Monday, October 30, 2017

#AskAlexia: Why Bring a Newborn to a Music Class?

My neighbor was having a birthday party for her four year-old son, and I was chatting with our other neighbor, whose son is thirteen.  Naturally, I was talking about Music Together! She asked me what the youngest age of child I had ever had in class, and I told her "hmm, I think the youngest was about three weeks old!" Sometimes, a family with a toddler in class has a baby, and as soon as they are ready, the new sibling comes to join the class.  But the youngest I can remember a child coming to class on his own was two months.  My neighbor was incredulous.  "What can a two-month old baby get out of a music class?" she asked.

What a great question! And it was one I was happy to answer for her. There are so many reasons to start a newborn in music class, and they may not be the ones you think of when choosing classes for older children!

First, let's imagine that you have a newborn.  Everyone knows that newborns can't talk.  Would you then *not* talk to the baby?  Of course not!  We know that we have to talk to babies to help them learn to understand our language, and to convey our feelings through tone of voice.  We know that communicating through language is a basic life skill, so we nurture that immediately.  Well, music making is also a basic life skill!  If you want to fully support your child's innate musical aptitude, you have to begin exposing them to music making as early as possible.  

Could you do that at home? Of course!  But many new parents don't know where to start when it comes to making music.  Most parents will say their children are musical, but they don't give themselves the same credit.  I've met many parents who have never sung a lullaby to their child, because they just don't know what to sing, or they harbor a secret fear that they "can't sing" and that their poor singing will somehow negatively impact their baby. The good news is that your child is hardwired to love the sound of your voice, and anything you sing is fine.  Just the act of adding a lullaby ritual to your lives will support their development and enhance the bonding between you and baby.  My sister used to sing Christmas carols as lullabies to her baby, because they were the only songs she knew all the words to.  When you come into a Music Together class, we give you the tools to feel comfortable singing to and with your child, both in class and at home.  So, when you bring that newborn into class, you are also doing it for yourself.

Music class is also a great place to connect with other moms. Even if you have older children, a lot of moms report forgetting a lot of the baby stuff once their first child has past those stages.  We still need to share ideas and "war stories" with other moms, as well as get some of that much-needed adult conversation (before or after class, of course!).

Very young babies also get a lot out of just being in class.  Hearing people making music from a young age makes it a normal part of their everyday life, which it is not, for so many people!  Rocking and bouncing to the beat helps support baby's rhythmic development.  You'll often hear very young babies start to sound on the resting tone or dominant tone of the song we've just sung, showing us that it's never too early to start a music class.  And, although they don't get as much socializing out of class as toddlers do, if they start in class early, they may fall into the social aspect of the class easier and earlier than their peers who are joining well into toddlerhood.

So, if you have a little bitty one, or are expecting, don't write off music classes as something "for when she's older." I was that person!  I waited until my son was almost two, and immediately wished I'd joined much earlier.  And Music Together is really the only kind of class where newborns do get so much out of the program.

What do you think?  Have you had a baby in Music Together classes?  Have you put off classes until later?  Share your experience with us!

Monday, October 2, 2017

#AskAlexia: Why Don't You Have a Class That's Only for Preschoolers?

Hello everybody, and welcome to #AskAlexia! Every Monday, I'll answer one of your burning questions about Music Together, our classes at Music Together with Alexia, or early childhood music development in general!

Today's question is one I hear a lot from families who are new to Music Together.  Why don't you have classes for just preschoolers?  Or just toddlers?  What is with this mixed-age model?

This is an interesting question, and it really hits at the core of the Music Together philosophy.  Something we know is that children all develop differently, at different rates, and in different orders.  Even the physical milestones you get from your pediatrician are broadly defined, and musical development is no different.  So, putting children of like ages together will not guarantee that they are at the same stage of musical development.

Another thing we know is that children can learn a lot from watching children of different ages.  Older children can learn about leadership, empathy, and confidence, needing to learn to watch out for their smaller counterparts in class and helping the teacher with instruments.  Younger children learn through imitating the older children.  Have you ever noticed that babies with older siblings seem to master complex behaviors a bit earlier than the first-born did?  Close proximity to older children affects a baby's development positively.

Many parents are happy to be able to come to one class with both of their children, and the mixed-age environment helps simulate the multi-sibling environment that only children don't get at home.  Having children of a variety of ages - as well as grandparents, cousins, caregivers, and parents - coming together in class creates a loving family atmosphere that contributes to our goal of a more musical society.

It's true that some Music Together centers offer a Babies Only class.  This class is more gentle and is only for the youngest babies.  After one session, baby is ready to move on to the mixed-age class where a whole new world of music will open up to them.  (At Music Together with Alexia, we currently only offer the Mixed-Age class, however, a Babies Only class could be coming soon.  If that's something you or a friend would be interested in, please let us know!)

If you'd like to explore this subject more deeply, this article does a great job of explaining the research that supports mixed-age grouping, when the teacher has planned the classroom that way, with corresponding curriculum (which we do!).

Do you have a question you'd like answered?  Reply here or at Facebook with the hashtag #AskAlexia, and I'll put on my thinking cap to get it answered!  See you next week!

What's Your Dream?

Sorry I haven't been posting lately! I've been getting ready to offer Music Together® classes in a new location, and it's taken ...