Welcome to my Kindermusik space...

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



Tuesday, December 13

One cello and a room full of children



One room.  
Families gathered.  
One cello 
and one very talented dad.

Our usual time for sharing in family connectedness
and rocking the stuffies
transformed into a 
sweet,
not-to-be-forgotten,
intimate moment in time.

The music wrapped it's arms
around the children
as they
wrapped their own arms around their "friends" and family.

Beautiful.


Sunday, December 4

Putting a song in your heart

I think I was 7 years old when I first sang a duet in church with my friend, Dawn.  She took the harmony, I sang melody.  I'm not sure people even heard me as I was SOOO nervous.  But there we were on a Sunday night, two young girls with a song in our hearts, wanting to give a piece of ourselves to our audience.

I've lost my "nerves" since then, and  I've sung in music festivals, exams, choirs, solos, music productions, and of course, Kindermusik class.  I sing through my students' piano lessons, I sing in the van as I'm driving, I sing in the stores (with and without background music)...I guess I sing all the time.

So this past week when I was at my daughter's band concert and they opened the program with all 200+ band kids singing an acapella African folk song complete with body percussion, I was getting a little misty eyed.  It was beautiful!!  Some students were hiding out behind other students, but most were smiling and enjoying the moment.  Their voices were in tune, their rhythm was great, and they were having a GREAT time - and so was the audience.

It is my firm belief that a musician needs to be able to sing - that a heart full of music should be a heart that bursts forth with spontaneous singing, as your voice is your instrument you carry with you wherever you go.  Some sing high, some sing low, most sing somewhere in between.

Most of my piano students are Kindermusik grads and have been singing for many years.  So when I sing along to with their playing to help show them the melodic lines it is the most natural thing in the world for them to sing along, too.  At my piano recital a week ago, one of my former Kindermusik students played and SANG along to his piece because it helped him keep track of where he was in the piece.  He sang out boldly and confidently, not quietly and under his breath.   And...here is the really amazing part...none of my other music students giggled or thought it was weird in any way!  They have a song in their heart, too, and sing along when they play, too.

With the Christmas season here, maybe now is the time for you to embrace your heart song and sing along with the songs of the season.  You may find your heart feels lighter, and a smile showing up on your face and the face of those around you.   And you just may lead the way for another heart song to sneak out to waiting world!

Sunday, November 27

Getting ready for Christmas

I know there are others of you out there.  People who do not have their Christmas shopping done and wrapped.  People who haven't decorated their homes yet.  People who haven't even thought about Christmas baking yet.

Part of me starts to get concerned when I am reading on Facebook or talking in person to others, and finding out that lots of my friends are  already finished with Christmas preparations.

Not me.  Not even started.

If you don't count the one banner that I hung the other day.  Yup - I pulled off one picture from the wall and put up a fabric banner that I bought in a Christmas store in Alaska  this summer.

It's such a BIG task - I've been putting it off.  Don't get me wrong.  I LOVE Christmas, but my kids are all past the excitement of helping to set up the tree, and want it just done.  Secretly, part of me would like to just wake up and have it done, too :)

But then I don't get the joy of being nostalgic as I look at all the ornaments.  The memories of Christmases gone by as I go through the kids' collections, and student gifts over the years.  OK, now that I'm thinking about it...what would it hurt to bring up a box or two tomorrow?  When I started blogging tonight I was thinking that I'd wait til next weekend, but maybe it's time to dive right in and turn up the Christmas tunes.

Tomorrow.

Anyone else game to take it one small step at a time?

Sunday, November 20

Lessons learned in the gym

Life has so many cross-over learning points.  A lesson learned in one area of our lives so quickly has a corresponding point to be made in another area.  This became so obvious to me in the gym the other day.

A few months ago I joined a local gym and have been going a LOT.  Not bragging.  Just saying.  But I do get so anxious for results.  The results they show on TV are not nearly as quickly played out in real-life, I find.  17 weeks in, though, I am starting to notice changes.

While on the machines the other day I was thinking that although the results aren't shown after each day's efforts, there is a cumulative effect of being in a health-oriented, supportive environment where I can put one more piece of the pattern together.   If I just showed up once a week, or came for 6 weeks then took a few months off, then came back, the total effect would not nearly be the same.  Being health-conscious is a lifelong pursuit and for me, and is so much easier in community.

The same cumulative effect holds true for Kindermusik classes.  There is a difference for families who come semester after semester, than for families who take a term, then take time off.  When we do repeated activities, our brain patterning changes and we start to experience information in new ways.  Not only do we form new habits, we actually change the way we process information.

It is SO important to re-inforce information.  Not only do we do this in the week to week activities in a given semester, building on introduced concepts in new and interesting, engaging ways, but we also reinforce and expand ideas over time from one semester to the next.  Growing brains need the reinforcement of repetition and creative adjustments to truly grasp concecpts and assimilate them into action patterns.

Younger children, in particular, need to have many reinforcements as the neural connections in their brain are still forming.  Experiences that a person has in life are all stored away in their cognitive processing center, providing a framework for sorting through future experiences.  Children, however, have less cumulative experience to draw on, and the repetition of an activity is essential to strengthen the learning.

As you are considering what to do next semester, I encourage you to continue with Kindermusik. Or maybe you are contemplating joining us for the first time.   Not only are you going to experience a happy and supportive musical environment for you and your child, but you are establishing a strong framework for a lifetime of musical expression - a lifetime where musical expression is as normal as breathing!

Sunday, November 13

Slowing down on an overcast day



It's been a couple of days of gray skies and snowy/wet weather.
Not snow-to-stay weather.
Just snow and melt weather.
Weather that makes you want to stay indoors, while the outdoors takes a break.

Makes me want to take a break, too, from
A full schedule both professionally
and personally.
Classes to teach, computer stuff to do...

...the weather makes me want to slow down.
Put my feet up and let my eyes fall shut.

Not such a bad idea.

Been reminded lately about living life consciously.  Making a point to be inspired.  Taking time to rest the body.  Reading a good book.  Nourishing our inner spirit.

A rested body supports the soul.  An inspired mind challenges the spirit.  A full spirit leads to making better choices for the body.

I LOVE Sundays!
Rest for the body - just restorative walks
The best music all week - feeding spirit and soul
Meeting with friends who have become family
Time to recharge for the great week ahead.

Monday, November 7

When your expectations don't match your child's needs

Two minutes to class time.  On your way up to the classroom and your child who has been excitedly talking about class all week, suddenly develops a strong affection for Mom's legs.  No eye contact with classmates - certainly not the teacher.  Hmmm....

Or perhaps your child is happy to come to class, but they prefer to watch activities than to actively participate.  When the sticks are presented for exploration, your child likes to hold them in their hands and then watch and see what others do with them.

Has your baby ever fallen asleep during class, or your older child been hesitant to join in?

All these responses are quite normal, even if they throw Mom's expectation level for a loop.  Some children like to learn by watching others and then explore the ideas in the comfort of their own home.  Over time, parents notice a growing confidence in interpersonal interaction and their child ventures out into the hub of activity.  Opportunity to explore in an accepting, encouraging environment invites children to move beyond their current action paradigm and explore new ways of engagement - but it does take time.  I've also seen parents gently guide their children towards exploring out of their comfort zone by being their to provide reassurance as they move outwardly together - such as in going to the instrument boxes together to retrieve or put back instruments.

Regarding sleepy babies:  again, this is quite normal.  Babies are wanting to gather information about their world, but it is a journey that takes a lot of energy.  Singing, dancing, insrument play, and interpersonal interaction are all activities that can make a baby tired.  And depending on where they are at in their sleep/waking/eating cycle, it may be more or less challenging to last the whole class without sleep.  The good news is that falling asleep in class is totally fine.  If they are tired, they should sleep.  A large percentage of the class is geared towards equipping the parents with ideas for home music making and understanding their baby's development.

It's hard to let go of parental expectations and let our children explore at their own pace.  But you will find that letting them learn in their own way has way less stress on families, than trying to make them learn in your favourite or dominant style.  There is more than one successful way to learn  - ask me about how Kindermusik utilizes multiple learning styles for maximum effectiveness.

Sunday, October 30

Thinking of enrolling in 2012?

The new fall schedule is up and available on-line!
Families exploring legato and staccato with egg shakers!
Here is an advance heads up for you...

One large Kindermusik studio in town unexpectedly closed it's doors in September, and another large one is set to close in November!
That leaves lots of Kindermusik families with very limited options.

I have added a few options and moved a few classes around to accomodate having more children in the program, but spaces are still limited.

My passion is to bring music to families, but a girl only has so much time...

Check out the new schedule and bring in your registration for the coming term.  Reservations are necessary!!!  And prices are holding at the same price they have been for years!  The same discounts are available for families with multiple enrolled children!

http://www.kmsteppingstones.com/Kindermusik_Stepping_Stones/Class_Schedule.html

Sunday, October 23

When saying "No" is better than "Yes"

Ever feel like life is one big "to do" list?  There is the Monday routine, the Tuesday routine,  the....you get the picture.  We working moms have so many things to juggle from keeping the family well fed, to laundry, to chauffeuring, to keeping on top of work responsibilities, to maintaining friendships, to taking care of our physical and emotional selves.

I love my life.  I love teaching.  I love my family.  I love my friends.  I love being involved and contributing to my world.  There are so many interesting things in life to try - so many interesting people to get to know.  But... sometimes I find myself saying "yes" to too many things and feeling stressed at the end of it all.  

When I make better choices and say "no" to a few - it makes me feel better about the things I said "yes" to.

This weekend was good.
I said "no" to going to the gym early - and said "yes" to sleeping in.
I said "no" to doing more of the chores myself - and "yes" to asking my family to contribute.
I said "no" to going to a free class - and "yes" to spending time with my husband.


Making a fire.  Reading a book.  Playing a game with my son.  Singing with friends.  Taking a walk.  Long chats over cups of tea.  Eating birthday cupcakes...moments best savoured in an unhurried way.  Moments that restore and renew!  Moments that make me a more content mom, a happier teacher, and a more balanced woman.

Kinda reminds me of the principles behind our quiet rocking time in class - learning to relax is a learned skill we use our whole lives.  Even teachers, sometimes, need a refresher course.

Sunday, October 16

Kindermusik at home

Each week there are stories I hear from families about how Kindermusik activities are being lived out again at home.  The activities that we enjoy in class have become a normal part or the children's experiences, and they start to incorporate them into their daily lives.


Just this past week a grandmother who comes with her granddaughter was telling me about how the "stop" hands were being translated at home.  Her little musical munchkin had been asking Mom and Dad...and their dog, "Charlie", to do "stop hands".  Someone had then told her that Charlie couldn't do stop hands to which she replied..."stop paws, Charlie".  Clearly someone has been noticing routines in the classroom and had moved into the imitative realm of reliving moments - a precursor to imaginative play! :)

A few days ago I was on facebook and one of the moms had posted this picture and speculating that the son was "proposing" to his little sister.  I posted a note back to her about how in Kindermusik for the Young Child we had been learning a song about a frog courting a mouse, and that I had explained to the students about a man getting down on one knee to ask his love to marry him.  Mom had caught this picture of their play and let me borrow it for here.


Then there are the stories of children singing their Kindermusik songs while travelling.  Stories of playing Kindermusik class at home and pretending to be "Mrs. Wiebe" or "Teacher Heather".  

One of the best parts about Kindermusik is that it can continue long after families have left the 4 walls of the classroom.  Mother/son dances at home, family time sing-a-long while travelling, and weekly musical  projects from the home activity books or web site are all value-added bonuses of involving your young musician in a Kindermusik semester!

Hours of imaginative play and creative song composition as you and your child make up silly new words to familiar Kindermusik songs are all great ways to strengthen your child's growing sense of self-expression!  

Just to get you started, try looking at one of your Kindermusik books today and talk through it without reading the text.  Talk about the colours on the page, talk about what each character is doing.  Talk about the musical/rhythmic aspect is used in the book....pat your legs to the rhythm of the text for syllable recognition.  Act out the story in some way....you've got the idea, I'm sure!

Monday, October 10

Thank YOU!

Thanksgiving Day.  So many blessings to count, but today, special thanks for how my life has been enriched through knowing you and your children :)

Thanksgiving for the everyday kinds of moments you
offer up each week (big smiles and heart swells)

Dancing with abandon
Singing out loud
Playing instruments and jamming together
Building friendships with others in class
Sharing your Kindermusik experience with your friends
Sharing your home activity moments with me
Words of appreciation
Smiles
and
Hugs
Thank you for enriching my life with yours
as we take the Kindermusik journey together!

Sunday, October 9

A little "fall" in your music


Fall can be a season of mixed emotion for me.  Love the colored leaves!  And the shorter daylight hours give me the opportunity to make some quiet ambience at home with lit candles and fires in the fireplace.  A cup of hot tea to finish off the moment!   But truth be told, I have an underlying feeling of "Oh-no-winter-is-on-it's-way" as I try to keep my shoulders from residing next to my ears, protecting against the cold.  The coming cold ..... brrrrr.

Not being one to dwell on the challenge ahead, I thought today of how autumn can be one of the musical times of year, too.  Not just because you are in Kindermusik classes again, but because there are so many songs and ideas you can use in the fall time that encourage the expansion of your growing young artist.

A couple of examples of this can be found in this semester's activities.   In Village and Imagine That classes we have been using scarves as floating leaves and/or feathers.  Watching them flutter down, twirling ourselves around with them, and blowing them in the breeze created by our breath are ideas all related to autumn.   While we are playing together, children are storing away bits and pieces to use in further pretend play both now as pre-schoolers, and for the future as babies or toddlers.

Walks outside in the fall leaves are a great family activity, but autumn can have it's weather challenges, making the outdoors less appealing.  Wet, cold, early snow.   You can also bring the outdoors in by using something as simple as a paper bag.  Talk about the crunchy sounds with your child.  Hear the sound of ripping paper as you tear the bag into "leaf-size" pieces.  There is something magical about creating an indoor leaf pile and watching them flutter and float :)

A little vocal play with descending "faaaalls" also makes a musical connection between leaves (or scarves!) falling and sounds getting lower and lower.

Although we use our hearing for musical experiences, the sensory exposure  is not limited to sound in these activities.   They can hear the tearing and crumpling, but they can also see the paper get smaller and smaller as we ball it up, they can feel the texture of the paper, and feel the excited atmosphere in the room as we have fun as a musical community.  And by making a paper bag into a pile of leaves, your child's ability to think in new and creative ways grows just a little bit better.

Check out the songs  "Windy Weather" and "Autumn Leaves" on your home CD's or on play.kindermusik.com, and start having some fall weather fun!

Sunday, October 2

Encouraging the nurture nature

Every week in Our Time and Family Time when we have our Quiet Music and rocking time, we get out the "stuffies".  Sometimes children don't need a "stuffy" to rock, they just snuggle in with mom or dad or grandma - but most often it's just more fun to rock with a "stuffy friend".

Sometimes we use a scarf as a blanket for our "stuffy friends"!

Quiet music is calming and helps children to experience intentional relaxation, and the rocking also helps children to feel steady beat in their whole body.  You've heard me say that in class, I'm sure.   But did you know that taking care of our stuffy friends also encourages your child's nurturing nature?   As we rock the stuffies, remembering to stroke their head and hold them close, we are passing on the love of caregiver to the one cared for.  As we then gently tuck the "stuffies" back into their bed (aka the box), children are experiencing the wonder of imagination development and the joy of caring.

One of our most important jobs as parents is to teach our children important life skills.  Learning to be a nurturing person goes a LONG way in the development of our best selves.  And aren't these precious rocking moments with your child, ones that get filed away in your own memory bank of life's best minutes?  You know you love to nurture...so will your child!

Sunday, September 25

Seeing with our ears

We hear things all around us.  As I'm writing this our birds are fluttering in the background, my family is engaged in conversation, and the wi-fi printer is spitting out my son's college paper.  But I'm not really listening to any of it.  Just because I know it's happening, doesn't mean I'm really tuning in to it.  In fact, I have an uncanny ability to tune out things I don't want to hear in order to hear other things of greater importance to me.  Hearing is NOT listening.

We spend quite a bit of time in Kindermusik over the years developing a child's ability to intentionally listen to things.  In "Our Time" we offer the sounds of running water, for example.  Labelling it, listening to it on the stereo, and imitating it as we tell the story of "Pete and PJ".  

In "Imagine That", we listening to various songs told in conjunction with a playground story featuring "Josh and Katie", so that when we hear the melodies in a song medley, we can picture in our minds what to do with our bodies based on the associations we made with the story earlier.

In "Kindermusik for the Young Child" this past week, we spent a few minutes lying down and closing our eyes, and "watching" a story play out in our minds as a very talented musical story teller told us the story of the "Cumberland Mountain Bear Chase" using only his voice and his banjo.

In our very visually oriented world this can prove to be a huge challenge - staying engaged for several minutes with no pictures, only words.  But by settting up the story with telling the children to listen for how he makes the banjo sound like a swarm of mosquitos, and to listen for how he uses the banjo to make us feel like we are on the bear chase ourselves, the children were held in rapt attention the whole time.

In fact, by the end of the story, children were tapping their feet up and down during the chase - they were "living" the story, too!  Truly listening has it's benefits...an enhanced imagination, for one


Sunday, September 18

Living life on the positive side



There are moments in a person's life when a tiny gift has a profound impact.
When I first started teaching Kindermusik I received a bookmark with two columns of words.
One side had a list of personality characteristics.
The other side had a way of restating those same words with a different slant.

For example

Others might use the word....              Kindermusik community might say....

anxious                                               cautious, concerned
chatterbox                                           communicative
hyper-sensitive                                    responsive
intense                                                focused
non-participatory                                  observer
silly                                                     joyful
unpredictable                                       flexible

Reading through the list I started to notice how easy it was to go to the first list, but how much better the second list made me feel about my interactions with people.  It started a journey of trying to be careful in how I was interpretting situations and people's responses.

I discovered that my responses typically have more to do with my own state of mind than anything else.  If my world is going well and I'm feeling relaxed and great, it's easier to assume that others are on the same wave length.  If I'm emotionally on edge and irritated, my natural reaction is to assume that others are trying to irritate me.

For example, if I have asked one of my family to vaccuum the living room and hours later it is still not done, my first inclination is to be annoyed and assume that they are ignoring my request.  I go to that because my least favourite job in the house-keeping world is vaccuuming and I would tend to do just that - put it off.   But it could just as easily be that they either forgot or were busy doing homework.

Ignoring me?  -  My response - annoyed, irritated, mad
Forgot? -  My response - remind them
Busy with homework? - My response - ask them if another time would work better for them

I know I sometimes feel entitled to my first response, the one that assumes that things should run as I see them happening in my ideal world...but I have found that the choice that produces the best relationships is the one that assumes the best in and for people.  

This summer I met up with a friend of mine whose son had just a few days earlier broken his arm, putting him out of commission for so many summer activities.  As she was telling me about all the  complications that could arise from the fracture, I looked at her and said, "but it could just as easily NOT turn out to be any of those things, and heal up just fine."  And then I looked at this young man (18 years old) and said, "Besides, now that you have a plate in your wrist you can be a superhero - you know...you're reinforced now."  At first he looked at me kind of strangely, and then he started to smile. Then his mother said, "You know, you are the most positive person I know."

It's all how you choose to look at things!

Friday, September 9

How's a mother to know?

Don't you sometimes wish you had a stethoscope and one of those things that doctors use to look in patient's ears?   The trips I could have saved myself if I had been able to know the things that only doctors are privvy to.

We take temperatures, watch the clock for how long it's been since last medicating, apply bandages, wash off wounds....all the basics, but when it all comes down to the wire and our child isn't feeling well, we want some advice from someone more in the know than us.

Can't tell you the number of times I've been to the doctor's office when my kids were younger, quite concerned that they had been sick such a LONG time, only to be told that it's just a cold and nothing can be done but wait it out.  But then on the other hand, I've also been in the position where all of a sudden one of my children is holding their ear and is feverish, then going to the doctor and being told I should have been there days ago as the ear drum looks terrible!  Apparently my son was asymptomatic until his ear was ready to pop - so weird, and strangely perplexing.

Monday, September 5

Twas the night before...


Twas the night before classes, and what do I do?
Facebook and Blogger and read lesson notes, too.

I know that students going back to school is on everyone's mind, but teachers go back, too.  Tonight I'm finding that waiting for great things to begin can create a nervous excitement that is distracting to the rest of life.

I should clean a bathroom.   I should wash a floor.  Yet, I divert to my ways to connect with people - even indirectly, like email, facebook, blogging.

But tonight is about feeling ready for tomorrow.  Making sure the ipod is synced.  Making sure I remember the songs I've sung dozens of times.  Making sure that this week's class leaves you wanting more!

The posters are up, the instruments cleaned, the lesson notes checked.

Hope you are excited, too!  Good things are coming...


Sunday, August 28

Kindermusik makes parenting easier

We've all been there.
"So much to do.  How am I ever going to get it all done."
A to-do list a mile long, and meanwhile, your child is wanting you
 to play with
to watch
to read to
to be there for
him
or her.

What's a parent to do?

Where do you go when your ideas are running short?
There are people who have done this before.  Millions.  But how do you know where to go to get the ideas?  I don't want "Google".  I want tried and true, face-to-face answers.

Kindermusik classes are just the place.  Not only do you hear advice from the expert developers of our curriculum, but parents who have been where you are at also attend the classes and know lots of ways to help.  Parents helping parents is a great place for ideas on how to make dinner and entertain a small child at the same time.  Or how to fold laundry while your two year old is wanting your attention, too.

But what I've heard more times than I can count is that Kindermusik has saved the day on long car trips, in doctor's offices, in grocery store line-ups, calming a crying infant, and even helping "owies" feel better.  The familiar songs and rhymes, the happy memories associated with our classes, and the parent-child bonding moments created have cemented wonderful neural connections in the brain of so many, many children.  Connections that when activated send messages of "this is amazingly awesome stuff - be happy".  And a happy, peaceful child is the sweet spot of any parenting experience.  The place where you look at your child and go "Ahhhhhh - life is good".

Kindermusik activities done in class become Kindermusik activities that can happen at home.  Maybe you remember getting out the laundry baskets in a Village class and scooting your baby around the floor while singing "Riding in a buggy baby mine, baby mine..." .   Your laundry day could have spontaneous buggy rides at home, with delighted squeals on the part of your child echoing in the background.

Or maybe your to-do list involves driving on a long car trip.  You could dig out the "On the Road" CD from summer camp this year and try several of the activities that the "Fluglehorn family" tried on their road trip.

If you have some cooking to do, you could get out your "Cookies" book and remind your child about how food is made, before tying on a tea towel apron and letting them help.  With the positive associations of these beloved Kindermusik activities, you are sure to have some very eager participants, and your role as "teacher of small children" becomes a breeze.  Who knew?  Parents of Kindermusik students do!!

Monday, August 22

25 years!

On our Alaska Cruise at the Hubbard Glacier
August 23, 1986.  1:00 pm.  
White dress.  White tuxedo.  Friends and family.  I choose you...
First apartment.  First vacations.  First child.  First house.
More years.  More children.
Money challenges.  Job changes.  School changes.  
Friends change.  Extended family changes.  Even some health challenges.

And we are more in love than ever.  

In the words of that infamous song you wrote for me...
"We go together like peas in a pod
Corn on the cob,
Cheese and apple pie.
Dirt bikes and trails,
Boats and their sails
Til the planes fall from the sky."   (Don't know about that last line, but it is what it is...)

Love to you always.  I still choose you.




Better Together

Meeting new friends.
Connecting with friends already made.
Talking.
Laughing.
Learning.
Shared passion.

These are the things of our weekly classes, but most currently, the Kindermusik Conference.  While I'm busy getting ready for the upcoming schedule of classes, I like to take some time in the summer to connect with my Kindermusik colleagues.  This year the conference was in Calgary (yeah....just a short drive!!) and I was able to see what's up and coming, meet some great Kindermusik support people/teachers, and spend some time encouraging the new educators.

Got some new ideas for class that I can't wait to share with you all.  Afterall, Kindermusik isn't about me learning stuff - it's about sharing our knowledge and musical experience together.  Me with you. You with me.  And Kindermusik home office sharing thier experience and expertise with us all!  We are better together.  We've all got something to contribute.



That's you, too!!  Did you know that the energy and enthusiasm you bring to the class is a boost for us all?  The energy of friendship, connecting with our children, and making music together is a powerful force.  Can't wait to make the magic happen all over again : )


Saturday, August 13

Patterns, Predictability, and the Power of Surprise

While on holidays this summer I was browsing in a bookstore (one of my favourite time indulgences) and came across a book called, How We Decide.  A curious title to a book that I have found enormously interesting.  Have I mentioned that my degree is actually in psychology and that I have always been fascinated with how the brain works?

I was particularly struck by a chapter talking about how patterns are so important to our brain's development.  Children love to have things repeated, and repeated some more .  Their growing brains thrive on the dopamine release when the events they come to expect happen in a certain way.

Have you ever noticed how we do some activities just the same in Kindermusik each week?  The hello and goodbye songs are an obvious example.  But we always get to use instruments, we always sing, we always have a story during "Our Time", and many more.

Patterns make children happy.  Knowing what to expect and having things happen in that way not only helps children know what to expect and feel at ease, it's also how they mark time.  Physiologically speaking, the meeting of those expectations through the fulfillment of predicted events releases the feel good hormone, dopamine, which is why having a schedule for children makes them feel happy.  For example, children usually dash over to the "ball bin" as soon as they come to class because the balls are fun, but also because they are almost always available at arrival time.   Or another example would be how children start looking for the "stuffies" once we are done the story in  Our Time, because rocking the stuffies always follows the story time.  On the flip side, one very disappointed little girl started softly crying one day when at the conclusion of a class she realized that we had left out the story that day to accomodate having more time for our class party at the end.  Things were not as she expected, and she missed that one element.

But the brain also enjoys a good surprise, the author, Jonah Lehrer, points out.  When things don't happen as expected it causes the brain to go into an "alert" mode, drawing extra attention to what is going on.  That's why we tweek activities from week to week.  While one week we may sing a song while clapping our hands, the next we may sing the song while bouncing on Mom's lap, or marching around the room, or adding "train whistle" sound effects.  All the added nuances add to the brain's ability to sort through information and form a network for future experiences.  Patterns are solidified through repetition, but enhanced through small changes that make us pay extra attention to the new information.

All that to say, when you come to Kindermusik classes, not only are you encouraging a musical education, you are also encouraging your child's understanding of an organized world, and furthering their ability to successfully predict and adapt to events.   And another reason to add to the list of why Kindermusik is good value for your money.  It's music lessons and a great way to enhance your child's brain growth, understanding of patterns, and ability to pay attention to detail!

Sunday, August 7

Rising to the challenge

A couple of months ago,  I had a conversation with my daughter about finishing off her requirements for her Grade 8 piano exam.  She had done the actual playing of songs and technique back in January, but she still had the theory (written component) to do.  Her initial response was that it wasn't that important and she'd do it in the fall (translation:  maybe we could just post-pone that indefinitely), but cirucumstances arose, and it was decided that she should do the exam in August.



Needless to say, doing pages and pages of theory work in July was not her favorite thing to do.  But yesterday when she wrote her exam and felt confident in her answers it was a great opportunity to remind her that she had achieved a great thing.  Being able to say that she had finished grade 12 equivalency in musical accomplishment while having just finished grade 10 in school is something she should be proud of.  It was a great teachable moment, reminding her that on the way to getting something we really want, there are often elements that we would rather by-pass.

You're nodding your head in agreement, I can tell.

Hmmm....so many examples from real life...

I love having a clean bathroom, but it's a chore to clean that tub.
I love feeling more energetic, but the workout sweat I could live without.
I love having kids that are musically talented, but it was a BIG time commitment to have them practise regularly, sometimes having to sacrifice time and money, too.

When I look at the examples I see so many emotions - fear, dread, disappointment at opportunities missed while pursuing our goals.
But there is also pride, and joy, and self-confidence.

Children have so much to learn:  Choosing their own clothes to wear.  Brushing their own teeth.  Learning to tie shoe laces.  Cutting their own food.  Riding a two-wheeled bicycle.  Making their own bed.  Learning to play an instrument.  Solving a difficult math problem.  Taking the bus by themselves for the first time.   Learning to use a new computer program.  All opportunities to grow self-confidence and feel pride in who they are becoming!


Kids may complain...OK,  they probably will complain...but in the end...(down the road, maybe a few years from now) they will be so thankful that Mom or Dad took the time to teach them how, coach them through the challenging emotions, and cheer on their success!

 And in our house,  cheering on success often involves a trip to Dairy Queen : )

Tuesday, August 2

The Top Ten

So right off the top I am going to tell you that there is a guest on the blog today.  My friend, Analiisa Reichlin, has one of the largest Kindermusik studios in the world and has a GREAT blog on her website.  I subscribe to it, read it, and am often inspired myself by it.  The other day I was reading her post and was so impressed by it, I asked her permission to post it on my blog.  She was happy to share!  Maybe you would like to subscribe to her blog as well - she, and her other educators have a lot of great information, inspiration, and mom-to-mom stuff to share.
The link is   www.studio3music.com/blog
_____________________________________________________________
It’s August, and like moms everywhere, I’m starting to plan my kids’ schedules for the school year. It can be a tough balance between activities and family. The hours between after school and bedtime (homework, playing, reading together, practice, chores) are important to me. This is my rule when I think about filling them – when my children are grown, will they remember all the stuff they did, or the experiences of being a family?  Are they going to pattern their own family life after time spent together or apart? After all, they’ll learn how to be a mom or a dad by watching my husband and I be a mom and dad.
My kids have youth group/club one night a week. I think two additional activities is enough here in the elementary years. (Every family is different. 3 works for us. Your number may be 1 or 5. Just keep in mind the end goal – time with you for learning, love and fun!) We always do a sport/physical activity (they choose), and music.
Most people don’t need an explanation about why sports are good, but why music? When kids enter elementary school, sports are usually stepped up, and music abandoned. I love this collection of the top ten reasons to keep up music throughout the school years:
1. In a 2000 survey, 73 percent of respondents agree that teens who play an instrument are less likely to have discipline problems. – Americans Love Making Music – And Value Music Education More Highly Than Ever, American Music Conference, 2000.
2Students who can perform complex rhythms can also make faster and more precise corrections in many academic and physical situations, according to the Center for Timing, Coordination, and Motor Skills. – Rhythm seen as key to music’s evolutionary role in human intellectual development, Center for Timing, Coordination, and Motor Skills, 2000.
3. A ten-year study indicates that students who study music achieve higher test scores, regardless of socioeconomic background. – Dr. James Catterall, UCLA.
4. A 1997 study of elementary students in an arts-based program concluded that students’ math test scores rose as their time in arts education classes increased. – “Arts Exposure and Class Performance,” Phi Delta Kappan, October, 1998.
5First-grade students who had daily music instruction scored higher on creativity tests than a control group without music instruction. – K.L. Wolff, The Effects of General Music Education on the Academeic Achievement, Perceptual-Motor Development, Creative Thinking, and School Attendance of First-Grade Children, 1992.
6. In a Scottish study, one group of elementary students received musical training, while another other group received an equal amount of discussion skills training. After six (6) months, the students in the music group achieved a significant increase in reading test scores, while the reading test scores of the discussion skills group did not change. – Sheila Douglas and Peter Willatts, Journal of Research in Reading, 1994.
7. According to a 1991 study, students in schools with arts-focused curriculum reported significantly more positive perceptions about their academic abilities than students in a comparison group. – Pamela Aschbacher and Joan Herman, The Humanitas Program Evaluation, 1991.
8Students who are rhythmically skilled also tend to better plan, sequence, and coordinate actions in their daily lives. – “Cassily Column,” TCAMS Professional Resource Center, 2000.
9. In a 1999 Columbia University study, students in the arts are found to be more cooperative with teachers and peers, more self-confident, and better able to express their ideas. These benefits exist across socioeconomic levels. – The Arts Education Partnership, 1999.
10College admissions officers continue to cite participation in music as an important factor in making admissions decisions. They claim that music participation demonstrates time management, creativity, expression, and open-mindedness. – Carl Hartman, “Arts May Improve Students’ Grades,” The Associated Press, October, 1999.
-posted by Miss Analiisa, who is a proud momma of a flutist, violinst, and soon to be Kindermusik Young Child student!

Wednesday, July 27

Trying something new

"Should I...or shouldn't I.
I won't know anyone.  What if no one is friendly?
I really should.
But if I start, will I stick with it?  Maybe I shouldn't even start.
I'm feeling nervous.
What if I'm the oldest one there?
What if I look ridiculous?"

Ever been there?  Starting something new can be intimidating.
I started out at a new gym this week.  In the spirit of health improvement I have been investigating all kinds of alternative health options, but I have never (until now) taken the step of joining a gym.

But as I was driving there I realized that for many people, coming to a Kindermusik class is intimidating as well.  As much as I know the songs and dances and feel completely at home there, new families could be feeling all the same hesitancies that I was feeling towards going to the gym.  Hmmm...interesting thought.

So I got to the gym, found my way to the change room and was then waiting by the group exercise classroom.  Then the one thing happened that changed my whole outlook from nervous to "let-out-a-long-slow-breath...it'll be OK".   One of the people also waiting approached me and asked if I was waiting for the class, and we struck up a conversation.  She was very reassuring.  Turns out they were starting a new routine tonight and this woman was one of the instructors for the class the next day and wanted to see how someone else did it first.

Funny how just one person taking the initiative can make someone's day...or change someone's life.   You see if no one had talked to me, I would have left with a negative experience, and maybe not come back...afterall, I was just there on a complimentary pass...no obligation yet.

So those of you who make an extra effort to connect with other families in class....THANK YOU!!!  When parents are brand new, they are looking for a friendly face and you are making a difference not only for that day in music, but making an opportunity for a family to embrace music for a lifetime!!

"I know you're not my mom, but can I show you what I'm making?"

Sunday, July 24

A Mini Vacation in our Home Town


Today was the best summer day so far.  My husband and I went with friends to "A Taste of Edmonton" and used way too many coupons - but the food and sunshine and music were just awesome!   I always look for the chocolate covered strawberries, the cappucino shooters (both from The Sutton Place booth), and the ginger beef.  But I also enjoyed the chicken satay, the channa masala and saffron rice, spring rolls, scones and whipped cream with saskatoon sauce,  and fresh lemonade...can you say "Oink"?   To be fair, I didn't eat all of those things all by myself - but truthfully...it was all sooo good!

I love the opportunity to go to these cultural events and be with the packs of people who are all there to enjoy the comraderie of good food and good friends, and get the bonus of the city hall fountains, the sunshine on our rain-weary faces, and the feel good sounds of our local bands/entertainment.

People young and old, close to the soundstage breaking into spontaneous dance.  People sitting on the steps and by the tables swaying to the music.  Lips moving silently to the lyrics they are too nervous to sing along aloud to.  All make up the wonder that is one of Edmonton's best summer events.

When our kids were little we took them with us a few times, but now we go with friends and enjoy a "date" together with other adult friends.  Oddly enough, my oldest was there at the same time with some of his young adult friends.

Music
Food
Friends
Great weather
All timeless, age-ignoring pleasures.

You should go!  Be a part of the vacation opportunities right here in our own city and introduce your children to the cultural world waiting for them!

Why not double the adventure and take the LRT to Churchill square?  You won't need to find downtown parking, and children under 6 ride for free.

Sunday, July 17

Music as Super Glue

My husband and I have very diverse music tastes.
One of my favourite, give-me-goosebump singers is Alison Krauss.  I could listen to her for hours.  Her soprano voice is so clear and true.  If you've heard her, you know what I mean.  My husband on the other hand, can't tolerate listening to her.  As much as I love her voice, it drives him batty.

Then there's Willie Nelson.  My husband LOVES his voice, style, songs.  I can put up with a couple of songs but after that, "let's wrap that up", so to speak.

One person's pleasure can be another person's poison.  Just like favourites in anything....colour, food, cars...you name it.

But music has the ability to speak to a person's soul - their very essence.  When I listen to Alison, she can take me on a journey as my heart surrenders to her sweet sounds.  The same is true for my husband as he listens to Willie.  Sometimes it is the association we have with a particular musician to a certain time in our life that brings back certain associative emotional connection, other times, the lyric speaks of common identity.



What connects us to each other is shared experience or understood emotion.  Music has a magical way of bringing both.  When what the music and musician are saying connects with us, we feel the kinship and trascendent connection.  Music becomes a community glue, a shaper of our lives and common understanding.   Whether it is the strains of young love sung by Taylor Swift, the aching of a broken heart sung by Karen Carpenter,  the soaring anthems of the Canadian Tenors, the classic sounds of the Beatles or Elton John,  the dance tunes of Lady Gaga, or the Kindermusik songs from our weekly classes, music is in the business of people connecting.

Had the joy of making music and connecting this morning with some of the best musicians I know.  I'm so looking forward to being in Music Community with some of you this week at our July Playdates!

Tuesday, July 12

Umbrellas and rain coats!

For years I had a green and yellow reversible rain coat.  Maybe you remember the kind - heavy, felt like rubber, and maintained a musty smell from it's wet duties.  It was good when out camping, but for everyday wear - no thanks, I'll pass.



Umbrellas, on the other hand, have always held a fascination for me.  I've had rainbow colored ones, black ones, red ones, large "golf size" ones, and tiny portable ones.  Nowadays, however,  if we have a rainy day, it's a perfect day to get out my sunshine yellow with white polka-dots portable shelter and enjoy the instant sunshine that it brings!  Yup...I love my umbrella!

On our recent trip to Seattle, we were greeted with "thanks for bringing the sunshine" as they had just come off of about 6 weeks of rain.  Before our cruise to Alaska, my husband and I enjoyed two perfect sun-soaked days there, but it was a good reminder about just enjoying the day, whatever the weather.  Available umbrellas were standard whereever we went, and advertising mentions about how much rain Seattle gets set the tone for how rainy weather life is just fine.

We had some rain on our trip, but we just enjoyed our excursions, anyway.  Kayaking....rained before and some after.  Shopping in the ports....rained.  On the boat....couldn't really go out on the deck much because of the chill and the rain.

But it didn't matter.

We went Kayaking anyway.  We went to the lumberjack show anyway.  We went for a hike anyway, despite the misty skies.  And instead of going on the deck of the cruise ship, we watched the whales and dolphins from inside the fitness rooms while using the eliptical machines.  Now there is some inspiration to keep going with a workout - watching the ocean life play in front of you!!  And it didn't rain all the time.

So in the wet days of July - of which we are having many - grab your umbrella (or maybe you need to buy a great, bold colored one) and go outside on purpose.  The determined, rain-can't-stop-me attitude is empowering.  Just think...."Singing in the Rain"...you know - the classic musical!?

Oh, and a new raincoat (Happy Birthday to me!) in your favourite colour doesn't hurt either.

Tuesday, June 28

Meet the "New" teacher

"Before"


I've been contemplating a new haircut for the past couple of weeks.  Been looking through some magazines for ideas.  In fact, I had a couple of ideas I was going to bring with me to the salon today, but half-way there I realized I had left the pictures at home.  

So I left the concept to the professionals at Pink Lime Salon and came home with this.

"After"


You know how things are with magazine before/after pictures... scary lighting and no make-up in the "before", and then professional photo with full make-up application for the "after".  But this is just me with 7 weeks of grow out (how did I leave it so long) and then me with the new look.  I told Nader I'd better take a picture when I got home because things don't really look the same once you have to style it at home.  (smile)

This post is a little indulgent...nothing to do with parenting or music.  But I thought some of you may want to see the "new" teacher.  Change is good.  A fresh hairstyle gives me a fresh life outlook.  And a happy teacher is a good thing.  : )



Monday, June 27

Pouring into your life


Fingers in the soil
Tend to the blooms
Read a book
Maybe two.
New recipes
Try a new haircut
Tea for two
Catching up on conversation
Kindermusik conference
25th anniversary celebration with my Greg
Seattle and Alaska
Enjoying the richness of relationship
Reflection
Seek inspiration
Look for beauty
Long walks
Pray
Just              Be
Ahhhhh

Let the summer begin.
The filling of a heart is a journey to be savoured

Joy
Calm
Peace
Love

As I was watching a friend's children the other day, I was reminded that young mothers have a very demanding job.  Now it certainly isn't a relection on her children - we had a great time.  But I had forgotten just how moment to moment life is for mothers of young children.  Just looking at the above list, I remembered that most of the items on it are just a young mother's fantasy...when my own were little, the mere idea of going for coffee with a friend for a couple of hours was enough to carry me through a challenging day of cooking and tidying, reading and referree-ing, watching and carrying.  

As children get older, the workload gets lighter.  Growing independence in children means Mom gets more time for personal pursuits and pleasures.  But it's essential to have some space to feed into your own reserves along the way.  I'm sure you've heard it said that you can only give out what you have received yourself.

And it can be just those little things
a leisurely hour to buy a new lip colour
a chapter in a favorite book
an afternoon with pictures and scrapbooking

that can make all the difference in how full your storehouse is.  

Sunday, June 19

"I can do it"

Take stickers, paper plates, tape, and fruit loops.
Add one eager-to-participate child.
And you get growing self confidence!

One of the favourite sayings of my young children, and yours as well, has always been 
"Watch Me!!"

Children want to be able to learn to tie their shoes, help clean up, make their own crafts, spin their own hoops, and catch a ball.  Providing children with opportunities to accomplish something with a side helping of mom or dad (or a teacher)  to cheer them on is a perfect way to enhance a growing "can-do" attitude!
It's not just that they want to do well.  They want us to watch them do well, and tell them so!!
It's not just about spending time together.  It's not just about monitoring their activities.  This can be a wonderful opportunity to not only build skills, but transform a young child into a young man or young woman who knows they are capable, and want to contribute their talents to a world in need of them. And that can change everything!


So shine with pride, my special friends!  You are loved! You are talented!  You are amazing!!  
Your talent and art bring joy to my heart, and your helping hands make our world better.

And parents - well done!  Your shining faces towards your children say loud and clear that your love and pride is calling forth their best selves : )


Tuesday, June 14

Playdough possibilities

A very long time ago I came across the best playdough recipe I've ever found.
Some recipes are too sticky.
Some are too grainy.
Some dry out too quickly.

This one is just right, and is the one we use in this week's Zoo Train craft.
If you keep it in a plastic bag when you are done with it, it keeps soft and useable for as long as you like.

Playdough

2 cups of flour
1 cup of salt
2 tbsp. cream of tartar (helps to keep it from feeling "grainy")
2 tbsp. cooking oil
2 cups water
food colouring
2 pkg. Koolaid (completely optional - provides a scent, but also increases the likelihood your child will want to eat the playdough)

Mix all ingredients together in a large pot.  Cook on medium heat until it starts to feel stiff and change consistency.  Remove from heat and knead on waxed paper for a few seconds.
The cooking part only takes about 2 or 3 minutes.  Hint:  If you are using the food colouring and/or Koolaid, mix it in with the water before combining with the wet ingredients.  The color mixes in more consistently.

This playdough is great for party favours or rainy afternoon activities.

Animal sounds extraordinaire!

One of my new favourite books is The Book of Awesome, by Neil Pasricha.  It's a book based on the author's blog about everyday kinds of awesome things...like

When the guy at the border doesn't ask any questions
or
Coming home after a long day to the smell of someone cooking dinner.

It's a smile-fest in a book binding.

So when I came across this little video today, in the spirit of everyday awesomeness I wanted to share.  It's Kindermusik homemade animal sounds in a whole new dimension!!!

http://video.ca.msn.com/watch/video/girl-makes-spot-on-animal-sounds/1gloelkce?cpkey=f484b07d-019a-4cc3-bf0a-d77a7a47e1d4%7C%7C%7C

Enjoy!  I'd say we have some practising to do before our sounds can compete with this talent.

Saturday, June 11

Summer Playdates!


One of the first questions of summer holidays in my home is "What are we going to do today?"  While  summer is a great time to spend time with your children in meaningful, musical, and active adventures, it can be a challenge to come up with fresh ideas for your children.  

Now there is a Kindermusik Playdate opportunity in your Summer!    
July 19 and 21 
and 
August 16 and 18

Kindermusik Stepping Stones will be having a class from 10:00 to 11:30 each morning so your family can reconnect with familiar Kindermusik friends, and bring in your not-yet-enrolled friends to have a taste of the Kindermusik you have come to LOVE!

Instruments, singing, dancing, stories, crafts, and a snack...all with an extended free play with the balls, toys and tunnel...and friends.

Don't delay in registering.  There are very limited spaces available for these playdates.

Best of all...if you bring a not-yet-enrolled friend to try out Kindermusik...you get in for half price! 

Interested?  Contact me at  kmsteppingstones@shaw.ca



Saturday, June 4

Can I have this dance?

Scooping up your baby and dancing around the living room can be one of life's little pleasures.  I've long since forgotten how many times I did that as a young mother, but I can tell you that dancing with my children happened a lot.  

We'd put on our favourite CD's and
spin and twirl,
put our right hand in and put our right hand out,
dip and sway,
groove to the silly ones,
dance slowly to the restful ones.

Fast forward a few years and the children are in elementary school and have stopped dancing with mom, but my oldest could still be seen dancing and singing around the house on his own.  My daughter was well into her dancing endeavours with tap, jazz, and ballet lessons.  But my middle son has abandoned dancing in favour of other activities - like comic books, and playing with friends.



This week was a big occasion in our house - my middle son, Colson, had his high school graduation.  Monday was the commencement and Friday was the dinner.  How amazing it is to see your "babies" grow up and become ready for taking on the adventure of adulthood.  At the dinner last night, my son's former grade two teacher was there with her own graduate and we had a few moments to reminisce about all those years ago.

I had mentioned to my son earlier in the week that there is always a mother/son or father/daughter dance at the grad, and I was hoping to dance with him.  I could tell he was a little (OK, quite a lot) uncomfortable with the idea as this would involve letting down his don't-touch-me "forcefield".  But I just mentioned it the one time.  As we were enjoying the dinner and the various toasts and awards, I was wondering about the upcoming moment...

Of course, even though the grads come with their parents, they do roam around and connect with their friends at other tables.  As the MC was announcing that the parent/grad dance was about to begin I saw that  my son was  - no where to be seen.  So I got out my phone to text him - and as I looked up for a moment -  there he was - holding out his hand to me to come dance.


There are moments 
that stay with a mother for the rest of her life.


This will be one of them

Sunday, May 29

Connecting with crafts



Crafts, as you know, are a favourite activity in summer camp!!  For the "On the Road" class, I like to wait until the parents join us to do the craft so that children have the individual attention needed to work on the craft, and also, because Mom or Dad can become the "cheering section" as a project is completed.

Last Friday we were making homemade puzzles and I was showing the families how to fill the page with a big drawing so that when you cut it up you have part of the picture on each piece.  As the children chose markers and began their pictures I got out my camera and started to photograph the event - since the children have individual attention from a parent, I can be a little more free for such things.




As I was taking pictures, I noticed that one of the boys was making a picture just like mine - same colours, same items in the picture, etc.

I told Braden that it would be fun to take a picture of our puzzles together,and he wanted to know if he could take it - "well, sure you can!"  I could tell he was quite pleased with being acknowledged, and when I mentioned that he should remember to take his puzzle home with him, he wanted to know if he could take mine home, too.  Big smile!

Well, how easy can it be to make a young boy's day!?




I love when children copy what I do...whether they copy my picture in class, or go home and pretend to have Kindermusik class and they take the role of "Teacher Heather".  It means that they are associating with me - and developmentally speaking - I am the music to them.  Case in point - one little girl (Greta) , I found out this morning, calls me either "Mrs Wiebe" or "Class"  (big smile).

It was so heart-warming to see moms and children sitting close, working on their puzzles and Giraffes this week. These little moments are the big moments in life - moments when children are made to feel important and creative and contributors to a more beautiful life!

My fingerprints are all over this project!

Sunday, May 22

You've got the moves!

Baby Break dancing - AWESOME!!
One of the most important ways of increasing your child's learning potential is to use your body!  

Swaying your arms down low like an elephant trunk, 
Driving a pretend car - including lots of honking and starting and stopping
Rocking back and forth in a blanket hammock,
Stretching our bodies out long on the floor like a lion,
Dancing with our Kindermusik community.

All of these examples have been taken from our Kindermusik curriculum this week and have encouraged growth in 

Community connectedness
Vestibular stimulation (that sense that helps us feel oriented as we move around)
Inhibitory control
Imagination
Flexibility
Co-ordination of movement between body parts
Musical interpretation - artistic expression

Just to name a few!

And don't forget that when you add actions to a song it allows your brain remember the song much more easily!    So as you are breaking open your new summer camp CD's this summer, or enjoying your music from earlier semesters, don't forget the best part - active participation!  And if you've forgotten the dance moves from class - no worries.  Just make-up your own.  A little family hand holding, circling around, and going in and out, goes a very long way!