Feb 28, 2011

Glissando Note-Reading Game

This is a simple, fast game to reinforce note reading.  The game is based on Parcheesi, with a few twists.

Game setup:  Place the flash cards on one of the blue rectangles.  Each player places four markers on their glissando rectangle.

Game Play:  White goes first, draws a card and places one of their markers on the note that corresponds with the card.  For example, if the note was an "F", they would move forward to the orange "F" note.  Pieces move counter-clockwise around the board.  Place the card on the opposite blue rectangle as a discard pile. Black's turn.  On White's next turn, they have the choice of moving the same piece as before, or moving the next piece out.  If the note is above what the keyboard has available, they do a "glissando" and slide to the other side of the board.  That piece would continue play by moving on the second keyboard.  When a piece returns to the "glissando" that it started on, it moves to the home square.  The first player to move all four pieces to the Home square wins.

Blocking:  When two pieces are on the same note, that note is blocked and no piece from either team may pass it.  In this manner, one player may be able to make the other player loose a turn.  If you can move, you have to move.  The exception for blocking is the glissando places, which have no limit.

Jumping:  If a player lands on a piece that is a third (musical interval, two notes before) another piece, they may "jump" that piece and make a triad, landing a third above the piece.  If the piece that they jumped is their own, the piece remains on the board.  If the piece they jumped belongs to the other player, it has to go back to its original glissando space.  This may land the moving piece on the glissando square and that is okay.  If any of the notes are blocked, pieces may not jump.

This game is great for piano teachers and students to play.  Having the piano teacher name the note for the card that they drew reinforces those notes for the student and takes some of the pressure off of the student.  Parents can play this game with their children to help them practice their note-reading.  Students can play with other students during master classes.  Maybe if you're lucky, siblings will pull it out and play with each other in their spare time.  I hope that you have as much fun playing the game as I did creating it.

Available as a pdf file for $1.00.
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Toddler Lunch Idea

Yesterday when we got home from church I realized that we didn't have any clean plates or bowls and my kids were hungry.  It was time to use a snack-time idea that I saw on a video awhile ago and pull out the ice trays.  It was such a big hit that I am going to do it more often, even when the dishes are clean.  :o)

My children usually do not finish eating everything on their plate, but they ate really well with the tray.  They thought that the little compartments were really neat.  The video that I saw recommended using ice trays to introduce new foods to small children.  Most of the food is something that they already love, and only one tray has the new food.  You can also put chunks of meat and entree leftovers in them.  I didn't do that this time, but it is something to consider.  My tray had banana slices, cheese stick slices, craisins, freeze-dried strawberries, apple chunks, walnuts, and a couple of pretzels.  We are trying to cut back on dairy in general, and this way my son was content to have less than a whole cheese stick all by himself.

(He's not really making faces at you.  He was told to smile for the camera and was making a smile.)

Feb 25, 2011

Musical Stairs

This is a simple project that can spruce up the menial task of walking up and down the stairs.  Turn your stair-case into a singing scale!  The idea for this scale came from the piano stairs in Sweden, as seen in the video at the bottom of this page.  Creating a stair-case like that in our home is unpractical for us, but this is a close second.
We created the triangles by printing them on colored paper, not by using up all of the ink in our printer.  My color code is red for do, orange for re, yellow for mi, green for fa, blue for so, purple for la, and pink for ti.  Our staircase was the perfect size to have two full octaves.  We laminated our triangles and then taped them to the staircase.
My children love these, and when I need them to come downstairs, they are more willing to come when I sing the scale as they step on to the respective step.  My husband has joined in the fun, and it is good practice for all of us.  On the flip-side, having a toddler around means that the triangles are not as permanent as I would like them to be, but they are still a sturdy resource to use at will.

These printables are now a part of "The Solfege Train".

Feb 23, 2011

Using color to teach music

I have found many different programs that use color to help teach music reading to children, especially on the piano. Piano Wizard, and Piano for Preschoolers come to mind, but there are many others. Some have even used color to teach singing and perfect pitch, such as the Taneda method.

I think that using color is a good idea, and I experimented with it with some of my beginning students who were struggling to read music. I created my own color code and created a piano chart for my students. Then as either a theory assignment or as part of our lesson, I would have my students color the notes the appropriate colors. For example, they would color all of the Cs pink, and all of the Gs green. Because my students were the ones to color the notes, this reinforced the note-reading for them. One of my students told me that she loved how pretty her book looked after she colored the notes. In this manner, color coding can be compatible with any piano method.

I have created several manipulatives that I will be sharing soon that use the same color-coding as the following pdf. If you are already using a different color-system, and you want to use the games that I will be sharing, I would advise changing the colors in photoshop to match what you are already using. There is no scientific reason why I had C be pink and G be green, I just experimented with colors and thought that this combination had good color contrast. It looked pretty to me. :o)

Here are the piano charts that I made for my students. I recommend printing on cardstock, laminating if desired, then cutting them out and taping them together to make a strip that can be slid behind the keys.

In color:

In B&W (can be used just to teach letter names, or could be colored with crayons or colored pencils to save your ink)

Please note:  I am not a graphic artist.  The black lines for the black keys on the piano do not line up exactly when you place the chart on the piano.  This was slightly frustrating for my younger students.  I'm sorry!  I am good at coming up with ideas for teaching, but recreating them on the computer is hard for me and so some of the print-outs are not perfect in that respect.  My husband is going to teach me how to use adobe illustrator soon...

Feb 21, 2011

Changing Focus

I have been juggling domains and hosting around a lot lately, and learning a lot in the process.  I had started another website, www.teaching-children-music.com, which I let expire, hosted the content on this blog, and then decided that the information I dream of creating for it just doesn't fit the scope of professional-mothering.  I had already put a lot of SEO work into teaching-children-music, so I decided to host it with blogger's free hosting like I did with this blog.  The conversion is complete!

I feel like this blog is "up and running" again, and that I am catching up on all of the things that I wanted to blog about but didn't have time for while we were moving and having a baby.  Of course I will still be blogging here, but I'm going to slow down and use my precious writing time (ie, when the kids are still asleep in the morning!) to build up my other blog.

"Teaching Children Music" is a site that I'm building to keep myself fresh and up-to-date in the music side of things.  I am a musician by trade.  I have my degree in vocal performance, taught piano lessons for 14 years (wow, that's half of my life!), and have worked with several children's choirs.  Besides being the church organist and singing and community functions, I don't do much with music anymore.  I am semi-retired from teaching piano so that I can be a full-time mother.  But I still have a lot to give, and this music site is my creative outlet to those ends.

Right now most of the content on the site is old, but in the near future I will be building it up and focusing my efforts there.  Whereas "Professional Mothering" is more about preschool, "Teaching Children Music" is for all ages.  I am excited about this new project.


Piano Chord Wheel

This is a tool that I created for my piano students to help them to learn their primary chords.  Here is the printable:


Directions:Print on card-stock, cut out the circles, and then optionally laminate.  Poke holes in the center with a needle, then poke a paper brad through the smaller circle then the larger.  Fold back the edges of the brad and give it a few twists and you're done!

Here is a video to demonstrate it's use:

deltafour1212 commented that a blank wheel for the middle would be helpful in letting students make their own chord progressions.  Here it is!  Note that the dividing line is not perfectly equal- one is slightly bigger to make room for the V7 chord.  Taking the division line out of my original file would have been tricky.  I hope this helps!


If you liked this, please follow my blog or subscribe. I've got a lot of fun things to share, and this blog is just beginning!

Feb 19, 2011

Rhythm for Preschoolers

Beginning Rhythm for Preschoolers is my first e-book, written to help my children learn how to read music. Young children and babies are learning how to read. With the ever-increasing growth of technology, it becomes easy to confirm this. I believe that the ability to learn to read at a young age extends to the realm of music. Why not? They are linguistic geniuses, and music is one of the most natural and universal languages in the world.  For preschoolers, the
best place to start is with
My musical training as a music graduate and an Orff instructor convinced me long ago that I needed to teach my children to read music at a young age. I have drawn from my experience and present to my children the best methods in my toolbox. In Beginning Rhythm for Preschoolers, I share with you the program I am using with my own children. Some of the tools I use include

  • Stick Notation
  • French rhythm solfege
  • Body and instrument percussion
  • Large font for easier reading
  • Bright colors
  • Simple rhythmic elements, only the quarter note, quarter rest, and eighth notes are used
  • Extension activities and games to hold your child's interest
  • Short, simple lessons (as little as a minute a day!)
I have used this program with my piano students, modified it for young children, and adapted it during use to clear up my little boy's confusions. It works! The tools used in this course are widely known and used by many professional musicians. They have a proven track record for success. My only genius, if I have any at all, is taking these elements and further simplifying them for my two-year-old. He can read music at the level presented in this course, and your child can learn too.

New Bonus Materials!

Now includes two note-reading games specifically designed for the preschool crowd:

The  e-book is 26-page. It includes all of the templates you need, and instructions to make, everything that you see pictured here:

Beginning Rhythm for Preschoolers also includes
  • Instructions on how to use the manipulatives
  • A suggested order for teaching
  • Trouble-shooting guides for tricky concepts
  • Tips for maintaining your child's interest
  • My own experiences with the material

Note:  This product is no longer available.  It has been upgraded, and integrated into a new product, "Beginning Rhythm", available here:  Beginning Rhythm new release

    Feb 18, 2011

    Once there was a snowman...

    We were recently inspired by a local creative snowmen artist to get out there and make a snowman after our recent blizzard.  Although we are not as creative as the man in the article, it was fun to come up with something for our snowman to do- read the newspaper.  Here's the challenge: No more bored snowmen!  Make them earn their keep.  :o)

    We cheated and used the snowshovel.
    Smile for the what?
    Adding crab apple eyes...

    Smile, everyone!

    Feb 16, 2011

    Shichida Research

    These recent posts about building memory have been accompanied by a spell of research and a renewal of fascination for what is being done in Asia.  Today I'm going to give myself a break in writing, and just share a few videos that I came across, if you're interested.  Unfortunately, Shichida's methods are a little bit secretive, and his popular book has not been translated into English.  Shichida's program uses a lot of Doman's ideas, which are widely available in his books.  The place that I have learned the most about Shichida is from Brillkid's forums.  Some of the parents in that forum have taken their children to Shichida's schools.

    Overview- WOW!

    Exercise for babies, similar to Doman's Physically Superb program.

    This is a clip from www.homeeducation.sg about their program for developing photographic memory.   I haven't purchased or used these products, but I'm thinking about it...

    Programs for photographic memory often include eye-tracking exercises, which are readily available on the internet.  My son loved the following one.  Watch out for the red and blue spiky one that YouTube suggests at the end.  It has a scary clown at the end as a practical joke.  I would have laughed less if my toddler had been watching it with me.  Superboy is just cute:

    Feb 15, 2011

    Memory Magic Review

    Note: I am in no way compensated for this review. I am not affiliated with "Accelerated Learning Methods" in any way. I simply love this product and I wanted to write about it.

    What is Memory Magic?
    Memory Magic is a computer CD from www.acceleratedlearningmethods.com, designed to help young children develop photographical memory and speed reading. There are progress charts and reward certificates that you can print out and use with the program.

    The elements I love
    Silly Story

    This is my son's favorite part of the program. Based on Makoto Shichida's program for developing photographic memory, the game helps children to easily memorize 100 objects in sequential order. When I first heard about this, it seemed incredible to me, but because of the silly nature of the story, simple animation in the computer game, and the funny voice that tells it, I was personally able to memorize them within a couple of days, and my 3-year-old followed suit within a week, with some story prompting. The game also includes a printable file, which is pictured here, and used in the video. This video was made a week after we got the program in the mail, and features the first 20 cards.  It was the first time we "played the silly story game" that day.  If we want to do all 100 at the same time, we do it on the computer.

    Bits of Intelligence Cards
    This was the meat and potatoes of the program for me. There are 380 bits of intelligence cards (Based on Glenn Doman's philophies) that you can print out and use with your children. That's 38 sets of 10 cards with a colorful picture on the front and a set of 5-9 facts about it on the back. Pictured here is one of the fruits, vegetables, and nut sets that I made on 8 1/2" by 11" card-stock for my children. Cost of printing, paper, and lamination not included. It may be awhile before I make all 380 of them…

    Rapid Memory Flash games
    These are associated with the bit cards. They quickly show 10 related bits, with the picture first and then the text. Then you can go to a screen with 20 or so small pictures and click on the ones that were previously flashed. If you get it right, the image is replaced by a star, if you get it wrong, it turns into a splotch of paint and disappears. When you have selected the ten that were shown, a smiley face comes out and says "Good job", regardless of how many you may have gotten wrong. This game is challenging for me! I usually play it with Peter and we try to remember the pictures together. Alternatively, you can just let the computer flash through any of the 380 pictures and let the kids watch it like a video. This is what I do with my younger children.

    Eye Tracking Cards
    These are neat. I wouldn't pay six dollars for them, but my children like them and I think that they are a valuable asset to our bits program. We show them during breakfast every day, and it takes about 20 seconds to do. My five-month-old baby can do these.  My husband has been studying eye health for himself, and he was very impressed.

    Follow that Dot!
    This is a computer game that flashes a dot in a specified shape. On the next screen you click on the outline of what you saw. Harder levels flash more than one shape before you get to click on what you saw. This is a challenge for me! With my children, we only watch the flashing, which they love. Picking the outlined picture is frustrating for them, so we do not do it.

    What I didn't like*
    The programming. This is an older program, and it was not very user friendly to set up. My husband thinks that the makers were originally developing a subscription website, and when that didn't work for whatever reason, they put the whole website onto a disk. You essentially are getting a webpage in disc format. Included are pdf images of buttons used in the game, and other weird files that my husband could decode but are Greek to me. The "name" of the disc comes up as "Drag contents to" Instead of "Memory Magic". I also had to install a flash player off the internet to play the games. In the "Learn More" section, the information links to their website, so you have to have internet access to learn more, AND some of the links are broken. But don't let that stop you.
    *See comment by company below

    The content is fantastic. If you are potentially interested in purchasing this product, I recommend subscribing to their website. We purchased this product when a secret sale came up that I only knew about because of my subscription. After seeing the quality of this product, I will probably be purchasing from them again, and I enjoy their e-mails. They have a lot of useful information, whether you purchase from them or not. I have been subscribed for a year and I look forward to their e-mails.

    Feb 14, 2011

    Straw Snakes

    My husband has been making straw snakes with the kids lately.  The straws are neon colored, and they came from the dollar store.  He folded the straws on one end, and then pushed it in as far as he could into the open end of the next straw.
    The coolest thing about the finished product is that the kids can blow bubbles with them in the bathtub, but they can't drink water with them.
    Simple, yes, but lots of fun!


    Feb 12, 2011

    Review: L'enfant et les sortileges

    L'enfant et les sortileges in a one-act opera written by Maurice Ravel. The translation is "The Child and the Book of Spells". I am particularly fond of this opera because I played the part of the squirrel when I was in college, but I bring it to the foreground today because it is especially good for children.The opera is about a young boy who has been very naughty, and is shocked when inanimate objects he had abused come to life. The chairs, the clock, the numbers in his math book, a princess from a story book, and others all scold him for his misbehavior. In a second part, he goes to the garden, and finds the animals to be likewise unhappy to see him. In the end, the boy learns his lesson and the animals forgive him.
    This is a good opera for children not only for the storyline, but also for the dynamic nature of the opera. There is always something new happening, and the total opera takes place in less than 45 minutes, appropriate for a child's attention span.
    I have seen two versions of this opera on video, both of which are available at ArkivMusic. Catalogue number 4536 is a ballet, with the characters being played by dancers, and the singers off-stage. The costumes, dancing, set, and orchestration are fantastic. However, I do not believe that there are subtitles for this version, performed in French. I have seen the performance of Peter and the Wolf that is on this DVD. It was masterfully done, and was performed by children. The L'enfant et les sortileges on catalogue number 4461 has subtitles, and was performed by the singers, although it may have been lip-synced. I enjoyed both editions.

    The Music of DNA

    Composers and scientists have joined forces to create a truly unique piece of art. Each of the 40 singers has their own sheet music, written for them based on their individual DNA. The end result is, well, very musical. One would think that it had its origins in Gregorian Chant instead of modern science.The marriage of science and music is not new. A formal study of 20th century music clearly shows this. Musicians have used the Fibonacci sequence, 12-tone music, serialism, and electronic music to create unique compositions. Some have resulted in beautiful music, and some have only been scientific curiosities at best.
    How does this relate to teaching music to children? Creating an awareness of the techniques musicians are turning to is wonderful food for the creativity of our students. Somebody asked the question, "I wonder what our DNA would sound like?" A musician (Michael Zev Gordon) who knew enough about DNA asked the question, "How can I turn DNA patterns into music?" Finally, scientists and musicians worked together to make the project happen. Introduce this article to your students, and ask them questions like
    • What scientific or mathematical patterns that I'm learning in school could be used to create music?
    • How could the project become a team effort?
    • Would the music be beautiful?
    • Would the music require instruments, or could musicians use their bodies?
    • Would the music be simple enough to teach my peers?
    As science progresses, so will the techniques available to musicians to create unique and beautiful music. Sometimes we just have to think outside of the box. Click for more info

    Escaping war through the study of music

    "Music is like magic in a person's hands", says Nashat Majeed, a guitar instructor in Iraq. Children in Iraq are finding peace and escaping the war of their country through the study of music. I ran across the article posted below and was very touched by this story. It is a beautiful thing that they were able to find this resource.I too have found escape in my own personal life through beautiful music, although the trials of my life pale in comparison to these children. Still, I know that the power of music is very real. For my own children, I hope to provide them with the musical tools and knowledge that they need so that when their trials come, music will help them to be strong and get through them. This is the power I wish that all children could have.
    Click for more info

    The importance of ear training

    Unfortunately, I was not introduced to aural skills through independent study until I was in college. I wanted better for my students, and have regularly included 2-5 minutes of aural training in my lessons with them.

    Here is an ear training manipulative that I created for my students. 

    It is simply two large measures for piano with no music written inside. I printed this out on cardstock and then laminated it, which essentially turned the card into a white board. I was able to let my students write on it with crayon (washable crayon also works), and then wipe it off with a piece of scrap cloth I made from an old T-shirt. You can also use pennies or glass pebbles from the dollar store to mark the notes, as rhythm is not part of this exercise.
    To use the board, I would give the students the first note, and ask them to produce the second on the board after they heard me play it. I started with simple intervals and progressively got harder. After they had a firm understanding of melodic intervals (the notes were played one at a time), I made the exercise harder by playing melodic sequences, and for my more advanced students, I introduced harmonic intervals, giving them the lower note, but playing both notes at the same time.
    My challenge: Find ways that you can help your student/child's musical ear become more sophisticated, and begin working with them on a consistent basis.

    Practice time logs

    That which can be monitored can be improved. I have found in my teaching that when my students have been struggling with a song for a few weeks, we always come to the inevitable question: "How much have you been practicing?" Yes, that's what I thought.
    I am so grateful that my piano teacher consistently asked for a report on how much I had practiced during the week. If I had not filled out a time-log, she made me do my best guess right there in the lesson before we warmed up or did anything else. Because I knew that I would be accountable for my work, I was motivated during the week to have something positive to report. On the flip side, when I was preparing for competitions, it was encouraging to be able to say "I practiced three hours today!"

    My last couple years of teaching I finally learned from my teacher and created a time log.  I put Sunday in parentheses because I never practice my lessons on Sunday, and I don't require Sunday practice of my students, but if they did practice their hymns or anything like that, they could record it in that spot.
    Recording your time log is one simple, little thing you can have your student/child do that makes a big difference over the long haul.

    The Magic Flute essay I wrote in college

    The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte)

    The plot to Mozart’s The Magic Flute has been described as a curious combination of political satire, naïve humor, and the symbolism of Freemasonry, all set in ancient Egypt at the Temple of Isis. It is an opera of many levels, a magical fairy-tale for children, a comical singspiel, and a Masonic allegory. This masterpiece is a testament of the Masonic principles which Mozart cherished.
    Freemasonry has its roots from biblical times and the building of Solomon’s temple. Modern masonry evolved from the mason guilds of the middle Ages. The sorority began to invite men of all trades, and its popularity grew in the mid-eighteenth century. Masonry was attractive to supporters of the Enlightenment and included some of the best minds of Europe. Freemasonry was in a state of crisis when The Magic Flute premiered in 1791. The Masonic leadership of the American and French revolutionary wars led the Austrian leaders to associate masonry with revolutionary activity. Fear of Masonry was increased by the European infiltration of Masonry by the Illuminati. In their correspondence, Count Rottenhan described to Emperor Leopold II this situation in 1792:
    “There is indeed a great deal of fanaticism among the Masons here, and I believe that at the time when the Illuminati sect was being established, many of the Masons here joined Weishaupt and other apostles of this dangerous order in Vienna… But if I consider the everyday activities and the family background of these men, the whole organization is, in my view, rendered very innocuous.”(1)
    Count Rottenhan also said that at the peak of Freemason popularity, young men would be hard pressed to secure a solid career without seeking entrance to the brotherhood. While this may have been true for some, men like Ignaz von Born, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Friedrich von Schiller, and Benjamin Franklin were genuinely interested in promoting the Enlightenment through the Masonic motto “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.”
    Emanuel Schikaneder described his desire to join the brotherhood on July 4th, 1788 thus: “Not curiosity or selfishness but the most sincere esteem of your exalted assembly motivates my most humble prayer for admission to your sanctuary from which, in spite of the greatest secrecy, radiates a glimmer of nobility, humanity, and wisdom.” (2) Likewise, Joseph Haydn expressed his enthusiasm for the fraternity, “Oh, to feel the unspeakable joy of being among such worthy men!” (3) Many men in Vienna shared in these sentiments.
    J.W. Goethe, a renown Mason and author, addressed the masses outside the circle of free-masonry regarding The Magic Flute. He stated, “It is enough that the crowd would find pleasure in seeing the spectacle; at the same time, its high significance will not escape the initiates." (4) This statement is revealing in its implication that there is a deeper meaning to Die Zauberflöte than meets the untrained eye.
    An examination of the The Magic Flute’s sources will bring to light the relationship between The Magic Flute and Masonry. Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte was not the first opera written to honor Masonry. Johann Gottlieb Naumann, a freemason, had earlier composed the Masonic opera Osiris. If not similar to The Magic Flute in musical style, it is in dramatism. Orus, like Tamino, is faced with ritualistic trials before his marriage to Aretea, and at the end of the opera, righteousness conquers evil followed by a grand finale in the temple of the sun.
    Another source for The Magic Flute was Abbé Jean Terrasson’s novel Sethos. It is unknown whether Terrasson was a Mason. However, the Egyptian rituals and trials in Sethos are very similar to Masonic practices, and they make their way into The Magic Flute. Egyptology was then very fashionable in France and Schikaneder would have been familiar with its influence on French Masonry.
    Freemasonry symbolism is entwined in The Magic Flute beginning with the overture. It begins with three distinct chords, symbolic of the knocking at the door of the temple as part of the Masonic rites of initiation. These chords are heard again at the beginning of act II during the temple scene. The opera’s home-key of Eb was used by Mozart for most of his Masonic compositions because of it’s signature of three flats. The symbolism of the number three also appears with the three genii, the three boys, and the three trials. Some of the most dramatic symbolisms are at the beginning of act II. Sarastro informs his brothers that Tamino is waiting at the North gate. The brotherhood asks three questions, “Does he possess virtue? Also discretion? Is he charitable?” These questions are similar to the questions the mason brothers ask about the initiate. Sarastro asks if his decisions are approved, and the brotherhood agrees that Tamino is worthy. Likewise, initiation to a lodge requires the unanimous consent of all the members.
    While it is readily apparent that there are similarities between the brotherhood and The Magic Flute, the reasons for displaying Masonic symbolism on stage are not. Did Mozart wish to take advantage of the populace’s curiosity by revealing Masonic secrets? Or was his purpose to honor Masonry by educating the public of virtuous Masonic principles? Mozart understood that his composition was accepted by the Masons, for he informed the brotherhood that he was going to compose a masterpiece to honor Masonry. He later expressed his satisfaction to his wife that they approved of the work.
      Mozart collaborated with many other freemasons to create this masterpiece. Emmanuel Schikaneder wrote the libretto. Ignaz Alberti published a book about the opera the day of the first performance. He also engraved the original title page for the libretto (shown here (5)). Paul Nettl, author of “Mozart and Masonry”, believes that the illustration represents the entrance region of the initiating rooms. There are many Masonic symbols in this illustration. One is the obelisk, a Masonic symbol associated with the sun and symbol of continuity, power, resurrection, and immortality. Also, in the illustration are a square and trowel, a five-pointed star, and an hour-glass, representing the first, second, and third degrees of Masonry respectively. It is the combined efforts of these three prominent men that convinces me that The Magic Flute was written to honor the Masons.
    Like The Magic Flute in 1791, modern media also combines elements of philosophy, religion and entertainment. One such example can be found in the movie Left Behind. In our culture, the Christian belief in an apocalypse has given Left Behind an audience of millions. This movie by Cloud Ten Pictures shows the enactment of the apocalypse from The Book of Revelation. Audiences of this film have increased curiosity for biblical study. Whether the movie was created to honor Christianity, or to intrigue the populace, the results have been the same.
    The Magic Flute had an influential effect on society in the years that followed. The popularity of the ideals of Freemasonry increased. Finding themselves incapable of banishing a work so popular, the Austrian Police State created two brochures that described The Magic Flute as a political allegory. In 1795, after these publications, the oppression of Freemasonry was finalized by the closing of all the lodges in Austria.
    Mozart has created a legendary opera that has never left the repertoire of major opera houses. While Masonic lodges may have been banned, the symbolisms, rituals, and moral standards of the Freemasons have become immortal through this work. Scholars will continue to be intrigued by the symbolic eccentricities of the work, audiences will continue to be curious about the brotherhood, and the Freemasons themselves will continue to appreciate the profound wisdom and character of their beloved Brother Mozart.
    1. H.C. Robbins Landon, Mozart The golden years (New York: Schirmer Books, 1989), 232
    2. Paul Nettl, Mozart and Masonry (New York: Dorset Press, 1987), 61
    3. Paul Nettl, Mozart and Masonry (New York: Dorset Press, 1987), 16

    Oversize Treble and Bass Clef Flashcards

    Oversize Treble Clef Flashcards

    Oversize Bass Clef Flashcards

    Today I wanted to share with you the giant flashcards that I made for my studio. They are 8 1/2 by 11" cards, much larger than average. This has many advantages for the studio and classroom use. For the classroom, visibility is the main advantage, but in my studio they have also been a big hit.

    My younger students, when given a choice, will always choose the large cards over the smaller ones that I keep in my music bag. I laminated mine, and printed them on cardstock, so they are very attractive in that manner. Because of their large size, it makes it harder to confuse notes that are close together. It is easy to show the difference between line and space notes. Today I share the treble clef notes, and I will share the bass clef notes next week. Enjoy!

    Choosing a Recorder

    Recently as we were shopping at the Dollar Store, I ran across not one, but two recorders in a package, encouraging parents to introduce music into their home. Great! Cheap recorders that won't play in tune being introduced to children everywhere!Forgive me if that sounds harsh, but my own experience as a child with a cheap recorder has scarred me a little. Don't get me wrong, my parents paid top-dollar to give me piano lessons with a great teacher, and my overall musical development was not hindered by the cheap recorder they gave me. But it wasn't a smart move, and I'll tell you why.
    I was so excited to get my recorder. I eagerly skimmed through the booklet that came with it, studied the fingerings, and attempted to play through the songs. It sounded terrible! Not only was the music not in tune, but it had a harsh whistle overtone that made my playing annoying to all who heard me, including myself. Did I go to my parents and demand that they get a refund for a faulty piece of equipment? Of course not. In my childhood way, I concluded that I was not meant to play the recorder, that I just didn't have what it takes, and that I might as well give up. And I did, for several years.
    It wasn't until I was in college and took my Orff-Schulwerk training that I picked it up again. We were given Angel and Yamaha recorders as part of the registration fee, and both instruments have served me well. In the two week course, not only did I learn how to play simple songs, I also overcame all of my childhood insecurities in the instrument, and I determined that I would teach my own children when the time came. Part of this inner victory came from having an excellent instructor, but more of it came from having a proper instrument that I was able to experience success with. A good recorder is less than $10 USD, and is so worth the extra investment.
    The moral of the story? Do NOT purchase a recorder at the dollar store. It simply is not worth it.

    The Pentatonic Scale

    When I first learned about the pentatonic scale, I was taught to associate it with the Asian culture. I have since learned that the pentatonic scale is universal to all nations, and most countries have folk music written using this scale. Old Dan Tucker is one of my favorite American examples. The easiest way to play a pentatonic scale on the piano is to play all of the black keys, beginning with F#. The solfege for the scale is Do, Re, Mi, Sol, La, Do.Using the pentatonic scale for children's voices is a powerful technique because the scale is instinctive to them by nature. A child singing "na-na-na-na-na-na, you ca-n't catch me!" is using the scale. Ring-a-round-the-Rosies, Mary had a little lamb, and Rain, Rain, Go Away also use it. The Kodaly and Orff methods for teaching music to children exclusively use it for their beginning students.
    My challenge? Find a way to incorporate the scale into your teaching, especially parents teaching music appreciation to your children through singing. Children who have a hard time singing in tune can especially benefit with a steady diet of pentatonic music because the hardest intervals to hear (the minor 2nd, augmented 4th, and major 7th) are completely eliminated.
    Here is an interesting video that shows the intuitiveness of the scale in action:

    Free Online Sheet Music

    Here is a collection of free online sheet music for your personal and studio use. They are public-domain songs that I have arranged on our print-music program. Many of them I used with my students.

    Vocal Music

    Month of Maying
    The Month of Maying is an old madrigal, originally written for five parts. I arranged this version for two parts for a childrens choir.

    Sir Eglamore
    Sir Eglamore is another madrigal about a brave knight who slays the dragon. This one was especially popular with the boys.


    Come Follow
    This is a classic round that has been around for a long time. There are several versions available, the most common difference being whether the "greenwood" or "redwood" tree is to be used. This round is known by many as the turtle-trio cartoon which aired on Sesame Street.

    Oh how lovely
    This song is often sung by childrens choirs and accompanied by chimes or hand-bells.

    Sing Together
    This is a good campfire song. The words are simple and repetitive, which makes it easy to learn.

    The Instrument Song


    This is a fun Austrian folk song that I first heard when it was featured on "You've Got Mail". I was enchanted by the idea of having a group of people sing several different parts to make an orchestra.

    There are countless arrangements of this song, especially since all of the English versions are translations. I chose the versions I liked the best and arranged it in large font for a family reunion so I could pass out the different pages to individual groups.

    I have since used it for a childrens' choir I conducted. Some of the parts are easier than others for children to learn. The Violins is the longest, and the melody is much more complex than the others, so I had my older students sing this part. The Trumpet is also tricky because it is the only part with sixteenth notes, but it was a challenge that most of the children were eager to try, especially the boys. The other three parts are relatively simple.

    Find more free online sheet music here.


    Q. I've heard a lot of people talk about 'Solfege' and am thinking about teaching it to my children. How does it work?

    A. Solfege is a technique music teachers use for teaching sight singing. Each musical note is assigned a syllable. The seven syllables commonly used are do, re, mi, fa, sol (or so), la, and ti (or si).How does it work? There are two ways to use solfege. One is movable do, and the other is fixed do.
    Movable do In movable do, the tonic note (or key note) is always do. If a musical piece is in F major, then F is do. If the piece is in C major, then C is do, D is re, E is mi, and so forth. The advantage to this system is that the student learns the relationship between the different notes in the scale and can readily transpose a number. This is the method that will be taught on this website.
    Fixed do With fixed do, C is always do, D is always re, and so forth. This includes all sharps and flats, so F# would be fa. The advantage to this system is that it teaches the student perfect pitch, and the solfege can be used instead of letter note names. For example, in some countries they would say a piece is in "fa major" instead of "F major."
    Both systems have merit, and both are used in the United States. Solfege is a fantastic way to teach your children to sing, and I wish you luck in your endeavors.

    Feb 11, 2011

    Nature Walk

    "Tamsyn, GO OUTSIDE!"

    My mother must said these words a thousand times.  I was a bookworm, and I spent much of my youth practicing as well.  Granted, there were many hours spent in trees, hiking, and in playgrounds, and whenever I was outside I loved it.  It just wasn't second nature to me to say to myself, "You haven't been outside today".

    It still isn't, and my children suffer for it.  Recently I stumbled upon this forum post about the Charlotte Mason method.  It is important to have nature WALKS and not just nature talks.  I realized that my children could gain much from this, and so I sent out an e-mail to our local homeschooling group and asked if there were other parents interested in doing nature walks for toddlers/preschoolers.  There were!  Now it is officially on our schedule to go outside, and it has been wonderful.  Yes, it is sad that I have to schedule it, but at least we're going.  I am glad that I was able to recognize this weakness of mine and to find a solution for it.

    Yesterday we went to the Stokes Nature Center.  Here are a few pictures of our adventure.

    Dress them up warm!
    What about the baby?  I think he survived.
     When we got to the nature center, they had a bird feeder and the children loved seeing these native birds from the window:

    Feb 10, 2011

    Memory Cards

    Today's activity comes from Sidney Ledson's book, "Give Your Child Genius IQ".  Click on the link and scroll down to see a picture of a little girl doing an exercise similar to the one provided in this post.  I highly recommend this book.

    Preparing the Materials
    Print out the document, on card stock if desired, and laminate, if desired.  The large sheet pictured above is a worksheet, and the rest of the document's pages are cards, so cut them out.  For a simpler activity, simply print out two copies of one of the landscape pages, and cut one of them out.

    Here is the document: 
    memory activities pdf

    I made it in WORD, using the "Webdings" font.

    Playing the Game
    Show your child two or three cards, and then show them the worksheet and ask them to find the pictures that they just saw.  They can identify them by placing pennies or another manipulative on the picture, or by marking it with a writing utensil.  If you have laminated the worksheet, they can do this with a crayon or dry-erase marker and use the worksheet again and again.

    Gradually make the game harder by adding more cards, and/or lengthening the time between when you show the cards and when they mark them on the worksheet.  For example, you can show them the cards before you eat, and give them the worksheet after.

    Why do memory activities?

    Memory muscles, like other muscles in the body, grow with use.  I like this activity for my little ones because it is age appropriate for them.  Playing traditional "memory", where you turn over the cards until you find a match, is something that my three-year-old doesn't have the patience for yet.  See Chess for Preschoolers for more on my philosophy on intellectual vs social maturity.  Eventually, he may want to memorize the Declaration of Independence, but let's face it, that sort of thing just doesn't do it for him right now.  Card games like this do.  Because the game is based on pictures, instead of words or ideas, the game is concrete. The objective is clear, even for my toddler.
    Another thing that is great about these activities is how simple it is adapt the challenge level of the game.  I dare you to try it yourself.  Mix up the cards, quickly look at ten of them and place them in a pile.  Then try to identify them on the worksheet.  How did you do?  Okay, maybe you're smarter then me.  Look at 15 of them, and then put it away for a day.  Then try to identify them on the worksheet.  Haha.  I couldn't do it either.  Not yet, anyway.  Do these activities every day, and your child will surprise you.

    Feb 7, 2011

    Counting Game

    From the family archives comes my son's first counting video.  I credit the idea for the game from Siegfried Engelmann's "Give your Child a Superior Mind".

    My husband and I taught our son this "game" by playing it with each other at every meal.  Our son thought that it was so-o-o cool, and before long he was playing with us.  Soon after, he was counting to ten independently.

    Learning to count set the foundation for learning his numbers, but by itself, it was simply recitation.  Even now, a year later, he only really knows his numbers up to four.  He recognizes the numerals and math-u-see blocks up to ten, but cannot properly identify more than four objects.  This counting game was his first introduction to math.  Counting books were more enjoyable to him, and the foundation was set.

    It was also his first memorization exercise.  Repetition is all it takes to teach younger children recitation.  Recently our son learned the Pledge of Allegiance from hearing it every day in our devotionals.

    Just food for thought.

    Feb 5, 2011

    Quick-growing crystals

    I give full credit for this experiment to Home Science Tools.  Click their link to see the science behind the experiment, and for more crystal-growing ideas.

    For this experiment we needed:

    ·                    1/2 cup Epsom salts
    ·                    Food coloring
    ·                    1/2 cup hot tap water
    ·                    A refrigerator

    Mix the Epsom salts with hot tap water and color the water any color you want.  Then refrigerate them and see what happens after a few hours.  We made ours in the morning and took these pictures at dinner-time.

    With my son's recent obsession with Superdog, I'm going to revisit this experiment and make red and green kryptonite with him.  You could make a whole crystal garden if you wanted to!

    Feb 3, 2011

    Crawling Track

    Today I wanted to share some tidbits about how we use Glenn Doman's crawling track in our home.  (As seen in Teach your Baby to be Physically Superb, and How Smart is Your Baby?) We have been using the crawling track with my son since he was about a month old.  Doman's book mentions how lucky the baby is who has parents who bring the crawling track to the hospital with them, but I find that using the crawling track from birth is a little bit impractical.  Even if I did go to the hospital for my births, the last thing I would want to pack around is a bulky crawling track!  Some of Doman's ideas have to be taken with a grain of salt, but please understand that Glenn Doman is one of my heroes.

    So, we don't use the crawling track from birth, mostly because I want to wait until the umbilical chord has healed before laying them on their tummy.  The other thing that I don't do is have the crawling track right next to our bed.  We were originally going to do this, and that is why we put a "wall" on one end (the top end in the video).  We did this with the idea that the crawling track would be elevated between our bed and the wall, and if the baby crawled the length of the crawling track at night, the wall would protect them from crawling onto the floor.  However, in practice, I prefer to have the baby sleep right next to me.  It's better for breastfeeding and for helping me respond to the baby's needs.  I don't recommend adding the extra wall onto the end, it was a lot of extra work.

    What we do do with the crawling track is use it every day, mostly as prescribed by Glenn Doman.  We do the short, specific sessions to encourage the baby to move, but I rarely leave them to explore in the crawling track for extended periods.  Considering his older siblings, we do this for his own safety.  (Plug for babywearing!)

    When they are first learning how to use it, I put my hands behind their feet as pictured below.  When the straighten their legs, they are propelled forward.  When the bend their legs, my hands follow.  In this manner, they experience success from the beginning.  For this exercise, I like to have them fully clothed so that they are as slippery as possible.

    Phase two, using a book instead of my hands.  Now they have to a create blank space to move forward.

    Phase three starts at around three months of age for us, where the child has to move independently.  Clothing for this is a simple onesie.  It makes the body slippery, and gives the arms and legs some traction to work.  I still help sometimes.  My son in this video primarily used his arms at first, and would become frustrated when his arms were struck behind him.  I would gently move his arms forward and he would propel himself forward again.  Rinse and repeat.  Now he uses his legs, and sometimes makes pretty good time getting down the track.  In this video he is 4 1/2 months old.

    So What's the Point?

    The goal behind using a crawling track is to teach children that moving their limbs can ultimately result in transportation.  But there's more than that.   Using the crawling track helps their brain develop as they learn to understand the third dimension sooner.  As they move down the track, objects become closer.  Reaching mommy's arms, or a red ball, or any other object becomes a specific, reachable goal.  That's empowering for a newborn!  At one month old, my two children who have used the track are usually very passive, but when they are placed on the track, you can watch a change come over their face.  The wheels are turning inside.  When they reach their goal, they smile and are empowered.  The crawling track is worth it for that alone.

    For more information, I refer you to Glenn and Janet Doman's books.  There are a lot of enrichment activities that they provide that are beyond the scope of this post.

    Feb 2, 2011

    Cranial Sacral Therapy

    Today I wanted to share a little miracle that has happened in our home due to cranial sacral therapy.  When my daughter was about a month old, we noticed that her head was not perfectly symmetrical.  It was like one half of her head had slid forward a little bit

    We asked the doctor about it at a well baby visit and he admitted that her head was a little off, but that "we" only worry when the back of the head is flat from laying in one position too long.  Young children grow out of other shape descriptancies, we were told.  I knew better.  I had heard of cranial sacral therapy before and my gut told me that we should seek a practitioner out.  However, for some reason we didn't.  Days turned into weeks and months, and as my daughter grew, her head remained off-centered.

    When my third child was born last September, our midwife told us that we needed to take him to a chiropractor.  While we were there, my husband asked him if he knew anything about cranial sacral therapy.  He asked if he thought our daughter, then 18 months, could benefit from treatments.  Luckily, our chiropractor also does cranial sacral therapy, and he told us that she could definitely benefit from treatments.

    At first we took her in every week, and progress was quickly made.  Now we are taking her in every other week for minor adjustments.  To be clear, my daughter was not at all deformed, or unusually weird looking.  Nor was she mentally or physically handicapped in any way.  Her grandparents never noticed that her head was off-center.  I suppose that as parents you do.  These pictures sort of show the results, but we never took any pictures from the top of her head, where the before and after pictures would have been more effective.  Nevertheless, this is the best I can do:

    Picture taken last May, before any treatments.

    Picture taken in December after twelve sessions.
    I have heard of some amazing miracles that have happened because of cranial sacral work done on children.  It's worthy of a google search.  For our daughter, the miracle was simply to have a balanced face.  That alone is significant!  There were no helmets to wear.  There was no invasive surgery.  In fact, there has been no discomfort for our daughter at all.  She grins from ear to ear during her 15-minute sessions.  Dr. Crawford told us that in his experience, children are in tune to what their body needs.  They know that the pressure is helping them.  Some of the pressure that he has applied to her head has been very strong, but my daughter has never objected.  When I watch him work on her, I can't help but ponder as to why therapies like these are so controversial.  My daughter loves it.  The effects of her treatment are visually measurable.  Her beauty has blossomed in the last four months.  Is this not a testament that the treatment is good?

    My purpose in writing this is to help create awareness for the therapy.  I also encourage parents who are maybe sitting on the fence (like we were, out of sheer laziness) to seek a practitioner to help your child.  We were lucky that we started treatment while she was still young.  It would have much harder if not impossible to see these kind of results if we had waited until she was 10 or 15 years old.  I know that as parents we have a special intuition for the needs of our children, and that when we follow through with those promptings, the blessing will follow.

    Feb 1, 2011

    Search and Find

    The next time your children spill wheat all over the floor and you don't want to eat it or waste it, try making your own search and find toy like we did.  Although my little children like to look for individual items, this is more of a novelty item that our guests like to play with.  We made extra and gave them away as gifts.  There are 20 items.  Some, like the nail and the penny, are really hard to find!   Here is what we used:

    1.                  toothpick
    2.                  pawn
    3.                  glow-in-the-dark star
    4.                  push pin
    5.                  a slice of straw
    6.                  macaroni noodle
    7.                  die (singular dice)
    8.                  ladybug pendant
    9.                  clear glass pebble
    10.              metal from a clothes pin (this one throws everybody off!)
    11.              pony bead
    12.              button
    13.              small balloon (tied off)
    14.              safety pin
    15.              paper clip
    16.              paper brad
    17.              small turquoise rock
    18.              penny
    19.              screw
    20.              nail

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