So Your Child is Taking Piano…

Congratulations! You’ve taken the plunge to enroll your kiddo in piano lessons. That makes you an official piano parent! This new role does come with a job description…

In my beginning-of-the-year service contract, I generally ask that parents follow these three recommendations when your child is taking piano:

Go Over Expectations.

Please carefully read through with your child all the responsibilities outlined in the contract. This ensures they know what to expect at sessions and are prepared for the work involved.

{This is extremely important, especially students who are very young or who have a tendency to “flit” from one activity to another without true commitment or follow-through. You want to be sure they are prepared to be held accountable for the discipline of correct, consistent practice – because that’s where the true skill grows! To see more on student expectations, see this post.} Continue reading

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So You Want to Take Piano…

You’re making the plunge to take piano lessons. Congratulations! Piano is such an excellent discipline to take on, and it offers so many benefits throughout life to those who stick with it!

But before beginning, I am very clear with my students (and their parents) that piano lessons are a commitment. Like all other disciplines, piano takes work. This is not just a passive hobby – students are not just here to have fun, (though of course, we totally will!) They are here to learn, and though learning is fun, it requires faithful effort. I have the following three expectations for students who take piano: Continue reading

5 Must-Have “Nonessentials” for Newborns

In my time teaching infants and also now as a momma myself, I’ve discovered there are SO MANY CHOICES for baby items. Just walk into any baby store – it’s ridiculously overwhelming! And let’s be real: all a baby really needs is a safe place to sleep, clothes to wear, and nutrition to consume. (Besides love and attention, of course…) However. Caring for newborns is much easier with these five baby “nonessentials” that you might not think to register for, but having them changes your LIFE.

Black-Out Curtains

Now I’m not talking “black-out curtains,” like the fabric is supposed to be light blocking or light resistant… I’m talking going to JoAnn’s and asking for BLACKOUT fabric to make BLACKOUT curtains. As in zero light. NONE. I want babies to learn early that dark = sleep time. And blackout curtains were a huge help in teaching

There are lots of theories as to how best to secure them so they are flush against the wall, but it all depends on how permanent you want them to be. (Warning: I chose Velcro, and it can tear up your drywall if you decide to remove it.) Continue reading

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