by Karen D. Koch
Music matters. I majored in journalism in college but accidentally minored in music because I took so many electives in the music department. So years later as a homeschool mom, I wanted to incorporate music into our curriculum. However, music lessons are expensive, particularly with multiple children and an essentially one-income household. But even if you’re not a musician yourself, or can’t afford music lessons, it is possible to include some basic music instruction in your homeschool.
Remember that music includes many facets, not just playing or reading music. There is knowledge of instruments (what does a flute sound like? a trombone?), their classification (brass, strings) and sounds, musical terms (adagio, sharp, treble clef), composers, history, and music appreciation as well. Add in some music from other cultures, and music is a complete curriculum in itself. If you choose to play a musical instrument, this skill includes all learning styles: visual, aural, tactile/kinesthetic. Music feeds the soul as well as the mind.
Making Music Matter
- Go to local concerts. High school band and choir concerts and festivals are lower cost than professional concerts, and can be found practically in your own backyard. This may have to wait until the kids are old enough to sit and listen quietly.
- Watch musicals with your kids. Some of my favorites are The Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof, The King and I, etc. Check for age-appropriateness and subject matter.
- Check the library! Classical Kids has some fun DVDs such as Beethoven Lives Upstairs and Mr. Bach Comes to Call that may spark your child’s interest in a composer.
- Attend free concerts. Libraries also sometime provide free concerts. We attended one where the two musicians played more than 30 different fascinating instruments.
- Find a book/CD of Peter and the Wolf. It’s a great introduction to instruments in the orchestra where different instruments represent different animals.
- Learn about the basic instruments and some major composers. We used a book called The Story of the Orchestra, which came with a CD to introduce different instruments and how an orchestra is set up.
- Attend or join youth choirs or youth symphonies if you sing or play an instrument. Tryouts are generally involved.
- Participate in church or youth theater musicals.
- Attend an occasional professional concert as money allows. Many of these provide student or school/group rates, especially for dress rehearsals or matinees.
- Take lessons, if affordable and available. We started each of the kids with piano so they could learn both treble and bass clef and the ability to read music. One child moved to guitar, the other to bass guitar. None are going to be concert pianists, but my goal was for them to learn to read music and enjoy playing an instrument. For the most part, we have had one child at a time take lessons due to the cost.
- Ask for family discount. Some teachers will give a discount for more than one student in a family.
- Read about composers. We checked out a book on CD: Lives of the Composers, which gave some background, music, and intriguing facts about several famous composers.
- Ask. A wonderful man in our homeschool group gave free group guitar lessons in our homeschool group. I’ll be forever grateful as this is where my oldest son began his love of guitar.
- Play lots of classical music in the background. One year I bought a set of 20 classical CDs from Christian Book Distributors for something like $9 total. We’ve played these in the background during school for years, rotating between composers and styles. Even if the kids can’t name a piece, they recognize it, and I’ll catch them humming along. Sometimes I’d read the CD insert to the kids – interesting history as well! Just as reading aloud improves children’s comprehension, listening to music is a way to learn to appreciate it as well.
- Play music from other cultures as well, not just instrumental, but also songs in different languages. We borrowed most of these from the library, and I have a few French CDs.
- Plan a course. In high school, I require my kids to complete a Fine Arts Overview course. We attend concerts, plays, dance productions, etc. and keep a notebook of programs, and reviews. I required them to study and report on musical genres, composers, and more.
- Listen to a fascinating CD by Andrew Pudewa of the Institute for Excellence in Writing (and former violin teacher) called The Profound Effects of Music on Life. It’s an intriguing audio recording on how music affects the developing brain. My kids and I really enjoyed this.
- Read a poem called The Children’s Symphony.
Happy listening and learning, and as Martin Luther said, “Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.”