Making Music Together, Apart

Well, we are back in music class after the summer recess. And Cora is back to running circles around the group as most of the other kids sing and dance with their parents and our teacher Leigh. As long-time readers already know, and you can too if you read this post from last year, I think the world of Leigh and have learned so much from being a student in, and of, her work in with young children. You’ll also know that Leigh has encouraged me to embrace Cora’s ways of working through the music, even when those contrast with what the rest of the class is doing. And, as I’ve written before, that isn’t always easy for me to do.

Today I reached the end of my rope. Cora was joyfully running around, between, and through the group as we sang and danced. I was singing and following Leigh’s direction, trying not to let Cora’s behavior stop me from participating, but simultaneously feeling like she was disrupting others and that we were in no way making music together. What was the point. For the first time since our first class a year ago, I actively tried to control her body by reaching my arms out to draw her in as she zoomed past me and begging her to sing with me.

Then, this afternoon while we were on the swings, something amazing happened, as it seems to do just when I need it to. I started singing a song Cora likes from the new collection, “There’s a Little Wheel Turning in my Heart” (here’s another version) and Cora asked me to stop singing that song and asked me to sing something else. As I started the new song, she sang about the little wheel. She was not distracted by the words or melody I was signing. I went through three very different songs, but the she just kept turning that little wheel…

I’m not exactly sure what that demonstrates. Maybe Leigh can help me figure that out. But I do know we’ll be back in class next week. And I’ll try to remember that even when it seems otherwise, my child is learning. Often much more than I can imagine.

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4 thoughts on “Making Music Together, Apart

  1. Jodi, I’ve been pondering music class this afternoon and I was thinking about what Leigh said regarding Cora’s desire/need to move. I think she is on to something. From getting to know you I think it is safe to say that you are the same way. Your body craves and wants exercise and you are a doer! You like to be in your garden and to be active and involved. Those are some of the things I admire about you and if Cora is like you, which I suspect she is, then all of those things will serve Cora well as she gets older.
    AND, clearly what Leigh says about the kids absorbing the information even if it seems like they aren’t is true. I still can’t get over the way she made a variation on the “I Had a Little Frog” song on the FIRST day after being away from class for several months!! Her brain is taking it all in!!!

    • Emily, This makes so much sense to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you for pointing it out. I do have a little trouble sitting still myself. Dan would concur.

  2. Jodi,
    I so relate. I felt like Taran was never interested in music class while IN class, but was a totally different child at home. Even though we are not registered this session (couldn’t get into Leigh’s class. Boo!) he still sings the songs all the time. Partially it helps that Joe is constantly playing the songs with Taran on piano and we all song them together a lot at home, but even before Joe started doing that, Taran always got more out of the class then was ever apparent while sitting there each week. They are also still just learning how to be social at this point and, at least for Taran, this took a lot of his focus during class time. I know you both enjoy listening to the cds at home too so I’m sure a lot of learning happens there as well.

  3. Leigh sent me this via email. Once you read it, if you don’t know her, you’ll get a better sense of her and I’m sure you’ll love her as much as the rest of us do!

    “Oh. I love this. I’m so glad you are willing to voice your reflections for others to read, Jodi. I’m going to (boldly) share this on our Music Matters page–I’m certain a full third of our parents will relate, utterly. (Those that don’t relate, will once their children approach their 3rd birthday!)

    My son was like Cora. Never thought he was paying attention as he would entertain himself by “pretend falling” over and over and over again during class. He loved the sensation, clearly. I also think he thought he was entertaining everyone else. My epiphany was to realize that he was moving . . . so that . . . he could learn. That was the hardest part for me to wrap my brain around. Like Cora, he’d sing at home, often doing the hand-movements that the grown-ups had done in class. Clearly, he was absorbing the information during class. It just wasn’t visible to me, at all.

    This also makes the strong case for grown-ups staying engaged during class even when their own child isn’t seeming to participate. Why? Because, that kid across the room (who is noodling around and playing with another kid) is seeing adults in her periphery. The adults she sees and hears may not be her caregiver. She may be learning, directly, from a grown-up in closer proximity or within her line of sight. To that end, we stay engaged for the benefit of all of the kids roaming about. It can feel silly to do the activities when you don’t have a child in your lap. “Apart” as you wrote. But, staying on task for the sake of all kids in the room can bring some meaning to sitting there, alone, with an imaginary, burping frog in your hands .

    Loved Emily Buster’s connection between Cora’s energy and your energy. I’d add that my 12-year-old son still needs movement–in a big way–often for hours—to stay centered. I’ll wager that you’re learning something really useful about your daughter’s learning needs. When she is in fourth grade and struggling to learn something, remember what she taught you in Music Together class. Take her on a run before the math-homework-meltdown begins!

    See you next week. And thanks for all.

    Leigh”

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