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Omaha Magazine

Spruce up your child’s learning environment

Apr 09, 2014 09:00AM ● By Omaha Magazine Staff
Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, a violinist and educator, stated, “Man is the son of his environment.” As parents, we strive to provide that essential climate where children can grow without any barriers to their success. But what is an excellent environment? Incorporate these five Environmental Cs for a great start.


In his book The Joy of Inspired Teaching, Tim Lautzenheiser suggests, “We should create an environment that is conducive to risk and failure.” If these two elements exist, the comfort level for a child increases. Children who are concerned about being right are less likely to try something new. We can change the notion of “failure” into a positive idea by telling our children the many stories of great men and women whose “failures” have created some of our greatest inventions—think Edison’s incandescent light bulb.


If a child shows a spark of interest in something, carry it through to the absolute end. Just because we have a certain agenda in mind doesn’t mean the child will follow that plan without deviation. Sometimes, the deviations are what create the hooks for the child. Emotional connection greatly strengthens their learning process. One violin student was very inspired by fiddle music but not interested in developing excellent string crossings. Eventually, her string crossings developed into a strong ability by mastering fiddle tunes loaded with string crossing patterns.


This idea demands thoroughness. The great violin pedagogue Ivan Galamian taught: “The basic procedure is to present to the mind…problems that progress from the simple to the ever more complicated. One very important principle has to be kept in mind, a principle that applies to any type of practicing: Whenever one problem is mastered, it is useless to repeat it over and over again.”

We can master any challenge by extrapolating the problem and encountering the material from as many angles as possible.


A creative environment is a place where all aspects of our learning modes are challenged. This would mean that both the right and left brains are engaged and, if possible, the child is receiving visual, aural, and kinesthetic input.

For example, in teaching the meaning of a musical term, first point out the word in the music and write its definition (visual). Then, demonstrate the musical term (aural). Finally, tie the musical term to a feeling or experience (emotional). While the student incorporates the musical point into their playing (kinesthetic), encourage their efforts (social). In this way, each possible connection for the student has been engaged.

Any suggestions from the child about what to do (child-driven creativity) means they are contributing to the learning process, making the parent’s job easier.


Dr. Suzuki said, “Whatever students do well, however well, is a step in the right direction. It will deserve your honest praise.” Always find something that can be complimented in a specific way. For example, “The detail in that drawing is excellent.” Kids generally want to please and repeat activities for which they’ve received accolades. Encourage children by noticing what they are doing right, even when it’s considered “expected behavior.”

Environment is absolutely critical to learning ability and also largely dependent upon what we make of it. For example, in John Steinbeck’s book East of Eden, two characters discuss the destiny of two young boys.

“I don’t very much believe in blood,” one character said. “I think when a man finds good or bad in his children he is seeing only what he planted in them after they cleared the womb.”

“You can’t make a race horse of a pig,” said the other.

“No, but you can make a very fast pig.”