It’s true, I’m a music-lover.
The Scriptures are full of references to music. My attitude is strongly affected by music in the air. My husband has an amazing singing voice and plays guitar; I play piano and a little guitar and violin. We didn’t read Mother Goose to our toddlers, we sang Mother Goose, making up the melodies as we went along, but eventually memorizing them as the years passed by. I hear my kids sing-song a lot throughout the day, just for the joy of it, not caring if they sound “good” or “bad.” Every school-day here begins with a “Song of the Week” and they always beg to listen to more than what I have planned.
I’ve found it interesting to learn how similar the Montessori and Suzuki methods are. Suzuki methods of learning an instrument at a young age assume that all children (unless they have a prohibative handicap) are able to learn to be musicians. A cornerstone of the process is to have the child listen to a music piece played with excellence, over and over, and with daily practice to try to grow towards excellency themselves. I have two more thoughts today:
(1) On listening to music. On a daily basis, from the time of birth, I firmly believe in the value of having classical music – or any music with a steady beat – in the environment. You can point out the sounds made by the different instruments. I recommend the book The Story of the Orchestra by Robert Levine as an aid to music appreciation. It is pretty easy to find percussion instruments that are child-friendly. I also have enjoyed burning CD’s of liturgical music and hymns for the various liturgical seasons. The Adoremus Hymnal by Ignatius Press can be purchased with recordings of many beautiful examples for each season.
(2) Learning an instrument. By age 4 or 5, I would recommend having the child begin gently learning either piano or violin, Suzuki-style if possible. (I have also been learning more – and liking – the Sassmannshaus violin books and method, linked below.) I have witnessed a lot of parental frustration in this attempt – parents who get angry because they “paid a lot of money and spent a lot of time” trying to have these instrument lessons, and then the child decides he or she doesn’t want to practice… It’s worth brainstorming ahead of time why this might happen, and how to respectfully deal with it, without getting frustrated.
Make sure the child is comfortable – no dangling feet! Practices should be consistent, but short, and as fun as possible, preferably in a quiet room with your full attention. (I know, that’s an ideal not always possible.) Supplement with great picture books about musicians and instruments, opportunities to watch live performances, and Montessori music-theory materials like these.
The Classical Conversations program includes a 6-week program of learning music theory while learning to play the tin whistle, and my children have greatly enjoyed this. Another 6 weeks each year are spent learning about orchestras and great composers. One of my sons has greatly enjoyed being a member of a local youth orchestra, and he spends spare time trying to write and listen to his own music on the free program we down-loaded from Forte.com.
Keeping in mind that children learn to play music best by listening to it, this program also allows us to hear any song played perfectly while we attempt to learn to play it. (Yes, “we.” I’m learning new instruments along with my children!)