Friday, July 29, 2016

Music Matters: A Greater Purpose for Piano Lessons

As a piano teacher, I see the values of music every day.  What I often see in parents is a struggle.  They try piano for a short while and when the child loses interest another activity is found to supplant it.  I meet parents painfully unaware of what learning an instrument, especially the piano, can do for a child’s development and future. 

Most parents consider piano lessons with some trepidation.  Lessons mean not just time, but an expense that may not be seen as worthwhile if a child eventually becomes disinterested.  Some delay until middle school age in an attempt to encourage a stronger commitment.   The parents that do invest in lessons might have dreams of a concert pianist and world-famous performances.  While that is a direction your child can go with the right amount of commitment, I want to encourage you that it isn’t the only reason to play the piano as a child.  The skill of learning to play the piano provides three important skills that will equip them for many aspects of adulthood.

1) Music Literacy.  Except for the few play-by-ear prodigies, to play the piano means you learn to read music.  The skill of reading music opens the door to multiple options in the future.  When you decide to learn another instrument, sing in choir, join a band, or audition for the latest teenage idol show, you are prepared.  Reading music encourages and reinforces better math and reading skills.  Like reading a book, once the skill of reading music is mastered, you won’t likely forget how to do it.  Performing on an instrument may go by the wayside without practice, but the ability to read and thereby appreciate a musical score will always be there.

2) A Marketable Service.  Growing up, I didn’t intend to be a piano teacher, but doing so has allowed me to stay home and be able to homeschool my children while making extra income for our family.  The years of lessons had given me the knowledge to at least teach young students and as long as there are children in the world, there will continue to be new piano students.  Accompanists (someone who accompanies on the piano others performing music) are hard to find and (if you’re any good) are well compensated for their services.  Weddings and events often pay for the services of musicians.  All of these are avenues you can make at least a part time income with a large amount of flexibility.  No matter what else you do with your life, these are jobs that can be a blessing to your financial future.

3) Opportunity to Serve.  Pianists make better singers.  Singers make better pianists.  One or both are usually present at the important events in our life.  There is an opportunity in both secular and religious capacities to serve with music.  Music therapy is a growing industry as well that is becoming more recognized for its benefits to those in need.  The need is always there and serving is always a blessing.

Whenever your family has the opportunity to participate in learning music, never hesitate.  You and those around you will be blessed for years to come. 

This was originally published at  Homeschooling with HeartThe Old Schoolhouse Blog.

Friday, July 22, 2016

When Learning Happens

As new homeowners in Oklahoma are inclined to do, we had a storm shelter installed in our back yard this week.  My husband took  the day off to monitor things and he and my son sat watching the entire process from beginning to end (about two hours).  As boring as it might sound, the excitement and captivation on both of their faces was unmistakable.  And of course it gave many opportunities for my husband (the engineer) to teach my 5 year old about a backhoe, displacement, weather and balance.  Learning was happening and I had some time to go organize the game cabinets.  Winning all the way around!WatchingShelterSometimes it is easy to forget that learning doesn’t only happen in a classroom between the hours of 8 AM and 3 PM.  When DOES learning happen?  Is it during a teacher’s explanation of a new concept?  Is it while you are outside staring at a world housed underneath a rock?  Is it while writing your first apology?  Yes, yes and yes!   With any situation where new information is presented learning is possible with an engaged mind.  But yet as a mom who chooses to homeschool and dictate the rhythm of our days, I catch myself feeling guilty or doubting the legitimacy of my choice.  Why?  Is it because I don’t have the knowledge to do the job? Nope. Between too many years of schooling in both of his parents, the library and google, we have access to all the knowledge we need.  Is it because my son isn’t learning or severely behind?  Nope.  According to public school rules, he wouldn’t start kindergarten until this fall and he was ready for 1st grade curriculum in January.   Is it because my son’s education schedule doesn’t look like everyone else’s? Yeah, that might be it.CaterpillarAs a public-schooled homeschooler, some days I find it hard to view education in ways other than a classroom.  Our choice to homeschool is partially motivated by the promise of creating a different educational environment that is tailored to our family’s needs and intents, but suddenly there I am worried about all the things that aren’t just like a standard classroom!  The yellow bus, cafeteria, one-recess school day is reinforced through media, culture, and majority expectation so it’s not a surprise that I’m constantly measuring our experiences next to this iconic image in my mind.  What’s funny, though, is that even in the best classrooms around the world, there will be millions of differences in no small part due to the needs of that teacher and those particular children -which reinforces why I love having the option to homeschool in the first place!  Some days we need to be reminded of why we walked down this path to begin with.  My goal as a teacher and parent is to prepare my kids with everything they need to master required skills, whatever they may choose to pursue in life and ultimately glorify God with it all.
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. –Deuteronomy 6:6-7
Just as the spiritual training of our family should happen everywhere, an academic education can imitate that design beautifully, even while watching a machine dig a hole in your back yard!

This was originally published at  Homeschooling with HeartThe Old Sch
oolhouse Blog.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

ABeCeDarian Company: An Interactive Workbook Review

ABeCeDarian Interactive Reviews
ABeCeDarian Interactive Reviews

If you have never taught someone to read, for most people it can be a daunting task.  Unless you have studied things like phonics and decoding, you very well may not know where to begin with your pre-reading child.  Interactive Workbook A from ABeCeDarian Company is something you might want to consider if you are new to the process of learning to read.  

The ABeCeDarian Reading Program is a research-based, explicit, comprehensive, multi-sensory decoding program developed by Michael Bend, Ph.D. The Interactive Workbook A being reviewed is digital which means it can be used from any device with a web browser, like an iPad or a Kindle, in addition to a laptop.  There is also a paper version of the workbook that you might consider if the electronic version doesn't meet your needs.  The program housed within this workbook is a beginning reading curriculum designed for significant teacher/parent guidance.  It comes complete with 48 lessons that include activities like word puzzles, spelling chains, reading practice and handwriting.  One of the most important and valuable part of this workbook is the free Teacher's Manual that corresponds to it.  In essence, it walks you through anything you need to know and be prepared to do in order to teach someone to read.  It is quite lengthy and requires a bit of time invested before you're ready to dive into the program, but it is very thorough and educational.

ABeCeDarian Interactive Reviews
ABeCeDarian Interactive Reviews Since this is my first time using one of ABeCeDarian's products, I wasn't sure what to expect.  My 5 year old began reading instruction several months ago, but has only really taken off in the past month or two.  I had hoped this program would simply add to his progress.  As I learned, this is especially useful during the early stages of reading.  When my son began trying out the lessons, it was clear he had advanced beyond the program.  We moved closer to the end of the program hoping to find something challenging, but he moved through that quickly as well.  That might give the impression that the program is ineffective because it is too easy, but I wouldn't agree.  Had we begun with ABeCeDarian last summer, I expect it would have been incredibly useful. It provides many opportunities to reinforce phonics and decoding, much of which is helpful for slower-paced learners.  

The content is excellent.  The teacher's manual is a wealth of knowledge.  The program provides a great chance for connection with such a heavily teacher guided method.  Like I mentioned above, there is a paper version - which I have not seen or used myself - that I expect I would prefer over the electronic version.  The laptop electronic version obviously requires a mouse or a track pad, but handwriting practice just isn't really happening that way.  On smaller devices the screens don't really feel big enough sometimes.  In some cases the technology just seemed to get in the way of the content.  Still, the program does a great job preparing parents and students for the reading journey.

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When my daughter gets ready to start reading, I hope to try a version of this program with her to take full advantage of this curriculum's benefits. Find out what other reviewers thought by clicking on the banner below.

ABeCeDarian Interactive Reviews

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Friday, July 8, 2016

Patriotic Penmanship: A Laurelwood Books Review

Latin and Penmanship {Laurelwood Books  Review}
Handwriting and copy is an important and necessary element in education.  Of course it might not always be every child's favorite thing to do (certainly isn't my son's), but it is wonderful when you find curriculum that is both useful and well themed.  Patriotic Penmanship from Laurelwood Books is just that.  This workbook combines famous quotes, portions of poetry and Bible verses with handwriting practice to produce a well-rounded educational experience.  

Latin and Penmanship {Laurelwood Books  Review}

Patriotic Penmanship is available in all grade levels, but for this review we received the 1st grade level workbook in manuscript style.  In the upper grade levels, cursive is an option as well as manuscript.  Grade 1 is divided into 30 two-page lessons and each lesson includes a quote or verse, a different letter of the alphabet and number for the first 26 lessons.  The remaining 4 focuses on key words.  All lessons have multiple tracing options and plenty of room to practice on your own.  At the beginning of the book are two pages of just alphabet practice and then a sample alphabet is present  on the bottom of every lesson.

We have used programs that allow us to print copy work off of the computer and that was convenient for multiple uses, but through using Patriotic Penmanship I realized how much I like the entire 30 lessons being in one bound book.  I guess because I often feel a bit scattered with the different hats I'm wearing, having just a thin book to pick up and contain was simple and nice.  These workbooks are considered consumable and intend for each student to have their own.  Thankfully, each workbook is $13.95, a reasonable price for 30 lessons of great quality handwriting practice.

The timing of when we started working on this was nice too because it led up to the 4th of July.  The quotes are an interesting mix of known statesmen like Abraham Lincoln, Robert E Lee and Benjamin Franklin, Bible verses and important authors like Robert Louis Stevenson and Christina Rosetti.  Each quote and author provide good opportunities for further discussion about history, poetry, character and daily living.  My son is very much a boy in that handwriting and copy work isn't his favorite thing to do although he certain does need the practice.  At first I was more hopeful that he would finish a lesson quickly and without any push from me, but I was disappointed.  However, when I broke the lesson up and also placed a larger emphasis on the quote or the author, he responded better.  One of my absolute favorite things about homeschooling is the encouragement to adapt to my child's needs of the moment!

Regardless of your curriculum or grade level, Patriotic Penmanship is a great supplement and tool to build other lessons around.  Laurelwood Books publishes many other resources that you might be interested in like State the Facts, Scripture Scribes and Olim, Once Upon a Time in Latin. Several Crew members reviewed these products too.  Click the banner below to read their reviews.

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Latin and Penmanship {Laurelwood Books  Review}

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Climbing That Big Ugly Mountain

You make plans.  You struggle over choices and possible outcomes.   There are sacrifices and battles in order to make it happen.  Then you take big steps into the journey with hopeful eyes only to be met with the biggest brick wall in town.  Maybe the future now looks exactly the way you DIDN’T want it to.  The choice to homeschool often involves a scenario like this.  For some, homeschooling becomes the only option – and maybe the least desirable at first.  Others start the journey full of conviction to homeschool and expect to LOVE it!  Only they discover it is different – maybe harder – than was first thought.  There’s also things like pregnancy, finances, health or any bump you may not have seen coming in your life that causes you to reevaluate everything.  Circumstances change and the green light fades to a glaring red.  Whatever the case, here you sit staring up at this enormous mountain that you never intended to face in the first place.

One of my very real struggles with homeschooling right now is time management.  My children are young, I work from home part time in a few different capacities that are very important to me, we recently moved and are working to sell our old house, and life is full of important things.  Cutting something out is just not an option, but yet cutting something out is my mountain.   If you are like me, there can be multiple waves of devastation, anger, and of course bargaining (looking for some way this could be anything but what it is).  After a while though, the mountain is still looming and nobody is standing by handing out hiking gear.  So, what do you do? 

Beg for Mercy.  Sometimes we get in such a rush with our plans that we forget to talk to God about it.  Even when we do walk every step with Him, and the mountain still stands, it is time to beg God’s mercy.  That mercy might not move the mountain, but it can change you.  Maybe the timing is bad and what you’re being asked to give up will come back at a later (better) time.  Maybe I’ve been neglecting something vital.  Or maybe this is just not the way His will for our family is going to be carried out.  He can surround you with all kinds of mercies – certainly the ones you never imagined!

Start Over.  Back away down the mountain and reboot.  Retrace the steps and make sure you did your homework.  Look for anything that you can do proactively to help the situation.  Reevaluate things like health factors (exercise, water, sleep, diet), time factors (unnecessary activities, outsourcing options, time management skills), relationship factors (Is everyone, including me and God, getting what they need?) and priority factors (Is this still the most important thing?  Have my values changed? Does this align with all of my values?).  Gather your conclusions and…

Buy New Hiking Gear.  Start accepting what the new normal may have to be.  I’m probably not going to find an extra 8 hours that just weren’t being used so my mountain is probably still there. But with a few new conclusions and a greater trust in God’s timing, we can devise a new plan (buy new gear) to climb that ugly-not-what-you-ever-wanted mountain.  

This was originally published at  Homeschooling with HeartThe Old Schoolhouse Blog.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Love your people

We don't ask to be born, ya know.  I didn't get to sign up for it or get to request this family or that.  Whatever the circumstances surrounding our birth and home, we have no control over our appearance on the scene.  My children are almost 3 and 5 1/2.  That means there are moments and days when the level of difficulty in my job sky rockets and my tolerance pummels to the ground.  Just like your kids, mine can be cranky, ugly, unreliable and all out maddening sometimes.  And sometimes I don't act like an adult like I should.  Sometimes I scream too.   There are moments when whatever life was like before or what I imagined life would be like is so foreign to today that I get angry.   It's hard to be a parent and to be in charge of little somebodies who likely won't appreciate what you did today for them for like 25 years at least.

I know God knew what He was doing when He created offspring as babies to begin with.  It was so we could look back at that precious, helpless infant and remember that they did not ask to be born in this year to these parents under whatever stress they may find themselves in.  They didn't ask to be 3 years old when someone loses a job or makes foolish choices.   Just like we don't usually fully understand what we're getting ourselves into when we go to college, get married, have children and lust after adulthood, they don't understand much of why mom or dad aren't acting right or so upset about a job only half finished.  It's so easy to demonize people - especially children  - when they don't act how we want or feel in ways we don't understand.  We complain about something, but how quickly does it turn into how all of our problems are the fault of this person - even the little ones.

Love your people.  Don't forget we're all just doing the best we can.  Be exhausted and frustrated. Don't pretend it's all easy.  Just don't forget to love your people because they don't usually understand all the mess, just that they love you.