Creating the optimal learning environment

People often misunderstand what is meant by having an optimal learning environment. I frequently get asked about the work I do as a Suzuki violin teacher.  Upon hearing my occupation, one man said he was not musically inclined and neither were his children.

I explained that under the right circumstances and with the right teacher, any child can learn an instrument and even become an advanced musician.  He ended the conversation by saying that he thinks some kids have musical talent and some kids don’t. Since he was not a musician, I wondered how he knew?

Mozart’s optimal learning environment

Mozart was perhaps music’s greatest prodigy. Was this because his genes were superior?  Or was it because his father was the greatest violinist of his day who insisted on educating his children from infancy?  Can you imagine the parade of musicians coming in and out of this household?  It would have been hard for Mozart not to have become a great musician.  To be fair, Mozart adapted to this environment very quickly, but what if the boy were raised by a cook or an inn keeper?  Would he be one of the greatest composers?

What does the optimal learning environment look like at home?

Just by looking at the environment that Mozart’s family created gives you some idea of what is possible. Be creative! Play beautiful music at home from the day the baby is born.  Or as Shinichi Suzuki would suggest nine months before.

Attend concerts with your baby.  These days, it is more acceptable to bring in a babe in arms.  You can always step out if the baby gets fussy.  Some communities welcome babies.  If yours doesn’t, lobby for special concerts for children.

Talk about music with your baby, toddler, and child. They understand a lot more than they are able to let on. Read to your children. There are many books for very young children about musical instruments.

A visit to the library is the best idea  A few examples but there are many more:

A Story of the Orchestra
Peter and the Wolf
Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo
Zin! Zin! A Violin!
Mole Music
Manuelo the Playing Mantis
Vio’s Violin 
My First Classical Music Book

The bottom line is that the parent is the optimal learning environment for their children.  Sing to your children, read to them, play beautiful music.  Flood their senses with what is beautiful while they are impressionable.

Please understand that no one is insisting that every parent be a Leopold Mozart. But a parent who claims that their child has no talent could be dooming the child to believe that they have no control over their life, that they are at the mercy of fate, and can only hope to be good at something and proud of it. Not all parents will get it, but you can.

“Please prepare the best environment for your child. Parent and child should grow together looking towards the future.”  Shinichi Suzuki

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