their special day - it's a Kindermusik day!!  Children are excited and moms slightly frazzled trying to get to class on time, while getting one or more children into their outdoor jackets, boots, and mittens.  But once children arrive they are engaged in exploring the early arrival toys, playing with the balls or spending a few minutes telling me about their latest projects or adventures.  Happy hearts are everywhere!!

Kindermusik class is a time to feel connected, adventurous, and capable!  A time to explore instruments, make friends, and feel the awesome power of making music with others!  A time to smile and twirl and feel and try new things.

BUT, here's the beautiful thing...for parents who take on the role of Kindermusik facilitator at home by jumping in with both feet and doing Kindermusik throughout the rest of the week, the learning seeps into deeper layers of understanding.  In the same way that your child likes to read the same books and watch the same movies over and over again, young brains are designed to crave the reinforcement of repetition.  Seeing or experiencing something for the first time always feels a little strange, but the next time it is a bit more comfortable, and the third time it feels familiar and easy.  Repetition at home helps your child to see that not only is music fun in class, it is part of LIFE!  

NO activity we do in class will be more important than having mom or dad involved with a child in doing it at home.  What??!!  It's true!  When we introduce an activity in class, we are familiarizing your children with ideas and examples that can be played out in THE REST OF THEIR WAKING DAYS!

So dig out those home activity guides and plan to do the activities together :)

Make a project (thank you all who do and bring them to class!!)
Jam together as a family with homemade instruments :)
Put on your Kindermusik and dance together :)  (Some of my own favourite "mommy moments" now tucked away in my heart)
Take turns playing a class instrument  :)
Read a class book together  :)
Sing Kindermusik songs while you clean up toys :)
Sing Kindermusik songs while you travel in the car or van :)
Do fingerplays while you wait in checkout lines  :)
Read nursery rhymes together and discover rhyming words  :)
Grab a favourite stuffy friend and listen to one quiet song together and just "rock"  :)
Listen to "live" music whenever you can  :)
Check out their handstamps from class and find ways to do a related activity following class.  (OT classes this week could talk about the "bee" in the Piggy book and make a buzzing "finger bee")
Make lunch into a musical adventure by singing about the food - eg.  "this is the way we eat our ___"
Change the words to a familiar song and make them silly or more personal (inserting your child's name)

Class is the introduction, the spark.  The home and family involvement is where the big difference is made between being weekly "entertainment" and lifelong passion, and brain enhancer.

Saturday, December 22

Baking and belonging

Beautiful day today.  Christmas-y.
Grey skies, but the snow is falling.
Freezing outside.  Warm by the oven.
Gifts wrapped under the tree (this hardly ever happens for me before Christmas Eve)
Candles burning.
Dishes washed.
Dog sleeping on the couch wishing she could go out for a walk in the -20° weather.
Preparation lists are made and ready to be checked off.

Last night I was contemplating (OK, think/complaining) about how much of the Christmas preparation is Mom's job.  Shopping, wrapping, baking, cooking, decorating.  But then in a flash of recollection I remembered several blogs I had read this past week on the beauty of "normal" and how, so often, just being with our family is such a forgotten blessing.  Attitude check.  So very happy to be able to do THIS.

Got me to thinking about 6 Christmases ago when my Dad was so suddenly taken from this world and how glad the family was to have each other around the Christmas Day table even though we all were still in shock about Dad being "home for Christmas".  I think about that each year around this time.  That the real gift is having people you love, who love you back.  Belonging to another.  Being someone's daughter.  Someone's friend.  Someone's mother.  Someone's someone special.  All the rest is just tokens of that.  Reminders of the real thing.

Like many families, ours has some that won't be there for Christmas.  My Dad.  My grandparents.
But we will remember them through shared memories.  For me and many in my family we have food memories.  Music memories.  Holiday memories.

Going to my grandparent's house and making a giant puzzle over the course of several days.  Aunts and uncles putting in a few pieces here and there.  My grandma putting in a few more.  Children scrambling to find one to press in.  (Do you remember the sweet feeling of pushing a piece in and having it just fit?)  And always there were grandma's buns.  No one could make them like her.  She didn't even use a written recipe she had made them so many times.   As a teenager, I thought that someone had to learn to make "Grandma's buns" because one day she won't be around to make them and the recipe will be lost forever.  So I went over one day and she talked me through the procedure, and I wrote it down.

Well, today as I was making "Grandma's buns" for the umpteenth time, I did a mental flash forward to tomorrow when we gather around my extended family's table in Spruce Grove and how we will all remember Grandma as we pass around the bread basket.  And how we will remember my maternal grandmother as we pass the "corn pudding".

And I will forever think of my son Colson when I make the "candy cane cookies" - his request every year!  My daughter always wants sugar cookies.   And my son Evan wanting the gingerbread cookies from the recipe I got from his Kindergarten teacher on the first day he went to school.

My Mom always brings the Krem (a Swedish dessert from dried fruit and served with whipped cream and chopped walnuts, and a marachino cherry on top if you prefer).

There will be a turkey.  Tons of mashed potatoes for my nieces who will make mountains and pour in a lake of gravy.  But there will be a gathering of hearts.  Amidst the table talk and passing of pickles and laughing over how we serve up pickled herring that so few people take, we will hold our family collection of memories with those around the table and those who are watching from heaven.   We will hug and laugh and pass out presents, and be glad to belong to each other.

The food is just a token to remind us of that.  Maybe that's why we call it our comfort food.
Comfort and Joy to you this Christmas!
And love.

Sunday, December 16

More of what you really want

I'd like to start by saying that Christmas is one of my favourite times of year!
The decorations
The food
The happy feeling you get by sharing a greeting of "Merry Christmas" to friends and strangers alike
The shows
The candles

But one thing has been escaping me the last few Christmases.

The quiet moments of reflection
The settled evenings by the fire
The just being together with the people I love without an agenda of program or presents

So a few weeks ago, I had an idea.  Instead of trying to juggle my daily agenda to be able to squeeze in one more important "to do" item, I was going to daily try to do one thing less than I would have otherwise done.  I am forever struggling with wanting to do "just one more thing".  

Look at one more store
Wipe off one more counter
Put away a few more papers
Pick up a few more things at the grocery store
Put in one more load of laundry before I leave
Send out one more email
Make one more batch of cookies

Sometimes the "one more thing" would end up meaning that I'd lost the big picture and didn't have time for what I most wanted - the quiet moment with a book, a song, or a friend.  In my attempts to make my environment suitable for having a perfect moment, I would miss out on what I was creating the mood for - the main event of peace and a full heart.

Well as the saying goes, if you want things to turn out differently you have to start by doing things differently.  So I made the decision to let my mind make the list of the things I "needed" to do, and then take one thing off.  My first reaction was panic - like the world as I knew it was going to be in disarray and I wouldn't be able to shut off my sense of disappointment with not accomplishing my list.

But as it turns out, doing one thing less has led to a greater sense of joy and peace.  I've had a bit of tongue-in-cheek laughter over just "lowering your standards" if things start getting beyond your ability to control, but the truth is that sometimes my standards got in the way of my heart's true satisfaction.  No amount of fresh cookies or striving for a perfectly clean home ever made my heart feel content like spending an evening with my husband, or putting my feet up and curling up with a good book, or having a fire in the fireplace with a cup of tea in my hand while listneing to my kids playing the piano.  Or just reading the Christmas cards that come to our home from friends and family far and near and taking the time to send a note back.

So many good things call for my attention each day.  So many things I thought I'd like to have done.  But choosing to do one thing less has helped me to feel like I actually have done more of what matters.     Seems so simple.

Sunday, November 25

The many benefits of early childhood music

Each week I prepare classes for your child to enjoy!  There is a plan.  There is fun!  But beyond the fun aspect, have you ever wondered to yourself, "what is my child getting out of Kindermusik?"

That is a question I could explore at length, but here are a few of the most foundational benefits of Kindermusik - and in particular, staying in Kindermusik over the long term:

Children exposed to GREAT music learn to appreciate the finer aspects of complex sounds, engaging both the analytical mind and creative areas of the brain.

One of the strongest pulls of music is towards the universal connectedness it gives us.  People all around the world make music, love music, and bond over engaging in it together.  Some dance to it, some sing along with it, some listen to it, and some pick up an instrument and make music.  It can be enjoyed individually or as a group, but ultimately it is a gift of self-expression from one person to another.  Music gives people a voice for things sometimes too difficult to say.

Kindermusik classes help your child develop a sense of self control.  Our "Stop hands", are an excellent way of empowering our children to do something different "right now".  Being in control of our physical movements is self-rewarding to young children.

Learning to be reflective on the needs of those around us is a social skill that serves not only the individual, but our sense of community and belongingness.  Taking turns, watching that we are "being kind to our neighbours" are concepts best learned in context with other people.  For example, sometimes it is our turn to play an instrument, sometimes we need to let others have a turn.  Experiencing the rewards of turn taking is a great benefit of group classes.  In more advanced classes, children learn how when they listen to the parts other children are playing and blend their own voicing with others' , wonderful harmonies happen!

Finger plays are an excellent way of strengthening fine motor skills.  Fine motor skills are necessary for learning to use a pencil to write, typing out essays for school work,  buttoning up shirts, and tying shoe laces.

Moving our bodies throughout the space in the room provides vestibular stimulation.  Not only do we crave movement, our bodies use movement to help our brains sort through the other stimulation that comes to our brain every moment of the day.  Moving in a rocking, swaying, expressive way provides visual stimulation, a creative outlet, comfort, and relaxation.  And the pretend play of rocking our stuffies engages their sense of nurturing, too!

Kindermusik classes are not only fun, but they are also age-appropriate in their approach to laying a STRONG foundation of musical literacy.  Keeping a steady beat to an external sound source, feeling the difference between short and long sounds, being responsive in various degrees of volume, and eventually being able to read not only rhythm patterns, but pitch as well are all elements of music making that are necessary for the more complex aspects of playing in bands or ensembles later in life.  Even if your child does not grow up to be a professional musician, he or she will have enough skills to enhance their life experience through a deeper appreciation of how music is made and it's relevance to celebrations and self-expression.

With all these benefits (and so many more that reasonable space does not allow) music lessons have always been an essential part of my children's education.  I hope yours, too!  There is not a single activity out there that provides as much for your child's overall development as a person as music does - a bold statement, but true!

Sunday, November 18

Who are you?

When I brought my first-born home from the hospital it was a warm May morning.  I remember the sense of joy and fear mixed together, thinking, "what on earth am I doing?  I don't know what to do with a baby?  What if he is crying and I don't know what to do?  How do I find out what he needs?"

Living through a few months of colic and trying to figure out how to calm an evening-fussy boy was a challenge - but we learned a little of who he was and what would bring him relief.  But there were pleasant surprises, too.  In the days of trying to baby-proof the house, if we told him ONCE not to touch something - that was all he needed.  Never touched it again!!  Challenges and gifts wrapped up together in one little boy

Then baby number two came and I wondered how I would manage with 2 young ones.  What if they are both needing me at the same time?  What if I don't ever get to sleep again?  What if son number two doesn't listen like son number one? (And he didn't.)

In time, we figured that out, too.  I figured that our second son was an early morning person, while our first son was geared to more evening time activity and sleeping in til much later.  We also found out that our second son was much more naturally outgoing.  Each child completely different.

Our daughter came a couple of years later, and we discovered her personality was (not shockingly) different from her brothers.  She loved to talk.  She loved fashion.  She loved to play in the toilet (she is completely horrified at that now, by the way)!  Parenting our little girl was both a joy and a new learning experience.

Even though my husband and I are the same people we always are, we have developed a different relationship with each of our children.  Each person brings a set of attributes to the developing relationship, and all those factors merge together to create a unique personal connection - a connection that  changes over time, depending on the growth of each person.  All that to say, as we parent our children, we can expect that our best relationship will come with each child as we ackowledge that they are growing and maturing, and need something different from us over the years.  And they need us to lead the way to better connection by carefully watching to see what and where their hearts are headed.

The same is true with teaching.  Finding a child's natural curiosity and learning style and teaching to that will bring out learning moments that are unique.
Some children are very tentative and having the familiar security of having a parent there is a constant source of strength and reassurance.
Other children like to explore and have freedom to move out on their own, knowing that Mom and Dad will be there when they need them.
Some children like to learn while on the move.
Some like to stay focussed with quiet, organized activities.
Each style is fine.  Just different and important to that child.

When you are in the classroom, or in your home, or out in the bigger world of your community, make it your mission to find out who your child is.  Your relationship with your child will be greatly enhanced not only by finding out who they are and what is important to them, but also how your natural style can be adapted to create a stronger connection with them.  Is that a tall order?  Sometimes.  But being connected with your child is worth the leadership effort that it is!

Friday, October 26

Bringing Calm to Chaos

8 children.  One teacher.  8 stories to hear at once.  One pair of ears to listen.  16 busy feet eager to move and explore and 1 teacher with a lesson plan.  Sometimes that lesson plan is challenged and stretched with an excited and distracted bunch of learners..

Laughing, giggling.  Wiggling and whispering.  Talking and conspiring.  Hiding and sneaking away.  What's a teacher to do?  As much fun as we have in class, sometimes children have an agenda all their own and the challenge to bring back the attention is on.

A secret that I learned several years ago has worked for me as a mother and as a teacher, and it's the complete opposite of what so many instinctively go to.

Getting louder escalates the noise and commotion.  Becoming quieter brings a more peaceful and attentive focus to class.

Using a quieter, more breathy toned voice makes those around you feel more relaxed.  Speaking more quietly draws those around you to listen more attentively, instead of competing with you with more noise.  And looking directly into the eyes of those you are trying to get attention from is a magical force that says, "I see you, and your attention matters to me".

Parents, teachers, and leaders set the tone for those they are setting to direct and inspire.  If you want a peaceful and attentive child/following, start with setting the right atmosphere with a calm and quiet demeanor yourself.

Sunday, September 23

Dealing with the drama

It's Kindermusik class and time to begin.  You are still coming up the stairs when you hear the "Hello" song being sung.   "Ahhh....we are LATE again!  I wish my son would just hurry up and get in the car when I need him to."

or how about this one....

"It's the 3rd Kindermusik class of the semester and my daughter is still not sitting still during the story time....she goes right up and stands in front of the book so no one else can see.   Why won't she sit on her bum like all the other kids?"

and then there's....

"My son refuses to go get the instruments in the middle of class.  I always have to get them myself.   What is the problem?"

Does this one sound familiar?

"My daughter starts acting up the minute I walk into the class for parent sharing time!!   I certainly hope she's not like this when I'm not here!!"  

This past week I have had conversations with several parents about these and other situations.  It's hard being a parent, knowing what to do when your hopes for what you want to see happen don't match up with your child's challenges.   My experience as a mother tells me that we all want the best for our children, and yet they aren't always in the same zone of wanting what we want for them - or seeing the need for it, for that matter.   What's a parent to do?

While it is important to have goals for your children, it's also important to recognize that your children come with a different set of gifts, strengths, and challenges than you.  Additionally, they are also very young and haven't yet mastered, of course, the social scene of considering others' needs.

Coming to class and having the opportunity to explore these skills through repeated exposure is the best way to reinforce those lessons.  They won't be perfect.  They will want to respond to their impulses.  But through patient reinforcement of the concepts we hope to nurture, they will make progress in time.

Just last week I saw a child who normally is VERY busy in class settle into a quieter routine about 20 minutes into class and then stay in that zone for the rest of the class.  Modelling for several weeks brought about change in time.  Still a work in progress.

And then there was a conversation with a mother whose daughter last year would not leave her side, get instruments from the middle, or give me eye contact.  This year she dances, gets instruments, helps bring things back, and even comes up after class and gives me a hug!  Huge progress!!

One thing we ALL need to remember is that each child is on a growth journey.  Your child, in all likelihood, will have challenges that your don't see in other children.  Or maybe you are reading this and are in that sweet spot of having your child love every moment of class and not really exhibitting anything you'd like to change just now.   Please be patient as other families move through their moments of transition.   I know you all remember what it's like to feel at your end of ideas, strength, and patience.  Rather than wishing the challenges away, celebrate the successes as you see them and offer parents your unconditional support.  One day you'll need it, too!

We are moving together to create a more caring, expressive, and community-oriented childhood while we foster our LOVE of making music!  One day, one class at a time.

Wednesday, August 22

Who's memories?

Had an interesting conversation at supper tonight.  My husband was commenting on how a work associate of his was going to the hospital with his wife the next morning, and their child was going to be born!  They were placing wagers on whether the husband was going to make it without passing out. Men can be a little less sentimental about the process than women at times.

With our two grown sons sitting at the table with us, Greg and I started reminiscing about our own delivery days...how when our first baby came, we didn't call ANYONE for about 3 hours after he was born, wanting to just savour the intimacy of our own intoxicatingly wonderful moment with our baby!

I'm a mixture of horrified (I would feel just as disappointed as our parents did, I'm sure, if that were to happen to me as a grandparent one day) and still strangely happy that we had our time together as just the 3 of us!  Of course, Evan, our son, remembers none of this - it has become a memory for Greg and I to share alone.

Then we talked about how different each child is from the other.  How our daughter curled her index finger around her nose when she would suck her thumb, how our sons each had their must-have blanket.  And none of our kids remember any of it.

The things we remember as parents of our children's early years become just stories to them.  Pictures help to fill in the gaps, but in some ways these stories we tell them in their grown up years are about a person they no longer know.  As grown-ups we remember those little people, but the little people have moved on and have been replaced by new, more grown-up  people that we learn to forge new relationships with.  How we relate to our children as toddlers is COMPLETELY different than the way we relate with them as elementary children or teenagers.  Parents learning to let go of the childhood ways is a challenge for they hold a beauty never to be had again.  The smell of a newborn head.  The cuddles with bedtime stories.  The holding of hands as you walk through the park.  All those come to an end one day.

But they are replaced with conversations about issues and important heart sharing.  Watching my children grow and take on adult responsibilites and be contributors to the welfare of others has been soul stirring and affirming.  But the letting go...every once in a while I miss those little ones who used to sit on my lap and fall asleep in my bed.

I will be the story teller.  The one who tells my now grown children about the little ones I once knew.
And they smile as they hear the love in my voice, and their inner child feels it, too.

Thursday, July 26

Little eyes are watching

I remember one evening years ago when my kids were much younger.  We had some company over and it was typical for the kids to be playing downstairs while we adults were upstairs having adult conversations.  I don't remember exactly what we were talking about, but I do remember hearing something very quiet in the hallway, and discovering that one of my sons had tiptoed upstairs and was listening in on what we were talking about.  I'm sure it wasn't horrifyingly awkward, but I do remember thinking that I hope we weren't saying anything that we didn't want him to hear.  Little ears are listening.

My daughter has taken to watching very closely what I eat.  I've transitioned to much healthier eating habits and typically eat things that some of my other family members are not adventurous enough to try, except for my daughter.  It's not unusual for her to ask me if something is OK for her to eat based on certain nutritional guidelines.  Little eyes are watching.

There are times in class when we are choosing scarves to use.  Of course, so many of the girls go for pink or purple right away.  And several of the boys are partial to blue or green.  But I find it interesting that when I take a yellow scarf, several of the class suddenly have a new favorite color.  Little hearts want to stay connected.

No matter what we do as parents or teachers, little eyes and ears are watching.  For better or worse.  Of course we already know this.  We just forget how big of an impact it really is.  Not only do they hear and see what is going on, they process the emotion of situations, too.  When there are tensions and stressors in mom's life, the children pick up on it and often manifest attention getting behaviours.  But conversely, when mom is calm in the midst of a stressful situation, her demanor can calm the uneasiness of her children, transferring her peace and confidence to them.

Parents have such an immense responsibility.  Not only do we provide for all the physical and emotional  needs of our children, but we are also their primary teachers - "on duty" every minute of every day.  And it goes WAY beyond the formal explanations we offer.  The "students" pick up on all kinds of unintentional subtleties.  For example, if you approach an upcoming event with lots of enthusiasm, chances are your children will pick up the same anticipation.  Or more specifically, if you come to Kindermusik classes with a smile on your face, ready to sing and dance and have lots of fun with our little community of like-minded families, your children will sense the good times to be had and join in far more readily.

I know this to be true.  All 3 of my children are very musical.  Talents have been encouraged over the years, but it all started with us singing and dancing in our living room, learning how fun it is to be musical together.  Then by watching their mom be consistently involved in making music with others over the years, both professionally and in other circumstances, they "caught" the music bug and now it's theirs for keeps.

Now my eyes get to watch them ;)

Sunday, July 22

Waiting for Inspiration

I don't know if it's been writer's block or if it is just a symptom of being busy (read distracted), but when I discovered about a month ago that it had been a month since I last posted I started to panic.  And in typical fashion, my anxiety about having no fresh ideas to post made me feel even more blocked.

Funny what a cycle of counterproductivity that is.

Looking for inspiration I thought about reading.  I read a few things and got an idea or two, but then forgot to write them down - and they were gone.  Reading others blogs I felt inspired by their writings, but then felt like a thief writing on the same topics.

Meeting with friends, weeding my long overgrown garden, working my way through long-overdue piles of papers, making lists, and cleaning bathrooms....all had their place on my to-do list, each getting checked off while I waited for inspiration.

And then "Revelation".  I had been having a conversation with one of my now grown children about getting some things done around the house, to which strains of "but I don't feel like it" could be heard in response.  My standard answer to "I don't feel like it" has always been - "well, that's irrelevant.  Don't ask yourself if you want to do it.  Just do."  Starting is, as they say, half the battle.

Last night I took another passing glance at the hall closets and thought, "I'll just see if some of this extra clutter fits in one of the new storage bins I bought..." and it led to a couple of hours of sorting, rearranging, wiping down, dusting off, and then - a closet as a thing of beauty.  The first step, and the rest followed suit.

I'm always glad after the fact that I got the things done that just needed doing.  But before-hand it wasn't really a "can't-wait-to-do-that"kind of excitement brewing.

One of the things we can pass on to our children is that lesson in maturity.  Doing what needs to be done regardless of our feelings about it.  Head over heart.  Or perhaps sometimes auto-pilot over whim?  And before you know it, what needs to be done is done, and our feelings about the event morph into sweet satisfaction.

And don't you know, another blog is written, by just starting :)