Monday, October 13, 2008

Twinkle Time

We're well into our second year of Suzuki Violin with Curly Miss. Last year we focused on basics, basics, basics. People have asked me if I think I started her too young. If our only goal was to hack out notes on the violin then yes, she probably could have done just as well if she'd waited a year. Good thing that wasn't my goal.

In studying brain development as an undergraduate I was amazed to discover how elastic little brains are; how they just seem to soak up learning like sponges. Their fingers don't catch up until much later. They cannot reproduce the sounds on the instrument that an older child can make, but their absorption goes deep. They learn music as if it is a primary language. Later she will not have to "translate"; music will be at her fingertips. She is making connections in her little synapses that cover so many different areas.

So was last year a waste? Absolutely not!

That being said, this year has been SO much easier. Miss K, her new teacher, connected with her right away. She talks right at Curly's level in language that is fun and engaging so Curly loves to go to her lesson. Also, her manual dexterity has advanced more and she is able to do what is asked of her on her violin much more easily.

One of Miranda's recent posts discusses the merits of an intense, focused study of music from a young age. Numerous studies, both formal and informal, agree with her. Here is her post (by permission).

Why it's worth it

On the SuzukiChat list Julie (of LivingMath fame) asked if there were other parents of multiple multi-instrument Suzuki children expending as much time, money and energy as she is, and if so, what we felt the deeper value of the musical experience was that justified all that sacrifice. Her question got me thinking. Here's my partial list of things of deep value that my kids have got through their music studies:

* the experience of committing to something over the long-term
* the experience of small incremental gains resulting in impressive overall progress
* experience breaking large overwhelming tasks into small achievable ones
* a long-term community of fellow-learners
* a meaningful daily chore / routine
* an appreciation of the fact that everyone learns differently and at different speeds, and that there's value in all that learning, no matter the pace
* guided experience with the supportive appreciation of others' good work
* meaningful, authentic and non-competitive involvement in 'teamwork' endeavours -- like working towards an ensemble performance
* the abiding knowledge that they have something they can do very well
* something that they are expected to work very hard at ... especially important for children to whom much comes very easily
* an arena in which to work the kinks out of the parent-as-facilitator/child-as-learner relationship
* something to do as teenagers besides hang out at the mall or the corner store
* a common language with children and adults from other places, other walks of life and other cultures
* a ticket into non-age-stratified groups where they are valued for
their contributions as much as anyone else, adults or otherwise
* meaningful, long-term relationships with adult mentors
* copious exercise for the "memory muscle"
* a place where their [homeschooling] parents can figure out what makes them tick in terms of learning style and motivation
* the chance for the child to figure out what learning strategies and learning modes suit him best
* a window into history
* a creative / emotional outlet
* opportunities for travel
* a positive visible profile in the larger community
* a useful marketable skill ... and one that can be used to contribute voluntarily to the community, whether by participation in fundraising concerts or simply by playing a few pieces at the nursing home at tea-time
* experience with preparing and executing a performance/presentation in the public limelight
* a cohort of similarly-committed peers to draw on for friendships during adolescence and beyond
* an intuitive appreciation of the mathematical patterns inherent in music
* the sense of being part of a family 'culture' of music

Tonight Curly Miss hit an exciting milestone in her practicing. She played the first Twinkle Variation all the way through (with a lot of help). This is like a swimmer going off the board for the first time. She has been learning bits of it for a year but has never been able to put them together. As you can see from the look on her face, the moment she does, it is magic!

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