A balanced curriculum should be on the minds of parents who choose homeschooling as the primary method of academic instruction for their children. Homeschooling is not always a matter of choice; in March 2020, when the entire world started to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, classes were suspended and millions of families were introduced to home learning as an exigency of the times. With the support of educators, school districts, and pedagogic organizations, parents have been embracing homeschooling programs even before the pandemic, and they have been discovering the importance of following a curriculum that provides a diversity of subjects; to this effect, we must not forget about music.
Children have been taking music lessons in their own homes for centuries. With the exception of special academies dedicated to the arts, musical education has unfortunately become a secondary subject at most public and private schools. As a parent, you are probably familiar with the following process of selecting students for the school’s marching band program, one of the few left in terms of musical education at schools that do not follow an arts curriculum:
- Music teachers scout for students who are familiar with playing band instruments.
- Students must go through auditions.
- *Students must compete with their peers to secure a spot on the marching band.
- *The band will rehearse standards that they learn by tautology and perform to perfection.
There is no question about the marching band experience being of great benefit to students; however, it is structured in a less than academic fashion. It does not expose students to music in the ways tutors and parents who opt for homeschooling can. Marching band programs are very goal-oriented; they often focus on students being able to play certain pieces to perfection, including:
- The Star-Spangled Banner.
- The school team’s fight song.
- Popular hits such as “Seven Nation Army” by the Black Stripes.
- Patriotic and traditional songs.
Some marching band directors are better than others with regard to encouraging students to follow a musical life; they will make arrangements of jazz standards such as “Afro Blue” by John Coltrane while teaching about the life and work of this legendary musician, but this is more the exception than the rule.
In households where homeschooling takes place, parents have an excellent opportunity to get their children really interested in music from an early age. With this in mind, here are five recommendations on how you can bring music into your classroom at home:
Listening and Music Appreciation
Understanding is the key to learning. In musical education, listening is the key to getting children interested in music; this is how gifted composers and performers first become aware of their innate talents, and it is also the experience by which musicians are able to recognize and develop their own skills. Ludwig van Beethoven started to lose his hearing around the age of 30, and by the age of 46 he had turned completely deaf. Although he continued performing and composing despite not being able to hear, he greatly suffered because the listening was confined to his mind. This must have been a terrible hardship for a man who strongly believed that the ability to listen was the greatest gift he received from God in his lifetime.
This is an easy way to incorporate music into homeschooling because you can start as early as you want; in fact, you can do so at the newborn stage once hearing has been assessed. You have probably heard about the “baby Mozart effect” of playing music composed by the famous Austrian composer starting from the moment babies are still in the womb. Our recommendation is that you always have music playing for the benefit of your children. Try to keep the playlist somewhat thematic as much as possible; for example, one week of Norah Jones followed by Brahms the next week. The idea is for children to absorb and subconsciously appreciate musical works, genres, styles, and all the other nuances of great music.
At Prodigies Music, our educators and curriculum designers believe that each and every child is born with some kind of musical affinity. Not all of children will grow up to become musicians, composers, or producers; some may choose to study musicology while others may simply be inspired to make music an important part of their lives.
You have probably read about surgeons who play classical music in the operating room. We know about professional basketball players who listen to their favorite playlists on their headphones before taking the court. Some filmmakers are known to play music as they analyze storyboards before planning their scenes. You want children to discover music so that they can get into it, and this is why the Prodigies Music programs start from the age of one and progress with the incorporation of instruments, singing, playing simple instruments, and signing.
Focus on Music Through History Lessons
Once the homeschooling curriculum of your students presents history lessons, you will want to provide an adequate soundtrack. Let’s say your student is learning about the French Revolution; in this case, works by Joseph Haydn would be appropriate. What about Napoleon’s failure to advance into Russia? Let the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky tell the story. The American involvement in World War II had a backdrop of Big Band jazz, but the previous Great War was fought to the beat of ragtime. The counterculture of the 1960s had a rich soundtrack of folk and rock music that underscored the zeitgeist and the struggle against what many people thought was a flawed establishment.
Music-Oriented Video Games
Young members of the Millennial Generation have been raised on video gaming, and this is something that homeschooling educators should take full advantage of. Virtually all video games feature music because this is what game designers and developers insist on; in fact, some of the earliest chiptune melodies from the Atari era were based on classical works. Video game titles from The Walt Disney Company, particularly those based on the Star Wars fictional universe, feature the masterful works of John Williams and Michael Giacchino.
Aside from video games packed with great music and cinematic scores, there are genres that focus on musical creation, interaction, and even history. Some of these games are very popular and have earned legendary status; we are talking about Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and Rocksmith. With games such as Dance Dance Revolution, the focus is on rhythm and memory, but then we also have classics such as PaRappa the Rapper, Samba Amigo, Amplitude, and Beat Saber, which offer players fun musical challenges to stimulate dexterity. More sophisticated music video game titles include Eternal Sonata, which is based on the tragic life and sublime works of Frederic Chopin.
If your homeschooling student responds positively to Prodigies Music programs, it would be a good idea to take things to a higher level, especially if he or she is already becoming proficient with an instrument. Traditional music lessons can be delivered by tutors by means of home visits or through video conferencing. You can also complement musical education by enrolling your students in outside classes that focus on performance. Many churches offer music lessons, and not all of them will focus on religious music.
Prior to settling on lessons beyond what the Prodigies Music program offers, check out the numerous musical education channels you can find on video sharing platforms such as YouTube. A good channel to start with is Music Education for All, which is a bit focused on saxophone performance but has quite a few video lessons of general interest. For drummers and percussionists, Barrett’s Music Education is a good place to become familiar with patterns and rhythm practices.
In the end, parents who bring music into their homeschooling classrooms will end up doing more than just introducing students to music education. Many pedagogic research studies have shown a strong correlation between music and positive cognitive development, especially when music becomes a part of students’ lives from an early age. The crossroads of music and mathematical learning, for example, is very interesting; legendary musicians such as American jazz legend John Coltrane were known to study mathematics and geometry when they reached the peak of their musical careers. Once children become attached to instruments and start learning about performance, their personal traits of discipline and patience will be put to the test, and this will eventually develop into confidence as well as self-esteem.