Tech Tuesday: Rhythm Cat

Firstly, my apologies for the lack of posts!!  I have been slacking, but I promise not for the sake of my couch and chocolate!  Life is busy with two small kids and a travelling husband, classes and all the other little things a messy house brings!  I do have some exciting news with the launch of my brand new website coming later this week…so I will try my best to do it justice and begin blogging a bit more often!

iPhone Screenshot 1

Today, I bring to you an app that is FANTASTIC for kids learning rhythm, beats and counting.  It isn’t for the young crowd, I would say this game is for kids age at least 6 and up who have already had some instruction in rhythm and counting.  (My four year old, who also plays Where’s My Water and Cover Orange better than I do, didn’t have a lot of interest in this app, nor was he able to understand what to do.)  The app is called “Rhythm Cat” and can be found in the Apple Store.  It incorporates eighth notes right up to whole notes, rests and different time signatures.  The levels begin easy and as they progress, things get much more difficult.

Image

Once the green PLAY button is pushed, the app starts playing a basic rhythm and counts you in with one measure.  The idea is to push the button each time there is a note, in time with the background rhythm.  Each note that is played correctly does in fact have a pitch and the songs that you end up playing are quite pleasing and fun to play.  There is no note recognition in this, simply rhythm practice and playing each beat on time.  Levels are completed with 1, 2 or 3 stars depending on how accurate the rhythm was played and new levels open accordingly

iPhone Screenshot 4

I enjoyed playing this right through myself and will use it in the near future as a tool in my private piano lessons when working on rhythm and sight reading.  I wonder if it would work on a smart board – having never used one myself, I don’t know – but if it would – it would be fabulous in a later elementary or junior high music classroom.  It is a winner in my opinion, being fun, educational and very applicable to actually learning music.

This app is FREE and is put out by LMuse Limited.  Enjoy!!

-A

The Little Things

I am thankful for…

…my bright, smiley children.  They are literally the light of my life, the song in my heart and the best part of my day.

…my hard-working, funny, patient-when-I-am-not husband and Daddy to our children.

…my warm, untidy, lived-in, smells-like-home house.  The centre of our lives, where our story unfolds.

…my mom & dad, siblings & their spouses and kids.  The “five of us” in my extremely close nuclear family that will always have a special place in my heart, along with the expansion we have experienced over the last few years – all people who make life so much fuller.

Image

…all my other “people” who I couldn’t go on without – friends, colleagues, children, moms I have never met.  I have such an incredible support system out there that justifies every day how I feel, what I am doing, and how I am doing it.

…my amazing job.  Not only am I lucky to be home with my kiddos, I get to work with other peoples’ children.  Children refresh me, lift a sour mood, make me hopeful for things to come and above all, make me laugh.

Image

…deer in my backyard, a river within walking distance and the sight of the mountains every time we get in the car.

…on that note, my love and appreciation of the healing power of nature, passed onto me by my mom and dad.  I am grateful that my husband and I can pass this onto our children.

…the smell of freshly washed hair while snuggled up with my babies reading a story, recapping the day.

…clean sheets, shiny fridge shelves, no dirty laundry (a rarity), sparkly mirrors.  Never happens all at once, but hey…have to take them as they come!

…sweaters, a cup of hot coffee and a good book on a cool day.

…fall mornings at the market, kiddos in tow, wagon full of fresh, delicious goodies to eat.

…Friday night laughs with a group of funny, down-to-earth, supportive, beautiful women.  The kinds of laughs that are good for the soul and necessary to me doing a good job in all other facets of my life.

…a network of smart, forward-thinking, connected professionals who have helped me in huge ways as I get my business off the ground.  You know who you are 🙂

…the bright-looking future ahead of our little family, the bumps along the way that will define us, and the victories that will be celebrated.

From my family to all of you…a very Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!! 

Musical Munchkins!

Image

Some of my munchkins and I after a busy class!!  Fun times!

Photo compliments of Verdi Marketing and Communications

Happy Wednesday!!

-A

Tech Tuesday: Musical Me!

Sorry everyone, for the delay between posts!!  Things are…busy!  I hope to pick back up as we move into Fall.  This week’s technology recommendation: Musical Me, an app by Duck, Duck, Moose.

Image

Musical Me (I have the HD version) is an iPad/iPhone app that my kids and I both LOVE.  “It is a learning app that teaches children about notes, rhythm, pitch and instruments” through colourful graphics, well-known children’s songs and hands-on musical games.  Kids move (what looks to be a) mouse between 5 screens that each have a different skill and application.  It is easy to use, fun to maneuver and is appealing to both my two year old…and to me!

Kids can choose a song they like and have characters dance to the music on the first screen, which is always good for a laugh from my youngest.  On the next screen, kids tap on flying birds in time to a pre-set rhythm to play various well-known songs.  There is no “wrong” way to play with this…if the notes aren’t in time, they still sound nice as played…and for the more advanced they CAN work on playing the birds (notes) in time to the beat.

As the game progresses to the next screen, kids are encouraged to play musical memory, repeating the pattern that is set out for them, spanning 3 different notes.   The next two parts of the app involve actually learning about notation and the musical staff, as well as about different types of instruments.  Our favourite part is when you can choose an instrument and actually play along to the song, in time/rhythm…or not!!  It really is an app that is worth its money as it can appeal to the very beginner musician, as well as those a little bit more ready to actually put some knowledge to use.

Musical Me (HD and regular) is available at the iTunes store for $1.99  It has a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars, and I would have to agree.  Parents, music teachers and kids alike will all enjoy playing these musical games and may just learn something along the way!

Happy Tuesday!

-A

Starting a Small Business, Mommy-Style

ImageAs many of you are aware (because you either read my blog, listen to my stories in-person, watch my kids the odd time I need help, or are enrolled in one of my classes), I am in the throws of “starting up a small business”.  And I am also in the throws of “those hard years when your kids need you for every small task”.  Annnd also in the grasp of golf season, which by my husband’s career path, I am automatically a widow from May to November every year.  And so therein lies the issue(s).  The issue(s) cannot be pinned down to the simple fact that I am “busy”, or that I am starting a small business, or that my husband has a crappy job hours-wise, or that I have small children.  It is a WHAMMO type mix of them all…and it has been interesting.

So MANY women choose to stay home with their children, giving up their career, their training, their colleagues for a different way of life: babies, cuddles, messes, tantrums, groceries, boogers, playdates, taxi-ing….NON. STOP.  All women who stay home for their families do it willingly (I’ve never met a woman who has been held at home against her will…but maybe there are a few out there), do it proudly, and do it for only a short time before realizing it is a MUCH harder “job” than anything they did in the workforce.  I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom before I was even working and was thrilled to be able to step into that position a couple of years ago.  However, the road has not always been easy, dealing with huge life changes, transitions that involve giving up something I really loved, losing out on solo bathroom time, and wanting to ban the word “mommy” from the English language.  All of it aside, however, I wouldn’t trade a second of it, I will not give up these years with my babies, and I will always consider myself lucky to have been able to be home.

HOWEVER.  Like SO many other women, I have found the need to channel some of ME back into my life in order to maintain some level of sanity (although some could argue that the past few months have brought me anything BUT sanity), and to make me a better, happier mother to my young kids.  And so, bring on my new venture: a program that will allow me to integrate two of my lifelong loves (teaching and music) into the world of my relatively NEW loves (the sweet little smiley faces that are always waiting for me).  In theory, this business is kind of a dream: I get to teach (win), I get to teach music (win), I get to have a classroom (yay!), I get to bring my kids with me to work and involve them (bonus!), and I get to work for MYSELF, make my own hours, be my own boss.  Little did I know, however, that the hours would be LOOOONG, I am a tough guy to work for, and my poor kids would be put through the longest, most boring summer of their short little lives as I try to get myself off the ground.

A lot of hours have been spent in unexpected places: social networking, advertising, development-permitting myself (silly town and their bylaws).  A lot of hours on the computer while faces need to be cleaned, tummies need to be filled, brains need to be stimulated and lovies need to be had.  A lot of “mommy’s busy”….”not right now”….”find something to do”…and a lot of “I’m boooored”….”You never play with me”….”Can we just go to the park?”  The world of being a mom starting up a small business is a complicated one as we try to do a good job at everything (which I think women are notorious for), adding one more thing to our already-full plates.  And that “one more thing” actually happens to be a list a mile long of hundreds of other things.  And so, I have taken business calls with a crying child on my hip, I have put loads of laundry though between emails, I have run dozens of work-related errands on either end of picking my little one up from preschool.

I do believe that women – whether you work full time with kids in care, work part time, don’t work outside the home at all or some mix of all three – have a very big position to fill, and I think we do a really damn good job of it all.  Once we are blessed with our children, our lives are never even remotely the same again in terms of our independence, our job, our identity.  If you work outside the home, you are always thinking forward or backward to those hours with the family: what’s for dinner, how is Will doing at school, will Sam sleep better tonight, how can I help with homework, when can I do the laundry, who will pick the kids up…it goes on and on and on.  If you are stay-at-home, you think of all of the above without any break, literally, even for that beloved bathroom time.  You don’t have anything to think about EXCEPT what’s going on with the family, and that can be so all-encompassing at times it feels suffocating and debilitating.  And if you are at home starting up a business, you are nurturing your work and your babies, often one at the expense of the other.  Whichever way you paint the picture, women are busy, hard working multi-taskers.

I could write all night about the challenges of being a woman AND climbing any ladder, whether it be corporate, or small time.  I could talk at length about double duty, dual expectations and gender roles, but all it comes down to for me, really, is that our small little family is changing as I chase my dream of “having it all”.  Down the road I believe we will all be better off for it with more time for snuggles, the freedom to enjoy more family time and an appreciation for each other and our hard work.  My kids will know that I worked hard to be able to be there for them, to keep ahold of what is important to me, and to find the right balance for our family.  But right now…”FLEDGLING companies are like sticky-fingered toddlers. You’ve got to watch them every single minute”…and when you already have a couple sticky-fingered toddlers, life can be crazy.

Please check out This Little Parent Stayed Home, “on a mission to help parents work from home”, if you are a parent trying to work from home to be there with your kids.  Wonderful support and resources are available!

Thanks for reading my rambling thoughts on this Thursday!  Please leave me yours!

-A

10 Ways to Bring Music Into Your Home

It’s Musical Monday!!  Amongst other things, it is also our first week of classes and I am very excited to meet all my new little musicians and their families!  Along with that hesitant transition, kids are also excited to enter the classroom once they get a glimpse of all the fun instruments, books and activities! 

I have spoken to so many parents in the last few weeks that have mentioned that their little ones are SO into music, who have toddlers who really get their groove on, or Kindergarteners who love to sing…and yet they are not sure of how to nurture this in their children.  Sure, many people don’t have a formal background in music training, but there are definitely ways to help your little ones and encourage their musical talents.  I have compiled a very simple list of things parents can do to bring a little bit more music into the home:

  • Turn off the tube and turn up the radio…DANCE!!  In our house, when the going gets tough right before dinner, I often turn on the tunes and the kids dance around the kitchen…which puts ALL of us into a better mood!Image
  • Sing!  Your kids don’t care if you’re in tune or not – show them its fun!  The more you sing (and you can even be silly about it), the less self-conscious they will feel about it as the years pass.
  • Make a Song Bag: gather items from around the house that make you think of simple songs: star cookie cutter (Twinkle Twinkle), a stuffed cow (Old MacDonald)…put them in a bag and draw one a day and sing the song that correlates!
  • Bring out the pots and pans – or anything – and let the kids play!  You may consider this to be “noise”, but it is music to their little ears!  Perhaps save this one for outside on a warm day 🙂
  • Go into the community – take in shows, concerts and performances to broaden your children’s views of what music is!
  • Make a playlist on your device that your children have a say in, then let them listen to it.  My kids have their own list on my iPod compiled of everything they like – Raffi, Coldplay, Neil Young and the odd catchy hip hop song.  This gets us through MANY moments…in the car, waiting for Daddy to get home…
  • Listen to classical music and try to come up with a story to accompany it.  Talk about how the music changes and what could be happening in your tale!  If you need some inspiration, try watching an episode or two of Disney’s “Little Einsteins”.   They always feature a composer and an artist and there is always a great story to accompany the music.
  • Go to the library!  There are loads of resources to change it up at home: CD’s, DVD’s and stories – all about music!
  • Talk to them – small children can understand the basics around different types of music, the sounds heard in music and the history of music.  Give them things to think about!
  • Enrol your child in a music class or music lessons.  Group settings can be so productive for little ones as they learn how to be part of an “ensemble” (among many other things), and can provide a good solid base for more formal music instruction down the road.  Preschool classes offer little ones the chance to really act on their innate love of music and learn that music really is a wonderful part of day-to-day life.  Added bonus: they will bring home new games and songs to add to your repertoire!

Music really is the second language of all children, and they will gladly gravitate toward it whenever they are given the opportunity.  It is so beneficial…for everyone!  Have fun with it and enjoy!!

Happy Monday!

-A

What your child DOESN’T need to know before starting Kindergarten

Small post…on a Sunday.  Not because I have something to link to, or some fabulous musical idea.  Not because I have a great story or a neat photo.  But I do have a really important (I think) thought.

As the new week approaches, so many of you are consumed by thoughts of sending your little people off into the big world of SCHOOL for the first time.  Whether that be preschool or Kindergarten, or something else entirely, no doubt there are bits (or LOTS) of apprehension looming in everyones’ hearts.  As a Kindergarten teacher who survived many first days, I was confident that when it came time as Mommy to send my first off to preschool, I would have NO trouble.  I would happily leave him behind, grateful for his chance at independence, and for a couple hours of one-on-one with my 1 year old.  I used to watch tearful mom’s on the first day of Kindergarten, sympathetic, but not overly understanding, thinking that they must be “softies” or overly attached to their children.  HOWEVER…last September as the first day of preschool loomed, I felt a growing anxiety in the pit of my stomach.  This was (IS) my BABY.  Off to school.  I very bravely accompanied him in, changed his shoes, hung up his bag and excitedly showed him around the room.  He and I…we did well in those moments.  Fast forward 10 minutes later, him screaming his head off, me driving home through wretched sobs, trying to concentrate on the road through my tears.  We both adjusted just fine, of course, yet there is that same anxiety growing in me…relating mostly to the thoughts of: he is growing up.  That wasn’t supposed to happen.

I digress. 

First day of preschool.  First day of Kindergarten.  All parents can’t help but think: are they really ready?  Do they know what they “need” to know?  Their ABC’s and 123’s?  How to count to 10?   How to print their name?  How to name body parts, identify patterns, hold a pencil?  Sit quietly, not ask silly questions, be attentive, follow rules?  Make friends?   There is so much chit chat out there about kids being “ready” for Kindergarten and I am here to tell you: they are ALWAYS ready for Kindergarten. 

Kids are amazing creatures, really.  They are flexible, adaptable and SMART, oh so smart.  They are accepting, understanding and open to everything.  Every child comes from a different story, and I think kids inherently know that.  Some kids come in knowing ALL of the above and more, others know none of it.  The beauty of Kindergarten is that is DOESN’T MATTER.  These aren’t professionals applying for a job, all needing the same skills, competing against each other in what they know and can do.  These are children, ready to take on the world, all starting from their own place.  They have not yet learned what they “can’t” do.  They are going to Kindergarten to do all the learning they are ready for, from the spot they are at.  A good teacher knows that the most important part of his or her job is to figure out these spots, to get to know each child and love them through it all. 

As a Kindergarten teacher, I believe with all of my heart that above anything else, it is our job to teach these little people to love school.  They have many years of it ahead of them and to stick them with such expectations so early on can be detrimental.  Don’t get me wrong; one of my other heart-felt beliefs is that kids are capable of amazing things, all they need is an adult to believe.  If we think they can do it, they will do it.  As parents and as educators together, we must take the stance of engaging our children in Kindergarten so that they will develop a love of learning.  We need to appreciate that although they may not come home with a new academic skill every day, they have learned how to take turns.  Or how to think of somone else’s feelings.  How to solve a puzzle, brighten someone’s day or tie their shoes.  All pretty big milestones, needed in the world no?  Important learning that must be celebrated. 

Let go of the “ideals”.  If your child knows all the academic stuff they “should” know, don’t kid yourself – there will be so many other important things to learn inside the classroom walls.  If they don’t know it, they will learn it when they are good and ready.  Trust me, they all get there.  Your little one is ready for Kindergarten because he/she will do just fine on his/her own time.  They will learn to separate.  They will learn to follow a routine.  They will learn their alphabet and numbers and colours and patterns and how to hold a pencil and how to write their name and how to ask good questions and, and, and. 

Give your kid the best gift you can as they start Kindergarten: some love, some heartfelt optimism, and the belief that they already know it all…because they do.

Follow Friday: Strings, Keys and Melodies

Image

Just a quick post today as I run around trying to get a million little things done!

Today’s follow is a couple ladies who blog to “provide parents and teachers ideas and techniques they can use to cultivate the  love of music in their students. We want people to love music and use it as a way of expressing their feelings and emotions”.  In the short time that I have followed them, they have provided me with great ideas, valuable resources and links to some good reading regarding young children and music education.

If you are looking to bring some music into your day-to-day lives, these ladies do a regular feature, Finger Play Fun Day, where they teach and give ideas on how to implement a new finger play.  I haven’t done many of these myself while teaching, but the few I have managed have been extremely well-loved by kids.  They teach kids rhythm and touch on such important early childhood skills as patterning, predictability, rhyming and fine motor control.  I believe they do a different one every week, and they are archived for your access.

Water & Music photo

Some other neat things that they have touched on are music and water, babies and music, the benefits of music, classical music games, homemade instruments…they really do have a lot of neat stuff on their blog.  They would be well worth checking out:

http://www.stringskeysandmelodies.com

https://www.facebook.com/robinsonam#!/pages/Strings-Keys-and-Melodies/218265388248738

Image

Happy Friday!

-A

Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday

Future Virtuoso??

Image

Tech Tuesday: Music and Smartboards

Image

Well, I have to confess: I have never used a smartboard.  I WANT to…I really, really do…but it hasn’t been in the cards.  I worked in a school for the last few years of teaching where they didn’t have any…and so I still don’t truly know how awesome they are.  However, I did a bit of looking (really, just a BIT), and found some neat stuff for the smartboard and music!  Please forgive me if you find my list or suggestions at all too basic or noninclusive…it is based solely on how neat they look from my desktop.

As it turns out, there is a LOT out there to choose from when it comes to smartboard applications…just as there is when it comes to smart phone apps (and really…anything “educational” for kids).  And so the same rule applies: some suck, some are ok, some are awesome.  Please use at your discretion and PLEASE leave me a comment and give me your opinions and your favourite smartboard apps.  I would LOVE to know…just in case I ever get to use one.

The first website visited was http://www.plattscsd.org/oak/smartboard/music.htm and it actually turned out to be pretty decent.  It is actually a page from an elementary school’s website, listing smartboard resources for grades K-8.  It has a good list, including a virtual keyboard, interactive music-making applications, instrument identification, theory and history trivia and some links to relevant podcasts and audio files.  I will definitely be perusing this list of links that they’ve put together as I start teaching my classes…absolutely some good hits on there.  DO check it out.

Although they are grouped with the art games, Learning Games for Kids definitely has some worthwhile elementary music games. Many link out to other sites, but they are all student friendly and have content that is appropriate. Music Match ’em, for instance, has students match the sound of an instrument with a picture of what they think made that sound. Boom Thang is a fun and easy to use composer game, while Music Memory is a tone matching game based on the doh ray me scale. All in all, there is a good mix of education and fun…isn’t that what it’s all about?

The blog at http://www.whiteboardblog.co.uk/2009/07/11-ideas-for-music-lessons-on-your-interactive-whiteboard/ also has a few good recommendations for smartboard use in music lessons.  My favourite is Moodstream, which can be linked from the above site.  It is REALLY neat, combining images and music to suit your mood.  “It would be good to investigate how different sounds and tunes affect how we feel. Choose from combinations of happy/sad, calm/lively, warm/cool etc. Is really interesting to leave running for a while and see what it does”.  If you go back and read my “I See a Song” post from last Monday, you will know why this intrigues me so…there is SO much possibility when exploring music and feelings…here is a great jumping off point!

So once again, a short list of a few (hopefully) good resources for you on your musical adventures!  I do ask you to PLEASE leave me some further suggestions based on experiences you have had…I would LOVE to hear and be able to put them to good use very soon!

Happy Tuesday!

-A

Previous Older Entries

Contact:

Amber Robinson musicformunchkins@ymail.com (403) 852-5837
Margaret A. Powers

Educator - Lower School Tech Coordinator - Consultant

Moving Smart

A fun, exciting and high quality music class for your littlest family member!

Miss Night's Marbles

A fun, exciting and high quality music class for your littlest family member!

Musical Child

The perfect place for you to learn how to teach preschool music

Strings, Keys and Melodies

A fun, exciting and high quality music class for your littlest family member!

Life, On Full

A fun, exciting and high quality music class for your littlest family member!

My Three Turkeys

Adoption, PCOS, Crafting, Life!!!