Thursday, May 19, 2016

Piano Recital Awards

This week, I had my recital with my piano students.  I wanted to make the night special with some sort of gift and a certificate!  I was going to give each of my students a flower with a certificate, but then I stumbled on an idea two weeks ago, when I ran into a clearance sale at Walgreen's.  I'm actually pretty proud of myself on this one!

I got the Superfruit Starbust regular size candy bars for $.30 each!  I grabbed up all of them that Walgreens had!  There 18 and I needed 16, so it was meant to be! (I only ended up needing 11 because 5 students dropped out the last week, but I didn't know that yet!)

I also found these Certificate of Excellence certificates at the Dollar Tree in the Teacher section.  They just happened be the same colors of the Starbursts - purple and yellow.  I went as far as picking up purple paper plates and napkins to match and printed my programs out in the yellow paper!  I'm not sure anyone noticed, but it made me happy!

Here's the tag I printed out.  I designed one, and then printed 9 to a sheet.  I then cut them out and put a hole in one side to tie them with yellow ribbon to the candy.  The tags say: "You were so awesome at your recital, that my heart BURSTS with pride!  Today you are a STAR!  Congratulations on your great accomplishment!"  This award could really be used for any sport or activity.

I also filled out each of the certificates with a different award for each child.  Here are the awards I used:
  • Practicing All-Star
  • Splendid Singer
  • Most Improved
  • Rhythm Rockstar
  • Most Determined
  • Dazzling Duets
  • Marvelous Musician
  • Best Attitude
  • Budding Musician
  • MVP Award
I got really great feedback from both parents and the kids for giving these awards at the end of the recital.  I wanted to create a reason for all the parents and kids to stick around for the end of the ceremony, as well as recognize the kids.  I love that I was able to do the awards for under $5 total, while still giving the kids recognition individually.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Spinners for WunderKeys games

I've recently begin teaching WunderKeys (go to this site for more information about lessons, to find a teacher near you, or to become a registered teacher) Preschool Piano Lessons to four students.  I love this program and all the games and ideas that are offered for teachers.  The first book has supplemental activities for each lesson as an extra for teachers, but there are just a few ideas for Patterning Games at the beginning of the lesson.  I've been trying to come up with ideas and searching the web, but have not come up with much!
I've also been putting together lesson plans for Summer Music Camp for all of my ages this summer, and ran across quite a few games that use a spinner of some sort.  I found this awesome, magnetic spinner that can be used on whiteboards and have been stalking it on Amazon! It was just a little more than I wanted to pay for the spinners, so I waited!
A few weeks later, I was perusing the aisles of  The Dollar Tree and I found individual magnetic spinners for $1 each!!  I almost shouted for glee right there in the teacher section of The Dollar Tree!  I bought four different spinners, just to be safe!
Well, of course, I had to come up with a Patterning game that used my new spinner! 
 Here's what you'll need to play:
  • White board
  • Magnetic Spinner
  • Magnetic laminated WunderKeys Finger Friends
How to Play:
  1. Place WunderKeys Finger Friends in a circle with spinner in the middle (like a clock).
  2. Have child spin the spinner.
  3. Where the spinner lands, have child say the name of the Finger Friend and show you the finger to go with it.
  4. For more advanced students, have them play a key with that Finger Friend on the piano.
Hopefully this will give you a ton more ideas for WunderKeys lesssons, or even your piano lessons!  Best of all, it only cost $1!

Monday, April 18, 2016

"How's it going?"

With the invention of cell phones and texting, and even social media, I knew that we would rarely actually talk to people in person, but I have recently noticed that we don't even respond to people anymore, not even a text!  Is this our fate? 
As a direct seller, I make a special effort to really try to personally connect with my customers on Facebook and also by texting them.  I don't just send advertisements, but I try to connect!  I was trying to call them, like a good direct seller, but people weren't answering my calls anymore.  It was then that I realized that people are just not talking on the phone anymore.
I decided about a month ago, to send 3-5 personal messages each day either on Facebook or by text to my friends and customers to try to reconnect.  Here's what I say: "Hi, Jenny!  How's it going?"  That's it! 
I would say that less than 5% of people actually respond to this bland question when I message them. Don't get me wrong, I've had some great results and conversations with the 5% that do respond to this approach, but the vast majority of people don't even respond or react!  Really? 
I can't believe that we have gotten to a time and place, where when someone asks us how it is going, that we don't even respond!  Nothing!  Does anyone else think this is strange?  I really don't think it's because people don't like me, I just think that we've gotten to a time and place that we don't talk to people.... 
What do you think?  Am I alone in this?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

5 Ways to Know that Your Homeschool Works

As you may have already guessed from my previous article, 5 Reasons to NOT use Standardized Tests in Your Homeschool, I'm not a huge fan of testing my kids at all. It's not that I don't think that tests have a valid place in homeschool, I think in some instances, you should put your child through the process of testing. But I'm here to say that testing, especially Standardized Tests, are not the tell all for your child's knowledge and understanding.

Here are 5 Ways to Know that Your Homeschool Works

  1. Ask your child questions after presenting the subject.  Can the give you important details about the subject back, in their own words? 
  2. Are they able to tell others about what they are studying?  I often "set" my children up.  When we see a friend or family member, I'll ask them to tell them about what we have been studying.  If they're at a loss for words, I'll prompt them.  For example, I'll say: "What war are we studying?" "When was that war?" "Who are we reading about?" Dad is a great person to do this with each night, so he hears what the kids are doing and the kids get to share their excitement.
  3. Can they relate what they learned to real life?  This one doesn't always happen right away.  Sometimes it takes years to sink in, but if you teach your children long enough, you'll find more and more instances of real life applications.  Last week, I realized that my 11 year old was really understanding the Civil War, because he was having nightmares where he was a Civil War soldier!  Ok, so nightmares aren't the best thing for my child, but he could tell in great detail war scenes; what was worn, which side did what, who he was with, etc.  I have to say, that was one of those moments where I knew my son was understanding completely what we were learning!
  4. Carry an idea or theme into other subjects, to be sure they have the concept.  The more different ways you can study a subject, the more likely your child will be to retain and understand the subject.  Here's and example of how we do this in our schooling:  We are studying the Civil War right now in history, so we are studying in Bible time about God's Justice and talk about what God would think of slavery.  Then we read from a fabulous book with real pictures of Lincoln.
  5. While studying this book, we will check our Civil War timeline and also the map, to watch where the war is taking place as well as where Lincoln travels.  For our Read Alouds, we have been reading classics to learn about different ways the Civil War has impacted different people.  Here are some of our favorites:
  As we read the stories, if we read about something that interests us, we try to find out more information to add to it.  Yesterday, Caddie Woodlawn had pigeon pie.  I'm going to do some research on that today, because we actually have some grouse on hand, so I might attempt to make a pigeon pie in the near future!  We will add to this, poetry and songs from the Civil War to add to it.    If Caddie does some math or learning, we'll incorporate that too!
5. Parent/Teacher confidence!  This is my favorite - use your gut!  Do you think your child has a handle on this material?  Give yourself some credit for knowing that your child knows (or doesn't know) the material!

There you have it - my opinions on doing standardized tests in the homeschool.  This opinion is based on 14 years of homeschool experience, as well as obtaining a bachelor's degree without ever receiving a grade!  It takes some getting used to, to not have society tell you that your are being successful in your homeschool, but really, isn't it the reason you are homeschooling?  Tell me your thoughts!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Preschool Piano Lessons

As I mentioned in my prior post Back to the Keyboard, Mr. Right was really excited about the possibility of me offering piano lessons!  Thankfully, I acted on that and got in about six new students to teach each week.  One of the main reasons I've been hesitant to teach lessons, is that it ties up that evening time, where my own kids have sports.  I try so hard to be at my own children's games, that it's hard to be tied to lessons every single week all year round.

What surprised me most about putting it out there to my Facebook friends that I was looking for students, was how many wanted their preschool age children in lesson.  My first response was that they need to know how to read.  Well, as I've been researching to get inspiration and see how to run a music studio, I ran across a preschool music program.  I've looked at a different Kindergarten music program before, but had two objections to it.  First, that program involved me teaching a group of 3-5 year olds by myself.  Secondly, it had a large financial commitment to franchise and have a large enough facility.

I then ran across WunderKeys Preschool program!  A couple of things that I love about this program is that it's free for me to get started, it's one-on-one piano lesson, I can teach during the day, and I can be the one to fill a need that parents have for the children in my area.  Instead of a group of toddlers running out of control, I'm able to focus on the needs of just one of my students at a time.  The other reason I love this program, is that preschoolers are available during the day, instead of that 3:30-7pm time that regular kids are available.
It's official, I'm registered with WunderKeys to be a teacher.  I have four new students that meet during my afternoon hours before my regular students, and I'm loving the results of teaching not only basic piano skills, but math skills as well to 3-5 year olds!  You can find a registered teacher in your area, or even sign up to teach toddlers yourself if you are a musician.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday Blessings

I've been AWOL lately- we've been having some changes going on with family, so I'm just trying to figure things out!  I hope and pray that this Resurrection Day brings you and your family many blessings!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Back to the Keyboard

Recently, I made a casual comment about going back to teaching piano lessons to Mr. Right, and his immediate response was "Yes! Please do!"  I'm going to be honest here, although I have a Bachelor's of Music in Music Therapy, I'm really intimidated by teaching lessons.  Here are my excuses:
  • I'm not the best piano player (I majored on trumpet, and minored on piano)
  • I like the freedom of having my weeks to myself - let's face it, piano lessons have to be done every week on the same days and times.
  • I'm definitely not as good at piano as many of my college classmates.
  • What do I do when I get a student farther than my own skills?
  • It's hard to attend all of my own kids afterschool activities, when I'm tied to lessons every afternoon.

So there it is, most of my excuses for not wanting to teach. On the other hand, though, we need the money AND I have degree in this!  It's my talent, why not try?

I started by offering lessons to local homeschoolers first and then just put up a post on Facebook just for my friends. In just a few days, I was able to start off with six new students!  I was surprised at how many people were interested in having their children in lessons.  There are two things that surprised me the most: 1.) a lot of moms of toddlers wanted their kids in lessons and 2.) Many adults wanted to take lessons too! 

These two things actually got me excited, because although I enjoy teaching beginners, I really love the challenge of teaching music to non-traditional age people.  After doing a lot of research online about piano lessons I was able to find a preschool program that fits my style as well as got excited about doing piano lessons a little different than what I was raised with.  The very best websites so far that I have found for piano lesson ideas are: and  Both of these sites have great resources and ideas for piano teachers to make their lessons fun and exciting. 

So most of my list of  reasons not to teach piano were just fears and excuses.  I've been having a lot a of fun learning about my new students and their needs.  I'd almost wager to say that my lessons are more music therapy than piano lessons sometimes.  I love the challenge of finding what works best for my students, and not necessarily doing "traditional" mold piano lessons.  And most of all, I love to see my students learn to love and make music!

If you are local to the Camas Prairie and would like to learn more about my lesson schedule and Preschool Lessons, please contact me HERE.  Stay tuned for more of my exciting endeavors in getting Back to the Keyboard, too!