Inside the Mommyvan

Homeschooling & Life Inside the Mommyvan - an old dog learning new tricks


We all made lots of music on Christmas Eve!

This year’s summer musical camp at our church was twenty (soon-to-be) 3rd through 6th graders performing a 45-minute musical with a great message. They had some time before the camp week to rehearse their lines and the songs, and in 5 mornings they learned all of the choreography, polished the show, and performed it that Friday evening.

Each child had at least a couple of lines plus a solo in one of the songs. A couple of the older kids had bigger parts, and we had one of our youth volunteers playing the “coach” – he did a terrific job!

We are truly blessed to have so many wonderful music experiences at our church, with a music director who loves kids and is so versatile in her talents.

We had an exciting performance experience just sa our summer is wrapping up. The crew is signed up for a week of summer musical camp at our church. A couple of weeks before that began our music director send around a message asking if we could get a group of children together to sing our National Anthem at a baseball game… the following Sunday!

We did, the kids rehearsed hard, and they had a marvelous experience (as did I, videographer & assistant kid-wrangler) going “backstage” at the stadium and then out onto the field to sing in front of a sellout crowd. Take a look!

My husband, ladies and gentlemen:

Living the meme

My guest post at Parentwin yesterday:

I posted on Facebook the other day, “Learned something this afternoon. No matter how rotten your mood is going in, a room full of 3 & 4 year-olds singing “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands” will cure it.” A friend commented that this should be the first paragraph when I write my book. I don’t know that I have a book inside of me waiting to get out, but it’s a good lead-in to what I’m writing today so thanks, Jane, for the suggestion!

I volunteer at our church’s weekly children’s program. I’m the music assistant, and part of my job is to give the littlest participants, the 3 and 4 year-old preschoolers, a taste of choral singing and some fun rhythm and movement activities. I’m planting seeds of musicianship in their hearts and in their souls. I give them a safe, happy place where we sing and make friends and there is no judgement. They are special — we sing hello to each child by name, and remind them that “God loves you!” — and they even get to call the shots sometimes: what hand motions will we do with this verse; shall we shake the jingles, or roll them on the floor? They don’t care about tempo or dynamics, or even pitch in most cases. They care about joy and exuberance, and it is contagious.

My Facebook-worthy revelation came as we rehearsed that old standard for the last time before they sing it in worship on Sunday. They sang that song, and every word of it came straight from their hearts. If you don’t believe that “He’s got you & me, brother, in His hands,” you would after hearing this bunch sing it to you. I love these kids, I really do. I handle behavior problems, the wiggles, the giggles, even the defiant non-participation, with kindness and grace. They, in turn, show me love and gratitude like whoa. When my little cherubs are up there on the chancel steps on Sunday morning and get a little nervous, and their eyes find mine and they smile and sing on, I know what a superhero feels like right after he flings the doomsday machine into the sun and saves all humanity.

The rotten mood I had going in, now that was another story. My own children had been misbehaving in every way imagineable for the 45 minutes directly before we needed to leave the house, and not all that great in the hours preceeding those 45 minutes, either. That key time, though, when I need to get everyone including myself into decent clothes, get snacks into everyone’s bellies, and prepare everything we need for the marathon of actvity that is our Wednesday afternoon and evening, is one of those times when just one thing going wrong means we’re late; more than that means something or someone is going to be unfinished, forgotten, dirty, hungry… and we’re going to be late.

A little while after I tossed that quip up on Facebook, I went back and thought about it more. How do those children melt my heart so easily? Why do my own offspring — not even much older — seem, at times, to exist only to torment me? Part of it, I know, is the time factor. Half an hour of adorable preschooler antics is a piece of cake compared to the non-stop proximity that homeschooling brings. We do get breaks from each other here and there, but I’m still the primary taskmaster, disciplinarian, and all-around mean Mommy & teacher all in one. I can’t commiserate with my kids over homework overload or even the lousy lunch offerings because I am the source of all evil in their academic world.

Don’t get me wrong, I homeschool in large part because I love my children and I don’t want to miss a moment of their growing up, exploring, and learning. When they read with increasing ease, make a science discovery, or catch on to a new math concept… do you remember the thrill of those first toddler steps? Their excitement, my pride… it’s that superhero feeling all over again.

But I forget. I forget to stop and notice their beautiful children’s hearts. I forget to appreciate. I lose my kindness and my grace. I focus so hard on what they need to learn, how they must behave, where we’re going next and what time we have to be there that I forget to revel in those moments of glee, of love, of gratitude the way I do during those half-hours on Wednesday afternoons. I try to schedule and control all of our minutes and hours so that we waste no time that could be put to productive use. We have our play time, of course, but even that becomes a source of annoyance rather than freedom and delight. They might be having a grand old time, but as soon as Mom appears and reminds them they weren’t supposed to be in the dirt because now we’ll have to clean up and change clothes and that wasn’t on the agenda, it’s all out the window.

As of the other night, that has changed. I’m taking to heart the lessons my cherubs have taught me. Ultimately, I’m not in charge, and when I try to be I foul it all up. The happiness comes first, and I work my schedule around it. I am still committed to academic rigor, but the tempo isn’t as important as I’ve made it. The dynamic doesn’t have to be non-stop tedium or dire threats as motivation. It can focus on the discovery and the excitement, and slip the necessary-but-monotonous in while they’re still on a high from the last “get up and dance” bit. Just as we add some life to our singing by using sticks or shakers or scarves, I can apice up our work as simply as substituting paints for pencils.

He’s got the whole world in His hands… the kids get it, and my timetables and priorities got nothin’ on that!

I often play classical music while the kids do schoolwork. It seems to help the kids focus, and it definitely cuts down on the random noise & chatter while they are supposed to be working. This morning, J finished his worksheet and said to me, “The last piece of music went loud and soft and loud and soft. Music can tell feelings, and that music sounded MAD.”

I had a plan for the morning, but I saw a beautiful opportunity, one too wonderful and fun to passup. I put everything on hold and spend the next ten or fifteen minutes playing bits and pieces of other selections from a variety of composers. The kids danced and laughed and jumped and squealed. We talked about what sort of feelings each selection brought with it: happy & dancing, sad, scared, sleepy…

In case you’d never thought of it this way (and I had not), the Sabre Dance does indeed feel like making your horse gallop.

A suggestion I received from a friend was to have them draw the shape of the music as they listen (squiggles, hatchmarks, swoops, and so on). I didn’t think of that this morning, but it will definitely be a part of our next music appreciation session.

This is why I love homeschooling!

The kids had the first of what I hope will be many public performances tonight. They’ve been part of a group before, in ‘Tiny Dancers’ class and church choir, but this was their (our?) first time out as a trio, just them with me directing. It was a very friendly audience, at a talent / comedy show our church puts on every couple of years.

Or watch it on YouTube if you can’t see it above

We did have some help from our wonderful music teacher and accompanist Miss Stephanie, but from the time I confirmed our participation in the show until they went on tonight, it was up to me to rehearse them and make sure they knew the words, the tune, in which order to sing the verses and chorus, even how to stand while they sang.

There is certainly room for improvement, but considering their ages (I believe they were the youngest performers, at 4 and 5; the oldest was an amazing 90 year-old pianist) they did remarkably well. The lyrics were memorized, the hand motions — a last-minute addition — not quite as solid, but pretty good. We flubbed the entrance, which was my fault, but they recovered well and nailed the start of the second verse which had been shaky right up until yesterday.

I could write a lot more about how we prepared for this and what I learned from it all, but it’s late so that will be a post for another day. Goodnight!