Sunday, September 27, 2009

Parenting Tip #7 Joy Journal

When I was pregnant with my 6th child, I was excited, but apprehensive about what people would say. Sometimes they would be rude and say things like: "Are you trying to populate the whole world by yourself?" Or mutter, "Can you really afford to give that many children a decent life?" So I decided that if I wanted a big family, which I did, then I should be enjoying a big family and find joy in having and raising my children.

I decided to keep a Joy Journal. I would write down things that my children (and husband) did that brought me joy. Then on those days when "joy" was elusive, I could read my journal and be reminded of those better days. I kept a Joy Journal for all the years my children were growing up until they all moved away. Sometimes I wrote several times a week, and other times just once a month or I would forget for several months. But I kept at it. Then on each child's birthday, at our family birthday party with the grandparents, I would read several entries about that child that I had written that year and how he or she had brought me joy.

This has been a fun and rewarding tradition. It helped me LOOK for joyous things my children did and helped me focus on my love for them. I like to think that it helped them too.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Music Tip #7 Music and Special Needs Children

My brother and sister-in-law have 9 children. Matthew, their 7 year old has Down Syndrome. Music has helped Matthew in many areas--with speech, brushing teeth (which he used to hate), motor skills, and fears. Matthew rides the bus to school with other special needs children. He used to be really apprehensive about getting on the bus and leaving home. So the family started singing "The wheels on the bus..." and that would calm him down each morning so he could board.

Matthew and his younger brother love to dance. On Saturday nights the family will put music on from the 80's, 90's or current music and the whole family will dance and have fun. Matthew also loves to play the piano. He will sit at the piano and play whatever comes into his mind. He sits down like a concert pianist and pounds out notes, then takes a bow.

But when Matthew gets too much stimulus with music or tv, he gets hyper. There has to be a balance. His mother, Tammy, will play church songs to help calm him when he is upset about anything. Tammy writes, "I am definitely convinced that music is great therapy for any child, but absolutely helpful with children that have special needs."

Watch your children this week and see how you can use music to calm them, encourage them, teach them and just have fun with them.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Parenting Tip #6 The best age to teach

After a lecture by the late Francis Wayland Parker, a great Chicago educator, a woman asked: "How early can I begin the education of my child?”
"When will your child be born?” asked the educator.
"Born?” she gasped. "Why, he is already five years old.”
"My goodness, woman, “he cried, “don’t stand here talking to me—hurry home; already you have lost the best five years.”

What can you teach your child from birth to age five that is so important? It depends on who you ask. If you ask a Suzuki music teacher she would say you can teach a child to play an instrument as early as age 3. If you ask an educator he would say your child could be reading by now.

But here are some even more important things you can teach a young child: stability and security by responding to your baby’s cries, responsibility and orderliness by helping your toddler pick up his toys, happiness by playing with your child, love by touching and holding, self esteem by listening to your preschool try to explain something to you, respect by saying "please" and "excuse me", gratitude by saying "thank you", decision making by letting your preschooler choose the outfit to wear that day.

So don’t just sit here reading, go teach your child something!

Music Tip #6 Music Alone Shall Live

Yeah for the good old songs of our earlier years. They're called Folk Songs and Silly Songs. It's our job as parents to pass them on to the next generation. Here's some first lines of songs. How many do you know:

Do your ears hang low...
My Bonnie lies over the ocean....
In a cavern in a canyon excavating for a mine.....
Love me tender, love me true.....
Do, a deer...
God, Bless America...

The National Association for Music Education started a campaign in 1995 called Get America Singing...Again. It's aim was to establish a common song repertoire and promote community

Folk songs bridge the generation gap as grandparents, parents and children sing the old favorites and create lasting memories. The words to my favorite musical round state the value of folk songs
All things must perish from under the sky.
Music alone shall live, music alone shall live
Music alone shall live, never to die.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

ASU Music class for Tiny Tots

Yesterday was our 2nd class time. We moved locations and now have more room and AC! Yeah!
This semester we will be having guest musicians come and play their instruments for us. Today Karis's older brother, Carsten, brought his violin and played for us. It was fun to see the reaction of the babies.
We sang the song, A Ram Sam Sam, and used the parachute to keep the beat. The babies loved dancing on top of it as well as underneath it.

Parenting Tip #5 The Secret Ingredient

A woman who had a talent for baking gave a mini cooking class to a Church group and shared her famous brownie recipe. A few days later her neighbor called complaining that her brownies had not turned out like the talented baker’s had. She accused the woman of holding back her “secret ingredients”. The shocked baker asked her neighbor if she had used real butter. “Well, no, of course not, butter is expensive. I substituted margarine which is just as good.” The baker probed, “Did you use baker’s chocolate?” The neighbor replied, “everyone knows cocoa is a good substitute for baker’s chocolate.” And so it turned out that the secret ingredients were right there in plain sight; the neighbor had chosen to use substitutes and therefore could not achieve the desired results she had wished for.

As parents we often look for the secret ingredient that will turn our children into model children. It is so simple that sometimes we overlook it. It is so hard that sometimes we substitute other things instead. The secret ingredient is time. Giving time to your children is one of the most important ingredients in raising happy, productive children. There are many poor substitutes out there because as parents we are busy, stressed and tired. Too often we use TV, computer games, friends, soccer, etc for substitutes instead of giving quality time to our children. Quality time may be listening to your child tell about her dream, playing “Go Fish” with your son one more time, or just simply being home so your daughter can stay home and play.

Your baby is only going to be a baby for 2 short years---then you will never have that baby again. Enjoy giving time to your baby by touching, holding, laughing, playing, and being there with him. Your preschooler will be going to school soon and when she does, she will be gone for 7-8 hours out of your life and influence. Enjoy, play, listen with her now. Your teenager will only be a teenager for a few short years (did I hear clapping and whistling out there?) Listen to him, talk with-not at- him, respect him.

The secret parenting ingredient=Your time

Music Tip #5 Dads singing

Dads, you can make special memories for your children by singing them to sleep. My husband liked to sing as he would rock our children to sleep. Our youngest daughter mentioned this memory of her Dad singing to her and rocking her to sleep to her high school friends one day. All the boys said, "wow, that's really cool. I'm going to sing to my kids too, when I get married and have children."

Ammon, our 2nd oldest son said he sings a lot while he helps his children brush their teeth. "It always calms the kids and makes it easier," he said. He sings at bedtime too. Every Sunday night for the past 4-5 years he sings songs from the German hymnbook at bedtime. He says, "it puts them right to sleep--they're anxious to have the noise stop!"

Make some memories, Dad. Start singing!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Parenting Tip #4 Memorize Poetry

Brandon, one of my 3rd grade music students, stood to recite a poem. It was the first day of the month, and I let my music students share a musical talent with the class, if they choose, once a month. Technically, reciting a poem is not a musical talent, but Brandon was in need of self esteem building and besides, being one of the more "rowdy boys" in the class, I was curious to see what he would share. He stood straight and tall and launched into a well memorized, long poem by Robert Louis Stevenson. Wow! My image of him changed dramatically. I had previously thought he was a little on the slow side, had no self control and I had lumped him into the "problem child" category in my mind. But now he leaped over into the "smart kid with lots of brain power" category. What made the difference? His ability to memorize a poem.

Why should children memorize poetry? It introduces them to phrases and vocabulary they might not hear in everyday language use, it instills a sense of rhythm and rhyme, it awakens a love for language and helps express emotions and thoughts in a new way. It teaches sentence structure, increases self esteem, helps one become a better writer.

If you have an infant, toddler, preschooler or elementary age child, read poetry to them. Additionally, encourage older children to memorize poems. Google "poetry and children" and you'll be at the computer for an hour! By the way, here's a snatch of a poem. Who wrote it?
Oh,I'm being eaten
By a boa constrictor,
A boa constrictor,
A boa constrictor,
I'm being eaten by a boa constrictor,
And I don't like it--one bit.

Music Tip #4 How Much is That Doggie in the Window?

I asked my married children to share ideas of how they use music in their homes. Holly, a daughter-in law, said that usually her kids tell her to STOP singing--she says she's a "tone deaf non singer". But her 3 year old, Maya, really likes her to sing songs like "5 little monkeys jumping on the bed, 5 little ducks, and how much is that doggie in the window" (, , ). Holly will sometimes change the words of the song to see if Maya will catch her, which she always does and then corrects her. Maya thinks it's funny to have her mom sing "5 little alligators jumping on the bed" or 5 little monkeys jumping on the couch". Maya also likes to have cats with purple tails sold "in the window".

Holly mentions that lots of children's songs are good for math, pattern recognition, rhyming, story telling, motor skills, etc. Thank goodness Holly hasn't stopped singing. Being a "non-singer" or not, children love to hear their parents sing and interact with them on a fun one on one basis. It sounds like love to them!


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