Stories and thoughts from day to day life in the Bullard Family

White Sand and Grey Sand September 21, 2012 Widgets

Here is my first post in a long while! Now I am trying to incorporate our music group into this blog. So here is my first attempt at using a widget to access some of the music we are using in our class at the moment.

While this recording uses different words than what we use in class, it is the correct melody.

We sang about sticks: red sticks and yellow sticks; who will play the red sticks? Who will play the yellow sticks?

Blue sticks and green sticks; Who will play the blue sticks? Who will play the green sticks?

I sang this phrase through once, then hummed it while handing two children a pair of sticks to play. I did this until all the children had sticks (and the adults). This required the children to wait to receive a pair of sticks, rather than everyone attacking the pile of instruments at one time. We all know this is good for practicing those skills related to patience and waiting one’s turn.

Once everyone had a pair of sticks, we played them on the floor, clicking them together at different heights (in front of lap, above head, etc.). All the while, we sang the melody with different syllables: la la la, dum dum dee dum dum, doo doo doo, etc.

Once we know the melody:

This song makes a great round- in fact, it is a round! We will sing this in class as a round. The children are not expected to do this, but having them hear what we are doing will plant the seeds to get them ready for harmony one day! Until then, we will sing about sticks and maybe other fun things like leaves, fruit, or whatever else we want to focus on.

And a side note:

Thanks for being patient while I get this figured out- I think I posted prematurely here, but should be up and running smoothly in no time!


Book Review: Discipline the Brazelton Way August 15, 2011

Book Review: Discipline the Brazelton Way by T. Berry Brazelton and Joshus D. Sparrow

Written by veteran pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton and child psychiatrist, Joshua D. Sparrow, this book provides a quick run-down of basic discipline techniques and approaches. It is easy to read and gives the reader tangible solutions to discipline “hot spots” as well as a little background on the importance of discipline and how it works.

The book opens with the “touchpoints of discipline,” which are “times when a child regresses in anticipation of a developmental leap ahead.” These are the typical growth milestones: the first 6 months, 7-8 months, 9-12 months, 12-14 months, the second year, and what comes after: emotional development, self-esteem, and moral development. From a theoretical orientation stand point, this section sounds a bit Freudian, or more psychodynamic. It explores how defenses are built in early childhood. The information here seems pretty grounded and was an interesting view on child development.

The second chapter discusses approaches to discipline, such as the parent’s own memories of discipline, influence of temperament, leading by example, interpreting behaviors, and consequences, to name a few. It provides enough information for the reader to get the gist of approaches, though is not an exhaustive in-depth look at discipline approaches.

The third chapter holds all the keys: ways to discipline. Methods are presented in three categories: 1. Usually worth a try, 2. Sometimes useful, and 3. Not helpful. This is where the reader will find things like time-out, taking away toys, spanking, or ignoring behavior. Each way of disciplining is explained and then weighted with pro’s and con’s. I thought this was a great lay-out for presenting different discipline options.

Finally, the fourth chapter explains some of the typical problems of discipline. These include attention seeking, biting, defiance, lying, power struggles, running away, etc. Each issue is briefly discussed and then goes on to suggest what the parent might do to deal with the issue.

My take on the book:

If you are in need of a quick and easy introduction to discipline, this is a great book. It won’t help you develop a personal philosophy on discipline or really change deeply ingrained discipline habits if you have been using any for a while. I am new to discipline (a fairly blank slate), so I could quickly incorporate some of the ideas here and get results.

The book also offers some nice verbal examples of what to say to children. Sometimes, parents just need a script for certain instances and the authors do a good job of demonstrating dialogue around discipline.

While things for me are still fairly uncomplicated (my oldest is 2.5 right now), I am still looking for something with more substance to help me develop a stronger discipline philosophy / approach.

The most helpful technique or bit of information that I have taken from this book is the concept that children at this age (2-3 years) do not have the ability to keep impulses in check and they need our help. BUT, at this age, they also want to do things for themselves and are testing out their independence. This is scary to a child in a way because they realize how much “power” they have. To help my daughter, I have been telling her that she can do it herself (comply with my request) or I will have to help her do it (physical intervention). After two or three times of me “helping” her, she always chooses to do it herself. This applies to things like putting on shoes, getting in the car, giving a toy back to her brother, climbing down from the table, etc. While this is a little over-simplistic, it works for now.

On the whole, the book is practical and to the point. It is a great introduction to discipline and a nice fix if you don’t have a lot of time to put into really learning and understanding discipline in the big picture.


Late Summer Circle Time August 6, 2011

Filed under: Circle Time — parentsong @ 7:20 am
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Now that the shift toward the close of summer is coming, I thought it would be a good time to start a new selection of songs and poems for our circle time. I think six or seven weeks for the same grouping of songs and rhymes is probably long enough. I’m certainly ready for new material!

Hanky Panky

I like to start the first two lines alternating claps with hitting both hands on knees, then jump around for the “hip hop” bit and make a big jump and sit down for the “kerplop.”

Down by the banks of the hanky panky,

Where the bullfrogs jump from bank to banky,

With a hip, hop, hippity hop,

Jump off the lilypad, and kerplop!

Five Little Fireflies

For the poppity pop, I open and close my other hand.

One little firefly shines very bright.
(Hold up one finger) Poppity-pop-pop, on-off goes its light.
Two little fireflies suddenly spark,
(Hold up two fingers) Poppity-pop-pop, they glow in the dark.
Three little fireflies flicker and fly,
(Hold up three fingers) Poppity-pop-pop, watch them pass by.
Four little fireflies glimmer and glow,
(Hold up four fingers) Poppity-pop-pop, just look at them go.
Five little fireflies blink in the night,
(Hold up five fingers) Poppity-pop-pop, my, what a sight!
– By Lois E Putnam

Shoo Fly

This song is a huge hit with Briony. There seems to be lots of bugs flying around the garden this time of year, so we sing it even out of the circle.
Shoo fly, don’t bother me,

Shoo fly, don’t bother me,

Shoo fly, don’t bother me

For I belong to somebody.

I feel, I feel, I feel like a morning star,

I feel, I feel, I feel like a morning star.


In the wildflower preserve near our home, milkweed is abundant. Soon we will search for the open pods of seeds on our nature walks.

In a milkweed cradle all close and warm,
(Place cupped hands together)

Little seeds are hiding safe from harm.
(Keep hands closed)

Open wide the cradle now, hold it high.
(Open cupped hands, raise them above your head)

Come along wind, help them fly.
(Sway open hands in the air)

John the Rabbit

A great song for taking turns singing the words and the “yes ma’am” part. As we start, Briony sings the “yes ma’am” but I know she’ll want to sing the words as soon as she learns them! There is also a great video from Elizabeth Mitchell on youtube.

Oh John the rabbit, yes ma’am
Had a mighty bad habit, yes ma’am
Of jumping in my garden, yes ma’am

He ate my tomatoes, yes ma’am
And all my sweet potatoes, yes ma’am
And he cut down all my cabbage, yes ma’am
And he ate up all my peas, yes ma’am
And if I live, yes ma’am
To see next fall, yes ma’am
I just won’t have, yes ma’am
Any garden at all. NO MA’AM!

I also include a part of the poem “September” by Helen Hunt Jackson. It is printed in a book filled with really great poems for children titled “Songs from the Tree-top and Meadow.” You can view the entire book on Google books (at least, at the time of this writing you can). For the month of August, I only say the first two verses. I’ll maybe split it in half and recite the last three verses for September. I have found shorter poems are easier to memorize for me and my 2-year-old.

The goldenrod is yellow,

The corn is turning brown,

The trees in apple orchards

With fruit are bending down.


The gentian’s bluest fringes

Are curling in the sun,

In dusky pods the milkweed

Its hidden silk has spun.


The sedges flaunt their harvest

In every meadow-nook,

And asters by the brookside

Make asters in the brook.


From dewy lanes at morning

The grapes’ sweet odors rise.

At noon the roads all flutter

With golden butterflies.


By all these lovely tokens

September days are here,

With summer’s best of weather

And autumn’s best of cheer.


Book Review: Montessori From The Start July 29, 2011

Filed under: Book Review — parentsong @ 11:24 pm
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Montessori From The Start: The Child at Home, from Birth to Age Three, by Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jessen

The authors of this book are a mother-daughter team who, along with Jane Linari, co-founded the Forest Bluff Montessori School and have written several other books on the subject. The book opens with an introduction to Maria Montessori’s philosophy and teaching approach concerning education for different stages of development. It provides enough background information to ease the reader into the Montessori approach. I have only just started learning about Montessori education and felt that this gave a good over-view.

The book is PACKED with information and gives you all the basics for establishing a Montessori home for children aged 0-3. I took 20 pages of handwritten (small) notes because I simply could not process all the information without doing so! I’ll just provide some key points from each chapter here.

Chapter One: The Completion of the Human Being introduces the overall development of children through age 24. This includes growing independence, coordinated movement, language, and developing will. The key is that adults must prepare the environment to give the child freedom and responsibility.

Chapter Two: Welcoming the Newborn describes how the environment should be set up, what objects to provide and what types of “activities” to do with the newborn. What stood out to me in this chapter was the development of attention in the first three months. Here, it is made very clear that adults should be careful not to interrupt the infant while he is taking in his environment. This means refraining from shaking different toys in his face and overstimulating the poor thing with plastic toys. The authors encourage the adult to notice when sustained attention is taking place and to allow for this to happen by not distracting him.

Chapter Three: Discovering the World provides guidelines for choosing toys for your baby and toddler. It gets quite specific, going into the types of mobiles that should be used and when they should be used. It sounds a bit rigid, but there are valid reasons behind these recommendations and it all serves to support maximum development. Montessori play things are based in reality, which means the objects must make sense (no baby aliens with glowing, singing heads), ordered, functional, and beautiful.

Chapter Four: The Hand and the Brain delves into detail about the development of the manipulation of objects with the hands. I found this to be incredibly interesting as I have worked with children who have difficulty manipulating things with their hands. Movement is learned and guided by thinking rather than mechanical actions. The chapter brings much needed focus to fine motor development, as gross motor seems to get all the encouragement these days.

Chapter Five: Crawling to Coordination goes through gross motor development and emphasizes not placing restriction on this development. Restriction in this instance refers to placing babies in exersaucer-type devices, walkers, strollers, slings or even helping the baby to sit when he cannot hold himself up. Tummy time is an understatement, as the authors suggest that babies should be on their tummies the majority of their waking time to encourage physical development. Baby-proofing the house is also covered thoroughly.

Chapter Six: Practical Life focuses on what types of activities the 15-month-old should begin doing and carries on through to age three. It takes considerable amount of planning and preparation to carry out the recommended activities. As a non-Montessori parent, I would really struggle to be this organized to teach my toddler how to cut and prepare her own vegetables. But if you are interested in teaching very practical activities to your children, this book breaks down the tasks to teach you how to teach your child. Enough examples are given that they can be adapted and expanded to other tasks.

Chapter Seven: Personal Care shows the reader how to encourage independence in self-care from the young child. Steps for independence are provided in the area of sleep, food, dressing, toilet training, and grooming. The authors explain the “sensitive periods” for learning these tasks to minimize resistance from the toddler for things like brushing teeth and toilet training.

Chapter Eight: Language and Intelligence presents information on the development of spoken (oral) language, written language, music and art, and toys and imaginative play. In alignment with the rest of the book, the authors provide detailed descriptions of the types of activities, books, projects, and play things that one should use for optimal development. Basically, things should be reality-based. No stories of talking animals or flying children for toddlers. Limit-setting is also discussed.

Chapter Nine: The Developing Will discusses how discipline, obedience, and self-control all begin in childhood. The authors go on to talk about how it is developed. Through the prepared environment (one that demonstrates order and structure), the adult must make clear to the child what to expect, when to expect it, and where  to expect it. Routine is of utmost importance, as the child’s frontal lobe is not yet fully developed and therefore rely on external structure to define what is going on.

The book closes with a conclusion chapter which illustrates Montessori principles in practice. When I read about these families, I realized that I could not implement many of these things, simply because I am not a super-organized person. It is a pretty incredible thing for the people who can pull this off! I commend them.

My take on the book:

This is probably one the most influential books I have read on parenting to date. I like this particular book so much because it is based on common sense learning. It encourages children to take as much responsibility as early as possible and to build creativity based on the child’s own imagination, rather than the adult’s imagination that is imposed on the child. It may seem as though too much responsibility is placed on the child if you are not used to hearing things such as toilet training starting at 6 months.

One thing that has really changed how I deal with my 2-year-old is understanding that their brains process things so much slower than ours do. They have not yet learned how to filter out things in their environment, so everything receives equal attention. This is why it is so hard to keep them focused! So when it is time to do something else, redirect, or move on from whatever seemingly random thing she has decided to focus on, I repeat my instruction to her calmly 3-5 times. I used to get impatient, but if I stay calm, she listens. It just takes time. I am excited to implement other practices as I see fit for my children’s personalities.

If you are interested in how to give more responsibility to your child or how to develop a Montessori home, this book is a great place to start!


Circle Time at Home: An Introduction July 2, 2011

Filed under: Family — parentsong @ 12:54 pm
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Most preschoolers and even children in day care probably experience some kind of “circle time” during the day. In our Waldorf-inspired parenting group we attend, we open with circle time. Everyone gathers to sit in a circle and we go through a short series of songs, rhymes, finger plays, and usually close with a little something to nibble on. We use the same circle at home that is used when we are in the group. The songs and rhymes usually reflect the season and help the child to recognize and relate to what is going on around them.

I love circles at home because it is a designated time of the day that we can focus on singing and rhyming. It is a short time, only about five or ten minutes. For the young child, this repetition is important for building language and communication skills as well as attention span, memorization skills, and social skills. It feels so wonderful to have Briony saying the rhymes with me and singing the songs. It creates a meaningful ritual in the day.

In future posts, I hope to share circles (sets of songs and rhymes) that we are using. These change over every so often, probably about every two months. It is fun to put the circles together and use them. Maybe it will inspire some of your own circles! I’d love to hear special songs or rhymes you like to use with your little ones, even if they aren’t so little anymore!


Daily Rhythms and Musical Rhythms June 11, 2011

Filed under: Parenting — parentsong @ 10:35 am
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I wrote this when we were first learning about daily rhythms and young children. We were attending the Waldorf-inspired parenting group and Briony was about 8 months at the time. I think it is still relevant to us now, and perhaps even more so.

Rhythm is the component of music we are most familiar with by the time we are born. We are already exposed to the rhythm of our mother’s heartbeat, the rhythm of walking and maybe even dancing. Songs we learn are organized and structured through rhythm, which we can recognize by the time we are about 12 months old. Other components of music, such as melody, harmony, timbre, tempo and mode define characteristics of songs, but it is often the rhythm that we are immediately drawn to. Think of all the times you clapped along to a song you’ve never heard before. It was the steady rhythm, or the pulse, that made that possible. This gives us a sense of belonging and order even if the music is unfamiliar.

What does this have to do with the rhythm of daily life that we establish for our children? It is the sense of feeling at home in a comfortable place that rhythm provides for our young children as they learn to navigate the world. It is also what gives us that same feeling when we listen to music we can “groove with” and just be, no matter what our state of mind might be.

Imagine that the over-all rhythm of the week is the pulse, or what you would clap along to. Each night and day alternates: night, day, night, day. What happens in between does not matter as of yet, you are just learning the pulse. You can clap along and that is satisfying enough. As you become more familiar with the rhythm, you notice that day has more going on. There are little rhythms within that time. As you learn those rhythms, you are able to add increasingly complex sounds to the clapping. This becomes even more satisfying.

Now think of a song you know very well. The better you know the song, the more enjoyable it is to engage in the complexities of the music. Maybe something happens at a certain point of the song that excites you: a certain rhythmic pattern, a shift in meter, modulation or change in instrumentation. It could be a part of the song that stands out to you; the part you wait for every time you hear the song. It is always there to satisfy your anticipation. This is like the special moment of the day that the child anticipates. Whether it is a story before bedtime or a walk before lunch, it has its place that feels right. It is this rhythm, which you have brought your child into, that provides the safety and satisfaction to feel at home and in one’s place. It is rhythm that is the great organizer of the many facets of our life.

How do you honor the rhythm of life with your child?


The Songs of Parentsong June 4, 2011

Filed under: Songs — parentsong @ 10:08 am
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Okay, so far my entries have not even mentioned music or songs, the very thing that inspired me to start this blog. As I said in my first post, we sing to our daughter (and now this includes our son) all day. Not literally, but probably about ten or more times throughout the day. Part of this feeds our need to be making music (we both quit the choir once Briony was born). And part of this is to help explain what is happening throughout the day and develop a musical mind in our children.

I’ll showcase different songs we sing with our children at different developmental stages and how we use them. I’m not going to go all out and analyze the music- that is too academic for me right now.

What kind of songs do we sing?

Some songs will be old favorites (think Camptown Races), some will be songs recorded by musicians that we play on a CD (though this is a rarity for the babes under 2), and others will be songs from Nick’s side of the world (that would be England) or little ditties that I wrote.

Many songs come from our experience in the Joyful Parenting program at Morning Glory Children, a Waldorf inspired early childhood experience and kindergarten in Doylestown, PA. It is one of our morning songs. I love it because it is very sweet and greets nature along with the children in the morning. It also has some pretty groovy hand movements.

            Good morning dear earth, Good morning dear sun

            Good morning dear flowers, and stones everyone

            Good morning dear beasts, and the birds in the trees

            Good morning to you, and good morning to me

I’m working on figuring out how to incorporate video here, so I can demonstrate the songs. That is a mighty task for a one-handed, sleep-deprived, technologically-challenged individual.