A Musical Head Start in Life! What’s the quickest way for your child to learn new skills? Well, it starts with knowing what the quickest way is for them! Parents naturally think a group music class will teach children one skill: music. After more than ten years as a Suzuki music teacher, I could write a PhD thesis on all the things that children learn from music classes! For instance, I find fascinating the ways in which parent and child discover their child’s unique learning style. It is this awareness that sets the child up for lifelong learning. I teach Suzuki ECE (Early Childhood Education) group music classes for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers. Born in Japan in 1898, Dr Shinichi Suzuki was a philosopher - as well as a violinist and educator. He strove to teach the whole child through music, and to create happy, sensitive, high achieving people. Dr Suzuki observed how naturally children learn their first language, and developed an approach to learning music which follows the same principles. Through his observations he realised that every child learns how to speak their first language to a very high standard in their own time. There isn’t a sense that ‘maybe English isn’t for my child, perhaps we’ll focus on Japanese instead’. We accept that every child will get there when they are ready. Parents greet each attempt at speech with joy and encouragement, and lots of repetition! You naturally provide a rich language environment for your child, and they hear thousands of words before they can say any. Parents don’t introduce one word at a time, and insist on the baby mastering that world before introducing the next word. In the same way, classes provide a rich musical environment for your child by playing many beautiful musical instruments and singing many songs each class. A partnered music education experience, where parent and child both take an active part, is a powerful opportunity for the parent to observe their child in a relaxed but structured learning environment.
Music is a complicated, multi-faceted skill which requires all parts of the brain - all at once! Keeping the beat on a wood block whilst singing a rhyme is a complicated task for a little person. It’s quite remarkable to think how much is going into something we adults might consider straightforward! I know from experience that if we celebrate the journey, the skill will definitely be achieved. Confidence comes in many forms: to have the confidence to sing in front of the class is a wonderful thing, but for me it is just as important that I help the student to develop the confidence to try new skills. Weekly music classes provide a ‘drip-feed’ of new skills, which you are approaching step-by-step, as a team. Your child is learning that it’s ok to try and fall over, because we can try again. We place the importance on the fact that the child tried, rather than the outcome. The excitement created around trying gives them the courage to try again, and refine that skill. It is a privilege to be a part of this process. Knowing how your child learns gives them an amazing head start! Even before your child starts school, you are working successfully as a team to achieve new skills. This is helpful because there are limited opportunities in the school classroom to observe your child being presented with new skills, and see each step along the path to mastery. In music classes, you are there at each step, and are sharing in this magical journey of learning. Teachers should be trained to observe the student in order to support and assist the parent in their learning teamwork with their child. We see your relationship with your child as being of the utmost importance. A beautiful example of this was a conversation I had with the parent of a three-year-old. The parent was concerned that her daughter didn’t want to go to the teacher for a turn on the xylophone, and therefore