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Singing

SINGING

Songs can be some of the best tools for helping your homeschool day go more smoothly. Do your children struggle with transitions? Let a song be your cue to switch gears. Do your children need frequent wiggle breaks? Have an impromptu dance party. Do you need to get your children settled and focused again? Try a hymn. Music is a powerful tool. Here are some thoughts, tips, and resources you can use to get more music into your homeschool. 

Sing a hymn each day. Remember what the Lord told Emma Smith? “…[T]he song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.” (D&C 25:12) Do you need blessings? My family sure does! Even if you don’t consider yourself or your family as musically blessed (more on that later), you can claim these blessings by adding a hymn to your daily routine.

My family starts off each day with a hymn. We sing the same hymn every day for a month. My children are small and don’t read yet, so it takes about a month for them to learn the hymn by heart. If you have older children in your family, you could sing your new hymn 2-3 times a week and fill in the other days with old favorites. Or you could sing your way through the whole hymnbook! Bedtime is a great time for a hymn. Some families sing before they say the prayer for dinner. Ask the Lord when a good time is for your family. You may be surprised by the answer.

The church’s sacred music app is a great tool for family hymn singing. Some families like to create a playlist of the Tabernacle Choir singing the family’s chosen hymns. If you’d like help choosing which hymns to learn, a 12-year rotation of Latter-day Saint hymns is available at By Study and Faith. The”Family Gather” packet also includes the lyrics of a hymn and folksong for each month of the year. We plan on creating a packet for every year of a 12-year rotation. 

Sing folk songs that you love. Are there songs from your childhood that you can still sing? Start with those. It doesn’t matter if a song fits the perfect definition of a “folk song.” If it’s part of your history, it’s worth making part of your children’s lives. Folk songs are songs of the people. Traditionally, they only got passed down if there was something about them that was worth passing down. They are typically easy to sing, easy to learn, fun, and/or have catchy tunes. We like to listen to a folk song playlist in the car. If the kids are getting a little crazy during school time, we turn on a folk song and take a little break to sing and dance. I play the banjo very badly, but the kids don’t care that my rendition of “Buffalo Gals” is barely recognizable. And you don’t have to play an instrument badly (or well, for that matter) to sing folk songs. There are many YouTube playlists already created for the AmblesideOnline folk song selections. If you’d like to create your own list, click here for over 100 folk songs that are part of the American folk song tradition. Chances are that you already know many of them!

Sing even if you think you can’t. Far too many people think that they can’t sing. It’s not that they can’t sing–it’s that they haven’t trained their voice and their ear to work together yet. This can be taught at any age. If you want to learn to sing, you can!

Children learn to sing–or “match pitch”–at different rates. If a child is singing regularly at home and at church, most children will be able to sing “on key” by about age six. I observed this in my own children. My son couldn’t carry a tune until he was about six and a half, while my daughter was able to sing a pitch-perfect “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” by age two. Please don’t ever tell your children that they can’t sing. They can! They just may not have figured out how to do it yet. 

Charlotte Mason used a method called Tonic Sol-fa in her curriculum. The pioneers and early Utah settlers actually used the same system. Music teachers today use a more up-to-date version of Sol-fa. It is most commonly called “solfege” and is often taught by music teachers who use the Kodaly method. Sing Solfa is a free, Charlotte-Mason-inspired website that offers video lessons that teach children (and adults) how to sing using the Kodaly method. Each lesson is about 10 minutes long. If you do two lessons a week, your family will have a great foundation in training your voices and ears to work together. (Full disclosure, Sing Solfa is my website.) 

Sing in your foreign language. Sing Solfa also has some foreign language song resources that you may find useful. Foreign language songs can be used like folk songs–as breaks, for fun, or in the car. My children particularly like to learn songs they already know in English in their foreign language. The “Teach Me” series has been a hit at my house.      

Just one song is enough. If you don’t already sing regularly at home, then just pick one song. Play it on your phone for your kids. Show them that you like it. If you are already doing some singing, is there a way you could make your singing more intentional? Singing loses a lot of its magic when it becomes a burden–so there’s no need to force it. I hope that you feel at least a little inspired to add another song or two to your homeschool.

Jessi Vandagriff is a musical, homeschooling mother of two young children. 
She is also the creator of Sing Solfa, a free singing curriculum that is inspired by Charlotte Mason’s methods of teaching music. 

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MUSIC

WHY

“I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music,
for the patterns in music and all the arts are the key to learning” 

PLATO

It seems that everyone wants their children to love classical music and become geniuses. I’m sure you’ve heard the buzz word “the Mozart Effect” which came from a study in 1993 about the effects of Classical music. While Classical music doesn’t necessarily create smarter babies, it does have a lot of cognitive and emotional benefits.

Classical music been shown to have a positive effect on a variety of skills (source here) and engage the whole brain; both the linguistic left-side and the spatial right-side. Researchers also theorize that “the complexity of Classical music helps kids solve spatial problems more quickly” (source here). Not only does music engage the whole brain, but it also affects the whole soul. It nurtures the heart and develops creativity and imagination. 

“Some of the most important habits for a child to acquire, are (1) observation ; (2) concentration ; (3) imagination ; and (4) reasoning. … [and Music] trains simultaneously, as no other single subject does, ear, eye, and hand, it awakens and naturally develops the imagination, and insists upon concentration and reasoning.” (Holland)

HOW

“How do I introduce classical music to my one year old?”

This is the question my sister asked me one day, and my answer was quite simple: listen to it everyday and your children will learn to love it.

In this article I will  talk about how you can help your young children appreciate and love classical music. You can make it more meaningful and not just another thing you need to do for your kids. After all, listening to music should be enjoyable, not a chore. I grew up with my parents playing it when I woke up and I grew to love it from an early age. 

1. PLAY YOUR FAVORITES

As I told my sister, the best way to start is by simply listening to it. Pick out your favorite classical pieces and play those over and over. This isn’t music appreciation class where you have to learn an artist and pieces that your professor chooses, you as Mom get to choose what you listen to. Choose what you love and are used to. If you play an instrument, sit and play the music for them.

 Movie soundtracks totally count as classical music (in my opinion). Play your kids’ favorites: like Star Wars and Harry Potter. John Williams is always a good choice.

What if you don’t really have favorites? Then, tune into your local classical station. As you listen, jot down any that you really enjoyed, then go reserve it your local library or look it up on YouTube. We were listening to the classical station when my oldest was four and fell in love with a song I had never heard. I wrote down the title and soon found it on YouTube and it has become a family favorite.

2. PLAY WITH THE MUSIC

Some days, we have needed a break from whatever we were doing, or we needed something to do as we waited for Dad to come home. One of my kids’ favorite pastimes used to be listening to Symphony Number 9 by Dvorak. We would blast it throughout the house and run around incorporating it into some heroic story.

Other days, I have played Camille Saint-saens Carnival of the Animals and we would go through each song acting out the different animals for each number.

3. GET A CD PLAYER

I know, CD players are so 2000’s, and everything is digital right? I completely agree: I put my CD’s right onto my computer or buy music digitally, but my kids like being in control of the music and I don’t want to give them my phone or an iPod for them to walk around with. 

I still have all my old CDs, so why not use them? I bought a CD player from Goodwill and gave it to my kids for their own musical enjoyment. They love listening to music when they can control when, where, and what they listen to. 

4. MAKE-UP STORIES

Kids love stories, who doesn’t? Take a moment and turn on a classical piece and start telling them a story based on the rhythm, tempo or dynamics of the piece. Have them take a turn to tell you what is happening. My kids have a favorite which they call the “Mudman Song” based on a character they made up from their outside play.

Another fun thing to do with classical music is to ask your kids to add a family narrative to the song you are listening to. A family favorite in Jessica’s household is the time her middle son rode down their steep driveway on his bike, and crashed/flew over the curb at the bottom. Her boys love adding Hall of the Mountain King as a “soundtrack” to that story.

Check out Classical Kids CDs; they introduce classical music to kids while telling a story. Peter and the Wolf is written for kids with a story included! I have yet to meet a kid that did not enjoy listening to Beethoven’s Wig, which is classical songs with fun lyrics added to them. They usually contain the composer’s name and facts about him or her.

5. PLAY MUSIC DURING CHORES OR PLAYTIME

I once had a Professor tell me that he used to experiment with his kids while they did chores. He would play Beethoven and noticed they were slower to clean, so he would put on Mozart on another day and hoped it would be more upbeat and motivating. This was all for fun, but I loved the idea of playing classical music while kids did chores. Choose upbeat music and blast it through the house while they work.

6. PLAY AS WHITE NOISE

One of the best things about classical music (as long as it’s not Opera) is that there are no words. I play it on low from a speaker while the kids do their Homework. Occasionally while they work, I’ll say things like “Oh I love Mozart” or “Listen to those violins play so high” or “Wow, those trumpets are getting excited about something”. It’s not much, but it sneaks in a little music appreciation without making them be forced to listen.

7. PLAY IT EVERY DAY

It really is the perfect background music. For kids (or me) who can be sensitive to too much sound while doing school or playing, classical music is great for that. Classical music has so much variety: whether you want a piece that is peaceful or energizing, spooky or happy; there is a song for you. The most important thing is just to play it!

8. BABY STEPS

My parents played it often in our house but never expected me to listen, or even learn, the styles or composers. They just played it because they liked it. I learned to appreciate it because I heard it so often. The more your kids hear it, the more they will love it.  Remember, start with composers and songs you love. If you don’t love classical music, start small by playing it for short periods until you can play it longer, and try different styles and composers to find a style you like.

As Beethoven once said: “Music can change the world”

So let’s start changing the world by changing our children’s world, one composer at a time.