Author: Lea Ann Garfias
Published in: THSC Review
Published on: Nov. 1, 2016
Music appreciation and music history are important components to an arts education. Regardless of musical talent or background, any parent can incorporate music appreciation into home education!
For centuries in Western cultures, a basic understanding of music has been integral to a healthy liberal arts education. Music offers so many benefits for students! Since creation, it has been a natural expression of our language and emotion. The Scriptures are full of examples of God’s people singing in praise and prayer, and the entire book of Psalms records many of these for us.
Throughout history, music has expressed the understanding and emotions of the times. A student who studies the arts concurrently with history and literature can appreciate the common themes and expressions through them all. With music comprehension comes better discernment in expressing oneself and development of the student’s taste in music.
Unfortunately, many parents find themselves ill-equipped to pass on this tradition to their own children. A healthy music education need not be expensive, grueling, or professional. Music is such a natural part of our innate, God-given communication ability that most infants naturally burst into singsong babbling in their cribs or during play. Young children delight in singing and listening to songs, including classical music! Families who enjoy music together as a part of their daily lives will find music education happens naturally within the home.
Adding music appreciation to daily instruction is as easy as listening together—during the day, play classical music recordings, classical radio stations, or classical online playlists. You can listen to it in the morning while doing chores, in the van while running errands, during evening cleanup and cooking, and while getting ready for bed. As teens begin to develop their own affinity for pop music, teach them that healthy music (like healthy food) is a regular staple of our auditory diet. Setting appropriate limits like “Mom controls the music from 8-5” or “pop music on Saturday only” can help build healthy habits. With regular daily exposure to high-quality sacred and classical music, students learn to appreciate the good stuff!
Next, add thoughtful discussion of what students are hearing. With the little ones, it may be asking, “What instruments do you hear?” or “Can you pretend to play the flute while you listen?” As students become older, appropriate questions could be “Do you know which country Mozart is from?” or “Do you know what world events occurred while he was writing and performing?” After a while, students begin to grasp the timeline of musical periods (Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and 20th century) and how these composers revealed the themes of each historical time.
Another great strategy for teaching music appreciation is to vary the music choices. Some parents think of classical music as Mozart or Beethoven and imagine dainty stringed instruments—but there is so much more! The bombastic canons of Tchaikovsky, the fun folk music of Copland, and the gritty dances of Bartok are classical gems that inspire the imagination. Some students enjoy the soothing Impressionists, while more studious academics may prefer the orderly patterns of Bach. Allowing students to experiment with a variety of works gives them an opportunity to use critical thinking to define their preferences.
One of the most exciting ways to instill a love of music in your student is to attend live music events. Music is fun to listen to, but it becomes a different experience when a group of instrumentalists and vocalists perform intricate pieces right in front of your eyes. Seek out concerts and live music events in your area, especially free concerts. These wonderful opportunities typically take place in your local park and offer crowd-pleasing selections in a casual, child-friendly environment.
Meeting professional musicians adds much to a student’s understanding of the art. After local concerts, approach a musician for a quick conversation. Encourage students to ask the musician why he or she chose that profession, how long training lasted, and strategies for keeping skills sharp. Inquire about taste in music, favorite composer, and future musical goals. These discussions help students see the human aspect behind the craft.
Finally, group or private music instruction such as piano lessons, instrumental instruction, and choir training are excellent ways to develop an appreciation not only for music, but also for the discipline, skill, and training it takes to make beautiful music. Performing in groups and memorizing pieces are wonderful brain exercises that boost creativity, problem-solving and memory skills!
Yes, homeschool parents can definitely provide an excellent music education at home. With listening skills and willing hearts, your entire family can enjoy God’s gift of music together for many years to come.
Lea Ann Garfias believes there is enough coffee in the world to make even dreadful Thursdays tolerable. In her book, Rocking Ordinary (New Leaf Press), she helps ordinary moms realize their extraordinary influence. When she’s not homeschooling her four children, cheering at soccer matches, or performing the violin, she’s passed out asleep. You’ll find evidence of her existence on her website.
Reprinted from Review magazine with permission from Texas Home School Coalition and the author. Visit THSC.org.