Earlier this summer I started a series on how I organize our homeschool. If you are just catching up, you can find the original posts here: Part 1 (Getting Everyone On the Same Page) , Part 2 (The How and Why of Curriculum) and Part 3: (Language Arts, Science and Math).
So, here it is September, and yep, I’m just finishing this series. But, considering I will be participating in the 31 days of blogging in October and I have a week coming up September 19th-26th where I’ll be celebrating my “Blogiversary” (One Year Blogging here at Hearts Homeward! Woo Hoo!) … I better finish this up.
I’ll be posting five posts in the next two weeks to share what some people might consider the fluff, the frills or even unnecessary elements of our home education. In our day the public schools and many private schools are cutting back on “extracurriculars” such as music and art and focusing on “important” subjects such as math and language arts. I won’t go into the unethical reasons for many of these decisions or the push towards having children look at education as merely a means to an end (to get out and get a job). Those discussions are important, but not my focus in this post.
What I want to emphasize is the concept of a liberal feast. What we are doing as home educators is laying out a feast for our children of subjects and experiences that will fill them with opportunities to engage in relationship with knowledge in all sorts of areas of life. In every field of study we are giving them an opportunity to view God and know Him better through every avenue of knowledge.
Education is a form of worship. It may sound radical or far-fetched, but when you think about it, we are worshiping God with our minds. We are exploring His creation and the knowledge He exposed in every aspect of life. We can marvel at the goodness and truth revealed in mathematics and science. We can appreciate the words and beauty in good literature and a story well crafted and worship the Master Story-Teller and the Word Himself. I have to say, for me, no area of study lends itself more to cultivating worship than those very “extras” which are being thrown out or pushed to the back burner in most modern schools: Music, Art, Poetry Nature Study and Foreign Language.
This year more than ever I have realized that I want to be sure to include the arts and our time spent in nature – things easily left out of the rhythm of a sometimes hectic homeschool life. So, here is what we do to make sure we include the “fluff” that makes for a very enriched and well-rounded life.
As with anything, if you want to be sure it is included, you usually have to be a bit intentional. Here’s the low down of how I include the short list above: I teach in a six week on, one week off rotation (every seventh week is our “sabbath week”). I prepare six, six week terms a year. In each term I include one composer, one poet, one artist and two hymns. We study foreign language every year. We go out in nature every week.
Today I just want to share with you about Music. In my next post I’ll post about Poetry. Following that I’ll discuss Art and Artist Study. I’ll devote one post to Nature Study (truly this could be the theme of a whole blog!) and finally I’ll wrap up with Foreign Languages.
For the study of music, we have three main components. One is the listening to music (hymns, folk songs, opera and classical music), the other is the study of composers and the third is the learning of an instrument. I want to show you how easy and seamless it is to include music into your homeschool day, week and overall rhythm.
To start each day, my boys have their breakfast and do what we call the “Morning Seven” (a list of seven things they do to get ready for their day after breakfast and before our morning devotional time). When we gather at the table (usually around 8:00am for our Bible Reading for the day, we start that time together by listening to two hymns. Since we school in six week sessions, I select two hymns to learn each six weeks (so we sing each new hymn for three weeks straight). So, each morning we are singing a hymn we know (this varies) and the hymn we are learning for that three week time frame. Can I just say how my heart swells when my five year old is playing Legos in his room, belting out “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”? Sheer goodness. You may not know many hymns (which is one reason why I want my boys to learn them!) but you can simply discover them with your children. There are oodles of hymns recorded on YouTube with the Lyrics right on the screen.
We may have music on throughout the day – if we do it is usually the composer we are studying for that six week term. We also listen to that composer’s music during lunch. Simple? Yep. Just go on YouTube and select some songs by the composer you are studying and then play those as you eat. Once a week, after lunch, we read a portion of a biography of the composer we are studying. The books we love are written by Opal Wheeler and we also use the CD Audio Stories and music by “Sing Along Piano Classics” and Classical Kids. My kids love classical music. It doesn’t have to be complicated or complex to cultivate a love for culture. This year we watch an opera once a week at lunch time – via laptop on YouTube during lunch as well.
I integrate Folk Songs using the Wee Sing Folk Songs album, though you can get Folk Songs just about anywhere – a disk from your library, YouTube, etc. It is fun to learn these old songs of our country and even of Europe (Celtic Folk Songs). I usually have a part of the day several times a week where we just sit and sing a few folk songs with my younger child while my older child is studying independently in his room (he has already learned most of the songs I sing with my younger) and then we sometimes put the songs on in the evening for fun.
Learning an instrument is so beneficial to the whole brain and the whole person. We start formal music lessons around age 7 here – when they have sufficient hand-eye coordination and control of their fine motor skills and the ability to read well. I insist on a lyrical instrument before my children take on the drums (why is that usually a boy’s first choice in instrument?). My oldest plays piano and my youngest wants to learn violin. We have a family night of worship once a week at the close of our family night and during that time my son plays the piano, my husband plays guitar and my five year old sometimes plays bongos or tambourine while we worship the Lord together.
I wholeheartedly encourage you to include music in your educational rhythm at your home. Please share what you are doing already. I’d love to hear!