Saturday, May 15, 2010

Want Your Kids to Love Music? Let Them Watch YOU Lovin' It!

This will be the first of (I hope) many posts on incorporating music into your daily life, either as a supplement to school outside the home, or as an integral part of your home school. Kids NEED music, more than most people know... and so many parents I've talked to are more intimidated than they need to be in this area! I got an email from friends who are homeschooling their 3 sons, and it made my heart leap-- finally, the last push to blog on this topic. Here is a part of thier request:

"The problem is that the boys don't really enjoy music. I'm not averse to education as an "eat your vegetables" sort of enterprise, but I do want them to have an appreciation for music that I was not given. [...] I know this is terribly broad, but do you have suggestions that might help? How do I generate interest?"
But let's walk before we run. Baby steps (or would that be half-steps? Naw, that's too music-nerdy). The discussion of helping kids get "into" music reminds me very much of the discussion on helping kids get "into" reading. It's so similar that I recommend Jim Trelease's The Read-Aloud Handbook for you, the parent/instructor. Take everything he recommends about a love of reading, and apply it to a love of music. If you want your kids to honestly love music, the first CRUCIAL point is for them to see YOU loving music. Music, like reading & visual art, is both functional (we use it for things like memory retention or relaxation or worship), and aesthetic (we listen to it just because we like it). Thus, it's extra-easy to incorporate it into everything, whether it's a school subject or just a sunny day. The key is to do it with them-- don't just turn the CD player on and walk away. Here are some suggestions for that:

--make music a part of your daily family life. Sing to your kids-- silly songs, hymns, lullabies, old favorites.
--sometimes play your favorite music in the car. You don't always have to listen to "101 Bible Songs for Kids." I've often spiced up a carpool ride with a good ol' rollicking 80s power ballad ("Livin' on a Prayer") or country tune ("This Everyday Love") or a pop song, or a song to help me strengthen my faith (Sara Groves or Sandra McCracken or Indelible Grace). The kids LOVE for me to "tell them the story" of the song, or tell them a part I like, and they giggle when I start belting out the lyrics. They often ask for these songs, and soon they're singing along. This is teaching them that music is a part of my narrative, and by extrapolation, part of their narrative; it's their birthright as a human.
-- let your kids interview you about your favorite songs, especially hymns. I'll post an actual interview from my middle school teaching later.
-- tell stories in which music played an integral role; like your grandma singing "The Old Rugged Cross," or your dad playing "It Had to be You" to propose to your mom.
-- often discuss music in a spiritual context-- let your kids know when a certain song's truth moved you to worship or melted your hard heart or delivered you from fear
-- turn music on as you clean and do chores. Dancing in the kitchen is a distinct possiblity.
-- tie music to stories; musicals, ballads, operas, soundtracks to movies, even hymns-- these are all ways music is used to tell stories every day, and has been for centuries. An entire post on this coming soon.

-- do a chart, maybe for a week or a month, with columns for each avenue of music (TV, car, CDs, church, etc), and a row for each day. Let them put stickers or check marks for each type they've heard that day
-- expand the chart into a journal, maybe a week-long, on all the types of music they hear. Each day have them list all the music they've heard- in the car, on the radio, on a TV commercial, at church, over the speaker at the mall, on their computer game- and/or what their favorite type was. This really helps kids realize how much they already DO like music.
-- incorporate music into family worship and family holidays. Think beyond Christmas carols and "Happy Birthday to You." Is there a hymn you could sing every Thanksgiving? A silly parody you could write for family reunions? A musical you could watch every Midsummer's Day? An album you could crank up every birthday or St Patrick's Day? The possibilites here are endless. There are so many
kooky holidays you wouldn't even believe it...
-- talk about music; ask "how did it make you feel?" "what did you think of?" Don't always feel like they have to write it down or do a project on it; just talk about it like it's a normal part of every day life. Because it IS a normal part of every-day life! =D
-- if you play an instrument, let them see/hear you play it
-- take your kids to recitals and concerts. Talk it up, give them things to listen for (the highest note) or watch for (expressions, hand movements), stay only as long as they can stay interested (just leave during applause, NOT during a song!), and then go out to get ice cream. Be amazed at the things people can do!
-- point out the marching band at sporting events. See how many instruements you can identify together. Pick a favorite song each half-time.
-- listen to music from many cultures. Wee Sing Around the World is a good starting point. There are lots of CD albums from different countries, if you just walk into a CD store and ask.
More on this later. (Need I mention that this would so easily tie into geography, social studies, & history?)
-- listen to music from the past- Northon's Anthology of Western Music is a great series, and if you get the accompanying books the kids can look at the scores and be intrigued. This is a COLLEGE text book, so don't try and teach from it, but it can definitely give you the parent background info, and then you can digest it and then use it to present different songs to your kids.
-- listen to music from our own history- Wee Sing America is amazing for this.
-- read books about composers, about songs, about musical plays and characters (more on this later)

Is that enough? Don't feel like you have to try to incorporate every one of these ideas every day. Just take one or two and see how they work for you. I'll bet if you start looking for music, you'll find it all around you, and even start to see spots where it's just begging to be pushed in.

--A slightly-impassioned-lover-of-music

PS: my long-term goal for this: I want to give parents all the tools they need to teach music history, the very simplest music theory, so simple I'll call it "music mechanics," music appreciation, and last and best, musical enjoyment in their own home. Later this year I hope to begin a kinder-music-ish program in my home, for preschoolers and young elementary schoolers, and I'll be using that to try out new lesson plans, and will be posting those on here, as well as the tried-and-true lessons I've taught for the past 3 years as a preschool teacher and middle school choir director. I may get Ryan to help me create a separate page or blog for those, because I envision them taking up quite a lot of "room." =D


Iglesia Monte de Luz said...

i love it!! i'M forwarding this to a friend of ours that's a music teacher here in Carlos Paz (and one of myenglish students.)

go Christina!


Emily O. said...

Looking forward to the rest of these posts! So excited!

Darrell said...


Thanks for these posts. I'll be looking over them closely. I'm hoping you get around to resources to help parents/students learn the basics of music theory. I also need to chat with you about what your "class" will look like. It sounds helpful.