Homeschooling parents have a lot on their plates. From following the laws of their state to planning curriculum, from buying supplies to actually teaching their children; it’s a lot to take on. One subject in particular has caused plenty of doubt and concern, and that is teaching music to homeschoolers. I’m here to tell you that it’s not as hard as you may think!
Below, I’ll cover the topic of teaching music in homeschool by giving guidance, tips, and answering some of the most frequently asked questions. This is more than just a homeschool music article from one guy. I must thank the huge international homeschooling community and experiences homeschooling families that’s helped throughout this process.
Of course, this topic is massive. There’s much more than can be covered in one article, but I’ll give the most complete overview possible to get you started. Later, I may add more articles to cover this topic more in-depth, so let me know what you’d like to see.
Let’s dive in!
Why Should You Teach Music in Homeschooling?
This is the top question on many homeschooling parents’ minds. Some people don’t understand the value in teaching music, some believe it should be an extracurricular and not required subject, and others simply panic about teaching this seemingly daunting subject on their own. Whatever your reason for asking, let me help straighten some things out for you.
First, music is an important part of every child’s education. Some states or local governments actually require it, while others say it’s optional but strongly encourage it. Beyond government regulations, we should look at the positive impact teaching music to homeschoolers can have.
“When you tap into that natural human desire to listen to, create, and experience music, you give your family one more thing to grow closer with.”
Before we get into any of the measurable positives, I think it’s important to note how music education in homeschooling can help grow family bonds. It is no secret that families that do activities together have more opportunities to deepen their bonds and improve their relationships. Teaching and learning music is especially ripe for this kind of bonding because of the natural flow of music within all people. When you tap into that natural human desire to listen to, create, and experience music, you give your family one more thing to grow closer with.
While it’s always great to spread a love of creative expression and music appreciation to each new generation, it goes beyond that. Teaching music to children has been shown to improve their performance in many other parts of their lives. Even parts that seem to have nothing at all to do with music itself.
For example, in this report from the NIH/Kennedy Center Workshop on Music and the Brain: Finding Harmony, research shows that teaching music early in life helps:
- Improve attention
- Language development
- Visuospatial perception
- Executive function
Learning music has also been shown to help engage certain areas of the brain that can help combat depression and other mental illnesses or behavioral problems. There is also strong evidence that musical therapies and training can help autistic children and those with stressful medical conditions.
There is significant evidence showing that children who learn music in homeschool, public school, or elsewhere can gain benefits that follow them into adulthood. It’s more than just a class they have to take or a thing you use to fill up education time. Teaching music in a homeschool environment can:
- Increase a child’s self-esteem
- Engage a child’s creativity
- Teach self-control
- Help a child gain confidence
- Improve coordination (mental and physical)
By making these connections early in life, you are creating new neural pathways in your kids’ brains, which will give them a leg up on their peers now and later in life.
There is a ton of information on this topic alone! For now, suffice it to say that science has been hard at work showing a correlation between teaching music to children and positive life outcomes in a wide variety of areas.
Who Can Teach Music in Homeschool?
By far, the second biggest concern homeschooling families have is who can teach music to homeschooled children. Many parents believe that they are not qualified to teach this skill because they have no experience themselves. Luckily, this assumption is wrong!
You can always hire a music instructor, if that’s what you’d prefer. You can find group classes, too.
However, there is a better, less costly, and more practical way to teach homeschooled kids music. Teach them yourself! I’d even say it’s more fun and brings more opportunities to foster closeness by teaching it yourself.
Anyone of any age can learn music, and any adult is capable of teaching music to their children. If you happen to have a background in music—perhaps you were classically trained yourself or you were in band class in junior high—you might have a different understanding of music, but it’s not necessary to have this experience to teach your kids.
How can an inexperienced parent teach music to their child?
Simple: When a family learns a new skill together, that new skill is more likely to stick for the kids than if they were learning it all on their own. It goes back to the bonding principle I mentioned above. You and your child will be on the same level, basically, evening the playing field, as they say. You can either make it a fun competition to see who can learn the fastest or you can learn side-by-side in a cooperative effort with your child. Whatever works best in your family and whatever keeps your kid motivated, go that route.
When the family sits down together to learn music in homeschooling, the whole family is suddenly involved in the child’s education. They feel supported, encouraged, and no longer alone on their journey to learn. In fact, you may find that your child is excelling at their homeschooled music lessons. If that’s the case, ask them to help you—what a fun and exciting change of events for your child! That will be a huge confidence boost for them and it’ll further strengthen the family bond, which will then cement their music lessons in their heads and hearts.
How to Teach Music in Homeschooling
So now that you know why you should teach music to your homeschooled kids and who can do it, you probably want to know how. Thankfully, this is a pretty easy task. In addition to being easy, it’s also really fun!
The first thing you’ll need to do is find good resources that align with your homeschooling values and principles. Music resources, unlike many other learning resources, don’t have to be homeschooling specific. It helps if they are, since those teachers and authors understand the unique and varied needs of homeschool families, but many non-homeschool resources can be useful, too.
As a homeschooling parent or guardian, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how resourceful and creative homeschoolers can be!
Some good places to find low cost or free music resources include the library, local second-hand stores, used book stores, and online book exchanges. You can also search websites (such as this site https://www.schoolofcomposition.com) that teach music. Youtube has a lot of great educational videos that can help fill in the gaps, too.
Just be sure to get a variety of resources so you and your kids can find a good mix that you all enjoy. As all homeschooling families know, sometimes a book or method just doesn’t work so it’s perfectly acceptable to find something that does.
Believe it or not, the supplies you’ll need for teaching music in homeschool are pretty small. The fact of the matter is, you may not even need to buy anything new at all. A lot of music’s basic components can be taught without buying or renting instruments of any kind. You can also make some cool instruments, which is another fun bonding and music activity that many homeschoolers enjoy.
If it can make a noise, it’s an instrument!
Maybe it’s shocking to hear that you won’t need to buy anything new to teach your homeschoolers music, but here’s my proof. If you can speak, hum, mumble, or make any kind of verbal noises, you can use your voice instead of an instrument – even non-verbal kids can learn music! If you can clap your hands, stomp your feet, tap your toes, or even just sway and bounce, you can learn and teach music. This is where homeschoolers’ famous creativity really shines. If it can make noise, it’s an instrument!
At the minimum, you’ll need paper, pencils, and somewhere comfortable to sit. Most people have that in their houses anyway, so nothing new there.
Anything beyond that is entirely up to you. That said, I can suggest a few things you may want to consider before you begin teaching music in homeschool. These items are not required, but they may help you and your child have more fun.
- Plastic recorder—this is an inexpensive and simple instrument that you blow into, using your fingers to cover and uncover a series of holes to create the notes. In public school, this is usually given to 1st and 2nd graders as a first instrument.
- Penny whistle—this is a traditional Irish instrument that is used in the same way a recorder is. It is much smaller and lighter, though it’s just as easy to play. They can be very cheap to very expansive.
- Small hand drums—these come in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and tones. They are simple, inexpensive, and easy to use. Small hand drums make learning rhythm easy and fun. You can also make these instruments out of regular household objects like overturned buckets!
- Xylophones and Glockenspiels—these instruments are played by striking a number of metal plates with a small, handheld hammer or stick. You can see a really cool side-by-side comparison of these instruments (plus more) here.
- Handbells—these small, easy to hold instruments are played by simply shaking or moving them. They can be sold in singles or packs, but they all play the same. They’re a great instrument for beginners to experiment with, and they tend to be very sturdy.
- Percussion packs—if you’d like to give your kids a variety right from the start, you can purchase kid-friendly percussion packs that come with things like hand drums, maracas, shakers, tambourines, and many other fun instruments.
For more advanced or older students, you may consider renting an instrument and seeing how your child likes it. If they don’t care for one, you can return it and rent a new one, switching them out until you find one they love. Some popular choices include guitar, keyboard, drums, flute, clarinet, and trumpet.
And, of course, if it’s in your budget, you can jump right into a piano. These come in many sizes and price points, so do some research to find what works best for you. If you don’t have the space, budget, or desire to go for a full-sized piano, you can still teach your kid to play piano by getting a keyboard.
Homeschool Music Curricula
Now that you have your supplies and an eager child, you’re ready to actually make some music. The key to teaching music to homeschoolers is keeping it fun. Music itself is made to be enjoyed, so playing it should be just as enjoyable.
Because music is a whole new language, you’ll want to be extra patient while you and your child get used to this new way of thinking and communicating. It might seem confusing at first, but trust me. It’s going to become easy very quickly. Music just makes sense.
But how do you know what to teach kids? You have lots of options, so do what feels the most natural and makes your kid the happiest.
This is a go-to solution for lots of homeschooling families. Online music courses are a good choice for tech-savvy families who like to keep a computer or mobile device involved. You can find courses that focus on just one instrument or those that cover music in general.
Workbooks and guides
There are so many music workbooks and guides available on the market, it might seem confusing at first. If your child likes workbooks, or you like having a written guide to help you make your lesson plans, look for some that say beginner, new student, novice, or even homeschool.
Many workbooks and guides have a whole series to go through, so look for the first book in the series and follow the instructions within. It’s usually best not to skip around these workbooks and guides. They are usually laid out in such a way that it should be intuitive to follow, page by page, building on previous knowledge as you go.
Most homeschooling families love finding free or inexpensive ways to boost their educational resources. That’s where Youtube really shines. You can find free video lessons on just about every instrument you can imagine.
If you’re looking for more general lessons, Youtube can still be of help. Search for “General Music Lessons Beginner” or “beginner homeschool music” to get you started. From there, you can fine-tune your search to include any important aspects you’d like to include, such as teaching methods or age ranges.
Aside from paid online music courses, you can often find incredible free music lessons on a variety of music websites. Even if the site itself isn’t made just for teaching music, you might be surprised what you can find with some clever searches.
Specific music topics to teach homeschoolers
We’ve mainly been speaking of teaching music to homeschoolers in general terms. But the reality is that music is a complex and intricate subject that has many, many layers to explore. Please don’t let that scare you away. Even the most complicated topics can be simple to learn when you break them down into smaller parts.
For music, those parts include things like:
- Musical understanding and appreciation
- Fundamental music theory
- The basics of how to read music
- Simple composition and songwriting
- History of music with a focus on specific composers, songwriters and musicians
There are many more parts, of course, but these main topics should get you started. Where your child goes from there will depend on their instruments of choice and what really interests them. Once you teach your homeschool kid the basics of music, they’ll be ready to explore the incredible world of composition and playing.
Ways to add music to your homeschool experience
Teaching music to homeschoolers involves more than a daily music lesson with a specific instrument. When you include music in your everyday lives, you’re teaching your children the importance of music. You can make every moment of every day a learning opportunity without sitting down and making it an official lesson.
Focus on a Composer
One idea is to choose a specific composer, musician, or band each week and listen to their music. You can do this actively—by sitting and listening, then discussing the music with your child. Or you can do it passively—just have it playing in the background as you go about your day. The beauty of teaching music in homeschool is that it is flexible, enjoyable, and accessible.
Even simply hearing music in the background each day will teach your child about music. They’ll be absorbing the music, the notes, the melodies and harmonies, the rhythms, all without thinking about it.
By asking your child questions about the music they’re listening to, you’ll help hone their musical talents and interest. They’ll grow a deeper understanding of music as more than just something to entertain. Ask things like: How does it make you feel? What does this song make you think about? Why do you think slow songs make you sleepy and fast songs make you want to run and play? Does this song sound happy, sad, or something else?
You can show your kids the everyday, practical application of music by bringing them to live shows. Many communities have school bands, free concerts in the park, or volunteer band concerts. Keep an eye on local events to find music festivals or kid-friendly concerts to show your children what it might be like to play music for a living. Even better: meet up with the musicians after the show and let your kids ask questions or see if they’d be allowed to touch the instruments.
TV and YouTube
You can also expose your kids to new music by watching musicals on television or online. Show them music from around the world by visiting Youtube and searching for music samples from countries you’re studying in your geography or social studies courses.
I could talk for weeks about ways to keep kids interested in music, but I hope I’ve given you a good overview of how you can teach music in homeschool without panicking. It’s much easier than it may seem at first, and you can teach music in so many other ways than sitting down with a lesson plan and a book. Even though I focused on homeschoolers in this article, it’s important to note that these lessons, tips, and suggestions can be used for all music students of every age and in any kind of situation. Music is universal.