Archive for September, 2012

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music

How many of you remember Julie Andrews in the opening scene of The Sound of Music when she is on top of the mountain singing that song? She seems to be experiencing the ultimate sense of freedom when she is twirling around and singing those words with her arms outstretched! She is totally alive with the sound of music and the beauty of her surroundings. Her spirit is so alive and the music is pouring out of her. That opening scene made a profound effect on me growing up.

As some of you know, I leave Austin every summer to go to Taos, New Mexico where we have a cabin in the mountains. When my last class ends in the spring session, I am on the road to my secret hideaway in the sky. At least I feel like it is in the sky because the altitude is 8600 feet! The other day a friend asked me, “What do you DO all summer?” My answer was, “I don’t have another minute left in the day!” But my real answer should have been that I don’t go there to DO things…..I go there NOT to do things! My day usually starts around 6:30 a.m. when I go for my morning walk. All I hear are the birds, the squirrels chattering at each other and the Canadian geese squawking on the fishing pond as I pass. If I’m lucky I may see an occasional cottontail scampering across the trail. If I’m not lucky I may see a mama bear with three cubs or a bobcat! It is so quiet that my footsteps are the loudest sound I hear! The silence gives me so much energy that I never want my walk to end. My thoughts are totally unencumbered and I feel a freedom to be able to let go and just enjoy being alive, free of worries and responsibilities.

Now I know this is an unrealistic situation for most of you young mothers who have so much on your plate. I am so lucky to have an extended period of time to relax and just “be quiet” so that music can resonate through me, but you are doing something similar by coming to music class one day a week to bond with your child and give them the gift of experiencing music with you. When you walk into class you are encouraged to forget the world outside and to try to reach down inside and find your inner child. You are your child’s best teacher and if your child sees you having fun living in the moment and opening up your heart to the power of music, they will want to do the same. So for one hour every week, I encourage you to put away your cell phones and try to think about nothing else other than being with your child. Open up your mind, body and spirit to the music around you. Just let go and enjoy yourself. I love my time in New Mexico but I cherish my time in Austin, too. My Music Together families are very special to me and I always look forward to returning home in September refreshed and “my well” full to pass on the gift of music to you. As the song says, “my heart wants to sing every song it hears.” So your challenge is to be quiet enough to hear it!

Edie Elkjer
Music Together Teacher

The Magnificence of the Young Child

This past week we started our Fall Session of Music Together classes at Heartsong Music. Thank you, families, for a great start to our Fall Session. All of our teachers raved about their great classes and how happy they were to be singing and dancing with you all again. We have 10 teachers and over 600 children enrolled with over 500 families! It’s so exciting to be at Heartsong and hear each classroom bellowing out with music and song!!

In my Monday 3:30pm class, I have mostly girls and many of them were 2, 3, and 4.  Throughout our first class together, they were getting to know each other outside of our music making circle: galloping around the circle, dancing together doing their own movements together, or playing their egg shakers in their own corner… You get the idea. Because of my Montessori training, I was able to understand their needs for social relationships at that age so I did not take it personally, and I continued to have a blast making music with the moms!  At one point in the class I mentioned the sensitive period all children go through for social relations (2.25 – 6.0 years old). You could have heard a pin drop and then a collective sigh of relief from the moms. Their thoughts were: “Oh, my daughter is doing what she needs to do to develop into a full person! Whew!!” One mom came up to me after class and said she was so relieved to find out about this sensitive period for social relations because her 3 year old has been asking to get together with friends every single day the last few weeks.  Now the mom understands why.

Whenever I lead a Parent Education Evening for Heartsong Music, I hand out a graph with the sensitive periods that Maria Montessori discovered. I want every parent to know them because it helps you understand your child through these stages and appreciate the stages instead of thinking your child has gone totally bonkers!  So let me explain…

All children between 0 – 6 years old go through different “sensitive periods” according to Maria Montessori. These sensitive periods are universal for all children. They are also transitory, lasting only for a short time then they are gone. The sensitive periods overlap with each other.  Each one is an irresistible impulse toward a well-defined activity, a burning intellectual love between the child and the environment. The child will focus on an activity without fatigue and for long periods of time. They only come for a moment, and if allowed to establish deeply within the child, it functions at a heightened level within the child and lasts for the child’s lifetime. For each sensitive period we miss, we lose an opportunity of perfecting this area in our development in some particular way – often forever! It is like a “dropped stitch” – the child will still grow into an adult but the area of development that was not established deeply within the child, may not reach it’s full potential.

There are 6 sensitive periods for the 0 – 6 year old:

  1. Small Objects – 1.25 – 2.25 years old.  The child has an interest in almost invisible objects. Will bring you the tiniest items off the carpet with great pride and wonder!  Loves small manipulatives: pasting, necklace making, sewing, and sorting. Notices the smallest details when cleaning, polishing, and sweeping.
  2. Order – 1 – 3 years old.  The child has a need for order. Is trying to make order out of chaos. Wants everything in its place and thrives on routine. Consistency = safety. The child has a mental photographic impression of the position of everything in his environment. He is calm and has a spiritual repose when all is in order.  He finds joy in putting things back in place. When all is in place, then he can get on with constructing the self.  (So, moms and dads, time to get rid of all clutter and keep an orderly house for just these few years!)
  3. Social Relations – 2.25 – 6.0 years old.  The child is interested in her own bodily actions. Good manners can be taught. The child is not self-conscious and is very willing to practice good manners. The child insists on doing things in the accustomed way – the right way.
  4. Refinement of the Senses – 0 – 3.75 years old. The child has a natural interest in sensorial impressions. Is very sensitive to qualities around self; can make distinctions with a clear perception of the senses. It is good to focus on one sense at a time: smells, touch, colors, hearing, tastes, work with dimensions for sight. Give your child as much sensorial experiences as possible at this age. Their senses are most heightened and open to exploration. The more they are exposed to at this age, the greater their ability will be to distinguish their senses for the rest of their life! For example, I wasn’t given much experience with colors as a young child. It is now very hard for me to tell what clothes go together or to distinguish between grades of the same color. In the Montessori classroom, the children could do this with ease. In our Music Together classes, just imagine the refinement of hearing that your child is getting by being exposed to the singing and harmonies taking place in class, exploring different rhythm instruments and the sounds they make, and when you sing to your child both in class and at home!
  5. Movement – 1 – 4 years old.  This is the refinement of the gross motor skills of the whole body as well as fine motor skills of the hands, feet, legs, and arms. If the perfecting of movement and coordination is allowed, then the normal development of the mind occurs! It also will bring the child contentment, concentration, and inner nourishment. If the perfection of movement and coordination are not allowed, then the personality is out of balance; the child is less happy and is insecure.  Maria Montessori says that movement IS learning and when perfected creates happy, content children. WOW!!  I’m so thankful the children have so much movement, small and large, to explore in the Music Together classroom and then can take it all home and play with new movement ideas and make the movements their own.  Since movement IS learning – it really is okay for children to move freely around the room whenever they are called by that deep need to get up and dance, move, gallop, toddle, crawl, wiggle and roll.
  6. Language – 0 – 5.25 years old.  Language is the longest sensitive period because it is the hardest and most intricate to master. It is important for the child to master because it maintains the country’s spiritual unity.

a. Infants and toddlers (0 – 2.5) are drawn to human sounds.  The infant listens and the sounds make an imprint on the unconscious mind, so the child will be able to begin speaking and in an orderly way.

b. 2.5 – 4.5 vocabulary is attached to the child’s experience.  The child enjoys hearing the sounds of words broken down then built back up. For example, using the word “cat”, first you break it apart: “What is this word? “k” (make the sound), “a” (make this sound), “t” (make this sound).” The child then echoes those sounds, then slowly begins connecting the sounds together, and finally gets that it is the word “cat”. This is the precursor to reading. Great fun for all!

c. 3.5 – 4.5 the child begins to write.  Has an interest in the shapes of letters and learns that each has its own sound. This explodes into writing.

d. 4.5 – 5.5 the child is writing and begins to read.

Since the sensitive period for language overlaps with the sensorial sensitive period, you can use language with the senses. When your child experiences a smell, is touching a fabric, or seeing a vibrant color, if you give it a name, this heightens the sensorial experience and allows the child to catalogue it better in her mind. For example, when your child smells a flower you can say, “You are smelling the beautiful fragrance of a red rose!”

Music Together’s research shows that the most critical time to develop ones musical skills is between the ages of 0 – 5. Music is a very intricate language, don’t you think? By exposing your child to such a rich musical environment as the one Music Together offers, you are giving your child so much to contrast and compare musically. Your child is hearing many tonalities from around the world and unusual meters along with duple and triple meters.  And then not only hearing the sounds but then moving and singing themselves!  Through music making with your child, you are able to connect with them in many different sensitive periods that they are in:

  • Order of the classroom rituals (Hello Song, play along/lullaby/Goodbye Song happen every week)
  • Order with the rhythm instruments – they must be put back in their correct places (eggs CANNOT be placed in the play along box!  Oh no!)
  • Order in a song:
    1. We sing it in its entirety so the children can experience the song as a whole.
    2. Many songs have an A section and B section. To make this clearer for the children, we may do different activities or movements for each section.  This adds visually to the differences between the A section and B section.  The child can count on the same movements for the different sections. And in this way will begin to figure out how music and songs work.
    3. We sing a tonal pattern or chant a rhythm pattern after a song or chant to show children the basic building blocks for the song or chant. This helps the children understand how music works and gives the song or chant an orderly place to be catalogued in their minds.
  • Language development using the words of the songs; listening to the teacher then following instructions; looking at the way music works in the songbook and “reading” along; using CDs at home and in the car to continue encouraging singing the words with the whole family participating together; then the ability to sing without the CD or the family members helping!  What an achievement!!
  • Movement through small finger plays, taps, claps, dancing and large movement.  And also learning about controlling movement so you aren’t bumping into other people’s space.
  • Senses:  hearing, seeing, touching. (And even tasting! Many Heartsong children enjoy tasting our pretzels before and after class! When the children are singing in their 30s and wonder why they are hungry for pretzels or something salty – you’ll have to tell them why!!)
  • Social relations – learning to share; to apologize when accidentally bumping into another child; learning where they fit socially in the class and how to follow a leader, and then be a leader; learning how to be respectful to mommy and daddy and the teacher and everyone in the class.
  • Small objects – oh yes, those children find the tiniest crumbs from the carpet and bring them to you with a twinkle of amazement in their eyes!

There’s no wonder why Music Together is so exciting!  We all get to observe the magnificence of the young child and stand in awe of the extremely complex process it is of creating the self and developing the mind in all its intricacies!

Carey Youngblood
Certification Level II, Music Together Teacher
Director of Heartsong Music

The Joy of Family Music

Heartsong Music teaches Music Together®, the internationally recognized early childhood music and movement program for children from birth through grade two and the adults who love them.

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