Ruth Howard

Spontaneous Flow Flows Over

My 5 year old composed this piece on an old secondhand yamaha keyboard tonight. He was in the flow twiddling nobs and peddles-I’ve taught him nothing except that I often sing and sometimes dance. I have been getting lots of ukelele concerts lately mostly train shanties if you can envisage that folky mix! I’ve decided not to gift him official music lessons. I’ve decided that he will just follow the sounds. I’ve just got to provide the mix of instruments, a plectrum and a tuner. I can help with tuning and basic cords on ukele or guitar when we get one.

The main thing is to get out of his way to give him a variety of experiences, expose him to others music and he will tell me who he wants to learn from and when. It’s very exciting letting him lead. It’s a real trust number!
And one that I want to carry over into other areas of parenting.

Harry composition keys 1.m4a Listen on Posterous

If I can get out of my students way and let them lead and trust them to find their flow how would that look?



  • #   Michael Josefowicz (@toughLoveforx) on 07.18.11 at 10:02 pm     

    Just tweeted you about your use of the phrase “gift him.” I don’t know if that is just the way you say it in NZ, but it struck me a such a better word than give him.

    I think it’s that I infer a reciprocal nature of a gift, as opposed to the one way activity of giving. Very nice distinction.

    Just to add my observation. As I watch my 8 year old grand daughter playing with new tech, everything you describe about your son and the piano seems to apply.

    The more I watch the more I believe that her generation is developing as a new kind of person. Of course we will have to watch it play out and keep our fingers crossed, but her ease, curiosity and fearlessness combined with the world of information and connection at her fingertips is a genuinely new experience for humans.

    A wonderful time to be alive.

  • #   Rowan Chernin on 08.07.12 at 8:51 pm     

    Dear Ruth,

    I work with Interactive Resources team at TES iboard

    I’d be grateful if you could get in touch on the above email address. (Please don’t publish this comment – many thanks!!)

    Best wishes,

    Rowan Chernin
    Interactive Resources by TES iboard
    26 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4HQ

  • #   Rick Ackerly on 12.02.12 at 12:48 am     

    Thank you. I love your story and your question. it is a cutting edge question–stay in the tension between letting him lead his own education and giving him skills and knowledge. Trusting him to educate himself is critical, learning what your role is in that is important. Not everything has to be learned through the discovery method.

  • #   Ruth Howard on 07.19.13 at 11:18 pm     

    Rick thank you very much indeed for all heart felt encouragement. My son has chosen a guitar teacher at this time. It is very new for us (he is not yet 8) and I am grateful the teacher is just exploring and playing and testing the boundaries of interest and inclination rather than prescriptive exercises. Even if my son decided to give it up now after 8 weeks I know that is fine and it would leak back into his life later in a new but at the same time familiar way because of these 8 weeks. It is essential he is in charge of whether he attends and his interest is voluntary. By that I don’t mean he can change from week to week. But if he doesn’t wish to play then we just wont go anymore and no shame in that. Luckily he is tuning in-literally. His teacher is thrilled. That is very cool. For both of them.


  • #   Rick Ackerly on 07.20.13 at 12:10 am     

    One of the things that is brilliant and in this culture mostly revolutionary is you confidence that the eight weeks of “fiddling” will “leak back” into his activity later if he drops it for now. This, of course, is obvious. how could the eight weeks be lost, right?
    But this shows up how neurotic our culture is about dilatantism and crazy for taking a straight path toward carnegie hall or the olympics or any other top of some pyramid.
    At this age they should be developing a multi-dimensional complex brain. Mastery will come whenever they decide to devote 10,000hours toward something.

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