Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Music and children

Being a former music major, I learned early on the vast importance of music in the home. Still, it can be kind of daunting for some people to sing with their kids or try to play an instrument. So, I'm going to head off on a tangent for a moment.

When a human has sensory input--they hear something, taste something, feel something, etc--it excites certain areas of the brain. Doctors have seen this on MRI's and CAT scans. It is really wondrous to behold the human brain creating memories and connections, and watching the electric and chemical impulses bouncing around. These connections are massively important in young children, who form 90% or more of their behavioral impulses before they reach the age of 3. That gives us parents just a few short years to instruct and demonstrate good behavior before our children are in ruts that it may be impossible to come out of. Crazy, huh!

So, how can we make sure the brain develops the right synapses? Music! When examining the brain during an MRI, doctors noticed that a picture or a scent would light up a certain, specific, section of the brain. However, when the patient listened to music, the entire brain was afire, lighting everywhere over and over again. How intriguing. A concept presented with music therefore reaches all of our memory and function centers faster and more completely than other forms of communication. Fellow parents, this is why it is essential that we have music in our homes.

Now, I'm not talking about playing a 1-man-band symphony every night to put our kids to sleep, or that we sing like opera stars to impress them. I'm talking about singing silly kids songs like "Eensie Weensie Spider" and "Twinkle Twinkle little Star." How many of us can still sing our ABC's easier than just saying them? That's because our brain can associate it with music. If you sing a goofy song, even just make up the tune and the words, to encourage a child to take a bath or eat their broccoli, you might just find it works.

Music can also be a fantastic attention-getter. I find when my son Lee has been listening to a lesson for a few minutes, he loses focus. That's when it is time to halt gears, get up, and sing a song. Maybe throw in some actions. Who cares how it sounds; this is between my 3 year old son and me. Nobody knows if I'm completely off tune. But Lee knows he's having fun, and by choosing a song that goes with my lesson, I continue to engage his brain in focusing activity.

So if you're self conscious or don't like music for whatever reason, it's time to get off your high horse and sing with your kids. They will quickly forget if it sounds good, and always remember the concept you sang to them, or the laughter that ensued afterword.

p.s. If you're still too self-conscious, go get some kid's CD's at the store and dance along.

Monday, August 24, 2009


You should all check out Starfall. My son LOVES it! It teaches him his alphabet, but it is more than that. It first can teach your kids what the letters are and how they sound, but then it goes farther and teaches them how to read. It is quite amazing. My mother actually would sit at the computer with my son in her lap playing this when he was only like..... 6 months old or something. I can't remember his age, but she started him out really soon and he is like... a pro at letters now. He can even spell his name already (he's three). I think it is amazing. Check it out! ^_^


If there's one thing I really remember from my years in Preschool (which my mother taught), it is how essential patterns are for kids. Kids thrive on routine. When they know what is coming next in the day, they are much better behaved overall, and are able to help out.

So that was my lesson topic today. We sang the days of the week song (to the tune of "Allouetta" or however you spell that, you sing the days of the week starting with Sunday through Saturday, then say "now we start again.") We also sang the months of the year (to the tune of "10 little Indians:" "January, February, March and April. May, June, July and August. September, October, November, December, Those are the months of the year.") Then I got some cans and some boxes out of the cupboard, and also some dry beans of different colors. I helped my son make patterns like: box, can, box, can, box, can... or black bean, white bean, black, white, black...

Since this was our first time with patterns, I kept it insanely simple. I would go outside and discover patterns outside, but it is pouring rain, so we did it inside. Like the way the dresser drawers stack up, or the stripes on a towel, or the funky wood paneling in his bedroom.

By rotating activities I sort of kept his attention, though the lesson still was under 10 minutes. That's okay for me, that's why I'm doing lessons like these 3 times a week. It's to help him practice focusing, and to help him learn about small, simple things around him. Not bad for my first time, huh!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Welcome to FAD!

This is Focus and Discovery (FAD), a blog and forum for parents of young children.
FAD is a specific time we set within our own homes, to teach literacy and a love of learning to the next generation. FAD is a way to help our children discover themselves and the world around them, in a safe, hands-on environment. FAD is parents encouraging other parents to keep up the good work. FAD is a place for all of us to learn from each other's experiences, and to laugh, worry, love, and cry together.

Welcome, dear friends, to Focus and Discovery!

On this blog, we encourage everyone to post as often and as frequently as you like. Please keep your posts and comments clean, even if they are expressing frustrations. Here is where we can share our ideas on teaching young children the basic concepts of literacy and organized lessons. We can put up pictures of our children's projects and their successes. We can ask questions and get advice if we need it. Tell us what you're doing, and how it is going.

As a mother, I have often wished my children came with an instruction manual. Perhaps we can use this blog to share our experiences, in the hopes that all will be mutually benefited.

We invite all who are interested to join in the forum. Thank you, and welcome again.