Welcome to my Kindermusik space...

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

Monday, November 29

Feel happy, down-home music

The last few weeks in the second year of Kindermusik for the Young Child (semester three) we have been taking a look at the Appalachian Mountain region of the United States and discovering how they make music with everyday kinds of objects like a saw, a washboard, or a couple of spoons.  They also use fiddles, banjos, guitars, and such, but they are very resourceful in their instrumentation shall we say.

I want to share with you a link to a fantastic musician named David Holt.  Found these on Youtube.  Have a look and enjoy.

David Holt and the washboard

David Holt and the banjo

And then just for the fun of it, have a look at this great performance of playing your hands

Hambone kneeslap

Gather the family around and let them try!

Tuesday, November 23

You've got a friend in me

I'm just going to come out and say it - as much as I love the curriculum that I teach - there is something I like even more.  When I wake up in the morning and am getting ready to teach, it's not the lesson I'm so thrilled about.  It's the opportunity to meet with the families that I've known for years, or the ones that I'm just getting to know this semester.  The people are the best part.  I get energy from being around people.  Not everyone is like that.  I've done testing and found out that people with an extroverted personality actually get more energy for life from their interactions with others.

That being said, I read recently that if you want to have your child develop a lifetime love of music, encourage the social aspect of music making with dance, group instrument playing and singing.  We've certainly witnessed that in our little studio.  For many Kindermusik families, one of the best parts about being involved in a musical endeavour is the opportunity to bond with others.  As people come together to learn about music and put those new found skills to use in community jam sessions, we are able to feel the energy in the room and communicate with each other on a new level of connectedness.

I want your children (and you too, parents) to feel at home in the class.  I want friendships to be made, conversation shared, and music enjoyed!  It's why we have a little bonding/play time at the beginning of class, and dance together and share our own stories of life.  In the long run, it's a happy, connected child that wants to keep coming back to learn more another day.  

Thursday, November 18

Living in the moment

 I know I'm not alone in this, but I generally have a plan about how I expect a day, a class, an opportunity to go.

You'd think I'd know better by now, but my plan doesn't usually anticipate people not buying into my plan. (sigh)

One mom came in looking rather exhausted today, saying that it's been a looong couple of weeks with a child who is gaining a stronger sense of what she does and doesn't want to do.  Another mom was asking me if I had any suggestions on how to get her child to focus more in class and be less silly during our "organized" activities.  Clearly, this whole idea of wanting things to go a certain way is pretty universal.

As we began the opening "Hello" song, I knew pretty quickly that we had some challenges ahead as the parents were participatory, but the children clearly had other things in mind.  Their own agenda wasn't "bad", just different than mine.   Sometimes I find a little sweet spot in class and have the students in full attention, and other times it is a quest to find the zone of engagement.

You may call it "cheating" - but I call it "creative direction".  When you add a high value item to the mix, everything can change on a dime.  In this case, the introduction of food as a learning tool.  With a cookie "on the table", if you will, suddenly the children were fully involved.  From that moment on (about 1/2 way through class) the whole dynamic changed.  The children were dancing with scarves, using instruments in relevant ways, and open to learning, rocking, sharing, and being in community with all of us.

I'm sure there isn't a child who was there this morning who gave things a second thought, however.  They aren't blogging or reminiscing.  Children live in the moment - good or bad - and then they move on.

Today was a lovely turn of events.  Not every day will be great.  Not every day will be a challenge.  Each moment is just there.  Live.  Learn.  And move on.

Roll the dough, roll the dough, roll the dough flat

Those of you who have been Our Time classes this  semester have heard that little chant over and over.  Did you know that repetition of phrases and predictability of text helps your child become a better reader and story teller?

In addition to repetition, it is a wonderful thing to spice things up from the predictable with new surprises.  We've been enjoying some homemade gingerbread cookies with our "Cookies" story this week.  It was a perfect opportunity to reinforce to the children the sequence of events described in our story by bringing in real cookies.

Some moms were wondering about the recipe as their children were happily consuming the "hands-on" story prop.

Here it is as I made it for class:

Gingerbread Cookies

1/3 cup butter                                   2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup brown sugar                           1 tsp each of salt, cloves & cinnamon
1 1/2 cups molasses                         1 1/2 tsp. ginger
2/3 cup cold water                           1/4 tsp each of allspice & nutmeg                                      
1 tsp. vanilla                                  

Mix all these together then add 6 - 7 cups of flour.   Just enough for the dough to hold together and not be too sticky for rolling out.   For the ones in class this week I used two cups of whole wheat flour  and about 4 1/2 cups of all purpose flour.  You'll need a little flour when rolling out the dough and cutting the shapes out.

For the little bears we had in class, I baked for 5 minutes at 350˚

Of course you can add some decorations if you like, but they're soft and delicious without the extra sugar.

Makes about 9 dozen of those little bears we had in class.  Bigger cookies?  Try 7 minutes bake time.

Friday, November 12

The Gift of Music

It's that time of year where I start in with looking at Christmas music.  It's the 12th of November and I've already been singing and playing it for a couple of weeks already.  As I was playing the piano tonight choosing new Christmas piano books for my students next week, I came across a couple of pieces from The Nutcracker Suite...and as music so often does, it evoked wonderful family memories.

One Christmas when my 3 kids were little we all went to see the ballet and it was the beginning of a fascination with the musical score for my boys, and a passion for dance for my daughter.  (She is 15 and still has hours of ballet class a week.)  We watched the beautiful dances, saw the growing Christmas tree, bought the souvenir ornaments, and now listen to the score every Christmas.  I've been to see it probably 5 times.  Every time I see it, though, I experience it a little differently as every artist and director has a different interpretation to share.

I have often said that music is so much more than what you do with your fingers.  Music is meant to elicit emotion.  When I watch the beauty unfold before me with the ballerinas on their toes or the male dancers passionately leaping, it stirs something inside of me.  It calls out to the longing for beauty inside my heart, and the strong emotion of desiring strength.  Music speaks to who we are as people and connects us together with shared stories.  

Offering your children the gift of musical literacy is offering them the gift of sharing of themselves, but also the gift of understanding the heart of others.  Doesn't that sound like the greatest gift of all?


Wednesday, November 10

Who has seen the wind?

Music is, by nature, an auditory experience. Living in a very visually oriented world, however, makes music a venture into the less familiar.

One of the ways of helping children make sense of musical concepts is to incorporate other art forms, such as drawing. When we draw rain drops as dots on a page singing

"pitter patter pitter patter - I can hear the rain"

the small dots help with understanding about short staccato sounds.
Similarly, when we draw the wind while singing

"woooo woooo - I can hear the wind"

the long, colourful arches help children understand about the long legato lines of music.
These marks on the page are the beginning writings of your resident composer! Who knew?

Milk and Cookies - yummy in my tummy!

Few flavours in life can compare to the taste of homemade cookies! This is a prized cookie recipe I received years ago. It has become not only our family favourite chocolate chip cookie recipe, but the favourite of our friends and family around North America.

The mixing and measuring, scooping and tasting will delight your little one into regular culinary adventure together with you. Try it with your little baker at home this week - your taste buds will thank you!

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup butter or margarine 1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar

Cream these together with electric mixer and then add

2 eggs 1 tsp vanilla

Mix the eggs in with mixer until light then add

1 tsp baking powder 1 tsp baking soda 1/2 tsp salt
2 cups flour 2 cups large flake oatmeal 2 cups chocolate chips

Mix until combined, then drop by rounded spoonful (your choice - big or small) onto ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350° for 8 minutes for small, 10 for large. They will be slightly golden when done.

Secret tip: When they come out of the oven, drop the pan on the counter to flatten. Do not over bake as they are NOT the same when not soft. ENJOY!!