Spotlight: The Voice Behind Aquinas Learning Music
Michelle Irwin is the voice behind many of the history, science and catechism memory jingles that are the backbone of the Aquinas Learning mnemonic system.
Hailing from Minnesota (or “Minne-snow-ta” these days!), she is a mother, teacher, musician, journaler, artist, nature lover, book-lover, and tea drinker. For her first job, she is blessed to stay home and homeschool the “six coolest people I know” and she “truly believes my kiddos and I are called to be world changers...chipping away at what needs doing, bit by bit!”
Michelle was introduced to a music composition role years ago when she joined a classical education program that required students to memorize many facts as a skeleton to their extended learning.
Working with children at home during the week sparked her inspiration as she quickly noted how much better her students were able to memorize facts (short or long) if they were carried “on the wings of song.”
She began to playfully match simple, desirable facts to fun and memorable tunes, like phone numbers or daily routines like brushing teeth and washing hands. Before she knew it, the laborious job of memorizing ‘hard’ or ‘boring’ pieces of information became not only easy, but outrageously fun! She remembers many times dancing through the house with the kids, singing a science fact or home address. Even better, it wasn’t just ‘the big kids’ memorizing facts--the younger siblings caught on and without even trying, they soaked in facts effortlessly right along with their brothers and sisters! How exciting and fulfilling to witness such happy learning in action!
Michelle collaborated with Rosario Reilly and put her love for music and passion for Classical Education to work setting the Aquinas Learning memory verses to song. One of the biggest highlights she remembers as a musician and educator was visiting the Manassas, Virginia, Aquinas Learning center in May 2011, after writing the first cycle of music. She fondly recalled: “What a gift it was to actually see and hear my work in the flesh! I couldn’t stop the tears as I sat in a classroom and watched a roomful of students jump up and down when the History song about the Vikings came on, and they all began singing at the top of their lungs. When I was introduced to the class as ‘the music lady,’ I think I experienced the best kind of stardom I could ever ask for!”
Michelle started and became the director for an Aquinas Learning center in Florida the next year. Looking back, she observes that the opportunity to use God’s gifts to “bless my own children and other families while also promoting and nurturing a love for Classical Education has been the greatest job I could ever hope for!” She hopes to continue to bring ‘harmonious joy’ to many children and families as they embark on their learning adventures, while also helping to encourage a love of learning through the gift of music.
Soli Deo gloria!
--By day, Michelle loves a sincere conversation with a friend over a cup of tea, getting caught up in a good book, and singing her heart out in the car or on stage. Her children are now 14, 12, 10, 8, 6, and 4.