If there is one thing that Suzuki stresses, it is the need to put in the hours to become good at your art. Your child doesn’t need to show early precociousness to be good at music (or sport, or Math, or “insert whatever subject it happens to be”). The most important ingredients are time, commitment and starting young. It has been said before that some people just aren’t good at particular things and they never will be no matter how hard they try. Suzuki believes that as long as you invest the time, get in there early and provide the right environment, children can be great at anything.
Talent Education – Why early?
So that the children don’t get sent down the garden path with the wrong methods. For example, if you want to teach your child music, it is important to get off to the right start from the very beginning. If you sing out of tune and your singing is all your child hears for the first few years of his life, then your child will end up singing out of tune like you. If you want your child to learn how to sing in key, then you are better off not singing at all to your child and playing music with singers who sing well.
Sounds harsh? Well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles if you’re tone deaf and you want to raise a music prodigy.
The example Suzuki used was one about nightingales. Did you know not all nightingales sing well? It all depends on what happens during their first month. In Japan, nightingales are taken as fledglings from the nests of wild birds in Spring. These young birds are taught to sing by a master nightingale. If the birds have a good teacher, they will go on to sing beautiful songs. But if a bird is raised in the wild before being brought to a good teacher, they have found that there is always failure to produce a good singing bird.
If we translate that across to the human race, then what happens to your child in the early years sets the precedence for your child’s later years.
- Jesus said, “Give me a child for the first seven years and I will give you the man.”
- Maria Montessori said that the first six years of a child’s life is directed by the child’s absorbent mind.
- Glenn Doman talked about the learning potential of children in their first 6 years as being uncomparable to their learning capacity in later years.
- Shichida also focused on the learning potential of children in their first 6 years of life.
It isn’t about being kiasu (meaning: afraid to lose; being the competitive parent) any more, it’s about building a solid foundation for the later years in your child’s life.
Talent Education – Time and Commitment
Suzuki said “talent develops talent”. Once you have planted the seed of ability, it begins to grow with ever increasing speed. However, in order for that seed to begin growing, you need a lot of time and commitment.
“The expert in anything was once a beginner.”
And all beginners know that everything is always difficult when you’re a beginner. When you’re not good at something, it is hard to enjoy it. If you are committed to your practice and put in your practice time diligently, you will eventually see improvement. You may also experience jumps in improvement of your ability and puzzle over how you ever got to that level when it used to appear impossible. I believe those experiences are what Suzuki meant when he said “talent develops talent”.
If you can find a way to motivate your child and keep him going until he can get over the beginner’s hurdle, then you’re well on your way to developing a talented child for life. The hardest part is getting over that hurdle and keeping your child motivated to persevere. And perseverence is not a strong point for children – the younger they are, the worse it is.
And that brings us back to Tools of the Mind – the program that develops a child’s executive function which in turn is responsible for helping a child to stay focused on the task at hand and to block out distractions. What’s unfortunate about the Tools of the Mind program is that it seems to be developed for a classroom setting and we don’t have any schools here that run the program.
Is it at all possible to run a Tools of the Mind program for a homeschool setting? Time to ask Vygotsky and pick up where I left off months ago…