Saturday, August 23, 2014

How to Select the Right Music Instructor for Your Family

The post came from some of my babywearing friends asking about how to select a piano teacher. I happen to be a piano teacher, so I had some thoughts. While I am talking about piano here, these thoughts can apply to any instructor.

1. Teaching style. Do you need someone who is strict? Competitive? Who uses a reward system or a punishment system? Who is adaptable? You need to ask about style. I warn every prospective parent that I am not a competitive teacher and I don't do punishment systems, so if they want that, I am not their girl. Several people have not used me for that reason and I am great with that. I prefer to tailor my approach to each student to a degree and I don't care if we cover a certain concept for months if that kid NEEDS it. This means sometimes we work slow and steady, but other times we fly through lessons. This doesn't work for someone overly invested in a certain structure or order or things. If your teacher doesn't know his/her own style, sit through a sample lesson (I allow this all the time because people need to see me in action first in order to know if I am right for them) and even ask to talk to some parents. When you watch a teacher, pay attention to how he/she pays attention. Because I have a lot of students, my eyes get tired, so I tend to have some knitting or cross stitch in my hands if I have a long stretch of lessons. I have found that keeping my hands busy helps me to focus on what my students are doing better and I hear things that I may miss with my eyes. It also helps me see where my student gets "lazy" in a lesson, as they sometimes forget that I am paying attention and try to fudge some notes. I catch bad habits this way more than any other way. Pay attention to things like that and ask if it confuses you. Most teachers use some sort of tool like this to learn more about how a student is doing not just during a lesson, but during the week at home. Style matters.

2. End game. What is your goal here? Where I live, most parents want kids to play hymnals for church. Others want their kids to know how to accompany people. I even have one debating going pro (and she has the skills to do it). Have a clear end game and ask the teacher how long it will take to get there. The answer matters. On average, I can get a kid from nothing to hymnals in about 3 years and in 4 years they are good at it. I have some who will be there in 6 or 7 years and I have had one or two who did it in a year. Your teacher should have a decent average idea for you.

3. What books do they use? I prefer Bastien and try to only use them. They can make a kid dependent on finger numbers, but I have found ways to work with that. I don't like it when parents give me whatever was under their bench and expect me to use it to teach. It rarely works. The teacher should have a set book list.

4. Advertising. How do they get students? I only work through word of mouth of current students at this point. I will not take on a random stranger and even when a friend off fb asks me to teach, I usually talk them out of it unless I think they would be a good fit. I have a fantastic studio and I have found that my parents know who will work well with me and tend to refer those people. I'm never slow because of it.

5. Recitals and competitions. How busy do you want to be and what is the approach you prefer? I don't compete. The end. Parents have asked and I said no. Not my bag. But, I do 2 recitals a year. I am overly fuzzy about them because I want my kids to not be afraid to perform. I bring treats and before each kid plays I tell the audience something neat about my student. I also break my recitals down to 10 students per recital because no one wants to hear that clunky version of "Moonlight Sonata" 4 times in a row.

6. Studio size. How busy is your teacher and how much does that matter to you? I have about 34 on my roster right now. I used to say I would stay under 20 and that didn't really work.  I just kept having people approach me. Now I teach early in the morning, during the day and after school A busy teacher is a good sign, however, there won't be any flexibility if you need to reschedule a lesson. In fact, unless I have a week notice, I won't reschedule. If I can't be there, my mom (who was a piano teacher years ago) subs for me.

7. Price point. Note, this it at the bottom of the list. It is important because we need to balance our budget, but this should NOT be your first reason to select a teacher. When it comes to learning an instrument, you do get what you pay for. A teacher with a degree will charge substantially more than a teacher without one. A teacher living in a larger metropolitan area is going to charge more and differently than a teacher in a rural area. Competitions increase cost. Studios outside a home or travelling to the student can affect cost. Keep these in mind. For me, I have priced based on what I think I could pay if I needed a teacher, what I feel the demand is for a piano teacher and what seems fair based on my abilities compared to other local instructors. Some teachers charge $80 a month here and some charge $20 a month. I land closer to the middle and I adjust when I need to. I understand that cost matters, but when it comes to learning a lifelong skill, do not let cost be the top reason you select a teacher.

Well, there you go! I hope you have success finding a great piano teacher or instructor with any other skill or instrument.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Target is Price Matching this Fall!

Here is a direct link to where I read this info:

Anyhow, Target will be matching places like Amazon in November and part of December! If you are a Target fan, this is awesome!
I am guessing this will make other stores more competitive too!
Start making your holiday lists now and get ready for some seriously fun shopping!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Bathroom Frugality (Saving One Flush at a Time)

I'm going to try to say pretty classy with this post, but no promises.

Who here gets tired of buying mass amounts of toilet paper? I do. I load up the cart (hey we have 6.5 people in this house, our toilets are well used) with all the tp and I just KNOW someone is looking at me in the checkout line assuming I'm having chilli for dinner.

Fact is, they are probably right. I plan ahead you know. But still, I hate broadcasting to the world that our family does twosies. (Have you ever seen my most favorite tv show "Scrubs"? Go watch it--- the entire thing--- and once you are done laughing so hard you weep you will understand my bathroom issues. Elliot and Jordan are my muses.)

Anyhow, I love deals, but as our family has grown I have learned that sometimes convenience needs to outrank the deal and honestly nowadays the deal is secondary to the value of my time.

So, I've been brainstorming how to save money AND time while buying toiletries, particularly tp.

First thing I went to was family cloth.
Yep, it is what it sounds like. You use cloth that you wash over and over again for your tp. Did you cringe and scream "NO!" in your head? Don't lie, I can't see you through the screen, just own it. It is okay. That ws my knee-jerk reaction too when the idea first came to me. But as I kept having to go out and pay for the hiney wipe I really started to consider it. I went so far as to purchase it for my family. I was so excited! I had big plans for how to set up my system, how to ease us into the switch, everything. Then I told my hubs and he pulled out his RARELY used power of veto (we each have a few limited vetos to use, I used one a few years back when he killed a pesky squirrel with a rock and a stick and then tried to get me to cook it for dinner... yeah, I'm not THAT cheap) and he rejected my family cloth plan.

Frick on a stick.

Because I can't challenge the veto (yet), I've had to put the cloth away for the day the zombie apocalypse comes and we can't get to the store for fear of our brains being eaten but we really, REALLY need to go and then I'll be the hero because we will be saved in more ways than one. It will happen, mark my words.

So, next I tried to think of how other cultures handle this issue, but we have mostly pine trees at our house so that "basket of leaves" plan wouldn't be the funnest ever. I've also heard of wearing skirts to help things, um, dry and, yeah. No. I like living more naturally, but this is a scenario where I don't want to move backwards in time.

Of course, the last thing I thought of was the best way for us. Amazon! I love nearly as much as I love Costco. (Don't worry, I'm sure I'll be writing about both in more detail over time. Amazon has this awesome Prime shipping thing. It runs about $80 a year for the regular membership and they have several cheaper options for having a Prime membership, so you should look and see if any of them fit you. There are a ton of perks, but the one that stands out in this article is the free two day shipping. Perfect. They also have a program called "subscribe and save" so you can get grocery and toiletry items shipped to your house monthly or every three or even six month. Then you won't forget and you get a small discount for doing this. (Yes, you can stop anytime you want, fear not.) Love it.

I watch a lot of websites for deals, but tends to post the Amazon TP deals faster than a lot of other sites so I use them a lot. When I see tp drop to a level I can deal with, I buy. A few days later only the UPS man knows what really happens behind closed doors.

Now, moment of truth:
Am I getting the best deal ever?
Monetarily, eh. I think it is cheaper than the big stores a lot of times, other than sales. But, the time factor and the benefit of it coming to my door is huge for me. I'm at a place where spending an extra dollar or two in order to save myself a few hours of driving to the store, shopping and coming back, realizing I forgot the tp and going back out is worth that dollar or so.

But, really, here is how it will break down deal-wise:

Cheapest option 1: Family cloth. One time purchase, washing machines do most of the work. But, you have to get past the "ick" factor and the risk of people dropping cloth into the toilet and flushing.

Possible cheapest option 2: couponing at your local store. However, when you factor in the driving, cutting coupons, getting enough coupons to make it worth it and watching for the sale and hoping you don't have to buy more tp before then, I feel like it is a lot of work for money you are flushing away.

Easiest and most cost effective option 3: Online shopping. Order when you think of it (there is always a tp sale somewhere in my experience), get it in bulk, have it come to your door... love it. I'm also not buying other items just because I'm in the grocery store and come on, who buys only tp when they shop? NO ONE. So that additional savings is pretty big for me.

And, there it is. I suggest you go to Amazon and google "toilet paper" and see what you find. I'd look at Prime  too because I use it for so much.

Now, print this out so you have some bathroom reading!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Teaching Classes Again!

I'm excited because I get to teach frugality again!

I'll be teaching at Make it for Maggie 2012.

This is an event that is worth supporting so please feel free to register and take some great classes. My adorable husband Sam is going to be teaching a few classes too and there are some really fun classes that I intend to take. Don't miss out on this event! Tell your friends too and come say hi to me! A fun place to find electronics

So, I found this site a while back and it is a gold mine... if you sift accordingly.

Cowboom is a subsidiary of Best Buy. They have a lot of refurbs and great prices.

I've found their ereaders go on great deals a lot, but you have to make sure when you order that the item has all its accessories. If you aren't careful you can run into trouble there.

They also have some fun coupon codes, hooray!

Then, there are the flash sales. Last year they has Nintendo DS for $50 shipped and even less a few times!

If you are hunting for game consoles, e readers, phones... anything electronic and you aren't afraid of a refurb, this may be the site for you! Think holidays and birthdays and get going!

(Nope, not getting a dime from them by posting this. Just sharing what I've found.)

Coming out of Retirement

So, I took a few years off. I was just in a place where I needed a break from a lot of things.
It was nice.
But, I kept posting deals, just more on facebook and that was fun, but not as fun as the occasional blog post and not as easy to track things.
So, a few kids later, a few years older and a new approach to a lot of things, particularly grocery shopping.

Do me a favor if you stumble  on this blog and tell me what you want me to hunt deals for. I'm happy to see what I can do.

Monday, February 8, 2010

I have decided to retire this blog.
Thank you for having fun with me on this part of my life.