Teaching Piano To My 5 Year Old

My son Jamie is about to turn 6 next month, and I have been using The Music Tree book, Time to Begin, to teach him to play the piano.  This is the first book in The Music Tree series.  We started last summer and we are progressing through the first book in a leisurely fashion.  I decided to start him early because he has always been very interested in music and seems to have an ear for it.  I have only basic musical knowledge and I find the program easy to do with him .

There are two Time To Begin books. One is a songbook and one is an activity book. There is also a music CD available with the songs being played, which theoretically the student could learn to play a duet of sorts by playing along with the CD. I don’t have that and I’m not sure how useful it would be to us. For us it is best that Jamie looks at the book and he tries to figure out how to play the song shown. I read the explanations from the book to him and ask him questions like “Which hand do you start this song with, right or left?” (Because the notes where the stem points up are played with the right hand, and stems down are played with the left hand) When he first started, I tried  demonstrating how a song was played and he would simply memorize it and not try to read the music. He also has a real knack for finding the correct notes just by trial and error if he knows how a song should sound.

To help him with a new song I ask him to look at the keyboard shown on the page, with arrows pointing to certain keys and labeled “R” and “L” for right and left. Then I ask him to find those same keys on the piano. If the song starts low and goes high, I ask him whether it starts low or high and then ask him to show me on the piano which of the specified keys are the lowest, etc. He sometimes needs to count how many groups of notes there were on a page, so he would know *how* low or high he needs to start so he can play the whole song going either up or down the piano without running out of keys. For the Time To Begin book it seems to be necessary to have a keyboard or piano with at least 5 full octaves in order to play the songs.  One of the hardest concepts for Jamie so far, was to figure out where to start when a song started in the middle, went up one octave, back to the first octave, and then down one octave.

Right now I have Jamie learn about two new songs per week and then spend the week practicing them every day. But he probably could go a little faster. Sometimes a new concept is hard for him to understand, and when that happens I give him a break for a week or two, by going back and having him play songs he has already learned.  If necessary, I help him to review previously taught concepts when he goes back to the “old” songs.  But the nice thing about Music Tree is that the student learns some basic music reading concepts which are much simpler to understand than note reading is for the beginner. The gradual block building of concepts in Music Tree is excellent.  The activity book does a great job of reinforcing the concepts necessary to read the music in the songbook.

One of the things I didn’t understand when we started, was why they have the student play only the black keys for a while, before starting the white keys. I understood very quickly that the black keys were easier to distinguish, appearing in alternating groups of two or three notes. Specific white keys, on the other hand, are much more difficult for the beginning student to distinguish. Once Jamie mastered finding the black keys shown in each song, he was able to learn the names of the white keys. Since he was accustomed to finding the proper black keys it was easy to show him how 3 white keys were just below each 2 black keys, and these are always C,D,E. And the 4 white keys below each group of 3 black keys are F,G,A,B. He can now look at the music and identify the first and second note and find the corresponding white key on the piano. He can also move up and down the octaves of the piano with relative ease, finding the proper keys quickly.  I am very proud of his accomplishments.

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No cold medicine for children under 6: Are You Ready for Cold and Flu Season?

Are You Prepared for Cold and Flu Season?

Now that the FDA has issued an advisory stating that children under 2 should receive no cold medicine and an outside expert panel states that no cold medicine should be given to children under 6, it is a good time to plan ahead and look for safe alternatives.   Recently, the FDA completed a review that found, between 1969 and the fall of 2006, there were 54 reported child deaths from decongestants with the active ingredients pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine or ephedrine and 69 deaths from antihistamine medicines containing diphenhydramine, brompheniramine or chlorpheniramine.  Most of the deaths occurred in children under 2.  In addition, a Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention report that found more than 1,500 toddlers and babies required emergency room visits over a two-year period because of the drugs.  Fourteen children’s cold medications have been recalled: 

  • Dimetapp Decongestant Plus Cough Infant Drops
  • Dimetapp Decongestant Infant Drops
  • Little Colds Decongestant Plus Cough
  • Little Colds Multi-Symptom Cold Formula
  • PEDIACARE Infant Drops Decongestant (containing pseudoephedrine)
  • PEDIACARE Infant Drops Decongestant Cough (containing pseudoephedrine)
  • PEDIACARE Infant Dropper Decongestant (containing phenylephrine)
  • PEDIACARE Infant Dropper Long-Acting Cough
  • PEDIACARE Infant Dropper Decongestant & Cough (containing phenylephrine)
  • Robitussin Infant Cough DM Drops
  • Triaminic Infant & Toddler Thin Strips Decongestant
  • Triaminic Infant & Toddler Thin Strips Decongestant Plus Cough
  • TYLENOL Concentrated Infants’ Drops Plus Cold
  • TYLENOL Concentrated Infants’ Drops Plus Cold & Cough
  • CVS is also pulling their generic equivalents off store shelves
  • In addition, the FDA is recommending new warnings on flu drugs like Tamiflu and Relenza, after abnormal psychiatric behavior has been observed in both children and adults.  Several fatalities have been associated with these psychiatric episodes after the use of the prescription flu medications.

    Is there a safer alternative?  Some of us have used nutrients like zinc and vitamin C to help us fight off or get through a cold or the flu.  Our family has had much better results with natural remedies than with over the counter cold medications.  Most nutritional products that help fight colds and relieve symptoms work best when given at the first sign of illness, so it is important to purchase them before you or your children are sick.   It is also important to have nourishing foods and rehydration beverages in the house in preparation for cold and flu season.  Vitamins combined with good nutrition can help us be more resistant to illness in the first place.   Here are some of my favorite products:

    Defend Yourself and Resist Illness  Here is a great supplement to take when you notice the first signs of a cold coming on. It contains FOUR natural ingredients to support your immune system: echinacea, black elderberry, larch tree, and zinc. Most people are familiar with zinc and echinacea. You may not have heard of larch, which contains the active ingredient arabinogalactan to stimulate the body’s natural resistance. Black elderberry is a rich source of polyphenols and anthocyanadins, powerful phytonutrients that help maintain the immune system.   We use the following rule of thumb for herbal dosing:  Take the child’s weight and divide by 150 to find the percentage of the adult dose to give.  For the smaller ones I break the tablets in half and give just half at a time.  Often, my children only need one dose.  These can be chewed, sucked on, swallowed, or crushed and made into a soothing tea.  (It tastes great with honey!)  We are amazed at how well they work for our whole family!  They can be purchased here

    Probiotics  Most people are familiar with beneficial bacteria, such as lactobacillus acidophilus, used to make yogurt. Another “good bug” is called bifidobacterium. Did you know that having beneficial bacteria in your intestines can help you fight off illness? Sixty percent of your immune cells are located in your gastrointestinal tract. The type of bacteria that inhabit your intestinal tract have a profound influence upon your health, including your immune system. Commercial yogurts may not contain enough live bacteria to do the job. Probiotics are vulnerable to being destroyed by the stomach acid, so I prefer this triple encapsulated probiotic pearl with guaranteed live delivery of beneficial bacteria to the colon. This is a great product to take when you are showing early signs of a stomach bug.  The probiotic pearls can be given to children, but they work best if they are swallowed without chewing.  My 3 year old is able to swallow them in a spoonful of applesauce.  Homemade gelatin (preferably made with fruit juice) might work too.  For tiny babies, some parents have had success softening the pearls in water before giving them.  Babies don’t have very strong stomach acid, so the probiotics survive in their stomachs better without the encapsulation than they would in an adult’s stomach.  Some mothers have been able to place the tiny probiotic pearls in the back of a baby’s mouth, then offer the breast to help baby swallow them.  I would caution against this method as there is a risk of baby aspirating the pearl into his or her lungs.

    Garlic  Garlic has natural antibacterial and antiviral properties. A recent study found that one of the active components in garlic is effective against MRSA.  While it is most effective consumed raw, most of us have not developed a taste for raw garlic! My favorite garlic complex is gently dried to prevent loss of the sulfur-containing compounds such as allicin. The garlic is not aged, as aged garlic is not consistent with how garlic is consumed in it’s natural state. The company does not try to convince consumers that it has a specific amount of one or more of the many sulfur-containing compounds that naturally result from garlic ingestion, because many of these are formed during the digestive process. Instead, each two-tablet serving provides the amount of garlic that you would get from a clove of garlic. Once you ingest the tablets the biochemical process starts and the full range of sulfur-containing compounds are then formed. In this way it is the closest a garlic supplement can be to consuming fresh garlic. Contains spearmint, which may help prevent odor.  Diane Petoskey recommends the following dosages for children:  Under one year, give a total of two tablets per 24 hours, crushed and mixed in liquid and administered with a dropper at least four times in 24 hours.  For ages 1 -3, use 3 tablets per 24 hours, divide for at least 4 doses per day mixed in food or liquid.  Ages 4-6, give 3-4 tablets per 24 hours.  Age 10, 4 – 5 tablets per day, Ages 11 – 16 and older,  4-6 tablets per day.  Divide doses to give 4 times per day for all ages. 

    Rehydrate  Often when we are sick, we get dehydrated. Of course with the stomach flu this is obvious, but keeping yourself well hydrated is important even with a simple head cold. It is a good idea to be prepared with good tasting beverages that will encourage children to take in more fluids without ingesting unhealthy artificial colors and flavors.  Hydration thins excessive secretions and makes it easier for the body to clear them. When fluids are lost, especially during a bout of the stomach flu, electrolytes are lost as well. It is important to replace both fluids and electrolytes.  For example, your body cannot absorb fluids effectively without adequate sodium. A good rehydration formula or sports drink should contain:

    1. All six electrolytes (minerals) – Calcium, Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Chloride
    2. A sodium / potassium ratio of approx 2.2 to 1, for proper function of the sodium/potassium pump
    3. At least 100 mg of sodium, for effective absorption of fluids
    4. At least 20 – 25 grams of carbs in a mixture of these 3 types – fast burning – like glucose so you get immediate energy – a medium burning carb like fructose – and a slow burning carb like maltodextrin
    5. No artificial colors or flavors
    6. Should not have any “natural” herbs or performance enhancers.

    Unlike most sports beverages and pedialyte, this lemon lime drink meets all these criteria. A small canister of makes 19 servings of rehydration beverage, convenient to store in a cupboard in case illness strikes unexpectedly. Also available in orange.  No dosage limits for this, children and adults can drink as much as desired.  Sipping the lemon lime or orange drinks frequently is adviseable, especially for the stomach flu.  You can make the drinks into homemade popsicles as well, a good way to encourage taking fluids slowly when a child has been vomiting or experiencing diarrhea.  For small babies, breastfeeding on demand is best during illness rather than offering other beverages.  In most cases, breastmilk is better tolerated than any other food or beverage, even during diarrhea and vomiting.

    Vitamins For Immunity  This Immune Building Formula contains the six most important vitamins for healthy immune function: vitamin A in the form of beta carotene, vitamins C, E, B6, B12 and folic acid. Also included are 3 important minerals for the immune system: copper, selenium, and zinc. It helps maintain your first line of defense, your skin, with zinc, vitamins E and C, and beta carotene. A great product to take throughout the cold and flu season. Antioxidants and rosemary extract maintain the nutrient potency in these softgels.  Nutritionist Diane Petoskey recommends this starting with 1 capsule at ages 4-6,  2 capsules around age 10,  2 – 3 capsules for 11 – 16 years and up.  Email me for more information about Diane Petoskey’s Children’s Nutrition lecture.

    Natural Interferon  If you are catching everything that comes around, this is the product for you! Here is a well-researched blend of natural plant extracts from pumpkin seeds, safflower flowers, plantago seeds, and Japanese honeysuckle flower buds, which have been clinically proven to support and stimulate the natural immune response. This product was created by Dr. Kojima, the world renowned immunologist who discovered interferon in 1954. He spent over 40 years searching for a way to increase the body’s natural production of interferon, which is activated by the immune system when a virus attacks a cell. Interferon serves two important functions. It signals neighboring cells and triggers their resistance mechanisms, and it activates other immune cells that kill invading pathogens. This is a great product for school-teachers, postal workers, health care providers, and anyone else that is exposed to a lot of germs in their line of work.  Recommended for children over 12 years and adults.  Learn more about natural interferon here.

     Stock the Freezer and Protect Your Health  The canned soups, dried soups, and bouillion cubes as the grocery store all contain MSG, a neurotoxin. Rather than consuming MSG containing foods when you are sick, it is best to use homemade. Having experienced illnesses severe enough to prevent me from preparing soup for several days, here is my solution. If you made homemade chicken soup for lunch or dinner occasionally, freeze the leftovers each time. Make a little extra each time if you need to. After I bake a chicken, I often use the leftovers for a soup base. Simmering the bones slowly in water releases extra nutrients. Cut most of the meat off before starting to simmer them, as it will retain the best flavor and texture when added near the end of the cooking time after the bones are removed. Even just broth is great to have in the freezer for sickness. Then when you need a nourishing meal to get well, you can walk to your freezer instead of driving to the grocery store.

     If you want to make homemade gelatin using fruit juice, here is a recipe.  Mix one tablespoon unflavored gelatin powder into just enough hot water to dissolve completely, add enough cold juice to make a total of 2 cups of liquid.  Clear juices work better than pulpy juices.  Pour into a shallow container and refrigerate until firm.  You can dilute the fruit juice a little if desired.

    I hope you have a healthy fall and winter.

    The preceding information is not intended as medical advice.

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    Real results with Inch Loss Diet Plan

    I just wanted to post an update as I previously posted about my husband trying the Cinch Inch Loss Plan. (http://www.cinchplan.com/good_health)   You do a shake for breakfast and lunch and eat a regular dinner.  It’s  really easy to use.  There are high protein snack bars included too, as well as an unsweetened instant tea mix.  He has been doing the plan for about 3 weeks now. Only three days after starting the program, he needed to buckle his belt one notch tighter. It isn’t really any more expensive than when he was going out to lunch each day.  He just does the breakfast shake on the weekends, and one week he went on a business trip and didn’t bring it at all. But he has been taking the metabolism boosting supplement faithfully for 4 weeks.  He described the 3 in 1 boost as being like “drinking a triple cappuccino” because he has so much energy. He was previously dealing with a lot of fatigue. But he also said that unlike coffee, which makes you wired and you are still tired, it actually wakes him up fully. One thing he did adjust was that he doesn’t take them past mid afternoon or they keep him awake at night. So he just takes them earlier in the day. He doesn’t feel hungry on the plan either. Today I asked him if he felt that it was working and he gave a resounding “yes!” I noticed his denim shorts looked loose and he said that these were previously very tight. He showed me how they were barely staying on his hips. He hasn’t been checking the scale since the first week, but just going on clothing fit. He did note a 3 pound weight loss the first week, but really, the clothing fit is a better indicator in my opinion.

    He actually didn’t get the starter kit until recently because there was a sale on some on the individual items last month. Now that he has the kit I can see how useful it is. Included is computer software to individualize the diet plan, as well as help develop an exercise program. A measuring tape comes with the kit, and this is used to help you track your progress. There is also a pedometer included to encourage you to walk more. You can use this to set a goal for walking for the day and monitor your steps to see if you meet it. The software instructs you to enter your information, including a current weight, and uses this to determine what your daily caloric intake should be. You can then print menus, recipes, shopping lists, etc to plan your meals. You can analyze the nutritional content of a large number of food choices as well. I didn’t realize until he got the starter kit, what a complete plan this is. It not only provides the tools to lose weight, but a way to change your eating habits as well.

    Update:  After 6 weeks my husband has lost 11 pounds, and he is very happy with his progress.  He took two weeks off from the diet during the six week period.  One week he was traveling for work and had no refrigerator at the hotel.  The other week we were on a family vacation and he did the shake for breakfast only. 

    Another update:  After 10 weeks my husband is wearing his belt 3 notches tighter and fits into jeans he hasn’t been able to wear for 3 years.

    You can read more inch loss success stories here.   If you like what you see, please stop back and visit us on our Cinchplan site.

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    Seeing improvements in 5 year old Jamie

    This week I have noticed that Jamie seems to be gradually improving in several areas.  I had increased his b-complex to a full tablet a couple days ago. I still have to use a little “tough love” to get him to take it, as in making him drink the crushed tablet in juice before he can have breakfast. But he is getting used to taking it every morning anyway, and I have seen some positive changes. He is fighting a little less during the transition from play to homeschool activities.  His focus and attention are much better. 

    Jamie is doing very well reading the “floating notes” in his piano book and playing them with fairly accurate timing.  That is, he is playing the half notes and quarter notes shown in the music more accurately than in previous weeks.  He is picking up the new songs more easily, and seems to be doing a better job reading the music instead of trying to play by ear or memorize the pattern of the song if there is one.  I’m really glad I chose to start piano with him.  I thought with his fondness of music he would take to it, it’s nice to be right sometimes, LOL.  I don’t really know much about piano, but I’m having good luck using The Music Tree beginner book to teach him. 

    Jamie is also focusing longer on math and handwriting.  Today he even asked to do more math after I had done one page with him and was satisfied that it was enough.  He wanted to bring out “decimal street” and build numbers on it.  This is something unique to the Math-U-See books.    Once we finished that and moved onto handwriting, he asked to write the number 10 after we had practiced what I had prepared for today.  We are using Handwriting Without Tears for that.  Usually I don’t have him write in the workbook, but just on the magnetic “slate” and the little chalkboard one.   He is now doing better writing in the book, which is a good sign.  I know that writing on the chalkboard is using more of the large muscles of the arm, while writing in the workbook uses the small muscles of the hand more.

    Samuel is coming along with the potty training too. He actually told me he needed to go yesterday, and had a BM in the potty instead of on the floor or in his training pants. He is getting very independent, he actually told me to “Get out” after he sat down. LOL.

    Our weekend: Green Cleaning and Family Fun

    I went on a cleaning kick on saturday. The boys were good, they spent most of the morning in our basement playroom while I sat with them and folded laundry. We have a great sensory integration focused playroom and it has been wonderful for Jamie. I’ll have to post a picture of it soon. I got my husband to take the boys outside so I could mop the floors. I use a Swiffer Wet Jet, which I like, and I managed to make it more of a green cleaning product by rinsing out one of the empty cleaning solution bottles and putting my green all purpose cleaner and using that in the mop instead. It worked as least as good as the Swiffer solution without the strong chemical smell.  My husband had to use channel locks to get enough grip on the cap the remove it before we rinsed out the bottle and put in our preferred cleaning products. 

    Then when the boys took a nap I cleaned all our bathrooms. I noticed that my scour-it off paste did a much better job removing my husband’s hair spray layer from the sink than Comet Cleanser used to do. The job went much more quickly with the new green cleaners.

    We took the boys to Quassy after nap, as it was carload night. We got to take them to Saturation Station for about an hour, because it is included with the wristband. Samuel hated it because he doesn’t like water on his face or head. I tried to take him on the waterslide with me, but the lifeguard made him go down by himself. Needless to say he wasn’t happy. It was a little chilly, so even Jamie didn’t stay for long. “Mommy, I’m shivering and my teeth are clicking.” Jamie did go in the lake with his Daddy, I think that was a little warmer. Samuel sat in my lap for a long time, wrapped in a towel. It was nice to have him sit and cuddle again. He is getting so independent now that he is almost 3. As he sat there he was studying the rollercoaster. “Car, Mommy?” I told him it was a rollercoaster but that he might not be tall enough to ride it yet. Of course he said “Why?” which he uses quite a bit these days. So once we got them dried off and on a couple kiddy rides it was time for dinner. We broke down and paid for the wonderful amusement park food <sarcasm>.  Before we left Samuel did get to ride the roller coaster with his daddy, I guess he was just tall enough.  He loved it, when it stopped he protested that he didn’t want to get out.  “MORE COASTER!”  I noticed that Jamie has an ever growing list of rides he doesn’t like.  The roller coaster (which he hasn’t tried yet), paratrooper, frog hopper, even the carousel horses, of all things.  I wonder what is going on with his sensory stuff there.  Must be a weird vestibular thing.  He can take all kinds up spinning stuff, but up and down motions he can’t tolerate. 

    All in all, a good weekend.  Hope the boys are good tomorrow and not missing Daddy too much when he goes back to work Monday.  I found a few homeschooling ideas in the Oriental Trader’s catalog.  I’m going to see if I can adapt some materials that we already have on hand. 

    My first blog. Caring for a family.

    Well, here goes nothing.  I’m trying to figure out this blog thing, but I’m just going to dive in and see what happens.  As you can see in my “about” section,  our family has dealt with multiple health challenges.  But since the kids were born I have really changed my views about healthcare in general.  As a pediatric nurse I was trained mainly in regard to conventional health care.  I have a  BSN from the University of  Arizona.  I think my school was pretty open minded about holistic health care, alternative medicine, or whatever name you wish to call it by.  I remember we touched on a few topics in this regard.    

    But I didn’t really take much interest in the natural solutions for health until after I had children.  My first baby was colicky and probably a bit spoiled.  I managed to breastfeed him after some challenges including the fact that he had an undiagnosed tongue tie.  I think for the first 3-4 months that was all he wanted to do with his day.  I think when he got between a year and two years I felt something wasn’t quite right, but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was.  He was a nightmarish toddler, couldn’t keep still and concentrate on any quiet play.   It seemed like he just moved from destroying one item to the next, as we were fixing the first.  He was later diagnosed with Sensory Integration Dysfunction, or DSI.  (After a long search we found an OT who treats this, and we are also working with nutritional supplements.)

    When our first child was almost 2 1/2 we had our second baby, another boy.  Everything seemed fine with him until he was approaching 4 months of age and was not yet holding up his head.  At his 4 month checkup our pediatrician said that he had “done nothing for gross motor development” since birth.  The doctor’s plan was to recheck him in 2 months, but I was not comfortable with this so I called the birth to 3 hotline to have him evaluated.  He was delayed in all areas except early speech development.  To top that off, the same day he had his 4 month checkup, we saw the first blood in his bowel movement.  (After the appointment, of course).  To keep this short, he was eventually diagnosed with the allergic colitis.  At 9 1/2 months we put him on elemental formula, but he really didn’t end up improving much and this was a bad decision.  Because I could not accept the fact that a child could not tolerate breastmilk, this started my off toward “alternative medicine” for good. 

    We are fortunate to live near the University of Bridgeport School of Naturopath.  who have a very affordable clinic.  We saw Debra Anastasio, ND as the attending (supervising the students that saw my son and I).  She was very knowledgeable and helpful.  We were able to treat my baby successfully with supplements and probiotics.  With the help of an excellent IBCLC named Jennifer Tow, I was able to resume nursing my son and let him wean naturally when he was ready.  He is now healthy and thriving and tolerating a wide variety of foods.  He has done so well catching up on his development that he now does not appear to qualify to move from the birth to 3 services into the special preschool our local district has.  He does have low muscle tone, but his gross and fine motor skills are age appropriate.  His expressive and receptive language are also age appropriate, though we are still waiting to find out about articulation.  He has come such a long way and we are so pleased!

     With the kids health being addressed, I felt it was time to work on my own health.  After all, unhealthy parents cannot have healthy children.  While my health is still a work in progress, I have found great nutritional supplements that are helping me feel better and have more energy.  I’ll continue with that in my next post.