Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Music and Children Development.

Music Training Roadblocks: How to Jump-Start Your Child’s Development
By Kimberly Sena Moore, MM, MT-BC

There has been lots of buzz about music training and child development over the past several years. Researchers who specialize in “music neuroscience” are finding all sorts of positive benefits for children when they are musically trained.

For example, did you hear about the article published in Nature Reviews Neuroscience in 2010? Two researchers from Northwestern University, Kraus and Chandrasekaran, found that children who had music training showed cognitive improvements in several non-musical areas--speech, memory, language, attention, and vocal emotion.

There are other studies, too. In 2009, Hyde and others published a study in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences that explained how music training changed a child’s brain, enhancing motor and auditory processing areas. And in that same journal, again in 2009, Trainor, Shahin, and Roberts reported findings from their study that showed how music training improved executive functioning skills (e.g. planning, decision making, goal setting) in young children.

So music training is good for our children and their development. This is all well and good…but what about reality? In our super-busy, over-extended, over-booked lives, is it really possible to fit in one more thing?

Dr. Christine Carter, a fellow blogger for Psychology Today, wrote about her own experience introducing music into her children’s lives. She brought up some challenges I'm sure many parents face:

   1. Little to no interest from her children.
   2. Money for lessons and instruments.
   3. Time issues.

These are valid concerns (that, incidentally apply not only to music training, but to any kind of activity a child is involved in--dance, soccer, swimming, theatre, etc.). So here are some ideas that I hope will address concerns you may have:

Little to No Interest

The most important step is to find the right teacher. I don't believe you should force your child to do anything they truly don't want to do. That said, finding a good music teacher can make all the difference in the world. For beginning students (no matter the instrument), you need to find a teacher who will make learning fun and enjoyable.

So where do you find these fabulous teachers? The easiest way is to ask for referrals. Talk to other parents and to school teachers (especially music teachers) to see who they'd recommend. Visit your local music store--many offer private lessons. Also, have a trial lesson with a new teacher--better yet with multiple new teachers!

I cannot stress enough the importance of that first teacher. You want to find someone who will excite that passion for learning in your son/daughter. You want to find the "right" fit.


As a relatively new parent myself, I'm starting to find that you sometimes need to pick and choose what you spend your money on. When it comes to music training, money will be spent primarily on lessons and on instruments.

The good news about lessons is that most new students start at 30 minutes/week (Though Dr. Carter quoted Dr. Kraus as saying that 20 minutes of "music lessons" a day was necessary. Yet I've never known anyone to have daily "lessons"--daily practicing, yes, but weekly lessons are the norm. But I digress...). A 30-minute lesson can cost as little as $15, which may be work-able in many family budgets.

When it comes to instruments, you don't have to buy right away. Many music stores offer rental programs and possibly even discounts if you take music lessons with them. Also, if your child is looking at a school music program, the school may have an instrument for your child to "check out" for the year. Finally, there's always Ebay and Craigs List (the latter being how my husband and I found the beautiful 6-foot Yamaha grand that sits in our living room now).

So, with a little digging and a dash of creativity, you have options for providing lessons and instruments…without breaking the bank.


They say to choose your time carefully--it's the only thing you'll never get back. And many families today are very, very busy.

Here’s a breakdown of your time commitment. Generally, a beginning student will be asked to practice 20-30 minutes a day. Intermediate students maybe 45-60 minutes a day and advanced students 1-3 hours a day (of course, by the time you get to be an advanced student, you've likely been bit with the music "bug" and love practicing that much!).

There will also be weekly lessons. They tend to start at 30-minutes a week, then get longer as your child improves and grows. The maximum lesson time, which starts around high school, is 60 minutes.

Finally, if your child belongs to a school ensemble (band, orchestra, or choir) there will be periodic concerts and, especially in high school, before- or after-school practicing. But the time commitment there varies incredibly from school to school and program to program.

The take-home lesson? There is a minimal time requirement for beginning students. And, as with any other activity, the time commitment will grow as your child improves in his/her skills.

I firmly believe--as a mother, musician, and therapist--that music training is one of the best things you can provide for your child. I hope these bits of information help ease the process and jump-start your child's musical training.

UPDATE: The research keeps pouring in! A study was published just days after this article was submitted that showed a correlation between music training and cognitive performance--even decades later! You can read more about it here.

About the Author
Kimberly Sena Moore is a board-certified music therapist, a mommy, and a soon-to-be-PhD candidate. She writes about music therapy and starting your own therapy practice through her blog Music Therapy Maven. Download her free Productivity Primer and learn 7 tips for getting more done in less time

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Parenting Teenagers

Some people, when in the position of parenting teenagers, feel that they hardly recognize their children anymore. Many will wonder what happened to that sweet little girl or boy. It is a fact of life that children grow up and the phase of that growth called the teens is not always an easy road. Use the following hints to make the transition a bit easier on you as a parent.
Disparaging your teenager is a bad idea and can make parenting a teenager much harder than it needs to be. This is different from saying that they should be granted
Although, if you are continually fault-finding or berating regarding their judgments or even errors, you'll just make it less likely for them to trust you. In several scenarios, the elements that parents nit-pick their teenagers about are of little importance, such as their fashion sense, the sort of music the listen to or the way they wear their hair. If it's a more serious matter, such as poor grades at school, you should raise the issue in a way that suggests you want to discuss it rationally rather than berate them. Being a parent to a teenager commands for you to express a certain degree of courtesy toward their selections in life.
You have to know them on a personal level. Since it's been a while since you were a teenager, and the world has changed quite a bit since then, you have to take the time to learn what they're up to. Friends, music and tv shows are among the things you'll need to know about your teen. It's not important to know every detail but it's important to be involved to make communication possible. Invade their world some to learn about them without interrogating them. Parenting the teenager can be made simpler if you are aware of their likes and dislikes.
Teens can strain a marriage especially when the parents disagree on best practices. Just as you work on your relationship with your teen you will need to work on your marriage too. Teenagers are sometimes super sensitive to their environment even if they seem disinterested. Usually when there is tension between parents there is emotional problems in the teen. When discussing parenting issues try to come to some sort of agreement with your spouse. It's important that you don't allow your teen to play your spouse and you against each other. If you need additional help with this, you should consider counseling. Parenting teenagers requires a strong family life.
You must use your best judgment in most cases when parenting a teenager because there simply is no magic formula for getting it right. These hints can be used as a guideline to make parenting a little easier to understand when it comes to teenagers.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Homeschooling - Teaching your children with freedom.

Although every family is unique, certain homeschooling approaches have become popular in one form or another. When looking at the differences between homeschooling approaches, it is important to see what they have in common as well as their differences.
More and more parents are choosing to homeschool their kids. Some time ago homeschooling was though of as only for religious families. However that has changed, many different types of families are making that choice. In addition to more and more families choosing to homeschool their kids, there are also more and more curriculum options available. This increase is in part caused by the availability of the internet. Can you determine the best course of curriculum for your kids? Keep reading for some great ideas on curriculum options.
Before you buy anything, you need to know the federal regulations for K-12 education. While a lot of the regulations are left up to the states, there are some federal rules that you need to follow. Any curriculum that you choose needs to meet the current requirements and it is your responsibility to make sure it does. Your local board of education should be able to tell you the current regulations or you can also contact the Department of Education. Homeschool curriculums that are on the up and coming include Diane Lockman's Authentic Classical Trivium. Many who desire a christian based way to teach their children will like the curriculum in this option. The name insinuates it is a classical education archetype, this is indeed not the case. This education instead focuses on three pillars: thought, language and speech. Teaching your children with freedom to help your kids in these three areas will be the reason you'll like this one.
Occasionally, one of the optimal techniques for picking out your home schooling curriculum is to purchase a boxed set with various lesson plans. The boxed sets can allow you to form a structure for your day and your lesson plans. They usually come with books and other teaching materials all included in one package, which helps you save time when you need to figure out how to approach a certain unit or lesson plan. A good thing about the boxed set is that you don't have to put every item to use-you can pick and choose if you think your ideas are better. Additionally, you don't have to rely exclusively on the boxed set for your curriculum-you can decide on areas that you don't already have curriculum in place.
You may choose to homeschool your kids for any number of reasons. There could be concerns about your local public schools. You may not be able to afford the high tuition of the private schools in your area. Maybe you've read the studies saying that homeschooled kids perform better later in life. Whatever your reasons for keeping everyone at home, make sure you choose good homeschool curriculum packages and projects. It is very important to find the best curriculum for your child. You and your kids will be better off the more you can learn about the available homeschool curriculums.