If there is one thing I truly believe as a parent of four children and as early childhood educator is the absolute need for our young children to be ready to learn from day 1 of the prep year.
Sure, as the owner and director of Wee Make Music I have a vested interest in keeping up with changes to teaching and learning in schools but I am also a parent, the youngest being twins in year 2. From this position I have seen firsthand the significant change in the expectations on our children in their first years of primary education since Queensland schools began transitioning to the national curriculum. Michelle Morris, Educational and developmental Psychologist from Resilient Kids also agrees,
“Being ‘prep-ready’ is an important consideration for parents particularly in light of the recent introduction of the National Curriculum and an increased focus from day one on the academic skills of reading, writing and maths”.
There has most definitely been a significant shift from a ‘play based, let’s get to know each other and find our feet’ approach in the previous prep programs to ‘structured schedules, measured curriculum outcomes and homework’ in the current system. Don’t misunderstand me, I am certainly not opposed to these changes. Rather I am suggesting that as parents we need to realise that we have a responsibility to prepare our children for prep so they have the best chance of early success and subsequent positive growth. Most people would agree that it is vital that our children enjoy their first year of school and that their experience in the first year informs the way they view the rest of their schooling.
With this notion foremost in mind, I cannot be more passionate about the value of music as a tool for preparing children for formal education.
You only have to go to the Queensland Government website*, education page to read under Early Years of Schooling that
“ ..in the early years of schooling students are viewed as capable learners who have diverse experiences..’.
While children are indeed capable learners, in the sense that they are learning from birth, the expectations school places on them about how they will learn (sitting still, listening, following instructions, working cooperatively with others) are skills that often take practice. Some children, particularly those who have not been exposed to more formal kindergarten/daycare settings, may find these expectations baffling and unsettling. While one’s definition of ‘capable learners’ will vary, I believe that in the context of school readiness a capable learner is a child with appropriate levels of self-confidence, listening, concentration, fine and gross motor skills, social awareness and etiquette in group situations, problem solving skills and the ability to follow simple and dual task instructions.
Developing these skills can take time. For us to give our children the skills they require to be effective learners we need to commit to developing these skills in our children and support them with these outcomes in mind.
Early Childhood music classes should provide a fun, supportive and effective environment for developing these essential skills. Within each age appropriate class children (with their parent/grandparent/support partner) practice fundamental musical concepts of beat, rhythm, movement and melody. A variety of strategies present these concepts so that the child is learning to focus, follow instructions, manipulate various instruments, develop social awareness and team skills, build self- esteem and confidence, develop creativity and language and voice skills. The list goes on.
I am passionate about these benefits to children more now than ever and it has driven the writing of our curriculum programs at Wee Make Music. After 9 years in Brisbane (and 3 years previously overseas) I feel very privileged and proud to have been able to share our mission to empower children and their families with the joy of music and apply this in an endeavour to aid in the development of effective and capable little learners, musicians and citizens.
Director, Wee Make Music
This article was published in Issue 6 of our print magazine, October/November 2014.