Homeschooling: Why Music

One of the questions many of my friends wonder as they look at the way we spend our time is why we put so much emphasis as a family on music.  The kids spend hours practicing every day.  We spend hours driving to and from lessons, participating in group events and competitions.  We spend a large portion of our income on lessons and music-related events and books.  We frequent the symphony and other concerts.  We talk about music and listen to music all the time.  Why put so much time and effort into just one subject?

There are a huge variety of answers to this question, but they all boil down to two important things: value and enjoyment.  Music has great value to us.  It is a subject that requires concentration, coordination and talent to succeed.  As  my children practice, they build character skills such as patience and self control.  They build small and large muscle coordination, and hand eye coordination.  They learn to listen.  They begin to appreciate beauty.

As they grow older and become more accomplished on their instruments, they do reap more enjoyment.  But even the six-year old who is just beginning finds real joy in making good sounds come from the piano.  In fact, as I write this, he is enjoying himself at his piano practicing.  They begin sitting down to play just for their own enjoyment, and some of the best times at our home are when Grandma and Grandpa come over for a concert.

We stopped having practice wars several years ago with the two oldest, but occasionally one of the younger ones will protest that they “hate the piano!”  Lucy never says she hates violin, only piano, and perhaps someday she will be able to concentrate only on the violin.  Until then, it is up to me never to give in, but to keep requiring her daily practice.  After all, if she does not practice, she will never enjoy her music.

An important path to enjoyment of practicing and music is listening to other musicians.  We are not able to dream of being something we have never seen or imagined.  When the kids see the musicians at the symphony, or at a local fiddlefest or jazz concert, they are able to project themselves into an adult life where music plays an important role.  In fact, the two oldest are considering pursuing careers in music.  Of course, not everyone who enjoys music has to be a concert performer, and in fact most are not.  But wouldn’t it be a fulfilling life to be able to teach what you love?  If they do truly love music, this is a good choice for them.  Many adults wish they had learned “when they were younger” to play an instrument.  Luckily, my kids won’t have to wish this!

Do you think music is an important subject for homeschoolers?  As an adult, do you continue to enjoy listening to and playing music?  Please leave me a comment.



Relaxed Homeschooling — Community Art Resources

Sometimes I feel like I have split personality disorder.   Half of me wants to be a completely unschooling, backwoods homesteader, while the other half of me wants to take advantage of every art and music opportunity that a busy city can provide.  Although it means spending lots of time on the road, I guess we are lucky to live within driving distance of this sort of event.  So after a weekend spent feeding one side of my personality in the desert, we spent last weekend on the musical side.

Our family is a member of the Utah Symphony and Opera Youth Guild.  I heard about this by chance a few years ago, and immediately signed up for the program.  In return for a very nominal fee, my children and I have been able to participate in coat checking and educational opportunities offered by the guild, and see many wonderful concerts very inexpensively.  In addition, they offer many extras including a special youth guild recital in which selected members of the guild can perform with the Utah Symphony.

Last weekend, our whole family, including my parents, went to Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City to see the Utah Symphony perform the Liszt Piano Concerto No. 2, Tottentanz, and two Ravel Suites (Mother Goose and Daphnis et Chloe.)  It was Maximus’ first experience with a full length symphony concert, and he was very excited to be included.  While he had gone to shorter, “Lollipops” series, and even an opera, I was unsure how he would sit quietly for the length of the full concert.  He did wonderfully.   The music was fantastic, as well.

Since all my children are musicians, I have long felt that exposure to live performances is a must as part of their school experience.  Even less-than-stellar live performances have an energy and spark the imagination in a way that listening to a recording usually does not.  Another reason to go to live performances is that we are exposed to music that we wouldn’t necessarily have chosen for ourselves.  For example, our last concert included a percussion concerto that was very exciting to watch.  I don’t know if my children dream of being on that stage while we are watching the concert, but I certainly dream of them being there someday.

How can you find out about programs like the youth guild?  Many organizations have special programs to attract children and educators to their events.  Many times, it is just a matter of visiting a web site and finding a live person to call or e-mail.  Look for a heading like “Education/Outreach.”  Once you have established contact, you can find out what they are offering and how you can take advantage of it.  Calling the box office is another way to find out about these programs.  Don’t be afraid to be a little pushy.  You are the media department for your little school!  Take advantage of these programs – you’ll be glad you did.