But I Can’t Teach My Child Music!

Published with Permission

Written by Marcia Washburn


Homeschooling parents are busy people—so much to teach and so little time. Important subjects such as music are often delegated to others or relegated to “when we get around to it.” Yes, there is evidence that playing an instrument improves a child’s spatial-temporal ability and physical coordination. And yes, the Bible says to make music in our hearts to the Lord, but how can you fit music into your already overloaded school day? What if you are musically illiterate? What if private music lessons are out of reach? Here are some ideas to start you on your way toward making music a part of your family’s life.

• Enjoy great music together. God created music as a means for us to voice our love and adoration of Him, both here on earth and in heaven. Start each day with quiet worship music. Sing together during your family devotions.

In addition to songs of the faith, every child needs to know the folk and patriotic songs of his country. Wee Sing 1 has great selections if you’re not comfortable teaching the songs yourself.

Classical music is another important part of your child’s education. If you’re not familiar with music of the great composers, consider purchasing CDs that narrate the composer’s life story and include examples of his music.2 When you find a composer whose music you especially enjoy, listen to more examples on YouTube and then build your own musical library. Titles such as Best of Beethoven or Greatest Hits of Mozart are easy to find.

Another great option is the book Meet the Great Composers, available with or without a CD. Four pages of text, illustrations, and games are devoted to each composer. Permission is granted to make copies for your group, so this could be used as a support group activity too.3

Attend live performances whenever possible. Local concert associations, colleges, and symphonies sometimes have special concerts for children. Folk festivals and other events provide great opportunities to hear music of other cultures.

• Integrate the arts with music. Some music tells a story. Encourage your children to act out the story, make paper sack puppets to dramatize it, or use paint or chalk to record their feelings about the music.

 Children naturally move with music. Encourage them to march to a John Philip Sousa piece, dance to a waltz, and stomp to a square dance tune. “London Bridge Is Falling Down” and “Looby-Loo” are popular folk dances that can be done with as few as three or four people. Or invite a square dance caller to teach families in your homeschool support group to dance—great intergenerational fun!

• Play simple instruments. Invest in commercial rhythm instruments,4 or make instruments for your own family rhythm band. Partially fill a bathroom tissue tube with rice or dried beans and then tape the ends shut, to make a homemade maraca (shaker). Use an empty cardboard oatmeal container as a drum, playing it with your hands or a wooden spoon. Cover blocks of wood with sandpaper and rub them together. String pairs of metal bottle caps around the edge of a doubled paper plate to create a homemade tambourine.

The soprano recorder is an inexpensive, easy-to-learn instrument. I once taught a group of moms to play it in one hour. Most of them had never read music before, but they taught their children to play at home. We had one rehearsal for the children the following week and then presented four songs at an end-of-year celebration. There is a wealth of both easy and challenging music available for those who wish to explore the recorder in more depth.5

 • Use simple games to teach basic music terminology. Since the Italians developed our modern system of musical notation, most words found in printed music are Italian. For example, the terms for dynamics—how loudly the music is performed—are piano (soft) and forte (loud). Forte is pronounced FOR-tay. Variations include pianissimo (very soft) and fortissimo (very loud). Mezzo (MEHT-zoh) means medium, as in mezzo-piano (medium soft) or mezzo-forte (medium loud).

Children can learn these terms, and how to control the volume of their singing, by playing the Dynamics Game. While one child is out of the room, hide an object in the room. When the child returns, help him find the object by singing louder when he is close to the hidden object and quieter when he is farther away.6 A further benefit: You can remind your children that fortissimo voices are for outside play only.

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