Apr 25, 2011

Psst! It's okay to celebrate after the holiday.

I had many grand plans for celebrating Easter, and Easter came and went.  Sure, the kids got to go to an egg hunt, and most importantly we had a great Sunday at church and at home, talking about the true meaning of Easter.  But the Easter Bunny missed our house somehow, and in this context, I told my sister, "I'm a bad mom".  My little brother, missing the conversation, said, "It's okay, Tamsyn, at least you're a good sister!"  Haha, somehow that didn't help much, but his heart was pure.

There was one activity that we followed through on, and that was boiling and decorating eggs.  We simply colored them with crayons, reducing the risk of messes, and eliminating the possibility of having to eat dyed eggs.  I hate it when the dye goes through the shell!  My husband decorated the cutest ones, including Humpty Dumpty.

This morning I decided that I am going to follow through and do the other activities that I had planned on doing anyway.  The children will still love it- and they don't understand the calender well enough to know or care that I'm late anyway.  Happy spring!  Here is my idea bag:  (titles are links)

Sugar String Easter Eggs
I need a good excuse to pop all of the balloons that are still floating around from Helen's birthday, and this is perfect!

Easter Candles
I have egg shells waiting for this project, although I hesitate to have candles around my little ones.  I may or may not do this one.

Wheatgrass Easter Baskets
I tried to make these with the kids last year, but we used wheat that had been stored with an oxygen absorber, and they didn't sprout very well.  I was excited to try again this year, but we are going to plant a garden this week instead.

So my point is, well I procrastinated.  Life happens, and it's okay.  Better late than never!

Apr 23, 2011

Music Notation assignment number three

Mary had a Little Lamb
Click here for pdf

New skills for this assignment include:
Dotted notes, adding lyrics, selecting and deleting measures, and adding repeats.

  • Open a new file in Musescore.
  • Give it the title, “Mary had a Little Lamb”.  The composer is Lowell Mason, and the lyricist is Sarah Josepha Hale.  Create new score from scratch.  Next.
  • Click on “Vocals”, then double-click “Voice”.  Next.
  • Use default key signature, meter and number of measures (12).  Finish.
  • In your new file, press “n” to be in note-entry mode.  Type “5” then “.”*  This highlights the quarter-note/crotchet and the period.  Now type “E” and bring it down an octave.
*Note that this entry method for dotted notes is different from the popular Finale program, in which you add the dot after creating the note.  Musescore requires a little more foresight.
  • Type “4” to select the eighth note and type “D”.  Continue until you have entered all of the notes for the piece.  It should look like this.

  • Now you need to delete the extra measures at the end.  Type “n” to exit note entry mode.  Now click on the first measure with no notes.  A blue box will appear over that measure.  Hold down the shift button and click on the last measure.  The empty measures will be highlighted.

  • Type “ctrl+del” to delete those measures.
  • Now click on the first note in the song to select it.  Type “ctrl+L” to add lyrics.  You need to select a note before you can enter this mode.  Type in the words.  For words with more than one syllable, you will need to type in the “-“ to separate them.   Typing a dash or a space will automatically take you to the next note.  “Ma-ry had a lit-tle lamb, lit-tle lamb, lit-tle lamb.  Ma-ry had a lit-tle lamb, its fleece was white as snow.”
  • To add a second verse, click somewhere outside the final note.  Select the first note of the song again and type “ctrl+L” again.  It should automatically set you up for creating the second verse.  If it wants you to type in the first verse again, simply go to the end of the word and press “enter”.  You can navigate between verses with the arrow keys.
  • Note that in singing, it is customary to abbreviate out syllables that are not sung by substituting an apostrophe, as in “Ev-‘ry-where” instead of “Ev-ery-where” (everywhere).  “Ev-‘ry-where that Ma-ry went, Ma-ry went, Ma-ry went, Ev-‘ry-where that Ma-ry went, the lamb was sure to go.”
  • Go to the palettes on the left and click on “barlines”  Drag the ending repeat measure to the last measure of the song and let it go with your mouse.

The finished assignment should look like this:

Apr 21, 2011

Rhythm Solfege verses Counting

This post is in answer to a question from Sarah from the post "rhythm blocks".  Sarah asks:

"Do you think this (rhythm solfege) may be better than teaching them 'semibreve has 4 counts. minim has 2 counts, etc and having them clap the counts?"

My short answer, and this is only my opinion, is that it depends.  How would you count this sequence?

There are a myriad of ways.  You might say "One, Two, Three, Four. One-and, Two, Three-and, Four."  Some people like to substitute nonsense words, which is especially appealing to younger children.  For example, "Cat, Cat, Cat, Cat. Ti-ger, Cat, Ti-ger, Cat."  Another way is to use rhythm solfege, which I prefer for a sequence like this: "ta, ta, ta, ta.  ti-ti, ta, ti-ti, ta". (I will grant that there are other systems for rhythm solfege, but this is the one that I use).
Which is best?  Well, it depends on the child, it depends on their musical maturity, and it depends upon what will give you results.  System one focuses on the whole measure, emphasizing the down-beat.  System two is great for building confidence.  Who doesn't like cats and tigers?  (or gum and candy, or cars and airplanes, or...).  But ultimately, they remain nonsense words that are not consistent.  The third system would be my first approach.  Why?
  1. It helps children focus on the individual notes and not how they fit into the measure.
  2. It is a consistent (a quarter-note/crotchet is always "ta", even when the meter is 6/8).
  3. It is fairly easy for children to play the rhythm correctly with this method.
In short, rhythm solfege is a valuable asset for your musical tool-box.  However, it is not a substitute for teaching your students that it is a quarter note.  I tell my students that like a cow says "moo", a quarter-note says "ta".

How would you count this measure?

This one is actually a little trickier, especially for younger students.  The first measure was more natural to count because we usually speak with similar rhythms.  On the other hand, the only time you would speak for four counts is when pausing to say "umm..."  The nonsense-syllable approach is simply not applicable here.  This leaves us with two approaches:
  1. "ONE-two-three-four, ONE-two, THREE-four, ONE-two-three, FOUR
  2. Ta-ah-ah-ah, Ta-ah, Ta-ah, Ta-ah-ah, Ta.
The verdict is out on which one is better.  If all measures were like these, I would probably favor the first approach because it is more concrete.  In my video for the rhythm blocks I demonstrated the second approach.  Bouncing a "ta" to make it "ta-ah" is a little bit abstract for a child, which is why I created the rhythm blocks in the first place, to help them see what is happening.
I do think that children need to know how many counts a note gets.  Counting "ta-ah" implies two counts, but sometimes it is easier for younger musicians to count it "One-two" (or "three-four" depending on where it falls in the measure).

The verdict is out.  I don't know which way is better, so I use both and between the two we somehow get the job done.  Good luck!

Apr 15, 2011

Music Notation assignment number two

Tip:  Print out assignment (found here) before starting so you will have a hard copy to refer to.  You may want to print out the instructions too.

New skills in this exercise include accidentals, blocked intervals, and rests.

Finished assignment should look like this.
One more tip:  Sometimes it may be hard to select (highlight) a note.  You can do this easily by going out of note-entry-mode and then clicking on the note that you wish to select.  This way you are sure to not add any notes.  Then press "n" again to go back into note-entry-mode and your note should still be highlighted.

Step-by-step instructions for this assignment.
  1. Open Muse score.  Type shortcut “Ctrl+n” to start a new file, or click on the file menu and click “new”.
  2. Give the work the title “Assignment #2” and type your name in the composer box.  Select “Create new score from template”, and click next.
  3. Select “lead Sheet” and click next.  Use the default settings to create your new file and select “finish”.
  4. Press “n” to be in note entry mode.  Press 5 to select the quarter note and type “c”.  Ctrl+down makes it middle C.
  5. Type D, then E.  The E will be selected, now press the down button.  It becomes Eb.  When you push the down button, the default accidentals favor the flats.  Finish the first line in like manner.
  6. Beginning in measure five, start a D scale by typing D, E, F.  Now push the up button, and the F becomes F#.  The default accidental for going up are sharps.  Finish the second line in like manner.
  7. Measures 9-10 were put in this assignment to let you play with this feature a little bit.  Type “E,F,G”.  With the G selected, press down and you have Gb.  Press down again and you have F.  Press up and you have F#.  Gb and F# are called enharmonic equivalents, but they are spelled differently.  This is an easy way to change the spelling.
  8. In measure 11, type E, D, then press 6 no highlight the half note and press C.  Type “0” to create a half rest.  Press 5 to highlight the quarter note again and type “D, F”.
  9. Measure 13.  Type C.  Now hold down the “alt” key and type “3” (alt+3).  You should have a blocked third.  Type 0 for a rest.  Finish the fourth line in like manner.
  10. Measure 17.  Type C to make a half note on c.  Type alt+3 to make a third, and continue.  In measure 18 after you type “G”, press the up arrow to make it G#.  Then type alt+3 to make a B.
  11. Measure 19.  Type “G”.  Alt+3 adds a B.  Press the dawn key to make it be Bb.  When you make the second third, the measure will add a natural by default.  Finish the line.
  12. In Measure 22, you will need to add a courtesy accidental as a reminder that the F should be played natural.  First make the D and F.  Go over to the palettes on the left and find the one that says “Accidentals”.  It’s just below the middle.  Click the arrow to see the options.  Click and drag the natural symbol over to the F.  When the F is highlighted (turns red), let go.  Now go back to the accidentals palette and drag the ( ) to the natural on the F.
  13. In measure 23, build a chord by typing “C” and alt+3 twice.  Type C and bring it down an octave (ctrl + down).  Type alt+4, alt+3 to make the C,F,A chord.  Type “7” to select the whole note and build a C chord to finish.

Apr 14, 2011

Children’s Opera, Part V, Rehearsal and Performance

And now we reach our final chapter in which the children rehearse and otherwise prepare for the glorious occasion of performing their masterpiece for friends and family.  In this final stage, remember that it is still the children’s work, so trust them.


With the homeschool music group, I let the children and their parents come up with the costumes.  Parents are a fantastic resource for costumes.  In every children’s musical production that I have done, I have always been low key about costumes and let the parents do it.  I realize that the audience at the performances are mostly comprised of friends and family, and that tickets, if any, were free and not $50 each.  For me the emphasis is on giving the children a good learning opportunity, and wearing a costume is a fun part of performing, and it shouldn’t be stressful.  If the costume is good enough for the parents, it is good enough for me. 

When I did the children’s opera with the Cache Children’s Choir, I was very impressed with the costumes and I want to share some pictures to give you some ideas to work with.

The youngest group of children, ages 3-5, sang a strophic song about Sleeping Beauty.  Most of the children wore the traditional CCC attire of black pants and a red shirt.  There was a girl dressed as a witch, a boy prince on a cock-horse with a toy sword, and a princess in a tower, made of a large cardboard box that had been painted.

The raggle-taggle group, ages 5-7, wore the traditional CCC attire with face masks made of foam for the donkeys, cats, dogs, roosters, and robbers.  The robbers had black-knit hats, pictured here with the wealth of gold that the robbers had stolen.
The oldest group, ages 7-9 did an opera about a boy and a girl who went through a magical mirror and had to collect musical chimes to be able to get back home.  They went to a fantasy land where there was a dragon, mermaids, a unicorn, and a fairy.  They met cave people, ghosts, and stinky socks (pictured).  There was a lot of work that went into these costumes and they were fantastic.  It all depends on what you are willing to do, what sewing skills you or those you are working with have, and the time-frame that you have to work with.
Scenery and props

Don’t stress it, it isn’t that important.  The more you let the children (and audience) use their imagination, the less work that you will have to do.  If you do want to have scenery, tempera paints on large cardboard boxes from the appliance store are a cheap and effective way to go.  You can also borrow, shop in your attic, or work with items from the local thrift store.


The larger the cast, the more you will need to direct the children on where to stand and when to do what during the performance, but allow the children to give you their input and advice.  With a smaller cast, let the children decide where they will stand and what they will do during different parts of the opera during rehearsals, but then remind them what they decided afterward and have them practice that way.  There should be at least one rehearsal dedicated solely to practicing the staging with the music.  In other words, hold at least one rehearsal where the children are not creating anything, but are purely practicing.  More are optimal for a better performance, but that may or may not be your purpose.  Are you a performing group, or is this an opera workshop to teach children about opera?  Maybe it is somewhere in between.   Adjust you schedule to accommodate your purpose.

The Performance
Be flexible and focus on the children.  The audience knows that your cast is not professional, and are most likely family and friends of the children.  They are there to be supportive, so don’t worry about what they think.  Chances are that they will be very impressed and pleased with the results anyway.   How do you focus on the children then?  Give them a prep-talk before going on stage.  Tell them how proud you are of all of their hard work.  Tell them to have fun, and that you will be there to help them.
It is appropriate to say a prayer before performing too.  I know that this is controversial in some areas and to some people, and I am a religious person and am inclined to suggest it.  However, as a performer I have almost universally seen it done.  A simple prayer that the children will remember their lines and music, and that they will have a good experience will do much to comfort nervous children.

Oh, and be flexible.  Really.  Children may forget their lines, come in early or late, and a myriad of other things.  Stay calm and the children will too.  Work with the challenges that come, for “the show must go on”.  In the performance of the homeschool opera, Rapunzel didn’t show up.  To this day, I don’t know if there was a family emergency or if they just spaced it, and it doesn’t really matter.  Things like this happen and you need to work with it.  I told the children that we would just skip her lines, but in retrospect, this was unfair to Sleeping Beauty because Rapunzel’s lines were her cues.  I should have sung Rapunzel’s part at the piano, but I didn’t.  You learn as you go.  When it is over, praise the children, graciously accept any compliments but then direct them back to the children because, after all, this really was their work.

Apr 12, 2011

Children's Opera, Part IV, Composing the Accompaniment

Note:  This portion of the series assumes that you have some basic piano and composition skills.  If not, you may want to hire or otherwise enlist the help of a pianist or composer.

At first the prospect of composing an accompaniment part for your melody may seem daunting, but you have a couple of things going for you.
  1. A simple accompaniment is the best. 
  2. You should reinforce the melody in your accompaniment.
Simple Accompaniment
It is not just convenient, it is imperative that you follow these two steps.  The younger your cast, the more you need to follow these rules.  If the accompaniment is too busy, it will distract the children, and maybe even the audience.  The emphasis during the performance needs to be the children, not the pianist.  But a simple piano part that reinforces the melody will give the children support, comfort, and even courage.

In this sample the right hand plays the melody and the left hand supports it with simple chords.  If this is all you feel comfortable doing, it is enough.  You really don’t need to do more, and the opera will be a big hit.  Remember that the primary goal for this experience is to give the children an opportunity to create their own masterpiece.  It is an exercise for them.  If you want to stretch yourself as a composer, this is a fantastic exercise, but it is not necessary for the success of your opera.

Give them a little bit of a prelude to springboard them into the opera.  I simply built a repeat into the score at the beginning.  It sounds obvious, but don’t forget this important step!

Bells and Whistles
What you do with your work is up to you, and of course it will vary with your characters, the scenery, and the time period.  Providing a plethora of examples for varying circumstances is beyond the scope of this article, so I am going to stick with my example and share some of the things that I did to dress it up.  Each character in my small cast had their own style that served as a cue to remind them that it was their turn to sing.

Themes for each character
If one of your characters has a well known musical theme, you may wish to incorporate Musical Quotation when the character is singing.

Rapunzel featured arpeggiated chords like a harp.

Sleeping Beauty featured broken chords. 
The girl who played Sleeping Beauty was the most musically advanced in my cast.  The melodies that she sang when we were recording were the most complex, and I had a lot of fun playing with her accompaniment to let her shine.  For myself, the most memorable line in the opera is “I’m homeschooled because I want to learn to be more like a princess.”  I love it!

For our Ninja I used parallel fifths and pentatonic motives for an Asian feel.  Spider-man and the Ninja were the youngest members of my cast, and both greatly benefited from having a distinct accompaniment to tell them that it was their turn.  They loved having their own theme!

If the cast has some action to perform, the accompaniment can reflect that movement or task, as in the crawling music.
As you play with the score, you may have some silly ideas as your creative juices star flowing.  Have fun with them!  If you think something is funny, chances are the children and your audience will too, so find a musical way to express the idea.  For example, when the children expressed how much they love to play the computer when they are done with their school, I thought of the old-school computer games that were around when I was a kid.  The first time they heard the robotic computer sound in this excerpt, squeals of laughter filled the room.

Curtain Music
With or without a curtain, you need to come up with something for the children to bow to.  My curtain music is not written in the sample score, but I simply played each child’s theme song for their personal bow and the main theme for a final bow at the end.  After all of their hard work, children need a chance to say, “Ta-da!”

Final Notes
When you finish your accompaniment, make a recording of it for the children to practice with ASAP.  Not only will it help them practice, it will build their confidence in the music and give them a springboard to help them if they lose their place.  However, during the performance, the accompaniment should be live because it gives you the flexibility to improvise and follow the children.  I have accompanied two children’s operas where disasters were averted because the I have a brain where a recording does not.  Trust me, you need that flexibility in a performance with small children.  Good luck, and have fun with this one part of the opera that is truly your chance to shine!

Apr 11, 2011

Fun with cardboard boxes

When we recently visited my in-laws for the weekend, they had a special surprise for my children.  Three large cardboard boxes from the local appliance store!  Each one was cut differently to make a play house, and the children loved it.  We lay down a painting tarp for a make-shift carpet.  On this side you can see the circle window and the front door.  Note the hole for a door-nob.

Here is one of the natural windows for better lighting...

...but the pop-out windows were the kids favorite.

With proper parental supervision, the natural skylight was our baby's favorite feature.

And from the family archives, a year ago when we were moving, we got several boxes to pack our things in and immediately taped them into large empty boxes.  The children spent hours playing with them, making forts, tunnels, and towers.  Before they got too annoying, they were filled with household goods and packed away, much to the dismay of our then-two-year-old. 

People often joke that the best part about expensive Christmas presents are the boxes that they come in.  There may be some truth in that.  The children will wear it out before you tire of it, it's free if you are willing to do a little treasure hunting, and there are so many possibilities with a little imagination.

Apr 9, 2011

Music Notation assignment number one

See my Musecore e-course page for information the context of this assignment.  It may be helpful to watch musescore's "getting started" videos before doing these assignments.

  1. Download MuseScore if you haven't already.
  2.  Open Musescore.  Go to "File" and create a new document.
  3.  In the title space type "Notation assignment 1"  Leave the rest blank unless you want to have fun with it.  Click "next".
  4.  Pick a one-stave instrument.  I chose the bassoon under woodwinds.  Click on the bassoon and then click on the button that says "add" in the center column.  Click "next".
  5.  You will see key signatures.  Leave it on the "C" default (no sharps or flats) and click next.
  6.  Leave the default time signature at 4/4.  Under the number of measures, type in 15 and click "finish".
  7.  Type "N" and look in the bottom corner of the file and look for "note entry mode".  There will be nothing written if you are not in note entry mode.
  8.  Press "7" and see the whole note selected.  Type "C" on the keyboard.  If you chose the bassoon like me, a very high note will appear on the board.  Press ctrl+down twice and the note will be base-C
  9.  Finish the scale by typing "D E F G A B C"
  10.  Press "6" to highlight the half note.  Type "C" then ctrl+down to make another base-C.  Finish the half note note scale by typing " D E F G A B C".
  11.  Press "5" to highlight the quarter note.  Type "C" and ctrl+down to make another base-C.  Finish the half note note scale by typing " D E F G A B C".
  12.  Press "4" to highlight the eighth note.  Type "C" and ctrl+down to make another base-C.  Finish the half note note scale by typing " D E F G A B C".
  13.  At this point we decide that we want more measures.  Use your mouse up in the file menu and click on "Create".  Mouse over "measures" and click on "append measures" (the second one down.  Type "15" and click "okay".
  14.  Make sure that you are still in Note entry mode.  Select the eighth note by pressing "4" or click on the eighth note with your mouse.  In measure 16, mouse over middle "C" and click to create the note.
  15.  Finish the scale by typing "BAGFEDC".
  16.  Press "5" to select the quarter note.  Type "C"  Now we need to make the note jump up an octave.  Press ctrl+up to work the magic.  Finish the scale by typing "BAGFEDC".
  17.   Press "6" to select the half note.  Type "C"  Press ctrl+up and finish the scale by typing "BAGFEDC".
  18.  Press "7" to select the whole note.  Type "C"  Press ctrl+up and finish the scale by typing "BAGFEDC".
This finishes your note-entry portion of the assignment.  Optional advanced step for formatting:
See the palettes on the left and click on "Breaks and spacers".  Three green pictures will be there, select the first and drag it to the end of your first scale, the middle C, and let go.  This should make the half notes go to the next line.  If you let go in the wrong place, click ctrl+Z to undo it and try again.  Repeat at the end of the half note scales and eighth note scales to make the formatting look more pretty.

Your finished assignment should look like this.
 Notation assignment1.pdf

Apr 7, 2011

Children's Opera, Part III, The Vocal Score

This is the rehearsal that the children have been waiting for!  Today they will compose the melody for the opera.  

Materials for the teacher
  • Script from last week
  • A voice recorder (highly critical!)
  • A notepad and paper for changes
Step one:  Review and revise script from last week
Read the script you created last week to the children.  Ask for their stamp of approval, and if there is anything that they want to have changed.  The children have likely been thinking about the opera during the week and they may vote to improve some element of the story, especially when they hear it in its whole for the first time.  This is their last chance to make any changes.
Do not skip this step.  It may be tempting to plunge forward with the music, but this process is important because
1.                  Children see the whole picture for the first time
2.                  They are empowered by the teacher putting the script back in their hands
3.                  Improvements to the opera can be made
4.                  By voting the script in, they children will own the opera

Step two:  Composition
This is the step that most intimidates teachers and children who have never done children's operas before, but it is actually very simple.  With the recorder on, read one line of the script to a child and have the child sing it back to you any way that they please.  If you are working with a large group of children, go through the script giving every child a turn.  For a small group, let the children take turns with the chorus parts, but let each child sing their solo parts to you.  Skip the repeated chorus parts because you will be using the same melody every time that they sing it.  Go through the entire script, and the children are done!  That's it!  Really, the composing process is done and they can go home now.  Ta da!

Follow-up work:   

Ah yes, there is the arranging work to do, and this can be tricky.  This is one of the most time consuming jobs for the teacher.  You are forewarned!

Step one:  Initial notation.  It helps if you are at a piano when you do this part.  Listen to the first line of music sung by a child.  Sing it yourself.  Depending on the child, it may be more probable than possible that the line may have been sung off-key.  If you work with a group of children without this issue, hats off to you.  Do your best to sing the line yourself the same way that the child wrote it.  Now play it on the piano and notate it on staff paper.  When I did the homeschool opera I did not confine myself to a meter yet, but let every line sung by a child become its own measure as a way for me to keep each idea separate.  For now, notate each line where the child sang it, with the rhythm that they sang it.  Finish the script, do your best, and let that be good enough.

Step two:  Determine the key and meter.  Play through the entire opera as written.  Is there a natural flow?  Probably not yet, but you will get a general idea where to start.  For meter, 4/4 or 6/8 are likely choices.  For the key, C will probably be the easiest for you to work with when you arrange the piano accompaniment.  The key of D is the easiest key for children to sing in.

Step three:  Arrange the initial notation to fit the new key and meter.  It's okay, you are arranging, not composing.  It is still the children's work, but let's face it, they are going to need a little help from you.  Treat each line sung by the children individually.  You will need to transpose many of the lines that the children sang to make it fit within your new framework.  Some children when shy will sing their lines very low- too low for their own comfort.  Some children will show off a little bit, and sing their lines very high.  No matter what voice range the children have, the personalities often determine where they will sing.  Isn't that interesting?  The initial notation should reflect these pitches, but now you need to make all of the pieces fit.
Here are a few guidelines to help you:
  • Most, if not all of the notes should be between middle C and treble C.
  •  F-G are the most natural notes for young voices to sing- keep coming back to them, and let them guide you.
  • If a child sings a complex melody and it is their solo, leave it intact and let them shine.
  • The easiest intervals for children to sing are the minor third, and intervals in the pentatonic scale.  In solfege talk, this would be Sol and Mi, and for the pentatonic scale, Do, Re, Mi, Sol, La, Do.  In the key of C, these notes would be G and E, and for the pentatonic scale, C, D, E, G, A, C, respectively.  If that was way over your head, skip this tip, you will be fine without it.  I only bring this up because it will help children who have a hard time singing in tune to master their part in the opera.
  • Step-wise notation is also easier to sing.
  • It is okay to use your judgment during this stage.  Don't be afraid to make the raw material that you have to work with sing-able for the children.  In fact, it is your job!
Step four:  Convert your penciled notation to either a music notation software program, or a legible hand-written version.  The children need something to practice with.  If you don't have a software program, try http://musescore.org/.  It's completely free, and it is a fantastic program.

Step five: (optional)  Create a practice CD of the final draft for the children to practice with.  You may be able to finish the piano accompaniment before the next rehearsal, but if not, the children will need to be able to practice the melody.  If you have created the software on the computer, you can use the playback controls to help you.  However, I highly encourage you to make a singing recording.  It will help them to memorize their lines and remember the context for the melody.  If you are working with another music teacher, it may be helpful to take turns singing on the practice CD to help the children know when someone else should be singing.

Apr 1, 2011

Confessions from the potty trenches

It may not have the most page views, or be the best post that I've ever written, but among the people I know in person, my EC post (Elimination Communication, or Infant Potty Training) is the number one post to be talked about.  People I know in person e-mail me about it, ask me about it, and now that my three-and-a-half year old son has graduated completely, I want to share the rest of the story.

Everything that I wrote in that earlier post was true.  I didn't know the whole story then (by the way, "then" was a couple of years ago, not last January).  A few months ago when my mother witnessed me changing a poopy diaper, she asked if I was sorry that I had put so much work into EC while he was younger.  My answer was quick, "Not remotely!  Every time he did his business in the toilet, it was one less diaper to change."  A few years later, I think that I do have a more realistic view about the whole process.  I have truly given up my emotional attachment for early results, and have accepted that EC is a journey and not a destination.  However, it is nice to finally arrive.  :o)

Beginning EC now

I really can't blame myself for my early optimism in the EC-ing process.  Babies are easy to cue, and they know how to express their needs.  I am very active in this stage with my 6-month-old son.  Despite his 3-year-old brother in diapers, my baby did his first job in the potty before he was 24 hours old.  It was really handy when we were weighing him during those first few weeks.  We would help him empty his bladder before the diaper-less babe was placed in the scale.  It is fantastic before taking a bath!  I haven't ventured to let him go diaper-less yet, like I did with his older brother.  I have three children ages three and under, and I am very busy.  I have found the balance that works for our family, and a realistic goal for myself that I can feel good about.  I don't have time to be cleaning up little messes all the time like I did when I had only one child.  We are also renting now, and the carpet is a lot nicer than the stuff we had in our last home.

The Toddler Stage

My 24-month-old daughter is also progressing nicely at her own pace.  My parents gave her a doll with a potty for Christmas, and she loves taking her toys potty.  She loves going potty.  For her, the reward of using toilet paper is enough, and there are no candy treats awaiting her when she does her business.  She is doing very well, and I am optimistic that she will "graduate" soon, but I'm not counting on it.

Final Graduation

My oldest son was almost there twice, and then changed his mind.  The first time was before he was two.  It was right after his little sister was born.  He saw us taking her potty, and became very fascinated with it.  He loved his little potty with the stickers on it, and he was down to 2-3 accidents a week for about a month.  Hooray!  Success!!  Ta-da, EC works!  I'm such a cool mom!  Don't count your chickens before they hatch!

Dear mothers of the world: Do not take your child's potty-training success, or lack there-of, personally.  It really is up to them.  I love the advice:  "Teach them correct principles, and let them govern themselves."  This is our new potty-training approach.

That month ended, and it would be another YEAR before we got close again to graduation.  This time he was 2 1/2, and had peers like our next-door-neighbor who were becoming potty-trained.  For the first time, he started asking for the potty instead of agreeing to go potty.  That was a huge milestone!  He started staying dry at night consistently, a talent that he kept.  Then we started re-modeling our home to fix a mold problem, having constant house-showings so I kept him in diapers, and then we moved and he got a new sibling.

About a month ago I was cleaning out a poopy diaper in the toilet and I realized that I was more indifferent than I should be to his potty-training needs.  I was changing diapers constantly, what's one more kid?  I decided to encourage him more.  We started rewarding him by getting to watch an episode of Krypto the Superdog (nothing else worked) when he would go potty.  Then it was only for going number 2.  This helped, but it was still up to him to decide to finish the process.  I was thinking about printing our reward charts and buying stickers, and reading mainstream potty-training books, but I never got the chance.  Two weeks ago, he decided that he was done with diapers, and he started doing what he knew how to do all along.  I am now very grateful to have only two in diapers, and yes, having a graduate really has lightened my work-load!

Final Notes

EC is fantastic, and it really can produce early results.  I am not as die-hard as the parents who do have those results, and the results in my family reflect that.  I didn't have a potty in every room, and this last year my son didn't have a much time in underwear as would have been ideal.  But he did still go in the potty every day, and we gave him the option of wearing underwear every morning.  He often chose the diaper, actually.  I was okay with that.  But he is potty trained now, the results did come.  For us this method was gentle, effective, produced fewer diaper rashes (only a few minor ones), and fun.  Yes, fun.  It is really fun to hold a tiny baby over a toilet and let them do their business.  Haha, try it sometime.

It also taught me to allow my child to progress at his own pace, and to free myself from my vain, emotional attachment to his success.  That was a humbling lesson that I needed to learn.  EC, and early education for that matter, are not about the parent.  Children are not trophies or medals to display your superb parenting.  I never thought that they were, but now I really know it.  Children are people!  Like a flower waiting to bloom, no poking or prodding from the parent will help them to progress any faster, but the right environment will ensure that it will happen.  After all, creating the best environment for our children is what professional mothering is all about.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...