I have been learning about sketchnoting lately.
Sketchnoting is the art of taking notes with pictures. They don’t have to be perfect pictures, but they need to make sense to their creator. For many, they serve as a more powerful reminder of the lesson they heard than reviewing a bunch of words written on a paper. Importantly, since the note taker has to comprehend the information well enough to put the teacher’s words into pictures, they require an extra level of processing, allowing it to “stick” into long-term memory better.
I could go on and on about how cool the process is. I’ll spare you.
Here’s the reason I bring it up: I love being a life-long learner. I love learning about learning. In many of the videos I’ve been watching about how to doodle notes, experts talk about practicing one’s skills at conferences—some of the videos have even been recorded at conferences. So, at the same time I find myself needing to do a song and dance to get my middle school students to learn (sometimes), I notice all these other people willingly subjecting themselves (even paying money) for the privilege of learning something new.
As a parent, a school-teacher, and an adult, I’m in a continual state of observation about the process of learning. For babies and young children, the world around them generally provides enough fascination that it typically doesn’t take much encouragement for them to learn. There is just intrinsic reward in acquiring language or learning how to crawl. Have you taken a nature walk with your little one? It can take hours—they will examine every little pebble or leaf. And not because their grade depends on it or because they will get some sort of reward at the end of the walk. It’s just because the process is fascinating.
Something happens to many of us during those school years. There are multiple reasons for this drop in intrinsic interest in learning, I know. Hormones, social pressures, events at home, and the ways our school system doesn’t always accommodate individuals’ learning needs all play a part. I’m continually trying to improve my skills in motivating students.
As an adult, then, I’m also learning. In addition to learning how to teach better, I’m constantly on the look-out for ways to parent better. And I’ve also learned about many things right alongside my kids. I never thought I’d know as much about bagpipes as I do now that my son has chosen that as his instrument. And I dare you to ask me any question about asthma that I can’t answer.
So then I come to Kindermusik classes with my kids, and I see this natural learning at play. Literally, at play. Kids come, and they play, and in so doing, they learn. It’s not about a grade, or getting your name drawn out of a hat for good behavior at the studio.
Watch what happens the next time your baby grabs the bell in a way that prohibits it from ringing out. In that moment, she is learning cause and effect. When she moves it to a different hand, maybe she gets a different sound out of it than she is used to—now she’s working on timbre. Your preschooler, on the other hand, might be using rhythm sticks to pretend to build a house—maybe tapping on the ground or even moving into the air. Now he’s combining skills—small motor skills, steady beat and locomotor movements. And at the same time, using skills of pretend to figure out the way the world works and his place in it.
Music instruction gives kids all those “soft skills” that they need for success in their future learning endeavors, too, like superior auditory processing, high self-esteem, and knowing the value of practice. In other words, Kindermusik draws on kids’ natural curiosities to help them learn. And then it sets the stage for them to pursue additional music lessons, which in turn influence their learning processes.
In the end, the only life I have any control over is my own. But hopefully my passion for education inspires my kids and my students to make the most of their lives, too. In the meanwhile, I’m so very grateful that I can give my kids the gift of education by bringing them to Kindermusik. I can’t wait to see what doors open to them as a result!