By Mrs. Crystal Paine
If you were to visit my family’s home at any given hour of the day, you will most likely be met by the sounds of a musical instrument being practiced somewhere in the house, and often more than one. It would probably be strains from a violin, piano, flute, or harp. Every now and then, you will also hear a hammer dulcimer, guitar, or an attempt on the clarinet (no one has quite mastered that one yet!). No, we were not all born as child protégés, we were just blessed to be raised with a strong musical education.
Our family has experienced so many benefits and blessings through our music training that I have become a strong advocate for encouraging all parents to foster a love for music in their own children and families. How does one do this? What follows are some practical ideas and encouragement to help you give your children a musical education.
As with many things, it is never too early to start. When we were just an infant, Mom spent many hours singing to us. I have fond memories of my mother’s voice as she rocked a child to sleep and sang, "How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds" or "Jesus Tender Shepherd."
When my little brother was a baby, my mom compiled a booklet of hymns and assigned one hymn per day of the week. For many months, she sang these over and over to Zachary. As he got older, he never wanted to take a nap without singing the hymn for the day. He is now five years old and it is rather amazing how he remembers various hymns just from hearing them so many times. What a great way to instill deep spiritual truths while also giving children a love for God-honoring music at a young age!
Sing Hymns Together As a Family
Every morning our school began with singing hymns. Over the years, we did a variety of different things during our singing time. Some days, Mom would have already picked the hymns out. Other times, she would ask us to choose our favorites.
Mom usually accompanied us on the piano, but as we got older, she asked different children to accompany during this time. This was great preparation for later times when various ones of us would be called upon to accompany in church or other settings.
One of our favorite things was to read through hymn story books, reading one hymn story per day and then singing that hymn. If you have never studied the stories behind the hymns with your children, you must do this. You will be amazed to read about the various authors, their life stories, and how many of the great hymns came into existence. Kenneth Osbeck has put together two volumes (101 Hymn Stories and 101 More Hymn Stories published by Kregel) which would be a great starting place. The musical scores are included along with the hymn stories.
We also studied different hymn writers and would go through and sing all of the hymns by Isaac Watts one month, Fanny Crosby the next month, and so on. Don’t just stick to the hymns you know, learn new ones! There are some wonderful hymns out there which are little-known.
Listen to Uplifting Music
Playing lovely classical music or hymn arrangements in your home will have such a soothing and inspiring effect! Oftentimes, you will learn the words to different hymns without even trying, just through playing them over and over. The Wilds (www.thewilds.org), SoundForth (www.SoundForth.com), Principle Music (www.store.iblp.org), and Majesty Music (www.majestymusic.com) have beautiful hymn arrangement recordings available. If you have high-speed internet, www.oldchristianradio.com has constant free streaming of many of these recordings and a number of others.
There are thousands of wonderful classical CD’s available. Consider checking out your library’s selection for starters. Another excellent resource to help you is a book by Patrick Kavanaugh titled, Music of the Great Composers: A Listener's Guide to the Best of Classical Music.
Arrange to take your children to local music concerts if possible. If you are willing to do a little searching, there are many excellent concerts which you can attend free of charge or for a minimal cost. Area colleges often have numerous recitals which are free of charge and open to the public. You might also check with a nearby symphony orchestra and find out if you can attend their dress rehearsals.
Study Great Composers
Do your children know about the lives of famous classical composers? As young children, we loved listening to a tapes series which retold biographical accounts of various well-known composers. Many of them lived sad, lonely lives and it was only after their deaths that their music was discovered and appreciated.
As you study their lives, you could also listen to CD’s of their music and, if your children can, have them play pieces written by that particular composer. You could even create a unit study and explore in-depth the music, art, history, and so on of that time period.
One story you must take the time to learn is Handel’s creation of The Messiah. It is mind-baffling to listen to this work and know it was composed in a mere 21 days!
A word of caution: Many of the composers lived less than honorable lives and you will want to make sure you have first reviewed the material you allow your children to listen to/read on composer’s lives.
I cannot stress how beneficial music lessons have been for me and for each of my siblings. Not only have we learned excellent character qualities such as diligence and perseverance, we have also been able to use the skills we have developed through our music instruction to serve and bless many others.
There is such delight and unity which comes from being able to make music together as a family and then being able to share that music with others. We have played for our grandparents, in nursing homes, for various church functions, at weddings, and even been paid to play for a number of events. In addition, a few of us have been privileged to teach a number of music students ourselves. None of this would have been possible had our parents not invested the time, money, and effort to have us take music lessons.
All throughout Scripture, we are encouraged to "make a joyful noise to the Lord" through music. I hope some of the ideas shared above will inspire you to not overlook this important aspect of your children’s education!*
*For further ideas and inspiration, consider reading Raising Musical Kids by Patrick Kavanaugh
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