Homeschool Parents Have a Unique Opportunity to Put Music Into Their Children’s Lives
Homeschool parents have the unique opportunity to raise culturally literate children. Many schools across the country are cutting back or eliminating their art and music programs, thinking that more class time studying math and English will produce higher test scores. Many years ago, however, a very wise principal at an exclusive New York City private school addressed a group of parents of incoming kindergarteners. “You sit here this evening worrying about how much math your child will learn and how advanced the math curriculum will be, but I can assure you, many years from now your child will not remember those things; they will remember the play they were in or the songs that they sang.” And, oh, how right he was. My son remembers his rooster presentation and the chicken costume I made for the performance and little else from those first years in school.
I also remember the first time I met Susan Wise Bauer, author of The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education.
Susan opened one of our Stories in Music CD booklets, which always have some sheet music in the centerfold, and sang the melody. I was impressed... “My mother decided, I think it was in the 7th grade year, that we should all learn to sight sing” she explained. Now that is the benefit of homeschooling, namely you have time to do things like that.
Last evening I sat in Amsterdam with two older people from the ballet world. The man, a very handsome, agile man in his 70s is Dutch and was a dancer here at the ballet company in Amsterdam and then at the Bavarian State Ballet in Munich; the woman was a dancer at the Bolshoi Ballet in Russia and managed to come to the west in 1982 where she became a legendary teacher both in America and Europe. They met here in Amsterdam when they both had been invited to teach at the Dutch National Ballet. As we lamented about the state of the world, the woman said, “Education. That is what will change the world. And big education, the arts, music, this is what changes people’s souls and leads to understanding.” And I thought, “Yes, isn’t that the truth.” When two days before, I had sat with 1,700 Danes in the new opera house in Copenhagen, and we all cheered together at the conclusion of the opera by Carl Nielsen. Whatever our differing opinions and experiences may have been, for three hours music had brought us together and we could all agree that it had been a fantastic production.
The Copenhagen Opera House, one of the most modern opera houses in the world
Homeschool parents have a unique opportunity to raise culturally literate children and can provide them with a deeper understanding of all that you are studying.
When studying European history, King George I of England can be more than a name and a date, he can be the king for whom Handel composed his great Water Music. Maestro Classics’ Stories in Music CD My Name is Handel, The Story of Water Music plus its free curriculum guide makes this very easy for the parent-teacher to put something memorable into the history lesson. America after the Civil War can have poetry and music with Maestro Classics’ Casey at the Bat. And, Roman history can include the 2,000 year old story about the sorcerer and his apprentice.
Here are some ways homeschooling parents can incorporate unique music and art experiences into their curriculum.
Take your children to an opera or a play or a concert. The homeschooling parent has the option of letting the child forego the night’s homework and/or sleep in the next morning!
Make time for children who wants to study an instrument and begin the day by practicing for an hour. What an inspirational way to begin the day!
Play CDs/MP3s while a child is doing his/her math, or let the squirmy child get up and dance to some music when he/she needs a 5 minute break.
Homeschool families can start their day with music practice
We have found over the years that most homeschooling parents are aware of the value of including music as part of their children’s well-rounded education, but many either have felt unable to or did not know where to begin. When I created the Maestro Classics series, I aspired to create “A Lesson in a Box.” I wanted to give the parent everything he/she needed to become the “instant expert.” My idea was not only to give both the parent and child an exciting, high quality listening experience, but also to tell them about the history of the music, the life of the composer, where the story came from, and the opportunity to get inside the conductor’s or composer’s head to know what they were hearing that we had not. Did we succeed? Well, having sold tens of thousands of CDs and won over 50 national awards, the answer seems to be a resounding yes.
As a parent, you can create the soundtrack for your children’s lives.
As a parent, you can create the soundtrack for your children’s lives. You can create the music that will enliven their worlds. The best series that I found for my own children growing up came out of Canada. Mr. Bach Comes to Call, Mr. Beethoven Lives Upstairs, and many more Classical Kids CDs continue to be available and I recommend all of them. When I first had the idea for the Maestro Classics series, I asked Susan Hammond, the original creator of the Classical Kids series to listen to our Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel CD and when she enthusiastically endorsed it, I felt a keen sense of pride. Our Maestro Classics Stories in Music series is a springboard, a place to begin your listening experience. The free homeschool curriculum guides enable you to bring a new dimension to all of your core curriculum studies, should you choose to use them. Perhaps the arithmetic that you have been trying to teach your 7 year old will suddenly click when you are relating it to Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, for example, or Aesop’s fables will come alive when you explain that The Tortoise and the Hare that you have been listening to in the car was actually an ancient story retold by this ancient Greek.
You may find that you and your children are touched by the music and experience something that you both will retain as wonderful childhood memories. Music, like smells, can bring back memories for a lifetime.
Bonnie Ward Simon, BA, MA, M.Ed, M.Phil.,
President of Maestro Classics