Meet the JOY Team

We like to call everyone that works here at Song of the Heart Studios our JOY Team. While we’re busy teaching your children’s little brains and bodies, our mission is to bring you developmental benefits with a healthy dose of JOY.

Here’s a little spotlight for you to get to know a couple of members of our JOY Team a bit better.

Ms Chris is our FABULOUS Studio Concierge. Surely you have communicated with her at some point. Perhaps she helped you enroll or helped you with a problem. She sets up our makeup scheduler, sends out your Kindermusik Online materials each month, and is Ms Carol’s right hand woman. On top of all that she is an incredible educator! Here’s a little bit more about her:

As a child she bore the nickname Crispy Conrye. Her primary instrument is the piano and she also plays the classical guitar! When she’s not teaching Kindermusik, she spends time with her son (a Kindermusik graduate), cycles, hikes, boats, and water skis. This woman loves to be active!

She is an audiophile and listens to music all the time. Her favorite modern artists include Barbra Streisand, Annie Lennox, and her favorite song is Love is the Answer. Her favorite composer is Beethoven.

Her favorite moment in a Kindermusik class is watching your little one’s eyes light up with wonder and joy. What she loves most about being an educator is seeing the growth in her students and making a difference in little people’s lives. She loves making a connection with students and loves them ALL.

Ms Chris claims that she’s really a big kid who never grew up. Maybe that’s why she’s so great at connecting with little ones!

Ms Katie’s full name is Katherine, but she’s always been called Katie or Kate. Her primary instrument is her VOICE, and if you’ve been lucky enough to be in her class, you know how beautifully she sings. She has played a little piano and guitar, but mostly just rocks out now to the shakers and the jingles! Oh, and she is one excellent GONG player!

In her spare time Ms Katie loves to watch her children in their activities as they play soccer, cheer, dance, and tumble. If she’s not busy being an amazing mom, she loves to go running, and also loves to attend concerts and Broadway shows. Her all-time favorite Broadway show is Wicked, though her most recent obsession is Dear Evan Hansen.

Ms Katie’s favorite thing about teaching Kindermusik is that it is so JOYFUL. She loves to witness the connections made between families, between you and your child, and between children and the music. She loves to experience what she calls the “magical moment” in class. She says “A magical moment is where everyone in the room is physically and emotionally engaged. Sometimes it’s during cuddle time or maybe a dance, but when it happens it’s MAGICAL!”

If you ever are in a class with Ms Katie, make her tell you the story of her trying to get a selfie with Katherine Heigl, whom she spotted in Park City once, who basically just ran away from her. Katherine Heigl clearly didn’t know how amazing Ms Katie is or she would have been the one asking for a selfie!

Babble On . . . It Benefits Baby!

If the hours of cute baby footage on YouTube are any indication, watching a baby babble is a pretty solid form of entertainment. Just check out one of the hundreds of videos with titles like “cutest baby babble videos ever,” and you’ll see what we mean. You won’t be able to resist the urge to giggle—and perhaps even babble right back yourself.

Actually, choosing to babble back to a baby is a great instinct. Babies love hearing you mirror their speech sounds right back to them—and doing so encourages them to continue with their own babbling. This is how babies first experience verbal back-and-forth communication and learn the patterns that characterize speech. So those seemingly nonsensical sounds are actually quite significant.  After all, sounds—which have absolutely no meaning in isolation—are the building blocks of words. When your baby babbles, he or she is putting together sounds in pleasing ways and learning how our language works. Babbling also helps develop the muscles a child needs to speak.

When baby babbles and mom responds, it creates a social feedback loop of communication and learning, which is what we call language.

Beyond Babbling

You can also respond to baby babbling in more sophisticated ways. Notice what’s prompting your child’s babbling (did he or she see something exciting or interesting? Is he or she imitating a specific sound?) and respond by affirming it. Use rich vocabulary to describe what’s going on: “Yes! That is a cute dog. Look at his big eyes. He is wagging his tail. He likes you, too!”

To help your child begin to develop listening ears as well as speaking skills, focus attention on specific sounds: “What’s that sound? It’s a dog barking. Woof, woof!” Don’t be surprised if the sounds then become part of your child’s babbling vocabulary.

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Embrace Your “Baby Voice”

Don’t be afraid to use that high-pitched sing-song voice that comes so naturally when you’re talking to a baby. This type of speech, characterized by a slower cadence, shorter sentences, exaggerated intonation, and lots of repetition, is known as “motherese,” or “child-directed speech.” Research suggests that speaking to your child this way can actually boost their language development and learning, since babies are better able to attend to and understand “motherese” than regular adult speech.

Whenever you talk to your baby, be sure to make eye contact. This is a very important part of meaningful communication. Even if your baby can’t answer you in words, you’ll know from his or her facial expressions that he or she is participating in the conversation.

Cut Down on Cell Phone Babbling

This comes as no surprise, but it’s a good idea to put away your phonewhen you’re spending quality time with your baby. Save texts, emails, and calls for later, and just focus on your child. Continually glancing at your screen not only interrupts the critical one-on-one interaction that teaches your baby about communication, but also distracts you from the important cues your child is giving you.

Don’t Have Preconceived Notions About When “Real Speech” Will Occur

Every parent waits for that magical moment when a child first says “Mama” or “Dada.” But that will come in each baby’s own time, not according to any particular schedule. It’s good to have a sense of the typical language development trajectory and milestones, but it’s a broad range, so try not to get too caught up on specific deadlines.

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In the meantime, keep up that back-and-forth babbling! As with almost everything, music makes it more fun and interesting. And (surprise!) we even have some babble-friendly suggestions for you: Try singing along to “Dipidu”  during your morning routine—during diapering, feeding, or dressing. And play “Bubbles on Me” during bath time, so your baby can practice forming syllables as he or she blows buh-buh-buh bubbles in the tub. These are the moments when you truly realize how important you are as your baby’s first teacher.

To experience this weekly at our in-studio experience, join us for a class!

reposted from Kindermusik International

I Love You Rituals

The last two weeks we have started incorporating I Love You Rituals in our classes. We LOVE these rituals as they perfectly align with Kindermusik’s child-development centered curriculum and our mission here at Song of the Heart Studios.

Not only do I Love You Rituals promote our studio values of JOY, CONNECTION, FAMILY, GROWTH, and HEART, but they have a direct and literal impact on your child’s brain development. Research based, these simple rituals soothe cortisol and release oxytocin in the brain. Without getting into the neurochemistry of it all, what this means is that these simple, quick, and fun rituals are a tool that will bond you with your child, will increase their self esteem, lengthen their attention span, promote cooperation, decrease power struggles, reduce hyperactivity, and facilitate language development.

Can you believe that all those benefits can come from such a simple ritual? It takes less than a minute to do, and can reap huge rewards.

We have been teaching the Twinkle Twinkle ritual in our classes in the hopes that it will inspire you to implement it at home. Here are some ideas of when to throw it into your daily routines:

  • In the morning, upon waking up
  • On the diapering table
  • During nap time and/or
    bedtime routines
  • When getting in or out of the carseat
  • Before or after meals
  • When saying goodbye

These delightful rituals were designed by Dr. Becky Bailey, renowned child education and developmental psychology expert, and founder of Conscious Discipline.

Please let us know how you incorporate I Love You Rituals into your family life. What benefits have you experienced?

That’s a Wrap!

 

We ended our 2017-2018 season with a bang at our annual Family Jam! Thanks to those of you who came to celebrate! Kicking off the event, we watched our precious Kindermusik graduates showcase their musical abilities and perform for their loved ones. It made us reflect upon all they have learned in the years they have been with us and how much joy we have shared. Transitions are always bittersweet; we will miss our graduates so, and yet we have so much joy in seeing them perform in a big ensemble.

After the graduation we had the wonderful opportunity to enjoy a comedic magic show by Magic Brooklyn, indulge in tasty treats provided by Pink Beehive Cotton Candy and Walker Pediatric Dentistry, make and take a simple instrument, enjoy face painting, pose with Maestro the dog, and even hear the wonderful talents of several Kindermusik graduates and parents who played and displayed their instruments for us all to enjoy.

 

One of the highlights of the Family Jam was the Instrument Petting Zoo, provided by Summerhays Music. We hope it inspired someone in your family to try a new instrument! Who knows what future musical journey may have received its seeds there! Did your child get to hold and touch a trumpet, or a flute, or a cello? We saw their eyes light up as they experienced the magic of gleaming brass, curious levers, slides, reeds, and bows. Best of all was the amazement they felt when they succeeded in producing sound on something so new!

Thanks to all of YOU, dear parents, grandparents, and other adult loved ones who have given your child the gift of Kindermusik at Song of the Heart Studios this past year. We hope that is has brought not only music into your family life but also growth, connection, and made your hearts swell with joy!

We are sharing the joy all summer long, so come sing with us at Summermusik!

The Emotional Requirements of Parenthood

Downton Abbey“One forgets about parenthood. The on and on-ness of it.” –Violet, the Dowager Countess.

I know I’m a little late to the game, but I’ve been catching up on Downton Abbey before too many spoilers unwittingly come my way. We know Maggie Smith gets to deliver the best, most humorous lines, but this one left me virtually rolling on the floor the other night. (Season 3, episode 8)

It pretty much sums up exactly how I’m feeling these days, navigating the waters of middle school education and taking on extra work as a substitute (no, not much has changed about the life as a sub since you remember those days from your own schooling, except now there are cell phones), especially when I combine that work with the parenting challenges I’m facing.

There were great things about being an only child, and I’m firmly convinced that there is no perfect type of family. But daily I’m experiencing in my parenting life something I rarely encountered growing up as an only: sibling rivalry. It’s compounded by a day spent listening to my young students vocalize the same complaints: “She’s bugging me!” “He took the book I was reading!”

Aarrrgh!  It just keeps going!

I’m learning a lot personally this year as I navigate these discipline stressors.  I’m amazed at how often I’m required to be emotionally centered. Or, at any rate, how often I have to find the balance within myself to generate the emotional intelligence to deliver an appropriate, adult response.  The teenager still living inside me wants to roll my eyes and mouth off some sarcastic response like, “Oh, yeah? Well, you’re ALL bugging ME!” But the adult in me knows that this isn’t really going to help anything, and it may make it worse.

Instead, I have to take a few deep breaths and engage some empathy. Do I know what it is to feel like life is unfair, even if the details differ? (Hello, yes, I’m writing a whole blog post here about how tough it is to manage all the child development jobs I have right now.) Can I remember how frustrating it was to sit in school with kids I just didn’t like? (Yes. . . [shudders]) Are there times when I feel just plain tired or frustrated and all I want is for people to be patient and loving with me?

Pretty much, all the time.

Dr. John Gottman is a psychology professor emeritus.  His work centers around helping us understanding our emotions—how to develop, as he calls it, emotional intelligence, and then how to use specific skills to channel those emotions in the painful times, especially in family and marriage relationships.  He says, ““Much of today’s popular advice to parents ignores emotion. . . Instead it relies on child-rearing theories that address children’s misbehavior, but disregards the feelings that underlie that misbehavior. The ultimate goal of raising children should not be simply to have an obedient and compliant child. Most parents hope for much more for their children.”

Georgia Anderson, a Gottman trained Educator, will bring some of these skills to our Kindermusik studio on April 21 at 6:30, specifically focusing on the language of encouragement. You can see the steps on her blog (describe situations using facts, share your feelings and effects of the situation, and show gratitude in meaningful ways), but the best part of coming to a coaching session is the time we get to practice these skills so they become our first responses to parenting challenges rather than the “wish I coulda done that differently” thoughts after-the-fact.

Yes, at Song of the Heart, we have Kindermusik classes.  We encourage ongoing musical lessons through ukulele lessons and we continually broaden your child’s interests through other programs, like Spanish classes this summer. But we are in the business of educating the whole child, and guiding you on your parenting journey is one way we can do this. Can’t wait to see you there!

Share the Love!

 

It’s Share the Love week at our studio.

Here are just a few of the reasons I love Kindermusik at Song of the Heart studios:

I love having time with the kids, just to be in the moment with them and not worrying about laundry.

I’ve loved being part of the studio traditions—having each of my kids attend the symphony their final year or donating pajamas in December.

My kids have learned more than just musical notes—they’ve had to practice turn-taking, controlling their impulses and engaging their creativity. They just don’t know they’re doing all that because it’s also just plain fun.

The studio itself is a work of art—I have appreciated the attention to detail that Ms. Carol has put into creating an environment that is engaging without being chaotic. Small things help me feel at home.

I learned so much professionally and personally from interacting with the faculty. Some of my favorite memories of all time include moments with these women. I’m grateful my kids have had opportunities to learn from each of them.

I enjoy chatting with the other parents. Sometimes I forget names (or, rather, I usually know them as “Isaac’s mom”), but I like being part of this community.

It only takes putting on an old Kindermusik CD before I am awash in memories of being with my kids when they were little. At this point, my teenage daughter may not remember some of those specific dances or lullabies, but in those difficult moments of parenting my teen, it helps me to remember our history together.

I’m counting down to mere months before my baby graduates from the Kindermusik program. I can’t believe it, as I distinctly remember the moment I told Ms. Carol I was pregnant.  She was helping me hang lyric charts for my Family Time class in the old studio. I will grieve not being at the studio weekly, but I will always hold, with gratitude for all that the studio was and will be for our family, a place in my heart for Kindermusik.

Joy

At the end of my daughter’s Kindermusik for the Young Child classes this week, a fellow student came bursting out of class, with delight and pride, exclaiming to her mom that she “matched Ms. Carol’s pitch!” (Ms. Carol asks her older students to sing back to her when they get a stamp, “Good-bye Ms. Carol,”—using music to create an I Love You (TM) ritual, and giving the students another opportunity to develop their musical ear.) While I don’t make it a habit to eavesdrop on the conversations that other caregivers have with their kids at the studio (so, you know, don’t be paranoid when you see me there that your conversation will end up on the web forevermore!), this one caught my ear. That girl, sharing the contentment of her accomplishment, excitedly sharing it with her mom, exuded pure joy.

Joy. It is one of the most profound human emotions that we can experience. It can also be a really difficult emotion to experience, because it betrays our vulnerability. An addict, for instance, may be as likely to experience a relapse after a joyful experience as he or she may be as part of a depressive experience, because both can be very overwhelming and difficult to face alone. Certainly, not all of our habits are unhealthy. Candy Crush, exercise, shopping or eating can all be good things, if they hold an appropriate space in our lives. But if we turn to those things so as not to experience emotion (joy or sorrow), we are numbing. And I have learned that we cannot selectively numb–if we numb the pain, we also numb the joy in our lives.

Pema Chodron quoteOf course, it takes regular practice for me just to sit with strong emotions. I tend to forget when I’m in pain that it will pass, and that when the joy comes it will be worthwhile. Child-rearing, of course, is one big petree dish in which to practice vulnerability and courage. Or, as my dad used to say, “Kids are a lump in the throat or a pain in the butt.”

Brené Brown, author and shame researcher, teaches that joy comes when we practice gratitude:

“We can spend our entire lives in scarcity . . . just waiting for the other shoe to drop and wondering when it will all fall apart. Or, we can lean into the uncertainty and be thankful for what we have in that precious moment. When I’m standing at the crossroads of fear and gratitude, I’ve learned that I must choose vulnerability and practice gratitude if [I] want to know joy. I’m not sure that it will ever be easy for me, but I have learned to trust this practice. For that, I give thanks!” (Brené Brown, blog post, What I’ve Learned About Gratitude and Fear 11/23/11, accessed 4/10/15).

But, she notes, we can’t just say that we practice gratitude—we actually have to have some measurable way of marking that for which we are grateful:

One of the Song of the Heart values is joy. So, as a community, this week let’s practice gratitude in a specific, “tangible” way. When you come to class, check out the paper that will be posted on the wall, and add something for which you’re grateful. And ask your kids! What good thing has happened to them today? It can be something specifically you find to be grateful about Kindermusik and the Song of the Heart studio, or it can be something about another part of your life for which you give thanks. Then, when you’re in class, dare to lean into the joy of singing a lullaby with your child or dancing with your preschooler—be OK with the fact that the moment is fleeting, and give yourself permission to feel it completely.

 

The Ruth D. Anderson Kindermusik Children’s Fund

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Kimberly Sena Moore, MM, NMT-F, MT-BC, a board-certified musical therapist and neurologic music therapist, writes a great article about why musical therapy works. Among other reasons, she notes that our “brain is primed early on to respond to and process music,” and that “Children (even infants) respond readily to music.” Of course, at the Song of the Heart studio, we see this daily. (You can find her article here if you’re interested.)

Music therapy benefits a variety of people. For instance, cancer patients may use music therapy to help ease the symptoms of their treatment[1]. Music therapists work with kids who have Autism Spectrum Disorder, and military personnel who have PTSD. And research into the benefits abounds. For instance, Gold, C., Voracek, M., & Wigram, T in 2004 found that “music therapy has a medium to large positive effect” on children and adolescents with a range of mental or behavioral disorders such as depression and addiction.  Even in recent news, we see that Gabby Giffords’ progress proves the success of music therapy.

While most Kindermusik instructors are not clinically trained or licensed music therapists (there are some!), they facilitate a researched-based music program that parallels many aspects of music therapy, including musical movement, improvisation and creating imagery through music.

It is no surprise, then, that Kindermusik educators hope to connect their program to all children, not just neurotypical children with a particular economic background. For this reason, Kindermusik International established the Ruth D. Anderson Kindermusik Children’s Fund. It “provides assistance to children who are physically or emotionally challenged, who are financially or educationally disadvantaged or who have lost a parent.”[2] The fund cooperates with Kindermusik educators who provide free tuition so that qualifying families have equal access to quality at-home materials.

Last week at the Song of the Heart studio, we celebrated We Love Kindermusik Week. My daughter was unfortunately sick, so we didn’t get her t-shirt until this week. Nevertheless, she’s been wearing it non-stop since. You may have heard your instructor note that proceeds from the shirt sales went to the Ruth D. Anderson Kindermusik Children’s Fund, and we were able to contribute more than $300. Thank you!

So who has received those scholarships?  Here are two:

Joscelyn

As a baby, this girl’s epileptic seizures were extreme enough that her parents and medical team decided to remove half of her brain–with the thought that the remaining half would, over time, adapt.  She has a lifetime scholarship with the help of Kerri Sox’s Kindermusik program at Playtime Music Studios in Florida.
Here is a video of her journey, and you can check out her blog here.

Alexis

Several years ago, Alexis received a scholarship. She was born at an unusually small size and weight (1.5 pounds, 12 inches), though doctors were unable to explain why.  Although she didn’t speak, she was able to communicate with sign language, and loved listening to Rhythm of My Day, from Kindermusik.

Alexis

Photo from Deborah Foster, 2012

[1] American Cancer Society website, accessed 2/20/15

[2] Kindermusik Minds on Music blog, accessed 2/20/15

It’s Music, too!

I find myself continually writing in this blog about how Kindermusik develops the whole child (here, here and here, just to name a few). But as I sat in my daughter’s Kindmusik for the Young Child class this week, I realized that Kindermusik actually teaches music, too. Fancy that!

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The first-year Young Child students have recently acquired their glockenspiels and have been diligently studying two-note patterns. They even have a variety of musical poems to recite as they work through the idea that the low notes are on the left of the glockenspiel (where the bars are long) and the high notes are on the right (where the bars are short).

 
Second year Young Child students build on this concept as they continue to add more notes and experiment with the lengthening and shortening of strings on a dulcimer.

 
Ah! But it doesn’t stop there!

 
I first became interested in Kindermusik as I listened to my sister-in-law describe this very concept. With my background as a secondary school educator, my lifelong interest in music, and having just had my second child, I knew that music instruction was important, but that I couldn’t possibly dream of having my particular preschooler sit at the piano and work with me to learn the notes. (I know some kids are capable of doing this, but none of mine have been—or, maybe better, I haven’t been able to do this with them.) Therefore, I was elated when she described the idea of using age appropriate activities to teach these concepts.

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One of my favorite Kindermusik songs for babies is “Zoom-e-oh!” You may notice with your little one that when you sing “Up in the sky!” the notes are higher, while “Down to our toes” we sing at a lower pitch. You may dance to this song, lifting your baby up and down through the room, or you may use a scarf to play with, swishing it high and low. Though the concepts are simple, this is where our babies can begin to distinguish high and low notes—in an environment filled with love and nurturing.

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As our children grow and become toddlers, they continue to learn through movement. You may notice that if a child who is just learning to talk says “up” or “down,” he or she also demonstrates the movement somehow—pointing, or even moving his or her whole body. In our Kindermusik toddler classes, you’ll see that we use simple poems and songs to tie the musical concept of high and low sounds with imaginative play, language development and movement. For instance, “Can you stretch like a cloud in the sky? Stretch big and tall, stretch up high!” Or, in another one of my favorite Kindermusik songs, you may “Walk along, Rover” or “Crawl along, Rover,” which has the added benefit of encouraging kids to explore opposite movements.

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Once children become preschoolers, their locomotor skills have drastically improved. Therefore, they can become much more sophisticated in their imaginative play—hopping, skipping or galloping. This allows us to go for a hike in the mountains and fly like birds or hop around on the ground like bunnies. Additionally, children this age explore a greater variety of musical instruments, so that they learn about the different timbre of each one and see that there are some that make higher sounds (like bells) and some that make lower sounds (like drums).

 
At the Kindermusik by Song of the Heart studio, however, musical learning doesn’t stop with a child’s graduation from Kindermusik. With the Suzuki Singers class, children can learn to match pitches with their voice, and in Simply Music Piano or ukulele classes, kids develop skills to produce a variety of pitches on a couple of different instruments that may appeal to them.

 
And, yes, I suppose I could make a case for applying musical concepts of high and low sounds to something philosophical, like helping kids understand the highs and lows of life. But, sometimes just learning the music is great, too!

Being Enough

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“You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.”

Maya Angelou

For as wonderful as the holiday season is, it does not come without its challenges for me (and many others). Earlier in the year, I had convinced my family to take a trip to San Diego with our gift money, so that I could escape the shopping and the hassle of decorating. However, as it turns out, our trailer needed some repairs to make it road-worthy in a storm, and it wasn’t something we were going to have time to do. So now, the kids are excited that there will be presents, my husband is excited that he doesn’t have to drive anywhere or fix a trailer. And I’m so not-excited, as the all the things I was hoping to avoid are inevitably falling back in my lap. Le sigh.

I knew it was December 1 on Monday, because my insomnia kicked in and my eye started twitching. I’ve got all these people telling me to keep it simple, but I also have my daughter who erupts into tears every time I suggest that I need to eat breakfast before I can help decorate the house. It is a difficult balance, for sure, and requires regular patience.

Yesterday morning I was feeling particularly overwhelmed, as I was on the way to work, and also making other big decisions this week (because, that’s the way to simplify life, right? Adding, “make other big decisions about things” to the to-do list, right next to “eat breakfast” or “take a shower”).

I was getting ready to meditate and came across this clip from Pema Chodron and Oprah Winfrey:

It was transformational for me yesterday, and helped me find the patience I needed to get me through the challenges of the day. It is part of the human experience that we pass through periods of suffering—on large scales (with death, illness, and major life transitions), and on small scales (can’t find a parking spot, the clerk at the store wasn’t helpful, have to shovel the walks). And so, with that in mind, I pass on a message that I hope may be healing to anyone in our Song of the Heart community who may be suffering: You are enough.