We all have seen the research that says teaching children music has amazing benefits. Therefore, most of us want to provide some music education in our homeschool. But how do we do that on a budget?
First off, don’t feel like you have to have formal lessons as soon as your child can talk. Music can be part of your homeschool without formal lessons. Formal lessons can even wait until your child is 10 or older so that they are more ready to learn both reading and playing music. There are many inexpensive or free ways to integrate music into your homeschool life, just like art.
Unlike formal music lessons, singing is free and you can start at any age. Teaching children to sing nursery rhymes, folk songs, and holiday carols can be added to any homeschool program. If you can’t carry a tune, CDs, YouTube, and many websites can help you out.
Singing is good for the heart and lungs, as you expand and project your voice to sing loudly and clearly. Children who struggle with language can sometimes connect better to words and sounds set to music, so teaching them to sing songs is very helpful.
I enjoy adding it to morning time, chores, or while doing certain activities that just seem to go with a song. I have a love of holiday songs and sing those when we are decorating or cooking for the holiday.
Experiment with Drums
If your child can clap, they can play the drum. There are many types to choose from. Some are played with hands, some with drum sticks. Look for a drum that has a sound you enjoy. I like the quality ones made by Remo.
You can create a drum circle for your family by giving everyone a drum or an empty oatmeal canister to hit. Put on music and try to hit to the beat or take turns making up rhythms and copying each other.
Singing simple songs like This Little Light of Mine can be good ones for everyone to drum along with. Even just playing around with a drum helps children develop better rhythm, bilateral coordination and a basic understanding of how music is created.
Other kid instruments
Recorders and harmonicas are great kid instruments that you can pick up with a simple set of instructions or just experiment with. Most kids won’t figure out a song without some help, but they can still enjoy making music. These instruments being to introduce the complexity of woodwind and brass instruments, because the child has to both blow out air, and use their fingers to change the tone. These can be picked up inexpensively, and thus can be low commitment. No need to take serious lessons, it can still just be an experiment.
Children who struggle to have enough breath support for their words while talking, also benefit from learning to blow horns and recorders. This breath support can then be used to help them speak louder and more clearly.
Over the years, my children have had the opportunity to participate in a few different kinds of music classes, children’s choirs, and other group music activities. If my kids are willing, I am all for signing them up. These have all been less expensive than the typical cost of piano lessons in my area, and my children got to have group music lessons that included a range of skills and some music theory.
Some communities have free choir programs, but you may be able to find a voice teacher willing to do group lessons. Group lessons are often more affordable, as each student pays a fraction of what private lessons would cost.
I am lucky that in my area there is a homeschool band program that starts at age 10. This program is run by a group of retired band directors who enjoy teaching for just a few hours a week. They have said that teaching homeschoolers is more pleasant than teaching in public schools, as every child in the class appears to want to be there. The kids practice more and have a good attitude. The cost of the classes is very affordable, too.
Because of this program, I have put off formal lessons on an instrument until age 10 for my kids. It just makes sense to me to wait until a child’s brain and body is bigger and more mature to be able to deal with the complexity of playing a real, adult instrument. And if these teachers who have taught so many to play feel that waiting until age 10 is best. I trust their judgment that starting younger isn’t necessary.
I love how learning band instruments means that my child has to develop a higher level of body coordination. Learning to read the music and then do all it takes to play the right note takes a high level of brain and body working together. This set of skills can translate into better handwriting, better math skills and an improved ability to follow directions in other situations.
My oldest took part in the band program throughout middle school. My youngest just started with this program this year.
What comes next?
For my kids, they have chosen to explore music in different ways in middle and high school. My oldest has attended a music camp where they learned to play the mountain dulcimer, taken a homeschool chorus class, and had private guitar lessons in high school. I hope my younger two will also explore music even more as they grow older.
I think there is a false idea among parents today that if you want your child to excel at music, you need to start formal lessons as early as possible. But that just isn’t true. You should play with music when they are little, so they can take it seriously later if they want to. Just as with other kinds of play, they are laying a foundation for life-long learning and exploration. The benefits of music education stretch far beyond the drum they are beating or the song they are singing.
About the Author
Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.