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Why Should Your Child Learn a Musical Instrument?

By Heather Idoni

Added Monday, January 17, 2011
Vol. 12 No. 5, January 17, 2011, ISSN: 1536-2035
© 2011, Heather Idoni - www.FamilyClassroom.net

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Guest Article
-- Why Learn an Instrument?
Helpful Tip
-- Sizzle Bop Kids' Math
Reader Question
-- Stopping the Stuttering
Additional Notes
-- Newsletter Archives
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Guest Article

Why Your Child Should Learn a Musical Instrument
  by Steve Krenz


You won't find many parents who wouldn't express a desire for their child to know how to play a musical instrument. There are benefits and barriers to this though, which we will explore below.

First, we'll look at the benefits that both the parents and the child would find valuable. Then we'll consider the barriers.

What are the rewards of learning how to play a musical instrument?

-- Increased self-esteem.   (Source: Dr. Eugenia Costa-Giomi, The McGill Piano Project)  Being confident because you've disciplined yourself to stick with something long enough to master it is very powerful. Success results in real esteem. 

-- Better grasp of math and science concepts. Piano training improved spatial-temporal ability by 34% in a study of preschoolers... yes preschoolers! (Source: Neurological Research February 28, 1997) The fine motor skills required to play a musical instrument come in handy in many other ways. A child who can play music can also give attention to detail when doing work or completing focus-demanding tasks.

-- Scoring an average of 88 points higher on the SATs. (Source: Music Educators National Conference, 2001) Higher academic test scores are affected by musical training. This should come as no surprise as music (like math) is a "pure" endeavor. That means that you learn it by doing it (unlike say history, where the subject is made of facts though the method of study is reading or hearing). Music touches the foundations of learning.

-- Increase in reading comprehension. (Source: Psychology of Music, July 2008) Again, the organizing principle of the brain is affected and bolstered by the learning of music. Like math, the musical endeavor helps clear the path of learning inside the mind of the student.

-- Overall increase in academic performance, from childhood to college and beyond. (Source: National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988, U.S. Department of Education) Learning an instrument isn't just for the purpose of "finding your child's talent". It could be said that its impact on academic performance rivals that of the study of mathematics.

How about the benefits your child will find valuable?

-- Fun. We love music and if we can make music, we enjoy its benefits much more than just watching others do it.

-- It Sets Them Apart From Peers. Every talent that gets developed by your child distinguishes him from the crowd. We all feel uneasy about our children distinguishing themselves by their looks, or by their fashion sense or by their economic status. A well-learned skill is a true distinction that everyone feels great about.

-- Builds Leadership and Engagement of Others. If a child can play, they can lead others in music. Whether it's a youth worship band or a tutorial talent show, a child who has developed a music talent is ready to participate and grow.

-- Lifelong Enjoyment. Once a child has learned a musical instrument, it belongs to them for life. Like learning a second language, music becomes a part of their gift to the world that can never be diminished or taken away. Regardless of their career choice, music will always be a delightful part of their lives.

So, what are the barriers?

-- Expense. A normal guitar or piano lesson will cost anywhere from $25 to $50 per half hour lesson. Since most teachers recommend a weekly lesson, this amounts to $1200-$2500 per year per student!

-- Time and Trouble. The logistics of getting everyone across town to their lessons can be a deal-breaker for many busy homeschool moms. "Soccer" mom becomes "soccer/swim/guitar" mom very quickly. Unless you can find the rare teacher who will make house-call lessons, you can't get around this.

-- The "Waste Factor".   If a child takes a few lessons only to discover that the teacher doesn't keep him engaged, he may lose interest and drop out, virtually wasting all the instruction up to that point. Keeping a both child and parent motivated enough to stick with it is a real risk when deciding on this musical journey.

New Learning Technology

Recently computers and DVD technology have opened to address several of the most important barriers head-on. Most courses cost less than 2 months worth of live lessons and provide the same learning value and curriculum.

Another thing that DVD-based courses eliminate is the need to drive students all over town. With DVD-based instruction, your student learns in the privacy of home and at their own pace. If they miss something in the lesson, they are able to "re-take" the lesson straight from the DVD. And if you are a family with several musically interested kids, a course like this can be taken over and over by each child.

Some things to look for in a course are:

-- Systematic Approach. Especially if your student is a beginner, you'll want to make sure any course you consider is a real curriculum (as opposed to song-based hobby approach, or a collection of "tips and tricks"). It should start basic and build skill on skill.

-- Multiple Modes of Learning. Pure video lesson footage is fine, but to help a child grasp the material, a good course should have video, audio, reading material, and of course a "learn by doing" approach. This gets all the senses involved.

-- Not Merely Computer-Based. There are courses that are designed to only work on a computer (software-based). These offer "bells and whistles" that may be tempting, but they tie your student to their computer come lesson time.

Music, as they say, is the "gift that keeps on giving". It's worth considering as an addition to your present curriculum, if for no other reason than to enrich your household. And it could mean smarter kids as well.


About the author: Steve Krenz is the instructor for Gibson's Learn& Master Guitar Home School Edition made by Legacy Learning Systems. He has performed with artists like Michael W. Smith, Natalie Grant, Hillsong, and more. Legacy Learning Systems' award-winning Home School Editions for learning guitar, piano, and painting, are available to Homeschooler's Notebook readers at 50% OFF HERE.


Your feedback is always welcome! -- mailto:heather@familyclassroom.net

Helpful Tip

Math Tips for Parents of 'Highly Distractible' Children

"Thought I'd share. Carol Barnier just started an awesome week of fun ways to do math with your 'sizzler'. Day #1 is on her blog today: http://sizzlebopblog.wordpress.com/2011/01/17/math-week-day-1/."

-- Cindy Powers, BRAIN-athon Emporium


Distractible Children and Spelling...

"As a mom of distractible and active children (sizzlers!), I love reading Carol Barnier's books on teaching distractible children.  The 'All About Spelling' curriculum is exactly what she recommends for those distractible children: hands-on, short lessons, fun games, variety, mixing oral work with written work." -- April E.

Find out more about "All About Spelling"!

Interested in Carol Barnier's books?  Read about them here:

How to Get Your Child Off the Refrigerator and On to Learning


Last Issue's Reader Question

"I have a 12 year old boy who stutters. He is now stuttering with eye movement going to the top of his head trying to get information out. I know the problem is having too much to say and he tries to get it out quickly. Are there any programs out there that you can use at home or therapy type exercises that can be used at home? I always assumed he would grow out of it and we really don't have the money for therapy." -- Renee

Our Readers' Responses

"I wouldn't automatically rule out getting professional help. I have taken two of my children to a speech-language pathologist (SLP) for language issues. I explained to the SLP that I wanted to work with my children at home instead of coming for regular visits and and she was very accomodating. She even allowed me to email her with questions and updates on our progress at no charge. Our insurance covered the initial visit, but wouldn't cover subsequent visits.

I would try to find someone who will work with you first, because it can take a lot of trial and error and research to try to solve these types of problems on your own. A professional sees these sorts of things all the time and can often quickly identify the problem and give good tips on how to resolve it." -- Jennifer


"Hi, Renee -- My youngest son stuttered and my daughter had letters that she didn't pronounce properly, and we found were able to get therapy through the speech therapy department at our State University, as the university students who are getting their degrees in speech therapy need clients. They were much more reasonably priced -- $100 per semester (in CA) for 1 hour sessions twice a week -- and they let me make monthly payments. Later I found out, as it became financially impossible for us to continue, that they had 'discretion' as to how much they charged, and they let us have the therapy essentially free. We did therapy for three semesters and had good results.

But in case going to a local university is not an option, I can tell you the therapy that was used for my son because I was 'trained' (once they found out I was a homeschool mom and therefore an 'involved' parent) to do the therapy at home so that the progress would be more rapid and more permanent. We talked about the difference between stuttering and not stuttering and also talked about how everyone stutters some, but the question is what percentage of the time. We chose one aspect to work on at a time -- for example, initial sound repetition. Then we had a jar of 'counting objects' (little, uniform things that fit in a jar and paper cup) and a paper cup with a line drawn on it. Then three times a day we isolated ourselves from the rest of the family and did therapy. We would play a game (something to create conversation -- not reading unless that is one of the places he stutters) and every sentence or so that he could say that accomplished whichever goal we were working on would be one 'counting thing' in his cup.

His goal was to fill the cup to the line as many times in the 10 minutes as he could. At first we tried to do it for the sake of accomplishment, but eventually we set up what is called an 'economy', which means that he got rewards for what he earned during therapy (he wasn't motivated anymore so we created a motivation). We would record one session once a week to be able to track the progress. Also, singing or talking in an accent or 'funny' voice wasn't allowed (during the therapy sessions, not all the time) because these are devices that stutterers use to get around the stuttering, but it doesn't accomplish getting rid of the stuttering.

The idea is to notice and reward the 'smooth' speech (and thereby notice what it feels like in their body and what their body is doing and ignore the stuttering. When he had made a lot of progress, we would bring in one of his siblings to play and talk with him, still doing the same system but expanding the environment. And when he could do that well, we did a similar thing in public places (like church or homeschool co-ops where we were with people that understood what we were doing). That worked for a while but then plateaued, so then we took out the 'ignoring the stuttering' and added the component that when he was stuttering (especially during therapy but also other times), I would tell him to stop speaking for a count of 10 (we developed a hand signal so I could do it in public without embarrassing him) and then tell him to slow down (often if they consciously slow down, their mouth can keep up with their thoughts better).

He finished therapy close to 3 years ago and in general no longer has the initial sound repetition or whole word repetition. Sometimes he gets so excited that a little bit of word repetition comes back, but I ask him to stop and then to slow down and it seems to work like a reset for him. I hope this helps!" -- Laura in California

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