One of the best “features” of the Music Together® curriculum is that it actually has a curriculum. That is, a big-picture plan that guides the inclusion and arrangement of all those songs and how they relate to the other songs and all the families and all the different-aged children, all those activities we do in class, the way they are presented, the way they are expanded. (The silly jokes in class are my personal addition to the core Music Together materials. You’re welcome.) The Music Together materials and philosophy (the curriculum) are based on lots of child development research: Research focusing on children and how they discover and respond to music, and also broad research on how children learn and develop and socialize and internalize and etc. Music Together was founded this way, with a strong “backed by research” ethos, mainly because its original program developers are researchers. I have been trained by them and when I have worked with them, I could sense their pride in the program, but also I noticed their confidence in the effectiveness of the Music Together curriculum. Their confidence comes from the solid foundation of child-development research—from across disciplines of how children learn.
It may seem at odds with all the research and thoughtfulness that goes into the Music Together program that our classes together can seem so…free and relaxed. I sure hope they feel that way to you, at least most days. They feel relaxed to me. (I’m regularly disappointed when the 45 minute mark rolls around and class is winding down. Wait, the party can’t end yet!) A big reason for the party atmosphere in class is due to my adhering to the virtues of a style of teaching explained to me at Music Together Teacher Training. One of the co-authors of Music Together, a professor and expert in researching music and young children, told me, on the first day of training, that her graduate students refer to her as the “dragon lady” because besides requiring them to be on top of all their coursework, she further requires them to memorize a hundred (100!) children’s songs that they can sing on cue. But that was later, at lunch. What she first told me (and the other teacher candidates) was that in the classes we lead, we should not formulate expectations about what the young children in our classes are “supposed” to do and how they are “expected” to respond. Instead, she wisely advised, we should step back, so to speak, and observe what the young people in class are actually doing and watch how they are responding to what the adults in the room (including the teacher—me) are doing around them—and offer encouragement when what they are doing appears to be music related! I relish this freedom of the Music Together “classroom” where children are allowed to be themselves and I (and you) get to step back, so to speak, and watch them watching us and enjoying themselves as they try out for themselves what they see.