Growing the brain
Through extensive observation, Suzuki came to believe in the importance of educating children from the day they are born: “Setting a child aside until elementary school age, and then saying that now education begins, is like taking a withered sprout and suddenly giving it the sunlight and flooding it with water. It is too late for the withered sprout.” Through extensive research, scientists now know beyond all doubt that early childhood experiences are a blue print for the rest of our lives, shaping the infant brain which, unlike the other organs of the human body, is not fully developed at birth. They also know that the optimum period for change is the first three years of life, the target age-group of the Music at Heart Early Years curriculum.
If the same kind of experiences are provided for the same period of time when somebody is older, they will have far less impact. Evidence shows that after the age of three, the brains of children who have been deprived of a wide range of experiences early in life are physically smaller, because the brain begins to rid itself of cells that aren't being used. Those closest to a pre-schooler, particularly you as parent, have a tremendous responsibility to ensure that you are 'growing' your child's brain to its fullest potential. The Music at Heart Early Years curriculum is designed to help you do this admirably.
A unique feature of the Music at Heart curriculum is the provision of opportunities for repetition. Repetition enables your child to experience thorough mastery, and enjoy the good feeling you have when you get better at something over time. To return to the brain, repetition provides the perfect conditions for the laying down of layer upon layer of a substance called myelin, essential for the development of skill. The more something is repeated, the more myelin is produced, which improves dramatically the speed and efficiency of physical and mental processing.
Through repetition, the progress of children following the Music at Heart Early Years curriculum can be much greater than that of those who attend other pre-school music classes, where the curriculum moves on swiftly from one activity to the next and experiences are not re-visited in the same way. Moreover, repetition builds confidence in all aspects of life, not just in music.
Success breeds success
In the Music at Heart curriculum, skills are acquired cumulatively, taught through a layered approach unique to Suzuki Early Childhood Education. When combined with repetition, this has an immensely positive effect inside the brain. The more we develop a skill circuit the more the action becomes automatic - whatever we are doing gets easier, which builds our self-esteem and gives us the motivation to attempt the next challenge. Suzuki said, "Develop ability from what the child can already do, and that ability will promote the happiness of doing things better and better."
The baby being bounced in the mother's arms, seeing and hearing the teacher with the drum in the stepping game, becomes the infant who reaches out and takes the mallet, becomes the toddler who stands at mother's side and plays the drum with the teacher's guiding hand, becomes the fully-fledged child who stands alone playing a steady beat and directing the group by making decisions about how and when to play and stop.
This level of development is rarely encountered in the typical large-group, pre-school music class, where skills are not practised in such an organised and structured manner.