Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Let Your Baby WALK

Let Your Baby Walk - The Importance of Walking

"There is nothing that God hath established in a constant course of nature, and which therefore is done every day, but would seem a miracle, and exercise our admiration, if it were done but once."
John Donne, 1627

Walking is so important for your baby.

Sometimes it is easy to forget how important it is for our little one because we see it so often, so it doesn't seem so extraordinary or important.

Often times it is easier to just snatch our baby up and carry him, or to strap him into a stroller or backpack, and simply not have to worry about him getting into trouble or about slowing down our pace.

But dear parents, resist the urge to do this.

It does not mean never use a carrier. It does not mean never use a stroller. The Doman philosophy says if your baby can walk a little, let him walk a little. Then carry him a ways. If he can walk a lot (which all babies can after such a short time from learning to walk), then let him walk, walk, walk.

Because it is worth it. Walking is so incredibly important, especially for your little baby.

When your baby walks, he is growing his brain. The brain grows by use, and the more you use it, the more it grows.

Walking grows, organizes, and builds your baby's brain in a beautifully orchestrated symphony as he coordinates both sides of his body to work together in the most elegant of motions only ever performed by the homo sapiens.

Many animals can stand or even move in an upright position, but it is only humans and, yes, your little baby who has only been out of the womb for a few months, who will ever be able to walk in an upright position in a true cross-pattern, with opposite limbs moving together simultaneously (right arm and left leg, left arm and right leg).

It seems so simple because we see it every day. It is not so simple. There is so much going on in your baby's brain.

He is building countless neural connections, stimulating the senses, and strengthening the bond between the left and right hemispheres. He is making his brain healthy by giving it more oxygen. He is making his lungs healthy by giving them more air, which in turn makes his breathing more regular and helps his speech and language develop.

He is learning about gravity and balance and stimulating the vestibular portions of his brain. He is strengthening almost every muscle in his body, strengthening his bones and sending extra blood to all of his organs. He is becoming more capable and independent and being curious and exploring.

Let that take place.

Let your baby walk.

He is driven to walk. He is driven to develop, grow, and progress.

Take a stroller with you, by all means.

Pack your carrier.

And when your baby gets tired, carry him for a while. But by all means, let that little one walk.

He has lots of learning and developing to do.

Damien, in picture, was 11 months old

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Toddler Swimming: Water Play at 21 Months

Toddler Swimming: Fun in the Pool (21 months)

Damien playing around in the pool.

We haven't made a ton of progress over the winter but he still loves the water and does pretty good swimming for a short bit.

One newer update? He now kicks his feet and hands better, and actually swims to the surface!

In the video I posted last summer (Damien was 12 months) he swam, but tended to sort of swim down rather than up.

Damien is currently 21 months old

Monday, March 4, 2013

Things I Wish I Would Have Learned in Piano Lessons

The Things I Wish I Would Have Learned in Piano Lessons Me, at my first recital (shortly after turning 7)

Going through my old piano lesson book with Hunter (7) has been an interesting experience for me. As we turn each page I remember almost all of the songs, many a times remembering struggling with a certain one or even certain comments my teacher made.

I started piano lessons shortly after my 7th birthday and continued until age 9 or 10 or so, I don't exactly remember. But in all of those years, here are the things I wish I would have learned (and am going to make sure I teach my kids):

1. Sight reading. I can only really sight read the bottom few notes of the treble cleff and the top few notes of the bass clef. The rest of the notes I have to count out the lines to figure out what they are. This has made it so that I can never just pick up a song and play it and I have always had the feeling that I'm not very good at piano.

I was never made to explicitly memorize the locations of notes on the staff and I think the assumption was that I would pick it up over time, but I never did.

When I was struggling with a song and making mistakes with the notes, instead of it being suggested that I should work on sight reading, my teacher would write reminders all over the page, highlighting if there was a skip, writing in the names of certain notes I kept missing, and instead of reading the music I learned to read her reminders.

What I want to do with my kids: sight reading is one of the first things I am teaching them. I want to make sure they are very solid in this, so the rest of learning and playing will come much more easily. I'm using these videos to help streamline and simplify the process.

2. Music theory. I never did learn much music theory beyond the bare-bone basics, which made me feel incompetent once I got to middle school age and, being around the youth group band and choir, I realized I didn't have a clue of what most of anything was.

Before that age, I always felt like I could play piano and was in at least some ways a "musician", but realizing I knew so little was somewhat of a blow to my confidence and made me shy away from it all, convinced that I really knew practically nothing, and for some reason, embarrassed to even try.

After all, I wasn't a "beginner", I had been playing piano for years, so I felt like I should have known more than I did.

What I want to do with my kids: incorporate music theory into our lessons and learn with them as much as I can

3. Absolute Pitch. The ability to identify (through sound alone) and recreate (with voice, or in head) a given musical note certainly would have been helpful, and I wish I would have been trained in some way about pitch and recognizing it.

Even though it's not explicitly a "piano" skills, it would have been useful to be able to look at a piece of music and have some idea of what it would sound like. Being literally clueless about the concept was another big blow to my confidence as I grew older.

What I want to do with my kids: incorporate pitch training into our lessons.

4. More progress in general. I wish I would have applied myself more and progressed more quickly in my lessons.

I guess I mainly see this realization after being a parent familiar with the benefits of accelerated learning and realize the potential those two or three years of instruction could have held.

I certainly don't blame my teacher or parents for not "accelerating" me, as I'm sure they were none the wiser how quickly kids can really learn (and I probably wasn't always 100% cooperative in the lessons I did have, either).

What I want to do with my kids: "accelerate" music learning, so they can learn quickly and efficiently

Now the purpose of this post is certainly not to complain about my piano teacher or what a poor music education I received (which is certainly not the case!).

I am forever thankful to my parents for seeing the value of investing in me through musical instruction. I am sure they spent hundreds of dollars and many tiresome hours on lessons, books, and other costs over the years for the three of their kids who took lessons (all at the same time!). I know that they knew its value and chose to give us that precious gift.

My purpose in writing this is simply to discuss the things I feel are important and can be useful to your child.

I am not a writing from the standpoint of a music expert by any means: rather I am writing from the experience of someone who had a brief music education, and sharing the things I wish I would have learned (in retrospect of course: at the time I was not exactly chomping at the bit to learn piano, and was likely a bit apathetic about it. I didn't necessarily dislike it, but I wasn't absolutely thrilled about it, either. I probably would have gotten a lot further even in that short time if my own work ethic and enthusiasm would have been keener!)

Learning to play the piano - even at a basic level - did give me many great benefits, both that I recognize and likely many benefits that I have not recognized.

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits that learning piano did give me is the confidence to be able to start teaching my own children piano. I am sure they will go much further than I did, and I am enjoying "relearning" along with them.

Did you take lessons as a child and is there anything you wish would have been different? What do you hope to teach your children about music? 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Saving Time During School: Ditching Wooden Pencils (The Organized Doman Parent)

Saving Time During School: Ditching Wooden Pencils (The Organized Doman Parent)

This post should alternately be titled: Why I Hate Regular Pencils.

But that didn't have quite as much of a "useful" ring to it so I went with the former.

Anyhow, I am writing about something that has been a huge time saver for me. More time for learning, teaching, exploring, and playing. It has saved me so much time and hassle that I felt it is my moral duty to share.

About a year ago I had had enough with pencils. I hate pencils. They caused me so much trouble all day, every day, searching for them, sharpening them, dealing with erasers that are flat or smear instead of erase, sharpening them (did I mention sharpening them?).

Who wants to waste precious learning time fiddling around with something as silly as that?

Here is why I think wooden pencils should go the way of the dinosaurs (and what you can do instead):
Saving Time During School: Ditching Wooden Pencils (The Organized Doman Parent)

1. Those stupid erasers. They disintegrate. Quicker than should be possible. And once they're gone they can't be replaced (don't even get me started with those silly "replacement" eraser caps that flip flop all over the place). For erasers that don't disintegrate immediately, they get all black and smear everything, or they get hard and break off.

2. Broken led. Do you know how long it takes to sharpen a pencil when the led broke off? Too long. And do you know how often pencil led breaks? Too often.

3. Dull led. It seems to me like you can't write a quarter of a page before the led gets dull. You start with this pristine clear writing that gets worse and worse as you go, before you are finally forced to initiate sharpening for the 12th time that day.

4. Pencil sharpeners. If you can't afford the ridiculously expensive commercial quality, you are stuck with the normal ones that don't work right half the time. And no matter what kind you have, they're noisy. And they get lost (if you have the battery operated kind). And sharpening pencils is a time-sucker.

5. They get lost. All the time. I cannot tell you how many hours of my life has been wasted in looking for a pencil that was right there a second ago.

Saving Time During School: Ditching Wooden Pencils (The Organized Doman Parent)

So after far too many years of silently cursing the daily pencil problems I was faced with, I switched to exclusively mechanical pencils.

I love them.

They cost a bit more, but it's not like it's $100 a pack. I'm spending a couple of extra dollars per year to save me hours and hours of time and frustration. That is more than worth it. Plus, the saved energy cost from not having to use a sharpener probably evens itself out. Score!

Why mechanical pencils are awesome:

1. The erasers are awesome. They last longer, for some reason. Much longer. They don't smear or break nearly as much. Plus, when they do run out, you just stick a new one in. No more wasted time with meaningless eraser problems.

2. If the led breaks, you give the end a few clicks and boom. You're good. No more wasted time at the sharpener.

3. They don't need sharpening. Your writing stays clear and concise, you don't have that gradual fade of worse and worse writing before you give up and make another trip to the sharpener.

4. They have clips. That means less getting lost because you can clip them to things. It also means that they don't roll, which means less rolling away and getting lost. Less wasted time looking for pencils.

With toys, and almost everything else, I love wood over plastic. But with pencils? Unless they start making wooden mechanical pencils, I am forever loyal to my beloved mechanical pencils and the simplicity they provide.

In case you're wondering, these are the brands we use. I buy Bic mechanical pencils for myself and the colorful Paper Mate pencils for Hunter (7). It helps that we have two different kinds so I don't run off with his school pencils and he doesn't run off with mine.

Do you use mechanical pencils? Have you considered the time-saving aspect ditching the wood can provide? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Friday, March 1, 2013

First Week of Piano Lessons: Real Progress

First Week of Piano Lessons: Real Progress

Earlier this week I wrote about our plans to begin consistently doing piano lessons, and so far everything has been going fantastic.

After one week, Hunter (7) has already made it through over half of the book, and is currently on page 34 out of 62 in Alfred's Basic Piano Library level 1A.

I contribute his quick progress partially to the fact that he has been over some of it before (although I don't think we ever got past page 10 or so, and it's been many months) in addition to some spotted music introduction he has had before (introduction to note reading and pitch, etc, although this has been quite inconsistent over the years).

But beyond the "here and there" music introduction and familiarity with the keyboard he has had, he is a quick learner when he wants to be and it has proven beneficial in his picking up the concepts easily.

So far the lessons have covered:
  • Note playing: first the notes were labeled by fingers (he was told to play finger "1" or "2" and so on) then by letter ("C", "D", etc) and now he is playing on the grand staff without any written cues.
  • Finger position: he started playing on the black (flat/sharp) keys, then moved to middle C position, now he is playing at C position.
  • Notes: He has been working with quarter notes, half notes, doted half notes, and whole notes.
  • Other vocabulary: treble and bass clef, brace, grand staff, time signatures 3/4 and 4/4, mezzo forte (mf) = moderately loud.
There are probably some smaller things imbedded into the lessons that I haven't noted here but so far these have been the main topics. Some other things he is working on:
  • Holding his hands correctly (he is supposed to play as if there were a "bubble" under his hands, not with his fingers laying flat on the keys)
  • Sitting up straight, never slouching
  • Keeping a steady beat with a metronome (this is somewhat challenging for him, but after some practice he has been able to play all of his songs relatively well with a steady beat)
Additional elements I have included each day:
  • Instant note recognition on the staff (and corresponding tones) via flashcard videos
  • Singing with solf├Ęge (do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti). We have been working with the entire sequence, singing up and down, and he does well matching his voice to the notes. We have additionally been focusing on do, re, and mi and singing them from memory (for example, I will ask him to "sing re"). He has been doing quite well.
I am very, very pleased with how things are going, and already planning on digging out the next levels of the piano lesson books: it looks like he is going to be flying through these faster than I anticipated.

Hunter is currently 7 years, 11 months old