Sunday, June 5, 2016

Preparing Your Kids For LIfe

As another school year comes to an end, I've been going through pictures I took of all the events our kids have been involved in from September through May, and! Is it any wonder I am exhausted? It's amazing to think that so many activities could be packed into an eight month span of time on top of school work, piano lessons, grocery shopping, company, errand running, meal preparations, and two days a week attending classes. As I looked through pictures and videos, my thoughts were of gratefulness.  Gratefulness for all the opportunities for our kids to explore their interests, and hone the skills God has given them. It's so worth all the running around and exhaustion. In the beginning, we knew that our goal as their parents, was to pray for them, observe them, interview them, and learn where their strengths, talents, and interests were, and to facilitate opportunities for them to grow and become skilled in these areas. 
All of them are musical, and all of them have had opportunity to take piano lessons
Natalie just completed her eighth year of piano and she taught three students this year, including two of her younger brothers.
For the spring recital this year, the kids played a special and fun piece, and wrote compositions. Natalie played "Linus and Lucy" and her composition was her own arrangement of "April's Child" from Rigaletto
They played their compositions by memory, and had their written work on display for the audience to enjoy.

All of the piano students who performed that night

Natalie and her students

Natalie and Levi, playing "Grand Old Flag"

Noah's "composition" was an ear tune from Les Miserables called, "Do You Hear the People Sing?"

Braelyn's song was "The Ninth Symphony"



Christine and Tim both play.  Tim is no longer taking lessons, and Christine took a year off, but started taking again last winter, so I don't have a current video, but this one was a favorite from a few years ago..
Christine and her friend, Rebecca singing "Feed The Birds" from Mary Poppins at the Spring concert
Some of our kids really love writing, so we made it a priority for them to have plenty of opportunity to read, write, and learn good grammar and language skills. All of our girls have enjoyed writing in their spare time since they learned how to form letters. This year Natalie and Christine won first and second place in the Writer's Conference for the 11th and 12th grade division for doing what they love to do.






Since they were little, Natalie was constantly singing and desiring to learn how to be really good at it.  As a result, she took voice lessons, sang in small groups, did duets, and sang solos for voice recitals.  Now she is able to combine voice and piano.


She sang "Lonely Goatherd" with her best friend, Elizabeth in the spring concert.

From the time he was three years old, Tim would pick up a toy microphone and entertain anyone who would listen.  He is very musical and has always loved singing and performing.  We were able to put him in voice lessons a few years ago, and this helped him learn about the voice as an instrument, stage presence, and how to play his vocal instrument well. 
All of our kids love to sing, and enjoy drama. We have been praying for an outlet for them to use these skills and to enhance them.  It's been our desire for the kids to have a true choir experience, and last year we finally found choirs in our area that they were able to participate in. Unfortunately, the teen choir folded after the first year our kids were in it, which was really heart breaking for them as they loved it!
We ended up putting them in a private school this year, and last summer I couldn't get the idea of starting a teen choir enrichment class off of my mind.  I kept pushing the idea away because I didn't feel adequate for the job, but God continued to lay it on my heart.  I finally talked to the head teacher at the school about it, and then asked a friend who plays the piano if she would like to accompany the choir and help out with some of the musicianship.  She agreed, and before I knew it I was writing up the class description and turning in paperwork for a choir class.  The vision God laid on my heart for this choir is continuing to grow.  It has been an amazing year working with these kids. I have seen them grow in personality, in friendship, and most of all spiritually. We started out with seven kids, and it grew to eleven kids over a short time period.  Our kids have had an opportunity to use the gifts God has given them, build amazing, solid, friendships, and grow in their abilities to harmonize, lead, perform, and enjoy being part of a wonderful team.
We put on a spring concert and fortunately my daughter, Brandi, managed to snap a few pictures with her phone.

"So Long Farewell" from Sound of Music was the last song of the evening
We chose the name of Hill Creek Harmonics, and it works well since its not simply a choir, but we have some kids involved who have acting skills and the name doesn't limit us to simply singing. Part of the vision I have is for choreography. It's fun, keeps the audience engaged, and is good for enhancing drama skills and stage presence in the kids. One of kids' moms (Kim) and I have become friends over this school year, and it was really fun working with her as we implemented choreography into some of the music. The kids did a fantastic job and it's been awesome to see their skills improve and to witness their growth as they blossom and become comfortable on stage.
Natalie and Alekai performed "Love is An Open Door" from Frozen. Their choreography was beautiful and fun. Kim put the choreography together on this song. She is amazing!

The full choir performed music from "Sound of Music" and my granddaughter joined in as Gretl for "So Long Farewell." The kids had a great time with the choreography on this one and did a wonderful job.
My friend, Kim, made the costumes. She did such a great job!

Another shot from "Love is An Open Door"

Unfortunately Alekai's lapel microphone got caught under his collar.  He has a great voice, and did a fantastic job, but it sounds a little bit distorted in the recording. Our camera should have been in a better location because the video is shot from just below stage and doesn't capture all of the choreography or the stage set well, but you can click on the video to watch it if you would like.

Daniel  and Natalie sang "Sixteen Going On Seventeen" from the Sound of Music. Daniel didn't have time to put the lapel mic on, but he managed to belt it out and did an outstanding job!
"God of Heaven" was beautifully performed by the whole choir.  We opened with this one.
I'm grateful that God gave me the courage to start the Harmonics.  I'm thankful for my friend, Kris, who was willing to jump in with me and get it off the ground, and for her help with teaching musicianship. This has been such a fun and exciting experience, and it has further solidified my faith in God's ability to be strong where I am weak, and to provide all that is needed to fulfill a mission He has planned through imperfect vessels.  The amount of opposition I faced this year has only deepened my faith in His plan and that I can trust Him for the outcome.  It has been such fun to get to know all the kids, and to see our own kids finally have an opportunity to explore their talents in a safe environment. Sometimes we parents have to make it happen for our kids.  Sometimes God calls us to provide opportunities for them to try out their wings. If God puts something on your heart, trust Him and follow. He'll take care of the rest.
Levi is very musically inclined as well, and he is enjoying his first year as a piano student, but he also loves dogs and we are thankful that we've been able to give him plenty of opportunities to become educated about them, and to experience raising and training them from the time they are whelped. He is our right hand man with our puppies when we have a litter. He is there during the whelping process, and helps with daily weighing, feeding, cleaning out the kennel, vet trips, training the puppies, bathing, grooming, etc.  He and Noah help with daily handling of each puppy, and all of the boys have taken over the cleaning out of the kennel for each litter during the day when their Dad is at work. The kids have all been involved with our Golden's since they were little and have learned how to train them as well as the hard work and cost involved in raising them. It's a great way for the kids to learn good work ethics and responsibility. Now that they are older, some of our kids have been hired to house and dog sit for people when they are on vacation.




Just a few shots of the Hansel and Gretel performance last fall, that all five kids performed in with the Skagit Opera












One of the activities the kids have been learning this year is Contra Dancing. For Christine's Sweet Sixteenth Birthday, we surprised her with a Contra Dance party. This is another skill they can use in many different ways in the future.  It's wonderful for coordination, and developing musical skills with beat and timing, and it's FUN! This brings up another point. Facilitating opportunities for your kids to get together with their friends in a safe and fun environment while doing things they enjoy is important. It's always easier to let them go somewhere else, but it's a privilege and honor to host them in our home and to get out and do things with them.






The Virginia Reel was the only song that required them to keep the same partner all the way through.  Christine chose her Dad as her partner.


This post could easily sound like a bragging parent post, and I freely admit that I am proud of my kids, but my point is not to brag, but to encourage parents to be in prayer for your kids' futures.  Remember to look long term as your raise them, and to watch for what makes their eyes light up.  Facilitate opportunities to explore their interests and address character issues while they are young with consistency.  You never know what God has in store for them, and its the little moments and day to day living that all add up to prepare them for their mission in life.  Allowing them to pursue their interests and to hone their natural abilities is key to their futures. Be open to what God might call you to do to provide them with opportunities and remember that even if you don't feel equipped, God does equip those He calls, just as He has provided all that I have needed to direct the choir He placed on my heart to start.
Character Counts
We ended the school year with an Awards Ceremony at our school. Our kids worked harder than ever before, and it was not easy.  Along with that hard work, they had fun.  They were all completely surprised at the awards they received, and the grades they made. One of our kids has a learning challenge. His language teacher honored him with a "Perseverance Award" because he plodded along, working hard, and not giving up. Many times he hit the books at 7:30 a.m. and worked hard until bed time, skipping social events such as youth group. She said he had tenacity. What a compliment to his character and such a pleasant surprise to him since we live in a world where good grades are held in high esteem. A kid like him can sit and warm a chair during awards night and not receive any recognition when he worked much harder and put in much longer hours than most kids need to. What a blessing that our teachers recognize character in kids and are sure to award them. He didn't make honor roll, but he was honored for service as part of the set up team that he was regularly a part of in the early mornings before school, as well. Encouraging character is important. Even when they don't seem to be getting a lot right, notice their strengths and acknowledge them.
Hard Work Pays Off
Teaching your kids good work ethics is important. For the rest of our kids, this has paid off with good grades and they were awarded accordingly.  The girls were inducted into the National Honor Society, and made honor roll.  Christine received the award for the highest grade in her Life Practicum Class, and all three of the older kids received awards of excellence for their participation in leadership, drama, solos, duets, and full participation in Hill Creek Harmonics.
Noah and Levi struggled the first half of the year, to understand what was expected of them in the new school environment, but after the first semester, they turned it around and ended the year with straight "A's." They worked very hard, and they did extra credit.  Their math teacher honored them with the  "Most Improved" award. 
However you are choosing to educate your children, the most important responsibility for us as parents is prayer and staying plugged into the Word.  For true wisdom, it's a gold mine and peace comes through a solid relationship with God.  This parenting gig is hard, but He has shown me time and time again, that He will  be my strength and my source of wisdom, and peace, as I allow Him to lead and guide. 

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