I have been running Music with Mummy classes from my home in Winchester for ten years and I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT. For my tenth anniversary I wanted to actually try to get into words why I love the programme so much, what it means to me and why it suits my lifestyle so well. I say ten years, but my tenth anniversary was actually back in October so I am now midway through my eleventh year and finally getting round to putting pen to paper – or should that be ‘fingertip to keyboard’! Anyway, better late than never!
Going to selfishly start with me (me, me, ME!). Being self-employed absolutely supports my strong desire to be there for my children as they grow up. They were two and four when I started running classes – and are now nearly thirteen (next month!) and fifteen – and my business has enabled me every single day to be there in the morning to breakfast/organise them and drop them to school. Yep. Every single day. Ha! I guess on some of the most hectic mornings this could be considered a disadvantage but you know what I mean! And, if there has been a school sports day or important assembly or a ‘join in for our Roman feast’ invitation (you never know what your primary school is going to request next really, do you?!), I have been there! I am always there after school too – for playdates and reading when they were younger – and now for supporting with homework and chatting to them as and when they need me and as tricky teenage issues sometimes arrive. We are lucky to have a quantity of time; for me the odd snatched hour of trying to make quality time was not enough, I wanted to be as present as I could be.
This works of course because the Music with Mummy programme is designed for early years (children from birth to five to be precise) so the classes I run are in school hours and I choose to run term-time only. Yep, that’s right, every single school holiday, I stop completely – no childcare needed! Perfection. I hear employed (especially reasonably paid) school hours only/term-time jobs are like gold dust! Pah! This so needs addressing to give Mothers more options for family-friendly work. Although, no doubt about it, I would never want be employed again anyway! Being my own boss for a control freak like me is MAGIC!
I always say to friends that Music with Mummy ticks all the four Fs for me – Family-friendly, Flexible, Financially-rewarding and Fun. I think I have demonstrated the first two and I am not going to talk finance here (please see our website to request an info pack if you wish to look into financial facts and figures) but in terms of FUN, I can say that not a single class goes by where I am not smiling and laughing – and just absolutely revelling in the wonderful magical unpredictability and excitement of the early years; young children’s passion and excitement for the world around them is totally contagious. My ‘work’ (in inverted comma as it does not feel like it) is actually so therapeutic!!!
Okay, so why Music with Mummy specifically? A quick glance around and there are so many franchises out there now trying to push their business into the market. Music with Mummy was never pushed onto me; I had never even thought about starting my own business – the magic of Music with Mummy just sold itself! For me, when my children were younger, and especially as their special needs became apparent, their weekly Music with Mummy class was just a blissful time out from the stressful demands of being a Mother. The class was small and personal enough for the teacher to get to know my quirky children and to cater for their quirks and it was the one thing every single week we all adored. I can only describe it really as a little half hour window of loveliness in what was quite a stressful period in my life (I hope some of my customers might now feel the same way about attending my classes). Even before my two boys hit school age, I knew I could not bear to give up this joy and that is when I started my own little class. One class. With three people. In my living room. On a Friday morning. Mighty oaks from little acorns grow!
The Music with Mummy programme itself I am also absolutely passionate about. Why is it so different to all the other stuff out there? The programme, 25 years old this September(!), was designed by husband and wife team, David and Diane Cox, then known as the Da Capo Music partnership. And it was designed with love. Lashings of it. The mixture of early years specialist and professional musician teaming up to develop their passion was a powerful one. Without going into too much detail, underpinning their ethos was the central notion that music should be an integral part of a child’s early life – and the programme absolutely does this justice; simple, beautiful songs based around half-termly topics that early years children naturally gravitate towards – rainy day fun or transport or farm animals perhaps. The fact that the programme was designed for very small classes is also unique. Many franchisees, like me, run their sessions from their home, but regardless of whether a venue is hired or not, small class sizes remain and mean the teacher gets to know every single child by name – and, in danger of beginning to sound like a Mr Men book(!), by nature. Plus, even though the lesson plan sits in front of the teacher, the classes have a real feel of being somewhat child-led as and when they need to be; I have children that come in every week and request their favourite song and we always manage to squeeze it in and, with my older classes planting beans this week, one monster-obsessed child ended up leading me down a conversational path towards Venus fly traps! I am going to have a picture ready to show him next class I think! I love that I am able to do this with a small group of children and families I know really well.
What else? We SING. We actually sing in class. The vocals we deliver are not pre-recorded on some disc. Our backing music we use a CD or iPod for (could I play the piano at the same time as delivering a class to the skilled degree I aim to? No! My focus needs to be on the children, not my instrument!) but the only voices in the room are those of the teacher, the parents and the children. Oooh, and that sudden moment when I judge a class might be ready to take a risk and announce that nor I or the parents are going to sing and we try just the children’s vocal with our simple and beautiful music (none of this cheesy brash/crass stuff that is often delivered early years music for us, no thank you), I just love it. Some of these children are not more than two years old remember! It’s pure magic. Been known to cause a few wet eyes, believe me.
Coming from a primary teacher background, I also adore how the programme really focuses on educating in basic musical concepts – not that my young recruits realise they are learning, it is all just skilfully moulded into each song and fun activity. Each half-term with each different theme, different musical objectives are targeted – and children really do pick them up! It never ceases to amaze me how much they can absorb! On top of this, the programme is just absolutely on the nose for development across the board too – social skills, confidence, independence, early language, movement skills. I can’t begin to list the number of areas that are covered. Alice, now five and in school, tells her Mummy, ‘ I learnt my left and right at Josie’s house’ and Jack a few weeks ago made his first attempt at writing his name here. Many children have begun to count because of our songs and activities or started to recognise colours. And for my babies classes, I have had first sitting up, first clapping, first waving, first crawling, first standing, first walking, first word. Again, tissues at the ready! Me as well as the Mums in question I hasten to add. You really get to know these little people and their carers (of course it is not just Mums) and share in their joy! In addition, the very special pleasure and absolute privilege of taking a child from birth right through the full programme to school age is something I adore. I cannot begin to tell you how wonderful it is being a small weekly part of their growth and development – and how emotional it is when they finally leave to start school; the only part of my career I truly find very, very hard.
I have had to work hard to build my business but for the last five years I have seen between 100 and 120 children a week and for me, this number of children and classes is about right. Many franchisees develop their business into a full-time career but I always wanted to stay part-time, my own children (as previously mentioned) can be tricky at times (that is understating it, believe me!) and I need to be part-time to manage my family life; I have even fitted in home-educating my children around my work at several periods in their educational career. How would I have done this without Music with Mummy?
So I guess that’s about it. I am just so thankful I stumbled upon Music with Mummy all those years ago. It has enabled me to financially support the family whilst still being there for my children. It has made my actual time ‘at work’ a total joy. And the wonderful team of women that I work with – don’t even get me started on the gang! Love you, ladies!
Thank you, Music with Mummy. ❤