By Daisy Yau
November is here, and that means Thanksgiving. Yes, there will be lots of eating, lots of gatherings, perhaps even lots of traveling. But don’t forget to breathe. Pause. Reflect. Give thanks. Gratitude does not necessarily come naturally to us, or to our kids. It takes deliberate practice to cultivate a good habit. Here are some things you can do this month to bring some positive energy into your household.
Daisy Yau is an SPMC Board Member, an attorney, and the children ministry director at New Life Community Church, Burlingame.
By Daisy Yau in conversation with Natalia PressmanMusic runs across all cultures through all times. Most would agree that music learning is a good thing. However, many struggle with the commitment that music learning implies – how much does a child need to practice, does my child have what it takes to pass the music exams, am I musically literate enough to help my child?
I had the pleasure to explore what music learning means with Ms. Natalia, the founder and music director of the piano studio Pianissimo in San Mateo. To answer the above questions, one must go back to understand what music learning means.
Q: How has music learning changed over the years?
A: If we go back in history and look at the great composers like Bach, Beethoven, Schumann, we see that they learn music as a language. First they listened. They listen a lot. Then they start imitating. They copy what their teachers play. Finally, they start creating their own music. They compose. Through this process, they gain an understanding of the sounds, the harmony, the phrasing. And they form an emotional connection with the music. Musical literacy as reading and writing came later in life. Note-by-note reading and writing of music was deferred. Most critical in music was self-expression. In fact, Bach and Mozart would have been offended by people attempting to repeat their pieces down to every detail.
But through the past 50 years, people increasingly considered reproduction of a musical piece as the ultimate goal. With the development of technology for printing and recording, perfect reproduction of musical pieces became even more important. It was thought that such reproduction was “respectful” to the composer. Hence, all the creative aspects of interpretation, improvisation, composition, arranging–were taken out of the musical curriculum.
Thankfully, there are new trends today to revive the emphasis on musical connection in music learning.
Q: What is musical connection?
A:I was classically trained. I graduated in Music Performance and Education from the prestigious Conservatory of Buenos Aires, Argentina and continued my career in Europe. I played around the world. But … I couldn't play a note if I hadn’t practiced or planned for it. It’s the same for many graduates from conservatories and universities. They are trained to read a score and reproduce it, or interpret it at best. But if you ask, “Can you play happy birthday?” they freeze. There is a huge disconnection..
Musical connection is an appreciation of music as a way of expressing oneself. Indeed musical connection is ingrained through the human experience. Music starts with lullabies and plays at our funeral. There is music at our birthdays, weddings, and every ceremony that has emotional significance to us. It is such musical connections that should be the focus of music learning.
Q: Is practice needed? How can practice be implemented with a goal towards musical connection?
A:When students are constantly directed as to what is wrong or right, they don't develop self-awareness. Students need to hear themselves first. That takes a lot of mindfulness.
When students do develop self-awareness, they will listen and realize that they are making (at least some) mistakes. Students might face frustration at first, but will learn to problem solve, persevere and value their work. That takes a lot of emotional regulation and skills.
When students do overcome frustration, find solutions and strategies and continue to practice, they will experience the resultד that comes from sustained work. From that, they develop grit, perseverance, confidence and self esteem.
If piano lessons are a sanctuary to obtain the tools for relating to music in a positive and constructive way, then practice should be an application of those tools for relating to music in a positive and constructive way.
Trust the intrinsic joyful experience of music. Music releases dopamine. It calms us, and at the same time activates us. It helps to focus and concentrate at a very deep level. If music is presented as a joyful experience during lessons, kids will want to replicate it at home during practice.
So, what are practical steps for encouraging practice? Provide your child the space for the possibility to replicate a joyful experience with music.
This “space” includes time and place. Kids need structure. They can’t be expected to excel at time management yet. Provide the physical space that creates the possibility of focusing and connecting with music–that means, no TV blasting in the background, no parent talking loudly in a meeting, and no toddler running under the piano. Provide the time–that means, not holding a child up to the expectation of practicing after swimming, horseback riding, and studying a foreign language.
This “space” also includes a mental space. Ask them questions that trigger self-awareness and intrinsic motivation, such as:
A delicate nuance in providing practice space is whether a parent should participate. To be clear, parent participation does not require music training. A parent can play a duet with a child, but a parent can also simply improvise over some keys while the child plays, or the parent can clap, dance, and sing. Sometimes parent participation creates a great environment for a child to practice. At other times, a child may want a private practice space. Either is OK.
Now there will be days in which providing a good practice space is not possible. That’s OK, because the goal is not to repeat a song a certain number of times. If the goal is musical connection, there are many ways to achieve it. Play an audio or video of the musical piece that the child is learning–even while riding in the car. Maybe point to the score while listening. Ask the same questions that you would ask during practice to trigger the same type of self-awareness.
How NOT to do practice: Making practice an assignment or a chore. That would replicate school. Children are used to it. Most students will be OK with assignments; a few will resist. But either way, they will not see music as a skill for their own growth and enjoyment. Yes, they may master a piece. But it's a missed opportunity for musical connection. Don’t expect the child to practice for a certain time at every session. Help them find what their goals are for that week and think how they will get better, that way they will be engaged in the practice for as long as their focus allows them and make progress every time they practice. Let them explore as well, and play their favorite pieces for fun.
Q: How should a child prepare for a performance?
A:A performance is the sharing of music that you enjoy. We all naturally want to share something that we enjoy. There should be no pressure, no judgment. Just a celebration of accomplishments.
Of course that does not mean the child will not be nervous. Acknowledge that performing is challenging. Prior to the performance, run through the feelings with the child. And run through ways to calm oneself in face of such feelings. Ask the child, “What’s the worst case scenario?” Even if the child runs off stage, forgetting all her music, what will happen? Nothing. The child will still be just fine.
As we prepare for a presentation of any kind, they can also practice how they will perform. Those rehearsals should be done during the lessons and also at home. Let them practice if they’ll announce their piece, or if they’ll bow, or how they’ll adjust their seat. Help them take a deep breath and listen to the music in their mind before they start. Having tools to cope with their fears and anxiety will help them in many situations in life, on stage and beyond.
Q: What does musical connection look like in real life?
A:I once had a student who had to stop piano lessons due to the demands of her ballet practice. She was 8 years old at the time. Later on, she had trouble with bullying in high school. Her mom told me that she was still playing the piano for pleasure, and asked if she could resume lessons with me. It’s been 8 years since her last lesson! Of course, I said yes. I introduced her to improvisation, and types of music that reflect her feelings. While searching for music she connects with, she shared with me many feelings and self-reflections that she became aware of through the music. For her, music became a kind of therapy. Music can be very healing.
As for myself, my music learning was built upon musical connection from the very beginning. I could not have learned note reading as I was born blind. I am grateful for that musical connection, and the multiple surgeries that have now enabled my vision.
As a professional pianist and teacher, I had felt that music education was not fostering the joy of music. Many aspects of the musical experience were missing in the lessons. That’s why, after many years of research and experience, I feel compelled to share the joy of music and plant the seed for these connections to grow.
Natalia Pressman is a pianist and music educator with a vast international career. She founded Pianissimo to share the joy of music through psychological science, innovative pedagogy, and cutting edge technology. Her vision is to help her students form a lifetime connection with music.
Daisy Yau is an SPMC Board Member, an attorney, and the children ministry director at New Life Community Church, Burlingame.
By Rachel Kammeyer, MA, CCC-SLP First words and expanding vocabulary are such important aspects of childhood development. No matter whether your child is preverbal or chatting up a storm, it’s never too early or too late to consider the types of words we as parents use to support our children’s language acquisition. One group of words that parents can use with intention are mental state verbs.
Few categories of words offer as much long-term bang for their buck as this group of verbs. Mental states reflect the thoughts and feelings of a speaker and, later in development, the concept of Theory of Mind, which is the ability to understand that someone *else* has their own thoughts and feelings. This is critical for social emotional learning, as it helps convey wants, desires, feelings, and responses to events and internal discomfort or pleasure. What’s also amazing is how children’s ability to communicate their own desires is consistent across cultures and languages (though many more studies of non-English speaking children is definitely required), even when adult use of verbs about thinking is relatively sparse.
Mental states are also important for story comprehension, understanding why a character has responded to an event in a particular way. This has benefits down the road in academic contexts, as children eventually have to infer the thoughts and feelings of characters from texts. Mental states are also linked to the development of executive function, as their use reflects the understanding of intentionality, planning, and prediction of events that are remote in time and space.
All of this may sound very technical and complicated, but actually for parents it is quite easy to start highlighting these words in our own conversations with our children and emphasizing them during activities we are already doing, like story time and meals.
Some ways to incorporate mental states at home or out in the world are to:
I have created this chart to help jump start your mental state sprinkles at home. You might find you are already saying all of these phrases and more!
Rachel Kammeyer, MA, CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist who loves narrative, executive function, and finding simple ways to enrich the learning of individuals across the lifespan. She offers free screenings of childhood speech and language disorders and offers caregiver training and support through the Learn With Less® Framework. Learn more at www.improvisedtherapy.com
I just want to extend a big welcome to all of our new members and our fellow Foster City Parents Club members who are joining us for the second half of the year! I hope you had the opportunity to meet and mingle with our FCPC crew, perhaps at the Mr. Softee event back in June, or our Fur Scales and Tales Show last weekend. And if not, we have several exciting events coming up. As a reminder, if you cannot attend the Pool Party on the 20th, please update your registration. We have 28 families on the waitlist who would love the chance to participate.
The partnership with FCPC is a chance for our clubs to continue to operate as independent entities while combining our membership opportunities by sharing events, planning as a larger organization to support our board members, and utilizing the vast array of park and recreational opportunities our location on the Peninsula offers.
For example, we will be participating in the Foster City Summer Days event later this month! This event is always a blast, and this year our clubs will be helping check IDs, collect drink tickets, and serve drinks at the event (who doesn’t like proximity to the bar?). We’re looking for volunteers for one-hour shifts. This is a great way to help give back to our community and promote the clubs. We do not have a volunteer requirement within our club so when we do ask for volunteers, it is usually because the board is unable to shoulder the responsibility completely. Please consider taking a moment to see if you have the time to enjoy this event AND help out.
We are also supporting Samaritan House’s Backpack Drive, and the deadline to donate is coming up soon on the 8th of August! If you’re able to spare $30-40, you can purchase a pre-filled backpack so more than 2500 low-income children in San Mateo County will have confidence starting the school year!
Lastly we are finalizing our Fall Mini Photography Session Fundraiser details! Stay tuned for more information about our annual opportunity to get those pictures taken by local photographers (and members) and contribute to our club!
Have a wonderful August!
The San Mateo Parents Club is starting an annual survey on the Peninsula market for household helpers – which includes nannies, babysitters, mother’s helpers, night nannies, and au pairs. This is the first such report, and the SMPC is grateful for the community’s response to the survey. The SMPC aims to publish the report every summer, the season in which the nanny market is particularly active as many families transition their children to school or other childcare settings.
We received 48 responses, with 35 (73%) of those being on “Nannies” and the remaining 13 (27%) being on other household helpers.
As defined by the survey:
Since nannies are most common of the household helpers, this article will discuss the nanny numbers first. Overall, the average hourly rate is $27.44. Most families have their nannies working 40 hours per week. Of the responses, only 5 indicated work hours below 30. There is not a significant difference in hourly rate between those working full time versus part time.
Nannies get an average of 9.6 paid vacation days per year. 25 (71%) responses indicated providing sick days. Of those providing sick days, most responses indicated providing 5 sick days per year. 13 (37%) responses indicated providing W2; 20 (57%) responses indicated not providing W2. Interestingly, those providing W2 provide a higher hourly rate: the average rate for those with W2 is $30.42, while without W2 is $25.75.
There appears to be a correlation between the number of children under the care of the nanny and the nanny’s hourly rate. Based on the 35 responses on nannies, the stats are as follows:
The hourly rate for 3 children is strangely shown to decrease. However, of the 35 responses, 18 indicated one child, 11 indicated two children, and only 6 indicated three children. Therefore statistically speaking the data on families with three children is less reliable here.
Of the 35 responses, here are the number of families with nannies having the following credentials and responsibilities:
What credentials and responsibilities make the most difference in hourly rate? The stats are below:
Looking at the various household helpers we surveyed about, here are the survey response counts and average rates of each type:
Household Helper Type
Number of Responses
Average Hourly Rate
Additionally, there was one response on “Au Pair.” It indicated that the weekly stipend provided is $200. Since there was only one response on au pairs, we are not able to conduct statistical analysis about this type of household helper at this time.
Here is a list of interview questions compiled from the survey responses, somewhat organized by category.
A lot can be gained through observation. Are the kids happy with the nanny? If the parent is at home during the day (e.g., working from home), the parent can listen throughout the day. Otherwise, the parent can see if the child is excited for the nanny to come, or doesn't want the nanny to leave. A child sleeping well at night also indicates that the nanny took good care of him during the day.
The parent can also use extra eyes to observe. Ask the child about her day. What did they do? What did they eat? Who did they see? Also ask neighbors and friends what they see. And it is quite common to install cameras in the common areas of the house.
Other tell-tale signs. Is the nanny punctual? At the end of the day, does the nanny tidy up and finish assigned chores? Does the nanny give an honest summary of the day?
Here’s some wisdom compiled from the community feedback:
Note: For those who are interested, here is the raw data.
Welcome our new members for July!
Happy birthday to our July kiddos!
Neil Venkatesh G.
By Laura Porter
Plastic Free Seems Impossible
A few years ago, the San Francisco Chronicle published a story about a woman who was living an essentially Zero Waste life. She fit all of her garbage for a year into a mason jar – a far cry from our weekly trips to haul the garbage cans to the curb for pickup. While it seemed impossible for our family of 4 to ever get close to that, it was clear that there was a lot of room in between where we were and where we could be.
In looking through our garbage that week, I realized that plastic was the biggest offender of our black bin, so I set out to minimize anything that went into our black bin. At the weekly trip to the grocery store, I did an experiment… what could I buy with NO plastic?
Well, it was disappointing. I ended up with a baguette, a dozen eggs, and some fresh produce. Maybe a jar of jam or something in there, but there wasn’t much else we could buy! That was the day it dawned on me that we don’t have a choice about avoiding plastic, and then I wanted to see if it would even be possible.
The short answer was… not really.
Is plastic really that bad?
If they are so ubiquitous, are they really THAT bad? It’s easy to forget that YES, plastics really are terrible for us.
Zero Waste is an Ideal
After visiting what felt like every grocery store in the San Mateo area, I finally got the hang of which stores had bulk products, and which ones carried what I wanted. The problem was that even with that knowledge, I had to go to three different stores to pick up the package-free items that our family wanted. THREE GROCERY STORES? Ain’t nobody got time for that.
As with everything, it’s about balance. Yes, we need to reduce plastics to make sure we aren’t leaving a huge mess for our children, but we also need to make it to the weekend with our sanity. So we find a balance, and give ourselves grace for the slip-ups when they happen.
We’ll never get to the Zero in Zero Waste, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. Strive for Zero, and be ok with the knowledge that you’ve taken meaningful action even if it’s not perfect.
Tips to Reduce Plastic Use
So how does one go about finding more sustainable products?
Here are some considerations that I go through as I try to shop for products for our family, which have helped us minimize our garbage.
Laura Porter is a mom of two and the founder and owner of Byrd's Filling Station, a zero waste grocery store which opened in downtown San Mateo in early June. The store holds a wide variety of products and encourages reuse of containers (bags, jars, bottles, etc) that you already own to replenish your household and personal care needs.
Happy Summer Solstice! Today summer is definitely rearing its hot head... hopefully we’re all staying cool indoors or finding a great place to chill outdoors. Here are a few of my family’s favorite shady spots and water-play places:
Parks with Some Shade:
Got a spot that was left off this list? Please email email@example.com to have it added!
Father’s Day honors fathers as well as the broader concept of fatherhood at large. Father’s Day, in the United States, is the third Sunday of June, which is June 19 this year. Last month, the San Mateo Parents Club provided a list of ideas for honoring Mom – all are equally applicable to Dad! Here are some additional ideas to add to the list.
Learn about Dad’s family tree. Tracing through the family tree helps children learn more about the family’s past and cultural heritage. Dig out the family photo albums and flip through page by page. Interview Dad (and Grandpa!) about their growing up. Make a family tree chart, tracing a few generations up.
Camp indoors. Set up a camping tent in the living room. Better yet, build a fort out of furniture and bedsheets. Make the night fancy by taping glow-in-the-dark stars to the ceiling. Read some bedtime stories about the great outdoors. Snuggle up in your sleeping bags or bring blankets from the bedroom.
Grill a burger for Dad. Dads are stereotypically at the grill. Reverse the trend on Father’s Day and grill something for him. If you need some help, check out this recipe. Or take him out to a burger joint in town: Jack’s Prime Burgers & Shakes, Jeffrey’s Hamburgers, Sal’s Burgers, Habit Burger Grill, and so many more!
Plan a family workout and stick with it. Search youtube for family workout videos. Or make a plan to jog or hike once a week. Once you’ve set a schedule, stick to it. Set up a competition using your fitness trackers. You’ll see the healthy difference in Dad and yourself!
Help Dad with a project on his To-Do list. There’s always something to do around the house. Surely Dad will appreciate some help. Washing the car, repairing something, or building something in the yard.
Play old video games. Does Dad miss Super Mario Brothers? Or is it Tetris, Street Fighter, or Pac-Man? Hopefully you can just dig these out from the attic, but if not, here are some tips on how to find and purchase retro video games.
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