In this new era of nearly normalized homeschooling, even more people are looking at the benefits and challenges of homeschooling. And while for so many of us, the benefits far outweigh any potential negative, there are undeniably challenges to this life choice to homeschool your children.
But I have a homeschooling secret weapon for you that will help you to address many of the particular challenges we homeschooling families face. Music is a component of education that, while important in all educational environments, I believe is particularly essential to the homeschooling family.
Round about this stage of the homeschooling year, the posts in the online homeschool groups center around, “My 5th grader is completely uncooperative and unmotivated! Please help me find a secret weapon to get him to finish his work!” I am seeing these digital cries for help flood my notifications almost on the daily. And I can relate.
But music is one of the best motivators I know of. And this is coming from a once highly unmotivated homeschool kid, a teacher/university professor, and a professional musician. I have used music in my classes, whether teaching songs to teach concepts or language, asking students to compose a song explaining a particular idea or problem, and even as a reward system for when work is done quickly.
Music is something nearly all humans enjoy. In fact, it’s something that we crave and need. When we have the opportunity to learn and express themselves in music, it activates similar hormones and chemicals to those that come from working out. So it becomes something that makes us feel better when we do it.
And because of this innate positive response to music, online homeschool music classes become a secret weapon because they can be used to break up a monotonous day, help students process difficult concepts (more on this later), and can act as a reward system to reinforce positive behaviors. It’s really up to you, the parent, to discover how music best connects with your own child in this way.
As I mentioned in the last section, music is powerful in helping students to process difficult concepts. I never enjoyed math or any abstract kinds of classes. I wanted to interact with my subjects and explore them. How do you explore algebra?
But then I discovered music. Well, more accurately, I discovered music theory. I had been singing and harmonizing since before I could talk. But when I discovered the fascinating logic behind music theory, I started to look at math and other abstract concepts in a new way. Unfortunately, I didn’t start to learn music theory until I was an adult. But when I had to take algebra in my undergraduate program, I was also taking music theory at the time, and it really helped me to begin to respect and even enjoy more abstract learning. I learned that the key to abstract thinking was to apply it to something creative!
Music is known to help make sense of challenging subjects, as I’ve already mentioned. But it also helps to train the student to think logically, abstractly, and critically. These are skills that are increasingly more important in our hands-off society, but which are rarely taught at any significant level in academic programs. So music will help to strengthen your child’s mind and help them to become a better thinker, thereby connecting more easily to challenging subjects and concepts.
It’s by far the most common counter argument we’ve heard for homeschooling. How is it possible to socialize your children when you keep them at home all day?
Of course, as any homeschool family knows, staying home is much less common for homeschoolers than non-homeschoolers tend to think. But it’s different now. Not only are homeschool families asking how to socialize their children, but all families are asking this same question. It’s been a year since the near-global lockdown was put in place “to slow the spread,” and we’re still at it in most places, to one degree or another.
But music is one of the most natural reasons to socialize. When your child becomes interested in music, their opportunities to play and sing and perform open up doors for them. Whether at church, at a local theater group, or by starting their own neighborhood band. For socially awkward people (trust me, I was one), there are few things that help to give more confidence than playing music.
It should go without saying that music is an excellent form of self-expression. However, when I was growing up in a homeschooling family, the understanding of a child’s need for self-expression was seen as an artistic outlet, and little else. But it’s so much more.
Children play. It comes as naturally as laughter and tears. Play is something we have to be taught not to do as we “mature.” But play is exceedingly important to a child’s development, and even to their ongoing health into adulthood, and music is an acceptable form of play that can be carried with your child throughout their life.
Both children and adults often struggle with knowing how to express ourselves, but freedom of expression in music can help to develop more freedom of expression in life. It really is true that life imitates art (or is it the other way around . . . ?), and so as your children learn to express themselves freely in music, this can help them in their communication skills throughout their lives.
In this era of nearly global solitude, one of the major issues we all face is the realities of or need for healthy minds. Mental health is a booming industry precisely because so many of us don’t truly know how to reflect. We don’t know how to emote. We’re afraid of speaking truth, and we’re afraid of showing weakness. But we were created with these human needs, and keeping them shut down is not a strength, unlike what we might have been taught.
Children, especially, often need help expressing their emotions. This is particularly true in the adolescent-teenage years. And music is a vital component of this retrospection. Just like outward expression, music can help us to face our deepest feelings: fears, joys, and sorrows. When your child learns to write or sing or strum their feelings, they are emoting . . . an important cleansing we all need more often than we think.
By incorporating music into your homeschool curriculum, you are providing your child with an important tool that will help them be a more emotionally, intellectually, mentally, and spiritually balanced human being, which is what makes online homeschool music classes your homeschooling secret weapon!
Incorporating this online homeschooling music classes into your curriculum
If you’re a musician, chances are, you’ve already begun to incorporate music into your curriculum. And even if you’re not musically inclined, you might have found a curriculum or resource to include this in your schooling. This is great!
But it also might not be enough.
Keep in mind, music, while being fun and enjoyable, is also very personal and can be emotional. One of the challenges of homeschooling well is knowing when to pull back as a parent and outsource some of your child’s learning. This might be a matter of using co-ops, group classes, public school resources that you have access to, online classes, and more. The thing is that in 2021, there are untold numbers of resources. It’s really just a matter of knowing where to look.
So let’s start in the most logical place: start in the groups you’re already a part of. If your children attend a youth group or kid’s club, there might be a band or worship team that your child can be part of. Maybe there’s a choir at your church or in your co-op. And if it doesn’t exist now, you might be surprised by the interest you’ll find if you mention it!
But these are performance opportunities. And while performance opportunities are an important part of overall music education, if you want your child to really reap the benefits of a music education, you’ll need to be sure that they have some instrumental instruction, theory, history, appreciation and/or other training that helps them to understand music effectively.
So our favorite homeschooling secret weapon (brace for shameless plug) comes from our very own LumaLearn.com online homeschool music classes. If you’re not already familiar with these excellent Christ-focused online classes from this homeschool-family-owned business, you’re missing out! Of course we’re not the only online resource available to you, but we think we’re one of the best, and our students agree! Take a look through our catalog to find a class that works for your needs.
A reminder: keep it fun!
A final reminder: with each secret weapon, there comes a caveat. You must use it in the right way. If you use it in the wrong way, it will backfire and will likely do the opposite of what you intended.
I can’t tell you how many times, as a music teacher, I had to sit a parent down and explain to them that punishing a child for not practicing their piano was counterproductive. Music is supposed to be enjoyable, expressive, and artistic. If it becomes a form of torture (real or imagined) to the child, you’ll find yourself even worse off than before.
Chances are, some of you reading this, have experienced this in your own life. When we were kids, our parents only hear the experts say that music was an important part of a well-rounded education and development. And they weren’t wrong.
What they were wrong about is thinking that “music” included endless, mindless scales, and the threat of grounding if you didn’t practice 30 minutes a day.
So your challenge as a parent is to make sure that music remains enjoyable. This is where outside classes can be particularly beneficial. They help to remove the child from your direct instruction, which is often enough of a mental break that it feels like a sort of recess. We music teachers generally know how to make the subject fun. It’s sort of a specialty, and something that made us want to teach in the first place. So trust us to do this part of it.
You’ve been doing a great job. I hope this homeschooling secret weapon will help you to make it even better in the months and years to come!