Music Lessons


Once a week I pack up my kids and their instruments to drive an hour for music lessons.

Even though we live in Music City, we head out of the city to a small town near where I grew up. Springfield Guitar is a quirky little independently owned store on the town square where the owner can often be found at his workbench breathing new life into old instruments. When we parade in each week, the people who work there often stop us to ask how my dad’s doing after his surgery, or how the homeschooling’s going. I went to school with some of their kids and I often ask about them and their families as well.

The teachers there are top rate musicians who really have a love of teaching. We sometimes go through spells where we have to miss a few lessons while they are on tour or playing gigs around town, but I never mind. This is Nashville and I consider myself lucky to have musicians of this caliber teaching my kids to play.

Music lessons for us are a part of life, and I knew even before I had children I wanted them to learn to play an instrument. There is a magic to playing music that soothes my soul. I’ve never played music professionally, nor would I ever want to, but guitars and singing are the setting of most every family function I can remember. Playing music feels like home, and I wanted that for my kids too. So, when it comes to my kids and their lessons, there is little to no goal setting. I don’t tell them what type of songs to learn or even how long to practice. They know I expect them to pick up their instruments most every day and they often do. This consistent presence of music in their lives has become so deeply rooted they take it for granted, and I do too sometimes.  But when I hear a violin playing Bach coming from the back bedroom, or “Let It Go” being  strummed on the guitar, or a new drum fill being worked out, I always find myself smiling.



A Day in the Life

My youngest's artworkOne of the most often asked questions I get is “How do you actually do it? How do you get everything done for three kids in a day?” The question isn’t a hard one, but it isn’t a simple one either. Every day is different, but we have a basic plan that we use as a pattern for our days.

(5:30 am)

My morning begins with a whine. My puppies in the kennel need letting out. It’s my husband’s job to get them out and if I ever feel a twinge of guilt all I have to do is remember how short puppyhood is compared to the years I spent nursing and rocking the midnight hours away. I soon follow him to the kitchen where we drink coffee and talk, check the computer and calendars and synchronize our day.

(6:00 am to 7:30 am)

The kids stumble out of bed. They can have screen time before 8:00 if they wish so they usually get a few games in along with breakfast and getting dressed.

(8:00 am)

School is officially starting so screens go off. We go over the calendar and I tell them what to focus on in each of their five subjects: Language Arts, Math, History, Science, and Spanish. I’m very flexible with what they work on as long as they have something for Friday presentations from each subject. Every Friday night they do a show-and-tell with their dad. This keeps him up to date, helps the kids review, and helps me see if there are any weak spots that need emphasizing the next week.

I spend my time helping where needed and when things are running relatively smoothly I do reading time with my youngest. We curl up on the couch or on her bed with books I read to her and books she reads to me. We cover history, science, and language arts lessons in one lump.

(Noon or there about)

Lunch and an educational show. We rotate between documentaries and PBS shows but I have been known to break out the Wii on very cold days. Video games that cause them to break into a sweat can be a treat and help them to burn off some energy.

(1:00 pm)

We tie up anything left undone and begin projects. Projects can be structured science projects or unstructured lego building. Board games are also allowed. I spend this time usually cleaning the house and I usually recruit them for a few chores too.

(4:00 pm)

School is done. This is more for me than them. On days when our lists have very few check marks, I tend to want to push the kids to work longer, but this isn’t good for them or me. It’s very important that we all feel free to relax. This is time for winding up chores and prepping for tomorrow a bit. I will make them practice their instruments now if they haven’t during the day.

This is the framework for my homechool that my husband and I worked out at the beginning of this semester. I wrote about it in the post “Regaining My Balance.” We often have field trips and classes scheduled in the middle of the day instead of just curriculum, but we always default to this schedule. So far, this has been working very well for us and I hope it continues, but I’ll take a moment to reflect and correct the system later. I have found that my systems won’t last much past a semester before both the kids and I get restless. I don’t think of this as a failing system, rather a system that has become stale. None of us like to be slave to a system and finding what works for us is one of my favorite things about homeschooling.

Climbing Out of Comfort Zones

S.rockclimbingcollageI watched my brave six-year-old scale higher and higher. Every few steps she’d look back and say “I can’t!” but we’d have none of that. We cajoled, we encouraged, we applauded and we pretended the word “can’t” hurt our ears. Higher and higher she climbed and soon she was at the top. She was so proud. Twice more she scaled to the top before the class was over. Now that the path had been traveled, it was no longer scary. Today I watched her confidence grow and that makes a parent proud!

Then I thought, when was the last time I said “I can’t” to myself? How many paths have I avoided that could be familiar by now? Who is going to cheer me on when the path looks scary? Who says that children are the only ones who need to build confidence? Why don’t we adults have to leave our comfort zones? Why is learning reserved for the young?

I don’t like it when I think these thoughts. I like being comfortable. Yet, I know I am a hypocrite if I don’t lead by example. I’ve never wanted to be the parent that says “Do as I say.” instead of “Do as I do.” If I want my children to be strong, healthy, confident adults, shouldn’t I want the same for myself?

So today I started yoga again. I had forgotten how much I love yoga. I went online and ordered books from the library in subjects I  don’t normally read. I’m going to work on art projects again without care for how they end up. It won’t be easy and I know many things will be abandoned along the way, but I’m determined to start looking at myself with the same gentleness I do my children. If I don’t, I may just start treating them the way I’ve treated myself. Being overly critical and harsh has made me overly cautious and fearful. I would rather we all learn to climb than be stuck comfortably on the ground.

So, how do you step out of your comfort zone? When was the last time you did something new?

Regaining My Balance

medium_5136926303When it was time to pack away the Christmas tree and get serious about the books, I sat down and had a talk with my husband about how hard last fall was for me. I asked him for advice on how to revamp our routine and make it more livable. I call him “The Flaw Finder” so I make sure I only ask him these things when I really want to hear the truth. Empty words of encouragement? No. Raw reality and precise problem solving? He’s my guy. Continue reading