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Teaching Music Stage by Stage

Music instruction is an important part of a well-rounded education. While not all children are gifted musically, early and repeated exposure to music has an effect on their intellectual development, regardless of apparent giftedness. There is evidence that music education can enhance fine motor skills and improve reading ability. Teenagers who study music score higher in algebra. Even if you are not musical yourself, there are ways to incorporate music education into your homeschool curriculum.

Starting Out

Preschool - 1st Grade

Music instruction from infancy through preschool is all about exposure and creating a love for music. Find ways to incorporate music naturally into your day rather than focusing on specific skills or lessons.

  • Let your child see the joy and interest you have in music.
  • Play classical music at nap-time or other times during the day.
  • Check out classical CDs for kids, such as the Baby Einstein series.
  • Enroll your child in Kindermusik or another music exposure class.
  • Sing songs to and with your child.
  • Purchase a pair of rhythm sticks and show your child how to find the beat as you listen to a variety of songs.
  • If you play an instrument, play it for your child. Let your child observe you practicing and playing for enjoyment.
  • Invest in inexpensive musical instruments, such as a triangle or tamborine, for your child to play while singing or listening to music.
  • Use music to help your child learn basic information such as the days and months, counting, or alphabet.
  • Make your own musical instruments such as plastic egg maracas, oatmeal container drums, and tissue box guitars.

Getting Excited

2nd - 4th Grade

The beginning of the Getting Excited stage will still primarily be exposure-oriented, but somewhere between second and fourth grade your child may be ready to start more formal music lessons.

  • Many instructors prefer that your child be able to read well before beginning formal music instruction. Begin searching for instructors and ask them what their policies are so you can decide when to enroll your child.
  • If music lessons are inaccessible due to location or cost, you can find free or low-cost substitutes online.
  • Piano is often the first instrument children learn, giving them experience with music theory that will help them learn another instrument in middle or high school.
  • Choose a composer to study in depth over several months. Learn about the composer’s background and listen to a variety of compositions.
  • After you have learned about several composers, try playing a musical piece and see if your child can guess the composer.
  • As a family, memorize some hymns and learn about the men and women who wrote them.
  • Listen to CDs with music and composer information, such as Maestro Classics, Music Masters, or Beethoven’s Wig.
  • Play music and have children draw how it makes them feel.
  • Attend a children’s musical.
  • Take in a concert held in a park or at a farmers’ market, where children can move around while still listening to the music.
  • Music is a great tool for memorizing information. You can purchase CDs or find YouTube videos that help children memorize times tables, state capitals, historical events, Bible verses, and much more.
  • Keep a collection of CDs or a playlist of favorites for long car rides.

Beginning to Understand

5th - 8th Grade

If you haven’t already, middle school is a great time to incorporate more formal music lessons. But don’t let the lessons rob music of its enjoyment.

  • Finding a voice or instrument instructor can sometimes be a challenge. Try want-ads, online resources, and word of mouth. If you have a college nearby, you might find a music major interested in earning money by giving lessons.
  • Use games, apps, and software to make music theory more interesting.
  • Consider allowing a child to switch instruments, but don’t allow frequent instrument-hopping. Require that your child push through the foundational lessons, as he or she may discover she likes the instrument better after learning more about it.
  • Continue to use music to help memorize information. There are songs to help your student learn world capitals and grammar, for example.
  • Play a note on the piano or other instrument and have your child guess which note it is.
  • Use apps or software to practice music theory.
  • Teach musical instrument families and have your child sort instruments by the appropriate family.
  • Listen to music from around the world, coordinating this with your geography studies when possible.

Learning to Reason

9th - 12th Grade

By high school, it should be pretty apparent if your child is musically inclined or not. This is a time for evaluating and letting your teens have some input on their musical education. Even if you elect to skip formal lessons for your high schoolers, they can still learn to appreciate music created by someone else.

  • Find a local community choir or orchestra for your teen to join.
  • Investigate early enrollment opportunities in the music department of your local college or university.
  • Invest in music composition software. Basic free options are also available.
  • Attend the opera, musical theatre, and concerts.
  • Teach about musical eras and composers as you teach world and American history.
  • Giving credit for music study can be difficult. Remember that a credit involves between 120 and 180 hours of work. Have your teen keep track of practice and performance times and award a full or half credit accordingly.
  • To grade music study, create a rubric or checklist for performances. Or include written work such as theory worksheets and essays or reports on music topics.
  • Have your teen compose a song or even a whole musical as a literature or history response.
  • Ask your teen to take on the challenge of playing a second instrument.
  • If your teen is musically gifted, now might be a good time for him or her to get involved in your church’s music ministry.
  • Teach your teen how to evaluate music.

With five kids in their teen and early adult years, Rebecca shares the many ups and downs of parenting, homeschooling, and keeping it all together. As the Well Planned Gal she mentors women towards the goal of discovering the uniqueness Christ has created in them and their family and how to best organize and plan for the journey they will travel.

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