Music and Self-Regulation


I had a really great Thanksgiving, and I hope you all did too! But coming back to reality after a handful of days off with family is hard. And now, I find that I’m feeling pretty homesick. So to take care of myself I’m listening to a little Bill Evans, and drinking tea by our little Christmas tree. YAS that sounds amazing, right? Right. Unless you don’t like jazz, tea, or you don’t celebrate Christmas. Which is all fine, but then sub in your favorite things. Have you mentally filled in  your favorite self-care activities? Now it sounds good right? Right.

While the holidays can be a truly joyful time filled with delicious food, family time, sparkly lights, candles, hot chocolate and iceskating it can also be a very overwhelming time for children and adults alike! If you’re a parent, teacher, or anyone who spends a lot of time with kids you know that from Thanksgiving to New Years kids sort of lose their minds. But let’s step back and remember that when we were children, we too and had a hard time reigning in our excited energy during this time. And now let’s think further about how we as adults can also lose it during this time.

So now I’m gonna bring it full circle and talk about Bill Evans for a second. I choose Bill Evans because his music reminds me of my family and the people I love most. Music has a way of doing that doesn’t it? So even if you don’t agree with my musical taste (that’s fine but you’re crazy) you probably agree that music can guide your mood. Music can be a GREAT way to help kids regulate their emotions. This is especially helpful during the holiday season when emotions are running high all around.

You can use music to:

  • Help a child calm down at bedtime with classical or soothing playlists.
  • Find a song about something they are learning about and  add it to their lessons. This adds relevance AND  is especially  beneficial for our auditory learners.
  • Build specific songs into routines to cue children and make a mundane task more fun.
  • Cheer them up by playing their favorite music.
  • Get them pumped up by playing upbeat music.

I used music in my classroom in a lot of different ways:

  • Playing a specific song during an activity helped my students time their activity once they became familiar with the song. Time management? Check.
  • Playing relaxing music during silent reading at a low level kept the energy level low and the environment calm.
  • Morning songs welcomed the kids into the classroom and cued them to begin their day.
  • I sang to them at the end of the day as they packed up their backpacks. (Obviously I sang them a few jazz tunes). This was handy because it did two wonderful things. First, it kept them focused because they knew how long they had to pack up before I was finished with the songs. Second, it made for a happy end of the day. By the end of the year they sang along (which kept down the distracting chatter and bolstered our sense of community).

So the lesson here is that the holidays can be hard and that’s OK. Perhaps try to be purposeful about your music choice during this holiday season and see if it helps regulate everyone’s emotions.

In case you’re curious about Bill Evans, just click the link for a little taste of his stuff. And here is an article if you’re motivated to learn more: “3 Musical Ways to Influence a Child’s Emotions”

The joy of learning. Together. 



Happy Halloween! This year I dressed up as pizza again, because everybody loves pizza. Popularity isn’t everything but when you’re pizza, you can’t avoid it. I don’t hate it.


Dog approved pizza costume

Anyway, I‘m back to posting after a brief hiatus due to family visits and other lovely things. This week’s Passion Parent Advocate post is on “Grit”. Grit, which has turned into a popular buzzword in education, is the ability to persevere through challenges and passion for long-term goals. What I like about the idea is that it measures a person’s learning capacity not with IQ or a standardized test, but instead it measures learning capacity by a person’s ability to work hard to make a specific outcome a reality. To me, this seems a perfectly inclusive view of the whole person in learning (after all whole child learning is my bag). The idea of grit in education was popularized and named by Angela Lee Duckworth, founder of Character Lab and professor of psychology at University of Pennsylvania. You you can watch her Ted Talk here if you want to hear her talk about her theory. Of course, as with almost anything, grit has its limitations. Although I really like and support the idea of grit, I don’t blindly accept grit as the end all be all in education. I mean, I don’t suggest blindly accept anything really. I think it’s important to to research all aspects of a theory so I’m also providing you with this article for a contrary opinion of Duckworth’s theory. Feel free to go out and do your own research. In your free time. I know, there’s always so much of that.

And if you’re still curious and want to keep learning but your sick of staring at a screen, you can listen to this “Freakonmics” podcast. What do you think of grit? Have you seen evidence of it in your classrooms and homes?

The joy of learning. Together. 



Trying to teach a lesson or subject to a student who is unmotivated by the content is likely every teacher and parent’s worst nightmare. Unfortunately, there are many things we are unmotivated by, but which need still to be completed. For example, I am generally unmotivated to do the dishes or vacuum the mass amount of husky fur off our carpet. If I don’t wash the dishes or vacuum however, all kinds of hygienic problems will surely ensue. In this case the aversion to impending mold filled plates and fur tumbleweeds motivate me to do the chores.

brain key

Young students however have less motivation to do an uninteresting task because they often to not see the point for various reasons. There is a lot of research on brain development which I could write an entire paper on, so I’ll just tell you to look up brain development and motivation if you’re interested. Simply put, motivation has everything to do with learning. No motivation=less learning potential. That’s why relevance is so important. You can’t force a learner to be magically interested in a subject they don’t like or feel they are bad at, but you can try to work in something of interest to them.

So what makes a student motivated to learn? Remember last week’s post on “Imposter Syndrome”? In that post I explained that I thought I didn’t have anything to say so I wasn’t motivated to write. This illustrates that perceived success is either very motivating or very demotivating. Both external and internal reinforcement are big motivators, connection to past learning, rewards (to a certain extent), goal achievement, and energy levels are other important factors. Don’t get me started on social learning theory, but social influences make a difference too. Look it up, alright?

If you’re interested in this topic and want to learn more about motivation and learning I suggest reading this excerpt from “Educational Psychology Developing Learners” at Look up social learning theory, and brain development while you’re at it…if you’re motivated to do so.

The joy of learning. Together.





Imposters Everywhere


I sat down to write this post and I really did not feel inspired. I didn’t feel like I had anything riveting to share, and I wasn’t in the mood to write. Here’s why: First, I like many people, sometimes fall into the metaphorical pit of self-pity where I envelop myself in histrionic feelings of inadequacy. Sounds like a real party, am I right? Second because I felt like this post was doomed to failure I did not feel motivated to write it. With all this fun stuff rolling around in my head I opened up my computer to get down to business. It’s not surprising that I found plenty of things on the Internet that were more interesting (a cinnamon roll recipe, various crochet patterns, facebook posts, emails, my bank account, literally anything else). Eventually I wrangled my brain and summoned some self-control. I then pulled up a blank Word document to get to work. Oh the joy of a blank Word document! So new, so full of opportunity, so saturated with feelings of dread, and doom, and panic.

Alright, the good news is that all this eventually lead me to be inspired to write about a few topics and their impact on learning. “Imposter Syndrome”, motivation, and “grit”. This week a look into “Imposter Syndrome” and learning. In one sentence, “Imposter Syndrome” is the condition of feeling like you’ll be found out for being an actual idiot, and for not being good enough at your job, in your home, as a parent, as a spouse, at school etc…Much of the research on this phenomenon has been done on adults but I would argue that the beginning symptoms of it are percolating in our youth as well. The idea that everybody else has it all figured out is both comforting and horrifying. It’s nice to believe that there is an end point, where you’ll eventually know how to do everything you’ve ever wanted to be able to do. It’s horrifying to feel like everybody but you, has already done it. I saw my students experiencing this when we learned something new, as their eyes darted from person to person hoping to see some signs of confusion that mirrored theirs. I heard my students say, “But I just can’t do it, I’m not smart enough.” Some suggest that “Imposter Syndrome” is only evident in high achieving people but in my experience I’ve seen all types of students experience some form of it.

What can you do to help someone through the effects of “Imposter Syndrome”? Be vulnerable. Show them you’re flawed too and that you don’t have it all figured out either. And then, talk about what you do know (because you know a lot) and use your skills to support the child through their process. Show them that thier best can be good enough, and when a little boost is needed help is just an ask away. Remind them that learning is a never-ending process no matter who you are. Success cannot be achieved without the help of others. Teamwork is everything.

The joy of learning. Together. 


If you want to read more about helping your child when they experience “Imposter Syndrome”, check out this quick read: “How to Help Your Kid Through Bouts of Imposter Syndrome”.


Quick Tips: Failure


Below are two more quick tips for helping children navigate experiences of failure.

Encourage them to try new things

  • Trying new things can inspire them and provide new avenues for success. This doesn’t mean giving up on an activity that they have expires failure in. Remind them to keep working through a failure AND to try new things.

Role model failing gracefully

  • Show them how to lose gracefully when playing a board game or a sport. Congratulate the winners even when you’re on the losing end.
  • Laugh at yourself! It’s no fun to take yourself too seriously and kids know it. Show them that making mistakes and failing can be OK and even humorous at times.
  • Stay motivated. When you fail, you can role model resilience by continuing to work through the problem.
  • Talk with them about your feeling of failure and about how your worked through a tough experience.

Quick Tips: Failure and Internal Locus of Control


Another week, another post on everyone’s favorite subject-failure!

Failure is of course unavoidable. You can help your child cope by assisting them to create an internal locus of control by reminding them that they don’t need someone else to say they are the best, in order to be their best. Additionally, they don’t need to blame others for their mistakes.

Julian Rotter first brought the concept of internal or external locus of control to light in the mid 20th century and many aspects of it hold true today. The theory states that someone has a a strong internal locus of control if they believe that what happens to them is largely their doing, while someone with a strong external locus of control believes that their life is controlled by luck, or by other people.

Of course, there are many things in life that we don’t have control over. You can refer to my previous post on control and anxiety to take a peek at my thoughts on the subject. Still, having a internal locus of control allows the individual to feel empowered by their own actions. It’s important to note that the danger of of an overly fortified internal locus of control is overconfidence and/or lack of perspective. We have to keep in mind the societal and cultural structures in which we live in, which affect our lives outcomes. Rotter’s work could be improved if he included the interaction of social privilege and locus of control.

Simply put, a healthy balanced individual with an internal locus of control can find success because they are empowered to work for it, and believe they can succeed. And when they fail, which they will at some point, they often own their part of the failure and strive to fix it. On the other hand, an individual with an external locus of control will blame the people around them for their failures and are less likely to fix their mistakes.

By helping your child stray from blaming others for their failures and instead look at their part, they will be able to build on their mistakes. They can then learn from said mistakes and in the end find more success. Model self-reflective behavior, probe them with questions when they experience failure, and help them feel excited to do better next time.

The joy of learning. Together. 


Quick Tips: Failure

Here are this weeks quick tips on how to help your child deal with experiences of failure.


  • Remind them that everyone fails sometimes, and that failure often leads to lessons about how to do something better next time. At the very least it teaches you about your own reactions to making mistakes and how to transform your reactions into actions. 
  • Comparing is despairing. This is one of my favorite quick reminders. There will always be someone who does something better then you, or at least appears to. But we don’t know the whole story, we don’t know what their experiences are. We only know what our experiences are, and that’s what’s important.
  • Remind them that there is always time to try again! Tomorrow is a new day, and no matter what you get to be part of the world. My father once told me (after a moment of extreme embarrassment), “Well, they can’t kick you out of the world.” And he was right, I’m still here making mistakes and learning everyday.

The joy of learning. Together.


Quick Tips: Dealing with Failure


In a society where every child gets a prize for participating, how can we help our children lose with grace? Let’s face it, after childhood you stop getting awards for participation. This unfortunate reality is hard to swallow especially when children have very little experience with it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting praise, respect, and cheering on aren’t necessary. I am suggesting however, that we aren’t doing our children any favors by contantly giving them awards for simply showing up. To put it into perspective, when was the last time you were given a trophy for being on time for work? Or a handed a pretty ribbon for cleaning up the dinner dishes? There are plenty of loving and wonderful things you can do to help a child be an active participant in their academics, sports, and other extracurricular activities without feeling like they need to receive something to make it all worth while. The gift of losing gracefully is the ability to see that your worth is inherently always there, win or lose. If a child can master this mindset success will follow. Below are a few quick tips to help you child deal with failure. More to come next week!

  • Positive verbal affirmations. For example: “You did you’re best and I’m so proud of you!” It’s important to give them authentic praise. Skip going overboard with made-up compliments to ease their pain. You can certainly find things that they did well and praise them accordingly.
  • Point out the fun that was had even when they lose and help them explore things they can be proud of. For example: “What was your favorite part of today?” and “I know you lost, and what do you think you did well?”
  • Let them be sad about losing and talk them through their feelings. Sometimes the disappointment of losing is very strong and should be addressed. Allow them the space to feel sad about it, and then help them move on.

Anxiety and Control

There are so many things in life that we don’t have control over, which is often a maddening reality. Reminders about what we have control over and what we don’t can help us not only understand the reality of a situation, but it can also alleviate some of the anxiety we experience. When something is out of our control it’s scary! We can feel comforted by remembering, and then acting on the things we do have control over and working on letting go of the things we don’t.

For example, I know (although I too need a friendly reminder sometimes) that I only have control over my actions, words, ideas, values, feelings, and thoughts. I do not have control over other people, places or things. So when I make a mistake, that mistake is mine to own. Equally, when I bring joy to others that’s was a choice I made too!  We are the pilots of our own minds and actions, and we are not the pilots of anyone else’s mind or actions.

Children live in an world run by adults and sometimes feel powerless. Consequently they can fall into the trap of feeling that the actions of an adult are entirely their fault. For example, divorce, poverty, and addiction, are not a child’s fault and are not in their control. On the flip side, saying mean things to a classmate or participating in gossiping are within their control. You can see how this can be a confusing concept which is why it’s important to talk about with children!

Here is a handy diagram I created to help children understand what they do and do not have control over.

Screen Shot 2017-08-26 at 11.40.04 AM

The joy of learning. Together. 


Back to School Relaxation Tips

I can’t believe summer is already over and students are packing up their backpacks for the 2017/2018 school year. Time flies! The beginning of the school year can be an adjustment for many children. Below are some ideas to help your child unwind after a long day of learning.


Audiobooks. They are great for teaching listening comprehension skills as well as relaxation! Your child can sit back an relax in a quiet space after a busy day of learning.

Talk to them about their day.  The beginning of the school year provides plenty of fun new experiences as well as some uncomfortable ones. Talk to them about their day. If they’ve had a trying day and are getting stuck making a a choice you can give them other more reasonable choices allowing them to have some control over the situation again. This is based in Love and Logic, which I really like. If you’re curious follow this link to start your own inquiry into Love and Logic.

Belly breathing. Help your child belly breath by counting breaths with them. Ask them to sit or lie down on their backs in a comfortable position. Then tell them to breath into their belly for a count of 4 or 5 (you can adjust depending on how fast you count) and then out again. The goal is to concentrate on their breath and to make it to the end of each counting sequence. It can be really helpful to have them put thier hands or a book on their belly and have them imagine their belly as a balloon filling up, and then deflating. There are a lot of versions of belly breathing so you can do what works for you and your child! I like this PBS link which explains why belly breathing works and provides some nice tips as well.

The joy of learning. Together.