Sensibility is the ability developed by learning through the senses. In Dr. Kataoka’s book Sensibility and Education  translator Dr. Karen Hagberg explains the Japanese translation of the term:

“Kansei” (translated as sensibility) is the sum of the five senses, plus the intangible heart and soul, through which children absorb their environment.”(1)

When we remember holidays, it may be the aroma of certain foods or the scent of the Christmas tree that remind us of our feelings and experiences as children. It could be the Christmas lights or the sound of carols. Ultimately it is the “intangible heart and soul” that remembers the feelings of Christmas and the Holidays.

Holistic learning is a process of ingesting the environment  in an intuitive way through the senses.  Children learn through touch, sound, intuition. Babies and children learn through absorption of the total environment rather than part by part. In holistic learning, the child can have the grasp of a concept without necessarily knowing the details or even being able to produce anything.  It is this type of learning that enables a person to perceive what is going on without necessarily being able to actually say in words what is happening.  Einstein discusses how his discoveries all came to him in such a way without words or formulas first.(2)

In learning language, babies are absorbing the environment and understand long before they are able to articulate. Children in general understand feelings even when they do not know exactly what is being said. So, “knowledge” in this way is not really measurable. Students who have this kind of sensibility awareness are able to cope with problem solving issues that another student going only by the textbook answers may be unable to solve. This is how a person can be in a completely foreign country where he or she does not speak the language, and yet be able to communicate and act appropriately without ever learning the customs or being told the protocol. Contrast this with how a person can grow up to be completely unaware of how other people are thinking, feeling, or perceiving; and thus unable to make good decisions. We see this in real life  and wonder how to educate children to make wise judgments in the complexities of day to day reality. Holistic learning involves preserving and nurturing the natural way children learn from birth through their senses and with their feelings. How can we preserve and nurture sensibility? Essentially, by having awareness of the child’s senses and giving credence to them. Dr. Suzuki said:

“Skillfulness in rearing a child comes from knowing and feeling as he (the child) does in his heart.”(3)

So this involves taking the time and the presence to experience life directly with your child. It includes not thinking of other things when the child is talking.  Also it includes giving  space for your child to enjoy the moment without rushing to the next thing,  In this way there is  time to discover, learn, and absorb without extra instruction or thinking.

Find the place of a calm, peaceful happy heart inside yourself, and notice how your child responds to you. The Japanese calligraphy on the left side of this page was written by Dr. Suzuki and says:

“The mother’s smile is the child’s smile.”(4)

In music study, the child who learns holistically can play freely without the burden of too much thinking or worrying in the way. Music then becomes a form of direct expression and communication. It’s wonderful to have your child share their music with friends and family during the Holidays. When children can give their music as a gift to others they can experience the joy of giving.  These experiences will be their treasure, an integral part of the memories and feelings of childhood holidays, a part of their sense-ability.

Happy Holidays!
Leah Brammer

1. Sensibility and Education, Dr. Haruko Kataoka, p. xii
2. Einstein on Creative Thinking in Psychology Today
3. Ability Development from Age Zero, Dr. Suzuki, p. 23
4. Words for the Day, #2-A collection of 31 sayings by Dr. Suzuki written on shikishi. (picture is on left beside the quote)

Books quoted and discussed in this Post