Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Piano Curriculum Christian Homeschoolers Will Love!

Every child should study piano!

And whether you can afford to send your child to a teacher for private lessons or not, there are two good quality, inexpensive piano curricula that I highly recommend for Christian homeschoolers!

As a musician and former piano teacher, I cannot stress enough the importance of having your child learn piano. Music is a wonderful gift to us straight from the heart of God, and this gift has many benefits. The study of a musical instrument:

* builds character and self-discipline

* improves concentration and focus

* exercises both sides of the brain

* builds self-esteem

* sharpens skills needed for math and reading

* provides a creative outlet that can be shared and enjoyed for a lifetime

Why Piano?

Even if your child is more interested in guitar, violin, flute, drums, or some other instrument, most musicians and teachers recommend studying piano first (or at least in addition to the favored instrument).


Because all the musical concepts that need to be understood when playing any instrument can be most easily demonstrated, studied, and mastered using the piano. Once a person has a good grasp of how to navigate a piano keyboard, that knowledge is easily translated to understanding other instruments so much better and being able to master them faster.

I started out learning piano at a young age. I was able to pick up both guitar and bass very quickly then in my early teens. This came to me so easily because I was able apply the musical concepts I had already learned from the piano.

Music is not totally some mysterious talent that you either have or you don't. Music is an orderly system of simple patterns that anyone can (and should!) study and understand.

So now that you see why studying music and especially piano is so important, let me share with you my favorite curricula that I guarantee you will love!

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks!

Madonna Woods Piano Course for Christians

This piano course has 6 levels that gently lead the student from absolute beginner to advanced pianist. I used this curriculum the most when I was a piano teacher, and I can guarantee you it is top-notch.

A motivated child could easily work through this piano course independently. All the necessary instruction is clearly presented. And even if you have no prior musical experience you could still follow along and guide your child in their lessons.

My favorite aspect of Madonna Woods Piano Course for Christians is that it teaches using classic hymns, Sunday School songs, and Gospel songs. Children are really motivated to practice when the songs they play are familiar and so meaningful. Some classical composers are also introduced along with arrangements of their music.

The design of the books is simple and not distracting. Text and pictures are all printed in black and white. This curriculum is thorough and very meaty, so do not let the simple look cause you to pass it up.

Madonna Woods Piano Course for Christians is geared toward children and youth, but I have had great success using it with adult piano students as well. I would recommend waiting until a child is at least 6-7 years old before starting the first (Preparatory) level.

Purchase this wonderful piano curriculum here!

Alfred's Sacred All-in-One Piano Course

This piano course has 5 levels, and I have used it with several former students as well. This is the curriculum Big Brother is using with his new piano teacher, and he thinks it is fun!

These books are a bit more colorful than the others.

This course is also a top of the line program that I recommend to anyone who wishes to study piano. It could probably be started with a younger child of 4-5 if he/she seems ready and eager to play piano.

The books in this series also have enough of instruction included so that they really could be used at home without hiring a professional piano teacher.

Theory work is included right in the lesson books. That means there are pages with written exercises for the student to complete to better understand musical concepts covered in the course.

While not as many actual hymns are included in these lesson books, the song lyrics are all about Jesus or the Bible or some Godly character trait. Many of the tunes will be familiar and enjoyable.

Purchase this trusted piano curriculum here!

Have questions about your homeschooler and music? Leave a comment below or ask me on Facebook!

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Saturday, August 27, 2016

It's All Greek to Me!

Have you missed us? We've been crazy busy for the last while, so blog updates have fallen by the wayside.

We did finish our unit on Ancient Egypt, and it was a HUGE success! We ended the unit with a study of Passover and watching the classic The Ten Commandments movie. Big Brother and I discussed the similarities and differences between the Biblical account and the movie. He picked out many glaring differences right away! Even though this movie is an enjoyable classic, t is SO important that we know the truth from God's Word and share it with our children so when they see Hollywood's skewed version, they can tell the difference!

So on August 8th we moved on to Unit 2 of A World of Adventure: Ancient Greece!

We kicked off this unit by watching the Drive Thru History DVD titled "Greece and the Word". This whole series happens to be a family favorite. Big Brother laughed hysterically at Dave Stotts' fast-paced and fun way of exploring history. He really learned a lot from this DVD, and we are referring back to it all the time as we are continuing to cover ancient Greece.

Since the Greeks were fascinated with the human body, that is the focus of our science class for this unit. So far we have read about the major body systems, played a puzzle game to learn the names of many of our bones, measured our heart rates and chest expansion, and watched several interesting DVDs from Answers in Genesis's "Body of Evidence" series featuring Dr. David Menton. These DVDs are pretty in-depth and are actually recommended for high schoolers, but 8 year old Big Brother has still picked up a lot of good information from them.

We have enjoyed reading and discussing Aesop's Fables, the parables of Jesus, various Biblical Proverbs, and stories from Greek Mythology. (Big Brother says he's very glad the One true God is NOTHING like the many selfish and silly gods that the ancient Greeks believed lived on Mount Olympus!)

We are working on memorizing Psalm 139 for this unit. This will be the longest Scripture passage Big Brother has ever committed to memory! So far he knows the first 8 verses. We are just working on this a little at a time each morning.

It has been interesting to see just how much of the ancient Greek culture, art, and language has found it's way into our own.

One day this week while driving through a nearby town, Big Brother noted all the different types of Greek columns he saw on different buildings. He got so excited identifying the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian style columns he saw; and it turned an afternoon of running boring errands into a fun learning experience!

Another way we have been turning van time into learning time has been listening to audiobooks and stories on CD. We've recently discovered storyteller Jim Weiss and Great Hall Productions. His retellings of ancient Egyptian and Greek myths have been just great.

In other news:

Little Brother has been enjoying getting to explore a child sized drum set after his weekly Kindermusik classes. He really seems to have a natural sense of rhythm!

Big Brother has begun taking formal piano lessons at the same local studio where Little Brother attends Kindermusik. He is really excited and practices above and beyond his required time. He's looking forward to getting to use his developing musical talents to minister to seniors at a new local nursing home facility soon.

4-H meetings and activities start back up for the school year this week. Big Brother looks forward to participating in the local Homeschool, Cloverbuds, and Shooting Sports clubs this year.

Our local homeschool support group is also busy! We've had several afternoon meetings for play time at the park, and next week we will be doing a fun science co-op class in preparation for an upcoming group field trip to Mammoth Cave!

Have you started back to school yet? I would love to hear how your year is going so far!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Financial Peace, Jr. - Chores and Money!

My husband and I have been "fans" of financial teacher Dave Ramsey ever since we were dating. We've read his books (some of them numerous times), listened to his show, and implemented many of his "baby step" ideas in our own family's finances. While thankfully we have personally never had any debt to have to get out of, we do use Dave's cash-envelope budgeting system idea, we have an emergency fund in place, and we are currently in a phase of being "gazelle intense" about saving up a good down payment for a home of our own (we currently rent a small duplex unit). Never heard of Dave Ramsey and have no idea what I'm talking about? Check out his website or grab a copy of his bestseller The Total Money Makeover!

One thing that Dave Ramsey promotes is "changing your family tree" and leaving a legacy to your children. My husband and I have really felt strongly that we want to pass Biblical principles of stewardship, strong work ethic, smart budgeting, saving, and generosity on to our boys. That will require us to not only model those principles in front of them; but to actively teach them the value of working, the discipline of saving, the need for making wise spending choices, and the joy of cheerfully giving in ways they can understand now and appreciate as they grow into men.

So as we were looking for ideas for beginning to teach Big Brother how to be wise with money, we were happy to come across Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace, Jr. Kit for children ages 3-12!

Dave does not advocate giving children an "allowance" just for existing, because this teaches them to expect to get something for nothing. But he rather encourages parents to set up a system in which their children can earn "commissions" for responsibly completing certain assigned chores. Then parents work with their children to help them learn to budget the money they have earned into simple categories like Give, Save, and Spend.

We are very happy with using this program so far! Big Brother was really excited to get his own Dave Ramsey materials and to start regularly earning his own money!

The kit we ordered includes:

- Parent Guide Book
- Activity Book
- 3 zipper money pouches
- Magnetic chore chart & marker
- a download link for a book called Smart Money Smart Kids written by Dave and his daughter, Rachel

The magnetic chart hangs on our fridge, and we use it to keep track of his chores and his earnings. It also has a spot for tracking his saving and giving goals.

The Activity Book features 4 lessons for the child to complete in order to get the most out of the program. There are fun stories about a boy named Junior, Scripture verses, pictures to color, and other fun activities to make the lessons fun and helpful.

My husband and I both read through the Parent Guide before we got started, and we discussed together how this program was going to work in our family. We decided that some things like doing his schoolwork, making his bed, cleaning his room, having good behavior, taking care of his own hygeine, and helping out with something when asked were simply things that are expected of him as a member of this family. So those things do NOT earn him commissions. We felt it important to make this distinction up front so as not to constantly hear "Do I get paid for this?"

We set a weekly limit for how much commission he can earn. We decided that he would complete lessons in his Activity Book on Sunday afternoons with Daddy, I would assign and supervise his daily chores through the week, and he would be paid for his work on Fridays.

This is our first week, and so far it is going great! Big Brother completed his first lesson with Daddy on the value of working on Sunday. He liked the story and activities that went along with it! I assign chores that need to be done each morning, and Big Brother gets right to them after breakfast without a fuss.

We have set it up so that he can actually earn $8 in chore commissions per week ($1 for each year of his age), and if he responsibly completes all his chores every day he will receive a special $2 bonus as an added incentive. So basically if he works well he can get up to $10 total per week to divide among his Give, Save, and Spend money pouches. If he doesn't work, he doesn't get paid. The amount of money he receives (as well as the amount of responsibility) will go up each year on his birthday. We feel these amounts are appropriate and more than fair for him at this time.

We are using a 10-10-80 plan right now to teach him basics of budgeting. He is required to put at least 10% of his pay in his Give pouch and at least 10% in his Save pouch. The other 80% is free to be placed in his Spend pouch or, if he wishes, he may add extra into the Give or Save categories.

Through this program, Big Brother is learning that we have to work to get money and that we have to plan and save up for things we want to buy. For practice, he has chosen his first Saving goal. He is currently working toward saving up $30 to purchase a new LEGO set he has picked out. His math skills are getting a good workout as he has been planning and figuring up how long it will take him to save up $30! Eventually he may set larger saving goals as he gets older such as saving up to buy his first car.

We are also allowing him to choose where the money in his Give pouch will go. "God loves a cheerful giver" according to 2 Corinthians 9:7, so it is important that this money goes to causes that he really cares about. I was very proud when he immediately began listing out big ideas he has for this money! This week he says he plans to put his first Give money in the offering box at church. He has also mentioned giving to our local Christian radio station, making donations to Feed My Starving Children, purchasing supplies and postage for making and sending cards to sick children, and filling a shoebox of his own with gifts for Operation Christmas Child! I am excited because I know he is going to find so much joy and blessing from being able to bless others with money that he has earned on his own!

His Spend pouch is for him to...well...spend! He can bring this money with him whenever we go shopping; and if he sees some toy, book, video, candy, etc. that he wants, instead of begging us for it, he can buy it himself if he has enough spending money. No loans from us, and no taking money from Save or Give to cover impulse purchases! Hopefully this will help him build strong character and wise money habits now so that he will be better prepared for the much bigger challenges he will face in adulthood.

We have told him that as loving parents, we will provide him with things like a home, food, clothing, medical care, and school supplies (including curriculum, field trips, educational activities, etc.) as well as nice Christmas and birthday gifts. Above and beyond that, he is expected to earn his own money to spend on his other "wants!" We hope this will go a long way toward teaching him to be a more grateful, resourceful, and responsible young man.

Of course Little Brother is just 2, and for now a system like this is too far above his level of comprehension. So for now he is just learning to enjoy being helpful at home and that oh so difficult lesson that we can't get everything we want. I am sure someday he will enjoy Financial Peace, Jr. too!

How about you? How do you handle things like chores, allowances, and discussions about money with your children? Have you used Financial Peace, Jr. or some similar system? How did it go? I would love to get your input and thoughts on this topic!

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks!