Often the best practices of teaching find their way into my parenting. I've been thinking about how to really encourage Daughters in the things that I ask them to do, because there are links that are not obvious to them. How come mommy can play the piano so well? She's been playing more than 30 years, which is why. How come you drive so well? 20 plus years behind the wheel will do that. Multiplication tables? Telling time? Reading a book? Cooking? All these things I've had practice.
One important thing that teachers can do for their students is MODEL. Show the model of what you want them to produce. Give them the model of what it looks like to work on the tiniest segment of what it is that you want. Model the behavior that you want, the words that you want; whatever you want from your students, your best bet at getting it is modeling it. You want high standards? Model what that looks like. And then after you model it, give tons of time for practice in order to master. The road to mastery of anything is not glamorous or easy, but practice is the absolute cornerstone of it.
So for the sake of Daughters' piano practice and overall perception of practice and grunt work, I've also decided to model how long it takes to learn an instrument and how much work it takes. A couple of years back I tried learning the drums, only practicing the drums in the house late at night was counter productive. Even with headphones on practice just didn't seem to quite work. Then began the quest for the next instrument to learn, and it was in conversation with friend CJR who said, "You should learn to play the bass guitar. You know how to hear it, you feel the rhythms of it, and you essentially copy it when you're playing the piano." Only we don't own a bass guitar. We do however own a guitar which is what Husband has been trying to learn to play for many years, only he doesn't put in the practice time. I've commandeered it and have taken it over.
I've committed to myself daily practice. I watch online videos and study chord charts and have just been getting comfortable holding an instrument. To learn something new I will tell you is not easy. In frustration I told CJR, "I'm missing the gene that allows me to play this!" to which she responded "There is no gene that you are missing that will prevent you from playing it." The answer, of course, is that I have to practice a lot more. The skill that I have at playing piano doesn't automatically transfer over to the guitar, as much as I wish it would. The 30 plus years invested in the piano doesn't mean that the guitar will come easy at all. I am essentially an old dog, learning new tricks.
After three days of practice, I pulled the guitar out to show Children how far I had come. I had figured out how to really hold the guitar comfortably, how to play a chromatic scale up all the strings, and how to strum an "A" chord, the only chord that I successfully deciphered off of the chord chart. Daughters' response to my playing was "THAT'S ALL YOU CAN DO?" while Son's response was, "Let me strum the guitar." I'm hoping that in a few more weeks, I might have actually mastered five chords (I'm on the schedule of mastering one chord a week) and that I'll be able to strum some sort of song. Maybe. But in the meanwhile, I showed Children how hard it is for me to learn the guitar, but how I'm not giving up, and every single night (after I post this blog post) I'll be sitting and practicing until my fingertips are numb.
Along with trying to get this guitar thing under order, I've been trying to rework and teach Children new breakfast habits. Sugary cereals, empty calories, and empty nutrition foods are normally what many eat for breakfast; I'm trying a new standard at home. Friend HKL challenged me to make a "breakfast cookie" or "brookie" that took out all the normal breakfasty type ingredients - sugar, flour, eggs, and oil, and just really pared down the cookie into really good, nutrition packed ingredients. This is what I came up with. It's almost like a granola bar, but far less sweet, but the texture is chewy and crunchy at the same time. You can definitely take out the ingredients you don't like and add what you like, but I really liked the addition of toasted sesame seeds to give it a nutty flavor.
It's not too late to learn new tricks, as long as you give it a good solid practice. (this was my 3rd attempt at this cookie.)
Breakfast Cookie (Vegan)
Makes 16 to 18 cookies
2 cups old-fashioned oats (you can make this gluten free by buying gluten free oats)
1 cup dried cranberries (or dried blueberries, dried cherries, raisins)
¼ cup toasted sesame seeds
¼ cup sliced almonds (optional - add flax seeds, chia seeds, or any other seed or nut you’d like to add)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
3 ripe bananas, mashed really well
¼ cup coconut oil. heated and melted so that it is liquid
1 tablespoon of honey
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Mix together oats, cranberries, sesame seeds, almonds, cinnamon, and salt. Mix well to make sure fruit is well distributed throughout mixture.
In a separate bowl, mix together mashed bananas, warm coconut oil, honey and vanilla extract. Mix until uniform in texture. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients, mixing together well.
To help make a nice shape for the cookie, use a ¼ cup measuring cup, filling it halfway. Press to slightly compress mixture together and then flip cup over onto parchment lined baking sheet and slightly reshape if necessary.
Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool and set on pan for 5 minutes. Serve warm (or at room temperature for a breakfast on the run.)
If you have any interest in reading about how to make practice better - this book hasn't been published yet, but the writers (including my awesome friend) have studied the way to make practice more effective and more powerful. These are super smart teachers and I am thinking of ways to convince them to come to the west coast to spark change and reform.