I teach several large families. Several of them are home schooled, so I am able to teach in the mornings and early afternoon, as well as after school. This is a wonderful testing ground for the Animal Note Method, and it doesn’t take me long to figure out what is working, and what isn’t. The children are also very good at catching my mistakes and questioning why things are done one way or another. Watching their progress and joy in music is the greatest of rewards. Because they understand what they are learning, they work harder and their advancement can be amazing.
However, there has been an interesting side effect with large families. The youngest children are eager to try their hand at the piano too. This really grew when the Noteimals app became available for the iPhones and iPads. It was designed to help young children gain an interest in music and playing the piano. It wasn’t long before even the two year olds wanted in on the action. They were so eager, I couldn’t say “no.” I want to share some of the “ups and downs” of this ongoing experience.
A child this young has a difficult time using more than one finger when they play. I start conquering this challenge by naming their fingers the same as the Animal Note it should play. The will ask me, “Is this the ‘Cat’ finger?” They are really trying. It is very awkward for them at first, but they are learning to use their finger independent of each other, and an important skill in and of itself. I have learned that it is most difficult for the majority of the very young children to use the thumb until they are close to three or for some even older. When it is time to start playing the Base notes, the left hand is at first called “the other hand.” Gradually I will start calling the hands by their proper left and right names. Many children do not learn this until they are much older because there is not an important reason for them acquire that bit of information. However, it does put these children a step ahead in education. Another wonderful educational gift you are giving these youngsters is constant training in ‘eye-hand coordination.” This is an extremely valuable skill for all of us, and the earlier that this is mastered, the better.
Most important of all with the very young student, “Keep it short and keep it fun!”