Saturday, April 28, 2012

Parenting in Real Time...Contentment

Our kids have always shared a room.

When our fourth child was born, we lived in a 3 bedroom apartment.  Our older girls shared a room, and our younger two (son and daughter) shared a room.

We moved to Colorado in 2003 and built a 5 bedroom home.  We still however continued to live out of just 3 rooms for quite sometime.  When we brought Eli home from China and moved my studio partially out of our house shortly thereafter, we did some rearranging.  Elizabeth and Hosanna had been roommates up to that point for about 13 years.

Rearranging, we moved the boys into a shared room -- and in the summer of 2011, all three Ramsdell daughters got their own rooms...for the first time...every.  Historical.  One daughter kept the bedroom that had been shared; one took my "office" as her new room upstairs and one moved into the spare room in the basement.  Since Victoria had always lived in a "boy" room, we decided to start the summer off by redecorating her space.  She selected a light lavender color and we painted our hearts out together.  We hung shelves, made homemade art, made a headboard for her bed and bulletin board for the wall.  Ta-duh!  We had one super cute...VERY large room.

Oddly, the complaints started almost immediately.  Downstairs kid said, "I'm cramped! It's too small!  It's too big!  There's not enough stuff in my room!  I hate the color!  I have too many shelves!  I don't have enough places to put things! It's too cold!  It's hot! It's too bright!  It's too dark! The closet is too small!"  You can picture the agonizing scene.

From the upstairs kid we heard, "It's too cold!  It's too hot!  It's too cramped!  It's an ugly color! The closet is too small!" etc etc etc  E.T.C.!!!!

Eventually, because their parents in general ignore complaining, upstairs kid and downstairs kid got together and decided to take matters into their own hands.  They decided to take one entire weekend and switch rooms.  Genius.  Or so they thought.

Shortly after the switch we began to hear, "It's too cold!  It's too hot!  It's too big!  It's cramped!  I don't like the shelves!  I don't have enough places to put things!  The closet is too small!"  All this from girls who had never had their own space...EVER.  Ugh!!!

This morning, upstairs kid came to me and said, "I wish I hadn't changed rooms!"
I couldn't wasn't going to take it any longer so before this could go any further I said, "Sweetie, (Read: what I'm fixing to say is going to hurt, but it doesn't mean I'm mad at you.)  Your problem is not your room.  MOST kids in the world today (not AMERICA, but in the WHOLE WIDE WORLD) do not have their own rooms.  You've been given your own space (more than once) in a nice home with central heat and air...with shelves and a bed from Pottery Barn...your bedroom is freshly painted in the color of you choose.  Your parents gave you $100 to pick out new curtains and a lamp.  You have a brand new desk to organize your school work...and a brand new cushy chair your daddy bought you...just because you asked for it.  You have a large closet filled with clothes and shoes...and a brand new docking system for your IPod.  You are blessed.  Abundantly blessed.  Your problem is that you are over looking how already blessed you are -- and you are neglecting the discipline of being thankful.  You are not hungry, homeless or orphaned (Infact, she has parents who are crazy about her).  You are outrageously blessed compared to 99% of the planet, AND you are complaining about not being MORE blessed."

Light goes on in the child's eyes.  Before I could lecture say anymore the child sighs and says, "You're right mom".  Currently, she's in her room, worship music blaring and hanging up the clean laundry that was piled all over her floor.

These lessons are worth taking the time to teach our children.  AND they are easier to teach when we have learned and willingly remain in the process of learning -- as their parents.  Our kids complaining is often a sign of something deeper (just like our complaining is a sign of something deeper).  Be in process.  Take the time to walk your kids through the process as well.

BREAKING NEWS:  Just heard from upstairs child who all of a sudden has a happy heart, "My room is now clean and looks GREAT!"

"A thankful heart is a happy heart."  - Junior Asparagus, Veggie Tales

Monday, April 9, 2012

7 things to consider when looking for a music teacher...

Researchers have confirmed what piano teachers and moms have known all along, that music lessons really do make kids smarter!

Dr. Frances Rauscher from the University of California at Irvine is recognized for work correlating music - specifically piano instruction - and intelligence. His study, which is focused on the importance of music in the early developmental stages of childhood, has been widely recognized as ground breaking, attracting much media attention. His findings have stated that music lessons are far superior to computer instruction in developing the abstract reasoning skills needed for math and science.

Children who received piano/keyboard instruction performed 34% higher on tests measuring spatial-temporal ability than others.

But when looking for a music teacher, what things should you consider?

Here are 7 qualifications to add to your list that you may not have thought of.

1. Does the teacher have an infectious love of music that can be transferred to the heart of your child?

We all know that becoming an accomplished musician requires time, commitment and practice. But, why commit to something over a long period of time that you do not enjoy?

All small children love music. Look for a teacher who can cultivate and grow this love over the long haul. There will be seasons of commitment and hard work, but that should be balanced by seasons of passion and joy.

2. Look for a teacher who encourages music to be a family affair.

Few of us like to be isolated and sent off alone, especially young children! Any teacher who says a young child should be sent to the piano alone for 30 minutes a day, doesn't have enough early childhood training to warrant your time and money.

Music lessons can be enjoyed by and benefit the entire family! Look for a teacher who understands the needs of younger children. Discuss with them ways to make practice more like play than punishment.

Music does require discipline, but small amounts over a consistent period of time = fulfilling progress without tear!

3. Open Door Policy - If music is to be a family affair, it goes without saying that parents should have access to their child and teacher - during the lesson. You MAY not know a lot about music, but you can tell if teaching and learning are happening.

4. Does your child like the teacher?

I believe children innately like to be around adults who love well. Make sure your child "clicks" with his or her teacher. They should enjoy one another. Your child should feel encouraged and challenged, not condemned or afraid.

5. Patience is a virtue.

All teachers need patience and piano teachers are no exception. Find someone with the patience to give your child a good foundation. Rushing isn't good. In music, the muscle memory alone required to master a level requires much repetition.

6. Process not performance...

Music lessons are naturally "performance" oriented - sit this way, hold your hands that way, read the music like this, etc.

Young children grow weary of this. Find someone who can take these performance concepts and disguise them within the process and joy of learning something new. Everything doesn't have to be perfect all the time. We learn music because we love music!

7. A music teacher is ultimately there to assist YOU, the parent, in drawing out the gifts, talents, and interest that reside within your child. A good teacher will be attentive to the goals of your family and will attempt to tailor a program that meets the needs of your child and your family!


Shanna Ramsdell