Kanata Music Centre - Making Music Fun

by Tracy

Learning music was never something that my husband and I had intentionally wanted my daughter to do, nor did we mean for her to learn piano for any express purpose other than finding an extra-curricular activity that she enjoyed doing. But in the fall of 2012, when my daughter was four years old, I read a Facebook post about a music school in which the children learned piano in a group setting using the Yamaha Music Education System. The school was the Kanata Music Centre and so, I immediately emailed the Studio Director, Atsuko Montcalm, asking for more information.

Before committing I wanted to make sure the lessons were something my daughter would be interested in. From the very beginning, Atsuko was friendly and patient with my daughter (and there are days when she still exercises this patience!). My daughter is the type of kid who knows what she likes and what she doesn’t like, and it takes a lot to change her mind once she has her mind made up. We had tried music classes before when she was younger and they were a disaster, so I went into the Kanata Music Centre for the first time with little expectation of ever returning.

But we did – my daughter has been a student of the Kanata Music Centre for nearly 2.5 years and will be returning in the fall to continue (her choice!). The Kanata Music Centre has not only taught my daughter how to play piano, but she has also learned confidence, loves to sing, has learned to read music, and has made new friends along the way.

Atsuko won the hearts of parents and students alike at the Kanata Music Centre’s annual music recital last June when she and fellow instructor, Teruko Bassett sat down at the baby grand piano and played the hit song from the movie FROZEN, “Let it Go.” The children were stunned and before you knew it both the children and parents were singing along – I will never forget the look of awe on my daughter’s face. It was a moment I will cherish for a long time to come.

The Kanata Music Centre is dynamic, relaxed and fun. The group setting creates a familiar learning environment for kids and Atsuko is so enthusiastic, patient and kind that learning piano is fun for even the most reluctant of child. 

Beyond that, all of the instructors must attend regular training seminars to ensure that their training is up-to-date. I like that the Kanata Music Centre is not in someone’s basement, and that is also not a store, so there are no sales people or hidden agenda to sell you a piano or guitar that you cannot afford. I also like that my daughter isn’t just sitting in front of a piano learning how to play song after song – she is learning every aspect of music, from solfege singing, to theory and composition. It is because of this that my daughter recently composed her own original song – including chords – just for the heck of it!

Of course, learning piano does require some work on the part of the parent and student, but the kids are encouraged to practice by colouring in notes every time they do. My daughter hates when she doesn’t have the required number of notes coloured by the time the next class rolls around, and so it has only happened once in the 2.5 years she has been a student. My daughter also has her moments when she wishes she didn’t have to go to piano, but she is always excited to tell people about her piano lessons and what she has learned. She also loves the ability to sit down at a piano anywhere and be able to play a song she knows – and I love hearing her play that song. 

If your child has an interest in music or if you are looking for a great way to introduce your child into the wonderful world of music, take a look at the Kanata Music Centre, located in Kanata North.  Programs start for children as young as three years old and I guarantee you will be amazed at how quickly your child can learn music – singing it, playing it, and enjoying it!

For more information, including how to register for Fall 2015 classes, visit the Kanata Music Centre online at: www.kanatamusiccentre.com/

Welcome to Hampton Park Dental Centre!

I'm very happy to welcome Dr. Ken Crossman and Hampton Park Dental Centre to our blog as a featured sponsor! I can't count the number of times I've heard fellow parents worried about dental care for their young children - there are so many questions, and a great kid-friendly dentist can really make a difference. Hampton Park Dental Centre is located at Carling and Kirkwood just off the 417 - a convenient location for any area of Ottawa! 

It used to be common practice for children to have their first dental visit at age 3.  But the American and Canadian Dental Associations are now recommending that children be seen as soon as their first teeth erupt (usually around 6 months).  This first visit is to check to make sure that the teeth are erupting normally and that parents are aware of how best to care for the dental needs of their child.  

Proper dental care at an early age can prevent the need for more extensive dental care when the child is older.  Some of the issues that arise in infancy that may effect later dental development are:

  1. Thumb or finger sucking: can lead to the development of an underbite or  overbite which results in the need for orthodontic treatment in the future.  
  2. Proper brushing techniques and care of primary dentition: brushing the teeth of a toddler and baby can be challenging, and parents sometimes need guidance!
  3. Nursing bottle syndrome: caused when a child is given a bottle  before bed.  The pooling of the liquid in the infants mouth  can result in decay in primary teeth.  There are alternatives available and strategies to help wean children from bedtime feedings.  

By starting visits to the dentist early, the child sees the dental office as a fun place to visit where they get a new toothbrush and a toy.  If your child starts life with good oral hygiene habits from the beginning they will have fewer dental problems in the future.  

Connect with Hampton Park Dental on Facebook. They've even included some activities on oral care for children on their website!

Plugged In...To Life

By Jacquelyn

I grew up on Sesame Street and cheesey buns from the grocery store; I watched The Flinstones at noon, and occasionally, I sat with my dad while he watched two cowboy style movies simultaneously, switching back and fourth between them, so as to skip the commercials. That was the amount of ‘screentime’ I was exposed to, but back then we just called it TV.

Today children are bombarded by shiny screens everywhere they turn; media is an easy and common addiction, something many of us are dealing with without realizing. In our home, we’ve chosen a different route. Our children - ages 14, 5, and 2 - have been raised against the usual stream of hypnotic, glowing screens. This is not to say that we don’t own and use them, but that we choose to focus our energies on the world around us. Here are a few tips on how we make it work:

Let them earn it

When Big Brother has wanted a cellphone/videogame system/iPod/latest tech craze, we never said no, but we did tell him that he would have to purchase them himself. We felt that our money was better spent providing experiences for him, rather than things that would take him away from what he loved doing - like drumming and drawing. So last summer, at the age of 13, he did just that. He got himself a job, and he earned that IPod, fair and square. Our younger kids have no need for this type of technological interaction. Their job is to play, in a creative, tangible way.

Introduce expectations

A list of expectations to be applied the use of the iPod was created to keep us all on the same page, and held Big Brother accountable. We all signed the contract and stuck it up on the fridge. It included things such as ‘I will never take pictures of my body’, ‘I will leave my iPod on the counter each night at bedtime’, and ‘should this interfere with my schooling, it will stay home’ etc. But more often than not, we just let him go with it. He bought it, and we see this as practice for real life. We’re here to help guide him in case he needs us, and he knows that anything on that (annoying) thing is fair game for anyone to read, since it really isn’t a place to store private information.

Ask yourself what the original purpose of the device was

If your child has access to or has his own device, you may want to ask yourself why? This will help you to see if it is really being used in the manner you had intended; even as adults, we can slip away from our original 'rules'. "Jimmy can have a cellphone for calling us when he has arrived at the park" can easily turn into, "okay Jimmy, just one more hour playing Clash of Clans while I make dinner". Was it for educational purposes? For your daughter to be able to have access to various spelling apps to help her with her learning disability? Is she really using it for this purpose, and are you supporting her in this pursuit?

What did people do before IPads?

While waiting in the doctor's office, riding the bus etc., it was once an opportunity for us to connect with our children. It was a break from the laundry list of chores at home, and we had no choice but to connect with each other, or stare out the window. You may find that a game of I SPY while waiting in the waiting room gives you a few minutes to play together and actually draws out your child's attention span, preventing the jittery meltdown that may ensue.

Is your child showing signs of hyperactivity?

Excessive whining? Constant sibling arguments? Bouncy, jittery kids with blood shot eyes? What about a lack of imagination, or constant boredom? It might be time to unplug. A cleanse from all screens (tv included) is always tricky in the beginning, but afterwards, you'll be left with a calmer, less bouncy child - one who doesn't ask every.five.seconds. if he can watch just one more episode. Get outside and explore the signs of spring; walk to the store and choose fresh flowers and make bouquets for your house; get out the paint and head outdoors for some Jackson Pollock- style painting; or, invite a playmate over to occupy your kids. Nothing occupies a five year old like two five year olds.

Have you chosen to plug your children in as a result of what everyone else is doing?

It might be time to reevaluate. Following your feelings as a parent is usually the right thing to do. Trust your instincts, even if it may be difficult.

Do as I say not as I do

Our job as parents? We’ve gotta live it. If we’re living on the web, chances are, our kids will expect to be able to do the same.

Jacquelyn is HayMama -  an artiste (pronounced with an 'eeste') tackling a multitude of works, mother raising three kiddos, lover of books, seeker of knowledge, consumer of great coffee, follower of nature, lover and friend to her one and only. You can find the beginnings of her work on her beautiful blog.

Don't tell my daughter to "cover up."

I received an email from my daughter's school over the weekend, reminding parents of the school's dress code. I won't share the image here, as I would like to protect my daughter's privacy.

Let me describe it for you: the PDF included three images: one illustrating the "proper" width of a tank top strap, another showing the "correct" length for shorts, and the third showing a pair of flip flops and crocs with an X marked through the picture. There is also some text describing which images are/are not acceptable on t-shirts.

Let's ignore the Crocs right now (a rule which is completely sensible - children need sturdier shoes to be climbing safely on the jungle gyms.) 

What stuck in my craw, and led me to post the file on my Facebook wall, was the document's obvious target of girls and their nakedness (or lack of nakedness).

It has been one of the most engaging threads on my wall that I've ever read. Although I'd say the majority of my Facebook friends are self-proclaimed feminists and take issue with dress codes, I appreciated the lone comments from other friends who couldn't understand why the dress code was problematic. 

Some of the arguments FOR dress codes

  1. All children need to learn to be "respectful" and "professional." They need to learn that, down the road, it will not be appropriate in the workplace to wear a shirt that shows their bra straps (for those wearing bras), or skirts/shorts short enough to reveal too much leg.
  2. These dress codes are not necessarily targeting girls - boys are also asked not to wear t-shirts with violent images or pants that hang down past their boxer shorts.
  3. At some point "girls" become "women." If we don't think it's right for a young woman to be dressed provocatively, then why would we allow our young daughters to do the same?

Arguments AGAINST dress codes

  1. Self-respect or being "respectful" has nothing to do with the clothing girls wear, or the amount of skin they're showing
  2. Dress codes sexualize young girls by assuming that their clothing is provocative - that boys will be distracted by their shoulders, legs, butt and breasts. Dress codes enforce the notion that girls need "protection" from boys.
  3. Dress codes are only enforced for some girls - the ones who develop early and have breasts are told to cover up, yet the petite breast-less girls are not asked to do the same.
  4. By enforcing dress codes, we can invariably make some girls (the ones who are either chubbier or developing more quickly) feel very uncomfortable about their bodies.

This is a touchy subject, and one that made my head hurt :) As a feminist, I lean towards the arguments against dress codes, given that they target girls more than boys. A gender-neutral dress code seems more appropriate to me, but I have yet to see one that isn't  heavily focused on what girls wear.

I want to raise my daughters to be happy in their own skin, and I worry that someday they will be made to feel uncomfortable by a teacher or principal. 

And as a breastfeeding advocate, I have serious issues with young girls' chest fat or developing breasts being sexualized (in fact, I don't think any breasts should be sexualized. They are there to feed babies, full stop, whether or not you are willing or able to breastfeed).

Being a girl is tough stuff, and is made tougher when our body parts are constantly being objectified.

And, personally, this dress code is a hard pill for me to swallow...

What do you think? Should short shorts and spaghetti straps for young girls be banned?

 

 

How to talk with your kids about sex and sexual health

By Chris

Ontario is implementing a new Health and Physical Education curriculum this fall and the revisions to the sexual health education components have resulted in a public discussion about what is appropriate for our children to be learning.  

Sexual health education is challenging for many parents. We bring all of our learning and life experiences, positive and negative, to the topic. We bring our perceptions of our own bodies and we bring religious and cultural teachings. It is a lot to pack into one issue.

Kids don’t come with instruction manuals. There are, however, some things we can do to help our kids learn about their bodies and prepare them for the physical and emotional changes to come. We can help them to make informed choices and protect themselves and we can teach them our values.

Sexual health is a lifelong discussion. It is not a single ‘talk’. Sexual health is not the same as sex. Humans are sexual beings. We are designed to reproduce and our bodies are designed to experience sexual pleasure. Although not all people choose to reproduce, we all have the bits to make it happen. Taking care of our sexual and reproductive organs is part of being healthy.

As parents our job is to keep our kids safe. There are all kinds of conflicting messages about how to do that. How do we do it all?

How to talk with your kids about sex and sexual health

  • Check your feelings and values in advance. What is your perspective on sex? Are you satisfied with your level of knowledge? Where does sexuality fit within the context of your faith and culture? 
  • Respect your kids and where they are coming from. Answer their questions honestly. If you are a trusted source for accurate information, they will come to you for more instead of the internet or friends.
  • Clarify what they want to know. Ask what they know/understand first. Ask what they have heard and if the information you provide answers their questions.
  • Respond to your kids’ questions, don’t always push your values. They will learn your values from daily life and how you respond to issues and questions in life. It isn’t necessary to push values when they are seeking facts.
  • Acknowledge when you are uncomfortable with a topic or when you don’t know the answer.
  • Be realistic. Too much information all at once can be overwhelming. Pay attention to what your child is saying with their words and their body language.
  • Let them know that there is a range of normal feelings, changes, relationships, etc. 

Starting the conversation

  • Start the conversation when they are learning to talk. Teach them the correct vocabulary for all of their body parts - arms, legs, vulva, penis. Give them the language for the rest of the conversation.
  • Teach about consent in all areas, not just sex. Check in to see if they are ok with being tickled. Give them permission to refuse cheek pinches from older relatives. Don’t force them to give grandma a kiss good-bye.
  • Take advantage of teachable moments such as a pregnant adult in their life, media stories or tv shows about topics related to sexual health.
  • Answer questions as they come up. Answer the question they ask e.g. where do babies come from? They may not want a full discussion on reproduction. An answer such as “Mummy’s tummy” might be sufficient. Other questions like how do they get out or how do they get in there will come in time. 
  • Read a book with them - some great suggestions from Yummy Mummy Club

Resources

Ontario Health and Physical Education Curriculum 2015 - including parent guides

Ottawa Public Health 

Planned Parenthood Ottawa - community sexual health educators

Sexual Health and Rights Canada 

Chris is a Canadian father of three girls, and writes a great blog called Dad Goes Round. Connect with him on his Facebook page!