I grew up in a family where my siblings and I were taught at home. Homeschooling has been growing as an alternative method for teaching children over the past few years (see the statistics by the National Center for Education Statistics). This post is not to dispute the positives and negatives of homeschooling. What I would like to do in this article is to give a little background on how I received a musical education while being taught at home. For any home educators that read my posts, this may give you some ideas on how to go about teaching music to your children at home. There will be more articles that give more details about curriculum and methods some other time. This post will simply chronicle some of what I've experienced and talk about the pros and cons of each.
1. Private Lessons
Pros: By far the biggest cause of growth in my musical development was some of the private lessons that I took with various music teachers. The focus of learning one-on-one with a music teacher was invaluable and accelerated my musical knowledge and growth. As I was growing up, I was able to take private lessons in piano, trumpet, and trombone. With each of my teachers I learned a different perspective on music and performance. The personal attention allowed them to work on my weakest points and praise my strengths in the right way. Without the encouragement of my teachers, I believe I still would have had a love for music, but would have had much less skill in the actual performance of it. If you are interested in finding a music teacher, try some of the ideas in this previous post on how to find music lessons in your area.
Cons: Learning directly from one teacher will tend to cause a student to have the same strengths and weaknesses of that particular teacher. For example, the trumpet teacher that I studied under starting at age eleven taught me to play off of C-instrument music, not the standard Bb trumpet music. To this day, I play the trumpet not from trumpet music, which is transposed, but from non-transposed music such as a church hymnal would contain. If I ever had pursued trumpet seriously, I would have had to "unlearn" this style of reading to be able to play correctly on the transposed music. Make sure that you learn what style of music the teacher is going to emphasize, and make sure that it is a good fit before having your child learn from that instructor.
2. Church Music Involvement
Pros: Being involved in church music through choir, ensembles, congregational accompaniment, and solo performance was a great benefit to my musical development as well. The opportunities for sharing music with a medium to large group of people gave me some experience in having to communicate my music and get over the nerves that accompany live performance. I was also able to connect with other people who loved to sing and play instruments and experience music in a community of people. These things were invaluable in developing a love for music in me. As a believer in Christ, my faith was also strengthened as I used the tool of music to communicate the truths of the Bible. To this day, there is almost nothing I enjoy more than sharing good music with the people of God.
Cons: Just because someone sings a solo in church does not mean they are automatically qualified to give music advice or be a mentor for a developing musician. The heart behind the music may be right, but the technique is another matter. If music at one church is all the music exposure a developing musician gets, he can naively think that this experience is all he needs to become a fully rounded musician. Judging the quality of all music by one institution or group can severely stunt the growth of a music student. This can be offset by encouraging musicians to find multiple sources of good music.
3. Self-Study Music Courses at Home
Pros: Outside of being involved in church music ministry, this was probably the most cost-effective method of music study that we did at home. It was nice to be able to learn at our own pace and listen to audio instruction and demonstration from a qualified music teacher.
Cons: While less expensive than taking lessons, this method did not allow for nearly as much feedback and opportunity for growth. The "one-sided" approach did allow us to hear the music teacher, but did not allow the teacher to hear us. Certainly learning in this manner was better than no lessons at all, but it did not have nearly as great an effect as the private lessons.
4. Learning from Mom and Dad
Pros: Another source of music knowledge for the children in our family was through our parents. Both my mom and dad played the piano and sang, and by their example taught us children to love good music. Some of the critical music development in my life occurred around the family piano. I developed an ear for accurate pitch and harmonizing by listening to music from a young age. Singing with my family was always a great time together. I have lasting memories from my childhood of making music with Dad, Mom, and my siblings.
Cons: While the love of music was developed at home, Dad and Mom had other responsibilities and priorities that kept them from consistently teaching music to us in the formal sense. The wisdom that they showed in allowing other teachers into our lives made the biggest difference for us. Also, truth be told, Dad and Mom didn't know all of the details of music theory and performance that could be taught by qualified music teachers. While both of my parents were school teachers at one point, the subjects they taught didn't include music. What they did was recognize their shortfall in some areas and make up for it with the assistance of some other teachers.
If you are a homeschool parent or music teacher, what ideas do you have? What has been your experience in home education for music? Leave comments below and add to the conversation.
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