Interview with Roann Keen
I’m excited today to introduce you to Roann Keen, an early childhood music specialist, musikgarten teacher, and homeschooling grandmother. I hope our time together will be encouraging to you as you seek to impart a love of music to your children!
Why is music education important to start at an early age?
The earlier a child is exposed to music the better it is for the young child. Someone has said that music education should begin nine months before the birth of the child. Music has so many facets that encourage the growth of brain cells: it has the ability to calm and motivate, it encourages movement responses, and it provides a closeness and interaction with the parent/caregiver that helps in the bonding process.
Early music education encourages the child’s love of music and learning that will continue throughout life. Music provides the opportunity to learn many of life’s important skills such as communication, organization, spacial awareness, problem solving, social interaction, math, beat and rhythm, the give and take of life, and so much more. Starting music early builds a life-long love of music learning.
How can parents can give their children an appreciation for good music?
By listening to a variety of good music at a reasonable volume from conception on. By good music, I mean good classical, folk, and other genres that are at an easy listening volume — easy listening music. If it is hard rock, some rap, and other music, it will not calm and motivate. Any music that is too loud is going to have a detrimental effect on a child’s hearing and will also tend to encourage agitation. A good, early childhood music program will provide a wonderful mix of quality music to listen to, if you are in doubt about your personal choices.
How can music help with educating special needs children?
I have worked with a lot of children with special needs, and it is amazing what music can do to encourage their motivation to move, increase speech and language development, improve social interactions, and encourage bonding.
Often music is the only thing that will speak to them.
I’ve heard many children speak their first words in my music classes. I’ve also seen them take their first steps, accomplish difficult tasks through music, and learn to interact with other children positively where it was not happening before. I’ve seen drug babies learn to calm themselves and bond with adoptive parents. Internationally adopted children with language barriers bond so much quicker as well. Music provides order and motivation. The beat and rhythm is consistent, and is something they can “hang their” hat on, so to speak.
I recently had a little boy with virtually no social skills. He was unable to be a part of a group at all. His mother knew music would be helpful, and she brought him to my class. They sat in the back of the room for the first few weeks just observing. At first he couldn’t even stay the whole class time. I gave him instruments to play along with us when appropriate, setting them in front of him at a safe distance, but otherwise just let them and him be.
Within just a couple of classes he started coming closer and closer and one day he came and got the jingle bells out of the basket himself, played the drum, and echoed into the play microphone. It was an exciting day! Within just a couple of years he was speaking in full sentences, interacting with others, and responding to music and the world around him much more normally.
Here are some practical ways to incorporate music into life and school …
- Have fun with music.
- Do it together as a family.
- Sing and dance at home.
- Set up a music corner, drawer, or cupboard where musical instruments are available.
- Invest in a good music system that you can afford and young children can operate on their own.
- Make up your own silly songs.
- Sing instructions to your children. Make a game of putting their toys away with a song, and your home will be more organized and neat!
- Wake them up with a song! Don’t have music playing 24/7 but do play it! Keep the volume down.
Have a set time in your school day when you do music.
- Be sure to sing yourself. When children see that mommy and daddy like to do music, they will also like to do music. If you feel you are not musical, then join an early childhood music class such as Musikgarten. The curriculum is multi-faceted and brings in the old folk tunes that are so important to our heritage and the heritage of other cultures as well. Then do the activities at home during the school day. The Musikgarten curriculum is written by leading early childhood educators and musicians, and speaks to all areas of child development.
- Provide good role models for your children in their musical experience.
- Start musical lessons on piano or violin by the age of six or so. Musikgarten starts children on group piano at the age of six years, and the results are wonderful if they have had the early foundation as well. If they are six or older, you can get started now – it is better late than never! Children love our piano classes because they are full of fun and games, and they learn to play songs they already know and love. They are not having to sit at a piano for 30 minutes to be taught or to practice. Our method teaches the way children this age learn — through movement and fun! Because the lessons are fun and varied, the motivation is there to keep going.
I’ve never had an older person say, “I wish I hadn’t had any music lessons.” They all say, “I wish I had never stopped!”