Extravagant fondness and passion

photo from CNN.com

I was awestruck by Luis Soriano, of Magdalena, Columbia (click here to see Luis’s story on CNN.com) whose passion for early childhood literacy takes him, astride his “biblioburro” for five hours at a time, to share books with children in rural villages. Self funded, using his weekends, his 4,200 books are now the largest library in his community.

I think of his passion as an extravagant fondness for education. Why extravagant? Because it extends beyond reason, beyond what is convenient and easy.

Kindermusik is a community of passionate educators. I received an update from an educator in the Chicago area today who has maintained her Kindermusik teaching schedule despite months of chemotherapy and radiation – all so the children can learn from her strength. In turn, she is buoyed by the children and the music.

May we all sing through our challenges, ride burros for literacy and generally act with extravagant fondness for what we know makes a difference in our world.
-Michael Dougherty, CEO of Kindermusik International

Using movement to activate the brain

Mom and baby

Mom and babyResearch has proven that the area of the brain that deals with cognitive thought is activated through movement. In other words, movement can literally turn on your child’s mind! For example, when you hold your baby and whirl around in one direction and then whirl in the opposite direction, this stimulates his neural pathways and actually helps them develop.

Moving with your child is a great way to spend time because it’s fun and it has a great benefit.

We’ve put together a few ideas of movements you can do at home with your child. Try these to get those brain muscles flexing.

Kindermusik’s movement ideas for…

…your baby: Put on a favorite piece of music and pick up your baby.  While holding him, place one foot in front of the other and rock from front to back, balancing most of your weight on one leg at a time.  Swoop, swirl, and swing your baby high and low in response to the music.

…your toddler: The world of a toddler is a very physical place, and your child will learn a new word more easily when you pair it with the action. So try doing different actions together while saying the word. For example, jump up and down and say the word “jump.”

…your preschooler: Encourage your preschooler’s creativity. Play some music and ask her to make up a different dance for the verse and the chorus. Help her distinguish between the two. She will not only be stimulating her brain through movement, but also learning musical concepts as well.

Have a movement idea of your own? Feel free to share it in the comments area below.

The importance of steady beat

Note, this article was originally titled: “Running with scissors (a bit more safely)”.

If you’ve ever come to a Kindermusik class, you’ll notice that we will have a steady beat activity every week, in every age group. It might involve shakers, streamers, or drums. Or singing, chanting or lap bouncing. Or maybe moving our bodies or dancing. Or even stomping, gliding or tiptoeing.

A baby hears a constant steady beat (mom’s heartbeat!) by 22 weeks after conception. And every infant is born with the ability to keep a steady beat – his own internal beat. Sometimes in a Village class, a piece of music will match a baby’s own beat, and you’ll see him or her banging away in perfect rhythm!

Steady beat for babies:
Exposure to steady beat (hearing it, feeling it, “seeing it”, being moved to it) is important for a baby’s developing sense of steady beat. An internalized awareness of beat will help him to coordinate his movements.

A baby who is beginning to internalize a steady beat will show it through rocking, nodding, patting and kicking. Later she’ll be able to demonstrate steady beat through clapping and playing a drum to a steady beat. Steady beat will be a key factor in his learning to walk.

Steady beat for toddlers:
Children 18 months through 3 years old are learning to control and coordinate their body’s movements. The ability to keep a steady beat helps in walking with a smooth gait, leading to running and jumping with confidence.

It is at this age that feeling and moving to a steady beat develops the ability to organize and coordinate movements with proper timing – like bouncing a ball and catching it.

Steady beat for preschoolers:
Steady beat competency is central to the development of movement organization, such a marching in time, dribbling and shooting a basketball, using scissors and writing smoothly. Being able to move their entire body to a steady beat leads to the ability to speak and read with a smooth cadence, thereby enhancing communication abilities.

Interesting steady beat facts:
A sample study was done of first and second string NFL players. 100% of the first string players could maintain a steady beat without any external stimulus for 45 seconds. Only 50% of the second string players could accomplish the same.

Tests show that children with steady beat internalization are better readers and more successful in math. Children with better abilities in steady beat are reported to be better behaved in class and have less aggressive physical contact with other students.

It is well-known that a stutter does not stutter when singing or using a steady beat while speaking. A stuttering student figured out her own solution: when she wanted to answer a question, she tapped a steady beat on her leg before speaking. This allowed her to answer without stuttering.

As the result of a study done in 2002 by University College in London, scientists believe that a poor sense of rhythm could be the cause of dyslexia. “Researchers concluded that an awareness of beats can influence the way young children assimilate speech patterns, which may in turn affect their reading and writing abilities.”

Steady beat helps children to understand and organize their world. So if you are going to run with scissors, make sure you’ve got a good sense of steady beat. You’ll run more coordinated and smoothly, and thereby be a little bit safer.
– by Miss Analiisa, whose mother reported that at 2 weeks old, Analiisa consistently rocked in time to a piece of classical music that had been often played while she was in utero. But sadly, she was a horrible basketball player.

Special thanks to Studio 3 Music for allowing us to share this great post from the Studio 3 Music blog. Studio 3 Music in Seattle, Washington, the world’s largest Kindermusik program.

Dear Kindermusik — a letter that makes it all worthwhile

Dear Kindermusik,

I am writing to you to tell my family’s Kindermusik story and express our utmost gratitude for the Kindermusik scholarship that helped us to stay in the program last semester. It really begins with the birth of my first son, Evan. When I was 7 weeks pregnant with him in 2004, I began to miscarry and carried on this way for 3 weeks. I believed in a miracle. Evan was born nearly 4 weeks early on May 16, 2005. Due to the blood and oxygen loss serving Evan in the womb he was born with his left hand deformed. Seven weeks happens to be the point for critical hand development in utero. It is the point where the hands grow from a paddle shape to 5 single digits. At this point his hand was bound with amnion strands, which are protein strands my body developed to protect the growing baby, while I was in a state of miscarriage, two opposing forces, indeed. His underdeveloped thumb and pinkie were bound in an opposing position which did not allow the joints in those fingers to develop. His second digit developed a third of the way, but his 3rd and 4th digits are nubs.

I am convinced as the mother of a living miracle nothing can stop my child from doing all the things in life he is purposed to do. When he was 7 months old I discovered there was a Sign and Sing class available in the area. Cyndi Bohner was the teacher and she immediately made me feel comfortable with her heartwarming smile, love for the children and enthusiasm for the program. Sign and Sing gave myself and son our first experiences with communicating with each other on a deeper level. It was also a wonderful opportunity for networking with other new mothers.

I was very interested in attending Kindermusik’s Village after such a positive experience with the former and it’s been a Kindermusik love affair ever since. In 2007, I had my second son Aidan and actually started taking him to Evan’s classes when he was newborn, asleep in his basket. If it wasn’t for Cindy Bohner’s open heart and the flexibility of the Kindermusik experience, we never would have been able to continue. We enrolled Aidan soon thereafter.

My boys and I adore Kindermusik. It is so much more than a music class. It is a well rounded approach to learning with a musical foundation that brings joy to parent and child. This encourages excellent bonding as each learns a little more about the other. The classes have increased confidence socially for the children, as well as me. I would never sing out loud around others before the classes. Now after nearly 5 years of Kindermusik, I am not afraid to belt it out!

Cyndi Bohner encourages the curious whims of the little ones, which in turn stimulates that same flexibility in the moms. It is a liberating feeling to be a part of a program where you are not looked upon as a “bad” mother with an “uncontrollable” child if they just do not want to sit, but strikes a delicate balance of impacting the children to learn how to self regulate while developing good listening skills.

Particularly, my son Evan has triumphed and used his hand in ways he normally would not have. This has encouraged incredible development with his fine motor skills. There is no stopping his learning abilities, with hopes of learning the Glockenspiel and even the piano in the future. He also has a speech delay and I believe Kindermusik has been the single best speech therapy he could have ever had. That is why I can’t stop talking about it to everyone I meet with young children.

I just want to reinforce what a treasure you have in Cyndi Bohner. Kindermusik is great ideas on paper until a wonderful teacher like Cyndi comes along and makes it come alive! It is evident she has a vibrant passion for Kindermusik. She has encouraged me as a new mom in ways no one else has. She has never been without a kind word usually telling me what a great mom I am and what a great job I am doing, when I feel just the opposite. On those days where feelings of failure loom, Cyndi is always there each week with a hug and loving support.

All of these things keep us coming back, until the dreaded economy collapse. All extracurricular activities had to be cut to make way for basic necessities. My husband is a self employed furniture designer/developer and I recently went back to school part-time to finish my degree to be more of a help financially. The economy attacked my husband’s small business hard. If it weren’t for the scholarship so graciously presented to our family, we would not have been able to continue, which is a heartbreaking prospect. Thank you Thank you for enabling us to stay in the program and a huge heartfelt Thank you to Cyndi Bohner for seeing us as valuable enough to sacrifice for us to stay. The generosity is humbling.

It has been a wonderful opportunity to be a part of such a great thing during the formative years of my children’s growth. We are literally growing up with Kindermusik and it’s been an excellent journey! Though the economy has stayed the same and whether we will be able to continue in the curriculum is uncertain, one thing remains certain, we will not stop singing the praises of Kindermusik and one of their best instructors, Cyndi Bohner!

David, Ashley, Evan and Aidan

Why Kindermusik educators do what they do

There are lots of reasons why Kindermusik educators do what they do. But the story below illustrates a thread common to every Kindermusik educator in the world – to help children learn and grow into amazing adults.

This story was shared with us by Kindermusik educator, Uta Weiland in Greensburg, PA.

In early April, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette published an article about one of Uta’s former Kindermusik students. The student, Kaitlin Price, is now 16 years old and clearly way ahead of the curve, as the article’s title suggests. Kaitlin’s mom attributes lots of her daughter’s success to attending Kindermusik classes as a child. In the article, Kaitlin had this to say about her early educational experiences:

“I could already read in kindergarten,” said Kaitlyn, a senior at Shaler Area High School. “So when other kids were learning their ABCs, I went down to the principal’s office and read to him because I had nothing better to do. And he listened to me read the Harry Potter books, if I recall correctly.”

When Uta asked Kaitlin’s mom if she could share the article with others involved in Kindermusik, Kaitlin’s mom said:

“I would be honored to have you use it for the good of Kindermusik. I do often try to recruit for you guys. I KNOW Kindermusik was a large part of why my kids are as successful as they are. Sometimes I’m so jealous of them because they have that music knowledge. Being comfortable with reading music has such an impact on all aspects of learning. Hope her story can gather more to the fold.”

We know Uta deeply appreciated that, and the rest of us at Kindermusik do too. Good luck to Kaitlin on all her future endeavors. There is no doubt big things lie ahead!

Want to read the full article that was published about Kaitlin? Click here.

Arts with the brain in mind

I believe that music, as the only activity that simultaneously stimulates every area of the brain, is the best choice for my children through first grade. But what after they were done with Kindermusik?

All my children are homeschooled, so I get to help make those choices. In my house, we continue music . Rob plays violin, Nathan plays flute. (And no, I don’t force them to do music!) But what about the other arts? Visual arts (painting, drawing, photography, graphics, set making, etc.), and kinesthetic arts (movement, dance, and theater).

My instincts told me that as my children were interested (Rob loves musical theater and gymnastics – Nathan loves Sculpey clay and drawing), I should let them integrate the other arts into their day.

Thanks to Facebook, I reconnected with 2 college girlfriends over Christmas. Pam the percussionist is now an elementary music teacher, Lucy the trumpet player now a Principal at middle and high school. We traded memories, laughs and books.

Pam gave me a book she’d read by Eric Jensen called Arts with the Brain in Mind. It confirmed what my heart already knew – arts enhance the process of learning. The brain systems they nourish, which include our integrated sensory, attentional, cognitive, emotional and motor capabilities, are, in fact, the driving forces behind all other learning.

That doesn’t mean your child can’t learn without studying music, or visual or kinesthetic arts. The arts, however, provide learners with opportunities to simultaneously develop and mature multiple brain systems.

The arts develop neural systems that often take months and years to fine-tune. The long-term benefits of the arts include everything from fine motor skills to creativity and improved emotional balance.

Maybe the most valuable benefit of including the arts in your child’s education is that the arts make better human beings. The arts promote self-discipline and motivation, social harmony, enhanced creativity, emotional expression and a greater cultural awareness.

What long-term studies are beginning to show is that students who participate in the arts may be less likely to be dropouts, have higher attendance, be better team players, and have an increased love of learning.

And who doesn’t want to have children grow up to be happy, well-balanced, creative, problem solvers, and work and play well with others?
-posted by Miss Analiisa, who as her children’s teacher, is seeing for herself the long-term benefits of clay, paint, band and drama.

Special thanks to Studio 3 Music for allowing us to share this great post from the Studio 3 Music Blog. Studio 3 Music in Seattle, Washington, the world’s largest Kindermusik program.

Mommy (or Daddy!) and Me

Have you ever been to a Kindermusik class? If the answer is “yes”, you know the music is great. You know the classes are more fun than you can imagine. Your child probably loves it! And the Home Materials help you enjoy Kindermusik even when you’re not in class, making your daily routines just a little bit easier.

But as Kindermusik teachers, one of the things we hear over and over from our parents is that the they love the way Kindermusik inspires those magical moments of bonding and together-time. These are the moments that we as parents treasure and remember forever.

Here’s one mom’s story about a simple, but special, Kindermusik day: http://www.themitschkes.com/2010/05/kindermusik-in-park.html

Music. Smiles. Dancing. Hugs. Happiness. And parents enjoying their children. . . . I think I must have the best job in the whole wide world.
-educator Theresa Case

Theresa’s Kindermusik program, Kindermusik at Piano Central Studios, is in the top 1% of all programs in the world.