We have also loved the fact that the company hasn't laid off very many people, and that Russ still has a job. We realize that living with 85% of his salary is much better than living with nothing. But we have definitely had to make adjustments.
Piano lessons for Jason & the little girls were one of the first "luxuries" that we let go of when the pay cut started. I figured that it would only last for a couple of months, and then they could start up again. Instead we ended the summer with the rumor that the unpaid time off would continue at least through the 4th quarter of 2009.
I tried to figure out what we were going to do about piano. Now I was ready for Jared to start piano lessons, and really it was time to get Josh playing again too. But there was no way in the world that we could afford lessons for 5 kids now--that would be at least $250/month.
I briefly considered teaching them myself, and nixed that idea right away. After all, we all know kids who's mothers tried to teach them to play the piano, and most of those stories don't end well. They include cranky mothers trying to teach non-compliant children, and it's not like I really have time in my life to add in 5 piano lessons anyway.
The fact remained, there simply was not $250 anywhere in our budget.
One day I had a flash of inspiration. (It must have been inspiration because I am not this smart on my own!) I thought that instead of paying someone else $250 to teach the kids piano, we could leverage a small fraction of that money and pay our kids to learn piano. Essentially we would buy their compliance. It seemed brilliant to me.
We had a family meeting before FHE one night and proposed the idea. For the boys, who already received an allowance, we would increase their allowance by 30-40%. (I should say for the record, that after our kids are old enough to need money we pay them $1/year, so their allowances are still VERY modest.) The little kids weren't getting any allowance, so the offer of $5/month for taking piano lessons happily and practicing without complaining sounded good to them. The kids were all on board.
There was still one problem--the teacher. Or rather the teacher's attitude.
All I could see was that I was contemplating adding 2.5 hours a week of piano lessons into my already overwhelmed life. I didn't see how I could do that, and what's more, I couldn't figure out how to make myself want to do it.
I added the topic of piano lessons into my prayers, and tried not to worry about it.
After a lot of thought I came up with a lesson/practice sheet that works to write everyone's lesson assignment on, and on which they can record their practice each day. I spent an entire Saturday afternoon sorting through the unruly mess of music in our living room, sorting into stacks of method books, church books, fun books, etc. I sent off some violin music to Cindy Lynn and gave away some more advanced piano books to other friends.
And then we started.
It is not a perfect system. I have yet to hear Jason practice. Of course he's trying right now to get used to working 20 hours a week and still get school done, so I'll give him a couple of weeks. Josh had to figure out a way to remind himself to practice every afternoon, so he's set a reminder on his beloved cell phone. And I have come to the conclusion that there might never be a set lesson time for each child. Right now my goal is that each child have a lesson every week.
I realized yesterday, though, that this is really working. And, surprise of all surprises, we are all enjoying it. Even me. I am enjoying having to sit down on the piano bench and really interact closely with just one child at a time. I am enjoying the excitement they have when the finally can make their fingers do what they've been trying to do. (Even Josh is quite excited!) I enjoy hearing them practice, and brag to their dad about what they can play now. I enjoy them coming to me and asking for help in learning the "next" part.
I would have to say that I have had a mighty change of heart. And I am grateful.