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Music Lessons for My Children?

By Heather Idoni

Added Monday, April 28, 2008

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 9 No 34 April 28, 2008
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2008 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!
If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!




Notes from Heather
-- Choosing a Music Teacher
Helpful Tip
-- Fun Typing Website
Resource Review
-- Teach Me Your Way, Lord Jesus
Reader Question
-- Music Lessons for Children
Additional Notes
-- Searchable Archive
-- Our Email Group
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

Our reader question this issue deals with music lessons for
children. I happened to pick up a book which has a great
chapter on finding the right music teacher for your child, so
I thought I'd share some of it here in addition to the helpful
advice our readers had to offer.


Finding the Right Music Teacher for Your Child

1. Do not simply go to the first one you find.

Take some time to find the right one, just as you would buy
a house or a car. It's worth a bit of searching.

2. Ask the opinion of other parents of musical children.

What experience, good or bad, have they had with different
teachers? How well do their children appreciate their teachers?

3. Ask the opinion of other musicians you may know.

4. Keep in mind that the best musical performers are not always
the best music teachers.

5. Consider a teacher's reputation above his or her professional

6. Try to find a music teacher who holds a degree in music.

7. Talk at length to a prospective music teacher.

Find out about the teacher's educational philosophy. He may be
a disciple of such methods of Suzuki, Kodaly, Dalcrose, or Orff,
or may have his own techniques. All methods have merit, but
the most significant factors are the skill and enthusiasm of
the teacher.

8. Talk to the teacher about the objectives and goals he has
for his students.

9. Talk to the teacher about your child's specific temperament,
interests and practice habits.

10. Find out how often he requires his students to perform.

Do not even consider a teacher who does not require performing
at all.

11. If possible, attend a recital of the teacher's students.

12. Make sure you completely understand all of the teacher's
practical policies.

-- Excerpted from "Raising Musical Kids: Great Ideas to Help
Your Child Develop a Love for Music" by Patrick Kavanaugh.


Do you have comments to share? Please do!
Send your emails to: heather@familyclassroom.net



Helpful Tip

"My 8 year old grandson is doing great with this typing site,
and it's fun as well as teaching him.

Go here and enjoy learning to type at any age!"


-- Jan A.


Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share? Please write!
Send to: HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

Resource Review

Teach Me Your Way, Lord Jesus - Devotional for Homeschooling Moms

Author: Sherri Wilson Johnson
For more information or to order: www.sherrijohnsonministries.com

'Teach Me Your Way, Lord Jesus' gives you a glimpse into the heart
and life of a fellow homeschool mom who has learned to lean on Jesus
to get through the many challenges we all face on a day-to-day basis.

Sherri is someone you and I can really relate to! With refreshing
transparency (no Super-Mom-Syndrome here), she shares what the Lord
has shown her in relation to parenting, homeschooling, and being a
woman after God's own heart. Filled with practical insights and
wisdom from the Scriptures, each of the 36 devotionals give readers
an encouraging word just when we need it most.

-- Cindy Prechtel, http://www.HomeschoolingFromTheHeart.com

Last Issue's Reader Question

"I was wondering if your readers could help give me some ideas
as to how to start music lessons with my kids. My kids are 7, 5,
3, and 1. I once had a dream of having each kid learn to play a
complementary instrument to one another so that we could have a
family 'symphony' one day. What are some other creative family
music ideas? When should one start lessons? Should I start with
2 years of piano lessons first to learn the basics of theory, etc.,
and then let them choose their own instrument? It seems like
everyone plays the piano these days (I took 17 years of lessons
myself!). What are some more creative instruments that you have
found work well with kids? Should I also focus on instruments
that could easily provide some extra pocket money for the kids
once they're proficient in that instrument -- such as learning
to play harp (for weddings, etc.) or the bagpipes (for funerals)?
I'm just needing some ideas from all your wonderful readers before
we spend all this money on lessons! Thanks for the great news-
letter!" -- Christina

Our Readers' Responses

"Being a piano teacher, my kids are all learning to play. They
are/will move on to other instruments as well. My oldest daughter
is trading babysitting for the use of a clarinet plus lessons.
When she had her 'stint' in public school, she was in the band
and played the clarinet, so she continued. My son may want to
learn the drums. It's hard to tell, he's 11 and his wants change
all the time. At the local military unit, there is a pipe and
drum band that anyone may join. The lessons are all free.

I think that the point of learning music is the experience and
enjoyment. Everyone should learn. I also believe that two years
of piano lessons, to learn that basics, is a wonderful idea. We
use Piano Adventures. If you took 17 years of lessons, you
should be able to bring them through that easily." -- Nadeen in BC


"I have a son learning guitar and a daughter learning violin,
mainly for the purpose of being able to serve at church, as well
as their own pleasure. My 12 year old son has just begun playing
at church for the preschool ministry, and my 9 year old daughter
has played a few times at church with her teacher during the
offering. If either of them get really good and can teach others
to earn extra money, that's great too. We have friends whose
children have learned harp, and have earned extra money playing
at weddings. We also know two college girls playing violin in
small ensembles for weddings to make extra money (way better than
working at Walmart or McDs!), and one has just begun to teach
beginning violin students, while still in college. I'm sure
piano/organ students are also in demand for weddings. Band
instruments are probably a little less sought after, but anything
they learn really well will be valued." -- Debbie


"Anything your kids learn before the age of 9, they can pick up
after the age of 9 in about a month. Unless your children are
musical prodigies, starting them early on an instrument will not
make them better players.

That doesn't mean starting an instrument early isn't a good idea
or beneficial. Music is fun, it teaches discipline, and when the
kids do really embrace it, the classical music that's available
for so many instruments won't seem 'boring'.

I started piano at age 3, stopped formal lessons for a while in
middle school because I hated practicing, but kept playing what
I wanted to. I went back to lessons for a few years, and now I
can sight read about as well as I can read text. Knowing how to
read music, I've since taught myself guitar, recorder, Irish
pennywhistle, psaltry, and ocharina.

Recorders are good instruments for kids. The plastic ones are
cheap (around $10), and once your child is good, you can buy
wooden ones that sound beautiful (those run $40 and up, but the
cost is worth it if you know how to play). Pennywhistles are
similarly cheap, and it's easier to learn music theory with them
(the recorder has some weird fingering - the pennywhistle finger-
ing is very simple, at least at the beginner level).

If you want to try to arrange a family quartet, good luck. My
in-laws have a wonderful string trio, but they're all adults, and
they only started playing together as adults, having already
chosen their instruments. If you want family music sessions,
I'd suggest having someone learn guitar or piano, and the rest
singing. And the kids get older, you can play with vocal harmony.
You won't have the discord of trying to force a child to learn,
say, a violin because your string quartet needs a violin. That
would really turn a kid off to music.

And it's rare to make money off music. I'd say let the kids
gravitate to their own instruments.

One final suggestion - either invest in a sound-proof room or
encourage the kids to choose electric keyboard, drums, electric
guitar or bass, etc., which are all available in forms with head-
phones), or choose an instrument that can be played quietly
(you can learn and play bagpipes, for example, without connect-
ing the air bag, and so learn it without deafening the household.
The bagpipes, after all, are the loudest non-amplified instrument).

-- Janine in VA


"Christina, you are about to embark on one of the grandest jour-
neys of your life! Do not let go of this dream. I was a music
major and have taught private piano, accordion, guitar and voice
since I was 15 years old. I used to be very dogmatic about
starting piano first, but I've changed my tune, if you'll pardon
the pun. I've seen with so many children, including my own, that
while piano is ideal for some, it's not for everybody. It seems
to suit visual learners because they can see the relationship of
the notes better on piano than on other instruments. But there
are no hard rules. Some people do better with wind instruments,
some with strings, some with voice. Sometimes children will
switch instruments. That's perfectly okay. If you buy good
quality instruments to begin with, you can usually get most of
your money back on a resale. There are lots of good used instru-
ments out there, also. Attend concerts and recitals, check out
recordings and videos from the library, and they will likely
start to have preferences.

You can make almost any combination of instruments into a wonder-
ful ensemble. If all your children play strings, or all brass,
or all woodwinds, that's great, but if you end up with a mixed
group, that's fine too. There is music that's written as 'mix-
and-match' arrangements for any combination of instruments.

As soon as possible, go to nursing homes to play and sing for
the residents. Your children will be appreciated and encouraged
there. Polished performances are not required, and they don't
mind if you repeat the same songs the next time you go back.
Your children will never know stage fright, because they will
perform from the perspective of ministry, rather than just being
in the spotlight. They will be passing their gifts on to others,
not trying to make an impression or gain accolades for themselves.
It will give purpose and meaning to their study of music.

Some children can start lessons earlier than others, and it also
depends on the instrument. Very young children can start violin
and piano, but wind instruments usually require a few more years
because they are larger and require fairly good lung capacity.
My personal recommendation would be to start a visual or kines-
thetic learner on the piano around the age of 5 or 6, and and
auditory or kinesthetic learner on the violin around the age of
4, provided they are enthusiastic about it. If they are leaning
toward wind instruments, go with recorder; they should be able
to do that by the age of 7 or 8. And by all means, sing with
them from birth. They can learn to sing rounds and get used to
singing harmony. Singing will also develop their ear for music
and their sense of rhythm.

And, yes, it can become a lucrative business. Our children are
now performing for pay and teaching private lessons, and they
continue with their nursing home ministry. I'll be watching for
your name in lights!" -- Mary Beth


"As a homeschool mom and a private music teacher, I'm glad you
are thinking about the importance of music! Here's the thing --
I think it's very important that you let them choose what they
are going to play -- aptitude is one thing and attitude is
everything! I teach Suzuki piano, and I make sure that it's
the kid that wants to be there, not the parent. No child can
know for sure, so be ready to let them try one and maybe change
to another.

Exposure to good music while they're young can help them hear
what they'd like to try; lots of live performances can be very
motivating! Piano is great of course, but at their young ages
they should learn to love the instrument and music itself;
there's plenty of time for theory and the in-depth stuff later.
I suggest you read Dr. Suzuki's book 'Nurtured by Love...' -- it
really clarifies the reasons for playing and teaching music,
and has helped me in my homeschooling as well!" -- Trish in NY


"I say do NOT start lessons for an instrument until and/or if
your child expresses an interest. I thought our children had
to all play an instrument and they all started playing the
piano. Our son did not like it at all and begrudgingly 'prac-
ticed' daily. I have heard people say that if you can play the
piano and learn the basics of that, you can play almost anything
-- and that piano is a good foundation. So if that's what you
want to do, go for it. My son has gone through phases of wanting
to play the trumpet (because his friend does), wanting to play
the drums (because they are different), wanting to play the
guitar (because it's a 'cool' instrument) -- and he relentlessly
asks over and over. I don't think he'll take an instrument
because I don't think he'd be interested and it would be a waste
of time and money. Our girls, on the other hand, asked over and
over to take piano lessons. We started them and they LOVE it.
Look for your child's passion and you'll see it –- it just might
not be in an instrument; and that's okay –- our voice can be an
instrument, too." – Charity in NY


"My daughter started teaching her son about music a couple of
years ago. He is 8 now, and is really getting into playing the
piano -- and also the guitar. My daughter learned notes and
such while in public school in grade school, on the trombone --
so she has the basics down. She taught herself the piano, and
now goes to a youtube video to learn the guitar. Both she and
my grandson are doing great! My daughter has taught some piano
to the 2 granddaughters I am raising, but only 1 has the desire
to continue... and she is teaching herself. I think it depends
on when the desire to learn begins as to when you start lessons.
I had 2 years of piano in high school, but lost it all when I
didn't have a piano to practice on for over 20 years. Now I
can't see the notes in a book. I am enjoying hearing the music
my grandchildren are making! Good luck with your children -- if
you have love of music, so will they." -- Jan in MO


"At your children's ages, only two are perhaps ready for 'formal'
music lessons –- the 7 and 5 year olds. And whether the 5 year
old is ready depends on his/her personality. Learning music
involves learning to READ music, which is an abstraction just
as complex as learning to read. A good indicator of whether your
child is ready for learning an instrument is whether they are
reading easily yet.

If you can, I would enroll the younger three in Kindermusik
classes. The classes are very musical and teach kids a ton about
music theory while having lots of fun. In a KM class, you learn
through listening, dancing, stories, imaginary play with sound
effects, and hands-on instrument exploration. The kids are
introduced to a wide musical vocabulary, and in the older classes
(5 to 7 years old) they start to learn the letter names and how
to read a staff of music, plus they concentrate on learning how
to play simple tunes on several instruments. And Kindermusik
starts from birth, so your 1 and 3 year old can get in on the fun,
too. If individual classes are too expensive, check out their
Family Time option –- it's great fun. By the time a child has
been through the Kindermusik program for a few years, they have
a great instinctive understanding of music theory and are well
ready for formal instrument training.

Around age 7 you can start with formal training in a specific
instrument, but I would let the child pick what they are inter-
ested in rather than choose for them. If they aren't one of
those rare children who are in love with music of all kinds --
and willing to play anything as long as they get to make music
-- they will never feel the joy that comes from mastering an
instrument. While it is a great idea to give your children a
marketable skill, it will probably backfire on you unless they
are invested in the idea themselves and have oodles of natural
talent, too. Better to give them a love of music and an exposure
to instruments of all kinds and trust them to take their musicality
further. If the family enjoys music together and music is a big
part of your lives, it will remain a big part of your child's life,
too. But unless your child is naturally gifted musically and has
a love of music that no one can stifle, they won't go on to use
their skills no matter how much you wish them to.

If your children aren't sure what they want to play, let them try
a million things. Recorder and piano are always a good place to
start as it is easy to produce the required sounds, unlike other
instruments which can be much more challenging and frustrating,
causing many kids to give up out of frustration, even if that
instrument had the 'cool factor'. The goal is to have them enjoy
what they are learning and inspire them to want to continue
creating music. Kids who are forced to continue an instrument
they are struggling with, in my experience, give it up as soon as
their parents stop paying for lessons. With the instruments that
it seems 'everyone plays', there is a reason for it –- it is easier
to find success. Once your children are confident in their own
musicality, then you can encourage them to expand their repertoire
into more exotic instruments.

Since you are so well-versed in piano, you might look into 'Simply
Music', as they offer an at-home program with DVDs and all the
printed materials you need, and it isn't very expensive. They
have a great method for teaching young kids who aren't ready to
read music yet, so you could start all but your 1 year old with
Simply Music for a small cost. You can also find a Simply Music
instructor near you and enroll them in lessons outside the house
if you prefer.

Whatever you choose to do, keep it fun! And remember: the
importance of music lessons doesn't come from mastering one
specific instrument, but rather from encouraging the joyful
production of music and an outlet for the creative expression
of the soul." -- Andrea D.

Answer our NEW Question

"My husband and I have always been very involved in our church,
teaching adults and children's classes, running programs, volun-
teering as chaperones, etc. We are very happy at our church.
However, for some time we've been concerned with our children's
Bible classes. There has been some content differing from our
beliefs and inappropriate student behavior not being dealt with
by the teachers. We have already pulled our kids (ages 8, 6 and
4) out of the 'children's church' so that we can go to worship
as a family. We teach Bible thoroughly at home, so there is no
educational reason for us to send our kids to Sunday school, but
at the same time, because we homeschool, most of our kids' friends
are at our church (the large majority being public schooled). I
am wondering how others have dealt with Sunday school issues at
their churches." -- Tammy


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