Sunday, March 14, 2010

Music Appreciation

I must admit that a music program in our home has been hard to get off the ground. It is not for lack of loving music. I spent 8 years of my childhood in a choir and studied the piano for a few years, even though I am not very good at it. The problem is that my ds, Tom Sawyer, has serious sensory problems. The extra noise of music, classical included, has set him off into meltdowns since he was an infant. He continued to fear music, even once he made huge leaps in his sensory issues. I tried several times to play an entire piece of classical music as is suggested by so many Charlotte Mason mothers, but the tears would quickly come. As he has made progress, he has started to like simple preschool songs,  such as This Old Man and Row, Row, Row Your Boat. His sisters have liked child-friendly music all the while, and this year Little Red Riding Hood started showing an interest in learning a musical instrument. So I wanted to try again to add classical music to our studies and get them familiar with our piano.

This time I used a new program that was literature based with only short parts of classical pieces. The kids were able to listen to a chapter about the composer and listen to a few short 1-2 minute pieces throughout the chapter. The kids loved it. All of a sudden they were asking me to play the same part over and over again. Even Tom Sawyer was making requests.

We finished Joseph Haydn, The Merry Little Peasant last week. We will start Ludwig Beethoven and the Chiming Tower Bells next. The music CD comes with two composers on it and then you buy the books to match. The CD also has coloring pages that the kids can color while they listen to the parent read. My kids really like to have their hands busy while I read, so this was a perfect fit and was familiar to them, since we use Story of the World (SOTW). My hope is that, as they become more and more familiar with classical music, they will enjoy whole pieces of music. 

To my surprise, by his choice, Tim spent his entire elementary and junior high school years wanting to listen only to classical. Of course, by the time he was in 9th grade, he was into rock and roll music. But now when he wants to be calm, he goes to his room and listens to classical once more. As a child, though, Tim had sensory integration disorder just like Tom Sawyer, so he would cover his ears to any other kind of music, even my singing.

For piano I moved the kids to a new piano program as well. I decided that, since I can read music and play basic pieces of music on the piano, I would teach them for the first few years or until they are ready to pass me.

The format of this program is nice because from the start they get to play some nice little songs instead of just scales and more scales like I had to play for months and months (sorry, my dear piano and choir teacher ~ you taught me well). However, my kids needed to be able to play something first and move into the meat of musical theory and scale work later. This program has three books -- the theory book, performance book, and lesson book. The kids do a little from each book with each lesson. I did teach them the C scale so that they could learn the process of keeping their hands on the keyboard while still moving up and down the keyboard. It also allows them to stretch their hands and fingers to begin the process of strengthening their hands. I think I shared this tip once before, but placing the handle of a long spoon or ruler under their palms helps to give them a resting place and let their hand naturally curve over the keyboard. This has helped loads with my son who has mild cerebral palsy and underdeveloped thumb muscles. 

The girls are not so thrilled with the piano but sit through the lessons without complaint. Little Red Riding Hood has been told that, once she knows how to read music and play on a basic level with the piano, she can move on to the violin, which is what she really wants to learn. We will see how much she really wants it. Tom Sawyer has memorized several songs and looks forward to his next lesson twice a week. I must say that is a change of pace. 

Blessings, Dawn


  1. That's great that you've been able to add music to your days. I have struggled with it for years too (and I don't have the good excuse that you do.) I've been teaching my kids piano for a long time, but it is slow going. My daughter started violin this year and it is going well. I have found that the accountability of outside lessons does make a big difference. However, it wasn't feasible before. It really still isn't, but we're doing it anyway. lol

  2. Those are the same piano books we have been using!

    I love that they get to play real music from the beginning.

    My 6 yr old wants to do violin or guitar, but we too want him to do piano first.

    Sawyer has really come a long way which is super. I pray he comes to really love and embrace good music.

  3. Good job! I used to be better about incorporating music, but it was one of those things that fell by the wayside when Eliana was born - and I haven't picked it back up. I get the sensory piece of it too as I have one that is bothered by a lot of noises/music.

    Thanks for sharing though. Perhaps I could do a little bit. That would be better than the nothing that is happening right now. lol



  4. In my WWU I said that I had done more and less of CM methods. I have gotten out of the habit of Music Appreciation. I hope to get us back asap. You are inspiring to get me back to the basics. I love hearing your story of your music history in your family.

    I will have to look into those piano books. Where did you get them ?

    Blessings and ((HUGS))

    In Him<><


  5. My children are using these same piano books! A talented pianist at our church has been coming to teach them once a week, and they all are really liking these books--precisely because they do get to play real music early on. Thanks for sharing. :)