In the musical “The Sound of Music” the main character Maria, played by Julie Andrews, famously teaches the Von Trapp children how to sing by starting “at the very beginning.” She continues singing “when you read you begin with a, b, c, and when you sing you begin with do, re, mi. Maria, makes everything fun and doable.
This past week, Frankie’s Daisy Troop started working on their safety award. One of the requirements is that the girls learn their phone number. For some reason, when I presented the idea of memorizing my phone number, Frankie was super scared. She didn’t want to do it. She didn’t even want to start.
What’s a mom to do? Break it down. Teach it step-by step. Make it fun. And repeat it again and again. I started with the area code. I said the numbers in a fun sing-songy way. I made it into a repeat and answer song like the ones we sing in girl scouts. After about thirty seconds of this, she wasn’t scared anymore. In fact she was ready to tackle the whole thing.
I can understand why Frankie was initially intimidated by the idea of being tasked with memorizing a whole phone number. I mean a phone number probably looks gigantic to a five-year-old. What’s interesting here, is that it wasn’t Frankie’s motivation that pushed her through. Despite really wanting to earn her Daisy safety award, Frankie was initially too scared to even try. Sometimes motivation isn’t enough. Motivation is important, but it’s only the first part. Often a task requires motivation plus a fun step-by-step way to learn.
Learning karate at Journey Martial Arts uses this same fun and effective technique. I would like to note that step by step method is used very effectively in the adult classes as well, but right now I’m going to focus on our youngest karate kids. The kids in Excellent Journey.
Excellent Journey is for 3-6 year olds. In addition to exercising their bodies, increasing strength, flexibility, coordination, and learning karate moves, every two weeks the kids learn a word about character development. Frankie has already learned “manners” “coordination” “confidence” and “respect.” The word is incorporated into the whole lesson. The kids are asked to repeat back the definition multiple times throughout the class. Both rote definition and an understanding of that definition are part of the class.
The word, or the essence of the word, is often incorporated into the exercises. I personally loved, what I have dubbed, “Manner Jacks.” Frankie’s class did jumping jacks by saying “please” (arms up) “thank you” (arms down). They also did manner punches and kicks where they shouted “excuse me” (right side) “thank you” (left side).
What’s brilliant about this, is the accomplishments are real. There’s a specific skill or word that is taught and the kids have to demonstrate that they know it. The skills are small enough, and the lessons are structured in a way where all the kids can learn the word or skill. The kids know they learned something they didn’t know at the start of the week. If a definition sounded long and scary at the beginning of the class, it sounds super easy, if not by the end of the class, then by the end of class the following week.
The kids also have motivation to learn the word of the week. Frankie is able to learn my phone number because I broke it down and made it fun, but she wants to learn my phone number because it is part of earning her Daisy Safety Award.
The kids in Excellent Journey get belt tips and badges for the words they learn. After they have demonstrated their knowledge, they get a tip on their belt which is a visual marker of success. Frankie gets so excited about these tips. And then, on week two, once they have demonstrated that they can take the concept home, they get a badge for their uniform, which is another visual marker of success.
Motivation without a good path leads to frustration, and a good path without motivation is just a path to look at. Motivation plus a good path is quite possibly the key to everything. This applies to karate and this applies to life.
I love the focused, fun, step-by-step method, that is used in Excellent Journey. Frankie loves it too. In fact she told me she loves karate more than swimming, more than ballet, and more than playdates! So, I think it’s safe to say that Frankie is definitely loving and thriving, and dare I say, having an excellent journey, in her Excellent Journey classes.