Echoing in Celebration: The Studying of Beauty and Harmony in Music

In our home, we began listening to music while we were doing other schoolwork. We listened to classical music while doing handwriting and copywork and while drawing maps. Many of my friends incorporate their listening time into family dinners. Mom or Dad simply announces the composer and the piece and then plays the music while the family eats. However, don’t always relegate music to a background activity; it is also good to train children to sit still and listen closely. Periodically, I would have my boys sit still and shout out the names of instrument families as those instruments began playing: “I hear the trumpets. The flutes just started playing.” Young children can be asked to draw a picture of the music or can be asked to tell you how the music made them feel—happy, sad, frightened, etc. (Learning to sit still to complete an activity is a benefit in and of itself).

Older students can be encouraged to research a particular composer and write a brief biography or to write a short essay—say 500 words—about the characteristics of the major periods of musical composition. They, too, must practice sitting still and listening to the entrance of musical instruments and the shifting themes of longer pieces. Listening chronologically is helpful for older students who need to get a sense of the major focuses of art and music throughout history. Throughout their high school years, I like to have students keep a timeline that includes all of their subjects—music, art, literature, philosophy, science, and history—so that they have a finished product with the major hallmarks of world history when they graduate.

As Plato notes, it is also important to focus on the social graces. I like to expose my boys and their friends to “high culture” events during high school. Each year, we dress formally and meet for dinner in a more formal atmosphere. We have etiquette lessons and practice the arts of manners and conversation while eating politely. Then, we attend a cultural event such as a Shakespeare play or an opera. In order to make this a meaningful experience, students should study the background of the opera in advance. Particularly if you plan to attend an opera in a foreign language, it helps to know the storyline in advance. The more comfortable students are with a work, the more the more receptive they will be during a live performance.

Throughout all of these activities, remember the importance of music to worship. When the Israelites returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the temple, they celebrated their homecoming with music: “And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites out of all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem, to keep the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgivings, and with singing, with cymbals, psalteries, and with harps” (Nehemiah 12:27). For us, too, the culmination of education should be celebration. Every time we learn something new, our families should echo in celebration of God. Let us give them the gift of music that they may give it back in praise to Him.

Leigh A. Bortins is author of the recently published book The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education. In addition, Ms. Bortins is the founder and CEO of Classical Conversations, Inc. and host of the weekly radio show, Leigh! At Lunch. She lectures about the importance of home education nationwide. She lives with her family in West End, North Carolina. To learn more, visit her website,, or her blog,

Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at or read it on the go and download the free apps at to read the magazine on your mobile devices.

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