Piano for Little Learners

From time to time, I get asked to teach piano to students who are younger than my usual clientele. Usually I refer them to my three criteria for piano lesson readiness, and they revisit me in a year or two.

But occasionally I do take pre-readers. And when I do, I have to adapt my usual teaching style to accommodate for their young age. So without further ado, here are three best practices for teaching piano to little learners…

Incorporate Movement

One of the main obstacles to teaching students under age six is that they struggle with sitting still and staying on task. Sitting still and focused on a piano bench for half an hour is very difficult indeed! So offer lots of acceptable outlets for that irrepressible energy.

Ideas to Try:

  • Alternate Seating. Sit on the floor on carpet squares or pillows. Piano rugs are also fun! Anything to break up the lesson and get them up and moving.
  • Rhythm with Movements. Clap, step, or stomp rhythms… Do one and let them copy you! Use stepping, walking, or running to teach note rhythm values.
  • Singing & Dancing. Young students love to sing! Use songs with motion and dancing to engage their love for movement.

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Teaching Toddlers

Let’s just admit it. Toddlers are scary.

They are tiny yet mighty, communicative yet confusing, self-sufficient yet so incredibly needy! They are adorable tornadoes of cuteness and emotions. So when I accepted a job teaching toddlers, I thought I must have lost my mind.

But as I dove into the world of pre-PreK (that’s a thing, right?!) I began to learn how to adjust my teaching and expectations for the specific learning needs of these adorable tiny people. So whether you’re a teacher, mommy, daycare worker, or whatever… Here are my five must-haves for any toddler teachers. Continue reading

Emojis: Anger

I am super excited this week to be featuring my first GUEST BLOGGER! Lydia is the author of one of my favorite blogs on parenting and foster care, Because of His Goodness. (Like or follow page on Facebook. You’ll be encouraged, I guarantee it!)

As a biblical counselor and an amazing mama to her four (soon to be five!) adopted kiddos and mama to many more through foster care, Lydia has great insight and wisdom when it comes to helping kiddos (whether they’re ours or temporarily under our care) deal with strong emotions like anger.

So without further ado, 5 Questions & Answers to helping children with the emotion of anger…

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Bookworms: Goodnight, Gorilla

Okay, I have a confession. I don’t love Goodnight, Moon.

I know. HERESY. But I just don’t! My littles aren’t engaged by it. I’m not sure if it’s the odd colors, somewhat unusual vocabulary, or perhaps my own lack of enthusiasm spills out despite my best efforts… Or more likely a combination of all three. Despite its classic nature and wide-spread popularity, there is just no book-loving going on in my teacher soul.

But. I do LOVE Goodnight, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann. A delightful little find I stumbled upon accidentally, I have now read it over and over – because even my youngest and lowest readers LOVE it too!

Why You Should Love It:

Simple, Repetitive Text: Told in comic-style speech bubbles, this delightful bedtime classic is simple, colorful, and predictable in all the right ways, making it perfect for the youngest readers. Children as young as two or three can “read” Rathmann’s brilliantly illustrated story of an absent-minded zookeeper whose animals follow him home for the night.  Continue reading

Bookworms: The Jesus Storybook Bible

Summary: The Bible is a storybook about Jesus, and every story whispers His name!

Why You Should Love It:

Truly a Storybook: Finally! A children’s book that presents the Bible as it is designed to be: one cohesive story of God’s redemption of His people. A true storybook. Sally Lloyd-Jones presents the Scripture as being a story, not a rule book or list of morals. Morals are great, and yes the Bible does have rules for us to follow. But Lloyd-Jones does well in communicating the main message of the Bible in kid-friendly terms: it’s all about Jesus, and “every story whispers His name.”

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Is My Child Ready for Piano Lessons?

August. That wonderful time of year where school and routine starts up again, and a lot of parents begin asking, “Should my kiddo do piano lessons this year?” Here are my three favorite tell-tale signs to look for when deciding whether or not your child is ready to take on the world of piano lessons:

Can your child read?

I’m not talking 300-page novels read, but I-can-read-short-simple-how-to-instructions type read.

Now I will say: Not all teachers agree on this one, and I do see some merit in starting earlier under very (VERY) special circumstances. But for the most part, if they can’t read the piano books’ instructions without lots of help, chances are you might be better off waiting until they’re a bit more independent before trying to commit to something like regular lessons.

Can your child sit still for periods of 15-20 minutes uninterrupted?

Piano lessons and practicing piano both require concentration and sitting still. If your little one still can’t sit in the same spot for a quarter hour, chances are they will have trouble sitting down to practice (or listen to a teacher) too.

Are you ready to hold their feet to the fire when they inevitably don’t want to practice?

Especially for young kiddos, piano readiness can sometimes be more about you as the parent than it is about your kiddo. It’s a fact of life that most kids at one point or another would rather [you name it] than practice. So you have to ask yourself if you’re willing to hold them to their commitment (yes, I consider taking lessons a commitment) – not just to attend lessons faithfully but also to practice faithfully (and correctly, I might add,) as that is where the REAL learning takes place.

Still not sure your current schedule or parenting style will support that level of structure? Might want to hold off a bit longer.


If you answered all three of these with a yes, then your child might be ready to start piano lessons! And of course, I happen to know a piano teacher starting up again this fall if you’re interested… [Send me a message via the Contact page if that’s you!]

If you still aren’t sure, I would say: WAIT. I’ve found that in most cases, students who wait to start until they’re truly ready can easily catch up with their similarly-gifted peers – and usually enjoy it more too (and therefore stick with it longer.) So don’t think you’re ruining their chances of success by holding off a bit until they’re ready.


Piano Teachers: Any other signs you ask parents to look for in preparing to start piano lessons?

Outliers: What Stats Say about Education Reform

I recently finished the book Outliers by bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell. Though it is not mainly about education, there are a couple chapters about educational phenomenons that I found extremely relevant to the discussion on American public school education reform. Gladwell’s insights lead two to counter-intuitive conclusions about educational reform:

More School > Better School

I know. Not what you’d expect.
And I think I died a little just typing that. But here’s the thing:

Gladwell follows the achievement gap between high, middle, and low socioeconomic backgrounds, specifically through a study done by Johns Hopkins University sociologist Karl Alexander tracking the progress of 650 first graders from Baltimore public school system based on how they scored on the California Achievement Test. In early years, achievement differences are negligible, but with each passing year, the gap between rich and poor widens.

An important statistic emerges when he examines specifically achievement over summer break: Continue reading

Resource Review: Smart Money, Smart Kids

Summary: Raise the next generation to win with money by following these practical strategies for teens and toddlers alike.

Relevant Subjects: Finances, Math, Economics, Character Development

I recently finished Smart Money, Smart Kids by Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze. So. Helpful. (Like I-may-or-may-not-have-taken-5-million-notes kind of helpful…)

Dave Ramsey is famous for his radio show and anti-debt stance, and his daughter Rachel Cruze has joined his crusade to promote financial literacy. Regardless of your opinion on their approach to life and finances, this book on “Raising the Next Generation to Win with Money” is a helpful tool chalk-full of strategies for teaching kids of all ages to handle finances.

Though it is intended for parents, I found the principles very relevant for teachers as well. Financial education has proven to be a HUGE hole in our students’ education today. (It’s a little ridiculous that the average high school graduate can do complex algebra, but has no idea how to handle a paycheck…) Historically, personal finance has been the parents’ arena, but in recent years, teachers have been called upon to fill this gap in today’s common knowledge.

So without further ado, here are my top three points from #1 New York Times Bestseller Smart Money, Smart Kids:

Economics: Work-Money Connection

We want to raise the next generation to be productive members of society, capable of providing for their own needs, as well as contributing their talents to better society as a whole. One simple way to do this is to help our kids learn the connection between work and money.  Ramsey and Cruze lay out a practical timeline of how and when to help kids make this connection. Their strategies help reinforce, in age-appropriate ways, the real world reality that diligence is rewarded, and laziness leads to poverty. Like I said: So. Helpful. Continue reading

5 Must-Have Websites for Teachers

Technology. Love it! Hate it.
Why love it? It makes learning fun, and you can use it to delegate and simplify your life.
Why hate it? Because 1) it doesn’t always work, and 2) it’s ALWAYS CHANGING.

In fact, I hesitate to even write my current recommendations on this topic because it seems like teachers are constantly discovering new and better ways to use technology to share ideas, to seek unique funding, and to make learning fun… But I am a big fan of using technology to improve functioning in the classroom, so I’ll give it my best whirl. And the best part? All of the following websites are FREE. So in no particular order… My top 5 recommendations for teaching websites:

Teachers Pay Teachers

Why: I have JUST started moving more towards being a seller than a buyer, (check out my brand new store!) but this site is wonderful whether you want to make some extra $$ selling your own stuff or you need to quickly get someone else’s. (Because you forgot. Or you procrastinated. Or your brain is just dead. Or if you’re like me, all of the above.)

How It Works: Create an account and get searching! Type a subject area or keyword into the search bar, and download printable lesson plans, activities, worksheets, you name it! Some stuff is free; some isn’t. But it’s all uploaded by teachers for teachers. Amazing.


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Teacher Gifts: Do’s and Don’ts

With another teacher’s appreciation week under our belts and the end-of-the-year celebrations fast approaching, I figured a post on what to get that oh-so-special teacher in your life might be in order…

SIDE NOTE –  The very fact that you are getting a teacher gift merits a pat on the back. So good for you! And if you’ve ever given something on my “Don’t” list, don’t freak out. Obviously, every teacher is different. These are just my personal suggestions, so as always, take them with a grain of salt.

So without further ado, here’s my top 3 Teacher Gift Do’s and Don’ts for the awesome educator in your life:



#3 – Scented Things: Lotion, Soaps, and Candles – Oh My!

Everybody loves to smell good, right?! And what better way to help your child’s teacher cope with all the stinky sweaty child smells that accompany the average classroom?

HOWEVER. While well-intentioned, you probably have no idea what scents a teacher loves (or hates…) Sadly, that lovely scent you just adored might activate her gag reflex… And as much as I loooove a good candle, most teachers aren’t allowed to burn them in the classroom due to fire codes. So unless you happen to know EXACTLY what scents he/she likes, steer clear from all things smelly.

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