Parenting as a Business Owner – Music and Movement for Children – Crystal Doughty

Our second interview in our “Parenting as a Business Owner” series is Crystal Doughty. Crystal is the owner of Music and Movement for Children, where she teaches Early Childhood Music classes.

How long have you been in business?

I’ve been teaching these classes for 6 years, and been owner of the business for 2 years. The previous owner, Jan Harvey, had been running the program for 35 years. I had been working with her for a few years, leading the baby and toddler classes, so when she was ready to retire, it seemed the right time to take over the business.

What programs do you offer?

I have various classes, beginning from age 6 months – 5 years. I also have a business partner who teaches an after school class that ranges in age from 5 – 7 years. I run 3 – 4 terms a year, with each term lasting 10 – 14 weeks. The classes are 45 minute long, with some being parent participation and some not. The 3 – 4-year-olds have the option to come on their own. They even have a little music workbook that they work through.

I’ve thought about offering piano for the preschool age, but I feel like at that age, their brains and fingers are just not connected enough. I find that teaching basic music concepts at an early age works much better – bringing music from the inside out. Things like rhythms, melodic echoing, and simple concepts like music going up and coming down – all these things will benefit a young child if they do go on to learn an instrument.

You were saying you have a partner?

Yes, Danielle Thompson (Miss Dani). She has been teaching an after school program one day a week for students in Kindergarten to Grade Two. It’s ideal for children who perhaps aren’t ready for piano lessons or they just want to keep going with the group style class.

Do you have a studio?

Yes! It’s on Bernard Avenue, right beside Starbright. It’s a nice big room with lots of storage for all the instruments I buy, which is one of my weaknesses. I have a waiting room for parents if they want to stay close by while their children are in a class.

When you first took over for Jan, what sort of challenges did you face?

There weren’t too many big challenges, as the program was already kind of a well oiled machine. I had already been working with Jan and because we have very similar music philosophies, it was a nice easy transition. One of the challenges I found was that I wasn’t Jan Harvey. People had known Jan for 30 years, so there were a handful that chose to move on. However, 90% of the parents have continued on with me, because they love our program.

What has been some big successes that you’ve had, since you’ve taken over?

I’ve had many successes, but my top three would have to be:

  1. Several parents have brought their children into the program, telling me how shy their children are. I tell them to just come and try and class, as there is never a moment where a child is forced to participate. Children take in information in all different kinds of ways, so if they want to sit at the side of the class and watch, it’s all good. These students, by the middle to end of the term, are fully participating in the class. They’re laughing, singing, and enjoying themselves. It’s amazing to see that transformation. And to see the parents say “I never thought my child would be able to participate in something, because they’re just so shy”. Seeing music bring that out in them is very cool.
  2. Another thing success has been the family classes. Seeing siblings make music together, where a 6 month old and their 4 year old sibling can make music together, watching the bonding between the siblings is magical.
  3. I started making videos last year, which I post on Youtube for parents and children to watch. What I used to do is send the music home with the parents, as there’s only so much you can remember in 45 minutes a week. I would hand out a sheet with the words to a song that we sang, and by the end of the year, I was looking at this stack of paper every week thinking “how many trees am I killing?”.

So I set up a Youtube channel and my families seem to love it. Parents can let their children watch tv, guilt free, and go make dinner. The children love it because they can sing along and they recognize me. This has changed the participation in class because the children know the songs better, so they’re more likely to participate.

Do you have children?

Yes, I have two boys, they are 7 and 10.

And you’ve been teaching throughout their childhood?

Yes. My youngest was 1 when I started teaching the classes. However, I’ve been teaching private piano lessons for 18 years, currently at the Kelowna Community Music School, as well as one day a week at the studio. When the boys were younger, teaching piano was awesome because I could spend the day with them and by 3 o’clock I was ready to leave the house and teach after school, from 3 – 8. This is when my boys would have dad time. Now that they’re in school, I knew that teaching from 3 – 8 each day wouldn’t work, as I wouldn’t even know what my kids looked like by the end of the week.

Do your kids think of you as a teacher, a business owner, or both?

When they’re asked what mom does, they say I’m a music teacher. I test everything out on them. When they were 4 and 5, I would have them try a song with me and give me feedback. They gave me the best ideas, because they know. They were my guinea pigs.

Do they see your classroom?

They have, but I try to keep it as separate as possible. Occasionally, if childcare doesn’t work out, then my kids come with me and become my helpers. They hand out the instruments, etc. My oldest especially loves helping, and calls the children “little ones”. It’s not a regular thing, but they know what happens in music class. And they both also went through Jan’s program, before I started working with her so I got to see it from a parent’s perspective, as well as from a teacher’s perspective. They loved the program and Jan so much.

Was there a reason you wanted to take on the business?

The timing was perfect. I knew that Jan was the best in the business and had a huge following. I also knew it was what I wanted to do – it’s my passion. All of those things put together just meant that if I had to suck up the admin part, then I would. I would rather just show up and teach, but admin is part of owning a business. Thankfully, the love of teaching far outweighs all the other things.

What advice would you give to somebody who has the opportunity to take over a business or start a business?

Jump in with both feet. If you’re one of the lucky people who find what they are passionate about, that’s what you have to do. There are so many people out there who go into their job everyday and hate what they do. Whether you’re a parent or not, life is too short. So if you find what you love and you can make money at it, that’s win win. Make it work. I know a lot of parents out there battle with the balance between home and work, but if your children see you doing what you love and following your passion then that is motivating for them. Even if it’s a few less hours spent at home a week or a day or whatever it happens to be. If they see that in you that’s inspiring to them.

Anything else you want to add?

Our classes are filling up fast, so if you’re thinking about registering your child, do so soon! The Monday morning family classes are full, but there’s some room in all the other classes.

 

5 ways to encourage a budding scientist

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The process of discovery is ongoing for children. Each year, new situations arise within their lives, giving them new experiences to add to their ‘reference library’. If you’ve noticed your child questioning everything – to the point of making your ears bleed – try not to discourage them, however painful it may be. Provide an opportunity for your child to discover their own answers. Keep in mind their developmental level when choosing activities. Small items are choking hazards! Here are five ways to support your budding scientist:

1. Create a science and discovery box! Here are just a few items to include in such a box:

  • Magnifying glass
  • Small and medium sized magnets
  • Rocks
  • Clean, empty egg shell
  • Small binoculars
  • Clean pieces of bone (perhaps from a chicken or turkey dinner)
  • Small notepad and pencil (so they can record their discoveries, either through words or illustration).
  • A real feather
  • Small plastic tweezers
  • Apple seeds, popcorn kernels, or other small items a child could dissect and examine

2. Purchase a set of children’s encyclopedias. Encourage your child to ‘look it up’ when they have a question. Sit with them and look through the pictures, talking about what they see.

3. Find safe, credible science and discovery websites, where a child can research topics they have questions about.

4. Bake with your child! Adding ingredients and creating a mixture that eventually becomes yummy chocolate chip cookies is a science project, all in itself! Talk about the roles each ingredient plays or how heat makes things melt! If you need to brush up on your chemistry facts, do so. Or better yet – explain to your child that you don’t know the answer and that you’ll research it together!

5. Go on lots of nature walks with your child. Talk about the changing seasons, making observations along the way.

What is the strangest (or funniest) science question your child has asked? Share with us – laughter is great medicine!

Why I dislike the smell of rain

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Rain needs to happen. Its ability to cleanse the earth while nurturing plant and animal life is astounding. Rain brings us magical rainbows. Many song writers of old considered rain to be romantic. Me – I strongly dislike rain, or rather, the smell that fills the air after a heavy rain. Let me explain why…

I spent much of my early childhood playing near a river. Typically, I was alone in my play. I would spend hours sharing my troubles with the rushing water, hunting for shiny rocks to add to my ever-growing collection (much to my mother’s chagrin) and being mindful that other life forms shared this peaceful slice of nature with me (from non-threatening birds to intimidating black bears). I fully enjoyed my nature adventures as a child and dream of the time I can live near a river, to once again enjoy the peaceful solitude.

It was in this river that I nearly drowned the first time. Trying to cross the raging water, walking on slippery rocks, while holding a log – NOT a good idea! I was under the water for only a short time, though it felt like a lifetime. The smell and feel of water in my nose was awful! The second time I nearly drowned was in a pond near our home, when I was 6 years old. It was part of a stunt I was practicing on my bicycle, as a surprise to my mother, who was soon to return from hospital with my new baby brother. Being pinned under the bicycle, in the water, however, was not part of the stunt.

This is why the smell of rain is highly distasteful to me – reminds me of nearly drowning. Almost everyone has a smell or sound that triggers memories, both positive and negative. What are yours?

When parents die

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Recently, a very disturbing, hateful letter was sent to a family in Ontario, Canada. This family has a severely autistic child. Someone in the neighbourhood where this family lives decided to voice their concerns over the noise this autistic child makes, while they are outside. I will not say much else about that letter, as it still sickens me to think that someone could be that full of hate towards another, especially a child with exceptional needs.

The letter did bring up a point, however. As parents, when we give a child life, we are responsible for their care, until they reach adulthood. In some cases, as with an exceptional needs child, that care goes above and beyond the ‘legal’ age, as these children often remain immature, both physically and mentally. As the parent of a child with needs, this is understood. Typically, parents fully accept this role – this is THEIR child. The love they have is unconditional. This baby was born of them. There is no question that they will continue to love and care for this child for as long as they are physically able.

This brings me to the point made in the letter. If something tragic were to happen to you and your spouse tomorrow, leaving your child or children as orphans, who would be there to care for, love, guide and nurture your children? Who would support them through their grief? Who would ensure they brushed their teeth, did their homework, attended all of their doctor’s appointments? With an exceptional needs child, this decision is of even higher importance. There is often a large expense associated with exceptional needs children. Do you have someone in place who can handle this responsibility?

I urge you, as parents or guardians, to ensure there are plans in place, in the tragic and unfortunate event of your deaths as parents. There are many resources available online that can guide you through making a will. A simple Google search will yield lots of results. I’ve included a link from the Province of Nova Scotia, although most of the information seems like it would transfer to any Province. For those outside of Canada, please do a Google search to find information for your area.

Please ensure that your most precious assets – your children – are kept safe, cared for and loved, in the event of your deaths. It will give you piece of mind!

http://www.legalinfo.org/family-law/guardianship-of-a-minor.html

Gratitude – more than just saying ‘thank you’

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Most of us remember our parents telling us to say ‘please’ when we wanted something. Often, parents call it the ‘magic word’. While I have not used this phrase with my own children, I do expect them to say please when asking for something. Besides reminding them of this expectation, I ensure that they observe me practicing what I preach. I believe that the lessons children are taught should be reinforced by the examples children observe.

The same holds true for gratitude. If you are truly thankful for what you receive, blessings and challenges included, your children will observe this, take note and develop within themselves a heart of gratitude. Having an ‘attitude of gratitude’ keeps your stress level down. When life throws a curve ball in your direction – which happens regularly – you are able to handle the challenge, recognizing the lessons it contains and appreciating the blessings that remain. This gives you a positive, solid base with which to conquer (or at least adapt to) the challenges presented to you.

The next time you remind your child to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, be sure and remind yourself of the same – your children are always watching, listening and taking notes!

Life with boys

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For anyone who has been blessed to grow up with brothers and who has sons of their own, you will understand where I’m coming from. There’s something so simple about the way a boy handles a problem. They get angry, frustrated and determined. Sometimes they cry. Then they look for a solution. Girls, in my experience as a childcare provider, get angry, frustrated, determined and stew about the issue. They seek out someone to complain to, who will sympathize with them. Boys seem to have a ‘fix it and forget it’ motto, while girls seem to have a ‘fuss about it and remember it forever’ way of thinking. As I said, this has been my experience.

And boys can eat…and eat…and eat…and eat. Sometimes I wonder if my boys have hollow legs – the amount of food they’re ingesting couldn’t possibly all fit in their stomachs! Alas, such is the case when you have healthy and active children. I’ve been assured that little girls can have the same insatiable appetites. I wouldn’t know about this. As a child, my food was restricted. There is a back story to this, that I may share at some point in the future. Suffice it to say – DO NOT tell your daughter that her brothers deserve food more than she does 🙁

Tell me about your experience with having boys – similar to mine, or completely different?

3 tips for building a strong relationship with your child’s teacher

Another school year is on the horizon. Hundreds of 5 and 6-year-olds are anxiously awaiting September, as it means they’ll see their friends again, have recess and go on field trips. Older children, knowing school means homework and listening to a teacher, may not be so keen for the return to routine. Most parents, however, are thrilled with the return to school!

Especially in the primary grades, a child is heavily influenced by their teacher. They spend a large portion of the day together, after all! Building a strong relationship and partnership with your child’s teacher is beneficial for your child, yourself and your teacher. The following are three ways to make that relationship happen:

1) Open and honest communication

Approach the school year in a positive way. Your child’s teacher is there to guide your child through their educational adventure. They are there to support your child’s development – Social, Emotional, Intellectual, Physical and Creative. They play a large role in your child’s life. Asking questions and voicing concerns about your child’s education, without being accusatory, defensive or angry, is the best way to resolve conflicts, should they arise throughout the school year.

2) Participate in classroom activities and field trips

There is nothing quite like spending an hour or two in a class filled with 22 active, vocal, physical five-year-old’s. If the teacher puts a call out for parent volunteers, answer that call, at least once during the school year, if possible. It will go a long way in helping you understand and empathize with the teacher. It will also give you incredible insight (and a heart swelling with pride!) when you are able to observe your child in their new environment!

3) Have a sense of humour!

This is particularly helpful, in almost any situation you find yourself. Not taking everything or everyone (including yourself) too seriously reduces your stress level. Your child is attuned to you and your mood. If you are particularly stressed, watch your young child for signs of stress – overly emotional, clingy, difficulty sleeping. Beginning their school career is stressful enough for a young child. They need you to be relaxed and positive about the experience, which will give them the confidence to handle whatever situations they may encounter throughout their days.

Remember – Kindergarten is only the first step. There are 12 more years of formal education to support your child through, not including College or University. By that time, they will still require your support – typically in the form of laundry, food and money 🙂

Testing the limits – staying calm with your preschooler

If you’ve ever watched a scene from an old western, featuring the ‘bad guy’ and the ‘good guy’ in a showdown, you’ll have a sense of the recent 90 minute standoff I endured with my preschooler. This particular event would test the patience of even the most saintly person. Although I do admire his staying power, mine is equally as strong. Backing down was not an option for this mommy, so we continued the dance. As his parent, it is my job – my God given directive – to teach and guide my child. He must understand that when you make a mess, you clean it up. This lesson has both practical and metaphorical applications, which I’ll leave you to ponder.

Through deep breathing, a technique learned in prenatal classes (who knew it would come in handy after the baby exited your body!), the screaming lunatic I call crazy mommy was kept at bay. There were certainly a few tense moments, when I thought my resolve may crack. Like I stated before, my son’s stubborn streak is admirable. This character trait will bode well for him as he navigates through the business world, should he choose that career route. It will also benefit him, should he decide to pursue professional sports. However, at this particular juncture in his life journey – being 3 years old and forced to abide by the guidelines of the household he finds himself in – his strength of character seems to cause him no end of frustration.

One has to feel some pity for a child’s lot in life. They don’t choose their parents (another philosophical debate, I suppose), they don’t choose if they have siblings or where they live. In some households, children are provided with some choices, such as what to wear, what to eat and what to play with. This allows a child some semblance of control over their environment, which any human strives for. Being a child, however, control over most things is limited, except in three main areas: If they sleep, if they eat and whether or not they allow their natural body functions to occur (pooping and peeing).

Knowing your child as well as you do, you make a daily judgement call – do you put away the toys scattered on the floor or do you steel yourself for a potential standoff? Depends on your patience level in that moment. Whichever decision you make, the follow through is the most important piece. As it is in most life decisions. Another philosophical discussion for another day and another blog post…

 

3 reasons I am not a good mom…

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There are 3 reasons that I am not a good mom. Here they are, in no particular order:

  1. My floors are not swept and washed daily. I have two boys under age 6, I have my own business as well as work part-time out of the home. My boys spend a lot of time playing on the floor, creating worlds filled with wonder and imagination using plastic bugs, metal cars and empty egg cartons. My floors should be spotless for them. This is the first reason I am not a good mom.
  2. I do not always cook delicious, nutritious meals. This is not to say I’ve never served a wonderful meal – I certainly have, more than a few times. However, well balanced and tasty breakfasts, lunches and dinners are not regular occurrences in my home. This is another reason I am not a good mom.
  3. My children are not enrolled in several different extra-curricular activities. There are no swimming, music or soccer lessons in the lives of my boys. This is partially for financial reasons and partially due to time constraints. I personally do not love the idea of driving my boys to all of these activities, when they’ve put a full day in at school. Yet another reason I’m not a good mom.

These reasons being stated, I feel I should counter with reasons why I believe I am a GREAT mom:

  1. Instead of worrying about my floors being spotless, I concentrate on providing my boys with ample opportunities to develop their imaginations, creativity and conflict resolution skills through play. I sit on the dirty floors with my children, observing with respectful and wondrous eyes. My floors are not covered in anything that would make my boys ill. There are, however, crumbs, sand and random toys scattered around, which I refuse to stress about. This is what makes me a GREAT mom.
  2. I have, on occasion, made dinners using strange combinations – fried tofu slices, french fries and steamed carrots; green scrambled eggs (green peppers, liquified in a food processor then mixed with egg – sneaky, eh?), toast and frozen blue berries. These types of meals are often enjoyed on a blanket, set out picnic style on the living room floor, watching a movie. My boys are SO excited when I announce it’s a picnic dinner. This is what makes me a GREAT MOM.
  3. After spending the day at school, my boys are excited to be re-united. With my youngest son in preschool and my eldest in elementary school, they don’t have the opportunity to see each other until mid afternoon. Quite often, the moment we arrive home, at 2:45 pm, these brothers escape to their shared bedroom, creating their imaginary worlds. Providing them the time and  space to play together is very important to me. This is what makes me a GREAT MOM.

What makes you a GREAT parent? Feel free to share with us!

Perfect child = perfect mommy?

My boys

After attempting an organized sports lesson with my two young boys, I was struck with a realization – they are just children. The oldest one has six years of experience on earth, while the youngest only has three-and-a-half years of experience. Expecting them to understand social norms, thoughtfully consider other people’s opinions and requests, as well as patiently wait for something they desperately want, all of the time, is ridiculous. There are those who have several decades of life experience who do not possess these traits.

The instructors at this organized sports lesson didn’t seem to expect my boys to exhibit these traits. They seemed to understand that children are humans with limited life experience. Why did I not fully grasp that concept until after the lesson was over? Was I equating my children’s behaviour with my worthiness and ability as a parent? Imagine if children’s behaviour was indeed the measure of a parent; the vast majority of us would fail dismally!

Three cheers for ‘ah-ha’ moments! If you’ve recently had any realizations you’d like to share, feel free to comment. Perhaps your realization will open the eyes of someone else 🙂