Music Lessons for Kids

Child on the piano

We recently got a piano, and my daughter, age 3, is completely enchanted by it. I do play piano, though it has been many years. She is too young for us to want to pursue formal lessons, but I am wondering if anyone here has taught their child some piano basics and wants to share some ideas. She has a good mastery of letter and numeral recognition. Any recommendations for basic lesson books for the youngest of beginners?

Is your child interested in learning to play an instrument? Check out the thread Introducing your child to the piano (or other musical instruction)

We’ve got a new thread this week on how to introduce your child to music lessons. If he or she is showing interest in your piano (or flute, or drums, or kazoo), what do you do? How do you know if she’s too young to learn without being frustrated? What are the best resources to help her learn? You have questions, we have answers:

Piano teacher weighing in here. I actually don’t care for Burnam, John Thompson or most of the older piano lesson books for young beginners. The pacing is odd and some of them rely too heavily on finger numbers. I’m a total convert to the Piano Adventures series. They actually have a wonderful series for very young beginners, though I would say 3 is too little even for those. The site is great and offers a lot of info to help teachers and parents teach the concepts in the books.

My (almost) three year old loves to have “lessons” and what we do is, we talk about black keys and white keys, and practice playing together on the white keys or on the black keys. (I just play a simple chord pattern in either C or C# to duet with her.) We also practice playing loudly and softly, long notes and short notes (staccato). I talk with her about finding patterns on the piano of 2 black keys together and 3 black keys, and then she finds all the groups of two and plays them. We also talk about finger numbers and practice playing a note of her choice with each finger. All these exercises are in the first several pages of the books I linked above – but that’s about as far as she’s able to do at 35mo.

Most kids I don’t recommend begin piano lessons until they have the reading readiness to understand the idea of reading symbols across a page from left to right, the attention span to sit and do an activity for 20 minutes, and the fine motor skills to play notes with one finger at a time. And an interest in learning piano of course!

Drop by the thread Introducing your child to the piano (or other musical instruction) to ask your own questions about music education, or to chime in with other resources or advice.

Image credit: Petits doigts au piano by stephane4500

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Simple and engaging STEM activities that come in all colours

Ivory soap experiment | Popcorn Soap in the microwave!We’ve got mixed feelings about GoldieBlox, but we love how it’s making everyone think about how science play can be fun. If you’re looking for ideas on how to engage kids in exploring the world around them, check out some of these ideas from the thread Simple and engaging STEM activities that come in all colours.

Looking for ideas for STEM toys for holiday wishlists? Check out the thread: Wishlist: STEM Toys, or hop directly over to Amazon to read our Listmania list STEM Toys for Girls and Boys.

Simple STEM Activities

  1. Find a stream, and have a leaf race
  2. Catch fireflies
  3. Making paper air planes
  4. Yeast+water in soda bottle with balloon on top (balloon blows up)
  5. Soap in the microwave (check out the difference between Ivory soap and other brands)
  6. Growing salt crystals
  7. Put unopened/tight mushroom on paper until it opens up and release spores
  8. Make a pH indicator: cook red cabbage, add baking soda to some of the juice, vinegar to another jar
  9. Build a marble run out of toilet paper tubes
  10. Sprinkle salt on ice cubes, add food coloring
  11. Experiment with different soap bubble recipes
  12. Soak an egg in vinegar

Looking for more ideas? Got your own ideas to share? Check out the thread Simple and engaging STEM activities that come in all colours.

Image credit: Ivory soap experiment | Popcorn Soap in the microwave! by GoodNCrazy

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GoldieBlox: Up With Girls (sort of)

We’ve had some discussion of GoldieBlox on the forum recently, but that conversation moved on and I’m finding myself still obsessed with the topic. On the one hand, I think the idea behind the ad is awesome! I had been having a hard time figuring out how GoldieBlox would be a toy that would be engaging over a long period of time of creative play, and the ad certainly directly addresses that point. And I love that my daughter has spent more than 6 hours over the last few days building her own Rube Goldberg machine.

But I am also interested in the views from this blog post on Fake and Real Student Voice

I like much about this video. I like the message. I like the way it’s shot. I like the girls. What I don’t like is the perception that this is the girl’s invention. It’s not. These girls are likely no more into inventing and making than most girls their age. While I might be able to look past that, and I can, I don’t like the perception that this is authentic as it suggests. Which raises the larger question of authentic student voice.

Somehow it seems even more disingenuous when I realize that the engineering team for the GoldieBlox ad is primarily male. If you watch the Making Of videos on YouTube, that’s the single thing that jumps out at me most. That, and watching the kids be coached on how to jump up and down in girly excitement.

For a palate-cleanser: a group of middle school girls build their own damn Rube Goldberg machine themselves.

I am not planning to buy GoldieBlox for my kids– mostly because every time I look at the toy itself, it seems very expensive for a very few pieces of plastic machinery without a huge amount of creative play options. If I did buy it, it would not be for the toy itself, but more like a charity donation to encourage women in STEM, and there are probably better ways for me to do that. But my kids have, love, and play with regularly:
Wooden blocks
Toolbox and wood scraps
Ropes, elastic (good for engineering and sewing), yarn, ribbon,
Science/nature kits with binoculars, magnifying glasses, notebooks, butterfly nets and cages, and a handful of field guides

They also have Snap Circuits and a toy chemistry set, neither of which were as popular as I’d hoped, mostly because they seem to like open-ended toys like blocks more than kits like Snap Circuits or GoldieBlox.

A while back, I put together a holiday wishlist including things like pulleys and tire swing swivels (the swing mechanics are part of their Rube Goldberg). I’m going to go back through it this year, and see what other “simple machines” accessories I can add to their collection. And I will be thankful (though apparently also grumpy) that the GoldieBlox ad has renewed their interest in simple machines.

Anybody else have strong feelings about GoldieBlox, encouraging STEM in our girls, the intersection of ideals vs. real world (WTF, seriously, if you are making a viral ad AND releasing a “making of” that will certainly also be shown to little girls, you can’t find a 50-50 gender balance in your engineering team?), or even parody vs. unlicensed music pirating for their theme song? Join me on the topic Goldie Blox, feminism, STEM, and an all-male engineering team.

Affiliate notice: all links are affiliate links, and help keep our servers running! Read the rest of our disclosure notice to learn about our other affiliate relationships.

More about the video: Grape Girls Rube Goldberg Project, May 2013, PVJH

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Affordable Care Act: What does it mean, and what to do next?

Health Insurance Marketplace, Affordable Care Act | 2013-11-19 11-12-59If you’re someone who was fervently supporting the Affordable Care Act, and you’re now neck-deep in frustrating web applications, what do you do?

I get why the ACA is important, but goddamnit, it really looks like my premiums are going to, at a minimum, double (after the tax credit) for coverage that has a 40% higher deductible.  But it is also nearly impossible for me to decipher what my potential costs might be without entering a fuck ton of somewhat sensitive information to even look at rates on my state’s marketplace.  I am an intelligent, internet-savvy person, and I cannot for the life of me muddle through this shit to compare what’s available and figure out what it might actually cost me.

Yeah, probably that. Spend hours (or days, or weeks) sorting through your options, and try to figure out how to piece together the coverage you need. Fortunately, this is exactly the sort of situation that the hive mind can help out with:

…have you checked to see if you are eligible for subsidies?  It goes up to 400% FPL, which is around $80,000 for a family of 3. This subsidy calculator from kaiser foundation is easier to use than most of the Exchange websites, and they are generally a good info source.

Just want to make sure that both kinds of subsidy are on your radar. At 200% FPL you have a premium cap of between 4 and 6.3% of income, and if you buy a silver plan you also get out-of-pocket cost supports such that the actual deductible on those plans may be lower. This latter bit isn’t talked about much. But see here:

Got a question to ask? Trying to make sense of the policy or the practical implications? Check out the discussion on The American Healthcare Debate thread, and join in the Q&A.

Image credit: Screenshot

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