When I was in college, I decided to major in "something useful." So I decided I would major in mathematics and be a math teacher. I hated the homework in math and loved singing in the university chorus. I soon fell far behind in math and my advisor suggested that choose another major.
In my sophomore year, I took some voice lessons because I loved to sing. I took a class on "Choral Music over the Centuries" from my favorite professor. In my junior year, I decided to major in music because, even though I knew it would not be useful, I thought, "When else in my life am I going to be able to do something that I love?" I planned on making a living as a teacher, so I figured it didn't make that much difference what I majored in. In my senior year, I taught guitar lessons after school and made an excellent hourly wage.
I graduated and started working in an outdoor education school leading the campfire singing in the evenings. After three years, the grant funding was cut for that program, so I taught math and band in a middle school. Though I was good at it, I hated teaching math. It was so regulated. Teachers had to follow a tight schedule without any time to help the kids understand the material. The math was continually tested. There was no fun in the classroom. After two years, I quit because I was very depressed. I hated myself as a middle school math teacher. I was 29.
I went back to school to get my degree in counseling as a therapist. My Mom suggested that I do a few school assembly programs with the songs I used to teach at camp. I needed some money to pay for graduate school. The programs took off. I made $100 bucks a program going to schools and singing about nature and science. People started calling me to teach an after school children's chorus. I was asked to develop curriculum for integrating the arts with social studies. The parents of my chorus children kept asking where I got all the great songs I was teaching them. I made a recording of the songs. I sold tapes of nature science songs. I started going to teacher conferences and selling the tapes. At one conference, I sold 100 tapes in 20 minutes. (made $1000.00 that day). I started traveling around the country teaching teachers how in integrate music into their classroom curriculum.
The Mom of one of my children in chorus worked in an inner city school. The teachers needed release time and wanted the kids to have some music. I did a proposal to teach an entire grade level, 150 kids at a time, every grade level in the school. They paid me $42,000 a year to teach two days a week. A friend of mine, professor of early childhood education suggested to her editor that I do a book on integrating music into other subject areas for teachers. I wrote the textbook and they published it. That got me a job with Fresno Pacific University in their Center for Professional Development teaching teachers how to integrate music into other subject areas.
I did finally get licensed as a therapist and started my private practice. Now I mostly see teachers and children and their families. However, I still teach the Kindergarten and First Graders at Think College Now Elementary School once a week. I totally love every minute of teaching my students to sing. So, would I rather be rich and miserable or teaching music and happy? Marsha Sinetar was right, I did what I loved and the money did follow.
Raising Mr. Fabulous
So many people have asked, " How did you do it, how did you raise a kid like that!?"
First, I knew my husband would make a fantastic Dad. He was just great with little kids. I was very experienced with other people's children and learned how to parent on my nephew and niece. Also, we are lucky that we got a child who inherited the organized and focused attention gene.
At age 2, I watched him stacking cans in order of size and thought, thank goodness he got the organizational gene.
But then, there were lots of things we did as parents to help him develop into Mr. Fabulous.
When he was a newborn, we worked hard to stay calm whenever he got upset. If he screamed during a diaper change, we were very soothing and sang him a song. Later, we didn't battle him, we just did standing diaper changes while he looked out the window and barked to the neighbor's dog.
We kept his sleep schedule highly regulated. Daddy always read him a story before bed. In fact,
Daddy read to him every night until he was 12. He started with Good Night Moon, Winnie the Pooh, Paddington Bear and got all the way through the Harry Potter books by the time he was 12.
At 12 months, we put him in daycare two afternoons a week. There he took regular naps and played with other kids. The daycare closed, so we traded schedules until he started preschool in September.
We found the most amazing preschool.
I was never a sports enthusiast, but I had read enough about childhood development to know that kids, particularly boys, need lots of gross motor experience. So, when he was 3, I enrolled him in a local gymnastics program. The group just did basic summer saults, walking on beams, hanging from rings, and other simple movements, but it trained him in balance and co-ordination. In preschool, they had one of those little basketball hoops. He would spend 45 minutes almost every day practicing shooting hoops. By the time he started soccer at age 6, the basics of running and kicking came naturally. We added baseball that Spring. Somehow, he had learned how to hit a ball with a bat, so when he ran on to the field for his first game, he hit a home run. He took swimming lessons that year in the Spring so that when Summer came, he was easy with putting his face in the water and play in the shallow end.
Our son refers to himself as a sports guy in a family of nerds. He is certainly right about the nerds.
We chose to send our child to public schools, K-12th, but we spent A LOT of our time involved in his education. We volunteered to help his teachers with fund raising, with class events, with chaperoning on field trips, with the walkathon, with the Spring carnival, with teacher appreciation day, with classroom supplies and with extra help in the classroom. We worked with him on his homework and on his projects. We didn't spend lots of money, but we put in our time.
In 7th grade, he was getting a low grade in his English class, so he went to his teacher and asked how he could bring up his grade. She gave him some of the assignments that were missing. He came home and re-did the assignments, turning them in the next day. He later said, "You know, Mom, I know I did those assignments already and I'm pretty sure I turned them in, but it wasn't worth arguing." If you realize at age 13 that it isn't worth arguing with your teacher, I think you will go a long way in life.
By going to public school, he had an education with a mix of many different kinds of people of various cultures and racial backgrounds. He worked hard in school, graduating from High School with a 4.0. He played three varsity sports and took Advanced Placement classes. He got a full scholarship to the college of his choice and is currently studying pre-medicine. He might be a pediatrician, but then again, it's not my job to decide about his life. No matter what his choice of career, I'm sure he will work hard at achieving it and I hope he will enjoy his accomplishments.