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Monday, March 5, 2012

Monday Morning Check In: Location

I posted this weekend about the power of routine. Today’s Monday morning post has a related theme, because location can play a major part in establishing a routine.

Dr. Suzuki stated, “Man is the son of his environment.” This is a major tenet of the Suzuki philosophy of talent education. Tweak the environment, and you can produce amazing results in what a child learns.

Location is one aspect of environment. There are actually two parts to environment: the physical and the psychological. The psychological environment can be the subject of many posts, as it relates to enhancing the possibilities of environment in order to motivate the child to learn. There are many avenues to accomplish this, from individual lessons and home practice to group classes, from home concerts to public performances for the community, from attending a symphony performance to busking at the local market days.

The physical environment may take a few paragraphs to explain, but it will have one of the greatest impact on what the child absorbs in terms of learning, because a major aspect of the physical environment is that it, in large part, does not move around. We are stuck with this huge elephant; physical environment is difficult to alter in terms of its spatial dimensions.

The ingredients of physical environment are time and location. Time is an easy aspect of environment too. Just figure out the best time to do something and fine-tune the timing to reach the optimum results. Should we practice in the mornings or afternoons? Should we practice before or after a snack? Before or after dinner? Time involves a clock and a calendar.

The location aspect of the physical environment relies on different questions. Where is the best place to practice? What other things occur there or in the surroundings that might cause a detrimental distraction to an optimum learning environment? Is the ambient noise level conducive to focus and concentration or will the dog running through the space or the phone ringing nearby interrupt practice? Should we face the back wall or face in the direction of the big picture window that reveals the squirrel running along the tree branch or the bird hopping on the ground outside? Some children need more or less stimulation or noise.

Do not underestimate the power of location. I have discovered many fabulous environments in the past several decades. In the past I have worked quietly in a back guest room on a clean desk, the front library room in front of a large window, at the dining room table in the family area, and most recently, standing up with a laptop on my kitchen counter. I recall reading about a famous writer (whose name escapes me at the moment) who used to write standing up with a writing pad on top of a small refrigerator, which is what I tell myself to comfort me regarding my choice to write standing up at the kitchen counter in a room that lets me be a part of my dog pack at the same time.

The beauty of a choice location is that you can build a habit with the physicality of the space. Just as a writer can overcome writer’s block by building the habit of writing once the writer’s rear end hits the seat of the designated chair in the writing space, so a young child can overcome practicitis by building the habit of practicing in the same place (and preferably at the same time of day).

This week, give some consideration to what you have created in your physical environment. Is there something about your physical location that you can tweak in order to be more productive? Is there something in your environment that you can alter in order that your child is encouraged and supported in his or her learning efforts?

Please comment and suggest your favorite practice locations.

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